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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

EDITORIAL 27.06.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month june 27, edition 000869, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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


























  3. FORM A CPI(E)







































The Congress Working Committee has been remarkably immature in rubbishing the civil society's movement against corruption as a drive incited by the RSS and the BJP. Rather than confront the issue of corruption head on, the party is taking refuge in diversionary measures. The Congress is clearly rattled by the "encouraging" meeting that Anna Hazare and his team had with veteran BJP leader LK Advani, and by the possibility of another meeting with that party's senior leaders. Civil society members are also reaching out to other non-UPA parties including the Left to promote their version of the Lok Pal Bill. These are welcome developments in a democracy where conscientious citizens should keep the people's representatives in the loop over policy matters that they wish to influence. Until now, the activists had deliberately maintained a distance from politicians to ensure that their movement was not tainted by any political colour. But the strategy, for all its merit, would have failed in the long run because no effective nationwide agitation can sustain or succeed without the participation of political representatives and the organisational strength they bring along. Clearly, the Congress is worried by the political fall-out of a possible coming together of civil society activists and the Opposition. So far, the Congress and the Union Government that it leads has been able to bulldoze over some of the activists, as it did in the case of Baba Ramdev, and dismiss others such as Anna Hazare as "unelected despots" seeking extra-constitutional authority. But if the Opposition openly supports the movement, the Congress will be in serious trouble. It is too early to say for sure whether such an alliance — if it can be called that — will materialise. Much depends on whether the activists are able to sell the idea that high offices such as those of the Prime Minister need to be brought within the Lok Pal ambit to make the institution more than cosmetic. For that to happen, some members of Team Anna and those who support him will have to shed long-held prejudices against some political parties, particularly the BJP. If that is not fully possible, they should in the least prevent personal grudges from coming in the way. It is imperative they fight the larger battle against corruption as an united front. Moreover, civil society members need not be defensive about seeking the BJP's approval. After all, the BJP is not a proscribed organisation that it must be shunned; it is the country's largest Opposition party. As for the Congress, it is strange that, while it has no reservations in directly engaging separatist elements to resolve contentious issues, it should summarily condemn anything that it believes is connected to the BJP or the RSS.

The Congress continues to maintain that a "small group" of people will not be allowed to derail the Union Government. But the issue here is not about a small or a large group, but that of the party's insincerity. Every time it is faced with a situation which exposes that insincerity it lashes out at critics and charges them with conspiracy theories. Mrs Indira Gandhi saw a "foreign hand" at work when her opponents criticised her policies, and her ever-supplicating party members termed her critics as "anti-nationals". The party may have come a long way since Ms Indira Gandhi's days, but it seems like the more it has changed, the more it has remained the same.






In an eerie throwback to the year of 1989 when a popular movement to overthrow communism across Europe quickly devolved from a peaceful transfer of power in Poland to a failed attempt at authoritarianism in East Germany and finally degenerated into a bloodbath in Romania, the Arab Spring of 2011 seems too have charted a similar course. What began as the relatively passive 'Jasmine Revolution' in Tunisia met with some resistance in Cairo but has since been bloodied with murderous violence across Syria.

Last week on Thursday the Syrian uprising passed its 100th day with no signs of President Bashar al-Assad calling off his regime's bloody crackdown on anti-Government protesters. Instead, security forces gunned down at least 20 protesters, including children, in Damascus and its suburbs on Friday; this was preceded by a brutal crackdown on refugees in border villages. On his part, Mr Assad has attempted to control the dangerous fall out of this actions by making vacuous promises and some inadequate conciliatory gestures.

However, it has all been too little and come too late. Earlier in the week, Mr Assad delivered another speech, this time at Damascus University, wherein he once again offered to introduce some ill-defined reforms. Given the President's Western education — he is an ophthalmologist who trained in London — it was once believed that he would truly reform the autocratic regime he inherited from his father three decades ago. Those hopes have now been shattered following his iron-fisted response to the three-month-old pro-democracy movement in the course of which he used machine guns and even helicopter gunship on unarmed civilians.

Yet as the death toll in Syria surges, the rest of world has chosen to just sit back and watch the butchery unfold. Of course, there have been the customary condemnations and some calls for Mr Assad to mend his ways but these mean little unless backed by punitive action that world leaders have been reluctant to impose. For example, more than a week ago US State Department officials said that they might target Syria's energy exports or refer the regime to the International Criminal Court but have done nothing since then. On the other side of the Atlantic, Britain and France are supposedly working on getting the UN Security Council to pass a resolution condemning the brutalities in Syria but its effectiveness is doubtful. It seems like after having burnt its fingers in Libya, the West is now reluctant to intervene in Syria. But military action was never the solution. Instead a full body of diplomatic, legal and economic sanctions must be employed. To that extent, sanctions imposed by the European Union, which were rightly extended on Friday, are a step in the right direction.








Having run out of ideas and with no success to show, the Government is now re-packaging and selling to the people what is already there in the Constitution.

Of late, the Union Government has exhibited a penchant for regurgitating Fundamental Rights already embodied in the Constitution in the form of New Rights, as if it was doing a favour to the people by providing them with newer and unprecedented entitlements. Take for example the National Employment Guarantee Act which promises wages that are so low that one is destined to starve and even that paltry sum of money is siphoned off, or the Right to Education which is meaningless given the inadequate number of schools, lack of proper class rooms and the absence of teachers. The proposed Right to Justice Bill is the latest addition to the list.

Without ensuring that there is adequate infrastructure to implement laws, if by simply promulgating them development could have been achieved, India would have been a heaven by now. Moreover, one cannot expect any improvement only because a Bill has been passed unless there is the political will necessary to improve the system. Thus, the Right to Justice, however well-intentioned it may be, will remain only a dream as the Government is not serious about ensuring justice for the masses.

The President of India had observed on May 31, 2010: "Government agencies being one of the biggest litigants must exercise restraint from routinely instituting litigation and clogging the system...We must take stock of the challenges and structural weaknesses which beset our legal system, impeding equitable access to prompt and quality justice. Judicial reform should occupy a salient place in the Government's agenda...There cannot be better governance without better laws and there cannot be better laws if antiquated ones remain. Archaic laws and outdated administrative regulations must be scrutinised and if necessary scrapped or amended. Making the language of law simple can prevent unnecessary litigation."

She had then gone on to add: "We must re-engineer and simplify court procedures, which otherwise tend to make litigation unduly slow and protracted. Frequent demands and liberal grant of adjournments, filing of multiple suits and similar tactics make judicial productivity sluggish. Timely pronouncement of judgements and quick execution of decrees would be beneficial... Congestion of court cases has been compounded by shortage of judicial manpower and low judge to population ratio. We must explore betterment of this ratio by augmenting the strength of the judiciary without compromising on quality."

The Government has admitted, more than once, that the state is the country's biggest litigant. Seventy per cent of the over three crore cases that are pending in Indian courts involve the Government as either petitioner or respondent. To make matters worse, 90 per cent of those cases fail and should not have been filed in the first instance, as the Prime Minister has pointed out.

Last year, the Union Minister for Law Veerappa Moily also said that the Government was pursuing several frivolous cases, causing huge losses to the exchequer and burdening the judicial system. Giving an example, he said that matters relating to individual grievances such as pensions and retirement benefits should not be appealed against. "Such appeals should be avoided as litigation costs in them are much higher than the payoffs," said Mr Moily. Sadly, all efforts by the Government to become a fair, just and responsible litigant have failed.

To make matters worse, the country's judicial system is plagued by an inadequate number of justices who can hear cases. As of April 1, there were 288 vacancies across all High Courts which have a collective backlog of 41.8 lakh cases. The Supreme Court too functions with only 29 out of the sanctioned 31 judges.

Three years ago, the then Chief Justice of India had said that India needs 77,000 judges to clear its judicial backlog and called for increasing the population-judge ratio from the existing 9.5 judges for every10 lakh people to 50 judges for every 10 lakh people.

Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous State, rightly has the highest number of sanctioned high court judges at 160 but also the maximum number of vacancies at 95. With a population of 199 million — only one-third less than the population of the US, the third most populous country in the world — Uttar Pradesh has just 65 sitting judges. The Allahabad High Court, including its benches, is working with just 36 per cent of the sanctioned judges. Needless to say, this High Court also has the maximum number of pending cases at 9.6 lakh.

Maharashtra, India's second most populous State with 112 million people is sanctioned 75 judges but here too some14 positions are vacant. The Bombay High Court and its benches have a collective backlog of 3.4 lakh cases. Other High Courts where there are a significant number of vacancies are Punjab and Haryana (26 out of the sanctioned 68), Rajasthan (19 out of the sanction 40) and Calcutta (16 out of the sanctioned 58). The Gujarat High Court too is working with exactly two-thirds of its sanctioned strength of 42 judges. Additionally, the Punjab & Haryana High Court is short of 24 Additional Judges though its sanctioned strength is 29.

In August 2010, the Solicitor-General of India commented on these prevailing conditions. He took Uttar Pradesh as a test case and read out statistics that reflected poorly on the Allahabad High Court, which is administratively in charge of the subordinate judiciary in the State. According to him, 10,541 criminal trials were stayed by the Allahabad High Court. Of these, nine per cent were pending for more than 20 years and 21 per cent for over a decade.

In other words, stay of trial in 30 per cent of offences continued for more than 10 years. In a classic observation, he said: "It's sad that administration of justice has come to such a pass. The High Courts stay the trial and forget all about it. This means, we are choking the administration of justice. No one should be denied a fair and speedy trial. Also, what about the victims? What about society which feels that a wrongdoer should be punished at the earliest? Though these stays, that is being denied."

When the Solicitor-General said that the Chief Justices of High Courts should play an active role in clearing the mess arising out the decade-old stay orders on criminal trials, the Bench claimed: "The Chief Justices are helpless. They have a tenure ranging from one year to even two months. What can a Chief Justice do in such a brief tenure? They cannot deal with this problem as their brief tenures do not allow them to even understand the dynamics of a particular High Court."

Taking a dig at the Government and its law officers, the Bench pointed out that, "Six months back, you and your colleagues had pioneered a programme for expeditious justice in the face of crores of cases pending in trial courts. But the entire system seems to have either crumbled or is crumbling. What else can be said when nine per cent of cases have been stayed for more than 20 years."

Therefore, the bottom line is that unless basic steps are taken to first reform the entire criminal justice system, the promised 'Right to Justice' will not help anybody. If there are no judges to decide, how will any case be disposed of? The Government must remember that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people, all of the time. ***************************************





The first evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen emerged in 1998 after US cruise missiles attacked suspected Al Qaeda camps in Afghan territory in reprisal for bombing its embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. Later, many of the camps destroyed by the US turned out to be operated by the HuM instead

The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, also known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar, the Jamiat-ul-Ansar and Al Faran, is reported to have denied a report published by The New York Times on June 24, 2011, alleging that it had links with Osama bin Laden and was part of his Pakistan support network. According to The New York Times, investigations by the US authorities into a mobile phone used by Osama bin Laden's courier are said to have given rise to suspicion that Osama bin Laden had contact with the HuM. The mobile set of the courier was reportedly recovered during the raid by US naval commandos into the house of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad in Pakistan on May 2.

The first evidence of links between Al Qaeda and the HuM came after the US cruise missile attacks on suspected Al Qaeda camps in Afghan territory on August 20,1998, in reprisal for Al Qaeda's truck-bombing outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam earlier that month. Many of the camps destroyed by the Cruise missiles, which, the US thought, were run by Al Qaeda turned out to be those of the HuM. The HuM had apparently been permitted by Al Qaeda and the Taliban to locate its training camps in the same area in which Al Qaeda had set up its camps.

Addressing a Press conference at Islamabad on August 22, 1998, after the US bombing of the HuM training camps in Afghanistan, Fazlur Rahman Khalil, its then amir, denied that Osama bin Laden was indulging in terrorism and accused the US of killing 50 innocent civilians, including 15 Arabs.

He said that the camps bombed by the US in Afghan territory had actually been set up by the CIA during the Afghan war and claimed that these were being used by the HuM for giving education to the Afghans. He denied that any training in terrorism was going on in those camps. He alleged that the Nawaz Sharif Government, which was then in power in Islamabad, was privy to the bombing and said that 40 Cruise missiles had struck three HuM camps in Afghan territory.

He then warned: "The US has proved itself to be the world's biggest terrorist by carrying out the attacks on Afghanistan and the Sudan and I want to convey to the US leadership that we will take revenge for the attack."

Addressing a meeting at the Karachi Press Club on August 23, 1998, Azizur Rahman Danish, the then head of the Sindh branch of the HuM, warned: "The US air strikes have drawn a clear dividing line between the Muslim ummah and non-believers and this is the beginning of a crusade. The US will be paid back in the same coin."

Addressing a Press conference at Peshawar on August 25, 1998, Fazlur Rahman Khalil said that nine HuM members died in the US attack on its camps in the Khost area, of whom five were killed on the spot and the remaining succumbed to their injuries in Pakistani hospitals. In addition, two Tajiks and four Arabs, two of them physically handicapped, were also killed. According to him, the Cruise missiles destroyed four mosques, partially damaged another and burnt 200 copies of the Quran kept in the camps.

He added: "The US calls Osama bin Laden a terrorist and President Bill Clinton is claiming that all terrorist training camps had been destroyed in the air strikes. Let me tell the Americans that not even one per cent of the so-called terrorist camps run by Osama bin Laden have been destroyed."

In another warning to the US on September 1, 1998, Fazlur Rahman Khalil said: "The US has struck us with Tomahawk Cruise missiles at only two places, but we will hit back at them everywhere in the world, wherever we find them. We have started a holy war against the US and they will hardly find a tree to take shelter beneath it."

Writing in the Friday Times (August 18-24, 2000) of Lahore, Khalid Ahmed, the well-known Pakistani analyst, said: "The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen formally announced itself as a new organisation in June 1996 in Muzaffarabad. In January 2000, Masood Azhar of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen was sprung from an Indian jail after the Kathmandu hijack. Masood Azhar had gone into India through 'proper channels', as a journalist endorsed by Islamabad (that is, the ISI). He was a follower of Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the founder of the anti-Iran and anti-Shia organisation Sipah-e-Sahaba, who was killed in 1990.

"After his release, Masood Azhar wished to revive the legacy of his master. By this time Harkat had become a major Deobandi organisation in Pakistan. Its main strength remained the militants of Punjab who not long ago had been the militants of Sipah-e-Sahaba.

"His return, therefore, caused an upheaval which climaxed in a grand split in the Harkat. The split was soon followed by the assassination of Maulana Yusuf Ludhianvi, a key figure in the Deobandi movement because of his status as a spiritual guide to two important Deobandi leaders, his Khalifas: Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI and Maulana Azam Tariq of Sipah-e-Sahaba.

"The split in Harkat-ul-Mujahideen was caused by the militants in Punjab. Masood Azhar and his Punjabi following isolated the Harkat leader Fazlur Rehman Khalil. The formation of Jaish-e-Muhammad as a new organisation was announced, but Masood Azhar and Fazlur Rehman Khalil began to fight over the Harkat assets.

"On 19 March 2000, the two submitted to a hakam (arbitration) of their elders. Harkat was represented by Muhammad Farooq Kashmiri and Jaish was represented by Maulana Abdul Jabbar (a key figure in the Kathmandu hijack) on the pledge given that they would abide by the hakam. The verdict was given by three elders: Mufti Rasheed Ahmed of Zarb-i-Momin Jihadi militia, Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of the Binori Town complex and Sher Ali Shah of Waziristan. The decision was that all offices of the Harkat, occupied by Jaish in Punjab, would be returned to the Harkat, which in turn would pay the Jaish Rs 40 lakh as its share of the division of assets.

"The implementation of the hakam, however, was not so smooth. The vehicles and offices returned by Jaish to Harkat were in such bad repair that Harkat refused to accept them and thus also refused to pay the stipulated 40 lakhs.

"In Pakistan the Jaish emerged as the more radical and more sectarian part of the Harkat because of its Sipah-e-Sahaba background. Maulana Yusuf Ludhianvi, it is said, inclined to their creed more than to Harkat's moderate view. Mufti Shamzai seemed to vacillate between the two splinter groups, thus allowing the Harkat's over-all leader Fazlur Rehman Khalil to be eclipsed.

"Finding himself thus isolated, Khalil is said to have gone to Osama bin Laden and made up some of his losses by getting from him 12 new double-cabin pick-up trucks to replace those ruined by the Jaish in Punjab."

Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil is a founding member of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, subsequently renamed in 1997 as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen after the US designated the HuA as a foreign terrorist organisation in October,1997, and then re-named again as the Jamiat-ul-Ansar after President Pervez Musharraf banned the HuM on January 15, 2002, under US pressure.

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






Holding euros is risky but holding US dollars is riskier, and the pound and the yen are only marginally safer. China has to put its money somewhere, and it calculates that the euro is not quite as bad a bet as it seems. Even though Greece certainly will default at some point, and probably quite soon

The deadline is now 3 July. That's when the European Union's Finance Ministers meet again, and by then the Greek Parliament should have passed legislation mandating 28 billion euros of spending cuts and tax rises over the next five years. If it goes through each of the ten million Greeks will ultimately be about 2,800 euros ($4,000) poorer.

That's why they're rioting in the street these days in Athens. But unless the European Finance Ministers approve the plan, Greece will not get the next 12-billion-euro ($17 billion) installment of the current EU-International Monetary Fund bail-out package in July, and it will default on its gigantic debt.

As the IMF recently warned, "A disorderly outcome cannot be excluded." It was hinting that the euro itself might crash, taking the European or even the global economy down with it — and yet China seems strangely unworried.

Used-car salesmen know that if you don't give the customers credit, they won't buy your cars. For the past decade China has operated on the same principle, lending the US Government money in order to keep the American dollar high and the orders for Chinese goods flowing. Beijing now holds $1.15 trillion of US treasury bills — but as of late last year, it has stopped expanding its US dollar holdings.

This makes sense, given that the US budget deficit is 11 per cent of GDP. The US is so deeply indebted that it might be tempted to inflate its way out of its problem, and nobody wants to be sitting on a pile of a trillion US dollars when the value of the currency collapses. What is astonishing is that China is now buying large amounts of euros instead. So what do the Chinese know that the pundits don't?

They know that there is nowhere to hide. Holding euros is risky, but holding US dollars is riskier, and the pound and the yen are only marginally safer. China has to put its money somewhere, and it calculates that the euro is not quite as bad a bet as it seems. Even though Greece certainly will default at some point, and probably quite soon.

Greece can never repay the 300 billion euros ($425 billion) it owes, no matter how harsh the austerity measures that it forces on its own population. If it still had its old currency, it could make the debt shrink by printing more drachmas and inflating the currency, but it's stuck with the euro.

Like other Mediterranean countries that joined the euro, it has a less efficient economy than the big northern European countries that dominate the currency. It used to stay competitive by letting inflation rip, thus making its exports cheaper in foreign markets. But the European Central Bank keeps the euro's inflation rate low, so now it can't do that.

It's a trap. The euro's low inflation rate meant a low interest rate, so although Greece could not keep its economy competitive, it could borrow money very cheaply. And since the euro's value is backed by much stronger economies the banks were willing to lend Greece large sums. Ridiculously large sums, in fact. So large that Greece could never pay them back.

Didn't the banks realise this? Of course they did — but they reckoned that the richer countries in the euro zone would cover Greece's debts in order to preserve the integrity of the currency. That is what is happening now.

The banks stopped lending Greece money after 2008, and the European Union stepped in to prevent a default. The enormous sums that it and the IMF are now lending Greece (at a high interest rate) are immediately handed over to the foreign banks that let the situation get so far out of hand in the first place. But the political price extracted from Greece for this bail-out is savage cuts in the country's budget and a soaring unemployment rate.

A lot of Greeks don't see why they should pay such a high price for this charade. They are far from blameless — they cynically milked the EU system for a long time — but their rage is entirely understandable. So at some point Greece will decide to default on its debt.

The money that the EU and the IMF are currently giving to the banks by laundering it through Greece will then have to be shovelled directly into their coffers by the financial authorities, embarrassing though that is. And Greece, using heavily devalued drachmas will still face a long period of austerity and falling living standards, but at least it will be in charge of its own fate.

The euro will survive all this because everybody knows that the default is coming, and is quietly making arrangements to contain the damage. China is putting its money in the right place.

-- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.






At the start of his Presidency the "reset" in Russia-America relations scored Barack Obama serious political points. It could again determine his fate as the end of his term, says Alexei Pilko

The main contenders for the Republican nomination for President faced off in a debate recently in New Hampshire. The debates appear to be part of the Republican strategy to neutralise President Barack Obama's political gains this spring, which have put his political opponents in an extremely difficult position.

Mr Obama heads into the summer in a strong position. By kicking off his re-election campaign early, Mr Obama frustrated Republican attempts to work out an election strategy and, most importantly, decide who will be the tip of the spear — their presidential nominee. The seven presidential hopefuls that took part in the New Hampshire debate found common ground only in their criticism of the current President.

Mr Obama seems to be attempting what very few American Presidents managed to accomplish — becoming the candidate of inter-party consensus, a national leader without any alternative. This would guarantee his victory in November 2012.

To achieve this, Mr Obama has to minimise risks by striking a deal with the Republican leaders. The idea is to convince them to nominate a fatally flawed candidate, one that will be rejected by American voters.

Very soon it will become clear whether the Republicans will go for this deal or put up a real fight. In the meantime, let's note that such an inter-party deal will have a direct impact on Russia's interests.

Russia is again becoming a serious factor in the domestic political struggle in the United States, probably for the first time since the end of the Cold War. The Russian-American "reset" will most likely become the main chip in any bargain with the conservative wing of the United States political establishment.

In theory, Mr Obama has two options. He can persuade his political opponents that the new course in relations with Russia is the right one, ie seeking gradual democratisation and increasing acceptance of Western values in Russia. If this course fails, he can do an about-face, adopt a more confrontational stance towards Moscow and portray Russia as a country that has missed its chance to fully integrate into the "civilized community of nations". In this way Mr Obama can deprive the Republicans of an opportunity to accuse him of excessive flirting with the Russians to the detriment of United States national interests.

Republicans are already taking the first steps in this direction, to the chagrin of Mr Obama. Mr James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, and Ms Rebeccah Heinrichs, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, took to the pages of the influential magazine Foreign Policy to accuse the President of selling out United States national interests and making too many concessions to the Russians.

Mr Obama decided to charge Mr Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor and one of the most prominent American experts on Russia, with the important mission of playing the Russian card in his election campaign. Mr Obama recently appointed Mr McFaul to be the United States Ambassador to Russia starting this fall.

Mr Obama has made a good choice for this important position. Mr McFaul is the author of several works on the transition to democracy in Russia. He has an intimate knowledge of Russia, its history and the characteristics of its political system, and has the necessary contacts in the higher echelons of the Russian Government.

His challenges are clear. First, he must compel the Russian leaders to make a number of foreign policy concessions (or actions that may be interpreted as such) as proof that Mr Obama's policy towards Moscow is the right one.

Second, Mr McFaul has been instructed to work closely with the whole spectrum of Russia's political parties in order to support the most acceptable partner in the presidential elections in Russia in March.

Third, if an 'authoritarian' politician wins these elections, Mr McFaul will have to organise opposition to influence the new President in a way that benefits American interests.

Mr Obama is essentially playing a win-win game. If Russia makes concessions (especially on such issues as missile defence in Europe, Libya or Iran), this will vindicate his "reset" policy in the eyes of American voters regardless of Republican criticism. Otherwise, he will change his rhetoric towards Moscow to prove that he is willing to change course. This will also win him Republican support.

The latter option seems the more likely now. Russian-American relations may deteriorate by the summer of 2012 (after the March elections in Russia and on the eve of the November elections in the United States) as a result of irresolvable disagreements over missile defence in Europe.

At the start of his first term, the "reset" scored Mr Obama serious political points. Now, at the end of his first term, curbing relations with Russia and fighting for democracy against an allegedly authoritarian Kremlin may become a powerful trump card that will win him another four years in the White House.

It seems that the 2009-2012 period of bilateral relations is passing through the same cycle as under Mr George W Bush — from his friendly meeting with Mr Vladimir Putin in Ljubljana in 2001 to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004. The two sides will once again go from cooperation to confrontation. History is not immune to irony.

-- The writer is the Assistant Professor at Moscow State University's Faculty of World Politics.








The hike in diesel, LPG and kerosene prices will narrow the gap between diesel and petrol prices, but also act as a spur to inflation. The former effect is welcome, the latter hardly so. The gap that had been widening between petrol and other fuels reflected bad policy both from socio-economic and environmental points of view.

It promoted dieselisation of the economy, pollution and criminal diversion of subsidised fuel for smuggling or adulteration. But even if the closer alignment of prices is a move in the right direction, the juggling between heavy taxation imposed on fuels and subsidies to oil PSUs continually struggling with under-recoveries is irrational - as is the government's reluctance to deregulate fuel prices.

If consumers know the market determines fuel bills, the political backlash will be less. If price hikes pinch them on occasion, they also benefit when prices fall. This is an impersonal process. Nor would we see anomalies like static prices when global crude prices soar or costs northbound when the latter dips. When government fixes prices, oil PSUs lose out on investible resources even as private players are shooed away from retail. The result is stifled investment and competition in the sector, with its adverse fallout on prices.

Besides, inflation-hit consumers need a cushion. The government seeks to provide it by reducing taxes. It has withdrawn a 5% customs duty on crude, trimmed import levy on diesel and petrol and reduced excise on diesel. This too is another move in the right direction. But to provide genuine relief, taxes must keep being lowered while we shift from ad valorem tax slapped as a value-based percentage on products to fixed duties unaffected by price changes. It's feared the dent in excise and customs duty collections will hit fiscal health. But surely reform can help generate resources, be it as funds saved by trimming unnecessary expenditure or proceeds of disinvestment accelerated under favourable market conditions.

The point is, fluctuations in pump prices of fuel should reflect market dynamics, not political caprice. And central as well as state governments should be less dependent on taxing fuels as a primary source of revenue. If petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy says he's "sandwiched" between economists and populists, he probably hasn't figured out why. Populists will use inflation as a handle to bash it. And economists will rue the half-measure, not least because inflation control mandates a wider gamut of policy measures including fiscal consolidation through cutting wasteful subsidies. Half-measures are really what periodic price tweaks amount to. It also means impeding our transformation into a truly energy-efficient economy.







In a radical shift from earlier years - when Indian fans of western movies had to wait for months, if not years, for the latest Hollywood film to play at the local movie theatre - they will now get to watch some Hollywood releases earlier than US audiences.The upcoming Tintin movie directed by Steven Spielberg –The Adventures of the Unicorn - is slated to be released in India in November and in America during December. Similarly, the new James Bond thriller and the action flick, Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol - starring Bollywood's Anil Kapoor alongside Tom Cruise - may also be released earlier in India than elsewhere.

The move factors in both a major plus and minus of the Indian cinema scene. It's a nod to the size and power of the Indian film-viewing public, passionately in love with cinema, fond of flash and spectacle, youthful and growing.Early releases celebrate a variegated audience, open to both a Salman Khan shirt-tossing laugh as well as more demanding films like Inception. Keen readers and trivia-lovers, Indian viewers are often fine-tuned into originally literary characters like Tintin and Bond. These early releases celebrate both the multiplex and bookshops, where Ian Fleming and Herge's colourful creations have sold like hot samosas for decades. Alongside, the move's a shrug towards video piracy, notoriously harmful to local cinema industries and Hollywood. With early releases in India, audiences flocking to cinemas for that authentic 'big-picture' experience, video pirates could be denied large supplies of illegal DVDs floating across local markets, their scope limited further by tough anti-piracy laws overseas. This could be the beginning to many happy ends.





                                                                                                                                                                                                                TIMES VIEW




In a recent lecture to students at Osgoode Hall law school in Toronto on campus safety and self-protection, a police officer remarked that in order for women to avoid being victimised, they "should avoid dressing like sluts". And in this moment, 'slutwalk' was born. It took little time for students to demonstrate their outrage that their right to wear what they wanted should be the basis of sexual profiling. They marched. They protested on the streets. And they wore what they wanted to. Slutwalk went viral on the internet and global on the streets of major metropolitan cities.

Slutwalk represents the coming of age of feminism. It marks a moment when the politics of radical feminism with its emphasis on male sexual violence and female victimisation has found its way into the language of autonomy, sexual integrity and pleasure. It explodes the idea that a woman's dress is exclusively a statement about her culture and her exposed body is an invitation. If violence is produced as a result of what women wear, the fact that women in burqas, jeans, saris, salwar-kameez and spaghetti straps have all been victims of sexual violence, provokes the question: what would an anti-rape fashion brand look like? Let's be clear. Women are targets of sexual violence not because they are skimpily clad.

The very fact that vast numbers of young women are participating in slutwalks around the world indicates that they are deeply disturbed by the notion that dress can serve as a justification for rape. This is a global issue, not just a western quirk. But it provokes a range of uncomfortable questions. Is slutwalk feminist? It seems irrelevant if those participating in the march don't perceive themselves as feminists. What is relevant is the sense of exhaustion and frustration experienced by women in Delhi and elsewhere from being ogled, pawed, grabbed at and groped from the moment they step into the public space. Whether they are buying vegetables, having a coffee, or simply walking in the park, their expression of autonomy is sexualised and their sexualisation becomes an invitation.

Is slutwalk a middle-class indulgence, irrelevant to poor women? Perhaps. But if it makes the point that sexuality is not a negative, contaminating, disgusting and repulsive force, to be suppressed, subjugated, or violently erased, then it transcends being nothing more than an elite indulgence. Is the slutwalk a fundamentally individualist claim to demand that a woman has the right to wear whatever she wants? Maybe. But it still does not negate the argument that sexual expression through dress or speech is not an invitation to violence.

The most controversial aspect of this event is whether 'slut' is a term that can gain positive political traction. The fact that a cop could use the word in such a derogatory way opened up the right for women to appropriate the term and hurl it right back at such people in a way that asserts women's sexual autonomy. It may be that slut is being used by some women simply to state that they are not sluts because of what they wear, without challenging the idea that there are women who are sluts despite what they wear. Regardless of whether the term is being embraced or not, its use has provoked a critical discussion on the deeply troubling view that a 'slut' is asking to be raped. Neither cultural assertions about the chastity of the 'real Indian woman' nor feminist quibbling over whether the term can ever be reclaimed, should deflect attention from the real question at stake: why society as a whole - not women's dress sense - has failed abysmally in addressing sexual violence.

Today, while the government and even women's groups haggle over whether rape in marriage should be criminalised, slutwalk amplifies how dress does not lie at the core of why women are raped. The current discussions on where the line should be drawn on rape in law boils down to nothing more than a discussion on which women are fair game, can be raped, or are rapeable. Wives and sex workers both fall on the 'can be raped' side of the equation; a position sanctioned by the state, a fossilised notion of Indian cultural values, as well as the conservative sexual morality on both sides of the political divide. The answer should be clear and simple - no woman should be raped; no woman is rapeable; and no woman's rape should be justified on the basis of spurious claims of dress, cultural morality, sexual orientation, or marital status.

Any sexual assault that violates one's autonomy and privacy and denies the right to bodily integrity is simply wrong and not negotiable. As one marcher from a major city where slutwalk was held stated, "Our culture needs to change - teach people not to rape, not how not to be raped."

Slutwalk puts women's sexuality out there - in public - not as something that is shameful, embarrassing or disgusting. But as something that a healthy society should embrace, respect and defend.

The writer is an author.








The Special Olympics currently underway in Athens might bring to the world's attention a branch of medicine few know about: podiatry or the study of diseases of the foot and ankle. Dr Govind Singh Bisht , consultant podiatrist at Max Hospitals, is an expert and clinical director of 'Fit Feet' at the Special Olympics. He spoke to Shobha John :

Why is foot care so important for special children?

They are often neglected, not just by society, but by their families too. They have many requirements, be it the eyes, ears, feet, teeth or diet. While the Special Olympics was started in 1968, screenings for these children began in 1993. Foot screenings began only in 2003. These children have many foot-related problems - stiffness, flattening or collapse of the foot arch, fungus infection of the nails, etc.

Why is podiatry so important for diabetic patients?

Most diabetics have foot-related problems. In fact, it's one of the commonest causes of hospital admission for them. India has some 50.8 million diabetics, out of which 40,000 amputations take place annually. But it needn't be so - 50% of them can be avoided with good foot care. Diabetes affects the nerves of the foot, reducing blood supply. This can lead to loss of sensation and greater risk of injury. Even a small injury can lead to a non-healing ulcer, gangrene and then, amputation. This can become a major financial and psychological burden. Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance even among medical practitioners regarding diabetic foot care. For most diabetologists, this is not their area of specialisation and most don't even see the foot of the patient. In a survey based on a camp conducted by the Delhi Diabetes Centre, 1,500 respondents were asked how many times their doctor had examined their feet in the last one year. Shockingly, 59% said not even once, 23% said sometimes and only 18% said during every visit. Most doctors don't have the patience to take care of an ulcer that takes a long time to heal and is messy.

What advice would you give to diabetics about foot care?

Selecting the right footwear can make all the difference to a diabetic non-healing ulcer, so make sure you are wearing the right type of shoe. Sometimes, slippers just don't work if there's an ulcer on the foot. Shoe bites can also cause ulcers. So buy shoes with extra width and depth, good cushioning and shock absorption. This can help in grip and balance. Also, buy footwear in the latter half of the day as that's when swelling in the feet is more likely.

How often should a diabetic see a podiatrist?

If there are ulcers, it could be on a daily or weekly basis.

What are the common causes of ulcers among diabetics?

Corns, calluses, wrong footwear, injury from heating pads, skin infections, dry and cracked skin.

Is podiatry a branch of medicine in medical colleges?

Sadly, it isn't. Most podiatrists finish MBBS and then do a fellowship in podiatry abroad. I did it from Boston, for example. A comprehensive diabetic programme should be introduced in medical colleges. What's worse is that in most hospitals in India, there is no separate department for podiatry. So, diabetics are often left floundering, going to orthopaedics or skin doctors in their attempt to heal their ulcers. Sometimes, it can take years for ulcers to heal. However, good skin dressings in the market help in healing them and protect the wound against bacterial and other contamination.







Some people can just never wake up early. They munch their breakfast on the way to work. They have excuses ready when they reach office late. They miss trains on a regular basis. They have never seen a sunrise or met the milkman.

Until a loved one turned over a new leaf recently, she was one such late riser. Try as she might, she couldn't help pressing the snooze button a hundred times before she finally got up. She felt terrible about this tendency but there was nothing she could do about it. Come morning, she would just not be able to shrug off the desire to sleep a while more. Only when divine intervention answered her prayers recently was she able to join the early birds' club.

Another relative has no plans of joining this league though. She is rather unabashed about waking up past noon on a daily basis. To be fair, her husband is a media personality who typically arrives home from work past midnight. That does indeed give them sufficient justification to stay longer in slumber-land each morning. This practice does lead to certain oddities though. He goes for his 'morning' walk at 1 pm, heatwaves and appalled onlookers notwithstanding. They once returned from a night out only to meet the neighbour's son who was off on an early morning jog!

Early risers clearly have the edge in life. By the time most of us wake up, they've been through their morning rituals, enjoyed their walk, had their tea and read the daily news. They're also likely to have made long distance calls before dawn to those similarly inclined. Thus, by the time the sun warms up they're likely to have discussed all varieties of 'men, matters, and affairs' with a dozen people.

The upshot of these varying tendencies is that such extreme contrasts often exist in the same household. Weeks pass before the younger lot (typically late risers) and the older lot (normally early birds) come face to face. It's almost as if they live in different time zones and different countries.

All over the country, things are likely to be pretty much the same in this respect, one would think. If the man of the house, any house, decides to take a day off from work, he'd probably find his son emerging from his room at about 10 am and that too in a 'rubbing-eyes' mode. After fooling around for a while the lad would probably dash off to college in a rush whilst simultaneously zipping up his jeans and sending text messages on his phone. His father would undoubtedly be left shaking his head and burying himself deeper into his newspaper.

Some lucky families have come to a perfect understanding though. My sister, a teacher, and her husband, a doctor, wake up at 4 am each day in order to be done with their daily chores and to spend quality time together before their frantic schedules begin. She cooks all the meals for the day before the sun rises and is done with all her household work by 6 am!

Word has evidently gotten around about their ways. It is learnt that the garbage man turns up at their house every day at five in the morning. And when the good doctor had to undergo a small surgery himself, his operation was actually listed for 5.30 am, an unheard of hour for such an intricate activity. One only hopes that the operating team had gone to bed nice and early the previous night!

One thing's for sure. Five o'clock in the evening is probably the only time of day when one can hope to invite such contrasting creatures together for a celebration. At any other hour, one type or the other would probably be found yawning away to glory!








Those who feel that any publicity is good publicity stand a good chance of getting on the wrong side of Delhi-based businessman and film-maker Arindam Chaudhuri. As a magazine, publishing house and writer recently discovered, Mr Chaudhuri is not to be trifled with when it comes to writing about his pony-tailed personage.

Incensed by an article on him which he feels is defamatory, libellous and slanderous, he has sued his critics for a whopping Rs 50 crore. But Mr Chaudhuri, always ahead of the curve, has gone on to include search engine Google in his lawsuit.

Mr Chaudhuri's argument is that the data that Google aggregates each time anyone searches for his name on the Web not only contains the 'good' information on him but also the 'bad'. Therefore, the search giant is equally guilty of sullying his reputation.

While cyber lawyers are racking their brains about the extent of accountability of a search engine, which merely collates information on the internet rather than provide selective chunks of data, we have a few suggestions for Mr Chaudhuri. He shouldn't stop at Google.

No, he should take on Facebook, Twitter, Orkut and other social networks which may also be up to no good when it comes to his fair name. And then onward to sue internet itself. And if he wants to leave nothing to chance, the toothy techie should tell Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, Research In Motion and all other companies what's what.

Let us hope the dear man is busy with his legal pursuits and does not wake up this bright Monday morning and read our recommendations. A lawsuit is the last thing we want given that we don't have two pennies to rub together, leave alone crores.

But if it helps, we would just like to say that we admire his litigious instincts and that we are off to search for him on a site which we will not name, only to collate all that is so patently good in him.






We have come to expect opaque pronouncements from him. But even by his standards, external affairs minister SM Krishna's statement that India did whatever it could to secure the release of the six Indian sailors aboard the MV Suez seemed highly tangential. At the same time, he has thanked Pakistan for its very active role in getting the crew of the hijacked ship freed.

To give credit where it is due, it was the Pakistani Ansar Burney Trust which paid the ransom which the Somali pirates who had held the hostages for over 10 months asked for and it was Pakistani warships which escorted the vessel to safe harbour. We can only thank our lucky stars that Pakistan took this initiative given our resounding inaction ever since our sailors were taken hostage.

There was total indifference on the part of officialdom on dealing with the situation, largely perhaps due to the lack of any clear-cut policy on hostages. Coming as this did against the backdrop of the foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan, it certainly made for good public relations for the latter.

Though, once again to Pakistan's credit, it did not seek to capitalise on its role in the release of Indian sailors. Such incidents are likely to happen again given the ferocity and tenacity of Somalian pirates in that area.

Once pirates have boarded the ship, the options for securing the release of hostages narrow. This means that the best bet would be to ensure that pirates don't reach the ship in the first place. Given that Pakistan made this large-hearted gesture, it might be worth India's while to suggest joint patrolling of the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast.

Since maritime policy dictates that passenger and cargo ships cannot carry arms, preventive action would seem the best choice. It is here that we need to put territoriality aside and work towards maximising our patrolling efforts in the region.

China's efforts in the Straits of Malacca which once was beset by the pirate menace have paid off. Today, the Straits provide safe passage for ships. Paying a king's ransom for freeing ships each time is staggeringly prohibitive.

If India and Pakistan take the initiative, they can bring other affected countries on board. It is only when the pirates realise that there is a unified effort against them that they will think twice before venturing into risky waters.

This could be the time for a diplomatic move from India, though it would be better if it were not couched in the usual ambiguity so dear to our external affairs minister.








I am all for women's empowerment - the level does not matter. They can do a lot to civilise men. I prefer sitting next to a woman in a bus. Please do not get me wrong. I prefer this for no reason other than that a woman knows how to sit properly, with decorum. Occasionally, I have seen women trying to get ahead forcibly when there is a queue, but they have an argument there. There should be a separate queue for women anyway, they say.

Nehru was obviously hinting that women were more proper than men when he said: "The world would be a better place had men been less manly." The man was equally irritated by the aggressive Indian male as he was by the bullying United States secretary of state John Foster Dulles.

There is more to advocate for women. Delhi may be the crime capital of the country but how often have women been offenders? Okay, I concede the MCP point that being a criminal requires courage, which a woman may not have. But what about road accidents? How many women culprits has one heard of though women driving cars is now a pleasant and common sight in Delhi? Does rash driving too require courage, which only men have?

On a personal note, I really enjoy the way a woman can turn indifferent to a salacious topic of discussion, with a wry smile and eyes contemptuous and inexpressive.

But sometimes women do climb down from their position of inherent superiority. What happens then? A certain measure of artlessness creeps in, as a former male colleague discovered in his organisation the other day.

News broke that a celebrity was expecting her first child. Evidently, people had waited in eager anticipation for this 'major development', else there would not have been a comely lady tearing in and announcing this before her friendly colleagues, all female, who shared her excitement.

Screeching sounds followed, possibly of laughter suggestive of a carnal element in it, along with sheepish smiles. There was a bit of discussion that it was possible to guess that this was coming from the way our celebrity was putting on weight, and so on.

My colleague, a stickler for propriety, was in a dilemma.

He is fairly up to date on sexual harassment at workplaces. He knows it is against the law to crack lewd jokes or broach a matter of sexual interest in the presence of a woman. And since it is not proper to touch a woman's shoulder while talking to her, he prefers not to shake hands with a woman. (A JNU professor got into trouble just on this count.)

Then what is this happening? Is it not prurience thinly disguised in girlie form? Does it deserve condoning because of its glamour kit? How is a male supposed to feel in this situation?

Even if there was a National Commission for Men, my former colleague would not have taken the issue there. But he is thinking of approaching the National Human Rights Commission, because as a fair person he believes there should be at least two sides to such an issue.





Under our Constitution, the executive is answerable to Parliament as well as to the judiciary. To Parliament: when members from the Opposition seek explanations from the government for policy decisions, comment and analyse proposed government legislation and seek information from government. Through robust parliamentary procedures including debates, the people of India are informed of the manner in which the executive functions. The legislature, namely the two Houses of Parliament, is answerable to the court that has the power, through judicial review, to strike down legislation on the touchstone of our Constitution. Our legislators are also responsible and accountable to their constituents when they seek re-election after the dissolution of the House.

The judiciary, independent of both the executive and the legislature is accountable through an open and public judicial process. The hierarchy of courts helps correct judicial errors. Individual judges are also accountable through the process of impeachment by the legislature. That has so far not worked very well.

We need to ensure greater accountability of the judiciary by framing a law that protects judicial autonomy and independence and at the same time ensures strict accountability. In other words, each limb of the State is accountable, one way or the other. That is the essence of parliamentary democracy.

It is this essence that is in danger of being breached by the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Anna Hazare and his nominees. The lokpal, according to the proposed Bill, is an unelected executive body with independent investigation and prosecution agencies, answerable to none.

It is not answerable to the government, being outside it, as it will have the sole power to investigate all public servants. It isn't answerable to the legislature. Outside government, we will have no access to its functioning, a prerequisite in informing Parliament.

Besides, it will have the power to investigate all members of Parliament. It is not answerable to the judiciary except when it initiates the judicial process by taking recourse to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Besides, it will have the unique power to investigate members of the judiciary.  Such an entity not accountable to any constitutional authority can't be constitutionally justified.

One argument opposing the above proposition is that the same logic applies to the judiciary as it, too, isn't answerable to either the executive or the legislature.

This logic is wrong for two reasons:
1) All judicial proceedings are open to the public and judicial decisions are subject to revision, appeal and review. Judicial errors are liable to be corrected by superior courts. The lokpal, however, is essentially an investigating agency.

2) The independence of the judiciary can't be equated with the independence of an executive authority like the lokpal, the prime function of which is to investigate and prosecute. The judiciary seeks to protect citizens. The lokpal seeks to prosecute them. Autonomy of the judiciary must be protected since the judiciary resolves disputes. It is not mandated to prosecute people.

The second argument is that the lokpal is like the Election Commission (EC) and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), also independent constitutional authorities. Again, the comparison is odious. The EC's functions are regulatory and periodic and the CAG's function is to analyse expenditure of government departments and agencies funded by the government to ensure that money allocated is not wastefully employed.

It is, therefore, clear that in the scheme of things, an unelected lokpal who is not accountable is anathema to our concept of parliamentary democracy.

Another broad feature which is worrisome is the general premise underlying the Jan Lokpal Bill. It proceeds on the assumption that corruption has been institutionalised and is all-pervasive; that there is confluence of interests in government departments when a subordinate public servant charged with corruption is protected by his superior since the fruits of corruption are shared by all.

Consequently, corrupt acts are not dealt with and if dealt with, are delayed. The same applies to the political process since the political class is corrupt and seeks to protect itself by not enacting laws which make it accountable. These assumptions are not entirely accurate. The premise is that if a lokpal is set up outside the government, there would be no confluence of interests and the lokpal will be able to cleanse the system. This premise is inherently faulty.

Let us assume for a moment that we have put in place a lokpal that has within its ambit, all central government employees (about 4 million) and a lokayukta in every state, which has in its ambit all state government employees (about 7-8 million).

If the lokpal or lokayuktas are to deal with the corrupt acts of about 10-12 million people, what is required is a mammoth machinery to deal with individual acts of corruption by government employees.

Where would that machinery come from? Part of the human resource required will have to be transferred to the lokpal from existing investigating agencies. The human resource in the CBI that deals with corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, will have to be, to some extent, transferred along with personnel from other investigating agencies of government.

Besides, over the years, the lokpal will have to separately recruit investigating and prosecuting officers for disparate needs. It is not understood as to how the existing officers transferred to the lokpal and the new recruits of the lokpal will suddenly become incorruptible merely because they happen to function under the lokpal.

The danger of setting up such a structure is that it may end up as a Frankenstein's monster without accountability and act as an oppressive institution outside the State.

The cure would then be worse than the disease.

Kapil Sibal is a Union cabinet minister and a member of the joint drafting committee of the lokpal bill. The concluding part of the article will appear on June 30. The views expressed by the author are personal







Jeremy Bentham conceived the notion of the panopticon as an efficient prison where a few jailors would be able to watch over, control and mould a large number of prisoners at minimal cost. It was a highly successful institutional model that has been copied at schools, hospitals, military barracks and prisons. Its chief virtue is its being an omnipresent and omniscient overlord.

But if it were just that, then Anna Hazare's project to build a panopticon around the higher levels of our civil service and politicians would not be half as bizarre.

For who are the members of the panopticons in institutions such as schools, hospitals, military barracks and prisons? These are people who are there to be taught, trained, cured, moulded or disciplined. They are in some way deficient, and in need of rectification. Do our civil servants and political leaders belong to this category of people?

The panopticon begins by making everybody uniformly and completely visible to the jailor at all times without the subject being able to determine if he is being watched or not.

Hazare would have every bureaucrat and political leader under such a surveillance where his phone can be tapped, emails read, records of his decisions scrutinised at will, financial transactions prised open and personal life put under a scanner. That's the panopticon's eye that never blinks even if it isn't looking at you. The nature of the jailor's gaze is such that you are forced to assume he is watching you.

Politicians and bureaucrats are indispensable to the functioning of a modern society - whether it is an open democracy like ours or the authoritarian panopticon that Anna Hazare would put us in. What we need is better, brighter, more talented and far-sighted politicians than we have now.

Did I leave out honesty from the list of attributes? Yes, because keeping them honest is our job. This isn't a problem peculiar to politicians. Businesses have an inherent conflict of interest with their customers despite the mutual dependency between them. Businesses wield considerable power over their customers as well. Yet, the panopticon has never been the solution to the management of these conflicts.

You cannot legislate away inherent problems. The only solution to such problems has been competition. Societies set up markets and rules that make businesses compete so that peer pressure keeps exploitative instincts of businesses in check.

Democracy itself works better than an authoritarian government precisely because it compels politicians to compete for our votes and favour forcing them to come up with better solutions to problems than they otherwise would. Competition among politicians is what we need most.

Since the 1990s, we have had fractured verdicts and coalition governments. Furthermore, state elections are no longer synchronised with those at the Centre. Every ruling party has skeletons to hide, elections to fund, party workers to pay and propagandists to motivate.

Competition between and among politicians and political parties has diminished. That is the key that enables them to cut cozy backroom deals and to connive at each other's misdemeanours.

We need to shed the hypocrisy that pretends these noble souls - politicians - are there to serve us out of the goodness of their heart. We need to recognise the need to pay them properly, not only in office but also when we boot them out.

Our failure to be realistic about elections and party funding lies at the heart of corruption. The State and society need the politicians, no matter how ugly they are. So let us find a transparent, open, legal way to fund them.

We don't belong in a panopticon. We must not compromise our freedoms to be rid of corruption. Democracy works well enough.

Sonali Ranade is a market analyst. The views expressed by the author are personal




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

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

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

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






The National Advisory Council has drafted the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill — a bill that is both vague and bludgeon-like in its terms. The proposed law adds little to make our investigation and prosecution machinery more accountable. We already have a whole array of laws in the CrPC to deal with violence, which do not deter communal incidents or force an incompetent, weak-willed, even complicit state apparatus to act. This bill, far from filling the gaps in our current laws, adds another confusing layer: a seven-member National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation composed of people who represent a range of religious and linguistic minorities, and have displayed "high moral character". This draft again draws attention to the fundamental cognitive kink in the Central government's approach: its belief that a quota-created panel of good elders can be trusted to resolve things.

Victimhood and agency are already assigned in this bill — and the "group" that this law tries to protect can be defined as religious or linguistic minorities, or SC/ STs, a large and variegated category of sufferers. But the bill, conditioned by the traumatic memory of the 2002 Gujarat riots, fails as a comprehensive legal response to situations of communal violence. Its anti-federal tilt is clear, giving the Centre and the National Authority new powers to intervene in a state's law and order problem. And as the National Commission for Minorities Chairman Wajahat Habibullah, has observed, this bill seems to repose inordinate trust in the police and administrative machinery rather than finding a way to empower the victimised community. Most of all, as eminent and involved jurists like B.N. Srikrishna and J.S. Verma have pointed out, this bill is practically useless in dealing with aspects that make organised communal violence a special case. It says nothing about preventive arrests after intelligence tip-offs, attempts to contain the spread, etc. No standard measure for reparations and relief has been laid down. It makes no attempt to ensure that FIRs and investigations are taken seriously. So why have this bill at all? If the CrPC was found lacking in certain situations of premeditated group violence, then those aspects should be directly addressed.

If anything, the anti-communal violence bill reflects a Twenty20 approach to lawmaking — one that focuses on quick-and-dirty workarounds rather than refining the law that exists. Sticking a legislative label on our most intractable problems and setting up a caucus of good people to oversee it is no alternative to really taking on the problem, with method and commitment.






In early 2009, just before the last general election, the international oil price was close to $40 a barrel. It has more than doubled since; Brent crude oil is trading at well over $100 a barrel currently. In any case the government is overstretched, dealing with the fiscal aftereffects of firefighting during the global financial crisis. It cannot afford to for ever subsidise oil consumers as world prices change. The recent increase in the price of diesel and LPG is a small step towards greater rationalisation. For any kind of sustainable financing to be possible, India's consumers have to be able to make choices based on prices that are close to the real economic costs.

Yet our political response to this timid, half-hearted change is deeply disappointing and irresponsible. Instead of looking forward to what system will allow India to cut its fiscal deficit, and ensure that consumers have access to sensibly priced, unadulterated oil products, the opposition — and some parts of the ruling coalition, even — have chosen to use this small step as a stick with which to beat the government. Nobody doubts that the duty of an opposition party is to provide principled scrutiny of government decisions. But is this principled? The BJP, which led street protests against this rise, attempted to reform petroleum pricing, too, when in government. Has it abandoned those principles now?

The people, as consumers and voters, need sensible politics and policy from their parties. The time for populist mobilisation is past, and those who indulge in them have found their electoral utility to be sharply limited. An aspirational voter should be able to judge which party appears to be able to deliver good governance when in power — and it will not be that party which has been irresponsible when in opposition. There is much about our confused and outdated fuel pricing system that deserves criticism, and much that is wrong with how the UPA has been handling it. To hold the government up to scrutiny, however, requires more than the simplistic politics that has been on display this weekend.






Mughal mausoleums in India, such as Humayun's Tomb and the Taj Mahal — to stretch Dostoyevsky's "We all fell out of Gogol's Great Coat" about pre-revolutionary Russian writers — came out of the original in honour of Tamurlane, the Mughals' illustrious and sanguinary ancestor, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. That mausoleum, the Gur-e Amir, eventually became the Timurid dynasty's family crypt, much like Humayun's Tomb came to be the "Dormitory of the Mughals". Not much is left of the azure-domed Gur-e Amir, despite large-scale restoration. Humayun's Tomb would have suffered a similar fate had it not been for periodic doses of good fortune in an otherwise long history of neglect. The last was its recognition as a World Heritage Site in 1993, and the Archaeological Survey of India's redoubled efforts thereafter to restore the glory of the Taj's precursor.

So the fact that a team of Uzbeks, an architect and three tile craftsmen, has been recreating the right shades of the original Mughal tiles could be sweet coincidence, reconnecting all the dots of an old narrative of cultural intercourse. Except, it isn't. The Uzbeks, with tile and ceramic craftsmanship closest to the Mughals', got the job after a protracted process of consultation with tile-producing countries to fill in for a skill long lost from India. The ASI's determination to take time and go for the authentic, so as to also avoid pulling out a single damaged tile from the structure, is laudable.

While this will feed the ASI's conservation practices, it could also help restoration work on Islamic and Indo-Islamic monuments on a larger scale. After all, from the red sandstone-white marble of the initial phase of Mughal architecture (Humayun's Tomb) to the white-marble-pietra dura of the second phase (Taj Mahal), the consistent homage to a partly preserved azure-domed mausoleum in Samarkand cannot be missed.








In a post-bin Laden Pakistan, loud ramblings in the media and the tough line taken by Nawaz Sharif on the armed forces' accountability have led some to suspect that a shift in the power equation between the army and the government may be under way. This is simply not true, because the government remains as ineffective as ever, and the army, though not seemingly as collected as before, is still the only stable institution. Not only that, the brave and ferociously independent judiciary under the reinstated Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has done little else in public interest than threaten to bring Asif Ali Zardari to book — which remains a moot point as long as Zardari is the occupant of the presidency. Any accountability of the army will have to take shape under overwhelming public pressure, of which there are few signs.

The entire debate on Osama bin Laden's killing by the American Navy SEALs here has been twisted: from the disturbing question as to why Osama was found in Pakistan to the violation of Pakistan's sovereignty by the Americans. Few are saying that if Osama had not been here, the Americans would not have intruded deep into our territory to take him out. Fewer still question the readiness of the army in case of another similar intrusion and reasons thereof, or the alleged complicity of elements from within the forces in sheltering Osama. Why? Because doing so hurts our sense of pride as a nation and demands that we snap out of the state of perpetual denial which has brought us to this sorry pass.

So any talk of a shift taking place in the realm of power moving away from the army to the government will have to be deferred for now. This cannot happen without overwhelming public support as a result of a drastically adverse change on the economic front for reasons beyond anyone's control, given the lies the Pakistani public has been fed since 9/11. But this is not to say that General Ashfaq Kayani is not a worried man. Nobody envies him his coveted post today. Unlike Pervez Musharraf, he's a man of few words, and keeps his cards close to his chest; that's why nobody knows precisely what he holds in hand. His corps commanders may be anti-America but they, like him, also know the stark choices before them. Dramatic notions like a colonels' revolt or that of the sepoys' brewing are outlandish to the Pakistani psyche. If Musharraf had not been cornered by the Americans into shedding his military uniform, he would have still been the army chief and president. This country has only known bloodless coups against controversial civilian leaders; even Zia-ul-Haq needed to win the judiciary over to his side to send Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the gallows.

