Google Analytics

Monday, July 4, 2011

EDITORIAL 04.07.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month july 04, edition 000875, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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




































































The misuse of low-interest loans meant for poor farmers to further their agricultural interests once again points to a long-standing Indian malaise wherein perfectly well-intentioned Government initiatives become subject to abuse, essentially due to ineffective policy implementation. Lack of foresight on the part of policy-makers and poor monitoring of loan distribution has resulted in money being either diverted to the non-agricultural sector or, worse still, being usurped by rich farmers who have no need for subsidised loans. Consequently, what was first introduced as an initiative to help the poor and develop the agricultural sector which forms nearly 30 per cent of India's GDP has now degenerated into a widespread corruption racket that only serves to line the pockets of the unscrupulous rich. Of course, there are several explanations for why money earmarked for the poor is being routinely siphoned off by the not-so-poor: Primary among them is the significant difference in interest rates. While the aforementioned agricultural loans are available at a nominal four per cent rate of interest, industrial credit is usually a whole lot more expensive as it can attract interests rates as high as 10 to 17 per cent. In recent years, the difference in interest rates has widened significantly. Little wonder then that the racket has also grown proportionately. Poor monitoring by local authorities has also contributed to rampant misuse of farm credit. And while it is true that monitoring can cumbersome and add significantly to operational costs of lending institutions as well as the administration's expenses, this cannot be used as a legitimate excuse to allow for such blatant abuse. Also, let there be no doubt that banks and other financial institutions which deal in farm credit are well aware of the situation. But they choose to play along. This is because on the one hand they must fulfil RBI regulations that stipulate that banks must give at least 18 per cent of their total lendings to the agricultural sector while on the other they still have to protect their own interests and ensure they lend only to credible clients. Sadly, marginal farmers with small pieces of land who are heavily dependent on the vagaries of nature for a good harvest do not make for reliable debtors. Hence, banks take the easy way out and sanction loans to rich farmers.

Clearly, both the banks — ironically, they are public sector institutions — and their debtors are exploiting the one big loophole in the law that allows for these subsidised loans to be made available to all farmers, irrespective of their income and land size. To stop the abuse of farm credit, this loophole needs to plugged, first and foremost. Low interest farm credit must only be offered to poor farmers and the Government should introduce a differential interest rate card for such loans. Otherwise, money meant for the poor and the disadvantaged will continue to be stolen by the deceitful, just like it has happened for years together. It is no secret that ration cards that are meant for BPL families so that they can purchase subsidised foodgrains are routinely abused by middle class Indians who can afford to buy designer bags and luxury cars but will not pay the market price for rice, wheat and pulses. In the process, they shamelessly steal from the poor and indeed, from the country, as do farmers who misuse farm loans.







The present crisis in the self-financing medical education sector in Kerala is the result of the hypocrisy of the two major political fronts led by the Congress and the CPI(M). The issue has now come to such a pass that the Christian managements running four medical colleges are refusing to accept any suggestions from the Government on admitting students from the general merit list at reasonable fees. This has emboldened the remaining 11 private medical colleges, which had for the past five years cooperated with the Government with regard to admissions and fees, to now threaten to end that pact, claiming that fulfillment of social justice obligations is not their exclusive responsibility. The problem started in 2002 when the then Congress-led Government permitted Church bodies to start self-financing professional colleges on the condition that 50 per cent of seats would be allotted to students from the Government's merit list at reasonable fees. However, the Government later complained that it had been betrayed for there was no written agreement. Since then the professional education sector of Kerala has not known peace. The stand-off reached a flashpoint in 2006 when the CPI(M)-led Government brought out a law to put strict controls on Christian managements. The law was invalidated by the Court primarily due to its quota overdose. This gave an upper hand to the Christian managements and since then, they have consistently refused to accept Government suggestions on admissions or fees. The bottomline is that professional education is lucrative business. With the support of court rulings, the four Christian colleges have, for the past five years, been able to fill all their seats with students of their choice by charging high fees (apart from no-proof-available exorbitant capitation fees of up to Rs 60 lakh per student for the MBBS course).

All this while, the other 11 private medical colleges had been allotting 50 per cent seats to students from the Government merit list at lower fees but were allowed to compensate the 'loss' by charging brutally high fees from students admitted from the management quota. The Christian managements even violated the Medical Council of India guidelines in the case of post-graduate admissions this year by filling 50 per cent seats earmarked for Government quota but the court struck down those admissions. The Congress-led Government, dependent on the Church for its survival, has now allowed the Christian managements to fill all their MBBS seats on their own this year also, sparking violent protests by Leftist student and youth organisations. But the CPI(M), too, is unable to answer the question: What was it doing to control these college managements when it was in power? Either way, it is the students who are paying for this hypocrisy.









As an aggressive China unleashes surging nationalism and national pride, a timid India fumbles along. Not surprisingly, the world is talking about China.

As China begins to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, it seems to be fine-tuning its nationalism as a weapon against the West which is applying increasing pressure on Beijing to open up not just its economy but also its politics. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has just been on a tour of Europe at a time when the European economy is in shock. He has extended help to troubled eurozone countries like Hungary, Greece and Ireland by offering to buy euro bonds worth billions of dollars from China's huge foreign exchange reserves of more than a trillion dollars.

This is part of the nationalist fervour that the Communist Party of China has been promoting on the eve of its 90th anniversary. With China emerging as the second largest economy (by GDP count) in the world (its per capita income of $3,000 still remains far below that of developed countries which is pegged at $30,000) and sitting pretty on a pile of dollars through trade surpluses, it is going back to its communist past to bolster its nationalism and flex its economic muscles.

While articles have appeared in various online media in China accusing Chairman Mao Tse-tung of causing the deaths of some 50 million people — most analysts abroad have estimated the toll to be 30 million — the Chinese Communist Party has revived the idea of communist solidarity to counter the clamour of Chinese liberals. The anti-Mao articles in online media have been removed. Strangely, a recently risen 61-year-old communist leader, Mr Bo Xilai, says the Wall Street Journal is the new messiah of communists. His campaign with its own theme song has impressed Beijing's top echelons and emerged as a celebratory icon for the party anniversary.

As many as 90 Ministers and middle-level CPC leaders recently sang the theme song collectively: "Without the Communist Party, there would be no New China…" This is said to be a move to counter the nascent demand of the fringe liberals that the actual contribution of the Communist Party to China's eminence should be re-assessed.

For us in India, the upsurge of Chinese nationalism, seen in the revival of the Mao cult, China's foray into Europe (and earlier Africa), the launch of the first Chinese-built aircraft carrier, the reworking of the Chinese national base at Hanan island and attempts at gaining padding facilities for the Chinese Navy in Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is ominous.

The Chinese are simultaneously strengthening their offensive capability in the Tibetan plateau, extending rail heads to the border with India. The recent revelations through satellite images of China building a series of dams on the Brahmaputra, which originates in south-western Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo and flows through southern Tibet before it enters India's North-East, all fall in one category. That is, China is seeking to create a ring around India of bases to establish logistical advantage that should serve as a warning to us without the Chinese having to move their forces closer to our border.

This was evident when Chinese Army engineers objected to the construction of a road on Indian territory near the Line of Actual Control last year, but our Government underplayed the threat and dismissed it as a minor event. Satellite images of dams being built along the Brahmaputra's course through Tibet to divert the water of the river have fetched a muted response from the Government of India. New Delhi seems to have meekly accepted Beijing's explanation that there would be no diversion of water on account of the dams despite the satellite images indicating to the contrary.

The UPA regime's response to China's moves has been pusillanimous from the beginning. It shows that this Government refuses to accept what most analysts see in those moves: Concealed aggression to contain India. Instead of responding adequately, New Delhi is happy with small 'concessions' — for instance, Beijing's decision to stop the offensive practice of issuing stapled visas to residents of Jammu & Kashmir visiting China.

At a more substantive level, China has done little to promote relations with India. For instance, Beijing has so far not given any indication of support to India's push for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Beijing, analysts say, is more interested in dividing the spheres of influence between China and the US in a world where global leadership will be shared between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the CPC is busy promoting Confucius as the giver of Chinese political values, as opposed to Western democratic values, as part of its efforts to revive aggressive and assertive nationalism. By fanning nationalism, the CPC hopes to enthuse young Chinese and prevent them from embracing Western ideals like respect for human rights. It also believes this will help generate pride in China's achievements.

In the last two years China has achieved many things to fuel nationalist pride. Its foreign exchange reserves have crossed $2 trillion (India's foreign exchange reserves are a mere $300 billion in comparison); its investment in infrastructure has become the world's envy; it has witnessed a huge surge in higher education with the number of students in colleges rising from less than 200,000 in 1949 to over 20 million now; its population growth has stabilised after reaching 1.3 billion; its life expectancy is as high as 73.4 years. With China's share of the global GDP rising to 15.7 per cent and set to challenge the US's share of 26.4 per cent, it is understandable why Beijing is aiming for global leadership.

The Chinese can seek nationalist pride in the fact that their companies are winning contract after contract for building power systems in India. The Chinese Government-owned telecom equipment companies Huawei and ZTE are competing for the Indian market with global players like Ericsson and Alcatel while the Government of India owned telecom equipment manufacturing company, ITI, has gone to seed.

Ironically, even as China prepares to ride the crest of a nationalist wave, any talk of reviving nationalism and national pride in India is met with howls of protest from the Congress and 'secularists', as also the Left-liberals — strangely, they equate nationalism with communalism. The consequences are obvious. Around the world people are talking about the rise and rise of China. When it comes to India, it is seen as a country that at best offers a possible market.








Mark Sofer, Israel's Ambassador to India, is returning home after completing his tenure. During the four years he has spent in India, our bilateral relations with Israel have grown and branched into new areas of mutually beneficial cooperation

Four years after he arrived in India as Israel's Ambassador, Mr Mark Sofer returns to his country, leaving behind a large number of frie- nds and well-wishers and carrying with him happy memories of his stay here. During these four years India-Israel relations have gathered speed and branched into new areas of cooperation that are mutually beneficial. There has been a quantum leap in bilateral trade. Once the Free Trade Agreement is inked, hopefully by the end of 2011, trade could treble in a couple of years.

"I am returning to Israel with a great deal of optimism about our relations with India," Mr Sofer told me when we met recently. "There are two reasons why I say this. First, there is tremendous goodwill across India towards the state of Israel. This goodwill is not just something that is spoken about, it is actually felt. Similarly, there is tremendous goodwill in Israel for India. Second, there is something special about India: It is the complete and utter lack of anti-Semitism. There is no a priori negative reaction towards Jews," he said by way of elaboration.

The following are extracts from our conversation:

KG: India and Israel share a common threat and challenge, that of terrorism. Israel has demonstrated singular determination in meeting this threat, adopting preventive means such as targetted assassinations and hot pursuit. A couple of months ago we saw the US resorting to targetted assassination when it hunted down and executed Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Pakistan. But there are those who object to such means of fighting terrorism; they question the legality and morality of killing unarmed combatants. In fact, the UN Human Rights Commission has raised the issue of Osama bin Laden not being armed when he was killed...

MS: So were the 1,700 people in the World Trade Center, the hundreds at Madrid train station, the people in Morocco... they were more unarmed than he was. I don't think Osama bin Laden was worried about other people's armaments, he just killed. I am flummoxed by all this talk about his being unarmed, on whether he got the right funeral, why was he buried in the sea and all of that. He was the world's worst killer. He dedicated his life to massacring people. He didn't distinguish between Muslims, Christians, Jews... He was the number one international murderer. Now that he is no longer with us, to be honest, the world is a better place. It's tough to see something negative about that.

