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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

EDITORIAL 28.06.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month june 28, edition 000870, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. UNETHICAL HUMAN SHIELD
  2. A STICKY, MESSY AFFAIR
  3. DARK DAYS OF EMERGENCY - A SURYA PRAKASH
  4. INDIA AND SRI LANKA AFTER LTTE
  5. BE HARDER ON POST-OSAMA PAKISTAN - PR CHARI
  6. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH - BARRY RUBIN

 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. CLEAN HOUSE
  2. NOT THE END
  3. CUT OFF FROM COLLEGE - DEEPAK NAYYARDEEPAK NAYYAR
  4. GOOD FOR ACTORS, GOOD FOR ACTING
  5. OVERKILL THAT'S UNDERWHELMING - SRIJANA MITRA DASSRIJANA MITRA DAS
  6. DOWN WITH UPMA - J S RAGHAVANJ S RAGHAVAN

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. LAWS AS LAWS IN THEMSELVES
  2. CRYING WOLF TOO OFTEN
  3. WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS - ASHOK MALIK
  4. A FEW RESERVATIONS  - ANTHONY BOURDAIN

 

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. SHINING ORDERS
  2. STAYING SEPARATE
  3. THE HEALTH OF BOLIVAR
  4. SUNLIGHT ON THE CBI - MUKUL MUDGAL
  5. CAPITAL FLIGHT - YUBARAJ GHIMIRE
  6. 'MERE LAWS WILL NOT HELP. THIS COUNTRY NEEDS A SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION' - SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. SLIPPING ON OIL, AGAIN
  2. BYE BYE, JOBLESS GROWTH
  3. A FISCAL POLICY FIT FOR THE NEXT CRISIS - CLIVE CROOK
  4. T ROWE PRICE'S DILEMMA - SUNIL JAIN

 

THE HINDU

  1. THE NSG CHALLENGE
  2. FINALLY, A BREAKTHROUGH
  3. TALIBAN'S RETURN AND INDIA'S CONCERNS  - M.K. BHADRAKUMAR
  4. HYDRO-DIPLOMACY: A NEGLECTED OPPORTUNITY FOR NEPAL AND INDIA
  5. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN BEFORE 2014: JAYALALITHAA

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. AS NSG PRESSURE MOUNTS, STAY FIRM
  2. THE NUCLEAR RUBICON - SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. SOLOMON'S CALLING - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

 

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. IGNOU, THE STEP CHILD
  2. ANTI-DRUGS CAMPAIGN
  3. POLICY PARALYSIS DENTS GOVERNMENT'S IMAGE - BY M K DHAR
  4. CHANGE YOURSELF, CHANGE ENVIRONMENT - BY DR DEVIKA ARORA
  5. DON'T TAKE GROWTH FOR GRANTED - BY S.V. VAIDYANATHAN

 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. BOON FOR THE FARMER
  2. GADDAFI'S POLL OFFER
  3. BOLLYWOOD AWARDS 
  4. UNENDING LOKPAL DEBATE - BY T.V. RAJESWAR
  5. FROM 'SABBATICAL' TO SCHOOL OF LIFE - BY SUPARNA-SARASWATI PURI
  6. THE NOT-SO-SHINING INDIA - DR BINAYAK SEN
  7. POSCO PROTESTS CAST A SHADOW ON INDUSTRY - MATTHIAS WILLIAMS

 

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. GETTING PRICES RIGHT
  2. FINANCING ITS FLIGHT

 

BUSINESS LINE

  1. LANDMARK ORDER
  2. NO CASE FOR PROTECTING EDIBLE OIL REFINERS  - G. CHANDRASHEKHAR
  3. MISGUIDED DEBATE ON ENVIRONMENT - N. R. KRISHNAN

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. PRO-COMPETITION
  2. NO MINISTER!
  3. OF INDIAN MAKE
  4. LOKPAL IS NOT AN END IN ITSELF
  5. THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
  6. WHY FREE TRADE MATTERS  - JAGDISH BHAGWATI

 

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. HOW ABOUT A BCCI-DRS?

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. BEFRIENDING INDIA: PAK HAS LITTLE TO LOSE
  2. AS NSG PRESSURE MOUNTS, STAY FIRM
  3. THE NUCLEAR RUBICON
  4. SOLOMON'S CALLING
  5. CONCHES, BELLS AND DEVOTEES
  6. SYRIA AWAKES AGAIN

 

THE STATESMAN

  1. FORGIVE? MOVE ON?
  2. THE GENERAL WEAL
  3. GOOD PRESS...
  4. AFTER THE PULLOUT - RAJINDER PURI
  5. A LETTER FROM ROME  - MARTIN KÄMPCHEN
  6. THE OTHER TICKET  - SUNIPA BASU
  7. POOR NATIONS HOST 80% OF WORLD'S REFUGEES: UN

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. UGLY STATE
  2. UNHOMELY
  3. HOW INDIA COMPARES
  4. A HARD RAIN FALLS  - MALVIKA SINGH
  5. PLAYING HIDE AND SEEK  - ADHEESHA SARKAR
  6. IN THE TONGUES OF MANY  
  7. EVERY GENERATION

 

HAARETZ

  1. AN OPENING TO AN AGREEMENT
  2. LEAVE GAZA TO EGYPT  - BY MOSHE ARENS
  3. MEANTIME, IN WASHINGTON  - BY AMIR OREN
  4. THE MOST DANGEROUS FOOLS  - BY NIVA LANIR
  5. WAR AND VIAGRA  - BY ANER SHALEV

 

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. TEMPEST IN A TEACUP, OR SOMETHING SERIOUS?
  2. SUGAR, FLOUR AND STANFORD'S PAUL ROMER
  3. DUST IN THE MIDEAST LOWERS VISIBILITY WITH DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGNS AT FULL SPEED
  4. NOT A SIN, NOT AN ILLNESS, NOR A CRIME - YILDIRIM TÜRKER
  5. SYRIA'S LONG HOT SUMMER FOR TURKEY
  6. RECONCILIATION AND STATE-BUILDING IN PALESTINE: TURKEY AND EGYPT, COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGES - BURCU GÜLTEKİN PUNSMANN

 

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. THE FIRST AMENDMENT, UPSIDE DOWN
  2. LOTS OF TALK, TOO LITTLE ACTION
  3. NEW JERSEY'S GOVERNOR, CHAMPION OF INEQUALITY
  4. A GRAVEL ROAD TOO FAR
  5. NO TRASH, NO CRASH - BY JAMES E. HALL
  6. CONVENER IN CHIEF - BY DAVID BROOKS
  7. IT'S PERVERSE, BUT IT'S ALSO PRETEND - BY CHERYL K. OLSON

 

THE NEWS

  1. SUMMIT IN TEHRAN
  2. TIME TO STOP FIGHTING AND START TALKING
  3. RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  4. ANOTHER ECONOMIC DEBACLE  - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN 
  5. TELLING PAKISTAN'S STORY  - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  6. SUDAN UNDER SIEGE  - TAYYAB SIDDIQUI
  7. MISSION CHANGE  - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  8. ANOTHER HASTY DEPARTURE?  - ADNAN GILL

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. IMPACT OF AJK ELECTIONS
  2. QUESTION OF LIGHT-HEAVY CABINETS
  3. THE TRAGIC FATE OF BUGTIS
  4. DO NOT WEAKEN THE BINDING FORCE - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. JEWS DAMAGING THEIR ECONOMIC INTERESTS - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  6. POLITICS, ECONOMY & POVERTY - HASHIM ABRO
  7. AN INDECENT SLANDER - YOUSUF ALAMGIRIAN
  8. DEALING WITH 'WAR ON DRUGS' - HIROAKI SATO

 

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. IF THERE'S SMOKES, THERE'S IRE
  2. LABOR'S GREEN ALLIANCE TO COLOUR TAXATION DEBATE
  3. THE GREENS MUST FOCUS ON THE NATIONAL INTEREST

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. SWITCHED OFF AND TURNED INWARDS
  2. CRUSH HOUR ON ROAD AND RAIL

 

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF ... SENIOR BACKBENCHERS
  2. CHINA AND THE EU: THE LONGEST OF MARCHES
  3. MINISTRY OF DEFENCE: TOO MANY CHIEFS

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. VICTORY AGAINST TERROR IN INDONESIA
  2. THE COURAGE TO REBUILD - BY DAISAKU IKEDA
  3. EAGLEBURGER: THE U.S. DIPLOMAT'S AMBASSADOR - BY CHRISTOPHER HILL
  4. GLOBAL DRUG INDUSTRY ANNOUNCES ACTION PLAN AGAINST THREATS OF NONCOMMUNICABLE DISEASE
  5. EAGLEBURGER: THE U.S. DIPLOMAT'S AMBASSADOR - BY CHRISTOPHER HILL

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. A MEDIOCRE BADMINTON FORCE?
  2. THE MYTH OF THE INDONESIAN POPULATION BOOM - STEFAN S. HANDOYO
  3. LESSONS LEARNED AT THE SCS WORKSHOP (PART 2 OF 3) - HASJIM DJALAL
  4. CHALLENGES FOR BETTER FOREST GOVERNANCE - WARIEF DJAJANTO BASORIE

 

DAILY MIRROR

  1. SLC BOWLED BY PARTY POLITICS AND FRAUD
  2. SAFETY MEASURES URGENT FOR THREE-WHEELER PASSENGERS
  3. DENGUE, VIRAL FLU AND HOSPITAL CORRIDORS FLOODED WITH PATIENTS
  4. (NO) RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND BEATEN FREEDOMS
  5. INDIA, PAKISTAN: GETTING REAL

 

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. PALESTINIAN PLIGHT EXPOSES HYPOCRISY    -  BY JAMAL KANJ

 

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM REQUIRES COMMITMENT - BY ELHAM POURMOHAMMADI
  2. IF THE SEA IS IN TROUBLE, WE ARE ALL IN TROUBLE - BY SYLVIA EARLE
  3. JAPAN'S MELTDOWNS DEMAND NEW NO-NUKES THINKING - BY AMY GOODMAN
  4. BAHRAIN TAKES A PAGE OUT OF STALIN'S TEXTBOOK - BY DR. ALA'A SHEHABI

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

UNETHICAL HUMAN SHIELD

CHILDREN HAVE NO PLACE IN ANTI-POSCO AGITATION


Irrespective of the merits of their agitation, the appalling use of young children by anti-Posco activists as they battle the Odisha Government deserves to be condemned unequivocally. No cause, no matter how grave or vital, justifies the use of children (and women) as a human shield. It is shameful that children are being exploited by members of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, the group that is spearheading the agitation against the proposed integrated steel plant by the South Korean giant Posco. The project, once showcased as the largest ever foreign investment in India, has been foundering for the past many years. The PPSS has been battling the Government of Odisha, initially over environmental concerns and forest rights and now over land acquisition issues. Members of the PPSS have often staged dharnas, organised rallies, observed 'black days' sporting black bands and waving black flags, and employed several other perfectly legitimate means to lodge their protest. However, since the project received clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, following which the State Government rightly began the process of acquiring land, PPSS has found itself in a tight spot. With nowhere to go and nothing else to do, it has shockingly resorted to using children to fight its battle. Consequently, for more than two weeks now, children as young as 10 years old have been taken out of their homes and classrooms and dragged to the frontline of the battlezone where they clearly do not belong. Every day at least 400 girls and boys take their place on the sands under the scorching Sun and simply lie there all day. Along with their parents and other members of the PPSS, they form a human barricade to prevent security personnel from entering the Dhinkia gram panchayat area, the epicentre of the anti-Posco agitation. At the entrance of Gobindapur village, which serves as the main entry point into the contested area, these children serve as the PPSS's latest and most lethal weapon against the Government which, incidentally, has once again redeployed some 600 security personnel in the area. At least 12 platoons of police are currently patrolling the dharna site. The protesters, on their part, have refused to back down and are in no mood for a compromise of any sort. The local administration has declared the human barricade illegal. In short, the atmosphere is tense; one foolish move on either side can lead to a catastrophe in which the children will be the worst sufferers as they will find themselves needlessly caught in the crossfire. The likes of PPSS president Abhay Sahu and environmentalist Vandana Shiva, who support the use of children as a human shield, will then be equally willing to take responsibility for the horrendous consequences.


In this context, the Government of Odisha's move to declare the use of children in the agitation as illegal is much welcome. Additionally, the fact that other Government agencies such as the Department of Women and Child Development and the Department of School and Mass Education have taken note of the situation is also a cause for relief. Both agencies have sought reports from the Jagatsinghpur district administration; however, as a cautionary note it must be mentioned that reports and notices are pointless unless they are implemented.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

A STICKY, MESSY AFFAIR

GOVERNMENT MUST COME CLEAN ON BUGGING


There is clearly more to the 'chewing gum' episode than meets the eye, or what has been said by the Government by way of sharing information about an issue that cannot be treated as strictly beyond the realm of public knowledge. If the office (and the official car) of the Finance Minister of the country was bugged, then the nation has every right to know who was behind this downright despicable and dangerous act. If there was no attempt to snoop on Mr Pranab Mukherjee, then, too, the people need to be told so — categorically and unambiguously. Mr Mukherjee is the senior-most Congress leader in the Union Government and as a veteran Minister he knows how the system works. But if he chose to bypass the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is located in the same building as the Ministry of Finance, and draw the Prime Minister's attention to the intriguing discovery of chewing gum residue stuck at 16 different places in his office, then clearly that indicates a trust deficit. More importantly, he asked the CBDT to conduct an inquiry instead of seeking an IB probe; the former in turn hired a private investigation firm whose findings suggest that the chewing gum residue was used for sticking bugs. If there is any substance to this conclusion, then there is cause for alarm — for the Government and for the country. It is now reported that similar tactics were used for bugging the official car used by Mr Mukherjee.


If at all the bugging did take place, it was clearly the work of either corporates wanting advance information on policy decisions or elements within the Government. A third possibility is that individuals in the Congress were involved in the snooping. We cannot entirely rule out the involvement of foreign agencies, though it is doubtful they would take recourse to such crude measures to gather information. Whatever the truth, it needs to be located and made public and those guilty of the misdeed must be given exemplary punishment. The IB, which is now looking into the issue, has not ruled out the involvement of elements within the agency who could have been conducting an 'unauthorised' operation. That's frightening. Are we to believe that the Government's agencies are capable of such violation of discipline? If individuals in IB did participate in the snooping, who were they working for? Surely they were not gathering information just for the fun of it? The Prime Minister, as always, has chosen silence over speaking his mind and reassuring the people of this country that the integrity of the Government of India has not been compromised or the domain of individual Ministers intruded into by undesirable elements with an unholy motive. This issue cannot be brushed under the carpet nor dismissed as inconsequential. The Prime Minister owes an explanation to the people of India.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

DARK DAYS OF EMERGENCY

A SURYA PRAKASH


We must never forget the Congress's suppression of democratic rights during the 1975-77 Emergency. The party remains authoritarian as ever.

That an extra-constitutional centre of power controls much of what transpires in the Union Government is a fact that is far too well known both within the country and outside. It is also no secret that the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, who became that supra-constitutional authority after the 2004 general election soon after the appointment of a pliable party man as Prime Minister, regularly exercises her veto power and keeps a tight rein on the Government.

The Congress, however, does not see this as violative of any principle, constitutional or otherwise, because the presence of such extra-constitutional entities is part and parcel of the party's concept of governance. Since the Nehru-Gandhis play a pivotal role in the affairs of the Congress, the party runs on the premise that members of the dynasty need no formal office to run the affairs of state.

Contrary to popular belief, this process began during the days of Jawaharlal Nehru when his daughter, Mrs Indira Gandhi, began dabbling in politics and even got her father to appoint her as the president of the Congress in the later part of the 1950s. The exercise of extra-constitutional power by members of this family came to be seen in a rather aggravated form in the mid-1970s when Sanjay Gandhi, as president of the Youth Congress, started issuing diktats to Union Ministers and Chief Ministers.

This approach to governance crossed the limits of decency during the dreaded Emergency in 1975-77. So appreciative was Mrs Indira Gandhi of the work of Sanjay Gandhi that she used her brute majority in Parliament to extend the term of the 1971-76 Lok Sabha by a year. This dreadful phase only ended when the people threw out the Congress in a belated general election called by her on the basis of 'intelligence' inputs that suggested that the people were with her.

This is the history of governance a la Congress, but many members of the Government led by this party pretend as if none of this happened or probably hope that much of this has been wiped off public memory. But those who have an abiding commitment to democracy should never let this happen because to forget the days of tyranny is to re-invite trouble. That is why for the sake of democracy, one needs to recall the dark days of the Emergency on its anniversary, which fell on June 25. This annual reminder has become all the more necessary in view of the anti-democratic tendencies displayed by the Congress even in the era of coalitions.

For instance, Anna Hazare and several other concerned citizens have announced their intention to agitate if the Government does not yield to their basic demand for a strong anti-corruption law that will bring everyone from the Prime Minister downwards within its ambit. The Congress, however, is hell bent on scuttling this move because of its traditional unease with independent institutions. Since the days of Nehru, the Congress has ensured that only 'pliable' party members are appointed Governors in the States. Similarly, it has always ensured that persons capable of independent judgement are not appointed as Election Commissioners.

The party also campaigned openly during the Emergency against an independent judiciary and media. One need only visit Parliament debates on the Constitution 42nd Amendment Bill to know the extent to which the party was willing to go to brow beat the judiciary, the media and a few upright bureaucrats. People like CM Stephen openly campaigned for a "committed judiciary" — committed not to the Constitution of India but to the Congress.

Nothing much has changed over the decades. The effort has always been to appoint party sympathisers or persons of dubious distinction to such constitutional offices. The best example of this in recent times is the appointment of Mr Navin Chawla, who was declared "unfit for any public office" by the Justice Shah Commission of Inquiry set up to look into abuse of power during the Emergency, as Election Commissioner. Another example of the Congress's brazen contempt for norms was the appointment of a man who is an accused in a corruption case as head of the Central Vigilance Commission.

All this is indicative of the Congress's fear of independent institutions. Given this background, it is indeed strange to hear sermons from Union Ministers like Mr Kapil Sibal and Mr P Chidambaram on the virtues of constitutionalism. Recently, they addressed the media together and hit out at 'civil society' and the demand for a strong Lok Pal by saying that it does not make sense to run a Government but allow "decisions to be taken outside". The other argument against a strong Lok Pal was that the Government "cannot create a structure parallel to the Government". The two Ministers also wondered how the Government "can wantonly part with its power".

But, is this not what the Manmohan Singh Government has been doing for the last seven years — "wantonly parting with its power" to an extra-constitutional authority called Ms Sonia Gandhi? That is why this argument is rather weird when it is made by Congress Ministers. Even more laughable was Mr Chidambaram's argument that "there is a Constitution, the basic features of which cannot be altered".

Dozens of Congress MPs and leaders have condemned the doctrine of 'Basic Structure' propounded by the Supreme Court, both within Parliament and outside. Members of this party had even warned Supreme Court judges who propounded the doctrine that the party had its "methods" to teach them a lesson. That is why one must be wary of the false respect that Ministers like Mr Chidambaram show towards the idea of the basic structure of the Constitution and the lip service that they offer to the inviolability of this principle.

Finally, let the anniversary of the Emergency also remind us of the dreadful constitutional 'amendments' that the Congress introduced during 1975-77, placing the Prime Minister above the Constitution, curbing the powers of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, and giving the President the right to amend the Constitution through an executive order. These 'amendments' destroyed the foundations of a democratic Constitution.

Since the Congress still remains committed to extra-constitutionalism and to the appointment of pliant, unworthy persons to high constitutional offices, one should constantly be on one's guard. The anniversary must remind us of the sacrifices made by lakhs of citizens who were killed, maimed and jailed by this party because it hated dissent.

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THE PIONEER

OPED


INDIA AND SRI LANKA AFTER LTTE

India has strong reasons to work for fundamental changes in Sri Lanka's post-war policies. It has a clear interest in preventing either a return to violent militancy or the consolidation on its borders of another authoritarian Government with an overly powerful military. India must adopt an activist approach as it seeks recognition as a rising global power

India has long been the country with the greatest influence over Sri Lanka but its policies to encourage the Government there towards a sustainable peace are not working. Despite India's active engagement and unprecedented financial assistance, the Sri Lankan Government has failed to make progress on pressing post-war challenges. Government actions and the growing political power of the military are instead generating new grievances that increase the risk of an eventual return to violence. To support a sustainable and equitable post-war settlement in Sri Lanka and limit the chances of another authoritarian and military-dominated Government on its borders, India needs to work more closely with the United States, the European Union and Japan, encouraging them to send the message that Sri Lanka's current direction is not acceptable. It should press for the demilitarisation of the north, a return to civil administration there and in the east, and the end of emergency rule throughout the country.

New Delhi's relations with Sri Lanka in the two years since the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have had four main priorities:

 

providing humanitarian assistance to displaced Tamils in the north and east;

·      supporting major development projects, primarily in the north, with concessionary loans;

·      pressing the Sri Lankan Government and the main Sri Lankan Tamil political alliance, the Tamil National Alliance, to work towards a negotiated settlement of ethnic conflict through the devolution of power to Tamil-majority areas; and

·      encouraging greater economic integration between the two economies.


India's approach has so far paid only limited dividends. Deepening militarisation and Sinhalisation in the Northern Province have increased the insecurity and political marginalisation of Tamils and are undermining prospects for inter-ethnic reconciliation. The Government continues to resist any investigation or accounting for 'mass atrocities' in the final months of the war. Democratic governance is under sustained assault throughout the country, as power is concentrated in the President's family and the military; attacks on independent media and political opponents continue with impunity. Even on Indian-sponsored development projects and economic integration, the Sri Lankan Government has dragged its feet; for example, construction has begun on only a handful of the 50,000 houses India has offered to build in the Northern Province.

While officials in New Delhi admit they are frustrated, India remains hesitant to press President Rajapaksa's regime very hard. This is due in part to its history of counter-productive interventions in Sri Lanka. India's misguided policy of arming Tamil militants in 1980s significantly expanded the conflict, and its decision to send peace-keepers to enforce the 1987 Indo-Lanka accord ended in disaster as the LTTE fought them to a standstill and later took revenge by assassinating former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. India's interventions have made Sri Lankans of all communities suspicious, limiting India's room for manoeuvre. Many Sinhalese see India as favouring Tamils and as wanting to weaken or divide the country, despite its crucial role in destroying the Tamil Tigers. For many Tamils, on the other hand, India is seen as having repeatedly broken its pledges to defend their rights and protect their lives, especially during the final phase of the war in 2009.

India's reluctance to put serious pressure on the Sri Lankan Government is also due to strategic considerations, in particular its desire to counter the growing influence of China, whose financial and political support the Rajapaksa Government has been cultivating. India's own growing economic interests in Sri Lanka have also tempered its political activism. New Delhi's traditional reluctance to work through multilateral bodies or in close coordination with other Governments has also significantly weakened its ability to influence Sri Lanka.

India, nonetheless, has strong reasons to work for fundamental changes in Sri Lanka's post-war policies. It has a clear interest in preventing either a return to violent militancy or the consolidation on its borders of another authoritarian Government with an overly powerful military. India's own democratic values and successes in accommodating ethnic diversity should also encourage an activist approach, especially as it seeks recognition as a rising global power with hopes of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. India's own restive domestic Tamil constituency, to which the Union Government needs to respond for electoral considerations, is pressing for stronger action. After decades of actively supporting minority rights and devolution of power in Sri Lanka, India has its reputation on the line. With the much-hated LTTE defeated with Indian assistance, New Delhi should, in principle, have more leeway to push for reforms.

If it is serious about promoting a stable and democratic Sri Lanka, India will have to rebalance its priorities and press more consistently and in concert with other powers for major political reforms in Sri Lanka. Parties in Tamil Nadu, in turn, will need to use their leverage with New Delhi in consistent and principled ways, even at the risk of sacrificing potentially profitable political deals.

India's support for negotiations between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil National Alliance, which belatedly began in January 2011, has been useful and should be maintained. But the immediate focus of the talks and of Indian influence should shift from pressing for effective devolution of power to demilitarising the north and east and rebuilding meaningful democratic institutions and freedoms. This would require:

 

·      re-establishing the authority of the local civil administration in the north and east to oversee development and humanitarian assistance without interference by the military or Government;

·      holding the long-delayed election for the Northern Provincial Council;

·      publicising the names and locations of all those detained on suspected involvement with the LTTE (including those in 'rehabilitation' centres);

·      expediting the release of land currently designated as (or operating as de facto) high-security zones; and

·      removing arbitrary restrictions on political activities and on the humanitarian activities of NGOs.


India should monitor its projects in the north more closely and insist, along with other donors, that they effectively empower local people. India should insist on working through the newly elected local Governments and, eventually, with the Northern Provincial Council. To make this possible, India will need to coordinate more closely with Japan, Western donors and international development banks. Together they have the political and financial leverage to influence the Rajapaksa administration should they choose to use it. India should revive its idea of a donors conference to review post-war progress and to push the Government to demilitarise the north, lift the state of emergency and relax anti-terrorism laws.

In New York, Geneva and Colombo, India should publicly acknowledge the importance and credibility of the report by the UN Secretary-General's panel of experts on accountability and should support an independent international investigation into allegations of 'war crimes' at the close of the civil war in 2009. At the same time, it should send strong, public messages to the Sri Lankan Government on the need for domestic action on accountability. It should also work towards the establishment of a truth commission that would examine the injustices and crimes suffered by all communities, including those committed by all parties during the Indian Army's presence in northern Sri Lanka in the late 1980s. Acknowledging the suffering of all communities will be necessary for lasting peace.

India should broaden its political agenda from focussing solely on devolution and ensuring the rights of Tamils. Without a reversal of the Sri Lankan Government's growing authoritarianism, centralisation of power and continued repression of dissent, any devolution will be meaningless and the risks of renewed conflict will increase. India's longstanding interest in a peaceful and politically stable Sri Lanka is best served by strong messages to Colombo to end impunity and reverse the democratic decay that undermines the rights of all Sri Lankans. By raising political concerns that affect all of Sri Lanka's communities, India can also counter suspicions among Sinhalese and eventually strengthen its hand with the Government. This will take some time, but the work should start now.

-- India and Sri Lanka after the LTTE, a report by International Crisis Group, Geneva.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

BE HARDER ON POST-OSAMA PAKISTAN

PR CHARI


Now that the Americans have deprived Pakistan of its last fig-leaf of sovereignty by forcing its consent to conducting 'joint strikes' against 'high value targets', India must adopt a hard-nosed policy in dealing with Pakistan without getting mushy in the unfolding post-Osama bin Laden era

Nearly two months have passed since Osama bin Laden's dramatic execution in his Abbottabad hideout. Two outcomes, both fully anticipated, have already come true.

The first is that Osama bin Laden's execution and his burial at sea (read feeding to the sharks in the north Arabian Sea) in contravention of Islamic traditions, has evoked hardly any reaction in the Muslim world. Why? Unsurprising, because he was not visible following the American attack on his base in Afghanistan after 9/11. His periodic exhortations to the faithful through videos to carry on the jihad against Americans had begun to pall. Obviously, the Pakistan Army and ISI found value in secreting Osama bin Laden away in Abbottabad so that they could continue milking the munificent American cow for over $20 billion in civil and military assistance over the years.

Osama bin Laden's access to the outside world was severely restricted. Consequently, his charisma was fading; witness the minimal repercussions of his assassination in the Gulf and West Asia, convulsed presently by the 'Arab Spring'. Ironically, Pakistan is the country most adversely affected by Osama bin Laden's killing. Almost daily revenge attacks are being launched on its security establishment by the Tehrik-e-Taliban and other outfits linked to Al Qaeda.

The second outcome, equally anticipated, is that Pakistan's anger that its sovereignty was violated by the Abbottabad raid was feigned. It has since quieted down. Anyway, this feigned anger was tempered by guilt, and was only meant to assuage the outraged domestic population. Pakistan's dependence on American aid is absolute, and it could not have continued this charade for long. Now, the Americans have deprived Pakistan of its last fig-leaf of sovereignty by forcing its consent to conducting 'joint strikes' against 'high value targets', (read important militant leaders holed up in Pakistan.) The successful drone strike, which took out Ilyas Kashmiri, is the first such 'joint strike'. It succeeded because pinpoint and real-time intelligence were available to the Americans. Was this supplied by the ubiquitous ISI? Ayman al Zawahari, Mullah Omar and the Haqqani family are next in line. Watch this space.

What could Pakistan and India expect from the US in the post-Osam bin Laden era? It remains dependent on Pakistan to ensure that logistics supplies transiting through Pakistani territory from Karachi reach the American and international forces deployed in Afghanistan. Pakistan has exploited this American vulnerability to disrupt supplies to convey its disapproval of US actions. Post-Osama, the US will be much less tolerant of crude blackmail. It could, instead, exploit Pakistan's vulnerability of being, in truth, a bankrupt and rentier state. More plainly, the US could use its aid to Pakistan for ensuring its fuller cooperation to address the jihadi threat emanating from its territory. President Barack Obama has already advised Islamabad to refrain from exaggerating the threat from India and to not be niggardly in throwing its weight behind counter-insurgency operations against the jihadi outfits ensconced in the FATA and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province.

What does all this mean for India? Significantly, the US has not renewed its standard call on India to reconcile with Pakistan and resolve the Kashmir dispute to enable Pakistan to reduce its military presence against India on its eastern flank, and re-deploy those forces on its western borders to grapple with the militant outfits based there. Instead, the US has treated India with great circumspection, appreciating its capacity, like China, to invest in the American economy, provide markets for American goods — especially defence equipment, and partner the US to stabilise the volatile south-west Asian region.

Pakistan (read Pakistan Army and the ISI) would find it difficult, however, to continue its aberrant foreign policy of using cross-border insurgency and terrorism to keep India off-balance. Indeed, Pakistan will be under great pressure to restrain its militants from acting with impunity from its territory.

India must obviously not shun dialogue with Pakistan. But it should re-define its terms and review the agenda beyond the hackneyed eight issues that came up for discussion in the India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks. High on this agenda should be the delivery of India's 'most wanted' criminals provided asylum in Pakistan, plus visible action against those identified Pakistanis who had perpetrated the Mumbai outrage. This includes credible action against the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which are enjoying 'most favoured terrorist organisations' status in Islamabad.

No doubt a 'tough' agenda will not appeal to the Prime Minister, who is, by nature, averse to driving a hard bargain against Pakistan, especially in its present state of discomfiture. But as the former NSA MK Narayanan informed an American interlocutor, as revealed by WikiLeaks, the Prime Minister stands 'isolated' in the Indian policy establishment. The majority would undoubtedly favour a more realistic and hard-nosed policy in dealing with Pakistan without getting mushy in the unfolding post-Osama bin Laden era.

-- The writer is a visiting Professor, IPCS.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

BARRY RUBIN


Once the British Prime Minister's Office plagiarised an article to justify the attack on Iraq, now the statement that the Brotherhood wants to wipe out Israel has been put to question. Interestingly, in both the cases the source is same but the authenticity differs

In 2003, I and the publication I edit, the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal, became the world's biggest story for two or three days. Last week I became a 'story' without knowing it until later.

First, the 2003 experience. An Iraqi-American author submitted a good article that explained how Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime's intelligence agencies worked. As I edited the article I said to myself — this is absolutely true — that this was one of the most uncontroversial articles I'd ever publish because it was so bland, though useful as a database inventory of Iraqi institutions.

Without my knowing it, the British Prime Minister's office plagiarised the article as part of its campaign to justify launching the attack on Iraq to overthrow Saddam. A MERIA Journal reader who opposed the war noticed this plagiarism and brought it to public attention. The reader in no way criticised the journal but only the British Government. I should stress that the article said nothing to support (or oppose) going to war with Iraq. I think it was used mainly to make it appear as if the British Prime Minister's office had done some research on Iraq.

The story was front-page news around the world. I walked into a room as a famous television personality was discussing the matter with total inaccuracy on the television. Prestigious newspapers got our journal's name wrong. Only one reporter ever called to interview me. Left-wing sources speculated that the plagiarism involved some kind of Israeli conspiracy to begin the war, though again nothing in the article suggested attacking Saddam.

I was amazed and disgusted. But that's nothing compared to what has just happened to me.

Before you read the rest of this note, understand that none of those involved have consulted me nor have they used my name. I heard about this by accident after it happened. Other than those directly involved, I'm presumably the only one who knows that this was my article. Here we go.

A well-known television programme took an article of mine that appeared on my blog and quoted it on the air. The extract was put up on the screen though the author's name wasn't mentioned. It was about the Muslim Brotherhood. The article quoted a Brotherhood leader as talking about his hostility towards Israel, etc. At this point, I was saying to myself: There goes a million dollars in free publicity!

The programme's critics submitted the article to one of these mainstream prestigious 'fact-checking' sites. The site called up an 'expert' whom I've never heard of at an American institution and asked him about it. He said that he had never heard of the Egyptian Brotherhood leader. The site then pronounced, on the basis of that one conversation, that the article was inaccurate and criticised the programme for using it. Note that my article was sourced and if anyone had asked me I could have shown them the original and many similar statements, as well as proof of the importance of the Brotherhood leader making the statement.

I only know about this because I was listening to the programme and they cited the article (without my name) and of course I recognised the quote. Nobody consulted me at any point on this matter.

So to quote a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood based on a reliable (and available) translation as saying that the Brotherhood wants an Islamist state and wants to wipe out Israel is considered to be not credible on the basis of a statement by one American who, to my knowledge, has never done any research on the Brotherhood. Yet there are scores of such Brotherhood statements, including those from both the leader and deputy leader of the Brotherhood as well as many recognised leaders and in Brotherhood publications.

This is the closest thing I've ever seen and experienced to a Soviet-style or 1984-type denial of reality. We have reached the point of being able to quote the motto of George Orwel's totalitarian state in 1984:

 

·      war is peace (the revolutionary Islamist war on the West doesn't actually exist.)

·      freedom is slavery (free speech is Islamophobic, racist, etc, and thus a form of 'hate crime'. Censorship makes us freer.)

·      ignorance is strength (mass media editing out of reality makes us stronger by eliminating potential 'thought crime' and nudging the masses toward more 'correct' behaviour.


-- The writer is director of the GLORIA Center, Tel Aviv, and editor of the MERIA Journal

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

CLEAN HOUSE

 

While opposition political parties in Uttar Pradesh may be guilty of opportunism, it does not absolve the Mayawati government of the lawlessness that has gripped the state.


Even as a spate of rape cases made headlines, the death of deputy chief medical officer Y S Sachan within the premises of Lucknow jail points to the hold of criminal elements over the state's institutions.

Sachan had been arrested in connection with the embezzlement of National Rural Health Mission funds and was even accused of orchestrating the murders of two previous chief medical officers. That he was found dead a day before he was supposed to depose in court is highly suspicious.


Murder seems to be the logical conclusion. Several medical experts concur with this assessment even though the UP government insisted it was suicide.


Though law and order had improved initially under BSP rule, the Sachan case bears testimony to a culture of crime now flourishing in the state. That Sachan was accused of embezzling government funds and plotting the murders of his superior officers would point to criminalisation of the state administration. His death in jail suggests people in positions of power want a cover-up.


While a criminal-politician nexus appears strong, the case is another blot on the UP police. It appears that the latter has been infected by the virus of corruption and is subservient to its political masters. This allows people with connections to make a mockery of the law.


It will be recalled that in the Lakhimpur-Kheri case - where a 14-year-old girl was found dead within the premises of a police station - the needle of suspicion again pointed to the local police. Instead of upholding the law and protecting the innocent, the police themselves appear to be doing the dirty work for criminals and politicians. This was once again evident when the police in Lucknow tried to intimidate the state bureau chief of a national news channel when the latter ran a report alleging that Sachan was murdered. Clearly, the Mayawati dispensation has little patience with the freedom of the press.



Instead of blaming the media and opposition political parties, Mayawati should take this opportunity to clean house. Those within the government suspected of criminal links need to be proceeded against. Police personnel guilty of subverting the law must be awarded exemplary punishment. It is only by breaking the back of the criminal-politician nexus that the state government can regain the goodwill it earned in the past in terms of improving UP's law and order situation. But this will require Mayawati to live up to her reputation as a no-nonsense chief minister.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

NOT THE END

 

Afghanistan and its neighbours were, no doubt, waiting with some anticipation to hear US President Barack Obama's policy outline for the withdrawal of US troops.

With US elections coming up in 2012 and polls revealing a growing lack of support for both his economic policies and the war in Afghanistan, a drawdown plan of some kind was inevitable.

What is of more concern than the rhetoric, however, are the reports that his own generals were critical of a drawdown apparently tailored to suit domestic expectations that might negatively impact the situation in Afghanistan.

As matters stand, the rapid withdrawal of some 30,000 troops by summer 2012 may well ease the pressure on the Taliban.

And it's far from certain that the Afghan armed forces will be in a position to take control of their country's security by 2014 as is currently planned. But it's important to remember here that Obama has left himself wiggle room if he returns to office in 2012.

There will still be 68,000-odd US troops left in Afghanistan after 2012. And it's unlikely in the extreme that Washington will hand over all its bases. More likely is a continued presence beyond 2014, that at least allows it to launch drone attacks and special forces strikes of the kind that killed Osama bin Laden.

Now, New Delhi must consider how to calibrate its Afghanistan policy. For one, it should urge Washington to be flexible in its continued withdrawal post-2012 instead of sticking to a rigid 2014 deadline.

And the second is pushing harder for a regional approach that addresses a possible security vacuum as the Americans withdraw troops, and incorporates the concerns of all stakeholders.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

CUT OFF FROM COLLEGE

DEEPAK NAYYARDEEPAK NAYYAR

 

Late June and early July are a season of anxiety in urban India. Large numbers of students who have completed their Class XII examinations, and their parents, are on tenterhooks. The only exceptions are the few who have already obtained admission into professional courses in engineering, medicine or law through entrance exams that are an almost Darwinian selection process.

An overwhelming proportion of school leavers, however, seek admission to undergraduate courses in social sciences, humanities, sciences and commerce. But undergraduate colleges are mostly poor in provincial cities and simply do not have enough places in metropolitan cities. Declining academic standards, everywhere, accentuate the problem, as talented students migrate intensifying competition for places in good institutions.

At the University of Delhi, for example, those with 90% marks, or even 95%, cannot be sure about getting admission to a college and subject of their choice, while those with 70% marks can be sure that it is almost impossible for them to get admission. Surprise turns into shock and anguish turns into despair. For those excluded, no consolation can suffice. Yet, it is important to understand why this is happening.

It would seem that marks awarded to students in Class XII seem to increase year after year. This is simply grade inflation. For a long time, the school examination system was perceived to be subjective and error prone. In order to address this problem, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) tried to make the examination system as objective as possible to neutralise error or bias recognising the reality that the quality, or conscientiousness, of teachers who graded scripts is so uneven. In this endeavour, CBSE did succeed. But the objective nature of questions and answers led to grade inflation.

With the passage of time, students helped by their schools and private tutors mastered the art of writing CBSE examinations. Grade inflation gathered further momentum. Excellence in performance went from 75% to 80% through 85% to 90% and beyond to 95% plus. It is not that students got so much better or brighter. Their grades rose steadily, not only at the top but also across the board, even though the quality of the top 1% or 5% of the students has not changed.

It is no surprise that cut-off points for admission to undergraduate courses rose at the same pace as grade inflation. This was a consequence rather than a cause. As marks obtained in Class XII exams, whether CBSE or state boards, have climbed over time, so have cut-offs. And it is wrong to blame universities or their undergraduate colleges, in Delhi or elsewhere in India, for this situation. If anything, universities and colleges that adopt cut-offs in school leaving examinations as the criterion for admission are transparent and fair, accountable to both students and parents, in a system that is increasingly susceptible to intervention or manipulation.

The fundamental problem is different. It has two dimensions.

First, the number of school leavers seeking admission to undergraduate courses has increased at an exponential rate. The underlying demographic factor of our increasing young population is the driver. But the growing aspirations of the young also see higher education as the only access to employment possibilities and social opportunities.

Second, the number of places in undergraduate education, apart from seats in substandard private institutions, has registered little if any increase. The bottom line is that we simply do not have enough capacity in terms of seats for undergraduate education of an acceptable quality. It is obvious that we need to create far more opportunities in higher education for young people. Until that happens, the situation can only worsen.

The problem of admissions is far more acute in the top 10, or 15, established undergraduate colleges, particularly at the University of Delhi, where places are limited but demand is enormous because these few institutions provide an imprimatur. Their brand equity opens up a vista of opportunities for their graduates. They draw aspiring students almost like magnets. Their attraction has become even stronger over time because of the sorry state of institutions that were in the premier league not so long ago. There has been a steady decline in these institutions outside Delhi, in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Allahabad, or even Patna. Thus, students from elsewhere in India also flock to Delhi in search of educational opportunities. It is not that the University of Delhi, or its colleges, have got better. It is just that others have got worse.

What is to be done? The challenge in undergraduate education is to increase opportunities without diluting standards. This means increasing the number of places for students in our megacities. But it is neither feasible nor desirable to expand capacities by increasing the intake in existing colleges or the number of affiliated colleges in existing universities. Both are already stretched beyond limits. And governments, Centre and states alike, simply do not have the resources to finance such expansion.

It is imperative that we establish a central board, as also state boards, of undergraduate education, which would set standards, curriculum and examinations. These boards would be empowered to grant affiliations to undergraduate colleges, much like CBSE does for schools. Such colleges could be established by the government, the private sector, or public-private partnerships. The time has come to think big and think long.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                TIMES VIEW

GOOD FOR ACTORS, GOOD FOR ACTING

 

It's churlish to condemn Bollywood's biggest stars for their capacity to transfer their versatility on the silver screen to business. It's been revealed that they make more with endorsements than what they're famous for: films. This actually helps both themselves and the movie business.


Take Aamir Khan. Analysts say he probably makes Rs 60 crore per year through advertising. Though it's a sideline, it's a lucrative one because it's a lot more than he gets per film. This doesn't suggest actors are losing their mystique, but the contrary. If the actor lacked an aura they wouldn't sell products and marketing executives wouldn't be paying them huge sums. Actors are coveted by advertisers, not just because some of the more creative ads require acting talent to carry them off. It's also because advertisers hope the stars' brand value will rub off on the products they endorse. In other words, it's precisely their aura/charisma/performance that differentiates them from ordinary models. Which is why actors are paid more than professional ad models. The logic of the market is undeniable here. The same logic applies to sports stars, who too are much sought after by advertisers. And attract the same cliched complaints about earning more through endorsements than by playing their game.


These fees make for happy actors. ''At present, i'm endorsing about 14 brands and getting paid what i deserve,'' says Kareena Kapoor. Free of having to take on every role they get actors can pick and choose. That's why four of the top five actors - Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Ranbir Kapoor - are free to do just one movie per year. They focus on quality, which in turn enhances their brand. It's a virtuous circle, sanctified by the fact that with the biggest stars occupied elsewhere, there's room very near the top for up and coming actors.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

OVERKILL THAT'S UNDERWHELMING

SRIJANA MITRA DASSRIJANA MITRA DAS

 

Bollywood stars making more money today from endorsements over movies is cause for concern - and not just aesthetic. The movie star's persona is predicated on 'big-picture' glamour removed from daily reality.

A great movie star should be able to take you - repeatedly - through love's first blushes, life's hard-fought victories, its devastating losses, its philosophical draws.

When you think of your favourite film star, your heart should skip a beat, recalling scenes of passion, moonlight and rain, thunderous lines, anguish, joy - not cement, pickle or tooth powder.

By investing considerable time and attention in endorsements, rather than deepening the vividness of their films or sharpening the edges of their characters, film stars are doing themselves a major commercial disservice.

They're loosening the power of their brand value, shredding away at their own larger-than-life appeal with every bit of underwear, hair oil or talcum powder they push.

And they're harming advertising too. Mixing images, design and quick wit, the best advertisements become memorable because of jingles, slogans or characters that catch attention and travel easily across time and context, not becoming jaded as a star fades, not needing change as a star stumbles.

Bunging a film star into a tub of foam for a soap advert or propping one up against a fridge diminishes the need to work hard at a creative storyline, an enduring slogan. Placing a star in an ad makes for lazy advertising - and not necessarily hugely marked-up sales.

Finally, Bollywood's influx into advertising ensures the death of modelling in India. Previously, Indian TV screens were awash with 'character actors' energising quirky ads for tea, towels and light bulbs. Today, as goods expand, once-familiar professional models - statuesque eye-catchers or 'everyday' types, eccentric professors, gossipy neighbours, edgy aunties - are vanishing, replaced by uniformly wonderful cricketers and film stars. That's a real pity. And frankly, a bit of a bore.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

DOWN WITH UPMA

J S RAGHAVANJ S RAGHAVAN

 

Even before a swallow of coffee had kick-started me for the day, my neighbour Subbu darkened my room with his unsolicited presence. It was his style to drop in at odd hours as a flash news carrier. He ought to have been a carrier pigeon in his previous birth.

"Did you read this?" he thrust a folded morning daily under my nose, looking agitated. His voice quivered in a low pitch, bushy caterpillar eyebrows coupling end-to-end above his eyes. "It says here," he continued tapping the newspaper with his banana-size index finger, "an Indian origin chef Floyd Cardoz has impressed the judges in an American Top Chef Masters contest with his preparation and walked away with a whopping prize of a hundred thousand dollars. Did you know what that lucky cook whipped up?"

"Search me," i said bleary-eyed.

"Upma!" He spewed out the word with disgust. "Our lowly upma."

"You don't say! A hundred thousand dollars for that blasted upma? My god! Nearly 42 lakh at the current rate of exchange.''

"Yes. Yes and yes. The plebian upma, the ultimate weapon in our ladies' culinary armoury. Upma, their saviour if nothing else is available in the kitchen. Upma, the nightly food of fasting oldies, upma the horrible refreshment invented by the father of Indian fast food."

I hurriedly seated the agitated complainant, empathising with him. Gravely, we suspended further conversation till coffee arrived to infuse strength into our system.

"Tricky one, this upma," he began. "Never finishes up right in the pan. It could turn out oily, salty, watery, lumpy or dry, and even coarse like a small pile of wet river sand. But if ever it comes out right and tasty, it will obstinately squat like a boulder in the duodenum hours after consumption."

I nodded in agreement. "Upma is cheeky. When the mixture of suji, onion, salt, chillies and oil is simmering in a cauldron of water, the cunning snack will send out a fetching smell to the whole neighbourhood, as if ambrosia is being put together. But wait. Such pre-launch publicity calculated to kindle the olfactory senses, activating the salivary glands, is only a ruse. The canny mess that gives out such promise of a memorable treat may well prove the culinary saying that a thing that smells good need not taste good."

The worked up Subbu paused to marshal his thoughts. "If given judicial powers, i would pack the scheming ladies who adamantly insist on preparing that snack off to Tihar jail without even an FIR. And there they should be fed with nothing but heaps of cold upma thrice a day with hawk-eyed guards making sure they polish off all of it."

I warmed to his suggestion. "I would approach Anna Hazare. As a confirmed upma hater, i would suggest that he give up his fight to eradicate corruption and take up the cause of upma eradication. I will offer my writing skills gratis to draft the much-needed snack-pal bill instead of his Lokpal Bill."

Subbu wanted to do his bit. "I am not a pacifist like Anna. Being a hardliner, i would hotfoot it to Delhi and suggest to Baba Ramdev to do salamba sirsasana wearing a slinky churidar and fast-unto-death till upma is banned by the Centre. I will hover in the background armed with a five-foot stick and a teargas mask."

It was felt such lofty deliberations against the dreaded enemy deserved a bit of throaty slogan-shouting to give our protests body. "Upma!" I raised my voice and my clenched right fist. "Down, down," he thundered lustily as a true comrade-in-arms.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

LAWS AS LAWS IN THEMSELVES

 

When it comes to framing laws, we Indians are non-pareil. It is almost as if we believe that the passing of a law is tantamount to solving the problem it is meant to tackle. Now this trend has come under fire from former Chief Justice JS Verma, Justice BN Srikrishna and the National Commission for Mi norities chairman Wajahat Habibullah who feel that rather than make new laws, efforts should be made to plug the lacunae in the existing ones. All three were referring to the draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill put forward by the National Advisory Council that has come under fire from several quarters, not the least of which is the BJP. The bill leaves too many crucial issues up in the air, all of which could be misinterpreted and misused by vested interests. Justice Srikrishna who presided over the probe into the 1992-93 Mumbai riots is right when he says that what is required perhaps is amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and not a separate Act altogether. The proposed bill seems to lack the provision for rapid response in the eventuality of a communal riot, rather it waffles on about the creation of a machinery to look into the matter. Then, of course, there is the tricky minefield of weightage to minorities in a country where all are meant to be equal under the law.

The communal violence bill is the latest in the line of bills which, though flawed, have been pushed through, with no thought to their implementation. That our penchant to frame bills is in inverse proportion to our willingness to act on them is unquestionable. This explains why though we have the largest number of anti-child labour laws in the world, we have the largest number of child workers in the world. There is no doubt that certain laws have to be framed to safeguard the rights of those who fall through the cracks of the legal system. But despite stringent anti-dowry laws and domestic violence laws, the conviction rate of those accused of crimes against women are minuscule.

It is not in the severity of the law but in the certainty of punishment that the legal system becomes effective. Communal violence is far too serious an issue to be made into a political hot potato. The legal minds who have been critical of the bill have based their arguments on logic and legality. Their suggestions should be taken into account before the bill is pushed any further. Otherwise, all we will do is make an already opaque legal system that much more complicated and cluttered.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

CRYING WOLF TOO OFTEN

 

The yoga instructor returned to Delhi and this time he came back as the aggrieved victim. But as aggrieved victims are wont, Ramdev may have exaggerated his threat perception a wee bit. Anyone who was listening to the yoga guru, who had been expelled on June 4 from the Ramlila Maidan, would be under his thrall if they didn't take his belief that the police wanted to 'eliminate' him with a barrel of salt. He went on to explain why he 'escaped' instead of standing his ground (with one foot or two, we can't be sure): "I didn't want to die the death of a wolf, I didn't want to die the death of an animal, I didn't want to die at the hands of the police which has become the puppet of the government. So I decided to escape." We're not too sure what the wolf metaphor's all about. But if you can ask CPI(M)'s Brinda Karat politely, she'll explain Ramdev's penchant for animal imageries as proof that he mixes animal bones in his 'ayurvedic' products.

Ramdev is no Netaji, nor was he meant to be. For those regularly tuning into the Aastha channel, it would seem that the yoga guru has crossed over to the 'real' world. In this supra-Aastha world, Ramdev has announced that he was determined to continue the 'struggle' against corruption. If that means standing next to 'a cat', as long as it kills the 'rat', he's game. For someone who calls the Ramlila Maidan incident a "murder of democracy", comparable to the Emergency, it's just one step away to position oneself under some governmental sniper attack ready for more conspiracy theories.

Ramdev has also been fighting the charge that he's a man propped up by the Sangh parivar to destabilise the glorious UPA regime. The problem is that by using the metaphor of the 'mukhota' (mask), he has reminded us of another chap accused of being a 'mukhota' - no, not Jim Carrey in Mask, but

AB Vajpayee who was once accused of being an RSS's mask. Is the yoga instructor really under the 'take him out' list of the government. That's highly unlikely, unless the asanas he teaches to his multitude of followers are the first steps to forming that great sena he had talked about.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS

ASHOK MALIK

United States President Barack Obama's decision to withdraw a third of the 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan over the next 18 months has been somewhat surprising in the intensity and pace of the planned drawdown. In making such a definitive announcement, Obama has sought to answer those who argued that he would execute only a token withdrawal (or reshuffle) of soldiers in time for his November 2012 re-election attempt, and that he would renew the war at some point later.

Obviously this is not the case. By pulling back so many soldiers before his first term ends and by linking that action to concentrating energies on "nation building at home", Obama has narrowed options for himself or his successor. Whatever happens in the next US election - and whoever becomes president, whether Obama or a Republican challenger - it will be impossible to reverse the trend. For all practical purposes the Afghan war, at least insofar as it is seen as a conventional military conflict, with on-ground combat, area domination and peacekeeping, is over.

In Washington DC, both fiscal and political logic seem to support Obama. So if a US troop presence in Afghanistan is to be supplemented or substituted, and if the global system's commitment to a longer war against the Taliban is to be demonstrated, who is going to do it? The Europeans are not interested. Russia will not go back to the Afghan theatre in a hurry. With the superpower having been thwarted, other regional powers with big, professional armies - China, India, Turkey - will be wary.

A severe and quick reduction in American troop presence will not result in a zero-sum game. It will deplete political capital all-round. There will be many losers. South and Central Asia will need to adjust to a new normal, one markedly different from anything since October 2001, when the America-backed Northern Alliance captured Kabul.

The US military presence in Afghanistan has provided the umbrella for Indian social and economic programmes. In the case of China, the single biggest investor in Afghanistan and hungry for its resources, the upshot is even more of a concern. Major facilities like the Aynak copper mine are exploited by Chinese industry but actually protected by forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato).

So where does the nasty and brutish future lie? There are three possible implications to the Obama decision. None of them is a given. Nevertheless, can there be gains for India even within the framework of this so-called worst-case scenario?

First, the language of the past week has been telling. Analysts of the Obama announcement have spoken of the need to keep using Afghanistan as the base for incursions into Pakistan. In 2001, the US needed Pakistan to help it fight its enemies in Afghanistan, to kill key al-Qaeda leaders and Taliban commanders and make its homeland safer. Today, the situation has been reversed.

This cannot please Islamabad. Though there will be those within the American system who will recommend it, an outsourcing of the Afghan mess to the generals in Rawalpindi and their chosen Taliban factions is unlikely. The continued ambivalence of the Pakistanis on the issue of "good" and "bad" jihadists and the increased attacks on Pakistani government targets have made it clear no return to the mid-1990s is possible.

In early 2010 - after the London conference on Afghanistan for instance - when there was talk of American withdrawal, Pakistan's generals were exultant. Today, they are muted. Things may still go their way, but that is no more a certainty.

Second, the US has sent mixed signals. It is pulling back troops but has also made serious investments in air bases in Afghanistan. This would suggest that wide-spectrum counter-insurgency is likely to be replaced by a narrow-focused counter-terrorism mechanism. The US military would probably maintain a diminished presence in massive camps and bases - islands in an otherwise turbulent Afghanistan - and use these for drone assaults and short forays into Pakistan. Among others, vice-president Joe Biden has spoken earlier on the feasibility of such a strategy.

Both of these potential implications suit India. The third one, however, could see medium-term differences between Washington DC and New Delhi. India would like an informal division of Afghanistan. It would want the security of the northern areas, where it could persist with building capacities of the Afghan army and prop up new political players among the ethnic minorities, in conjunction with Iran and other neighbours.

In southern Afghanistan, on the other hand, Pashtun domination and tribal armies could intensify Islamism. However, in the absence of an overt American presence, these energies could also be channeled towards the creation of a Pashtun territory that straddles the Durand Line. This cross-border Pashtunistan, largely autonomous of Islamabad, is already a reality. Can it be formalised or at least encouraged?

The US would not be interested. It would want its legacy in Afghanistan to be an at least notionally united nation. Neither would it welcome another destabilising factor in the region. For India, however, this has an obvious strategic appeal. Given the Pakistan army's "strategic depth" obsession, it would be a compelling pre-emptive option. How soon before South Block embraces it?

Ashok Malik is a Delhi-based political commentator. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

A FEW RESERVATIONS

ANTHONY BOURDAIN

 

I was lucky enough to go to the Culinary Institute of America in my 20s, and my big mistake was that I was offered a chef's job very quickly after I graduated, and I took it. I did that rather than going to France - or even staying in New York, but taking a low-level position at a great restaurant and putting my nose to the grindstone. Once I started down that path, years later I was still working in a procession of not-good restaurants. The lowest of the lows is cooking food for people you hate in a restaurant you hate, with no pride.

It was about getting the biggest paycheck then, so I could see music, smoke expensive weed, do cocaine, that kind of life. It was less important to me that I would get good at my craft. I deluded myself into thinking I was good. And by the time it occurred to me that I'd never worked for a three-star chef, I didn't have the skills. It was late in the day.

After I graduated, I was working with friends in a restaurant in SoHo called WPA. We helped bankrupt the place in short order. We thought we were creative geniuses, and created a very chef-centric menu that was not what the dining public wanted. We were cooking out of our league. It was not a professional operation. We behaved like a cult of maniacs. I liked the life that went with being a chef. I was getting laid, I was getting high, I was having fun. I had no self-control. I denied myself nothing. I had no moral compass. At age 44, I had never had health insurance. I hadn't paid my rent on time. I was 10 years behind on my taxes. I owed AmEx for 10 years. I was still living like a college kid - worse even. I essentially partied my way out of a big-league career.

A lot of young cooks who have read Kitchen Confidential ask me for career advice. I tell them if you're serious about cooking and your craft, do the opposite of what I did. I learned a lot of important skills from my mistake that served me well in both publishing and television. I think the skills I learned as a junkie are skills of determining if this person is full of shit or not. I'm never going to be the kind of person who talks about himself in the third person or has the red M&Ms weeded out of my bowl. You know what you see in the mirror when you're waiting for the lady on the subway to fall asleep so you can take her purse? I'm a pretty good judge of human nature.

As told to Ramin Setoodeh Newsweek. The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SHINING ORDERS

 

India's regulators have taken two decisions that deserve to be applauded. In the first, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, or Sebi, cracked down on two companies of the Sahara group. The two housing-sector companies had raised Rs 4,800 crore through the markets; Sebi directed the companies to repay that money, and disbarred its directors, including group chairman Subrata Roy, from "associating themselves with any public company" that would raise money from the markets till the repayments were made. Then the Competition Commission of India fined the National Stock Exchange, or NSE, Rs 55.5 crore — 5 per cent of its average turnover for three years — for abusing its dominant market position, in particular to squeeze out rival exchange MCX.

These are exemplary orders, in that they have both taken on powerful insiders. The Sahara group has considerable political clout; and yet, faced with toughness from Sebi, there has been little dissent; the ministry of corporate affairs, in fact, went so far as to issue a statement that it did not intend to intervene. The NSE, too, represents those with considerable clout, being an often-quoted example of the gains of liberalisation; and, even so, it has been shown that it is subject to regulatory control. The courts are now examining both disputes. Clearly, competent, independent, emboldened regulators are at work to monitor 21st century capitalism. Creating a restrictive framework of laws stifles innovation and growth. Nor can faith in the abilities of ex-ceptional individuals be the foundation of a long-term solution. India's growth requires it to construct and empower a stable framework of credible regulatory agencies.