Then, if Islam was Zia's hypocritical diversion to contain public anger against Bhutto's judicial murder, anti-Americanism will similarly save the existing power paradigm between the Zardari government and the army. Nawaz Sharif's earnest calls for the army's accountability will only work to cement PPP-army relations, even if both do it grudgingly. The PPP has a history of appeasing the military establishment whilst in power, no matter how dearly it has paid for it in the past. After the 1971 East Pakistan debacle, it was Z.A. Bhutto who resurrected a totally demoralised army, hoping the generals would be indebted to him and remain loyal; they were, until they decided his favour was adequately returned; when he insulted Zia-ul-Haq after he was taken into protective custody, Zia made a horrible example of him. That Musharraf in his hubris spared Sharif tells the army what not to repeat.

Because of the army's continued interference in the political process, Pakistani politicians whilst in power know what they are in for. They also know that they have to be extremely lucky to complete their five-year term in office even if they came with a thumping majority, like Nawaz Sharif did in 1997. His two-thirds majority could not save him from a coup because he had shown little in terms of governance, and sought only to strengthen his own powers which he used ruthlessly. Benazir Bhutto too made compromises when she was twice allowed to run to the victory line. Her third success, cut short by her tragic assassination, was also after she struck a deal with Musharraf. In her two stints in government, like her husband's now, she had also incurred public displeasure by the time she was sent packing. Similarly, Nawaz Sharif's ouster in 1999 saw no public outcry. That sitting in the opposition he now feels he must atone for his mistakes and speak the truth is indeed an original stance; the only problem is he's in the wrong country, and doesn't know it. That his stance is popular remains a seriously moot point because his party has shown much worse governance in Punjab than Zardari's has done at the centre.

Pakistan has serious problems of governance because every time democracy has been derailed, the new dictator has reinvented the wheel in his eventual journey back to a democratic dispensation. The political order has thus shamelessly remained one based on oligarchy, with or without democracy. The people have had little say in reversing this recurring vicious cycle, and have been fed on a make-believe narrative that presents one villain after the other, stoking xenophobia. From the 1950s to the 1970s, India was the enemy No 1; then came the former Soviet Union riding its red, ungodly tanks into our backyard to proudly don that mantle; and now we have the India-US partnership, with its eyes set on our "Islamic" nukes. That we ourselves have had no hand in multiplying our misfortunes all these years remains the elusive truth — if truth must be told.

Meanwhile, a very lively media is an excellent public platform from which to vent your anger against the powers that be. We remain a proud, sovereign nation despite our consistent failings in taming ourselves!

The writer is an editor with 'Dawn', Karachi







Media reports say the government may throw open multi-brand retailing to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the six big metros with a rider that foreign retailers would be asked to set aside 50 per cent of their investment, stipulated at a minimum Rs 450 crore or roughly $100 million, to create back-end infrastructure. What's unclear is whether foreign retailers will be allowed to own a controlling 51 per cent interest in the venture; but even a 26 per cent stake, as is the case in the insurance sector, should be tempting enough. Moreover, India's top six cities would provide them with a large enough catchment to begin with.

Indeed, a calibrated approach to opening up the multi-brand retail space was always envisaged, given that it will take some convincing on the part of the government; not all political parties have been keen to import competition into this space fearing that many of the kiranas would be elbowed out. That's unlikely to happen for a long time though given the convenience that they offer. Studies done by ICRIER show that very few kiranas actually shut shop — just about 4 per cent — and fewer than 2 per cent do so because of competition from organised retail; very often it is because the second generation wants to pursue other interests.

While the government is understandably keen to have foreign retail chains operating in the country given the high food inflation, it is unlikely consumers will see meaningfully lower prices in the near term, especially in the fruits and vegetables segment. Because of the way the regulation works, especially the APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee), it will be a while before the mandis are no longer in control of produce and prices.

It is in very few states that organised retailers today are able to access the farm gate directly, and even when they do, they are not always able to move produce from one region to another. In fact, the discussion paper put out by the DIPP last year notes that the "wholesale regulated markets, governed by state APMC Acts, have developed a monopolistic and non-transparent character". Since there are at least four to five intermediaries in the chain between the farmer and the consumer-aggregator, market trader, wholesaler, sub-wholesalers, it results in both wastage and lower realisations for the retailer with the farmer getting a raw deal; his share of the total price paid by the consumer is estimated at 20-25 per cent, or even less according to a World Bank study, which is way below the world average of 50 per cent.

A Boston Consulting Group study estimates that, on average, as much as 46 paise of a rupee comprise wastage and profit margins of intermediaries. If organised retailers today are not able to sell fruits and vegetables at prices below those in the wet markets, it is partly because they don't yet have economies of scale; the total turnover clocked by organised retailers in the food and beverages segment is currently around $3.5 billion and the share of fruits and vegetables, within this, would be smaller. Also, contract farming can be a bit of a challenge when land holdings are fragmented; the average size of land holdings is estimated at 1.3 hectares, with more than 90 per cent of the plots being smaller than one hectare, so mechanisation is not easy. However, companies like Pepsi have succeeded in growing potatoes, and contract farming will take off if retailers are able to convince farmers that they have a ready buyer for their crop at a fair price. Once contract farming takes off, the issue of farm productivity, which is woefully low for several crops, can also be addressed.

Doubts have been raised on how much employment will actually be created by organised retailers and it has been pointed out that the number of jobs created so far by domestic players is insignificant — at just a few lakhs. While that may be true, it is also a fact that virtually no back-end infrastructure has been created, partly because retailers have focused more on the front-end and haven't spent too much time or money on the back-end. Typically, the ratio for direct to indirect jobs, the world over, is 1:1.5-2; and for the sector to throw up more indirect job opportunities, there has to be investment in infrastructure.

The government wants foreign retailers to allocate half their investment in the back-end, which ideally should include anything apart from store fronts; while that seems realistic for the food segment, it may be a tad high for the non-food segment. But, obviously, better storage facilities should bring down wastage, somewhat exaggerated, but definitely somewhere around 20-25 per cent of the 180 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables produced annually. As was hinted at in the DIPP paper, foreign retailers need to source 30 per cent of their merchandise from the SME sector; that shouldn't put them off even if it means additional money and effort to ensure that quality sustains. In fact, India is already a sourcing hub for several global retailers. What could keep them away is any resistance on the part of state governments; there have been instances in the past, in Uttar Pradesh for instance, of even domestic organised retailers being harassed. But then it was never going to be easy.

The writer is resident editor, Mumbai, 'The Financial Express'







Are cash transfers a safety net for inclusion or a recipe for failure? Let me say at the outset that cash transfers are not the silver bullet or the magic mantra to eliminating poverty and corruption. Some argue that cash transfers will replace government services, but, at best, cash transfers can be part of a larger poverty reduction strategy. In her thoughtful piece on cash transfers, recently published in Economic and Political Weekly, Jayati Ghosh makes an important point: "Cash transfers cannot and should not replace the public provision of essential goods and services, but rather supplement them."

Another question that is being asked is whether transfers to incentivise behaviour change should be in cash or kind. Each has its merits — for instance, in Bihar the scheme to provide bicycles to girls to retain them in school seems to be working. However, cash transfers give the poor the chance to choose their priorities.

Which leads to the question some ask: "Will they use the cash efficiently?" We have evidence to believe that the poor will use the cash efficiently. Given the chance of free choice and voice, by and large, the poor make responsible choices.

Brazil's Bolsa Familia, the oft-cited example of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) in the ongoing debate in India, was crafted with the aim of alleviating poverty in the short term and of breaking the inter-generational transmission of poverty in the longer term. In Brazil the employed were covered by contributory social insurance and the elderly and disabled poor were paid a pension by the state. However, with rising inequalities a large segment of the poor remained on the margins. Bolsa Familia was introduced at the sub-national level in the mid-90s to protect the marginalised poor, and much like India's NREGA this scheme focused on the family, not the individual. Cash was transferred on the condition that children attend school or family members regularly visit health clinics — besides getting much needed cash into the hands of the poor in the short term, this would also improve the capabilities of the next generation in the long term. After close to a decade of testing it out at the provincial level Bolsa Familia was adopted nation-wide on a larger scale in 2003 and today 25 per cent of the population is covered by this scheme.

Other countries in Latin America developed their own CCT models based on different development goals, determining how they are positioned within the social protection system of each country. Chile's CCT programme, Solidario, has a strong focus on cash transfers to promote social integration, bringing indigent families into the public network of social services. Mexico's Opportunidades, on the other hand, focuses on cash transfers to incentivise poor families in rural and urban communities to invest in human capital — improving the education, health and nutrition of their children. However, for any of these to work, social infrastructure is an essential prerequisite.

In Brazil and Mexico inequality fell by 21 per cent and in Chile by 15 per cent. And it has had a positive impact on health and education outcomes. In Brazil the school enrolment gap between mainstream groups and marginalised races and indigenous groups has equalised. While the long-term impact of CCTs on gender equity is still to be confirmed, in Latin America there is consensus that money transferred to women has positive effects on their self-esteem and economic autonomy and that conditionalities increase women's access to social services.

UNDP, present in 134 countries, can share experiences and expertise from Latin America and elsewhere to support the government in its endeavours to develop its own model of cash transfers — a model that fits into its larger development strategy and facilitates access to basic social services and necessities by the poor and marginalised. In recent years, the government of India has also introduced first-generation CCTs such as the Ladli and Dhanalakshmi schemes that offer cash transfer incentives for the girl child. The Planning Commission is also studying the feasibility of this instrument, and has piloted a conditional cash transfer scheme for lactating and pregnant mothers. So there is some merit in the CCT instrument, and its relevance in the Indian context should be informed by the ongoing experiments as well.

The Delhi government, for instance, started a one-year experiment this January with UNDP support to test if cash transfers would help in overcoming the challenges of delivering food grains through a public distribution system that has come in for criticism by the Supreme Court. A recent World Bank report says that the PDS has limited benefits due to "huge leakage and wastage". Later this year we will have the first report from our implementing partner SEWA Bharat that will be shared with the Delhi government, and, based on the feedback from the 100 families that have volunteered to be part of the experiment, the scheme will be fine-tuned to better serve the needs of the community.

Another social protection pilot is being developed with UNDP support to introduce conditional cash transfers for Delhi state. Targeted CCTs are expected to improve school enrolment, attendance and performance; improve nutritional status and enhance efficiency of social security schemes, especially for women and children. Pilot households are expected to receive cash transfers with the specific purpose of incentivising key milestones such as: minimum attendance of children in school; participation in immunisation campaigns; and pregnant women's visits to health clinics, among other things.

In conclusion I would like to point out that the government has adopted a very cautious approach to trying out the cash transfer model in India with a particular objective — to improve poor people's access to basic services and goods. Will this work? Time alone will tell — and to make an honest assessment of this model feedback from the beneficiaries is critical, but equally important is the role of an active and vigilant civil society. While cash transfers — conditional or unconditional — may not be a silver bullet, there is merit in weighing the pros and cons of cash transfers as a complement to other social protection measures for the very poor, and in improving their access to basic services and goods.

The writer is the UN resident coordinator, and UNDP representative, in India








Bangalore's blazing though blessedly brief summer-gone-by gives a glimpse of the future state of hockey. The onset of globalisation is slowly decimating the graceful game of flicking and hitting the ball with a curved stick. The game's decline in Bangalore and in Karnataka, where it was once celebrated, foreshadows hockey's diminishing glory elsewhere in the country.

Kannan Krishnamurthy, secretary of Karnataka's Hockey Association has a ringside view. He sees what used to be a much-sought-after summer coaching camp at the association turning into a desultory affair in recent years. This summer, there were a mere 30 enrolments. The year-round training camp at the association to groom serious young hockey talent is in poor shape. There were only 80 applicants this year and, expectedly, many dropouts through the months.

Not so many years ago, Bangalore used to the country's hockey capital. Or, as a game website evocatively describes, a hockey paradise. Talent abounded and poured in from everywhere — from the Mangalore coast, the hills of Coorg and the plains of northern Karnataka. Topping it all, Bangalore's Anglo-Indian population avidly nurtured hockey in schools such as Frank Anthony's and Francis Xavier's.

Today, the slide is evident all around. Young boys and girls who play the game treat it as recreational. Barring the Jawaharlal Nehru Hockey Tournament, school-level hockey competitions lack intensity. Hockey selectors have little choice as the talent pipeline is dry, says Krishnamurthy, a former international umpire and game manager.

The reasons are many, and globalisation is playing its role. In an India television-fed on American NBA basketball games, European football leagues and IPL cricket, school kids (and their parents) do not see the glamour in hockey. Barring international hockey, the game is no longer spectator-backed. Cricket, football and even tennis have overtaken hockey in the earnings stakes. Hockey is becoming a game shunned by the affluent. Even the middle classes who once took to it for its employment potential in government-owned corporations now shy away.

Amongst the Anglo-Indians, there is still a mine of talent, says Shanmugham P. who runs the Jude Felix Hockey Academy in the Cooke Town area where he currently coaches 60 children coming from vulnerable backgrounds. But neighbourhood clubs in localities are becoming extinct because of the city's 24x7 work culture and the enticing night-day customer support jobs, says Shanmugham. If people work all night, how can they play in the morning, he asks.

So, history is dying in Karnataka which bred a steady stream of great players such as India captain Somayya Maneypande, goalkeeper Ashish Ballal and even the current striker Arjun Halappa. Perhaps the only saving grace in all this is ongoing tradition of the Kodava Hockey Festival held each summer in Coorg, a five-hour drive from Bangalore. This summer's tournament, in its 15th year, had 225 participating family teams consisting of fathers, brothers, cousins and blood relatives of every hue. Hamlets, villages and entire communities in the coffee-growing region get caught up in the competitive spirit.

But Mohan Aiyappa, a former national level player, who is in the record books for holding the family hockey tournament, says the future looks bleak. Between the stresses of an education system where parents want the children to study all day, and kids who cannot get enough of television or video games in their spare time, there is no time for hockey in Coorg, once hockey's bastion. Or else, what explains the state where a once glorious, hockey-loving country of 1.2 billion people runs short of talent, he asks.

Aiyappa says he chokes up when he sees schoolchildren in Coorg walking back home in the evenings hockey stick in hand. That once-common sight is slowly becoming less frequent, signalling hockey's downfall in this country, he laments.






One of the great strengths of science is that it can fix its own mistakes. "There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong," the astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said. "That's perfectly all right: it's the aperture to finding out what's right. Science is a self-correcting process."

If only it were that simple. As a series of controversies over the past few months have demonstrated, science fixes its mistakes more slowly, more fitfully and with more difficulty than Sagan's words would suggest. Science runs forward better than it does backward.

It takes a lot of time to look back over other scientists' work and replicate their experiments. Scientists are scrambling to get grants and tenure. As a result, papers that attract harsh criticism may nonetheless escape the careful scrutiny required if they are to be refuted.

In May, for instance, the journal Science published eight critiques of a controversial paper that it had run in December. In the paper, a team of scientists described a species of bacteria that seemed to defy the known rules of biology by using arsenic instead of phosphorus to build its DNA. Chemists and microbiologists roundly condemned the paper; in the eight critiques, researchers attacked the study for using sloppy techniques and failing to rule out more plausible alternatives.

But none of those critics had actually tried to replicate the initial results. That would take months of research: getting the bacteria from the original team of scientists, rearing them, setting up the experiment, gathering results and interpreting them. Many scientists are leery of spending so much time on what they consider a foregone conclusion.

For now, the original paper has not been retracted; the results still stand.

Even when scientists rerun an experiment, and even when they find that the original result is flawed, they still may have trouble getting their paper published. The reason is surprisingly mundane: journal editors typically prefer to publish groundbreaking new research, not dutiful replications. In March, for instance, a psychologist at Cornell University shocked his colleagues by publishing a paper in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in which he presented the results of experiments showing, he claimed, that people's minds could be influenced by events in the future, as if they were clairvoyant.

Three teams of scientists promptly tried to replicate his results. All three teams failed. All three teams wrote up their results and submitted them to the same journal. And all three teams were rejected — but not because their results were flawed. As the journal's editor, Eliot Smith, explained, the journal has a longstanding policy of not publishing replication studies. "This policy is not new and is not unique to this journal," he said.

As a result, the original study stands.

Even when follow-up studies manage to see the light of day, they still don't necessarily bring matters to a close. Sometimes the original authors will declare the follow-up studies to be flawed and refuse to retract their paper. Such a standoff is now taking place over a controversial claim that chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by a virus. In October 2009, the virologist Judy Mikovits and colleagues reported in Science that people with chronic fatigue syndrome had high levels of a virus called XMRV. They suggested that XMRV might be the cause of the disorder. Several other teams have since tried — and failed — to find XMRV in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. As they've published their studies over the past year, scepticism has grown. The editors of Science asked the authors of the XMRV study to retract their paper. But the scientists refused; Mikovits declared that a retraction would be "premature". The editors have since published an "editorial expression of concern."

Once again, the result still stands.

But perhaps not for ever. Ian Lipkin, a virologist at Columbia University is doing what he calls "de-discovery": intensely scrutinising controversial claims about diseases. Last September, he laid out several tips for effective de-discovery in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews. He recommended engaging other scientists — including those who published the original findings — as well as any relevant advocacy groups (like those for people suffering from the disease in question). Together, everyone must agree on a rigorous series of steps for the experiment. Each laboratory then carries out the same test, and then all the results are gathered together. At the request of the National Institutes of Health, Lipkin is running just such a project with Mikovits and other researchers to test the link between viruses and chronic fatigue, based on a large-scale study of 300 subjects.

This sort of study, however, is the exception rather than the rule. If the scientific community put more value on replication — by setting aside time, money and journal space — science would do a better job of living up to Carl Sagan's words.






When President Obama announced his decision to surge more troops into Afghanistan in 2009, I argued that it could succeed if three things happened: Pakistan became a different country, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan became a different man and we succeeded at doing exactly what we claim not to be doing, that is nation-building in Afghanistan. None of that has happened, which is why I still believe our options in Afghanistan are: lose early, lose late, lose big or lose small. I vote for early and small.

My wariness about Afghanistan comes from asking these three questions: When does the Middle East make you happy? How did the Cold War end? What would Ronald Reagan do? Let's look at all three.

When did the Middle East make us happiest in the last few decades? That's easy: 1) when Anwar Sadat made his breakthrough visit to Jerusalem; 2) when the Sunni uprising in Iraq against the pro-al-Qaeda forces turned the tide there; 3) when the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was routed in 2001 by Afghan rebels, backed only by US air power and a few hundred US special forces; 4) when Israelis and Palestinians drafted a secret peace accord in Oslo; 5) when the Green Revolution happened in Iran; 6) when the democracy uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Egypt emerged.

And what do they all have in common? America had nothing to do with almost all of them. They were self-propelled by the people themselves; we did not see them coming; and most of them didn't cost us a dime. And what does that tell you? The most important truth about the Middle East: It only puts a smile on your face when it starts with them. If it doesn't start with them, if they don't have ownership of a new peace initiative, a battle or a struggle for good governance, no amount of US troops kick-starting, cajoling or doling out money can make it work. And if it does start with them, they really don't need or want us around for very long.

As for how the Cold War ended, that's easy. It ended when the two governments which provided the funding and ideology propelling our enemies collapsed. China had a peaceful internal transformation from Maoist Communism to capitalism, and the Soviet Union had a messy move from Marxism to capitalism. Since then, we have increasingly found ourselves at war with another global movement: radical jihadist Islam. It is fed by money and ideology coming out of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran. 9/11 was basically a joint operation by Saudi and Pakistani nationals. Yet we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, because Saudi Arabia had oil, Pakistan had nukes and Iran was too big.

Until we break the combination of mosque, money and power in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which fuel jihadism, all we're doing in Afghanistan is fighting the symptoms. The true engines propelling radical jihadist violence will still be in place.

George Will pointed out that Senator John McCain, a hawk on Libya and Afghanistan, asked last Sunday, "I wonder what Ronald Reagan would be saying today?" with the clear implication that Reagan would never leave wars like Libya or Afghanistan unfinished. I actually know the answer to that question. I was there. On February 25, 1984, I stood on the tarmac at the Beirut airport and watched as a parade of Marine amphibious vehicles slipped into the Mediterranean and motored out of Lebanon to their mother ship.

After a suicide bomber killed 241 US military personnel, Reagan realised that he was in the middle of a civil war, with an undefined objective and an elusive enemy, whose defeat was not worth the sacrifice. So he cut his losses and just walked away. As Reagan deftly put it at the time: "We are not bugging out. We are moving to deploy into a more defensive position."

Eight years later, the Soviet Union was in the dustbin of history, America was ascendant and Lebanon,










When the management of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) decided, on August 26, 2008, to waive fees on currency derivatives, it probably wasn't the most important decision given just how insignificant currency volumes were in comparison to NSE's total turnover. Similarly, when a decision was taken to withhold some important codes from the trading software ODIN (developed by rival MCX-SX's promoter firm Financial Technologies), it's not clear just how focused NSE's top management was on its implications. Sure, it would hurt wannabe rival MCX-SX, but isn't that what business is all about? No quarter asked for, none given. Even if someone thought of how the competition authorities in the country would view this, it didn't really matter since the Competition Commission of India's (CCI) powers hadn't even been notified back then—they were notified on May 20, 2009. When the powers were notified, and push came to shove, MCX-SX took the case to CCI; the latter investigated the matter and found NSE guilty of abusing its dominant position to stifle competition. After NSE was given the requisite time to contest the ruling, CCI has now fined NSE R55.5 crore. Given NSE's profits of R614 crore in 2009-10, the fine is a big one, even though it is true NSE's profits have been rising at a fast clip—profits grew a fourth in 2009-10 and are roughly half of the turnover. More than the fine, it is the way it was computed that should send shivers down India Inc's collective spine—the fine has been calculated as 5% of NSE's average turnover in the past three years. Apply the same logic to other companies, and the size of fines in the future could rise manifold. If MCX-SX successfully files for damages, based on CCI's ruling, the loss for NSE could be significantly higher—there are obvious implications in terms of what such actions could mean for India Inc.

For company managements focused only on the future, this is timely wake-up call—it's a good idea to stick to the straight and narrow since you don't know when the past can come back to haunt the future. It's a thought that probably keeps coming back for all those involved in the 2G scam—even if their licences (for which they paid R1,651 crore each) aren't cancelled, it is certain the firms will all have to pay heavy fines. With this order, which NSE will certainly contest in the courts, India's CCI has arrived as a serious competition watchdog.





Despite having got it so horribly wrong on inflation on so many occasions, government economists are back to predicting that food inflation will slow once more grain comes into the market. RBI deputy governor Subir Gokarn argues they're wrong. At a function in Chennai, he said food prices were no longer as sensitive to the monsoon as one would imagine and that there was sufficient evidence to suggest food prices were driven by more fundamental factors—our columnist Surjit S Bhalla suggested Saturday that it was the global price of oil that was the single-largest explanator of food prices, though it's not clear if this is what Gokarn had in mind.

Look at the data for the past few years and you find that food prices have risen faster than the overall WPI for the seventh successive year now, something unprecedented since the advent of the green revolution; food inflation touched a peak level of 15.6% in 2010, the highest since the start of the reforms in the early nineties. While the gap between food inflation and WPI was under 1 percentage point in 2005-06 (food inflation was 5.4% versus a WPI of 4.5%), this rose steadily to 11.5% in 2009-10 (15.3% food inflation versus 3.8% for WPI); this declined in 2010-11 but was still a high 6%—and this was despite the 5.4% pick up in agriculture growth in 2010-11 and record grain produced in that year. The most recent trends indicate that the current pick up in agriculture prices is not on account of the core products of the food basket like cereals or pulses, it is due to high-value products like vegetables, fruits, eggs, milk, fish and meat whose demand has risen faster than supply, thanks to the sharp hike in per capita income levels. While the record agriculture output in 2010-11, and especially that of food grains, helped slow the increase in price of cereals, prices of high-value goods accelerated even faster. Numbers show that while the price increase of cereals (including rice and wheat) slowed down from 12.6% in 2009-10 to 6.3% in 2010-11 and that of pulses went down from 22.4% to 3.2%, those of vegetables continued to remain at a high 13%; those of fruits surged to 19.8%. For milk, prices rose from 18.8% in 2009-10 to 20.1% in 2010-11, eggs from 13.5% to 15.2%, marine fish products from 9.8% to 38.8% … What's not clear though is how more rate hikes will help.







In his Budget speech in July 2009, the finance minister had labelled bank nationalisation as visionary and revolutionary since, according to him, bank nationalisation ensured that India did not suffer from the financial crisis like the other parts of the world. Was that an economically sound argument that is supported by facts? Or was that a politically motivated statement where the minister used the financial crisis as a stick to beat up proponents of privatisation of public sector banks?

Contrasting the banking system between Canada and the US is very informative in this context since there were some significant differences between Canada and the US during the recent financial crisis. Consider the following facts illustrated with charts. Canada didn't have nearly the real estate bubble and subsequent corrective crash in home prices as the US. Canada has had nowhere near the problems with mortgage delinquencies and home foreclosures as the US. Yet Canadian banks were the most profitable during the period 2005-09 and reported positive return on equity even in the worst year of the meltdown, 2008, when banks in the US, UK and Europe reported negative returns on equity.

And this recent financial crisis isn't the first time that Canada's banking system showed greater signs of stability and less exposure to stress than US banks. In the 1930s, when 9,000 US banks failed during the Great Depression, not a single bank in Canada failed. When almost 3,000 American banks failed during the Savings and Loan (S&L) Crisis, only two small Canadian banks failed in 1985, and those were the first bank failures in Canada since 1923. And while almost 200 US banks have failed since the start of the global recession in early 2008, Canada remains the only industrialised country in the world without a single bank failure.

Since the Canadian banking system is not dominated by government-owned banks, bank nationalisation cannot explain this difference in the fortunes of Canadian and US banks. Thus, it turns out that the finance minister's arguments in his speech were empty rhetoric.

If it is not bank nationalisation, what features of the Canadian banking system lent it greater stability? First, almost all Canadian home mortgages are "full recourse" loans. Thus, the borrower has to fully repay the loan using his other assets/income even if the loan is foreclosed because the market value of the home is lower than the current value of all future payments that are owed on the home loan. The full-recourse feature of Canadian home mortgages results in more responsible borrowing, fewer delinquencies, and significantly fewer home foreclosures than in the US.

Second, shorter-term rates are fixed in Canada. Canadian home mortgages carry a fixed interest rate for a maximum of five years, and rates are then re-negotiated for the next five years, similar to a five-year adjustable rate. This practice allows banks to achieve a better maturity match between their assets (mortgages and loans) and interest income, and their liabilities (deposits) and interest expense, which protects them from the kind of maturity mismatch and interest rate risk that resulted in the S&L crisis in the US and almost 3,000 bank failures in the 1980s and 1990s.

Third, though prepaying of home mortgages is allowed, the prepayment penalties are much stiffer than in the US, which discourages home refinancing of the order that took place in the US leading up to the housing meltdown. Fourth, Canada never had branching restrictions like the US laws that prevented interstate banking up until 1994. This historically allowed Canadian banks to achieve geographical diversification for their deposits and loans portfolios. It was largely this difference in geographical diversification that help explains why the US had 9,000 bank failures during the Great Depression (each operating within only one of the 48 states, due to the prohibition on interstate branching) and not a single Canadian bank (all with branches nationwide) failed in the 1930s.

Taken together, the features and regulations of banks in Canada create a healthy and sound "pro-lender" environment absent of political motivations for outcomes like greater homeownership, compared to the often politically motivated "pro-borrower" and "pro-homeowner" policies of the US. While Canada's banking system has promoted responsible borrowing and prudent lending and underwriting practices with little politically motivated interference, the US banking system seems to have encouraged excessive lending to risky borrowers because of the political obsession with homeownership.

Since the obsession with priority sector lending, which is primarily to the more politically sensitive classes in India, is similar to the obsession with homeownership in the US, the difference in the experiences between Canada and the US offers important lessons to India: priority sector lending in India must be slowly dismantled to avoid crisis of the kind witnessed in the US lately.

The author is a PhD in finance from the University of Chicago and is currently faculty in finance at the Indian School of Business






That permabear Nouriel Roubini is back in the headlines with his prediction of a "perfect storm" threatening global growth is hardly a surprise. Roubini's warnings resonate with investors anxious about the seemingly never-ending Greek debt crisis, the dangerous combination of slowing growth and higher inflation in the US and in emerging markets, and the possibility that China is on track for a hard landing. Market participants are now pricing in underperformance in global equities and also for the commodities sector, which was until recently an investor darling.

Although there is no doubt that developed and emerging markets are slowing, that the US is headed, at best, into a muddle-through type of situation, as is Europe, the blanket sense of pessimism is unwarranted. The pause on emerging markets growth is likely to be of relatively short duration, with growth starting to pick up again after the summer, with positive implications for emerging market equities and commodities.

The key here is emerging markets' performance relative to developed markets. The US Federal Reserve cut its 2011 growth forecast to 2.8-3.2%, down from expectations of 3.5-4.0% earlier this year. At the same time, the Fed, in its most-recent policy statement, highlighted its concern about core inflation rising close to its 2% target. With Congress still deadlocked over the budget and the fiscal deficit, the Fed was the only player with the tools to address the slowdown and incipient inflation. But Fed chairman Ben Bernanke continues to rule out QE3 in view of rising core inflation, leaving policymakers few tools to avoid stagflation, other that to continue to maintain interest rates at their current low levels.

In contrast, emerging markets are still set to grow at respectable rates in 2011: Growth of 7.5% in India, 4% in Russia and Brazil, and 8.5-9.0% in China are still attractive even if accompanied by high inflation. The combination of low growth and low interest rates in the US is likely to push further investment flows into emerging market economies. Although inflation is a concern in emerging markets, it is also a problem in developed economies.

Faced with a choice between investing in countries with high inflation and strong economic growth (emerging markets) or those with high inflation and stagnant growth or stagflation (developed markets), investors will opt for the former. And that will be positive for emerging market equities in the second half of the year.

The outlook for commodities is also positive as supply remains constrained and demand continues to be strong. Fears of an imminent collapse in Chinese growth—the main driver of pessimism on commodities—are unfounded. China's slowdown is in large part due to destocking by state-owned enterprises that had used their loan quotas to build stocks of raw materials early this year, rather than put it on deposit at negative real interest rates. Growth will recover after the summer as firms start rebuilding inventories. Inventories of copper and coal, which had been declining earlier this year, will have to be rebuilt in the second half.

Looking out to the medium term, supply constraints and continued robust demand will drive up commodity prices. Supply constraints are particularly acute in agricultural commodities where adverse weather conditions, from drought to floods around the globe, have hit the supply side of the price equation. Although overall cereals production is expected to rise 3.5% to a record in 2011, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, global stocks remain near historic lows at a time when demand remains strong.

The story is similar for industrial metals. The copper market remains undersupplied due to the drying up of new mining investment during the economic crisis. The expected launch of new ETFs backed with physical copper will also have an impact on the demand-supply balance. There will be a supply response but it will take at least a couple of years for it to have an impact on the market. In the meantime, the market will remain in deficit, with costs of production increasing and yields declining while demand is expected to continue to grow.

The oil market, too, remains tight, with the near-term outlook for oil prices appearing firm after Iran led a revolt against Saudi leadership at OPEC and blocked an attempt to increase official quotas. The trend of rising oil production costs and lagging output gains will continue, supporting prices in the medium term. So, instead of the unrelieved gloom peddled by the bears, the outlook for the second half of 2011 looks to be more positive, at least for emerging markets and commodities.

The author is global markets director of the research service, Trusted Sources—






India and Pakistan have taken their re-engagement another commendable step forward with the meeting between the two Foreign Secretaries. Considering the difficulties in relations since the Mumbai 2008 attacks, each official interaction must be seen as an important incremental step in the rebuilding of bilateral relations, to which there is no alternative. As Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao rightly said, it is time that "a vocabulary of peace," rather than an ideology of military conflict, determined the way the two countries view each other. These talks capped a series of meetings between officials held since March, following the pattern of the Composite Dialogue process but without calling it that. That these discussions were able to pick up threads abandoned after the Mumbai attacks, including those on relaxing the visa regime and concessions to improve bilateral trade, is encouraging. The Foreign Secretaries discussed the possibilities of more Kashmir-specific confidence-building measures, or CBMs, and the scope for improving those in existence now. Also taken up were CBMs to mitigate the nuclear shadow over the subcontinent and the excessive military build-up on both sides, as was the issue of terrorism. That both sides had to agree through a joint statement to the "cessation of hostile propaganda" is telling about how far this had gone and should be cause for introspection in the news media, which often provides a platform for such propaganda. But what was uplifting was the acknowledgment that "the people of the two countries are at the heart of the relationship."

Last week, one Pakistani demonstrated that nothing is truer when it comes to India-Pakistan relations. Ansar Burney's act of mobilising funds to free not just the Pakistani sailors held by pirates on the m.v. Suez, but also the Indian ones, has provided exemplary substance to that phrase 'people-to people contact.' The subsequent mid-sea scuffle between the Indian and Pakistani navies as the rescued ship was being escorted to Karachi only reiterated the truth that the peoples are more capable of civilised engagement than the two states. The human rights activist's decision to help the Indian hostages is all the more heart-warming, considering the hostility he faced from the Pakistani media the last time he assisted an Indian in March 2008, when his efforts led to the release of the death-row prisoner Kashmir Singh from a Pakistani jail after a 30-year-long incarceration. Worse was the shabby treatment meted out to him by India, which deported him from the New Delhi airport in June 2008 on the unexplained ground of "inadequate documentation." Evidently, Mr. Burney carried no grudge about this. He has shown by deed that humanism is the best CBM.






It is easy to guess why the central government waited so long before increasing the retail price of diesel, LPG, and kerosene. These petroleum products are far more politically sensitive than petrol, the price of which was allowed to rise last month. When New Delhi finally squared up with the substantial and sustained rise in global oil prices, the revision in prices announced on Friday was sharp and painful to consumers: diesel up by Rs.3 a litre, kerosene by Rs.2, and cooking gas by Rs.50 a cylinder. The repercussions will be harsh and wide: an increase in the price of diesel, the economy's main transportation fuel, will push up the cost of food items, including fruits and vegetables, eggs, and many other perishables that are moved largely by truck. A hike in transportation costs usually has a cascading effect on food prices. In the context of high inflation, especially food inflation, this is extremely bad news for consumers. The calculation may be that LPG is the fuel of choice of the middle classes rather than of poorer sections but it is clear the Rs.50 price increase is deeply resented. As for the increase in the price of kerosene — the poor woman's fuel — there have been reports that a significant proportion of the fuel obtained from the public distribution system is being diverted for adulterating diesel and other more expensive fuels. But how does this make the price hike any less burdensome for the poor families that rely on kerosene for their daily cooking?

Faced with increases in global oil prices three years ago, the United Progressive Alliance government claimed it strove for equity, apportioning the burden among the stakeholders: the consumer, the government, which levies and collects taxes, and the public sector oil companies. This time too it claims to have softened the blow on consumers by scrapping or reducing customs and excise duties on petroleum and its derivatives, in the process forgoing some Rs.49,000 crore of tax revenue. The oil marketing companies say their "under recoveries" will come down by Rs.21,000 crore. Restructuring petroleum product prices may be an acceptable longer-term objective but any sharp increase in the retail prices will be hugely unpopular in a country where the basic needs of hundreds of millions of people are nowhere close to being met, notwithstanding the high economic growth rate. The government ought to take a major share of the blame for failing to meet this challenge from the standpoint of the people and with a longer-term policy perspective.







The family that had sent a young woman back to her parents after her husband's death, surfaced when she died. There was a contest between her mother and the husband's sister's sons for her property. The mother lost all the way up to the Supreme Court, which noted that it was a "hard case."

"What women can expect from Courts… is a qualified degree of equal treatment," wrote Professor Wendy Williams in " The Equality Crisis: Some Reflections on Culture, Courts, and Feminism," published in 7 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 175 (1982), adding that "women's equality as delivered by Courts can only be an integration into a pre-existing, predominantly male world."

This is so because, though the courts may be well meaning and earnestly intend to uphold equal rights for women, they can only reflect the shared life experience of individuals. This takes a largely male hue, not only because the judgment-deliverers are predominantly male, but also because society systemically supports male supremacy. And this systemic slant shades the thought processes that lie behind laws too, and the courts apply the laws in their judgments.

The skewed reality in which gender is positioned in the social, political, economic and cultural transactions shows up the fact that law is not gender-based — sometimes it is not even gender-neutral. Gender-neutrality will not be enough if it merely maintains the status quo — which is nothing but the perpetuation of gender discrimination. Women need, and must have, affirmation of their equality.

If enactment of laws was sufficient to protect women, then women in India are on velvet. But reality bites. The law is observed in the breach, or the law is not effectively enforced by the law-enforcement agencies, or judicial redress lies beyond the woman's horizon, or yet, the evil is seen as an accepted practice. Or women get beaten by "hard cases."

Look at this particular "hard case," which is reported in (2009)15 SCC Page 66 Omprakash and Others Vs. Radhacharan and Others. In 1955, Narayani Devi married Deendayal Sharma, who died within three months. Soon she was driven out of her matrimonial home. She lived with her parents, earned a living and died on July 11, 1966. She left behind a substantial estate, but wrote no will. Both her mother and her husband's family claimed a succession certificate. The Supreme Court considered the scope of Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act and held against the mother.

Section 15(1) says that if a Hindu woman dies without leaving a will, her property will devolve in the following order. The first in the order are her children, children of a predeceased child and her husband. If none of these persons is available, then it will go to the next in line: the heirs of the husband. Standing behind them will be the heirs of the father and the mother. Section 15(2) says that notwithstanding these provisions, if the woman is not survived by a child or the children of a predeceased child, then any property she inherited from her father or mother will go to the father's heirs, and any property she inherited from her husband or father-in-law will go to the husband's heirs.

The Supreme Court held that Section 15(1) lays down the ordinary rule of succession; Section 15(2)(a) only carves out an exception to Section 15(1). It observed that the law is silent on a Hindu woman's self-acquired property, and such property cannot be considered as property inherited from her parents. The court said: "This is a hard case… But then only because a case appears to be hard would not lead us to invoke different interpretation of a statutory provision, which is otherwise impermissible. It is now a well settled principle in law that sentiment or sympathy alone would not be a guiding factor in determining the rights of the parties which are otherwise clear and unambiguous."

In Narayani Devi's case, the mother's claim was not based on sympathy or sentiment, but logic and principles of fairness, equity and justice. The Supreme Court, however, found that the law was a hurdle to her claim.

Justice A.M. Bhattacharjee wrote thus in Modern Hindu Law Under Constitution: "Under the provision of Section 15(1) read with sub-section (2) in the absence of children, the order of succession in the case of a female Hindu would vary according to the source of acquisition of property." He asked why the source of acquisition should be a determinant in the case of a Hindu woman when it is not so in the case of a Hindu man. "Unless we still want to perpetuate in a somewhat different form the old outmoded view that ownership of property cannot be full but must be somewhat limited."

A mother shares equally with the children and the widow when a son predeceases her. But when a married daughter dies, the mother ranks after the husband's heirs. This is the law as enacted in 1955-1956. Hindu law as it existed before the Constitution has been the subject of criticism for the glaring inequalities that it perpetuated. But we find lurking inequalities even in subsequent enactments.

Ironically, some of the ancient texts have a more pragmatic and equal approach in such cases. Stridhana, according to some texts, is categorised as technical and non-technical. Non-technical stridhana is that property which is acquired by a woman through her skill and mechanical arts ( Vasishta). In the case of a woman who has no issues, the heirs to stridhana are her husband, mother, brother or father ( Devala). Aprajaayaa haredbhartaa mata bhrata pitaapi va, says Devalasmrti (A.D. 600-900).

In the 21st edition of Principles of Hindu Law (Mulla), it is observed that Section 15(2) "seem to have been made on the ground that they prevent such property passing into the hands of persons to whom justice would require it should not pass and on the ground that the exceptions are in the interest of the intestate herself." If the intention of this provision is to prevent property from devolving on persons to whom justice "would require it should not pass," then the family that had refused to take care of Narayani should not have got anything.

In India those who own property do not always write a will. Narayani did not. She did not know the law of succession. She certainly would not have wanted her husband's sister's children to grab her earnings. If her spirit is floating around, it must be a very unhappy one. In India if a woman loses her husband because of death, desertion or divorce, there is a high probability that she will come to be with her parents. In the present day, many women have self-acquired property that they have earned because of their parents' support. These are the ground realities.

Section 15 should be amended. The order of succession should be altered. In addition to "inheritance," other modes of acquisition from parents or because of parents could be added.

Justice Bhattacharjee's criticism of Section 15 has been referred to above. Decades after his book was written, the injustice continues. Neither biological nor social differences shall corrupt the ideal of equality or the reality of equality. In this case the law views the man's estate and the woman's estate through different spectacles: her autonomy over her property is less complete than his. How else can one explain the injustice? There are many more such cases. The law should not stand in the way of justice.

Whether the Supreme Court could or should have addressed the gender discrimination, and seen that the apparent "hardness" of the case was only the outer layer of an entrenched system of subjugation of women, and unpeeled the layers, are questions that need not be argued now.

Professor Williams' article says: "But to the extent the law of the public world must be reconstructed to reflect the needs and values of both sexes change must be sought from legislatures rather than courts. And women whose separate experience has not been adequately registered… are the ones who must seek the change." It is time that this law is made gender-balanced.

(Prabha Sridevan, a former Judge of the Madras High Court, is Chairperson, Intellectual Property Appellate Board.)









Asia's urban future is one of opportunity. Urbanisation, well-managed, is a chance to put our development paradigm on the right track – on a track that will result in inclusive and sustainable development for Asia and the Pacific. However, keeping to this vision, we are cognisant of the threats that urbanisation in the region brings. Changing our development paradigm will not be easy. We must plan our path forward on a deeper understanding of the challenges to overcome.

The region's response to managing and making our region's cities liveable for all was at the heart of discussions at the Fifth Asia-Pacific Urban Forum in Bangkok this past week (June 22-24, 2011). Organised by UN ESCAP, with opening addresses from Thailand's Royal Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol and Prime Minister Mr. Abhisit Vejajiva, the Forum brought together government ministers, mayors and city officials from across Asia and the Pacific together with representatives from 30 United Nations agencies and international organisations to discuss emerging urban issues and exchange innovative policies.

Four key challenges

There are four key urban challenges in Asia and the Pacific. The first challenge is the sheer scope and pace of urbanisation. Our cities are already home to 1.6 billion people. By 2025, the urban population in Asia and the Pacific will be 2.3 billion people. To put this figure in perspective: we need to provide jobs, housing, water, energy, transport, education and health infrastructure for a city the size of Melbourne — almost every month — for the next 15 years is an enormous challenge.

The second challenge facing our cities is unsustainable development. As a region, Asia and the Pacific have achieved spectacular economic growth and poverty reduction.

Producing over 80 per cent of the region's GDP, cities have been at the forefront of this economic growth. However, this growth first strategy has come at a cost. Cities account for 67 per cent of all our energy use, 71 per cent of all our green house gas emissions and generate 300 million tons of solid wastes per year. Our people suffer from congested roads, energy and water shortages, and air and water pollution.

While coping with the impacts of unsustainable development, we are faced with the third challenge: that of climate change. Over 50 per cent of Asia-Pacific's urban residents live in low lying areas and are at risk from extreme weather events such as floods and typhoons. The frequency and intensity of climate related disasters will increase — affecting our economic, energy, water and food security. While natural disasters affect both the rich and the poor, it is the poor who suffer most because they do not have the assets to cope with risks and vulnerabilities.

The fourth challenge is most daunting: the urbanisation of poverty, manifested by slums and squatter settlements. Thirty-five per cent of urban residents of the region live in slums. Urban Asia includes persistent disparities in income as well as in access to services and opportunities. Without addressing this, the grievances that stem from these disparities will sap the hope we presently hold for our urban future.

Despite these challenges, our vision for the future is one where cities are socially just and inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and increasingly, resilient to climate change and other shocks, while being the engines of economic growth.

To get there, we need to reform urban planning and infrastructure design to make our cities compact and eco-efficient. We need to maximise the benefits of mass transit and transport systems. We need to invest in eco-efficient buildings and infrastructure, clean water, sanitation, waste management and smart energy grids.

Secondly, we need to engage civil society and businesses to promote more sustainable life-styles. The private sector needs to embrace the well-being of our people and our planet, while generating profits. Our prosperity must be shared.

Moreover, up-scaling of innovative solutions, green infrastructure technology and services will not only improve the lives of the poor, it could also turn them into pioneers of a low-carbon and sustainable future.

Lastly, we need to ensure that the poor have access to more secure housing and strengthen their ability to recover from disasters through community-based finance, micro-insurance schemes and social protection.

Adopting inclusive and sustainable development strategies will not be easy. It will require transforming the way we plan, manage and govern our cities. The governments of Asia and the Pacific, at both the national and local levels, can work to promote integrated approaches to urban governance and development.

We can make our cities liveable places of shared prosperity, social progress, cultural vibrancy and knowledge and ecological sustainability. If we get it right in Asia Pacific, we get it right for two-thirds of humanity. And our children will inherit a promising future.

( Courtesy: UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan. Dr. Noeleen Heyzer is Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.)







Federal health officials released on June 21 their final selection of nine graphic warning labels to cover the top half of cigarette packages beginning next year, over the opposition of tobacco manufacturers.

In the first major change to warning labels in more than a quarter-century, the graphic images will include photos of horribly damaged teeth and lungs and a man exhaling smoke through a tracheotomy opening in his neck. The Department of Health and Human Services selected nine colour images among 36 proposed to accompany larger text warnings.

Health advocacy groups praised the government plan in the hope that images would shock and deter new smokers and motivate existing smokers to quit. The images are to cover the upper half of the front and back of cigarette packages produced after September 2012, as well as 20 per cent of the space in cigarette advertisements.

"These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking, and they will help encourage smokers to quit, and prevent children from smoking," Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, has said in a statement.

Companies threaten action

The four leading tobacco companies were all threatening legal action, saying the images would unfairly hurt their property and free-speech rights by obscuring their brand names in retail displays, demonising the companies and stigmatising smokers.

The government won one case last year in a federal court in Kentucky on its overall ability to require larger warning labels with images; the specific images released on June 21 are likely to stir further legal action. The Kentucky case is before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The new labels were required under landmark antismoking legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) power to regulate, but not ban, tobacco products. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act required F.D.A. action on the graphic warning labels by Wednesday, two years after President Obama signed it into law.

The United States was the first nation to require a health warning on cigarette packages 45 years ago. Since then, at least 39 other nations, including Canada and many in Europe, have imposed more eye-catching warnings, including graphic photos.

"This is a critical moment for the United States to move forward in this area," the F.D.A. commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, said in an interview. "The trends in smoking really support the need for more action now. For four decades, there was a steady decline in smoking, but five to seven years ago we levelled off at about the 20 per cent level of adult and youth smoking in this country."

Dr. Lawrence R. Deyton, director of the F.D.A.'s Center for Tobacco Products, said the government estimates, based on other countries' experience, that the new warning labels will prompt an additional 2,13,000 Americans to quit smoking in 2013, the first full year with the graphic labels.

"We are pleased with the images they picked," said Nancy Brown, chief executive of the American Heart Association. "They strongly depict the adverse consequences of smoking. They will get people's attention. And they will certainly be much more memorable than the current warning labels."

Gregory N. Connolly, a professor and tobacco expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, also praised the strength of the warnings, but said the F.D.A. needed to take tougher action against cigarettes. "What's on the pack is important, but if you really want to cut smoking rates, you've got to get inside the pack and deal with ingredients like menthol and nicotine," he said.

The nine images chosen in the United States include some that are among the most graphic of the 36 draft images. But they also include some of the less vivid, including a cartoon depiction of a baby rather than a photo in the draft set that showed a mother blowing smoke at a baby.

The images, which are to appear on cigarette packs on a rotating basis, also include one of a man proudly wearing a T-shirt that says: "I QUIT."

All of the packs will also display a toll-free telephone number for smoking cessation services.

The F.D.A. has already proposed nine text warnings to be paired with the images, including: "Warning: Cigarettes cause cancer" and "Warning: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health."

Survey done

The government surveyed 18,000 Americans of all ages to determine which of the 36 proposed labels would be most effective to deter smoking. The F.D.A. can revise the selection of images in the future.

A few smokers surveyed on New York sidewalks were unswayed by the images. Khariton Popilevsky, 46, a pawnbroker, shrugged and said: "Telling me things we already know. I'll still be smoking."

Hayley Sapp, 28, a paralegal, said: "There are lots of other high risks out there, you know. Obesity is huge."

Saiful Islam, 34, a convenience store clerk, said higher prices would cut sales a lot more than the images on cigarette packs.

A submission to the F.D.A. by R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard and Commonwealth Brands, the second, third and fourth largest United States cigarette makers, said the "nonfactual and controversial images" were "intended to elicit loathing, disgust and repulsion" about a legal product.

Those companies and others filed suit in Kentucky in August 2009 over provisions of the law. Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. of Federal District Court in Bowling Green, Ky., ruled that the companies could be forced to put graphic warning labels on the packages but said they could not be forced to limit marketing materials to black text on a white background, saying that was too broad an intrusion on commercial free speech.

Gregg Perry, a spokesman for Lorillard Tobacco, said that the company was reviewing the graphics and would not comment at this time. A spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds repeated its earlier opposition to the graphic labels. The Altria Group, the largest tobacco company in the United States, said it would not comment.

Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, the only major tobacco company to support the overall F.D.A. legislation, said in a letter this year that the graphic warning provision was an unconstitutional part of the law "added in a last-minute amendment."

The rate of smoking in America has been cut roughly in half, to about 19 per cent, from 42 per cent in 1965.

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death, killing 4,43,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each day, the government says, an estimated 4,000 youths try their first cigarette, and 1,000 a day become regular smokers.

© New York Times News Service







The residents of al-Me'adessa street have no idea when the rocks will fall: it could be at night while the neighbourhood is sleeping, or during the day when children are up playing on the roof. But they do know that the clifftop towering 20 metres above their ramshackle homes is slowly crumbling, and that eventually it will collapse down upon them — as it has already done a few kilometres along the road, killing more than 100 people who were living below.

"Every minute of every day, we live in fear," said Umm Rahman, a mother of three. "We want to get out of here now, but there's nowhere else to go." Most Egyptians will never have heard of al-Me'adessa street, a tangle of electrical wiring, scattered construction debris and steep mounds of domestic waste nestled deep within one of Cairo's poorest informal settlements in the shadows of the Mokattam mountain. But the struggle being waged here has laid bare the staggering obstacles ahead for the architects of the new, post-Mubarak Egypt — and raised divisive questions about what the country's revolution really stands for.

Sprawling slum areas

Al-Me'adessa is home to 150 families, part of a 12 million-strong community of Egyptians living in the sprawling, unplanned slum areas — known as ashwa'iyat, literally meaning random or haphazard — that have mushroomed over the past three decades as a result of sharp demographic growth, a widening chasm between rich and poor, and the indifference of the regime. Most live in homes that are unfit for humans or at grave risk of floods and, like Umm Rahman and her neighbours, rockslides.

Despite up to one million apartments lying empty across the capital as a result of years of property speculation under Hosni Mubarak, a dearth of affordable housing means that most have nowhere else to go. But now Egypt's ashwa'iyat community is beginning to raise its voice.

"In the past we were living without any respect for our lives," explained Zamzam Mohamed Abdel Nabi, a 35-year-old resident of al-Me'adessa who has been leading a local campaign demanding that the government rehouse them. "Currently we're optimistic that things could change. But the state is still fragile and we don't want to profit from the situation."

Her dilemma is a common one among the 44 per cent of Egyptians living below the poverty line: with old certainties dissolved and the nation in flux, now appears to be the perfect time to press for a better standard of living from a revolution that has already transformed the state's political apparatus.

But the country's ruling generals have cracked down harshly on what they call "sectoral" interests, insisting that Egypt is too unstable at the moment to meet the vast array of social expectations that have exploded since Mubarak's fall. Strikes and protests have been outlawed on the grounds that marginalised groups should stay quiet until the transition to civilian democracy is complete.

It is an argument that cuts little ice with Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, who visited Cairo recently before the publication of an Amnesty report highlighting the appalling conditions of Egyptian ashwa'iyat and calling on the interim government to seize "an historic opportunity ... to ensure that the millions of underprivileged people are treated with dignity and their human rights respected."

'Was about inequality also'

"The revolution was as much about poverty and inequality as it was about political freedoms and repression of the civil kind," Shetty told the Guardian. "The authorities cannot say they'll first deal with the political issues and then the socioeconomic issues — these have to be addressed together." In recent weeks the lack of affordable accommodation has hit the headlines after residents of El-Nahda and El-Salam cities, who claim they were illegally evicted in the midst of this year's anti-government uprising, occupied the street in front of central Cairo's radio and television building, clashing several times with security forces. Egypt's Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, recently announced £16m of funding for upgrading slum areas, but compared with the scale of the problem it represents little more than a drop in the ocean.

'Cairo 2050'

Under Mubarak the authorities unveiled a grand vision of urban development in the capital named Cairo 2050, which aims to create an "internationally competitive" city and includes plans to "redistribute" millions of poorer residents. Public records suggest that much of the land currently occupied by ashwa'iyat is likely to be sold to luxury property developers, raising fears that Cairo 2050 is aimed more at property tycoons than at housing solutions for some of the city's most vulnerable people. Whether the plan will continue to be implemented remains to be seen.

Egypt's ashwa'iyat remain one of the great enigmas of the modern Middle East — densely packed, blighted by lack of investment and yet bursting with efficient, informally constructed support networks through which residents have built basic services for themselves.

But experts such as David Sims, author of a new book on Cairo, believe that a sea change in social attitudes is needed if the gains won through the anti-Mubarak uprising are to be felt equally throughout the population.

"The revolutionary spirit is so far focused on changing national political structures, and even if successful there is no guarantee that the manipulators and opportunists and bribers, so prominent in the past, will not still find fertile ground," he writes. "Another, more complicated revolution is needed for fundamental reform of ministries and governorates, the courts, and economic authorities so that real accountability and transparency begin to dominate urban development." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011






A European Union-supported scheme to introduce adaptive small-scale farming systems in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, is expected to benefit around 1,000 farmers in Nepal.

The project was launched on June 25. "Research and dissemination of improved agricultural practices can play a critical role in increasing production and hence promote local food and nutritional security," an EU statement said. It was launched as a part of the EU's broader support to South Asian nations that are exposed to adverse impacts of climate change.

The overall aim is to improve the food security of small farmers by identifying innovative/adaptive farming practices. It should also help small farmers cope with the climate change-induced changes. Lluis Navarro, charge'd affaires of an EU delegation, expressed hope that it will help enhance food security in the targeted areas.









The Union Cabinet's decision last week to extend health insurance to the country's 4.75 million domestic workers sounds eminently laudable, but there is some justification for scepticism about its effective implementation. The experience on the ground is quite different about such schemes — designed to placate a population growing restive by the day, but which rarely move beyond pious intentions.