KG: But what about the issues of morality and legality of targetted assassinations as a means of fighting terrorism that are now being raised?

MS: For years we have had an open and public debate in Israel on the legality of targetted assassinations, the morality of it and the actual worthiness of it. But this is only one aspect of combating terrorism. The fight against terrorism has to be multifaceted. It has to have a military aspect to it because these fellows exploit weaknesses (in a country's security structure) and they are looking for those weaknesses. They are looking for you to lower your guard so that they can exploit that situation to kill.

KG: There are aspects to fighting terrorism beyond defensive and offensive means too...

MS: Yes, there are other aspects as well. For instance checking where the financing is coming from and stopping the political support terrorists get. I can tell you where the Hamas and the killers of Israelis are getting their assistance from, it is from Iran and Syria. Hamas has protested the killing of Osama bin Laden. So has the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba...

KG: That's the Hamas in our neighbourhood!

MS: I don't see much of a difference between these organisations. Hamas and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, or Al Qaeda for that matter, they all have extremist political aims and they are willing to massacre innocent people to achieve those aims. That is the underlying aim for the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Al Qaeda and Hamas. I don't really see any difference between the three, to be honest. And keeping that in mind, there has to be a concerted and coordinated effort to fight them.

KG: We saw in Mumbai what the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is capable of...

MS: I was here during the Mumbai killings by the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. They opened fire on anybody ... at the train station, at the Taj at the Chabad Centre… it was mass killing, just to kill people for the sake of killing them. As I said, it is important to find out who is giving them money, who is giving them arms, who is giving them moral and political support. In our part of the world, it is clear who is doing it. Look at the Syrians who are supporting the Hamas, and look at what they are doing to their own people.

KG: There are many in India who believe that we should learn from Israel and adopt targetted assassinations as a means to prevent terrorists and their leaders from striking in our country...

MS: There are a lot of factors involved. Each situation demands a certain response. It's for responsible civilised countries like Israel, India, the US, Russia and others to take stock of the situation and ask, is it something that can be a part of the war on terror, will it work? There are dozens of legal and moral questions that come up of course. There is also the question of effectiveness: Will it work? If you get rid of somebody, will someone else take his place? Therefore, we can't just say that if it is good and effective somewhere, it will be good and effective everywhere. I mean it has proved to be effective in Middle-East. It may be effective here as well…

KG: There are of course factors that are common to terrorism anywhere by any group...

MS: Yes, there are overriding factors as far as Islamist terrorism — I stress Islamist not Islamic — is concerned which are common to every group. For instance, the indiscriminate killing of innocent people, the use or abuse of Allah as some sort of god-given right to murder everybody who doesn't agree with their extremist point of view. And I think there have to be some over-riding solutions as well. I don't think countries can solve the problem of terrorism on their own, not in today's world. There has to be concerted international action by civilised states to fight terrorism. There has to be sharing of information on sources of money transfers, weapon transfers ... countries that support terrorism have to be ostracised.

KG: Sometimes I wonder if Israel can fight terrorism with such great effect why can't others?

MS: That's a good question, but the South Asian conflict and the West Asian conflict have very different dynamics. India has very difficult choices to make.

KG: What about India and Israel sharing information related to terrorism? Is that happening?

MS: It's largely at the macro level. Not on a day-to-day basis.

KG: But shouldn't there be more sharing of information?

MS: You can't have enough sharing of information. Sharing of information between like-minded civilised states that are trying to fight terrorism is crucial. No state is an island and no terrorist organisation works independent of a wider envelope, even if it's only an ideological envelope. I wouldn't put aside the ideological envelope as not being important, it is very important. A lot of this hatred is coming out of the extremist ideological beliefs being spread by religious leaders. Which brings me to something I have found very interesting about India — how moderate things are here. I have been here for four years and I have met Muslim leaders ... political, religious, lay ... and I think India is a very special case.

KG: Between Mumbai and now, how have relations between India and Israel changed?

MS: I don't think Mumbai was a cut-off date necessarily. I think relations between India and Israel at all levels were going on before that and they continue to do so. At most, I think, it perhaps gave a boost. But if you look at our bilateral ties from the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992 to 2011, there has been an upward graph in every area of human endeavour. Media puts too much emphasis on defence, etc. I think relations between the two countries are much wider than that. If you look at our bilateral relations, the graph is really rising steeply and it was rising steeply even before Mumbai.

KG: This is most noticeably felt in bilateral trade...

MS: When I arrived here, bilateral trade was $3.2 billion. It is $5 billion now. That's only civilian trade. I won't talk about defence. India, for much of last year, was Israel's second biggest export market in civilian trade. This was 18 years years after relations were established. We have had relations with countries for 60 years. That speaks for itself. I mean, $5 billion is a lot of money.

KG: Has there been any movement forward on the Free Trade Agreement?

MS: We are going to conclude it soon. The idea was planted three years ago but actual negotiations began in the end of last year. We hope to complete the negotiations by the end of this year. Once the Free Trade Agreement is in place, it will be something huge. In a few years we could double, or even treble, civilian trade, take it to $15 billion, maybe $20 billion. There will be more openness in the movement of goods and services.

KG: And the nature of trade will change...

MS: Yes, it will. The main area that will benefit from the Free Trade Agreement is high-end technology. The role of diamonds will go down. We are really talking huge figures here. Another advantage that will accrue is the setting up of bilateral funds for cooperation in new technology to deal with issues like water, healthcare, energy, alternative sources of energy... we would be jointly developing technologies...

KG: And there's more than trade too, for instance cooperation in the agricultural sector...

MS: Yes, and I think that's very important. Two-thirds of India is involved with agriculture. We can learn from each other on every aspect of agriculture, from pre-harvesting to post-harvesting. We have our biggest programmes in the world here in india. We have begun work on our new memorandum of understanding between Israel and India on agricultural cooperation. It doesn't get much news. But to be honest with you, the centre of excellence in Haryana which has been opened is the biggest source of my pride for the four years I have been here. You see farmers coming to pick up new Israeli technology with Indian adaptation. Irrigation systems, new methods of growing crops, rotation of crops, growing plants in green houses. We have one in Karnal and we are setting up one at Sirsa in Haryana. There are similar centres in Rajasthan, half-an-hour from Jaipur, at Nagpur in Maharashtra. We are starting one in Tamil Nadu ... there's no end to what we are looking at in this field.

KG: And there's cooperation beyond agriculture too...

MS: Absolutely. Look at cooperation in dairy farming. An Israeli cow can give up to 36 litres of milk every day, in hot weather. An Indian cow can reach that. It's not very difficult. We would like to put greater emphasis on dairy farming and we have no problems whatsoever with transfer of technology. Our private companies are coming in, and they are doing so in a big way, which is probably the best way to do things. And there is a huge demand for dairy technology here. There are small farmers with one cow or two buffaloes. If they can get three times the milk they are getting today, they will be three times richer than they are. So these are the things I am really excited about.

KG: We could learn a lot from Israel on water management, use of water and recycling of waste water...

MS: Water is globally emerging as a big issue. You can manage without cake and sandwiches and biscuits, but you cannot manage without water. It's not just new sources of water, it's a question of water management and water technologies, these are crucial areas. In Israel we are now using 70 per cent of our waste water to grow crops. We have developed new technology for purification of waste water. And we are number one in the world in recycling waste water. Not only does this minimise the negative impact of dumping waste but also contribute to agricultural production. The possibilities of cooperation in water management and recycling are enormous!

KG: Thank you for this wonderful conversation, Mr Sofer. We wish you all the best.

MS: Thank you, and I return with wonderful memories of my stay in India.

--- Follow the writer on: Blog on this and other issues at Write to him at






As the Communist Party of China begins its month-long celebrations to mark its 90th anniversary, the Chinese leadership is busy sending out a tough message to both the people in the country and the world at large

China is not Tunisia or Egypt: This is the message that the Chinese political leadership headed by President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is seeking to send across to its own people and the world as the Communist Party of China began its celebration of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the CPC on July 1. The celebrations will last for a full month.

It was not the celebration of a self-confident leadership reassured of the future political stability and economic prosperity of China and the continuing loyalty of the people to the party and their continued acceptance of its vanguard role.

It was the celebration of a nervous leadership all the time watching over its shoulders to see whether the undoubted economic prosperity achieved by China would be adequate to keep the people away from demands for political freedom.

The nervousness of the leadership would be evident from the fact that whereas the 90th anniversary of the CPC, which falls in 2011, is being celebrated with great fanfare, the more significant 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution, which marked the success of the revolt of the ruled over the rulers, is not being observed in a similar manner.

The silence of the leadership over the 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution has been noted by sections of China's vast netizen community. In response to their curiosity as to why this relative silence over the 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolt against the ruled, one of the readers' fora of the CPC-controlled People's Daily has found itself forced to make a brief reference to this unexplained and ununderstood silence.

A posting in one of the fora of the People's Daily on July 1 said: "There is another significant anniversary this year of a milestone on the way to this moment of economic power: The centenary of the 1911 revolution, which brought an end to the Qing dynasty and with it some 2,000 years of imperial tradition. Unlike the birthday of the party, however, it is being oddly underplayed. A century later the Communist party's rule has begun to resemble the system that 1911's accidental revolutionaries overthrew: A large and privileged bureaucracy, hereditary privileges in the ruling elite, a mass of toiling workers and farmers — and, finally, the embrace of Confucius, the man the revolutionaries rejected 100 years ago, as someone with a lot to say about hierarchical Government. Confucian influence, however, remains. The official doctrine today is not class struggle but harmony."

While the vanguard role of the CPC might have brought the country forward to take its place as an emerging global power and as an economic power house, politically it has taken the country back to 1911 with basic political freedoms denied to people in the interest of social harmony and continuing 10 per cent plus growth rate.

The revolt of 1911 against the imperial rulers has been described as an accidental revolution. Can there be another accidental revolution against the rulers of present-day China by people inspired by the accidental revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt?

That is the fear in the minds of the Chinese leaders as they observe with pomp and pageantry the 90th anniversary of the CPC. A forum of the People's Daily of June 30 quoted Ben Simpfendorfer, the managing director of Silk Road Associates, as saying: "Unlike leaders in many developing economies, China's leaders understand the importance of giving back to the population, rather than just taking. In short, China is no Tunisia." It added: "That's a conclusion shared by most academics inside the party and overseas and one that's likely to please the wealthy businessman who was touring Jinggangshan. He said he didn't want to see China tossed by the turmoil now sweeping the Arab world. It quoted a woman companion of the businessman as saying: "I don't care who the ruler is, so long as we live well."

Living well is more important than living with self-respect. The CPC has enabled the people to live well. Its achievements should not be jeopardised by any premature talk of political freedoms and individual liberties.

The focus is on the power of the economic machine created under the leadership of the CPC which has enabled a 10 per cent plus growth rate year after year for a decade. Any talk of the political future of the Chinese society is discouraged even though Mr Wen continues referring to the need for political reforms as he was doing last year.

It is interesting to note the differences in nuances in the statements made in connection with the anniversary by Mr Hu and Mr Wen. Inaugurating the celebrations on July 1, Mr Hu said as stated by the official Xinhua news agency: "The Communist Party of China, chosen by history and the people, has accomplished three major events since its formation 90 years ago.