The modern economy works on trust; and it can, at its worst, lead to crony capitalism. There is no way to root out that problem unless you have strong institutions overseeing market transactions. And that applies to the political-economic domain, too. The Election Commission has shown what a power an independent, credible institution can become. The CAG, too, has demonstrated its autonomy recently. Such examples are, however, too few. The petrochemicals sector, always at risk from cronyism, is not yet properly regulated. An approach paper from the Planning Commission earlier this year that laid out proposed regulatory reform is a good way to start. India's economy and politics are already complex, and are growing more complex still. There are no quick fixes, no short cuts to ensuring their continued health; no police-state interventions will work. But the expansion of independent, depoliticised regulation will.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STAYING SEPARATE

Hindustan ka dil dekho" — that's how Madhya Pradesh sells itself to the world. If this year's college admission drama is anything to go by, it needs to internalise that message and show some heart. Under pressure from the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the state's educational institutes are now stonily refusing to admit more Kashmiri students.

The "Kashmiri visthapit" quota was introduced by the NDA government in many states, and though it was never spelled out, it may have been intended to address displaced Kashmiri Pandits. However, if the idea is affirmative action for those displaced by violence from Kashmir, then that logic extends to all young Kashmiris deprived of comparable educational opportunities in their own state. And many universities had, indeed, interpreted the quota that way and opened their doors to all Kashmiris. But an agitated ABVP said this new surge of "anti-national elements" was corroding the institutions, and "spoiling the atmosphere in the hostels". Now, after sustained protests, universities are bending to their demands, in effect making it difficult for Kashmiri students to enter these spaces. Their applications are considered only after stringent police checks. An 80:20 ratio between students from the state and from elsewhere will be followed more strictly.

It is ironic that the Sangh Parivar nationalists who bang on about ending the Kashmir exception, who demand that the state be fully integrated into India, should be so resistant to it when it actually happens on Kashmiri terms. The challenge, rather, is to make that educational experience in the Indian mainstream and the idea of that India persuasive enough for this generation of young Kashmiris who have grown up in the shadow of insurgency, to defuse the anger and frustration. And college, especially, is a space where we encounter real difference and form our adult ideas. To close off the possibility of cultural mixing is to let go of the chance for young people in Kashmir and the rest of India to really learn something about each other rather than trading in dangerous cliches about separatists and hyper-nationalists.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

                                                                                                EDITORIAL

THE HEALTH OF BOLIVAR

Venezuela is a study in irony. Unlike its Latin American sister states, this spectacularly beautiful country has had a democratic order since 1958. As speculation mounted about the health of President Hugo Chavez, officially recuperating in Cuba after surgery, it was time to look back at the last 12 years, defined and determined by the man who is now a presence in absence. A saviour to Chavistas, detractors of this self-styled "Pirate of the Caribbean" would say Venezuelan democracy's end began in Chavez's 1998 victory — a landslide that led to a "socialist dictatorship" that incrementally curtailed freedoms, nationalised the economy, shackled the private media.

A darling of the international Left, Chavez quickly made himself a political foe of the US. But to understand the Chavistan phenomenon, one must look at the Venezuelan distributive gap, wherein the barrios had remained poor while the middle-class had seen both sides of the oil boom — wealth from the 1970s price hike, poverty from the 1980s price crash. Chavez's Bolivarian revolution came as a redistributive blessing, with standards of living, health and education improving in the barrios. Yet, Chavez has been neither here nor there, a Castro-lite who was persistently challenged, and last year the opposition made big gains to rob him of his two-thirds majority, but whose ruling by decree has done more damage than merely polarise politics.

Venezuelan irony lies also in the nationalising of oil production: aimed at reversing the "Oil Curse", it became the oil curse itself. Killing the industry's ability to manage itself efficiently and make profits, diverting money to social-engineering projects, did help the poor. But as that money dried up and food shortages and high inflation hit, Chavez looked increasingly vulnerable and desperate. That's the vacuum uncompromising populism and one-man rule sooner or later lead to.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

SUNLIGHT ON THE CBI

MUKUL MUDGAL

 

This month, the Second Schedule of the RTI Act was amended to exclude the Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency and the National Intelligence Grid from the scope of the legislation.

The exemption of the CBI from queries under the RTI Act has produced predictably diverse reactions. The government stand is based upon the sanctity of intelligence and security concerns whereas civil society has opposed it on the grounds of avoidance of transparency brought about by the RTI Act.

Undoubtedly, in recent times, the RTI has brought about a radical transformation in the awareness about the rights of a citizen and manner of governance. A query about civil maladministration or negligence has generally had an immediate effect and in many cases the grievance raised has been redressed even before the query is answered. By far this is the most citizen-friendly legislation post-Independence. The citizenry has benefited immensely from finding out, say, that a road that was supposed to have been made with large public funding has remained on paper. Citizens, particularly those lacking resources and influence, have

acquired knowledge about their grievances and consequently have been able to assert their rights, armed with the knowledge derived from RTI queries. The authorities have also become aware of the potency of such queries and have become more conscious of their responsibilities.

A conscientious government servant who would like to take correct decisions is also thus armed with a defence of disclosure to resist uncalled for pressures.

Several unsuccessful attempts have also been made to dilute the potency of the RTI at the behest of the establishment.

Consequently, any dilution of the act in respect of the CBI is bound to raise legitimate concerns. One of the major causes for such apprehension is the likely snowballing effect of such legislation on other limbs of the government that may now be emboldened to wrongly claim such exemption under the cover of being connected to security and intelligence concerns.

However, the stance of the CBI also has to be looked at. Conceivably there may be certain investigations that reveal information which may have a bearing on national security or disclose sensitive information gathered during investigation. Certain information obtained during the course of an investigation may affect the outcome and the premature disclosure of such information may alert the perpetrator.

The solution perhaps lies in taking a middle path provided by the proviso to Section 24 of the RTI Act, which states that any information relating to allegations of corruption and violation of human rights is not excluded from disclosure. The terms corruption and human rights violations are comprehensive enough to include approximately all the issues for which the public would like the CBI to be answerable. Hence information concerning national security and regarding investigations at the pre-charge stage may be denied under the parameters of Section 24 of the RTI Act, while any information regarding allegations of corruption in matters like administration, personnel, budget, etc cannot be denied as per the proviso to Section 24.

Section 24 of the act provides exemption to intelligence and security organisations under the Central government. However, the exempted authorities are not specified in the act itself but are provided in the Second Schedule. The act also permits the government to add organisations by notification in the Second Schedule. In 2005, when the act was brought into force, the schedule to the act had 18 organisations, including the Central Reserve Police Force; Special Branch (CID), Andaman and Nicobar; the Crime Branch-CID-CB, Dadra and Nagar Haveli; and Special Branch, Lakshadweep Police. Thereafter the schedule was expanded from time to time to include in all 25 organisations such as the Border Road Development Board.

It would have been much better if at the time the act was framed all the organisations sought to be covered by the exemption under Section 24 were specified in the act itself rather than in the Second Schedule. This would have ensured that any addition to exempted organisations will happen only by an amendment, which could have been deliberated upon by Parliament. The route of exemption by virtue of addition to the schedule by a notification only requires an executive action to be placed before Parliament. Thus, if an organisation has to be added so as to justify its exemption, the route of amendment to the act rather than addition to the schedule provides a more transparent route.

It is also necessary to delineate the powers under the proviso to Section 24 which narrows the scope of exemption by permitting information as to corruption and human rights violation not to be out of the reach of public queries. It would be far better to frame rules in respect of the information required to be furnished relating to corruption and human rights violations in exempted security organisations so as not to leave any scope for arbitrary denials in the absence of any statutory guidelines.

In any case, even such information concerning national security and the pre-charge stage on demand has to be shown to the information commissioners and eventually to the court concerned, if necessary, to satisfy the relevant body whether the disclosure is warranted, and cannot be left to the discretion of the authority claiming such privilege. The law in respect of claim of privilege by the government is well-settled and must be followed. The court may uphold the claim of privilege and denial of information in the interest of national security in case it is satisfied that the claim is genuine. However, the court's scrutiny under Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution in examining such claims is not barred.

Consequently it may be that certain categories of information should not be disclosed, subject of course to the court's scrutiny.

Information as to why a particular case was closed, why an officer investigating a sensitive case was changed and why a case is being prolonged ought not to be kept confidential and would certainly fall within the scope of what may be perceived to be a possible case of corruption. In fact, this would enable the CBI to avoid pressure and investigate independently.

The writer is a former chief justice of the high court of Punjab & Haryana
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

CAPITAL FLIGHT

YUBARAJ GHIMIRE

 

Nepal stood sixth among the least developed countries (LDCs ) that suffered the biggest amount of capital flight. According to a study commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme, "Illicit Financial Flows from the Least Developed Countries: 1990-2008", $9.1 billion found its way out of the country during that period — an average of $480.4 million a year.

Worse, the rate of capital flight after 2008 is believed to be much higher. That is not surprising given the allegations of corruption, the absence of accountability and transparency in government, and a visible erosion in the authority of the state.

Nearly half a dozen banks and financial institutions in the country have collapsed in the past 18 months, and people are withdrawing their deposits at an alarming scale. The sudden slackness in the real estate business after a boom in the past decade has also taken a toll on lending institutions. There are fears that the worst is yet to come. Experts say under-invoicing and corruption have contributed to the flight of capital.

The failure of the current political dispensation — a combination of three major political parties which have monopolised power over the past five years — to bring peace and stability and enable a conducive atmosphere for investment has no doubt led to this situation. So far, the government has been able to get away with the assurance that things will be all right once the new constitution is drafted and the peace process completed. It is unlikely that the people will buy this theory any longer.

On June 26, Rubel Chaudhary, son-in-law of the Nepal Congress leader and Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala, left for Dhaka. A Bangladeshi national, Chaudhary was under the scanner in a corruption case involving 450 million Nepalese rupees and supply of substandard armed personnel couriers for the Nepali police contingent serving the UN peace mission in Darfur. Many believed he knew all about the Darfur scam and about the end use of kickbacks.

The scandal allegedly took place when Sujata's father G.P. Koirala was the all-powerful prime minister, especially since king Gyanendra handed over power after a powerful mass movement. Former US president Jimmy Carter even called him "my hero".

But there has been a slew of allegations about G.P. Koirala recently, denting his once glorious image. The allegations point to nepotism and overall culture of corruption. At the height of his popularity, Nepali media, civil society and the world outside, that was encouraging the country's efforts to write a constitution and make peace with the Maoists, ignored several home truths. One being how he gave carte blanche support to his daughter and her political ambitions. Sujata, in turn, reportedly supported Chaudhary's rise as an extra-constitutional authority in the country in the past five years. Sujata had claimed just a day before his flight that he was innocent, that he was being framed by pro-monarchy elements for her family's role in the restoration of democracy.

But the fact that Chaudhary, despite having been under state vigil, had a smooth passage raises the question whether the Left-dominated government and its agencies deliberately closed their eyes to it.

All three parties have collectively failed in stemming corruption and giving some stability to the country's economy. There is a need for regulation. One major reason why the state is almost on the verge of collapse is because organisations receiving funds from international donors — most of them with some kind of affiliation to major political parties — are acting like anti-state actors.

There are some efforts to bring about a semblance of order. With the crime graph going up, the state affairs committee of parliament summoned Home Minister K.B. Mahara last week and asked him to bring out a public security policy within the next two weeks.

The feud within the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) and the sharp division among the three major political parties on the elements to be included in the future constitution only add to increasing public distrust. What is needed is an effective and accountable state — that is not in sight at the moment.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'MERE LAWS WILL NOT HELP. THIS COUNTRY NEEDS A SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION'

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

The main questions right now are: One, who comes under the Lokpal? And the sticking point is the higher judiciary and the prime minister. Do you have a view on that?

The main contention is, suppose I appoint a person and I ask him to be in charge of looking into corruption. And if I myself am corrupt, he has no voice to point out my mistake. So that person should be independent. It should be not just an appointment of the government, it should be from the civil society, like the Supreme Court, like the Election Commission. It should have an independent body.

But Supreme Court judges and the Election Commissioners, there's no role of civil society. The Election Commissioner is appointed by the government. But the institution has been given autonomy.

Correct. And I think this should be that way only, an autonomous body.

Shouldn't the prime minister complete his term—five years, three years, whatever—and then be subjected to scrutiny? This country has had so many prime ministers already. Nobody has leaked this country's secrets. Can't we have that trust in our system?

You know, trust is one thing and making a system foolproof is another. If I am a good person, I don't have to fear the law. Laws can be as strict as possible.

Yes, but laws can be misused by wrong people.

Yes, misuse is always there.

Because once you do this, the law will be misused.

No law should be draconian. No system is totally perfect, there will be loopholes in every system. That's why experts should sit together and come to some conclusion.

But Guruji, where is the time? If you say that by August 15, this has to go through all parliamentary processes, otherwise I am sitting on a fast unto death...this is human bomb behaviour, pardon my saying so.

You know, sometimes commissions get formed and nothing happens for years and years. So this could have been such a pressure tactic to get things done quickly. Today you see all these scams. You never know if they will ever be punished. Tomorrow they will all be let out. Sometime deadlines should be given, so that things can move faster.

But shouldn't there be flexibility?

Flexibility should be there. I am always for flexibility.

Parliament has the right to examine a law; parliamentary committees have the right to examine a law.

Correct, they should, but it should not take forever.

Yes, that's for sure. By the same logic, if 10,000 Naxalites sat on a fast unto death and said, you change the system, finish Parliament, there will be dictatorship of the proletariat, or else, we are all dying.

Correct, I think that's not the way.

Because you've been working with Naxalites.

Correct. They are wonderful people. The amount of commitment the Naxalites have is amazing. Because they are pained by the suffering that they have undergone in the last 60 years. No water, no electricity, no roads, no schools. It's really pathetic. We run about 150 schools in these Naxal areas for poor children. About 18,500 kids study there. When you ask the children, 'What do you want to become?' They say, 'I want to become a Naxalite.' But now their mindset is changing.

So what do you tell the Naxalites?

I tell them leave violence. I tell them, 'you want social justice? It cannot be achieved through violence. Or by rubbishing democracy.' So I would say, 'Lord Krishna is the first communist; you don't have to learn from Karl Marx or Mao. Lord Krishna says Samam Sarveshu Bhuteshu. He who sees the sameness in everybody is the real human being. The real man with wisdom.' I tell them, 'Social justice is ingrained in our culture. So you don't have to rubbish all that is Indian and take the Maoist principle as your only goal. And that is the way to prosperity.'

And don't rubbish this democracy?

Don't rubbish democracy. They say they want to come to power on their own strength. I tell them, 'Look, your strength is not in your guns. Your strength is in your ability to serve people.

So what does it do to you when you hear about policemen getting massacred by them?

I am pained by this. All the time I keep telling them, 'See, they are your own brothers. They are just doing their job. Policemen are not your enemies. Policemen are one amongst you. He has a job and is working. He has his family, he has his children. Please don't do that.'

One of your films shows that many of the Maoists have actually surrendered to you, have given up arms, and are contesting elections now.

During the Jharkhand elections, there was no violence. We are doing this job in Manipur too, of talking to them. All this happens when there is an inner transformation. Someone becomes a culprit because they are victims themselves. So you have to heal the victim first, the culprit disappears. So when people sit and do some meditation, deep breathing, and get rid of tension and insecurity, they are able to communicate better with people. We have done that with rowdy sheeters in Bangalore, Hyderabad and other places. They come here, and then they start doing medical camps and cleanliness camps in the slums.

Now comes my trick question. How does that then level with Anna Hazare saying that 'Indian voters vote for one sari, Rs 500 and a bottle of liquor.' Or with Prashant Bhushan saying that just because people got elected it doesn't mean 'they have power because you know how elections are won, they are won with money.' Is this rubbishing of democracy or not?

I have nothing to comment on others' opinions. I don't have to agree with everything everybody is saying. I honour democracy of this country. At the same time, I am concerned about money power, about muscle power. But this doesn't work always. In Tamil Nadu this year, it didn't work.

So what advice will you give the government now? How does the government deal with this?

You know, I don't give advice. If someone wants advice, they can come to me and then I will give them.

But when you were talking to Swami Ramdev, did the government get in touch with you? Mr Moily?

No. Incidentally, I spoke to Moily because of my father's passing away. Then I told him I am going to Haridwar, meeting (Ramdev), that's all. There was no such message from him.

Since you like to do conflict resolution, how will you resolve this conflict?

No, it has not come to that level yet. If there is a conflict like what happened with Baba Ramdev, then, of course, if I can be of some help, I will just jump in. But right now, I am not in daily touch with the committee or about what they are talking with each other. I have so many things happening around...

I know, you have a big event coming up in Berlin. Tell us a bit about that.

Yes, it has been 30 years of Art of Living. So we thought we will have a celebration. It is a reunion of people from all over the world. Europeans want it there. So we chose Berlin. And we're going to do it in the stadium which was built by Hitler for World War. The place from where the call for war came, we want to give a peace call from the same place. So everyone thought it was a great idea. Seventy-five years of that Berlin Stadium, and 30 years of Art of Living there, trying to bring people from all over the world with one cause of uniting them as a family. Giving that new vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

The entire world as a family?

The whole world as a family. For the first time, we will be having thirty pianos playing together in one place. We will have Canadian Aboriginals, native Canadians coming and singing. Also, people from Australia, Mongolia, from Japan, and a big troupe from India.

It's remarkable how you have managed to balance spirituality with religion. Because there is spirituality, but no temple in this campus, I believe, to a god or to some gods.

See, spirituality is the essence of all religions. It's where everyone can meet. In Hinduism, we have so many sects. There was one Jesus and there are 72 sects of Christianity. One Buddha, 32 sects of Buddhism. One Prophet Mohammed and there are Shiite, Sunni, Ahmadiyyas and so many others. On religious levels, there will be so many differences. We don't deny religion. Religion has its place.

You don't deny religion, and you don't call yourself god.

Correct. We are all made up of a substance called god.

Unlike some of the others, who call themselves bhagwaan.

You know, this is an ancient Vedanta that god is not up there, he is in your heart. He's in you. If I am god, you are also god. God is love and the whole creation is made up of love. Made up of that consciousness. That is the message but it is being wrongly interpreted as 'Only I am God.'

How will you use all this wisdom now, to bring some sanity back into this discussion? Because this could spin out of control.

It's like when something is growing, there will be many developments. Formative troubles do come. But if everyone is focused on the result, what it is that they want to get from this, you will succeed. You can't expect a road to be smooth throughout. Some rough moments do come.

So what will your advice to Anna Hazare be now? Given that you have a different view on fast unto death?

I will sit and talk to him on all that.

Because you know fast unto death, deadline, then on the counter you will get words like hijack, blackmail, ransom, so this is spinning out of control.

The main goal is that the Bill should come. I hope everyone works towards that.

So how involved has Art of Living been with India Against Corruption—the movement?

It's one of the things. Art of Living has been engaged in so many social projects. We did the Meri Dilli Meri Yamuna project. It was a grand success. Before the Commonwealth Games, we did so much work. Now in Tamil Nadu, before the elections, we did the voter awareness campaign.

So if you can use new media etc and get Indians to just take these oaths—not to pay bribes, not to accept bribes, not to vote for money—then the problem can be tackled to a large extent.

Of course.

So is that what you will do now?

We are anyway doing this. I've been doing this for quite some time now.

On a larger scale?

Right now our focus is on Europe with this celebration. Also, we are trying to do some work in Ivory Coast and Sudan.

Coming back to the anti-corruption movement, we have now begun to see some authoritarian language. What I call, naani yaad dila denge language. For example, somebody saying that we will pass such a law that nobody will dare to be corrupt. As if locking up the whole country in jail is a solution. The Chinese execute 2,000 people every year for corruption, including governors of their provinces, and yet even in corruption they beat us, they are higher on Transparency International's scale.

As I said before, mere laws will not help. A social transformation has to happen. Today there are more than a lakh orders from the Supreme Court which the government has not implemented. Similarly, there are 30,000 court orders in this state itself which have not been honoured. So laws can be there, orders could be passed by the court, but...

Awareness is the key?

Awareness is key. Transforming society, transforming people's minds and hearts is the most important thing. If that is not there, laws will be just lying in libraries.

And laws may become cause of more corruption. Because to get around the law, people will pay bribe.

So it's not just the law. That's why I say we need to have a spiritual wave.

And a secular spirituality.

Spirituality is always secular, it includes everybody. We took one of the most notorious villages, Kathiawar, a village that had many court cases. But when people there sat together, they withdrew all their court cases. For the last three-and-a-half years they have been running a shop with no shopkeeper. People come and put the money in the box, they take whatever they need to take from the shop. It's an unmanned shop just like you would find in Switzerland or somewhere else. Today, even Europe does not have such a level of integrity.

Switzerland is a sensitive word to mention now.

Why I said Switzerland is because I remember when I went there as a student, I saw the honesty there. It was impeccable honesty. People never used to lock their doors.

In this village I was telling you about, people have removed locks from their doors. And they all sit together every evening, do satsang, sing together, share among themselves. Their productivity has risen. Seeing this, nearly 300 other villages have started to adopt that model. So we need to bring the revolution or transformation from bottom up.

Not just top down with a law?

The blame culture should go. You know we are caught up in this blame culture. If anything happens you try to point a finger and blame somebody.

Now Swami Ramdev wants death sentence for corruption. How many people are you going to hang? We'll be short of trees.

Laws have to be strict and strong. So if some people don't work with transformation, then at least with fear they will.

But are you for death sentence for corruption?

No, I am always for transformation, not for a death sentence. Today death sentence has become sort of obsolete all over the world.

Even in India. Even though we have it, we almost never execute anybody. Once in ten years or so.

Lifetime imprisonment is good, though. But there also if you see the person has reformed, they should be given freedom to move around.

Before we go, look back seven years, since our last conversation. What has changed in India? Has India become a better country, a worse country?

You cannot generalise like that. There are parts which have become much better. There are parts which have become more corrupt. So it's both. It's like it's day somewhere and night somewhere else.

But has the country progressed?

Economically, it has progressed. But if you ask me, is law and order or peace better, I would say not in all pockets, but in some pockets, yes. When I see Bihar, it makes me happy.

Gujarat?

In Gujarat, the development is so good. I have been to Gujarat several years ago. Saurashtra was starving then, there was no water there. And today you find greenery there.

And you will keep watching and observing.

And we'll keeping walking the talk.

Transcribed by Akanksha Kapoor
(Concluded)

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SLIPPING ON OIL, AGAIN

Though critics panned Budget 2011-12 when it came out and said the fiscal deficit targets were impossible to achieve, those in the know pointed to several aces up the government's sleeve. It is true the government isn't going to get the kind of bonanza it got from the 3G/BWA auctions in 2010-11—against the Budget estimate of R49,799 crore from all telecom services including licence/ spectrum fee, it got R1,28,806 crore finally—but the Budget had several other hidden surprises. So, for instance, there's R16,000 crore that the Trai estimates can be got from existing firms like Bharti and BSNL who've got "extra" spectrum—this is not there in the Budget estimates. Another R12,000 crore or so from the Coal India disinvestment were collected at the end of 2010-11, but not accounted for in the Budget for 2010-11; the profits from RBI's interest earnings on forex reserves look lower than what RBI is likely to earn by R3,000-4,000 crore … even tax collections were estimated to grow at just 18.5% in 2011-12 versus the 26% in 2010-11. In other words, if there was a slippage in one area—oil subsidies are certain to vastly exceed the budgeted R23,640 crore—it would be more than made up in other areas.

Friday's decision on oil price hikes, however, gives away R37,000 crore (4% of the year's target) in customs and excise duties in the remaining part of the year. The R16,000 crore estimated as what the telcos should pay for what's left of their licence period of their extra spectrum, for instance, may be difficult to get if the government doesn't get the Raja beneficiaries to cough up extra as well—after all, if the Raja beneficiaries can get away by paying R1,651 crore for a pan-Indian licence that's worth at least four times as much, why should Bharti/BSNL pay a higher price? Disinvestment looks a bit dicey in the current investor mood, and the tax outlook doesn't look that great. The April-May direct tax collections, for instance, grew much slower than was projected—while they were R12,954 crore, based on the budget target, they should have been as high as R33,670 crore. Indirect tax collections grew at 38% in this period as compared to the budget target of just 17.4%—so there's some scope here, but once you take into account Friday's oil sector giveaway, the growth potential pretty much disappears. In short, the budget is looking a lot more iffy and can't take any more shocks.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BYE BYE, JOBLESS GROWTH

The significant decline in unemployment rates in all the four indicators for the first time in two decades bodes well for the economy. The NSSO's 66th round data in 2009-10 indicates that the employment generated in the economy has picked up faster than the growth of the labour force, which is no mean accomplishment given that the number of persons joining the labour force has picked up significantly during the decade. Numbers show that the unemployment rates based on the current daily status (CDS), the most inclusive measure of unemployment, which went up from 6.1% in 1993-94, to 7.3% in 1999-2000 and further to 8.3% in 2004-05, has now been brought down to 6.6% in 2009-10. And if one looks at the usual primary status figures, which indicate the level of chronic unemployment, the unemployment rate has gone down to 2.5% in 2009-10, the lowest level in two decades—the earlier numbers being 2.6% in 1993-94, 2.7% in 1999-2000 and 3.1% in 2004-05. However, the CDS numbers show that while the unemployment rate of the male labour force has shrunk from 7.8% in 2004-05 to 6.1% in 2009-10, that of the female labour force has only come down from 9.2% to 8.2% during the period. And, surprisingly, most of the gains are in the urban sector where the reduction in the unemployment rate is almost double that of the rural sector. While the CDS unemployment rate in the urban sector has come down by 2.5 percentage points, from 8.3% in 2003-04 to 5.8% in 2009-10, that in the rural sector only slowed down 1.4 percentage points from 8.2% to 6.8%.

The higher unemployment rates and the slower decline in unemployment rates for women is a matter of concern as the share of the female labour force has dropped sharply. The numbers show that while the proportion of female labour in the total population has gone down from 215 per 1,000 population in 2003-04 to 179 per 1,000 in 2009-10, the ratio of the male labour force in the population has gone up marginally from 538 per 1,000 to 540 per 1,000 during the period. While some reduction in the share of the female labour force can be explained by the larger number of females pursuing higher education, there might also be other more complex factors that could be responsible for such a sharp withdrawal of women from the labour force, especially when programmes like MGNREGA have improved employment prospects in the rural sector. Only the detailed numbers will help explain the shrinking share of the female labour force despite the growing employment opportunities in the economy.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

A FISCAL POLICY FIT FOR THE NEXT CRISIS

CLIVE CROOK

 

The debt-ceiling talks in Washington have stumbled again. The sticking point, as before, is taxes. Republicans refuse to raise them and Democrats are insisting on it. The drama and the walkouts are part of the show: in all likelihood a deal of some sort will still be struck before the August 2 deadline. Whether it is a good deal for the country is another question.

A good deal means avoiding abrupt fiscal tightening in the short term—a point Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke emphasised last week—while bringing long-term public borrowing under control. These arguments are well understood, even if the country's politicians are ignoring them. Another topic, though, has received no attention at all. It is at least as important. This is the issue of fiscal capacity.

By this I do not just mean getting public debt back under control. That matters, obviously. To retain counter-cyclical fiscal policy as an option in the next recession, the debt ratio will have to fall. The Congressional Budget Office just estimated that on unchanged policies, the ratio of public debt to gross domestic product would be 100% by around 2020 and would then rise literally off the chart, making activist fiscal policy impossible. This is the argument for fiscal control that Democrats should have been making all along, and still are not.

But containing debt is only part of the problem. Important as it will be to get the debt ratio down, thus re-arming fiscal policy for future use, the question of fiscal capacity—the ability to respond to economic downturns with fiscal countermeasures—goes further.

The fiscal response to a recession is partly automatic (lower revenues and higher transfers as the economy shrinks) and partly discretionary (lower tax rates, infrastructure projects, extra help for states and so on). Two factors weaken automatic stabilisers in the US. First, the government is small, so economic fluctuations, other things being equal, move fiscal quantities less. Second, states are subject to balanced-budget rules. Much of the US government has to follow a pro-cyclical fiscal policy—cutting spending and raising taxes—during a recession.

This puts a great burden on discretionary policy. Extra federal stimulus, and plenty of it, is needed just to offset automatic tightening in the states. To supply net discretionary stimulus requires very aggressive action in Washington. It is much to Barack Obama's credit that he pushed through a big federal stimulus for 2009. Judged against the central government tax base—one way to measure fiscal effort—the difference he made was huge, and no other rich country comes close. Nonetheless, severe fiscal tightening in the states would have justified something even bigger.

Unfortunately Mr Obama lost the battle for public opinion. The country thinks the stimulus has failed—and this could be a lasting reversal for fiscal activism. Discussion now revolves around premature tightening and, equally disturbing, new budget rules to constrain fiscal discretion in future. The government of a country with weak automatic stabilisers is talking about ways to limit its own discretion—as though the current paralysis is not enough. This could be a new calamity in the making.

The debt-ceiling negotiators are looking at "targets and triggers" for taxes and spending. These can help in stabilising and reducing public debt—but only if care is taken to avoid pro-cyclical fiscal policy in the next downturn. Badly framed balanced-budget rules, making the federal government as helpless as the states, would be disastrous.

As well as steering clear of that, the US should embrace an explicit goal of strengthening its automatic stabilisers. The aim should be to boost stimulus in downturns and curb it in expansions, with a smaller need for intervention by Congress over the course of the cycle. The less one needs to ask of that broken institution, the better.

How to do it? Here are three thoughts—all of them desirable in their own right, not counting their fiscal-stabiliser advantages.

First, introduce a national sales tax. This could raise new revenue, which the US will need, but that is not the point. Consumption fluctuates more than income during the cycle, so shifting some of the tax base from income to spending would increase revenues in booms and reduce it in downturns. If Congress had the wit to alter the rate counter-cyclically, so much the better, but let us not make wild assumptions.

Second, lean hard against tax preferences for borrowing. In a credit-fuelled boom, tax reliefs for bigger mortgages and other kinds of debt reduce revenues. In a recession, as people pay down debt, their taxes rise. This is pro-bubble, then pro-slump. What could be more stupid?

Third, expand help for the unemployed by enlarging the Trade Adjustment Assistance programme. This offers retraining, relocation and other benefits to workers who have lost their jobs because of imports. The scheme is too narrow and too complicated. It should be simplified, merged with unemployment insurance and widened to cover everybody who loses a job.

I see the flaw in the logic, of course. Why should a Congress incapable of raising the debt ceiling without an operatic ideological battle be capable of changes such as this? Fair question. All I can say is that this approach requires responsible action on a one-time rather than an ongoing basis. Perhaps, if it only needs to do it once, Congress could get it right by accident.

clive.crook@gmail.com

©The Financial Times Limited 2011

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

T ROWE PRICE'S DILEMMA

SUNIL JAIN

Before Edward Bernard, vice-chairman of the world's sixth-largest investment firm T Rowe Price (it manages $510 bn in assets) meets finance minister Pranab Mukherjee at the end of the week, he has to resolve his dilemma. Should he carry on the four-month tussle with the finance ministry on who the next chief of UTI AMC will be (T Rowe Price owns 26% while government banks and financial institutions own the rest) or should he allow the finance ministry to have its way and appoint Jitesh Khosla, an IAS official who is the brother of the finance minister's advisor Omita Paul?

As FE was the first to report on April 9 (http://www.financialexpress. com/news/uti-board-battles-finmin-over-new-chief/773849/), UTI AMC's board appointed an HR sub-committee to help find a successor for UK Sinha when he left to head Sebi. The HR sub-committee, in turn, appointed global search firm Egon Zehnder to shortlist candidates—this was to be further screened by the sub-committee whose final recommendation would be sent to UTI AMC's board. Though Khosla was not on this list that Zehnder gave after interviewing 30 candidates, the HR sub-committee members met Khosla but never recommended his name as he didn't have the requisite experience—given UTI AMC has R67,189 crore of assets under management, a strong financial background is vital.

The finance ministry, however, is adamant on Khosla's appointment which is why UTI AMC's other shareholders—government-owned banks and institutions—are refusing to go along with what the HR sub-committee has recommended and are persuading T Rowe Price to settle this directly with the finance ministry.

Technically, Khosla can't be appointed if T Rowe Price puts its foot down since its 26% shareholding gives it a veto right under company law in India. Apart from that, T Rowe Price can ask the US government to weigh in, even look at enforcing its rights through bilateral investment protection treaties that protect investors from being treated unfairly by any local government.

Attractive as that may sound, few of the solutions work if T Rowe Price is to continue to do business in India. A 26% shareholding in UTI AMC, for instance, means little and T Rowe Price would wish to raise its shareholding—indeed, at the initial stage, it was offered 49% but opted for only 26% as it was its first investment in India. The company has no hope of getting this through if it runs foul of the government. In which case, it looks as if the decks are clear for Khosla to get the top job at UTI AMC. It would be fun to see if this issue gets raised in the US where the finance minister is currently meeting investors to allay their fears!

The faceoff and its ultimate outcome, it turns out, symbolises the fear that investors are increasingly beginning to voice when it comes to investing in India—if this is what the government does to companies that are not even PSUs, imagine what it would do to PSUs. The R4,23,000 crore of subsidies the oil-PSUs have been forced to give over the last 8 years is a good example of what the government does with its PSUs.

The Cairn-Vedanta deal that the government refuses to clear unless Cairn agrees royalty payments made by ONGC can be set off as an expense is another example of this high-handedness (http:// www.financialexpress.com/news/column-why-ongc-says-vedanta-cairnt/ 772066/2) that has got investors spooked. There's little doubt ONGC stands to lose money from the joint venture if it has to pay royalty on all of the production while getting just 30% of the profits from the JV. But the obvious question is whether a government should arm-twist a company on what is essentially a commercial dispute—after all, ONGC had signed the agreement which said it would pay all the royalty and if it feels Cairn is interpreting the agreement unfairly, it can always go to the arbitration court. Interestingly, the real culprit here is not ONGC the company—the deal was inked when ONGC was the Oil and Natural Gas Commission and a part of the oil ministry! So while most think the government is protecting ONGC's interests, it is actually protecting its own backside.

The Prime Minister is reported to be planning a slew of reforms over the next few weeks to counter the view that the government is paralysed by the plethora of scam charges. While the non-reforms on oil last Friday were a dampener, all eyes are on the impending Cabinet reshuffle to know how serious the PM is. Given the constraints on the PM's functioning, perhaps he'd do better to concentrate on the smaller procedural stuff like UTI and Cairn-Vedanta, more so since this is probably giving the government a worse name. Indeed, while the government is keen to foist a chief on UTI AMC which is not even a PSU, 13-14 PSUs like ONGC, HAL, OIL, TCIL and FACT haven't had a full-time chief for several months; ditto for LIC!

sunil.jain@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE NSG CHALLENGE

The Nuclear Suppliers Group may well have been trying to tighten the general rules for the international transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology (ENR) but its insistence on membership of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as a condition of supply has effectively punched a hole in the historic waiver India negotiated with the cartel in 2008. This reversal will, of course, politically damage Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who promised Parliament in 2006 that his government would start placing Indian civil nuclear facilities under international safeguards only after all international restrictions in the nuclear field had been lifted. But a bigger challenge confronts our diplomatic establishment, which now faces the task of ensuring that the mutual commitments undertaken by India and its nuclear partners are implemented in full. Ever since the July 2005 joint statement with the United States, official India has asserted that all the promises and commitments it was making — the separation of its military and civilian nuclear sectors, the acceptance of international safeguards over its civilian facilities, the placing of huge commercial orders, etc. — were in exchange for full civil nuclear cooperation. The bilateral agreements signed with the U.S., France, and Russia, and the NSG statement on India that emerged after two bruising rounds of negotiations in 2008, were all drafted accordingly. If one side now insists on making unilateral changes, this will be a breach of trust.

India's initial response to last week's setback at the NSG has been guarded. It has indicated to the three major reactor-supplying nations that they must stand by their earlier commitments. But if they baulk or prevaricate, New Delhi will have to exercise the leverage it has. The U.S., France, and Russia are not doing India a favour by agreeing to sell nuclear reactors. The bill for this equipment will run eventually into tens of billions of dollars. India has promised to buy 10,000 MW worth of reactors from the U.S. alone. Then there are the defence purchases the country is slated to make. Smart diplomacy would have meant leveraging these assets in advance. The ENR writing has been on the wall since November 2008, when a 'clean text' of the new restrictions first emerged in draft form. Unfortunately, the United Progressive Alliance regime soft-pedalled the issue, preferring to demarche its partners in private rather than making a big deal out of the fact that the terms of the nuclear deal were being arbitrarily redrawn. Even today, the ENR issue is not a lost cause: like the nuclear embargo itself, this latest unjust restriction on India can be reversed. But only if the government has the political stomach to play hardball.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

FINALLY, A BREAKTHROUGH

Under tremendous pressure to crack senior crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey's murder on June 11, the Mumbai police have come up with an underworld shooter from the Chhota Rajan gang as the main culprit. Satish Kaliya and six others are to be booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and their gang leader Chhota Rajan made an absconding accused in the case. The arrest comes a day after another gang leader, Chhota Shakeel, called up a leading newspaper and denied he had anything to do with the killing of Dey. Rajan too had reportedly denied his involvement. The Mumbai police took their time with the case and were reluctant to hand it over to the CBI. Investigations are still under way and the 3,000 emails in Dey's inbox have to be examined for crucial evidence. Importantly no motive, whether professional or personal, has been ascribed to the killing as yet. From police accounts, the murder was planned meticulously over 20 days. However, it is rather strange that the shooter was, according to the police, unaware of the identity of Dey as a leading crime reporter and he realised it only subsequently while watching television. The investigation covered a wide ambit since Dey was writing on the oil mafia, underworld links with policemen, and other issues. Admittedly, the police had a difficult task but pressure from the press, the court, and the government forced it into speeding up the investigation and zeroing in on the alleged killers unlike in other States where nothing has happened in similar cases.

For the beleaguered Mumbai police, the arrests have come as a respite after some red herrings were thrown in the path of the investigation. Its reputation has been under the scanner for a while and, even during its moment of triumph, the State Home Minister had to suspend a police inspector who was involved in organising a rave party outside Mumbai. Having caught the suspects, the police have an even bigger challenge — unravelling the motive behind this brazen killing. Most crime reporters have excellent contacts with the underworld and a network of informers. Dey did not speak to anyone of a threat to his life or demand protection. It is an unwritten rule that the underworld rarely killed members of the media, though there were two cases in early 1980s in and outside Mumbai in the heyday of Dawood Ibrahim. The police have indicated that the emails could lay bare the reasons for Dey's tragic death. The investigators cannot rest easy having caught the alleged culprits, though that is a major breakthrough. The reasons for the crime are just as important.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

TALIBAN'S RETURN AND INDIA'S CONCERNS

WHILE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT BARACK OBAMA CONSULTED NEW DELHI ABOUT THE IMPENDING SHIFT IN U.S. STRATEGY IN AFGHANISTAN, INDIA MUST NOW BEGIN A 'DIALOGUE' WITH THE TALIBAN ALONG WITH A POLICY TO INSTIL CONFIDENCE IN THE PAKISTANI MIND ABOUT OUR INTENTIONS.

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

The United States President, Barack Obama's announcement regarding the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan was not India-specific, as compared to Washington's initiative in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to bar the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology to New Delhi. But it is more lethal, casting a shadow on India's regional strategies.

Why Mr. Obama took such a decision doesn't actually need much explaining. Put simply, his sharp political instincts prevailed. He had a pledge to redeem; he sensed the public mood; he heard "bipartisan" opinion in Capitol Hill that the soldiers be brought home; he faces an adverse budgetary environment and he understood that his priority should be to mend the U.S. economy rather than wage wars in foreign lands. The "surge" may have made gains, arguably, but gains are reversible; so, what is the point? Meanwhile, Afghan opinion is turning against foreign occupation and the killing of Osama bin Laden offers a defining moment.

On the diplomatic front, regional allies proved exasperatingly difficult, while European allies got impatient to quit. The regional opinion militates against a long-term U.S. military presence, while the contradictions in intra-regional relationships do not lend easily to reconciliation. The foreign policy priorities need vastly more attention: exports and investment, upheaval in West Asia, China's rise, etc.

There is no evidence that Mr. Obama consulted New Delhi about the impending shift in the U.S. strategy in India's immediate neighbourhood. We need to calmly ponder over what the U.S. means when Mr. Obama calls India its "indispensable partner in the 21st century." In the period ahead, keeping the dialogue process with Pakistan on course; pursuing normalisation of ties with China; consolidating the gains of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's path-breaking visit to Kabul — all these templates of our regional policy assume great importance. Indeed, the raison d'être of a "new thinking" in policymaking cannot but be stressed.

The implications of Mr. Obama's drawdown decision are far-reaching. The U.S. has accepted the Taliban as being a part of the Afghan nation and concluded that it does not threaten America's "homeland security." No segment of the Taliban movement that is willing for reconciliation will be excluded. Mr. Obama expressed optimism about the peace process. He estimated that al-Qaeda is a spent force and any residual "war on terror" will be by way of exercising vigilance that it doesn't rear its head again. The timeline for the drawdown — 10,000 troops by end-2011, 33,000 by mid-2012 and the bulk of the remaining 70,000 troops at a "steady pace" through 2013-14 — plus the change of command necessitated by David Petraeus's departure in September as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hardly leaves scope for keeping a high tempo of security operations. Obviously, the Taliban has borne the brunt of the U.S. firepower and has survived.

The stunning geopolitical reality is that the U.S. is barely staving off defeat and is making its way out of the Hindu Kush in an orderly retreat. The Taliban responded to Mr. Obama's announcement saying, "The solution for the Afghan crisis lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately. Until this happens, our armed struggle will increase from day to day." Again, Mr. Obama appears to be optimistic about the Kabul government's ability to assume the responsibility of security by 2014.

Mr. Obama completely avoided mentioning an almost-forgotten pledge that the former U.S. President George W. Bush made in the halcyon days of the war, that the U.S. would someday consider a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. He, instead, pleaded that this is "a time of rising debt and hard economic times at home" and he needs to concentrate on rebuilding America. The Afghans fear that western aid and projects would dry up. If that happens, Afghanistan will revert to the late 1990s when the Taliban regime first accepted the financial help offered by bin Laden. All hope now hinges on the international conference that Mr. Obama will be hosting in May next year in Chicago.

However, there is no need to press the panic button. A repetition of the civil war scenario of the 1990s appears a remote possibility. The Taliban's ascendancy in the 1990s was more an outright Pakistani conquest of Afghanistan in which the Pakistani air force, artillery, armoured corps, regular officers and intelligence agencies directly participated. The Taliban was a cohesive movement. Besides, there were regional powers determined to provide assistance to the non-Pashtun groups. In all these respects, the situation is radically different today. Pakistan hadn't yet known at that time the blowback of terrorism. The very fact that Pakistan learnt about the secret talks between the Taliban and U.S. representatives from news reports speaks volumes of its command and control of the Quetta Shura.

Pakistan cannot be so naïve as not to factor in the fact that a revitalised, triumphalist Taliban just across the Durand Line (which, by the way, has all but disappeared) could ultimately prove a headache for its own security. Pakistani commentators candidly admit that the Afghans deeply resent Pakistan's interference. There has been an overall political awakening among the Afghan people and a replay of the old Pakistani policies will be challenged. The gravitas of Afghan domestic politics has shifted. Thus, all things taken into consideration, Pakistan will see the wisdom of allowing a kind of intra-Afghan "equilibrium" to develop rather than try to prescribe what is good for that country.

Mr. Karzai has proved to be a remarkably shrewd politician gifted with a high acumen to network and forge alliances. He has emerged as a pan-Afghan leader who maintains working relationships with influential figures cutting across ethnicity and regions — Mohammed Fahim, Karim Khalili, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Rasul Sayyaf, etc. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami, which is a Pashtun-dominated group antithetical to the Taliban, already forms a part of Mr. Karzai's government. Mr. Karzai has his own bridges leading toward the Taliban camp to which he once belonged, after all. There will always be disgruntled elements, but then there are the traditional Afghan methods of patronage and accommodation. Mr. Karzai takes an active interest in regional affairs. His bonding with Pakistan and Iran shows that his political antennae are already probing for openings in anticipation of the U.S. withdrawal.

In this complex setting, India's own policy orientations are realistic and near-optimal. The primacy on building warm and cordial ties with the government in Kabul; nurturing people-to-people ties; contributing significantly to reconstruction; non-interference in internal affairs; an aversion to Indian military deployment; a non-prescriptive approach to an Afghan settlement and the insistence on an "Afghan-led" reconciliation process; and, most important, the trust that Mr. Karzai knows the "red lines" — these parameters of policy are eminently sustainable.

However, a couple of points need to be made. India should establish communication lines with the Taliban — assuming, of course, it wants to talk with us. After all, we talked with Mr. Sayyaf, leader of the Ittehad, which Jalaluddin Haqqani served as commander. It is inconceivable that any Afghan could harbour ill will towards India and the Indian people. The rest is all the disposable stuff of how the Afghan has been manipulated by outsiders through the 30 years of civil war — including when he vandalised the Bamiyan statues. But in the kind of Afghanistan Mr. Karzai wants his country to return, it becomes possible for us also to rediscover the Afghan we knew before foreigners came and occupied his country. (Incidentally, this is also the basis of Mr. Karzai's optimism when he reacted on hearing about Mr. Obama's drawdown plan: "This soil can only be protected by the sons of Afghanistan. I congratulate the Afghan people for taking the responsibility for their country into their own hands … Today is a very happy day.")

And, our "dialogue" with the Taliban must go hand in hand with a policy to do all we can by word and deed to instil confidence in the Pakistani mind about our intentions that for the foreseeable future, Afghanistan's stabilisation can become a shared concern for the two countries. Much has changed already in the most recent months in the prevailing air. No one talks seriously that the drawback of Mr. Obama's drawdown plan could be India-Pakistan "rivalry" in Afghanistan. There is actually no scope for zero-sum games, since Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan are legitimate — and are reconcilable with India's concerns.

Second, Indian diplomacy should utilise the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) process to evolve a new strategic culture of collective security for the region, which it lacks. Mr. Obama's words should be properly understood, when he said that the U.S. can no more "over-extend … confronting every evil that can be found abroad." As India and Pakistan move to a new trajectory of growth, a favourable regional environment becomes the imperative need. India can learn a lot from the Chinese "technique" of creating synergy between the SCO track and Beijing's bilateral track with the Central Asian capitals — and with Moscow — which till a generation ago were weaned on unalloyed anti-China dogmas of the Soviet era. Indian diplomacy can do one better. It can adapt this "technique" to normalisation with Pakistan — and with China.

( The writer is a former diplomat.)

 

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 THE HINDU

OPED

HYDRO-DIPLOMACY: A NEGLECTED OPPORTUNITY FOR NEPAL AND INDIA

EXISTING WATER TREATIES ARE IN INDIA'S FAVOUR, WHICH TROUBLES NEPAL AND PREVENTS THE MUCH NEEDED DEVELOPMENT OF HYDRO-PROJECTS THERE.

RAJEEV RANJAN CHATURVEDY AND DAVID M. MALONE

 

Water is currently a source of some tension between India and Nepal but could become the greatest asset to the relationship if a more confident, respectful and cooperative approach is engineered by the two governments.

India's ever-increasing energy requirements speak to its potentially most important interest in Nepal — the latter's largely untapped hydro-power capacity. A major part of the downstream discharge of the Ganga is contributed by flows either originating in Nepal or transiting Nepal from sources in Tibet, most notably the Kosi, Gandak and Karnali river systems. Because of the terrain, Nepal also provides the best, if not the only, option for downstream flood control and dry season augmentation. A change in course of the Kosi in 2008 caused massive flooding in Bihar (as well as in Nepal), displacing millions and occasioning much loss of life.

Early negotiations

The first recorded water resource negotiations between Nepal and India occurred between 1910 and 1920 when British India needed to harness the Sarda (Mahakali) river, which formed the western boundary between Nepal and British India, to develop irrigation in the United Province (now Uttar Pradesh). Nepal agreed to the 1920 Sarda treaty, involving an exchange of territory, but not an advantageous one for Nepal.

India enjoys most of the benefits of the Kosi and Gandak treaties (of 1954 and 1959), leading to the construction of dams primarily irrigating and protecting Indian lands. The outcome was viewed by many in Nepal as a "sell out" of their natural resources (although it was resistance in Nepal that prevented construction of larger dams that would have accrued more benefits to that country).

However, since then, the Nepalis have learned the value of their consent to India's plans pertaining to water, and have expressed this mostly through the blocking of hydro development in Nepal that would also benefit India.

Meanwhile, Indian insistence on management control and refusal to allow independent assessment of downstream benefits have induced suspicion in Nepal, encouraging stalling tactics. The relationship between the two countries on water resources has been inconclusive and often unsettled.

In this climate of mutual distrust, despite discussions between the two nations on several multi-purpose projects over three decades, little progress has been made on any of them. In Nepal, as in India, environmental concerns, worries about the displacement of people, and misgivings about large projects in the seismically active Himalayan region have militated against large-scale generation of hydro-electric power (particularly since, in Nepal's case, the power would mostly be exported).

Alternative view

An alternative view in Nepal advocates rejecting large-scale water development and favours decentralised, relatively small, environmentally benign projects (whether for irrigation or for hydro-electric power) primarily for Nepal's own needs. Export of electricity is not ruled out but large generation primarily for export to a single buyer (India) is not, in this view, desirable. This alternative approach of national capacity building, local government participation, and use of cheap and reliable electricity to provide national industries with a competitive edge could help resolve some of the challenges Nepal faces.

Barriers

Nepal does not have much of a manufacturing base but the hydroelectric potential of the country is more than sufficient to transform the economy. Nepal's apprehensions regarding the inadequacy of its arable land and, therefore, the potential political unpopularity of creating large water reservoirs is understandable. So are worries over the related displacement of people.

But Nepal's inability, amidst its political and governance travails, to take decisions favouring long-term development is unfortunate. Until decisions are taken in Kathmandu on a strategy for hydro development, Nepal will, unnecessarily, remain a net importer of electricity from India.

Another Indian neighbour, Bhutan, has forged a different path on hydro-electric development; one benefitting both countries. Thimphu has financed much of the country's impressive economic growth, political modernisation and social development in recent years through revenue from Indian-designed hydroelectric projects on its soil that provide power both to Bhutan and to India's North-East. (Bhutan is today inclined to open tenders for more such hydro projects to other international bidders. Under any scenario, India will continue to benefit as the main client for the electricity produced.)

Nepal's full natural resource wealth is not yet charted since very little has been explored. But its considerable hydroelectric potential should contribute more than it does to meeting the needs of its fledgling industries, and, if Nepalis wish it, contribute mightily to export earnings.

New strategy needed

However, with Kathmandu alternately convulsed by political intrigue or inertia in policy development, such major decisions have been on the backburner and the success of Bhutan's approach, so nearby, has been ignored. Once Nepali politicians of all stripes tire of their endless manoeuvring for advantage in their country's new democratic dispensation and remember to tend to the country's economic development, a new strategy for the hydro power sector will have to be given high priority.

And, if it hopes for a positive outcome relative to its own power needs, New Delhi would be well advised to adopt a more open, generous approach in engaging with Nepal's interested communities on water and power than it has in the past when it foisted on Nepal unequal treaties that have generated long-lasting resentments.

(Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy is completing his Ph.D. at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. David M. Malone is president of Canada's International Development Research Centre of Canada. They have both contributed to the collective volume From People's War to Fragile Peace in Nepal , to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2012.) ***************************************


THE HINDU

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN BEFORE 2014: JAYALALITHAA

INTERVIEW WITH TAMIL NADU CHIEF MINISTER JAYALALITHAA

 

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and Tamil Nadu Chief MinisterJayalalithaa , who had made an offer of support to the United Progressive Alliance on November 11, 2010, prior to A. Raja's removal as Telecom Minister, has reiterated that it was only a one-time offer; there was no question now of working with the Congress. She said a political realignment could happen before the 2014 general elections. "Anything can happen anytime," she said when asked about the possibility of elections before 2014. The people wanted a strong and authoritative government to give them a sense of security. She did not rule out the possibility of national political realignment in the near future but did not explain why she felt such a realignment can happen anytime soon. She made it clear that she had moved on from 1999 when she withdrew support to the Vajpayee government, leading to its downfall: in the present context she might have acted differently. She did not rule out the possibility of a third front emerging, or the possibility of her being a part of it.

Excerpts from an interview the Chief Minister gave Arnab Goswami , Editor-in-Chief of the Times Now television channel, in Chennai on June 27.

Ms. Jayalalithaa, I've always considered you to be forthright and direct. When you spoke to me last on November 11, 2010, you made a dramatic offer, and I'm quoting you: you said if required the AIADMK would be willing to support the Central government. May I ask you ma'am, the circumstance and context in which you said that, and how you look back at it now?

In November 2010, the entire political situation was different. At that time, the Centre had not taken any action against those involved in the 2G spectrum scam. Though the nation was expecting [it], no action was taken. So at that time there was a feeling that the Centre was hesitating due to the compulsions of coalition politics. So that's why I made the offer, so that the Congress could feel assured, so that it would not have to suffer in case the DMK withdrew support to the government…. It was in that context that I made the offer, so that the Congress that was heading the coalition at the Centre would be reassured, so that if it did take strong action against corruption the government would not suffer and the government would not fall because of such action. So that they could continue. It was to give them that reassurance and the confidence that I made that offer. But now, the situation has totally changed. The Congress has made it clear that it has an alliance with the DMK, and it did face the elections with the DMK. And even after the results were known and they suffered a massive defeat, the Congress continues to say that they have an alliance with DMK, and it continues to be a part of the ruling coalition. And till date it is an important part of the alliance.

So, why were they so cool to your offer at that point of time? Because it was a very explicit offer. In fact you even put out the numbers. You said to them that the Congress does not want to lose the support of those 18, but now, and I'm quoting you, the DMK's position has become untenable, Raja's position became untenable. In fact Raja went three days after my question. Ms. Jayalalithaa, why were they cool to you? And do you think you set the ball rolling for Raja's ouster?

That's what the entire nation felt and said. But as to why [the] Congress didn't take up my offer, you should put it to the Congress. It's all history to me, it's in the past. It was a totally different scenario, [it's a] totally different situation in politics now. It doesn't exist anymore.

But don't you think political alliances, Ms. Jayalalithaa… the Congress leaders have said, and I'm quoting them, that the relationship with the DMK and the case against Mr. Raja are not related. That's what they say.

But that's not the way the nation sees it, that's not the way the people see it.

But my question again, Ms. Jayalalithaa — I'm going to be persistent on this — I can't fathom why they said no to you. The relationship with the DMK did not work electorally, they had a standing offer from [you] and yet they didn't take up the offer, act on Raja. It's a bit of a piecemeal effort, isn't it?

You used the words 'standing offer.' It wasn't a standing offer [I] made in November. It wasn't a standing offer. And I repeat, as to why the Congress didn't take up that offer, they should answer it, they are the best judges and they should answer your question. As far as I'm concerned, I made that offer in a particular context, in a particular situation. And as far as I'm concerned, that situation doesn't exist anymore.

Do you think coalition politics with a greater role for regional players is the order of the day?

I can't make any predictions, I'm not an astrologer. But in trying to answer your questions, I can only say that it does seem that the days of single party majority rule are over. I think we are destined to live with coalition governments in the future. I don't think any party is capable of getting a single majority on its own.

By that definition, you as leader of one of the largest parties apart from the Congress and the BJP in the present political situation in India, in 2014… you will be a major player. You can't restrict yourself to Chennai.

Let's wait for the next general election to come around. It's hardly been a month, a month and a half or may be a little over a month since I took over. Let's see how this turns out.

Can I please interpret your earlier answer… you seem to indicate a mid-term election could happen, before 2014?

Anything can happen at any time. I didn't say something would happen. Anything can happen. We have to be prepared.

Prior to 2014?

Possibly, anything can happen.

Why do you say so?

No, I don't want to elaborate.

Everyone is very keen to know what you have been talking to top BJP leaders, and there has been a great deal of attention paid to your meeting with Sushma Swaraj, on the fact that Narendra Modi being present at your swearing-in ceremony, a very important gesture. Ideologically, surely you have no differences with the BJP in terms of working with them?

Earlier, when Mr. Narendra Modi was sworn in as the Chief Minister for the second time, I attended his swearing-in ceremony in Ahmedabad in 2002. So Modi returned the compliment now when I was sworn in. When you refer to Sushma Swaraj, you are omitting Sheila Dikshit. Both Ms. Sheila Dikshit and Sushma Swaraj are very charming and gracious ladies, both are my friends and paid courtesy calls, and especially called on me to congratulate me on my victory in the recent Assembly elections. Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad is a very good friend of mine and has appeared as a lawyer for me in some cases, so we know each other really well. So, we call on each other when we get the chance.

People say Narendra Modi could be a prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, Sushma could be prime ministerial candidate. So there is a slight difference between them and Sheila Dikshit and the two other leaders who you mentioned. Therefore, the general feeling is that everyone in the BJP, especially those who are aspirants for the top job, would believe that they can't get there without your support. Do you feel that is not an important inference for us to draw about your meetings with the BJP?

I've friends in all parties. My friends have spread all over the political spectrum, so I have good friends in the BJP, the Congress and other political parties too. They call on me as friends. They are friendly visits, and if you choose to read more into it, then I'm not responsible for it. It's not my problem.

The Congress party said when the Gujarat Chief Minister was here at your swearing-in ceremony: they said, I don't think there needs to be any elaboration that the Gujarat Chief Minister has orchestrated the worst genocide in independent India and therefore should not be touched with a barge pole. This comment was made only because Modi came here for your swearing-in ceremony

Let's not get into a discussion on Narendra Modi. He is a good friend, that's all.

When you look back at 1998-99, you said that time moves on and political views change. The reasons for which you had differences with the NDA in 1999, and now when you look at it in 2011... Could there be a fresh start?

Any person evolves with time and experience. It's the same with any political leader. If the same situation that occurred in 1999 had arisen today, I'd have acted differently and responded differently. You gain experience as time goes on. So, what was your question?

When you look back at 1999, the circumstances in which you withdrew your support to the NDA and in 2011 when you look back, you say that things move on, you say you could have reacted differently?

I'd like to stress on one thing: if you constantly keep looking back and harping on what goes on in the past, you cannot go on, can't do politics. So if you insist on what transpired in the past, and you dwell on issues that happened in the past, you're stagnating. You're preventing yourself from moving forward. As far as I am concerned, I live in the present and look towards the future.