In Maharashtra, one of the country's leading states and a trendsetter in many ways, there has been a law to protect domestic workers since 2008, but till today it has remained largely on paper. The state government has been unable to constitute a board till now, and Medha Patkar's NGO — which has been working for the unorganised sector workers — claims the state labour department has said it cannot go ahead with this as the government has no funds. Unless each state sets up a board where such workers can be registered for it, such a health insurance scheme simply cannot be implemented. The Union labour ministry's proposal under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), which secured Cabinet approval on Thursday, provides for insurance cover to the tune of `30,000 for each domestic worker. The Centre will pay 75 per cent of the premium, and the states 25 per cent. But with a state like Maharashtra claiming it has no funds to constitute a board for domestic workers since 2008, how would such a scheme actually benefit the state's estimated 200,000 domestic workers? It is unlikely that the situation will be very different in other states, possibly with some exceptions. So unless the Centre spells out how it proposes to give effect to its good intentions, and in a time-bound manner, the daily lives of the intended beneficiaries are unlikely to change for the better anytime soon. The RSBY is among the suggestions made by a government-appointed task force, which had also suggested a national pension scheme, health and maternity benefits, old-age assistance and death and disability benefits. All these are urgently required in a country where the majority of people, let alone workers in the unorganised sector, do not enjoy any protection against adversity.
Similarly, the other major proposal cleared by the Cabinet last week — the law ministry's move to provide quick and speedy justice, clearing the vast backlog in our courts — is likely to go the same way. There have been numerous occasions in the past decades when even the judges of the Supreme Court, besides the law ministry of course, have taken up this issue, but till today we have nearly 30 million cases pending in courts across the country. Justice delayed is justice denied, as the saying goes — so one can only wonder at the extent of injustice that prevails in our democracy. The root causes are much the same: not enough funds, not enough judges, not enough courtrooms. The excuses have been trotted out over decades.
This might all sound very cynical, so where do we go from here? It is undeniable that people in this country — including the deprived and the marginalised, not to mention the aspirational middle class — are getting more and more restless, and increasingly aware of their rights. Governments at the Centre and in the states will not be able to get away with paper schemes much longer. Institutions like the Supreme Court and the Comptroller and Auditor-General and various civil society bodies are turning into watchdogs of people's rights; and therefore all governments will have to change their approach, and start delivering. Indians are not oblivious of the changes that they see happening elsewhere in the world, and will soon demand greater accountability from their rulers.





A brief sense of relief prevailed when the ordeal ended for the six Indian sailors of MV Suez as they reached the Indian shores. This time all credit and thanks for their rescue must go to the activists in Pakistan.

However, they had to collect and then pay the ransom to the pirates. It is alleged that $2.1 million was paid as ransom by the Ansar Burney Trust to secure the release of the six Indians, four Pakistanis and 12 others.

Also, there are probably 47 Indian seafarers who are still held captive and their future is left only to their fate. Left to fate, notwithstanding what was claimed in Parliament.
In March 2011, in a statement made in Parliament, the minister of external affairs S.M. Krishna assured the nation that, "the (Cabinet) Committee (on Security) approved a series of measures to address the legal, administrative and operational aspects of combating piracy". The committee also formed an Inter-Ministerial Group which was to deal with early release of captives, cargo or crew. A standard operating procedure was also to be framed to deal with exigencies arising out of piracy.
Maritime piracy may be 4,000 years old, dating back to the time of Hammurabi of Babylon. It is estimated that Somali piracy has increased seven fold during 2007-2010. Today, the pirates' area of operation covers over 2.5 million square nautical miles. On January 25, 2011, India's permanent representative at the United Nation, H.S. Puri, observed: "…the disturbing fact that… operating further and further off the Somali coast. The shift of attacks to the south and east of the Indian Ocean reflects the pirates' ability to adapt in order to bypass the security corridor established by the naval forces and to extend their reach to approximately 1,000-1,200 miles from Somalia".
In 2010 alone, world over, pirates, Somali inclusive, had captured 1,181 people and hijacked 53 ships. By mid June this year, 154 ships were attacked and 26 vessels hijacked. Since 2005, it is estimated that 130 ransoms were paid to pirates. Ransoms have multiplied 36 times in five years, averaging $5.4 million per ship. It is reported that a Kenyan government's study estimates that 30 per cent of all ransoms paid reach terror groups. Speaking in the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, lawmaker Ed Royce has expressed similar concerns. The commandos of Al-Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent group based in Somalia, are already talking about "sea jihad". Lloyds, the internationally reputed London-based insurers have refused to "…indemnify ship owners if they paid a ransom to terrorist groups".
The human cost of the maritime piracy is shocking. Somali pirates have violently attacked over 4,000 international sailors. The case of Capt. Prem Kumar of Rak Africa is a grievous tale of the merciless treatment the captives undergo when held by the Somali pirates. Released in March 2011, the captain later died of brain haemorrhage and multiple organ failure. Seven Indian sailors of MV Asphalt Venture released after ransom payment were held back by the pirates claiming that they planned to swap them with the arrested pirates awaiting trial in India. It is reported that 37 Somali pirates who were arrested are awaiting trial in Maharashtra. Citing this as the reason the Somali pirate groups claim that they are at war with India. Hence, it is believed that from among the captured crew, they target the Indians even more, use them as human shields, chain and torture them.
It is reported that several Indian cargo ships are now opting for a longer route — via the Cape of Good Hope — thus resulting in increased cost of ferry. It is reported, again, that every month, over 24 Indian flagged merchant ships transit the Gulf of Aden. An estimate suggests that the value of Indian trade that passes through the affected area is about $110 billion. A senior risk analyst observed, "Premiums may rise further if the Lloyds market makes larger losses, and this will continue to push up the price of shipping goods, potentially raising commodity prices in the affected markets…"
India has a coastline of 7,500 km. Our major and minor ports are busy centres of economic activity. The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have done exemplary service in safely escorting over 1,800 vessels, carrying Indian and foreign flags, in the two years from 2008 to 2010. Since 2008, as a part of the anti-piracy patrol, 23 Indian Navy ships have been deployed in the area. It is to their credit that no ship under the Indian naval escort has been hijacked by pirates.
The threat looms large not just in the high seas. Recently at Nandel, in Junagadh district, Gujarat, the police arrested 17 men from a boat that was adrift. Fourteen of them were Somali pirates. The other three claimed they were Yemeni fishermen. Another vessel Wisdom, which lost its pilot, went adrift near Worli, although being towed to Alang, the ship-breaking yard. With Somalia recognised as one of the Al Qaeda bases, what these piracy groups and the ransom they receive can do is anyone's guess.
In March 2011, Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, asked the government if the anti-piracy provisions of the UN Security Council are being accessed. The International Fund and the specific mechanism for this purpose should be proactively invoked.
The Government of India should immediately call all the maritime Indian states to discuss this problem. A standard operating procedure should be in place and be carefully followed to remove the perception that only when the media heat is on, the government responds to the affected families or even sends a frigate to rescue.
The Philippine government's gesture of increasing the payments for their seafarers may be a palliative, but a necessary one. Necessary for us to consider, because over six per cent of seafarers engaged in international companies are Indian nationals. They are productively engaged albeit facing this occupational risk. An additional financial package for them, if and when passing this dreaded area, may be a welfare state's gesture India can afford. The Government of India may begin with one such suitable to our conditions.
The Indian government should do and be seen to be doing more on the human, economic and security threat that the Somali pirates are posing us.

The author is spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The views expressed in this column are her own.








Spiral hike in the prices of petroleum products has triggered country-wide protests demanding that common man will get strangulated by the impact of this step. Almost all mainstream as well as regional political parties and non-Congress governments have expressed their resentment to the price hike saying that it will have adverse effect on the common man. The leader of opposition said that it was the tenth time that the UPA government had hiked the price of petroleum products. Although the government has advised Congress-led governments that they could consider exempting gas cylinders, petroleum and kerosene from local levies and thus reduce the burden on the common man, it is doubtful if all Non-Congress States are in a financial position to do that. The largest ally of the UPA, namely Trinamool Congress, leader has expressed her disapproval of the center's decision of price hike and has announced that it will reduce the price of LPG cylinder by Rs. 16 to bring relief to the common man failing which they will not be able to afford the gas at a high price. The cogent point in regard to hike in petroleum products has been put forth by the former Prime Minister Mr. Dev Gauda who said that for last four or five years the price of oil has remained static at USD 90 per barrel. As such where was the need to increase the price of these commodities in this country. It is not only BJP that has come out in protest of price hike though in Delhi the party activists did try to come close to the Parliament and stage demonstration. The fact is that the entire country has reacted sharply to the price rise that has come to back breaking point for the common man. This is sort of economic emergency which the UPA government has imposed on the country. According to some observers the government of Manmohan Singh has succumbed to the pressures of vested interest in the country, big oil cartels and corporate houses that have enormous stakes in oil industry. Amusingly the finance minister has not come out with any sort of justification for the price rise and has let things take their own course which raises several doubts among the consumers. The UPA has always been claiming to be caring for the common man but in practice it has not proved to be true to its word.
We would earnestly suggest the Government to re-examine the issue and take a very judicious decision. We know that our country is energy starved and our population is increasing. But it is also true that our country is not taking the question of import of natural gas and energy with as much urgency as other energy starved countries in the Asian Continent like China and Japan have taken. It took India almost a decade to decide against the IPI gas pipeline, and about TAPI project, India remains lukewarm letting her people pay through nose for energy resources. How long will this policy of surrendering to the diktat of the big corporate houses continue?






During this year's budget session of the legislature, the government revealed that it has approved ownership rights over 6, 75, 230 kanals of land in the state under various categories at an approved cost of Rs 303 crore. However, the returns have been just Rs 72 crore so far. While 32, 238 kanals of land in 10 districts of Kashmir (excluding Ladakh division) have raised Rs 52.20 crore against approved cost of Rs 114.53 crore, the situation is dismal in Jammu region where government has got just Rs 20.70 crore against 6, 42,992 kanals of land against the approved cost of Rs 189.46 crore Of the total land on which the ownership rights have been vested so far. At an average per kanal cost of land in Jammu district works out to Rs 40587, in Kathua, Rs 1038, in Kishtwar Rs 217, in Doda Rs 175, in Poonch Rs 11, in Rajouri Rs 74, in Ramban Rs 139, in Reasi Rs 300, in Samba Rs 7191 and in Udhampur Rs 299. A high level "rate fixing committee" headed by the two Divisional Commissioners was authorized to approve cases for ownership rights in Jammu and Srinagar districts while as the committees for the other districts including the areas falling under the Tourism Development Authority was headed by the concerned Deputy Commissioners. This came to be called the Roshni Scheme.
But the blow to the Roshni scheme was dealt in February 2007 when the then government reintroduced the scheme in legislature fixing a token amount of Rs 100 for up to 100 kanals of agriculture land.
Though the government tried to justify the move saying 19 lakh cultivators would get benefited, it was least knowing that the state has less than 16 lakh cultivators and only 16.27 percent of them had encroached upon state land. The then Leader of Opposition, and present Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, had openly come out against the amendments brought by the then government in the Act. "Here you are giving property rights to land-grabbers who have occupied Nazool land in cities and khalisa land in villages," he had said. "Only rich, elite and land-grabbers had the audacity to grab the state land and now we have a benevolent government who gave them its rights," Rather had said, cautioning the state wouldn't get any money out of the amendments. This reveals shadowy dealings in the entire Roshni affair. As frauds under Roshni started coming to fore, a case filed by Vigilance Organization for transfer of state land under Roshni Act in Gulmarg is a classic example of how the Act was allowed to be misused. A government handout released on February 22 this year said Rs 1, 53,205 was raised against 3,113 kanals of land allotted to land owners under Roshni Act in District Kupwara. The Roshni issue had rocked the budget session at Jammu in March this year too. Cutting across party lines members alleged that government land was being sold for peanuts under the "dubious" scheme.
The fears are proving right. An administrative head of a district is reported to have remarked that the land sold under Roshni Act on meager price has to be bought back by the government from the occupants at whopping cost for various development projects, which in turn, is hitting the infrastructure development in the state. As many doubts are raised and aspersions cast, it will be in fitness of things that the government institutes an enquiry in the entire issue and brings to light the truth behind allotting Nazool and Khalisa lands on throw away price to the parties whose antecedents also need to be probed into.








According to a high level meeting held at Beijing in January 2010, China has made plans to achieve leapfrog development and lasting stability in Tibet Autonomous Region in a bid to ensure China's development as a whole.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and other senior leaders attending the fifth meeting on the work of Tibet, from January 18-20, 2010 agreed that more efforts must be made to greatly improve living standards of the people in Tibet, as well as ethnic unity and stability. He attached great importance to the work of Tibet, saying it was a pressing task in carrying out the Scientific Outlook on Development, building a well-off society in an all-round way, establishing a national ecological protective screen and realizing sustainable development. Senior leaders also meted out plans to develop Tibetan-inhabited areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai during the meeting.
In view of the crucial meeting and after staking claims over Arunachal Pradesh in India, reports now claim that China has started constructing a huge dam on its side of the Brahmaputra River - known as Tsangpo River in Tibet and also diverting its water towards drought hit areas of Tibet.
According to reports, the dam is being constructed at a place called Namcha Barwa on the eastern plateau of Tibet. It is at this point in Tibet that China is reportedly building the world's largest dam, with 26 turbines, expected to generate 40 million kilowatts per hour of hydroelectricity. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the Zangmu hydroelectrical project was inaugurated on March 16 2009 and the first concrete was poured on April 2 2009. A consortium of five top Chinese power companies is overseeing the 1.138 bn Yuan project.
The last time India officially heard about the diversion of the Brahmaputra was in November 2006 when President Hu Jintao was to visit India. China had decided to assuage the legitimate worries of the Indian government.
The unpleasant development has irked New Delhi, which earlier expressed its grave concern over reports of a dam being built by China in 2006.
However, the Chinese government had then categorically dismissed claims that Beijing plans to divert the Brahmaputra River that flows from Tibet into India.
There is a big difference between 2006 and today: with the opening of the tunnel to Metok (Motuo) in December 2010, the Chinese engineers now have the possibility to start the mega power plant which could provide the necessary energy to the diversion scheme, planned a couple of hundred kms upstream the Brahmaputra.
Two important factors have to be understood. One, hydropower lobbies have a financial interest in 'concretizing' the project as soon as possible. Recently, an article in The Financial Times said that "China's Three Gorges Project Corporation has proposed a $15bn hydropower scheme to Pakistan to dam the Indus river valley at several points, in a project aimed at controlling floods and tackling electricity shortages."
Offering their support to the project, some Chinese engineers have reportedly suggested that the dam could provide cheap electricity for India, Nepal and Bangladesh, and that the dam could facilitate flood control in the Brahmaputra-Ganges basin.
However, it is also believed that the diverted water from the river would irrigate the north-western part of China's Gobi desert in Xinjiang and Gansu, up to 400 miles away, and refill the dying Yellow River, which now runs dry for much of the year.
River Brahmaputra is very important for India and Bangladesh. The Brahmaputra River basin in India is most generously gifted with a fabulous water wealth that accounts for nearly 30% of the total water resources and about 40% of the total hydropower potential of the country.
But this would also ensure that lower riparian countries like India and Bangladesh would be at China's mercy during the dry spell and for protection from floods during the rainy season.
Several organizations in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have aired grave concern over the reported move by China to construct a dam on the main channel of Brahmaputra in the upper reaches of Tibet, to generate electricity and also divert its water towards drought hit areas of Tibet. This move is bound to jeopardize the flow of the Brahmaputra, the lifeline of the Assam valley causing devastating floods during rainy season and dry up during winters.
The National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) recently confirmed that construction was on at the Zangmu site on the Chinese side of the Brahmaputra River, prompting the government to take up the matter with China at a "political" level.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the issue when Wen visited India in November 2010 but there was no positive response. However, China had assured India that it would not begin work on any diversion project without first notifying New Delhi through the joint working group.
The dependability of the Chinese on such issues is doubtful, hence; India and Bangladesh must jointly take up this issue firstly with the Chinese Government to safeguard the interest of their countries. If the results of the negotiations are not fruitful which are likely, the issue must be raised at the UN Security Council as the lives of millions of people from India and Bangladesh are endangered once the dam is completed and water diverted into Tibet.







The economy is under pressure from three sources. First, global price of oil is increasing. It was around $100 per barrel at the time of presentation of the budget. Now it is around $110-115. The amount paid by the Government towards oil subsidy increases because price of diesel and LPG had remained unchanged. This led to increase of fiscal deficit of the Government. Second, there is a decline in the growth rate. Budget estimates were based on growth rate of 9 percent for the year. Present estimates are around 8 percent. Accordingly revenue receipts will be less. Third, the UPA Government has embarked on policy of increasing expenditures on welfare schemes. The proposed Food Security Act will add to the financial burden. The fiscal deficit is likely to increase hugely. The Government will have to print notes to meet this deficit. That will lead to increase in prices and undo the relief provided to the common man through the welfare schemes.
There is an additional danger that increasing fiscal deficit may lead to a price spiral. Government may have to print more notes to meet its targets in the face of rising prices. That will create economic instability and can even derail our long term growth trajectory.
The Planning Commission has proposed a four-point agenda to face this situation. First suggestion is that subsidies on oil, LPG and food may be reduced. Problem is that this will directly lead to increase in prices of these items and the common man will be impacted adversely. Second suggestion made by the Commission is that pension payments to government servants may be cut. This suggestion is in the right direction but difficult to implement. The Government has made a huge increase in the salaries and benefits of government servants so that they are loyal and willing to repress the people, should that be necessary. For example, many policemen who lathi charged sleeping people at Baba Ramdev's camp would not be agreeable to this. But they killed the voice of their inner self due to the attraction of huge salaries and pensions provided by the government. Therefore, reduction in these benefits will be like the government digging its own grave. Third suggestion is to cut defense expenditures. This is not acceptable. I had made a study few years ago. I found that countries with high levels of defense expenditures also had high rates of economic growth. It seems that high defense expenditures are a proxy for a people's self respect. This self-respect is what drives economic growth. Fourth suggestion is to invite private sector in the building of infrastructure. Airports at Delhi and few other cities have been developed by private companies.
Many highways are being built on Build-Operate-Transfer system. But private sector will bite only those projects that are financially profitable. Other projects such a distribution of water or making of rural roads will continue to need budgetary support. An additional point suggested by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram is to impose a consumption tax. An additional tax may be imposed on items of luxury consumption such as air-conditioners, flat-screen TVs and luxury cars. This suggestion is welcome but the revenue receipts from this will be small. In the result, all these suggestions are grossly inadequate to face the problem at hand.
In my view, the Planning Commission has failed to identify the problem correctly. It has accepted the Government's view that increases in welfare expenditures is the way to secure good of the common man. The Commission is mainly concerned with raising the revenues to meet these expenditures. However, as explained above, this is difficult. Need is to reexamine the premise that welfare expenditures will beget people's welfare. Few years ago Digvijay Singh was given the boot at the polls in Madhya Pradesh despite him having spent much on such schemes. Recently, Karunanidhi has been shown the door despite implementing populist schemes like distribution of free TVs. On the other hand Tarun Gogoi of Assam and Narendra Modi of Gujarat have been reelected despite implementing few such populist measures. Reason is that the benefit of government schemes does not quite reach the people. Most money is spent in maintaining a huge government welfare bureaucracy that bleeds the revenue in name of helping the people. Government teachers, for example, draw five time salary of private teachers but results are one-half of their less-paid counterparts.
There is no escape from the rising fiscal deficit unless welfare expenditures are reduced. Problem is like this. Revenues are required to increase expenditures on welfare schemes. This leads to increase in fiscal deficit. In turn, the deficit leads to price rise and undoes the benefit received by the people from the welfare expenditures. Additionally, stability of the economy is hit and economic growth is threatened. This problem cannot be solved by raising revenues to meet the welfare expenditures. Rather, it can be solved by reducing these expenditures and using other policy measures to secure people's welfare. I provide three suggestions in this direction.
One, higher excise duty, income tax and VAT can be imposed on capital-intensive industries and products. This will make it profitable for businesses to employ more labour, generate employment and reduce need for welfare expenditures. Imposing tax on tractors, for example, will automatically make the ploughshare competitive and reduce the burden on welfare expenditures. The tax revenue can be sued to provide subsidies to labour-intensive sectors.
Two, the expenditures presently being made on welfare schemes-food and oil subsidies, MNREGA, and health, education and others can be diverted and the amount paid in cash directly to the beneficiaries. All these schemes may be scrapped. A back of the envelope calculation shows that every family can be paid about Rs 2,500 per month from this money. This is sufficient for the people to meet their basic needs. Cash payment will also empower them. They will be able to buy education from the provider of their choice. This will put purchasing power in hands of the people and rev up the economy.
The economy is under pressure due to inflationary pressures. We must act now lest we get drawn into hyperinflation. But firefighting will not do. Need is to adopt structural solutions. Most important is to reduce wasteful welfare expenditures.







The debate has resumed as two political parties in Punjab - Congress and the ruling Akali Dal - have demanded that Bhullar should not be hanged.
Ordering death penalty is not the easiest of decisions, but President Patil has exercised that option after a long hiatus. For the last several years, the BJP and other right-wing parties have kept the debate alive as they often raised the issue of terror convict Afzal Guru - involved in Parliament attack in 2001 - not being hanged and the government sitting on his mercy petition.
Now comes the Bhullar debate. The demand for pardon sought by Congress and Akali Dal has to be seen in the light of Punjab elections scheduled for February, next year. In addition to this, the religious body of Sikhs, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, has said it is cruel to hang Bhullar and has called for an agitation in this regard. The former Khalistanis generally enjoy sympathy among people - in some quarters even equated to freedom fighters - and the political parties obviously want to exploit this sentiment.
Mercy petition is the last available option for condemned prisoners. In our constitutional scheme of things, the President has been endowed with the power under Article 72 to grant pardon and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases, including in those matters where the sentence is death penalty. This power is independent of the judiciary, meaning that the country's highest office is not governed by a decision given by the Supreme Court in a particular case. The apex court in a decision as early as 2006 said the power of pardon vested with the President is "an essential attribute of sovereign power."
So far, there have been innumerable instances in which the President either rejected or allowed the mercy petitions filed by the convicts awarded with the capital punishment. In the criminal jurisprudence followed in our country, a death penalty has to be confirmed by the high court but this has not been extended to the Supreme Court as a statutory right of a convict.
In fact, the Law Commission of India has way back in 2003 recommended for extending this right of appeal to the Supreme Court in cases where a high court confirms the death sentence passed by a sessions judge or where the high court enhances the sentence passed by the sessions judge and awards sentence of death. It has asked for amending the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, 1970.
In Bhullar's case, it is the first instance in which President Pratibha Patil has rejected the pardon plea. Bhullar has been held guilty in a 1993 case relating to car bomb attack on Congress leader M. S. Bitta in Delhi, which had claimed 12 lives and left over two dozen others injured. Notably, the President's order came when Bhullar, reportedly admitted to a hospital in Delhi for mental disorders, had petitioned the apex court pointing to the eight-year delay in deciding his mercy petition.
Bhullar's case symbolised the indecisiveness with which the system is faced in dealing with mercy petitions. His case was decided by the President within two days of the apex court seeking response from the Centre on its pendency.
In the case of Das, the Guwahati high court, on the other hand, sought explanation from Centre and the Assam government for inordinate delay of 11-years in deciding his mercy application. He had filed the mercy petition in 2000 after the Supreme Court rejected his appeal a year before against the high court's decision confirming the death penalty awarded to him for killing a man in 1996.
Interestingly, the Union home ministry held the view that the mercy petitions could be taken up serial-wise or in a chronological order. Union law minister M. Veerappa Moily, however, opposed the idea when he was asked about Mumbai terror attack convict Ajmal Aamir Kasab. The home ministry has in a response under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal on May 27 asserted that there has not been any change in the rules/procedures to decide mercy-petitions presented before the President.
In 2009, it was decided that mercy petition cases pending with the President's secretariat may be recalled one-by-one for review in the ministry. So, a list on the basis of the date of trial court judgment has been prepared for recalling of cases in contrast to the practice of preparing it in serial order.
According to the reply, till date 19 mercy petitions have been submitted/re-submitted to the President's secretariat after the review including one fresh case. Decisions of the President have also been received on 11 other cases, the response has revealed, though details are not made available.
Germane here is to point out a case of 23-year-old Ravji alias Ram Chandra from Banswara in Rajasthan. His mercy petition was decided within a couple of months. He was executed with "supersonic speed" in 1996 -- in less than three years of murdering his five family members including three kids, in 1993. (INAV)










The two-day talks in Islamabad between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan have provided a fresh push to the efforts for normalization of relations between the two countries. Trade and people-to-people contacts are bound to increase after the agreements reached between the two sides. Now there will be more opportunities for people to meet their near and dear ones as the frequency of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service has been increased. Traders from both sides will have greater opportunities to sell their wares with India and Pakistan deciding to open new trading routes and allowing business along the Line of Control on more days than earlier. A meeting of the Joint Working Group on cross-LoC confidence-building measures will be held in July to find ways for issuing more travel permits, streamlining banking arrangements and allowing trading in more goods.


What was, however, surprising was that the focus this time was on Kashmir though nothing concrete came out of the deliberations on this sensitive issue. The Kashmir focus marked a departure from the past when India insisted that it would talk on the issue only when this country was convinced that Islamabad was not harbouring and training terrorists.


Much though India has been insisting, Pakistan has also not done enough to punish those behind the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist killings. Its argument that the matter was before Pakistan's courts and it could not interfere in their functioning cannot satisfy India. Prosecution can always weaken the case by not providing enough evidence to prove the guilt of the culprits. Despite this, India and Pakistan have to keep talking to each other for promoting peace and stability in the region. Having a dialogue is always better than no dialogue. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the dialogue that has begun after a long gap because of 26/11 has started producing limited but encouraging results.









Coming after much delay, Friday's diesel, kerosene and LPG price hike was badly timed. It happened after the global oil prices crashed 7.4 per cent to $105.72 as Western nations decided to release 60 million barrels of oil in July. This is aimed at countering the Opec resistance to increase production to calm prices. The oil prices spike is due to production losses caused by the civil war in Libya. It would have made some sense had the diesel prices been raised when oil touched $127 a barrel recently. Opposition parties are bound to exploit justified public anger to their advantage.


Kerosene is a fuel of the poor, who are already hit by high food inflation. The cooking gas prices had not been raised for quite some time. LPG is much cheaper in India than Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It is the increase in the diesel prices that would push up prices as the cost of travel and transportation of goods goes up. This will drive the RBI to take steps to push up interest rates, further slowing down growth. But the government's subsidy bill will ease.


Oil pricing is a complicated issue. Oil firms report profits while complaining of under-recoveries, which are losses due to selling oil below the cost. Firms are kept in fiscal good health to face any sudden oil shocks. But why should the government tax oil — and that too so heavily? It gained by raising petro prices but lost revenue by abolishing the duty on crude. States too tax oil. Punjab imposes 33.25 per cent taxes on petrol, perhaps the highest in the country. When petrol prices go up, the state's revenue too rises. This is so in all states. Yet the Centre alone faces the flak for costly oil. The states should also slash taxes on oil to benefit consumers and control inflation.











Expressions of grudging gratitude for Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney do no credit to the Indian establishment. The tepid 'thanks' conveyed to Mr Burney for successfully negotiating the release of 21 hostages, six of them Indians, held by pirates off the coast of Somalia, shows a gracelessness that is embarrassing. Not only did Mr Burney negotiate with the pirates but the Ansar Burney Welfare Trust raised a whopping Rs 11 crore for the ransom that was eventually paid to secure the release of not just the four Pakistanis on board the MV Suez, but of everyone. There were four Pakistanis and a Sri Lankan, besides sailors from other countries in the Egyptian ship, which was taken over by Somali pirates in August last year. They had initially demanded a ransom of Rs 20 crore, which was later scaled down to Rs 11 crore. The India Navy added to the embarassment by claiming that it had done its best to help and rescue the sailors while accusing a Pakistani Naval Ship of damaging INS Godavari. It goes without saying that no Indian billionaire paid a paisa for the ransom.


The fact remains that Pakistan has pulled off a 'public relations coup' and upstaged the Indian government at every step. The sailors, now safely back home, have complained that their attempts to reach out to Indian naval ships in the vicinity had evoked no response. Their anxious relatives have also been candid in pointing out that neither politicians nor bureaucrats took much notice of their desperate pleas for help. Neither the state governments of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and J & K, from where four of the six Indian sailors hailed, took up the case in earnest nor did any Indian human rights activist or welfare organisaion showed the initiative in securing their release. The decision to pay the ransom could not have been an easy one and the payment could not have been carried out without active support of the Pakistan government and the Navy.


Both Mr Ansar Burney and Pakistan deserve to be commended for their extraordinary rescue mission. One hopes the Indian elite and the Indian government would be more sensitive in future to tragedies involving ordinary people.








During the second week of June, Pakistan's military held the 139th Corps Commanders' meeting in the backdrop of the killing of Osama bin Laden and the attack on PNS Mehran, joint session of Parliament on the security situation, and the growing public criticism against the capability and orientation of Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies. What was discussed in the all-powerful Corps Commanders' meeting will be known only to General Kayani and the rest, who were present during the meeting. However, the Press release issued at the end of the meeting highlighted three important issues, which provide an overview of what was the nature of discussions and the debate in the higher echelons of Pakistan's military.


Is there a deliberate effort to "run down the armed forces" and "drive a wedge between the Army and people"?


According to the Press statement, the Corps Commanders noted with regret that "some quarters, because of their perceptual biases, were trying to deliberately run down the armed forces and the Army in particular. This is an effort to drive a wedge between the Army, different organs of the state and, more seriously, the people of Pakistan."


The above perception within the military looks more like a reflection of an ostrich phenomenon than a critical evaluation of the existing public mood within Pakistan. Especially after the killing of Osama bin Laden by the US Special Forces deep within Pakistan, there were two sets of questions — was the Pakistan military in collusion with the US, or incapable of defending its own air space? More than the killing of Osama and the military's role in it, it was the brutal killing of journalist Shahzad Salim — believed to be by the intelligence agencies that he was working for exposing the growing Al-Qaida influence within the military — that made the media highly critical of the military and intelligence agencies.


While many within Pakistan expected that there will be a thorough introspection during the Corps Commanders' meeting on what has gone wrong, unfortunately, the military seems to believe that there is a conspiracy to keep them away from the people.


The second most important issue, which was discussed at the Corps Commanders' meeting, obviously, was the US-Pakistan relations at the military level. According to the Press release, the COAS has informed the Corps Commanders that the "military-to-military relationship with the US has to be viewed within the larger ambit of bilateral relations between the two countries," in the "backdrop of the 2nd May incident" and "dictates of the Joint Parliamentary Resolution passed on 14th May 2011."


At the end, according to the Press release, the military has recommended "that the US funds meant for military assistance to the Army be diverted towards economic aid to Pakistan which can be used for reducing the burden on the common man." It was also decided that "no intelligence agency can be allowed to carry out an independent operation" on Pakistani soil.


Undoubtedly, from the common man to the COAS, everyone in Pakistan wants to reorient the ties with the US. But what options do they have except making rhetorical statements? If the Pakistan military is against the drone attacks, and see them as a violation of their country's sovereignty, why don't they counter-attack? The statement clearly says that the drone attacks "are not acceptable under any circumstances". If it is so, from missiles to anti-aircraft guns, one is sure there is so much in the Pakistan military's kitty which could be used to fire against the drones. Then, why is that no single bullet has been fired against these drones? The drones are neither stealth nor do they fly at an altitude that cannot be targeted.


The statement that the US military aid can be used to reduce the burden of the common man appears more like a public relations exercise than based on any concern for the general public. The critics within Pakistan even argue that with growing opposition within the US Congress for any military aid to Pakistan, the COAS should be well aware that the military-to-military aid is not going to be substantial and without strings attached.


Moreover, even if the Pakistan military wants to reorient the military-to-military ties, what leverages do they have, especially after the killing of Osama bin Laden in the heart of Pakistan by the US Special Forces? How can Pakistan's military, which is at the receiving end from the US side for non-cooperation and double crossing, reorient its ties with the US? One option is to pursue what General Musharraf did successfully — to use the TINA strategy — there is no alternative than supporting Pakistan and its military.


Perhaps, one should read the recent report that appeared in The New York Times, saying that the COAS is facing a revolt from within for, among various other issues, not breaking the ties with the US. This could very well be a well-thought-out strategy to convince the US that the military leadership is facing not only the Taliban, but also a threat of a revolt within.


Certainly, none in the US would like to even consider a scenario of an internal revolt or a coup within Pakistan's military. Clearly, for the US, the war against terrorism is not over despite the killing of Osama bin Laden. With Al-Zawahiri already becoming the next leader, the Al-Qaida network is yet to be completely dismantled. More importantly, the US is preparing for 2014 — the deadline set for exiting from Afghanistan. A stable and undivided Pakistani military is a part of the American calculus and an absolute must for Washington, at least until 2014.


Is there an American pressure to initiate other military operations in North Waziristan? The third important issue discussed during the meeting was the proposed military operations against the militants in North Waziristan. From the statement it is clear that the military operation is imminent, though the statement underlined that the Army is under "no pressure to carry out operations at a particular time," and that it will go ahead "with political consensus."


What options does General Kayani have on this issue as well? There is enormous American pressure to initiate a military operation in North Waziristan. If not, the US will continue with the drone attacks, as it has been doing even after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Since May 2 there have been 11 drone attacks, most of them in North Waziristan, including the attack on June 6 in which Ilyas Kashmiri was killed. Besides the American pressure, General Kayani also cannot afford to witness Taliban attacks all over Pakistan, with their base in North and South Waziristan. He can either delay the operation in North Waziristan and risk more drone attacks, or initiate a military operation and bargain with the US to go slow on the drones. His choices are limited — either do not take any action and be seen as an incapable General, who is letting the US to violate Pakistan's territory, or take action and face internal opposition. Perhaps, there may be more support to the latter — both from within the military and the public.


What will General Kayani do? Whatever he does, he will face criticism from within the military and outside. He is facing the wrath for what his predecessors did or didn't do, starting with General Zia. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.


The writer is Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, and Visiting Professor, Pakistan Studies Programme, Jamia Millia Islamia.









I belong to an age when the now ubiquitous airconditioner was a symbol of luxury and status.


Needless to say, coming from a middle class family, my mother never tired of extolling the virtues of sleeping in the open and the ill effects of being cooped up in AC rooms. "God never comes to meet us if we sleep in the closed-door AC rooms", she reasoned to our impressionable minds.


Alas, nowadays, this logic has been turned on its head and today even toddlers throw a tantrum if invited to a place that isn't air-conditioned.


Recently, I too decided to join the "haves" and spend summer in relative comfort with my family. Surprisingly, my mother, who after spearheading the long, intra-family, protracted 'anti-AC' stir simply said 'aye.'


My jubilation lasted a few hours and, to my dismay, the price of even the most economical model was enough for me to break into a sweat in the airconditioned showroom. This is not to mention a big hole in my shallow pocket. In a jiffy, I also realised why my mother had advocated sleeping under the stars all these years.


The glib talking salesman guessed my predicament. He cooled me down and suggested an EMI option, reserved for "pitiable" customers like me. Things went on smoothly till he asked what my avocation was. Proudly puffing my chest, I answered his query officiously, "I am a journalist".


I should have known better than saying that. The salesman closed the file he was filling, looked up and gave me a look that spoke volumes of the esteem that he held for journalists. There goes my AC, my heart sank.


My entreaties with him and the portly owner cut no ice. "No EMI facility for the PPPs (politicians, the police and the press). All three are under the "high risk profile," I was pointedly informed. Come to think of it, I was in my late 20s and as fit as a fraudulent!


On the lonely ride back home, I pondered over the barrage of questions facing me at home besides the double whammy of putting up with the accusing looks of my better half and the strong prospect of spending the summer months in the open, probably alone.









Women today who have ventured out to take the responsibilities of being both a wife-mother and a careerist have to learn to cope with a great deal of physical and emotional stress that these dual roles bring about. The female sex has always been encouraged to be more compliant, nurturing, and sensitive in actions, thoughts and behaviour. In every culture, although in varying intensities, a girl child is brought up to believe that her primary responsibility is to be successful on the home front, i.e. in taking care of her husband, raising a healthy progeny and managing her household responsibilities efficiently.


Success generates stress


There are, of course, many women who have dared to break the shackles of rigid cultural and social norms. They have climbed steadily upwards on the ladder of success, achieving positions as high-ranking officials, and executives. However, some of these successful women continue to experience emotional stress, guilt and turmoil because of the positions they occupy.


Academic studies reveal growing discontent among working women; they face considerable disadvantages throughout their working life. Furthermore, the emotional stress is compounded when a successful woman begins to dissect herself as a wife, mother, and careerist, rather than view herself as a fully functional integrated whole.


Since marriage and motherhood still dominate the lives of working women they sometimes accept "dead end jobs" because they do not want the responsibility, visibility or inconvenience associated with career advancement.


Difficult balance


Few who go in for higher accomplishment of economic independence, a sense of discontentment and grievance affects them too. The dual role they play demands 16 hours of hard work per day. "It is very tedious…after the tight schedule at my office a hectic day begins at home. What have I done to myself?" says Anjali working in Bank of America. Working women's quest to strike a balance between home and office has made them susceptible to frustration. Besides this, of late there is a growing feeling among working women that they do not receive as much from their jobs as they expected or deserve.


Gender role expectations


Men work for career and money and that they are the breadwinners is still the belief that lives on, quite subversively deep inside our heads. So when a woman brings home the bacon, family dynamics sometimes take a turn for the worse over gender role expectations. In the traditional order of things, money brought with it authority. Working women report that their ability to bring home a pay cheque increases feeling of power and improves self-esteem. But they also sense that society as a whole has yet to embrace female earning power as a positive value. There is a cultural stereotype that a powerful woman is less feminine, desirable and attractive than one who isn't. "The societal norm still say that there is something wrong with a man if a woman is making more money" says psychologist Dorothy Canter, co-author of "Women and Power."


Earning power


A part of this problem lies with men. Working women have re-constructed the definition of womanhood but men have been slower to respond to the change because it challenges the notions of male privilege and entitlement. Males are not ready to give up their advantage in terms of earnings and social power.


The idea of a woman, having the upper hand threatens the traditional male identity and their image as providers. So when a woman earns more, he feels unimportant and often anxious and the marriage itself is threatened. It takes a very mature male to feel comfortable with a higher earning spouse. He sees the partner as "the opponent" and finds fault with her to feel better about himself.


Women not only face confusion and resistance from their partners-but a deep struggle within themselves. The female also is not pleased about earning more. She is angry and feels exploited. She feels he should be earning more.


High earning women may also harbour feelings of guilt and if it doesn't arise within them, it is often thrust upon them by outsiders, parents, friends and co-workers. Successful women often go to great lengths to downplay their salaries. Nonetheless, marital counsellors report an evolution in men's attitudes. More men want to marry a woman who is ambitious as many of them are tired of being cast in the role of provider.


Expectations vs reality


According to social activist Vijaya Raghunath, "What works against most ambitious women is her social consciousness and domestic commitment". She attributes the poor service record of women to the family life, which she feels is very demanding. Most working women admit that they are under stress and complain about disturbance in the family life.


It is hard to decide whether one ought to congratulate the housewives or be sympathetic to working women. For a successful woman executive who has a meeting to attend and who is also needed to be present at home to attend to her sick child, there is guilt and anxiety. This can be effectively reduced only when she realises that she cannot demand a perfect performance from herself in all roles. To pressurise oneself to always perform at peak levels is highly stressful. Therefore when a woman can learn to view herself as intuitive, caring and creative person with her share of weakness, she can be relieved from the physical and emotional pressures of being a superwoman.


Easing tension


There are certain lessons for both men and women to learn which can effectively ease tension:

 The key for couples is to view each partner's contribution to the relationship as valuable, be it child care or career regardless of the monetary value attached to it.


 To see the marriage as common ground on which both partners have equal standing and play as a team which may be divided up differently at different times. When money begins adding up to less love, what can a couple do? In therapy, we reframe a person's worth. Partners must see each other's worth as people, not for what they make.


The writer is a Chandigarh-based psychologist









Gender stereotyping continues to be reinforced, thanks to the popular culture generated by Indian television, Bollywood, radio and print media.


As per an advertisement of a fairness cream, a young girl, who is dark and average looking, fails to attract a good bridegroom, thus causing frustration to her father. And one fine day she finds herself fair and lovely and within 15 days she succeeds in getting a handsome groom. Her father, who initially cursed his destiny, now feels proud of his daughter (because she has fetched a match). Thus empowerment has to come to women from outside, even a fairness cream.


Similarly, in another advertisement of an eye hospital on radio a girl narrates: "So many boys rejected me because of my spectacles and then I went to an eye institute which cured me and then I was selected, and now I am happy and married." It is strange that the so-called empowered woman still continues to be selected or rejected like a commodity.


It would be incorrect to presume that messages sent through the media are meaningless. In fact, they have a deep impact upon the public, both men and women. There are numerous ads which lure women into buying expensive jewellery, sarees and cosmetics. Women are thus often projected like fools who can be easily manipulated and befooled. Our films and television serials always depict the images of women that are either too bold or too weak.


Where are the ordinary looking women? Actually, a majority of women are average, neither too weak nor too strong, just like their male counterparts, struggling to survive in private and public spaces. We hardly find such women in films, serials or advertisements.


The popular media often depicts gender violence in extremely strong incidents such as rape, molestation or murder. But in reality, these are not the most frequent and scary crimes committed against urban middle class women. More frightening are the mundane humiliations that a woman in employment has to face while travelling, marketing, working or simply surviving silently. In fact, a persistent show of extreme forms of violence against women on television, in the name of news has rendered the viewers immune. It hardly pricks the viewers, unless one has a personal connection with the incident.


Bollywood too persistently depicts a popular culture that reinforces the conventional image of women as beautiful, submissive and ultra-feminine. The eulogising of the wedding ceremonies in some Hindi movies has played havoc with the whole project of women's empowerment. These messages have percolated down right to the bottom of social hierarchy, enhancing the desires of even the poorest of the poor to marry off their sons lavishly, especially in the north India. Despite the law against dowry, it has assumed monstrous proportions in the country. The way violence is depicted on television and films, especially against women, it titillates the audience. Over-made up women shown in television serials have more or less ruined the project of women's empowerment in India.


The negative depiction of women sarpanches and panches shown as dummies, the depiction of heroines in Hindi films resembling yesteryears' vamps and the macho image of male heroes strongly reinforce gender stereotypes. But the most disturbing fact in this context is an absolute non-resistance from the civil society, especially women to such media messages. Instead, as per media reports, young girls in many South Asian countries are starving themselves to a zero figure, many of them are getting their thighs surgically thinned down, where not only the fat but even their muscles are removed, making them handicapped for life and many of them are reported to be swallowing worms in order to lose appetite and remain thin. Why so? One major reason is that it is television/films, which is educating our young and not so young women on the definition of empowerment. Films like "Main Hoon Naa" project the image of an ideal teacher through Sushmita Sen, who more than teaching, is able to arouse the sensuality of her male students.


So much premium has been attached with physical appearance and femininity, courtesy films and television that aging women struggle hard to stay young, dreading age more than death. Intensive consumerism has indeed resulted in a trivialisation of gender issues, even on the part of women themselves. It has trapped not only the young women but even small kids a who are seeking empowerment 
in consumerism.


In an advertisement by a garment store, a small girl child says: "Whatsoever I wear, people tell me that I look beautiful." Such marketing uses children ruthlessly, killing their childhood and pushing them into youth immediately after infancy. Such is the impact of the mass media that parents compete with each other to make their little daughters look sensuous and pretty.


Popular culture should have worked towards a liberating, and empowering experience. But in reality it has not only been reinforcing the traditional notions of masculinity and femininity it has seriously impaired gender empowerment by trivialising the whole issue for vested commercial interests.


The writer is Chairperson, Departments of Women's Studies and Sociology, Panjab University, Chandigarh.




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




The United States may have become increasingly insular both in terms of economic policy and foreign and security policy, returning to an isolationist phase that it has lived through time and again. But as the world's largest and still globally important economy, it continues to have an impact on the fortunes of big and small economies around the world. What the US government, Congress and the country's macroeconomic authorities do has a bearing on currencies, markets, and capital and trade flows around the world. Can the recent spurt in economic growth in the US be sustained and can the American economy survive without a steady infusion of cash from its central bank? What implications will it have for the world economy? Can Washington's politicians reach a consensus on managing economic policy?

The US' central bank (the Federal Reserve or Fed for brevity), which had drip-fed the economy $600 billion by buying bonds for the market in exchange for cash – quantitative easing or QE for the technically minded – between November 2010 and June 2011, seems to think the current revival of growth can be sustained without another bout of QE. QE2, the second round of monetary easing following the market crash of 2008, ends this month. In its monetary policy meeting last Wednesday and Thursday, the Fed decided not to extend it or go in for a new programme. Thus, QE3 seems unlikely in the near future.


How has the Fed justified this decision despite the US economy's obvious problems? First-quarter GDP growth clocked a meagre 1.8 per cent, the unemployment rate is over 9 per cent and the housing market remains moribund. The Fed, for one, acknowledges that growth for the year would be softer than expected earlier (it revised its forecasts for 2011 from 3.1-3.3 per cent range down to 2.7-2.9 per cent), but it expects "the pace of recovery to pick up over coming quarters". Besides, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his cohorts at the central bank have been emphatic that QE2 was specifically designed to fend off deflation risks that had emerged last year. With a steady rise in both headline and core (shorn of energy and food prices) inflation figures, these risks have dissipated.

One could take this a step further and argue that were the Fed to continue with quantitative easing, it would end up doing more harm than good. Easy dollar liquidity created by the Fed has helped push global commodity prices, setting off a global inflationary spiral and rising inflation expectations in the US. The latter has fed through to US interest rates, and bond yields are at the same level as they were at the start of QE2. More cash in the economy could, ironically, push up inflation expectations and interest rates further and defeat the very objective of an expansionary monetary policy — that of stimulating the economy through lower interest rates.

That said, the possibility of another liquidity infusion later in the year cannot be ruled out if the economy stumbles. The US government has run out of policy options to prop up the economy. Policy interest rates are at zero and the Republican opposition's insistence on fiscal rectitude rules out another fiscal stimulus. Mr Bernanke once accused the Japanese of "self-induced paralysis" by not pumping enough cash into the depressed Japanese economy. He might well have to counter the symptoms of paralysis in his own economy through another booster shot of liquidity yet again.

Unfortunately, the uncertainty over monetary policy isn't the last of the US' woes. The Federal government is all set to breach its sanctioned debt limit of $14.29 trillion and Congress will have to vet an increase in this ceiling by August 2 for the business of government (including borrowing in the markets to service debt) to continue. This would be a minor technical matter were it not for the impasse between the Democrats and the Republicans on how to consolidate debt going forward. While the Obama administration and the Democratic party have proposed a strategy based on tax increases and expenditure, the majority of Republicans want to put the burden of fiscal consolidation on expenditure reduction alone. According to the Republican formula, tax rates and tax expenditures (the catch-all phrase for the plethora of extant tax subsidies) should continue and deep cuts in "discretionary non-defence spending" will have to do the trick. Thus, they would acquiesce to vetting an increase in the debt ceiling only if the Obama administration were to accept their demands.

Such spending cuts will fall on social security and Medicare, which have been at the heart of President Barack Obama's policy reform initiatives, so this would be a bitter pill for the current administration to swallow. If a bipartisan resolution does not emerge by the time of the deadline, the US government runs the risk of defaulting on its debt obligations. Surprisingly, financial markets (including the hypersensitive credit default swap market) have been remarkably indifferent to the prospect of an outright default. Thus, they seem to have put their money on a resolution emerging soon enough. Besides, some debt analysts believe that even if the impasse continues, there is no reason the US government would miss an interest payment on its bonds. The treasury has considerable leeway over who it pays first. So, it could pay bond-holders and hold back social security payments and force Federal employees to go on leave.

However, whether there exists a technical default or not, a shutdown in the US government is bound to roil the markets and spark another wave of risk aversion in financial markets, which would ultimately hurt both the US and global growth. Therefore, it is imperative for both parties to get off their high horses and seek a consensus. One possibility is to allow for a small increase in the debt ceiling by the August deadline and keep negotiating further increases. This is clearly inefficient and will simply compound the uncertainty and anxiety that already prevail. A significant increase of around $2 trillion is ideal and will give the administration enough time to get its act together on its consolidation plan.

Governments, financial institutions and investors around the world must hope that US politicians will take a more long-term view, set aside party political differences and work towards a new "Washington consensus" — a political consensus on domestic economic policy.

Sustaining growth in the US, keeping the economy and the markets open, and remaining engaged with the world economy are in the interests of both the US and open economies and societies around the world. The distressing aspect of the political impasse in the US is that American politicians are behaving like any other politician, thinking only of the next elections and not the next generation. In ordinary times this myopia may not carry a heavy price, but in uncertain times like these US politicians must rise to the occasion, provide global leadership and adopt a more global and long-term perspective on what they must do to sustain and stabilise growth at home, so that they can, in the process, sustain and stabilise growth the world over.









In early 1993 the late Mahbub ul Haq, Pakistan's finance minister in the first Benazir Bhutto government and by then the famous architect of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP's) Human Development Report, called me and asked me to defend the economic record of democracies in the developing world at a UNDP conference.


 "Many in Asia argue," he said to me, "that non-democratic countries have done better both in recording higher growth and in ensuring better human development outcomes. Even in south Asia it is often said that military rule ensured better economic performance in Pakistan than democracy was able to in India. Now China's economic take-off is strengthening that argument. Sanjaya, your job is to defend democracy!"

I took up the challenge and had a go at it. The fact is that even in 1993 it was not an easy task. One of the speakers at the UNDP event was a Singaporean who put up just one chart showing Britain's economic performance declining over the period 1950 to 1990 and that of Singapore improving year after year. QED, he told the audience, democracy does not deliver growth or human development.

Two decades later, the debate continues but the evidence in favour of democracy has become more robust, and the most important differentiator has been India.

Forget about east Asia versus south Asia, Mahbub ul Haq would say, and just look at our own two countries. "I can never win an argument for democracy in Pakistan on economic grounds, even though I am passionately committed to it." Today, Dr Haq would win the argument hands down. Not because Pakistan has performed better as a democracy (regrettably, it has not) but because India's example shows that democracy was not a constraint on growth.

Even Chinese interlocutors (and certainly an increasing number of Singaporeans) now concede that if China delivered two decades of 10 per cent growth without democracy and India has now delivered close to 8 per cent growth over two decades with its chaotic and contentious democracy, then it is a price worth paying.

Moving beyond the democracy argument, the acceleration of India's economic growth, with greater external liberalisation that has re-integrated India into the global flows of goods, services and people, has altered the geopolitical and geoeconomic equations in south Asia.

Till 1990, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka performed better than India. Pakistan's average annual economic growth rate between 1965 and 1980 was 5.8 per cent compared with India's 3.2 per cent. The ratio of exports to GDP for Pakistan in 1990 was 15.5 per cent against India's 7.1 per cent. By 2005, the trade ratio hadn't changed much for Pakistan; for India it nearly tripled.

On almost every important economic indicator India's performance since 1991 has been superior to that of most of her neighbours. While Bangladesh has recently shown an improvement in performance, ethnically divided Sri Lanka, which aspired to be the "Singapore of south Asia" as recently as in the 1970s, has slipped.

Pakistan has the potential to catch up with India, given its human and natural resources and its geostrategic location, but it cannot do so as a beleaguered and anarchic "island" cut off from its neighbourhood, now recording a growth rate of just about 2.0 per cent! Both Pakistan and India can record a higher rate of growth if south Asia is able to reconnect with the resource-rich economies of central and West Asia, to the west, and the prosperous and enterprising economies of east and south-east Asia, to the east.

India's economic opening up in 1991 created the basis for India's re-integration with not just the global economy but also its own wider Asian neighbourhood. That was the geopolitical and strategic consequence of India's improved economic performance and greater openness since 1991. India's "Look East" and "Look West" policies were logical consequences of her re-integration into the global economy.

The geoeconomic and geopolitical consequences of the reforms of 1991 were not an accident. They were well understood at the time based on an analysis of what had happened to the "closed" Soviet and Soviet-style economies in the 1970s and especially 1980s, and the "open" economies of east Asia, including Dengist China.

It was, therefore, no accident that when Dr Manmohan Singh presented his first Budget as finance minister in July 1991, he ended his speech with that now famous statement that directly linked the prospect of a more open and faster-growing Indian economy with India's "rise" as a major power. The exact quote was: "No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. I suggest to this august House that the emergence of India as a major economic power in the world happens to be one such idea."

India's economic rise and, equally importantly, her increased openness have altered the geoeconomics of Asia and the world, thanks to India's "re-integration" with the world economy (and I pay tribute here to the late Suresh Tendulkar, who passed away last week, for focusing on "re-integration" in the book he co-authored with T N Srinivasan, Re-integrating India with the World Economy).

If the late Mahbub ul Haq were alive today, he would not only find it easier to defend the economic track record of a democracy, given India's rise as a free market democracy and an "economic power house" in these past two decades, he would also have to concede that the India versus Pakistan debate among policy makers is dead and buried. Nobody in Pakistan or India, or anywhere in south Asia or Asia, or the world, would suggest any longer that military-ruled Pakistan is a better place to do business in than plural, secular and democratic India. India's economic performance since 1991 has made that difference.








In my last week's column, I had discussed the possibility of the global economy facing "a perfect storm". Nearer home every day's news makes me wonder whether we are not facing something even more dangerous — a vacuum of leadership and governance. While talking about the United Progressive Alliance (UPA-II), Shekhar Gupta remarked in his column National Interest in the Indian Express (June 18) that "this has become our most dysfunctional real government in three decades." (For obvious reasons, he excluded the governments headed by Chandrasekhar, Deve Gowda and Gujral). One felt sad that the first government since independence headed by a professional, who had acquired eminence in his own field, should have come to this sorry pass.


I first came to know of Dr Manmohan Singh in the late 1970s from my good friend George Fernandes, an eminent trade union leader known for his militancy. (My contacts with George go back to my trade union activities; they later became more regular when I was advising a cooperative bank promoted by him, of which he was the chairman. I developed great respect for his sharp intellect, quick grasp of any subject and superb articulation.) He was then a member of the central Cabinet as minister for industries. One of the questions I asked him then was about the quality of senior civil servants in Delhi — as trade union leaders, we obviously had a common bias against bureaucracy. That was when he mentioned Dr Singh, describing him as unassuming, deceptively soft-spoken and somebody who would rarely intervene in a discussion. But George later realised that he was the one who had studied the subject more than anybody else.

In the 1980s, when I started writing about the exchange rate from a more economic, as distinct from market, perspective, I read Dr Singh's doctoral thesis on "India's export performance, 1951-1960, export prospects and policy implications," which later grew into a book. It, inter alia, stressed on the relevance and importance of the exchange rate to export prospects. In an era dominated by export pessimistic economists (and hence the emphasis on import substitution regardless of costs), he was one of the very few voices to argue that, given a proper exchange rate, India's export potential was significant. In the 1980s, when he was governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Vijay Joshi of Oxford University, spending a couple of years at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), developed the first REER model for the rupee's exchange rate.

My third brush with Dr Singh was in the mid-1990s through my criticism of the monetary policy then followed by the central bank, taking real interest rates, even for AAA bonds, to double-digit levels! Deena Khatkhate (ex RBI and International Monetary Fund), his colleague and friend of many years, liked the arguments and sent the columns to Dr Singh, then finance minister of India. I called on Dr Singh on my next visit to Delhi, was received very warmly, and later he wrote me a very nice letter.

In the meantime, of course, Dr Singh, after spending a few years as the secretary general of the South Commission, was invited by Narasimha Rao to become the finance minister to steer economic policies after the 1991 balance of payment crisis. Later he was credited with having engineered India's reforms of the exchange rate, trade and industrial policies post-crisis, which laid the foundation of the average 8 per cent annual growth of the last couple of decades and was a major "about-turn" from the earlier licence/quota/permit raj of a socialist economy. (To be sure, Dr Singh had not voiced much criticism of this over the earlier two decades. Perhaps he held such views in private but his loyalty and reticence precluded any public expression.) One has often wondered whether Rao should not be given far bigger credit for his political courage in introducing the reforms which, in any case, were driven by the IMF conditionalities.