"The first is that the CPC, relying on the people, completed the new-democratic revolution, winning national independence and liberation of the people.

"The second is that the CPC completed the socialist revolution and established the basic socialist system.

"The third is that the Party carried out a great new revolution of reform and opening up, creating, upholding, and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics.

"These three major events reshaped the future and destiny of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation."

Talking in London, where he was on an official visit, on June 27, Mr Wen said: "The best way to eradicate corruption, unfair income distribution and other ills in China is to firmly advance political structural reform and build socialist democracy under the rule of law."

It was an inconvenient reminder to those who are talking as if a 10 per cent plus growth rate year after year should be the end all and be all of China's existence. So long as this objective is met, China does not have to worry about the political aspirations of its people, they feel.

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







If we needed further proof of the pernicious social consequences of persisting inflation, a recent study by Crisil provides it. It says soaring inflation cost Indian households an added burden of Rs 5.8 lakh crore over the last three fiscal years. And it's primarily owing to food inflation that annual private consumption spending grew to almost 17% during this time from 14% earlier. Spending mainly on eatables, low-income groups - with little or no disposable income - have been hardest hit by scorching food prices. Yet, there's marked official apathy vis-a-vis the broader structural problems food inflation highlights.

Take the fact that a bumper wheat harvest should normally bring cheer. But courtesy official unpreparedness compounded by export bans, ill-equipped granaries are stretched beyond capacity. Foodgrain stocks exceed the manageable amount for warehouses countrywide. In some FCI godowns, wheat is being kept out in the open because covered facilities have been full up thanks to non-clearance of grain. And due to faulty, business-unfriendly policies, not enough private capital has flowed towards building modern silos and storage. We're in an anomalous situation: a 'problem of plenty' now coexists with a psychology of want linked to high food costs. The case with fruits and vegetables is similar. Courtesy inadequate cold chains, nearly 40% goes waste annually even as shop prices of onions or apples soar.

Given food prices are a major inflationary trigger, supply side issues must be tackled urgently. That means embracing agricultural reform in all its aspects: productivity, marketing and distribution. Only then can we access the multifarious benefits of creating infrastructure, raising output and introducing effective delivery systems that'll supplement - or even replace - the PDS from where subsidised foodgrain routinely rots or gets siphoned off. In this context, there's been a reassuring signal recently that the government plans to liberalise multibrand retail. Greater
private investment will help build capacity. Plus it'll strike a blow against predatory middlemen in the supply chain who eat into farmers' incomes while inflating retail prices.

Private funds are critical to farming's overall modernisation, whether for innovating with water-efficient irrigation, promoting research in agricultural inputs and transgenic crops or boosting agri-processing. In view of unviable farm sizes across
India, we must incentivise cooperatives and contract farming. Where supply is concerned, let's lift barriers on transport and marketing of commodities. Our antediluvian mandi system enriches commission agents, not growers who need direct, competitive access to processors and sellers. Finally, let's move away from corrupt, unwieldy bureaucracies handing distribution towards well-targeted, personalised instruments like food coupons or cash transfers. That'll better ensure food gets to the needy even while giving them a sense of agency and greater choice.






Amidst the debris of a Commonwealth Games plagued by one scandal after another, the Indian athletes' performances were exhilaratingly redemptive. That is what makes the ongoing doping scandal even more infuriating, with the web of excuses and accusations growing more convoluted by the day. Mandeep Kaur, one of the golden quartet that won the 4x400 relay, and Juana Murmu blame the Athletics Federation of India for not providing personal doctors. The head of the Indian Olympic Association has slammed the Sports Authority of India and questioned the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA)'s tardiness. NADA has done plenty of chest-thumping about getting more proactive. But this is not an issue any panel set up to probe this particular instance of six athletes caught using banned substances can resolve. The rot runs too deep for that.

The refrain from former athletes over the past few days has been that this is nothing new as doping has been rampant at every level since the 1980s. The difference now is merely that with the establishment of NADA two years ago, such cases are being exposed more often rather than being brushed under the carpet as they were earlier. And so we have 122 positive cases reported in the previous 11-month period, particularly in weightlifting where it is endemic. Coaches and officials must shoulder a large part of the blame; they often act as enablers. The athletes are not blameless either. Ignorance is not an excuse that will wash at this level of competition. The question now is where to from here? Perhaps a probe committee that investigates not just this incident but the entire decayed edifice of sports governance in India can deliver some results.







The naming of Ranjan Mathai as India's foreign secretary has ended an intense race for the prestigious job, much of which was played out beyond the public gaze. Mr Mathai has been serving as India's ambassador to France since January 2007 and had to contend with the claims of Hardeep Puri, ambassador to the UN, and Sharat Sabharwal, high commissioner to Pakistan, among other notables.

Though the current incumbent and US ambassador-designate Nirupama Rao will move to Washington D.C. only next month, Mr Mathai may not have much time to learn the complexities of his new job. In fact, he may find his plate full already. Obviously, dealing with neighbours is going to consume much of his attention — the uneasy relations with Pakistan, the constantly evolving situation in Afghanistan, China and Nepal. Before his appointment, it was pointed out by some that Mr Mathai's lack of experience in our immediate neighbourhood would be a detriment. Obviously, the government does not think so and once again the iron law of seniority has worked its magic.

Playing safe

Fear and caution in the age of scams. Rattled by the spate of corruption scandals involving the high and mighty of the land, it is not surprising that both netas and officials are playing it safe. The P.J. Thomas affair has cast a long shadow over the selection of his successor, which has been delayed. Clearly, the government wishes to avoid a repeat of the Thomas situation and is therefore moving carefully.
The arrest of former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam, too, seems to have had a debilitating and paralysing effect on the upper echelons of babudom. Given the scam-a-day scenario and with Central Bureau of Investigation sleuths poking around everywhere, clearly babus are scared to handle files or take decisions, fearing anything they do may backfire on them. Naturally with everyone playing safe, nothing is moving in the sarkar. Unfortunately, that includes several big-ticket decisions, which now babus prefer to put off as far as possible.
The word now is that many senior babus are hoping that the Supreme Court will intervene and define the so-far rather arbitrary nature of the relationship between babus and their political masters. But, for now, it probably pays to play safe.


In 1975, when the first cricket World Cup was played, winners West Indies got 4,000 pounds. In 2011, 36 years later, the winning team India earned $3 million. Even taking inflation into account, that is a staggering increase. Embedded in this is the fascinating story of how the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)'s influence over cricket has substantially changed the game.

India's victory in the 1983 World Cup was a watershed moment in cricket history. Interest in the game surged, the arrival of colour television gave it further boost, and from 1991 when the country opened up to economic liberalisation, India went on to become an indomitable force in world cricket.

The `India Factor' is crucial in understanding cricket's present and where and how it is headed in the future. With a billion-strong fanatical following spread across all continents, India provides almost

70% of the eyeballs for television viewership and 75% of the game's finances. That is not something to be pooh-poohed. Telecast rights for Indian cricket (including tournaments like the Indian Premier League) run into a couple of billion dollars. A vibrant economy coupled with shrewd (some argue Shylockian) sense of business by the BCCI means that Indian cricket is expected to grow bigger and richer.

This pronounced skew holds both threat and salvation for the game. Other cricket establishments - even the
International Cricket Council (ICC) - are often at odds with the BCCI on issues major and minor. Yet, there is no gainsaying the fact that without the financial wherewithal provided by Indian cricket, it would be a struggle for the sport to survive.

But is this current dispensation being openly challenged today? Is the simmering discontent over India's money power and clout threatening to reach boiling point? At the recently concluded ICC meeting in Hong Kong, even traditional allies like
Pakistan took issue with India over the extended term for the ICC chief which BCCI had proposed. The other major ally, Sri Lanka, is palpably upset over the BCCI's decision not to allow Indian players to take part in the proposed Sri Lanka Premier League.

Stories of bullying by India are getting louder and they are no longer confined to the usual suspects of England and Australia. The BCCI has long been accused of arrogance, but there cannot be any doubt that the Indian cricket board has given cricket a tremendous boost which has benefited everyone.

It is all too easily inferred that the BCCI is content to make money and play spoiler, but history shows otherwise too. Indeed, had India not challenged the status quo in the wake of the 1983 victory, the

World Cups may still have been the preserve of England. The BCCI - along with ally Pakistan - had to fight tooth and nail to get the tournament to the subcontinent first, and by rotation, everywhere in the cricket world.

But with power also comes responsibility, and here it is possible to raise serious questions about the BCCI's investment in the future of the game. The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS), which has been cleared in the recent ICC meeting albeit in a watered-down version, affords a test case of the BCCI's stubbornness and pettiness.

The steadfast refusal to agree to using technology to augment umpiring decisions in spite of all other countries, 90% of all players and 90% of Indian players being in favour it appears to have been sheer ego, bolstered perhaps by the views of a few top Indian cricketers. Since the BCCI and its players simultaneously complained about umpiring decisions and some particular umpires, the resistance to technology was contradictory. My contention is that the issue is not so much technology as conformity and consistency.

Imagine a school classroom in which every other student adheres to the norms laid down about uniforms, but one student won't comply because her parents are major donors for the school! To insist on foolproof technology is specious logic, for technology is always in a state of imperfection. It is also true that it gets refined and become cheaper with time. Indeed, accepting the UDRS should have been a no-brainer while perhaps more discussion was needed on subjects like no runners for batsmen or more than two new balls per innings, which are fundamental to the structure of the game. These were accepted without ado by the BCCI.

To say that the BCCI has provided no virtue to cricket is not only hackneyed but untrue. However, allegations that India is failing to take a leadership role in the future of the game are partially true. At least in some cases, pique and ego have taken precedence over professional and dispassionate thought.

The relationship between politics and sport is hardly new or unusual and the journey of the Olympic Games since their revival from ancient Greek times is testament to that. Otherwise friendly governments have confronted each other for the right to hold the world's biggest tournament.
Football and the shenanigans of its governing body provide enough fodder for everyone from the press rooms to Parliament.

But it is also true that trends and influences are cyclical and there is little to suggest that today's emperor may not be tomorrow's flunky. Where cricket is concerned, England and Australia will testify

to this. In which case, it is even more imperative that the BCCI take its nose out of its money bags and pay greater attention to the legacy it will leave behind.

The writer is a sports columnist and commentator.

Blurb: Allegations that India is failing to take a leadership role are partially true. In some cases, pique and ego have taken precedence over professional and dispassionate thought







The aviation industry is increasingly turning to biofuels. With airlines facing the looming deadline of 2020 for carbon neutral growth, time is at a premium. Paul Nash , the head of New Energies at the Toulouse-based Airbus Industrie, spoke to Shobha John about how all stakeholders should join hands in the race to find new raw materials to combat the negative effects of expensive fossil fuels:

Why should airlines go in for biofuels?

They should because targets have been set and these have to be met within the next nine years. Though aviation is responsible for just 2% of the world's carbon emissions, the market is growing annually at 4%. So it's important to curb these emissions. As part of new innovations, we also need to look into product improvement of aircraft, air traffic management and economic measures to bring in new fuels.

Which is better - biofuels or fossil fuels like petrol - in terms of price and performance?