In today's political environment, if Jayalalithaa is ambivalent — not ambivalent perhaps, but equidistant from both the parties — then that would throw up a whirlwind of opportunities for political parties in Delhi. What about the possibility of a third front? It did badly in the 2009 elections. Do you think, given the federal structure of our politics and the fact that the States need a greater voice at the Centre, that it is realistic or unrealistic… or perhaps a third front in the future?

Anything can happen in politics, and particularly in India anything can happen in Indian politics. So let's wait and see what the future throws up.

Would it be unrealistic to think about it?

I said let's wait and see what the future throws up. The future may not be so long away either.

Why do you say that? The future is quite far away as of now.

Well, that's what you think, but there could be changes earlier. As I said, you never know what will happen because one can generally sense what is the mood of the people. The people of this country want a change. They want a strong government in the Centre. They want a strong, authoritative government at the Centre. They want a government that will have a no-nonsense attitude towards corruption, and they want a government that will provide security against our unfriendly, hostile neighbours. So anything can happen in the future.

I would request you to give your observations on the national mood. You've seen the Lokpal debate. Where do you stand on the issue of, say the inclusion of the Prime Minister in the Lokpal bill, an issue which the government clearly is not keen to discuss?

I will enunciate my views very clearly. The proposed Lokpal bill should exclude the Prime Minister for the following reasons: the Prime Minister is already covered under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Any misconduct by the Prime Minister can be investigated by the CBI. Sometimes the Lokpal could be used by foreign powers to destabilise the government. But when a frivolous and politically motivated complaint against the Prime Minister is referred before the Lokpal and if the same is telecast by the TV channels — which will run it round-the-clock — it would dent the Prime Minister's credibility and authority. Even if nothing comes out of it, it will seriously dent the authority of the Prime Minister.

The Lokpal can investigate all allegations, and therefore when the allegations are levelled against the Prime Minister, when a complaint is put before the Lokpal, he will be put on the defensive and will be occupied in defending himself. In such an event, how can the government which is reliant on the Prime Minister work? The functioning of the Lokpal, inclusive of the Prime Minister, will pave the way for a parallel government which will undermine the authority of the Prime Minister. The State government of Tamil Nadu hasn't given its view, since no final draft has been arrived at. The Lokpal is much more than what is envisaged in the PCA. The State's view is that the Lokpal is much more than [has been] envisaged. The State's view can be formulated only after the final draft is given in Parliament. That's my view I have enunciated.

There are two ways in which politicians can be at the national level. It's inevitable that you'll play a role at the national level…

That's your assessment.

It has been the experience in the past.

I take it as a compliment, thank you very much.

What about a national role? Is it impossible to conjecture that you will look for a larger role for your party and yourself at the national level? Please don't dodge the question.

I'm not trying to dodge your question, I will answer it in my own way. I take life as it comes. I never planned a career in politics for myself. I never had any preparation for a career in politics. I never thought I could be Chief Minister and I didn't want to either. Somehow I did, and I became Chief Minister not once, but three times. I've no national ambition for myself. I have an ambition for India: I want India to be the superpower in the world. It has the potential to be [one]. So for that it needs a strong, patriotic leader at the helm of affairs. I've no personal ambitions, I go where my destiny takes me.

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THE ASIAN AGE

AS NSG PRESSURE MOUNTS, STAY FIRM

A recent plenary of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the cartel of 46 countries that have nuclear materials or equipment to offer others, held at Noordwijk in the Netherlands, has reaffirmed its core objective — that such goods cannot be sold to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

As such, India is to be denied the sale of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology. Indeed, the NSG introduced a new provision to give effect to this particular outcome. The NPT remains the holy grail of the international regime promoted for half a century by the West to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, although it is common knowledge that the Americans and others winked at the clandestine development of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme through the aegis of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan and his contacts in the West. Nevertheless, getting all countries to sign the NPT (the holdouts being India, Pakistan and Israel; and now North Korea, which recently resiled from the treaty) continues to be cited as a critical aim. It is noteworthy, though, that in 2008, as a special dispensation for India, the NSG waived its usual conditions for transfer of nuclear materials to a NPT non-signatory. It now appears to have gone back on that waiver.
The 2008 waiver was granted in the backdrop of the India-US civil nuclear agreement. American terms for bilateral nuclear trade are extremely stringent, but the administration of then President George W. Bush made an exception for India in the light of its squeaky clean non-proliferation record and its scrupulous adherence to the NPT's spirit despite remaining outside the treaty. Once America entered into a bilateral agreement with India to buy and sell nuclear ware, Washington also pushed India's case in the NSG. The result was the 2008 NSG waiver. This was the basis for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assurance to Parliament about a "clean" waiver to India, although it was technically outside the NPT. It is worth recalling, however, that some elements in the Bush administration at the time — due to their ideology of disfavouring NPT non-signatories — had tried to scuttle the NSG waiver and made a lot of fuss about the supply of ENR technologies to this country.
Under the terms of the bilateral deal with the US, India was to get a "clean" waiver — that is, one (from existing international provisions) for the entire range of nuclear technologies (including ENR) for all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, and waiver for the supply of nuclear fuels too for the lifetime of the reactors being purchased overseas and placed under IAEA safeguards. India had pressed this point and got its way then, although there were times when the deal being negotiated with the US appeared close to breaking point. It is thus unfair to say, in the light of NSG's volte face on ENR sales, that the Prime Minister had knowingly misled Parliament.
Without active American canvassing, the 2008 NSG waiver is unlikely to have materialised. And the US was keen on the India deal for strategic and commercial reasons. Some doubts have crept into US commercial calculations on account of India's liability law regarding accidents at nuclear plants. (This factor hasn't quite deterred Russian and French companies.) This is a possible cause for the NSG retreating from a India-specific waiver. Washington's virtual silence (although the US remains sanguine about India's NSG membership coming through owing to its efforts) appears a way to mount pressure on New Delhi. India would do well to tell the Americans (and others) just where they got off, but not go ballistic raising a nationalist outcry. India's policy and record provide sufficient counter-weight to the NSG's posture.

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THE ASIAN AGE

THE NUCLEAR RUBICON

SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

The recent announcement by Pakistan regarding successful trials of its tactical nuclear weapon (TNW), the short-range (60 km) nuclear capable Hatf-9 — or Al Nasr — missile comes at a time when events in AfPak as well as inside Pakistan remain in uneasy equilibrium. It introduces an additional and potentially destabilising new factor into the Indo-Pak matrix.

TNWs are not strategic heavyweights designed as distant stand-offs for mutual deterrence, but tactical bantamweights meant for trading punches in actual nuclear warfighting, should such an event ever come to pass. The existing classifications of nuclear weapons (strategic, theatre and tactical) are holdovers from Euro-centric Cold War perceptions. They are largely irrelevant in the India-Pakistan context, where the entire spectrum of nuclear weapons ranging from megaton down to sub-kiloton can reach most of the regions in the two countries. This, in effect, will bring all types of nuclear weapons on both sides of the border into the strategic category.
Nuclear warfare at any level has always been considered unthinkable by the Indian establishment, and rightly so. However, such assumptions presuppose a corresponding modicum of rationality on the part of the potential opponent that does not seem to find much place in the radically crazed jihad, which has developed deep roots in the Pakistani military establishment and extensively infects that country's armed forces.
The serial impacts of the Raymond Davis incident, the continuing American drone strikes inside Pakistani territory and the Abbottabad incident have deeply enraged the middle piece and rank and file in the Pakistan military against their own government as well as senior commanders. This has left them seething with impotent rage against the United States. This rage finds ready expression in vicious side-swipes at India, always perceived as a softer, flabbier target, whenever opportunity presents itself, as demonstrated most recently in PNS Babur's "shoulder charge" against INS Godavari during the retrieval of MV Suez from the custody of Somali pirates.
Pakistan is being consumed by its internal wars, as shown by the fidayeen attack on PNS Mehran, the naval base at Karachi. The prospects of TNW with Pakistan's radically Islamicised armed forces is undoubtedly a matter of concern for India, which must review its responses to cater for the emergence of a Dr Strangelove figure in the Pakistani military and nuclear establishment.
Some idea of the Pakistani mindset can be found in the enunciation by Lt. Gen. (retd) Khalid Kidwai, the director general of the Strategic Plans Division of the National Command Authority, of the contingencies under which Pakistan would take recourse to nuclear warfare in the event of hostilities towards India. According to Gen. Kidwai, these would be extensive losses of territory, destruction of a large part of the defence forces, economic strangulation, political destabilisation or large-scale subversion.
In this context it would be interesting to speculate whether the loss of East Pakistan in 1971 might have constituted a trigger for the use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan had these been available at that time. The new TNW factor will obviously require these earlier perceptions to be revised downwards. India for its part has imposed on itself a self-perceived "nuclear threshold", in its dealings with Pakistan, an undefined (and indefinable) Rubicon which has to govern the limits of Indian responses, even against the most appalling provocations for fear of provoking Pakistan, an approach, which provides a convenient excuse to the national leadership for total inaction regardless of the degree of provocation. This has been amply demonstrated both after the attack on Parliament in 2001 as well as after the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks in 2008 regardless of the government in office. It seems India never learns lessons when dealing with Pakistan. If India is incapable of taking hardline action, then it must at least avoid repeatedly shaming its own people in front of the world by gratuitous overtures to Pakistan followed by undignified climb downs. Pakistan for its part has gleefully capitalised on India's tremulous indecision from its "sum of all fears" outlook by brandishing its nuclear arsenal and provocatively proclaiming its exclusive focus on India.
Meanwhile, not too many details have emerged about Hatf-9, apart from its extraordinarily short-range capability of 60 km and stated "shoot and scoot capability", along with glimpses of a multi-barrel mobile launcher, resembling the conventional Russian SMERCH, or its Chinese equivalent — the Type 03/PHL03 (sometimes designated A-100) held with Pakistan.
Among the possible inferences that can be drawn from these very elementary details are that Hatf-9 is likely a solid-fuelled missile, possibly mounting sub-kiloton or low kiloton warheads, which will possibly require to be deployed in locations well forward on the battlefield, almost in the manner of conventional artillery. This is an issue which presents several problems, notably that of vulnerability. All this certainly goes against accepted tactical norms, but the twists or surprises in such a situation have not fully unravelled as yet. As a matter of purely historical analogy, it may not be out of place to remember that as far back as 1953, in the early years of the Cold War, the United States fielded the 120-km range Corporal, its first nuclear capable missile for tactical support of ground forces which was also deployed along with conventional artillery.
No one has experienced the nuclear battlefield. Hiroshima and Nagasaki provide no precedents, since they were strategic bombings of population centres which nuclear jargon would later categorise as "value targets". It was not tactical warfighting with nuclear weapons in the heat, dust, smoke, confusion and haze, which have been the characteristics of all battlefields since Kurukshetra, and will undoubtedly remain in the nuclear age as well.
The issue of nuclear warfighting has been extensively researched and written about, but obviously on the basis of theoretical estimates or academic extrapolation, not hard practical experience. So if, when, or whenever, a nuclear war does come to pass, it will be a first experience for everyone, including the uninvolved bystanders. The introduction of Hatf-9 has diminished the nuclear firebreak and will certainly not help matters.

The author is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

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THE ASIAN AGE

SOLOMON'S CALLING

SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

The fuss over whether the chief justice of the Madras high court should have invited Ms Jayalalithaa to tea to celebrate the start of her current chief ministership raises questions of propriety and protocol that are generally either ignored in India or taken a shade too far.
The second occurred to me recently because of the consternation when I asked a Calcutta high court judge, a newfound kinsman, for his card.

He had been good enough to seek me out to establish the connection and I wanted to identify him in our clan chronicle. The people surrounding him were aghast at my effrontery. Not for them the self-deprecation of the late P.V. Narasimha Rao, who told me once that "as a lover of anonymity" he had never had a card. These lawyers seemed to regard a card as sacrilege. But the judge himself, a pleasant and modest man, explained that only Calcutta high court judges don't have cards. Other courts aren't as restrictive.
The ban — if it exists — is based on an Asian misunderstanding of an Anglo-Saxon social convention. I say Asian because the late J.B. Jeyaretnam, then Singapore's sole Opposition MP, was also outraged at my request for a card. As a barrister trained in London, he told me peremptorily and quite unnecessarily, he didn't advertise himself.
He was thinking of what my father used to call a tradesman's card, a printed piece of pasteboard with professional and contact details. That is what almost everyone today means by a card. But as a barrister, Jeyaretnam should have known of a visiting (or calling) card with just his name engraved in fine copperplate script from, yes, an actual copper plate. I still have the one my father had made for me when I was going to England to study, and perhaps a few of the yellowed cards engraved from it.
The ritual was to "leave cards" — as the phrase went — on superiors. Every bungalow in, say, Meerut Cantonment sported a Not-at-home Box such as the one my grandmother had — rather like a squat letterbox in smooth well-finished teak — in which newcomers and juniors were supposed to drop their cards and wait for an invitation.
I remember being very impressed by a variant of the practice in Kalimpong when I first visited Kazini Elisa-Maria Dorji Khangsarpa of Chakung. Delhi old-timers might remember her as Mrs Ethel Maud Langford-Rae, French teacher and governess to the Nepalese ambassador's children. The Dalai Lama's card on a silver salver implied that His Holiness had called but, of course, he had done no such thing. Kazini was nothing if not resourceful and had put out the card — it may have accompanied a book — to impress innocents.
I stopped using my copperplate cards when people asked for my telephone number and address. Later came fax, email and mobile details. Cards have acquired a commercial vitality and I have sat through innumerable business lunches in Singapore where each new arrival's first task is to distribute his card to all the others. There is no graciousness about this handing out of self-propaganda by people who are open to receiving commissions and contracts. So Jeyaretnam's reticence or the Calcutta high court ban were not without logic. A judge's card on display can also create the wrong impression.
Discretion is all the more necessary now that the judiciary seems to be taking over India's governance. But cards and tea parties are not the only ways of influencing judges. Some judges have their little vanities. One took her resplendent chaprasi to cocktail parties. Another liked being called Your Lordship all the time. Some judges have their not-so-little expectations. What matters is the man (or woman) under the wig and gown, not the appearance, which can be deceptive.
Nirad C. Chaudhuri mentions an eminent judge who went to court exceptionally early so that his father, a minor court employee, didn't have to stand up for him. I knew of a judge who was drinking as a hotelier's guest on a dry day (violating both prohibition laws and professional ethics!) when he was suddenly summoned to swear in an acting governor. Yet, such was his reputation for integrity that a leading national politician flew across the country to be served with a writ in his jurisdiction.
As the Lokpal Bill debate demonstrates, we can make a fetish of form. India has been arguing for years about judicial performance commissions, independent complaints boards and codes of conduct. A draft Judges Standards and Accountability Bill is expected to replicate most of the Supreme Court's 16-point Restatement of Values of Judicial Life.
The charter doesn't seem to mention tea parties or cards, but its comments about holding stocks and shares took me back to Indira Gandhi's defiant declamation at the Shah Commission. Some judges opposed her, she claimed, because she had taken action against their shareholdings, provoking a red-faced Justice J.C. Shah to burst out angrily that he had never held any shares. Mrs Gandhi replied sweetly she hadn't mentioned him.
It's just as well, perhaps, that the proposed charter bans gifts and hospitality, forbids running for office in clubs, and "close association" with lawyers, even to the extent of not allowing relatives in the Bar to live in the same house. Apart from specific bans, the overall effect might be to create a model of rectitude and act as a deterrent. But laws alone won't create an army of Solomons if confusion and corruption dominate the lower rungs of a creaky judicial and law enforcement system whose policemen have been called criminals in uniform.
I recall a judge's peon once rushing up to demand baksheesh because my family had won a property suit. Seeing my amazement that this should happen in full court, my lawyer said: "Don't worry, in a few years the judge himself will make the demand!"
Mercifully, that hasn't happened yet. But forbidding cards and tea parties alone isn't going to prevent it either until the whole hierarchy is cleansed.

The author is a senior journalist who contributes to several top international publications

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

IGNOU, THE STEP CHILD

 

In what may be called contradiction in terms, the State government is dilly-dallying allotment of land to the world reputed educational institution, namely IGNOU that has it's headquarter at New Delhi and branches all over India. The concept of distant education, which is the main purpose of the IGNOU, has been of immense usefulness to the entire student community of the country as it has saved their educational career from being cut short owing to various factors like poverty, financial instability and hurdles in access to higher institutes of learning. The contradiction in the case of our state is that on the one hand the government is ready to provide incentives and enticements to the private sector and mega corporate houses to set up industries in the State so that it helps reduce unemployment, on the other hand, when things come to practical part, the government is trying to backtrack. This ambivalent attitude is not going to help the state take bigger strides towards multi-sided development. IGNOU idea developed out of a given social and economic situation in our country. The school and college fallouts were burgeoning because of stringent criteria set up for admission to higher courses and classes. Country's manpower was getting wasted when left unutilized. Social aberrations increased at a rapid speed. Particularly in the case of Kashmir, where political upheavals have become the order of the day, unengaged youth added to the problem of fragile peace. The students, who should have been continuing their education and shaping their careers, were left like lumpen lots to indulge in malpractices. Distance education has been found a befitting remedy to this drawback. Though our university has a full fledged department of distance Education, but IGNOU offers courses in so many other branches that are not available in Jammu University. Moreover educational certification from IGNOU enables the recipients to compete on all India level competition in various services. That is also one of the reasons why the student community in Srinagar and Jammu are evincing keener interest in getting enrolled in IGNOU branches.

 

IGNOU opened its branch in Srinagar in 1999 and rented a small space, a double story house, in Rajbagh locality. From the time of its inception, the regional centre has helped access to education to more than a lakh of students in the valley. Following the huge response for admissions from student community, the Open University decided to expand its operations and get a permanent space where the office and the contact classes could be held under single roof. Consequently the VC approached the State government authorities for allotment of an adequate piece of land on which a commodious complex could be built and the functioning of the institution with efficiency and speed could be ensured. Strangely the request of the VC has got bogged with the officialdom and each office has been trying to pass on the buck and not showing any inclination to be cooperative and helpful to the institution. Why does not the state government consider strengthening of the institution as a component of its policy of winning over the youth of the valley? The State education authorities are not empowered to pass judgment on the functionality and delivery of a big institution like IGNOU which has received appreciation not only from national academic fraternity but from many prestigious institutions in foreign countries as well. If the government is not interested in letting the IGNOU serve the youth community of the State, it should say so in clear terms and not make the prestigious instituting run from pillar to post. It does not bring credit to the intellectual segment of the state. Our student community has great hopes in this prestigious institution and if the government does not awake to the need of the student community, it must be prepared to face the music.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ANTI-DRUGS CAMPAIGN

 

26th June is observed as International Anti-Drugs Day. In following the tradition, sections of civil society in both the provinces of Jammu and Kashmir made some attempts to express their aversion to the menace of drug addiction. In Srinagar, anti-drug activists occupied the famous Lal Chowk as the venue for observing the day. The activists introduced a novel way of launching anti-drug campaign. A few painters came together under the aegis of an NGO and painted bill boards and arranged street theatre to denounce addiction to drugs. Likewise in Jammu also some anti-drug activities were pursued. However, these attempts remained restricted to only a small number of citizens and the broader sections of society did not pay much attention to the importance of the campaign.

 

Consumption of narcotics and drugs has increased alarmingly in Kashmir in recent years. Cultivation of poppy, though prohibited by the law, continues largely in clandestine fashion. Obviously one is drawn to imagine the enforcement authorities and the drug peddlers are in cahoots to make fast bucks out of the banned trade. Pakistani militants, particularly those who have had association with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda remnants, are responsible for bringing in the drugs to Kashmir and administering it to the Kashmiri youth they have succeeded in recruiting for militancy. Afghanistan is famous throughout the world for largest production of poppy and drugs out of it. It is through this channel that drug trafficking has come to Kashmir. Drug mafias of the country has established links with drug peddlers of Kashmir and they streamlined the logistics of this clandestine trade so much so that many of them were arrested by the police in Jammu and Delhi revealing their links with Kashmir drug mafia. It is good that sections of civil society were woken up to the danger of the menace and have launched a campaign against drug consumption. We know that many good and decent families have fallen to bad days owing to some of their young boys getting addicted to drugs. We suggest that on administrative level, a lot remains to be done to control the menace and eradicate it lock, stock and barrel. Ours is an economically weak state and our people cannot afford to squander their hard earned money on nonsensical things like drugs and unnecessarily extravaganzas. Government should strengthen anti-drug institutions and deliver the people from this proliferating menace.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

POLICY PARALYSIS DENTS GOVERNMENT'S IMAGE

BY M K DHAR

 

A rudderless UPA-II Government has entered a phase of policy paralysis and is fast becoming non-functional. Whether its leadership, as if in deep slumber, cares to realize, the present state of drift and indecision is going to cost it dearly in the next general election, unless corrective action is taken with all round improvement in performance in various spheres of activity. It was taken totally off guard and unprepared by the RSS-BJP combine, which launched a vitriolic attack on it for the many scams which were unearthed almost at the same time, and has even now not regained composure and summon the resources at its command to effectively repel the attack.
The net result is that the country is losing the momentum to achieve faster economic growth, put its various institutions in shape to ensure effective governance and under take much needed economic and other reforms to strengthen the sinews of the economy and strengthen democracy. After the Baba Ramdev episode, it seems to have slightly regained its composure, but has not yet been able to take the opposition head-on and go on the offensive by taking strict action against those guilty of corruption and ensuring transparency in the government's functioning. Owing to lack of cohesive thinking and action and bankruptcy of decision-making, the Government allowed itself to be out manoeuvered by a mob of religious zealots masquerading as social reformers and some so-called civil society activities who have enriched themselves through dubious ways and whose sources of finance are a mystery. These activities have their own separate agendas dictated to them by those who finance them (local, as well as, foreign) for their own purposes, which may not be in the national good.
For the Government being dysfunctional, the ruling Congress Party also is to blame because it is unable to project itself as the defender of certain cherished values and force for change. Organizationally it has become weak and has not been able to recover lost ground in states where it has been repeatedly defeated by the electorate. It certainly has a charismatic leader in Sonia Gandhi, but her stewardship is not reflected in the party's functioning at the Central or the states' level. The political scene is marked by lack of cohesion between the Government and the Congress leadership which comes in the way of a coordinated approach to national issues. The Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev agitations would not have been handled as shabbily as was done if the government and the party had adopted a coordinated approach and crafted a strategy in advance to deal with them. The Congress President and the Prime Minister maintained a mysterious silence, while the job of facing the crisis was entrusted to a few ministers who did not have a proper brief. All the drama and recrimination in parliament during an entire session over the 2G spectrum could have been avoided if the government and the Congress Party had shown wisdom and foresight by taking the steam out of the opposition by conceding the joint parliamentary committee demand earlier. Similarly, the Government could have invited the Anna Hazare group and other civil society representatives to give their views on a new Lokpal bill -- which it did after much recrimination and bitterness -- and thereby defused the agitation.
Such an imaginative approach was necessary because the Government and Congress party were both vulnerable to attack over the 2G spectrum and other scams and had to defend themselves without appearing to cover up the matter. The Congress leadership ought to know that the BJP-RSS combine wants to prolong the agitation over this issue to paint the government black, spoil its image and reduce its chances of returning to power again in 2014. The opposition is not interested in setting the cases and getting the guilty punished but to prolong the controversy as long as possible because it feels corruption is the only issue to bring down the government, or minimize chances of its again coming to power. It is upto the Congress leadership and the government to decide whether they will play into the hands of the opposition, or take the same course of defusing the agitation by whatever means and there by deprive the opposition of a potent weapon of attack.
The Party acknowledges that Dr. Singh has given the country able leadership and will stay at the helm. Rahul Gandhi has been trying to bring about a big change in terms of democratization of the Congress party and attracting the youth, farmers, dalits and other under privileged sections of the society. He is emerging as a future leader and is qualified to provide guidance to the nation.
But, the fact is what he wished, he has not been able to accomplish. His sought to end the role of "family" (dynasty), "friends patronage" and money in politics. He also promised to end the nomination culture in the Congress.
But he has not been able to accomplish what he has set out to achieve. Even though he has been undertaking padyatras all over the country, his Youth Congress brigade is disinclined to raise public issues or chalk out agitational programs to win support for the party. Groupism continues as usual, influence peddlers remain in the fore and genuine grassroots workers are ignored.
The elected office bearers of the Youth Congress still belong to influential families enjoying the patronage of big leaders and have financial clout. The experiment in rewarding grassroots workers with Assembly tickets did not succeed as most of them got defeated because they could not mobilise enough voters in their favour. Party reorganization and reinvigoration are long-term tasks and Rahul needs considerable patieience and to put in hard work. The results will be late in coming, but will follow sustained effort and hard work.
The immediate task is to arrest the paralysis in government's decision-making. It is only when Pakistan made some threatening noises by testing new missiles and increasing its nuclear arsenal that the Government cleared some proposals for acquisition of new defence equipment and strengthening border infrastructure.
The record of UPA-II in economic liberalization has been poor so far, with many crucial decision awaiting to made. Owing to the prevailing atmosphere of corruption and the government's inability to acquire land for industrial plants, foreign direct investment has slowed down.
What is needed is bold decision-making, with transparency, to avoid scams. If all new initiatives to give a boost to the economy are held up indefinitely, the nation will suffer and all our dreams of achieving double-digit growth and banishing want and poverty will vanish into thin air. We are passing through dangerous times and the government must govern and overcome paralysis of thinking and action because the nation and the disadvantaged people deserve better. [NPA]

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CHANGE YOURSELF, CHANGE ENVIRONMENT

BY DR DEVIKA ARORA

 

Since time immemorial, there has been a symbiotic relationship between human beings and nature. The existence of one indicates that of the other. It is mentioned in Vedas, that for the protection of humanity, nature should be protected. Save nature and nature would save you. According to 'Varah Puram,' the person who grows one Peepal, one Neem tree, two anaar or two orange trees, ten flowering plants and ten mango trees, he/she never goes to hell. In ''Vrihat Sahita' and 'Kautilya Shastra', there is proper punishment for the person who does some destructive action towards the environment. Gautam Buddah attained salvation under the Peepal tree and Mahavira achieved the supreme power under the Saal tree in the forests.

To maintain the balance in nature, thirty three percent of the earth's surface should have forests. Forests are natural umbrella for ground surface becaue these protect the ground surface from erosion caused by falling raindrops and control radiation balance of the earth and the atmosphere by consuming increased amount of carbon dioxide released from ever increasing chimneys of the factories and thus prevent the earth from becoming too hot. Removal of forest cover exposes the ground surface to the atmospheric processes.

Increased rate of soil erosion caused due to deforestation results in loss of fertile top soil of agricultural land which ultimately caused marked reduction in agricultural production. Every month we are loosing 25 species of animals and about 20 species of plants. In nature, flora and fauna go hand-in-hand and one cannot exist without other. Birds and insects are necessary for the cross-pollination of flowers and these along with other animals, also serve for dispersal and propagation of vegetation. It is needless to say that animals, directly or indirectly depend on green plants for their food. Besides food, plants also provide shelter to variety of animal population. If too many her bivores are killed, the predators, deprived of their natural food, will leave forest, and would prey upon domestic livestock or even man. On the other hand, if too many carnivores are killed, the herbivores will become too numerous and would be pest for agricultural crops.

Due to human intervention, a lot of negative changes have been observed in the climate. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2 Degree Celsius. A bigger rise of 3-4 Degree Celsius would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Temperatures are likely to rise by 5 Degree Celsius by the end of the century triggering mass migration, warfare and world hunger. Carbon dioxide concentrations are currently increasing at a rate of about 0.4 percent per year, which is responsible for about half of the current increase in global warming caused by greenhouse gases.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has accorded priority to create environmental awareness among various age groups. Special emphasis is given to non-formal environment education through seminars, symposia, workshops, training programmes, eco-camps, audio-visual shows etc. The media coverage can create public awareness on various environmental issues. Media can be important in controlling, checking and guiding the plans initiated by Government against environmental degradation for achieving the target result mainly through effective feedback system. Special attention must be paid to school going children and women with about 50 percent of the population. They are to be made aware of health, family planning, nutrition, rural development, slum improvement, hygiene, water and food contamination etc.

We should think that we have not inherited the earth from our ancestors but have borrowed it from our children which we have to return them with all the clealiness and greenery.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

DON'T TAKE GROWTH FOR GRANTED

BY S.V. VAIDYANATHAN

When Indian socialism was constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, it induced widespread pessimism about the possibility of breaking out of the Hindu growth rate of 3.5 per cent. The events of the late 1970s and early 1980s provided the first break, to a growth rate of 5.5 per cent. The events of the early 1990s gave the second break, to a growth rate of 7.5 per cent. Today, India holds an enviable track record, where GDP expanded by six times in the last 30-years: an average growth rate of 6.17 per cent.
The growth pessimism of the 1970s has been replaced by a sense of entitlement to high growth. Starting with Goldman Sachs, many people have got used to doing linear extrapolation, thinking that there is a boundless future of high growth. Most of us are pretty certain that in the next 30 years, GDP will grow between 6 per cent and 8 per cent, thus rising by between 6x and 10x.
The global experience over the last 200-years does not support such extrapolation. The growth experience of countries holds many surprises. Sometimes, a country that used to have low growth shifts into high gear (e.g., India). At other times, a country that used to have high growth shifts into low gear (e.g., Japan). Growth is much more complicated than counting labour and capital.
Alongside economic growth is the political system. The Indian elite have long been certain that in time India will develop a political system like that of the US or the UK. There has been a sense of inevitability about this destination, of a high quality political system. While this might indeed come about, the experience of the last 200 years is not encouraging. Italy and Japan do not yet have a good political system, and as recently as 1982, Spain had an attempted coup. The US and the UK stand out as exceptions rather than the rule.
The goal of the Indian development project, over the next 30-years, is that of getting a 6x to 10x enlargement of GDP and emerging with a UK- or US-quality political system. India has a crack at achieving these remarkable things. But this is not a certainty and history encourages considerable caution. What might go wrong along the way?
The first problem is that of exuberant spending. Thirty years of high growth has given politicians a sense that public money is there for spending. The hard won lessons of fiscal prudence, which were starting to take root in the 1990s and early 2000s, have been abandoned by the UPA. Many a country has come apart when large spending programmes were not supported by commensurate tax revenues, particularly in downturns. The political stress associated with these spending programmes is the highest when they are entitlements (such as NREG or RTE) as opposed to discretionary (such as building highways).
The second problem is that of corruption. When the licence-permit raj was eased, we expected corruption in India to decline. And indeed, in fields with a low government interface, it has. But every functioning market economy requires a complex Government interface in many fields. Regulation is a feature of a vast swathe of the economy, ranging from health, safety and environmental regulation that influences a large number of firms, to much more detailed regulatory interfaces in finance and infrastructure. India's nascent capitalism is characterised by firms vigorously pursuing profits. All too often, these firms have low ethical standards. Under normal notions of competition in the market economy, the most efficient firms get to the top. But when corruption is pervasive, the most rotten firms get to the top.
The third dimension is the political system. It is our cherished belief that in 30-years, as prosperity seeps in, India will get to a US- or UK-quality political system. But there are formidable hurdles along the way. We start with a weak hand of cards in having a fairly badly drafted Constitution. The fledgling capitalism that has been unleashed by economic reforms is interacting with the political system in dangerous ways. There is not even one state in India where governance and politics is working well. First-past-the-post elections have given incentives to political parties to find a loyal base of roughly 25 per cent of voters, and not reach out to the middle through policies that benefit all. The foundations of civilisation-courts, human rights and freedom of speech-are malfunctioning.
The fourth dimension is state capacity. The Commonwealth Games are a salutary reminder of the incompetence of the Indian state. We are a $1.2-trillion economy, but we do not have the commensurate state capability to address sophisticated questions. Each year of high GDP growth is increasing the gap between requirements and capabilities.
Will the Indian development project succeed? It might, but we cannot assume that it will. (INAV)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BOON FOR THE FARMER

EARLY MONSOON BRINGS CHEER IN PUNJAB

 

THE sooner-than-expected arrival of the monsoon has spread cheer in the agriculture-dominated north-western region of the country. Farmers will save on irrigation expenses as they give the finishing touches to paddy transplantation – the shortage of migrant labour notwithstanding. As the demand for power dips, the fund-starved Punjab government and state power corporation will heave a sigh of relief. Their finances are under stress as the political leadership has promised regular power supply this season ahead of the assembly elections. Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd has to buy power, whatever the cost, to boost the ruling coalition's chances of victory in the coming elections. Power cuts are still there but are now blamed on a worn-out transmission network.

 

However, the villagers living along the flood-prone rivers and canals await with bated breath the progress of the monsoon. Even though the monsoon, which is expected to be almost normal this season, is yet to gain momentum, the Bhakra-Beas Management Board is releasing excess water to Pakistan while Rajasthan farmers complain of shortage of canal water. The Rajasthan farmers' grouse is justified as the canals flowing through Punjab have not been desilted and repaired for long. As a result, their water-carrying capacity has got reduced. If there is a heavy rain the BBMB would be forced to discharge more water in the canals, resulting in floods.

 

The seasonal river, Ghaggar, too wreaks havoc even if the rains are normal. The flood control plan initiated by the Centre to tame its fury is still in the pipeline. The construction of the Hansi-Butana canal in Haryana too contributes to floods in Punjab. It has triggered a legal dispute between the two states. Life in cities is no better. City streets get submerged in the absence of a functional sewerage. Encroachments, illegal residential colonies, cash-strapped municipalities, poor civic sense and lack of good governance spoil the joy usually associated with rain. The Badal government has run short of funds promised to the BJP MLAs for improving infrastructure in cities. The reasons Punjabis do not re-elect a government are obvious.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

GADDAFI'S POLL OFFER

THERE'S NO HARM IN TRYING IT

 

Realisation seems to have dawned on Libyan ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi that he can no longer hold on to power with brute force. That is the reason why he has offered again that he would leave the scene if people voted for his ouster. The offer was earlier made by his son Saif-al-Islam in the course of a media interview. It was then described as a ploy by the Libyan opposition as well as the international community, including the US, to cause a wedge in NATO, showing signs of weariness in its efforts to force Colonel Gaddafi to step down. There are divisions within the NATO member-countries even now, but a way has to be found to end the unrest in the oil-producing North African country. If the chaos continues for a longer period, it will lead to the oil prices going up considerably.

 

The Libyan government has agreed for a national dialogue and an election that can be overseen by the United Nations and the African Union. The idea needs to be worked out to ensure that the polls are held in a free and fair manner with the Gaddafi regime unable to influence this exercise in any manner. Colonel Gaddafi also must make it clear that he is ready for a democratic set-up in Libya irrespective of who wins the battle of the ballot, and that he himself will not be a candidate. It would be better if he agrees for an interim administration having representatives from his side and the opposition. The international community can play its role through the UN.

 

Plans have already been chalked out to rebuild Libya after the 41-year-long dictatorship comes to an end. The international community and the Libyan opposition have prepared a blueprint for the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces once a truce is declared, for reviving the oil industry and integrating the officials of the present regime in the interim administration. But these measures will have a meaning only after the present regime ceases to exist.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

BOLLYWOOD AWARDS 

MOST ARE EMBROILED IN CONTROVERSIES

 

Dabaang' and 'My Name is Khan' won top honours at the 12th IIFA ( International Indian Film Academy) awards at Toronto recently. Karan Johar was adjudged the best director, while Shah Rukh Khan won the best actor's award for 'My Name is Khan'. New-comer Anushka Sharma won the best actress award for her debut role in 'Band Baja Baraa'. Bollywood awards are about visibility, glitz, high adrenaline song and dance ensembles and rise in TRPs with cross- continental satellite coverage of the event. So, the daring (Dabaang) get it!

 

One wonders how one can become the best actress after doing just one film! Would that mean Anushka cannot be 'Best' after this 'Best'. Many established actors are accused of buying the awards. Some well-established awards are known for favouring a certain camp in Bollywood. Aamir Khan has come on record, saying that he refuses to go to the prestigious Filmfare awards, because "That award has no value." No award in Bollywood is free of controversy. There are more controversies attached to each award than the trophies it offers. Shah Rukh Khan was alleged to have bought Apsara Award for 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi', in 2010. Manikchand, the Gutkha makers who sponsored Filmfare awards since 1999, were hauled up by the Mumbai Police for their alleged underworld links in 2005. Other awards like Global Indian Film Awards, Stardust awards, Screen awards, Zee Cine awards, Apsara Film & Television Producers Guild Award, and Critics award have each had their share of controversy.

 

It is not only the private awards whose credibility is suspect, even the national awards are not free of controversy. Adoor Gopalakrishnan rightly observed, "A wrong film getting a national award is as bad as promoting bad cinema and bad craft nationally," referring to National Film Awards.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

UNENDING LOKPAL DEBATE

IS THERE A HIDDEN AGENDA?

BY T.V. RAJESWAR

 

THE Lok Pal Bill debate has led to the emergence of an amorphous group called civil society after Anna Hazare came on the scene and sat at Jantar Mantar announcing satyagraha in April this year. Anna Hazare's main demand was the enactment of a Jan Lokpal Bill. The moral pressure was such that the government agreed to discuss with Anna and his team members the modalities of enactment of the proposed Bill. A 10-member committee presided over by Mr Pranab Mukherjee with an equal number of representatives from the government and civil society was constituted. Apart from Mr Mukherjee, the government representatives included Mr P. Chidambaram, Mr Kapil Sibal, Mr Salman Khurshid and Mr Veerappa Moily. The civil society representatives consisted of the well-known father and son duo, Mr Shanti Bhushan and Mr Prashant Bhushan, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, Lok Ayukta of Karnataka Justice Santosh Hegde and Anna Hazare himself.

 

After nine meetings, beginning on April 8, the joint committee of the government representatives and civil society members concluded the deliberations on June 21. They were unable to arrive at a unanimous draft Lokpal Bill. The differences were basic since there was no agreement on critical issues such as the inclusion of the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary within the ambit of the Lokpal.

 

The government representatives announced on June 21 that the joint committee succeeded in writing a stronger and better version of the Lokpal Bill and that they had agreed on about 34 of the 40 basic principles set out. Some of the important issues agreed upon were that the investigation and prosecution measure would be independent under the Bill.

 

The next stage would be when the draft Lokpal Bill with separate versions of both groups would go to an all-party meeting on July 3, if at all this happens. After taking into account the views expressed by the all-party meeting, a single draft would go to the Cabinet and then, after due deliberations and changes or amendments, it would reach Parliament in the first week of August.

 

The monsoon session of Parliament begins on August 1 and it has been announced that it may continue up to mid-September. During the debate in Parliament, political parties are likely to suggest amendments to the draft Lokpal Bill. There is also the possibility of the entire Bill, after such amendments as may be suggested, may go before the Select Committee which would take its own time. Only when the Select Committee returns the Bill to Parliament would it be further discussed and voted upon before it could be passed into an Act. Hopefully, it would be passed in the monsoon session before it concludes sometime in September-October.

 

Anna Hazare had stated that if the Jan Lokpal Bill, as he prefers to call it, is not passed by August 15, he would go on a fast on August 16 "to teach the government a lesson". Anna's colleague and team member Santosh Hegde had asked Anna to reconsider his announcement of going on fast on August 16. He had suggested that Anna should instead go on a national tour, apparently to tell the people about his movement.

 

Anna Hazare had, at one stage, asked for video-taping of the proceedings of the committee and apparently broadcasting the same on the national TV channel to keep the people informed. This was not agreed to by the government which suggested keeping a complete record through audio-tapes. Anna also wants to take into account the views expressed by a large number of people by e-mail and letters. He would perhaps even opt for a referendum on the various provisions of the Bill if only government would agree.

 

During his deliberations with the joint committee, Anna team member Shanti Bhushan, who had been a Law Minister himself and a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, reportedly said that the committee was redrafting the Constitution. He was told that this was not the function of the joint committee and that the prerogative rested with Parliament. In fact, the utterances of the team members on various issues indicate that they would like nothing short of redrafting the Constitution if permitted.

 

In an article under the headline, "Is the government serious about dealing with corruption?", team member Prashant Bhushan, writing under the name of Team Anna, on June 20 had stated that the Lokpal was designed to be a comprehensive anti-corruption institution independent of the government, empowered to effectively investigate corruption cases involving all public servants, but most of the critical elements in this vision have been rejected. The article states that high-level corruption is plundering the public exchequer, distorting government policies and creating a criminal mafia which has come to dominate all institutions of power. It goes on to say that a major reason for this rampant, widespread corruption is the lack of an independent, empowered and accountable anti-corruption institution that can be trusted to credibly investigate complaints of corruption and prosecute the guilty. The CBI is controlled by the very people who are the fountainheads of this corruption and is required to seek the permission of those who need to be investigated and prosecuted.

 

The Central Vigilance Commissioner of India is selected by the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, and the Leader of Opposition who have a vested interest in ensuring that a weak bureaucrat gets selected. Moreover, the CVC has only recommendatory powers and most of his or her recommendations are disregarded by the government, which wants to protect corrupt public servants. The courts take years to conclude trials and there is also considerable corruption in the judiciary because of the lack of accountability of the higher judiciary. That is why we have been demanding the constitution of an independent Lokpal, completely independent of the government, empowered to effectively investigate corruption charges against all public servants of the Central Government, including the Prime Minister, the judiciary and the Lok Ayuktas from the states.

 

At the conclusion of the last meeting of the joint panel on June 21, Anna and two of his colleagues, Mr Arvind Kejriwal and Ms Kiran Bedi, were forthright in condemning the Union Government and accusing it of indulging in a misinformation campaign and playing hoax in the name of the Lokpal Bill.

 

Anna has spoken about resuming his 'Andolan' on August 16 at Jantar Mantar.

 

After having dealt with Anna's Jantar Mantar "andolan" earlier in April and having witnessed the Baba Ramdeo episode, the Central Government may take a serious view of the proposed "andolan" and go in for preventive measures to ensure that Anna's August "andolan" does not materialise.

 

This reinforces the view that Anna would be unwilling to accept the Lokpal Act after it is passed in Parliament unless some of the crucial features such as the inclusion of the Prime Minister and the senior judiciary are brought under the ambit of the Act. This will be known only around September/October 2011 when the Act might emerge from Parliament.

 

Some observers believe after closely watching the activities of Anna Hazare and his civil society team that it is nothing short of the beginning of a political movement for changing the government at the Centre. Only time will tell whether such thinking is right or wrong.

 

The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

FROM 'SABBATICAL' TO SCHOOL OF LIFE

BY SUPARNA-SARASWATI PURI

 

The recent months have provided one with a worthwhile opportunity to ponder over the word ' Sabbatical ' that seems to have been inappropriately used in common parlance. One's existing state of unidentifiable engagment in terms of preoccupation has compelled many to indulge in varied forms of enquiry. From polite conversations such as, "So, what is new with you these days?" , to a more definite form of questioning, " What are you planning to do eventually?"

 

Choosing to bypass the dictionary meaning of the word, Sabbatical for many has come to adopt a somewhat blanket interpretation: one that is devoid of any monetary relevance to one that amply signifies a laidback existence pegged hugely on indulging in leisurely pursuits. Personally, a suitable answer to societal PCs as in presurrised conversations would perhaps then be — "One's current status is that of being purposefully unemployed!"

 

After all, in the mortal madness of being Someone, by Sometime or of Some Value when does one actually live wholeheartedly and happily? Subject to individualistic comprehension of the terms "live" and "happily", simple pleasures in small things would be a personal favourite . Therefore, each day would offer an array of unimaginable yet curious set of challenges coupled with delightful surprises about one's own disposition towards viewing the mundane.

 

As a thorough city bred, over a period of time, one relies largely on adaptive approaches while addressing daily issues and concerns as well as solving complex situations. For instance, successfully retaining a deliverable combo pack of domestic help ( maid/ man friday & driver) without losing a single shred of one's sanity for as short a span as a week.

 

During one's so-called/popularly viewed 'Sabbatical' , one gives in to recollecting old order statuetes such as — "Be a minimalist", "Keep expectations to level zero", "Speak less and Do more", "Be tolerant of another's presence and be patient towards one and all" to mention a few.

 

In addition, maintaining an actively stimulated intellect in the absence of being economically engaged appears to many around you an act of remarkable feat! Reactions such as "Wow! You are really busy and enjoying a No-Job 24x 7 scenario." An affirmative nod and an ear-to-ear beaming suffices for the evolved Homoe Sapien whose sense of endurance has finally seen light of the day!

 

This and much more comes your way when one is full-time enrolled in the School of Life that is certainly by no means a Sabbatical, wouldn't you say.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE NOT-SO-SHINING INDIA

DOCTOR AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST BINAYAK SEN, CHARGED WITH SEDITION BY THE CHHATTISGARH GOVERNMENT, RECENTLY TRAVELLED TO SOUTH KOREA TO RECEIVE AN AWARD. EXCERPTS FROM HIS THOUGHT-PROVOKING ACCEPTANCE SPEECH ARE REPRODUCED HERE.

DR BINAYAK SEN

 

TODAY, India is considered around the world as a rapidly developing country posting economic growth rates of around 8-9 percent consistently over the last several years. Along with China, which is much further ahead, India is seen as a powerhouse of the global economy in the decades to come and already it is home to a very large number of dollar billionaires, perhaps the largest such number in Asia.

 

In our own times, as we look around this vast and populated country though, the picture that one sees is not as rosy as it is made out to be. India is also home to the world's largest number of people living in absolute poverty. In 2007 a study on the unorganised sector in India, based on government data for the period between 1993-94 and 2004-05, found that an overwhelming 836 million people in India live on a per capita consumption of less than Rs 20 or O.50 US cents a day.

 

In 2010 a UNDP/Oxford University study, using a new Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI), said that eight Indian provinces alone have more poor than 26 African nations put together. The report said that acute poverty prevails in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal which together account for 421 million people, 11 million more "MPI poor" than in the 26 poorest African countries.

 

Areas of darkness

 

As a physician and a pediatrician in particular, what concerns me is that such absolute poverty among such large numbers of people really translates into a major health disaster the proportions of which can only be called genocidal. I have a specific technical reason for using the word genocide and do not wield it in a rhetorical manner.

 

The Indian National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) tells us that over 33% of the adult population of India has a Body Mass Index of less than 18.5, and can be considered as suffering from chronic under nutrition. If we disaggregate the data, we find that over 50% of the scheduled tribes (Adivasis), and over 60% of the scheduled castes (dalits) have a BMI below 18.5.The WHO says that any community with more than 40% of its members with a BMI below 18.5 may be regarded as being in a state of famine. By this criterion there are various subsets of the population of India-the scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, – which may be regarded as being permanently in a state of famine.

 

So it is not any general population that is suffering the consequences of poverty-induced malnutrition but specific ethnic groups and hence my use of the term 'genocide' as per the United Nations definition. All this is, of course, in addition to the mundane reality, to which we have become inured, of 43% of children under 5 in India being malnourished by weight for age criteria.  India has the world's largest number of malnourished children and according to the UNICEF over 2 million Indian children die every year due to malnutrition related diseases.

 

Poor adivasis

 

I want to bring to your and indeed the attention of the world that it is precisely this section of the population, that is stricken by famine, that is today the principal target of a widespread policy of expropriation of natural and common property resources, in a concerted and often militarised programme run by the Indian state. For a long time, despite their cash poverty, the Adivasis of central India, living in extreme poverty, nevertheless survived through their access to common property resources- the forests, the rivers, and land- all of which are now under a renewed threat of sequestration and privatisation as global finance capital embarks on its latest phase of expansion. The doctrine of eminent domain vests ultimate ownership of all land and natural resources in the state. Under cover of eminent domain, vast tracts of land, forest and water reserves are being handed over to the Indian affiliates of international finance capital.

 

Land acquired from ordinary people in Chhattisgarh, as also in other parts of India, has been handed over to industrial houses for the purpose of mining or building large steel and power plants. With a few honourable exceptions, the personnel articulating the agency of state power have almost uniformly possessed a colonial mindset. It is not as if the people have  not resisted.  The  forced takeover of indigenous land is being met with resistance  that is multi hued , yet the state has chosen to brand it under the single category of Maoist, and has met it with  brutality and human rights violations. The  social fabric in many of these regions is today polarised beyond immediate rectification, and the deep fissures in our society will take time to heal

 

In the times we live, while oppression is most acutely manifested in remote and local places like Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, the truth is that the forces behind such oppression are often global in nature. It is well recognised now that the tsunami-like flow of capital around the world is a source of tremendous tragedy for many communities around the world which do not fit into the ideologically straitjacketed confines of the 'market economy'.

 

Countries like South Korea that have suffered the ravages of colonialism in the past and risen from the ashes of the Second World War to become one of the industrially and economically leading nations of the world have a special responsibility today. It is the responsibility of ensuring that they do not do the kind of violence and exploitation to the people of the Third World what they themselves were subjected to in the past by others.

 

POSCO

 

I want to bring up the specific case of the South Korean steel giant POSCO which has embarked on a USD 12 billion dollar project in the Indian state of Orissa, which at USD 12 billion to mine iron ore, build a port and a mega-steel plant.

 

Indian activists have pointed out repeatedly that from a national point of view the MoU signed by the Orissa government with POSCO to give it the rights to mine over 600 million tonnes of high grade iron ore is a scam of immense proportions.

 

According to the original MoU, the royalty that POSCO will pay for the iron ore is around Rs. 24 per tonne whereas the selling price in the international market is around Rs. 5000 today. Besides all this POSCO and its investors from around the world are to be illegally given nearly 5000 acres of land that was originally forest land and cannot be used for any other purpose under Indian law without the consent of forest dwelling people.

 

For more than five years now, the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samity (PPSS), a local people's movement in Jagatsingpur district,  has been bravely resisting the POSCO project which threatens the livelihood of thousands of agriculturists, workers and small businesses in the area besides devastating the local environment and ecology. Over 30,000 people, mostly farmers and fisherfolk are expected to be displaced.

 

Even as we speak here today, large contingents of the Orissa police are moving into the villages settled on the targeted land for the POSCO project to uproot local communities using brute force. I would like to appeal to the South Korean people and the people of Gwangju in particular to strongly oppose the POSCO project in solidarity with the brave farmers and fishermen of Jagatsingpur. POSCO should withdraw its investment in this project immediately and an inquiry launched in both South Korea and India into the circumstances under which such a project was considered and cleared.

 

The spirit of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights calls upon all of us to continue to oppose violations of human rights in every form, wherever it occurs and whatsoever the costs of such opposition. We remain committed to Peace, but realise that there cannot be any peace without equity and social justice. I am confident that my appeal to you will be heard and responded to and the solidarity of the South Korean people will forever remain with the oppressed people of India and other parts of Asia and the world.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

POSCO PROTESTS CAST A SHADOW ON INDUSTRY

MATTHIAS WILLIAMS

 

For eight-year-old Rakesh Bardhan, it is protest time. Decked out in a black T-shirt and a matching handkerchief wrapped around his head, he is off to join hundreds of farmers, labourers and fishermen standing between a generations-old way of life and India's biggest single foreign direct investment. Local people are protesting against the planned construction of a $12 billion steel mill by South Korea's POSCO in Orisssa.

 

"If the company wants to set up its project, let them first kill us," Bardhan shouts over the speeches and slogans blaring out from loudspeakers to rows of protesters behind him. "If our land goes, everything will go. We will not get food, clothes or education."

 

The POSCO protests are yet another storm brewing in an environment growing increasingly hostile to what many Indians see as a nexus of corrupt politicians and businessmen profiting from kickbacks and forced land acquisition as foreign firms vie for a place in the Indian market. How the stand-off plays out will be closely watched at home and abroad for signs of how relations are changing between investors, the government, and Indians affected by big projects.

 

Farmers accuse the Orissa government of being in cahoots with big business to trick them out of land their families have held for generations. They believe their best shot at a decent life is holding on to their farm incomes, and accuse police of beating up villagers and burning crops to force them to leave.

 

Many say India urgently needs more POSCOs — foreign companies pouring cash into one of the world's fastest-growing economies, revamping rusty infrastructure and providing thousands of new manufacturing jobs for a population of 1.2 billion people. Only half of the 3,719 acres (1,500 hectares) of land needed for the site have been acquired, though it was due to start pumping out 4 million tonnes of steel a year by 2011.

 

POSCO is only one of numerous high profile projects in the energy sector that have been held up by red tape, protests and fights between local and federal authorities. ArcelorMittal and Tata Steel too have faced delays. Investors are also concerned by how long the government is taking to rule on Vedanta Resources' plan to buy Cairn Energy's Indian assets, a potential $9.6 billion deal the firms agreed last August but which has been held up by a dispute involving the state-run oil exploration firm. With a quarter of its 42 million people illiterate and 40 percent of infants malnourished, Orissa needs investment. Its roads are bumpy and power cuts are common. Though rich in minerals such as bauxite and iron ore, wealth has not trickled down enough to millions of poor and tribal people.

 

Orissa wants to use part of the land acquired from the landholders for POSCO to build a new port, but the protesters do not understand why it cannot be built elsewhere, or even done without. The state government says its compensation package is one of the best in India: thousands of dollars in cash and a job for at least one member of each displaced family. Pro-POSCO activists say the mill will tackle youth unemployment. The protesters are not convinced. Sisir Mohapatra, secretary of one of the activist groups, says similar promises were made for other projects that never materialised. "We don't have any faith in the government," he says, adding that the mill should be moved to less fertile land. The state government, which alleges children were forced to lie on the baking hot ground to act as human shields, says the project will continue, and that construction work has started on already acquired land. A new land acquisition law is due to be introduced in August's parliament session, but the activists have vowed to dig in until POSCO withdraws.— Reuters

 

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

EDITORIAL

GETTING PRICES RIGHT

DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON'T

The Union government has brought the protests against the the fuel price increase on itself by opting for a one-time sharp price escalation over gradual and graduated increases in response to global market trends. It is understandable that there would be some amount of public resentment, and that opposition political parties would try to exploit that. However, the government has a strong case, especially for increasing the prices of kerosene, diesel and LPG, so it should educate public opinion, defend itself and stay the course. The Union government should have known that it would be damned if it increased prices and damned if it didn't. India cannot endlessly afford the luxury of subsidising energy, especially imported energy. Moreover, as the crimes of the so-called "kerosene and diesel mafia" show, the real beneficiaries of such subsidies have been criminal elements who have adulterated petrol with diesel and kerosene and diesel with kerosene, exploiting artificial price differentials. Getting prices right is important particularly in the case of fuel and gas, from several viewpoints including balance of payments management, environment protection and ensuring low carbon development, and reducing adulteration and related criminal activity. The protests by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are hypocritical considering that it was a BJP-led government that sought to dismantle the administered price mechanism to bring some market rationality into energy pricing in India.

Most consumers are rational and tend to accept rational price increases. That there was not much protest against the last round of petrol price increases suggests that petrol users in India follow global trends and understand that India was out of line with not only the world but also her poorer neighbours in south Asia when it did not increase fuel prices in response to global trends. Even so, it would have been better for political and administrative management of such a sensitive commodity if price increases were gradual and graduated, not sudden and sharp spikes. The latter tend to shock middle-class consumers more than a gradual but secular increase in prices.

 

 While the Union government has been trying to make amends for its sins of omission, it chose to commit a new sin of commission by cutting customs duties in the name of compensating the consumer for the price hike. Curiously, this fiscal measure may eventually benefit private-sector oil companies, especially those that import crude oil to export refined products! The Union government's misplaced gesture was compounded by the Congress high command's instruction to state governments to sacrifice much-needed revenues in the name of fighting inflation. The West Bengal government was quick to respond despite the fact that the state's finances are in dire straits. Several state governments have followed this bad example. Why should state governments sacrifice revenues, especially if they are already fiscally stressed, in response to a market-related increase in the consumer price of a scarce commodity? It doesn't make sense. India needs a forward-looking fuel price strategy that will ensure the domestic price for energy is not out of line with international prices and that the necessary adjustment is done through the free expression of market forces rather than administrative and political fiat.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

FINANCING ITS FLIGHT

ISRO NEEDS A BUSINESS MODEL AND SOME EARLY SUCCESS

The announcement by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) that the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) will launch India's most sophisticated communications satellite, GSAT-14, in 2012 with an indigenous cryogenic engine has been greeted with a mixture of caution and hope. Despite considerable progress in developing indigenous capabilities in the design and launching of satellites, the final frontier – a reliable capacity to place payloads of at least four tonnes in orbit – continues to elude Isro. The celebrated launch of the 3.1-tonne GSAT-8 late last month from Arianne's space facility in French Guiana could barely conceal Isro's own lack of confidence to propel payloads of this magnitude through its indigenous launch vehicle, the GSLV. Isro's long-stated ambition of becoming a significant player in the commercial satellite launch space will go nowhere unless it demonstrates that it can reliably place payloads exceeding four tonnes in orbit. As things stand, that seems some way off!

Isro's workhorse, the Polar Launch Satellite Vehicle (PSLV) which had its first successful launch in 1994, has emerged as one of the world's most cost-effective launch vehicles. It has enabled Isro to step into the launch space for lower payloads, vacated by commercial launch organisations in the West and China. On the other hand, the GSLV launched successfully for the first time in 2003 was expected to firmly place India's space programme in the big league. It marked the culmination of a decade of planning which included an advanced level of systems integration and the development of indigenous cryogenic engines to offset a US embargo on exports of "dual technology". The record since the first launch has been decidedly mixed and two successive failures in 2010 have done little to bolster confidence in its reliability as a launch vehicle. A successful track record of reliable GSLV launches will enable Isro to aggressively enter the higher payload market, where the real money is. A forecast by the Antrix Corporation in 2005 that Isro would self-finance itself by 2012 seems unlikely. In the meanwhile, Antrix has got into trouble with its Devas deal.

 

 While the launch of smaller satellites and the sale of data generated by remote-sensing satellites to global consumers enable Isro to meet a significant proportion of its operating expenses, higher revenues from bigger launches would enable the organisation to self-finance its ambitious expansion plans. The benefits of forward and backward linkages of a successful space launch programme to the domestic economy are immeasurable. At present, Isro collaborates with over 2,000 vendors ranging from engineering giants, such as Godrej Industries and Larsen & Toubro, to small and medium enterprises specialising in niche technologies. A successful launch programme consisting of a combination of PSLV and GSLV launches would significantly boost domestic manufacturing capability by enabling domestic manufacturers to scale up. Isro needs to get its act together, create a sustainable business model and be more transparent in its deals so that it can soar to new heights.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

LANDMARK ORDER

The NSE has been instrumental in developing the capital market but it has been aggressive in protecting its market share and has not been called to account until now.