In this background, one had great hopes when Dr Singh became prime minister of the UPA-I government, courtesy the Congress president. Since then, however, his record has been lacklustre, particularly in the second term — not that much was done in the first term other than the Indo-US nuclear pact. But this could be blamed on the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on whom the UPA-I was dependent for survival as the ruling coalition. He talked about administrative reforms on many occasions but nothing happened. Perhaps his first major mistake was in the acceptance of the National Advisory Council (NAC) as a super Cabinet. [Kapil Sibal has recently said, with reference to Anna Hazare and his so-called civil society, "we cannot have a parallel government" (The Economic Times, June 22). He overlooks the fact that the UPA has accepted a parallel government since its inception — in the name of the NAC.] Exaggerating only slightly, the result was that he became the prime minister with all responsibilities — but no political power. Perhaps few ministers considered themselves responsible to the prime minister — they held their posts at the pleasure of their respective party chiefs. Many of the scandals that have dogged the UPA-II perhaps originate in this.  






The proposal to make rural credit cooperatives the business correspondents of commercial banks will work only if the alliance is mutually beneficial.

The recent decision to use Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACs) to distribute crop loans to farmers by commercial banks in Maharashtra and the approval given by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) are welcome steps in the present context in which Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank has been superseded. This arrangement, however, has to be temporary and efforts must be made to strengthen credit cooperatives at all levels.


For quite some time, there have been discussions on the role of cooperatives in furthering financial inclusion, often suggesting field-level credit cooperatives and PACs to function as Business Correspondents (BCs) of commercial banks. Surprisingly, this model is considered beneficial to the PACs themselves. In a recently concluded conclave on financial inclusion at Mumbai (the 26th Skoch Summit), I argued that the large-scale involvement of PACs as BCs of commercial banks might prove detrimental to the PACs, depriving them of their cooperative character and reducing them to "agents" of commercial banks. What may be needed is an alliance between commercial banks and PACs that is mutually beneficial. The alliance, in the long run, should strengthen the credit cooperative structure. In a way, the alliance between banks and PACs should help the latter effectively address problems such as poor financial health and weak recycling of funds. This sort of alliance only can promote meaningful financial inclusion as also a diversified financial system resulting in greater financial stability.

Although the performance of the Indian banking system has been commendable during the last one and a half decade, large-scale financial exclusion has undoubtedly eclipsed the otherwise good performance of the banking system. It is now an accepted fact that financial inclusion, including the provision of credit at affordable cost, is a pre-requisite for inclusive growth. Although financial sector policies have long been driven by the objective of increasing financial inclusion, the goal of universal inclusion remains a distant dream. Notwithstanding the poor performance of credit cooperatives, it must not be forgotten that these credit cooperatives at the grassroots are functionally and ideologically best suited to rural India. This apart, financial inclusion minus grassroots credit cooperatives is simply unthinkable in the Indian context because of their sheer number and spread. The magnitude of financial exclusion has gone up during the last decade, the decade that witnessed a sharp fall in market share of rural credit cooperatives. One cannot remain oblivious to the fact that the deteriorating market share of rural credit cooperatives is closely linked to financial exclusion. Put it differently, the declining market share of cooperatives has resulted in large-scale exclusion and, therefore, credit cooperatives must be made active partners in promoting financial inclusion.

Everyone agrees and many argue that PACs numbering more than 100,000 should be used as BCs by banks. What needs to be debated is: is it possible to see PACs as BCs and also as grassroots credit cooperatives? The real challenge is to design an alliance in which banks would be the beneficiaries of thousands of outlets for financial services in rural India and PACs the gainers of financial inclusion in terms of the increased flow of funds and associated benefits. The broad contours of such a model are:  

  • PACs are allowed to act as BCs in its true sense — say, as "agents" for the mobilisation of deposits. Though the reputation of the PACs as financial intermediaries capable of handling public deposits is questionable, one can expect a fair degree of success in this regard as PACs will be mobilising and maintaining accounts on behalf of commercial banks.
  • Depending on the success and capabilities of PACs, a portion of the deposits mobilised may be retained by these cooperatives. To the extent of deposits retained, the PACs could be given freedom in lending operations. 
  • Insofar as the provision of credit, a critical component of financial inclusion, is concerned, PACs will essentially perform the role of a BC, i.e., the credit risk is borne by the commercial banks. However, commercial banks may have to strengthen the risk-management capabilities of PACs to ensure that the deposits they retain are effectively recycled on the one hand and these cooperatives are enabled to take credit decisions independently, on the other. 
  • At the district level, the lead bank in consultation with the District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) and the state government will have to take responsibility for identifying PACs for the alliance. Nabard funds under this alliance, especially for crop loans, will have to be channelled through the bank with which PACs are associated as a BC. DCCBs, which are federal bodies at the district level, should extend business support as also financial support to their member PACs from their own sources.

The approach outlined here may appear simplistic but it is pragmatic and must be seen against the backdrop of a large number of financially-weak PACs with vast geographical spread and large- scale financial exclusion. This arrangement speaks of the step-by-step approach to strengthen PACs on the one hand and on the other, effective utilisation of PACs for furthering financial inclusion. This arrangement also limits the default risk or risk of non-payment of loans by borrowers to the amount lent by PACs, which is inclusive of their own resources and the amount borrowed/deposits retained. A couple of experiments in Maharashtra might be in order before replication in other parts of the country.

The author is Professor, National Institute of Bank Management, Pune






It's time for serious reform in the oil industry, especially in pricing, subsidies and retailing, so that there is no fire-fighting every time global prices surge.

No consumer likes a price increase especially when it happens with an essential commodity, but a country that imports three-fourths of its oil cannot ignore global price trends for very long. Global oil prices have remained at high levels over the past several months, but Indian consumers were largely insulated because for many weeks the Government could not bring itself to decide on how to pass the burden on. To its credit, it did so on Friday by increasing the prices of diesel, kerosene and cooking gas, reducing duties on petroleum products and abolishing import duty on crude oil. Though not comprehensive enough, these measures show that the government has devoted some thought to the issue. It was evident that to limit the increases in the selling price of the fuels, the Government needed to sacrifice some of its revenues, about Rs 49,000 crore of revenues for the whole fiscal year as it turned out.

What is not so commendable, though, is that the government continues to control the levers of the oil industry. Despite public pronouncements of decontrol, there is no doubt who the ultimate boss is when it comes to pricing decisions. Though petrol pricing was freed a few months back, oil companies still need the government's tacit nod to adjust prices. By holding on to controls, the Government is only stifling competition in the sector. This newspaper has always argued for deregulation and free competition in the oil industry, and not without reason. Just look at what competition and free market forces have achieved in the telecom industry, reducing tariffs to the lowest in the world. The situation is the opposite in oil, where private players, and sizeable ones at that, are not even interested in participating in the domestic market. The Reliances and Essars of the world are happy exporting products from their state-of-the-art refineries, simply because of the uneven playing field in the domestic market. The Government and its convoluted subsidy-sharing mechanism have ensured that private players do not enter petroleum product retailing; and the consumers are the losers.

What prevails now is a rather opaque system where the oil companies claim staggering numbers as "under-recoveries" and the government factors them in its calculations. These "under-recovery" numbers are not verified by either the government or the regulator. The concept of "under-recovery" is itself questionable and has often been misrepresented as losses of the oil companies, which it is not. Serious reform is needed in the industry. For a start, the regulator, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, needs to be empowered to verify and approve price adjustments. Second, prices should be deregulated with subsidies on products such as kerosene and cooking gas clearly targeted and delivered only to the needy. Finally, competition should be encouraged in petroleum retailing by levelling the field for private players to participate. These alone can ensure that the government does not have to engage in fire-fighting every time there is a surge in global oil prices.







Stringent anti-graft laws are riveting European business to meet shareholder expectations and serve the national good, without compromising on good value management systems and business ethics.

An anti-corruption policy can only be effective when it strikes a balance between pre-emptive statutes and brutally repressive edicts. In this context, in almost all of Europe, bribery is considered a double-edged act of corruption that exposes both the giver and the taker to criminal liability.

Europe combats corruption effectively, not only by putting in place strong preventive measures but also by instituting an efficient, ruthless system of criminal prosecution. Across EU nations, there are "special prosecutor's offices" that deal primarily with cases of bribery and related offences. There is exacting investigation and quick prosecution of acts of corruption.

This has had a significant deterrent effect in countries across the EU. And it is achieved, in part, through close teamwork between all concerned, including the police investigators and prosecutors.

Strict Action

For instance, criminal law in Germany allows for significant fines and imprisonment of up to ten years in corruption cases.

Public prosecutors exploit fully the punishments available to them and courts are willing to 'presume' corruption. For example, the mere fact that a company executive kept slush funds is deemed to be a breach of trust against the company — no actual act of bribery need exist.

Bribing foreign public officials is already a punishable offence under the EU Anti-Bribery Law and under the international law on combating bribery.

Both active and passive bribery of foreign politicians, bureaucrats and judges are liable to be punished, even if they are not EU members.

Therefore, under EU laws, criminal prosecution does not stop at national and EU frontiers. The criminal provisions for bribery of employees apply also, to activities in foreign competition.

In bribery investigations within Europe, great effort is made to induce informants to come forward and report corrupt behaviour. In Germany, the federal States, the city administration as well as public and private companies have successfully implemented two kinds of information strategies: the so-called "virtual letterbox" and the "ombudsman system" — a 'hush-hush' advocate system. Together, these systems allow the whistleblower to protect one's identity, if the person so wishes, and communicate incognito.

The difference is that the "virtual letterbox" works exclusively via the Internet, while the "ombudsman system" involves direct personal contact and counselling between the whistleblower and the confidential advocate.


For European corporates, the threat of blacklisting or banning corrupt firms has been the most effective deterrent in the anti-corruption armoury. In most European procurement contracts, one general prevention tool employed is the "four-eyes" principle, where a second person must sign off on all business decisions, legal contracts and even legally binding letters.

Another provision with identical legal consequence is the issue of conflict of interest. It makes clear the need to report, pre-authorise, or even prohibit any form of extra or derived activity or, employment.

Integrity Clause

As for European public procurement contracts, a general condition used by every contracting unit is an 'integrity clause' that is applied to all procurement awards. That clause gives the government contracting office a contractual right to impose penalties, and enforce contract cancellation and debarment whenever an act of bribery, fraud or misappropriation is detected. The integrity clause is used in the course of negotiations as an incentive for the private sector to do its part to fight corruption.

One model anti-graft legislation within Europe is the UK Bribery Act. Deliberately intended to bring to an end to the UK's pitiable reputation in tackling corruption, this legislation is today publicly lauded as the international benchmark for anti-corruption legislation.

This seems a good law to draw points for the Lokpal Bill. There are four offences under the Act — the two general offences of paying and receiving bribes, the bribery of foreign officials and the failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery.

Each offence carries a potential 10-year jail sentence and unlimited fines for directors and chief financial officers — given that they, at the end of the day, hold the keys to the purse.

Corporate compliance

In many European states, corporate compliance is becoming an important part of translucent and deeply accountable corporate management. Inflexible, tough compliance is evident by the strict observation of laws and regulations.

The recent bribery scandals in India must raise both public and business awareness of the importance of corporate compliance. National industry associations such as CII and FICCI need to include compliance, values and good business ethics in their action agenda.

Prima facie, the draft Jan Lokpal Bill concentrates on administrative corruption — focusing on the activities of individuals who, in their positions as public officials — as policymakers or as administrators — control various activities or, decisions.

Ripple effect

In the wake of massive privatisation in India, the concepts proposed in the Lokpal Bill must include corrupt conduct in the private sector – outside as well as within its interface with the public service.

This is bound to have a ripple effect, as is evidenced in Europe where stringent anti-graft laws are riveting European business to meet shareholder expectations and, serve the national good, without compromising on good value management systems and business ethics.

(The author is former Europe Director, CII.






Neither rhetoric nor legislation can compensate for the lack of a long-term commitment to creating institutions.

Policymakers assure the nation that once the rains are normal and harvests bountiful, inflation will come down. Barely a few days ago a senior official of the Reserve Bank told the media that prices would come down if, among other things, food shortages eased.

He spoke too soon, for now we know that the nation's warehouses are once again bursting at the seams with fresh food stocks even as food inflation inches towards double digits.

The knowledge that food prices are high despite last year's wasting buffer stocks, now being augmented by fresh supplies and thus adding to the possibility of stocks rotting, no longer seems to embarrass policymakers. By insisting that the government use overflowing stocks to feed the poor, the Supreme Court has offered evidence of their callousness.

What the presence of surplus grains alongside empty stomachs and rising prices indicates is the abdication of political or moral responsibility by a government that came to power for the second time on the promise of inclusive growth.

Food security?

The tragic possibility that foodgrains from both old and fresh stocks will rot even as food consumption declines on account of high prices is not rooted in speculation, but in experience.

So when the policymaker assures the nation that bursting bins with their stocks of 65 million tonnes of wheat and rise spell food security, or that prices would ease sooner than later, one cannot help feeling somewhat like Alice in Wonderland.

Imagine for a moment that the government did not have to spend its energy in defending itself against the barrage of corruption charges, that it was a squeaky clean administration. How would one draw up its record since it came to power for the second time?

At first glance it might appear to have fared well; it has introduced various pioneering legislation: the right to education, food security, a Bill to protect journalists.

What the record of this government shows is its tendency to reach for the drafting pen and paper and enact yet another law when confronted with a crisis. Do not be surprised if it enacts a law to banish inflation.

But laws do not automatically ensure governance like throwing a switch offers instant light. There is an old law to prevent commuters from crossing railway tracks just as laws exist to prevent or at least deter us from killing those who would expose our illegal activities. But laws need institutions to implement them.

Legislation not enough

The National Food Security Bill envisages a gigantic distribution of food stocks through a PDS system where more than half the foodgrain distributed finds its way into the open market or into godowns, thus feeding inflation, not the poor. So an apparently radical piece of legislation is made meaningless because it depends on the same creaky system to realise its laudable objectives.

What lies beneath the law-making gesture (and that is all the various legislations are at this moment — gestures) is the absence of a commitment to institution- and capacity-building. Governance in a democracy means the slow and often protracted introduction and operation of institutions that can mediate on society's problems and find solutions.

One would be hard put to find either in the first or second terms 'reforms' (outside the financial or capital markets) that proceeded beyond legislation-as-gesture.

Consider the SEZ Act of 2005 that sounded like the panacea for a slothful economy, the shortest route to prosperity.

Legislated in haste, executed with benign indifference to the massive problems confronting its practicality, the SEZ has become synonymous with acquisition of real estate, the most profitable and expanding industry to date.

Blind to mistakes

Blinded by the successes of the economy under its first watch, the UPA's self-congratulatory mood has not yet fizzled out despite the growing evidence that the neon lights of 8-9 per cent growth do not wash over large tracts of the Indian republic.

Its continued insistence that GDP can reach 8 per cent and its tendency to view that statistic as evidence of national prosperity are no more than grand but empty gestures. This manner has spread like a contagion among an increasing number of policymakers.

The UPA, more so now than in the early years of its first term, refuses to accept the possibility that assertions of governance cannot stand in for performance. Its creeping hubris, now having become second nature (aided by a frittering opposition), blinds it to lessons from its own mistakes or omissions. For the UPA, the grand statement masquerades as good governance.





After playing with numbers and leaving a financial mess that is yet to be cleared fully,

B. Ramalinga Raju, the founder-Chairman of the erstwhile Satyam Computers, is playing with words as he sits in jail. His wifeNandini has just brought out a collection of 56 poems penned by him. People have already begun reading between the lines for clues to the fraud, if any. With rudimentary expressions and rhetoric, the poems in 'Naalo Nenu' (Rumblings inside) turn philosophical sometimes and touch upon issues such as hunger and loneliness.

Reshuffle anxiety

With talk of an impending reshuffle of the Union Cabinet in the air, the attitude of people in power toward journalists seems to be changing. While bureaucrats are calling up journalists to speculate about the fortunes of political bosses, ministers are willing to talk on everything, from the Finance Minister's office being bugged to how they are being unfairly targeted by the CAG. All off the record, of course.

'Sibal society'

Acrimony aside, there were some light moments for journalists covering the Lokpal Bill drafting debate. At a briefing by Union Minister Kapil Sibal on the day the talks with civil society members collapsed, a witty remark by another Union Minister, Salman Khurshid, on the joint drafting panel made the day. "There's a joke that in the panel there's a Civil Society and there's a Sibal Society", quipped the Minister, bringing some cheer on an otherwise tense and hectic day.

In a time warp

The 25-paise coin is going out of circulation from June 30. The RBI has decided to scrap them as the inflation bug has bitten the currency. And a whole generation of teens have not seen the likes of 5, 10 and 20 paises as they ceased to be legal tender more than a decade ago. The Proxy form published in the State Bank of India's Annual Report for 2010 has a provision for affixing 15 paise revenue stamp over which the shareholder has to sign!

Yes, 15 paise! Now we have neither the coins of the denomination nor revenue stamps of that value. When one started perusing the annual reports of companies, one came across the same bloomer in almost all! But what is surprising is that the State Bank of India, majority owned by the Government of India and which takes care of the Union Government's treasury operations, doesn't know the Indian Stamp Act 1899, since amended 51 times, has replaced the mandatory 20 paise revenue stamps affixation for documents to Rupee One by an amendment in 1994. The State Bank of Travancore's proxy form also has the same format following the parent, while the IOB requires the shareholder to affix one rupee stamp — obviously, they are alert.

Anna effect and wise babus

Call this the Anna or Ramdev effect. Recently, a senior government official was stranded outside a five-star hotel after a business meeting. Apparently, his driver was on chai break and did not pick up his mobile when he was called for the car. An industry member offered to drop the official in his luxury sedan, but the Finance Ministry mandarin spurned the offer. "I don't want to be embarrassed by getting dropped to office in this car. Definitely, not in the current times and in broad daylight", he quipped. Someone else's old Ambassador car was, however, acceptable to him. One can only sympathise with the official, said an observer. For, it is quite unlikely to go unnoticed , especially if you drive in in a BMW or any other luxury car. All the more so, as Anna Hazare and his team are regular visitors to North Block these days!

Truth face-off

As children we grandly swore our honesty with a hand over chest and a 'God promise'. These two gentlemen are long past their childhood, but almost repeated the kid stuff. The occasion: The recent flare-up of mutual charges of amassing wealth — an otherwise routine matter between B.S. Yeddyurappa and his erstwhile political partner turned arch foe and relentless rug-puller, H.D. Kumaraswamy. The Chief Minister, through newspaper advertisements, dared Kumaraswamy to take what he called the ultimate truth serum: swear the latest charges before , Lord Manjunatha of Dharmasthala near Mangalore.

Now, the Aane-pramaana veracity ritual — where two contesting parties make out their case in real time before the deity - is a common but serious affair for Dharmasthala devotees. As Kumaraswamy picked up the gauntlet, people were aghast over the two 'misusing sacred rituals for politics'. Quickly trouble-shooters stepped in, such as the saffron party's president, Nitin Gadkari, and the pontiff of the Udupi Pejavar math. A chastised Yeddyurappa, with both feet in the mouth, meekly said he would abide by these elders' advice. The June 27 no-show of a heady showdown has left everyone relieved . It's not for nothing that the State is called Kar-naataka.

Sweet gesture

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee may have been crying hoarse over the state coffers being left 'empty' by the Left Front, leaving her with no money to feed the people . But, when it comes to offering Bengali delicacies to the media, she never spares an opportunity to open up the coffers of her heart. This time round, her hospitality was also accompanied by a victorious smile. No surprises, therefore, when a van loaded with boxes of sweets and snacks, packed by a well-known Bengali eatery landed up much before Didi did at a media interaction in Delhi last week!

Passports redefined

Two college-going youths from Hunsur (near Mysore) had been abducted and brutally killed for ransom and the Karnataka Home Minister was under pressure to explain why the police were yet to find the murderers. If they were not caught early, they would escape to neighbouring States, went one argument. To which a certain Minister is supposed to have famously replied, "How can they do so? They have no passports."










An article by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Pricing chairman Ashok Gulati in this paper (ET, June23) made a telling point that the government and the leadership of the ruling coalition would do well to take on board while finalising their view on food security. Food security is achieved far more by boosting rural output and incomes than by distribution. Agricultural growth dents rural poverty directly and proportionately much more than growth in town-based activities such as industry and services. Fast growth on the farm was precisely the route that China took to bring down its poverty rate. Boosting farm output would also increase vital supplies and hold the price line. At a time when even the least developed economies of the world are registering sustained growth of 7% a year and more, it is inevitable that food demand would go up around the world. Without a coherent strategy to boost output, any attempt to identify food security with distribution would push up government dominance in the market for grain, jack up the subsidy bill, paying for expensive imports as well, and leave demand squeeze as the only way to contain inflation, leading to higher interest rates and lower investment and growth. This is a recipe for ever-rising food subsidy without materially enhancing welfare.

Another point the article highlights had been articulated by 40 noted economists in an open letter to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi as well: it would be a big mistake to rely on the public distribution system as the sole means of ensuring popular access to food. The procurement, storage and distribution through the Food Corporation of India and state civil supplies departments is riddled with corruption, inefficiency, pilferage, spoilage, special devolution to Punjab and Haryana which corner central funds in the name of mandi tax. Cash transfers to beneficiaries and an enhanced role for the private trade would cut costs and minimise leakages. Food security is not just distribution of food, but increasing production, and enhancing efficiency across the board: and that would call for organised retail and the supply chains they can bring, as Amul did in the case of milk.






The Centre has belatedly raised retail prices marginally of diesel, cooking gas and kerosene, after a whole year of inaction even as crude prices kept rising. This, and the cuts in duties on crude and products, helps the oil companies, but fall short of much needed systemic reform. There is no move yet again to decontrol prices of diesel, the most used fuel, never mind the inprinciple okay some time ago for oil companies to revise retail prices on their own. It is sensible that oil marketers now willy-nilly get to revise petrol prices. However, after the latest revision for diesel, the price differential vis-àvis petrol has further risen, which distorts demand, for example, favouring cars that run on diesel. And despite the long-overdue increase in the prices of the trio of petroproducts, the estimated under-recoveries in oil, the difference between the cost price and realised price of petrogoods, would nevertheless reportedly add up to . 1,20,000 crore this fiscal alone. The massive imbalance underscores the need for purposeful reform in oil, with real scope for competitive, market-determined prices rather than sporadic, politicised price revisions that leave an inefficient, opaque oil marketing structure intact.
In tandem, the customs duty on crude has been reduced from 5% to nil, and that on petrol and diesel brought down to 2.5% from 7.5%. It would have made more sense to unify the rates for crude and refined products at 1.5-2%. The state governments do need to bring down and rationalise local levies on oil products. After all, in a regime of ad valorem duties on petro-products, runaway prices do tend to disproportionately rev up indirect levies. Additionally, excise on diesel has been almost halved. But the special excise on petrol remains anomalously in place. Abroad, the relative price differential is minimal. The cooking gas (LPG) price per cylinder goes up by . 50, to about . 395, and subsidised kerosene (SKO) by . 2/litre. But LPG prices are already double ours in the immediate neighbourhood, and SKO is heavily used as adulterant. The express need is for comprehensive subsidy overhaul for both the household fuels.









One week ago the two communist parties of India, estranged for nearly 50 years, thought briefly about a merger. And the venerable CPI actually spoke about it. The CPI(M), which split from the parent party in a fit of ideological pique, initially hemmed and hawed, but finally dismissed the idea. A merger, after all, would have meant that some hotshots in both parties would have had to quit. After all, you can't have two general secretaries in one party, nor can you have two people leading a trade union that combines the CPI's AITUC and the CPI (M)'s CITU. The CPI(M), of course, will not put things clearly. One spokesperson for the party said that the merger is impossible because the two parties are still ideologically incompatible. The CPI(M), he said, perceives India as a nation of bourgeoisie, landlord rentiers. To the vast number of Indians who do not live in cities and don't own surplus land, this'll be a huge surprise. Long may our comrades smoke whatever they're smoking now.

History shows that Indian communist parties cannot merge, but they can split. So here is a suggestion. There are many within the CPI(M) who toil in the trenches of electoral democracy, who fret after losing polls in Kerala and Bengal, including over the lack of accountability at the top: after the defeat, party boss Prakash Karat quickly recovered his composure, and announced that all was well. The comrades had no need to worry, the Left had won 41% of the votes in Bengal. This from a man who has never contested an election outside of the Republic of JNU. The only cure for this awesome display of hubris is another split in the party. People who want to retain some kind of electoral viability should form the CPI(Elections), and leave the leaders to peruse the complete works of Lenin undisturbed.







After the credit crisis, India (like many other developed and emerging economies) resorted to fiscal and monetary stimulus to push growth back to pre-crisis trend immediately. This was a justified policy action at the worst point of the crisis, but we believe the policy-makers overstayed the course.

The government maintained high expenditure growth (a large part of it tends to be revenue spending in nature) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) also left real policy rates in negative territory for a long period. While this easy approach did boost growth strongly, the low productivity dynamic accompanying it meant that the country faced challenges of inflation, current account deficit and tight inter-bank liquidity. The most challenging symptom for the policy-makers has been inflation. Indeed, we believe that a large part of the food inflation is because of this low productivity dynamic of government spending in the rural India and less due to structural shift in protein consumption. Structural shift cannot justify a cumulative rise of 55% in primary food inflation since January 2008.

However, a policy-induced growth slowdown now appears inevitable. A combination of factors — including persistent high inflation rate, higher oil prices, sharp rise in interest rates, and a weak global capital market environment — is likely to result in slowdown in growth. We have already cut our FY 2012 (year-end March 2012) GDP growth forecast to 7.7% and have highlighted further potential downside risks to GDP growth of about 50 bps.

We think the key debate now is not about whether growth will slow but rather what is the likely duration of the growth slowdown. Currently, we expect slowdown in growth in 2011 with a gradual recovery from 1Q2012. We believe there are two set of factors that will be important for India's growth outlook: (1) outcome of developed world growth and oil prices in the coming 12 months as the external drivers and (2) policy action to boost private investments as the domestic factor. While external factors are unpredictable, the government needs to ensure it initiates policy reforms to lift private investments. We believe that for sustainable recovery in growth without facing major inflation pressures, the revival in productive dynamic — rise in private corporate capex — is the key. The overall sentiment toward business capex has been weak, as reflected in the yearly growth of engineering and construction companies' order book. While there are signs of growth beginning to slow, it is not clear to us that the policymakers fully appreciate the severity of potential growth downside risks to act quickly to boost investments. Indeed, with the cyclical macro environment locally as well as globally being so adverse, the onus on the government to push for a major policy reform to get the private sector to kick-start a major investment cycle is bigger. In this context, we believe there are three key sets of measures that government needs to initiate over the next six months to ensure that the duration of down cycle is not extended beyond two-three quarters.

First, we believe the government needs to implement an aggressive "campaign-style" effort to clear investment projects transparently with coordination from all key ministries — including finance, environment, commerce, transportation, electricity and coal. There needs to be a time-bound approach to this effort. This commitment is critical considering recent concerns in the market of perceived slowdown in the policy action within the government machinery post the emergence of graft related issues since the last quarter of 2010.
    Second, the government needs to implement a tighter fiscal policy to create room for the private sector investments. We believe loose fiscal policy has been at the heart of the recent persistent inflation pressures and rise in cost of capital. The government needs to manage an aggressive reduction in the fiscal deficit to create adequate room for private corporate capex. During the 12 months ending March 2012, the government is likely to run a deficit of 8.3% of GDP, including off-budget oil and fertiliser subsidy burden, compared with 9.3% of GDP in FY2011 (excluding 3G receipts). The estimate of fiscal deficit for FY2012 does not include the oil subsidy burden of 0.6% of GDP, which the government forces the state-owned oil companies to bear.
Third, we think there is a need to implement aggressive divestment of state-owned enterprises and to boost FDI inflows. Considering that the starting point for the loan-deposit ratio in the banking system is relatively tight and inter-bank liquidity is already in deficit, we believe it is important for the government to ensure that capital inflows remain buoyant to ensure, in turn, that liquidity constraints do not make it difficult to revive capex. The government should aim to collect $15-20 billion through divestments over the next 12 months. India's gross FDI inflows declined by 32% to $24.2 billion in 2010 and net FDI inflows declined by 44% to $11 billion. India is one of the few emerging markets that registered a decline in FDI in 2010. We believe there is a need to increase FDI inflows with necessary policy reforms — including opening up foreign investment in organised retail distribution.

We believe a policy response from the policy-makers will be important to prevent a more vicious slowdown. In case slowdown in growth persists for more than two-three quarters, the risk of it becoming more vicious will rise, as the banking system could see a rise in non-performing loans, causing risk aversion among lenders.








Rating companies across the world are reassessing business models to restore their credibility that may have dented after the subprime mess in 2008. However, firms operating in this space in India are relatively more robust as the country was by and large insulated from the global financial tsunami. India has always been more conservative when it comes to rating of structured products that created problems in the West, says D R Dogra, MD & CEO at Credit Analysis & Research Ltd, a firm engaged in rating corporate equity and debt instruments.
"There is a lot to learn from any crisis as it helps us reevaluate our systems and processes. Following the global financial meltdown, rating agencies globally have tended to be a bit more stringent with their ratings and at the sovereign level we have seen ratings lowered for some countries".

So, how does he perceive credit rating companies in India? Has CARE become more stringent in its rating system? "We have always been stringent with ratings as we believe that in our business the biggest differentiating factor is credibility. The market is fast expanding and with growing competition, any agency has to ensure that the industry views the rating as being credible. Some may say that the Indian agencies have been a bit conservative, but to my mind, that is better than being extravagant. The fact that we have a multistage rating process — starting from the analyst to the ratings head to the internal ratings committee to the external rating committee — provides the required filters to keep the system unbiased," says Dogra.
The firm's rating teams have distinct sector heads with expertise in their respective domains who oversee their own groups. Besides, it also has a rigorous quality control team that reviews in depth all rating proposals and acts as an independent filter in the rating process. Further, the criteria development team continuously reviews the methodologies and processes. "The basic idea is to ensure that the rating systems are ever evolving and synchronous with the developments taking place around us," he says.

Credit rating agencies in the country have performed quite creditably over the years and the regulation too has been proactive all through. "We have also been able to bring new products to the table and added value to investors and helped in decision-making. Besides, our default studies also show that we have done well even during the crisis years. But, now we are definitely more alert to the developments taking place around us and are continuously monitoring the enterprises that we rate to pick up early warning signals." What are the credit rating companies doing in the wake of several scams, including the 2G spectrum scandal? Dogra says all internal irregularities have the potential to affect credit ratings of the concerned companies. "The rating agencies are following these developments and are re-assessing their options while evaluating any of these companies in the surveillance process. We do evaluate how the company's prospects may be affected by different scenarios emerging from such developments," he says. CARE plans to go public by the end of next year to give an exit route to its existing investors. It is reportedly looking to raise over . 500 crore, offloading at least a 25% stake. Currently, the company has no foreign shareholding. IDBI Bank, with an over 26% stake, is the largest shareholder in the rating firm. Canara Bank holds a 23.67% stake in the company, while SBI has a 9.97% equity stake. Other shareholders in CARE are Federal Bank, IL&FS and ING Vysya Bank. "The basic idea of the IPO is to unlock value and hence the divestment would be of the shareholders to the general public,"says Dogra, declining to share details.

Since the second half of last year, a host of private equity firms have invested in CARE through secondary sales from its previous shareholders. While Milestone Religare Investment Advisors acquired about 5% stake in CARE for around . 75 crore in August 2010, Aditya Birla Private Equity and Bajaj Holdings & Investment picked up about 10% stake in the rating agency for about . 150 crore in September.
Industry trackers say the PE investors are unlikely to exit during the proposed IPO. The firm is reportedly valued at . 2,000 crore, that makes it the second most valued financial ratings firm. Standard & Poor-backed Crisil has a market cap of . 4,940 crore, while Moody's-backed ICRA has a market cap of . 1,046 crore. As per the firm's website, CARE Ratings has completed over 8,488 rating assignments having aggregate value of about . 26,60,900 crore (as on September 30, 2010). It has seven offices across the country located in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. The firm's revenue currently stands at around . 170 crore.


DR DOGRA MD & CEO Credit Analysis & Research Ltd








The leaked draft report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), this time on oil exploration companies, has evoked more reactions from political parties than many final CAG reports that have been tabled in Parliament only to gather dust.

Petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy's hurried press conference on a leaked report last week, only gave the leak an official stamp. Worse, Reddy has said that he is open to opening up past contracts signed over the last decade if the final report so demands. Reddy may have wanted to preempt the political furore over the alleged policy gaps. Inflated project costs or loss of revenue for the central exchequer are important issues but they perhaps need to be carefully studied before taking a stand. A case in point, ONGC's reported plans to produce 30 million standard cubic metres (mmscmd) of gas from ultra deep waters of the Krishna Godavari basin at an estimated cost of $7.7 billion as against RIL's questioned plan of producing 80 mmscmd of gas at over $ 8 billion.

Reddy, would do better to address the media on some crucial pending questions of the sector. For starters sample these: When will diesel prices be deregulated? Why is ONGC, the biggest national exploration company left with an "acting" chairman for six months now? Why are officials in the ministry being transferred out before their tenure is up? What is your ministry doing to promote infrastructure like pipelines or LNG terminals? When and how will you handle the subsidy issue? How do you bring down adulteration? The list can go on.

The rot in the petroleum ministry and its inability to take decisions has now come to haunt investors like never before. If Reddy's predecessor Murli Deora managed to bring the petroleum ministry under the public gaze for his alleged leanings towards a particular corporate group, Reddy managed to keep the ministry in the public limelight by remaining indecisive on most issues.

Jaipal Reddy was perceived as a cleanser for the petroleum ministry when he replaced Deora. Unfortunately, the ministry under his leadership has tried to keep a clean image by taking minimal action. The only visible change between the two ministers being the style of operation. Deora, who was shy of public speaking, rarely did any plain talking, leaving it to his accomplished aides, the bureaucracy. Reddy, who prides himself on being media-savvy, does most of the talking himself, with hardly any role for his officials. The issue, however, is not about him holding forth — but his ways of avoiding substantive issues. The stagnation over decisions at the Director General of Hydrocarbons (DGH)'s office is a classic example. The key technical arm has been unable to take decisions on at least two crucial producing assets; Cairn India's application to ramp up production and RIL's application for capex spend in 2011-12 that also includes steps to arrest the decline in gas production. Both companies have written to the petroleum ministry for interventions. These decisions are crucial as it impacts the oil and gas production in the country even as oil prices hold firm at over $100 a barrel.
The policy paralysis has been telling in this sector. Over the last six months, the second floor of Shastri Bhavan that houses the ministry has seen several nameplates changing without much explanation. Amongst the first to move was that of former petroleum secretary S Sundareshan who was shifted out to the ministry of Heavy industry. Sundareshan had been in the petroleum ministry for some time and was well acquainted with most of the pending issues. He was also not due for a posting. Next, Reddy decided to move out the joint secretary gas, Apoorva Chandra, again an old timer, who was in the ministry under minister Ram Naik. Incidentally, DoPT has asked for an explanation as to why the particular official was to be shifted. The file is pending. Joint secretary, exploration, Narsimha Raju, too has been sounded out for a change. While Reddy may have his own reasons for these decisions, the pattern has raised eyebrows. Hasty transfers of bureaucrats lead to problems in technical sectors such as this, as it requires thorough understanding of the nuances and complexities of the subject.

The CAG report, by all accounts, is only in the making and is expected to see substantive changes if the regular procedure is followed. The final report is often very different from the draft. It is because the objective is to flag all possible concerns at the draft level so that answers can be sought from the required authorities before the CAG puts out the final report.

Reddy needs to put his act together soon if he continues to remain the petroleum minister after the much talked about cabinet reshuffle. Immediate decisions like those on subsidies, increasing production from the existing fields, approval/disapproval of pending deals worth billions of dollars and expediting pending appointments of heads of companies need to be addressed now.










For those of us who are pained by the terrible politicisation of Indian sport, it's lack of professional management and its permanent strangulation by power-brokers of the Kalmadi kind, recent events at FIFA, football's governing body, are instructive.

    FIFA has been engulfed by two kinds of allegations: alleged bribery by Qatar in its successful winning bid for the 2022 World Cup and a kickbacks scandal surrounding its longest serving Vice President, Jack Warner, which involved $40,000 bribes allegedly given to Caribbean members to vote for Qatar's Mohamed bin Hammam in the race for FIFA's presidency, a race which Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter ultimately won unopposed when Hammam withdrew his candidature.


Stuck like a deer in the headlights of the world's media, FIFA's response exposed like never before the sheer warlordism and naked power politics that defines its governance of the world's most popular game.
    Consider what happened. When Jack Warner, also a cabinet minister in Trinidad and one of Blatter's oldest associates, finally quit under media pressure, he insisted in his resignation note that he was innocent and had only facilitated meetings for Hammam to present his presidential bid.


But the sting came in the tail when he added nevertheless: "It's not unusual for such things to happen, and gifts have been around throughout the history of FIFA. What's happening now is hypocrisy."


In other words, the practise of buying votes was part of the normal ebb and play of the 'beautiful game'.


What did FIFA do in response? It immediately closed the ethics committee actions it had reluctantly started against Mr Warner, adding further that "the presumption of innocence is maintained." End of matter!


Never mind the dirty linen that kept tumbling out. Like FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valke's leaked email in which he dismissed the Qatari bin Hammam's bid for presidency saying maybe "he thought you can buy FIFA as they (Qatar) bought the WC (World Cup)".


Confronted with yet another media uproar, Valke later confirmed that the email was indeed written by him but that he meant Qatar's financial marketing muscle, not any purchase of votes.


By any standards, this is by far the greatest crisis of credibility FIFA has ever faced and it unfolded in the backdrop of a bitter election fight between Blatter and his erstwhile ally bin Hammam, which culminated on June 1 with Blatter winning a fourth term as President unopposed.


At a time when the British government, among others, called for suspending the FIFA election process till the truth came out, such was Blatter's brazenness that he dismissed even the suggestion of a crisis. As he declared at a press conference, "Crisis, what is a crisis? We are not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties and these will be solved inside our family."

And how will he do that? He will restore FIFA's image by announcing a new 'council of wisdom' or a 'solutions committee' consisting of Henry Kissinger and the Spanish opera singer Placido Domingo! Never mind that Kissinger has not even accepted yet.


One can imagine Suresh Kalmadi, former President of the Indian Olympic Association, shaking his head with a wistful smile as he cools his heels in Tihar Jail on corruption charges.


The essential problem is structural. Much like the BCCI or the Indian Olympic Association, which are organised around a closed system of election by state or regional federations, global soccer is run by a voting and patronage system consisting of national federations.


FIFA has more members than the UN. Each of its 208 member associations has a vote and since the time of Joao Havelange, Blatter's predecessor, each has benefitted with huge financial handouts for development. "Bribe or benefit, the way to power over the world's most popular – and profitable – recreation is by promise of financial aid," as the columnist Rob Hughes observes.


FIFA's reported post-tax profit of $202 million in 2010 shows how much money it makes but there is little transparency in how it actually spends that money.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) reformed after the bribery scandal over Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics when its members were accused of taking kickbacks. Ten members of the IOC were expelled or forced to resign, another ten were sanctioned and stricter rules were brought in for future bids.


FIFA so far has not shown any such inkling. It's very governance structure encourages warlordism, to use the journalist and historian Mihir Bose's term, and Blatter answers every question with a defiant reference to what he calls the 'FIFA family'.


But the pressure may just be beginning to tell from where it matters most: the sponsors. Adidas and Coca Cola recently announced their displeasure and if those who hold the purse strings actually turn the screws, maybe, just maybe, things could change.


Now if only the sponsors could do that with the BCCI, or the IOA and yes, with the Indian football federation.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The Union Cabinet's decision last week to extend health insurance to the country's 4.75 million domestic workers sounds eminently laudable, but there is some justification for scepticism about its effective implementation. The experience on the ground is quite different about such schemes — designed to placate a population growing restive by the day, but which rarely move beyond pious intentions. In Maharashtra, one of the country's leading states and a trendsetter in many ways, there has been a law to protect domestic workers since 2008, but till today it has remained largely on paper. The state government has been unable to constitute a board till now, and Ms Medha Patkar's NGO — which has been working for the unorganised sector workers — claims the state labour department has said it cannot go ahead with this as the government has no funds. Unless each state sets up a board where such workers can be registered for it, such a health insurance scheme simply cannot be implemented. The Union labour ministry's proposal under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) provides for insurance cover to the tune of `30,000 for each domestic worker. The Centre will pay 75 per cent of the premium, and the states 25 per cent. But with a state like Maharashtra claiming it has no funds to constitute a board for domestic workers since 2008, how would such a scheme actually benefit the state's estimated 200,000 domestic workers? It is unlikely that the situation will be very different in other states, possibly with some exceptions. So unless the Centre spells out how it proposes to give effect to its good intentions, and in a time-bound manner, the daily lives of the intended beneficiaries are unlikely to change for the better anytime soon. The RSBY is among the suggestions made by a government-appointed task force, which had also suggested a national pension scheme, health and maternity benefits, old-age assistance and death and disability benefits. All these are urgently required in a country where the majority of people, let alone workers in the unorganised sector, do not enjoy any protection against adversity. Similarly, the other major proposal cleared by the Cabinet last week — the law ministry's move to provide quick and speedy justice, clearing the vast backlog in our courts — is likely to go the same way. There have been numerous occasions when even the judges of the Supreme Court, besides the law ministry of course, have taken up this issue, but till today we have nearly 30 million cases pending in courts. Justice delayed is justice denied, as the saying goes — so one can only wonder at the extent of injustice that prevails in our democracy. The root causes are much the same: not enough funds, not enough judges, not enough courtrooms. The excuses have been trotted out over decades. This might all sound very cynical, so where do we go from here? It is undeniable that the people are getting more and more restless, and increasingly aware of their rights. Governments at the Centre and in the states will not be able to get away with paper schemes. Institutions like the Supreme Court and the Comptroller and Auditor-General and various civil society bodies are turning into watchdogs of people's rights; and all governments will have to change their approach, and start delivering. Indians are not oblivious of the changes that they see happening elsewhere in the world, and will soon demand greater accountability from their rulers.






A brief sense of relief prevailed when the ordeal ended for the six Indian sailors of MV Suez as they reached the Indian shores. This time all credit and thanks for their rescue must go to the activists in Pakistan. However, they had to collect and then pay the ransom to the pirates. It is alleged that $2.1 million was paid as ransom by the Ansar Burney Trust to secure the release of the six Indians, four Pakistanis and 12 others. Also, there are probably 47 Indian seafarers who are still held captive and their future is left only to their fate. Left to fate, notwithstanding what was claimed in Parliament. In March 2011, in a statement made in Parliament, the minister of external affairs, Mr S.M. Krishna, assured the nation that, "the (Cabinet) Committee (on Security) approved a series of measures to address the legal, administrative and operational aspects of combating piracy". The committee also formed an Inter-Ministerial Group which was to deal with early release of captives, cargo or crew. A standard operating procedure was also to be framed to deal with exigencies arising out of piracy. Maritime piracy may be 4,000 years old, dating back to the time of Hammurabi of Babylon. It is estimated that Somali piracy has increased seven fold during 2007-2010. Today, the pirates' area of operation covers over 2.5 million square nautical miles. On January 25, 2011, India's permanent representative at the United Nation, Mr H.S. Puri, observed: "…the disturbing fact that… operating further and further off the Somali coast. The shift of attacks to the south and east of the Indian Ocean reflects the pirates' ability to adapt in order to bypass the security corridor established by the naval forces and to extend their reach to 1,000-1,200 miles from Somalia". In 2010 alone, world over, pirates, Somali inclusive, had captured 1,181 people and hijacked 53 ships. By mid June this year, 154 ships were attacked and 26 vessels hijacked. Since 2005, it is estimated that 130 ransoms were paid to pirates. Ransoms have multiplied 36 times in five years, averaging $5.4 million per ship. It is reported that a Kenyan government's study estimates that 30 per cent of all ransoms paid reach terror groups. Speaking in the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the lawmaker, Mr Ed Royce. has expressed similar concerns. The commandos of Al-Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent group based in Somalia, are talking about "sea jihad". Lloyds, the internationally reputed London-based insurers have refused to "…indemnify ship owners if they paid a ransom to terrorist groups". The human cost of the maritime piracy is shocking. Somali pirates have violently attacked over 4,000 international sailors. The case of Capt. Prem Kumar of Rak Africa is a grievous tale of the merciless treatment the captives undergo when held by the Somali pirates. Released in March 2011, the captain later died of brain haemorrhage and multiple organ failure. Seven Indian sailors of the MV Asphalt Venture released after ransom payment were held back by the pirates claiming that they planned to swap them with the arrested pirates awaiting trial in India. It is reported that 37 Somali pirates who were arrested are awaiting trial in Maharashtra. Citing this as the reason the Somali pirate groups claim that they are at war with India. Hence, it is believed that from among the captured crew, they target the Indians even more, use them as human shields, chain and torture them. It is reported that several Indian cargo ships are now opting for a longer route — via the Cape of Good Hope — thus resulting in increased cost of ferry. It is reported, again, that every month, over 24 Indian flagged merchant ships transit the Gulf of Aden. An estimate suggests that the value of Indian trade that passes through the affected area is about $110 billion. A senior risk analyst observed, "Premiums may rise further if the Lloyds market makes larger losses, and this will continue to push up the price of shipping goods, potentially raising commodity prices in the affected markets..." India has a coastline of 7,500 km. Our major and minor ports are busy centres of economic activity. The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have done exemplary service in safely escorting over 1,800 vessels, carrying Indian and foreign flags, in the two years from 2008 to 2010. Since 2008, as a part of the anti-piracy patrol, 23 Indian Navy ships have been deployed in the area. It is to their credit that no ship under the Indian naval escort has been hijacked by pirates. The threat looms large not just in the high seas. Recently at Nandel, in Junagadh district, Gujarat, the police arrested 17 men from a boat that was adrift. Fourteen of them were Somali pirates. The other three claimed they were Yemeni fishermen. Another vessel Wisdom, which lost its pilot, went adrift near Worli, although being towed to Alang, the ship-breaking yard. With Somalia recognised as one of the Al Qaeda bases, what these piracy groups and the ransom they receive can do is anyone's guess. In March 2011, Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, asked the government if the anti-piracy provisions of the UN Security Council are being accessed. The International Fund and the specific mechanism for this purpose should be proactively invoked. The Government of India should immediately call all the maritime Indian states to discuss this problem. A standard operating procedure should be in place and be carefully followed to remove the perception that only when the media heat is on, the government responds to the affected families or even sends a frigate to rescue. The Philippine government's gesture of increasing the payments for their seafarers may be a palliative, but a necessary one. Necessary for us to consider, because over six per cent of seafarers engaged in international companies are Indian nationals. They are productively engaged albeit facing this occupational risk. An additional financial package for them, if and when passing this dreaded area, may be a welfare state's gesture India can afford. The Government of India may begin with one such suitable to our conditions. The Indian government should do and be seen to be doing more on the human, economic and security threat that the Somali pirates are posing us. * The author is spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The views expressed in this column are her own.






You can win many battles, and still lose the war. And you can win the war and lose the peace. The ultimate outcome depends on clarity of vision and a unity of purpose. The goal needs to be clearly spelled out and must be within our military and economic means. Internal political support and a diplomatic effort to isolate the adversary are other crucial factors. All these combine to formulate a winning strategy. Gen. Pervez Musharraf was fond of boasting that he had a "strategic vision" for Pakistan. Sadly, he was a tactician at best, and not a very good one at that. His one active foray into planning and executing a military operation ended in disaster among the peaks and valleys of Kargil. The fact that he thought Pakistan could really get away with the unprovoked attack betrays his ignorance of the way the world works. What does a poor, middle-sized country with a large, powerful, potentially hostile neighbour and massive internal security problems do? Does it seek to befriend the world's only superpower that has offered it military and economic assistance, or does it snarl at its benefactor and turn its back in a perpetual sulk? If this country is Pakistan, it's a no-brainer: of course we snatch at the aid on offer with one hand, while raising the other hand's middle finger. Sadly, this childish gesture of defiance is greeted with admiration from an increasing number of media pundits, populist leaders and a misguided public. According to WikiLeaks, a large number of senior officers at Pakistan's National Defence University (NDU) are virulently anti-American. This was lent credence when Husain Haqqani, our man in Washington, spoke at the NDU: when the officers attending the course were asked who they considered their major foe, apparently 30 per cent named the United States. I presume this number has gone up since the Seals' operation in Abbottabad last month that rid the world of Osama bin Laden. Indeed, any suspicion of supporting America's ongoing battle against jihadist forces in the region is met with immediate charges of being on the Central Intelligence Agency's payroll. And yet, returning to the theme of strategic clarity, how is this war not our war? Any commander with an iota of sense will accept help from any source in a battle for survival. And yet Pakistan constantly cavils at the alliance it's in by its own choice. If our military leadership genuinely feels it does not need American help, it should have refused all the cash and equipment it has been getting from Washington for years. After all, nobody is forcing it to accept the shiny new weapons systems that allow it to remain a credible fighting force. The Americans are replacing the Orion naval surveillance planes so carelessly frittered away recently; why don't we say no? The reality is that our defence forces desperately need constant infusions of dollars and advanced weapons from America. Pakistan simply cannot afford to pay for all the military hardware being acquired through our alliance with the US. But in an effort to eat our cake and have it too, we bristle at the necessity of accepting this assistance and bare our fangs to show that we are independent. But we can be independent and accept this help more graciously: all countries operate on the basis of their self-interest, and America is no different. Of course, it's helping us because Pakistan is strategically placed and because there is a real danger that a meltdown here would have major regional and global repercussions. Instead of seeing to what extent our respective interests overlap, and co-operating on this basis, we are continuously conflicted in our dealings with the US. From the Kerry-Lugar Act that nets Pakistan billions in aid to the wretched Raymond Davis affair, we insist on behaving like immature children who are resentful of adults trying to cure it of a life-threatening fever. And this fever is the extremism that is eating away at the country's foundations. Those complaining about perceived American arrogance and slights would do well to reflect on the reality of the real threat we face today. The other day, we learned of a nine-year old girl who was reportedly kidnapped, drugged and had a suicide vest tied on. By a stroke of luck, she escaped and lived to tell the tale. This is the real enemy we face today. It's not America, and it's not India. In any calculus of threats, we have to prioritise, placing immediate dangers above remote ones. In this rational analysis, the most reasonable people will conclude that the most urgent and real threat to Pakistan today comes from the jihadi groups of different stripes that have slaughtered thousands of Pakistanis indiscriminately. Whenever the state has tried to negotiate with them, they have invariably broken their promises and used talks as tactical pauses. This is not a fight we have picked, but one that has been thrust upon us. To defeat this enemy, we need not only military force, but political unity and public support. Clearly, as long as there is confusion within the country and its institutions, no headway can be made. And so it has proved: in the last decade, things have got worse, not better.And to add to our woes, we have decided to do our best to alienate the US. Already, voices are being raised in Washington, questioning aid to a country that is increasingly viewed as hostile and duplicitous. A trite but true cliché of international relations is "my enemy's enemy is my friend". Thus, it makes eminent sense to cooperate with America in the common battle against extremism. We don't have to share its values, just as we don't share many of China's. But while we cherish our alliance with China, we forget that Beijing, too, bases its relations with Pakistan on the basis of its hostility to India. It's all about being an enemy's enemy at the end of the day.









Diverting the Yarlung-Tsangpo, as the Brahmaputra is called in China, upstream of its Great Bend along the Tibet-Qinghai railway line through the Gansu corridor and finally to Xinjiang province in north-west China, was a plan of the Cultural Revolution-era when debate in that country was stifled by the oppressive political climate of the time. But after the disastrous Three Gorges dam on the Yangzi River, described by Shanghai Daily as "that monstrous damming project," the grand plan of diverting Brahmaputra waters was abandoned. China's water policy is not driven by geopolitics or ideology but by rational, cost-effective considerations.  The price of transferred water would be far higher than alternatives such as desalination of sea water.  China's water resources minister Wang Shucheng, himself a hydraulic engineer, had said the proposal to divert Brahmaputra water was unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific. "There is no need for such dramatic projects," he said.  According to "Information Extraction and Analysis of the Himalayan International Rivers" by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in the Ganges delta drainage system, which includes the Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Meghna rivers, water from China makes up only 8.8 per cent of the total natural runoff. Chinese leaders have acknowledged that the Three Gorges dam is facing geological, human and ecological problems.  Sooner or later, the dam would silt up the reservoir basin and would have to be blown up. The dam has already lowered water levels in two of the country's biggest fresh water lakes.

The media in India, ignorant of the position in China, periodically comes out with alarming stories of China diverting Brahmaputra water to Xinjian, and turning parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam into vast deserts. Much of the catchment area of the Brahmaputra, in fact, lies within Indian territory. The latest satellite imagery seems to have set alarm bells ringing. All that the Chinese government has done is to accelerate construction of 28 run-of-the-river power stations at the Great Bend and downstream where the river begins its journey towards India with no storage facility for any other use. The new images received by the National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad are visible in greater detail, and show even small structures and the movement of workers. China began work on its first major hydro-electric power project on the river at Zangmu in November last and it is expected to become operational in 2014. Indian and Chinese officials have set up a joint working group to cooperate on trans-boundary water issues. But in the absence of a water-sharing agreement, one is at a loss to understand what this working group could achieve. Alarmed by the ill-informed media reports on China diverting Brahmaputra waters, the BJP wants India to take up the issue with Beijing immediately. External affairs minister SM Krishna's decision to set up a task force at the Indian mission in Beijing is encouraging.  Without ascertaining the actual flow into the country from China and measuring any reduction in flows after a dam is built on the Chinese side, India cannot take any timely action. As veteran journalist BG Verghese has said, "We are locked in ignorance, they have knowledge. We are not aware of the implications or the geography, hydrology or the topography. The degree of illiteracy on this is frightening."



THEORETICALLY no negativity should be triggered by the government's appointing a task force to undertake a comprehensive review of defence preparedness ~ over a decade has elapsed since the Subrahmanyam committee took stock of the shortcomings that contributed to the initial reverses at Kargil. To be headed by a former cabinet secretary and comprising eminent members of the "strategic community", the task force would appear adequately posited to undertake a re-evaluation of national security requirements in a changed environment. Unfortunately, the track record would generate scope for distinct scepticism since there has always been a huge, uniquely Indian, chasm between what committees advocate and what actually trickles down to the "boots on the ground". The Arun Singh Committee on Defence Expenditure, the Kargil Review Committee and a host of others dealing with specific issues ~ manpower policies in the Army, a revamp of defence research and development, accidents in the IAF, to highlight a few ~ have all made valuable suggestions, as have successive pay commissions that went beyond salary scales. Yet the forces have not moved far from their colonial foundations, and mindsets appear frozen in the desert sands of North Africa (where the IV Indian Division performed splendidly in WWII) and the jungles of Burma where defeat was turned into victory. There is so much talk, and evidence, of the low-intensity conflict (in the garb of terrorism and sponsored-insurgency) having replaced full-blown warfare but on at least two occasions (the terrorist strike on Parliament House, and Mumbai's infamous 26/11) the forces were unable to mount the swift, surgical strikes that would have been effective responses. It is not as though new paths have not been identified: just that there has been a reluctance to take them.

That reluctance is manifest when changes are recommended at the higher levels of defence management. Almost every committee has called for a Chief of Defence System, the "general sahibs" have long spoken on similar lines, but when government was on the verge of making such a move it was scuttled by the petty inter-service rivalries that have consistently thwarted structural reform. Clearly the desire to preserve "empires" takes priority. Against that backdrop it might have been prudent to draft the three vice-chiefs into the task force, to give the recommendations better chance of implantation. It is not just a matter of reports gathering dust on shelves: the joke doing the rounds is that the Henderson-Brooks report has probably been eaten away by termites by now.