It all depends on where the biofuel is being made and its availability. Presently, biofuels cost four times that of fossil fuels, but if production is speeded up, within 5-6 years, both will cost the same. Its advantages are huge. If the whole of Belgium is covered with algae, the biofuel from it can feed the whole world, whereas if all of France is covered with sunflowers, you will get just enough oil to fly French commercial planes. Different solutions work for different countries. For example, in the US, biofuels such as algae and camelina are plentiful, whereas in Brazil, jatropha works better.


What is India's potential?

Oil refineries in India have biotechnology and can produce biofuels. Already, the US department of defence is using biofuels. India is in an advantageous position - it has large wastelands where jatropha, algae, pongamia and neem can be planted for biofuels, good refinery capabilities and research institutes and one of the fastest growing aviation markets. Besides, the high cost of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) in India makes it imperative to have alternate fuels.

How is Airbus helping in the promotion of alternate fuels?

We are acting as catalysts and communicators to bring together all stakeholders - airports, airlines, refineries and the farming community - to increase the potential of this value chain. We have six chains presently. In Brazil, we are working with TAM Airlines and a refinery set up there is expected to produce 80,000 tonnes of biofuel by 2013. In Mexico, 20% of ATF should be biofuel by 2015, while in the Middle East, we are in collaboration with Qatar Airways where a plant is being built to feed algae with CO2 from petroleum products. Plus, there are value chains in Germany, Iberia and Romania. We hope to have one in every continent, and in India too. I am in India to study the feasibility of this idea.

How soon can we have flights on biofuels?

We are working with Lufthansa in this regard and if we get approvals, we hope to have the first commercial flight with biofuel by September. It will be on an Airbus 321 plane with passengers flying between Hamburg and Frankfurt with one engine on fossil fuel and the other on biofuel. The aromatic property in the former prevents fuel leaks. These flights will take place for six months. Incidentally, biofuels can be used on all aircraft and engines don't need to be modified.

In the race for alternate fuels, who is ahead - Airbus or Boeing?

We are not competitors here. Different airlines have different planes of both companies. Instead, we're working together to support and supply this value chain.





"Telephone FREE for customers". Getting my car refuelled at a petrol pump in Delhi, i was pleasantly surprised to see this notice dangling over a solitary telephone. What a change from the times we had to beg people to let us use their telephone! Thanks to the initiative taken by the powers-that-be, we can now talk to who we want, from where we want.

In the 1960s, getting a telephone was like winning a lottery - like getting an LPG connection or a Fiat car. If you happened to own all three, it was time to announce your 'arrival' on the urban scene. While getting a telephone was easy for those in the government and professionals like doctors and lawyers, those in the 'general' category had to wait years before they could lay their hands on this wonderful
communications aid.

Getting a telephone those days was not easy. It involved standing in a queue to submit your application, keeping the receipt in safe custody, waiting for the telephone department's letter saying your turn had come, a visit by the linesman to assess the 'technical feasibility' of installing the phone, the instrument's arrival and, finally, that all-important call from the
telephone department telling you that your phone had been 'charged'.

If getting a telephone those days was difficult, managing it was more so, with most homes, shops and offices preferring to keep it under lock and key. Some even went to the extent of inscribing the words "Rs 3 per call" or "Telephone ki izazat maang kar sharminda na karen" (Don't embarrass us by asking for permission to use the telephone!) on the box the phone was kept in. This was also the period when the telephone operator's importance in offices was at its peak. Everyone sought to keep her in a good mood, for only she could 'connect' you.

Being in insurance, my father was responsible for managing a sales force spread across many cities. He would get up early and book a number of 'ordinary', 'urgent' and 'lightning calls', depending on how important the matter was. Those days, calls booked early were cheap and the chances of getting them through were better. But, on a good day, only one-third of the calls would materialise, one-third would be interrupted or cut short, while the rest had to be cancelled because the lines were 'down'. What's more, international calls could take as many as three days to come through!

No sooner did we get a telephone, our neighbours made a beeline for our house to congratulate my father and ask him if he'd be kind enough to give them the number. "No, no, we don't intend to make calls. We need it only for emergencies," said one neighbour. Two days later, i received a call from a boy not more than six years of age. "Bunty hai?" "Bunty, kaun Bunty?" said i. "Bunty", he explained in Hindi, "Bunty" who lived opposite our house and was "Billu's younger brother and Mr Mehra's son". "Is it urgent?" i asked. "Ji, i need to ask him about my homework!"

It didn't take much time for the telephone to become a bone of contention not only between our neighbours and us, but also between my brother and i. He didn't mind and, in fact, encouraged use of the phone by our neighbour's daughter for obvious reasons. I didn't like it: it prevented me from chit-chatting with my friends. This cold war went on for some time till i noticed that the phone's junction box lay in another room. So, whenever i saw the damsel walk towards our house, i pulled the wire out of the box, and announced: "Phone out of order." It took my brother 15 years to discover what had stopped our pretty neighbour from coming over.







Air India is back in the news again with its familiar story of imminent collapse. The State-owned airline is poised to lose nearly

Rs 8,000-10,0000 crore this year, is paying salaries a couple of months late, is on the verge of defaulting on aircraft loans, and is snowed under Rs 42,570 crore of accumulated debt. A company with Rs 2,145 crore equity has dug itself into a Rs 100,000 crore hole in debts and losses.  Does it deserve a lifeline? Astoundingly, the answer is yes if the company is owned by the government and the tab is picked up by the taxpayer. Should the airline's management be allowed to continue? Again astoundingly, yes. Moreover, the managers that brought Air India to such a pass now have the job of turning it around. The government will over the course of July review plans to park two-thirds of the bloated airline's 30,000 workers in ground handling and maintenance  subsidiaries, to buy another 100 planes, to pump in Rs 43,255 crore equity, and to pay overdue bills for ferrying ministers and officials.

In the wonderland of State-run enterprise, the taxpayer is bemused. Looks suspiciously like throwing good money after bad. Yet, the bigger fleet and extra cash are needed so that Air India can earn Rs 5,000 crore more and run on Rs 4,000 crore less every year. To do this, the airline must cart 17 million people in 2015. If it manages to accomplish this, it could fly out of the red five years from now. But before the government signs over shiploads of rupees, shouldn't it be asking for some guarantees? This is not the first revival plan the airline has come up with. Air India operates in the real world, not inside central hall of Parliament where you can go round and round in circles and never turn the corner.

Air India can survive if it is run like an airline, not a ministerial fief. The question its owner must ask is how best can this be accomplished, not how to micro manage near-death experiences. If Air India serves the national purpose by expanding its operations in a rapidly growing industry, it has to be as a viable entity. Unless the government acquires extraordinary powers of delegation overnight, the airline is better left to professional managers who are answerable to shareholders. Privatising Air India has, for one reason or the other, been knocked off the government's agenda every time serious thought has gone into it. Even listing the airline with majority government ownership will bring some commercial accountability to its management. There's no point in keeping the Maharaja on life support indefinitely.




Knowing the irrepressible Mani Shankar Aiyar as we do, his pronouncements usually take the cake, the plate and the trimmings. But, when he says that he will not be popping around to Tihar jail with a chocolate cake for sacked Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi, our thoughts turn to which of them is the smarter cookie. Yes, Mani was prophetic in his assessment of the way the Games were shaping up, but Kalmadi, accused of playing an altogether different set of games, may not need the chocolate cake after all, even if Mani were to oblige.

From what we gather, the portly Kalmadi is rattling around the jail enjoying tea and a variety of snacks with his jailors. But then, this pales into comparison with the manner in which many VIPs are treated in jail. While we taxpayers cough up so that they can be guests of the State, the accused are busy getting themselves a few comforts to while away their time. So Kanimozhi gets special privileges on account of being a woman and others secure them by virtue of ill-health, these afflictions coming on them as soon as they discern a jail term. In Bangalore, convicted felons are let out in the evenings for a jolly and a jaunt, so that they can bring in goodies which they can sell in jail. At this rate, Tihar and other jails which lodge VIPs can market themselves as havens of rest and recreation.

Those of us who are not likely to get on the wrong side of the law because we are cowardly custards could then get a feel of the high life in the clink. In fact, we could even include a spot the VIP tour for those so inclined. For Mr Aiyar who conducted a valiant crusade to bring some accountability into the conduct of the Games in their inception, the fact that Kalmadi has been able to have his cake and eat it too must leave a bitter taste in his mouth.






It was not very long ago that I used to be the darling of the people. I was light, with a smooth round edge, not big enough to be a burden, not small enough to be almost worthless. I was not really worried, especially when there was talk about Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes being taken out of the system. Truth is, I even chuckled at the thought of seeing those big paper notes being hauled down from their pedestal. But what I had failed to notice was that in the new economy and with high inflation, people had stopped using me. I have been, truth be told, invalid for some time. But still, when the Reserve Bank of India official came over to my place last week to tell me that I was retiring — at 54! — I was shocked and felt betrayed. After 54 years of service to the nation, they're now putting me in the Great Coin Pile.

Thirty years ago when I was a young man, I was a 25 paise coin who got you plenty of things. I would get you a satisfying cup of hot tea, or a plate of hot, steaming pakoras, or even a paratha, thick and spicy enough to fill your stomach and inject you with energy for the whole day. For those with a sweet tooth, you could barter me for a cup of ice cream or a pocketful of sweets.

In Delhi, I was particularly loved by those folks who went around town in buses. With me in their pockets, they could go anywhere in the city and meet their near and dear ones. They could also exchange me for a few select gifts — yes, cheap and small, but nonetheless special, for you could still get those small plastic toys for my value. I actually quite like my nickname 'Chavanni' — from 'char anna' (four annas) from the old British Indian monetary system. I should have realised that my days of walking about unfettered and in demand were going to be over when I started hearing less and less people asking for a 'Chavanni'.

But since I love you folks as much as you once loved me, I will be around and you may see me on the footpaths of Chandni Chowk and in the albums of coin collectors — or as the old (bless his soul!) — one anna coin would call these people, numismatists.

The RBI says I have been 'demonetised'. I don't like that word. It has something a bit demonic about it, not to mention carrying the vague notion of all life being extinguished from me. Economists say that my death — I mean retirement — is a telling reflection of the state of the Indian economy. Some of my remaining supporters try to argue that my disappearance from active life would affect the poor as from now on, there won't be — can't be — any item priced 25 paise. But even I know the truth: nothing has been worth 25 paise for a long time now. To get a toffee or a mouthfreshner from the paanwala, it now takes at least two of me. With my departure, the 50 paise coin moves into the frontline, becoming the smallest currency.

Well, at least now I'll be joining my old pals who were put out to pasture over the last many decades: the hexagonal 20 paise coin, the undulating rim of the 10 paise coin, the sideways square of the 10 paise coin. The 1, 2 and 3 paise were phased out in the 1970s and, to tell you the truth, I don't quite recall their faces anymore.

After all these years of service, only one man in the country has bothered to criticise the decision to take me out of the system: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. He has said that the central government has sacrificed a poor chavanni as it couldn't take out the mighty Rs 1,000 notes as demanded by those fighting against black money.

Oh well, goodbye and all that. I bet you won't get a smoother-edged, classier-looking coin than me. I bet you 25 paise you won't.





It is being alleged that the jan lokpal will become a parallel government — since it would not come under the government — and will be a threat to parliamentary democracy. Both these assumptions are wrong. The government will remain powerful. The jan lokpal will only keep a check on it from becoming arbitrary, unjust and corrupt.