Baring its fangs for the first time, the Competition Commission of India has held the National Stock Exchange guilty of predatory pricing and exclusionary practices in its currency derivative segment. The NSE has been ordered to start charging transaction fees and to pay a Rs 55-crore penalty (5 per cent of annual average turnover of the past three years). It has also been directed to maintain separate accounts for each segment of its business and give its members free choice in selecting trading software. It is no secret that the NSE has followed similar pricing practices in other market segments as well. In 2000, for instance, it had waived transaction costs in the equity derivatives segment to take on the BSE. After cornering over 90 per cent of the market share, it increased the charges. In the gold ETF segment, again, NSE had reduced charges when it perceived that BSE's market share was steadily creeping higher.

It should be acknowledged that the NSE has been instrumental in developing the capital markets. It has led from the front on technology adoption and played a key role in spreading equity culture among Indians. Yet, evidence suggests that it has been rather aggressive in protecting its market share and has not, until now, been called to account. Even if the CCI's order gets diluted in higher courts, the rap on the knuckles may make the NSE think twice about acting in a similar manner in future. This order will also bolster the BSE, which has been reluctant to respond even as it saw a whittling down of its market share in equity and then currency derivatives. The recent entrant, United Stock Exchange, the third player in the currency derivatives segment, could also henceforth find it easier to voice its protests against any unfair practices.

The CCI may be right in asking the NSE to 'cease and desist' in the waiver of transaction costs but the monetary penalty seems a little excessive. The NSE has not made any money in the currency derivatives segment so far. The CCI has held that the penalty should be a 'punishment as well as a deterrent' but the turnover that it has used to calculate the penalty includes transaction costs levied in other segments of the exchange such as capital market, equity derivatives and the wholesale debt markets. Worse, a substantial portion of the turnover used by the CCI to compute the penalty comprises income earned from investments. This goes against the Competition Act, which defines turnover as 'the value of sale of goods and services'. If at all a penalty is to be levied, it should be a notional transaction fee based on the value of contracts traded in the currency derivatives segment alone.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

NO CASE FOR PROTECTING EDIBLE OIL REFINERS

G. CHANDRASHEKHAR

 

The industry has only itself to blame for excess capacity and cannot cite low tariffs as the cause.

The domestic edible oils industry has sought the intervention of the Minister of State for Food and Public Distribution on the low rate of import duty for palmolein and its impact on utilisation of capacity. Is their demand for protection justified?

The Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) has observed: "the edible oil refining industry is reeling under the impact of huge over-capacity and therefore, the government should raise the tariff value on imported refined palmolein in line with current market prices, and the public agencies (such as State Trading Corporatin (STC) should source refined palmolein from local refineries rather than import it.".

Import of refined palmolein at a lower rate of customs duty (though the specified duty is 7.5 per cent ad valorem, in effect it works out to 3 per cent because of lower tariff value) has resulted in gross underutilisation of refining capacity, SEA has said.

Refining Capacity

What is the refining capacity? There are nearly 1,000 edible oil refineries spread across the country. About 250 units are attached to solvent extraction plants, around 125 are part of vanaspati units, and a majority of the rest are stand-alone refineries.

The combined refining capacity of these units is estimated at around 14 million tonnes per annum. Average capacity utilisation is about 35 per cent, according to the Directorate of Vanaspati, Vegoils and Fats.

According to SEA, refining capacity at the ports alone is about 12 million tonnes a year. Without doubt, refined palmolein inflows into the country have spurted after the government substantially reduced the customs duty on it to 7.5 per cent with effect from April 1, 2008.

According to SEA-compiled import data, refined palmolein imports increased from 7.3 lakh tonnes in 2007-08 to 12.4 lakh tonnes in 2008-09 and dipped marginally to 12.1 lakh tonnes in 2009-10, on oil-year basis, that is November to October.

In the first six months of the current oil year (November 2010 to April 2011), such imports aggregated 4.9 lakh tonnes only, down from 6.8 lakh tonnes during the same period previous year.

These data mask more than what they reveal. It is clear that the share of refined palmolein is steady at 14-15 per cent. Actually, the share of crude palm oil has been taken away not by refined palmolein as is sought to be projected, but by other crude oils such as sunflower oil and soyabean oil.

For instance, in 2009-10, the country imported nearly 24 lakh tonnes of non-palm crude oils including mainly soya, sunflower and palm kernel oils. These crude oils too have helped utilisation of refining capacity.

Those who invested in setting up large refining capacities in recent years (in excess of the country's needs) had taken a commercial decision to enter the business fully conscious of competitive market conditions and the fickle nature of government policies.

Tax breaks

Many units came up in regions which enjoyed tax breaks — Kutch region in Gujarat, for example.

Most of these units have already benefited from government largesse in the form of tax breaks; and it is anybody's guess whether even a small part of the tax concessions was passed on consumers.

The unseemly rush for setting up edible oil refineries in the last five years — without regard for economics or policy uncertainties — has resulted in over-capacity in the industry. The current capacity under-utilisation is the result of the industry indiscriminately building excessive capacities, rather than any adverse change in trade and tariff policy.

Consumer benefits

It is also argued that low import duty on refined oils has encouraged private traders (as opposed to refining industries) also to undertake imports and compete with locally produced refined oil.

This argument seems to suggest that traders should not be allowed to import refined oils, but only refineries. This goes totally against the spirit of liberalisation and deserves to be condemned.

If any, import of refined oils by traders is the best thing that has happened to the Indian edible oil market and Indian consumers.

Traders import refined oil that is readily marketable. Their supply chain and marketing timelines are much shorter. They have helped break the stranglehold of a handful of large refiners who at times hold the market to ransom.

Additionally, import of crude palm oil and refining it here results in huge accumulation of palm stearine . Given the poor enforcement of food laws , the unauthorised use of palm stearine generally goes unnoticed and its adverse effects on health seldom recognised.

Indeed, taking the argument further, there is a case for allowing refined edible oils also duty-free as it will encourage healthy competition between refiners and traders, in addition to reducing stearine misuse.

SEA has made an interesting suggestion that instead of encouraging imports, public sector agencies should source refined oils locally on an open tender basis for supply through fair price shops.

This suggestion merits consideration. Our state agencies are not known for their trading acumen. We have seen how the indiscreet operations of the Indian state agencies often distort the world pulses market.

If Indian refiners are in a position to offer refined oils at truly competitive rates, it would make sense for government companies to buy locally. This must, of course, happen in a transparent manner. On its part, the industry association must strive to evolve and enforce certain discipline among its members in supplying to public sector companies.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

MISGUIDED DEBATE ON ENVIRONMENT

N. R. KRISHNAN

Today, environment and development confront each other, instead of being two faces of the same coin. Given its impact on development, it is time to usher in a stage of 'conciliation'.

With the growth of the Indian economy pitched at a healthy 8.5-9 per cent, and a renewed emphasis on infrastructure and manufacturing, the question uppermost in the minds of both industrialists and environmentalists is how the environment-development conflict is going to be resolved.

Hardly a day passes without a massive protest by people who stand to be displaced by projects or the Minister for Environment and Forests having to explain his Ministry's decision to grant or refuse clearance. Nor are the environmentalists ever satisfied with the efforts of the state in protecting the environment, despite the periodical chastising by the courts of the State and Central governments and industry over their acts of commission and omission.

Is the environmental movement in India organically grown and moulded by indigenous forces? Or is it an implant, well intentioned but not really suited to the country's development imperatives?

India's environmental movement had its origins in the early 1970s when, on the eve of the UN Conference on Environment and Development at Stockholm in June 1972, a high-level body was set up to prepare the documentation for the Conference, highlighting plans and programmes to develop the environment, social and economic, under the aegis of the Five-Year Plans. The composition of the body — the National Committee on Environmental Planning and Coordination (NCEPC) — reflected the realisation that while development must give due regard to environmental considerations, the latter should not become a fetish and stifle development.

Stage of Imitation

The country, however, could not remain immune for long to the winds of green fashion sweeping in from abroad. Whether it was the use of DDT, an inexpensive insecticide trusted over time in battling malaria, or the building of a multipurpose hydel project, projects of note came under opposition from sections of the intelligentsia on environmental grounds, no doubt influenced by external models.

Starting in the early 1980s, this trend saw the emergence of green NGOs, of which many drew their inspiration from foreign models. This marked the beginning of the 'stage of imitation' in India's environmental movement. This was also the time when international NGOs, with ample financial backing and public relations savvy, established themselves in India.

Portrayal of environmental concerns moved away from highlighting larger issues such as the provision of clean drinking water, sanitation, public health and hygiene to such fashionable items as banning the use of asbestos and plastics, and highly localised issues.

This imitative approach still continues. One has only to look at the excessive attention showered on ambient air pollution by designating "hot spots" and online monitoring, on the one hand, and the lack of efforts to curb indoor air pollution affecting millions of poor Indian women, on the other.

Shift to Litigation

The emergence of Public Interest Litigation in the 1980s presented green activists an opportunity to knock at the doors of the judiciary, seeking its intervention in acts of commission and omission on the part of the executive in environmental matters.

In the 1990s, following the Rio Principles adopted at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in June, 1992, particularly the Precautionary Principle, the scales weighed heavily against development. As a lofty ideal, this principle conveyed that scientific certainty of an adverse outcome should not be insisted upon to put a project on hold.

This was interpreted liberally to mean that possibility of an adverse outcome, however remote, was enough to stall or put an end to any project. Any trade-off between ecology and economic welfare, even where possible, was shunned.

On to Agitation

Liberalisation, that began in 1991, brought with it its 'goods', to be confronted with the 'bads' prevailing in the country. The 'goods' were in the form of massive inflows of capital investment into India, arrival of new technologies, products and services. The 'bads' were nothing new but the old opposition to anything on a large scale and that too stemming from the private sector. As a weapon, 'the environment' came in handy to those who were ideologically set against large projects and to those in business to thwart the initiatives of competitors, Indian or foreign.

A major dimension of large projects is land acquisition and relief and rehabilitation of the displaced persons. It must, however, be remembered that this is not so much of an environmental problem as a social one and should be dealt with as such. The Posco project in Orissa exemplifies the mixing up of environmental issues with the problem of land acquisition.

Need for Conciliation

Today, sadly, environment and development confront each other, instead of being two faces of the same coin.

Given this situation and its impact on developmental projects, we need to usher in a stage of 'conciliation' wherein a collegiate exchange of views prevails among various departments resulting in agreement over the scale and scope of development in various sectors.

This is best done as a two-step process, the first being the consideration of plans and projects by a multidisciplinary high-level body, such as the NCEPC, and the second being endorsement of its recommendations by a group of ministers.

(The author is a former Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PRO-COMPETITION

THE COMPETITION COMMISSION'S RULING AGAINST NSE IS WELCOME BUT NOT ENOUGH


In its first major decision, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has fined the National Stock Exchange (NSE) . 55.5 crore for abusing its dominant position in the currency derivative (CD) market. CCI has also asked NSE to end exclusion of technology platforms other than those offered by NSE subsidiaries. This is doubly welcome: we have a functional competition regulator and NSE's virtual monopoly in the country's stock exchange business begins to unravel. The regulator is right to acknowledge the paradigm shift wrought by NSE in the operation of stock exchanges in India. Past services, however, cannot be a licence for present abuse: otherwise, why deny the party that won freedom for India from colonial rule perpetual monopoly over power? By charging its CD traders nothing, for trading, data access or by way of deposits, NSE has been forcing the new stock exchange, MCX-SX, also to charge its CD traders nothing. While this means cross-subsidising the CD segment with revenues from other segments for NSE, it means steady accumulation of losses for MCX-SX, as it is not authorised to trade on any other segment. The CCI has every reason to dub NSE's behaviour abuse of dominance.


However, this still does not end NSE's virtual monopoly in other segments of the capital market. Today, competing stock exchanges are the norm in developed markets. Such competition helps bring down costs and boosts innovation. In a country like India, expansion of the popular base of participation would be an added reason to enhance competition in the exchange space. The existing Sebi regulations on the Manner of Increasing and Maintaining Public Shareholding in Recognised Stock Exchanges constitute an entry barrier in the stock exchange space and must be changed. Sebi and the government must apply their mind to this and allow wide holding of new exchanges to be achieved over a period of time, as in banking and insurance, rather than from the outset. Simultaneously, Sebi should innovate regulation of listed entities and market participants by involving different self-regulatory bodies and taking on an expanded role for itself.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO MINISTER!

REGULATORS SHOULD BE DRAWN FROM A LARGER POOL THAN JUST CIVIL SERVANTS

 

Law Minister Veerappa Moily is spot on when he says government should stop appointing retired bureaucrats as regulators. Where he is wrong is in suggesting regulators be appointed from among serving bureaucrats instead. Far from being an improvement over the existing state of affairs where regulators are, almost to a man (there is no woman as yet!), retired bureaucrats, his solution would only make matters worse. Retired bureaucrats at least have a semblance of independence; serving officials do not. They are far more likely to follow the diktat of the government of the day. This can be particularly damaging in sectors where the government is also a player, as in telecom, airlines, banking, insurance etc where government companies compete with private players and the field can and often is skewed. The argument that serving officials are likely to be more accountable does not wash. Regulators should be accountable, not to the government of the day but to society at large, and that can happen only when they are selected through a rigorous process that places a premium on merit and competence.


One could argue that, ideally civil servants, too, owe their allegiance to the country and the Constitution, not to their mantri. But that is not how it works in real life. Perhaps it is difficult for civil servants to shed habits acquired over years of acquiescence, honourable exceptions only proving the rule. Moreover, like Caesar's wife, regulators must not only be above suspicion but also be seen to be above suspicion. The sine qua non for that is an appointment mechanism that ensures independence. Good regulation requires an in-depth understanding of the sector which few bureaucrats (understandably) possess. Contrast the position in India with the US where regulators are usually former market players who know the ins and outs of the game and their selection has to be confirmed by the Senate. This kills two birds with one stone. It ensures the best man is appointed and additionally, removes any fear of partisanship. This is what we should aspire to emulate.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

OF INDIAN MAKE

IS IT LOGICAL TO FAULT FAKE PILOT AND CASTE CERTIFICATES AS WE CELEBRATE 'INGENUITY'?


One of the oldest jokes about Indian ingenuity, or rather the ability to find a short-cut on the road to achievement, relates a global competition to make the world's thinnest wire. The techno-freaks of much of the developed world endeavoured hard, and finally produced some practically invisible stuff. The Indians, who'd been watching from the sidelines, then sprang into action and worked on the wire and gave it back — with a 'Made in India' stamped on it. It isn't just about the sound logic of letting someone else do the work and then claiming it as one's own — something quite a lot of us depend on anyway. It's more about the way lateral thinking works, Indian-style. Why bother with things like training and degrees when we are perfectly aware that almost all aspects of our society reject that quaint notion of merit? Take those pilots with fake degrees being rounded up. The poor chaps could argue they were just trying to meet the spike in demand for airline pilots, and were made scapegoats in a system where everyone else routinely cheats. And planes weren't exactly falling out of the skies, were they? Take also the fact that many cases of students submitting fake caste certificates in order to get admission at Delhi University have just come to light. Patently, when cut-offs are so ridiculously high, just what are the kids supposed to do? Note also the heartening fact that belonging to a lower caste no longer seems cause for chagrin, per se. After all, quite a few social groups repeatedly seen agitating about their right to be classified as a lower caste group could, possibly, be seen as a progressive sign. And if a few students wish to emulate that, with nary a thought for any potential downslide in caste hierarchy, can we really blame them? It's the same 'Made in India' ingenuity, right?

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

LOKPAL IS NOT AN END IN ITSELF

NOBODY SHOULD BE ABOVE CORRUPTION SCRUTINY. BUT A LOKPAL THAT'S OPEN TO MISUSE WILL DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD


Questions can be raised about the correctness of almost any professional conduct, depending on the context. It is for the State to put in place robust mechanisms so that no complaint becomes a nihilist tool, to settle scores outside legal channels.


The argument to exclude designated functionaries from the purview of the Lokpal needs to be examined against the fundamental tenet of equality and good governance. Can a head of State/judiciary/Parliament dispense justice, and be seen to be just, if he or she is actually pegged above justice? Should they not have to experience the same governance issues that their foot-soldiers are subjected to? Conversely, can they perform their exalted role with pending corruption allegations?


How can this conundrum be resolved? When there is an orchestrated call for the person to resign or to render him incompetent for high office, a corruption complaint becomes a political weapon. It fulfils the objective of the complainant. Not at least until the charges are framed, and formal criminal/departmental prosecution is launched, should a person be considered unfit for the office that he is competent to hold. Then, a Prime Minister/Chief Justice of India/Speaker would not become a lame duck. Unfortunately, in our country, political expediency and double standards have prevented healthy conventions from being established.
Ideally, civil society should have sought for the Lokpal to be an oversight body, to oversee the State's instruments for tackling corruption. An overarching citizen's watchdog, comprising eminent citizens, distinct from the investigative mechanism of the State, would better safeguard society's interests. It could call for records of investigations done by the vigilance agencies, hold discussions with citizenry and then ensure that no wrongdoer was let off lightly. However,since the Lokpal, as now proposed, replaces the existing vigilance mechanism, it merits analysing the current shortcomings.


The Lokayukta is usually a single person, a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a chief justice of a high court, who supervises investigations of corruption complaints directly or through the special police establishment, headed by a DGP, reporting to him. An adverse note from an arbitrary Lokayukta can lead to an FIR being registered against a public functionary. What is wrong with that? An FIR, once registered, can chase a public functionary for decades. Even when subsequent investigation establishes the absolute impeccability of the action complained against, because an FIR is registered, the Lokayukta cannot end the case. A special judge in some remote district to which the case relates, will now decide the matter. It is easy to sensationalise the issue once again, to become an objector in the matter, and thereby to influence the local judge to reject the final closure report of the Lokayukta. There are instances of local special judges who have, without even noticing the accused, passed illegal orders (that may have later been struck down by the high court!) against them. In such a circumstance, the Lokayukta becomes farcical and a source of harassment. To prevent this, FIRs should be lodged only if the gravity of the matter is such that the State should sanction prosecution of the public servant if the charges are proved. Importantly, the verdict of the Lokpal, if it acquits a public servant, must be final and non-judiciable.


Present investigative machinery does not have the wherewithal to discriminate between genuine cases of corruption and cases where commercial judgement of a commercial entity is involved. Even when there is no evidence of malfeasance, the mere fact that a private person is benefitting from a decision is ground enough to invoke the Prevention of Corruption Act. What modern-day economic decision of the State-procurement/joint-venture/licensing agreement does not involve a private party? Lokayuktas have ignored the fact that a complainant may have been an interested party who may have even lost in civil litigation right up to the level of the Supreme Court! Hence, it is important for the Lokpal to have members who have a sound understanding of business/ corporate strategy/public-private partnerships.


    It is noteworthy that the Planning Commission projects a thousand billion dollars of investment in the infrastructure sector in the 12th Plan. Public-private partnerships are to elicit 50% of this investment contribution from the private sector.


Also every complaint should necessarily have to be logged onto the website of the Lokpal for a fixed incubation period. Both society and also those who are being complained against should be encouraged to respond publicly to it. That would not necessarily prejudice the Lokpal. Instead, it would allow a free public discourse and discovery of the truth to emerge. Use of the conspiracy clause in Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code is another failing of the Lokayukta system. In innumerable cases, swathes of officers have been recklessly swept in, even if they haplessly had the file merely moved through them at some stage. The Lokpal should deploy the conspiracy clause only if there is clear mens rea and solid evidence of conspiracy.


We also have instances of the courts encouraging public interest litigations (effectively, private interest litigations) or PILs on the same subject as a substantive matter that is being/has been investigated by the Lokayukta. High courts may order fresh inquiries, leading to decades of tortuous litigation. Hence, PILs should be barred in matters that pertain to ongoing/completed Lokpal inquiries. Else, PILs are merely terrorist-tools.
In the proposed Lokpal Act, nobody, however big, should remain above scrutiny. But, unless we build systems to self-purge ourselves such that there are foolproof safeguards for those who are not dishonest, prospects for sustaining 10% economic growth appear highly suspect.


(Views expressed are personal)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THROUGH THE THIRD EYE


A Touch of History

Notwithstanding spirited denials by both the finance minister and the home minister, speculations about Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram sharing an increasingly uneasy relation continue to do the rounds in political circles, especially after 'the chewing gum' episode. At least some senior politicians, who, unlike the new generation sound-byte warriors, have a sense of political history and perspective, try to see a historic parallel in the projected twists in the PMPC (Pranab-Chidu) ties. During the Emergency, PC's original political mentor — C Subramaniam — was the Union finance minister and Pranab Mukherjee his (CS') junior; first as the minister of state for finance and then as minister of revenue and banking (independent charge). Just as the then-MoS for home Om Mehta literally undercut the thenhome minister Brahmananada Reddy, Pranab Mukherjee too virtually undermined C Subramaniam's turf during that period. Old-timers recall how there had been whispers about the tense ties between Pranab and CS during those days just as there is talk now about the uneasy chemistry between CS' prodigy PC and Pranab. Perhaps some relations are shaped by history!


Intriguing Interest

Government officials are abuzz with seemingly strange requests for information on the activities of Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra by an advisor to a powerful cabinet minister. It seems the advisor has sought information on several occasions as well as given oral instructions that if anything crops up in the course of any probe linked to Vadra then the advisor should be informed right away. The reasons given to officials for such an avid interest in Vadra's activities is that the advisor can do some damage control in case of any linkups that could embarrass the Gandhi family. However, no one seems to be buying that line given the frequency of such requests for information. Bureaucrats also wonder why the information is being sought since it seems highly unlikely that authorisation for it came from the Congress high command.


Road Tales

Unhappy BJP leader Gopinath Munde, while denying any plans to join the Congress, asserted he "has never met" Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel. Very good. But Delhi's trained "political road watchers" just can't stop laughing. They are asking where Munde was heading on Willingdon Crescent Road under the cover of darkness on the night of June 20. Well, we know Ahmed bhai lives at 26, Willingdon Crescent, where his bungalow that has two gates with one meant for those who want to make a discreet entry/exit for understandable reasons. But if Munde insists he did not meet Patel, then we must conclude his midnight mission was to pay a personal tribute at 'Gyarah Murti', the sculpture that depicts Gandhiji's Dandi march, situated at the T-junction next to Patel's home. In that case, one should say Munde's subsequent meeting with Sushma Swaraj to announce that he "shall stay" with the BJP was not prompted by the Congress leader's rejection of his wishlist but by the manner in which the 'Gandhi bhakt' in him was impressed by Ms Swaraj's recent song and dance jig at Bapu's samadhi. So whom is Nitin Gadkari blaming for Munde's staying plans: Swaraj or Willingdon Crescent Road?

 

Realistic Return

With the government lobbing the Lokpal ball into the allparty meeting, Team Anna Hazare has started meeting political parties to present its side of the story and solicit their support. L K Advani has had 'the privilege' to be the first one to be courted by the otherwise 'anti-politician' activists. Incidentally, some political leaders now reveal how some of these civil society members had met them a few months ago, urging them to raise the Lokpal issue in Parliament. Though they were to get back to these leaders with more inputs, for some reasons they never came again. Soon after, these leaders saw these same activists launching their own "Jan Lokpal movement" with a high-pitched attack on the entire political class! With the Lokpal ball back in the politicians' court, these activists have restarted their meetings with the former. Call it the limits of an anti-politician solo run.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

WHY FREE TRADE MATTERS

JAGDISH BHAGWATI

 

Contrary to what sceptics often assert, the case for free trade is robust. It extends not just to overall prosperity (or "aggregate GNP"), but also to distributional outcomes, which makes the free-trade argument morally compelling as well.


The link between trade openness and economic prosperity is strong and suggestive. For example, Arvind Panagariya of Columbia University divided developing countries into two groups: "miracle" countries that had annual per capita GDP growth rates of 3% or higher, and "debacle" countries that had negative or zero growth rates. Panagariya found commensurate corresponding growth rates of trade for both groups in the period 1961-1999.
Of course, it could be argued that GDP growth causes trade growth, rather than vice versa – that is, until one examines the countries in depth. Nor can one argue that trade growth has little to do with trade policy: while lower transport costs have increased trade volumes, so has steady reduction of trade barriers.


More compelling is the dramatic upturn in GDP growth rates in India and China after they turned strongly towards dismantling trade barriers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In both countries, the decision to reverse protectionist policies was not the only reform undertaken, but it was an important component.


In the developed countries, too, trade liberalisation, which started earlier in the postwar period, was accompanied by other forms of economic opening (for example, a return to currency convertibility), resulting in rapid GDP growth. Economic expansion was interrupted in the 1970s and 1980s, but the cause was the macroeconomic crises triggered by the success of the Opec cartel and the ensuing deflationary policies pursued by then-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.


Moreover, the negative argument that historical experience supports the case for protectionism is flawed. The economic historian Douglas Irwin has challenged the argument that nineteenth-century protectionist policy aided the growth of infant industries in the United States. He has also shown that many of the nineteenth century's successful hightariff countries, such as Canada and Argentina, used tariffs as a revenue source, not as a means of sheltering domestic manufacturers.


Nor should free traders worry that trade openness resulted in no additional growth for some developing countries, as critics contend. Trade is only a facilitating device. For instance, if your infrastructure is bad, or you have domestic policies that prevent investors from responding to market opportunities (such as South Asia's stifling licensing restrictions), you will see no results. To gain from trade openness, you have to ensure that complementary policies are in place.


But then critics shift ground and argue that tradedriven growth benefits only the elites and not the poor; it is not "inclusive." In India, however, the shift to accelerated growth after reforms that included trade liberalisation has pulled nearly 200 million people out of poverty. In China, which grew faster, it is estimated that more than 300 million people have moved above the poverty line since the start of reforms.


In fact, developed countries benefit from trade's effect on poverty reduction as well. Contrary to much popular opinion, trade with poor countries does not pauperise rich countries.


The opposite is true. It is unskilled, labour-saving technical change that is putting pressure on the wages of workers, whereas imports of cheaper, labour-intensive goods from developing countries help the poor who consume these goods.


If freer trade reduces poverty, it is presumptuous for the critics to claim greater virtue. In truth, the free traders control the moral high ground: with at least a billion people still living in poverty, what greater moral imperative do we have than to reduce that number? Talk about "social justice" is intoxicating, but actually doing something about it is difficult. Here the free traders have a distinct edge.


As the historian Frank Trentmann has demonstrated, the case for free trade was made in nineteenth-century Britain in moral terms: it was held to promote not just economic prosperity, but also peace. It is also worth recalling that US Secretary of State Cordell Hull was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for policies that included his tireless efforts on behalf of multilateral free trade. It is time for the Norwegian Nobel committee to step up again.


(The author is University Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University and Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations)

 

© Project Syndicate, 2011

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

HOW ABOUT A BCCI-DRS?

THE REVIEW SYSTEM HINGED ON WHAT THE WORLD'S STRONGEST BOARD THOUGHT THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PLAYER WANTED IT TO DO


For years, the basic tenet of cricket, a sport circulated as a symbol of English fairplay and discipline, was that the umpire is always right; even when he is wrong. Once he had made a decision, all the batsman could do was tuck his bat under his shoulder and walk, and all a bowler could do was return to his bowling mark to try again. The lesser the reaction, the better the cricketer.

 

Umpires were selected for their equanimity, honesty, and their knowledge of the game. Everyone knew that the umpire, being only human, does get it wrong sometimes. But the important thing to understand was that the intention behind giving the umpire this enormous, unilateral power, was good. Someone's decision had to be final; otherwise there would be anarchy.

 

Today, 134 years after the first Test match, and 73 years after the first televised match (second Ashes Test at Lord's on June 24, 1938, covered by the BBC), there are ways to tell – immediately, and in several cases, conclusively – when the umpire makes a mistake. So should cricket change one of its basic tenets to make room from a system that goes over the umpire's final decision, and has the power to either uphold or overrule it? The answer to that question is fairly simple. Even the BCCI, in its latest press release, has expressed "its willingness to embrace technology, for the betterment of the game".

 

But the debate over the Umpires' Decision Review System, which has been playing out for the last three years and has reached a head before India prepares to travel to England, has not been simple one. Somewhere along the line, the most important ingredient behind a rule change – good intentions – was overtaken by diffidence, and a bully cricket board adamant on getting its way.

 

India's objection hinged around the Hawk-Eye ball-tracking technology. It was a grouse based on mental roadblocks erected when Ajantha Mendis got review after review to go his way in Sri Lanka in 2008. Frustrated at not being able to read Mendis, and upset at how much Hawk-Eye loved him, Dhoni's team threw a tantrum that they've never bothered to qualify, or convert into a logical argument.

 

To win a debate you need to quote incidents, allude to instances, back your points with facts. But India, both the team and the board, never understood the bigger picture – that the idea was to make the game more fair, and avoid the odd incident that wrongly changes the course of a match. Instead of explaining why it felt Hawk-Eye was unpredictable, it decided to use its clout and just barrel through.

 

Yesterday, at the ICC meeting in Hong Kong, the BCCI not just retained the right to opt out of leg-before reviews, it also got the technology pulled out from the UDRS's purview. "The current ball-tracking technology, on which the DRS system is based, is not acceptable to the Board. That stand has not changed," it said in a victorious statement. "We are (however) agreeable to the use of technology in decisionmaking, which will include infra-red cameras (Hot Spot) and audio-tracking devices (Snickometer)."

 

Even this concession was made only because Sachin Tendulkar, a man no board can say no to, revealed in a recent interview that he was okay with UDRS as long as Snicko and Hot Spot were included. Once he had shown the way, the BCCI had to follow.

 

It's extraordinary that something as important as the use of technology in cricket depends on what the world's strongest board thinks the world's most influential player wants it to do.

 

UDRS is here. Now how about a BCCI-DRS?

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BEFRIENDING INDIA: PAK HAS LITTLE TO LOSE

 

At a time when India is gathering laurels for its fast-growing economy and vibrant democracy and Pakistan is getting attention for its suicide bombers and nuclear weapons, thoughts go back to the fateful events of 65 years ago, which led to the emergence of the two countries as separate nation-states. It all happened in the weeks and months after the Muslim League and Congress gave up their stubborn stands to agree to a constitutional arrangement that could be easily described as a confederation, though it was not so termed. The Central government was to administer only three subjects — foreign affairs, defence and communications. The rest were left to the three zonal governments. The visiting Cabinet Mission, led by Sir Stafford Cripps, had proposed to place the provinces in three groups: Group A was to comprise Bengal and Assam; group B Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and the North-West Frontier; and group C the rest of the provinces. The mission had proposed that at the end of 10 years the Legislative Assembly of each group by a majority vote could opt out of the confederation and form its own sovereign government. About Assam a special provision was made that if the assembly of group A voted to quit the confederation, the legislators belonging to Assam, by a majority vote, would have the option to join the provinces in group C. Having agreed to the plan, Jawaharlal Nehru announced that "the Congress was completely unfettered by agreements and free to meet all situations as they arise". He went on to assert that "he, as president of the Congress, had every intention of modifying it". Maulana Abul Kalam Azad described Nehru's statement as "a costly mistake" and the Quaid-e-Azam "treachery". Reacting to Nehru's interpretations, the Quaid also withdrew acceptance of the plan. When even Prime Minister Clement Attlee's personal last-minute intervention failed to save the plan, the way was paved for the partition of India and the subsequent division of Punjab and Bengal. The purpose of recalling the events of the 1946 summer is to highlight the fact that Nehru's mistake or treachery apart, if the leadership of the Muslim League had considered it possible, just a year before Partition, to coexist with India in a confederation, why can't we now, as an independent state, coexist with India in a looser union without compromising our sovereignty — as in the case of the countries joining the EU and Asean? As a sovereign state, Pakistan would not be handicapped, as the Muslim League was in 1946. It could withdraw from the union or confederation if it hurt Pakistan's national interests or tended to impair its sovereignty. If the two countries were unable to get along they could part company and would be no worse off. Pakistan, very likely, would be much better off if the "union" (call it just a treaty, if you will) were to work and endure. It would be no exaggeration to say that the chief, if not the only, cause of our political instability, economic backwardness, recurring wars and endemic violence has been confrontation with India. Kashmir would no longer be a hurdle to normality as the Kashmiris now ask for azadi and not accession to Pakistan. They have not exactly defined azadi but, seemingly, it falls short of full independence and seeks an end to oppression. Pakistan's raison d'être for maintaining a half-a-million-strong Army and nuclear arsenal is lost if we don't have to wage a war to liberate Kashmir. If the expenditure on defence was to be cut by half, perhaps, we wouldn't be borrowing or begging for aid from the US and balance-of-payment support from the International Monetary Fund and could still spend twice as much on education, health and social services than we do presently. On a different plane, India would not be fomenting unrest in Pakistan's vulnerable borderlands which, we suspect, it habitually does. Thus, both politically and economically Pakistan has little to lose but much to gain by making friends with India. The only losers on both sides would be the religious extremists and the ideologues who exploit them. Indonesia, with a Muslim population larger than Pakistan's, is an example to quote. Its economy has boomed ever since it has reshaped its policies towards liberalism and regional cooperation. Turkey is another example to follow. It is Islamic but desperate to join the EU only to improve the economic lot of its people. Pakistan's alliances even with the Islamic countries have remained moribund except for occasional Saudi doles. Half a million Indians working in California's Silicon Valley have helped India's software companies grow and break into the US and world markets. The Indians on Wall Street have helped put their home country's venture into the capital industry on a sound footing. By contrast, Pakistani industrialists and researchers, alike, have to prove they are not terrorists before they can enter America. Access to technology remains a distant cry. A pact of peace and friendship with India will give Pakistan access to Bengaluru's technology. Currently, it is restricted to Bollywood films.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AS NSG PRESSURE MOUNTS, STAY FIRM

 

A recent plenary of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the cartel of 46 countries that have nuclear materials or equipment to offer others, held at Noordwijk in the Netherlands, has reaffirmed its core objective — that such goods cannot be sold to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As such, India is to be denied the sale of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology. Indeed, the NSG introduced a new provision to give effect to this particular outcome. The NPT remains the holy grail of the international regime promoted for half a century by the West to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, although it is common knowledge that the Americans and others winked at the clandestine development of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme through the aegis of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan and his contacts in the West. Nevertheless, getting all countries to sign the NPT (the holdouts being India, Pakistan and Israel; and now North Korea, which recently resiled from the treaty) continues to be cited as a critical aim. It is noteworthy, though, that in 2008, as a special dispensation for India, the NSG waived its usual conditions for transfer of nuclear materials to a NPT non-signatory. It now appears to have gone back on that waiver. The 2008 waiver was granted in the backdrop of the India-US civil nuclear agreement. American terms for bilateral nuclear trade are extremely stringent, but the administration of then President George W. Bush made an exception for India in the light of its squeaky clean non-proliferation record and its scrupulous adherence to the NPT's spirit despite remaining outside the treaty. Once America entered into a bilateral agreement with India to buy and sell nuclear ware, Washington also pushed India's case in the NSG. This was the basis for the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh's assurance to Parliament about a "clean" waiver to India. It is worth recalling, however, that some elements in the Bush administration at the time had tried to scuttle the NSG waiver and made a lot of fuss about the supply of ENR technologies to India. Under the terms of the bilateral deal with the US, India was to get a "clean" waiver — that is, one (from existing international provisions) for the entire range of nuclear technologies (including ENR) for all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, and waiver for the supply of nuclear fuels too for the lifetime of the reactors being purchased overseas and placed under IAEA safeguards. India had pressed this point and got its way then, although there were times when the deal being negotiated with the US appeared close to breaking point. It is thus unfair to say, in the light of NSG's volte face on ENR sales, that the Prime Minister had knowingly misled Parliament. Without active American canvassing, the 2008 NSG waiver is unlikely to have materialised. And the US was keen on the India deal for strategic and commercial reasons. Some doubts have crept into US commercial calculations on account of India's liability law regarding accidents at nuclear plants. (This factor hasn't quite deterred Russian and French companies.) This is a possible cause for the NSG retreating from a India-specific waiver. Washington's virtual silence appears a way to mount pressure on New Delhi. India would do well to tell the Americans (and others) just where they got off, but not go ballistic raising a nationalist outcry.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE NUCLEAR RUBICON

 

The recent announcement by Pakistan regarding successful trials of its tactical nuclear weapon (TNW), the short-range (60 km) nuclear capable Hatf-9 — or Al Nasr — missile comes at a time when events in AfPak as well as inside Pakistan remain in uneasy equilibrium. It introduces an additional and potentially destabilising new factor into the Indo-Pak matrix. TNWs are not strategic heavyweights designed as distant stand-offs for mutual deterrence, but tactical bantamweights meant for trading punches in actual nuclear warfighting, should such an event ever come to pass. The existing classifications of nuclear weapons (strategic, theatre and tactical) are holdovers from Euro-centric Cold War perceptions. They are largely irrelevant in the India-Pakistan context, where the entire spectrum of nuclear weapons ranging from megaton down to sub-kiloton can reach most of the regions in the two countries. This, in effect, will bring all types of nuclear weapons on both sides of the border into the strategic category. Nuclear warfare at any level has always been considered unthinkable by the Indian establishment, and rightly so. However, such assumptions presuppose a corresponding modicum of rationality on the part of the potential opponent that does not seem to find much place in the radically crazed jihad, which has developed deep roots in the Pakistani military establishment and extensively infects that country's armed forces. The serial impacts of the Raymond Davis incident, the continuing American drone strikes inside Pakistani territory and the Abbottabad incident have deeply enraged the middle piece and rank and file in the Pakistan military against their own government as well as senior commanders. This has left them seething with impotent rage against the United States. This rage finds ready expression in vicious side-swipes at India, always perceived as a softer, flabbier target, whenever opportunity presents itself, as demonstrated most recently in PNS Babur's "shoulder charge" against INS Godavari during the retrieval of MV Suez from the custody of Somali pirates. Pakistan is being consumed by its internal wars, as shown by the fidayeen attack on PNS Mehran, the naval base at Karachi. The prospects of TNW with Pakistan's radically Islamicised armed forces is undoubtedly a matter of concern for India, which must review its responses to cater for the emergence of a Dr Strangelove figure in the Pakistani military and nuclear establishment. Some idea of the Pakistani mindset can be found in the enunciation by Lt. Gen. (retd) Khalid Kidwai, the director general of the Strategic Plans Division of the National Command Authority, of the contingencies under which Pakistan would take recourse to nuclear warfare in the event of hostilities towards India. According to Gen. Kidwai, these would be extensive losses of territory, destruction of a large part of the defence forces, economic strangulation, political destabilisation or large-scale subversion. In this context it would be interesting to speculate whether the loss of East Pakistan in 1971 might have constituted a trigger for the use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan had these been available at that time. The new TNW factor will obviously require these earlier perceptions to be revised downwards. India for its part has imposed on itself a self-perceived "nuclear threshold", in its dealings with Pakistan, an undefined (and indefinable) Rubicon which has to govern the limits of Indian responses, even against the most appalling provocations for fear of provoking Pakistan, an approach, which provides a convenient excuse to the national leadership for total inaction regardless of the degree of provocation. This has been amply demonstrated both after the attack on Parliament in 2001 as well as after the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks in 2008 regardless of the government in office. It seems India never learns lessons when dealing with Pakistan. If India is incapable of taking hardline action, then it must at least avoid repeatedly shaming its own people in front of the world by gratuitous overtures to Pakistan followed by undignified climb downs. Pakistan for its part has gleefully capitalised on India's tremulous indecision from its "sum of all fears" outlook by brandishing its nuclear arsenal and provocatively proclaiming its exclusive focus on India. Meanwhile, not too many details have emerged about Hatf-9, apart from its extraordinarily short-range capability of 60 km and stated "shoot and scoot capability", along with glimpses of a multi-barrel mobile launcher, resembling the conventional Russian SMERCH, or its Chinese equivalent — the Type 03/PHL03 (sometimes designated A-100) held with Pakistan. Among the possible inferences that can be drawn from these very elementary details are that Hatf-9 is likely a solid-fuelled missile, possibly mounting sub-kiloton or low kiloton warheads, which will possibly require to be deployed in locations well forward on the battlefield, almost in the manner of conventional artillery. This is an issue which presents several problems, notably that of vulnerability. All this certainly goes against accepted tactical norms, but the twists or surprises in such a situation have not fully unravelled as yet. As a matter of purely historical analogy, it may not be out of place to remember that as far back as 1953, in the early years of the Cold War, the United States fielded the 120-km range Corporal, its first nuclear capable missile for tactical support of ground forces which was also deployed along with conventional artillery. No one has experienced the nuclear battlefield. Hiroshima and Nagasaki provide no precedents, since they were strategic bombings of population centres which nuclear jargon would later categorise as "value targets". It was not tactical warfighting with nuclear weapons in the heat, dust, smoke, confusion and haze, which have been the characteristics of all battlefields since Kurukshetra, and will undoubtedly remain in the nuclear age as well. The issue of nuclear warfighting has been extensively researched and written about, but obviously on the basis of theoretical estimates or academic extrapolation, not hard practical experience. So if, when, or whenever, a nuclear war does come to pass, it will be a first experience for everyone, including the uninvolved bystanders. The introduction of Hatf-9 has diminished the nuclear firebreak and will certainly not help matters. * The author is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SOLOMON'S CALLING

 

The fuss over whether the chief justice of the Madras high court should have invited Ms Jayalalithaa to tea to celebrate the start of her current chief ministership raises questions of propriety and protocol that are generally either ignored in India or taken a shade too far. The second occurred to me recently because of the consternation when I asked a Calcutta high court judge, a newfound kinsman, for his card. He had been good enough to seek me out to establish the connection and I wanted to identify him in our clan chronicle. The people surrounding him were aghast at my effrontery. Not for them the self-deprecation of the late P.V. Narasimha Rao, who told me once that "as a lover of anonymity" he had never had a card. These lawyers seemed to regard a card as sacrilege. But the judge himself, a pleasant and modest man, explained that only Calcutta high court judges don't have cards. Other courts aren't as restrictive. The ban — if it exists — is based on an Asian misunderstanding of an Anglo-Saxon social convention. I say Asian because the late J.B. Jeyaretnam, then Singapore's sole Opposition MP, was also outraged at my request for a card. As a barrister trained in London, he told me peremptorily and quite unnecessarily, he didn't advertise himself. He was thinking of what my father used to call a tradesman's card, a printed piece of pasteboard with professional and contact details. That is what almost everyone today means by a card. But as a barrister, Jeyaretnam should have known of a visiting (or calling) card with just his name engraved in fine copperplate script from, yes, an actual copper plate. I still have the one my father had made for me when I was going to England to study, and perhaps a few of the yellowed cards engraved from it. The ritual was to "leave cards" — as the phrase went — on superiors. Every bungalow in, say, Meerut Cantonment sported a Not-at-home Box such as the one my grandmother had — rather like a squat letterbox in smooth well-finished teak — in which newcomers and juniors were supposed to drop their cards and wait for an invitation. I remember being very impressed by a variant of the practice in Kalimpong when I first visited Kazini Elisa-Maria Dorji Khangsarpa of Chakung. Delhi old-timers might remember her as Mrs Ethel Maud Langford-Rae, French teacher and governess to the Nepalese ambassador's children. The Dalai Lama's card on a silver salver implied that His Holiness had called but, of course, he had done no such thing. Kazini was nothing if not resourceful and had put out the card — it may have accompanied a book — to impress innocents. I stopped using my copperplate cards when people asked for my telephone number and address. Later came fax, email and mobile details. Cards have acquired a commercial vitality and I have sat through innumerable business lunches in Singapore where each new arrival's first task is to distribute his card to all the others. There is no graciousness about this handing out of self-propaganda by people who are open to receiving commissions and contracts. So Jeyaretnam's reticence or the Calcutta high court ban were not without logic. A judge's card on display can also create the wrong impression. Discretion is all the more necessary now that the judiciary seems to be taking over India's governance. But cards and tea parties are not the only ways of influencing judges. Some judges have their little vanities. One took her resplendent chaprasi to cocktail parties. Another liked being called Your Lordship all the time. Some judges have their not-so-little expectations. What matters is the man (or woman) under the wig and gown, not the appearance, which can be deceptive. Nirad C. Chaudhuri mentions an eminent judge who went to court exceptionally early so that his father, a minor court employee, didn't have to stand up for him. I knew of a judge who was drinking as a hotelier's guest on a dry day (violating both prohibition laws and professional ethics!) when he was suddenly summoned to swear in an acting governor. Yet, such was his reputation for integrity that a leading national politician flew across the country to be served with a writ in his jurisdiction. As the Lokpal Bill debate demonstrates, we can make a fetish of form. India has been arguing for years about judicial performance commissions, independent complaints boards and codes of conduct. A draft Judges Standards and Accountability Bill is expected to replicate most of the Supreme Court's 16-point Restatement of Values of Judicial Life. The charter doesn't seem to mention tea parties or cards, but its comments about holding stocks and shares took me back to Indira Gandhi's defiant declamation at the Shah Commission. Some judges opposed her, she claimed, because she had taken action against their shareholdings, provoking a red-faced Justice J.C. Shah to burst out angrily that he had never held any shares. Mrs Gandhi replied sweetly she hadn't mentioned him. It's just as well, perhaps, that the proposed charter bans gifts and hospitality, forbids running for office in clubs, and "close association" with lawyers, even to the extent of not allowing relatives in the Bar to live in the same house. Apart from specific bans, the overall effect might be to create a model of rectitude and act as a deterrent. But laws alone won't create an army of Solomons if confusion and corruption dominate the lower rungs of a creaky judicial and law enforcement system whose policemen have been called criminals in uniform. I recall a judge's peon once rushing up to demand baksheesh because my family had won a property suit. Seeing my amazement that this should happen in full court, my lawyer said: "Don't worry, in a few years the judge himself will make the demand!" Mercifully, that hasn't happened yet. But forbidding cards and tea parties alone isn't going to prevent it either until the whole hierarchy is cleansed. * The author is a senior journalist who contributes to several top international publications

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CONCHES, BELLS AND DEVOTEES

 

Indian tradition had its roots in the culture developed by rishis, which gave way to a temple-based culture later on. The temple culture, developed long back, remains pertinent even today. The ancient rituals in temples, including blowing of conches, sounding of bells and use of flowers, are still prevalent. Deepaaradhana or worship of the deity with lighted lamp or camphor, moving it clockwise before the idol accompanied by conch blowing and bell peals offers an audio-visual experience for the devotee. The conch produces an auspicious and divine sound. It is also considered a proclamation. The celebrated Puranic battle of Kurukshetra was preceded by a conch blowing. Conch is scrubbed and used as an ingredient in certain medicines. It has healing properties as well. Modern science has found out that the vibrations from conch blowing trigger positive feelings in the brain. The peal of bells is heard from temples when puja is performed. The peal arouses in the listener a sense of piety. A sense of peace is generated even by the jingling of bells in bullock carts. It is believed that when the conch is blown, the divine word "Om" emerges first and then recedes gradually. The eternal mantra "Om" can inspire the mind greatly. It can create an atmosphere of piety among devotees. It can cultivate the power of concentration as well. Many kinds of flowers are used in temples. There are beautiful stories connected with all the flowers too. For example, the Thaazhampoo (flower of a species of screwpine) flower is not used in pujas. According to the epics, the flower was summoned as an eyewitness by Lord Shiva. But she told a lie. She was duly punished and accordingly no longer used in pujas. When we examine those flowers used for puja, we find that they all emit positive energy. Our sages of the past knew that such flowers alone could be included in the worship of God! Yoga rato va bhoga rato va Samga rato va Sanga vihana Yasya Brahmani ramate chittam Nandati nandati nandati eva (Whether the devotee is a spiritualist or materialist, if his mind is in God, he really enjoys the presence of God.) — The author has written Thaliyola, a book on Hindu beliefs and rituals. He has also written books on the Vedas and Upanishads. He can be reached at drvenganoor@yahoo.co.in

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SYRIA AWAKES AGAIN

 

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 seven, "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 three 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. 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. The forgotten Syria meant thousands of political prisoners packed for decades inside the darkness of prisons and detention centres. 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 marginalisation of politics, the taming of the judiciary, the suffocation of civil society and the crushing of any opposition. 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 towards 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. Many Western diplomats and commentators expressed doubts that the Syrian people might one day rise up to demand their rights and freedoms. But those sceptics 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. * The author is a journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

FORGIVE? MOVE ON?

WHEN 1984 KILLERS WALK FREE…

 

MAGNANIMITY was manifest in a section of Delhi's Sikh community felicitating the home minister for removing the names of 142 of their kinsmen from North Block's black-list. Never mind if some of them should never have been so listed, never mind if it was only a minority group headed by a Congress sympathiser that "recognised" P Chidambaram: its action merits applause. What, however, earns no appreciation is the ministerial sermon, "It is time we forgive and move on…" What would have been the reaction had that been stated in the East Delhi resettlement colony where Congress-led goons performed virtual ethnic cleansing, or in the West Delhi locality where the widows and orphans of 1984 sought refuge in a mental and physical ghetto? Nobody who was out on the streets of the Capital those terrifying days ~ not just Sikhs ~ can ever forget what they witnessed. There was no rioting: just blood-thirsty mobs going from house to house, using voters' lists supplied by local Congress leaders to identify their targets, men being forced into petrol-filled tyres suspended from trees and set ablaze, every Sikh-owned shop in prestigious Connaught Place burnt down, and much, much worse. Those, who had also been witness to the killings at Partition, said things were as horrific, but not one-sided then. All the while the police, under political instruction, idly stood by or deliberately misled army units away from scenes of violence. Yes, a few senior cops did their duty ~ they were denied key appointments subsequently. Yet one officer was decorated for stern action against a Sikh family that opened fire when its house was surrounded by a lynch-mob!


Does Chidambaram actually believe that Dr Manmohan Singh's "apology" suffices to atone? Have the Congress' presiding deities distanced themselves from Rajiv Gandhi's "when a big tree falls" justification? If there was an iota of sincerity to the Prime Minister's apology or to Chidambaram's exhortation it would have been backed up by action to bring Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar to book ~ they remain very much within the Congress fold, brazenly aware that cases against them will collapse because the police will never tender sufficient evidence for a court to convict them. As home minister Chidambaram could have acted to give the victim-community some assurance that justice would prevail. Thus he has only reopened wounds to rub salt into them. Ignoring another reality ~ the screenplay for the massacre in Modi's Gujarat in 2002 was scripted in the Capital 18 years earlier!


THE GENERAL WEAL

MISS BANERJEE'S BOLD DECISION, BUT...

THEORETICALLY, it may appear to be bad economics for a state on the brink of bankruptcy. It is. In parallel, one must give it to Mamata Banerjee that she has been bold enough to advance a welfare handout that is fraught with the very real risk of the state losing Rs 75 crore each year. The chief minister has waived the sales tax of Rs 16 per LPG cylinder within 24 hours of the Centre announcing a whopping increase of Rs 50. In the process, she has forced the Congress to tell states it rules to effect a similar concession. And Haryana has followed in the footsteps of Bengal. At another remove, the CPI-M appears to have had an afterthought. Having warmly welcomed Miss Banerjee's  decision, Mr Biman Bose has backtracked to condemn the waiver as a "gimmick". He would rather the chief minister express her opposition to the price hike in writing to the Centre. The CPI-M state secretary couldn't afford to go off at a tangent. Almost routinely, the party intends to hit the streets, even hinting at a bandh over the issue.

There is no mistaking the collective sigh of relief over this reduction of the hiked LPG rate. The chief minister is anxious to ensure the general weal. That said, it is imperative that the larger issue of fuel economics is also addressed. There has to be a cap on state subsidy on fuel prices; the  loss claimed by the public sector oil companies cannot be a recurrent feature of their balance-sheets. There is no clue in Saturday's welfare handout as to how the government proposes to generate resources to offset the Rs 75-crore loss the parlous state will suffer each fiscal on account of the sales-tax waiver. And it is improbable that all states will emulate the gesture. A more explicit statement is in order not least because it is a vote-on-account that will cover six months of this fiscal... till September when the budget is scheduled to come into effect. Last Friday's presentation by the state's finance minister, supposedly the articulate face of the new government, was more in the nature of robust pre-election rhetoric and banter, directed at his predecessor. Of substance there was little; of a signal of intent, there was none. For all the meetings with the Centre and the photo-opportunities, the authorities have skirted specifics towards a solution. Market borrowing is only a desperate and short-term option. The finance ministers, both previous and present, seem engaged in scoring debating points over a stuttering economy. Any attempt towards generation of resources must transcend an academic discourse, however informed.


GOOD PRESS...

BUT "NAGA CRUSADERS" DON'T "EXIST"

EVER since the NSCN(IM) in 1997 raised the demand for inclusion of Manipur's four Naga-inhabited districts in its Greater Nagaland concept, ties between the Nagas and Manipuris have soured. In June 2001, when the Centre tried to extend the Nagaland ceasefire to these districts (cleverly done when the state was under President's Rule), Manipuris in Imphal Valley revolted, burning several government buildings including the Assembly hall, and in the police firing that followed 18 protesters were killed. Whatever innocent camaraderie that prevailed since then hit its lowest in May last year when the Manipur government stopped NSCN(IM) general-secretary Th Muivah from entering the state to visit his birthplace Somdal in Ukhrul district. For some months now the Nagas in these hill districts have not been cooperating with the government, demanding separate administrative arrangements. Amidst rising tensions comes the report in a Dimapur-based daily that an organisation calling itself  "Naga Crusaders," has served notices on Manipuris living in the hills to leave by 10 July. However, even before Manipur could react, its editor said that it was "an oversight" on the part of one of the staff members and since the handout was received through e-mail, the latter has been told to explain. One can question the "staffer's" wisdom in accepting Press notes/ handouts without the senders' names and addresses. The least he could have done was to verify the authenticity of the handout on such a sensitive topic, failing which ignore it, a simple journalistic ethic. In Manipur and Nagaland, newspapers receive several handouts/Press releases every day from militant outfits and some of them have even threatened editors to publish only theirs without any change, leading to suspension of publication. We can only hope  the "staffer" in question did not act under duress.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

AFTER THE PULLOUT

INDIA'S FUTURE ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN

RAJINDER PURI


AFTER mid-July America will start troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. NATO troops will follow. By the end of the year America plans to withdraw 10,000 troops. By 2014 it plans total withdrawal except for a token force. Time will tell if Washington can stick to this promise. Regardless, India needs to formulate its own clear and specific policy for Afghanistan and the region. What might that be?


Policies are dictated by goals. First, India should have a clear vision about what kind of Afghanistan it wants in what kind of South Asia. Repeatedly it has been stated in these columns that South Asia was the victim of imperialism that bequeathed a legacy of unnatural international borders violating all norms of nationhood. To restore stability and allow the laws of nature to prevail there can be either a restructuring that destroys the present sovereignties, or reform that allows cultural nationalism to prevail without these being disturbed. In other words some sort of union or confederation that allows free movement of goods and people across borders would have to be established. That is undoubtedly the safer and better option. But to achieve it would require uncommon skill. That is what India must summon in the time ahead.


It is commonly feared that the US withdrawal can plunge Afghanistan into chaos and violence. These fears can be thwarted. Contrary to the views expressed in these columns it was held that there can be no talks with the Taliban. Today the Americans are attempting a dialogue with the Taliban. It is facile to talk of the good Taliban and the bad Taliban. There is in fact the Afghan Taliban and the Punjabi Taliban. The former seeks self-rule and withdrawal of foreign presence from Afghanistan. The latter seeks jihad as envisaged by the Al Qaida. The former is influenced by Mullah Omar who is not dictated to by the ISI regardless of his long stay in Pakistan. The Punjabi Taliban is controlled by the ISI. Were it not for American obduracy Mullah Omar was prepared to surrender Osama bin Laden to any western nation except the US immediately after 9/11.
The multiplicity of warlords belonging to different tribes should not obscure that Afghanistan can be neatly divided into ethnic zones. South of the Hindukush up to Kandahar the Pashtuns dominate. In the west around Herat are the Persian-speaking Shiites. Up North are the Uzbeks and Tajiks. In central Afghanistan are the Shiite Hazaras clustered in Hazarajat. Kabul in the east has a mixture of different tribes. When intra-tribal warfare forces warlords to seek sanctuary, Uzbeks find it in Uzbekistan or Turkey; the Persian-speaking Shiites find it in Iran.   


That is why the former US Ambassador to India and leading strategist Robert Blackwill advocated the de facto partition of Afghanistan. He recognized the ethnic divide in Afghanistan between the largest community of Pashtuns who ruled all Afghanistan and the remaining tribes of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Shiites and the rest. This ethnic divide is accompanied by a geographic divide. The Pashtuns are mostly in the South, the rest are in the North and Central Afghanistan. So Blackwill proposed US troops to be stationed in North Afghanistan inhabited by the non-Pashtun tribes. US troops would withdraw from the South and East where the Pashtuns dominate. Thereby the Pashtuns would achieve a modicum of self-rule. Thus from central Afghanistan down south across Pakistan's tribal belt up to Peshawar the Pashtuns would enjoy unfettered rule. Already, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border exists only in name with heavy unchecked cross-border movement. In short, Blackwill's formula would help create a de facto Pashtunistan across borders!


The rest of Afghanistan in the north and centre would be left to the residual tribes. The demand for an independent Khorasan covering that region has already been voiced by non-Pashtun leaders within Afghanistan. Loss of control over Khorasan would be compensated for the Afghan Pashtuns by consolidation with their tribal brothers inhabiting the Pakhtunwa Khyber province of Pakistan. The Durand Line Treaty had advocated the return of the Pakistani Pashtun region to Afghanistan after completion of a hundred years in 1993. A confederation or union with soft borders would make the dispute between Pakistan and Afghanistan related to the treaty infructuous.


This is what India must achieve. New Delhi must initiate a formula satisfying the Pashtuns, the non-Pashtuns and the Taliban. Former Afghanistan foreign minister and candidate for the presidency Abdullah Abdullah, who is a Tajik, had discussed the prospects of a federal Afghanistan with American diplomats. That had angered President Karzai. The President needs to reflect and revise his opinion. While federalism would satisfy the Tajiks, Uzbeks and the rest, power-sharing would satisfy the Taliban. Former Taliban ministers could be re-inducted into the government while Mullah Omar could play the role of a religious guide like Ayatollah Khameini in Iran .