ANYONE who occupies the Meghalaya chief minister's chair must be adept in the art of political manoeuvre. Of  the 21 chief ministers Meghalaya has had since attaining statehood in 1972, only two ~ the late Captain Wlliamson Sangma (All Party Hill Leaders' Conference) and Salseng Marak (Congress) ~ were able to complete full terms. Just how shaky is the chair is clear from the fact that the incumbent, Mukul Sangma (Congress) is the fourth in office since the 2008 Assembly elections. After the poll, former chief minister DD Lapang (Congress) was sworn in but his government lasted just 10 days ~ leading to a short spell of President's Rule. After its revocation, Donkupar Roy (United Democratic Party) took over with Congress support. A year later Lapang bounced back only to be replaced by Mukul Sangma in April last year. The latter's hope of sailing through the 2013 Assembly elections is doubtful with 18 Congress dissidents, including six ministers, demanding his resignation - in pursuit of which they spent several  days camping in New Delhi. While reshuffling the ministry early this month, Sangma sacked four of the six "rebel" ministers and inducted three. In fact, there were four but one was not present at the time of the swearing-in. Not that this has silenced dissent in any way. Sangma continues to face threats from dissidents with reports that there are at least six aspirants for the chief minister's post. So the game goes on.







EVER since the demise of copyright on Tagore's works, the musical genre of Rabindrasangeet has spawned a wide variety of singers. In addition to the old-school performers churned out by established schools in Kolkata and Santiniketan, the last decade witnessed singers of various musical orientations presenting Rabindrasangeet in novel ways. However, this trend has also highlighted some curious aspects of this musical genre.
The new-age professional in this sphere does not feel the need for taleem, that is a must in any form of classical music. At the same time, singing of Tagore's songs does not always require the uniqueness or creativity of lighter forms of music. The combination of these two factors has shoved this unique musical genre into a sea of incompetence, which is threatening its very survival.

Paradoxically, the converse of this is also true, as the compositions of Rabindranath are responsible for creating a huge market where incompetence sells like in no other art form anywhere in the world. The reasons for this are endogenous to the very soul and structure of  Rabindrasangeet.

First and foremost, Tagore's music incorporates a delicate balance of music and poetry, and this translates into what he termed as bhavsangeet. Accordingly, he classified his compositions under the broad themes of puja, prem, swadesh and prakriti. Consistent with his philosophy of humanism, these themes upheld his belief that music was a means for human beings to connect to feelings on devotion, love, patriotism and nature. Thus there is a wide consensus on the importance of showcasing the bhav encompassed by a Tagore composition.
What is much less clear is the meaning attached to the sangeet aspect of bhavsangeet. Regardless of adequate documentation on the musical origins of Rabindrasangeet, most contemporary singers accord little or no recognition to some of the basic elements of this musical form. This is surprising as Tagore was also a strict grammarian and did not permit creative freedom to the performer. This is not the place for a debate on the pros and cons of Tagore's dictates on notations and grammar. Rather, the point is that there is so little recognition of his musical grammar despite the widespread practice of Rabindrasangeet for over 70 years.

Just as his music cannot be understood merely by attention to technical details such as raag and taal, it would be a travesty of Tagore to suggest that the pre-eminence of  bhaav implies a rejection of  sangeet.
The fact that Tagore's rigorous training in North Indian classical music laid the foundation for his musical compositions is very well archived. Prominent names such as Vishnu Chakrabarti, Jadu Bhatt and Srikanth Singh figured in the list of his tutors in classical music.  Subsequently, he also imported the substance of other classical and folk styles into his compositions. Not surprisingly, the metamorphosis of  dhrupads, khayals, kritis and tappas into bhaavsangeet was not accompanied by anarchy of musical grammar. In fact, the pre-eminence of musical aspects such as raag, swar, taal, laya remained integral to some of his easiest and most popular compositions. This was despite the fact that Tagore, in his later years, experimented widely and frequently deviated from the pure raags in classical music.

The nuances of his music are documented in well-known treatises on Rabindrasangeet. Tagore-scholar and musicologist Santideb Ghosh quotes Tagore, who was unwavering in his argument that his compositions were basically derived from the dhrupadi style of music. This was elemental to his compositions, which retained the structure of a classic dhrupad despite the application of many other musical styles. Tagore further went on to say that anyone who disregarded this aspect of his compositions would do so at the risk of revealing his ignorance of raagsangeet.

The new-age singer of Rabindrasangeet does not recognize a composition for its stylistic or musical worth. Bhaav is the new licence to discard swar and  sur, not to mention taal and laya.  Yet, even as bhaav is fast emerging as the only selling point of Tagore's music, the distinctive emotional appeal of each composition is rapidly biting the dust.

Every composition is sung with a melancholic drawl that has become the hallmark of contemporary Rabindrasangeet. As a result, the amazing diversity of form and content within a single musical genre is silently fading into oblivion. More recently, the showcasing of  bhaav  also involves musical perversions such as wild gesticulations, violent vibratos and facial contortions. Thus practitioners give free reign to unmusical interpretations of emotion in a song, and in doing so, put up unwitting displays of glaring incompetence in sur, taal, laya ~ all for the sake of an overwhelming bhaav.

The new-age singer has introduced to Rabindrasangeet the use of musical instruments such as synthesizer and drums in addition to computerized sound effects. Undoubtedly, all of this adds new dimensions to a musical form, which traditionally incorporated accompanying instruments such as tabla, pakhawaj, esraj, sarangi and harmonium. The newness in presentation is not a problem in itself. Arguably, such experimentation and innovation can aid the survival of a genre where there is relatively less scope for creativity or improvisation.
However, the new-age practice of Rabindrasangeet does not summon these innovations merely to create a new aesthetic. Rather, the rejection of the tabla has become a convenient means of hiding ignorance of the taal structure in Indian music. Simultaneously, the use of synthesized sound effects becomes a veritable musical camouflage for basic musical incompetence.

Alternately, the rampant practice of freeing a composition from its taal structure offers an easy way out for most of the contemporary singers. Thus compositions set to relatively trickier taals such as ektal, jhaptal, chautaal and dhamar make occasional appearances, but unbound by taal, and therefore hostage to the whims of the musically incompetent singer of  Rabindrasangeet.

Interestingly, Rabindranath had foreseen this during his lifetime, and expressed his fears to his niece, Indira Devi Chaudhurani.

However, none of these developments has hindered the flourishing of demand for Tagore's music. While old-school stalwarts and some of their disciples have a presence even today, it is the new breed of singers that has successfully created a new market for musical incompetence. In fact, if celebrations of Tagore's 150th year are an indication of the latter's popularity, the harbingers of transformation have certainly claimed their spot under the sun. This is an unfortunate trend, especially at a time when people all over the country are celebrating the relevance of Tagore in his 150th year. In particular, it is a matter of great concern that the showcasing of this genre to new audiences is happening at a time when Rabindrasangeet seems to be dying a slow death at home.






JERUSALEM, 26 JUNE: US computer giant Apple has culled a Palestinian application (app) from its iPhone offerings at the request of Israel, which said it incited people to violence against the Jewish State. The Arabic-language app, ThirdIntifada, released by Apple just days ago, provides users with details of upcoming anti-Israel protests, access to news articles and editorials, and links to Palestinian nationalist material.
In calling on Apple to act decisively, Israel's public diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein said the iPhone app was "anti-Israel and anti-Zionist", and warned that it could "unite many towards an objective that could be disastrous".

The decision by Apple to purge the app has been criticised by pro-Palestinian campaigners, who claim that the term "Intifada", used to refer to a mass uprising, is not necessarily a call to violence. Apple said the app "violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people".

Apple has responded swiftly to pressure in the past, dropping apps deemed sexual in content or anti-gay. More controversially, it pulled an unofficial WikiLeaks app that enabled people to make donations to the whistle-blowing site run by Julian Assange after PayPal, MasterCard and Visa all cancelled their cooperation with WikiLeaks in what appeared part of a concerted campaign.

Israel recently scored another success in cyberspace when it convinced Facebook to pull down a Palestinian Third Intifada page calling for an uprising against Israel. The page had attracted more than 350,000 fans.
Facebook, whose social networking site has played an instrumental role in galvanising protests across the Arab world in recent months, initially refused, buckling only after Israel appealed personally to founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The campaign underscores Israeli fears that if a much-anticipated Palestinian bid to seek recognition of statehood at the UN in September is thwarted, it could trigger a new uprising against Israel's 44-year occupation.

Arab Spring protests have inspired many Palestinians to hope that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza can be ended through peaceful resistance in the absence of peace talks. Even before that, the non-violent protest movement was gathering strength, encouraged by Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, a moderate politician who enjoys Western backing.

the independent






The Securities and Exchange Board of India is concerned about equity mutual funds. They apparently do not serve investors too well. They do no better on average than the indexes for the markets in which they invest. If an investor were to distribute her investment amongst shares in proportion to the market value of the companies included in the indexes, she would do as well as a typical mutual fund — and would save its commission. Mutual funds may not be keen to advertise this, but it is well known to investors who take investment seriously and read financial magazines. They may still do better by selecting funds. A handful of funds have been known to do better than indexes over fairly long periods, though sooner or later they too have their reverses. If the investor is clever or lucky enough to jump off the horse before it stumbles, she may still cover good distance without breaking a bone. But not all investors can count on being clever or lucky.

Mutual fund performance depends in part on who manages the funds. Some managers are better than others. Some do so well that they become legends; investors follow them just as they — or maybe their children — do film actresses or cricketers. But if the performance of most mutual funds is lacklustre, so must be the performance of most managers; the worst managers do not get the same publicity as the best. Sebi is considering removing this inequity by forcing asset management companies to give details of their fund managers' performance when they sell new schemes. The idea sounds excellent; the issue document would tell the investor that the fund manager was amongst the worst 10 per cent, and the investor would avoid the scheme. That is precisely why Sebi's scheme is unlikely to work. A fund manager may be an idiot when it comes to managing investments, but he is not such a fool when it comes to selling schemes. He would simply change his name. Barracuda Investments would become Wonderful Managers; when the wonder fades, they would become Fast Moneymakers.

But there is a more basic point. An asset management company is not a changeless entity. It keeps recruiting and losing people. Successful AMCs would attract investors' funds and take on new people; when they fail, they would lose them. So information about its performance would give the investor no guidance. If Sebi really wants to help the investor, it should bring some permanence in the relationship between schemes and their managers. Fund managers must be compelled to stay with AMCs for long periods — say, five years. It is doubtful if Sebi can decree that; after all, fund managers must have the same freedom of employment as everyone else. So Sebi should leave things alone; investors will come to recognize mutual funds for the slot machines they are.






The Calcutta Metro is going to get x-ray vision, but will that help it see any better? So far, the security personnel entrusted with 'guarding' Metro Railway stations in the city do not seem to care however loudly the metal detectors beep as passengers rush through them. During peak hours, this negligence takes the form of a cosmic indifference. At less busy times, the police are usually satisfied with a perfunctory peek into handbags or are even happy to feel for suspicious items from the outside before they nod the commuters through. But soon, a technologically sophisticated security apparatus is going to be installed at every Metro station in Calcutta, at considerable expense, on the assumption that such an elaborate system will put an end to the prevailing standards of surveillance. This seems to be an instance of wishful thinking, since no amount of technological innovation can ultimately compensate for the will to perform one's duty.

It is even more remarkable that this decision was taken only after the Delhi Metro, which started operating years after the Calcutta Metro, was equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance devices. While subjecting every passenger to thorough security checks, Delhi Metro had factored in the time that would go into such inspections and had increased the frequency of the trains to avoid a rush. In contrast, Calcutta Metro did not bother to do any such thing even as its route was massively extended across the city. If the services are not improved to make up for the delay caused by security check, the new plan will only add to the increasing list of irritants experienced by Metro commuters. Without better management, this makeover may end up looking like yet another hare-brained project — such as the changing of station names and the extended route — for which the pride of Calcutta has become so famous.






I grew up in Delhi in the 1980s, before economic liberalization and the rise of the Hindu Right. In my parents' small household, poetry filled our lives: my father, Kailash Vajpeyi, wrote it, both he and my mother taught in literature departments at the university, books overran the house, and writers and artists were daily visitors. The practice of reciting poetry in public gatherings, the kavi sammelan, was still very much alive. My mother and I often accompanied my father to these well-attended events, where his baritone voice and striking looks as much as his always surprising verse made him a star among his peers. Besides writing, his constant preoccupation, and his somewhat reluctant participation in academia, he also had a busy parallel career in radio and television. He would recite poems and interview fellow poets on All India Radio and on Doordarshan: people, perfect strangers, would invariably recognize him by his face, voice or words.

Consequently, I can claim to know Kabir and Meera from the time I learned my father's language, Hindi. Long afternoons, I recall, while my mother was away teaching her classes and my father and I were home after school, he would play LP records and later audio cassettes of M.S. Subbulakshmi and Kumar Gandharva, music which at the time, I belatedly realize, must have been fairly new. I knew their repertoires by heart, simply because they were played in the house or sung later by my father, in his soaring, melodious and untrained voice. Many times when the music was on he appeared to be taking a nap, but neither the songs nor my childish play seemed to disturb him. Now I think that as he lay there, still and with his eyes closed, the ambient sounds of Kumar, of Kabir and of me, his only child, constituted for him a kind of perfect repose, a charging of his creative batteries. As he got older, critics wrote of his poems that they had in them the cadences of the bhakti poets, the edge of Kabir, Sufi motifs, the obsession with mortality and transcendence that is the hallmark of Indian metaphysical traditions.

During my long childhood with my parents, in the haven of poetry they had somehow managed to construct in the middle of a busy and burgeoning city, I had heard also of one Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, a maverick poet who lived in Allahabad and wrote in English. I knew of Allahabad because that was the place associated with Harivansh Rai Bachchan, the older Hindi poet who had first helped my father to find his feet in Delhi in the early 1960s, and who, together with his wife Teji, had acted in loco parentis for my Brahmin father at his — at the time rather controversial — wedding to my Sikh mother. Sepia photos show my gangly father, all bushy brows and pencil-thin suit, with eyes like razor blades, sitting awkwardly wearing a sehra, a turban decorated with flowers, flanked on either side by the senior Bachchans, waiting to be married. My mother — large-eyed, silken-haired, shy — is so young she seems now like a child-bride, though she had her first job as a college lecturer. Allahabad was written into the founding myth of my parents' matrimony. Like Lucknow, it is also a city in Uttar Pradesh that is overrun by my paternal relatives, denizens of Kannauj, they claim, for centuries, ensconced in this heartland of Hindustan with their characteristic mix of high erudition, genteel poverty, political perspicacity, crackling diction, and scorn for one and all.

When I met Mehrotra then, for the first time in 2010 at the Jaipur Literary Festival, I felt as though I was meeting an old friend of my parents. His beautiful memoir-essay, "Partial Recall" (1994), filled out mid-century Allahabad, a city I have yet to visit, to the utmost satisfaction of one's literary imagination, describing his closest friends of early youth, Alok and Amit Rai, grandsons of none other than Premchand, the giant of modern Hindi letters. As I read Mehrotra's new translation of Kabir's poems — Songs of Kabir — prefaced by Wendy Doniger (one of my teachers at the University of Chicago), I feel an intimacy with this work at every level — with the poet, his translator, the scholar introducing the volume, and most importantly, the poetry that I have known all my life, as words or music, and as my father's legacy.

Kabir for me conjures up the great multilingual chain of India's poets, from Valmiki to Kalidasa to Tagore. He transports me to Banaras, a city of Sanskrit seminaries that has throughout the ages both drawn and persecuted the most talented Brahmins, from Tulsidas to Hazariprasad Dwivedi to Pankaj Mishra. He takes me into the fascinating vernacular domains of singers like Prahlad Tipanya, whose ceaseless journeys are so marvellously documented by the filmmaker, Shabnam Virmani. He opens the door to the complex anthropological worlds of Banaras, meticulously detailed by Nita Kumar, Philip Lutgendorf and Jonathan Parry, among others, and to its literary and intellectual history, as reconstructed by Namvar Singh, Purushottam Aggarwal, Vasudha Dalmia and Sheldon Pollock. The subtle, truant poetry of Kabir continually energizes Hindustani vocal music — from Bhimsen Joshi, to Kumar Gandharva, to Chhannulal Mishra, to Madhup Mudgal.

Before cable TV changed the game, my father made a couple of long TV documentaries about Kabir's life, legend and oeuvre. His own poetry in the past two decades has moved ever closer to the brevity and unexpectedness, the incandescent insight of Kabir: what Kabir's followers have always known as the "Wound of the Word". Like Kabir, his poems resist translation. Even Tagore's attempt, One Hundred Poems of Kabir (1914), a poet's effort, just like Mehrotra's own, found Kabir recalcitrant. (Linda Hess's labour of love, The Bijak of Kabir, 1983, goes further than Tagore.) Kabir's images, and the language in which they were made, were so mutually constitutive as to be inseparable. My father, evidently, hears his distant poetic ancestor with a mysterious clarity: a testament to the modernity of Kabir, to his being, always, contemporary. My father has not translated Kabir in a strict sense, but the sturdy, clean lines carry him across, a boat to ford a river in flood.

As Mehrotra's powerful poems — more renditions than translations — remind us, Kabir is beyond traditions, histories, ethnographies and interpretations. He was everything that no so-called "classical" lineage would accept: an outcaste, a working weaver, a Muslim — and yet if one name can stand in for India's vast poetic tradition today, it is Kabir. His capacity to startle and awaken his reader is undiminished after almost 600 years and an intractable proliferation of poems bearing his signature that can be found in dozens of India's languages, dialects and regional worlds. Four decades of reflecting on and playing with Kabir's language, Mehrotra admits, have gone into this slim little book, replete with epiphanies, reversals and metaphors that can only come, to poet and translator alike, from that silent sky between words where meaning resides.

Kabir's poems, audaciously looking Time in the eye, intolerant of hypocrisy, outwitting any attempt at political appropriation, for me are a time-machine back to my childhood, when, holding my father's hand, humming along with his eclectic songs, I thoughtlessly played with the silver coin, whose one face is poetry and the other, truth. Mehrotra does not merely translate Kabir into English: like countless nameless poets over the ages, he remakes Kabir into a contemporary, someone who is always near, unafraid of "Deathville", inhabitant of "Fearlessburg", laughing at us.

I beat on your door/ Out of fear./

I wasn't yet born,/ I was in the womb,/ When a great sadness/ Came over me.

It hasn't left me since./ It's with me now/ When I'm old and infirm/ And time shakes me by the hair.

Time strikes the drum.

I've nowhere to turn,/ Says Kabir, let me in.

(Songs of Kabir, p. 65)

The author is Assistant Professor of History, University of Massachusetts, Boston







It's beyond satire. The defence secretary of the United States of America, Robert Gates, telling The New York Times what he had learnt during his long tenure under Presidents Bush and Obama, explained that, "I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice." Gosh, Bob, does that mean you wouldn't invade Iraq next time?

Afghanistan, by contrast, was a "war of necessity" in Gates's terms: official Washington believed that further bad things like 9/11 might happen to the US if US troops did not go to Afghanistan to root out al Qaida terrorists (mostly Arabs) who had been given bases there by the country's Taliban leadership. It was not a very subtle strategy, but it was certainly driven by perceived US national interest. Which was the point being made by President Hamid Karzai, the man whom the US put in power after the 2001 invasion: "[The Americans] are here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they're using our soil for that."

So how to explain the furiously emotional response of Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan? Speaking at Herat University, he raged: "When Americans... hear themselves described as occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest... they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here."

So why have American troops been in Afghanistan for almost 10 years? To keep the Taliban from power, they say, but it is unlikely that the Taliban leadership ever knew about al Qaida's plans for 9/11. Why would they support an action that was bound to provoke a US invasion and drive them from power? The US has probably been barking up the wrong tree for a long time.

Tricky situation

Now the Taliban are back in force, and the war is all but lost. The US may think it is about "terrorism" and al Qaida, but for the Afghans, it is just a continuation of the civil war that had been raging for almost a decade before the US invasion. The Taliban, almost entirely drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group, captured Kabul in 1996, but they never managed to conquer the other, smaller ethnic groups in northern Afghanistan. The US stumbled into this civil war under the delusion that it was fighting Islamic terrorists, but, in fact, it has simply ended up on the side of the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. They are the ones who man the "Afghan National Army" that the Western powers have been trying to build up with so little success: only three per cent of its soldiers are Pashtuns, although Pashtuns account for 42 per cent of the population.

So long as the US forces remain, the Taliban can plausibly claim that they are fighting a jihad against the infidels, but once the Americans leave, the war will probably return to its basic ethnic character. That means that the Pashtuns are just as unlikely to conquer the north after the US departure as they were before the invasion.

In the end, some deal that shares out the spoils among the various ethnic groups will be done: that is the Afghan political style. The Taliban will get a big share, but they would not sweep the board. The American interlude will gradually fade from Afghan consciousness, and the Afghan experience will vanish from American memory a good deal faster.

But in the meantime, Barack Obama has promised to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next month, and that will be tricky. Few Americans know much about Afghan realities, and they have been fed a steady diet of patriotic misinformation about the place for a decade. If the US ambassador to Kabul can get so emotional about a plain statement of fact, imagine how the folks at home will respond when US troops leave Afghanistan without a 'victory'. Obama will be lucky to pull this off without a serious backlash.



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



New York State has made a powerful and principled choice by giving all couples the right to wed and enjoy the legal rights of marriage. It is a proud moment for New Yorkers, thousands of whom took to the streets on Sunday to celebrate this step forward. But this moment does not erase the bigotry against gays and lesbians enshrined in the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows any state to refuse to recognize another state's unions.

Though there was unnecessary secrecy in the negotiations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a determined effort to achieve marriage equality in New York. He shares credit with the four Republican state senators who bucked their party and threats from conservatives to do what they knew was right. State Senators James Alesi, Roy McDonald, Mark Grisanti and Stephen Saland, all from upstate districts, deserve the support of their communities. They showed the kind of strength that is extremely hard to find in today's politics.

In drafting a compromise, however, Senator Saland and other Republicans insisted on language that carves out exceptions for religious institutions and not-for-profit corporations affiliated with those religious entities. That provision allows those tax-exempt entities to refuse to marry a same-sex couple or to allow the use of their buildings or services for weddings or wedding parties. There was simply no need for these exemptions, since churches are protected under both the federal Constitution and New York law from being required to marry anyone against their beliefs. Equally troubling, an "inseverability clause" in the act appears to make it impossible for any court to invalidate part of the law without invalidating the whole law — raising questions about what happens to couples during an appeal.

While some civil rights advocates are optimistic that these provisions are relatively minor, we are deeply troubled by their discriminatory intent. The whole purpose of this law should be to expand civil rights without shedding other protections in the process.

The marriage equality law was such a powerful finale to this year's legislative session that a few other important measures may be relegated to the footnotes. Lawmakers passed a limited ethics bill for legislators and statewide elected officials, a modest expansion of rent regulations for millions of New York City residents, an important five-year tuition plan for the state's universities — all moves in the right direction.

The one big misstep is a property-tax cap of about 2 percent a year that will severely hurt schools and services in poorer communities.

This legislative session will be remembered for New York's acceptance of same-sex marriage, a milestone in the national fight for this fundamental freedom. Five other states, along with the District of Columbia, allow same-sex couples to marry. But more than three dozen states define marriage as between a man and a woman. For gays and lesbians, the battle for freedom from discrimination continues.






On Thursday night, when same-sex marriage in New York State was teetering on a razor's edge, President Obama had a perfect opportunity to show the results of his supposed evolution on gay marriage.

Unfortunately, he did not take it, keeping his own views in the shadows. The next night the Republican-led New York State Senate, of all places, proved itself more forward-thinking than the president on one of the last great civil-rights debates in this nation's history.

Speaking to the Democratic Party's LGBT Leadership Council at a fund-raiser in New York, Mr. Obama ran through the many efforts he has made on behalf of gay rights, including his decision to end the government's legal support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The act should be repealed, he said, since marriage is defined by the states.

Mr. Obama's legal formula suggests he is fine with the six states that now permit same-sex marriage, and fine with the more than three dozen other states that ban it. By refusing to say whether he supports it (as he did in 1996) or opposes it (as he did in 2008), he remained in a straddle that will soon strain public patience. For now, all Mr. Obama promised was a gauzy new "chapter" in the story if he is re-elected, and his views remain officially "evolving."

Fundamental equality, however, is hardly the equivalent of a liquor law that can vary on opposite sides of a state line. Why is Mr. Obama so reluctant to say the words that could lend strength to a national effort now backed by a majority of Americans?

In the 2008 campaign, when Mr. Obama said he supported civil unions and believed marriage should be between men and women, he may have wanted to appeal to slightly more conservative voters who were wary of him.

After he took office, it became evident that Republicans intended to portray him as a radical, out-of-touch leftist no matter what he did. Supporting same-sex marriage at this point is hardly going to change that drumbeat, and any voter for whom that is a make-or-break issue will probably not be an Obama supporter anyway.

Firm support for gay marriage is, on the other hand, likely to help him among his cheerless base. Mr. Obama opposes the Defense of Marriage Act and is presiding over the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He signed the United Nations declaration on gay rights, and allowed the Census to count same-sex relationships. But he has been absent from the biggest and most difficult drive of all.

Public opinion has swung toward acceptance of gay marriage since 2008; five more states and the District of Columbia have lifted marriage bans. Thousands of gay men and lesbians now possess marriage certificates and many former skeptics have come to realize that the moral foundation of the country has been strengthened. It is long past time for the president to catch up. He often criticizes discrimination with the memorable phrase, "that's not who we are." Favoring this discrimination should not be who he is.





King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain has promised to launch a national dialogue aimed at reconciling his country after a brutal crackdown on antigovernment protesters. It is hard to take this seriously — or see any real chance of success — when many of the people who should be at the negotiating table are still in jail.

At a time when the Sunni-led minority government should be showing good faith, it did the opposite: a military show trial last week convicted 21 activists, almost all Shiites, on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government during the Arab Spring demonstrations. Most defendants received terms of up to 15 years, but eight were sentenced to life in prison. Why would anyone trust the government after that?

Bahrain's claims that Iran is the hidden hand behind the unrest are exaggerated. The protests have been led by Bahraini Shiites demanding fair treatment in housing, education and employment. Few are allowed to serve in the military or the police. We have little doubt Tehran is eager to meddle wherever it can. For Bahrain, the real domestic threat comes from ignoring the legitimate demands and needs of its people.

Bahrain is home port to the United States Navy's Fifth Fleet and the Obama administration has been too cautious in its criticism of the government. It must speak out more forcefully. If Bahrain continues to abuse its citizens, it will face more instability. And resentment of the United States will only grow.





A court in South Carolina jailed Michael Turner for 12 months for civil contempt because he owed $5,728.76 in accumulated child support. He could have avoided jail by proving he was indigent and could not pay. But Mr. Turner could not afford to hire a lawyer to make that argument, and the state did not provide him one.

While an indigent defendant may have a right to counsel in some civil cases where he could lose his liberty, the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 ruling, found that there is no such automatic right in a child support case like Mr. Turner's where the parent may face jail time. The court, however, said there is a right to safeguards that reduce the risk of improper incarceration — like an opportunity to present financial information to the court.

The Supreme Court's ruling does not go far enough in ensuring fairness. In civil contempt proceedings, a court may not impose punishment if it is clear that the individual is unable to comply with the order. But, without a lawyer, it is very hard for defendants like Mr. Turner to show that they cannot comply.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said that the due process clause does not automatically require a court-appointed lawyer in child support collection cases and that procedural safeguards could suffice. He was especially concerned about the potential unfairness of providing a lawyer to an indigent parent if the opposing parent does not have one. He left room, however, for a right to counsel to be found in other situations, like a hearing where a state lawyer presses a defendant for support payments owed to the state. 

The chance to respond to questions about financial status is not a substitute for having a lawyer. To ensure that no parent in a civil contempt proceeding is jailed for being poor, the court should extend the right to counsel.






Beirut, Lebanon

IN 2009, National Geographic published an article on Syria by a special correspondent, Don Belt, who had interviewed President Bashar al-Assad. In 2000, shortly after the funeral of his father, President Hafez al-Assad, the son entered his father's office for only the second time in his life. His first visit had been at age 7, "running excitedly to tell his father about his first French lesson." The president "remembers seeing a big bottle of cologne on a cabinet next to his father's desk," Mr. Belt wrote. "He was amazed to find it still there 27 years later, practically untouched."

The bottle can be seen as an allegory for Syria itself — the Syria that has been out of sight for the 40 years of the Assads' rule, a country and its aspirations placed on a shelf and forgotten for decades in the name of stability.

Now this other Syria is appearing before our eyes to remind us that it cannot be forever set aside, that its people did not spend the decades of the Assads' rule asleep, and that they aspire, like all people, to live with freedom and dignity.

I remember my father, Nureddin al-Atassi, who himself had been president of Syria before he was imprisoned in 1970 as a result of Gen. Hafez al-Assad's coup against his comrades in the Baath Party. I was 3 years old then, and it took me a while to understand that prison was not only for criminals, but also for prisoners of conscience. My father would spend 22 years in a small cell in Al Mazza prison, without any charge or trial. We counted the days by the rhythm of our visits to him: one hour every two weeks. At the end of a struggle with cancer, for which he had been denied medical treatment, he was finally released. He died in Paris in December 1992, a week after arriving there on a stretcher.

For the great majority of Syrians, the forgotten Syria meant a police state, a country governed with an iron fist. It meant a concerted international effort to keep a dictatorial regime in power in the name of regional stability — preserving the security of Israel and maintaining a cold peace on the Golan Heights, like the snow that covers Mount Hermon.

The forgotten Syria meant thousands of political prisoners packed for decades inside the darkness of prisons and detention centers. It meant disappearances that left families without even a death certificate. It meant the tears of mothers and wives waiting since the 1980s for their sons and husbands to return, even if wrapped in a shroud. It meant daily humiliation, absolute silence and the ubiquity of fear. It meant networks of corruption and nepotism, a decaying bureaucracy and a security apparatus operating without control or accountability. It meant the marginalization of politics, the taming of the judiciary, the suffocation of civil society and the crushing of any opposition.

A terrifying slogan, "Our Leader Forever Is President Hafez al-Assad," emblazoned at the entrance to every city, and on public buildings, told Syrians that history ended at their country's frontiers.

History did not end, of course, and occasionally it peeked in on Syrian life. But the regime buried its head in the sand, living the delusion that it could keep history out — if only it abused its people enough. This happened in the 1980s, with the bloody massacres in Hama. It happened in the early 1990s, after the Soviet bloc collapsed while the Syrian regime kept its one-party state. It happened in 2000, with the death of Hafez al-Assad and the transfer of power through inheritance — as if the regime could defeat even the certainty of death. And it happened in the year that followed, when the Damascus Spring was buried alive, its most prominent activists arrested after they called for Syria and its new president to turn the page and proceed toward democracy.

All through the past four decades, the regime refused to introduce any serious political reform. But meanwhile Syria witnessed great demographic, economic and social transformation. The population became larger and younger; today, more than half of all Syrians are not yet 20 years old. Enormous rural migration to the cities fueled a population explosion at the outskirts of Damascus and Aleppo. With unemployment widespread, wealth became concentrated more tightly in the hands of a small class of regime members and their cronies.

Many Western diplomats and commentators expressed doubts that the Syrian people might one day rise up to demand their rights and freedoms. But those skeptics consistently understated the depth of resistance and dissent. It was no surprise that at the moment of truth, Syrians opened their hearts and minds to the winds of the Arab Spring — winds that blew down the wall that had stood between the Arabs and democracy, and had imposed false choices between stability and chaos or dictatorship and Islamic extremism.

History did not leave behind that other, real Syria. Syria returns today to demand its stolen rights, to collect on its overdue bills. Compared to the other Arab uprisings, Syria's has been perhaps the most arduous, considering the regime's cruelty and the threat of civil war. At the same time, the people's unity and their determination to remain peaceful will ultimately enable them to win their freedom and build their own democratic experience. Our exceptionally courageous people, their bare chests exposed to snipers' bullets, understand the meaning of this freedom; it has already cost them dearly, in the lives of their sons and daughters.

In his interview with National Geographic, Bashar al-Assad did not say what he had done with the big bottle of cologne. It's a moot point. The regime's response, and President Assad's last three speeches, indicate that no one in the presidential palace, not even the president, can move the glass bottle of despotism that has held Syria's future captive.

My own father governed Syria for four years, but I inherited from him neither power nor fortune. What I inherited was a small suitcase, sent to us from the prison after he died. It held literally all of his belongings after 22 years in confinement. All I remember from this suitcase today is the smell of the prison's humidity that his clothes exuded when I opened it.

The next time I visit my father's grave, I will tell him that freedom is reviving again in Syria. I will reassure him that the Syrian people have finally succeeded in breaking this big bottle of cologne, that the scent of freedom has finally been dispersed, that it cannot be drowned by the smell of blood.

Mohammad Ali Atassi is a journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist.




160 Million and Counting


In 1990, the economist Amartya Sen published an essay in The New York Review of Books with a bombshell title: "More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing." His subject was the wildly off-kilter sex ratios in India, China and elsewhere in the developing world. To explain the numbers, Sen invoked the "neglect" of third-world women, citing disparities in health care, nutrition and education. He also noted that under China's one-child policy, "some evidence exists of female infanticide."

The essay did not mention abortion.

Twenty years later, the number of "missing" women has risen to more than 160 million, and a journalist named Mara Hvistendahl has given us a much more complete picture of what's happened. Her book is called "Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men." As the title suggests, Hvistendahl argues that most of the missing females weren't victims of neglect. They were selected out of existence, by ultrasound technology and second-trimester abortion.

The spread of sex-selective abortion is often framed as a simple case of modern science being abused by patriarchal, misogynistic cultures. Patriarchy is certainly part of the story, but as Hvistendahl points out, the reality is more complicated — and more depressing.

Thus far, female empowerment often seems to have led to more sex selection, not less. In many communities, she writes, "women use their increased autonomy to select for sons," because male offspring bring higher social status. In countries like India, sex selection began in "the urban, well-educated stratum of society," before spreading down the income ladder.

Moreover, Western governments and philanthropic institutions have their fingerprints all over the story of the world's missing women.

From the 1950s onward, Asian countries that legalized and then promoted abortion did so with vocal, deep-pocketed American support. Digging into the archives of groups like the Rockefeller Foundation and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Hvistendahl depicts an unlikely alliance between Republican cold warriors worried that population growth would fuel the spread of Communism and left-wing scientists and activists who believed that abortion was necessary for both "the needs of women" and "the future prosperity — or maybe survival — of mankind," as the Planned Parenthood federation's medical director put it in 1976.

For many of these antipopulation campaigners, sex selection was a feature rather than a bug, since a society with fewer girls was guaranteed to reproduce itself at lower rates.

Hvistendahl's book is filled with unsettling scenes, from abandoned female fetuses littering an Indian hospital to the signs in Chinese villages at the height of the one-child policy's enforcement. ("You can beat it out! You can make it fall out! You can abort it! But you cannot give birth to it!") The most disturbing passages, though, are the ones that depict self-consciously progressive Westerners persuading themselves that fewer girls might be exactly what the teeming societies of the third world needed.

Over all, "Unnatural Selection" reads like a great historical detective story, and it's written with the sense of moral urgency that usually accompanies the revelation of some enormous crime.

But what kind of crime? This is the question that haunts Hvistendahl's book, and the broader debate over the vanished 160 million.

The scale of that number evokes the genocidal horrors of the 20th century. But notwithstanding the depredations of the Chinese politburo, most of the abortions were (and continue to be) uncoerced. The American establishment helped create the problem, but now it's metastasizing on its own: the population-control movement is a shadow of its former self, yet sex selection has spread inexorably with access to abortion, and sex ratios are out of balance from Central Asia to the Balkans to Asian-American communities in the United States.

This places many Western liberals, Hvistendahl included, in a distinctly uncomfortable position. Their own premises insist that the unborn aren't human beings yet, and that the right to an abortion is nearly absolute. A self-proclaimed agnostic about when life begins, Hvistendahl insists that she hasn't written "a book about death and killing." But this leaves her struggling to define a victim for the crime that she's uncovered.

It's society at large, she argues, citing evidence that gender-imbalanced countries tend to be violent and unstable. It's the women in those countries, she adds, pointing out that skewed sex ratios are associated with increased prostitution and sex trafficking.

These are important points. But the sense of outrage that pervades her story seems to have been inspired by the missing girls themselves, not the consequences of their absence.

Here the anti-abortion side has it easier. We can say outright what's implied on every page of "Unnatural Selection," even if the author can't quite bring herself around.

The tragedy of the world's 160 million missing girls isn't that they're "missing." The tragedy is that they're dead.

Paul Krugman is off today.







AS a longtime supporter and colleague of Barack Obama at the University of Chicago, as well as an informal adviser to his 2008 campaign, I had high hopes that he would restore the balance between government secrecy and government transparency that had been lost under George W. Bush, and that he would follow through on his promise, as a candidate, to promote openness and public accountability in government policy making.

It has not quite worked out that way. While Mr. Obama has taken certain steps, notably early in his administration, to scale back some of the Bush-era excesses, in other respects he has shown a disappointing willingness to continue in his predecessor's footsteps.

In the years after 9/11, the Bush administration embraced a series of policies, including torture, surveillance of private communications, and restrictions on the writ of habeas corpus, that undermined the fundamental American values of individual dignity, personal privacy and due process of law. Its most dangerous policy, though, was its attempt to hide its decisions from the American public.

In an effort to evade the constraints of separation of powers, judicial review, checks and balances and democratic accountability, the Bush administration systematically hid its actions from public view. It promulgated its policies in secret, denied information to Congress, abused the process for classifying information, narrowly interpreted the Freedom of Information Act, punished government whistle-blowers, jailed journalists for refusing to disclose confidential sources, threatened to prosecute the press for revealing secret programs, and broadly invoked the state secrets doctrine to prevent both Congress and the courts from evaluating the lawfulness of its programs.

In doing so the Bush administration undermined the central premise of a self-governing society: it is the citizens who must evaluate the judgments, policies, and programs of their representatives. As James Madison observed, "A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both."

At least four obvious areas of concern regarding transparency confronted President Obama when he entered the White House.

The first involves the problem of classification, and it is, to be fair, a bright spot on the president's record. Soon after taking office, Mr. Obama repealed a directive, issued by Mr. Bush's attorney general, John D. Ashcroft, in October 2001, authorizing the government to classify information whenever its disclosure might potentially harm national security. This standard ignored the competing national interest in preserving an open and responsible government. Prior administrations had employed a more open approach, and President Obama's repeal was a significant step in the right direction.

But his record on whistle-blower protection, another key area of concern, has been less laudable. In early 2009 members of Congress enthusiastically introduced the Whistle-Blower Protection Enhancement Act, which promised substantial protection to certain classes of government employees who report matters of legitimate public concern to lawmakers or the media. Although as a candidate Mr. Obama had expressed support for such a law, his administration cooled to the idea and let it die in the Senate in late 2010 (it was reintroduced in April 2011). Sadly, as a number of high-profile criminal cases against whistle-blowers show, the Obama administration has followed its predecessor in aggressively cracking down on unauthorized leaks.

President Obama has also followed Mr. Bush in zealously applying the state secrets doctrine, a common-law principle intended to enable the government to protect national security information from disclosure in litigation. Although legitimate in theory, the doctrine had been invoked in an unprecedented manner by the Bush administration to block judicial review of a broad range of questionable practices.

The dawn of the Obama administration brought hope that Congress would enact the proposed State Secrets Protection Act of 2009, which would have limited the scope of the doctrine. Indeed, shortly after President Obama took office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. suggested that the doctrine should be invoked "only when genuine and significant harm to national defense or foreign relations is at stake and only to the extent necessary to safeguard those interests."

Since then, however, the Obama administration has aggressively asserted the privilege in litigation involving such issues as the C.I.A.'s use of extraordinary rendition and the National Security Agency's practice of wiretapping American citizens.

Finally, events during the Bush administration made clear that it was long past time for Congress to create a federal journalist-source privilege. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have recognized such a privilege, and members of Congress proposed the Free Flow of Information Act to recognize a similar privilege as a matter of federal law. If enacted, the law would enable journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources, unless the government could prove that disclosure of the information was necessary to prevent significant harm to national security.

In what seems to be a recurring theme, Senator Obama supported the Free Flow of Information Act, but President Obama does not. In 2007, he was one of the sponsors of the original Senate bill, but in 2009 he objected to the scope of the privilege envisioned by the bill and requested that the Senate revise the bill to require judges to defer to executive branch judgments. Although the bill passed in the House in the last Congressional session, it stalled in the Senate and now has to be reintroduced.

The record of the Obama administration on this fundamental issue of American democracy has surely fallen short of expectations. This is a lesson in "trust us." Those in power are always certain that they themselves will act reasonably, and they resist limits on their own discretion. The problem is, "trust us" is no way to run a self-governing society.

Geoffrey R. Stone is a professor of law at the University of Chicago and chairman of the board of the American Constitution Society.








It was 1993, a notorious year for Turkey's recent history when the new president Süleyman Demirel paid one of his first visits abroad to Syria.

The main reason for the visit was to convince Syria's then-president Hafez al-Assad to expel

Abdullah Öcalan and the top members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who were carrying out bloody attacks in Turkey after infiltrating the country through the common border.

Demirel had told the journalists an anecdote at his press conference in Damascus right after his long talk with father Assad. He had told Assad that harboring Öcalan and letting him use the border passes meant supporting him in carrying out murder and sabotage in Turkey.

When Assad denied any knowledge of Öcalan's presence in Syria, Demirel made a move very rare in diplomacy. He produced a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and gave it to Assad. The Damascus address and telephone numbers of Öcalan – provided by Turkish intelligence - were written on it. "We can call him right now, if you want," Demirel told his Syrian counterpart, who in return silently looked at the paper, folded it and put it in his jacket pocket without saying a word. This journalist remembers, like other colleagues in the room, how the face of the then Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk al-Shara's turned white as Demirel told the story to the media.

Syria did nothing, but continued to give support to the PKK, as a part of Baathist foreign policy: Damascus did not have a strong economy, an organized army or a pluralist democracy, so the only foreign policy asset – other than strong links with Iran, which provided leverage in Lebanon - was to harbor armed organizations from all countries in the region.

It continued up until 1998, when Demirel in his Oct. 1 speech (the parliamentary season opening) openly threatened Syria. He said if Öcalan was not handed over to Turkey, Ankara would use its right to self-defense i.e. attack Syria. Iran's Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak shuttled between Ankara and Damascus after being sure of the military preparations and on the sixth day, Assad's regime was forced to expel Öcalan. That started a month-long international chase in Greece, Italy and Russia (as the details were revealed in this writer's 2004 book "Kürt Kapanı-The Kurdish Trap,") which ended up on Feb. 15, 1999, in the Greek Embassy in Kenya with the help of the U.S. intelligence agency, the CIA.

Bashar Assad took over the presidency after his father's death and started to follow a cooperative policy toward Turkey, including a joint struggle against terrorism, according to the 1999 "Adana Protocol."

The Syrian ambassador to Ankara, Nidal Kabalan, told Sevil Küçükkoşum of the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday that there were "terrorists" among the refugees who fled to Turkey from the armed unrest in Syria and they should be given back. He also alleged that terrorists in Syria managed to get arms supplies through the Turkish border, a claim rejected by Turkish officials.

One has to say the situation is not comparable as the PKK militants of 1993 had nothing to do with the mostly women and children seeking refuge in Turkey in 2011. Yet it is impossible not to remember 1993 and 1998 upon the complaints of the Syrian ambassador. Syria today is at the crossroads. The leaders of the regime have to make a choice between being an honorable member of the international community by listening to the voices of all Syrians, or going to look for a place possibly in Saudi Arabia, like all other former autocrats in the region.






Turkey's Kurdish "problem" is no joke. First of all, let's face it. The newborn political crisis, which was triggered by the decision of the Supreme Election Board, or YSK, to strip some new elected MPs of eligibility to join the Parliament, cannot simply be explained away by "carelessness" of the judiciary. Sorry, but all attempts, which desperately seek to portray the problem as a judicial one, hopelessly seem over defensive of the governing party.

The problem concerning the Kurdish MP's who are barred from Parliament because of their ongoing court cases and current detention, is of a different nature than the case of the other three MP's who are elected as the Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, MP's. That is not to say the decisions concerning the latter case are just and fine. Yet, the decision concerning the CHP and MHP MP's is only a matter of justice and of fair game. In the case of the Kurdish MP's, on the other hand, it is hard to avoid the interpretation of the decision as an expression of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government's general attitude concerning the Kurdish problem.

The AKP government has not been shy recently to show its strength in every aspect of Turkish political life and it has been rather proud to shed its shadow on every major institution. So much so, some supporters of the government find themselves in very difficult positions on occasions trying to give the appearance of democracy. After a very bitter and confrontational election campaign against the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and its politicians, it does not sound convincing to claim that the AKP is unpleasantly surprised by the decision of the YSK. Finally, nobody can plausibly explain the eagerness of the AKP's "MP in waiting," Oya Eronat who hastily applied for her MP certificate very early in the morning following the announcement by the YSK, as simply based on her personal ambition.

Most importantly, the recent political crisis does not seem to be confined to the limits of the Parliamentary politics. The supporters of the BDP are highly "politicized Kurds" who have high expectations of the new Parliamentary term. The BDP has the same social base with the Kurdish armed struggle who fought for independence for long a time. As the armed struggle elevated the expectations of the increasingly politicized Kurds also started to be shaped by the social mood that has been exhausted by confrontation. This is how the "Kurdish political movement" (as one may call it, in general) ended up changing its orientation from independence to democratic coexistence and formulated a peaceful solution under the name of "democratic autonomy." Yet, it is a demand for "political status," no less.

In short, the solution of Kurdish problem can only be started with an honest debate and negotiation of this request. The recent crisis, which started with the decision concerning Hatip Dicle, is only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the governing party is not trying to diminish the Parliamentary power of the BDP by indirectly using the judiciary as some claim (as against those who try to put the blame on the judiciary). The government is trying to avoid starting an honest debate and negotiation by lowering the stakes.

Hatip Dicle is a symbolic name for the Kurdish political movement. From the beginning, it is obvious that even if he is the only one who is being barred, there will be a crisis since Kurds would feel humiliated. Nobody can claim this is an "accidental crisis." It is rather the beginning of a very risky power game.






Turkey's Ambassador to Washington Mr. Namık Tan, concluded his speech at the Middle East Institute's second annual Turkey conference with probably the most universal note used by a Turkish official. "Turkey will never let tyranny prevail over democracy and freedom."

Turkey's "zero problems with neighbors" policy for the last eight years under the directions of Dr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, on the contrary, would be described by and large as a realist one.

It can be argued that Ankara's realist approach towards stability in the region continued through the first weeks of the Libyan upheaval. In the beginning of March, when Amb. Selim Yenel, deputy undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, was visiting Washington right about the time Moammar Gadhafi's forces began his move to crash evolving rebel forces. Yenel's message to Washington was: "We have to look out for our interests there... saying certain things are good, but living in the real world, of course our approach and our policies have to gear toward this realism."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's chief foreign policy adviser Mr. İbrahim Kalın also carried similar messages to Washington in the past. During a conference in Washington right before the Arab Spring started, Kalın was very much unwilling to talk about Turkey's such moral role in discussions and considered related questions in terms of "democracy promotion," a bad reminder of Bush's Middle East foreign policy.

Last week though Kalın was much more forthright in Washington while talking about Turkey's moral standing. Arab governments that will be "more democratic, transparent, that uphold the rule of law, human rights and prosper; will not be against our interests... because this is what Turkey wants to do... relations with the neighbors in the region," Kalın remarked while explaining why Turkey will be straightened, not weakened, by the Arab Spring.

According to Kalın, another reason Ankara will be winner in the end is because Ankara is the only capital that has developed special relations both with region's leaders and people, through hosting various opposition groups and continuing dialogue with Hezbollah, Hamas or Muslim Brotherhood.

For whatever the reasons are, Ankara's newly pro-change posture is highly appreciated by the United States administration, in which Ankara applies one of the harshest languages in the region towards Damascus.

To set the record straight, it was not only Ankara who was pursuing a "stability first" attitude in the region. In 2009, newly elected President Barack Obama, all of a sudden, found his administration in a situation to deal with the Iran's post-election unrest when Obama's realist foreign policy was distancing itself from the "maligned" Bush's idealist Middle Eastern policy. To undo the Bush years, Obama sought to repair somewhat strained relations with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, started an encroachment with Bashar al-Assad, while downplaying the protests in Iran.

Nowadays, Obama's June 2009 big speech in Cairo or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's warning remarks in Doha addressing the region's governments, which took place just about 10 days before the revolution started in Egypt, are the rare idealistic moments that the U.S. officials now can cling to while looking back.

Instead, as the Arab Spring tumbled several dictators, Washington rapidly swung towards idealistic tones, both in the beginning of the Libya operation and when he laid out his administration's Middle East vision in May.

It is obviously not a given result that Ankara's or Washington's increased idealistic voices or their current pressing arguments against Syrian regime will pay off quickly. Social, economic and political shortcomings of the Arab nations, as many political scientists argue, indeed reasons for all to worry in the short term results.

Still, instead of supporting despotic regimes and being deceived by a fake stability, Ankara and Washington increasingly appear to believe that gone are the days of providing zero problems to despots.

It is not a bad policy change at all.






The deadline is now July 3. That's when the European Union's finance ministers meet again, and by then the Greek parliament should have passed legislation mandating 28 billion euros of spending cuts and tax rises over the next five years. If it goes through, each of the 10 million Greeks will ultimately be about 2,800 euros poorer.

That's why they're rioting in the street these days in Athens. But unless the European finance ministers approve the plan, Greece will not receive the next 12-billion-euro installment of the current EU-International Monetary Fund bail-out package in July and it will default on its gigantic debt.

As the IMF recently warned, "A disorderly outcome cannot be excluded." It was hinting that the euro itself might crash, taking the European or even the global economy down with it – and yet China seems strangely unworried.

Used-car salesmen know that if you don't give the customers credit, they won't buy your cars. For the past decade China has operated on the same principle, lending the U.S. government money in order to keep the American dollar high and the orders for Chinese goods flowing. Beijing now holds $1.15 trillion of U.S. treasury bills – but as of late last year; it stopped expanding its U.S. dollar holdings.

This makes sense, given that the U.S. budget deficit is 11 percent of GDP. The U.S. is so deeply indebted that it might be tempted to inflate its way out of its problem and nobody wants to be sitting on a pile of a trillion U.S. dollars when the value of the currency collapses. What is astonishing is that China is now buying large amounts of euros instead. So what do the Chinese know that the pundits don't?

They know there is nowhere to hide. Holding euros is risky, but holding U.S. dollars is riskier and the pound and the yen are only marginally safer. China has to put its money somewhere, and it calculates the euro is not quite as bad a bet as it seems, even though Greece certainly will default at some point and probably quite soon.

Greece can never repay the 300 billion euros it owes, no matter how harsh the austerity measures that it forces on its own population. If it still had its old currency, it could make the debt shrink by printing more drachmas and inflating the currency, but it's stuck with the euro.

Like other Mediterranean countries that joined the euro, it has a less efficient economy than the big northern European countries that dominate the currency. It used to stay competitive by letting inflation rip, thus making its exports cheaper in foreign markets. But the European Central Bank keeps the euro's inflation rate low, so now it can't do that.

It's a trap. The euro's low inflation rate meant a low interest rate, so although Greece could not keep its economy competitive, it could borrow money very cheaply. And since the euro's value is backed by much stronger economies the banks were willing to lend Greece large sums. Ridiculously large sums, in fact. So large that Greece could never pay them back.

Didn't the banks realize this? Of course they did, but they reckoned the richer countries in the euro zone would cover Greece's debts in order to preserve the integrity of the currency. That is what is happening now.

The banks stopped lending Greece money after 2008 and the European Union stepped in to prevent a default. The enormous sums it and the IMF are now lending Greece (at a high interest rate) are immediately handed over to the foreign banks that let the situation get so far out of hand in the first place. But the political price extracted from Greece for this bail-out is savage cuts in the country's budget and a soaring unemployment rate.

A lot of Greeks don't see why they should pay such a high price for this charade. They are far from blameless – they cynically milked the EU system for a long time – but their rage is entirely understandable. So at some point Greece will decide to default on its debt.

The money the EU and the IMF are currently giving to the banks by laundering it through Greece will then have to be shoveled directly into their coffers by the financial authorities, embarrassing though that is. And Greece, using heavily devalued drachmas, will still face a long period of austerity and falling living standards but at least it will be in charge of its own fate.

The euro will survive all this because everybody knows that the default is coming and is quietly making arrangements to contain the damage. China is putting its money in the right place.






The famous pessimist predictor, Prof. Roubini recently announced that another crisis is inevitable in the near future, because of not only insufficient, but also delayed measures. Is this true or an exaggeration of the negative impacts of the present global economic problems? Before evaluating that pessimistic projection it is better to discuss the economic problems

The authorities in some European countries, when struggling to control huge budget deficits and government debts by the help of unlovable austerity measures, are also watching carefully rise in prices and are afraid of the danger of a new inflation surge. This is why the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank express their concerns about the inflation risk when some business circles defend the idea that a mild inflation might be a solution to some economic troubles.

Nobody knows governments' intentions. For example the U.S. administration, facing domestic political problems, might prefer a mild inflation instead of stagnant markets and insufficient rise in employment. However mild inflations can get out of control very quickly even without giving any indication. Again the U.S. and some other western governments may decide on a so-called "middle way" solution. In other words, a policy that would not deepen the stagnation, while it would not raise the inflation might be adopted. This solution carries the same danger as an inflationary policy.

Another serious problem of the world economy is the unknown future of the euro. To rescue this recently invented international money it is necessary first to rescue some ailing economies in Europe. However it might need a greater task as compared with the efforts of rich countries to fight against recession.

During the recession people were sorry because of a new wave of unemployment, but happy for the measures taken to fight against this misery. They praised the governments for their generosity a short while ago whereas now they show very strong reaction to austerity measures. This might hamper the governments' efforts to balance budget deficits and to control debts. But leading countries and international institutions, which are planning to help troubled economies in Europe, want to see first the ratification of the austerity measures by the parliaments.

Non-Europeans are also uneasy as they know that if Eurozone troubles become more serious, this will also give harm to the economies of the surrounding countries, even the countries that are quite far away. A short while ago most of the Europeans got angry when the future of the Euro became a hot debate. Now some Europeans began to talk about the future of the euro. Even in countries, which have huge deficit and debt problems such as Greece has, people also discuss the benefits of quitting the euro. They think returning to their old national currency or introducing a new one; can bring solution to the deficit and debt problems by the help of a sharp devaluation. However this needs a dramatic change in economic policies and forced the authorities to implement tight controls on financial markets. This will close domestic markets to international ones and create additional difficulties to get foreign financial support that will be still necessary to solve deficit and debt problems.

Now it is time to discuss whether these problems can create a new serious crisis in the near future. If leading countries, which have less serious economic problems but are afraid of infection from troubled economies, are sincere and stay sincere to bring a solution to the deficit and debt problems, a new crisis might be prevented. Otherwise, even a very serious crisis is not inevitable, long term up and downs that harm sustainable growth of the world economy is inevitable.






Do you know who Berfo Ana is, or Berfo Kırbayır? She is 103 years old and has just one wish; a heart breaking wish. At that age she would probably die of happiness if her son Cemil, "missing" since he was detained on Sept. 13, 1980 – just a day after the 1980 military coup, all of a sudden appeared alive in front of her. She has long given up the hope of seeing her son alive again; she just hopes to find a grave where her son might have been buried. Even finding some bones of her son, burying them according to religious rites and knowing that at least some parts of him are laid to rest there would be enough for her.