Several independent institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the Chief Election Commission (CEC), the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Chief Information Commission (CIC) already exist. Some of these institutions were created through law and some through the Constitution. Are they parallel governments or a threat to democracy? No. Similarly, the jan lokpal will be one such independent institution. Instead of being a threat to democracy, it will be a threat to the corrupt.

Another important question that is being asked is this: who would be the jan lokpal accountable to? To answer this, we must see who are the existing independent institutions accountable to. What can a citizen do if a judge, the CAG, CEC, CIC or CVC is corrupt? He can do nothing. In some cases, Parliament can impeach the wrongdoers. But despite strong and credible evidence of corruption in so many cases, no one has been impeached in the last 62 years.

Compare this with the level of accountability provided in the Jan Lokpal Bill. It will be directly accountable to the citizens, as per the drafted provisions, contrary to the one provided by the government's bill. Under the people's bill, an ordinary citizen can complain against a jan lokpal member to the Supreme Court. And if found guilty, the court can remove the member. The Supreme Court will also have the power to punish complainants who make frivolous or malicious complaints.

We are not aware of any other institution or authority in India that is directly accountable to the people. Unfortunately, the government has rejected this proposal. According to the government-drafted lokpal bill, the lokpal would be accountable to the government only. Only the government can approach the Supreme Court for his removal. This means that if any lokpal member becomes inconvenient for the government, it would move the Supreme Court for his removal. This will only erode the lokpal's independence.

What if the jan lokpal staff becomes corrupt? We had suggested several measures to address this issue like complete transparency in the lokpal's functioning, an independent complaints authority to receive complaints against the lokpal staff, time-bound investigation of complaints against the staff and their summary removal if found guilty, social audits, annual financial and performance audits by CAG, annual performance appraisal by a parliamentary committee. The government has rejected all these proposals, thus ensuring that there are very high chances of the government's lokpal turning corrupt.

A corrupt lokpal will serve vested interests within the government. This is what the government has been doing with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Recently, the CBI has been taken out of the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. These vested interests increased the scope of corruption within the CBI and also the possibilities of its misuse.

It is also being alleged that the jan lokpal is a 'Frankenstein's monster'. Barring powers to recommend dismissal of a corrupt officer, no other power has been suggested for the lokpal that is not already vested in the CBI. The lokpal would obviously need these powers if he has to do any worthwhile investigation. Vested interests want a weak and ineffective lokpal. We should demand a strong lokpal but with adequate checks and balances. In contrast, the government is offering us just the opposite.

Should a lokpal have the power to dismiss a corrupt officer? Our suggestion: after completion of investigations by the jan lokpal's team, a three-member bench of the jan lokpal would hold open hearings and pass orders on whether or not to remove the officer. If dissatisfied, the officer could challenge that order in the high court. In contrast, the government's bill proposes that the ministers should have the power to dismiss a corrupt officer. Experience shows that ministers are direct or indirect beneficiaries of corruption. Rather than punish the corrupt, they have been brazenly rewarded.

Recently, the CBI arrested a senior officer of the National Highways Authority of India with unaccounted cash but the concerned authority refused to permit the investigators to even register a case against the corrupt officer. Do we really think that such ministers would even order dismissal of corrupt officers? Even today, the ministers enjoy the powers to dismiss corrupt officers. But no senior officer has ever been dismissed in the last 62 years by any minister for corruption. The government's bill proposes to maintain the status quo.

It is being alleged that if the lokpal has jurisdiction over the PM, judges, MPs and officers, it will become a superpower. This is  wrong. An income tax officer has powers to scrutinise the returns of the chief justice of India, the prime minister, the president, ministers and MPs. He even has powers to impose taxes and penalties on them. Does that mean that he will become a superpower? No. Likewise, an investigative officer in the lokpal would only — and only — investigate any allegation of corruption against these authorities. Unlike income tax officers, the lokpal would not have powers to impose any taxes or penalties also on any of these authorities. The lokpal would only do investigations and the courts will decide on the punishment.

When Anna Hazare sat on a fast for the lokpal bill, he received tremendous support from the people. The government hopes that its misinformation campaign will decrease his popularity. People should guard against such propaganda because it is only being done to protect vested interests and will hurt the general public.

Arvind Kejriwal is a social activist. Kiran Bedi is a social activist and a former police officer. Both are Magsaysay Award winners and members of the joint drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill. The concluding part of this article will appear on July 8. The views expressed by the authors are personal.





Cricket's eternal tussle between bat and ball is extended these days into the commentary box, which in the modern era is packed with ex-players. And Indian batting legend Sunil Gavaskar has always kept the flag flying in the batsman's corner.

True to form, Gavaskar last week slammed the International Cricket Council (ICC) for scrapping the use of a runner by an injured batsman and to balance this off, called for a ban on bowlers taking drinks at the boundary edge between overs or even fielders being substituted.

It was interesting to read a contemporary opening batsman's views on this issue. Aakash Chopra let the cat out of the bag — he revealed batsmen often fake an injury in order to use a runner and so have only themselves to blame now.

Gavaskar is spot on though that bowlers can replenish themselves at the boundary's edge after every over with energy drinks while the two batsmen at the crease have to wait for the hourly drinks break. It's for this reason that batsmen tend to be susceptible to cramps.

It's always been the rival captain's prerogative to allow a batsman's request for a runner or turn it down and there is little reason for the ICC to change this tradition.

In the 1983 World Cup final at Lord's, Kapil Dev declined his West Indies counterpart Clive Lloyd's request for a runner when he aggravated a hamstring injury shortly after coming into bat, as it was common knowledge that Lloyd came into the match carrying the injury.

On the other hand, captain Sachin Tendulkar allowed Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar the use of the speedy Shahid Afridi as his runner in the 1997 Independence Cup match at Chennai when Anwar suffered a bout of cramps and dehydration after reaching 75. Anwar went on to score 194, an ODI world record till Tendulkar himself broke it last year.

Now while cricket has historically been a batsman's game, the ICC is attempting to redress the balance that has veered away from bowlers in modern times and also tweaked the run out law to make it tougher for batsmen.

However, while Gavaskar has always been vocal in his support of batsmen, it is surprising that not even Ian Bishop, a bowler and part of the commentary team in the West Indies, pointed out an injustice suffered by India's opening bowler Praveen Kumar in the first Test match at Kingston, Jamaica last month. Praveen on his Test debut was taken out of the bowling attack after sending down 18 overs in the first innings and claiming three wickets. He took another three in the second.

His crime? Running on to the 'danger area' or playing surface of the pitch during his follow through. In cricket, to use a baseball term, three strikes and you are out, and Praveen was removed by the umpires after he had received three official warnings for this infringement.

Now the question arises: if a bowler can be taken out of the attack for this 'crime', then why not send a batsman back to the pavilion if he commits the same act?

In fact, bowlers are not always in control of their follow through while for batsmen it is simple enough to run away from the playing strip.

One noticed leg spinner Amit Mishra run straight down the pitch while taking a single in India's second innings of that same Jamaica Test. And while West Indies' captain Darren Sammy immediately brought this to the notice of the umpires, there was little they could do under the laws except tick off Mishra.

Mishra knew, of course, that by scuffing up the track with his spikes, he was making it more difficult for the rival team when their turn came to bat.

So in all fairness, it's time for the ICC to address this anomaly as well.

Gulu Ezekiel is a sports journalist and author. The views expressed by the author are personal.




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

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

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

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






Jaswant Singh has started a much-needed debate on the wisdom of extended custody for DMK MPs Kanimozhi and A. Raja, pointing out that their crime is still to be proven by the courts. The national mood might support the decision to deny bail to accused in high-profile cases, but it should be kept in mind that the principle is crucial for the rights of the aam admi.

Our higher courts have affirmed the "bail, not jail" principle not to shield the powerful or soften consequences, but because every person is innocent until proven guilty. It is not an easy call as an accused person is sought to be placed in custody is to make sure that they show up at the trial, and to prevent them from fudging the case or interfering with the investigative process, not because of a gut-sense that someone is guilty. Guilt is assigned only at the end of the legal process, not at the beginning — and the focus should be on building strong legal cases and pressing for effective convictions. Justice Krishna Iyer once deplored the wide judicial discretion on the subject of bail, and the fact that it usually rests on a "hunch of the bench" rather than clear criteria. As he put it, the issue is one of "liberty, justice, public safety and burden of public treasury, all of which insist that a developed jurisprudence of bail is integral to a socially sensitised judicial process."

Whether powerful or marginalised, every citizen has a right to personal freedom until they are convicted. Besides, our jails are crowded enough, as is — they should not be used as morality theatre. House arrest and electronic monitors are a far more sensible way to surveil the accused. Jaswant Singh and his colleague Yashwant Sinha may not be representing their party, the BJP, when they speak of the unfairness of extending custody, but they have spoken up for a rigorous and thorough legal process rather than this kind of scapegoating. They have gone where other political forces fear to tread, lest they be seen to be being easy on corruption. But as Singh and Sinha's views make clear, the question is a more fundamental one of liberty.






After a lapse of four months without a Central Vigilance Commissioner, ever since the Supreme Court quashed the appointment of P.J. Thomas as CVC in March, the news of the selection of the Union defence secretary, Pradeep Kumar, for the post is welcome. An institution like the CVC couldn't have remained vacant for too long, especially after the political bad blood over the prolonged Thomas affair. This time round, the three members of the high-level committee that selects the CVC — comprising the prime minister, the home minister and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha — have reportedly been in agreement and Kumar's appointment is only a question of the president formalising the matter.

The health of a democracy is measured by the strength of its institutions. For our democracy to uphold the rights of its citizens and ensure transparency and checks on the system, institutions have to be upright and running. But institutional health cannot be acquired or maintained by quick fixes or short cuts. Allowing institutions and regulators to be depoliticised and independent ensures their health over time. That is also why faith in the invulnerability and incorruptibility of exceptional individuals doesn't work, and is a pointer in the wrong direction, because the idea would supplant the durable institution with the whims and fallibility of a human individual — as, for instance, advocates of an all-powerful Lokpal would have it.

If the Election Commission is a paragon of credibility among independent institutions, it didn't acquire its goodwill overnight. Likewise, the CAG has shown of late that it can be autonomous if it chooses. And regulators like the Securities and Exchange Board of India have also demonstrated how they can withstand powerful lobbies. It is this framework of institutions and independent regulators that can ensure the preservation and health of Indian democracy.







Find below snippets of actual conversation, names being withheld for reasons you will appreciate. Cabinet Minister 1: The reshuffle has to be radical. I will do the job the two (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi) decide for me. But yes, a bold call is the need of the day.

This cabinet minister belongs to the Congress and is considered close to the high command. He expects a promotion (a more important portfolio) like some others who express "a sense of fulfilment" for turning around their existing departments. But, like many others, he feels the government machinery needs immediate lubrication — a wholesale reshuffle of major portfolios can achieve this.

Cabinet Minister 2: I have a bold plan for overhauling PSUs with me. But sorry, not in this environment. This government is moving in different directions. It does not care for its allies.

This cabinet minister belongs to a Congress ally. He talks about the government, but deliberately chooses to exclude allies who hold important ministries. The Ramdev episode is the latest one where the government took "unilateral" decisions that backfired, he told this correspondent three weeks ago.