But for the above formula to succeed the cooperation of Pakistan would be necessary. How could that be achieved? For that, India would have to play the Kashmir card. By now it is established that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former President Musharraf were a whisker away from a Kashmir settlement when talks were interrupted. The formula revolved around soft borders and autonomy on both sides of Kashmir. The flaw was that no institutional arrangement for cooperation between Islamabad and New Delhi was stated. Unless New Delhi and Islamabad achieve complete trust, which implies defence cooperation, all talk of dual autonomy and soft borders in Kashmir remains meaningless. Can the Pakistan army conceivably change its mindset to accept joint defence with India? That alone could effectively eliminate terrorism in both nations.
There are pro-terrorist elements in the Pakistan army that must be purged. On 18 June, I wrote that Pakistan's army chief, General Kayani, must confront these elements inside his army. He had to choose between preserving the unity of his army or the unity of his nation. Subsequently General Kayani arrested Brigadier Ali Khan and four other officers for their links to the terrorists. That is a beginning. There is no reason why enlightened self-interest will not persuade the key players both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan to cooperate in creating a South Asian Union that helps preserve present international borders. They must be made to believe that it is possible. Before the Indian government can persuade them it must itself believe that it is possible. The leaders of South Asia can show to the West and to rest of the world what their culture is capable of. They can convert South Asia into the world's role model for the 21st century.

The writer is a veteran journalist  and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

A LETTER FROM ROME

INDIA WITH HER ABUNDANCE OF SUNSHINE OBVIOUSLY DOES NOT APPRECIATE THIS EUROPEAN YEARNING FOR OPEN SPACE. TO US IN INDIA, A GOOD LIFE MEANS TO BE CLOSETED INSIDE AIR-CONDITIONED COOLNESS, WRITES MARTIN KÄMPCHEN

This has been my third visit to Rome, the "Eternal City", in as many years. Where does the fascination of this city come from? Is it its antiquity going back several thousand years? Or its imperial, often cruel, often superbly creative, past? Its imperious statesmen, its remnants of the Renaissance period with its visions of universality and genius? Is it the attraction of a modern city, one of Europe's commercial nerve-centres, a fashion hub, is it its famously good food and ice-cream? My reply is a helpless: Well, it is all of these! It is the comfortable blending of antiquity and modernity, of ancient pride with rustic, joyous simplicity, of the bonhomie generated by elegant living with the poverty of the immigrant population. But foremost is this astounding cooperation between the monuments of the past and busy, irreverent modern life!
I stayed in the via del Corso, one of the large thoroughfares, cutting through the old city centre from north to south. Close to the Plaza del Popolo, squeezed between the avenue's eastern row of houses, is the Casa di Goethe, the Goethe House. This is where Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Germany's foremost classical writer lived, escaping from the severity of his duties at the Weimar court and from the foggy climate of the north. The German government acquired the flat and turned it into a cultural centre where exhibitions, lectures and discussions are being organised in Italian or German. Last year, I gave a lecture on "Goethe and Tagore", this year I read from my recently published German translations of Rabindranath's poetry.
The via del Corso is thronged by tourists during most of the day as it leads to several tourist sites. I try to avoid places which tourists frequent. For how can we imbibe the spirit of any ancient location when we have several hundred competitors? It is as absurd as watching the sunrise on Darjeeling's Tiger Hill among a throng of one thousand people eagerly oh-ing and ah-ing at the first glimmer of light. Any historical site emanates its particular atmosphere, or aura. We need a contemplative attitude and a certain solitude and isolation to absorb and to profit from it.
However, I discovered a way out. That was to cruise Rome's popular avenues early morning, at 6 or 7, when tourists are still asleep. Like in India, dawn and dusk are auspicious times. In India, sandhya is the time when we are meant to pray, meditate, visit the temple, read and study. Similarly, in Rome the early mornings are a time when the city belongs to the native people occupied with their routine jobs, like walking their dog, going on their round of jogging, buying a daily newspaper, attending early mass in one of the numerous churches, and sipping their first coffee to become fully awake.
Between the via del Corso and the spacious hilly park area surrounding the Villa Borghese I discovered a criss-cross of narrow lanes which are frequented by few outsiders throughout the day. Here, it seemed, the arty, bohemian population had settled in. Studios, galleries, art shops dotted the roadside. On the via Belsiana, I discovered a coffee-shop which opens early and caters to workmen. A few tiny tables covered by bright-red, soiled cloths had been placed on the road. I sat down and ordered a cappuccino with a croissant and a toasted cheese sandwich for breakfast. Leisurely, I watched life pass by. The young men with their lively faces and expressive gestures sauntered in to gulp a quick espresso, they greeted their chums and ran off to their places of work. Outside vehicles brought new supplies for shops, and the sweepers were busy clearing the garbage and wash the cobble-stoned road.
It was the same routine every morning. On the second day a sweeper, recognising me, nodded into my direction, and on my forth and last day, he saluted me with a raised hand. Equally, on the third morning the elderly, grumpy owner of the coffee-shop no longer asked what I wanted, he just took it to me outside. This is what I love ~ bonding with the population in tiny but, to me, significant ways, establishing a belonging of sorts. This is how the pulse of a city can be felt ~ not by goggling at a few more monuments every day, but by watching the same scene at the same place day after day. These street cafés tucked away in some secret lane are truly an idyll. I sit there and become part of life, and yet I watch life in its everyday-ness pass by. I observe the hectic or joyous or greedy pace around me, and yet I do not get sucked in.
My coffee-shop was cheap, too. I paid just 6 euro for my breakfast. Contrast this to the restaurants on the Plaza del Popolo, for instance, where one cup of cappuccino costs you 5.50 euro. Calculate my loss yourself: 1 euro is plus-minus Rs 60.
Sitting outside to eat and drink is an established mediterranean habit. People in Italy and Greece yearn to live outside as much as possible. As soon as winter has departed, tables are placed outside for meals and coffee. The sun, the unclouded blue sky are so precious and deeply anticipated in Europe. This southern habit has travelled northward in the past several decades. As a boy I never sat outside restaurants or cafés to eat or have coffee and cake. Nowadays, a café without a garden to sit in or an enclosed patch along the street is doomed to do unsatisfactory business.
India with her abundance of sunshine obviously does not appreciate this European yearning. To us in India, a good life means to be closeted inside air-conditioned coolness. Mosquitoes, the dust of the road, the crowds passing by, and concern for ritual purity rather discourage city people from open-air eating and living. By contrast, in Rome restaurant tables a squeezed precariously in between house walls and people flooding by, in between cars, honking motor-bikes spewing toxic fumes and people standing around, noisily chattering and gesticulating. But nobody seems to mind.
In the evenings, Rome explodes with the grateful bustle of a day's work completed. Then, visitors and inhabitants do mix with ease. The Romans offer and sell, or relax and squabble, enjoy a meal, and play with their children, supremely undisturbed by camera-wielding tourists.
Never visit a city where you have no friends! I have followed this motto throughout my decades of travelling. In India, it is not only a privilege but a necessity to have contacts in a new city. No Indian family would normally venture out to a place totally devoid of a welcome. At the airport of Rome, Alice met me. The young Italian anthropologist had spent several months at our Santal village, Ghosaldanga, near Santiniketan working on her dissertation. Her eyes still become moist when she enquires about the children, her far-away friends. She and her partner Daniele took me one evening to the outskirts of Rome to have a rustic meal among the locals. The menu card was printed only in Italian ~ no English for the tourists!
On Sunday, I went to the Abbey of San Anselmo perched serenely on top of one of the seven hills of Rome. The Latin mass was recited by the Benedictine monks who hailed from different continents. The Gregorian chant, simple, almost monotonous, but so exhilaratingly beautiful in its unhurried flow and sweep, filled the church like angles' voices. Abbot Notker Wolf met me after mass. He is a leading spiritual writer and the head of some 20,000 monks and nuns in the whole world. Yet, his demeanour was simple and jovial, devoid of suggestions of pride and prestige. What a joy to know simple people who have the courage to be just themselves. Thinking of the workmen in the coffee-shop and its owner, of Alice and Daniele, and Notker filled me with gratitude when I returned to Germany.

The author is based at Santiniketan and can be reached at m.kaempchen@gmx.de This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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THE STATESMAN

THE OTHER TICKET

SUNIPA BASU

We met this couple on the Mumbai-Kolkata Duronto Express while returning from a visit to our two sons in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. It turned out that they too were returning after a visit to their son. We soon discovered that almost 80 per cent of the passengers in the carriage comprised elderly couple such as us and we could easily rechristen the train "Parents Express". The common ground made for excellent compatibility and the long, tedious journey became a pleasurable one of shared experiences. We agreed that long-distance parenting was not a bad thing at all!


As senior citizens, heavy railway concessions make trains the best mode of travel for us. Since tickets have to be booked three months in advance, the countdown starts well in advance too. We had all the time in the world to decide what gifts to carry. Other than the usual presents, condiments like kalajeera, bori, kasundi and perishables such as ice-packed local fish and local vegetables not easily found in the places of my sons' residence made it to the list. We also had the time to call on some of our close family and friends much like the traditional custom of leave-taking before embarking on a pilgrimage. A thorough health check-up was imperative as we did not wish to fall ill and become a bother. Our physician gave us a clean chit while the pharmacy packed the necessary medication. Arrangements had to be made for the utilities to be put in suspension till pending bills were received and paid.


Plans for our grandson was on top of our agenda. We are determined that he should not forget his roots. So, we bought a bundle of Bengali storybooks and CDs. So that he gets away from his school routine and cartoon channels, a short family trip to the Gir forest was planned. My husband was full of ideas to kindle his imagination and evoke his finer sensibilities of sharing and caring. During all these preparations, I was reminded of the popular ditty "Manzil se behtar lagne lage yeh raste".


 The Ahmedabad visit was a witness to the transition of our grandson from a baby to a lad with a degree of objectivity not always afforded by daily familiarity. For all of his first five years, he was our constant companion and guide. Bicycling around the housing complex where we live, he would call out every time he had made a round. All sweaty and excited after playing football with his peers, he would resist a shower with the same determination that made him unfailingly litter the floor with crayons and drawing books. He forbade me to tidy up. "Don't touch anything Namma," he would declare firmly. Now, it seemed a method, as it does, had seeped into ~ if one could call it that ~ the madness.


The Mumbai visit to our younger son was a relaxed one with adda sessions, shopping, visit to the movie theatre and a seaside outing. Every household has its own rhythm and pace. I had realised it long back when I had migrated from my well organised, disciplined parental home to my chaotic but vibrant marital home. Now, time has come full circle ~ just as a new bride is called upon to adjust in a new household, elderly parents are required to adjust in the household of their progeny. The process can be trying but with a bit of flexibility, one can let go of the reins of authority and enjoy being cared for.


Having said that, it feels good at the end of the day to come back to one's own nest. All senior passengers on the train agreed on that. The prospect of being alone did not seem daunting at all, declared many. One suddenly realises that children have ceased to be the sun around which one's world revolves and life has a much wider coverage than the narrow confines of the immediate family. The Duronto "Parents" Express is a ticket to that phase of life.

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THE STATESMAN

POOR NATIONS HOST 80% OF WORLD'S REFUGEES: UN

 

A report issued by the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reveals that 80 per cent of the world's refugees now live in developing countries and yet, anti-refugee sentiment is growing in many industrialised nations. A concerned UNHCR has urged richer states to address this growing imbalance.
According to the 2010 Global Trends report released on World Refugee Day, in absolute terms and in relation to the size of their economies, poor countries shoulder a disproportionate refugee burden. It states that Pakistan, Iran, and Syria have the largest refugee populations at 1.9 million, 1.07 million and 1.05 million, respectively. Pakistan is also the hardest hit economically with 710 refugees for each dollar of its per capita gross domestic product, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya, with 475 and 247 refugees per dollar of their per capita GDP, respectively, the report notes. "What we're seeing is worrying unfairness in the international protection paradigm," Mr António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said. "Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialised countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. Meanwhile, it's poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden," he said.
The report portrays a drastically-changed protection environment since that of 60 years ago when the agency was founded. It has extended its work to more than 120 countries and encompasses people forced to flee across borders and those in flight within their own countries. Some 43.7 million people are displaced worldwide, roughly equalling the entire populations of Colombia or the Republic of Korea or of all Scandinavian countries and Sri Lanka combined, the UNHCR stated.
Some 15.4 people million are refugees ~ 10.55 million under UNHCR care and 4.82 million registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
The report says that 27.5 million people have been displaced internally by conflict and 837,500 are asylum-seekers. And, this without taking into account this year's internal displacements in Libya and Côte d'Ivoire. The UNHCR has found that the refugee experience is becoming increasingly drawn out for millions of people worldwide.
The agency has defined a protracted refugee situation as one in which a large number of people are stuck in exile for five years or longer. In 2010, 7.2 million people under the UNHCR mandate found themselves in such a situation, the highest number since 2001. According to the report, only 197,600 people were able to return home, the lowest number since 1990. Afghans, who fled in significant numbers after the Soviet invasion in 1979, accounted for a third of the world's refugees in both 2001 and in 2010.
Iraqis, Somalis, citizens of DRC and Sudanese are also among the top 10 nationalities of refugees at both the start and end of the decade, the report indicates. "One refugee without hope is too many," Mr Guterres said. "The world is failing these people, leaving them to wait out the instability back home and put their lives on hold indefinitely. Developing countries cannot continue to bear this burden alone and the industrialised world must address this imbalance… We need to see increased resettlement quotas. We need accelerated peace initiatives in long-standing conflicts so that refugees can go home," he said.
Manas wildlife sanctuary
The Unesco has announced that it has withdrawn Manas Wildlife Sanctuary from its List of World Heritage in Danger, citing "significant improvements in preservation". Manas sanctuary, home to a great variety of wildlife, including many endangered species, such as the tiger, pygmy hog, Indian rhinoceros and Indian elephant, was inscribed on the List in Danger in 1992, seven years after it had entered Unesco's World Heritage List.
According to a Press release issued in New York, the World Heritage Committee "noted that the outstanding universal value for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage list was recovering from damages sustained during ethnic unrest at the site". Unesco said the site is noted for its spectacular scenery, with a variety of habitat types that support a diverse fauna, making it the richest of all Indian wildlife areas. The park represents the core of an extensive tiger reserve that protects an important migratory wildlife resource along the borders of Bhutan, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh. The agency believes its wetlands to be of international importance.
Next UNGA president
Qatari Ambassador to the UN, Mr Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, has been elected the next president of the General Assembly. Mr Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, 57, was elected in New York by acclamation and will succeed Mr Joseph Deiss of Switzerland when he takes over the presidency at the 66th session of the General Assembly in mid- September. Mr Al-Nasser accepted the post with "great honour";  he said he was coming as a president at a time when the world was facing "enormous political, social, economic and environmental challenges… Not a month goes by that we do not hear about a natural or a man-made disaster and the subsequent food, security, health and education crises that follow inevitably. At the same time, there are still people who are living under occupation and oppression, who are yearning for freedom and dignity".
UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon congratulated Mr Al-Nasser on his election and noted that he had long been a supporter of the General Assembly. "As you once said: 'An enduring characteristic of this Organisation (the UN) is that ~ irrespective of the political and practical changes ~ the General Assembly remains its most inclusive body'," Mr Ban said.

anjali sharma

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

UGLY STATE

There must be something rotten about a State that fears the freedom of a campaigner for AIDS victims, an artist or a writer. But China's persecution of human rights campaigners also shows how nervous an economically powerful State can be if it is morally bankrupt. The release of Hu Jia, one of China's best-known dissidents and a campaigner for the country's AIDS sufferers, will do nothing to wash Beijing's notorious record in human rights. That Mr Hu had to spend more than three years in prison simply because he had advocated some basic human rights on the eve of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 shows how tyrannical the communist State is. All that Beijing had against Mr Hu was that his campaign amounted to a "subversion of the powers of the State". The same charge had been used against Ai Weiwei, one of the leading lights of contemporary Chinese art, who was also released from jail last week, and Liu Xiaobo, the human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. China's rulers are obviously too jittery to allow even isolated voices of dissent to be heard in public.

However, Beijing's decision to release two of the most high-profile of the regime's critics from detention in quick succession is typical of its engagement with the free world. It comes while Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, is on an official visit to Europe and on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. Obviously, Beijing wants to tell the world that it is learning to respect democratic values such as the rule of law. But the free world can react to China's acts only by asking for more human rights and freedoms in that country. While Mr Hu and Mr Ai are set free, all their political and human rights are curtailed. More important, many of their fellow campaigners who are not so well-known continue to languish in jails or under house arrest. It cannot be any democratic country's case that its trade relations with China make it difficult for it to press the human rights issue too hard. Beijing may have an interest in allowing trade to trump the issue. But the only way the world can help the cause of freedom in China is by keeping the heat on Beijing. What it does with human rights and the rule of law is not a despotic regime's internal matter, especially if it happens to be a rising global power.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

UNHOMELY

How many people in West Bengal have ever been — or even felt the urge to be — inside a state-run juvenile home? Presumably, not many. Most of these homes operate like prisonhouses, to which 'outsiders' have no access. The children are kept under duress, in conditions that are sub-human, while their carers do as they like with the funds allocated for the upkeep of their wards. So, it is hardly surprising that the children's contact with the rest of the world is fiercely regulated by those who run these homes, and common people never get to see the real picture. Although periodic visits by activists and social workers have exposed the sordid reality inside these institutions, the previous government chose to ignore even the direst revelations. But finally, with a new dispensation in power, the State seems to have woken up. Acting on an injunction by the chief minister, the minister for women, child development and social welfare, Sabitri Mitra, has prepared a report on the state of juvenile homes in West Bengal. Not only does Ms Mitra's experience confirm every bit of the allegations made against these institutions, but it also presents an opportunity to the state government to introduce the integrated child protection scheme that has been recommended by the Centre recently.

Under the ICPS, 75 per cent of the funds will be disbursed from the Centre to the states to help them improve their juvenile justice policies. However, in this case, money alone is the not the solution to a problem that is multidimensional. Giving a child enough to eat and providing him with a hygienic place to live in are only the starting points for ensuring some of the basic rights to which every human being is entitled. The State must then factor in the other areas that directly influence the well-being of a child — healthcare, education, vocational training — and help him integrate with the rest of society. To this end, a comprehensive committee with key members of various state departments needed to be formed long ago, and it is heartening that the current government is finally considering such an option. However, beyond addressing infrastructural challenges, such a steering committee must also try to usher in a change of mindset — not only among those who work in juvenile homes, but also among members of civil society, who prefer to turn a blind eye to the miseries of these boys and girls.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

HOW INDIA COMPARES

INDIA SHOULD BE WILLING TO LEARN FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD WRITING ON THE WALL ASHOK V. DESAI

The government of India basks in the reflected glory of the economy's good performance, and has grown complacent about its own performance. In the circumstances, the economic survey brought out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a valuable view from the outside. The OECD published a similar survey — its first one for India — four years ago. It was a gushing encomium. The new survey also paints a rosy macroeconomic picture. Beyond it, however, once it gets down to details, the OECD's analysis is more nuanced and critical; the OECD has come to know us a bit better.

The OECD tries to penetrate the opacity of government debt. What the Central government shows as debt in the budget is only part of it. In addition, it borrows through what the OECD calls public accounts; these accounts are highly convenient because the government borrows through them without Parliament's approval. They were first used to recapitalize bankrupt government banks in the 1990s. Later, they were used to compensate government oil companies for the subsidies they were forced to give. Small savings deposits are really borrowings of the Central government from the public, but they are automatically lent out to state governments; why, no one knows. After working through the complications, the OECD concludes that the overall Central plus state debt-gross domestic product ratio in 2010 was 70.8 per cent. It suggests abolition of public accounts, and transparent borrowing always with Parliament's approval. This should pose no problem for the Centre, for members of parliament never show any interest in the level of government debt.

The government has three measures of its deficit — primary, revenue, and fiscal deficit. The Bharatiya Janata Party government had passed the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act in 2003 which required closing of the revenue deficit (that is, equation of revenue — non-capital — expenditure and revenue) and reduction of fiscal deficit (total expenditure minus revenue) to 3 per cent of GDP by 2007-08. After the Congress defeated the BJP and came to power in 2004, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram threw the target out of the window and went on to spend merrily. The OECD suggests that the government should scrap such targets, prepare a balance sheet of its assets and liabilities, and write off depreciation on its physical assets as well as capital gains and losses on its financial assets against revenue. The new revenue balance would show the change in the government's assets every year. The government should then adopt the golden rule that it would run a zero or positive revenue balance; in other words, that it would borrow only to finance assets and not to finance consumption. If it did that, it would have more money to spend on health and education. Its draft on private savings would stop, and they would go entirely to finance asset creation.

Growth in GDP must go to some people and make them less poor. Unless income distribution worsens, growth will make most people less poor. The survey plots countrywise combinations of per capita GDP growth and change in poverty ratio over the 1990s and 2000s. The ratio fell considerably in China and Vietnam; it fell even in Pakistan, whose growth performance was miserable. But it did not in India, where the governments spend so much on income redistribution programmes, especially food distribution and employment generation.

Of the redistribution programmes, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is confined to villages, and can do nothing to alleviate urban poverty. It generally pays wages 25-50 per cent above the market wage; it therefore creates more jobs than there are takers, and takes workers away from other available work. More important, it raises incomes of the poor only on the condition that they come and spend hours working on public works. Their poverty can be relieved without their having to do that. Unconditional cash transfers are a more effective way of making people less poor.

The public distribution system does serve a higher proportion of the poor; but surprisingly, less than a half of even the poorest got grains from the PDS. The PDS is supposed to be available only to the poor, and should therefore reduce the cost of grains to them. But the average price of rice paid by the rich and the poor is just about the same. The scheme is so leaky that it hardly serves the interests of the poor. Other subsidies — on electricity, fertilizers, irrigation, bottled gas and kerosene — are also shown to go more to the rich. Thus, the government's huge expenditures on subsidies to the poor, in so many different forms, go more to the rich than the poor, and more to the dishonest than the honest.

The OECD considers the reform of the securities market to have been a success; the only suggestion it has is that Chidambaram's securities transaction tax almost doubles the transactions costs in what is the world's most efficient securities market, and should be abolished. It points out the consequences of having too many regulators. After a row between two of them, the finance minister gave the insurance regulator jurisdiction over Ulips. He allows maximum commission of 4 per cent over 5 years. The Securities and Exchange Board of India allows 2¼ per cent on mutual funds; so agents prefer to sell Ulips, and mutual funds are losing clients.

More generally, the OECD is critical of the profusion of financial regulators — Reserve Bank of India, Sebi, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority, National Treasury Management Agency, Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation and Securities Appellate Tribunal. A number of them have little to do, and do even that poorly. For instance, all claims on DICGC have come from bankrupt cooperative banks; no commercial bank has ever failed. But 93 per cent of its income comes from banks. Surely they should have to pay much less for deposit insurance.

The OECD's main critique concerns the RBI: it handles too many things, and runs into conflicts between its functions as well as with other regulators. It should divest itself of some of its responsibilities. It should sell the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development to the government. It should sell the government bond market to a private operator. And it should give up issue and management of government debt to the proposed NTMA. It should be possible to appeal against the RBI's decisions — it should be subject to an appellate tribunal like other regulators. And where there is a law, for instance the Foreign Exchange Management Act, it is the law that should rule, and not arbitrary decisions of the RBI.

The OECD is not the first to note the imperfections of the RBI. Their news has reached all the way to the finance minister, whose solution is to create a super-regulator in Financial Services and Development Council. But FSDC is no regulator; it is just another committee, which will meet occasionally and take arbitrary compromise decisions. What is needed is a radical overhaul of the entire system of financial regulation. It should be based on first principles, and not on compromises between interested institutions. It should be initiated by the appointment of an independent commission. The commission should not consist of Indians alone; it should have members from the world's best regulators and financial economists. India has done well; its leaders should show self-confidence, and willingness to learn from the rest of the world.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

A HARD RAIN FALLS

MALVIKA SINGH

As the monsoons hit, a mindless and scam-ridden New Delhi Municipal Council begins work on waterproofing the roofs and overhead verandas in Connaught Place. It is all very deliberate and prone to 'corruption', insulting all those who have offices and homes in the buildings. Over the last few days, knowing the monsoons are around the corner, materials have been dumped in huge piles along the entrances to the many blocks of this once-grand, pillared arcade. Rain has destroyed the sand and rubble. Now, fresh invoices will be drawn up by officers of the municipality to replace the damaged building materials and the approved suppliers will advance re-negotiated kickbacks to their 'clients'. Work will cease because of the rains, roofs will leak, offices will be destroyed, and a holy mess will ensue.

Added to this is the farce of the 100-per-cent cut-off for college admissions. Any educated person knows that there is no such thing as 100 per cent, or even 95 per cent, in the Arts. It is absolutely absurd and laughable. I have always been astounded when told that X person got 99 per cent in English. Those who get such marks in English, more often than not, cannot speak or write the language with ease, or with a turn of phrase and command that would merit such extraordinary grades. Kids are coming out of school without using their brains creatively, without questioning, without a basic general knowledge about the past and present. Broad-based liberal education has gone for a toss. Generations of dumbed down young men and women winging it with tukka baazi are the result of the system of learning that has been imposed on India. Excellence no longer rules our academic institutions.

Clean slate

This fundamental fault has assisted in corroding the values, ethics and behaviour patterns of a burgeoning middle class that is determined to pull itself out of the squalor of decades of neglect and deprivation. The abject failure of the State and its machineries to deliver basic goods and services to the people of India without misusing established mechanisms and delivery systems has enforced the celebration of mediocrity. Did the command economy stunt our intellectual growth by trying to enforce a 'code' on a pluralistic and entrepreneurial society whose DNA is philosophical, creative, and based on complex thought and action? Was it so alien that people revolted against it by breaking out of its restrictive embrace, forging new norms for operating an exclusive 'system' that claimed to be 'for all'?

The lack of creative response to the horrors that confront us makes one wary of the intellectual capabilities of our leaders. The constant banter on television, between the rulers and the Opposition, is so pathetic and without a shred of seriousness, that it makes one wonder how quickly India will implode. Never has the larger authority been in such denial. Never has the patience of India been so misused.

Maybe it is time that the government of India rewrites all the 'inherited' colonial laws and acts that were instituted by the British to suppress their subjects, and comes clean with the people of India who, when liberated by the founding fathers of this nation, did not expect to be treated with such scorn and dismissal by the political and administrative classes. The mindset of Parliament and the legislative assemblies, of the Indian Administrative Service and its agencies, and of ruling cabinets in particular, needs to be changed. This will require selfless political will. It does not need 'experience'. It needs action. It does not need empowered groups of ministers that scuttle problems. It needs a democratic, creative, proactive and engaging bandmaster, without whom the orchestra will remain discordant.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

PLAYING HIDE AND SEEK

ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES, YOUNG MINDS PLAY WITH WORDS AND MEANINGS. THESE WHIMSICAL GAMES REVEAL SOCIAL REALITIES, WRITES ADHEESHA SARKAR

When you hear a college student telling a friend, in a resigned voice, "Sab mohmaya hai (all is illusion)," it is but natural to worry whether he or she is prematurely ageing. But such an apprehension would go in vain. He or she is actually just trying to cheer up a fellow student who has got poor marks in an exam. The friend knows this too. The phrase, here, no more means what it used to mean in its original form. A niche language coined by a group of college students has transformed it. The semantics of the phrase have been ripped apart, and it has been attached to a different meaning. The new meaning of the phrase, though it apparently sounds random, is actually a jibe at the philosophy behind the original meaning. A clever play with words, and rather subversive, one would think. But what is interesting is that the coinage is most likely to be spontaneous rather than knowing. And the college students who have developed this personal lingo are most unlikely to be aware of the semiotic nuances of their creation.

College-goers of all generations impulsively develop a special lingo for communication among people of the same age group, or, sometimes, of the same institution. Of course, this is different for each generation, or, for that matter, for each college. But certain things are common in these quaint coinages. For example, the tendency to distort the meaning of a word or a phrase: sometimes the meaning is reversed. The phrase, "Kono kotha hobe na (there should be no discussion on this)" is used to mean an issue that deserves a lot of discussion. Sometimes, the meaning is altered in a more complex way that brings out layers of hidden connotations (the word "designer" is used by the students of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Salt Lake to mean something disastrous). The ironies of such coinages, as well as the psychological shades they expose, are quite intriguing.

Deeper investigation may reveal other tendencies too. College lingo is noticeably inclined to creating phonetic thrills to make mundane words more exciting. The word "chillax" can be taken as a case in point. It merges the words "chill" and "relax". The first, conventionally, is a synonym for "very cold", but has been used by young people to mean "relax" for quite some time now. But "chillax" is a newer coinage. It is curious that two words with similar meanings were joined to make it. Perhaps because they 'sound cool' together, or, in more ordinary terms, as they create a phonetic sensation when tied with each other. In this case, the physical pleasure of pronouncing the word is more important than the meaning.

On the other hand, the word "ghyama" is an example of the metamorphosis of college lingo. "Ghyam" was usually a term used by the earlier generation of college-goers to mean arrogance. The present generation has added an 'a' to the word and uses it to mean something or someone impressive. Another such instance is the word "pagla", which the previous generation used literally (to mean "mad"), but the next generation uses to mean "outstanding". What do these changes signify? It is hard to be specific. But on the surface certain indications exist: maybe someone who was considered pompous at one time is now seen as noteworthy. And the 'mad' boy/girl has now become the extraordinary one.

College lingo is similar to formal language only in the fact that it is decidedly dominated by the male psyche. "Behenji" is a popular term used across the country to describe a woman who does not follow the recognized rules of fashion. Again, "jhinku" or "item" are words to describe women whose looks attract male attention. But no corresponding terms are available to slot men into similar categories. Or even if they are, those terms are not popular enough.

Campus-speak often shows socio-political trends of the times. For instance, a few words in contemporary college lingo relate to explosives. Students across campuses use "gola", a colloquial word that refers to explosion, to express their appreciation for something brilliant. The word "bomm (bomb)" has a similar usage — it conveys excitement over someone or something immensely attractive. It is quite an irony that these words, which would relate to severe violence in their original forms, are used by students to communicate thrill or enthusiasm.

The trend that distinguishes the college lingo of the present generation from that of the earlier ones is a conspicuous penchant for abbreviations. Young people today love squeezing phrases into words, even letters. So "can't agree more" becomes CAM and "no offence meant" changes to NOM. There is a hoard of these, mostly used in writing text messages. You could construct an entire sentence with abbreviations, and it could arouse the suspicion of the police by being mistaken for coded communication among terrorists. To crack the code, all you need is a few young people from urban colleges across the metro cities of India. These people — even if they come from different cities, speak different languages and have different cultural backgrounds — seem to understand the abbreviated codes perfectly, with no known formal listing available anywhere.

Campus lingo is, in a way, a code language. What could prompt college students to build a different set of semantics for known words? The most obvious reason seems to be that they want to be understood only by their friends and fellow students, and not by the rest of the world. And why would they want that? Most apparently because they would be saying things they don't want elders, or 'others', to know. But a keen observer may discover certain other propensities as well. Sometimes these college groups speak in their 'in-house' lingo among 'outsiders' even if they are not talking about something controversial. It seems that they do it out of a childish whim, a desire to shock or confuse the elderly and derive a strange satisfaction from it. The urge is not completely logical and neither is it wholly conscious. It is discernible, nevertheless. As Jim Morrison said, "Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names." What is more significant, at least as far as word-making is concerned, is that "they want to divorce themselves from their predecessors". This desire has left its mark on campus language. Words and their speakers here take pleasure in being unintelligible.

Speaking of this inclination, I wonder whether writing this article was prudent after all. My younger brother and his mates, all college-goers, will probably be mad at me for prying into their private world and spoiling the fun. Indeed, no amount of research or thought can explain the whims and fancies of young minds. But if one is to understand the 'future of India', a good way to start is by learning its language.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

IN THE TONGUES OF MANY

ADAPTING LANGUAGE TO SUIT SUBVERSIVE NEEDS UNDERGOES A SEA CHANGE WITH EVERY GENERATION

About a year ago, while talking to a friend, I happened to express my sympathy for someone's plight by saying, "I commiserate with her." My friend found that extremely amusing, because she laughed out loud and exclaimed, "'Commiserate?' Who talks like that?"

That the spoken and the written word are startlingly unlike each other is evident from this, as the friend I speak of would never have found it odd if the word 'commiserate' were used in the written form of the language. The question, after all, wasn't "Who writes like that?" — it was the use of a word in speech that seemed uncommon to her.

College-going people, both in the city and elsewhere in the country, are a strangely creative, subversive lot. They possess a mysterious ability that seems to magically manifest itself just when they step into college — an ability to evolve a tongue that is ostensibly a familiar language, but is rendered alien to those not in the know, simply by the presence of a few choice expressions and derivatives. Generations of young people have come and gone; with every generation, a secret language has come into being, evolved, degenerated and been lost, only to be replaced by another.

If one were to stretch the idea a little and consider the phenomenon of what I heard someone refer to as "lingo evolution", one is reminded of the German word Lebensraum, denoting a living space or a habitat. Of course, while formulating Nazi expansionist policies, the concept of Lebensraum was appropriated by Adolf Hitler and adequately adapted. It thus took on a negative connotation — Hitler stated the need for Lebensraum for the German people by killing or enslaving Slavic populations, and repopulating the acquired land with a growing Germanic populace. (Interestingly, the phrase used for someone who is inflexible about spelling and correct grammar usage is called a "grammar Nazi"— a widely employed, popular name. Perhaps the existence of so many grammar Nazis is a good sign.) In a similar way, though maybe not quite so negatively, the gradual metamorphosis and the adapting of exclusive 'languages' during one's college years lead to innovative words and phrases that endure, often leading to the death of the original, while the derivatives thrive and become popular.

It is impossible to categorize and group college lingo under one umbrella. The flavour of English, for example, varies from city to city, and this in turn greatly affects the way young people speak. There are two very interesting facets of the changing face of campus language. One is that it seems to carry over, from the years spent in school, a number of very recognizable stereotypes. Hence, if people hope to escape the taunts about their sexual permissiveness that were common in school, they might be in for a rude shock in college, thanks to specific language codes that are far more direct and insulting. A young girl labelled a "tart" in school might often have to live with the tag in college as well, the only difference being that the names she is called are, at best, unprintable. Gone are the days of the dubiously delightful phrase, "scarlet woman".

Second, a lot of the popular phrases used on campus today are in English, and those that are more risqué than others have become easily recognizable, even by those who ought not to be in the know (like parents). But the innovative college bunch seems to figure a way out of this as well, without losing the essence of their code. So a phrase containing a common expletive is turned into "What the hey?" — effectively conveying the sentiment and sounding adequately cool at the same time.

The most interesting phrase that I heard in college came from a boy who was being teased by a bunch of people. In retaliation to their taunts, he yelled, "Chup kor, noile dnaat meje debo!", which literally translates into "Shut up, or I'll brush your teeth!". Touché.

NAYANTARA MAZUMDER

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

AN OPENING TO AN AGREEMENT

INSTEAD OF READYING THE IDF FOR POSSIBLE CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IN THE TERRITORIES, BARAK SHOULD TRADE IN HIS AMATEUR COMMENTATOR'S SUIT FOR THAT OF A LEVEL-HEADED STATESMAN.

The Palestinian leadership announced Sunday that it is standing firm in its decision to seek UN recognition in September of a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders. It was stressed, however, that the move was not intended to replace direct negotiations with Israel, based on the lines specified in recognized international initiatives and by U.S. President Barack Obama address of last month: the 1967 borders with the addition of mutually agreed-upon changes.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently made it clear that if the Israeli government followed the Palestinians into resuming negotiations based on the Obama formula, this could lead to the suspension of the pursuit of Palestinian statehood through the United Nations.

Despite the fact that every week more states are joining the long list of those that have announced their recognition of a Palestinian state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to waver. He refuses to resume the negotiations on the basis of the internationally accepted principle that the talks must start with the Green Line, and is gambling on a U.S. veto in the UN.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has instructed Israel's foreign ambassadors to pick up a few votes against the expected move in the UN General Assembly. They are paying lip service to the welfare and safety of Israel's citizens by uttering hollow statements about the "delegitimization of Israel" in the world and are condemning the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, rather than considering the possibility that it could lead to Hamas adopting the position of Abbas.

Instead of readying the Israel Defense Forces for possible civil disobedience and violent clashes in the territories, combined with Israel's international isolation - what he terms a "tsunami" of events - Defense Minister Ehud Barak should trade in his amateur commentator's suit for that of a level-headed statesman. As the leader of a party seen as holding the balance of power in the coalition's fulcrum it is his duty to assume the role of the responsible adult. The mantra "there is no partner," which he coined 11 years ago, after the failed Camp David summit, was a contributing factor in the second intifada. If the government maintains its intransigence, the third intifada will be named for the defense minister.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

LEAVE GAZA TO EGYPT

IT IS THE EGYPTIANS WHO NOW SHOULD HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ASSURING THAT SUPPLIES CAN REACH THE POPULATION IN GAZA; THIS IS ONLY AS IT SHOULD BE, POETIC JUSTICE.

BY MOSHE ARENS

It may well turn out that one of the positive outcomes of the mass disturbances against the Mubarak government in Tahrir Square will be the change in the policy of the new government in Cairo toward the Gaza Strip.

Permitting free passage of Gazans into Egypt and the entry of goods from Egypt into Gaza has brought the Gaza Strip closer to Egypt and has freed Israel from some of the responsibility it had retained for the Palestinian population of Gaza even after the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces more than five years ago. Some of that responsibility is now shifting to Egypt, and there would seem to be no need for repetitions of the Mavi Marmara episode of a few months ago. It is the Egyptians who now should have the responsibility for assuring that supplies can reach the population in Gaza.

This is only as it should be. It is poetic justice. The Gaza Strip and the unfortunate fate of the one and half million Palestinians squeezed into that tiny sliver of coastal land is an Egyptian creation, the direct result of the attempt by Egyptian troops to wipe out the newborn State of Israel in May 1948. The Egyptian army was on its way to Tel Aviv but was beaten back by the tiny Israeli army. By the end of 1948 the Egyptians found themselves in dire straits - one brigade encircled in the Faluja pocket, and the rest of the Egyptian army, in what is now the Gaza Strip, cut off from their home bases by Israeli troops commanded by Yigal Allon that had entered Sinai.

In the armistice negotiations, brokered by Ralph Bunche of the United Nations, the Egyptian representatives rejected Israel's demand that their army return to Egypt, insisting that they remain in the Gaza Strip. According to the agreement signed in Rhodes, in February 1949, the Egyptians were to retain control of the Strip, and they did so until June 1967, with the exception of the duration of the Sinai Campaign of 1956 and a few months after.

Why should control of the Gaza Strip not now be returned to Egypt? It is a responsibility they should rightly shoulder. Whether that arrangement will be permanent will be for them to decide. Ever since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, Israel has been justifiably concerned about the armory of rockets and other weapons the Hamas terrorists have been amassing, weapons that are intended to target Israeli civilians. That has been the justification for the Israeli blockade of the Gaza coast.

Can this mission be entrusted to the Egyptians? It is more than likely that the Egyptians as well would not like to see the importation of weapons to Hamas in Gaza, whether overland, by tunnel or by sea.

Whether their control of this arms smuggling would be effective is not clear at this time. For Israel, however, it is a risk worth taking, so as to free ourselves from the burden of continuing this "occupation." Should it turn out that Egypt does not succeed in preventing the import of weapons to Hamas in Gaza, Israeli control efforts can be restored. In view of the proximity of the Gaza Strip and its small size, effective action to destroy the Hamas stockpile of weapons will always remain a possibility.

In any case it should be made clear that from now on Egypt is responsible for preventing the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip, and will be held accountable for terror attacks originating in Gaza with smuggled weapons.

Egyptian control over the Gaza Strip could have some significant ancillary benefits. With Gaza under Egyptian control, the generally accepted paradigm of the "solution" to the Palestinian problem being the "two-state" solution may in time be seen in a different light. The problems of the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria and of those living in the Gaza Strip, separated by an expanse of territory under Israeli sovereignty, is likely in time to be viewed differently by the world in general, by the Arab world in particular, by Israel and by the Palestinian populations themselves. It could bring about a paradigm shift that would benefit us all.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

MEANTIME, IN WASHINGTON

ACCORDING TO ISRAEL'S LOGIC, THE AMERICAN PULLOUT FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN LEAVES INCLINATION IN FAVOR OF AN OPERATION AGAINST IRAN AND DISBURSEMENTS TO ISRAEL; THE AMERICANS' LOGIC, HOWEVER, IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE.

BY AMIR OREN

When the history of the second - and hopefully, final - Benjamin Netanyahu term is written, the narrative will pivot around the huge missed opportunity of 2010, around the story of how he allowed the chance to move ahead on security and peace issues to slip through his hands. This was a moment (a year ) that passed by, never to return. The objective moved farther from reach, and the terms of any deal have worsened.

Netanyahu's two wishes are to bomb Iran, and to be dragged toward an agreement with the Palestinians. To fulfill both wishes, he needs broad consent from the American government. With regard to the Iranian matter, even before Washington could get involved, Netanyahu was blocked last year by the "gang of four" - President Shimon Peres, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Mossad head Meir Dagan and Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin. This was a rare fusion of strong-willed people; it was joined by Brig. Gen. Hasson Hasson, an experienced intelligence expert and aide-de-camp to Shimon Peres.

The suspicions harbored by professionals in the security establishment toward Netanyahu would lessen, were he to have the backing of President Barack Obama. To win this backing, Netanyahu agreed, grudgingly, to a temporary freeze on settlement building. But he then chose not to take the next necessary step, and he wasted months of the freeze and ended up without any diplomatic dividends.

Meantime, in Washington, the first half of Obama's term was wasted. During the second half of his term, he is vulnerable, and finds himself in wearying battles with the Republicans. Obama has beaten a retreat from his belief in sweeping diplomatic gains, and now measures his steps according to reelection calculations: Heading toward 2012, his policy will be marked by military pullbacks and budget cuts.

Vainly, the President has hoped to forge a compromise with the Republicans, headed by Netanyahu's ideological soul mate, House Speaker John Boehner. In 2010, Ehud Barak deluded himself into believing that Israeli flexibility vis-a-vis the Palestinians would induce Obama's acceptance of a large addition to the security budget - to the order of $20 billion for the decade. What is $20 billion between ourselves and the Americans, Barak said, magnanimously, to Hillary Clinton and her colleagues in the US government, compared to the $1 trillion you threw toward the morass of Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade?

According to Israel's logic, the acceleration in the American pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan leaves money, willingness and inclination in favor of an operation against Iran's nuclear program, and also in favor of disbursements to Israel. The Americans' logic, however, is the exact opposite: You don't divorce yourself from two bottomless pits in order to jump into a third one (or a fourth one, counting Libya, a barrel in which America just dipped its toes ). Every dollar, or each billion dollars, in Barak's prodigal account is now up for discussion in a major contest between the Democrats - headed by the White House, and including the Senate majority - and the Republicans and the House majority. In the Democrats' rhetoric, Obama stands for the people, whereas the Republicans represent the millionaires.

Obama chose this moment to change the guard at the Pentagon: In two days, Robert Gates leaves his defense secretary post, and Leon Panetta (from the CIA ) replaces him. The main policy line has not altered. Gates and Panetta belong to the political mainstream; Gates is a little to the right of center, Panetta is a bit to the left of him. Both belonged to the 2006 Iraq "study group," which, led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, pressured President George W. Bush to change course on Iraq, and engage contacts with Iran and Syria.

That remains Panetta's approach, and it includes openness to talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan - should the Taliban meet criteria akin to those enforced by the Quartet regarding Hamas. The Republican Gates served Obama faithfully for two and a half years. He will not attack Obama during the elections, but neither wil he defend him. Panetta, a former Democratic Congressman, and Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House, will conduct affairs at the Pentagon in accord with Obama's interests.

Under these circumstances Netanyahu - who is in thrall to the extreme right outside the Likud party (Avigdor Lieberman ) and within Likud - is no more than a nuisance. Should he, as a result of the Palestinian initiative this September, become mired in a political debacle and a military confrontation, that's his problem. And if Israelis are forced to pay the price of Netanyahu's and Barak's errors, that's their problem. Nobody forced the Israeli public to become reconciled with this government alignment and with its mistakes.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE MOST DANGEROUS FOOLS

THE PHRASE 'DON'T BE RIGHT, BE SMART' HAS SUNK DEEP ROOTS IN THE LEXICON OF THE AVERAGE ISRAEL; BUT WHAT OF THE LEXICONS OF THOSE ISRAELIS IN POSITIONS OF POWER?

BY NIVA LANIR

The face behind a bygone campaign to reduce road accidents, "When driving, don't be right, be smart," was Yitzhak Navon, Israel's fifth president. Since then, the number of road accidents has not declined; indeed, it has increased. But the copywriter who dreamed up this slogan left his mark - "Don't be right, be smart" sunk deep roots in the Israeli lexicon.

I recently thought about Israeli policy on all kinds of different issues in terms of justice and wisdom, and the results were unpleasant: Justice is nowhere to be seen and wisdom has vanished; the fool is rampaging behind the steering wheel. Yet one question still remains: Where to start?

In the context of the preparations to intercept another flotilla to Gaza, Oren Helman, the head of the Government Press Office, informed foreign journalists that participating in the flotilla would amount to a violation of Israeli law, which would result in them being deported and denied reentry into Israel for 10 years, as well as having their equipment confiscated and facing other sanctions. In interviews, Helman assured us that this decision was made after consultation with all the relevant officials - legal, defense and media - and that all had backed it.

And that is what is so worrying. If all these officials were party to the decision, why was the fool's position adopted? We'll ignore the question of what public relations benefits such a move could bring (as if it were possible to prevent nonjournalists from transmitting information and video footage from the ship ) and merely ask what would have happened if this decision hadn't been reversed. If, for instance, a foreign television station had decided to film the flotilla from a helicopter, would the Israel Defense Forces have shot it down?

But the main point is the conclusion that was drawn from last year's takeover of the Mavi Marmara - namely, that coverage of the next interception should be left entirely in the hands of the IDF Spokesman's Office. One must hope that not only the naval commandos but also the Spokesman's Office has drawn conclusions from last year's botched takeover. Nor is this a vain hope. It took about a year to locate and decipher critical pictures from the Mavi Marmara incident, and we still have gloomy memories of the failure to transmit footage from the scene in real time, the harassment of foreign correspondents at Ashdod Port and Israel's humiliation. Snafus like this hadn't occurred here in years.

Nevertheless, it could be that Helman's game with the foreign media will break even the Mavi Marmara incident's records. For now, this seems like the mother of all snafus: Wisdom is asleep, idiocy is wide awake, and the (foreign ) media is already to blame.

July's flotilla will be followed by the events of September. Two weeks ago, I wrote that at a recent discussion with top defense officials, it was made clear that the Palestinians would be given no "discounts." In other words, the "comfortable arrangement" in the territories is to be maintained by force just like the naval blockade of Gaza. Red lines (as defined by the IDF ) will not be crossed. If nonlethal means prove insufficient, live fire will do the job.

These incidents are liable to end badly, so the question of whether anything can be done to prevent them is not naive, but critical. Yet the list of possible recourses does not include a diplomatic initiative and a return to negotiations, because this don't appear on the government's agenda.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the question of rebuilding the ramp leading to the Temple Mount's Mughrabi Gate has reared its head again. There has never been an issue related to Jerusalem's holy sites that is purely a domestic Israeli concern. Anyone who doesn't walk on eggshells when it comes to the Old City and the Temple Mount (recall the bloody incidents of 1996 and 2000 ) is not merely playing with fire, he is committing arson. The facts are well known and evoke gloomy memories. These facts attest not only to Israel's dismal diplomatic situation, but also to the wholesale stupidity that is being committed here.

It's true that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz are impatient to leave their stamp on the annals of the city. Moreover, the impression that arose from discussions with Amman was that Jordan would not make a fuss over the matter. But so what? Now, of all times? In Jerusalem, of all places? That's what Israel needs - a debate in UNESCO on a complaint by Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Bahrain?

Hard-working fools are the most dangerous kind of all.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WAR AND VIAGRA

A REGIME THAT PROMOTES THE SYSTEMATIC RAPE OF WOMEN HAS NO RIGHT TO EXIST AND MUST NOT BE GRANTED RECOGNITION.

BY ANER SHALEV

Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi recently made his own unique contribution to the link between sex crimes and war: He reportedly imported huge quantities of Viagra and gave them out to his soldiers, so that they could rape as many women as possible, as often as possible.

Terrifying reports have been published recently about systematic rape by members of the security forces in both Lybia and Syria, without eliciting an appropriate response. Countless women are being brutally raped in their homes, in jails and in interrogation rooms, and no one utters a peep. These are not extreme acts committed by deviants in the heat of battle - itself a grave issue that must be addressed. Rather, this seems to be a consistent policy dictated from on high: rape as a means of repression and control; rape as a tool of intimidation and terror; rape as a regime's strategy against its people; rape as a weapon; Viagra as a weapon, an unconventional weapon.

This behavior must be considered a war crime and dealt with accordingly by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which should gather evidence and identify the culprits at any level, including the most senior. Such behavior is further evidence that the regimes in both Syria and in Libya have lost their legitimacy. Not "have perhaps lost"; not "are gradually losing"; not "will have lost unless they implement reforms," as in the weak and shameful responses from the leaders of the free world.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has the tacit support of certain Western circles, including in Israel, because of his contribution to "regional stability" (a problematic claim, because instability is being exported from Syria and Iran to Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and could reach us as well ). But stability cannot be based on mass slaughter and on the systematic rape of women.

Even if the alternative to Alawite rule in Syria is unclear at the moment, the position of the West, and above all that of U.S. President Barack Obama, on this regime must be clear and unequivocal. Too many red lines have been crossed. Too many human rights have been trampled. To hesitate now because of uncertainty about the future is to take part in the crime. As Bertolt Brecht wrote in his beautiful poem "The Buddha's Parable of the Burning House," when the house is going up in flames and the fire is spreading to all the rooms, you don't ask what the weather is outside and what the alternatives are; you just leave.

The "Arab spring" caught the world unaware in a way that went beyond the mere element of surprise. Even now, months after the beginning of the protests, the revolutions, the calls for democracy and for the fall of repressive and torture-using regimes, it seems we still lack clear standards for addressing these momentous processes. The impotence of the West in this regard is disturbing and frustrating.

May we suggest beginning with the attitude toward women, with their status and rights. We must hope that the Arab spring will bring improvement in this area. Here is a simple moral litmus test: A regime that promotes the systematic rape of women has no right to exist and must not be granted recognition. Rape is an invasion of the most private place. Even if the body survives, the soul may die. Nearly 2,000 people have been murdered in Syria. But no one is counting the number of women who have been raped, the number of souls murdered. We only know how to count bodies.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TEMPEST IN A TEACUP, OR SOMETHING SERIOUS?

It is true that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan is playing down the political crisis that has infected the new Parliament even before its opening after the June 12 general elections.

It is true that the result of this crisis will not affect the strategic moves expected from Turkey in its region at a critical time.

Yesterday, for example, while the political corridors were full of whispers of scenarios how to find a way out, the most important political event of the day in Ankara was the National Security Council, or MGK, meeting held at the Çankaya Palace. There, led by President Abdullah Gül, MGK members discussed how to find a way out of the crisis in Syria in order to not let it become a bigger crisis in the region.

It is also true that a possible relaxation in Turkey's decades-long Kurdish problem and the prospects for a new and upgraded Constitution is very closely related to the political atmosphere shaped by this crisis. After the cancellation of the right of Hatip Dicle, a Kurdish activist, to be a member of Parliament by the Supreme Election Board, or YSK, the situation has got more tense. Six more Kurdish-origin deputies currently under arrest for allegedly being a member of a front organization affiliated with the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, plus three more under arrest for allegedly being members of an organization supposedly called Ergenekon that aims to overthrow the government through illegitimate means, are still not clear.

Out of the latter three, two of them (university professor Mehmet Haberal and journalist Mustafa Balbay) were elected from the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP; while retired Gen. Engin Alan was elected from the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP.

The crisis is at the gates, not because the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, announced it would boycott Parliament if Dicle and others were denied their deputyships. That is a problem of course, but the bigger problem will be a possible CHP protest of the General Assembly.

Today, the newly elected deputies of the Turkish Grand National Assembly are to convene for the oath-taking ceremony in order to complete the formality of becoming an actual member of it.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the CHP leader, said the party would consider not taking oaths before the assembly if the right of the deputies elected by people's votes were denied by courts.

That would be a problem. The CHP, which considers itself as the founder of the Republic, has 135 seats in Parliament, but the effect of its boycott would be beyond that number; it could be systemic.

That is why PM Erdoğan is trying to play the situation down.

But the crisis that Turkish politics faces now is not a tempest in a teacup; it is something bigger than that. If a solution comes either by a court decision or by a political statement by PM Erdoğan as of this afternoon, everything could return to business as usual.

The fact that yesterday's announcement of not giving a summer recess to Parliament up until a second decision created some hopes about a possible solution. But if no solution is found soon, it may cast a shadow over hopes of bringing relief to the bleeding Kurdish problem, possibly through a new Constitution as well.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

SUGAR, FLOUR AND STANFORD'S PAUL ROMER

Many a complex project in Turkey begins with an old expression: "We've got sugar. We've got flour. So what's left if we're to make helva?"

This durable principle of organization has come to mind recently as I keep bumping into the innovative, even radical, ideas of former Stanford economist Paul Romer. For the insight imbedded in that phrase could be shorthand for the work that made Romer famous in economic development circles in the late 1980s. The point is that the recipe is far more important than the ingredients. This applies whether you are making sweets in your kitchen or trying to boost the growth rate of Bangladesh with textile exports.

Now Romer is pushing a new idea; "charter cities." For more detail than I can share here, check out his "Ted Talks" presentation at www.ted.com. There's plenty more as his "neo-colonial" notion is under debate from the World Bank to the Council on Foreign Relations.

His idea of semi-sovereign islands of development has been compared to the 12th Century founding of the German city of Lübeck. With its own "charter" of rules to shelter it from the medieval lawlessness that surrounded it, Lübeck became the core of the fabled Hanseatic League, the commercial network of 200 cities and most powerful economic alliance of its day.

He points to Hong Kong's success on the edge of China in the 1960s, a colonial outpost that nonetheless was to inspire China's so-called "Special Economic Zones." Willing migrants moving to newly-designed cities with "developed" country rules despite being in "developing" countries can create miracles, he argues. Carrying his notions forward can get a little whacky, as with his idea to turn America's Guantanamo naval base over to Canadian rule and let Cuba run a little capitalist laboratory there. But who knows? Perhaps a greenfield city run under Norwegian law built on the coast of Gabon might work. Despite the predictable flack Romer is getting from more traditional voices in economic development, he's showing some signs of success. Madagascar almost became his pilot two years ago, until a military coup intervened in plans. Since then he's grown low-key about the national leaders to whom he speaks.

But a not-so-distant cousin of Romer's idea is Turkey's innovation, "Organized Industrial Zones." Begun in Bursa in 1962 and now across the country, this scheme of tax exemptions and other unique rules became the base of mid-sized manufacturing. The "shared sovereignty" concept behind Turkey's effort to join the European Union is also an idea nearby. And to hear Romer talk about greenfield cities effectively paying for their own development through an inevitable rise in land values is to listen to a page from the new cities playbook of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

But here's the kicker from Romer on his search around the world for country partners:

"You have to find a place where there's a strong enough leader with enough legitimacy to do this knowing that he's going to get attacked," Romer told the Atlantic Monthly magazine. "It narrows the options quite a bit."

I can think of one leader like that. He's got sugar and flour. There may be a recipe at paul.romer@stanford.edu.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

DUST IN THE MIDEAST LOWERS VISIBILITY WITH DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGNS AT FULL SPEED

The fresh breath of air that came to the Middle East with the Arab Spring is being replaced by stormy winds, moving the dust of the Arab desert. As visibility drops, allegations are flying through the air with disinformation campaigns going at full speed.

Let's try to differentiate between what is plausible from what is unrealistic. Obviously, these are not the best of times for the Turkish-Syrian relations. More than 10,000 citizens seeking safe haven in Turkish territory is a major embarrassment for Damascus. On top of that, you have the leadership of a neighboring country giving advises on your internal affairs. Syria's rhetoric against Turkey has been relatively restrained. Turkey's discomfort about Syria intensifies, as Bashar al-Assad's every move comes as too little too late. After having invested so much on al-Assad, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, still wants to see al- Assad lead the change. Yet hopes are dimming with each day as al-Assad is approaching that threshold, which will make it difficult for him to survive.

Although some Turkish truck drivers are quoted by international agencies complaining about unfriendly attitude from some Syrians, different ethnic groups in Syria do not have a record of harboring hostile feelings against Turks or Turkey, even when relations were at their worst in the 1990's. Syrian troop movement at the border has been a source of concern for Turkey, as the sight of the first Syrian soldier led to a new wave of influx into Turkey. There is still a sizable group of Syrians who are waiting on the Syrian side of the border. Tension between the army and the members of this group can again trigger a new influx of refuges, something undesired by Turkey. Despite its open door policy, its limits are not endless and the priority right now is to avoid new influxes. Obviously Turkey is preparing for any kind of scenarios, yet the one on a military confrontation between Turkey and Syria currently remains a farfetched one. At any rate a military confrontation will be suicidal for the al-Assad regime.

Another farfetched scenario involves a military confrontation between Turkey and Iran. Iran has warned Ankara that in the case it lets NATO use its territory against Syria; it will attack NATO bases in Turkey, according to a news report. Iran cannot dare to issue such a warning to Turkey, since it will be outright rejected by Ankara. But this news testifies to the increasing uneasiness on the part of Iran as the two are on the opposite sides of the fence when it comes to Syria. Meanwhile, this uneasiness is intensified as it is becoming clear that, despite the government's earlier rhetoric, the radars of NATO's missile defense shield will be deployed in Turkey, with the mission of monitoring Iran.

Don't take all Turkish Israeli secret talks stories too seriously. But don't be surprised about them either, since both sides are willing to go back to some kind of normalcy. The Mavi Marmara will not go to Gaza and this is probably due to government pressure. The findings of the U.N. probe have played a role in the AKP's decision. But Israel should not expect any backing down from the request for apology.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NOT A SIN, NOT AN ILLNESS, NOR A CRIME

YILDIRIM TÜRKER

Thousands of people took to the streets on Sunday, just like last year's gay pride march for solidarity for the freedom of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, individuals.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International issued last week a comprehensive report titled, "Not an illness or a crime: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey demand equality."

In contrast to advances of the government in other fundamental human rights, the report emphasizes the government's hostile stance against the LGBT freedom movement, which has made recent advances in Turkey, and also the government's hostile stance toward LGBT individuals in general.