Berfo is a mother who has been looking for her "missing" son for more than 30 years without losing hope that if not alive, she would at least find the remains of her son. That was why at the age of 103 she is no longer the mother of her "missing" son but the symbolic mother or "Ana" of the thousands of people who went missing in these lands in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Times have changed. Even the leader of the 1980 coup was questioned recently by a prosecutor and was asked why he staged the coup. The lady who was the prime minister in the 1990s and who was famous for saying the bold statement, "Those who die and those who kill for the state are equally honorable," at the rostrum of parliament has long retired to her Bosporus mansion. Her most able and talented husband was back in the news yesterday with a report that several thousand bottles of wine allegedly illegally produced and bottled were confiscated in an ambush at his Aegean farm and that he and his "accomplices" might risk up to three years in prison. No… No… There was nothing in that news report whether there was any sort of link between the greedy effort to earn some extra bucks and the era he and his wife were in absolute power.

People come to power then vanish from politics. People with crowded shoulders staged full-fledged coups, post-modern coups; manipulated politics and consequently all vanished from the scene. Is it not interesting, now there are 34 generals – some two stars, some three and many four – at the Hasdal Military Prison, while at the Office of the Chief of General Staff there only 28 positions at general level. Whatever…

Berfo Ana has not closed the door of her house in Van since her son went "missing" after he was detained at the Göle town of Ardahan, their hometown. She long conceded that finding her son alive has become a mission impossible, yet she is a mother and deep in her heart she still hopes to see one last time the face of his son before she closes her tired eyes forever. Still, she is ready to embrace the reality should the state tell her Cemil was murdered and shows her the place where it happened.

"I cannot even pray at his graveside… Can anyone understand my pain? Give me at least the remains of my son," she pleaded to the state.

Berfo Ana and the Saturday Mothers – a group of mothers of missing people that acquired the name as they have been demonstrating every Saturday to press the state search for their missing loved ones – were in Kars this weekend. They visited the education faculty of the Kars University. During the 1980-83 military rule what is now the education faculty building was an interrogation center, where allegedly not only Berfo Ana's Cemil but many other sons and daughters "disappeared" after being taken under detention and since then are "missing."

"My son was killed here… This was the place he was killed… Tell me, how I will go from here again without taking my son with me… Please give me at least his bones…"

She is 103 years old. She has been searching for his "missing" son for more than 30 years. She is a sacred mother.

Please, allow us to kiss your hands as if we are all Cemils.







The KESC was privatised on the grounds that private hands would do a better job of meeting a fast-growing electricity demand of the country's commercial hub. It was argued then that a ballooning circular debt, frequent power cuts, power theft, increasing distribution and transmission losses and the utility's inability to boost electricity generation were problems beyond the capacity of the government to resolve. Six years later, most of these problems have worsened and now we are facing a serious power crisis. The circular debt is harder to manage, power pilferage is rampant as never before, and electricity outages are not only frequent, they now last several hours at a time, even days. Little progress has been made in checking distribution and transmission losses, which still stand at an unacceptable level of 34 percent, and power generation has failed to catch up with the ever-rising demand.

This is not an argument against privatisation; the problem is far more serious and complicated than it is made out to be. Emboldened by a state abdicating its responsibility and not bothered to even play the role of a watchdog, the KESC management is focused on maximising its profits at the expense of its consumers. Its penchant to rid itself of around 4,500 non-core employees at any cost has made its consumers suffer endlessly. In fact, the management is using protests by the non-core employees – whom it has placed in a surplus pool after withdrawing its decision to fire them on facing pressure from the government – as an excuse not to attend to complaints from consumers and to fleece them. The KESC is issuing inflated bills in the name of "average" bills, which are so shockingly swollen that they can be termed a scam. Most have received "average" bills which are 200 percent more than what the consumer usually pays. A large number of cosumers have received bills seeking payments equivalent to the electricity price for six months. And some have received 'electric shocks' as their "average" bills require them to pay in just one month what they usually pay in an entire year. What is equally disturbing is that there is no remedy for this malpractice. Consumers "will have" to pay the bills, however big. The assurances being held out by the KESC that the excessive payment would be adjusted in the following month's bill are hard to believe. When the utility has already charged consumers amounts payable in six months, why should it issue bills in the following six months, in the first place? Also, with the KESC-workers stalemate unlikely to end anytime soon, how would it ensure delivery of proper and correct bills in the coming months? Most of the 2.2 million of its consumers cannot afford to pay such huge bills for several months and may soon be forced to take to the streets.

In a letter to the Supreme Court, Nepra, the Public Accounts Committee and the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, the Transparency International Pakistan has accused the KESC of being involved in the "worst corruption" and sought legal action. Ministers have also accused the power utility in the Sindh Assembly of blackmail, saying its management is more interested in getting media coverage of its side of the story than in resolving the crisis. But all that criticism has fallen on deaf ears. It's high time the government took concrete action to end the crisis before protesters shift their anger from the KESC to it.






Attempts to restructure and amend the flaws which mar the judicial system in Pakistan continue. Addressing a meeting attended among others by the chief justices of all the high courts and Sindh High Court judges in Karachi, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry stressed the need for the enforcement of the National Judicial Policy at all levels and the need for judges in high courts to play a more active role in this. As the chief justice pointed out, such greater supervision is vital to improving the performance of the lower courts. At the moment, the long delays, corruption in the running of the courts and a lack of adequate supervision means that litigants mistrust the lower courts and faith in the country's judicial system remains low. This, of course, is one reason why we have so many appeals to the higher courts, overburdening the Supreme Court and making it more difficult for the institution to function effectively. During this important meeting, the chief justice gave many examples of cases that had been pending for years, including that of the rape of a girl that had not been settled in six years. This factor is, of course, the main feature of the reason for people's dissatisfaction with the process of justice and their failure to gain access to it in all too many cases.

One problem has been that in the past too little attention has been directed to this issue. As a result, things have gone from bad to worse over the years. The lack of faith in the system of justice is one reason why we see a descent into chaos with people resorting to mob justice in various places. There have been numerous incidents of this, with suspected criminals being brutally punished by people who perhaps fear there is no other way to save themselves from robbery and other crime. The increase in verdicts delivered by "jirgas" is also a problem that arises from this, resulting in a situation where barbaric judgments are meted out more and more frequently. Things cannot continue as they are. For this reason, it is good news that the chief justice has put the issue so high on the list of priorities and seems to be doing everything within his power to bring in genuine change. Most people who deal with the courts do so at the lowest levels, and it is from here that change must start. Things will not alter overnight. But the commitment shown to bringing reform will in time yield results. This is why the process initiated is so important and the chief justice's commitment to it so significant.








The Indian government's first-ever effort to accommodate civil society concerns on corruption has ended. This was a roller-coaster ride for the government-civil society joint drafting committee on the Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill. It left both sides injured. The two will present their separate recommendations to a proposed all-party meeting in July. This is a good time to draw up a balance-sheet of the process.

The government set up the committee in panic at the response that Anna Hazare's fast drew from the middle classes, which "could get out of hand". It gave non-government members (Team Anna) an unprecedented 50 percent representation in what it saw as a "safety-valve" committee. Team Anna too acted in bad faith by questioning the government's intentions.

The committee debate, marked by abuse and accusations, was conducted in the shadow of Baba Ramdev's fast, and the government's gross mishandling of it. That the two parties reached even partial agreement in nine rounds of meetings affirms the value of debate and reasoning on public policy issues.

Some matters have been sorted out in the committee, including the size of the Lokpal team (11 members) and their separate investigation wing. The Lokpal can prosecute public servants without prior government sanction. Optimistically, the areas of convergence and discord could both serve to take the debate forward and result in a better Lokpal Act than the government would have drafted.

There are two preconditions, however. One, the government shouldn't scuttle debate. Two, the Congress party shouldn't play its usual Machiavellian tactic of accepting under pressure cosmetic changes to the way its government functions without making it truly accountable.

It would be suicidal for the Congress to do this. Its government's credibility stands battered by numerous scams. The latest – and one of the greatest – involves Reliance Industries' padding up its capital expenditure on the Krishna-Godavari gas field by $6 billion – at public expense.

The main differences between the government and Team Anna pertain to extending the Lokpal's ambit to the prime minister's office, the higher judiciary and the conduct of MPs in parliament; the Lokpal's appointment and removal; funding; putting the CBI's anti-corruption wing under the Lokpal; disciplinary power over allegedly corrupt officials; and term of punishment for corruption.

The government concedes, at maximum, that the Lokpal would receive complaints against the PM, but defer their investigation until s/he demits office. In support, it cites the report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution established by the Bharatiya Janata Party (1998), which said "The nation cannot afford to have a prime minister under a cloud .... The PM should not be subjected to [the] Lokpal as this would severely impair his independence and freedom of judgment."

There is merit in this argument. The Lokpal should not destabilise the government or the PMO. But Rajiv Gandhi didn't stop functioning after the Bofors investigation started. Nor was PV Narasimha Rao paralysed by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha bribery scandal.

The PMO has over the years expanded its role in administration, monitoring and supervision and covers many areas outside the PM's portfolio. It periodically issues directions on matters as varied as foreign policy, global climate negotiations, and allocation of electromagnetic spectrum. All these should be brought under the Lokpal's scrutiny with adequate safeguards to rule out frivolous complaints.

The PM's authority should not be wantonly weakened – unless a strong prima facie case of corruption, or misjudgement leading to defrauding of the exchequer, is established. The Lokpal's scrutiny should cover the scope for corruption contained in policies initiated or shaped by the PMO.

There is a good case for excluding the higher judiciary from the Lokpal's ambit, and subjecting it to the proposed National Judicial Commission.

Team Anna would like the comptroller and auditor general and the chief election commissioner to be part of the Lokpal selection committee, in addition to the PM, the speaker, leaders of the opposition in both houses of parliament, the home minister, senior bureaucrats, etc. This should prove no great obstacle.

The Lokpal should also be able to recommend disciplinary proceedings against corrupt bureaucrats once their guilt is established.

However, Team Anna should not see the Lokpal's office as a countervailing force to the government or a permanent supervisory authority. That simply doesn't make sense in a democracy, where the executive has its autonomous function, subject to checks and balances, and to the overall separation of powers.

Team Anna is completely wrong to demand a huge budget for the Lokpal – one-quarter of the government's revenues.

The committee's civil society members mistakenly exaggerate the Lokpal's anti-corruption role. The Lokpal would come into the picture typically after corruption has already occurred. But to pre-empt, prevent and control corruption, it is necessary to look at many places, especially where corruption affects the poor.

Corruption doesn't occur primarily, as Team Anna holds, because there's a "lack of an independent, empowered, ... anti-corruption institution", but for other reasons. These include a neoliberal economic policy regime that encourages privatisation of common property resources through sweetheart deals and a politician-bureaucrat-businessman nexus; the rise of greedy entrepreneurs; an increasingly compromised civil service; poorly monitored public service delivery programmes; and a dysfunctional justice delivery system.

Correcting these will need administrative reform, social audits of important programmes, effective grievance redressal, transparency in appointments – and new laws, including some on judicial accountability, protection of whistleblowers, and rights to public services. No less important is reform of the police. Only 11 states have legislated the Police Commission-recommended new police act.

These measures will promote accountable governance, reduce the scope for diversion of public resources, and prevent and punish corruption. Only enforceable entitlements to public services can eliminate the scope offered by discretionary powers and foster accountability and responsibility on the part of government functionaries.

People like Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev do not grasp the roots of corruption. In fact, Ramdev dangerously oversimplifies and distorts the issue in his booklet Hamare Sapnon ka Bharat: "These corrupt, dishonest people and thieves (ministers) neither practise yoga, nor accept spiritualism ...." Governments don't enact good anti-corruption laws "[because] the mothers, sisters and daughters of cabinet ministers ... are never raped, nor do they and their families have to eat adulterated food, nor is the money lost in corruption theirs."

Ramdev's fast reduced the corruption issue to a farce and discredited him. Hazare has threatened another fast from August 16 onwards. But he should understand that fasts can blackmail. His one-man anti-corruption crusade cannot bring about structural change.

The well-meaning individuals in Team Anna must understand that their self-appointed civil society group lacks representative character or public accountability. Legislation is a function of elected legislators, not civil society groups. They should make suggestions and recommendations to lawmakers. But they cannot replace them, nor threaten to take to the streets unless all their demands are accepted.

Fighting corruption is a priority, but this must be done in ways that strengthen democracy without creating new unaccountable power centres. One can only hope that Team Anna's adversarial posture – necessary in such contestations – doesn't blind it to this reality. The government too should understand that its legitimacy is at stake. It must act in good faith in drafting an effective Lokpal law.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email:








 "Sir, you've accused the opposition leader of conspiring to drive a wedge between your government and the establishment."

"Yes, I stand by what I said."

"That's very kind of you. The entire nation is well familiar with the fact that you're not used to standing by your statements. But I would appreciate if you could explain what makes you think the opposition leader would do that."

"For the nation, and in particular you, the journalists, the favourite pastime is to point the finger at me for turning back on my word on one occasion or more. But you – the silly, sentimental, ignorant fools – know nothing about politics. May I remind you what that greatest political scientist of all times, Machiavelli, wrote of his Prince: that he should know when to break his word and when to keep it. But you poor folk whose knowledge of the world doesn't go beyond what the sensational media stories have to offer, can hardly appreciate that. Leave my promises and your ignorance aside for the moment. I'm willing to answer your question, but on the condition that whatever I say and whatever I've just said will be off the record."

"If you say so."

"Well, it's very simple. The opposition leader wants us to confront the establishment, knowing fully well that the confrontation will sound the death knell for our government as well as give him the opportunity to present himself as the alternative. So he wants to kill two birds with one stone."

"Granted, for the sake of argument, that what you attribute to the opposition leader is correct. Do you mean to say that your government is too weak to afford a face-off with the establishment?"

"No government in Pakistan can be strong enough to survive a face-off with the establishment, let's admit it. Years ago the opposition leader himself, when he was in the saddle with a so-called heavy mandate, took on the establishment and got the sack and was jailed and exiled. My party itself made that blunder on more than one occasion in the past and paid the penalty each time, and rightly so. However, we have learnt from our mistakes and we are not going to repeat them."

"But, sir, if that's the case, what's the fun of having democracy? If the elected government is shy of facing up to challenges because they come from powerful quarters, should it not better call it quits?"

"We are full of romantic notions about democracy, and one of these is that the elected government must try and bring the establishment under its thumb and take it to account for what it did and what it didn't. Forget about the rest of the world, but in our part of the world such an attempt is no more than a fool's errand. The establishment is the power behind the throne and anyone who messes with it will be dethroned. So we had better not ape others. Live and let others live should be the motto of every elected government in Pakistan, otherwise it is doomed. Our philosophy of reconciliation also teaches this golden maxim."

"It's nice to have such a maxim, sir. But this doesn't mean that we should shut our eyes to the reality and, like the three wise monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil."

"Better be wise monkeys in power than stupid lions out of it. But, seriously, politics is like a game of chess in which each and every move has to be carefully thought out. And, mind you, never try to checkmate others unless you're really in a position to do so, otherwise they'll turn the tables on you. Just as a philosopher must live before he can philosophise, the government must continue in office if it is to do anything for the people. All along I have religiously followed this principle, and that is why we have survived, giving the lie to all predictions as to our premature exit."

"Well, I hardly agree with you, but we need to move on. You've also compared the opposition leader to Taliban supremo Mullah Umar. I think your characterisation of him as such is uncalled-for."

"Oh, really? The opposition leader's party dubs me a plunderer, a cheat, a liar, an imposter, and what not, and goes out of the way to bash me. I know I am a thorn in their side and they can't bring themselves to accepting that I deserve the office that I hold, I have the popular and the political mandate to be where I am. But it's a pity that you treat the opposition leader as a saint and leave no stone unturned to defend him. Tell me: is he not a child of despotism? Did he not abuse his position to amass the enormous wealth that he holds? Did he not implicate me and my family in cooked-up cases? Yes, I can forgive him for all that, but I can never forgive him for his pro-militants views. You know, we are facing the menace of terrorism in a way and on a scale no other society, past or present, did. It is the duty of every citizen to help the government put down militancy. But some people are never mindful of their duty."

"Well, sir, I understand you've been deeply hurt by the opposition leader's remarks against you. But you need to realise that mudslinging isn't becoming of the high office that you occupy. Yes, militancy is the most serious threat that we're facing today – no one would disagree with that. But how that threat should be grappled with is open to debate and everyone has the right to take sides. Anyway, I'm grateful to you for speaking your mind to me."

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email:








We all know how previous military and civilian governments used dirty tactics to throttle an independent media. Sometimes they succeeded by using sheer brute force and sometimes through bribery and blackmail. On the whole, the media managed to survive and came out cleaner and stronger after every scuffle. The recent attack by the so-called democratic government on Geo Super is a dark chapter in the history of the PPP government. They did manage to deprive the public of sports and entertainment for some time and to cause a loss of hundreds of millions of rupees to the organisation. They were apparently under the impression that they could bring Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to his knees, totally forgetting that similar tactics had failed in the past to subdue his father, that giant of a journalist, Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman. There is an adage that an apple does not fall far from the tree—in this case, the son is a reflection of his father. I had once written in my column that both Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman were like tall, straight, strong pillars; they could only be broken but not bent. I am personally aware of the efforts made by the government to gain Mir Sahib's support in Dubai for their illegal and corrupt activities. When that failed they turned to dirty tactics. Thanks to public pressure and the intervention of the Supreme Court, Geo Super is now back. One would think that the rulers would learn from their setbacks, but nothing seems to bother them.

Let us now discuss the dire need for a peaceful revolution. I have emphasised this need in some previous columns, giving the examples of revolutions in France, Russia, China and Iran. The leaders of those revolutions were commoners and the army was not a driving force. I also exposed those who were shouting hollow slogans of revolution but were practically part and parcel of the corrupt government.

We all realise that our dear country is on the verge of collapse and that we have been branded by the whole world as corrupt country and a terrorist state. If one merely sits as a silent spectator, one becomes an accomplice. There are many sayings by Almighty Allah, our Holy Prophet (SAW) and caliphs and religious scholars emphasising this.

I witnessed the creation of Pakistan. I was part of the struggle in Bhopal. I walked barefooted on scorching sand for about ten kilometres before entering Pakistan via Khokhrapar. I saw the break-up of our beloved country due to the cruel policies of military dictators. When I saw mortal danger threaten our beloved country, I gave up an excellent career and comfortable life abroad to serve Pakistan. It was at the cost of my family life, but I was rewarded with the setting up of Kahuta and, with the help of my able and patriotic colleagues, turning this underdeveloped, defeated and humiliated country into a nuclear power in 1984. Now Pakistan will not have to face another Dec 16, 1971, situation and could never be blackmailed. Now, when I see where the country is heading, it is impossible for me to be quiet. It would be criminal to just sit back and not try to do anything about it. I will use my pen as a sword, and if called upon to help, I would willingly do so.

Allah has blessed me with knowledge, experience, an excellent education and, above all, the ability to attack and solve problems. Many of my friends and former colleagues are of the same opinion and are more than willing to serve the country. We all thought and hoped that once the military dictator had fled the country—leaving us more or less a colony of America—we could start a new page in our history. Unfortunately, as bad luck would have it, we got rulers no better than the dictator. Now we are being plundered and subjected to all kinds of maladies in the name of democracy.

That is the reason why, when Prime Minister Gilani stood in parliament and challenged someone to take over if he thought he could do a better job, I had no hesitation in accepting, with the condition that an international jury of eminent experts evaluate my performance after two years and compare it with that of the three-year rule of the present government. No response, not even a whisper of it, followed and the same game continued. When I see what is happening in the country now, I think back to 1947 and I wonder if all those sacrifices were made in vain. Most painful are scenes of poor, starving people being mercilessly baton-charged because they are asking for the availability of flour, sugar, petrol, etc. against payment. Law-enforcing agencies have become gangs of murderers. Remember the events of Kharotabad and Karachi?

While Musharraf reneged on many promises he made to the nation, he also reneged on promises made to me on TV and to the press and confined me to my house, just to please President Bush. He had said that I was a free citizen with total freedom to move within the country but requiring an NOC for travel abroad. The Wikileaks documents show that he had been pledging the Americans that he would keep me under house arrest until my death—and that without any legal case, without any prosecution and without any conviction. In the Holy Quran such people are called Munafiq and hell is their permanent abode.

It has become quite obvious that the present political parties are not capable of delivering what is required. Even while I was being subjected to illegal detention and mental torture, the leaders were looking the other way. Then, when the occasion arose, they used my name and letters in their election campaigns, even promising to make me president.

In 2001 I had chalked out a proposal for intensive vocational training centres and hostels for young boys and girls in the whole tribal areas. There was enough foreign aid at the time to cater for the plan. It would have resulted in the eradication of the use of young people as fodder for terrorist activities and suicide bombings. But the importance of the proposal was not grasped by the dictatorial authority. In the early eighties I had proposed the establishment of a broad-based automobile industry to manufacture cars, trucks, pickups, buses and tractors to Gen Zia. He did not grasp the importance of such an industry for national economic development either. Since then we have spent billions of dollars on the import of these products. We are No 12 in the list of Failed States while India is at No. 76.

Our religion does not allow us to sit idle while the country goes further downhill. That is why I have been asking young, patriotic Pakistanis to come forward, join hands and bring about a peaceful revolution.








Evidence suggests that conventional anti-corruption strategies have not delivered in our case. Corruption has permeated the entire fabric of society. It seems as if it has become a way of life with us. All this has happened despite several anti-corruption agencies with layer after layer of bureaucratic structures that we have erected to make these agencies more potent and effective against corruption. Actually, our approach towards the issue of corruption has been reactive, meaning that our anti-corruption strategy only comes into play after an act of corruption has been committed.

The entire strategy is focused on enforcement. Prevention of corruption doesn't figure anywhere in the anti-corruption strategies adopted so far. Internal controls for tackling corruption are either totally lacking in the organisations or they are practically ineffective. No mechanism is in place that flickers a red light in the system or rings the alarm bell when an act of corruption is committed, rules are bent, procedure is violated, or favouritism prevails.

Conventionally, the edifice of anti-corruption strategy is erected on three main pillars. The first pillar is that of parliamentary oversight. Oversight through parliamentary committees is considered the top most check against corruption and wrongdoings of the executive in the democratic countries. Various ministries and departments are answerable before the parliamentary committees. Unfortunately, our track record of democracy is not that bright and parliamentary oversight has yet to mature as an effective check against corruption by developing the norms of self-accountability.

For example, the Public Accounts committee (PAC) is one of such parliamentary body that can exercise an effective check on corruption. As the democratic set-up has not functioned unhindered in Pakistan, the potential of the PAC could not be realised adequately. The PAC meetings were not held regularly in the past and audit paras piled up. However, in the past few years, the PAC has held its meeting regularly and as per media reports it was able to reduce the huge backlog significantly.

But the fact remains that the PAC has no enforcement or implementation powers. Its directives are merely recommendations and may not be implemented by the executive in their letter and spirit. Audits by the auditor general office and check against maladministration of public functionaries by the institution of ombudsman are the second pillar of the anti-corruption strategy. The audit staff of the auditor general office conducts audits of the ministries and other public sector departments every year. The efficacy of the audit by the auditor general office has however been questioned on several grounds.

Audits are generally transaction-based and their coverage is low. Their focus is on minor issues while vital concerns such as corruption are missed out altogether. Allegations of collusion between the auditor and the auditee are common. Audit observations may not stand the test of judicial scrutiny. Audit objections are sometimes raised on flimsy grounds and cannot be substantiated in the court of law.

Further, it may take years for conclusive determination of correctness or otherwise of the audit observation and finally it may turn out that in the intervening period, either the public functionary responsible for embezzlement has retired from service or died, or that no proceedings can be initiated against the individual in question due to time limitations prescribed by the law. The general perception prevails that a very tiny percentage of money dribbled away through corruption is recovered through the process of auditing.

Specialised agencies like the FIA, Nab, or provincial anti-corruption agencies constitute the third pillar of the anti-corruption strategy. These anti-corruption watchdogs have generally lacked credibility in the eyes of the public. The accusations of political victimisation have been hurled at them time and again. They are perceived as no less corrupt than the institutions they are supposed to oversee.

Further, the efficacy of these institutions is hampered due to multiple mandates, a lack of resources, political interference, poor capacity to investigate and prosecute – especially when it comes to white collar crimes, and a lack of autonomy. All the three pillars of the anti-corruption strategy however have one thing in common; they are all reactive, not preventive in nature.

The anti-corruption strategy needs to be multi-pronged and should essentially include elements like improving economic governance, deregulation, simplification of procedures, e-governance, civil service reforms, a strengthened auditor general office with major focus on systems and performance audit and tackling corruption, a strong, autonomous, competent and politically non-partisan accountability agency to investigate and prosecute corruption, a public information campaign against corruption, and above all whistle-blowing legislation.

Whistle-blowing is emerging as an effective tool to fight against corruption. Countries around the globe are developing legal regimes that encourage good faith whistle-blowing against corruption, and protect whistle-blowers from retribution. Article 33 of the UN Convention against Corruption mandates that "each party shall consider incorporating into its domestic legal system appropriate measures to provide protection against unjustified treatment for any persons, who report in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities any facts concerning offences established in accordance with this Convention."

It is a matter of fact that the first person who notices the act of corruption, mismanagement or patronage is generally the guy who either works inside the organisation or is directly associated with such an organisation. Employees of an organisation are better placed to raise their concerns about corruption but at the same time, they are the biggest losers when it comes to disclosing such goings on, particularly if they are not backed by legal protection.

The fear of retribution becomes a big hurdle in their disclosure. If the law gives the whistle-blowers confidence and security, corruption can be confronted from the inside of the organisations as well. Such an approach will essentially be proactive as alarm bells will ring before acts of corruption actually take place.

Unfortunately, the inside and proactive approach has not properly been experimented with in our country. A lack of inside involvement in implementing the anti-corruption strategy, in a sense, denies organisations vital opportunities to deal with the problem of corruption before it causes real damage.

The writer is a graduate from Columbia University with a degree in Economic Policy Management.







The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.

Nearly two months after the Abbottabad raid, the country is still baffled by the failure of our intelligence agencies to track Osama down to his hideout deep inside our borders where he had been living for five years. Even worse, the nation remains deeply troubled by the inability of our military to detect the invading US force, much less engage it. The daring terrorist strike on the Mehran naval base, shortly afterwards, has added to the general feeling of insecurity.

On top of that, the US has mounted increased pressure on the Pakistan military to launch a ground offensive in North Waziristan and made it clear that drone attacks inside Pakistani territory will continue, whether we like it or not, and that Washington will have no hesitation in carrying out more unilateral operations similar to Abbottabad against other high-value targets inside Pakistani territory.

Obama's warning last week that "the US will never tolerate a safe haven [in Pakistan] for those who would destroy us" is as clear as can be – it provides justification for another unilateral raid in advance, Panetta provided "evidence" on his visit to Pakistan earlier this month that information provided by the US intelligence to Pakistani authorities on two facilities producing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Waziristan was leaked to the militants within 24 hours, enabling them to melt away by the time the raiding teams reached those places.

US authorities have also served notice that Pakistan's nuclear installations remain in their sights. Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 9 that Pakistan's nuclear weapons remained a concern because of "the danger that those nukes could wind up in the wrong hands." As the New York Times reported last week, one of the reasons why the US wants to station its troops permanently in Afghanistan, even after responsibility for the country's internal security is handed over to the Afghans in 2014, is "to deal with the threats emerging from Pakistan."

In the view of US officials, the newspaper wrote, it is more urgent than ever that the US maintains sites outside Pakistan "to launch drone and commando raids against the militant networks that remain in Pakistan, and to make sure that Pakistan's fast-growing nuclear arsenal never falls into the wrong hands."

Instead of closing ranks in the face of these threats and planning how to counter them, our politicians have been at each other's throat. Some of our "liberal" commentators have also had a field day singling out their favourite bogeyman – the armed forces – for the country's ills, while ignoring the contribution of the venal political class and the rapacious ruling elite in the decay of the institutions.

The promised commission to investigate the Abbottabad fiasco has become an early casualty of the unseemly slugfest between our politicians. The prime minister's refusal to consult the leader of the opposition before appointing the members of the commission, as stipulated in the parliamentary resolution, has raised serious doubts about the government's intentions. It remains to be seen whether and in what form the commission will see the light of day.

The top honours in the political mud-slinging contest triggered by the US operation in Abbottabad must go beyond any doubt to President Zardari. He made his first public appearance in the country after the raid, seven weeks after the event, in a gathering of the PPP faithful at Naudero. In a long rant against "political actors" and other assorted demons, he attacked those who had challenged the NRO in the country's courts and went on to offer the flimsiest of excuses why corruption charges should not be pressed against him. Claiming a sort of fellow martyrdom, he said that pursuing these charges against him would amount to "putting Benazir's grave on trial." And in any case, he had already served several years in detention while under trial. Even his captive audience of party loyalists, including Zulfiqar Mirza, greeted this quaint logic with bored silence.

Given Zardari's known mistrust of the army leadership in the past and his call at Naudero last week to refrain from attacks on "institutions" including the army, smacks of political opportunism. We know now from the WikiLeaks cables that in November 2008 he discussed appointments to the ISI and a "reform" of the agency with the Americans and the Brits while keeping the country's military leadership in the dark. Also, when he received a hoax call, two days after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, from someone pretending to be India's foreign minister, Zardari immediately telephoned the US secretary of state but did not inform Kayani either about the hoax call or his own call to Washington. Zardari evidently reposes more confidence in his American and British friends than in the chief of the Pakistan army.

In an unusual reversal of roles, which is not easy to explain, the PML-N has emerged in recent months as the main critic of the country's military leadership. Criticism of the military's role in the country's domestic politics is of course justified and necessary. A military dictator who topples a civilian government is guilty of high treason and must be brought to justice under Article 6 of the Constitution. Nawaz Sharif is therefore absolutely right in demanding that Musharraf stand trial for having subverted the Constitution.

But some of Nawaz's recent utterances in which he has implicitly held the military responsible for the history of confrontation between Pakistan and India betray a poor understanding of the dynamics of the relations between the two countries and raise doubts about his suitability to hold the office of prime minister for a third time as he aspires to. It will suffice to mention three of these statements:

First, in a press conference in Karachi on May 16, Nawaz was quoted as saying that Pakistan must stop treating India as its biggest enemy.

Second, in a speech given in Lahore on June 10, he said that the army must give up its India-centric obsession. (This is also what Obama said last month).

Third, in a speech at Bagh on June 22, Nawaz said that Vajpayee had assured him in Lahore in 1999 that the Kashmir issue would be resolved within the year, but the effort failed after Musharraf launched his ill-fated adventure in Kargil.

Nawaz clearly needs a refresher course in history. He seems to have forgotten that it is India, not Pakistan, which is in illegal occupation of Kashmir and that it was also India which imposed the 1971 war under a carefully prepared plan to break up Pakistan. Musharraf's Kargil adventure was of course a huge folly but Nawaz's belief that Vajpayee was willing to settle the Kashmir issue on any terms other than the territorial status quo also has no relationship with reality.

Nawaz seems to be caught in a time warp. His point of reference for everything is 1999 when he was deposed from power. This is also evident from his oft-repeated boast that he conducted nuclear tests in 1998 despite massive international pressure. That is true, but it is history. The challenge Pakistan faces now is getting access to peaceful nuclear technology as India has got and which is being denied to us by Washington at India's behest. But Nawaz seems to be unaware of this vitally important issue. At least he has not raised it in any of his meetings with visiting US officials.

Nawaz Sharif claims to have learnt from his past mistakes. But it seems that he has not learnt enough. In his public speeches, he has not spoken once about the major obstacles to the country's development and progress: a broken education system, galloping population growth, unchecked environmental degradation and a ruling elite that does not pay taxes. Clearly, he has a lot to learn.









Sitting in a dimly-lit room with no power, a dying laptop battery and a deadline advancing much in the way that crocodiles make their leisurely way towards their next meal; I read that the power shortfall is now 5,500 MW. This has not been the most sparkling of weeks. The national carrier got things off to a flying start (pun intended) last Monday by failing to inform me and the other thirty-odd passengers bound for Bahawalpur from Karachi that we were in for a four-and-a-half hour delay. Back home the electricity supply took a sharp nosedive and by Thursday was absent for most of my working day. The bus for Rawalpindi set off bang on time on Friday evening as it usually does and then broke down north of Multan with a blown radiator – which it usually doesn't. Standing in the clammy darkness waiting for a relief bus which eventually arrived about a quarter-to-two in the morning I had one of those 'why do I bother' moments.

Far beyond the tiny bubble I live in I had watched over the last ten days as the nations leading politicians had ripped one another to shreds in a display of disunity that would have been worthy of the Montagues and Capulets. (Shakespeare, gang-wars, Romeo and Juliet, messy miserable ending which has a look of disturbing familiarity about it.) I had watched for a heady couple of weeks post-election as the PPP and PML-N pledged to drag the nation out of the mess that the last military dictator had dragged it into. They then walked away from the mess left by the dictator and proceeded to create a whole new set of messes that they blamed on the last semi-military government – rather than taking any kind of responsibility for them as the incumbent semi-civilian government.

The military have made noises to the effect that their enthusiasm for governance has waned to invisibility, which may well be a wise move considering the depth of the swamp we all now stand in and the hunger of the reptile population that inhabits it. Industry everywhere is either on its knees or comatose. Agencies of law and order gun down the populace pretty much at will. We have a starring role in the latest failed states index.

Where the various agencies miss an opportunity for casual butchery the population at large makes up the deficit by stoning and mutilating women, engaging in a little freelance female foeticide, slaughtering one-another over sectarian or land disputes and generally keeping gravediggers in employment – gravedigger being perhaps one of the most secure jobs on offer these days. I am surprised that we have not seen faculties of gravedigging springing up at our universities. 'Gravedigging for beginners' on the TV channels and 'Maximise your potential – be a gravedigger' offered as distance-learning courses by online academia. Somebody somewhere is obviously missing an opportunity of a fast buck – or rupee.

But back to the sweaty darkness by a stranded bus north of Multan and the 'why do I bother' moment. One of the reasons is a school in Nagar, sandwiched between Hunza and Gilgit. Sixteen years ago it was the first school I got donor funding for under the long-dead Social Action Programme (SAP). The people of Chalt donated land and labour and a considerable amount of sweat to build a school that runs to this day, and I plan on visiting it next week. Schools like that survive in spite of the politicians not because of them. So why do I bother? For our children's children that's why, silly. (Insert smiley face at this point.)

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








TERRORISTS once again struck at a police station and this time in Tehsil Kolachi area of Dera Ismail Khan, martyring ten security personnel and injuring around a dozen others on Saturday. The half a dozen or so terrorists stormed the police station by firing indiscriminately and taking control of the station that forced the authorities to mount an all out operation to rescue the besieged policemen.

The way they attacked the police station indicate that they had come with a proper planning and were prepared for days of siege and hostage taking apparently to secure the release of other militants. According to details two suicide bombers including a burqa clad woman detonated their explosives pack vests near the main gate destroying the APC carrying reinforcements as it was entering the station. It shows how daredevil and determined they were to attain their objectives. They looked like well trained and equipped suicide bombers and showed that their handlers, masterminds and financiers were determined to create scare among the law enforcement officials. Kolachi police station is located near South Waziristan and the attack is a proof that the militants still maintain their strong bases there including brain washing and training facilities to launch attacks in different parts of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and other areas of Pakistan. Though the security forces carried out repeated clean up operations and killed hundreds of militants in FATA, yet it is surprising that the terrorists were still showing strong resistance to the State authority. There was an element of surprise in the attack as the militants dressed in burqas pulled out guns at the station's main gate and killed policemen deployed there in no time. In addition to entry from the main gate, they also used hand grenades, destroyed the boundary wall and facilitated the entry of more rebels into the building. Banned TTP spokesman claimed responsibility saying the attack was to avenge the killing of bin Laden by the Americans. We think it is time to revisit our strategy to deal with militancy by widening the intelligence network, identifying their training bases, hide outs, financiers, arms suppliers and then launching operations to completely eliminate the menace from our soil. We would warn that the focus of attention of the foreign powers and the militants has shifted towards Pakistan and the only way out is a national consensus and resolve by all political parties to jointly confront this challenge.








AT this point of time when the country is in the grip of wave of terrorism and rising sense of insecurity, to think and plan to generate domestic and foreign investment may look rather strange. But even then it is good of the Board of Investment (BOI) and its vibrant Chairman Mr Saleem Mandviwala that they come out with new initiatives day in and day out to attract investors.

During meeting with the Prime Minister on Saturday Mr Mandviwala briefed Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani about his inter action with foreign delegates at International Economic Forum in St Petersberg, Russia and the steps being taken by the BOI to persuade the foreign investors to come to Pakistan. This is what is called the exuberance and fight back in difficult times which is the hallmark of the State and nation of Pakistan to swim successfully against the negative current. It is this phenomenon which is also being seen in the private sector in Pakistan as there are some committed entrepreneurs like Mr Mandviwala who are all out to carve a way out. The country is in deep economic crisis not only due to internal law and order situation but the international economic slow down. In this scenario, only a farsighted policy and incentives could woo the investors as they are shy of investing in countries where there are crises of the nature of financial or law and order. The government must evolve a strategy to eliminate the various crises that have gripped the country in the past few years and undermined the economic strength of Pakistan. Local businessmen with necessary knowledge should be involved in the policy making to handle important issues relevant to their field. If we are able to get investment particularly in the energy, mineral exploitation, agriculture and infrastructure sectors, it would help give the much needed fillip to the economy, boost production, create job opportunities, bring down inflation and increase our exports. We are sure that there is great potential and by providing the enabling and supportive atmosphere Pakistan can perform wonders and become a hub of industrial and commercial activities as it enjoys a unique geo strategic location.






AFTER President Obama announced to begin drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan, several NATO countries have started thinking to scale back their presence in the war torn country. Spain, which has 1500 troops in Afghanistan has become the latest country announcing that it too would start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan from the first quarter of 2012.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero made this announcement following the European Union summit in Brussels on Friday. One expects that other countries contributing troops to ISAF would soon be coming out with their plans to start the withdrawal because there is lot of public opposition to deployment in Afghanistan. In fact the American President was under lot of pressure for a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan due to large number of casualties and the poor state of the economy. The Americans are financing the entire military expenditure in Afghanistan which runs into around $ 110 billion per year and once they start the pull back, the people in other NATO countries, who are already against deployment, would start raising their demand for similar action by their governments. There is now a realization world over that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won. In this situation, Pakistan would be the major affectee as there is a strong possibility that an unstable Afghanistan would have negative fall out on it. Already Pakistan has suffered a lot in the past thirty years of war in Afghanistan as its economy has been hit hard and the menace of terrorism has spread all over. In addition about three million Afghan refugees are still on our soil, a great burden on our economy. It is therefore high time for the political and military leadership to consider different options and devise a well thought out policy to be followed in the post troops withdrawal period so as to avoid any negative fall out.









As was to be expected the talks between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan ended with a whimper rather than a bang. Why is it that we begin every session as if it is the inaugural session of talks? In other words why do we have to disregard the progress if any made in the previous rounds and start from first principles? This is certainly not how international negotiations are conducted. Each session should build on the understanding arrived at during the previous sessions; should it not?

Let us have a look at the Joint Statement first. The points made therein are roughly as follows: a) 'Frank and cordial' atmosphere; b) intention to carry forward the dialogue process; c) ongoing implementation of CBMS 'noted'; d) recognition that terrorism poses a 'continuing threat' to peace and security and need to strengthen cooperation in 'counter-terrorism', e) exchange of 'views' on Jammu and Kashmir issue; f) need for promoting 'friendly exchanges'. The only thing noticeable is a marked reluctance of both sides to 'negotiate' rather than merely 'discuss' matters. So what it all amounts to is saying: it is good to meet again and let's have more of the same.

Now, one has no objection at all to meetings 'in a frank and cordial atmosphere'. One passionately believes in carrying forward the talks on all subjects and at all levels. Just that it is just not cricket to stretch these sessions ad infinitum with nary a denouement in sight. After all, we are two nations that have learnt a thing or two about 'frank and cordial' discussions as well as good drafting in the Queen's English from our erstwhile colonial masters. What is needed is to move ahead and utilize a bit of native wisdom to come to a convergence on the several contentious issues that keep us apart. One would rather go for a loosely drafted joint statement that lists tangible forward movement rather than a polished, well-worded statement comprising inanities!

The joint Press Conference by the two Foreign Secretaries is notable less for what was said and more for what was left unsaid. The Indian Foreign Secretary showed her customary skills at a suave and diplomatic turn of phrase. Her observation: "The shadow of violence has caused untold suffering to our people and this should come to an end. The ideology of military conflict should have no place in the paradigm of our relationship in the 21st century", neatly sums up in a suave way the preoccupation of the Indian side. Everything will be seen through the lens of the 'shadow of violence'.

Our Foreign Secretary could perhaps have stopped short of averring that his side "satisfied with the quality of the talks which were marked by understanding of each other's sensitivities". If we had any reservations about lack of forward movement and/or hopes of switching to a 'problem settlement mode', the Foreign Secretary did not express them. Our expression of undue satisfaction with the talks is apt to convey the wrong signal to the international community that all is hunky dory on the bilateral scene. Do we honestly wish to propagate this impression?

The terms of reference related to the two sides in these talks have not evolved a whit over the years. The Indian side has made no secret of the fact that they have little interest in settlement of contentious issues except strictly on their terms and that they would not be averse to letting matters drag on as long as possible. They believe no doubt with reason that time is on their side and that the longer it takes the more the chances of settlement on India's terms. This attitude is understandable; after all India is the status quo power. What is difficult to understand is the attitude of the Pakistan side to give a positive spin to all that takes place. It is much like a drowning man clutching at every drifting straw. It is in the light of this inexplicable tendency that the observations of the two Foreign Secretaries should be assayed. Our side went out of its way to create the impression that the session was a resounding success, while their counterparts were hedging their bets. This is a paradox of no small proportions. Has our side ever considered the option of making the man in the street aware of the reality? Simulation and dissimulation may assets in international affairs but the man in the streets needs to be aware of the facts of life.

Lest the aforesaid convey a negative impression one would hasten to clarify that this is far from one's intention. Normalization of relations and an environment of good neighbourliness between India and Pakistan are worthy objectives that we all must strive for. To achieve these objectives both the sides must be prepared to show political will to negotiate in a spirit of give and take. The time to score debating points against each other is long past. The attraction of securing a few brownie points from the international public opinion is passé. The peoples of the South Asian region deserve a break.

Both India and Pakistan stand to benefit from an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. To achieve this both sides will be required to put their shoulders to the wheel. The two countries working hand in hand in international forums can together go places. Working against each other's interests will take them nowhere. Mistrust and misunderstandings need to be removed. It may sound strange but the common man in Pakistan has a better understanding of his counter parts across the border. This is because he gets a chance to see Indian television programmes and watch Indian movies. The situation across the border is different. The man in the street in India still caries a somewhat distorted image of common people in Pakistan. It is not one's intention to apportion blame, but there is need to correct the distortions.

The resumption of the peace talks is to be welcomed. It is to be hoped that nothing will happen to derail them another time. Meanwhile, may one express the hope that the talks will make a quick transition into the problem-settlement mode, from the present mere discussion mode? In order to be beneficial the talks will need to show results. Mere talks for the sake of talks have a limited shelf-life!








Pakistan and USA are old allies but their relations have never remained steady and lasting. Their relations were at its best in the 1950s during Eisenhower era when Pakistan became part of the defensive arc against communist expansionism. Relations began to wane in the wake of 1962 Sino-Indo border clash after the US unjustifiably tilted towards India which was closely aligned with the then Soviet Union and disturbed the regional balance of power. President Kennedy pressed Ayub Khan not to exploit India's highly vulnerable position by starting a war in occupied Kashmir as had been suggested by China, and assured him that the US would play its role in settling the dispute. Misled by the false promise, Pakistan lost a golden opportunity.

Pakistan got another shock when Washington being an ally of Pakistan unfairly disrupted military and economic aid during 1965 Indo-Pak war. Moscow on the other hand continued to supply war needs to its ally India . Had Pakistan not been denied critical spare parts and ammunition, it could have placed India in a tight corner and held negotiations at Tashkent from a position of strength. Stoppage of US assistance program had a debilitating impact on Pakistan 's third 5-year development plan which had all the potential to make Pakistan a strong economic power.

The US again played a biased role in 1971 when it stopped its military assistance to Pakistan and not only blocked military supplies but also directed Muslim countries friendly to Pakistan not to supply any arms. India on the other hand kept receiving military supplies from USSR , Israel and other countries. The US provided economic aid to India and arms to Mukti Bahini under the cover of refugee aid. When Pakistan desperately tried for a ceasefire in East Pakistan , the US didn't use its clout to get any UN resolution passed. The USSR on the other hand which had stood behind India vetoed each and every resolution favoring Pakistan . The story of arrival of American troops and that of 7th Fleet proved illusive. The US played a role in dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 despite the fact that Pakistan was instrumental in creating a détente in Sino-US relations.

While the US ignored India 's overt nuclear program which got commissioned in 1974 in spite of the fact that India was a camp follower of USSR , the US took a highly belligerent stance when it learnt that Pakistan was also pursuing a nuclear program secretly. Jimmy Carter in a huff imposed tough sanctions on Pakistan in 1979 but Reagan had to grudgingly remove them in mid 1981 after the US needed Pakistan to serve its global ambitions. Pakistan was lured to do its bidding by offering $3.5 billion economic and military assistance in return for Pakistan agreeing to fight a proxy war in Afghanistan against Soviet troops.

Promotion of Jihadi culture at the behest of USA in 1980s proved too costly for Pakistan since it is suffering from its after affects to this date. Radicalization of the society, Kalashnikov and drug cultures and sectarian war in the 1990s was a result of Afghan Jihad. After suffering so much in fighting the US dictated proxy war, Pakistan was penalized by USA by imposing draconian Pressler Amendment. Stoppage of economic assistance led to accumulation of foreign debt to $38 billion and became one of the causes of democratic era failing to deliver. Pakistan was further penalized after it carried out nuclear tests in retaliation to Indian tests in May 1998 by imposing additional sanctions. These sanctions remained operative till as late as September 2001 and got removed only when Gen Musharraf agreed to all the seven demands of USA . From that time onwards, Pakistan has gone through the most traumatic period of its history since it is neither treated as an ally nor an enemy but is viewed by Washington with distrust. There have been ups and downs in Pak-US relations mainly because of discriminatory attitude of Washington . After a decade of so-called friendship, the relations have become highly tenuous and reached a breaking point.

Strains had started to appear in early 2010 over the issue of North Waziristan (NW) operation. Obama's Administration didn't like Pakistan resisting US demand which was considered necessary to control growing insurgency in Afghanistan . Much hyped Kandahar operation was delayed several times on account of this excuse. Pakistan couldn't afford to launch another major military operation in NW soon after Swat and South Waziristan (SW) operations due to multiple compulsions.

Alleged presence of top leadership of Al-Qaeda and Haqqani group in NW and Afghan Shura in Quetta region discomfited USA . Hafiz Gul Bahadur led Uthmanzi Wazir tribe in NW and Maulvi Nazir led Ahmadzai Wazir tribe in SW together with Haqqani network seen as friendly to Pakistan and involved in supporting Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan added to mounting strains. Restrictions imposed on American citizens visiting Pakistan in various capacities by Pakistan on the advice of ISI angered Washington and it threatened Islamabad that unless visa policy was relaxed, Kerry Lugar Bill (KLB) aid will be disrupted.

Pakistan at the receiving end had its own list of grievances. These included RAW-RAAM conducted covert war from Afghan soil under the nose of US military-NATO-CIA; lack of counter terror equipment and close support fund; negative propaganda by US media and think tanks to undermine its premier institutions; America's visible tilt towards India; growing presence of India in Afghanistan under the patronage of Washington; KLB attached with stringent conditions detrimental to Pakistan's security interests; secret entry of Blackwater elements and CIA operatives into Pakistan under guise of security contractors and businessmen. Intensification of drone strikes by CIA in Waziristan became another contentious issue. Pakistan also had serious reservations over American contention that local militants and not India were the existential threat to integrity of Pakistan ; and over liberal up gradation of Indian military and nuclear capabilities harmful to Pakistan 's national security. Pakistan rightly grudged that instead of compensating it for rendering so much of sacrifices in war on terror, the US subjected it to unjustified pressures and slander and at the same time lavishly rewarded its arch rival India which has no role in war on terror except for covert war to fuel terrorism and destabilize Pakistan .

Stark difference in attitudes of US officials visiting Islamabad and Delhi also highlighted America 's bias. They sympathetically listen to India 's preposterous claim that she is the biggest victim of terrorism and that Lashkar-e-Taiba associated with ISI was principally responsible for most terror attacks in India , but paid no attention to Pakistan 's security concerns.

It was under such simmering tensions that Raymond Davis incident occurred in January 2011 which led to a clash between ISI and CIA and in turn made Pak-US relations rocky. Davis was released without interrogation, but Pakistan was not forgiven for committing an unpardonable offence. Leon Panetta felt insulted and humiliated and came out with 'Get Geronimo' plan to teach Pakistan a hard lesson. The two lethal stabs delivered on 5/2 and on 22/2 have devastated Pakistan . Notwithstanding cosmetic damage control efforts made by John Kerry, Mullen and Clinton, the injury and trauma caused is too deep-rooted and time alone together with some pro-active honest acts by Washington might heal the wounds.

Although Pak-US relations have reached a make or break point, but it seems the US has no intention to repair the relations since it strongly feels it has finally succeeded in nailing Pakistan and will now be able to bend it. This is evident from continuance of drone war, media war, 'do-more mantra' and threatening tone. It is time to get out of US embrace and charter an independent foreign policy.

—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.








Pakistan has gone through a crisis situation ever since of its emergence in 1947. There have been frequent eruption of the crises, indeed, in a series; one after the other. Despite its short life, enormity of threats, incoherent political system and the glaring issue of the good governance, comparing with many of international actors (nation states), the Pakistani nation has to be appreciated for managing these crises most efficiently. As one goes deeper into the history of nations, it would clear that, a crisis situation is bound to come from time to time. However, "the only way to prevent the same type of crisis from happening again is to learn from it, to debrief after the crisis is over, to understand the root causes behind the crisis, and to take steps to keep them from recurring." But the most significant factor is that how the nation and national leadership behave after the occurrence of a crisis. Do they lose control or remain cool to prudently respond to the situation as warranted.

Sequel to the unfortunate incident of Abbotabad raid to haunt OBL by United States Navy SEALs and later attacking PNS Mehran in Karachi, the nation is facing another crisis situation, as a desperate nation. Unlike previous natural crisis, these manmade crises situation has put the nation in an extraordinary situation and indeed in disarray. Indeed, the nation felt betrayed from a coalition partner, for whom, Pakistan has done a lot in its entire history. It is because of US that, today we have internal instability, weapon culture, falling apart social filament and indeed now a sense of insecurity. In the garb of so-called global war on terror, Pakistani armed forces and in fact, the nation as a whole is at war since last one decade.

Sabotaging the sovereignty of Pakistan has put a question mark on the future role of US and many other regional and global actors, who got an encouragement after this incident. Furthermore, as if the incident was not enough, there started a planned propaganda to de-fame Pakistani armed forces and its intelligence apparatus, especially the ISI by US and Western media. In making the accusations, US State Department and Pentagon joined hands and badly polluted the global environment against Pakistan. Regretfully, at domestic level, some of the Pakistani apparatus took a lead from the US and became its partner in this malevolence de-faming campaign as part of US deliberate agenda. Armed Forces of Pakistan and its premium intelligence agency, ISI have been targeted repeatedly.

All this deliberate campaign is aimed at creating a wedge between the masses and armed forces. So much so, some of individual acts by personnel of Frontier Corps Balochistan and Pakistan Rangers Sindh were attributed to a planned activity or towards the mindset of the security forces.

This all is being done to create a spirit of discontentment in the nation about its armed forces. Indeed, traditionally, the nation always looked back towards it armed forces at the time of crisis and by the grace of Allah Almighty, they were never disappointed. On their part, the armed forces strongly believed that, their real strength is the people of Pakistan, who supported their action in meeting the crises situation; may be the manmade or natural. A careful and insightful analysis would lead us that, over the years, the global and regional actors have identified the real strength of Pakistan; the armed forces backed by the masses. These national entities while acting jointly have been pulling the nation, out of crises situation so far, which disappointed the adversaries repeatedly. The conclusion of this insightful analysis would bring us on to the format of this new crisis situation, where the nation is compelled to rise against its armed forces. Under the prevalent situation, not the armed forces alone, but, the nation as a whole is really in a state of crisis; thus calling for the Crisis management. The crisis management calls for a united efforts by the armed forces as well as the nation, as in the past. It is a discipline within the broader context of management consisting of skills and techniques required to identify, assess, understand, and cope with a serious situation, especially from the moment it first occurs to the point that recovery procedures start. Therefore, crisis management calls for long-term well thought strategy for a successful pulling out, where nation and its armed forces swim together. In this entire exercise, the role of leadership would be very vital. The current crisis situation indeed, calls for identification of the real motives behind the scene. Apart from the recognition of the motive, the actors and their respective areas of interests are to be seen in totality. Concrete evidences have to be studied before reaching on to the conclusions and moving ahead. No decision should be taken in haste nor there a need for a blame game. The leadership must remain cool and calm while making assessment and strategizing for the future. Indeed, remaining calm allows you to consider your options before you make decisions, even if decisions need to make quickly. The people of Pakistan are to be taken on board all the time for their trust on institutions. Pakistani media has to play a very responsible role in overcoming the crisis of this magnitude. It must rebuff the global de-formation campaign, rather becoming their part.

In dealing with the crisis, we need to be persistent. Surviving a crisis means you need to keep moving forward. The idea is crawl if you can't walk and walk if you can't run, but whatever you do, keep moving and do not give up. Flexibility and firmness, rather rigidity, would facilitate the crisis management process. In this process, we have to depend upon our own resources or those very very dependable friends; who have stood the test and trial of history. Indeed, the real strength; the people of Pakistan has to be depended upon more than any global actor. While remaining patient, the golden principle of crises management is to be positive and optimistic. This is sometimes the toughest thing to do in a crisis. We have to keep believing that, there really is a light at the end of tunnel and we will get there. Let us join hands to defeat the conspiracies, being hatched to destabilize and disintegrate the only ideological Muslim country having the nuclear power and strong armed forces.

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.







Pakistan has gone through a crisis situation ever since of its emergence in 1947. There have been frequent eruption of the crises, indeed, in a series; one after the other. Despite its short life, enormity of threats, incoherent political system and the glaring issue of the good governance, comparing with many of international actors (nation states), the Pakistani nation has to be appreciated for managing these crises most efficiently. As one goes deeper into the history of nations, it would clear that, a crisis situation is bound to come from time to time. However, "the only way to prevent the same type of crisis from happening again is to learn from it, to debrief after the crisis is over, to understand the root causes behind the crisis, and to take steps to keep them from recurring." But the most significant factor is that how the nation and national leadership behave after the occurrence of a crisis. Do they lose control or remain cool to prudently respond to the situation as warranted.

Sequel to the unfortunate incident of Abbotabad raid to haunt OBL by United States Navy SEALs and later attacking PNS Mehran in Karachi, the nation is facing another crisis situation, as a desperate nation. Unlike previous natural crisis, these manmade crises situation has put the nation in an extraordinary situation and indeed in disarray. Indeed, the nation felt betrayed from a coalition partner, for whom, Pakistan has done a lot in its entire history. It is because of US that, today we have internal instability, weapon culture, falling apart social filament and indeed now a sense of insecurity. In the garb of so-called global war on terror, Pakistani armed forces and in fact, the nation as a whole is at war since last one decade.