Secretary to the Government of India: All files that should be cleared by my joint secretaries are coming up to me for direction. When we joined the civil service, we were told, if there are 70 issues before you, decide on all, no matter if 10 turn out to be wrong.

One of the brightest bureaucrats today, he doesn't fear speaking his mind out, often before his own minister. According to him, the situation has deteriorated in the past 12 months. The fear of the three Cs — CBI, CVC and CAG — has left the bureaucracy paralysed. Few civil servants want to expose themselves to the risk of being hounded by the three Cs for genuine errors of judgment.

Director to the Government of India: There is no premium on innovation. Clearly, many sticky issues need out-of-the-box solutions. But these are not proven, and nobody wants to risk it.

He is in the loop on most infrastructure-related projects of the government. It is at his level — young, but still experienced in administration — that officers come up with bright ideas, ones that are not of the "standard set of three options" variety. But, in the government today, such ideas are said to be not finding many takers. This is not to say that the government needs to invent big ideas with promises these will transform the nation. It is rather in bringing unique solutions to tricky projects.

The point of these examples is to underline that bureaucrats today admit policy decisions are being inordinately delayed. That being so, what is more worrisome is that infrastructure projects are stalled because the atmosphere has been spoiled such that officials are sitting tight on issues fearing adverse repercussions down the years and the few bright ideas are being kept under lock and key. Bureaucrats have turned strict adherents to the rule book. But difficult problems cry for innovation, in other words a deviation from the rule book.

The leader of infrastructure practice in one of the Big Four consulting firms, who has worked with the government on many big-ticket projects, says global CEOs are not concerned about inflation and the downside risks it presents to India's 8-9 per cent growth story. What they are really baulking at it is the breakdown of decision-making and a huge slowdown in the infrastructure sector. India's economic engines were fired largely by corporate investments. These have started tapering off. This situation needs to change, at double quick time. And the government can demonstrate a drastic attitudinal change only if it clears, say, five big projects that are hanging fire for long for no good reason.

Let's take the proposed locomotive factories to be bid out by the railways in Madhepura and Marhowrah. Conceived during the tenure of UPA 1 by Lalu Prasad, these projects were again brought to the table by Mamata Banerjee. She finally decided to bid out these projects. But the government is still working on the financial bid conditions. A senior government official, who does not wish to be named, says that it's a one-of-a-kind project, making financial bidding very difficult. To be structured as a public private partnership, the Railways will hold a minority stake in the proposed company and will also be the sole customer over the next 15-20 years. How to price the locomotives to be supplied over a long tenure is turning out to a tricky proposition, calling for innovative solutions. But, those sitting on the decision are refusing to take a call, fearing a decision today could land them in Tihar a couple of years after they retire. So, they would rather choose to retire than sign on any proposal.

Or, for instance, the Navi Mumbai airport project. After much jostling, Jairam Ramesh finally accorded green clearance for the second airport last October. Of course, the ball is now in the state government's court, but again Maharashtra is ruled by the Congress. It has been over six months now, but the state government is yet to call for a request for qualification or request for proposal. All it requires is a meeting of the relevant departments by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan and some moral persuasion by the Centre for quick, forward movement.

Similarly, in the ports sector, the government's track record over the last three years hardly inspires any confidence. Of the 22 port projects the shipping ministry hopes to bid out this year, 14 have been carried forward from 2010-11. The roads sector is beginning to see some activity, but only after the prime minister stepped in. Dr Singh is taking reviews of all infrastructure sectors — roads, industrial corridors, ports and railways. In fact, his office is saddled with files from Rail Bhavan since Banerjee did not take any decision over the last eight months.

Ministers have waited long enough for a cabinet reshuffle; hopefully it will happen soon. But more than anything else, signalling is critical. The PM must ask his key lieutenants across infrastructure and relevant ministries to sit together and sort out vexed issues in back-to-back meetings. Indeed, yesterday was the time to act.








The key challenge in school education is improving and sustaining quality. Poor student performance is directly linked to poor quality of teaching. The bulk of elementary schoolteachers in India are under-qualified and untrained. If 80 per cent of new schoolteachers are educated in unregulated private teaching shops, the rest are poorly prepared through inadequate pre-service training in public institutions that have outdated curricula.

Teacher-training capacity in educationally challenged states such as Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal is grossly inadequate. In order to meet the demands that the Right to Education Act places on teachers, pre-service education is made an essential requirement for newly recruited teachers by a gazette notification.

This means that additional resources are required to upgrade the professional capacities of close to one million existing under-qualified and untrained teachers and for the pre-service education of one million additional teachers to be recruited. If not attended to, the current situation will continue to drain public resources by attempting to motivate poorly qualified teachers through piecemeal in-service training without addressing the real needs of the classroom.

Elementary schoolteachers are currently prepared via a two-year diploma (DEd) in District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) or their equivalent, while secondary/ high school teachers are trained in BEd in colleges of teacher education (CTE) and some universities. DIETs have no systemic linkage with institutes of higher education and CTEs operate in an insular manner. Most schoolteachers remain intellectually isolated with no access to new knowledge created in universities and research institutes.

The RTE aims to ensure that elementary education of acceptable quality reaches all children. Yet, it fails to make a commitment and define workable institutional arrangements and regulation for the provision of quality pre-service education and on-site support. The discussions on the Twelfth Plan recognise that most schoolteachers may not be able to meet the aspirations of RTE until the national teacher education system is revitalised. 

Pressures to recruit a large teaching workforce to meet RTE obligations have led many states to seek exemption from fulfilling their legally binding teacher qualification norms. This dilution will have serious consequences, as it is likely to weaken the teacher cadre, further ensuring poor learning outcomes. In fact, indiscriminate hiring of para-teachers that began in the mid-1990s to meet the targets of Universalisation of Elementary Education is perhaps the most important reason for abysmal learning outcomes in schools.

The National Curriculum Framework 2005 and the subsequent NCERT textbooks are heralded as path-breaking innovations in Indian school curriculum. The National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE) 2009 has now included the model syllabi to build the linkage between the education of teachers and learners. This is the missing link that the quality debate has failed to connect. Enabling this connection via regulation, reform and upgrade of teacher-training institutions could be the differentiating factor between performing and non-performing states in this decade.

There is a common belief, even among teacher educators, that a primary school maths teacher only needs to know mathematics up to primary grades. This concept may have found acceptability in Victorian England, but is out of place now.

The separation between what is taught and how it is taught has been contested by scholars across the world. Despite this, current models of teacher education focus on the mechanical planning of lessons in standardised formats, rituals of fulfilling the required number of lessons and other routine activities.

Working within deterministic frameworks, student-teachers even in leading BEd institutions rarely have opportunities to examine subject content or pedagogic approaches. This unquestioning practice of structuring teacher preparation around methods of teaching is at odds with the need for an engagement with schooling often beset with the dynamics of caste, gender, identity, linguistic and social exclusion.

Engagement with NCF-led pedagogy requires focus on the learner and her context apart from content and methodology. In this frame, the learner is viewed not as a textbook child but one who is to be understood in varying socio-cultural, economic and political contexts.

The solution does not lie in abandoning pre-service teacher education. Access to schooling, an adequate teaching-learning environment, an appropriate school curriculum and an empowered and inclusive teaching community are four crucial prerequisites of a school system that seeks to enable social transformation. While educational reform since the 1980s has focused on the first two elements, the NCF has brought school curriculum into national focus. The critical link that binds these four elements together is the teacher.

The need is to institutionalise the ideas articulated in the NCFTE in order to revitalise teacher education. This can be best achieved by bringing convergence between schools, the system of teacher education and higher education.

The writer teaches at the Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi







After the intriguing, indeed startling, incident at Galwan where in July 1962 the Chinese menacingly surrounded the small Indian post for a week but did nothing to overrun it ('The long march to war', IE, June 20), policy-makers did something astoundingly disastrous. They asked the highly influential director of Intelligence Bureau, B. N. Mullik, to tell them what exactly the Galwan episode meant. The IB's job is to provide the government with the intelligence it can collect, not to evaluate it. What followed was even more bizarre.

For Mullik reported back that "judging by the Chinese behaviour so far" it was unlikely that they would use force to demolish Indian posts once they had been established. The Chinese, he added, would also go on moving their posts as far south as possible, and this might lead to "minor clashes". Five of the top policy-makers, headed by Krishna Menon, initialled the top-secret report but it occurred to none of them to ask whether the pattern of Chinese behaviour could change. Ironically, as Chinese documents declassified over the years reveal, at that very moment the Chinese leadership was engaged precisely in revising its policy. Mao amended his earlier orders to his troops to be "restrained", and hinted at "tougher measures" in the offing.

This was by no means all. Around the same time, the IB also reported that the Chinese consul-general in Calcutta (now Kolkata) had invited some Communist party leaders to dinner and told them that India was continuing to "nibble away" at Chinese territory and offering "other provocations", and therefore "strong action" would have been taken. Once again none of the five wise men asked the intelligence czar how his two reports could be reconciled. And so it went on.

In retrospect, it is also clear that the Chinese were simultaneously trying to keep India confused about their intentions. For, while Mao and his cohorts were planning to deliver the "big blow" that eventually came on October 20, on the sidelines of the Laos conference in Geneva, Marshal Chen Yi, the Chinese foreign minister was telling Krishna Menon that the two countries should start talking to "avoid conflict and tension". Coming from him such conciliatory noises were doubly surprising because during the abortive Nehru-Zhou summit in April he was even more intransigent than his prime minister. Indeed, at one stage Vice-President Radhakrishan had to tell him: "You talk like a marshal, not like a foreign minister".

In the month of September, what India still regarded a game of "one-upmanship" shifted from Ladakh to the eastern sector in NEFA (North East Frontier Agency), now called Arunachal Pradesh. Some weeks earlier, this country had set up a fairly strong post at Dhola not far from the tri-junction of India-China and Bhutan. On September 8, the Chinese came down the Thagla ridge in force and established an even stronger post that threatened Dhola and other smaller posts in the valley of Namkachu river. India was enraged because it firmly believed that Thagla was unquestionably to the south of the McMahon Line. The Chinese insisted, equally emphatically, that the strategically vital ridge was to the north of the "so-called McMahon Line".

The sophistry behind the Chinese arguments was that, pending a settlement of the "boundary dispute", they were willing accept the so-called McMahon Line as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) but only as depicted by McMahon on the map attached to the Simla document, not as drawn by India on its official maps. They rejected India's repeated explanation to them since 1960 that the McMahon map was on a very small scale and was drawn with a thick nib. There could therefore be conflicting interpretations of the line he drew. However, the Simla Convention had clarified that the line was based on the watershed principle, and Thagla ridge was clearly the watershed in the relevant region.

By now it is well established that by the time the Chinese climbed over the Thagla ridge, Mao had taken the decision to "teach India a lesson" and all preparations for this were in full swing. Han Suyin, a writer sympathetic to China, had recorded that she received a message from the Chinese authorities at that time saying: "We know there would have to be a show of force sometime or the other, but don't worry — Sometimes it is necessary to do a little fighting to unblock people's minds". (Emphasis in the original.)

The chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army had asked the chairman for heavy reinforcements to enable him to deliver the desired shattering blow, and these were being deployed briskly.

Sadly, Indian intelligence, then a monolith headed by Mullik, didn't have the slightest whiff of this, which explains the subsequent confusion in Indian responses and the country's shock and surprise when the Chinese finally struck in a big way.