The report also mentions Aliye Kavaf, the state minister responsible for women and family's glorious "an illness that should be treated" description and her shunning of all those protests that arose after her remarks; and that she has never apologized. Meanwhile there is a perfect quotation from Burhan Kuzu, the government's much egg-thrown component: "Gays have made requests during the negotiations on constitutional changes. They keep coming. Are we going to respond to their requests just because they want it? It is not possible in the current conditions. The public is not ready for this."

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government sees the gay demand for equal rights as a batch of rights to be awarded to them.

Gay rights is the one area where hate crimes are the easiest to commit, and where perpetrators have little trouble getting away with their deeds. It only shows that we have a terribly long way to go when some of those self-interested would-be democrats issued their own personal fatwas that it is "a sin, not an illness," in response to the minister's remarks. And that this should be regarded within the context of "freedom of thought and belief," in a country where dozens of LGBT individuals are victims of hate murders every year.

Nonetheless, LGBT individuals' organized struggle for freedom has come a long way. Despite the fact that the attacks, hatred and hostility they face have not changed in nature, one can observe the progress they have made in terms of their social visibility by taking a look at city squares.

I also want to share, after all those years, the text of the speech I made back in 1995 at "the 2nd Congress on the Fight against AIDS," with the thought that it might give an idea on the distance that has been covered. That speech was published in Expres magazine on the GL page we had launched that year. The name of the speech was this:

Love and protection

"The moment I take the floor on this subject, what interests me the most is where I would be speaking from as who and to whom. Because, it is where I stand and where my face looks from where I stand will in fact determine what I will say. I can start as, 'I am gay.' This is a first step. But is it enough positioning to start a speech? First, I cannot talk on behalf of gays. It is only the first step toward building gay rights organizations. There are no jointly produced, mutually tested words behind me. I can talk only on my own behalf.

My state, with its "One solution, One partner" campaign, commends a lifestyle for me instead of protecting me. My state's Religious Affairs Directorate tells me that unless I give up homosexuality, my country will be destroyed just like Lut's tribe. My political life has to exist on the legitimate terrain set by the National Security Council. My sexual life has to stay on the legitimate terrain as Allah has commanded.

The most the state, the media and the medical practice can offer me is the police's idea of affection. Because I am the one who has to exist or will be made to exist within at the boundaries of a legitimate terrain. Who do I have to trust? In a country of 60 million, I can only talk to other gays, with whom I stand together under a wide umbrella of invisibility. My face is turned toward them. Can I have a word toward the heterosexual world that does not accept our life, our existence and disregards us? If we press hard enough, yes. A quiet and voiceless death. Whereas I have a world to offer to gay people. Get organized and struggle politically. Right at this point I can mention protection to them.

AIDS is a disease that has been, for years, attributed to us, the gay community. There have been millions of mythological stories made up about gay people throughout history. This too was the last myth. This myth may be the fastest to be rebutted by history.

Come to think of it, there are millions who still believe that gayness is a degeneration brought by the system. We all know more or less how to be protected from AIDS. The question to be asked is why we should be protected from "AIDS." The "elegance" behind the naming of gay love as "the love that dares to speak its name" in the English language until a very recent date may be highly enlightening on what I want to explain. We cannot talk about protection before we name our love.

For centuries, gay love has been a challenge, a show of daring. We first need to prove our own legitimacy to ourselves if we are to redefine gay love, which has been swept under the bed, inside the closet and pushed underground. We need to redefine it as an attainable lifestyle where happiness is possible. We should decide how we can talk about what kind of safe-sex protection as long as our love dares to challenge society. How are we going to be able to explain to each other the need for protection from death while we live on the edge of a knife? While very young boys are dragged to suicide because they are gay, while lies are the ferment of our lives, how are we going to raise awareness to first protect ourselves then the ones we make love to?

Love and protection, aren't they the most difficult words that come side by side in our lives? When we venture our love, when we dare our love, don't we get rid of social power and status quo? Above all, when we express our love, when we refuse to hide, don't we see that, most of the time, we have no life left to protect? We all know that loneliness is colder than death.

Right at this point, we can work for the awareness of protection from AIDS. We have so much to measure before it comes to condoms, safe sex. As long as we live our love as a crime that locks us out of the world, taking measures to protect ourselves from a death that will arrive at an unknown time may not be compatible with the underground heroism that we have developed as a defense mechanism. When we are dizzy with our loves, we will throw out the condoms. Whereas protection, as we assume, is not something against love. It is not something that tames or belittles our love. We don't need to dare death to demonstrate our love or our passion for each other. We should define here at this point, heroism correctly. This segment of society, unfortunately, does not give us much of a choice. It declares that you either will become heroes or die and diminish quietly. At this point, heroism is not suicide. Heroism is to get together, to name our own name and write our own history. The moment we notice that we are not alone we will recognize that we have a life that is worth protecting. Without sheltering under anyone's tolerance, for example, right here, when we are ourselves, when we can be ourselves and not only make our voices heard but also make them a part of the bigger picture and share them, then that will be the moment we have started protecting ourselves.

 

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

SYRIA'S LONG HOT SUMMER FOR TURKEY

Dire warnings are being issued about the possibility of Turkish and Syrian soldiers clashing along the 850 kilometer border between the two countries. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters last week she had discussed the matter with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, adding that a similar discussion had taken place between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Syrian "provocations" are "not only now affecting their own citizens" but also "endangering potential border clashes," Clinton said. She warned if that came about "then we would see an escalation of conflict in the area."

Whatever these remarks may be based on, it is clear the Turkish military is not taking the situation on the border lightly. One can safely assume it has prepared for all contingencies, humanitarian or otherwise. The Second Army's responsibility is to protect that border and it has a long tradition of doing so.

Meanwhile a "highly-placed Turkish source" was quoted by the Israeli daily Haaretz on Sunday saying Ankara's concern is "the Syrians would try to hit refugee camps in Turkey." Haaretz said Davutoğlu had "demanded" Syrian forces retreat from the border, during his conversation last week with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem.

Haaretz also reported on the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which – citing "Iranian sources" – said Saturday "Iran had warned Turkey not to allow NATO forces to use Turkish territory to attack Syria." These "sources" were also said if Ankara gave this permission, "Iran would attack American and NATO bases in Turkey."

It seems the "dogs of war" are keen to stir the cauldron in this part of the world, because the situation in Syria, unlike Libya, has regional ramifications that can destabilize an already unstable Middle East even more providing new opportunities for radical agendas.

Aware of the potential for regional chaos, Ankara continues to tread cautiously on Syria, while at the same time reflecting a determination to speak its mind in cases of brutality by the Syrian military, a fact that is apparently not going down well in Damascus.

Washington is trying to do much the same as Ankara, given that no one appears able to predict what comes next if the Assad regime collapses suddenly. The Washington Post, in an "Editorial Board Opinion" last week, criticized Obama harshly for passivity against Syria.

 "Mr. Obama's reticence reinforces the equivocating policies of countries such as Turkey," it said. But Syria is too complex for such simplifications to be valid and for "quick-fix" solutions, especially at a time when no "quick-fix" has been found yet for Libya, which is as less complex case.

As for the "Iranian dimension" it is clear Tehran has cooled to Turkey since Erdoğan started advocating democratic reforms in the region and particularly in Syria. Iran supports Assad and the Baas regime unreservedly and has made its likes and dislikes very apparent during this period.

Reports of secret talks between Turkey and Israel to mend ties are clearly not going down well in Tehran either and commentary in the Iranian media exhorting Ankara to stay away from Israel has made this apparent.

Regardless of the mood in Tehran, though, it is doubtful Iran can afford to even contemplate the possibility of a military operation on Turkish territory, as suggested by the "Iranian sources" quoted by Al Akhbar. If such notions are being spread by the Iranian propaganda machine these represent very flaccid "shots across the bow."

Developments show the Assad regime is determined to fight it out to the end. It also appears to be relying on traditional allies such as Moscow in the United Nations. This will ensure that Turkey, which is already struggling with political storms at home, will face a hot and long summer as it tries to steer its way through the Syrian minefield.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

RECONCILIATION AND STATE-BUILDING IN PALESTINE: TURKEY AND EGYPT, COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGES

BURCU GÜLTEKİN PUNSMANN

Hopes raised by the Egypt-brokered inter-Palestinian reconciliation agreement evaporated with the news that the high profile meeting between the leaders of the rival Fatah and Hamas movements planned for last week, had been called off. Immediately in the aftermath Turkey hosted both President Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, the leader of the Hamas, for separate talks. It is unlikely that Turkish conciliation efforts will bear fruit. Egypt has a long experience and know-how in inter-Palestinian issues and has today a much better outreach to Hamas than Turkey can ever develop. Turkey can best contribute by supporting Palestinian state-building with concrete actions.

The basics of Egyptian foreign and regional policy defined by the 1979 peace treaty with Israel still hold. The decision to open the Rafah border crossing indicates a revision of the former regime's extreme securitization of the Gaza issue. Egypt is keen to remain the country able to talk to all sides and is eager to capitalize on the closer ties between the new Egyptian regime and Hamas. Egypt's preserve had been the Palestinian-Israeli question, first with Egypt's essential role as an efficient go-between Israel and the Palestinians, and more recently, as a mediator between Palestinian factions. The Muslim Brothers will be influential in the new Egyptian system that will be more representative of its society. The integration of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas into a functioning pluralistic political system respectively in Egypt and Palestine can go hand in hand. The energized role of Egypt following the ouster of the former President Hosni Mubarak can best bring Hamas within the parameters of stability. Egypt has renewed its involvement in the swap of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit: Egypt can expect to reap a prestige internationally and reposition itself vis-a-vis the Arab world by securing his release.

Hamas is moderating its political discourse: It is high time to come to terms with the fact violence and armed resistance against Israel hasn't delivered much. It brought only misery and sufferings to the Palestinian people. Abiding explicitly to the Quartet principles will seriously undermine Hamas in the eyes and minds of its constituency. However a pragmatic approach based on the renunciation of violence for the sake to better serve the Palestinian people would be meaningful.

Only unity within Palestine can deliver. Inter-Palestinian reconciliation is a prerequisite for peace that will give a boost to the drive to establish an independent state. Time has accelerated in the Arab world; the toppling of decade-old-authoritarian regimes has put into question what used to be taken for granted. The breaking of the barrier of fear is shedding light on the inherent fragility of political structures, defined by a system based on power, corruption and misallocation of funds.

The cry of dignity and freedom on the Arab streets is a yearning for radical change; for economic reform, for empowerment, for sharing the resources and the wealth for participatory democracy. It has shaken the source of legitimacy and credibility. This is not enough to have a popular empowerment; leadership requires a political vision and an agenda that works. The new Palestinian government should have to respond to their people's needs and rights. It should be able to carry on a national agenda of state building and good governance. Turkey's help will be tremendously important in supporting the unified Palestinian government to build institutions, deliver services and take care of the people's need. Much of the domestic agenda will do with economic reform, prosperity and job creation.

Both Turkish and Egyptian efforts will win credibility if there is a strong motivation to move towards a two-state solution. Only the definition of the territory where the Palestinians have a place for self determination can secure the legitimacy of Israel in the Middle East.

* Burcu Gültekin Punsmann is senior foreign policy analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, or TEPAV.

 

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

EDITORIAL

THE FIRST AMENDMENT, UPSIDE DOWN

The Supreme Court decision striking down public matching funds in Arizona's campaign finance system is a serious setback for American democracy. The opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. in Monday's 5-to-4 decision shows again the conservative majority's contempt for campaign finance laws that aim to provide some balance to the unlimited amounts of money flooding the political system.

In the Citizens United case, the court ruled that the government may not ban corporations, unions and other moneyed institutions from spending in political campaigns. The Arizona decision is a companion to that destructive landmark ruling. It takes away a vital, innovative way of ensuring that candidates who do not have unlimited bank accounts can get enough public dollars to compete effectively.

Arizona's campaign finance law provided a set amount of money in initial public support for candidates who opted into its financing system, depending on the type of election. If a candidate faced a rival who opted out, the state would match the spending of the privately financed candidate and independent groups supporting him, up to triple the initial amount. Once that limit is reached, the publicly financed candidate receives no other public funds and is barred from using private contributions, no matter how much more the privately financed candidate spends.

Chief Justice Roberts found that this mechanism "imposes a substantial burden" on the free speech rights of candidates and independent groups because it penalized them when their spending triggered additional money for a candidate who opted into the public program. The court turns the First Amendment on its head. It denies the actual effect of the Arizona law, which is not to limit spending but to increase it with public funds. The state program expands political speech by giving all candidates, not just the wealthy, a chance to run — while allowing privately financed candidates to spend as much as they want.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing in dissent, dissects the court's willful misunderstanding of the result. Rather than a restriction on speech, she says, the trigger mechanism is a subsidy with the opposite effect: "It subsidizes and produces more political speech." Those challenging the law, she wrote, demanded — and have now won — the right to "quash others' speech" so they could have "the field to themselves." She explained that the matching funds program — unlike a lump sum grant to candidates — sensibly adjusted the amount disbursed so that it was neither too little money to attract candidates nor too large a drain on public coffers.

Arizona's system was a response to a history of terrible corruption in the state's politics. Rather than seeing the law as a way to control corruption, the court struck it down as a limit on the right of wealthy candidates and independent groups to speak louder than others.

The ruling left in place other public financing systems without such trigger provisions, including public financing for presidential elections. It shows, however, how little the court cares about the interest of citizens in Arizona or elsewhere in keeping their electoral politics clean.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

LOTS OF TALK, TOO LITTLE ACTION

The price of agricultural commodities has surged by more than a third over the past year — cereal prices by 70 percent — surpassing even the levels that sparked widespread food riots in 2008. According to the World Bank, the rise in prices pushed 44 million more people into hunger in the second half of 2010.

It is disappointing that the agriculture ministers from the 20 large industrial economies who gathered last week in Paris failed to end two policies that are a big part of the problem: bans on agricultural exports by certain producers and government supports for food-based biofuel production.

A report for the Group of 20 meeting by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank and others noted that eliminating or curtailing these policies would help mitigate the spikes in prices that have deepened hunger in the poorest countries in the world.

The United States, Brazil and several other biofuel makers opposed an agreement to cut support for biofuels. This country is the world's biggest ethanol producer. The 13.5 billion gallons made here last year used about 40 percent of the nation's corn crop. Government supports include a nearly $6 billion annual subsidy for ethanol makers.

The ministers agreed only to further study the relation between biofuel production and food prices. That is just an excuse for continuing to protect these industries. The cost should be clear to all by this point. The report to the Group of 20 noted that biofuels consumed 20 percent of the global sugar cane crop between 2007 and 2009, when food prices soared, as well as 4 percent of the beet crop and 9 percent of the world's production of coarse grains like corn.

The ministers also failed to forbid the use of export barriers to hold down food prices at home. Argentina, Russia and more than two dozen others have adopted bans since prices began to surge, sending global prices even higher and discouraging investment in food producing regions. The ministers did agree that countries could not restrict sales to the World Food Program so it can continue to address crises. It is not enough.

The agricultural summit meeting, the first of its kind, did make some progress. The participants agreed to set up a system to monitor world food stocks and production to prevent misinformation that can contribute to price fluctuations. They also agreed on a pilot program for an emergency food reserve system to respond to shortages in vulnerable countries.

More aggressive action is needed. High energy prices and irregular weather patterns are likely to keep food prices volatile, even as demand increases from fast-growing developing countries. The first step to ensuring a steady food supply is to eliminate the most egregious distortions in agriculture policy.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW JERSEY'S GOVERNOR, CHAMPION OF INEQUALITY

New York's approval of same-sex marriage was a testament to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's political courage. In the New Jersey governor's office, it is good sense that is in short supply on this issue.

It appears as though there are sufficient votes in the State Legislature to pass a marriage-equality bill in New Jersey — a positive change from last year when the freedom to marry was defeated in the Democratic-led State Senate. The obstacle is Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican.

"I'm not a fan of same-sex marriage," Governor Christie said on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on Sunday — a rather strange way of putting it. "I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman." He vowed to veto any bill resembling the historic civil rights law that was approved in New York with help from his Democratic peer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Mr. Christie said the state would "continue to pursue civil unions," a separate and inferior category of recognition that still results in inequality.

A new court fight looms. On Wednesday, a civil rights group, Lambda Legal, plans to file a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court with the goal of showing that civil unions fail to meet the mandate of equal legal rights and financial benefits for same-sex couples set by the State Supreme Court in a 2006 ruling. The group's hope, which we share, is that the case leads to a ruling by New Jersey's top court ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.

It should not take a court's edict for lawmakers to do what is right. Governor Christie's veto threat is no excuse for legislators to sit on their hands. The president of the State Senate, Stephen Sweeney, recently said that he had made the "biggest mistake" of his career when he withheld his support for same-sex marriage last year for timid political reasons, and at a time when a Democrat, Jon Corzine, was in the governor's chair. He can make amends by building a veto-proof majority for the marriage bill.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A GRAVEL ROAD TOO FAR

It would be nice to be able to praise the Tanzanian government and President Jakaya Kikwete for dropping plans to build a road across the northern section of Serengeti National Park. The road, about 32 miles long, would have cut across one of the planet's major migratory corridors — used by great herds of wildebeest and other animals — and one of the last of its kind on the planet.

Unfortunately, the letter announcing Tanzania's change in plans is too ambiguous to celebrate, and it leaves the ultimate fate of Serengeti unresolved.

Tanzania now proposes to build roads right up to the edge of Serengeti. The letter, from the minister for natural resources and tourism to Unesco's World Heritage Center, then announces that the controversial route across the park "will remain gravel road" and be managed by the Tanzanian national parks system. But such a gravel road does not now exist, since much of this section of the park is maintained as wilderness.

By conceding its hopes for an asphalt road across Serengeti, Tanzania gets a gravel road by sleight of hand. In fact, it was a plan for a gravel road across the park that caused worldwide protest last year.

Serengeti lies directly on a route from Uganda to a Tanzanian port called Tanga, on the Indian Ocean. The pressure to develop this route is intense, thanks largely to mining and other extractive industries in Uganda. Tanzania has a right, of course, to pursue its economic future. A major part of its economic present is revenue from tourism, mostly related to Serengeti. It is time for the Tanzanian government to do the right thing, economically and environmentally, and declare its unequivocal commitment to protect Serengeti's integrity.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO TRASH, NO CRASH

BY JAMES E. HALL

Washington

TWO years ago the world was amazed when US Airways Flight 1549 landed safely in the Hudson River after striking a flock of geese upon takeoff from La Guardia Airport. Through the heroic actions of Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III and his crew, and more than a little luck, all 155 people aboard survived in what was called the Miracle on the Hudson.

Incredibly, the Federal Aviation Administration has ignored the lesson from that episode and approved construction of a garbage transfer facility, known as the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, in College Point, Queens, less than half a mile east of La Guardia. Even though the facility is to be enclosed, the sight and smells of garbage passing through it will be irresistible to birds, as a possible food source, and are likely to draw birds into the path of approaching and departing aircraft, endangering the lives of passengers and people on the ground.

The Bloomberg administration and the New York City Department of Sanitation should never have proposed putting a bird-drawing garbage transfer station so close to an airport. But even more clearly, the F.A.A. never should have allowed the project to go forward.

F.A.A. guidelines normally call for a minimum of 10,000 feet between a "bird attractant" like this garbage-transfer station and an airport runway, yet the proposed station is being built about 2,200 feet from Runway 13/31 at La Guardia.

Moreover, each runway has an F.A.A.-mandated protection zone, a safety buffer that must be kept clear of aviation hazards, including structures. Given plans drawn up by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs La Guardia, that zone should be set at 2,500 feet for that runway — which would place the trash station squarely within it — rather than the 1,700 feet currently used.

Rather than follow its own regulations, the F.A.A. seemingly went out of its way to approve this facility. Initially, it failed to even consider the facility's potential to increase catastrophic bird strikes to aircraft at one of the world's busiest airports. Only under Congressional pressure did it finally conduct a bird-strike threat assessment.

Usually, such studies examine a five-mile radius around the facility over a full year to assess all factors relating to weather, migration, available food and bird species diversity. But the official report of the study, submitted to the United States Department of Transportation by the F.A.A., presented data on bird activity only within a quarter-mile radius of the garbage facility, and indicated that the study was conducted over only two months, in the dead of winter.

The project's defenders have offered arguments that do not stand up to scrutiny.

The city formerly operated a garbage transfer station at the same location, without incident. But the margin of safety for aviation is necessarily small; the fact that no one was killed because of a bird strike there before is no more persuasive than an uneventful car trip in which no one wore a seat belt.

While the F.A.A. panel recommended mitigation measures like a plan to reduce the hazards associated with wildlife — an implicit acknowledgement of the potential dangers — bird strikes around La Guardia have been increasing for years despite such steps.

The proposed station is designed to be "enclosed." But a recent F.A.A.-sponsored study found that transfer stations that were fully enclosed were just as attractive to birds as those that were not.

It's true that the birds that brought down Flight 1549 were migratory geese, not birds residing in Flushing Bay, which surrounds La Guardia. But the Flushing Bay area is a haven for geese and other bird species, and in any event, the birds that brought down Flight 1549 could just as easily have been resident gulls, which can weigh three pounds, more than large enough to disable an aircraft engine.

This garbage facility is not just a safety hazard. Its proximity and height would prevent the Port Authority from using new navigation equipment when clouds are low in the sky and visibility is poor. That equipment is vital to reducing delays and increasing capacity; La Guardia is among the worst airports in delays and cancellations, with huge costs.

Those who know firsthand just how deadly this facility may prove to be have not been fooled. That's why Captain Sullenberger and his co-pilot, Jeffrey B. Skiles, both oppose this project. (Full disclosure: My consulting firm does work for Kenneth D. Paskar, a pilot and Manhattan resident who opposes construction of the station and has challenged the project in court.)

The F.A.A. and the Port Authority should prevent the construction of this threat to public safety and economic well-being. If they don't, Govs. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Christopher J. Christie of New Jersey need to step in. If not, we will be left praying for another miracle on the Hudson.

James E. Hall, a safety and crisis management consultant, was chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1994 to 2001.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CONVENER IN CHIEF

BY DAVID BROOKS

This is a column about management styles. What sort of leader can get things done in an age of austerity?

Our first case study is what you might call the Straight Up the Middle Approach. When Chris Christie ran for governor of New Jersey, he campaigned bluntly on the need to reduce the state's debt. After he was elected, he held 30 contentious town meetings with charts to explain how the debt would crush homeowners in each municipality.

Christie makes himself the center of the action and is always in the room. He sat down with Democratic leaders at meeting after meeting and hammered out compromises, detail after detail. The bipartisan pension reform bill Christie signed this month is controversial, but it is a huge step toward avoiding fiscal catastrophe. Christie, needless to say, quotes Springsteen to describe his approach: "No retreat. No surrender."

Our second case study exemplifies the Insurgent Approach. While campaigning to be mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel also spoke bluntly about the tough steps he would take to reduce the city's $650 million deficit.

But, in office, he hasn't led a single frontal assault. Instead, Emanuel has introduced a flurry of initiatives in all directions. He took away credit cards from many city officials. He's moved to lengthen the school day. He redeployed 650 cops from offices to the streets. He cut $75 million from the 2011 budget. He induced United Airlines to bring 1,300 jobs.

At any given moment there seems to be six Mayor Emanuels announcing six different initiatives. The measures to reduce spending are submerged in a frenetic reinvigoration agenda.

The key for Emanuel is to know which fights to pick (making it harder for teachers to strike, for example), and sequencing those fights within broader narratives about city growth.

It's almost physical. Christie relies on power and mass. Emanuel relies on dexterity and speed. Both have begun their administrations in spectacular fashion.

The third case study is the most unexpected: President Obama's Convening Approach. First, some context: In 1961, John F. Kennedy gave an Inaugural Address that did enormous damage to the country. It defined the modern president as an elevated, heroic leader who issues clarion calls in the manner of Henry V at Agincourt. Ever since that speech, presidents have felt compelled to live up to that grandiose image, and they have done enormous damage to themselves and the nation. That speech gave a generation an unrealistic, immature vision of the power of the presidency.

President Obama has renounced that approach. Far from being a heroic quasi Napoleon who runs the country from the Oval Office, Obama has been a delegator and a convener. He sets the agenda, sketches broad policy outlines and then summons some Congressional chairmen to dominate the substance. This has been the approach with the stimulus package, the health care law, the Waxman-Markey energy bill, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and, so far, the Biden commission on the budget.

As president, Obama has proved to be a very good Senate majority leader — convening committees to do the work and intervening at the end.

All his life, Obama has worked in nonhierarchical institutions — community groups, universities, legislatures — so maybe it is natural that he has a nonhierarchical style. He tends to see issues from several vantage points at once, so maybe it is natural that he favors a process that involves negotiating and fudging between different points of view.

Still, I would never have predicted he would be this sort of leader. I thought he would get into trouble via excessive self-confidence. Obama's actual governing style emphasizes delegation and occasional passivity. Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern.

But this is who Obama is, and he's not going to change, no matter how many liberals plead for him to start acting like Howard Dean.

The Obama style has advantages, but it has served his party poorly in the current budget fight. He has not educated the country about the debt challenge. He has not laid out a plan, aside from one vague, hyperpoliticized speech. He has ceded the initiative to the Republicans, who have dominated the debate by establishing facts on the ground.

Now Obama is compelled to engage. If ever there was an issue that called for his complex, balancing approach, this is it. But, to reach an agreement, he will have to resolve the contradiction in his management style. He values negotiation but radiates disdain for large swathes of official Washington. If he can overcome his aloofness and work intimately with Republicans, he may be able to avert a catastrophe and establish a model for a more realistic, collegial presidency.

The former messiah will have to become a manager.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

IT'S PERVERSE, BUT IT'S ALSO PRETEND

BY CHERYL K. OLSON

Reston, Va.

ON Monday the Supreme Court struck down, on First Amendment grounds, California's law barring the sale or rental of violent video games to people under 18. On a practical level, the law was vague. It was never clear which games might fall under the law, or whose job it would be to decide.

But more important, the state's case was built on assumptions — that violent games cause children psychological or neurological harm and make them more aggressive and likely to harm other people — that are not supported by evidence. In the end, the case serves only to highlight how little we know about this medium and its effects on our children.

Many people assume that video game violence is consistently and unspeakably awful, that little Jacob spends most afternoons torturing victims to death. But these people haven't played many video games. The state drew its examples of depravity almost exclusively from an obscure game called Postal 2, which, surveys show, is rarely played by children or young teens. The game is deliberately outrageous; you can, for example, impale a cat on your gun as a makeshift silencer. A trailer for Postal 3, said to be out later this year, encourages players to "Tase those annoying hockey moms or shoot them in the face!"

This may sound disturbing, but it's also ridiculous. And young people know it: as one 13-year-old said during a study I conducted at Harvard, "With video games, you know it's fake."

In my research on middle schoolers, the most popular game series among boys was Grand Theft Auto, which allows players to commit cartoon violence with chain saws as well as do perfectly benign things like deliver pizza on a scooter.

Teenage boys may be more interested in the chain saws, but there's no evidence that this leads to violent behavior in real life. F.B.I. data shows that youth violence continues to decline; it is now at its lowest rate in years, while bullying appears to be stable or decreasing.

This certainly does not prove that video games are harmless. The violent games most often played by young teens, like most of the Grand Theft Auto series, are rated M, for players 17 and older, for a reason and do merit parental supervision.

But despite parents' worst fears, violence in video games may be less harmful than violence in movies or on the evening news. It does seem reasonable that virtually acting out a murder is worse than watching one. But there is no research supporting this, and one could just as easily argue that interactivity makes games less harmful: the player controls the action, and can stop playing if he feels overwhelmed or upset. And there is much better evidence to support psychological harm from exposure to violence on TV news.

In fact, such games (in moderation) may actually have some positive effects on developing minds.

As the court opinion notes, traditional fairy tales are chock-full of violence; a child experiences and learns to manage fears from the safety of Mom or Dad's lap. Similarly, a teen can try out different identities — how it feels to be a hero, a trickster, a feared or scorned killer, or someone of a different age or sex — in the safe fantasy world of a video game.

In the end, the most harmful assumption in the California law is that we know enough about the effects of video games to recommend policy solutions. (I was one of dozens of advisers for a supporting brief filed by those who challenged the law.) Almost no studies of video games and youth have been designed with policy in mind. If we want to mitigate risks of harm to our children (or the risk that our children will harm others), we need research on the specific effects of the most commonly played violent games, and of playing violent games in social groups.

We know virtually nothing, for instance, about how youths who are already prone to violent behavior, such as those exposed to violence at home and in their neighborhoods, use these games. Do they play them differently from the way other children do? Do they react differently? And if so, how might we limit the risks involved?

We need to reframe our view of video games. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. concurred with the majority's opinion, but with some reservations: "We should take into account the possibility that developing technology may have important societal implications that will become apparent only with time," Justice Alito wrote. This is excellent advice, but only if we are willing to consider that video games may have potential benefits as well as potential risks.

Cheryl K. Olson, a public health researcher, is a co-author of "Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do."

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SUMMIT IN TEHRAN

 

At a six-nation counterterrorism summit held in Tehran on Saturday, the presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan agreed to form a united front to combat terrorism. The joint statement by the three neighbours came on the heels of President Obama's announcement that Washington will withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer. The participation in the conference of the Pakistani and Afghan presidents could be seen as a diplomatic and political victory for Iran at the present juncture of regional politics. Tehran has been long pushing Afghanistan and Pakistan to end their military alliance with Washington. Indeed, a central focus of the conference was to highlight that the US has been misusing international terrorism as an excuse to intervene in Afghanistan and the Middle East. This came out most clearly when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sought an "all-out expansion of ties" between Iran and Pakistan and cautioned Zardari that "Washington is trying to sow seeds of dissension in Pakistan to meet its illegitimate goals." Khamenei's claim, that the US planned to systematically destabilise the Pakistani state, went even further than the earlier allegation by President Ahmadinejad of a US conspiracy to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons. President Zardari's delegation also included Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who had a separate meeting with his Iranian counterpart and discussed the activities of the terrorist group Jundallah. Importantly, Tehran is now making a distinction between Jundallah and the Pakistani state, whereas earlier there were accusations of Pakistani complicity.

Both President Zardari and President Karzai went to Tehran partly in an act of "strategic defiance" against the US, knowing full well that the "Iran connection" would gain them space vis-à-vis the US. Specifically, Karzai wants to secure all the political support that Iran can offer, enabling him to power through the reconciliation with the Taliban. Pakistan, as a country with a large Sunni majority, is important to Iran in so far as it does not become part of the Saudi-led alliance against Iran in the Middle East. The Taliban used to be a divisive issue in the Iran-Pakistan relationship but that too has changed and for both countries the most important concern of the Afghanistan situation today is scuttling a long-term US presence there. In the wake of the US invasion of Afghanistan and the consequences that have followed, Pakistan's capacity to dictate an Afghan settlement unilaterally is much reduced. Karzai is thus the best bet for both Iran and Pakistan as the leader of an Afghan-led peace process. All these factors have caused a broad convergence of interests between Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. How this convergence plays out in the coming months will have a significant bearing on the course of events in Afghanistan and will no doubt affect reconciliation with the Taliban.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

TIME TO STOP FIGHTING AND START TALKING

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI

 

Afghanistan would return to the same uncertain situation that existed before December 2, 2009 when the recent decision by President Barack Obama to withdraw 33,000 US troops from the war-torn country by September 2012 is implemented. At that time, one-and-a-half year ago, he had ordered the military "surge" almost in desperation and deployed those soldiers who would now be pulled out.

The US then had 68,000 troops in Afghanistan and was struggling to contain the Taliban-led resistance that was gradually spreading from the Taliban strongholds in the Pashtun-populated southern and eastern Afghanistan to the north and west where they had been traditionally weak among the non-Pashtun population. Together with the troops provided by other Nato member countries, the total number of foreign soldiers in Afghanistan at the time was around 100,000. There were thousands of private foreign contractors, or mercenaries if you will, also along with a sizeable Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

The situation wasn't dire but the then US military commander General Stanley McChrystal, later disgraced and replaced for passing offensive remarks against President Obama and some of his security aides, wanted at least 40,000 extra troops to avoid defeat and break the Taliban momentum. His wish was reluctantly granted by Obama, though he sent 33,000 American troops only and ensured that the remaining 7,000 were made available by the British and other Nato members. To show his authority and remind everyone that the US military was under civilian control, he announced an exit strategy along with the military "surge" by promising to start withdrawing troops in July 2011. The strategy was criticised, among others by the rival Republican Party, as defeatist and termed by some a "surge to exit".

Obama had devised this difficult balancing act due to political compulsions because he had to respond to the wishes of the anti-war camp in his Democratic Party and at the same time prove to the American people that he was strong on security and mindful of extending the power of the US to secure its global interest.

Much is being made of the Obama announcement to drawdown the US troops and hand over responsibility to the Afghan security forces to secure their country. It is being portrayed as fulfillment of a presidential promise made in December 2009 when the "surge" was ordered. A US president needs to fulfill commitments to look credible and more so if he is seeking a second term in office. However, a closer look at the timings chosen for the phased withdrawal of US troops betray the anxieties of a president with an eye on the next presidential election.

The 10,000 troops to be pulled out by the end of 2011 would be home before the February 2012 Iowa state caucus at the start of the nomination of the presidential candidates. Though Obama presently hasn't got any real challenger for the job in the Democratic Party, it would be an advantage for him over all other candidates including the Republicans on account of the images of smiling and relieved American soldiers returning home from a tough duty in faraway Afghanistan.

Besides, the 33,000 "surge" troops would have returned to the US by September 2012 just before the election for the president. It would be perfect timing, though difficult questions would still be asked of Obama as to the purpose and achievements of the "surge" and also his roadmap for "finishing the job" in Afghanistan as he has so often declared. After all the Afghan war had become Obama's war due to his willingness to triple the number of US troops in Afghanistan and commit every resource demanded by his military commanders ranging from McChrystal to General David Petraeus.

Though the gains made by the military "surge" have yet to be calculated and quantified, Obama's supporters point out that the Taliban momentum has been halted and even reversed in their strongholds such as Kandahar, Helmand and Kunduz. However, such gains could be temporary and unsustainable in the face of a determined foe such as the Taliban, who, as a guerilla force, fight on their own terms, not those of the Americans.

Retreat is part of the Taliban strategy to minimise losses in the fight against a larger and better-equipped regular army backed by lethal airpower. The US officials also concede the fact that the battleground gains by the Nato forces in 2010-2011 are fragile. Moreover, the Taliban have tried, sometimes successfully, to cover up their losses in the south and east by undertaking a "surge" of their own in western, northern and central Afghanistan. The Taliban ability to extend their geographical reach to almost every province of Afghanistan and attract non-Pashtuns even if still in small numbers into their fold seems to have alarmed the US-led coalition forces and almost convinced them that they cannot be defeated. This admission has prompted the US and certain other Western nations having troops in Afghanistan to open channels of communication with the Taliban.

Despite denials, the Taliban don't seem averse to talking to the Americans and some of their Western allies as they believe that the US-led Nato holds the key to ending the Afghan conflict. They still don't want to talk to President Hamid Karzai, who in their view is powerless and "puppet" of the US. The US, however, would want the Taliban to eventually make a deal with the Afghan government to reinforce the latter's legitimacy. If the US had its way, it would want disarmed Taliban brought into the political mainstream after accepting Afghanistan's constitution, in an amended form if need be. This would be an ideal solution of a conflict that began with the communist Saur Revolution in April 1978 and became intense due to the subsequent Soviet invasion, Afghan mujahideen infighting, Taliban takeover and arrival of Al-Qaeda on the scene. The US invasion of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan 10-year ago to avenge the 9/11 attacks turned the conflict not only into America's longest war but also one of the costliest and trickiest. It also became a test of Nato's credibility as it struggles to avoid defeat at the hands of the rag-tag Taliban guerilla force in its first war away from its western borders.

It cannot be easy for the US and its allies to agree to talk to the Taliban after having refused to do so earlier and demonised them to no limit. One relevant question that President Obama needs to answer is his refusal to talk to the Taliban before the military "surge" as this could have avoided the human and material losses since December 2009. In fact, the "surge" brought more foreign troops and weapons to Afghanistan, led to ferocious fighting and caused violence, bloodshed and displacement on a scale not seen before. More importantly, the "surge" didn't weaken the Taliban or strengthen the Karzai government.

Still the decision to talk should be appreciated as it is admission on the part of the US and the Taliban that they cannot defeat each other. It is time to stop fighting and start talking. As one understands, the two sides have agreed to hold secret talks and issue denials in case their meetings become known to the media. The first rounds have been held in Qatar and Germany and another round was planned in Dubai. These are preliminary meetings in which the two sides would size up each other and reiterate their known positions. A breakthrough is unlikely at this stage and none should be expected.

The US would be wrong if it concludes that the Taliban have been fatigued by the long fighting and have agreed to talk out of weakness. The Taliban would be making a mistake if they believe that the US was again running away from Afghanistan. Both sides need to make a deal on the basis of their existing instead of desired strength. A note of caution though is in order because no past deal in context of the Afghan conflict has worked.

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahimyusufzai@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER ECONOMIC DEBACLE

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN 

 

Yet another debacle has occurred on the economic front, with the government failing to float its exchangeable bond in the international debt-capital market. In an act of desperation, the Pakistani economic manager had decided to launch a $500-million exchangeable bond with 10 percent shares of Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDC) attached to this transaction, the proceeds of which were to come by the end of the current fiscal year. It was the intention of the government to use these proceeds for retiring its State Bank debt and reducing its budget deficit to that extent.

The Pakistani team was informed by the global investors during the road show that they had little appetite for Pakistani paper at the moment, particularly in the presence of the Greek debt crisis and the unresolved issue of increase in the debt limit of the US administration. The Pakistani team did not pitch for the bond and returned empty-handed.

Why did Pakistan have to abandon its transaction? Are the economic managers aware of the consequences of such a colossal failure for the country? One thing is clear from the perspective of the economic managers: who cares about the country? They are there to improve their resumes.

What is an exchangeable bond? The country issues a normal sovereign bond with an option that the bondholder can convert the bond into common shares. The transaction under discussion provided an option to bondholders to convert their bonds into OGDC shares. The advantageous thing about such a bond is that it has the option for conversion of debt into portfolio investment.

There are many reasons for the failure of this transaction. Firstly, the timing for floating the bond was highly inappropriate. This is summertime, when investors close their books and go for vacations. Secondly, the international economic environment, particularly the persistence of the Greek debt crisis and the emergence of issue pertaining to enhancing the debt limit of the US administration have created severe uncertainty in the international debt-capital market.

Thirdly, Pakistan's own economic fundamentals are weak. Why would anyone invest in a country's paper whose debt is rising, budget deficit is averaging over six percent of the GDP, high double-digit inflation continuous persists for the last 45 months, and growth is slowing to an average of 2.6 percent per annum over the last four years. Fourthly, Pakistan's relations with the IMF and other development financial institutions (DFIs) are not smooth. Fifthly, Pakistan's relations with the United States are also on a bumpy ride. For an emerging market country, its relationships with the US, the IMF and the DFIs are critical in attracting global investors to invest in its paper.

Sixthly, Pakistan's domestic political and security environment are not conducive to attract global investors to invest in Pakistani paper. Seventhly, the Pakistani team involved in this transaction, barring one member, was quite immature and had no idea whatsoever about the transaction. All these factors have contributed to the failure of the transaction, damaging the reputation of the country and OGDC. In order to save face, the economic team could call this transaction "non-deal road show." But the international capital market participants are not novices. Word has already travelled across the globe that Pakistan has failed to find takers for its paper.

I am positive that Pakistan's economic mangers are still unaware of the consequences of such a colossal failure for the country. They have no idea how they have damaged the country's reputation in the eyes of global investors. The failure of this transaction has injected franchise risk as international fund managers will not take Pakistan seriously should it decide to float another bond. Once a country's reputation is hurt it takes years for it to regain the confidence of global investors.

Who should be held responsible for such a debacle? Should there be accountability for the damage to the country's reputation? The prime minister should look into this debacle. If his economic team fails to read the market and goes on to damage the credibility of the country, should he trust his own team?

Floating of sovereign bonds in the international capital market enables the country to showcase its improving credit fundamentals before global investors. It also enables international investors, credit-rating agencies, and research analysts to observe Pakistan's economic performance on a permanent basis and allows its success to be effectively projected to global investors. It also helps the country to establish a pricing benchmark which serves as a gauge of economic and financial health of the country for a range of investors. This can also be a beacon for other investments into the country.

It is in this perspective that Pakistan floated its paper from February 2004 to May 2007. Each time the Pakistani paper was oversubscribed substantially. Pakistan emerged as one of the few countries which successfully floated a 30-year bond. This simply reflected the confidence of global investors in Pakistan's economic management.

Floating of sovereign paper is serious business. It requires a core team at the ministry of finance, which is fully conversant with global market developments and the intricacies of the transaction. The team must know when to go to the market and how to deal with the press. Unfortunately, the timing for this transaction was not right. The team also did not handle the press properly. Failure of the transaction was predictable. Those responsible for damaging the country's reputation must be held accountable.

The writer is principal and dean of NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@nbs.edu.pk

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

TELLING PAKISTAN'S STORY

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI

 

As a one-time participant in the technology policy conversation in Pakistan, and an avid user of social media, I need little convincing of the potentially revolutionary power that new applications of technology offer to smart and dedicated users.

I am always struck, however, by how commonly people conflate technology itself with the need to be smart and dedicated. There is not, has never been and will never be a technology that can make up for the fatal flaws of any user. If you don't have a compelling message based on substance, no amount of web-savvyness can save you. If you have limited dedication to what you are doing, no fancy new gadget will make up for your own lack of commitment. The bottom-line is that if you're not smart and dedicated, technology is not for you. It will certainly not bridge the deficit of smartness of dedication for you. It may even deepen and expose your flaws.

The logic here is not particularly complex. Smart phones don't make you smart. Smart phones simply offer new opportunities to already smart users, who dedicate time and energy into learning how to use them. Though this seems to be a rather simple idea, it is staggeringly common to hear and see how illogical people, organisations and institutions can be when thinking about technology. It seems that the less smart and less dedicated have more of a predilection to overestimate and overstate the worth of new technology. This is a shame, and unfortunately it is not new. As Pakistan gets battered for being a poorly governed nation with little proactive demonstration by either government or civil society that reflects any kind of understanding of how urgently reforms are required, the problem of confusing instruments as alternatives to substance is once again rearing its ugly head.

In 2000, Pakistan prepared its first National IT Policy and Action Plan. While many of the successes of the telecom and IT sectors in subsequent years can be traced to the consultative and inclusive manner in which that policy was formulated, it did have one enduring weakness. The document often seemed to place new technology itself as being the heart of the matter. The resulting boom in the use of technologies—mobile phones, the Internet and broadband—reflect that original bias. Pakistan is a great example of highly successful technology adoption. Pakistan is also, simultaneously, a great example of highly unsuccessful application and content generation (best manifested by the fact that Urdu continues to have desperately poor uptake as a standardised input language). This is what happens in a culture where public policy is often run by engineers and other linearly-programmed professionals (as most of the pre-2002 Musharraf government was).

The concept of information technology, or IT, became so overwhelmingly part of the national consciousness that people forgot that IT was an instrument, or a means. It was never the end itself. Like the abacus, a supercomputer was a tool or an instrument to do things that were already being done (or were conceptually doable), in a manner faster, cheaper and more efficient. IT has been great, for all the world. But it has been greatest for those that actually had something useful to do with it. It adds value, of course, but it adds really substantial value to transactions and systems where wonderful things are already happening.

Pakistanis can hardly be pleased with the vicious battering that Pakistan is taking in the US press these days. The New York Times has been particularly brutal, with reporters regularly digging up old stories, garnished with new data to sustain the seemingly ad infinitum "campaign to pressurise Pakistan." (Never mind what a sad commentary it is on the state of Pakistani democracy that stories in The New York Times represent pressure points for Pakistan while the stories on every street and in every village in Pakistan seem to have no impact on those most sensitive to how Pakistan is covered by The New York Times.)

The larger and more significant question is actually a lot simpler. If Pakistan is worried about how it is being reflected in other parts of the world, then the question is what can be done about this. Too often, decision-makers in both the military and the civilian domain seem to think that a little bit of IT can do the trick. A Twitter account here. A smart-phone there. "If only Pakistan could use technology as well as its adversaries." "If only Pakistan could counter the narrative from Langley." "If only Pakistan could tell its side of the story."

These statements are not entirely baseless. It is true, for example, that Pakistan's state structures do not have access to, nor expertise in, technology. The Pakistani state does have some fair gripes with how skewed some of the reporting of the country has been, especially since May 2. But let's not be delusional. These statements are also the sound of alarm bells. If we cannot hear the alarm bells ringing as Pakistanis across the political spectrum formally and informally say this kind of things, we're missing the most important part of what is happening.

You cannot tell a bad story well. You cannot make numbers that don't add up seem right with a supercomputer. You cannot make someone who isn't very smart, sound smart just because he's using a Blackberry, or Android. You cannot Tweet wisdom in 140 characters if none exists in the places where wisdom is required.

Since 9/11, Pakistan's military (and ever so peripherally, its civilian leaders) have had a decade to sort out the state's multifarious relationships with terrorists and gangsters that instrumentalise religion for monetary and political gain. Since 26/11, Pakistan's state institutions have had more than two years to sort out the details of how to pursue the primary accused parties—starring the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The issue here is not normative. It is operative. An operative level of state capacity, no matter what theories and ideologies you hold dear, requires actions that defuse tension and blunt the knives that are out for Pakistan. The country's long-term tolerance for dangerous people, as clients of the Pakistani state, needs to demonstrably be replaced with actions that indicate a plan to end this tolerance. Not an actual end, but at a bare, essential minimum, a plan to end it.

Pakistan's national security rests on its economic viability, the education of its almost 100 million young people, and its protection of its environment. This national security is threatened by the continued failure of Pakistan to tell its story. To that extent, being concerned about the "narrative" is good.

But the failure to tell Pakistan's story is not a failure of storytelling. It is not an absence of technology, or Twitter accounts that are failing Pakistan. It is the story itself. Pakistan doesn't have a very compelling one. The facts on the ground are failing Pakistan. Until the story doesn't change, it cannot be told well.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. www.mosharrafzaidi.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SUDAN UNDER SIEGE

TAYYAB SIDDIQUI

 

On 9th July a new country will emerge on the map of the world. The Republic of South Sudan will become the 55th state on the African continent. This will be yet another success story for the strategy of the west and US to control the oil resources of Muslim countries, through a familiar pattern of aggression and sanctions against weak Muslim states.

Sudan is the largest and the poorest country in Africa with a population of 35 million with Muslim majority in the North. Southern Sudan with a population of four million is mostly animist and Christian. The inimical forces in the west kindred the fire of secession in the South in the 80s. The civil war continued for 22 years, devastating the region, killing more than two million people and displacing twice as many. Col. John Garang led the secessionist – Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) for 20 years against Arab Muslim North. Finally a peace accord was signed in 2005 with the intervention of the Security Council, which, inter alia, provided for referendum to determine the choice of the South.

The referendum was held in January 2011 and the South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted for independence. President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan welcomed the result. Prior to the referendum the US Congress and western media unleashed a virulent campaign against the Sudanese president blaming him of malafide intention to frustrate the results of referendum. Sudan under Bashir had been declared a terrorist state, imposed economic sanctions and the president himself was pronounced a war criminal by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The saga of referendum and eventual partition however is not over yet. There are critical issues such as demarcation of border between two countries, sharing the oil revenue and the future of the disputed region of Abyei, which needs to be settled before the emergence of new state.

Sudan produces 500,000 barrels of oil a day. South Sudan gets 98 percent of its revenue from the crude, while 45 percent of the Khartoum budget comes from oil which makes up around 90 percent of its exports. Most oil reserves are in the Abyei region bordering the North and South. The North has pipelines and refineries; the South about 75 percent of the reserves. The sharing of the oil revenue has thus complicated the picture further and become the most contentious post referendum issue. Originally referendum was to be held simultaneously in the region of Abyei but could not be held.

The unresolved status of Abyei led Northern forces to take over the border region on May 21, fuelling speculation of renewed war between North and South. The military push invited condemnation of Khartoum by the west and US, blaming it for deteriorating the security situation, through a Security Council resolution. The neo-cons found an opportunity to seek an application of a "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine as currently invoked in Libya.

Earlier on President Al-Bashir has been under intense diplomatic pressure on the Darfur issue which earned him the epithet of a war criminal by ICC in The Hague. Before the referendum, controversial reports appeared in the West blaming Khartoum for thwarting the referendum and risking an all out war rather than go for referendum. Bashir defied all the predictions and willingly accepted the secession. The South is now being encouraged to lodge claim not only for Abyei but for Blue Nile and the Kordofan states bordering the North to further destabilise Sudan.

To defuse the situation the Sudanese president has proposed a rotating administration in Abyei with joint committee taking control in Abyei and to demilitarise Blue Nile and Kordofan along with common border.

The African Union got into the fray and finally a peace agreement has been signed that provides for full demilitarisation of Abyei with deployment of Ethiopian troops as peace keeping forces. The mandate and size of troops will be determinant by the Security Council. The agreement has been brokered by Thabo Mbeki former president of South Africa. While the agreement has been signed by the leader of both North and South, trouble is still expected in the run-up to South's independence declaration.

Looking back at the last 10 years, a definite pattern has been seen of how the West and US weakens and controls Muslims states rich with energy resources through military aggression and economic sanctions. To their eternal infamy, none of the Muslim countries or organisations have resisted or even protested these blatant hostile policies, driven primarily by Islamophobia. Their silence is simply deafening and extremely dangerous inviting evermore predatory policies against them.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email: m.tayyab.siddiqui@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

MISSION CHANGE

DR MALEEHA LODHI

 

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the

UK.President Barack Obama's June 22 speech announcing the first phase of the US troop pullout from Afghanistan had few surprises. But the speech lacked specifics and left key policy questions unanswered as well as a continuing disconnect between political objectives and military strategy.

Of deep concern to Pakistan was the indication in his address that the focus of US counterterrorism efforts would shift from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Without explicitly saying so, his emphasis on using 'targeted force' against threats, without the need to "deploy large armies overseas", marked a move towards the so-called Biden plan. Associated with Vice President Joseph Biden, this had questioned Obama's 2009 decision to deploy more troops in Afghanistan for counter insurgency and instead advocated a narrower counterterrorism mission, using drone technology and covert forces.

As widely anticipated, President Obama overruled the advice of his military commanders for a slower more modest force drawdown. Instead he announced a full withdrawal of the 'surge' force of 33,000 troops by summer 2012, starting with 10,000 troops by the end of this year. This signalled a winding down of the counterinsurgency effort he announced 18 months ago.

Citing progress on the goals he had set – refocus on Al-Qaeda, reverse the Taliban's momentum and train Afghan security forces – Obama claimed he was beginning the drawdown from "a position of strength" with the tide of war beginning to turn.

While his senior military chiefs including General David Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen deemed the speed and scale of the troop reduction to be "risky", Obama prevailed over the Pentagon because his hand had been greatly strengthened by the killing of Osama bin Laden. This development changed the calculus and provided a compelling rationale for a speedier and more substantial troop reduction.

Obama's troop withdrawal decision was shaped more by domestic political imperatives and his looming 2012 re-election bid than considerations of strategy. This has left unexplained gaps in US policy including between political goals and the military course of the war in Afghanistan. His political considerations were dictated by war fatigue in both political parties and the growing unpopularity of the military mission among the public. With the Afghan war's cost running at over $100 billion a year at a time of budget cuts in America, President Obama also justified his decision by what he called the need for nation building at home.

He acknowledged that peace was not possible without a political settlement and thus declared that America will join the reconciliation process, including with the Taliban, launched by the Afghan government. But this affirmation of an embryonic process – amid reports of "preliminary" US efforts to reach out to Taliban leaders – was not accompanied by elaboration of how the US planned to step up diplomacy. In not spelling out the steps the US is prepared to take to create the political conditions to advance the peace process, the speech left a key question unanswered. How will the military effort become subordinate to the political objective of seeking a settlement?

This laid bare the gap between the timeline of 2014 – when all combat troops are to be withdrawn and security responsibilities transferred to Afghan forces – and the expectation that, by then, the reconciliation process, will yield an outcome. Given the slow pace of peace talks and absent other moves that can generate a political momentum the odds to meet this expectation appear slim.

The lack of alignment – thus far – between the 2014 timeline and serious negotiations is thrown into sharp relief by the silence in Obama's speech on whether the strategy pursued by the remaining military forces in Afghanistan will be recalibrated to allow space for diplomatic efforts. Will US/Nato forces ramp up the military effort or consider ceasing kinetic operations by negotiating local cease-fires to give the reconciliation process a chance? The speech provided no clue.

If the US persists with its fight-and-talk approach this will impede rather than encourage the opening moves towards reconciliation. There is as yet no indication that Washington is prepared to contemplate confidence-building measures with the Taliban that can produce a mutual de-escalation of violence and set the stage for serious talks. The US is still focused on setting 'tests' for the Taliban to meet rather than explore the possibility of an agreed stand down or 'strategic pause' in fighting.

This approach could further complicate what US officials privately acknowledge to be a challenge: convincing senior Taliban leaders about American seriousness to negotiate. At a time when Washington's position has shifted to accepting an 'inclusive' Afghan reconciliation process and the UN's terrorist blacklist list has been split between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, clarity is needed about whether the US will redefine the military mission in Afghanistan to support the peace objective, rather than be at odds with it.

President Obama's speech did not deliberately disclose anything about the 'strategic partnership' agreement being negotiated by Washington and Kabul. Drafts of the agreement have been exchanged between the two capitals. This apparently aims to provide bases and facilities for a US military presence beyond 2014, ostensibly comprising training personnel and a counterterrorism force. The latter will also be designed to have the capability to launch cross-border operations.

An agreement providing for an open-ended US military presence in Afghanistan has already evoked concern among regional powers. Iran, Russia and China find this unacceptable while India has reportedly shifted from an ambivalent position to one of opposition. Pakistan too has conveyed its reservations about an arrangement that has security implications including the threat of US-led unilateral strikes into its territory.

Moreover such an agreement could be a deal-breaker at the very start of talks with the Taliban, whose main demand – and reason for fighting – is to ensure the departure of all foreign forces from their country.

Of greatest concern for Islamabad is the suggestion in Obama's speech of a switch to a counterterror strategy framed to address "terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan" and the implication that the US would not hesitate to act alone if it had to. Although the president credited Pakistan with helping to eliminate "more than half of Al-Qaeda's leadership", the tone of his remarks signalled more of a 'tough love' approach towards Islamabad.

Any shift to the Biden strategy will likely entail frequent and more extensive drone attacks in Pakistan's border areas, even clandestine operations like the one that killed Bin Laden. This will heighten Islamabad's security anxieties and risk inflaming tensions further. Expansion of covert operations will pitch Pakistan-US relations into uncharted terrain when ties have already hit rock bottom and are in a state of disrepair.

With no agreement on drone operations and Islamabad trying to push back on CIA activities in Pakistan, more unilateral actions can propel relations to breaking point. Whether a Biden-type plan will be feasible if relations deteriorate further is open to question.

As Islamabad mulls over the ramifications of Obama's speech, what is already apparent is that without resetting Pakistan-US ties on the basis of reciprocity the search for a negotiated political solution in Afghanistan can turn out to be even more problematic. It is on such a settlement that an orderly American withdrawal from Afghanistan rests.

The irony is that just when US and Pakistani goals are more convergent on Afghanistan than they have been in a decade they remain separated by mistrust and mutual grievances. The Obama administration's present approach of piling on pressure and conducting diplomacy through leaks designed to embarrass Islamabad is only fuelling more turbulence in ties. It is also counter productive to the objectives Washington wants to secure in the region.

Only by finding common ground with Pakistan and accommodating its interests rather than targeting it can the US really elicit the cooperation it needs for a 'dignified' retreat from Afghanistan and the achievement of its strategic objective: defeat of Al-Qaeda.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ANOTHER HASTY DEPARTURE?

ADNAN GILL

 

Nearly over a decade, and over half a trillion dollars and 1,500 American casualties later, President Obama announced a progressive withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. In a nationally televised address the president announced, "...starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer..."

In the backdrop of Bin Laden's killing and the weakening American economy, public support for the Afghan War has dwindled between far-and-few. Mr Obama's announcement has more to do with political compulsions than a well thought-out strategic initiative. President Obama, who is already in the 2012 presidential re-election mode, has tailored the withdrawal to cover all sides of the political spectrum.

For those concerned with the ballooning national debt, the president said, "Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war at a time of rising debt and hard economic times." He tried to win the Americans' votes by honing their focus at home, "Now, we must invest in America's greatest resource: our people."

To pacify the demands of front running Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, who had been demanding a swift withdrawal, and the Democrats who complain that the cost of the war is siphoning money away from job creations in the US, the president laid down a timeline of the withdrawal, "After this initial reduction... Afghan security forces move into the lead."

Then he set the date for completion of the withdrawal. He declared, "By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."

Ironically, Republican hawks like Mike Rogers criticise the president for pushing the national debit into the stratosphere but they don't allow President Obama to kill a single prohibitively expensive military programme or pull out of any conflict. Congressman Rogers accuses Mr Obama for playing politics with the Afghan War. He said, "The president is trying to find a political solution with a military component, when it needs to be the other way around."

Republicans are not the only ones who didn't spare their criticism of the withdrawal, rumblings of 'hasty withdrawal' were heard from the president's own cabinet. Defence Secretary Robert Gates, nominated CIA director General Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among those who expressed their reservations against the haste.

Arguably, the president's withdrawal policy might force history to repeat itself. If the US once again leaves without cleaning the mess it created throughout the decade long war, who can say things would fare any better this time around?

Has US eliminated the Taliban, warlords or the drug barons who will most definitely take over the country as soon as America leaves? Will the millions of Afghans forget and forgive the Americans for their decade long occupation and deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghans? Will the Afghans accept the corrupt rulers US will leave behind, or will the Taliban fill the political and administrative vacuum again? Will Pakistanis sit idle and do nothing about the Indian influx in Afghanistan?

Instead of having gone-in with blazing guns, had America spent one fifth of that money – approximately $175 billion – and half of the time – five years – on developing Afghanistan's infrastructure and improving the standard of living of the ordinary Afghan, we would not have been facing this conundrum today.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

IMPACT OF AJK ELECTIONS

 

BARRING a few allegations made by leaders and representatives of various political parties including PPP that has emerged victorious, the elections for AJK Legislative Assembly went well. There were also some unfortunate incidents of violence at various polling stations in different constituencies and as a consequence polls had to be deferred.