Sabotaging the sovereignty of Pakistan has put a question mark on the future role of US and many other regional and global actors, who got an encouragement after this incident. Furthermore, as if the incident was not enough, there started a planned propaganda to de-fame Pakistani armed forces and its intelligence apparatus, especially the ISI by US and Western media. In making the accusations, US State Department and Pentagon joined hands and badly polluted the global environment against Pakistan. Regretfully, at domestic level, some of the Pakistani apparatus took a lead from the US and became its partner in this malevolence de-faming campaign as part of US deliberate agenda. Armed Forces of Pakistan and its premium intelligence agency, ISI have been targeted repeatedly.

All this deliberate campaign is aimed at creating a wedge between the masses and armed forces. So much so, some of individual acts by personnel of Frontier Corps Balochistan and Pakistan Rangers Sindh were attributed to a planned activity or towards the mindset of the security forces.

This all is being done to create a spirit of discontentment in the nation about its armed forces. Indeed, traditionally, the nation always looked back towards it armed forces at the time of crisis and by the grace of Allah Almighty, they were never disappointed. On their part, the armed forces strongly believed that, their real strength is the people of Pakistan, who supported their action in meeting the crises situation; may be the manmade or natural. A careful and insightful analysis would lead us that, over the years, the global and regional actors have identified the real strength of Pakistan; the armed forces backed by the masses. These national entities while acting jointly have been pulling the nation, out of crises situation so far, which disappointed the adversaries repeatedly. The conclusion of this insightful analysis would bring us on to the format of this new crisis situation, where the nation is compelled to rise against its armed forces. Under the prevalent situation, not the armed forces alone, but, the nation as a whole is really in a state of crisis; thus calling for the Crisis management. The crisis management calls for a united efforts by the armed forces as well as the nation, as in the past. It is a discipline within the broader context of management consisting of skills and techniques required to identify, assess, understand, and cope with a serious situation, especially from the moment it first occurs to the point that recovery procedures start. Therefore, crisis management calls for long-term well thought strategy for a successful pulling out, where nation and its armed forces swim together. In this entire exercise, the role of leadership would be very vital. The current crisis situation indeed, calls for identification of the real motives behind the scene. Apart from the recognition of the motive, the actors and their respective areas of interests are to be seen in totality. Concrete evidences have to be studied before reaching on to the conclusions and moving ahead. No decision should be taken in haste nor there a need for a blame game. The leadership must remain cool and calm while making assessment and strategizing for the future. Indeed, remaining calm allows you to consider your options before you make decisions, even if decisions need to make quickly. The people of Pakistan are to be taken on board all the time for their trust on institutions. Pakistani media has to play a very responsible role in overcoming the crisis of this magnitude. It must rebuff the global de-formation campaign, rather becoming their part.

In dealing with the crisis, we need to be persistent. Surviving a crisis means you need to keep moving forward. The idea is crawl if you can't walk and walk if you can't run, but whatever you do, keep moving and do not give up. Flexibility and firmness, rather rigidity, would facilitate the crisis management process. In this process, we have to depend upon our own resources or those very very dependable friends; who have stood the test and trial of history. Indeed, the real strength; the people of Pakistan has to be depended upon more than any global actor. While remaining patient, the golden principle of crises management is to be positive and optimistic. This is sometimes the toughest thing to do in a crisis. We have to keep believing that, there really is a light at the end of tunnel and we will get there. Let us join hands to defeat the conspiracies, being hatched to destabilize and disintegrate the only ideological Muslim country having the nuclear power and strong armed forces.

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.








President Obama's strategy for gradually ending the war in Afghanistan relies heavily on peace talks with the Taliban. But those talks have hardly begun, and even some administration officials acknowledge that the odds of success are slim.

Among the many reasons: It is not clear that the Taliban want to negotiate, or who even represents the organisation. The Afghan president has distanced himself from the talks, raising doubts about whether the country's leaders would be open to a reprise of Taliban involvement in the political process.

And Pakistan, the vital third leg of negotiations because of its ties to the Taliban, is increasingly a wild card because of recent strains with the United States over the drone assaults on terrorist suspects inside Pakistan. Mr. Obama told soldiers at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Thursday that "because of you, there are signs that the Taliban may be interested in figuring out a political settlement, which ultimately is going to be critical for consolidating that country." So far, however, those signs are hazy at best, according to officials and diplomats. American officials have participated in three meetings this year with an English-speaking Afghan who was once a personal assistant to the renegade Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. Those meetings, in Germany and Qatar, appear to have accomplished little more than confirming the man's identity, and perhaps not even that, according to officials familiar with the talks, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss the secret talks.

Adding another layer of complexity to the already murky effort, the English-speaking Afghan, Tayeb Agha, who was an aide to Mullah Omar during the Taliban's rise to power, was arrested by Pakistani authorities last year and then released, leading American officials to assume that he is negotiating on behalf of the Taliban with the blessings of the Pakistani authorities. "We're at that stage where it's very confusing," one senior administration official said, adding that the meetings could not even be called "talks" at this stage, let alone "peace talks."

The wariness in part reflects the fact that the administration has been badly embarrassed by previous diplomatic efforts. An Afghan was given substantial sums of cash last year and was flown on a NATO aircraft in the belief that he was a Taliban envoy, but he turned out to be an impostor.

The administration has imposed significant conditions for any reconciliation with the Taliban. The movement's leaders must disarm, sever ties with Al Qaeda's remaining leadership, recognise the government in Afghanistan and accept the country's Constitution, including basic rights for women, who were severely repressed when the Taliban governed the country in the 1990s. It is uncertain whether the Taliban or even parts of its leadership are willing to accept such conditions, and many experts are deeply sceptical. "There really can't be a deal on the core red lines, because that's what red lines are," Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said of the conditions, using the diplomatic term for non-negotiable demands.

The diplomatic effort is being led by Marc Grossman, who replaced Richard C. Holbrooke as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan after Mr. Holbrooke died in December. Mr. Grossman has not been directly involved in the initial contacts with the Taliban envoy. That work has been handled by Frank Ruggiero, a Grossman deputy, and Jeff W. Hayes, an official of the Defence Intelligence Agency who is working on the National Security Council, one official said.

Mr. Grossman has participated in two meetings with senior officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The first, coincidentally, took place in Pakistan the day after the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a villa in Abbottabad, Pakistan. That raid badly soured relations between the United States and Pakistan, threatening to turn the initial diplomatic forays with the Taliban into collateral damage. Pakistan was once the Taliban's patron, and it maintained links to the organisation's leaders even after the government in Afghanistan was toppled in 2001.

Mr. Grossman; Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin of Afghanistan; and Pakistan's foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, have since met again in Kabul and are scheduled to do so again next week. Another step to entice the Taliban into the political process occurred last week when the United States won approval at the United Nations Security Council for a resolution that separated the Taliban from Al Qaeda on the terrorist blacklist that was the basis for international sanctions after 9/11. The resolution creates a process for removing Taliban leaders from the list, including some who have already broken with the movement and joined President Hamid Karzai's government. American officials hope the prospect of being freed from sanctions will encourage others to abandon the insurgency.

Some have questioned the wisdom of the administration's new strategy. "I don't think it's productive to talk to the Taliban to begin with because they have every incentive to have us leave," said Vali Nasr, a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University who was an assistant to Mr. Holbrooke as special envoy to the region until earlier this year. Another question, he and others noted, is Mr. Karzai's commitment to the process. Last week, he acknowledged the talks but said the United States, not his government, was leading them. He went on to angrily criticise the international military operation that brought him to power. —Courtesy: The New York Times








THAT the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan announced by Barack Obama is a considerable gamble is clear from the publicly expressed disquiet, extraordinary in itself, articulated by his two most senior military advisers.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, has said the cuts incur more risk than he was originally prepared to accept. More force for more time would be the safer option, he says. General David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, has disclosed the drawdown is more aggressive than he recommended and has warned it increases the risk the military will not achieve its goals. But he has conceded, as Commander-in-Chief, Mr Obama has to take account of considerations beyond the purely military.

By any yardstick, those are hardly ringing endorsements of the decision to pull out 10,000 troops by the end of this year and 23,000 more by September next year, conveniently in time for the presidential election. Nor is a statement by retiring Defence Secretary Robert Gates who, recalling events 20 years ago when the US ended its support for the mujahideen after they forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan, noted that Washington walked away satisfied it had secured US national interests. 9/11 showed just what a tragic miscalculation that was.

Mr Obama insists he has ordered the drawdown from a position of strength after the surge in troop numbers and intensified drone attacks achieved major successes, most notably in killing Osama bin Laden. Given Admiral Mullen's and General Petraeus's views, however, it is hard to believe other than Mr Obama has now embarked on a political rather than a military strategy, seeking to maintain the arbitrary deadline he set for himself when he authorised the surge, and trying to gain political advantage ahead of the election. Certainly, Mr Obama has done no favours to his NATO and other allies, including Australia. Senator John McCain has warned the cuts are likely to have a domino effect, with leaders of coalition countries having a hard time arguing their troops should stay while the Americans are going. To her credit, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has insisted there will be no decrease in Australia's troop levels, pointing out our 1500 Diggers still have work to complete ahead of the scheduled 2014 handover.

Coalition countries less resolute than Australia may find it harder to hold the line and in that lies the real danger of Mr Obama's announcement. After the drawdown, 68,000 US troops will remain until 2014. But the likelihood is the Taliban, just when they have shown signs of a willingness to talk, won't see Mr Obama's announcement as one coming from a position of strength but, rather, one that exposes his political weakness and vulnerability. There is much unfinished business in Afghanistan. Even 2014, given the gross corruption and incompetence of the Karzai government in Kabul, looks an extremely optimistic date. And what about Pakistan with its huge arsenal of nuclear warheads, which remains, as it has always been, the real target of al-Qaida, and would be a sitting duck if the terrorists were again to establish themselves in Afghanistan?

It's always tempting for political leaders in search of votes to take the course of political expediency. Mr Obama, despite the unpopularity of the war in Afghanistan, should avoid doing that. There's far too much at stake.






THAT the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan announced by Barack Obama is a considerable gamble is clear from the publicly expressed disquiet, extraordinary in itself, articulated by his two most senior military advisers.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, has said the cuts incur more risk than he was originally prepared to accept. More force for more time would be the safer option, he says. General David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, has disclosed the drawdown is more aggressive than he recommended and has warned it increases the risk the military will not achieve its goals. But he has conceded, as Commander-in-Chief, Mr Obama has to take account of considerations beyond the purely military.

By any yardstick, those are hardly ringing endorsements of the decision to pull out 10,000 troops by the end of this year and 23,000 more by September next year, conveniently in time for the presidential election. Nor is a statement by retiring Defence Secretary Robert Gates who, recalling events 20 years ago when the US ended its support for the mujahideen after they forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan, noted that Washington walked away satisfied it had secured US national interests. 9/11 showed just what a tragic miscalculation that was.

Mr Obama insists he has ordered the drawdown from a position of strength after the surge in troop numbers and intensified drone attacks achieved major successes, most notably in killing Osama bin Laden. Given Admiral Mullen's and General Petraeus's views, however, it is hard to believe other than Mr Obama has now embarked on a political rather than a military strategy, seeking to maintain the arbitrary deadline he set for himself when he authorised the surge, and trying to gain political advantage ahead of the election. Certainly, Mr Obama has done no favours to his NATO and other allies, including Australia. Senator John McCain has warned the cuts are likely to have a domino effect, with leaders of coalition countries having a hard time arguing their troops should stay while the Americans are going. To her credit, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has insisted there will be no decrease in Australia's troop levels, pointing out our 1500 Diggers still have work to complete ahead of the scheduled 2014 handover.

Coalition countries less resolute than Australia may find it harder to hold the line and in that lies the real danger of Mr Obama's announcement. After the drawdown, 68,000 US troops will remain until 2014. But the likelihood is the Taliban, just when they have shown signs of a willingness to talk, won't see Mr Obama's announcement as one coming from a position of strength but, rather, one that exposes his political weakness and vulnerability. There is much unfinished business in Afghanistan. Even 2014, given the gross corruption and incompetence of the Karzai government in Kabul, looks an extremely optimistic date. And what about Pakistan with its huge arsenal of nuclear warheads, which remains, as it has always been, the real target of al-Qaida, and would be a sitting duck if the terrorists were again to establish themselves in Afghanistan?

It's always tempting for political leaders in search of votes to take the course of political expediency. Mr Obama, despite the unpopularity of the war in Afghanistan, should avoid doing that. There's far too much at stake.





ADDRESSING the nation for the first time as Prime Minister a year ago yesterday, Julia Gillard paid homage to former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating "as the architects of today's modern prosperity".

The trouble for Ms Gillard and her party is that, while they have paid lip service to the legacy of those Hawke-Keating years, they don't seem to have grasped the essence of that success. Nor have they proposed anything to emulate those achievements. Rather, we can now see that in an historic setback for the Labor cause and the nation, the Rudd-Gillard years have been a repudiation of the Hawke-Keating model.

The Labor giants of the 1980s and 90s modernised the economy by tackling overdue reforms such as reducing tariffs, floating the dollar, opening up the banking sector, introducing compulsory superannuation, privatising government assets and pursuing productivity through enterprise bargaining. The Labor governments during that period worked

co-operatively with the union movement through seven national "Accord" agreements to control wages, boost productivity and limit inflation. This corporate model of government was far from perfect, but it delivered a clear message and benefits to working families -- it was a compact that promised high levels of employment and some real wages growth in return for inflicting the discomforts of reform and restraint.

Hawke and Keating understood the aspirations of the mainstream, and rather than lecture voters about what was good for them they flattered the public and involved them in the process. Throughout that period Labor accepted and adopted a market economics approach that saw value in encouraging growth in the economy in order to provide greater opportunities for the least fortunate. Despite the public's high expectations being dashed in the painful recession of the early 90s, Labor's model not only succeeded for over a decade, but also entrenched reforms that benefit the nation to this day. The Coalition under John Howard supported those reforms and then sought to build on them for another decade, particularly through tax reform, prudent finance industry oversight and industrial deregulation. In this sense, Australia benefited from more than two decades of economic policy continuum, through boom and bust, and under Labor and Liberal.

In 2007, Kevin Rudd came to power promising economic conservatism, but he abandoned it in a flash when confronted with the global financial crisis. His infamous essay of January 2009 declared "the great neo-liberal experiment of the last 30 years has failed" and "it falls to social democracy to prevent liberal capitalism from cannibalising itself". When Ms Gillard deposed him, she became not only the nation's first female prime minister, but also the first from Labor's left faction. So, for the first time in the post-war period, we have a Labor government that is not controlled by the pragmatism of the NSW Right. The result is a government that appeals less to the mainstream than it does to the progressive activism of GetUp! and the Greens, and that has allowed its economic management to drift towards the outmoded central planning of big government, which not so long ago was proudly described as socialism.

The policy implications of the Rudd-Gillard era have been profound, and not altogether for the good. Labor has re-regulated the labour market so that it is more rigid than during the Hawke-Keating years. Decades after Labor started the process of privatising government enterprises, Gillard Labor is building a government telecommunications monopoly and actually buying back some of the privatised assets. We have seen massive amounts of public money wasted on unproductive infrastructure in schools and subsidising home insulation.

With no true reform agenda to speak of, Ms Gillard promotes two major new taxes, on mining and carbon emissions, as reform. Properly implemented, through consultation with the states and the industry, a profits-based tax on mining could help to share the benefits of the resources boom. But the issue has been poorly handled and remains unresolved. While this newspaper supports a market mechanism to reduce carbon emissions, Ms Gillard's tax breaks a core election promise. And, crucially, the Prime Minister has failed to convince the electorate that Australia is not moving ahead of our main trading partners, in particular the US and China, thereby penalising ourselves economically for no tangible global emissions gain.

The Weekend Australian worries that for inspiration the Gillard government looks more to the interventionist economies of northern Europe than the practical politics of Hawke and Keating. A year after the new Prime Minister said the government had lost its way, it is becoming clear that, in historical terms, the Labor movement has lost its way. What is needed is a reconnection to the aspirations of the mainstream and a productivity-based economic reform agenda -- so that voters can be taken into the government's confidence and promised some future reward for reforms delivered.

On that first day, Prime Minister Gillard said: "There will be some days I delight you, there may be some days I disappoint you." Sadly for Labor and the nation there have been too few of the former and too many of the latter.








AT A time when shambolic retreats by the government and opportunistic negativity by the opposition are the stuff of federal politics, the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, deserves marks for persistence in his campaign to develop a national broadband network. The deals he has brokered between NBN Co and Telstra and Optus, signed last week, have yet to be approved by edgy shareholders and the competition regulator. But one major obstacle to this huge project progressing over the next decade from pipe dream to reality has been overcome.

Getting an agreement between Telstra and NBN Co was always going to be expensive and complicated - not least because the Howard government made a grave mistake in privatising Telstra without first splitting it into separate retail and wholesale operations. There are rational reasons why - given Australia's continental size and relatively sparse population - it makes sense for the costly physical telecommunications infrastructure to be provided by a government monopoly. This does not apply to retail businesses, which should pay to use the information highway and then compete for customers.

Under the Telstra-NBN Co deal, things will not be so clear cut, at least not yet. Telstra will receive $11 billion to progressively close down its ageing copper wire network and pass on to NBN Co those of its customers who wish to retain landlines. Those happy to rely on mobile services need not sign up. Telstra will also upgrade (cost about $2 billion), and then lease to NBN Co its existing underground pipes, access ducts and space in its exchange buildings. NBN Co will gradually roll out its much faster fibre lines, using those existing structures.

It sounds dandy: using Telstra's pathways should make the roll-out quicker and less expensive and wasteful than constructing a new nationwide system from scratch. Politically, the deal, which includes compensation for Telstra if the project is abandoned or curtailed by an incoming government, will make it harder for the Coalition to carry out its threat to do just that.

Yet initial reaction from investors has been unfavourable. Understandably. This government has earned a reputation for coupling grand designs with botched implementation. Nor will the public have been reassured by the controversy over the NBN Co chief, Mike Quigley, who previously presided over Alcatel, a telecommunications giant heavily fined by the US government over corruption charges. While we accept Quigley's assurances that he did not know what some subordinates and consultants were up to, that is hardly a recommendation for the job of overseeing Australia's largest infrastructure project.






WHEN China released the prominent artist Ai Weiwei last week, his weight had diminished after almost three months' detention. So had his propensity for speaking out on China's disregard for personal liberties. The man who once said ''my political activism is part of my life as an artist'' told reporters he could say nothing after his release. With intimidation clouding him, the Chinese government is fooling no one that it has set Ai fully free.

Ai is a symbol of what human rights groups say is the biggest crackdown on dissent in China in a decade. His blog was censored two years ago. He is now banned from using Twitter, on which he linked with 89,000 followers until his arrest on April 3. Exhibitions of his works in Western capitals can still speak for him: his Sunflower Seeds exhibition, with its message of individuality hiding amid conformity, finished recently at the Tate Modern in London.

There is a grim irony in China's treatment of a man perhaps best known for helping design the ''bird's nest'' stadium at the

2008 Beijing Olympics. That event supposedly signalled China's coming of age in a world where barriers had fallen. But in an interview last year, Ai said the Olympics were China's ''fake smile'' to the world: China was really limiting ''anyone who wanted to raise a voice''.

He said he had totally lost hope in the government's capacity for tolerance, and that the best choice for young Chinese would be to leave the country.

People less outspoken than Ai are being locked up: lawyers, activists and bloggers. The clampdown could be related to the Communist Party's unease about looming changes in its top ranks. More likely, it has been sparked by anxieties about people's movements such as the Arab Spring breaking out in China. The official explanation for Ai's arrest, the ''economic crime'' of failing to pay taxes, stretches belief. His release, like that yesterday of another prominent dissident, Hu Jia, was uncannily timed as Wen Jiabao, China's Prime Minister, embarks on a visit to Hungary, Britain and Germany, where human rights questions will be raised.

A country of China's size and complexity should be able to cope with voices from respected citizens such as Ai instead of turning them into heretics. Such behaviour does China's cause no good as a global citizen. China owes its astonishing economic success largely to its trading links with the wider world. But countries such as Australia that now depend on China for their own prosperity will not stay silent about China's human rights record. Nor should they.






Who will keep an ageing nation going if not migrants?

ALL Australians pay for populist policy that makes no economic sense. Amid last year's election-driven populism on the conflated issues of asylum seekers, immigration and security, both sides of politics closed their eyes to the consequences. With the next mining boom under way, boosting demand for labour as unemployment fell towards 5 per cent, the economic implications of cutting immigration were simply ignored.

Almost a year on, net immigration - which began falling well before the election's ''big Australia'' hysteria - has plunged to the lowest level in years. Last year's total, 171,000, is almost half the 2008 peak of 316,000. That means the opposition's demand to limit the intake to 170,000 people a year was redundant as well as economically foolish. The government, which cut skilled migration places last year, has at least reversed that decision.

Employers remain unimpressed and with good reason. The Reserve Bank sees the economy as being close to full employment, with a jobless rate of 4.9 per cent. Australia's problem is not out-of-control immigration growth but the opposite. The net arrival rate, according to the Immigration Department, is down to about 160,000 a year. The Minister, Chris Bowen, has forecast intakes of 170,000 to 180,000 for the next few years.

Having the lowest population growth since 2005 feeds into multiple problems: labour and skill shortages, wage inflation and interest rate pressures, and, in time, a budget imbalance between income taxes and pensions. This month's Reserve Bank board minutes revealed concern about wage inflation as the mining boom puts pressure on employers to ''compete aggressively for labour''. The private wage price index is already 3.9 per cent a year, greater than the average for the past 14 years. Were it not for external concerns, the central bank is likely to have lifted interest rates to keep demand pressures in check.

It is doubtful that Australians who resent immigration would happily accept higher inflation and interest rates as the consequences. Yet, short of shutting down the mining boom, immigration is the only variable that can readily increase the supply of labour and skills to ease inflationary constraints on the economy. Natural growth won't achieve this. The number of deaths is rising (up 2 per cent last year) and births are steady.

The reliance on immigration has been heightened by another development: the first baby boomer retirements. As this population bulge exits the workforce, Australia's ageing population faces a shortfall of replacements. The budgetary pressure is twofold: fewer taxpayers and more pensioners, as most of the baby boomers will not be self-funded retirees. Compulsory superannuation came too late to change that.

Immigration offers a way out, but even if Australians were welcoming of more migrants, the global contest for skilled labour leaves little room for policy complacency. More people are leaving Australia permanently to try their luck overseas. The numbers have risen for five years. In the past six months, 138,400 left, on track to top last year's record 260,900 permanent departures. Seemingly oblivious to such trends are those who would restrict entry only to the ''right kind'' of migrants who ''fit in'' - the traditional European arrivals. However, a prosperous Europe means the flow slowed to a trickle decades ago.

Policymakers were forced to open the doors to migration from Asia, the source of 1 million arrivals in the past decade. That is about a third of the growth in population and labour skills. Australia now has more than 2 million Asian-born residents.

The contemporary transformation of Australia may not sit easily with Australians who wish to live in the past, but if they decided policy, the economic results would be dire. Our political leaders, by giving ground to anti-immigration sentiment, have added to the problems that the demands of a growing economy create.






LESS than a week after an Indonesian court confirmed, for a third time, the death sentence imposed on Australian drug smuggler Andrew Chan, an Indonesian woman who had been working as a maid in Saudi Arabia was beheaded by that state, having been found guilty of murdering her employer. The beheading coincides with Indonesia's increasing anger over the way its citizens working in the Gulf countries have been mistreated by their employers.

Following the execution, Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia and announced a ban, from August, on Indonesian migrant workers going to that country. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was particularly angry that his government had not received warning that the punishment was imminent. He claimed that the Saudi government, ''by carrying out the death sentence broke the norms and manners of international relations''.

Dr Yudhoyono was treading a fine line here, carefully distancing himself from criticism of the death penalty per se and so avoiding charges of hypocrisy. In a television interview, he said: ''Law is supreme above everything else. I turn down almost all requests of pardon and acquittal from the death sentence.''

Law may be supreme, but it can also be wrong. Capital punishment is abhorrent and barbaric; it denies all possibility of redemption and gives supremacy to the Old Testament philosophy of ''an eye for an eye''. There should be no place for state-sanctioned killing as punishment in the modern world, yet Amnesty International has reported that last year 67 countries imposed death sentences and 23, including the United States, carried out executions.

Australia has long opposed the death penalty and annually co-sponsors a resolution of the UN Human Rights Commission that calls for all nations to abolish this punishment. Yet our region still accounts for the highest number of executions in the world, largely because China puts to death thousands of people each year - more than the rest of the world combined.

There are, however, reasons for optimism. Each year more countries ban capital punishment - the latest being the African state of Gabon - and change seems likely in Indonesia. It is encouraging that, while our nearest neighbour remains resolute about its right to impose the death penalty and has more than 100 people on death row, there have been no executions in that country since the deaths of Bali bombers Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra in 2008.









The need for reform and a more cost-effective system is undisputed – but careful analysis must come before savings

Government ministers, notoriously, have no time to think about the way they do their jobs. That is why the excellent Institute for Government, mobilising the afterthoughts of former ministers, does the thinking for them. This month they have been discussing how fast and how far reform should go – and the case for a touch on the foot brake in time to avoid the perils of an emergency stop. Members of the coalition should make time to read it. There is still time to slow down.

The latest political row erupted over Ken Clarke's justice policy, with a bit part for defence after David Cameron suggested the top brass should do less talking and more fighting. The strategic security and defence review may be a case apart. But the impact of the cuts in legal aid are a powerful argument for a different way of doing government. It is not only the short-termism of slashing free legal advice. Take family justice. It is now being examined for the eighth time since the Children Act 1989, but still no one knows what cases involving family matters – from divorce to care proceedings – actually cost the public purse. This week, consultation on the interim report of the latest review ended: the report is due in the autumn. But Mr Clarke's legal aid reforms, cutting £350m out of the budget, pre-empt careful analysis.

The need for reform, and for a more cost-effective system, is undisputed. The family justice review speculates that the cost of the entire groaning, overloaded family court system – only likely to be exacerbated after Thursday's report into the death of another toddler, Ryan Lovell Hancox – could be in the region of £1.5bn. Care and other public law cases take nearly £1bn of that, but the rest is the cost of so-called private law – that is, cases arising from divorce. Unless violence is involved, these will no longer be eligible for legal aid and costs will have to be met by the people involved. Professionals acknowledge that too many of these cases come to court, and welcome the proposal for greater use of mediation. But one result, as the justice ministry knows, will be even more litigants in person who, it accepted this week, tend to take more court time and come out worse than if they were represented. Meanwhile children, whose interests are supposed to be at the heart of the process, endure delay and inconsistency and, according to the children's commissioner, go through an unavoidably distressing process only to be left feeling ignored and confused. This is a system failing all the way from the back office, where the family justice review found "an almost unbelievable" lack of management information, to the children at the sharp end. Change is needed. There are savings to be made. In that order.





The catastrophe in Greece is merely the starkest incidence of long-running flaws within the eurozone

Discussions of the Greek debacle commonly assume that it's a disaster made in Greece that now requires the rest of the Europe to step in and sort it out. Wrong: this is a crisis of the eurozone, in which Athens is not a leading actor but merely a stage set. The catastrophe that has been unfolding in Greece over the past year is merely the starkest incidence of long-running flaws within the eurozone. The disaster that European and IMF officials are currently struggling with in Athens naturally has particularly Greek idiosyncrasies – a tax system leakier than a sieve, for one. Still, were this strictly a Greek problem, afflicting an economy worth around only 3% of the eurozone's GDP, it could be contained with some adept statecraft (admittedly a quality rather lacking among the current crop of European ministers). But this meltdown goes wider, as a glance at Dublin, Lisbon or even Madrid will confirm: it is the inevitable product of the design faults of European monetary union. Unless those flaws are fixed, the single currency will remain under existential threat.

Throughout the 90s, as Jacques Delors was brokering the deals that created the euro, the discussion among policymakers centred around whether such a disparate bunch of economies really could hang together. This was a natural anxiety, to which the Eurocrats' answer was the Maastricht treaty's economic entry criteria. Not only were those rules flouted – Belgium and Italy were allowed in, despite breaking the laws over debt – they were also stupidly mechanical (why allow in countries with a deficit of 3% of GDP, but not 3.1%?). They were also deflationary, forcing countries to keep down borrowing, and making no mention of economic growth. The same went for the European Central Bank, whose job is to keep inflation below 2%, even amid massive recession.

The result is that eurozone governments from Dublin to Tallinn have one monetary policy alongside 17 different fiscal policies and 17 different banking systems. This was always a nonsense, although it took a financial crisis to expose it as such. As governments have been forced to prop up their banks, broke European states like Greece have had to rely on the ECB and other institutions to keep their financial systems afloat. That transfer of cash from "core" Europe to the periphery is a baby step towards a common fiscal policy. There is also the European stability mechanism, which will allow eurozone states to bail out a stricken neighbour much more easily – again a small move towards a common European treasury. The details of these policies barely get reported, let alone debated – and they smack of a new economic order being built brick by brick without consulting the electorates who will ultimately have to stump up for it. But if the euro is to survive with all 17 members, and as a rival to the dollar, ministers will have to think up more such policies, such as issuing a common eurobond.

Crucially, they must also win the consent of voters. Eurozone policymakers too often treat democratic accountability as a luxury rather than a necessity, as shall be made amply clear this week when Brussels will force the Athens parliament to pass a raft of sharp spending cuts, tax hikes and privatisations – despite the hostility of Greek voters. Finally, the balance of the continental economy must be altered. For most of the past decade, the picture of the European economy has been of sluggish Germany and France lending money to bubbletastic Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece. That model was great for northern European banks and businesses, but terrible for everyone else. If the single-currency zone is to continue, policymakers will need to think about instituting caps on how much member states can export to each other – and put far more emphasis on stimulating demand at home. This is a challenging list, to be sure, but an economic project that cannot meet it does not deserve to be in business.






The housing of Sir Alan Ayckbourn's archive at York University underlines his successful decision to eschew the capital

Sir Alan Ayckbourn has been praised here before, four years ago, when he announced his retirement as director of Scarborough's Stephen Joseph theatre. The accolade then was primarily for his extraordinary dramatic output, which continues in spite of a stroke. His 75th play opens in September, and so far this year he has had a play on stage or in rehearsal in the UK every day. Now we learn that his archive is to be housed at York University, with instructions to make it accessible to as many people as possible. This is of a piece with Sir Alan's refusal – in the face of many offers – to move to London. His success undermines claims that networking and convenience make the capital a sine qua non. This has never been true of academia, medicine, the church and science, whose best-known centres of excellence – Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Newcastle upon Tyne, Canterbury, York, Harwell, Daresbury – are well outside the M25. The ease of digital communication must surely encourage more to stick to their regional guns – Ayckbourn's stash at York will increasingly be available anywhere at the click of a key; David Hockney, always up for adapting his art to new technology, spends ever more time in Bridlington. "I'm sitting here in the sunshine overlooking the sea. Why should I be anywhere else?" says Sir Alan. A good question for corporate executives, the media and politicians. When the 100th Ayckbourn hits the boards, as he fully intends, we hope many more reply: "Spot on. Us too."






The Upper House on June 20 enacted a basic law for reconstruction of Tohoku-Pacific coastal areas devastated by the March 11 quake and tsunami. Besides the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and other opposition parties supported the bill, while the Japan Communist Party and Your Party opposed it.

The law stipulates the basic principles and a new government setup for reconstruction. But Prime Minister Naoto Kan and leaders of both the ruling and opposition forces should be ashamed of the fact that the law was not enacted until 102 days after the natural disasters.

Their work was very slow compared with the responses to the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. A similar law was enacted about a month after the Kobe quake and the Teito (Imperial Capital) Reconstruction Agency was established about a month after the Kanto quake.

The DPJ with the support of the JCP, the Social Democratic Party and Your Party voted on June 22 to extend the current Diet session by 70 days. The LDP and Komeito did not support the 70-day extension. Both the ruling and opposition parties should put a power game aside and concentrate on passing as quickly as possible bills related to the reconstruction efforts and other urgently important bills.

The law declares that Japan will go beyond restoration of the pre-disaster conditions in the devastated areas and aims to build a society suitable for the mid-21st century in which people will be able to rest assured and live a rich life.

Passage of the bill was delayed mainly because the DPJ and the LDP-Komeito bloc could not quickly agree on the power and functions of a reconstruction agency to be established anew. The bill's passage was assured when the DPJ accepted the LDP-Komeito bloc's ideas.

The agency will not only compile an overall plan for the reconstruction and make necessary adjustments among various administrative entities but also implement the plan.

To establish the agency, a new law needs to be enacted. The government is thinking of establishing the agency early next year. But it should try to have the Diet pass the bill as quickly as possible.

In writing the bill, the government should clarify the functions of the agency and empower it to vigorously carry out reconstruction by overcoming the red tape of government ministries and agencies. The new agency should be strong enough so that if local governments and residents contact it, they can have necessary work done without having to contact many government offices.

The newly enacted law also establishes the reconstruction headquarters within the Cabinet. It is headed by the prime minister and taken part in by all the Cabinet members. The reconstruction headquarters will set up branch headquarters in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

The law officially places the 35-member Reconstruction Design Council, which is now discussing basic ideas for the reconstruction, under the reconstruction headquarters to submit proposals to the prime minister. When the reconstruction agency is set up, the headquarters will be taken over by it.

As a basic measure, the law calls for a thorough review of budgets not related to the reconstruction in order to find available funds. The law also enables the government to issue "reconstruction bonds" to fund the reconstruction efforts — a measure incorporated into the law following the DPJ's concession to the LDP-Komeito bloc.

Bonds for reconstruction will be managed separately from bonds issued to cover deficits and fund other types of construction. The law requires the government to make clear in advance the way to redeem the bonds.

The government may need to raise through bond issuance more than ¥10 trillion for the reconstruction. The Reconstruction Design Council has proposed raising the consumption, income and corporate taxes to repay the bonds.

Discussions on how to redeem the bonds should not be left to the council. The government and the political parties should seriously discuss how to redeem the bonds, by taking into consideration the effects of the redemption method on Japan's economy.

Another basic measure mentioned by the law is establishment of special zones in the devastated areas. Tax privileges and special deregulation measures will be implemented in such zones.

Special zones will play an important role in reviving and strengthening local industries, including agriculture and fisheries, and creating job opportunities for victims of the March 11 catastrophe.

The government should not hesitate to take bold measures in special zones. But it must take utmost care to ensure that the measures will meet the needs of local industries and people.

Although the Diet session will be extended by 70 days, it is not certain whether the Kan administration and the DPJ can get the Diet to pass a bill to issue the bonds necessary for implementation of the fiscal 2011 initial budget and a second fiscal 2011 supplementary budget.

The person most responsible for this situation is Mr. Kan, who has fomented distrust in politics by clinging to power after his June 2 announcement that he would step down in the near future. He should dispel the distrust among people and lawmakers through concrete action.






NEW YORK — Earlier this month a spate of reports and commentaries came out on the failure of the U.S. "war on drugs," beginning with the Global Commission on Drug Policy flatly stating the war "has failed."

Perusing them, I thought of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I used to go there every Christmas to visit my mother-in-law, until her death two years ago, just before her centennial birthday.

For one thing I have remembered from my last visits to that French-named town on the Mississippi was the local news: drug abuse was on the rise because of economic difficulties. That was a surprise.

Another surprise was a sizable drug treatment center we happened to pass by when my wife was driving us around the placid college town. It was something that I had not imagined, ensconced as we were in my mother-in-law's elegant retirement home during our visit.

Neither should have been. The moment I started to check the Internet, I came upon "Narcotics abuse statistics of Cape Girardeau," and it said, "With a population of 37,370, estimated in 2008, at least 21 percent of the citizens are deeply addicted to some form of drug or alcohol."

In Missouri as a whole, the same site says, 7.5 percent of the population in 2005 were "victims of drug addiction or substance abuse" and another 2.5 percent alcoholics, a total of 10 percent. So, the proportion of drug and alcohol abusers of Cape, as the residents call it, is twice as high as that of the state!

Checking the matter further, I saw that, in 2009, about 21.8 million Americans aged 12 or older, or 8.7 percent of the age group, were "current (past month) illicit drug users." That's what the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says. The percentage was up from 8.0 percent in 2008, but there hasn't been anything like a steady decline in the ratio since 8.3 percent in 2002, the earliest year for which the agency gives figures for the period.

The "illicit drugs" here include marijuana/hashish, cocaine, heroin, and hallucinogens. So, if something like one out of 12 people in this country are still drug addicts or abusers, what was the four-decade-old "war on drugs" all about?

The war started back in 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared: "America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive."

Actually, that same year, Nixon took up another war, the one on cancer, and both have been judged failures. There is a vast difference between the two, however. The war to eradicate cancer mainly, simply, has wasted money; the one to do the same with drugs has wasted humans — not just within the United States, but also abroad — to no benefit at home and at great and growing harm outside.

At home, the war has created an arrest-and-jail paradise. The year Nixon started the "offensive," there were less than 400,000 "adult" drug arrests; by 2007 there were more than 1.6 million, says the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That's a fourfold increase, when the population rose by less than 50 percent in the meantime.

The result has been shocking. "More than one in every 100 adults is now confined in an American jail or prison," the Pew Center reported in 2008. With that number, the U.S. is far ahead of the second-ranking country, China: 2.3 million in jail in the U.S. versus 1.6 million in China. The Chinese number excludes those politically detained, it is noted, but China has a population four times larger. The U.S. never tires of accusing China of "human rights violations," but by jailing so many of its citizens, isn't the U.S. violating their human rights as well?

The U.S. is also ahead of the pack in relative terms. At the end of 2008 it had "the highest prison population rate in the world, 756 per 100,000," reports the International Center for Prison Studies in London. That was 20 percent more than the runnerup, Russia, that had 629. Japan had 63.

Even worse, there is a great racial distortion in the American eagerness to imprison their fellow citizens. To mark the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs, the American Civil Liberties Union announced: "Despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African Americans, African Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites."

When it comes to what the U.S. has done and is doing abroad, the war on drugs has become another case of the American Empire breaking into other countries in muddy boots, as the Japanese might put it, and smashing them up.

To put it another way, the U.S. is like a fellow who kills his feeders saying they're making him obese. And it pays no heed to any other's counsel.

When the Global Commission issued a report saying, "Abandon the war and try something else," the Obama administration responded, "No dice" — in The New York Times columnist Charles Blow's catchy phrase.

What did the commission say? That "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."

And it urged: "End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others."

How did Obama's "drug czar," director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, respond?

"Setting the record straight," he headlined his riposte, as if the commission distorted America's record, "The Obama administration's efforts to reduce drug use are not born out of a culture war or drug war mentality, but out of the recognition that drug use strains our economy, health, and public safety."

The "our" part is telling. What this country has done and is doing to Colombian farmers, Mexican people and, of course, those in Afghanistan, be damned.

Then this: "The bottom line is that balanced drug-control efforts are making a big difference." No, they aren't.

As far as every national decision in the U.S. is attributed to the Chief Executive, Barack Obama has chalked up another minus point for himself. Too much power and pampering accorded to the president has destroyed the vaunted "change agent."

Hiroaki Sato is a translator and essayist in New York.







NEW YORK — Ayat al-Qarmezi, a 20-year-old woman poet in Bahrain, recently condemned to one year in prison, has become the human face of defiance against the regime ruling the country. Her crime, to have spoken at a pro-reform rally in Manama's Pearl Roundabout in February.

Unless the government changes its approach and accepts peaceful dissent, the seeds of resistance will flower in Bahrain.

Speaking at a rally, Ayat al-Qarmezi recited a poem among whose lyrics were, "We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery." She was arrested after the police raided her parents' house and threatened to kill her brothers if Ayat didn't give herself up. During her detention she was whipped across her face with electric cable, held for days in a small cell with near-freezing temperatures and forced to clean lavatories with her bare hands, the same hands that wrote other beautiful verses.

Here is one of her poems, translated from Arabic by Ghias Aljundi:

We don't like to live in a palace

And we are not after power.

We are the people who

Break down humiliation

And discard oppression.

With peace as our tool

We are people who

Do not want others

To be living in the Dark Ages.

Ayat is one of many women doctors and medical personnel, among others, who have been targets of repression by Bahrain's regime. Her detention has been harshly condemned by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations.

"By locking up a female poet merely for expressing her views in public, Bahrain's authorities are demonstrating how free speech and assembly are brutally denied to ordinary Bahrainis," stated Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Smart asked that the Bahraini authorities drop all unfair charges against Ayat al-Qarmezi, and release her immediately and unconditionally. His request follows U.S. President Barack Obama's statement during the visit to Washington of Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa that stability of the Gulf Kingdom "depends upon respect for universal human rights."

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has joined the protests against the Bahrain regime's actions, particularly regarding special military court proceedings against those arrested during the country's anti-government protests. "Bahraini authorities should immediately halt all proceedings before the special military court and free everyone held solely for exercising the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly," stated HRW, while at the same time demanding that all those charged with criminal offenses be tried in independent civilian courts.

The young Bahraini poet joins the ranks of other women in history who have written forcefully against brutality and oppression.

In the book "Women Against Tyranny: Poems of Resistance During the Holocaust," edited by Davi Walders, Marianne Baum, one of the creators of the Baum Group, a resistance group opposing the Nazis from 1937 until 1942 (when most were arrested and sent to concentration camps) wrote:

They hunted us. Retaliation everywhere./ Then the Sondergericht — "special court."/ They carried me there, my shattered legs dangling./ No one talked./ A hundred Berliners rounded up for each of us./ Five hundred — most shot there and then;/ The rest, slower deaths at Sachsenhausen./ This, too, our burden, but ... would they/ Have died anyway?/ You must understand./ We had to do something.

If a few circumstantial details were changed, those words could have been written by Ayat al-Qarmezi today in Bahrain.

Cesar Chelala, M.D., is a co-winner of the Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights.







Special to The Japan Times

HONG KONG — Yoshihiko Noda, Japan's finance minister, is increasingly tipped as the frontrunner to take over from Naoto Kan when the prime minister finally bites the bullet and resigns.

No one seems to know what Noda stands for, if anything — an impression that was cultivated this month when he had a golden opportunity to speak out on a matter of great financial and political moment for Japan and the world. He uttered not a word.

The issue is who will succeed the disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF's executive board begins its discussions Tuesday on whether to choose yet another French candidate, finance minister Christine Lagarde, or Mexico's central bank governor Agustin Carstens.

As the second biggest shareholder of the IMF, Japan will have a leading seat at that boardroom table. I trawled through Google to try to find some pearls of wisdom from Noda or any other Japanese financial figure on the IMF succession. In May, Noda said that Japan wants an "open, transparent and merit-based selection process." After that, silence.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported in early June that Lagarde "will likely become the next head of the IMF, with the backing of the United States and Japan," citing unidentified "global financial industry sources in Washington."

Lagarde did not bother to visit Japan but flew to Brazil, India and China to campaign.

Carstens did visit Tokyo and met Noda and Bank of Japan governor Masaaki Shirakawa, but neither Japanese is recorded in more than 2.69 million Google hits as saying anything on or off the record or even through unidentified financial or government sources about the meetings. Carstens said Noda "listened carefully to my position," a gracious way of acknowledging he had been brushed off.

Of course, Noda may claim that Japan does not have a dog in the fight for the IMF succession. But it does: Japan's position within the fund is very much at stake.

Lagarde hinted that she had dangled some juicy carrots before China as a reward for backing her, and the press following her suggested that these might be boosting China to second position in the IMF or giving Beijing the job of deputy chief. Either move would be at Japan's expense.

Luckily, it is not within the gift of the IMF's managing director to reshuffle the shareholdings. China's move to be number 3, with 6.394 percent of the shares, 0.07 percent fewer than Japan, still awaits ratification through increased quotas after several years of intensive horse-trading, so taking over from Japan as No. 2 — entirely logical now that China is the world's second biggest economy — may have to wait several more years.

However, the new managing director might wish to reward China for its support by promoting current special adviser Zhu Min or another Chinese to deputy managing director.

It is unlikely that the United States would surrender the job of first deputy managing director, held by John Lipsky and rumored to be going to White House official and former U.S. Treasury official and Citibanker David Lipton when Lipsky steps down in August.

So, move over deputy managing director Naoyuki Shinohara, your time may be up. A new IMF chief might try to appoint a Chinese alongside Shinohara as a deputy managing director, but that would devalue the post and set up howls from other developing countries that they should also be represented on the IMF executive floor.

Back in 1997, Japan shoehorned retired Finance Ministry official Shigemitsu Sugisaki to succeed Prabhakar Narvekar, a 40-year IMF official, as a deputy managing director, and the job has been held by a retired Finance Ministry official ever since.

To be fair, the ex-Kasumigaseki men have done a professional job as officials of the IMF, but the worry must be that people placed in the job through political pressure would see their first loyalties to their home countries. It is not a new concern: Washington has used both the No. 2 job and its veto-wielding shareholding to influence day-to-day IMF business.

It is impossible to avoid politics in the IMF. The fund is owned by its 187 shareholder governments, which make their views forcefully known in board discussions. The U.S. has insisted on retaining more than 16 percent ownership, comfortably more than enough to veto policies it doesn't like.

But if the IMF is to do a proper job for the world economy, its senior staff have to be professional in day-to-day operations and to present the political owners with options and their consequences based on their best economic judgment.

Whoever takes over faces a challenging time. Whatever his faults, Strauss-Kahn brilliantly revived the IMF and put it at the center of the global economy. He understood the social and political consequences of policies and was outspoken about growing dangers of widespread unemployment — which President Barack Obama has been slower to appreciate.

By insisting on another European managing director, the European Union has wasted valuable capital that it will need to win sympathy for Greece and for the EU itself in negotiations still to come. Europe has itself to blame for much of its plight, and yet is damaging the global economy by its failure to get to grips with the worsening debt and banking crisis. Lagarde comes with too much European baggage.

There is of course a view that Japan does not need the IMF. With foreign exchange reserves of more than $1.14 trillion, and most of its heavy debts owed to domestic creditors, it is neither Greece nor another of the "PIIGS" (international bond analysts' reference to the economies of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), and wouldn't expect to go cap in hand to the IMF any time soon.

But this is shortsighted, even if Japan turns its economy round and discovers magic bullets to reduce its debts, get the economy moving and solve growing problems of an aging society.

As a major economy and leading exporter, Japan cannot shut itself off from the world, however much the pro-Galapagos romantics might wish it. With the yen again nudging above 80 against the dollar, too many Japanese industrial jobs are at risk of being exported.

Noda and his Finance Ministry officials should have used the IMF election to build coalitions with countries that are nervous of U.S. and Chinese economic domination and fear that the Europeans are losing their way.

At the very least they should have encouraged other candidates and demanded a truly open election where candidates answered questions publicly about the grave economic and financial issues facing the global economy and IMF.

Is it too late to retrieve the situation?

Realistically, it probably is. Noda will no doubt say that he has his hands full with the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, supplementary budgets and the succession to Kan.

That's tough, but if he can't handle pressure from many different directions and keep an eye on the rest of the world, then he shouldn't even think of being prime minister.

Noda's officials should have alerted him to the dangers and opportunities in the IMF election — or were they sleeping too?

Financial journalist Kevin Rafferty was editor of independent daily newspapers during the IMF's annual meetings from 1988 to 1996, and was subsequently managing editor at the World Bank.






The electric power industry in Japan has such strong political clout that nobody, not even the government, seems capable of liberalizing the generation and distribution of electricity, let alone making a dent in the regional monopoly currently enjoyed by each of the 10 utilities.

Indeed, in adopting a scheme for paying damages to the victims of the accidents at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government has ended up guaranteeing the survival of Tokyo Electric Power Co. the operator of the stricken plant. Radioactive substances from Tepco's Fukushima No. 1 plant have contaminated surrounding cities, farms, forests and the ocean.

The 10 regional utilities are solidly united in the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC). The federation's important posts are held by representatives of Tepco.

Even though the FEPC member companies are suspected of colluding with each other in coordinating their business activities, their political strength is so strong that even the Fair Trade Commission cannot look into the matter.

Although the government's scheme for relieving the victims of the nuclear disaster places primary responsibility on Tepco for paying damages, it nonetheless calls for unlimited assistance from the government itself. In other words, Tepco is in effect assured of its survival because it will be able to earn profits for years to come. It has won "the spoils" in the form of possible electricity rate hikes.

FEPC's political clout stems from its intimate relations with both bureaucrats and politicians. A number of ranking civil servants have "parachuted" down to high paying jobs at the utilities. The companies also give priority to those who have been "introduced" by government officials when hiring new college graduates.

For politicians, the electric power industry represents a huge source of votes which they cannot overlook. The number of employees at the 10 utilities alone comes to about 130,000, not counting their families or those working at affiliated or subcontract companies and suppliers. The power companies make political donations to politicians on a regular basis. The industry itself has also sent its own representative as lawmakers to the Diet.

The federation's influence also extends to journalism as a number of reporters have been cajoled. The Energy Press Club, composed of reporters from major newspapers and broadcasting stations, is provided by the federation with a spacious room, telephones and a receptionist, with the federation paying the cost.

Reporters are said to be entertained extravagantly at exclusive nightclubs and restaurants. Influential figures retiring from journalism are given new posts by FEPC at affiliated organizations like the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry and the Japan Electric Power Information Center.

Unity among the member firms of the federation appeared for a moment to crack, when companies other than Tepco expressed resentment over the government's scheme for the entire power industry in which it would chip in some money to pay indemnities to the victims of the nuclear plant disaster.

This could have been a golden opportunity to create a schism within the industry and to reduce its influence. But Prime Minister Naoto Kan, in the process of taking steps to ensure the safety of nuclear power generation, ended up missing the opportunity and strengthening FEPC unity.

On May 6, Kan surprised the nation and the power industry when he asked Chubu Electric Power Co. (Cepco) to suspend the operation of its Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, saying the plant is in an area that has a very high probability of being hit by a major earthquake in the near future, is very close to the ocean, does not have walls high enough to protect it from tsunami and, therefore, could be vulnerable to the same disaster as Tepco's Fukushima No. 1. After deliberating for three days, Cepco acceded to the request.

This came as a stunning shock to the FEPC, whose members had long had no doubt whatsoever that they controlled politicians, bureaucrats and journalists and that the government could not possibly decide on any national policy related to the power industry without the consent of the industry.

Infuriated by the prime minister's "political decision," the federation regained its unity. The industry was further infuriated as the prime minister's headquarters hinted that the government was thinking of separating power generation and power transmission. The power industry is opposed to the separation of power generation and transmission because the monopoly on power generation and transmission is the foundation of the power companies' current business model.

An observer has pointed out that not a single politician survives after acting against the will of the power industry. In 1997, for example, then Minister of International Trade and Industry Shinji Sato suggested that liberalization of power generation and transmission be studied. Even though he was a son of former Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, his remarks enraged the power industry, and he lost in the subsequent Lower House elections in 2000 and 2003 to an FEPC-supported Democratic Party of Japan candidate.

The federation's staunch opposition to separation of generation and transmission was shown in its rejection of adoption of the "Smart Grid" system that the U.S. is eager to promote — a electricity network that can efficiently and stably deliver electricity supplies by intelligently integrating the behavior of power generation entities and power users. The federation quibbled, saying the Japanese transmission system was "already smart enough." It fears that the Smart Grid might open the way for outsiders to enter the electricity market, thus breaking the monopoly of the nation's 10 utilities.

The power industry is also reluctant to build facilities to change the frequency of the alternating currents, so that electricity generated in the western half of the country, where electricity's frequency is 60 hertz, can be transmitted to the eastern half of Japan where electricity's frequency is 50 hertz, or vice versa — even though such interchangeability would inevitably reduce regional imbalances of supply.

This reluctance is based on a fear that the interchangeability issue may strengthen the argument for separation of power generation and transmission.

Politicians need to muster the determination to stand up against the existing power companies even at the risk of terminating their political career if they want to push the separation of power generation and transmission.

That's easier said than done, however, because there is not a single electoral constituency in the country that is completely free of FEPC's influence.

This is an abridged translation of an article from the June issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering Japanese political, cultural and economic issues








Special to The Japan Times

Human beings' inalienable fascination with fossil fuels and their lack of political confidence in driving the nation through a careful energy transition process have often put the energy independence dream in the backseat among national priorities.

While complete energy independence can only be an ideal scenario in the globalized world, the term refers to a much more practical situation where a country eventually reduces the dependence on external sources and rely more on the domestic supply capabilities.

Unfortunately for the political leadership, the term energy independence has so far only been a sweetener in their high-calorie political speeches despite its strategic importance in the national security.

Today with the increasing challenges to energy security, the idea of "energy independence" is set to evolve to be the most critical guiding force to meet the national security goals.

As often heard, the most serious challenge to energy independence is the lack of financial feasibility for transition to domestically available sources including new and renewable energy.

However, a dissection of this mysterious challenge of financial feasibility would reveal that the root causes shaping this perception are the choice of fuels that the political leadership make and the lack of political will for energy transition.

It is not wrong to say that choice of fuels that countries have made in the past has been more of a short-term political decision than a long-term realistic approach.

The first oil shock in the early 1970s was one of the most crucial turning points in the choice of fuels for the countries worldwide. However, the perception of energy security continued to orbit around fossil fuel supply among major economies primarily due to the over-reliance of their domestic economic activities on the same.

Although reliance on fossil fuels was encouraged by governments more because of the short-term economic conveniences, this eventually led them to be locked in to conventional fossil fuel sources, which are inherently vulnerable to supply security challenges and climate risks.

A common fear was that any transition may affect the economic activities with an ultimate adverse impact on the countries' race in the international political front. Many argued that exploring domestically available unconventional sources will not be financially feasible.

Though the affordability of energy transition undeniably varies between the rich and the poor countries, it is political reluctance that has always played a key role in preventing active steps forward.

If for the rich, energy transition was a matter of blending technological capabilities with financial resources guided by political willingness, for the poor the process was seen as a liability due to their technological and financial limitations. But interestingly, such differences in the economic status of countries have never been a determining factor in energy transition.

For example, Brazil's pro-alcohol policy since the early 1970s encouraged domestic ethanol production that eventually helped them reduce its reliance on external oil supplies. But many other countries that were financially stronger did not make any significant progress in developing and implementing a long-term energy transition policy.

This indicates that a serious lack of political willingness has always played a bigger role than the financial capabilities of countries.

As for political leaders, who are serving a four or five years term in power, it is natural that there would be more interest to invest their attention into policies that show quick economic and political results . Such a decision could possibly secure them another term in power rather than planning a long term energy transition policy which may be against the immediate interest of various pressure groups such as industry.

A careful accounting of national expenditures would reveal that financial resources can be spent in much more constructive ways for the well-being of citizens than it is currently handled in many countries.

Immediate attention would go to the military expenditures of countries which have always been prioritized by many governments.

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military expenditure in the year 2009 was estimated to be about $1.54 trillion, which is nine times more than the global new investment for sustainable energy development in the same year, estimated at $162 billion according to a UNEP-Bloomberg study.

While this comparison may not make any logic to those who prefer to attribute greater importance to conventional security threats a nation faces, it highlights the fact that the concern about economic feasibility is not uniformly applied by governments on various issues of strategic importance.

With energy importing countries vulnerable to price fluctuations in the international market, there can also be an unavoidable impact on their GDP due to any surge in energy bill.

To many political leaders, conventional security perception tends to dominate the overall national security interests while the idea of energy independence has often been ignored or remained only as an element giving cosmetic appeal to their political speeches.

Today the world is at the crossroads of a new energy order, where the two most important energy-supply systems, namely fossil fuels and nuclear energy, are undergoing serious challenges.

While the ongoing Arab uprisings have made the already volatile Persian Gulf region a cause of permanent concern to the global energy market, nuclear sector worldwide is facing increasing criticism about the safety and security following the tsunami-triggered accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in Japan.