All through the summer of 1962, Nehru, Menon and their military and civilian advisers had been fretting that something had to be done to stop and reverse the criss-cross of Chinese and Indian border posts in Ladakh but only after "due preparation". But when the Chinese started replicating the pattern in NEFA, the policy-makers felt that time had come to act or "at least appear to act", in the east at least. 

Sometime between September 11 and 17, Krishna Menon secretly ordered the army to evict the Chinese from the south of the McMahon Line, "as far as possible", and to maintain the Dhola post under all circumstances even after the advent of winter. For this purpose, a whole battalion was sent to reinforce Dhola. This done, Menon left the next day for the annual session of the UN General Assembly, publicly declaring that while the Chinese action was unacceptable "no major crisis" should be anticipated.

Several senior officers of the Eastern Command, most notably commander of the XXXIII Corps, Lieutenant-General Umrao Singh, questioned the government's directive on the ground that Indian forces in NEFA were in no position to take on the Chinese that had superiority in numbers, equipment and logistics. This was to lead to another disastrous decision.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator







July 1, 2011, was declared 'Provincial Autonomy Day' by Pakistan's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani. The importance of this day in Pakistan's history is as important as the abolition of One Unit by General Yahya Khan on July 1, 1970. One Unit was basically devised in the '50s by the ruling elite of West Pakistan (now Pakistan) who did not want to give a fair share to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). This was one of the reasons the people of Bangladesh were alienated from Pakistan.

When the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) came to power after the 2008 elections, it promised to return the 1973 constitution to its original form. The 18th Amendment was passed by the Pakistan parliament last year. This amendment has brought back the spirit of the 1973 constitution. Among other things, the concurrent list has finally been abolished through the 18th Amendment. It has strengthened the federation by meeting the demands of the smaller federating units to a considerable degree.

Given that the original intent of Pakistan's founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and the Muslim League, was provincial autonomy in pre-Independence India to safeguard the rights of the Muslim minority, it is quite ironic that in post-Partition Pakistan, none of these conditions have been fulfilled until now.

The adoption of the Lahore Resolution (passed on March 24, 1940, but celebrated as Pakistan Day on March 23) bears relevance to the situation Pakistan is now in, which demands the same commitment and sincerity of purpose by our political leaders, to put Pakistan on the road to peace and prosperity. The resolution talked about "'independent states' in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign". The resolution also demanded "effective and mandatory safeguards" in the constitution for minorities, "for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights."

The idea behind these demands was to strengthen the foundations of the "independent states" and the institutions in the future. If we look back and compare the spirit of unconditional commitment to the cause of constitutionalism and what happened later, it did not turn out to be a promise fulfilled. To begin with, the treatment that the centre meted out to the federating units, especially East Pakistan, speaks volumes of our ruling elite's disdain for the rights of the federating units. Provinces had been waiting for the rights that, according to the 1973 constitution, were mentioned in the concurrent list and had to be transferred to them 10 years later.

Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's promise of abolishing the concurrent list thus could not be fulfilled as he was ousted from power by the military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, in 1977. Bhutto was subsequently hanged in 1979.

No government, military or civilian, was able to do away with the concurrent list for decades. In fact, many amendments were made by the governments, especially the military rulers, to impinge on the democratic spirit of the constitution. The incumbent PPP-led coalition government has finally delivered on a historic pledge made by the founders of Pakistan and that of the framers of the 1973 constitution. Seventeen federal ministries have been devolved to the provinces. This is a huge step given the sense of alienation the smaller provinces felt as far as the Punjab-dominated ruling establishment is concerned. Punjab is the most populous province in Pakistan, therefore, the majority of parliamentarians come from Punjab. The other three provinces — Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan — have always complained of Punjab's high-handedness. After Bangladesh got its independence from Pakistan in 1971, it was hoped that the Punjab-dominated ruling elite (both military and civilian) would have learnt its lesson. Unfortunately, it did not.

The insurgency in Balochistan is a glaring example of how the Punjabi establishment deals with voices of dissent. Thousands of Baloch have been killed and/or abducted by our intelligence agencies in the last few years. The "crime" of the Baloch: asking for their due rights. The response of the state: a military operation in Balochistan.

Now that the federal government has taken the first step towards ending its dominance over subjects that rightfully belong with the provinces, it is hoped that some of the grievances of the smaller provinces will be addressed.

There will of course be some hiccups when it comes to the implementation of the devolution process under the 18th Amendment but they can be overcome with time and some help from the federal government.

It is time to celebrate this historic achievement. Provincial autonomy is what our forefathers fought for; let us hope the people of Pakistan finally fulfill their vision.

The writer is the op-ed editor, 'Daily Times', Lahore






Here are a few lines written about New York in 1948, when the city was booming, cabs were hard to get and the best tables even harder:

"A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition."

Rereading E.B. White's remarkable little essay, "Here is New York," written in a sweltering New York hotel room, I was stopped by those two sentences, prescient to the tune of some 53 years. Had I not noticed them before because on a previous reading the 9/11 attacks had not yet happened?

It's treacherous to reread. A once favourite work can seem with time like juvenile rubbish — Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet comes to mind. Or it can retain all its wondrousness while seeming quite another — Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano is a different novel every time I read it. Or, as in the case of White's musings on New York, it can yield some overlooked detail that sets the nerve ends tingling.

White went on to write that, in the annihilation stakes, New York, through its urban concentration, "has a certain clear priority." Or as he put it: "In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm."

No doubt it was nuclear Armageddon he had chiefly in mind. But his words captured some deep truth. Ten years ago. it was the perverted dreamers of al-Qaeda who loosed the lightning. New York shuddered; the world changed.

New York has won again. It has come back. America has not. That's the kernel these images secrete.

The city has asserted its ability to come together. The "homeland," awful post-9/11 neologism, has not. America struggles still to rediscover its bearings and sense of direction. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with their more than 6,000 US dead, still take their toll. The "banksters," salvaged by tax dollars, get richer. Ordinary folk get poorer. Youth unemployment is at 24 per cent. Corporations sit on their cash piles. Algorithms drive Americans to the news that comforts their prejudices and stokes their anger. No wonder ideological division has become so paralysing in Washington.

One thing White loved in New York was its refusal to succumb — to gravity or the impossible logistics of ushering millions onto and out of an island every day — and the way a feeling of belonging to something unique and mighty seemed to inject the most diverse set of people "with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin."

There's a wider lesson for America, and particularly Washington, in that supplement.

There's also a lesson in White's extraordinary prescience. Amos Oz, the Israeli writer, has observed that "sometimes the facts threaten the truth." Today the rat-tat-tat of partisan "facts" overwhelms. White found death from planes lurking in the very texture of 1948 New York by allowing, over time, the city to seep over him, by not being rushed, by making truth — and not the next news cycle — his muse.

He wrote as the headquarters of a new organisation, the United Nations, was being built on the East River — another "spear that presses heaven hard." The construction led White to weigh the power of global fraternity against the menace of the planes: "The city at last perfectly illustrates both the universal dilemma and the general solution, this riddle in steel and stone is at once the perfect target and the perfect demonstration of nonviolence, of racial brotherhood, this lofty target scraping the skies and meeting the destroying planes half-way, home of all people and all nations, capital of everything, housing the deliberations by which the planes are to be stayed and their errand forestalled."

The planes-turned-missiles were not forever forestalled. But White's words, seeped in New York's vital spirit, should still be read at one of the services 10 weeks from now.






So what's the moral of this Manhattan immorality tale?

That the French are always right, even when their hauteur is irritating? They were right about Iraq and America's rush to war. And they may be right about Dominique Strauss-Kahn and America's rush to judgment.

In both cases, French credibility was undermined, so we resisted seeing things from their point of view. France tried to block W.'s spun-up attack on Iraq, but we knew that the French government had a history of making special oil deals with Saddam Hussein, and of favouring expediency over principle.

France refused to believe that DSK could force himself on a Sofitel maid, but we knew that French society had a history of shielding powerful and talented men accused of scandalous behaviour with young women.

Seven weeks after DSK, then the chief of the International Monetary Fund, was struck by a coup de théâtre — getting hauled off an Air France plane by the police, who charged him with raping a 32-year-old maid — he basked in a more pleasant coup de théâtre, getting released on his own recognisance. As he left the downtown courtroom, he gave his first public smile and put his arm around Anne Sinclair, his attractive wife, who has financed the high-powered legal team and high-priced TriBeCa detention.

In an exquisitely embarrassing moment for Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, the prosecutors wilted upon learning that their victim had victimised them — repeatedly lying to the government. To get political asylum in America, the woman, an African immigrant, lied that her husband had died by torture at the hands of police officers and soldiers in Guinea. She told investigators, falsely, that she had been gang-raped there. To get a bigger break on her taxes, she claimed a friend's child as her own. To impress the grand jury, she said that after the attack by DSK, she had waited in a hall for him to get an elevator before reporting it to her supervisor. But as the red-faced apologia filed by the DA's office revealed: "The complainant has since admitted that this account was false and that after the incident in Suite 2806, she proceeded to clean a nearby room and then returned to Suite 2806 and began to clean that suite before she reported the incident to her supervisor."

She was involved with a drug dealer jailed for possessing 400 pounds of pot; she talked to him about whether she could profit from pursuing charges against DSK, noting that he had a lot of money. Law enforcement officials say privately that they still think DSK sexually assaulted the maid. But the case relied on her credibility, and that's gone. They say it is roughly analogous — not in terms of the maid's sexual history but her record of veracity — to a case in which a prostitute is raped. It's hard to prosecute, and the perp can often get away with it.

In New York, Kenneth Thompson, the accuser's lawyer, howled about how the justice system had thrown the maid to the wolves. He said the young Muslim woman was "traumatised" and would speak out on the case.

Her evidence, he said, includes stockings with holes ripped in them, a torn shoulder ligament, a hospital picture of a bruise on her vagina, and the DSK DNA in the room — all, she claims, from the violent attack.

"Until today, it was white versus black, rich versus poor, man versus woman, Jew versus Muslim," said Elaine Sciolino, a Times correspondent in France and the author of La Seduction, assessing the French reaction and the fraying of the Gallic Anita Hill moment. "Now it's going to be this man who would have been president taken down by this nogoodnik who has a druggie boyfriend in prison and who lied from the moment she tried to get into the United States."

When a habitual predator faces off against a habitual liar, the liar will most likely lose, even if it is the rare case when she is telling the truth.






India has slipped to sixth position in the global apparel exporters league, behind not just China but also Bangladesh and Vietnam. This is sobering. The numbers for January to April 2011 sum up the losing story of the Indian textile industry, increasingly concentrated at the lower end of the value chain. This has not happened overnight. The Union textile ministry's decisions over the last two years have played havoc with this highly fragmented industry. Its order of December 2010, imposing a quantitative ceiling on cotton exports, led to a pileup of high-cost raw materials and unsold inventories across the value chain. The order was like a throwback to the licence-permit raj that made a prolonged demand contraction worse. Flawed government policies have long been the bane of India's textile and clothing industry. These policies have neutralised the inherent advantages of cost and a diversified raw material base. Over the past decade, the government removed some of the irritants and handed out sops like the special interest subsidy scheme launched in 1999 that facilitated investments of over R1 lakh crore along the value chain. But it hardened its stance again with Budget 2011-12, to withdraw the cotton segment's option of not paying various indirect taxes. Given the high level of competition in the global textile markets, such micro management by the government is something the industry can ill afford. The industry has traditionally been the forte of newly industrialised countries and shifted base as host countries embrace high-tech industries. While China is making the best of the situation, Indian policies continue to be unimaginative if not self-destructive.