There is no doubt that bitterness would remain there for quite some time. Apart from MQM that has termed postponement of polls in two constituencies in Karachi as part of the pre-poll rigging aimed at denying the party of its share in the AJK Legislative Assembly, Federal Ministers Manzoor Wattoo and Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan have also accused the Punjab Government of both pre-poll and election day rigging. Anyhow, the holding of elections itself is a step forward and it would help democracy take deeper roots in the liberated territory and send a strong message to the other side of the Line of Control. As expected, the PPP has swept the polls and would form the Government. This is in line with the tradition of victory in AJK polls for the ruling party in Pakistan. As pointed out by Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani during one of his election-related public meeting in Azad Kashmir that it is the Federal Government that can provide financial and other assistance to Azad Kashmir. Prime Minister Gilani and his team worked hard during electioneering and it paid back. Similarly, PML(N) was comparatively a newer party in the AJK but despite that it has secured reasonable seats because of aggressive campaign undertaken by its fiery leader Mian Nawaz Sharif. But performance of the Muslim Conference is lamentable in view of its past record and contribution to the cause of Kashmir and welfare of the people. It is because of its leading role in the freedom movement especially that of towering personality of Mujahid-e-Awwal Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan that the MC enjoyed a place of respect across the LoC as well. However, it was because of its infighting and ineffectiveness of its incumbent leadership that the party has almost been wiped out. It is also unfortunate that during the entire electioneering neither of the contesting parties made the Kashmir issue focal point of their campaign. Azad Kashmir has all along been considered as the base camp for peaceful freedom movement of Kashmiris and strong commitment in this regard would have sent a positive signal to the other side. Anyhow, the PPP is expected to form a coalition government as it did in Pakistan so that it could promote the cause of Kashmiri people and work for progress and prosperity of the AJK.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

QUESTION OF LIGHT-HEAVY CABINETS

 

FINANCE Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, who is known for his forthright and clear stand on different issues raised some very pertinent points during his speech at a seminar in Karachi. While announcing the good news of retention of only two taxes – sales tax and income tax — from next year, he talked about the need to tax agriculture income and deplored the tradition of having large-scale cabinets that serve no other purpose than a burden on the exchequer.

Dr Hafeez Sheikh has rightly pointed out that Governor General of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had a cabinet of only seven, Ayub Khan had only 11 Federal Secretaries and General Musharraf had only 18-member cabinet. But we have seen that political governments resorted to formation of heavy cabinets just to accommodate their favourites or allies as is the case now. It was in this backdrop that the law-makers restricted the size of federal and provincial cabinets under the 18th constitutional amendment bill but we would point out that even this number is superfluous if seen in the context of the country's economic conditions. The size of the Federal Cabinet crossed the figure of one hundred before the present Cabinet including Ministers of State, Advisors, Consultants and Special Assistants of different sorts. Regrettably, some of the existing ministries were bifurcated to create new ones just to accommodate coalition partners. Now again, the size of the cabinet should be much less as a number of ministries have been devolved to the provinces but there are no signs that this is happening. We would, therefore, urge the Finance Minister not to confine himself to raising this question at seminars and Press conferences but prevail upon the decision-makers to cut down the size of the cabinet. Similarly, there are also a number of other issues that deserve his attention like highest mark up rate in the world that is slowing investment and unrealistic and frequent increase in the cost of inputs like electricity and gas charges that make our products incompetitive in the global market.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

THE TRAGIC FATE OF BUGTIS

 

IN different countries and societies tragedies do occur and they are remembered for a long time. Similar is true to certain families where tragedy after tragedy shakes up not only the society but the entire country and people start talking that a particular family was prone to tragedies.

The Bhutto family was perhaps the first in Pakistan which unfortunately suffered the most. Its members for over two generations had met a violent end culminating in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on 27th December, 2007. The seeds for the family's brush with tragedy were sown when Benazir's father, a great leader and former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged on April 4, 1979. Thereafter two sons of Bhutto died in mysterious circumstances that left great mental shocks to Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. These tragedies have also left a deep impact on the people in Pakistan in general and the PPP die hard workers in particular. Almost similar tragedies are afflicting the Bugti family and the latest incident was the killing of Taalay Bugti, grand son of Nawab Akbar Bugti in Karachi on Saturday night. One feels sorry for that because the ill-fated family receives jolt after jolt. Taalay, the 20-something grandson of the late Nawab Akbar Bugti, was the second son of the late Nawabzada Saleem Bugti. During the days of Mr Bugti, who was a towering and charismatic personality and a man of great influence in politics of Pakistan, one of his sons and two grand sons were shot dead that broke the back of Baloch leader. Akbar Bugti himself was killed when Taratani tunnel in Kohlu district caved in in August 2006 where he was taking shelter and the way he was buried was also a tragedy. However if one takes a close look at the two families one finds out that they have been plagued by misfortunes and tragedies. Why it happens with certain families only God knows better but everybody has to learn lesson from his own perspective.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

DO NOT WEAKEN THE BINDING FORCE

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

In Pakistan, when Mushrraf government removed the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, lawyers had launched movement for the restoration of judiciary, and acted as a binding force that brought all sections of society on one platform. If politicians or elected government ensures socio-economic justice, controls inflation and delivers to the people, it becomes a binding force uniting the country. In the past, when democratic government failed to deliver and there were chaos, confusion and anarchy, military overthrew the government and promulgated Martial Law. When the people become disillusioned with the military dictatorship, they start demanding restoration of democracy; thus cycle from democracy to military dictatorship and from military dispensation to democracy has continued during the last 64 years. Anyhow, in entrenched democracies, political leaders and their parties are the binding force. But in a fledgling democracy like Pakistan if political parties fail to create unanimity on policies and make country a cohesive unit, military acts as a binding force.

Like many developing countries, ruling and opposition parties in Pakistan have variegated views. Since the government has to formulate a common policy acceptable to great majority of the people, it enters into dialogue with those advocating different policies with a view to creating unanimity. It is indeed a stupendous task to bring different thinking minds, traversing different paths, operating on different wavelengths on one focal point. In a functional democracy, it can be achieved through dialogue, persuasion and appealing to the intellect of the opposition for common goal. However, when the contradictions become irreconcilable, recourse is made to coercion. Max Weber had said: "A state is a human community that claims the monopoly of the use of physical force within a given territory". But force should only be the last resort when there is chaos and anarchy.

Some sociologists and intellectuals are of the opinion that cultural differences including languages are the reasons for the contradictions. They believe if all the people speak the same language they are less inclined to internecine conflicts, but according to specialists and experts on endangered languages, linguistic differences do not cause conflicts and wars, whereas exploitation and intolerance do. Serbs and Croats spoke the same language, as did warring Somalis. Anyhow, for creating unity and becoming a binding force, the rulers have to ensure good governance, socio-economic justice in the society and eliminate corruption from the country so as to give the people a sense of empowerment and participation in the affairs of the country. But there some clichés; one is that only the countries with democratic dispensations are able to progress faster than those under autocratic rule. South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and a few countries are the examples where they made tremendous progress under autocratic rule, and the stage was set for a democratic order. Unfortunately, in Pakistan both elected and military dictatorships failed in equal measure.

Nevertheless, it is not fair to criticize the present military leadership because they have not given the slightest indication of undermining the elected government and appear to be committed to support the democratic system. There is no reason for suspicion that the military on the basis of three Martial Laws in the past. Since the elected governments in the centre and provinces have disappointed the masses, who are living in abysmal conditions, they resort to rhetoric and convey to the people that they are attacking the military establishment. But this is not the way to stop military intervention. It is universally acknowledged that the only way to check military's intervention is the people's power, which can come by controlling ever-rising prices, alleviating poverty and providing basic facilities of health and education to the impoverished sections of the people. In a society imbued with democratic traditions and values, no one looks towards the military to save them from want, hunger and disease. But our history is replete with instances of internecine conflicts between the belligerent political parties whereby they have had the habit of forming alliances to get rid of the democratically-elected government.

Another problem is that political parties in Pakistan are being run as dynasties and fiefdoms of their founders, who did not establish democratic traditions and values so that new and competent leadership could emerge. When political parties do not conduct political affairs in a democratic manner, the state apparatus falls a victim to personal whims and self-aggrandizement, and people suffer from unemployment, inflation and abysmal state of law and order, they start pinning hopes on someone who could emancipate them from misery, want, hunger, and guarantee protection of life and property. Having all said, one has to appreciate the reversal of policy from concentration of power in the centre to decentralization. It is hoped that equitable distribution of financial resources between the federation and federating units through National Finance Commission award and elimination of Concurrent List would help address the anomalies and remove social and economic disparity between the provinces. It has to be mentioned that majority of the people had welcomed Martial Laws in the past, and many politicians had joined the dictatorship's band wagon.

If history is any guide, democracy was byproduct of capitalism, which emerged after the Industrial Revolution. And the people were given the right to vote and in return they transferred their sovereignty to the politicians. Of course, in Europe democracy has thrived on the basis of the state ensuring them a decent standard of living. In Pakistan, we have not been able to demolish feudalism; not could even impose tax on agriculture. Keith Killard in his book writes: "When infrastructure of the state cannot sustain or withstand the weight of superstructure, the state is likely to collapse". Here he meant that democracy cannot function and flourish under feudalism. Anyhow, before military's intervention in 1977 and 1999, political parties had formed alliances to get rid of the elected governments, and there is incontrovertible evidence that politicians had been asking the army to intervene to rid them of the elected governments because they were security risk, corrupt and dictatorial in nature. One would not condone the imposition of Martial Laws, but those who had aided and abetted to prolong their rule including those who gave them legitimacy should also be brought to book.

The armed forces have indeed played remarkable role in fighting the menace of terrorism and have successfully cleared terrorists' strongholds in Swat, Bajaur, Malakand and South Waziristan. But unfortunately, some media men and a few politicians are wittingly or unwittingly advancing agenda of Pakistan's enemies, and are criticizing the military for the security lapses or intelligence failures, and they do not have the patience to wait for outcome of the inquiry by the commission. Politicians have to understand that to prevent army's intervention they have to mend their ways and change their attitude. First of all they should practice democracy in their parties. They should reduce their perks and privileges, vacate the palaces and show to the people that they live a life of austerity. They should control inflation, alleviate poverty, generate employment opportunities for the unemployed, protect life and property of people and end the confrontational politics, which often lead to chaos and anarchy. They should understand that they will stay relevant to the people if they deliver, otherwise they will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

JEWS DAMAGING THEIR ECONOMIC INTERESTS

SAJJAD SHAUKAT

 

Since the September 11 tragedy, Israel and Jews who had overtly and covertly jumped on Bush's anti-terrorism enterprise in order to targeting Pakistan, Iran and China in particular and other Islamic countries in general have been damaging their global economic interests by manipulating the US war on terror. On the other side, in the aftermath of 9/11, various suicide attacks in Israel, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Spain, Britain etc., and an unending wave of the same in Iraq and Afghanistan shows that the Muslim revolutionaries are giving a greater setback to the world economic which especially safeguards the interests of the Jews at the cost of the small states which have become arena of this new style conflict.

It is notable that many big cartels of the world are owned by the Jews. By controlling the major multinational corporations, arms factories, five star hotels, oil companies, liquor business, food industries, mining and mineral resources, banks, film industry, print and electronic media on international level—having influence on the financial institutes like World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Jews have direct and indirect hold on the global economy. In this regard, many intellectuals like Don Allen and others reveal, "the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) was founded in New York City by Col. Edward Mandell House (real name: Haus–Jewish), chief adviser to President Woodrow Wilson, in league with stockholders of the Federal Reserve Bank…was part of a conspiracy to gain control of both US political parties to use them as instruments … seventy-three percent of the members of the Council on Foreign Relations are Jews.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States. The New York Times has described it as "the most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel," while other sources calls it "as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, DC stating that it "acts as an agent of the Israeli government with a stranglehold on the US Congress with its power and influence."

However, Jews who shape and mould the American foreign policies including those of some western countries in one or the other way have also got the services of some Hindus and Americans so as to continue their anti-Muslim campaign. In this respect, by availing the ongoing international phenomena of terrorism, Jewish-Hindu lobbies are collectively working in America and other European countries to manipulate the double standards of the west in relation to terrorism and human rights vis-à-vis Pakistan, Iran and China in particular and Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt etc. in general in wake of the violent protests and uprising in these Middle East states. Particularly Israel and India are equating the 'war of independence' in Kashmir and Palestine with terrorism.

It is due to the Jewish control over world media and collective secret alliance of American CIA, Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW that some Indian, Israeli and western politicians have introduced dangerous socio-religious dimension in their societies by equating the "war on terror" with "war on Islam" and acts of Al Qaeda with all the Muslims. Their media have also been contributing to heighten the currents of world politics on cultural and religious lines with the negative projection of Islam. In this connection, reprinting of the caricatures about the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and release of a Dutch film against the Holy Quran in the recent past might be noted as an example. It is noteworthy that in a prolonged war of more than ten years, despite heavy aerial bombardment and ground shelling in Iraq, Afghanistan and now in Pakistan through intermittent drone attacks, US-led forces have badly failed in obtaining their objectives. These tactics have killed more innocent civilians—created massive resentment against Washington, and have been expediting the radicalism among the young men, turning them into suicide bombers, giving a greater setback to the security of Afghanistan and Pakistan. US-led different war between the sovereign and non-sovereign entities has proved that big powers have failed in crushing the power of the Islamic militants on global and regional level through armed forces, equipped with sophisticated weaponry. Such a state terrorism by the solesuperpower has resulted into more terrorism from Somalia to Iraq and Nigeria to Afghanistan, while destabilising the economy of the whole world which is in fact dominated by the Jews.

America whose external policy is directed by the Jews intends to convert particularly Pakistan into a "failed state" by causing political and economic instability as a perennial wave of suicide attacks, bomb blasts and targeted killings sponsored by CIA, RAW and Mossad coupled with the US threat of high-value targets inside the country indicates. Besides, Washington is going to act upon exit strategy from Afghanistan, so it has started shifting Afghan war in Pakistan. Nevertheless, such an ill-conceived strategy will create external insecurity which is likely to further harm America's larger geo-political and economic interests on regional and international level.

While taking cognizance of the US-led prolonged war on terror, decline of dollars, heavy cost of war and intensity of financial crisis which severely hit the economy of the US in particular and other European countries in general—in the present era of globalization of markets, multi-nationals and media networks, even western thinktanks have recognized inter-relationship between peace, economics, politics and terrorism. Now, they agree in light of the US failed strategy against terrorism and defeatism in Afghanistan that religious fanaticism and stiff resistance of the Islamic militants are linked to political and economic injustices.

Under the pretext of terrorism, it is because of anti-Muslim developments that a greater resentment is being found among the Muslims who think that the US in connivance with the Jewish-Hindu lobbies is sponsoring state terrorism, directly or indirectly in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir and Palestine including other countries of the Middle East and Africa.

Nonetheless, if Jews want to protect their economic and financial interests in the modern world of today, they should abandon the old theories of Machiavelli, Morgenthau, Waltz and Kissinger who emphasise power as the main determinant of international relations, endorsing the principle of might is right. Otherwise, Muslim militants, fighting against the imperialist powers through ambush assaults, rocket attacks and suicide bombers have broken the myth of old model of power-based theories which only safeguard the economic interests of the Jews which are well-penetrated in the US and other western countries, and want to continue present war against the Islamic radicals. In this regard, in a short war of 2006, Tel Aviv and American Jews should also learn a lesson from Israel's defeat by the non-state entity-Hezbollah.

No doubt, experience of war against terrorism has now clearly proved that the militants are bringing about instability in the world economy dominated by the Jews visibly and invisibly. So Jews are rapidly damaging their own economic and financial interests in a word which has changed into a global village. In this context, Jewish interests demand peace and security in the world. For this purpose, they must give up conspiracies against Pakistan, Iran, China and other Arab countries. They must also play a positive role in resolving the thorny issues of Kashmir and Palestine.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

POLITICS, ECONOMY & POVERTY

HASHIM ABRO

 

Politics is, indeed, is a dirty game. All and sundry in today's Pakistan is only concerned with his daily bread and meek existence but our politicians are whiling away their time and energies over non-issues. One can witness millions of uneducated, unskilled and unemployed young people on the streets, violent and a threat to peace and social stability but there is no political party which has announced such a viable scheme to keep them first.

There is nothing to brag about our burgeoning population, there is nothing to talk about rapid urbanization, and easier access to contraceptives in the rural Pakistan, especially, in the province of Sindh where population growth has overtaken even India and China. Surprisingly, our politicians and political parties are everywhere. They are in every television 'Talk Show". They talk about every thing dirty on earth but if they don't talk anything that is morality and economics. Despite knowing the fact the nation is having tough economic times but even then they play to the gallery, they play to the microphone, they present false facts and figures just to muddy the image of the government and mislead the nation. Regrettably, today's Pakistan has an African economy. It has consistently ranked lowest in a variety of economic dimensions including FDI to productivity but our politicians are least concerned about it. We are 1/3 illiterates, 1/3 non readers, we have endemic poverty, everything is dependent on red-tapism and corruption, we have millions of people begging in the streets and along with the roads, we have growing incompetence and inefficiency in the bureaucracy, we have primitive banking system and bankrupt education system but our politicians are unconcerned about this sordid state of affairs. The rank and file does not know the basic principles of the democratic process, we know of elections and ballot boxes - but the process in itself, but our politicians have no concern about it.

Our politicians are concerned only to make sure that their cronies get lucrative jobs, and their family members run the state. It is asking for the moon to be employed in the public administration unless one no proper channels and links in the ruling party or in the opposition parties. It is outlandishly difficult to obtain needed licenses and permits without the right connections and without pledging future benefits to decision-makers. Pakistan's political parties use the guise of politics and the bluster of perpetual campaigning to hide the facts that they care little about social issues and the country's future. They are concerned with one thing only i.e upward social mobility.

In the developed countries, the opposition is an integral and crucial part of governing the state. The government consults the opposition on issues of national interest and involves it in decision-making processes. In Pakistan, the opposition is merely the competition and the point scoring. Pakistan's resources are ample and both coalition and opposition are rapacious business organizations, not political parties. The governments borrow from everyone and live off remittances. Pakistanis have become consummate parasites with past successive military and unelected government's blessing and encouragement. Our politicians never ever talk and suggest way and means to combat the menace of social and moral poverty which is on rise in the country and has threatened the very fabric of the country. Today Pakistan has a population more than 200 million and more than 60 million of its people live below the poverty line. Unfortunately, poverty in Pakistan doesn't result from just one or two causes. Indeed, some of the major causes of poverty include: war on terror, poor farm policy, lack of access to credit, rampant unemployment, lack of access to education, chronic diseases, lack of effective demand, Population explosion, lack of Investment, Absence of Solid Industrial Estates, sudden fluctuation in demand and supply, paucity of Capital, Market imperfection, Inflationary pressure, zero Sum Investments, Structural distortion . Above all, frequent misadventures o dictators.

Pakistan is richly endowed with abundance of natural resources with cheap labor abundant as a competitive advantage. The road map has to set the direction, and build the industrial base, just as China has done, and promote the small-medium scale industries at large scale from local economy to national to regional level. Pakistan can utilize its resources as well as labor force at full scale by focusing on industries or niche markets in which it can excel and as a result increase their exports to the developed markets, thereby generating much need foreign exchange. Our policy makers and decision givers must bear in mind that sustainability essentially depends on the people- centered development. The networks of group enterprises comprising rural poor can be built around the principle of worker co-operatives i.e. worker ownership, collective appropriation of surplus and full participation in decision making. Apart from this, there is only one path to reduce Pakistan's threatening trade deficit: to discourage imports. There are many ways to reduce imports. In this regard, the government should correctly price items like electricity and fuel. Subsidies need to be limited only to the neediest 10% of the population. Everyone else should pay much higher, realistic, global market prices.

The government should encourage the use of public transport; A craze of conspicuous consumption has gripped this impoverished country. Pakistanis are living over and above their means and over and above their economic contribution to society. This will end badly: with a banking crisis, hyper-inflation, and massive indebtedness of both this profligate state and its gullible citizens, who want so much to dream and to fantasize. The government may adopt measures to reduce their burgeoning inflation and trade deficit such as Hedging (fixing the future prices of foodstuffs, oil, and commodities by purchasing forward contracts in the global markets), Reclaim the agricultural lands, particularly, in the province of Sindh in district Thar and for this purpose build canals and modernize farms and agriculture and introduce an inflation target. However, the need of the hour is to tape the untapped resources and explore the unexplored resources to strengthen Pakistan politically and economically and for this noble cause, the politicians, the economists and the people (consumers) have to join their hands and hearts take wise and brave decisions and also change their attitudes, lavish styles of living, extravaganza habits to make Pakistan politically and economically stable and strong in the comity of nations. If we all fail to seize this moment, it'll be tough later on. For once, please forget your lust greed for power and remember that you (politicians) are a politician so that you can serve the country and its people. ***************************************


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AN INDECENT SLANDER

YOUSUF ALAMGIRIAN

 

One is amazed what America and its media want to achieve by putting allegations on Pakistan for leaking sensitive information with terrorists which help them flee before the operation. There seems only one reason behind this whole conspiracy that Americas had let down Pakistan as state and its armed forces by undergoing operation in Abbottabad. America says it was successful operation and America says Osama has been killed and again America says his dead body was thrown into the sea. We the Pakistanis and the other world are left with no option to believe what America is saying.

Ironically what so ever America wants to say it says through its media. Media is so advanced these days they it can build or break any of the public opinion. Media can break the myths even. Media is being used for framing the opinion and setting the agenda to defame any of the nation and its resolve. Pakistan is fighting a war to eradicate terrorism from the region. It is pertinent that Pakistan's 35000 civilian citizens have been killed in the shape of terrorist and suicidal attacks. More than 5000 of its soldiers have given their lives in this resolve. Pakistan has faced more than 68 billion dollars loss so far. America despite paying tribute to Pakistan and its nation brought embarrassment the way Abbottabad sort of operation was conducted. It was nothing but to malign Pakistan sacrifices and undermine the role of Pakistan armed forces in WOT so much before to this operation American media and WikiLeaks started maligning ISI and armed forces for their links with terrorists. The country which is at the verge of destabilization because of this war was maligned for its illicit relation with the terrorist. Yes one odd case can't be ruled out as Pakistan army arrested a brigadier rank of an officer for his links with the extremists. However such a cases can't be termed as that whole of the origination is of the same mindset. Pakistan armed forces have very clear and strict policy regarding its officers and soldiers so the chances of having their contacts with the extremists are really bleak. Still if any of the case happens strict disciplinary action is taken. Sacrifices of more than 5 thousand troops including officers and men both show its resolve to eradicate terrorism from this soil.

Matter of the fact is that America was engaged with the Taliban in talks since many months. The talks were under process through Karzai govt. Germany and Turkey was also playing role in this regard. America was engaged with some of the Taliban's local factions as well which could provide America an honorable way to pull out its forces from Afghanistan. Abbottabad's 2nd May operation however depicts America was not only banking on the talks to get an opportunity they designed such an operation which portrayed America and its commandoes real heroes of the world as they got hold of the Osma bin laden which means American masses are now safe.

So American masses were unsafe due to a person hiding from them in order to save his life was portrayed major threat to the American masses. So this part of the masses while congratulating the American masses from the threats hope from these masses who are save from any sort of the fear of death to have some pity on the masses of the less advanced countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan and ask their government, the American establishment, not to spoil huge funds to kill the innocent masses as they don't have to do anything with terrorists and Osama bin Laden .They want to educate their children and want to live peaceful life which is not possible till the time America doesn't leave this region and pulls out its forces. Americas paradigm shift in its policy depicts American strategy was different which was apparently shared with Pakistan and other regional countries. These countries were told that America was here to eradicate terrorism. The way America and its media has started bashing an allied country and its intelligence agencies shows its hidden motives. 2nd May and 22 May attacks have to been seen in the context of changing American policies for the region. After taking the oath president Obama gave his AfPak policy to tackle the menace of terrorism. It depicts they had already set their mind to ditch Pakistan and its forces. They were just looking for the appropriate timings to proceed.

It is not that simple an affair that soon after getting Osama, America and its media initiated certain allegation that Pakistan nukes are not safe and they may fall into the hands to the terrorists. America is crystal clear that Pakistan nukes are safe like anything they just propagate to build public opinion against Pakistan. The way American media was used to abuse Pakistan intelligence agencies' role is alarming. American media is now going all out to question Pakistan's trustworthy role in WOT by blaming the same for its relations with terrorist. It is not only a resolve to undermine Pakistan's sacrifices but really an indecent kind of maligning as well.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

DEALING WITH 'WAR ON DRUGS'

HIROAKI SATO

 

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 sizeable drug treatment centre 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 Centre 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 Centre 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 offences at a higher rate than African Americans, African Americans are incarcerated for drug offences 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.

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."

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

IF THERE'S SMOKES, THERE'S IRE

TOBACCO is a legal product that fewer than one in every five Australians chooses to consume, with an inevitable deleterious impact on their health.

So federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon is prepared to do almost all within her power to prevent its use. In defending her plain packaging laws, Ms Roxon has made no secret of her aim to eliminate any opportunities for the tobacco companies to market or distinguish their branded products. When her legislation is passed, as seems certain given the opposition's acquiescence, it will be illegal not only to advertise, display or market this product but also to attach a trademark to its packaging.

Such is the government's crusade against tobacco it begs the question of why they have not sought to outlaw the substance. In fact, Ms Roxon has said if we were starting the country from scratch, "there is no way this would be a legal product". Certainly the rhetoric deployed against tobacco is one of zero tolerance. "Everyone knows it's a habit that will kill you," says the minister.

This presents a stark contrast to the rhetoric used against illicit drugs. When tackling the devastating consequences of drugs such as crystal methamphetamine (crystal meth, meth, speed or ice), heroin, cocaine or even marijuana, the attitude of authorities is driven by an over-arching strategy of "harm-minimisation" rather than zero tolerance.

Go to the National Drugs Campaign website to view information about a range of drugs and you will see their extensive health risks detailed along with descriptions such as "marijuana produces a 'high' that generally makes the user feel more relaxed, happy and more talkative" or "both ice and base produce a very intense rush". Fair enough. But click on tobacco and there is no reference to why anyone would want to smoke. Rather we are told "Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death" and "People near a smoker breathe in the poisons too, which can also cause them disease and premature death". Again this is fair enough but it highlights the completely different emphasis.

Government ministers and activists seem to speak out more on the evils of the legal product of tobacco than they do on the need to stamp out the illicit drugs. One reason is that cigarettes are an easy target, with not even smokers kicking up much of a fuss anymore. While laws restricting the tobacco trade have been ratcheted up over recent decades, around the country marijuana offences have been decriminalised, even though that drug is inhaled in an unhealthy fashion.

It is little wonder tobacco companies are doing all they can to contest the latest measures and seek compensation. Plain packaging laws effectively remove valuable assets from the tobacco firms -- the intellectual property of their marketing brands. This is a dangerous precedent to impose on a legitimate industry because similar arguments could be mounted, and no doubt one day will be, against alcohol packaging and various food trademarks. A sophisticated economy should not be so frivolous about commercial property rights.

We believe people concerned about their physical wellbeing should not smoke, but it is their choice. As for the Health Minister, we would be more impressed if she devoted her energies to tackling the terrible problems of illicit drug dependency, and the recreational drug use causing problems among our young.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

LABOR'S GREEN ALLIANCE TO COLOUR TAXATION DEBATE

INCREMENTALLY, a more detailed picture is emerging about the pivotal climate change policy debate shaping national politics.

The Prime Minister has revealed that a combination of tax cuts, increases in family payments and boosts to pensions will ensure that seven million households, or 90 per cent of Australians, will receive some compensation for the carbon tax. While Julia Gillard will need to provide much more detail, such as dollar figures and rates, she at least faces no ambiguity about the source of her funds -- they will be raised by the carbon tax itself.

Tony Abbott, on the other hand, has pledged to rescind any carbon tax, yet now also promises tax cuts. He will have to propose sufficient budget cuts to fund more than $3 billion over four years for the Coalition's direct action carbon abatement plan, plus some broad tax cuts, likely to be substantially more expensive. Mr Abbott has already rejected Ms Gillard's offer of Treasury resources to detail his funding plans.

The political calculations, of course, have been made. Mr Abbott will be happy to wear the taunts about his absent costings from now until the election, content that his promise of tax cuts dents Labor's attack that he will be scrapping the government's package. But this newspaper believes he should go further. The Coalition should detail its tax cuts and the proposed savings measures. If it is good enough to flag tax cuts at this stage of the electoral cycle, it is good enough also to quantify them and identify the savings measures to pay for them.

In broad brush, this argument will shape much of the political debate between now and the next polling day. It is a discussion not just about climate change and what is best for the environment, but increasingly about economic management and who is best equipped to restore the budget. Ms Gillard will need to explain why she believes her carbon tax does not put us ahead of the international emissions reduction game and place Australian jobs at risk. Mr Abbott will need to justify his less efficient carbon abatement program and detail significant spending cuts to pay for it, along with his tax cuts.

But the Prime Minister is not well served by having the Greens make her economic arguments for her. When Bob Brown attacked the Coalition's plan yesterday it was a reminder that Labor's formal partner in government is a high-taxing, big-government party. Senator Brown was brutally frank about his desire to see the carbon tax eventually force the closure of coalmines. Ms Gillard must consider the implications of a formal alliance with a party that openly seeks to shut down the nation's largest export industry. Taxpayers deserve to know what role Senator Brown is playing in major economic decisions.

With the Greens assuming the balance of power in the Senate next week, the portents are ominous. As if destroying our main export industry isn't odd enough, Senator Brown has announced a bizarre assortment of 70 portfolios to be shared among the 10 Greens. The leader takes responsibility for foreign policy but there are separate spokespeople for Burma, Tibet, West Papua and East Timor. Whaling and Antarctica will form another portfolio -- one of the seven held by Senator Brown, another of which, it must be noted, is Treasury.

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

THE GREENS MUST FOCUS ON THE NATIONAL INTEREST

ON Friday, Australia enters uncharted political territory when the Greens take the balance of power in the upper house.

We are accustomed to individual senators exerting influence from the cross-benches and to legislative refinement, sometimes for the better, from minor parties of the centre. Bob Brown and his colleagues represent something different altogether. Their agenda goes beyond keeping the government honest, extracting bounty for local constituencies or operating as brokers between the two major parties. It is a party in formal alliance with the government, one that commanded almost 12 per cent of the vote at the last election -- small enough to be unrepresentative of Australians' views but big enough to push its own radical agenda, ranging from the economy to West Papua, from transgender issues to mental health.

A parliament with two elected chambers has served Australia well since Federation, imposing an extra layer of accountability that sometimes frustrates governments but often improves the quality of legislation. With power comes responsibility, however, which is why the easy ride the Greens have been given in terms of public and media scrutiny must end.

A leader who appears to be more interested in the game of politics than the substance of policy should face greater scrutiny than Senator Brown has so far experienced. In a taste of what he should now expect, Chris Uhlmann on 7.30 last month challenged Senator Brown's claim, against the evidence of an article he wrote for this newspaper, not to have called for coal exports to be phased out. Instead of clarifying his position, Senator Brown later accused The Australian of being part of the "hate media".

On Sunday's Insiders, Senator Brown reverted to his original stand, confirming that the "coal industry has to be replaced by renewables", thereby begging the question: will the real Bob Brown now stand up?

The Greens are playing a high-stakes game as negotiations over the carbon tax enter the final leg. The choice is between compromising in order to achieve a tax or once again wrecking Labor's proposal just as in 2009, when they rejected Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme. The Greens seem to be laying the groundwork for both -- agreeing to a tax but criticising it so comprehensively that they destroy any hope of Labor containing the issue politically.

Senator Brown may calculate he cannot lose, given that the continuing relevance of his party rests with carbon remaining a hot button issue in the electorate. For that, he seems to suggest, he needs an adversary such as Tony Abbott. That's the only conclusion to be drawn from his statements on Insiders when he all but salivated at the prospect of "putting the blowtorch to" and "taking on" the Coalition leader if Mr Abbott is in government after the next election. Perhaps aghast at such politicking, presenter Barrie Cassidy threw the senator a lifeline, saying: "But you hold the balance of power. You don't take him on. The idea is to work co-operatively with the government of the day, isn't it?"

The Greens' push for more money for renewables as part of the government's carbon tax package reveals their efforts to have a foot in both camps. Greens deputy leader Christine Milne has argued for more money to be spent on renewable energy technologies, even though the Productivity Commission has exposed the inefficiency of such subsidies. It found the state and commonwealth schemes have cost billions of dollars for little result, with schemes such as state-based feed-in tariffs for rooftop solar costing between five and 10 times as much as a market-based scheme to cut the same amount of CO2 emissions.

Clearly the Greens have little faith in the carbon tax delivering much by way of cuts in carbon emissions and are keen to retain direct action along with a market-driven system. They criticise the Coalition's ad hoc approach to "complementary measures" yet want to see more of such direct action themselves. They attack the Opposition Leader on carbon, yet champion -- at least in part -- the same sort of approach to direct action he advocates.

The Greens must be held to account for environmental and economic policies that could have a major influence on Australia's future. The party may have a fraction of the national vote but their holding of the balance of power demands the same scrutiny be applied to their policies as to those of the major parties. Their command of the Senate cross-benches will be a test of the party's maturity and willingness to develop from a party of moral opposition to one that can play a constructive role through negotiation and compromise. Senator Brown faces an internal challenge managing the expectations and ambitions of a disparate group of senators within a party without clear internal structure. The direction the Greens take when they hold the balance of power will determine whether they are seen as a constructive, political force or as a permanent protest group.

Senator Brown has proved himself to be a masterful politician but it is now up to him take on a serious policy mantle and work for pragmatic solutions in the interests of the nation rather than pursuing the narrow agenda of a minority. With the balance of power with the Greens, the opportunity is there for him to take.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

SWITCHED OFF AND TURNED INWARDS

JUST four years ago, when the Lowy Institute asked Australians to rate the most important foreign policy goals, ''tackling climate change'' topped the list. In the Sydney think tank's poll this year, climate change has dropped to 10th place. Topping this year's table of what Australian foreign policy should be trying to achieve, 81 per cent nominated ''protecting the jobs of Australian workers''. It seems we have started to cut ourselves off and turn inwards.

At 4.9 per cent, an unemployment rate most other rich countries would envy, Australia is far from having a job crisis. Yet this focus on ourselves in a world racked by far greater worries is part of a wider trend. Coincidentally with the Lowy poll Michael Wesley, the institute's head, has just published There Goes the Neighbourhood, a book about Australia's response to the rise of Asia. He finds a disturbing paradox. Thanks partly to two decades of economic prosperity, Australians have never been more widely travelled. Yet we have become a country of insular internationalists, complacent and incurious about the big changes reshaping the world and how they will affect us.

Our political leaders offer scant inspiration to raise our sights. Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister, and Tony Abbott, the Opposition Leader, barely register interest in foreign policy. Instead, they brawl about issues such as asylum seekers in a way that corrodes the national debate. The results show. Despite Australia's relatively small number of boat people (an average of 1300 a year over the past 34 years), the Lowy poll found 72 per cent of Australians concerned about boat people, with 85 per cent of those thinking too much money was spent processing them. If the main parties ditched their wildly expensive offshore processing policies, perhaps voters would be more open-minded than they think.

Most Australians think China's becoming an economic giant has been good for the country: hardly surprising when our own well-being is now linked ineluctably to China's. And there has been a marked rise since the George W. Bush years in rating the US alliance important for Australia's security. Wesley, though, argues that our complacency masks some brutal truths here, chiefly that America will pay the alliance less attention as it faces a rising China.

Australians grappled with tough challenges to change our economic ways. If we have, indeed, become a selfish nation on the back of the prosperity that followed, Australia's political leaders could cast off their own insularity and steer the country on a debate about the challenges we now face in adapting to a rapidly changing world.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

CRUSH HOUR ON ROAD AND RAIL

DESPITE everything the system throws their way, Sydney commuters are getting back on to the trains. It is a positive trend - more train passengers mean fewer travelling in polluting, space-eating cars. But you have to wonder how long it will last. Both trains and buses are full, and roads and railways are at capacity, so almost no extra peak-hour services can be scheduled.

As we reported yesterday, rail passenger numbers are growing at weekday peak periods, and so is overcrowding. RailCorp's measures of passenger numbers are telling: at 100 per cent capacity a train has all seats taken. At 135 per cent, the numbers standing start to impede those wanting to board or leave the train, so trains must wait longer at stations, slowing those behind. At 160 per cent of capacity, all standing places are taken. But commuters keep squashing in nonetheless until on parts of the Illawarra line trains are 170 per cent full. That is the maximum crush, but trains on five lines now run more than 135 per cent full.

RailCorp's planners speculate that demand is being fed by central business district firms putting on staff as the economy improves. High petrol prices will be encouraging some to look for alternatives to the car, too. As world demand for oil grows and supplies become harder to find, that trend will continue. But the choke point preventing extra rail services is the lack of a second rail harbour crossing. New lines to outlying suburbs are only going to make the need more urgent. Bus routes serving the CBD are at capacity, too - to the point where planners are wondering whether an underground bus terminal might make sense.

Lucky the commuter who can choose between car, train and bus. Even luckier are the growing numbers who avoid the crush completely by cycling to work. Here though, the state government is moving against the trend. The Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, is unhappy with the City of Sydney's bike paths and says he wants to move them. Let us hope this is only dog-whistling to keep the vacuous radio loudmouths on side, because to give effect to it would squander public funds for no benefit. The paths were planned in co-operation with the Roads and Traffic Authority. They are well used in peak periods. They have some minor problems, but squeezing cars and buses out is not one of them: no lanes were closed to accommodate them. With the transport system stretched beyond its capacity on road and rail during peak times, cycling should be encouraged as an essential safety valve.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF ... SENIOR BACKBENCHERS

More Labour veterans should emulate the example of Mr Straw

What should a senior politician do after the ministerial car and red boxes recede into memory? In too many cases, the Labour way – like that of many Conservatives before them – has been to get out too quickly. Some, from Tony Blair down, chose to leverage ministerial experience for a comfortable career in the private sector. Others, of whom Gordon Brown stands out, have found themselves stranded in the Commons without purpose or enthusiasm. Several of his last cabinet still seem undecided about the future. It is because it is so unusual for a former minister to return to the backbenches with a healthy appetite for parliamentary work that Jack Straw currently stands out. Mr Straw was, to say the least, a controversial minister – foreign secretary during Iraq, cautious on constitutional reform, instinctively conservative on law and order – but there is no question he has turned himself into a formidable senior backbencher. Regularly in the chamber, his interventions are independent and searching. On Monday he used his heft as a senior figure to create a stir over car insurance reform which no junior backbencher could hope to equal. Plenty of Conservative ex-ministers – Stephen Dorrell, Peter Lilley, Malcolm Rifkind for three – also stayed the unglamorous course in the Commons to the benefit of their party and parliament alike. More Labour veterans should emulate their example, and that of Mr Straw, by staying in the Commons to wield their not insignificant power as senior backbenchers.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

CHINA AND THE EU: THE LONGEST OF MARCHES

The Chinese are coming, and for some, like the workers at Saab's Trollhättan plant in Sweden, they cannot come fast enough

Forget the Russians. The Chinese are coming, and for some in Europe, like the 3,800 workers at Saab's Trollhättan plant in Sweden, they cannot come fast enough. Unable to pay its suppliers, or now, it seems, its workers, Saab was thrown a short-term lifeline yesterday by an order for 582 cars for which an unidentified Chinese company will pay upfront. Nor is this an isolated example. A report to be issued shortly by the European Council on Foreign Relations estimates that China's purchase of public debt in Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain may be of the order of €15bn-€20bn, peanuts in comparison to the $647bn in which China's holdings in US treasuries have increased in the last three years, but, when coupled to its direct investments, which will grow to $1tn by 2020, significant enough to the distressed periphery of Europe.

China is not shy of using its growing economic clout. A Hong Kong Airlines contract to buy billions of euros' worth of Airbus aircraft has been put on ice, because the Chinese government is unhappy about EU emissions trading legislation which will force Chinese carriers to pay more for flights landing in Europe. There will be more of the same as two business cultures clash. China's export of its surplus capital is both unavoidable – because it is diversifying from its US holdings to invest in Japan and Europe – and welcome. But whereas public contracts in Europe are open to China, Chinese public contracts are anything but to European companies. European companies can only get Chinese public sector contracts under stringent conditions.

For this reason, the most significant meeting that prime minister Wen Jiabao will have on his European tour will be today at a joint meeting of the German cabinet. If anyone can speak for Europe and provide leadership on the need for reciprocity in trading relations with China, it is Angela Merkel. The crisis in the eurozone has provided rich short-term opportunities for the Chinese, but it is in the medium and longer terms that European interests in transparency, a level playing field and the rule of law should be brought to bear.

Either the EU gets tough in its demands, by threatening to shut out firms from countries like China that remain closed – barring them from tendering for public contracts in Europe – or it allows China to pick off one country with a tottering economy after another and use companies like Airbus as proxy lobbyists to derail Europe's emissions standards. It is clear what should happen to establish parity in trading relations in the long term. Making it happen in conditions where member governments are scrambling for cash is a more challenging but just as necessary task.

Wen said that China would not tolerate finger-wagging lectures on human rights and that the UK and China should respect each other as equals. Regular crackdowns on activists and lawyers, in the form of arrests and extrajudicial disappearances – the latest being in response to the Arab spring – are one symptom among many of how bumpy the process of internal reform is. It will get a lot bumpier in next year's leadership changes, which will usher in a new generation of leaders, the so-called princelings like Xi Jinping, who are sons of the heroes of the Long March. If, as we are constantly told, China's annual growth rates are unsustainable and the world's second-largest economy could yet hit its own Japanese-style brick wall – as an export and property boom collapses in stagnation – China has a clear interest in seeking European high technology and expertise in transforming its economy. An economy that seeks to become green, innovative and sustainable will also have to tap the strength of its own ecologists, lawyers and civil society. Mutual economic dependence is a good place to start, but the dialogue must not end there. China and Europe have a lot to give each other.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE: TOO MANY CHIEFS

No battle plan, it is said, ever survives the first contact with the enemy. It seems to be a bit like that with British defence planning too

No battle plan, it is said, ever survives the first contact with the enemy. It seems to be a bit like that with British defence planning too. This country is often on the verge of finalising the large strategic debate about national security, and the forces and structures required to protect it. But then events kick in and everything is bent in new directions, leaving the theorists and planners stranded and the old interest groups intact. Inevitably, there is suspicion that the latest internal recasting of the MoD, though triggered by 10 months' work by Lord Levene and the defence reform unit, has also been shaped at the 11th hour by Downing Street's extreme anger at recent unauthorised public complaints by the service chiefs about the sustainability of the Libya mission.

British defence thinking, planning and organisation often remain stubbornly out of sync with both the strategic and defence needs of the United Kingdom and with the ability to pay for it in tight times. Monday's statement by the defence secretary, Liam Fox, in response to the Levene report may in time come to be seen as pivotal in correcting this. Inevitably, that was how Dr Fox presented it in his speech to the Reform thinktank and then, later, in the Commons. But the proof of these things is in how they work out in practice. Past experience, and the current destabilising arguments over Libya, inescapably means that the claims made on behalf of the Levene reforms have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

The Levene reforms look right on paper. As Dr Fox made clear to MPs, the defence establishment is top-heavy, bureaucratic, and has an inbuilt tendency for counterproductive and expensive haggling. The reforms at the heart of Monday's statement – reduction in the numbers of commanders, better co-ordination through a slimmed-down decision-making structure, and service accountability for spending decisions – all make eminent sense in easing those problems. But, as the Libya arguments have shown, these good intentions struggle to survive big new commitments or shocks, some of them generated from 10 Downing Street rather than an external enemy.

National security strategists rarely have the luxury of making defence policy in isolation from dangerous and volatile events. Yet, as Afghanistan winds down and as the action in Libya evolves and, hopefully, concludes, this country needs to pause and take better stock of its future defence needs than it has done in the recent past. It is a debate that our national politics needs. And it is a debate in which the military, however self-interested and disruptive their rivalries can sometimes be, need to be heard too.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

VICTORY AGAINST TERROR IN INDONESIA

It was third time unlucky for Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir. An Indonesia court on June 16 found Mr. Bashir guilty of terrorism charges and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. While the 72 year old maintains his innocence, his conviction is an important step in the fight against extremist Islam and terrorism in Southeast Asia; it is only a step, however. Indonesia — along with other Islamic governments and institutions — must increase efforts to promote moderation, stifle intolerance and reduce the conditions that sustain the terrorism impulse.

Mr. Bashir claims to be a simple preacher of Islam. He is much more than that. He rose to prominence in Indonesia during the country's prodemocracy movement of the late 1990s, returning from exile in Malaysia after the Suharto regime collapsed. He became one of the most prominent Islamic voices in that period, criticizing the secular regime that replaced the aging autocrat and its close ties to the United States, while praising Osama bin Laden and his support for radical action. He dismissed charges that bin Laden was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, blaming them on the CIA and Israel's Mossad.

His outspokenness and stature won him recognition as "the grandfather of Islamic militancy." He was the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian version of al-Qaida. J.I. is responsible for a string of terrorist attacks throughout Indonesia, including the Bali bombings in 2002 and attacks on two Jakarta luxury hotels a year later, which altogether claimed more than 240 lives.

The Indonesian government has arrested and tried Mr. Bashir three times. He was first arrested after the Bali bombings, but that prosecution was mishandled; the preacher was sentenced to just 18 months — on charges of immigration violations. Upon his release, he was immediately rearrested and charged with involvement in the Jakarta hotel bombings. That resulted in a 30-month sentence — as he was in prison during the attack, he could not have been directly involved.

Mr. Bashir was arrested a third time in West Java in August 2010, and charged with founding and financing a group called al-Qaida of the Veranda of Mecca (sometimes referred to as al-Qaida of Aceh). The group had established a terrorist training camp in Aceh, where some 100 terrorists were being prepared for a variety of attacks, reportedly including Mumbai-style assaults on Western embassies and hotels in Jakarta and assassination plots against Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The camp was raided last year and more than 100 people were arrested. Mr. Bashr was then charged with seven counts of supporting terrorism.

Mr. Bashir insists he is innocent; he was convicted, he says, by Western, anti-Islamic laws. His lawyer said he would appeal the sentence, as would the prosecutors. They sought life in prison and want a longer term. That is likely to be a moot effort. The cleric will soon go on trial for connections to the suicide-bombing of a mosque inside a police compound in Central Java that occurred last April. And at 72, Mr. Bashir is unlikely to outlive his sentence.

If the conviction is a victory in the fight against terrorism, it is by no means the end of the efforts. While unpopular among the overwhelming majority of Indonesians — and the appeal of Mr. Bashir's message diminished considerably when it became clear that the primary victims of his program were Indonesians — there remains a significant number of people who follow the radical path.

Islamic extremism is resilient and continues to be propagated throughout the region, keen to exploit grievances real or imagined. Terrorist groups are no longer hierarchical, but have become networked, loosely linked and entrepreneurial. They can be low tech, using local materials and targets. It is, in the words of Ms. Sidney Jones, a noted expert on regional terrorist groups, "do-it-yourself jihad."

Ultimate success in this struggle against terrorism depends first on effective law enforcement. That demands good intelligence, sensitivity to local conditions — there is no one size fits all solution to terrorism — and police who understand the threat. The presence of radical sympathizers among the police and security forces will ensure that any program fails.

It also requires that the government step up efforts to promote tolerance. Supporters of radical Islam are a minority in Indonesia, and Indonesian voters have made clear their preference for secular government in a series of elections throughout the last decade. Nonetheless, there has been a rise in religious intolerance throughout the country over the last decade, evident in both opinion surveys and the growing number of attacks on Christians and their churches. There have been lynchings of other minority religious groups as well.

The highest levels of the Indonesian government must speak out against such attacks and demand recognition of and peaceful coexistence with other religions in Indonesia. Friends and allies of Indonesia can provide aid and assistance to the police and law enforcement groups, as Japan has done in the past. Development assistance is also important as many radicals are driven down that path because they lack other opportunities. A comprehensive strategy can defeat terrorism in Indonesia; the arrest and conviction of Mr. Bashir is a critical part of that approach.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE COURAGE TO REBUILD

BY DAISAKU IKEDA

Special to The Japan Times

"The journey of life is not smooth and unimpeded, but may be fraught with difficulties exceeding our worst nightmares," observed Kan' ichi Asakawa (1873-1948), a historian and peace advocate originally from Fukushima Prefecture.

More than three months have now passed since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku-Kanto region, leaving a trail of devastation of an unprecedented magnitude. The number of confirmed fatalities exceeds 15,000, with around 7,500 more still missing.

Each victim was someone's father, mother, child, relative or friend — each was an irreplaceable individual.

As a Buddhist, I have been offering my earnest prayers for their peaceful repose, as well as for the health, safety and well-being of all those affected by the earthquake, and for the success of relief and reconstruction efforts.

The scale of the destruction is immense, with more than 110,000 people still living in shelters and temporary housing. There is a clear need to make official responses to the disaster more focused, speedy and effective.

My heart goes out to the huge numbers of people undergoing unspeakable difficulties.

The suffering of those whose loved ones and livelihoods were swept away has been compounded by uncertainties about the future, the seemingly unending problems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the threat of economic recession, harmful rumors and many other obstacles to recovery.

But I believe we must not allow feelings of defeat to take root in our hearts. Dr. Ved P. Nanda, an expert on international law, sent a message of sympathy stating: "Now is the time to profoundly cultivate the security of the spirit, the inner strength that can overcome any threat."

The Buddhist scriptures teach: "More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all." There are no greater treasures than the highest human qualities such as compassion, courage and hope. Not even tragic accident or disaster can destroy such treasures of the heart.

Even though the earthquake and tsunami was a cruel catastrophe that has left everyone stunned, I believe we can see three signs of hope.

The first is a sense of human solidarity. This can be seen both locally and internationally. We will never forget how the rest of the world offered Japan prompt and practical relief as soon as the disaster occurred. The gratitude of the Japanese people is heartfelt and immense.

Also, within the affected communities, a renewed and powerful spirit of cooperation is visible. When individuals stand up together in the face of a catastrophic challenge in this way, a dignified human community imbued with mutual care and support is born. No one should be left to suffer alone.

The second sign of hope is the indomitable courage of those affected by the earthquake. Words cannot express how deeply I have been moved by the selfless acts made for the sake of others by people who were themselves victims.

I was told of one woman from Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, who saved the lives of her neighbors. As the raging waters reached the second floor of her apartment building, she held onto an air-conditioning unit, meanwhile preventing a man carrying a baby from being swept away by pinning him against a wall with her back. With her free hand she then grabbed and held onto another man by the collar. She said she was determined not to let them go even if her arms were torn off.

There are thousands of such unsung heroes still working tirelessly for the reconstruction of their communities, undefeated by the heart-wrenching loss of families and friends, homes and belongings.

At the Soka Gakkai's community centers throughout the region, survivors volunteered their help despite their own grief and exhaustion. Our relief efforts began immediately after the earthquake and included offering shelter to evacuees. We are now supporting medium- and long-term reconstruction efforts in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures.

A Buddhist scripture states: "When we light a lantern for others, our own way forward is lit." When one takes action for others, one's own suffering is transformed into the energy that can keep one moving forward; a light of hope illuminating a new tomorrow for oneself and others is kindled.

The third sign of hope is the passion and vigor of youth taking action.

A young man I know from Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, was swept up by the tsunami and escaped death by clinging to a pine tree above the freezing waters through the night. A plumber by occupation, he lost his shop and home.

But he refused to succumb to the crushing burden of hopelessness, assisting efforts to reestablish vital services throughout the city. Amid the ruins and on the site of his former home, he and his friends put up a huge sign that read "Gambaro! Ishinomaki (Don't give up, Ishinomaki!)" made out of salvaged wood. The sign has become a symbol of the spirit of the people of Ishinomaki.

Young people are, by their very youth, the embodiment of hope. No matter how dark it is, the sun rises where young people take a stand.

The path toward full reconstruction will be long. But we will continue to move forward, inspired by the example of such courageous youth, joining forces with others exerting themselves for the recovery of the affected communities.

Each step, no matter how seemingly small, will help plant the seeds of hope and be counted among the treasures of the heart.

The spirit of the people of Tohoku is found in these further words of Kan' ichi Asakawa: "People are not so weak that they can only live under the sway of their circumstances. ... Rather than be crushed by sorrow, let us rise proudly above it."

Daisaku Ikeda is president of the Soka Gakkai International and founder of Soka University and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

EAGLEBURGER: THE U.S. DIPLOMAT'S AMBASSADOR

BY CHRISTOPHER HILL

DENVER — For many of us in the U.S. Foreign Service, Lawrence Eagleburger, who died early this month, was a larger-than-life figure who left an indelible mark on our lives.

Eagleburger, who served and later often closely advised a string of U.S. presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush — and was briefly secretary of state — went after every tough issue there was.

His courage was matched only by his determination and humor. He wouldn't so much vanquish his adversaries as make them melt in his presence. It was appropriate that he was the only Foreign Service officer to become secretary of state. Had he been appointed in late 1992 for longer than the interregnum between the Bush and Clinton administrations, he arguably would have been the best secretary of state the U.S. ever had.

In the Foreign Service, one's first ambassador is a very special person. Mine was Eagleburger. I met him in 1978 in his office at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade for my required "courtesy call," a stress-inducing event on every newcomer's arrival checklist. I had just arrived as the "assistant commercial attaché," a rather modest position, appropriate to a 25-year-old junior Foreign Service officer.

Eagleburger told me what he was trying to do in Yugoslavia in the twilight of President Josip Broz Tito's life: weave a web of relations with Yugoslavia such that it would keep the country from going in another direction. He had, after all, first been assigned to Yugoslavia in 1963, and become known as "Lawrence of Macedonia" for his relief work after the Skopje earthquake in August of that year.

I listened carefully to his explanation of my role in the "web of relations." His capacity to link the tactical task of assisting visiting U.S. businessmen to the strategic goal of managing the coming post-Tito Yugoslavia was extraordinary. I had been scared to death for the entire 20-minute meeting, but I walked out a little taller for having realized that he valued my job. I felt an instant sense of loyalty to him.

Of course, another reason I was so frightened to enter his office was his legendary temper. I saw it many times on the tennis court. As one of the most junior officers in the embassy, I was often summoned as an emergency fourth player for tennis at the ambassador's residence. Eagleburger, who was short, but only a little overweight at the time, would range over the court, not particularly mindful that he was playing doubles.

Tito died in May 1980, after a six-month illness. Eagleburger argued forcefully with the White House, ultimately without success, that the president should lead the U.S. delegation to the funeral. As a junior officer accompanying him to commercial events, I was often privy to his comments about some of his Washington interlocutors: "a mile wide and an inch deep," was how he described a very senior member of the Carter administration.

He never shrank from taking on Washington or letting officials there know what he thought. "I didn't come here to preside over a post office," he wrote in protest against delivering what he considered a useless note to the Yugoslavs. Then he admonished that "pique is no substitute for policy," a line I always remembered.

The Ambassador, as I would always call him, went on to bigger and better things. He was undersecretary of political affairs in 1989 during the Polish and Central European revolutions, overseeing and spearheading U.S. assistance.

But his health — even 20 years ago — started to fail him. As the State Department's desk officer for Poland, I accompanied the intrepid and iconic Polish democratic revolutionary Jacek Kuron to Eagleburger's enormous seventh-floor office. Eagleburger, then in a wheelchair because of his knees and phlebitis, coughing from his cigarette habit and his asthma, instantly recognized a kindred spirit. When Kuron asked if he could have a cigarette, Eagleburger, frustrated perhaps by his doctors' advice and new State Department rules, responded, "Fantastic! I've got some." Whereupon he whirled his wheelchair 180 degrees, and headed at breakneck speed to his desk. He and Kuron lit up, and it took us hours to pull them apart.

I visited him a few years ago at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, and we talked for a couple of hours. He wanted to know all about the negotiations with North Korea. He laughed at my admitting I had borrowed some of his performance art.

"How do you think the Foreign Service is doing?" he asked. He was worried that we'd surrendered too much of our role to the military. I told him that we would be fine, and that we would do our duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, military engagements about which he had great concerns. "Just make sure our people show some guts," he responded, and he lit another cigarette.

Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia, was U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, South Korea, Macedonia, and Poland, U.S. special envoy for Kosovo, and chief U.S. negotiator with North Korea from 2005-2009. He is now dean of the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. © 2011 Project Syndicate.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

GLOBAL DRUG INDUSTRY ANNOUNCES ACTION PLAN AGAINST THREATS OF NONCOMMUNICABLE DISEASE

BY EDUARDO PISANI

NEW YORK — Behind the scenes the past 10 years, the pharmaceutical industry has been going through some important changes in how it responds to the need for medicines and vaccines in developing countries.

The AIDS epidemic in many developing countries was the tipping point and set the changes in motion.

Now, the global health community faces a different, but just as challenging task: to address the mounting threats of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases (collectively called noncommunicable diseases or NCDs).

The pharmaceutical industry responded to calls for action and on June 16 announced at the United Nations in New York a Framework for Action for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.

These NCDs are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, killing prematurely more than 36 million people in 2008; a number projected to increase by over 20 percent globally by 2020, to 44 million deaths.

Of great concern is the fact that nearly 80 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. While it was and remains essential to keep focused on research and development of new medicines and vaccines, the pharmaceutical industry wants to build from experience and contribute to addressing global health challenges.

The NCD 10-Point Framework for Action sends a clear message that the pharmaceutical industry today is ready to act quickly, creatively and flexibly so as to make sure that vital medicines reach the patients in need in the developing world.

The Framework focuses on innovation, access and affordability, prevention and health education; it also underscores the essential role of partnerships and dialogue. We have identified ten areas where we believe the R&D-based pharmaceutical industry can, with the involvement of key partners, put in place concrete programs to tackle NCDs in the developing world.

Thankfully, we won't be starting from scratch. The main contribution of the research-based pharmaceutical industry to improved global health has been, and will continue to be, its unique role in developing new medicines and vaccines for all diseases. Our industry currently has over 1,500 medicines in the pipeline for major NCDs.

In addition, over the last decade pharmaceutical companies have spent billions of dollars in public-private partnerships, R&D of new treatments specifically for developing world patients, and transfer of technology to improve health in low and middle income countries.

Between 2004 and 2008, the industry provided nearly $26 billion worth of health assistance for access and capacity building in developing countries.

Today, there are over 200 programs funded by the pharmaceutical industry that serve to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and indeed nearly a quarter of these programs already target NCDs.

For example, we have a diabetes health care professionals program in India and a breast cancer awareness and diagnosis program in Ethiopia.