Germany's plans for a nuclear phaseout may also have a rippling impact on other nuclear power-based economies in the world.

In this context, countries across the world should re-examine the myth of financial feasibility for tapping domestic supply capabilities by giving greater emphasis for energy transition to domestically available new and renewable sources.

Nandakumar Janardhanan is an energy policy researcher at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Japan. The opinions expressed in this article are his own. He can be reached at









The multiple claims in the South China Sea are much like a dormant virus within the body politic of nations in Southeast and East Asia. When quiescent it is an almost neglected contention among individual parties. But when flagrant, it erupts, spreading a virus of antagonism that belies the diplomatic camaraderie regional leaders boast of before the public.

One should not be surprised. For well over a decade, there have been numerous treatments, but no cure, to this problem.

Over the past two weeks, tensions have again risen among the multiple claimants — especially China, the Philippines and Vietnam. It all goes to show that despite the string of meetings, initiatives and press-friendly statements to ease and resolve the South China Sea issue, there has been much progress but minimal results.

It is further ironic that while disputing states engage their diplomatic hardball and military tit-for-tat with fervor, none, we believe, are would press for an escalated conflagration. Each country on the rim of the South China Sea recognizes the repercussions to their economy of inflated tension on this issue.

Let us note that Indonesia has an immediate interest, which is potentially impacted by strains in the South China Sea. Over the next decade, there needs to be an assured level of stability and security as Indonesia develops its gas deposits at the D-Alpha Natuna bloc south of the disputed area.

Hence there is no excuse to remain reticent about Southeast Asia's most enduring flashpoint.

As a non-claimant state, Indonesia should perceive the latest flare-up in one of two ways: A cry for help among those involved to seek a way out of the impasse they have mutually created, or diplomatic chess match in which claimants have been drawn into action and counter action. In either case, Indonesia should actively make its good offices fully available.

In the case of the former, domestic constituents make it impossible for claimants to back down from their stated positions. Hence a third-party initiative is needed, particularly in hastening the realization of the South China Sea Code of Conduct, which has been in the works for several decades.

After a decade of workshops and debates, there is no reason — other than grandstanding or malcontent – that the Code of Conduct cannot be agreed on within the next 12 months.

Members of ASEAN, which includes the Philippines and Vietnam, should first come to a common platform on this issue, thus placing pressure on China to act responsibly as a regional superpower by coming to terms with the proposed documents.

In the case of the latter, Indonesia also needs to ensure that the issue does not escalate into a game of balance of power, with the US showing growing interest in projecting itself in the South China Sea talks. This would only segregate the region into unhealthy alliances and vex Beijing to take an even harder stance.

The US does have a positive role to play in resolving these contentious claims, but not as the trump card to be played by smaller countries against China.

We are confident, ultimately, that the latest tensions will abate into diplomatic niceties by the end of the year. Nevertheless we must still ensure that restraints are in place so the issue does not flare up again for the region's sake and our own.






The world is biting its finger while witnessing how the world's geopolitics and economy are shaping up. The Doha Round is on life support and the OPEC talk on June 8 to increase the world's oil supply broke down. While the fate of Libya still looks unhopeful, Syria stands on the wing of another Allies' military interventions in North Africa and throughout the Middle East.

The world becomes an economic and political arena of power-fighting: Developed versus emerging and developing countries, BRIC vs. G7, and even among the BRIC nations themselves. Meanwhile, poorer and the poorest countries with small wealth-shares in the global economy remain under-represented. Global political governance is an implausibility, but has the time for global democracy come?

The G20 is expanding its agenda — from the financial, fiscal and monetary agenda to the development and anticorruption agenda. A question is raised on whether it should expand its discussion to political issues, such as the UN Security Council reform and democracy. The answer is somewhat nuanced than a plain "no". The G20 should avoid a political discussion at the summit because it may ruin the global economic cooperative spirit that the G20 strives for.

The G20 should learn this from the recent OPEC talk on June 8 that was overshadowed by political tensions between the US and oil-exporting countries like Iran and Venezuela. The Bali Democracy Forum is one possible forum to talk about democracy issues. But, what the G-20 can do is to promote "global democracy" as a part of global governance reform that is legitimate and credible.

We need global democracy because economic globalization has increased inter- and intra- inequality; national policies have cross-border impacts — both in poor and rich nations — but countries with small wealth-shares in the world economy are not fairly represented, if represented at all, in global institutions; the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and other international financial institutions (IFIs) remain largely answerable to industrialized nations; many decision-making processes of IFIs remain opaque; and wars are often waged in the name of democracy and freedom.

The world has always been in need of global democracy, but only recently was the world awakened to the voices coming from the emerging economic clout, namely the BRICS, including their demand for a new leadership of the IMF that is not based on nationality. Their voices were heard because of their economic power.

To promote global democracy, the G20 should strengthen the democratic structure of international financial institutions (IFIs). The IMF quota and voice reforms with the goal to continue the dynamic process of adjusting quota and voice shares to reflect shifts in the global economy must be completed.

As reiterated at the G20 London Summit 2009, "the heads and senior leadership of the IFIs should be
appointed through an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process."

Financial regulatory reforms must also be pushed for. The G-20 should help to amend the current financial system that privatizes gains and socializes losses, otherwise financial and eventually social stability will be at stake. Macro-prudential tools that measure systemic risks of an individual bank and cross-border regulatory coordination are needed.

Institutional reforms at international organizations should also include pushing to make decision-making processes more transparent. We want to avoid the so-called the WTO's "green room", where the agenda was pre-set and the results were pre-determined.

Lastly, the G20 must continue to improve its legitimacy by reaching out to other non-G20 members,
and protect the voice of the poorest nations, as well as to bring to the G20 table issues related to the impacts of economic globalization including inequality. The time is now, not later.

US President Obama in his address to the British Houses of Parliament on May 24, 2011, stated that the rise of superpowers such as China and India did not mean the end for American and European influence in the world.

In a globalized world, all nations become one global nation, and hence the fair representation of voices from all nations — rich and poor — needs to be protected.

We try to avoid one-power dominance within a nation, but we must also remember that we want to avoid one-power dominance, or two-power dominance, or hegemony of a group of nations, within the global world. BRIC strikes a balance between emerging countries and the hegemony of the G7. But, it must also be remembered that BRIC, or any other coalition, does not need to form a caucus, although caucusing is encouraged. The G20 should preserve this multilateralism. It is not the time for rivalries of power, but managing voices.

The writer is a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta, and a lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of Indonesia.







Consumers in Asia were shocked by recent crackdowns on members of organized online crime networks. Nearly 600 people were arrested across Asia, including in Indonesia, as a result of efforts coordinated by regional police. Countries involved in this operation included Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Cambodia and China.

Most of the suspects are Taiwanese (410 people) and Chinese (181). In Indonesia, the Indonesian National Police arrested 177 suspects at 15 different locations in Jakarta and its surrounding area. Of this number, 101 are Taiwanese and 76 are Chinese. The total losses caused by this syndicate have not been estimated.

Despite somewhat sketchy details on the alleged scam (which appear to vary from country to country), the statements from the authorities of the countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand suggest that the offenders contacted their victims and tricked them into transferring money into several bank accounts owned by the gang. In Malaysia, for example, the scammers were calling their victims in China by means of an Internet phone service and asking them to pay traffic summons into an online account or else they would face court action.

Thousands of people had reportedly been conned by the scam. According to the Indonesian National Police, a similar modus had been used in Indonesia to target victims in China.

From this case we can see that online scams don't always require sophisticated computer skills as the perpetrators in this scam generally used common VOIP applications to make phone calls over the Internet. They key behind the "success" of this crime is presumably the perpetrators' communication skills.

In crime prevention studies this is also known as "social engineering", a method of obtaining sensitive information that would otherwise be inaccessible through the exploitation of human nature (e.g. trust) often by means of deception. In this online scam, at least, social engineering defeated all the anti-fraud technology in place by attacking its weakest spot, humans.

In other words, the offenders stole victims' money without actually breaking into their bank accounts. Thai Police said the "element of surprise" is key in "engineering" the victims into believing that they are contacted by real government officials demanding some sort of payment (e.g. fines).

This case is a hard lesson on the importance of consumer education on fraud issues. Clearly the scam would not have been successful if the potential victims were aware of the situation. Their lack of awareness must have been recognized by the offenders beforehand.

This is probably why the scammers were willing to make huge "investment" to facilitate their offenses in the forms of, for example, traveling to other countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia to set up their "headquarters".

According to the police, in Indonesia the offenders were renting houses with high-capacity broadband connections that cost them up to Rp 600 million (US$70,000) a month. In other words, although the total losses from the offenses have not been calculated yet, they are expected to far exceed the criminals' "investment", particularly since the scam had been going on for several years.

Consumer education should thus be at the forefront of efforts to combat fraud. The advance of technology may have facilitated payment activities, but it also creates opportunities for crimes to occur. It does not matter how sophisticated the security technology in use is, as soon as the human elements are compromised there will be nothing that can stop criminals from stealing from their victims.

Another lesson from this Asia-wide scam is that criminals are now seemingly becoming more and more organized, day by day. Information and communication technology has been used to organize hundreds of scammers to prey on victims. This will surely create jurisdiction problems in tracking down and apprehending offenders. This is also why collaboration between police agencies of different countries is needed to crack down on such international crimes.

The raids on 15 different locations in Jakarta and surroundings, for example, were conducted on the basis of information and requests from the Chinese and Taiwanese police agencies. Because of the known adaptability of organized crime syndicates, the joint operation was carried out simultaneously in several countries to prevent offenders from escaping.

Globalization affects many aspects of life, including how crimes are perpetrated. Many organized criminals are now expanding their activities at an alarming rate. They even have their own "underground economy" that provides them with, among other things, necessary means to ensure the success of their criminal activities.

Therefore, cooperation among law enforcement agencies is an important element in combating transnational crime and should always be enhanced to ensure that resources are allocated effectively and efficiently.

The writer is the director of the Center for Forensic Accounting Studies at the School of Accounting of the Islamic University of Indonesia, Yogyakarta. He obtained his master's and doctoral degrees in forensic accounting at the University of Wollongong, Australia.







The informal workshop on the South China Sea was not intended to solve territorial disputes among the various claimants, but rather aimed at achieving three things: first, devising cooperative programs that include all participants; second, promoting dialog among the directly interested parties so they can find solutions to their problems; and third, to develop a confidence-building process so everyone can feel comfortable with each other.

Experiences in South China Sea issues indicate that technical cooperation is relatively easier to achieve than resource distribution and more difficult with regard to the territorial, sovereignty and jurisdictional issues. With regard to promotion and cooperation, for instance, it has been agreed on to work out a number of cooperative engagements, and some of them have been implemented such as the bio-diversity expedition. Others are in the process of being implemented such as monitoring rising sea levels and the environment. Also, the training programs for the Southeast Asian Network of Education and Training are also being jointly implemented by Chinese Taipei (2010) and China (2011), paid for by each of them and participated in by all South China Sea parties.

With regard to promoting dialog between the parties, China and Vietnam have been able to agree on maritime delimitation in the Gulf of Tonkin (Beibu) and, in some instances, joint cooperation on fisheries in the area. Vietnam and Indonesia have also agreed to delimit their respective continental shelves in the southern part of the South China Sea, north of Natuna.

To promote confidence building, ASEAN and China have agreed on a declaration of conduct with China. The Philippines has also agreed to codes of conduct with China and Vietnam. In the past, there has also been an understood restriction on occupying new features or increasing military presence in the South China Sea.

A number of lessons have been learned from managing potential or actual conflicts in the South China Sea. Some of these lessons learned may also be useful to other regions. Some of these lessons may be repetitious with other cases, but that may indicate their relevance in managing potential conflicts.

There are other forums that have dealt with the South China Sea issues such as the ASEAN-China dialogue and the informal discussion in the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific. However, participants of the South China Sea Workshop (SCSW) Process have agreed that the process should continue and should be supported by all the coastal states or authorities of the South China Sea.

Some lessons that I have learned from 20 years of managing the SCSW Process are:

The disputing parties must realize that conflict outbreaks — especially armed conflicts — will not settle the disputes and will not benefit any party. In fact, it may only bring mutual damage or loss.

Political will exists to settle the disputes peacefully and to take measures so keep the disputes from escalating into armed conflict. The parties must realize that solving the disputes is more in their interests than prolonging them.

The parties should not legislate any territorial claims and should involve public opinion as little as possible – especially in the areas where the claims are disputed. Legislating territorial claims and seeking support through public opinion tends to harden positions on all sides, making solutions, compromises or even temporary solutions such as joint developments more difficult.

There is a great need to increase transparency in national policy, legislation and documentation and hold more frequent meetings — formal or informal — among the legal officers of the involved countries to exchange their documentation and information and their legislative planning. Successful efforts often begin with informal efforts, either through track two processes or through informal, track one processes. After those efforts indicate possible success, a more formal track one approach can be attempted.

Preventive diplomacy should be undertaken by all parties that have interests in solving the problems, either regionally or internationally. Solutions that account for only national or regional interests and ignore the interests of states outside the region would not be effective, long-term solutions.

Prof. Dr. Hasyim Djalal represents Indonesia at several UN conferences on maritime law. He has been an Ambassador in Ottawa and Bonn. This article is based on his presentation at the "Conference on Joint Development and the South China Sea", hosted by the Singapore Center for International Law.







It is no longer news when a company announces its business performance with an annual turnover larger than the GDP of many less-developed countries.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), through its member economies, is now a major forum discussing global issues. Member economies account for 57 percent of global GDP and provide 40 percent of world trade volume.

With a population of more than 2.6 billion, APEC also provides a huge potential market. In the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) with six countries alone, the export of live reef fish as food consumption trade is US$1 billion.

APEC's theme for 2011 is to promote green growth and help member economies make a successful transition to a clean energy future, and aims to advance APEC's work to address barriers to trade in environmental goods across the Asia-Pacific region.

APEC economies possess vast natural resources, and 70 percent of global fish product consumption is within this APEC group. Global aquaculture of both fish and other marine products is on the rise, but capture fisheries has leveled off.

There is a slide in both the size of fish being caught and the species of fish available down the value chains that indicates a need for better management of capture fisheries.

An emerging issue is the management of the environment and production – how to guarantee that any given area can produce the most of the high value species and of size and quantity of fish that the world market continues to look for. This is a challenge facing APEC member economies to cooperate to improve management in order to sustain value chains from production to consumption.

In the 3rd APEC Oceans Related Ministerial Meeting (AOM3) in Peru last year, the participants endorsed the "Paracas Declaration" building on the Bali Plan of Action from the 2nd AOMM of 2005.

The declaration is a commitment to move from words to action in achieving the sustainable development of our oceans, seas and coastal resources. It also commits the economies to develop effective practical and holistic steps to realize the full economic potential of our fishery resources for both our communities and our economies.

This requires maximizing the ecological production through good management of the marine and coastal environment, the investment in people and infrastructure to guarantee the highest quality production, post-harvest value adding and the technical assistance and appropriate legal framework provided by governments to its people.

Fisher-folk, like corporations, prioritize the short-term, today's catch and this year's profits. National governments and international organizations need to look beyond short-termism — electorates trust that governments adopt a long-term view, investing today for tomorrow and the next generations' benefit. International organizations such as APEC must resist the pressures of the short-termism in favor of long-term sustainability.

As an archipelagic nation of more than 17,000 islands bridging the Indian and Pacific Ocean, with over 90 percent of its population living near the coasts, it is appropriate that Indonesia has taken the lead in the global discussion on the sustainable use of the oceans.

From the 2007 APEC leaders meeting in Sydney and COP-13 in Bali through the 2009 World Ocean Conference and CTI Summit in Manado and also at COP-15 in Copenhagen, Indonesia continues to echo the ocean's dimensions on the world's agenda.

The UNEP 2010 world ministers of the environment meeting in Bali was momentous when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recognized the importance of healthy oceans and well-managed coral reefs and coastal habitats as the basis for food security and economic development, and received the UNEP award for the patronage and leadership in marine and ocean issues. Indonesia has invested in developing approaches to marine conservation that have begun to demonstrate good management practices.

Most recently with the June 2011 APEC 10th joint meeting in Bali, member economies discussed the sustainable use of ocean resources production and the supporting ocean's environment. The convergence between the issues above discussed to the point where the two working groups become one, the Ocean and Fisheries Working Group. As chair of the fisheries working group and transitional chair's role of the APEC's newly combined working group, Indonesia can expand its leadership role, thus progressing the sustainable achievement of fisheries and marine development in the region.

Indonesia leads the world in seascape management and the development of networks of marine protected areas (MPAs). Currently 901,680 hectares of 4.6 million hectares is set aside as MPAs, providing a safe home for more than 1,100 species of fish, 700 species of mollusk and more than 540 species of coral reef.

On a global scale, oceans absorb more than 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere. They also absorb heat and slow down warming processes. The challenge now is that protecting the ocean comes at the expense of economic development, and vice versa.

Through ASEAN and APEC, in addition to Indonesia's present involvement within the global dialogue, it is taking a role in moving from rhetoric to action, moreover, informed action.

Bold steps are needed and we trust our leaders to take the necessary steps. It is our families living in coastal areas that will be among the first to tell us if we are doing enough.

The writer, a lead shepherd of the APEC Fisheries Working Group and a doctor of philosophy in environmental and natural resource economics at the University of Rhode Island, is currently a secretary-general of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.











It is no longer news when a company announces its business performance with an annual turnover larger than the GDP of many less-developed countries.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), through its member economies, is now a major forum discussing global issues. Member economies account for 57 percent of global GDP and provide 40 percent of world trade volume.

With a population of more than 2.6 billion, APEC also provides a huge potential market. In the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) with six countries alone, the export of live reef fish as food consumption trade is US$1 billion.

APEC's theme for 2011 is to promote green growth and help member economies make a successful transition to a clean energy future, and aims to advance APEC's work to address barriers to trade in environmental goods across the Asia-Pacific region.

APEC economies possess vast natural resources, and 70 percent of global fish product consumption is within this APEC group. Global aquaculture of both fish and other marine products is on the rise, but capture fisheries has leveled off.

There is a slide in both the size of fish being caught and the species of fish available down the value chains that indicates a need for better management of capture fisheries.

An emerging issue is the management of the environment and production – how to guarantee that any given area can produce the most of the high value species and of size and quantity of fish that the world market continues to look for. This is a challenge facing APEC member economies to cooperate to improve management in order to sustain value chains from production to consumption.

In the 3rd APEC Oceans Related Ministerial Meeting (AOM3) in Peru last year, the participants endorsed the "Paracas Declaration" building on the Bali Plan of Action from the 2nd AOMM of 2005.

The declaration is a commitment to move from words to action in achieving the sustainable development of our oceans, seas and coastal resources. It also commits the economies to develop effective practical and holistic steps to realize the full economic potential of our fishery resources for both our communities and our economies.

This requires maximizing the ecological production through good management of the marine and coastal environment, the investment in people and infrastructure to guarantee the highest quality production, post-harvest value adding and the technical assistance and appropriate legal framework provided by governments to its people.

Fisher-folk, like corporations, prioritize the short-term, today's catch and this year's profits. National governments and international organizations need to look beyond short-termism — electorates trust that governments adopt a long-term view, investing today for tomorrow and the next generations' benefit. International organizations such as APEC must resist the pressures of the short-termism in favor of long-term sustainability.

As an archipelagic nation of more than 17,000 islands bridging the Indian and Pacific Ocean, with over 90 percent of its population living near the coasts, it is appropriate that Indonesia has taken the lead in the global discussion on the sustainable use of the oceans.

From the 2007 APEC leaders meeting in Sydney and COP-13 in Bali through the 2009 World Ocean Conference and CTI Summit in Manado and also at COP-15 in Copenhagen, Indonesia continues to echo the ocean's dimensions on the world's agenda.

The UNEP 2010 world ministers of the environment meeting in Bali was momentous when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recognized the importance of healthy oceans and well-managed coral reefs and coastal habitats as the basis for food security and economic development, and received the UNEP award for the patronage and leadership in marine and ocean issues. Indonesia has invested in developing approaches to marine conservation that have begun to demonstrate good management practices.

Most recently with the June 2011 APEC 10th joint meeting in Bali, member economies discussed the sustainable use of ocean resources production and the supporting ocean's environment. The convergence between the issues above discussed to the point where the two working groups become one, the Ocean and Fisheries Working Group. As chair of the fisheries working group and transitional chair's role of the APEC's newly combined working group, Indonesia can expand its leadership role, thus progressing the sustainable achievement of fisheries and marine development in the region.

Indonesia leads the world in seascape management and the development of networks of marine protected areas (MPAs). Currently 901,680 hectares of 4.6 million hectares is set aside as MPAs, providing a safe home for more than 1,100 species of fish, 700 species of mollusk and more than 540 species of coral reef.

On a global scale, oceans absorb more than 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere. They also absorb heat and slow down warming processes. The challenge now is that protecting the ocean comes at the expense of economic development, and vice versa.

Through ASEAN and APEC, in addition to Indonesia's present involvement within the global dialogue, it is taking a role in moving from rhetoric to action, moreover, informed action.

Bold steps are needed and we trust our leaders to take the necessary steps. It is our families living in coastal areas that will be among the first to tell us if we are doing enough.

The writer, a lead shepherd of the APEC Fisheries Working Group and a doctor of philosophy in environmental and natural resource economics at the University of Rhode Island, is currently a secretary-general of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.





Every discourse on a political solution in post-war Sri Lanka has centred on a single argument: President Mahinda Rajapaksa, having won the war against the LTTE, should have no problem delivering peace to the larger Tamil society and polity. Not only the Tamils in the country or their Diaspora brethren believe in it but the international community also has faith in such presumptions.

The inevitable conclusion flowing from such a construct is that President Rajapaksa does not intent giving the Tamils their due, now or ever. In a way, the pressure employed through the Darussman Report and Channel 4 videos, to an extent, flows also from the belief that the international community should pressure the Sri Lankan Government and President Rajapaksa to yield more on humanitarian assistance and power-devolution, if not on human rights and 'war crimes'.

The reverse is also true. Sections of the Sinhala polity and intellectuals, as also their counterparts in the Government apparatus, still see the TNA in the same mould as its war-time self. They see it all only in black and white. There is no space in their minds for shades of greys. Individual Sinhala leaders and thinkers may have their preferences and perceptions, and the TNA leadership, they all have concluded, per se, is moderate.

Yet, doubts and suspicions remain. They do not have pressure-appliances to force the TNA to fall in line with a certain line of thinking, if at all they are ready to provide that much space for the Tamil polity in the post-war era. The periodic utterances of some TNA leaders, without reference to post-war realities, have not helped, either.

In both cases, the truth lies in between. The President who steered the nation towards victory in the war was dealing with a battle-trained military establishment that needed a strong-willed political leader and Government that would not wilt under international pressure, applied on behalf of the LTTE, as in the past. It was true of the administrative set-up, particularly the diplomatic corps, which too needed clear-cut directions and guidance whenever the Sri Lankan State was at war.

Political solution is a different game. It is not only about the 'Sinhala hard-liners', real and perceived, and their pre-allotted political positions in the national scheme since 'Sinhala Only', if not earlier. It is hard to expect a whole generation of the Sinhala political class to overnight give up their fear and frustrations with the LTTE. Their post-war suspicion about the TNA and such other sections of the Tamil society, starting with the Diaspora, has remained an inevitable consequence.

It is beyond logic, but their support for President Rajapaksa and his ethnic policies cannot be taken for granted. There are always those in the eternally nebulous Sinhala polity that has not seen a stable leadership for decades now, for whom leadership strength and authority of office do not appeal after a point. Individuals can be persuaded or pressured. Not groups – particularly when they get to read another piece of writing on another wall, and believe in it. The Government of the day cannot afford to trigger a process that it cannot hope to control after a time.

Hard-liners on either side should realise the reality of the ground situation in political terms. As politicians most of them do understand the circumstances and compulsions of the other side. Lesser mortals, particularly those that are pulled down by the immediate past and/or ideologically rooted in the illogical, have problem in the matter. It owes mainly to their ignorance, and their inherent inability to acknowledge that ignorance.

As politicians, however, most of them too exploit the situation that they find the other side in, to their own perceived political advantage. To the average Tamil politician, President Rajapaksa does not want to give the community a post-war political solution that addresses their legitimate concerns. From the Sinhala side, they do not want to accept that the moderate TNA leadership of septuagenarian Sampanthan does not fit into their continuing perceptions of the post-war, non-Government Tamil polity.

If President Rajapaksa is not able to – or, were even unwilling to – give the Tamils an acceptable political solution, no other leader in his place for a few more decades to come could do so. None would even want to venture out in that direction. In theoretical terms, it could include Tamil leaders of the three denominations, namely, the Sri Lankan Tamils, the Upcountry Tamils and the Muslims, even if one were to become President or Prime Minister.

The Government of President Rajapaksa, and also the UNP Opposition, not to mention Muslim parties like the SLMC and Upcountry Tamil parties have greater faith in the TNA than any other denominational representative group of Sri Lankan Tamils. If the present-day leadership of the TNA cannot be convinced about a power-devolution package – even incremental as it might be, and might have to be – none in the foreseeable future could bring them around to accepting a political solution that did not hinge on the pre-war prescriptions of the Tamil polity, society and the LTTE.

The results of such a stalemated relationship could prove disastrous not only to the two communities but also to the nation, even more. It thus becomes imperative for the two sides to begin trusting each other. More importantly, both sides need to acknowledge that the other side do face practical difficulties of the more pragmatic political variety and from presumptuous sections of the polity in their respective cases.

The Government and the TNA need to acknowledge that there could be flaws in the character that they have inherited, which refuses to go away, overnight. While charging the Government with insincerity, if not outright conspiracy, the TNA and its supporters cannot expect the Sinhala polity and society to take them and their proclamations of sincerity and seriousness at face-value. It also has to be a two-way street.

The Government too cannot believe in the propaganda that through 'Eelam War IV', the armed forces have 'liberated' the Tamil community from the clutches of the dreaded LTTE – and that the Tamil community should be grateful that. The ground realities are too complex and complicated for them to make such claims, and keep sticking to them, endlessly. Allegations about 'war crimes', for instance, is not only about the physical. It is more about the psyche, involving the political, where not enough has been done to win them over!





David Cameron's exasperation is understandable. Perhaps, his military leaders went louder than his pitch. Their concern that the expedition in Libya is getting overstretched is well taken.

The reason: what was supposed to be primarily a mission to enforce a no-fly zone over the Libyan skies, to save the people from the embattled dictator's onslaught, is now blown out of proportion into a perpetual military conflict. This is why the British naval lord and the army chief's submission that they won't be able to carry over this adventure post-summer — in the wake of budget cuts and logistical hindrances — is purely a professional concern. Cameron cannot get away by just snubbing his commanders, by saying that 'you just do the fighting', and rather should revisit the exigency for which London walked into another uncalled for intervention.

For many of the Brits, it's a déjà vu phenomenon. Cameron is more or less in Tony Blair's spotlight, wherein dossiers and intelligence feeds were fudged to make a presentable case for warfare. The wafer-thin difference is the fact that then Britain made it clear that its aim is to dislodge Saddam Hussein, whereas this time around getting Col Muammar Gaddafi is an unannounced agenda. But in both the cases, it seems the military gear went into exhaustion before time, as it lacked the capability and the desired political agenda to dig its heels. The trend of fighting wars thousands of miles away is rapidly turning out to be an improbability — even for the industrialised and military giants. US President Barack Obama's policy prescription to pull troops out of Afghanistan at the earliest is a case in point. The British prime minister, too, should take a cue from his ally across the Atlantic and get down for a serious brainstorming session with his military personnel.  

Cameron can do well by having a tête-à-tête with French President Nicolas Sarkozy whose restlessness to walk into the North African territory for obvious geo-economic consideration had pushed Britain on the brink. Sarkozy apart from yesteryears colonial connections has a perfect political reason to drag his feet, as he vies for re-election in May next year. But the battered British troops who found manning Basra to be an un-preferable and unsustainable mandate, of course, can't stay put in the marshlands of Libya, if NATO ever decided to roll in ground troops. With the omissions chart getting wider in executing firepower over Tripoli and Benghazi, British commanders logically have a point to get perturbed. It's time the premier should read between the lines.

 Khaleej Times





David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, long time hot under the collar- lambaste Sri Lanka in a script titled "The Silence of Sri Lanka" venting  reasons for their vituperations. Their visit in April 2009 during the last days of the LTTE, was to make a three-in-one call for "humanitarian aid and their workers to be allowed in and the fighting to be stopped"- went unheeded, as they grumble. That's the break point.

 Going home on an empty stomach with nothing to show, they bided their time watching ruefully in silence, Sri Lanka overcome terrorists, strikes back with venom after the release of the Channel 4 production, in a New York Times lead article. Timing is neat and tidy and keeps in tandem with whom they link to work.

 Did the duo express satisfaction that terrorism was defeated? They took the underground and kept mum. To be fair, US Ambassador Roberto Blake expressed his appreciation. Terrorism is not a bother unless it bothers them.

 Let us clear the preliminaries; if the pair could have  touched down in Colombo as a concerned couple two years ago, why have they still not landed in Baghdad, Kabul or Tripoli as a combine to make a similar plea, where their own NATO forces target civilians in much greater numbers. Their triple action paracetamol capsule should in their diagnosis provide instant relief, if administered to their own fighting forces in foreign lands. They choose not to do so, as Ministers of Governments that had with intent travelled far to create killing fields and ruined societies not of their Caucasian breed but those which their Governments mock as hooded burka wearing people.

 We fought our war to rid our own land of terrorism to remove a blight that reached epidemic proportions. We succeeded and became secure, no concern to Dave & Bern, who are yet to succeed but keep on fighting terrorism to safeguard their dented glory, until it is time to withdraw in shame. They entered hurriedly in the name of a humanitarian intervention and now seek to stage a strategic exit once their political and commercial interests are fulfilled. They have decided to quit without a time table- but a spat has developed between the UK politicians and their military men. Even the puppet local leaders want the Anglo-French out pronto!

 Why don't they presently make the same request from their governments to stop fighting in the several countries they are engaged in battle or why didn't the two Cabinet Ministers demand from their Governments to stop the wars while in office and bring humanitarian aid and more importantly their foot soldiers, the aid people (NGOs') as preached to us.

 They selected a field of war, a distance away from home to fight supposedly other peoples' wars. Their home is always sweet safe and secure while countries invaded have to live with corpses', funerals and graves.

Now they are in the Islamic belt from Libya to Pakistan destabilizing the Middle East after a killing bout in the saffron region of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the Far East. They tried on us and failed  in South Asia. If they had kept faith in their age old beliefs in the gospel instead of  their convoluted faith in the Right to Protect which they sermonize again to us in the latest epistle, the world would have had lesser wars.

Davie and Bernie, you changed your god, making gods of yourselves with a sanctimonious canon called R2P to expand your lust for exploiting resources of another.  Is this not the doctrine of new imperialism that enables an invasion into the lands of others to steal and plunder? The unending wars continuing presently commenced under the auspices of the doctrine of the Right to Protect-your devotion.

 Boys, war crimes never follow you, though Obama and Clinton watched live on TV an unarmed Osama killed without a struggle when he could have been hauled alive by scores of Navy Seal Teams? Here is command responsibility knocking at the door- in a life and limb appearance before your eyes but are we left to pause with the silence of Miliband and Kouchner without a murmur in print in any publication. What would you have said if our President watched live on TV while an unarmed Mr. Prabhakaran escorted from his bed and in his wife's and children's presence- shot and killed? Answer: A War Criminal.

 If we  had listened to these two great men, tragedies of terrorism would have visited in perpetuity, compelling us to blow peace pipes as we did for 21 years, while being dictated to by similar western busybodies as Messers DM and BK, with a revived and rejuvenated Prabhakaran in our midst. Life-Then and Now is the difference we genuinely feel; of a past that was wiped from the slate, never again to surface. They fear other small nations will follow suit and disregard Western commands and for that crime Sri Lanka has to be punished as a deterrent to others.

 The humanitarian aid ("humanitarian aid and their workers be let in") is the leak and drip from the NGO tap that often stood as the earthwork of the LTTE's encroachments; and the aid workers ('modern colonial moles') are the private armies that provided courier service to the LTTE; both together with western media binding as the brick and mortar of the LTTE rampart.

 Their nitpick is "Restrictions on journalists meant that there was a war without witness in Sri Lanka" .The two former Foreign Ministers whine for failing to let western journalists footloose in the company of western NGO folk to roam in Wanni as witnesses in search of evidence to build a case M and K could present against Sri Lanka. A slip of the tongue reveals the "fronts" employed by the disguised good Samaritans in the role of being engaged as dubious sleuths in humanitarian objectives.

  Western Security Forces carry NGO outfits as buddy companions when they enter into military exercises in foreign countries as revealed in US Military/NGO Relationships in Military Interventions (1996) by Chris Seiple.  Past practice has shown snooping foreign correspondents plant made up "stories" with make up on instructions to create the ground work for western political hierarchies to enter the war arena as it happened in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Haiti by the creation of humanitarian interventions, vividly described by Media Lens journalists David Edwards and David Cromwell in The Myth of the Liberal Media (2006)

From far away, the Odd Couple makes an odd comment "Tamil Life treated as fourth or fifth class". Gentlemen, come and take a stroll in the streets of Colombo to see for yourself- the truth of your assertion. Naïve is a mild word.  If you speak of Tamils living directly under the terrorist yoke, life was not comparable to their brethren elsewhere but it is slowly coming back but will take time as they lived 25 years behind the rest of Sri Lanka.

It's not your credo to complain against the LTTE except for a passing reference.





Ruwid Omar, a Libyan boy with a mop of sun-kissed hair, spends his days roaming the streets of Benghazi singing rebel songs, waving opposition flags and chatting to foreign visitors in fluent English.

"I lived in Manchester for eight years with my parents before. But I like Benghazi better actually," he said, squinting in the bright sun outside Benghazi's courthouse building – a symbol of Libya's revolt against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

"I like the revolution. We are here (in the square) all day or at home watching TV," added the 14-year-old.

Schools have been closed in Libya's rebel-held east since the start of the uprising in February, and children like Ruwid have been largely left to their own devices.

Keen to distract students from a deadlocked war, the rebel leadership based in the sprawling coastal city wants to reopen schools and universities as soon as possible.

But that is proving hard. Security remains a concern in a city awash with firearms, and rebel leaders have given no firm timeline as to when education might resume.

Before, the curriculum was packed with classes praising "our dear Brother Leader". Pupils spent hours studying the Green Book, a collection of Gaddafi's ramblings on life and politics.

Schools were designed in a way that discouraged children and teachers from asking questions and challenging authority.

Rebels want to change that, even though weeding out Gaddafi sayings from textbooks and reshaping the curriculum will take time. Retraining teachers, long used to following orders rather than their professional instincts, is also tough.

"We hope to reopen them soon," rebel education minister Suleiman al-Sahli told Reuters. "We are still discussing this."

Restarting schools and universities will highlight the rebel authority's resolve to bring back normality to a city scarred by fighting. But teachers said they did not expect that to happen any time soon as the war drags on listlessly into a fifth month.

"We cannot start our studies until the (Gaddafi) regime collapses completely," said Dr Bubaker F. Shareia, executive general director of Benghazi's Garyounis University. "No one knows when this will happen."

Some Benghazi schools have opened unofficially – part of a broader grassroots movement that has seen volunteers set up civilian committees to tackle issues from security to education in a city prey to lawlessness and sporadic violence.

At the Fatma az-Zahra school, volunteers gather pupils several times a week to explain to them what is happening in their home city, and teach some basic lessons.

Sitting in the shade of the school's patio festooned with rebel flags, children chanted "We are Libyans, raise your heads, be proud" and "Muammar, you will see what we can do to you".

Their voices echoed around the school's empty corridors. In one classroom, an English language textbook was left lying open on the side of a desk by an open window, its pages flapping in the wind blowing in from the Mediterranean.

"People in Tripoli are not as friendly as people in Benghazi," was scribbled on one page under an exercise called "Compare places in Libya".

"There is no school now so we just come here to draw and make songs against Muammar," said Nur Alhuda Ali, a 13-year-old girl. "Before I didn't know about Gaddafi but after the revolution I can see that everyone hates him. So Gaddafi must be a very bad person. Otherwise why would everyone hate him?"

Some said their parents made them study at home to compensate for the lack of official schooling.

History was distorted under Gaddafi's rule, creating a peculiar universe in which Libya was juxtaposed against a hostile world trying to destroy its post-colonial achievements.

Many textbooks on social studies will now have to be rewritten completely, rebels say. To achieve this, university professors have set up a research centre to tackle issues such as the overhaul of textbooks. But the process is not easy.

"We're trying to figure out what we need to fix and how to do it," said Omar Salabi, a senior figure there. "There was no civil society before. We have to change the way people think."

Many students are away, having taken up arms to fight Gaddafi troops on the front line. At least 100 students from Garyounis University have been killed and many more are missing.

Money is another problem in a sector which relies on state salaries. With oil output at a standstill, the rebel authority is broke, and no wages were paid at Garyounis University in May.

Pointing at the walls of his office dotted with nail holes where Gaddafi portraits used to hang, Dr Shareia said people were determined to make it work despite all the difficulties.

"When I look at my students I can see they are different. In the past they were nervous," he said. "Now they are happy to discuss things. They are helpful. It's nice to see how people can change. I think it's because they have hope."








IN 2009, when US President Barack Obama announced his "troop surge" in Afghanistan, there were complaints from "hawks" and "doves" alike.

So it came as no surprise that he would hear the same complaints as he announced the "beginning of the end" of the "surge".

Republicans complained the imminent departure of 10,000 troops, followed by another 23,000 in a year, were too many too soon.

Democrats, on the other hand, were "disappointed" that the full drawdown would not happen sooner.

After assuming presidency, Obama made good on his commitment to upgrade US involvement in Afghanistan - part of which was the "surge" of 33,000 additional troops, bringing the total presence to just over 100,000.

Facing stiff opposition from war-weary Democrats, he announced troops would be withdrawn by July 2011.

When Republicans howled, the administration indicated that date would mark the end of the "surge" - suggesting 2014 for the end of the US combat mission. Still, no-one was happy.

What is troubling is that the debate focused on numbers and dates, not on the war and what needs to be done to end it.

About 1,000 troops have died since the surge began, limited gains have been won on the ground (with the Taliban resurgent in parts of the country) and the government in Kabul is still best known for corruption.

And then there's the mess 10 years of this war has made across the border in Pakistan.

As the US intensified drone strikes against targets in Pakistan, pushed that country's military into bloody combat against Taliban elements who sought refuge in Pakistan and ignored the India-Pakistan strategic competition in Afghanistan, we created unbearable pressures which have threatened Pakistan's stability.

None of this is recognised by the hawks, who want more, not less war.

Nor are these sad realities dealt with by those who want an abrupt end to the US presence in Afghanistan.

It is not just a question of leaving a "failed state" where terrorism will flourish (as Republican Senator John McCain noted last week).

And it's more than the matter of once again abandoning the Afghani people to a cruel and uncertain fate.

It is also the regional instability that will follow a hasty departure - with India, Pakistan and Iran all in the mix.

The bottom line is the war can't be won militarily and we just can't walk away. We must leave, and do so responsibly. But this cannot be done on our own or by relying on the government in Kabul.

Given its neighbourhood and the weakness of its institutions after more than 30 years of occupation and war, given the roles - positive or negative - that Afghanistan's neighbours can and have played and the fact that each has a direct interest in the stability of the country, Afghanistan can't and doesn't stand a chance of finding that stability on its own.

What we should, therefore, be working towards is a political solution that invests all of Afghanistan's neighbours in the creation of a regional security framework.

This may not be the only answer to the dilemma we face, but it points in the direction of where our national conversation ought to be - not about more troops or no troops, or about the date we will leave Afghanistan, but what we must do between now and when we do leave to ensure that it is, in fact, a responsible departure.










Besides its Knesset, security forces and intelligence services, Israel's High Court and Civil Administration ravage Palestinian civil society repressively. Two examples illustrate the problem.

On June 22, a B'Tselem press release headlined, "Sharp increase in West Bank home demolitions," saying:

Through late June, Israel's Civil Administration, its Judea/Samaria (West Bank) governing body, illegally "demolished more Palestinians homes....than in all of last year." Most often, soldiers and Border Police accompany them, forcefully evicting longtime residents.

Over the most recent seven day period, 33 residential buildings were demolished in Jordan Valley Fasayil, al-Hadidiyeh, and Yarza communities, as well as southern Hebron Hills Khirbet Bir al-'Id. As a result, 238 Palestinians, including 129 minors, lost homes.

Since January 2011, 103 Israeli controlled Area C (62% of the West Bank) structures were demolished, affecting 706 Palestinians, including 341 minors. This represents a sharp increase over 2010 and 2009 when 86 and 28 were bulldozed respectively.

At the same time, Civil Administration officials made few plans to help Palestinian communities. Instead, they prevent new construction and development beyond what now exists, "making it impossible for Palestinians to build legally in these areas."

Israel contrives ways to enforce policies. For example, some homes are demolished in areas the IDF declares "firing zones," including half of Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea land, even places located along main traffic arteries or next to or comprising settlements. As a result, even though Palestinian dwellings date back generations, they're prohibited from living there henceforth.

Discriminatory planning and building laws affect communities like Khirbet Bir al-Id, adjacent to the 1998-built Mizpe Ya'ir outpost. Though illegal, Israel approved connecting it to water, electricity, other public services, and basic infrastructure, funding it, including an access road. Moreover, it did nothing to prohibit its establishment, compared to Civil Administration harshness, demolishing Palestinian structures on their own land without permit permission.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) helps rebuild homes. It also resists "land expropriation, settlement expansions, by-pass road construction, policies of 'closure' and 'separation,' " destruction of agricultural land and crops, and the occupation's repressive effects overall, beyond its original mission to oppose and resist Palestinian house demolitions.

From June 1967 - July 28, 2010, ICAHD said Israel destroyed nearly 25,000 Palestinian structures, based on Interior Ministry, Civil Administration, OCHA, other UN sources, and Palestinian Center for Human Rights data, as well as Israeli and other Palestinian human rights groups, Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), its own field work, and other sources.

It classifies demolition types as:

-- punishment for actions associated with the structures (about 8.5%);

-- administrative for lacking building permits (about 26%);

-- land-clearing/military demolitions for any reason, including achieving IDF goals or accompanying extrajudicial assassinations (about 65.5%); and

-- other undefined reasons.

Israel, in fact, annexes Palestinian land one home demolition at a time. From July 10 - 25, 2011, ICAHD will again rebuild a bulldozed home, belonging to the Abu Omar family. Built in 1990 on privately owned land, Israel demolished it in 2005.

Ahmed Abu Omar applied for permit permission, but agricultural zoning restrictions denied him, a familiar story heard often to prevent Palestinians from living on their own land. With his wife and seven children, he built anyway, but was told in 2003 he did it illegally followed by a March 2005 demolition order. A month later, Israel bulldozed it despite his lawful presence, offering no compensation for destroying his property.

Since then, the Omars got by in a small house provided by neighbors and an ICAHD-built small, temporary shelter. Omar describes the experience as "dying every day." ICAHD decided to help him. The family response was gratitude and eagerness to regain what they lost. "Their courage to defy the Israeli Occupation's atrocious practice of demolition, forced eviction, and land expropriation is an inspiration to" everyone to resist.

ICAHD stresses that the "right to adequate, permanent, and safe housing, when fulfilled, provides the foundation for the realization of other rights," including to work, education, healthcare and other social benefits, as well as self-determination and political, civil and human rights. "When Palestinians are denied their right to housing, other economic, social, cultural, and political rights" are compromised.

As an occupying power, Israel is legally bound to provide them, and is prohibited from collectively punishing. It nonetheless persists because world leaders don't stop it. Palestinians, of course, lose out in isolation, ignored by powers that can help.

On June 23, a Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) press release headlined, "Israel (HCJ) vacates verdict in Case Lead Case: Appoints New Panel of Judges and Orders Case on behalf of 1,046 victims be Re-heard."

Earlier on April 28, Israel's High Court dismissed a Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) petition filed on behalf of over 1,000 Cast Lead victims. It asked the High Court to order Israel's State Attorney "to refrain from raising a claim under the (two-year) statute of limitations in future civil suits" for just compensation.

An earlier article discussed the case, accessed through the following link: discriminatory-laws.html

Pertinent information from it is repeated below.

At issue, is the universally recognized right to compensation for violations of international law, what neither Israeli governments nor its High Court respect. Its April 28 dismissal of legitimate redress is a blight on its reputation as an equitable tribunal. It's also a serious setback for Israel's victims.

"Significantly, the Court's decision to dismiss the petition was procedurally flawed." It denied PCHR its lawful right to reply by May 3. It showed Court complicity with rogue officials and soldiers, shielding them from justice, as well as denying legitimate compensation to their victims.

Moreover, the UN Cast Lead Fact-Finding Mission concluded that such actions amount to "persecution, a crime against humanity."

International law, in fact, recognizes the right of all victims to redress, including compensation, when violations have been committed against them. Yet Gazans are now prevented from "accessing justice, in violation of their fundamental rights." They now face three major obstacles:

(1) Statute of limitations: Under Israeli law, civil damage claimants have two years to act from the date of the incident, or lose out entirely. However, Gaza's closure and other restrictions prevented them from submitting filings within the required time. In fact, before August 2002, the period allowed was seven years.

(2) Monetary barrier: Israeli courts require claimants to pay court insurance fees before filing. While courts may, in fact, wave them, they're always applied to Palestinians, putting them under an unfair burden. Moreover, exact amounts aren't fixed. They're determined on a case-by-case basis. For lost or damaged property, they're usually a percent of its value. In cases of injury or death, no formal guideline exists.

PCHR said that in recent wrongful death cases it filed, claimants had to pay insurance costs of $5,600, an insurmountable amount for most Palestinians. "Simply put," said PCHR, "claimants from Gaza - crippled by the economic devastation wrought by the occupation and the illegal closure - cannot afford this fee and their cases are being dismissed and closed," denying them justice.

(3) Physical barriers: Under Israeli law, valid testimonies require victims or witnesses be in court to undergo cross-examination. Under siege, however, since June 2007, Gazans were denied permission to appear. As a result, their claims were dismissed.

Moreover, PCHR lawyers are prohibited from entering Israel to represent clients and must hire Israeli ones at extra cost. However, plaintiffs also are denied entry to meet with attorneys, and they, in turn, get no permission to enter Gaza. In fact, the entire process is rigged to insure injustice, another indictment of cruel and discriminatory intolerance.

PCHR said the policies and practices it challenged "perpetuate a climate of pervasive impunity." As a result, they effectively made Gaza an "accountability free zone," what, in fact, applies throughout Occupied Palestine, reinforced by rogue justices misinterpreting international law by violating it.

On June 15, Israel's High Court in part agreed, ordering new judges rehear the case, whether or not justice this time will be rendered. It's rare Palestinians get it in any Israeli military or civilian court.

PCHR's petition was litigated by Michael Sfard and Carmel Pomerantz, challenging the two-year statute of limitations and numerous other judicial barriers, including blockading Gaza under siege. It's on behalf of 1,046 Cast Lead victims, representing most cases prepared after the war.

"They cover virtually the entire spectrum of international humanitarian law violations," including "the most infamous cases," affecting the Samouni, Abu Halima, and Al-Daia families. The Al-Samounis lost 23 of their 48 members, Masouda Al-Samouni saying:

"I have no hope, no future. I lost everything in the offensive. I was in the corner with my children just watching. I was screaming and crying. I saw everything, the blood and the brains. There was smoke everywhere. I saw my brother-in-law falling down, and my mother-in-law. I realized that my three brothers-in-law and my mother-in-law were dead....I was injured in the chest and couldn't move....I was bleeding and five months pregnant."

Soldiers entered Ateya Al-Samouni's home forcibly, shooting him in cold blood. Mona Al-Samouni saw her parents shot to death. Others witnessed similar trauma. Survivors suffer from depression and nightmares. They're also impoverished.

The Halima family's experience was similar, losing eight members, including six children. Seven others were injured, including four children.

Israel killed the entire Al-Daia family, destroying its residence, then blaming the tragedy on an operational error when, in fact, it deliberately targets non-military sites, including homes, schools, hospitals, universities, mosques, historic sites, and many others unrelated to military necessity.

As a result, most Cast Lead casualties were civilians. It was no accident. It's now up to Israel's High Court to provide redress, though no amount will restore lost lives or remove permanent scars.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at








On Sunday, a few kilometers from Tehran's downtown area, Azadi sports arena was overcrowded once again -- seats available for 12,000 but 20,000 were eager to get in -- attendants, with hearts full of love, eyes full of glory and hands wrapped around the green, white and red of the Islamic Republic of Iran, were all ready to celebrate their freedom together -- freedom gained through a hard and demanding journey from the valleys of addiction.

Sunday's 20,000 attendees were only a group of less than 20 people merely a few years ago in the suburbs of Tehran equipped with nothing but their faith. Faith in a battle they felt was worth fighting. The twenty people loved and supported each other towards a re-birth into a world of dedication to help others in need and Sunday June 26 was nothing but an evidence of how possible is recovery from the drug usage.

Drug Control Headquarters assigned Rebirth Society -- one of the biggest NGOs founded and run by recovered drug users -- to organize this event to further advocate the point that drug treatment and recovery are possible and their evident success in carrying out the task further proves that recovered drug users not only are as able people as the rest of the society but in a way are more persistent in the pursuit of their achievement. The special guest of the day, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, also attested to this point by declaring support for the rehabilitated society by saying: "Ahmadinejad, as a brother will be with you helping solve your problems and the government will proudly support you in every step of the way".

The president extended his support by promising to put the rehabilitated society in priority for housing and employment. The guest list was not limited to the president but also included the interior minister, deputy director of Drug Control Headquarters, director of state welfare organization, representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, representatives from the embassies of Japan, Norway, Sweden, England and other countries who were all present to support this human movement.

Sunday's scene is not only a concrete proof for those people who think addiction is an unsolvable problem that it can be solved but also for those who stigmatize and discriminate against the rehabilitated drug addicts -- together they showed the world that recovery is achievable and nothing is impossible. Now it is our social responsibility as the general population to not only understand the problem of drug use by educating ourselves by valid references rather than surrendering our ears to the false words of people on the street but also to support our fellow citizens dealing with this problem and helping them towards recovery process hoping that next year we could have the same celebration in the Azadi stadium with 100,000-seat capacity while 200,000 are eager to get in!







From the very beginning, the wave of protests and clashes in Libya was regarded as a prelude to a civil war in the mostly tribal country. But the foreign military intervention by NATO and its allies, albeit authorized by the UN Security Council, further complicated the situation.

To understand the situation better, it is necessary to carefully examine these complexities and their potential impact on Libya's future.

The protection of the anti-Gaddafi forces and civilians was assumed to be one of the immediate results of the foreign military intervention, but many believe that the NATO operation also marks the beginning of the disintegration of Libya. Although the main reason given for the military intervention was the need to protect civilians, the war has actually increased the number of civilians killed during the airstrikes.

The victims of the NATO attacks on Libya can be divided into two groups: civilians killed by the airstrikes and civilians who fled from the cities as a result of the increase in attacks on residential areas. As a result of this, neighboring countries are facing a huge wave of refugees rushing to the borders to escape the airstrikes.

Most accept the fact that the West is brazenly trying to effect regime change in Libya. This is the immediate goal of the NATO intervention in the country, but the main objective of the military operation is to wipe out the technical and economic infrastructure of Libya, which is one of the largest countries in North Africa. In fact, NATO wants to see a wrecked and backward Libya arise from the ashes of the war.

Libya is divided into two sections in the current situation, the eastern section, which is controlled by Muammar Gaddafi's opponents, and the western section, which is controlled by pro-Gaddafi forces.

If this situation continues, it will create many strategic threats for Libya's neighbors, such as the worsening situation of refugees and the threat of Al-Qaeda. In other words, it will create an opportunity for Al-Qaeda to infiltrate into Libyan cities from countries such as Algeria, Niger, and Mali.

Another issue is the prolongation of the war. In other North African countries, such as Egypt and Tunisia, developments were so swift and rapid that no one expected direct intervention by external forces. In Libya, the presence of external forces is supposedly benefitting Gaddafi's opponents, but the external players have not been able to end the crisis.

There are several reasons for the failure of the military intervention. The Libyan government is not a rational system. The political structure devised by Gaddafi is based on two foundations: first Muammar Gaddafi himself and his ideology, which is elaborated in his famous Green Book, and second, the political culture of the Libyan people. There is a well-known proverb in Libya which says "following a political party is an act of treason against the country." Therefore, the dissemination of political views is regarded as a negative concept in Gaddafi's regime. Thus, the opposition's efforts to overthrow Gaddafi mean replacing him and his tribe with another person and tribe.

The uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia were against the ruling president and his family, but in Libya the uprising is against Gaddafi and his tribe and all other connected tribes. This makes the situation in Libya very different. In fact, the people of Gaddafi's tribe are regarded as first-class citizens and they will not give up power so quickly.

So, which side, Gaddafi or the opposition, will benefit more from a prolongation of the war? Political analysts believe that a prolongation of the war will benefit Gaddafi's opponents more for a number of reasons.

(1) As the war drags on, Gaddafi will eventually run out of money. There is no accurate assessment about the extent of Libya's oil revenues which have been deposited in Gaddafi's personal accounts and the personal accounts of other members of his family. However, if the conflict continues, all these resources will run out.

(2) If the crisis continues for a longer period of time, there is the possibility that airstrikes will be launched on oil installations that are under the control of pro-Gaddafi forces. This will cause Gaddafi to surrender and step down.

(3) The prolongation of the war could also create a situation like what happened to the Yemeni dictator, in which there is the possibility that Gaddafi will be directly targeted.

The continuation of the conflict will also create some risks for the opposition. First, the longer the conflict continues, the higher the number of casualties among the opposition will rise, which could reduce the level of popular support for the uprising. Second, if Libya breaks up, two sets of identities will be created among the Libyan people, one eastern and the other western. The third point is the influence of Al-Qaeda elements, which could increase if the two sides become weaker and weaker.

Meanwhile, as the conflict drags on, human suffering and economic decline will increase in areas under the control of Gaddafi's forces. When the situation gets worse, hostility will increase toward the opposition because Gaddafi will be regarded as innocent and will be viewed as a hero standing up to foreign intervention. The final point in this scenario is the increased security, economic, and political costs of a protracted war for Libya's neighbors. The prolongation of the war will increase concern among neighboring countries, resulting in more dissatisfaction about the situation in Libya.

Therefore, many believe that it is time to end the military conflict in Libya and start political negotiations.

So far, both sides have rejected any possibility of negotiation. The opposition has declared that Gaddafi's departure is their precondition for starting negotiations. Gaddafi also rejects the idea of talks because, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, the United Nations resolutions on Libya include a number of provisions calling for those responsible for the killing of civilians to be tried at the International Criminal Court. Gaddafi knows better than anyone else that when the war ends, he will be subject to such a criminal proceeding at the ICC. Thus, the prospects for negotiation have reached an impasse.

A series of diplomatic measures may be appropriate under the current circumstances.

Due to the lack of tangible efforts by organizations like the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League, and the African Union, other influential governments, such as Iran, Turkey, Nigeria, and Egypt, could be called on to play an important role by activating the role of a third party such as the D-8 group. Through this third-party mediation, it may be possible to persuade both sides to start negotiations. The next step would be to establish a ceasefire between the two sides in order to determine their respective boundaries.

Gaddafi will not give up power until he is granted some kind of immunity. Equal rights for all Libyan citizens and a general amnesty must also be ensured. The final step would be to establish a parliament and draft a new constitution for the country.

Mohammed Hassan Sheikholeslami is a member of the faculty of the Iranian Foreign Ministry's School of International Relations.



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