The NCD framework shows our vision to take this effort one major step further. Just this past month, we have partnered with the World Health Professions Alliance to develop an NCD scorecard and an NCD prevention campaign that will reach over 26 million health care professionals in more than 130 countries to help encourage patients to identify and prevent risky behaviors.

The NCD Framework for Action has not been conceived in a vacuum; our thinking endeavours to support the World Health Organisation Action Plan on NCDs and the recent NCD resolution passed this May by the nearly 200 countries represented at the World Health Assembly.

We invite others — WHO, governments, civil society, academia and patient groups — to join us and inform our work. Our NCD Framework for Action identifies those areas where we can make a difference.

But ultimately, finding solutions to the health and economic threat posed by the rapid increase in NCDs is everyone's business. Governments must strengthen health care systems.

Civil society, health professionals, the media, and the business community can play a fundamental role in increasing awareness and education, improving early detection and disease surveillance, and facilitating the implementation of prevention programs.

Our industry's motivation is to make a difference for the women and men in developing countries who are often struck down with disease in their prime and whose families sacrifice so much to try to help them.

We hope that the world hears their plight and that the U.N. High Level Meeting to be held in September will be able to carve out a plan of action that addresses this great challenge.

We hope today and in the months to come to show that the R&D pharmaceutical industry is ready to step up to the plate.

Eduardo Pisani is director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical and Manufacturers Association (www.ifpma.org).

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

EAGLEBURGER: THE U.S. DIPLOMAT'S AMBASSADOR

BY CHRISTOPHER HILL

DENVER — For many of us in the U.S. Foreign Service, Lawrence Eagleburger, who died early this month, was a larger-than-life figure who left an indelible mark on our lives.

Eagleburger, who served and later often closely advised a string of U.S. presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush — and was briefly secretary of state — went after every tough issue there was.

His courage was matched only by his determination and humor. He wouldn't so much vanquish his adversaries as make them melt in his presence. It was appropriate that he was the only Foreign Service officer to become secretary of state. Had he been appointed in late 1992 for longer than the interregnum between the Bush and Clinton administrations, he arguably would have been the best secretary of state the U.S. ever had.

In the Foreign Service, one's first ambassador is a very special person. Mine was Eagleburger. I met him in 1978 in his office at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade for my required "courtesy call," a stress-inducing event on every newcomer's arrival checklist. I had just arrived as the "assistant commercial attaché," a rather modest position, appropriate to a 25-year-old junior Foreign Service officer.

Eagleburger told me what he was trying to do in Yugoslavia in the twilight of President Josip Broz Tito's life: weave a web of relations with Yugoslavia such that it would keep the country from going in another direction. He had, after all, first been assigned to Yugoslavia in 1963, and become known as "Lawrence of Macedonia" for his relief work after the Skopje earthquake in August of that year.

I listened carefully to his explanation of my role in the "web of relations." His capacity to link the tactical task of assisting visiting U.S. businessmen to the strategic goal of managing the coming post-Tito Yugoslavia was extraordinary. I had been scared to death for the entire 20-minute meeting, but I walked out a little taller for having realized that he valued my job. I felt an instant sense of loyalty to him.

Of course, another reason I was so frightened to enter his office was his legendary temper. I saw it many times on the tennis court. As one of the most junior officers in the embassy, I was often summoned as an emergency fourth player for tennis at the ambassador's residence. Eagleburger, who was short, but only a little overweight at the time, would range over the court, not particularly mindful that he was playing doubles.

Tito died in May 1980, after a six-month illness. Eagleburger argued forcefully with the White House, ultimately without success, that the president should lead the U.S. delegation to the funeral. As a junior officer accompanying him to commercial events, I was often privy to his comments about some of his Washington interlocutors: "a mile wide and an inch deep," was how he described a very senior member of the Carter administration.

He never shrank from taking on Washington or letting officials there know what he thought. "I didn't come here to preside over a post office," he wrote in protest against delivering what he considered a useless note to the Yugoslavs. Then he admonished that "pique is no substitute for policy," a line I always remembered.

The Ambassador, as I would always call him, went on to bigger and better things. He was undersecretary of political affairs in 1989 during the Polish and Central European revolutions, overseeing and spearheading U.S. assistance.

But his health — even 20 years ago — started to fail him. As the State Department's desk officer for Poland, I accompanied the intrepid and iconic Polish democratic revolutionary Jacek Kuron to Eagleburger's enormous seventh-floor office. Eagleburger, then in a wheelchair because of his knees and phlebitis, coughing from his cigarette habit and his asthma, instantly recognized a kindred spirit. When Kuron asked if he could have a cigarette, Eagleburger, frustrated perhaps by his doctors' advice and new State Department rules, responded, "Fantastic! I've got some." Whereupon he whirled his wheelchair 180 degrees, and headed at breakneck speed to his desk. He and Kuron lit up, and it took us hours to pull them apart.

I visited him a few years ago at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, and we talked for a couple of hours. He wanted to know all about the negotiations with North Korea. He laughed at my admitting I had borrowed some of his performance art.

"How do you think the Foreign Service is doing?" he asked. He was worried that we'd surrendered too much of our role to the military. I told him that we would be fine, and that we would do our duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, military engagements about which he had great concerns. "Just make sure our people show some guts," he responded, and he lit another cigarette.

Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia, was U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, South Korea, Macedonia, and Poland, U.S. special envoy for Kosovo, and chief U.S. negotiator with North Korea from 2005-2009. He is now dean of the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. © 2011 Project Syndicate.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

A MEDIOCRE BADMINTON FORCE?

It was a sad end for Indonesian badminton players as they saw their opponents romp home with all titles at stake at the Djarum Indonesia Open Super Series on Sunday. For three years in a row Indonesia has failed to win any titles in the tournament it once dominated.

The last time Indonesia won titles was in 2008, with men's singles Sony Dwi Kuncoro — who this year could not even make it into the main draw — and women's doubles pair Lilyana Natsir and Vita Marissa.

On Sunday, Lilyana raised Indonesia's hopes in the mixed doubles with Tontowi Ahmad, but failed to clear the final hurdles. Meanwhile, Vita and Nadya Melati lost easily to their Chinese opponents in the women's doubles.

China, again, reigned supreme, pocketing four of five titles on offer, losing only the men's singles crown to Malaysian world number one Lee Chong Wei.

The poor performance on home soil should serve as a wake-up call for the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) that it needs to overhaul its development programs, starting with talent-scouting, recruitment and training. Under the old method, Indonesia produced the so-called "Magnificent Seven" who were a dominant force in world badminton between the 1970s and 1980s, especially in the men's division.

But the world has changed. The sport has gradually lost its charm in Indonesia, making it hard for the PBSI to find talents with great potential to excel.

The snail-paced regeneration has forced Indonesia to bank on the same old players in major tournaments, placing too much burden on them, while at the same time their performance is on the decline.

The All England, Thomas Cup and Uber Cup titles, to name a few, are now elusive for Indonesia as the competition has grown tighter.

Following the recent Indonesia Open, PBSI chairman Djoko Santoso promised an immediate evaluation of the national players, given the fact that this year's tournament also served as a qualifying round for the 2012 London Olympics. Badminton became the only sport in which Indonesia had Olympic hopes after it won two gold medals in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Critics have suggested that senior players should focus on majors only, with the inclusion of some potential junior players to help improve their world rankings. It wouldn't be a sin for Indonesia to emulate China, which sends as many young players as possible to tournaments to give them the experience they need to fill their seniors' shoes.

Unlike economic giant China, Indonesia may face financial constraints to field a huge team, but that's what the PBSI is for. Badminton officials must deal with the challenge to find creative solutions to finance their long-term investment development program.

With only one year left before the Olympics, national shuttlers need to focus on major tournaments, including next month's World Championships, to qualify for London.

The responsibility should not go solely on the players. They need all stakeholders, including us, to contribute if this nation wishes to continue its gold-medal-winning tradition at the Olympics.

Beyond the Olympic dream, the full support of the public would also help prevent the badminton team from descending to such mediocre status after a long history of success.

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THE JAKARTA POST

THE MYTH OF THE INDONESIAN POPULATION BOOM

STEFAN S. HANDOYO

In the Global Competitiveness Report recently released by the World Economic Forum, Indonesian competitiveness has made a significant improvement. According to the report, Indonesia ranks 44th among 139 countries, leaping by 10 places since 2005, the strongest progress among G20 member countries.

The report states that "Indonesia now compares favorably with the BRICS, with the notable exception of China (27th). Indonesia precedes India (51st), South Africa (54th), Brazil (59th) and Russia (63rd)".

A common indicator among the BRICS is their large population, and the report cites that among other indicators of social and economic improvement, Indonesia's huge population and its growing middle class have helped improve its competitiveness remarkably.

The World Bank estimates that every year 7 million Indonesians join the middle income group.

The BRICS, along with much of the rest of the world, have seen a rapid expansion in population over the past half century.

More than 3 billion people currently reside in the BRIC nations, more than double the number in 1960, accounting for approximately 45 percent of the world's total population.

However, BRICs' aggregate population growth is set to slow in the years ahead, according to the most recent revision of the UN population projections. These long-range projections provide a good directional sense of future population trends.

Over the next 50 years, only India's population will continue to expand, nearing 1.7 billion people by 2060.

Brazil's population is expected to remain stable in the next 25-35 years, while China's population will start to decline within the next two decades. Russia's population has been shrinking, from 148.5 million in 1995 to 143 million today.

While there is no mention at all in the report on the challenge for Indonesia to address its growing population, some sectors in government and the community believe a high population growth will endanger Indonesia's future economic performance.

Indonesia's population during the period from 2000 to 2010 grew at least 3.5 million births per year and in the next five years will exceed 250 million people.

Many have quickly put the blame on the poor and low-income groups with large families as the culprit for the uncontrolled population growth, which in turn results in an increase in poverty and triggers various social, economic, security, ecological and public health problems.

Responses in the media to the birth of so many babies every year in this country have been awesome; it has the pitch of fear, the modality of warning and the timbre of impending doomsday.

They have certainly stirred many minds and steered such minds to "obvious" conclusions: the pills, the condoms and the birth control.

The Indonesian population pre-sents a challenge to economic performance. People have to be fed, clothed, housed, schooled and later employed. Can the Indonesian economy provide enough for all? Can the poor afford to pay for all those basic needs?

A million babies a year means many things to many people. To pessimists it means only more schools that have to be built, more mouths that have to be fed and obviously more people that have to crowd into the limited space we have. This is the materialistic outlook that many of us in Indonesia have believed in for so long.

There is nothing wrong with these diviners with their sad vision of the future, except that one gets a very uneasy feeling over their disregard for the past.

At a time when the United States has gone past a GNP of US$1 trillion per year, with a population of more than 200 million, one should not miss staring at its record: Its income rose the fastest at a time when its population was rising most rapidly. It was also the 20th century that saw the US population multiply by six times when its economy flew off to its own stratospheric levels.

Indonesia is going to repeat history although on a slightly different level. Indonesia has just passed a half trillion dollars of GNP level and is projected to reach the $1 trillion mark in the not too distant future.

With the current population of more than 230 million, one should not miss to notice the rapid increase of its income when its population continues to rise, and to expect the same will happen when its population rises rapidly as experienced by many countries soon after they reached a $3,000 per capita income mark.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently outlined a "master plan" to lift the country's growth rate to a level on par with emerging-market superstars like China and India by boosting investment and lowering government barriers to growth.

The plan will push annual economic growth in the world's fourth-most populous country to between 8 and 9 percent.

But this will only be a dream if Indonesian population growth rate is kept further below the healthy rate of 2.1 percent per annum, just like what Brazil, China and Russia, which have started to experience a "demographic winter" that makes their population become old before becoming rich.

We will fail to see that 3.5 million newly born babies every year are actually the hope for the future.

Indeed, many factors could explain the impressive economic record of industrialized economies like the US; one being the improved productivity and innovative capacity of their people due to higher quality of education.

The countries that have since grown to be rich no doubt faced the same problems that vex us today. They had schools to build, more food to produce and had to crowd themselves into cities. But all these were made possible precisely because income was rising faster than the population.

Economic performance had won, is winning and has good prospects of continuing to win in the future; in fact a growing population provides a strong hope for these prospects — provided we keep our resolve to keep on going and growing.

The writer is a senior business economist and expert on business ethics and corporate governance.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

LESSONS LEARNED AT THE SCS WORKSHOP (PART 2 OF 3)

HASJIM DJALAL

Several basic principles for launching an informal initiative should be observed.

1. Use an all-inclusive approach. Do not exclude any directly interested countries or parties.

2. Start with less-sensitive issues that participants will feel comfortable discussing without incurring animosity of their respective governments or authorities. Oil and natural resources, for example, proved to be sensitive topics. Environmental protection is a more comfortable topic.

3. The participants should be senior or important personalities in their governments or authorities, although they are participating in the process in their private capacities.

4. At least in the initial stages, do not institutionalize the structure of the process or create a permanent mechanism. Keep the process as flexible as possible.

5. Differences should not be magnified and cooperation should be emphasized. Bringing provocative international attention too early or immediately internationalizing the process may be detrimental in the long run.

6. In view of the delicacies and sensitivities of certain issues, it is wise to start with what is possible and follow a step by step approach, taking into account principles of cost effectiveness.

7. Understand that the process of managing potential conflicts is a long-term, continual process, where lack of immediate, concrete results should not be cause for despair or frustration.

8. Keep the objectives simple. The South China Sea workshops have three objectives: To learn how to cooperate, to encourage dialogue between the directly involved parties and to develop confidence so the participants feel comfortable discussing difficult issues.

9. The roles of the initiator, the interlocutor or the convener of the process and the roles of disinterested supporters and sponsors are crucial. The initiator, the convener or the interlocutor must be impartial and have patience, dedication, tenacity and sufficient knowledge of the delicate issues involved. At the same time, he or she must be able to retain the respect and the continued support and cooperation of all participants. He or she must have the interests of all in mind and should be motivated by the general good rather than sectoral or group interests, although he or she must be aware of all those conflicting interests and should be in the position to accommodate them. He or she should strive to arrive at the decision by consensus.

After launching the informal process 20 years ago, I have learned additional lessons:

1. Bigger countries in the region should be mindful of the views of their neighbors, especially the smaller ones. The bigger countries should be careful to avoid being perceived as dominating or bullying their smaller neighbors.

2. Attempts should be made to broaden the participants in cooperative programs and deepen the areas of cooperation while promoting the regional states' growth. The more cooperative efforts are made to develop mutual economic benefits, the more likely success becomes.

3. There should be more emphasis on regional and common interests. The regional countries should learn how to pursue national interests and maintain regional harmony. In fact, they should perceive regional interests as part of national interests.

4. There should be a gradual progression from the concept of national resilience to promoting regional resilience and regional cohesion. The positive experiences of ASEAN have been very instructive. The concept of national resilience teaches that the strength of a country depends on and will be negatively affected by its weakest links. National resilience will increase if the weaknesses of the component parts are remedied and the link and cohesion amongst all the components are strengthened. Equally, regional resilience will be negatively affected by instability in one or more of the national components if the links and cohesion among the members degrades.

5. The countries in the region should be less sensitive to the concept of national sovereignty, since more and more issues that in the past might have been arguably of a national character are becoming more and more regional and have more regional implications, such as environmental issues, certain domestic political stability issues, severe human rights problems and even certain monetary and financial issues, as shown recently in Southeast Asia.

However, ASEAN has been able to develop this notion from the concept of regional cooperation to the concept of constructive engagement, later to the concept of enhanced interaction in the general interest of all and to create a sense of a greater community, either in political and security issues or in economic or social issues.

6. Within the true sense of oriental good neighbors, the countries in the region should be helpful to their neighbors in need if required. Any aid offered by the richer and stronger countries to the poorer and weaker countries in the region should not always be based on calculations of strict national and business interests, but should have a strong element of "do-good-ism" and "disinterestedness", which in the end will promote stronger regional cohesion.

7. The countries in the region should avoid arms races amongst themselves. In fact, they should be able to coordinate their defensive needs, thus bolstering regional harmony and transparency. There is a lot of non-military security cooperation that could be developed in the region, which in the end would avoid arms races such as preventing piracy and armed robberies at sea, illegal drug trafficking, refugee problems, international terrorism, smuggling and others.

8. Major external powers, wherever possible and practicable, should support the development of a constructive atmosphere in the region for peace, stability and progress.

The external powers, however, should not involve themselves in territorial or jurisdictional disputes unless requested by the parties concerned or if the consequences of the disputes are such that they have already endangered or will be endangering peace and stability in the region.

9. Countries in the region should exercise preventive diplomacy by preventing disputes from becoming open armed conflict or by preventing conflicts from spreading or aggravating. More dialogue and confidence-building measures or processes among all concerned parties, assisted as appropriate by third-party offices, are necessary.

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.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

CHALLENGES FOR BETTER FOREST GOVERNANCE

WARIEF DJAJANTO BASORIE

Carbon-dense peatland. Carbon emission reduction. Low-carbon economy. These are key terms in Indonesia's initiative to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) from deforestation and degradation of forests (REDD).

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has set a 7/26 target: 7 percent annual economic growth and 26 percent reduction of GHG, mainly carbon dioxide, as opposed to a "business-as-usual" scenario, by 2020.

The effort to reach this goal is being helped by a May 20, 2011, presidential instruction to stop the issuance of new permits to convert primary forests and peatlands for two years. In this international year of forests, this is just one tool to arrest and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide in Indonesia's REDD+ program.

On one hand, the moratorium had to take into account the demands of NGOs to put a full stop to all forest exploitation, and on the other it had to be agreeable to commercial interests pushing for a business-as-usual scenario. These interests are businesses in oil palm plantations, mining and agriculture that convert forests and peatlands for use in these sectors.

Putting aside the positions for and against the presidential instruction, the question is what comes next? What action can Indonesia take after the two-year period of the moratorium? How would such action have an impact on local administrations that by law now enjoy autonomy? What hard and fast rules should apply down to local levels for accountable forest governance?

Future policy decisions should consider a January 2011 satellite-based study by researchers from the London School of Economics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The Political Economy of Deforestation in the Forests" says the political economy at the local level substantially affects the rate of tropical deforestation in Indonesia.

The 49-page paper reports three main results from a MODIS satellite that tracked annual changes in forest cover over an eight-year period.

First, it showed that increasing numbers of political jurisdictions have led to increased deforestation. Second, it showed the existence of "political logging cycles" where illegal logging increases dramatically in the period leading up to local elections.

Third, for local government officials, logging and other sources of rent are short-run substitutes. This affect disappears over time as political equilibrium shifts.

The study shows how the economics of corruption can drive natural resource extraction. It concluded that unless Indonesia's REDD+ program takes into account those local actors who benefit from legal and illegal logging, it is unlikely the initiative will be effective.

Agus Purnomo, President Yudhoyono's special adviser on climate change, responded to the LSE/MIT paper in an article published in Koran Tempo daily on March 8, 2011. The Elections Law should "enhance local elections rules so that qualified and honest candidates can compete with rich or reckless ones who pawn their regions' natural resources to their financial backers," he wrote.

Reform in local elections is part of efforts to reduce Indonesia's carbon emissions from forestry and peatlands. The success in boosting the quality of Indonesia's democracy can also positively affect the quality of natural resources management, Agus says.

According to the Forestry Ministry, Indonesia loses between 1.1 and 2 million hectares of forests and peatlands to deforestation each year. This is equal in size to Bali and Lombok combined. Deforestation is the Indonesia's main source of carbon emissions.

Deforestation could increase with more decentralization. The enactment of the 1999 Local Governments Law spurred the carving out of new provinces, districts and cities from previously larger provinces, districts and cities (known locally by the term pemekaran).

The number of provinces has increased from 27 to 33. Districts and cities have surged from 291 to 498, each with their own autonomy.

In Indonesia's REDD+ program, in line with the US$1 billion partnership signed with Norway in 2010, the government is formulating a REDD+ national strategy, setting up an executive agency and forming an independent monitoring unit.

The President should also consider drafting a new presidential instruction and an amendment to the law.

First, it should include a moratorium on regional division or pemekaran. Second it should reform local electoral policy to improve the quality of democracy and reduce deforestation.

The writer teaches journalism at the Dr Soetomo Press Institute (LPDS) in Jakarta.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

SLC BOWLED BY PARTY POLITICS AND FRAUD

The shocking news, that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had refused to issue 'no objection certificates' to the 12 Indian cricketers who had agreed to participate in the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) T20 cricket tournament had not only 'surprised and hurt' the severely cash-strapped Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) but also saddened and disappointed the millions of cricket fans in Sri Lanka. In the absence of some of the well known and popular cricketing talent from India, it appeared last week that the tournament might be a non-starter but SLC has decided to go ahead. The reason given by the BCCI for banning the Indian cricketers from taking part in the SLPL was that it was being conducted by a private company, the Singapore-based Somerset Entertainment Ventures Pvt. Ltd. But could this have been the only reason for the decision or could there have been other underlying factors which prompted the BCCI to announce a virtual boycott of the SLPL, from July 19 to August 4. Amid reports last week that top SLC officials will travel to India as announced by Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage to explain matters to Indian cricket board officials, the BCCI chief said the decision would not be changed and neither would it make any exceptions to the rule. In any event, the SLC officials did not go to India but are reported to have held a video conference with Indian cricket officials.

Against this backdrop we found Minister Aluthgamage also last week denying an earlier front page news item headlined 'Ministers no-ball two billion grant for SLC'. He said his request had not been rejected by the Cabinet but was under consideration. SLC once known to have been one of the richest institutions in Sri Lanka is now buffeted, riddled and hammered over the boundary lines with allegations of large scale fraud and corruption especially in the wake of the 2011 Cricket World Cup matches co-hosted by Sri Lanka. Readers will recall former Sports Minister C.B. Ratnayake telling local and foreign journalists, that SLC is the third most corrupt institution in Sri Lanka. But sadly his decision to clean up the mess was never carried out after he was compelled or coerced to reappoint the members whom he lambasted. Alas, he too was soon moved out of the sports ministry.

Amid media reports that SLC had struggled to pay some 22 million rupees as salaries to its employees last month and with billions in unpaid bills, it was not surprising or unusual for Minister Aluthgamage to follow the usual pattern when confronted with such matters to say that SLC was financially sound but it is well known that SLC found some breathing space with a Treasury grant. But after all the big talk and empty rhetoric it did not take long for the minister to stretch out his begging bowl to the Cabinet with a plea for two billion rupees.

Given the level of party politicisation and interference it will be a daunting task to pull SLC out of the financial mud hole it has got itself into.

In the midst of all the confusion, double talk and secret agendas, millions of Sri Lankan cricket fans are anxious to know whether urgent remedial measures will be taken to help SLC regain its fast dwindling credibility, support base and financial resources.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

SAFETY MEASURES URGENT FOR THREE-WHEELER PASSENGERS

One hears almost daily of three-wheeler accidents and invariably with their on the spot insurance schemes, the three-wheeler driver escapes generally with a couple of injuries and assurances that his vehicle will be repaired  while  his passengers often seriously injured have either to recourse to legal action from which they will get little compensation though usually they have to produce myriad medical bills , X ray reports and whatnots  ( after all I should know considering that almost an year has elapsed since the three-wheeler I was travelling in taking a sharp turn knocked a pile of stones and I landed on the hard surface of the road and got a hip fracture which is yet healing. Oh so slowly! The insurance company whose inspection officer had totally ignored my existence in the vehicle , later rather kindly asked   me to file legal action against the driver but that  would have just added to my further misery to go through all that drama for just about 50,000 rupees!! ).

 In fact now that metered budget taxi's have come into existence and there appears to be greater responsibility among the drivers of those vehicles and the Nano cabs have been introduced to the market for the easy and comfortable travel of the poorer and middle class public. One wonders why the -wheeler drivers association should have held such a vast demonstration against the Nano cabs and made such disparaging comments.

The police have taken little or no action in continuing with the process  of registering three-wheelers in the police areas to which they belong , it was a process started with a lot of fanfare but was as is usual happens the programme just fizzled out though some outstation police stations yet continue to do so.

Considering the numbers in the traffic police why on earth could it not have been continued? Some police stations yet mark the name of the police area so that in the event of a three-wheeler meeting with an accident and leaving the passengers high and dry as they go getting insurance inspection at least the passengers can make a complaint to the relevant police station.

 In Madras and Bangalore where millions of three-wheelers function each three wheeler has to have its registered number , police location , police emergency number and the area fixed on the passenger side of the vehicle . |It also has to carry a fare list according to kilometres. In Sri Lanka the police themselves often know that three wheelers break the lock that prevents the ninety degree turn they can take but no checks are made on them, they just go for a fitness test and hi presto they get a revenue licence.

If the police  in each area were to register the three wheelers plying in their area they can do spot check to see whether the lock has been broken and also see that the details regarding the three wheeler are fixed for passengers to note them down.  This will also enable passengers to inform the police if the vehicle is driven recklessly or whether they are under the influence of liquor or drugs. In fact a few days ago a terrible accident occurred where a three wheeler driver under the influence of drugs took a sharp turn and was knocked by a car that had right of way, the passengers were seriously injured but the three wheeler driver escaped with just a few minor injuries. Perhaps political agendas may require the support of three wheeler drivers when election time comes around. After all there are so many that their votes count , and they also carry the various propaganda material , photographs of candidates and also offer often their free service to guys who go posting political slogans and  candidates profiles on walls and various other public places . But now that we have some type of discipline coming back to our  roads and sufficient traffic police one sees so many of them that one wonders whether their main function is to check whether any vehicle breaks the colour lights or drive too fast ,. Instead their obvious latent talent in controlling vehicular traffic could perhaps be used to form a special unit to check the three wheelers themselves , check on the  drivers and bring them back to orderly driving and careful passenger safety.

Then I am sure they will not feel so threatened as to hold huge demonstration , for fear that their regular customers will choose Nano cabs or think of using budget  metered taxis!

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

DENGUE, VIRAL FLU AND HOSPITAL CORRIDORS FLOODED WITH PATIENTS

Wijeratne Gunawardana (56) of Beliatta came to Colombo National Hospital (CNH) seeking advanced treatment for his son Shan's (28) kidney ailment. By the time the Daily Mirror met him at the OPD of CNH on Thursday, it was 11.50 in the morning. Father and son were waiting until the doctor would call them with the ticket that carries the number 726.

"We in fact came to Colombo on Wednesday and stayed overnight at a relative's place as it is impossible to come to the CNH on time all the way from Beliatta. However, we have been waiting for the doctor for more than five hours but the doctor has not turned so far," visibly dejected Gunawardana said.

The father and son are further worried that they will have to remain in Colombo for another day.

This is the normal situation we confront at almost all state hospitals and the situation is worse during an outbreak of flu or any other communicable disease which is being experienced right now.

We witnessed that almost all state and private hospitals, specially the OPDs have been congested with patients suffering from fever either connected to dengue or viral flu.

At the CNH some 1,500 tickets are issued per day at the OPD but in the last few days the ticketing counter has issued over 2,000 tickets with the increase of dengue patients and others suffering from viral flu, counter clerk Asanka Gunasekara said.

"We are working under extreme difficulties as the building that accommodates the OPD is in dilapidated condition. Normally there are over 1,000 patients at the OPD at any given time and they have no even the basic facilities," counter clerk Mohammed Mustafa lamented.

M.M. Ranjani of Negombo was in a rather pathetic predicament as she had been sent to pillar to post by the time the Daily Mirror met her.

"I first went to Negombo hospital to get treatment for my neurosis depression and was asked to go to Ragama Teaching Hospital (RTH). I was sent to neurology unit of the CNH from the RTH. At the CNH, I was asked to get a ticket from the OPD and when I came to the OPD I was asked to go to the room 33. At the room 33 I was asked to go to room 44 and given a ticket and instructed to see Neuro  Surgeon Dr. Liyanage. I was told that Dr. Liynage would see patients only after 1.00 p.m. and I am waiting for him. It is more than 6 hours since I came to the CNH," Ranajani said.

At the Lady Ridgeway Children's Hospital (LRH) the situation was not much different.

Parents with sick children were seen even at corridors. Director, LRH, Dr. Ratnasiri Hewage said the number of indoor patients have been increased in the last few days.

"But we have provided maximum possible patient care with new machines and health care management. We have installed patient monitors at every ward to check the condition of sick children constantly. Facilities have been provided to give ICU treatment to sick children who are kept in normal wards when ICUs are over -crowded," Dr. Hewage said.

Dr. Hewage reiterated the health warning that patients adults or minors must not be given any drug other than the prescribed dose of paracetamol when they have a flu.

The maximum dose of paracetamol given to an adult is two tablets of 500 mg three times a day in six hour duration. It is 15 mg for a child weighs one kilogramme. For instance, parents must give only half of a paracetamol tablet to a child who weighs about 20 kilograms.

"It is highly advisable to see the family doctor as a flu can come in many forms these days with the escalation of the number of dengue patients reported. If the fever does not disappear in two or three days even after prescribed treatment, the patient must rush to the hospital immediately as it could be dengue or viral flu. A blood test is necessary to determine the virus if the fever does not come down in three days," Dr. Hewage said.

Dr. Hewage said the ICUs at the LRH have become over crowded with the steadily increasing number of fever patient sat the LRH.

"But we have provided ICU care to all that needed special treatment at normal wards equipped with ICU facilities. All wards have been provided with' MEC – 2000 PATIENTS MONITORS' that would monitor the patient round the clock," he said.

With the help of the machine the doctor can provide ICU care to the child when necessary, Dr. Hewage said.  

Meanwhile, Colombo South Teaching Hospital Director Dr. Anil Jayasingha yesterday said there were about 70 patients suffering from dengue and some of them were with viral flu.

"There was an increase of the number of fever patients admitted to the hospital in the last few days" he added.

Deputy Director in charge of the OPD at the CNH commenting on the congestion at the OPD said arrangements have been made by the Health Ministry to construct a new building for the OPD.

The Health Ministry expects to lay the foundation stone before the end of this year for the four storey building to be constructed at a cost of Rs. one billion. The new OPD at the CNH will be opened by 2015, he added.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

(NO) RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND BEATEN FREEDOMS

The defeat of the Right to Information Bill in Parliament only goes to show how badly democracy is being let down by those who are honour-bound to safeguard it. However, the tragedy was not a stand-alone incident, nor did it raise a huge public outcry, as it ought to have done – thanks to the fairy-tales and epics fed to people by state-owned media organizations. Those who go by these fairy-tales only believe that Sri Lanka is a country devoid of bribery and corruption, which is fast moving towards development. The government can do no wrong in their eyes and the ministers' words of assurances are the gospel truth.

The bill, if passed, would have let every citizen know how their tax money was put to use by the government. This would have given them an authority to monitor whether the government  misuses or invests public money wisely. Especially while a massive post war development is taking place in the country, people should be aware of how these development projects are progressing. In fact, it is their right to access this information since it's their money the government is allocating for such projects – not a cent out of the private pockets of the so-called representatives. All in all, the bill would have given the people a clear view of the actions of those who were sent to the House by their vote and thereby leave the choice of re-election solely in their hands.

Unfortunately, the defeat only screams out loud the degree of concern and care the so-called people's representatives have towards the people who sent them to those higher echelons. The last thing on the minds of the majority who voted against the bill is people's welfare, which is essentially assured in the principles of any democracy. But sadly, in a nominal democracy like ours, when it comes to politicians, they cease to look beyond personal welfare the moment their pockets are filled with public money.

The inside story being thus, the bill would have been Sri Lanka's life-saver at a time when the country is forcibly placed on a pedestal  with the international community shooting questions on accountability, transparency and suppression of free media.  By defeating the Bill the government not only showed the world that transparency is not in their dictionary but also verified the portrait the so-called West has sketched on Sri Lanka. If the home situation is a muddle of this kind, diplomats can do very little to put together the shattered pieces of Sri Lankas image.

The government spokesperson at a press conference had said discussions were underway to bring a fresh Right to Information Bill in the near future.  One is at a loss as to what was radically wrong with the bill that was brought in for it to get beaten by a majority.

In this island nation not only people have a very short-term memory but also optimism in annoying abundance. Two long years after the conclusion of war, still the censorship is a curtain that keeps all impunities hidden from the public eye – in fact political power and thuggery have become more convenient ways of covering injustice. Now that the government has taken up the ever-so important task of bringing in its own Right to Information Bill, one would only hope that it would not be another Private Sector Pension Scheme bill!

Had the bill been passed in 2004, when it was initially brought up, Sri Lanka cricket would have missed the headline stories, it kept getting for the past couple of weeks. The irony is that when the Right to Information Bill was defeated in Parliament by 63 votes, the freedom of the people was defeated by the power, and democracy was defeated by the majority party in the House. When the bill became a stillbirth, democracy died yet another tragic death.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

INDIA, PAKISTAN: GETTING REAL

Harmony between India and Pakistan is the benchmark for peace and tranquility. This is why the recently concluded secretary level talks that hinted at furthering the process to normalise their bilateral relations are widely seen a breakthrough of sorts.

The very fact that senior diplomats got down to paraphrase the political will of their respective leaders is an achievement, indeed, and goes on to prove that the process of sustained negotiations is the only way out to address unresolved intrigues in the region. Apart from their bag-pack of irritants that include terrorism, Kashmir, Siachen and nuclear woes, the readiness in Delhi and Islamabad to comprehensively exploit the potential of human resource by softening trade and travel issues is a welcome development.

Considerable good time has already been lost with both the countries indulging in an Ostrich syndrome, and refusing to resynchronise their relationship in the spheres of commerce, intellectualism and tourism. The sequence of Composite Dialogue has proved to be more of an academic exercise, than one meant for streamlining the thick and thin of interaction between the 1.5 billion people of the region. Visa restrictions, taxation puzzles and an unending trade impasse has come to irk whatever hopes the people had in the process of talks. Similarly, a host of confidence building measures that largely reflected the versatility of pluralistic thoughts are yet to see the light of the day. Institutional collaboration and that too in the fields of media, finances and telecommunications possesses immense potential, but have not been explored for reasons best known to the authorities concerned. The foreign ministers, who are scheduled to meet in New Delhi, could just further the envelope with their personal fondness of belief that stalemate and hobnobbing should graduate into a formal relationship free from coercion (and compromises).

Both the nuclear-powered countries should keep in view that a lot has changed since they started talking. Especially in the post Osama bin Laden era, there is little that could be set aside by terming it as bilateral in context. The terror nexus that engulfs the entire region is a challenge, and cannot be brushed aside as the responsibility of any one party.

Khaleej Times

A holistic approach is the need of the hour, and the common enemy can only be defeated if India, Pakistan and the regional conglomerate join to deepen their trust and relationship. Meeting for photo-ops hasn't delivered to this day. It's time to seize the moment (and get decisive.  

 

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION A MUST IN A DEMOCRATIZING PROCESS

 In May 2009 and for a few months thereafter Colombo appeared (as it has appeared for several years) like a besieged and threatened city. 'High Security Alert' seemed to be written all over the face of the capital.   There were those who took umbrage at what was seen to be infringement on freedoms and the deliberate gagging of democracy.  Fortunately such people don't always end up having to defend a nation and the citizenry from ruthless terrorists or negotiate the terms of plunder and subjugation with big-name bullies in the international community. 

It is good, however, that they do what they do, because even while extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures, someone has to keep reminding people that there is a thing called 'ordinary' and as such 'ordinary measures' too; 'extraordinary' has a relatively short life expectancy and in the case of Sri Lanka, May 2009 was scripted to happen as far back as November 2005.  Sure, their objective was less about democracy than about giving the LTTE breathing space and yes, their shrill whines on these matters are still the product of regime-hate and determination to win for Eelam myth-mongers what Eelamist-militants could not achieve through 30 years of terrorism.  That's beside the point. 

Since May 2009, it is clearly evident that the city landscape has undergone and continues to undergo a massive overhaul.  The barricades are all but gone. Checkpoints and checking have almost disappeared.  Surveillance seems to have gone underground.  'Extraordinary Measures' on the other hand are quite visible on the streets. Both the attack on protesting garment industry workers in Katunayake as well as the attack on a TNA meeting by soldiers prove (if proof indeed were necessary) that the Government has not retired the coercive instruments available in the state apparatus. 

Now it is usual for regimes to switch to coercion when its ideological sway on a population starts slipping.  Jittery politicians however tend to trip the political clock.  They tend to lose faith in their constituency long before the constituency begins to lose faith in them.  This government is betraying exactly this.  The use of force is legitimate in a just war. Nothing else.  The use of force is contemplated when political control slips or is seen to be slipping. That's the politician's problem and not something that the citizenry needs to worry about. 

I have, from the time the CFA was signed, insisted that if the path of negotiation is to yield any lasting benefits, then demilitarization should be paralleled with moves towards democratization. I have also argued that the process of democratization should not be abandoned after the military threat is met and eliminated.  Things don't happen overnight, I know.  On the other hand, we've had 769 nights since May 19, 2009.  In general I am in favour of incremental change, especially given the dynamics of Sri Lankan politics.  I am not in favour, however, of 'dead-slow'! 

The 1978 constitution was anti-democratic.  Subsequent amendments made it worse. The 17th Amendment which sought to correct in favour of democracy and citizen was flawed. The 18th Amendment threw baby with bathwater. We not only have a weak opposition but one which has shot itself in the foot over and over again by playing petty politics and pandering to the whims and fancies of forces that wanted the LTTE to prevail over the security forces; it was and is motivated by opposition for the sake of opposition and political chair-switch as opposed to championing the national interest.  Karu Jayasuriya's 'Private Member's Bill' pertaining to Freedom of Information was a welcome move, in this context.

The Government using superior numbers in parliament defeated the Bill.  Perhaps the reason was a simple matter of being scared that the opposition, by getting a bill passed, would score points and claim that the Government's popularity was on the decline.  That's petty of course but then again politicians are anything if not petty.  The Government has stated that it will come up with its own Bill on the subject and the generous response would be 'that's something!'  Common sense says, 'go tell that to the mountains!' 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this Bill, but by rejecting it, the Government seems to be wary of the investigative potential in it.  It indicates that there's something to hide and fear that the hidden will be unearthed.  It also could indicate a desire to keep the lid on certain activities that are planned.  

We are in post May 2009.  We are more than two years into post-Prabhakaran. We are not in post-Eelamism or post-LTTE.  There is still 'threat', that's very clear.  We are however in a Sri Lanka that is not only about countering separatism but a Sri Lanka of having-to-live.  This Bill in no way compromises efforts to counter malicious moves here and abroad that are motivated by regime-hatred and/or desire to divide the country, directly or incrementally (by 'fixing' Eelam boundaries through devolution, for instance, as per the Chelvanayakam Option of 'A little now, more later').  It contains caveats related to national security.  

We have come far enough on the post-Prabhakaran road to warrant a removal of physical barriers.  The political barriers must now be lifted; incrementally, if necessary, sure, but they must go.  The Government needs to recognize that its sincerity regarding a 'New' Sri Lanka and one that deserves the 'Miracle' tag is under scrutiny, not by its enemies, but its friends and of course that the general public has the right to indulge in such scrutiny regardless of 'constraints' that politicians face

Mahinda Rajapaksa could be remembered as the man who united the country and brought about peace after thirty long years of misery.  He could also be remembered as the man who secured national boundaries and then buried democracy within those lines.  It's about legacy, Mr. President.  That's as far as you are concerned. As for us, how history remembers you is a matter for history; for us, it is how life unfolds and stops. Or is stopped.  Defeating the LTTE and giving us breathing space is appreciated and applauded. Rewarded too. That's no license to gag the people.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

PALESTINIAN PLIGHT EXPOSES HYPOCRISY  

 BY JAMAL KANJ

France is leading the way to censure the Syrian regime for violations of human rights.

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke profusely of the Syrian regime's culpability in shooting and killing civilians in the cities and suburbia of Syria's hinterlands.

Britain and the rest of the Western Hemisphere countries joined the chorus purportedly defending Arab human rights.

The same chorale preached the human rights charade and succeeded in passing a Security Council resolution allowing the use of military force against Libya. Today, Libya is being destroyed under the pretext of human rights.

Safeguarding human rights must be a universally cherished value enjoyed by everyone, everywhere and censuring must equally apply against all violators, no prejudice, none at all.

Palestinian human rights have been denied for more than 60 years with complete Western silence.

One-and-a-half-million Palestinians have been under economic siege in Gaza for more than five years; Israel has continued to violate the West's "roadmap" for peace by building Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian lands.

Nevertheless, the same Western chorus defending Arab human rights in Syria and Libya has conspicuously ignored the same for Palestinian Arabs.

What is worse, Western powers have empowered Israel financially and politically to carry on with these abuses against the Palestinians.

One important observation worth mentioning as we watch the "Arab Spring" is this: the West must have been caught by surprise and was unable, or didn't want to, interfere in the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Inadvertently, though, this may have helped the march towards democracy in these two countries with the least damage.

In other places where the West attempted to influence the Arab Spring, mostly in nations like Libya and now in Syria, the democratic march took a more bloody turn.

Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, the public protests have turned or are turning into armed revolutions. These countries will spend years in nation-building before they can stand on their feet.

Despite not being a person big on conspiracy theories, I find myself wondering if the arrest of an alleged Israeli spy who reportedly attempted to drive a wedge between demonstrators at Tahrir Square, Cairo, and the army was part of a larger Israeli conspiracy.

Could this have been part of a failed plan to turn the peaceful protests into an open confrontation between the protesters and the Egyptian army?

Could Israeli spies be doing the same, directly or via their influence on Western powers, in Libya and Syria?

Israel has the most to gain from turning peaceful protests into war zones.

Western democracies cry crocodile tears over human rights violations, but are belied by their failure to stop financing human rights violations in occupied Palestine.

The West's irrational duplicity is at the heart of the mistrust between Arabs and Western countries. Hence the West continues to fail to convince the Arab street of its true motivations.

jkanj@yahoo.com

l Mr Kanj is author of Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America and his articles can be read online at www.jamalkanj.com

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM REQUIRES COMMITMENT

BY ELHAM POURMOHAMMADI

 

The two-day International Conference on Global Fight against Terrorism was successfully brought to a close in Tehran on Sunday.

The conference, which was the first of its kind, gathered together officials and scholars from sixty countries who said yes to Iran's call for a world without terrorism and extended a hand of cooperation to the Islamic Republic in the campaign against this evil phenomenon.

Five presidents, including the Pakistani, Afghan, and Iraqi presidents, whose countries are some of the main victims of terrorism, also saw a ray of hope shining in the Iranian capital for the nations victimized by terror and enthusiastically participated in the event in the hope of drumming up support for a global campaign against terrorism through sharing with others the untold suffering that terrorists have inflicted on their people.

The fact that Iran took the initiative to hold such a conference and set in train the process of holding a conference on the campaign against terrorism in rotating host countries on a yearly basis can be looked at from various angles.

First of all, Iran's decision to host the conference indicated that the country, as one of the main victims of terrorism, is true to its word and is hammering away at achieving a workable solution to the scourge of terrorism at the international level.

In fact, Iran woke the participating representatives up to the fact that it is serious in its efforts to help uproot terrorism, unlike certain Western countries that have taken advantage of the slogan "war on terrorism" to establish a military presence in certain countries, maintain a tight rein on Southwest Asia, achieve their political objectives, and advance their illegitimate interests.

Iran also shed light on the fact that the hegemonistic powers are making every endeavor to sully the names of freedom fighters by labeling them terrorists while the true terrorists are at their beck and call.

In addition, the event helped Iran foil the enemies' propaganda campaign against the country to a certain extent and perhaps helped prevent further denigration of the image of Islam and the reputation of Iran through assembling representatives of a number of countries and informing them of the realities on the ground.

Above all, Iran took a key step to show that a world without terrorism would not look like a distant dream if all countries unite in the struggle against terrorism.

Iran also encouraged other countries to host similar conferences.

Iran has taken considerable steps in the campaign against terrorism, and the conference proved Iran's goodwill to the world once again, but there is still much more to do.

Effective mechanisms should be developed to achieve concrete results from such conferences and to make sure that the slogans chanted would not remain mere slogans and would be effectively put into practice, otherwise no one will take similar conferences seriously, and such an important issue will be marginalized.

In addition, an international center should be established to coordinate counter-terrorism activities and urge the countries that pledge to cooperate in the campaign against terrorism to make binding commitments in this regard.

It is hoped that all the world's countries will pool their efforts to combat terrorism more systematically and will keep track of whether the promises made at the conferences in question are being effectively fulfilled or not in order to help make the dream of a world without terrorism a reality.

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

IF THE SEA IS IN TROUBLE, WE ARE ALL IN TROUBLE

BY SYLVIA EARLE

 

The report that the ocean is in trouble is no surprise. What is shocking is that it has taken so long for us to make the connection between the state of the ocean and everything we care about -- the economy, health, security -- and the existence of life itself.

If the ocean is in trouble -- and it is -- we are in trouble. Charles Clover pointed this out in The End of the Line, and Callum Roberts provided detailed documentation of the collapse of ocean wildlife -- and the consequences -- in The Unnatural History of the Sea.

Since the middle of the 20th century, more has been learned about the ocean than during all preceding human history; at the same time, more has been lost. Some 90 per cent of many fish, large and small, have been extracted. Some face extinction owing to the ocean's most voracious predator -- us.

We are now appearing to wage war on life in the sea with sonars, spotter aircraft, advanced communications, factory trawlers, thousands of miles of long lines, and global marketing of creatures no one had heard of until recent years. Nothing has prepared sharks, squid, krill and other sea creatures for industrial-scale extraction that destroys entire ecosystems while targeting a few species.

The concept of ""peak oil"" has penetrated the hearts and minds of people concerned about energy for the future. ""Peak fish"" occurred around the end of the 1980s. As near-shore areas have been depleted of easy catches, fishing operations have gone deeper, further offshore, using increasingly sophisticated -- and environmentally costly -- methods of capture.

The concern is not loss of fish for people to eat. Rather, the greatest concern about destructive fishing activities of the past century, especially the past several decades, is the dismemberment of the fine-tuned ocean ecosystems that are, in effect, our life-support system.

Photosynthetic organisms in the sea yield most of the oxygen in the atmosphere, take up and store vast amounts of carbon dioxide, shape planetary chemistry, and hold the planet steady.

The ocean is a living system that makes our lives possible. Even if you never see the ocean, your life depends on its existence. With every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, you are connected to the sea.

I support this report and its calls to stop exploitative fishing -- especially in the high seas – map and reduce pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But I would add three other actions.

First, only 5 per cent of the ocean has been seen, let alone mapped or explored. We know how to exploit the sea. Should we not first go see what is there?

Second, it is critically important to protect large areas of the ocean that remain in good condition – and guard them as if our lives depend on them, because they do. Large marine-protected areas would provide an insurance policy -- and data bank -- against the large-scale changes now under way, and provide hope for a world that will continue to be hospitable for humankind.

Third, take this report seriously. It should lift people from complacency to positive action -- itself cause for hope.

Sylvia Earle is 'National Geographic' explorer in residence, the author of 'The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Oceans Are One', and the former chief scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

(Source: The Independent)

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

JAPAN'S MELTDOWNS DEMAND NEW NO-NUKES THINKING

BY AMY GOODMAN

 

New details are emerging that indicate the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is far worse than previously known, with three of the four affected reactors experiencing full meltdowns. Meanwhile, in the U.S., massive flooding along the Missouri River has put Nebraska's two nuclear plants, both near Omaha, on alert. The Cooper Nuclear Station declared a low-level emergency and will have to close down if the river rises another 3 inches. The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant has been shut down since April 9, in part due to flooding. At Prairie Island, Minn., extreme heat caused the nuclear plant's two emergency diesel generators to fail. Emergency-generator failure was one of the key problems that led to the meltdowns at Fukushima.

In May, in reaction to the Fukushima disaster, Nikolaus Berlakovich, Austria's federal minister of agriculture, forestry, environment and water management, convened a meeting of Europe's 11 nuclear-free countries. Those gathered resolved to push for a nuclear-free Europe, even as Germany announced it will phase out nuclear power in 10 years and push ahead on renewable-energy research. Then, in last week's national elections in Italy, more than 90 percent of voters resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's plans to restart the country's nuclear power program.

Leaders of national nuclear-energy programs are gathering this week in Vienna for the International Atomic Energy Agency's Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety. The meeting was called in response to Fukushima. Ironically, the ministers, including U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko, held their meeting safely in a country with no nuclear power plants. Austria is at the forefront of Europe's new anti-nuclear alliance.

The IAEA meeting was preceded by the release of an Associated Press report stating that consistently, and for decades, U.S. nuclear regulators lowered the bar on safety regulations in order to allow operators to keep the nuclear plants running. Nuclear power plants were constructed in the U.S. in the decades leading up to the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979. These 104 plants are all getting on in years. The original licenses were granted for 40 years.

The AP's Jeff Donn wrote, "When the first ones were being built in the 1960s and 1970s, it was expected that they would be replaced with improved models long before those licenses expired." Enormous upfront construction costs, safety concerns and the problem of storing radioactive nuclear waste for thousands of years drove away private investors. Instead of developing and building new nuclear plants, the owners—typically for-profit companies like Exelon Corp., a major donor to the Obama campaigns through the years—simply try to run the old reactors longer, applying to the NRC for 20-year extensions.

Europe, already ahead of the U.S. in development and deployment of renewable-energy technology, is now poised to accelerate in the field. In the U.S., the NRC has provided preliminary approval of the Southern Company's planned expansion of the Vogtle power plant in Georgia, which would allow the first construction of new nuclear power plants in the U.S. since Three Mile Island. The project got a boost from President Barack Obama, who pledged an $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee. Southern plans on using Westinghouse's new AP1000 reactor. But a coalition of environmental groups has filed to block the permit, noting that the new reactor design is inherently unsafe.

Obama established what he called his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. One of its 15 members is John Rowe, the chairman and chief executive officer of Exelon Corp. (the same nuclear-energy company that has lavished campaign contributions on Obama). The commission made a fact-finding trip to Japan to see how that country was thriving with nuclear power—one month before the Fukushima disaster. In May, the commission reiterated its position, which is Obama's position, that nuclear ought to be part of the U.S. energy mix.

The U.S. energy mix, instead, should include a national jobs program to make existing buildings energy efficient, and to install solar and wind-power technology where appropriate. These jobs could not be outsourced and would immediately reduce our energy use and, thus, our reliance on foreign oil and domestic coal and nuclear. Such a program could favor U.S. manufacturers, to keep the money in the U.S. economy. That would be a simple, effective and sane reaction to Fukushima.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of "Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

© 2011 Amy Goodman, distributed by King Features Syndicate

(Source: Truthdig.com)

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

BAHRAIN TAKES A PAGE OUT OF STALIN'S TEXTBOOK

BY DR. ALA'A SHEHABI

 

For the first time in its history, Bahrain has embarked on mass military trials of hundreds of civilians on fatuous charges of crimes against the state. While more than 1,000 remain in detention, the opposition estimates that 400 are going through the process of military trials and 100 have been convicted so far. The swift summary justice churned out in these tribunals are a throwback to early 20th century Stalin show trials, designed to punish and humiliate dissenters. One of those being tried is my husband, Ghazi Farhan. On June 21, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Having been born and educated in the UK, I moved to Bahrain in 2009 to marry Ghazi Farhan, a 31-year-old energetic businessman, leaving a respectable job in Cambridge to start a new family life in the land of my ancestors. Little did I imagine that in 2011, when the Arab Spring hit the shores of this island, it would be swiftly nipped in the bud, and would sweep my blossoming family along with it.

On April 12, on his way back from his lunch break, my husband was abducted from his office car park. Blindfolded, handcuffed and taken away by unknown plain-clothed men. Some 48 days later, he was summoned before the Orwellian-named "National Safety Court", a military tribunal. He was charged with participating in an illegal assembly of more than five persons (having visited the Pearl Roundabout) and spreading false information on the internet (referring to a single Facebook comment). Therein began an extraordinary ordeal of Ghazi's military trial and his sentencing.

Using Stalin's textbook

Joseph Stalin introduced "the show trial" -- secretive military tribunals that bypass the judiciary -- during the Great Purge of the 1930s. It appears that Bahrain has taken a chapter straight out of Stalin's textbook, in which verdicts are predetermined and then justified through the use of coerced confessions, obtained through torture and threats against defendants' families. The only new addition to this chapter is that the government of Bahrain has insisted, since the 1980s, on airing these filmed confessions on state TV -- often with the defendant apologizing to the king. Ayat al Qurmuzi, a poet sentenced to one year's imprisonment for reading a poem critical of the king, had one such confession aired, possibly to pave the way for some kind of royal pardon.

Credible reports from now-free detainees who were held with Ayat have said how a toilet brush was forced into her mouth. All those on trial are "traitors to the state", says the relentless propaganda of hate speech, spewed on state media -- a chapter in the Arab Tyrant's manual that could have been written by Goebbels. The media has described protestors as "termites" and Shia as "the evil group"; they have dehumanized "the other", who deserve treatment worse than animals.

Since March, hundreds have shared a similar experience to mine. There are several stages to the ordeal that are particularly distressing for all involved. The first stage is the sudden arrest, in a dawn raid or at a checkpoint, or in some cases, at work, and then they are taken away to an unknown location by unknown forces and for long periods of time. In Ghazi's case, 48 days.

The agony of families

I have compared this to the feeling of losing a child in a supermarket -- and then discovering they have been taken hostage by the same forces you would usually expect to seek protection from, and with a justified fear of the victim's abuse, torture and maybe even death. At the peak of the crackdown, four men were killed in police custody within a space of nine days. Often, police deny they have any record or knowledge of the person when their families try to locate them. This may be true, for the National Security Agency is a supra-national organization, with the power to do what it wants with total impunity. In my husband's case, I read a confirmation of his arrest on Twitter a few hours later. That is how this wonderful social media is now being used, by the same security agencies that have been driving a brutal crackdown on the very people who had earlier used the technology to mobilize, publicize and criticize openly.

After living on hope that the detained will be released without charge, the second stage of the ordeal that was particularly disturbing for the family is when the victim is suddenly dragged to the military court and charged. Very few get an opportunity to call their families or to request a lawyer beforehand.

The military court buildings in Riffa are relatively new. Built in 2007, one wonders if they were built with its current use in mind. Upon entering, one is only allowed to carry their ID card, no watch, no paper, no pens, no jewelry -- not even a wedding ring. I had to remove my headscarf and earrings during the painstaking electronic and hand search. There is an army officer standing every couple of meters in the lobbies and court rooms. This building, with only two courtrooms, was clearly not designed to handle this number of trials in one day. Female detainees are held in the lawyers' room for lack of space, male detainees are made to stand in the sun because of overcrowding in their holding cells and lawyers have to hang about in the lobby -- as their room is now occupied by the female prisoners.

The waiting room is cramped full with mothers, sisters and wives who haven't seen their loved ones for months, the worry weighing heavy on their brows, the outbursts frequent and quickly suppressed. I get given some friendly advice from a young woman who was in her final sitting: "Firm up your heart, my dear, the first time you see him will be tough. If they hear you even whimper, you will be taken out -- as I was."

God help the guilty

There is a long wait before the sessions usually begin. With no watches or clocks, the wait seems endless. I catch a glimpse inside the holding area as an army officer opens a door, I see the defendants lining the walls of a holding room facing the walls in silence. Their fate is decided here, not by God, but by a remorseless military judge. What you look like, what you say, what you do, what you feel is strictly controlled here. Their heads are shaven, and they know the words they are allowed to say. The judge has a looming pile of cases he needs to get through swiftly and promptly during the next hour.

When Ghazi first appeared in court he was visibly shocked and disorientated. To suddenly be paraded in a courtroom in front of three judges and read a list of serious charges you hear of for the first time, and told to plead guilty or not guilty, while overcoming the emotions of catching a glimpse of his loved ones after such a long time. It was overwhelming. He had lost at least 10kgs of weight, his eyes were bloodshot, and there were red marks around his hands -- a result of sitting for several hours blindfolded and handcuffed. If innocent men are treated this way then God help the guilty.

This whole spectacle is designed to degrade, punish and humiliate. Does military justice for civilians ever seek to achieve otherwise? Once you enter the courts, you realize that they themselves a tool of repression. It has become clear to me that the verdicts are preordained, and the trials are merely to offer a very thin veneer of legitimacy. For despite the best efforts of our lawyer in presenting a strong defense, the maximum sentence was passed. On June 21, Ghazi was found guilty of all charges against him and sentenced to three years in prison.

This fateful verdict is the third stage of the ordeal shared by many. I had come to expect the worst at this point. The complete disregard of the strong defense plea made by the lawyer is a testament to the political motivations behind the judge's verdict. The fact that Ghazi had not once been able to consult with his lawyer before the trial is a violation of due process since the verdict is preordained. The lawyer himself tells me he feels he is being used as a prop in these staged trials. He tells me we must carry out our act to appease our own consciousness. How uncannily Kafkaesque this all is.

A case among cases

In one of the sessions that I attended, alongside Ghazi's case was an array of seemingly absurd cases. These involved a bodybuilder accused of attacking an Asian expat, three overweight young men accused of stonethrowing, one man who pleaded guilty of driving speedily at a checkpoint, and a photographer sentenced to five years for fabricating a photo.

As in Stalin's era, a purge such as this needs its special show-piece trials. The first of the key show trials that most recently concluded -- with sentences reaching life imprisonment -- was of 21 key opposition leaders accused of plotting to overthrow the regime. The second, and in my view much more abominable, is the trial of 47 medical workers -- including the best consultants in Bahrain -- again on ludicrous charges of trying to overthrow the regime. They are expected also to receive severe sentences. Though my husband's trial is a relatively minor one, the personal ordeal I have described is shared among all.

Military tribunals are being used as the primary vehicle for political justice in order to confer an element of legitimacy. Due process is compromised for speed and efficiency. The use of torture, even death, in a place beyond the rule of law, suggests that the use of military trials is tactical. This is what makes the use of military justice attractive to authoritarian rulers seeking a forum where outcomes of hearings are, for the most part, preordained.

Today, the best of the best in Bahraini society are being dragged through military courts. Doctors and nurses are being punished for treating protesters, teachers and engineers for participating in a national strike, footballers for protesting -- academics, journalists, students, businessmen are all dragged through the ordeal of this military court. As Human Rights Watch testifies, this is a "travesty of justice".

These military courts must be disbanded and prisoners of conscience must be released immediately. Such show trials undermine the rule of law by forcefully reinforcing the regime's sense of power and control -- and are not sustainable. Justice needs to prevail for any enduring peace and security to exist on this island.

Dr. Ala'a Shehabi is an economics lecturer in Bahrain and a former policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. She has a Ph.D. in Econometrics from Imperial College Business School.

(Source: Al Jazeera)

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