There continue to be serious structural issues that stifle the Indian textile industry. The most important is that the downstream industry—spun yarn markers, power looms, decentralised knitting units and small processors—is deprived of man-made fibres at competitive prices. That three-fourths of India's textile and garment exports are cotton-based although man-made fibres account for 60% of global consumption shows how strangulated our industry is.





The global economy is in the midst of its second growth scare in less than two years. Get used to it. In a post-crisis world, these are the footprints of a failed recovery. The reason is simple. The typical business cycle has a natural cushioning mechanism that wards off unexpected blows. The deeper the downturn, the more powerful the snapback, and the greater the cumulative forces of self-sustaining revival. Vigorous V-shaped rebounds have a built-in resilience that allows them to shrug off shocks relatively easily.

But a post-crisis recovery is a very different animal. As Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have shown in their book This Time is Different, over the long sweep of history, post-crisis recoveries in output and employment tend to be decidedly subpar. Such weak recoveries, by definition, lack the cushion of V-shaped rebounds. Consequently, external shocks quickly expose their vulnerability. If the shocks are sharp enough—and if they hit a weakened global economy that is approaching its 'stall speed' of around 3% annual growth—the relapse could turn into the dreaded double-dip recession.

That is the risk today. There can be no mistaking the decidedly subpar character of the current global recovery.

Superficially, the numbers look strong: world GDP rebounded by 5.1% in 2010, and is expected to rise another 4.3% in 2011, according to IMF. But because these gains follow the massive contraction that occurred during the Great Recession of 2008-09, they are a far cry from the trajectory of a classic V-shaped recovery.

Indeed, if the IMF's latest forecast proves correct, global GDP at the end of 2012 will still be about 2.2 percentage points below the level that would have been reached had the world remained on its longer-term 3.7% annual-growth path. Even if the global economy holds at a 4.3% cruise speed—a big 'if', in my view—it will remain below its trend-line potential for over eight years in a row, through 2015.

This protracted 'global output gap' underscores the absence of a cushion in today's world economy, as well as its heightened sensitivity to shocks. And there have certainly been numerous such blows in recent months—from Europe's sovereign-debt crisis and Japan's natural disasters to sharply higher oil prices and another setback in the US housing recovery.

While none of these shocks appears to have been severe enough to have derailed the current global recovery, the combined effect is worrisome, especially in a still-weakened post-crisis world.

Most pundits dismiss the possibility of a double-dip recession. Labelling the current slowdown a temporary 'soft patch', they pin their optimism on the inevitable rebound that follows any shock. For example, a boost is expected from Japan's reconstruction and supply-chain resumption. Another assist may come from America's recent move to tap its strategic petroleum reserves in an effort to push oil prices lower.

But in the aftermath of the worst crisis and recession of modern times—when shocks can push an already weakened global economy to its tipping point a lot faster than would be the case under a stronger growth scenario—the escape velocity of self-sustaining recovery is much harder to achieve. The soft patch may be closer to a quagmire.

This conclusion should not be lost on high-flying emerging-market economies, especially in Asia—currently the world's fastest-growing region and the leader of what many now call a two-speed world. Yet with exports still close to a record 45% of pan-regional GDP, Asia can hardly afford to take external shocks lightly—especially if they hit an already weakened baseline growth trajectory in the post-crisis developed world. The recent slowdown in Chinese industrial activity underscores this very risk.

Policymakers are ill prepared to cope with a steady stream of growth scares. They continue to favour strategies that are better suited to combating crisis than to promoting post-crisis healing. That is certainly true of the United States. While the US Federal Reserve Board's first round of quantitative easing was effective in ending a wrenching crisis, the second round has done little to sustain meaningful recovery in the labour market and the real economy. America's zombie consumers need to repair their damaged balance sheets, and US workers need to align new skills with new jobs. Open-ended liquidity injections accomplish neither.

European authorities are caught up in a similar mindset. Mistaking a solvency problem for a liquidity shortfall, Europe has become hooked on the drip feed of bailouts. However, this works only if countries like Greece grow their way out of a debt trap or abrogate their deeply entrenched social contracts. The odds on either are exceedingly poor.

The likelihood of recurring growth scares for the next several years implies little hope for new and creative approaches to post-crisis monetary and fiscal policies. Driven by short-term electoral horizons, policymakers repeatedly seek a quick fix—another bailout or one more liquidity injection. Yet, in the aftermath of a balance-sheet recession in the US, and in the midst of a debt trap in Europe, that approach is doomed to failure.

Liquidity injections and bailouts serve only one purpose—to buy time. Yet time is not the answer for economies desperately in need of the structural repairs of fiscal consolidation, private-sector deleveraging, labour-market reforms, or improved competitiveness. Nor does time cushion anaemic post-crisis recoveries from the inevitable next shock.

It's hard to know when the next shock will hit, or what form it will take; otherwise, it wouldn't be a shock. But, as night follows day, such a disruption is inevitable. With policymakers reluctant to focus on the imperatives of structural healing, the result will be yet another growth scare—or worse. A failed recovery underscores the risks of an increasingly treacherous endgame in today's post-crisis world.

The author, a member of the faculty at Yale University, is non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and the author of 'The Next Asia'.






Do we need intermediaries to run our financial lives? This is an important question because we tend to normally spurn them in, say, agriculture, where they add to transaction costs—in horticulture, they account for 65-70% of the final consumer price. But when it comes to finance, or in particular mutual funds, the broker has a different position. The broker, sub-broker or agent acts as the final point of contact between the investor and the mutual fund house. As there are costs to be shared here, the issue that arises is whether or not the investor should be mandatorily made to pay for their services.

In the past, until August 2009, the fund forced the investor to pay the commission as part of the euphemistically termed entry load of 2.25%. Sebi had quite rightly pointed out that investors were being misled into buying schemes where the agent got the highest commission. Often the agent would give us a part of it as an incentive, which made us feel good. But the truth was that when we were investing R100, a part actually never went into the market as investment.

The mutual fund industry's view is that with the entry load concept being banned, less money has come in. First, this is hard to prove because post the ban on entry loads, the market itself has been wobbly, as seen by the fall in trading volumes on the NSE. Second, savings, including deposits, have taken a hit on account of high inflation. Finally, the earlier chairman of Sebi, CB Bhave, had argued that this was not the case and one should not look at net inflows but purchases, as people sell when they want to and not because of agents being there. Purchases had continued to increase.

But, for the sake of argument, let's assume that the broker had actually brought in the money. By counter-intuitive logic, it can be argued that the fact that funds are not coming in only proves Sebi's point that investors were being driven to invest by the brokers making promises that were probably not fulfilled. This is so because investors would continue to invest in mutual funds if they thought they took the right decisions when the broker was around. In fact, they would be willing to pay the broker for such guidance, which they are not willing to do today. In fact, today there is a plethora of ranking and guidance on the performance of mutual funds schemes and, in retrospect, it appears that agents were actually getting a commission for doing the administrative job of filling in forms and submitting to the fund. If this were so, then the logical corollary is that mutual funds should run their schemes on their own, just like banks do with getting deposits without agents.

A way out for mutual funds is to pay the agent separately, which will be an indirect way of loading the investor as it would go under operating expenses, which will impact the profit and NAV of the schemes. But this will add a modicum of transparency. Alternatively, mutual funds can have their own staff to do so, just like banks do for their credit products. This will also be loaded indirectly on the investor in terms of cost, but clearly the investors can choose those schemes that finally deliver better returns or have lower operating costs. Here, the onus is on the fund to perform.

This is where investor education is important. The Association of Mutual Funds in India should take the lead and run such programmes more aggressively across the country so that the benefit of these funds is extolled and investors educated about how they should view investments. The NSE does this even today, as do commodity exchanges like NCDEX where investor programmes are held to just inform the public about what stock or commodity trading is about and how to trade so that people are not just guided by brokers into doing what they want. This can be coupled with more effective direct online access to investors.

Given the expanse of the country and the level of financial literacy, there is information asymmetry between investors and suppliers of a product. Intermediation is a way out to bridge this gap and that is why we have banks, mutual funds and insurance companies. But when these intermediates bring in further lines of intermediaries, which can go to at least three levels, then the cost increases and the chance of misselling products is very high. Simplifying processes is a better way out for funds to garner money.

This is even more glaring when we look at insurance products where the insured are not aware that large percentages of the premium (going up to 20-30%) actually go as commissions in the first year, with a trailing commission that goes up to 5%. Quite clearly, the authorities need to check this and Sebi's move is commendable and needs to be stretched to insurance where, invariably, the high paying commission products mobilise funds—the single premium products that serve the insured well but not the agent are rarely marketed.

At the ideological level, we need to actually see if intermediation is taking place efficiently. As we increase the tiers, different levels of efficiency and performance issues come up. Online trading addresses the issue adequately and the mutual funds should progressively work towards cutting down these layers. Clearly, the ones that can bridge this gap will be the most preferred, which is what competitive financial systems are all about.

The author is chief economist, CARE Ratings. These are his personal views





The global economy is in the midst of its second growth scare in less than two years. Get used to it. In a post-crisis world, these are the footprints of a failed recovery. The reason is simple. The typical business cycle has a natural cushioning mechanism that wards off unexpected blows. The deeper the downturn, the more powerful the snapback, and the greater the cumulative forces of self-sustaining revival. Vigorous V-shaped rebounds have a built-in resilience that allows them to shrug off shocks relatively easily.

But a post-crisis recovery is a very different animal. As Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have shown in their book This Time is Different, over the long sweep of history, post-crisis recoveries in output and employment tend to be decidedly subpar. Such weak recoveries, by definition, lack the cushion of V-shaped rebounds. Consequently, external shocks quickly expose their vulnerability. If the shocks are sharp enough—and if they hit a weakened global economy that is approaching its 'stall speed' of around 3% annual growth—the relapse could turn into the dreaded double-dip recession.

That is the risk today. There can be no mistaking the decidedly subpar character of the current global recovery.

Superficially, the numbers look strong: world GDP rebounded by 5.1% in 2010, and is expected to rise another 4.3% in 2011, according to IMF. But because these gains follow the massive contraction that occurred during the Great Recession of 2008-09, they are a far cry from the trajectory of a classic V-shaped recovery.

Indeed, if the IMF's latest forecast proves correct, global GDP at the end of 2012 will still be about 2.2 percentage points below the level that would have been reached had the world remained on its longer-term 3.7% annual-growth path. Even if the global economy holds at a 4.3% cruise speed—a big 'if', in my view—it will remain below its trend-line potential for over eight years in a row, through 2015.

This protracted 'global output gap' underscores the absence of a cushion in today's world economy, as well as its heightened sensitivity to shocks. And there have certainly been numerous such blows in recent months—from Europe's sovereign-debt crisis and Japan's natural disasters to sharply higher oil prices and another setback in the US housing recovery.

While none of these shocks appears to have been severe enough to have derailed the current global recovery, the combined effect is worrisome, especially in a still-weakened post-crisis world.

Most pundits dismiss the possibility of a double-dip recession. Labelling the current slowdown a temporary 'soft patch', they pin their optimism on the inevitable rebound that follows any shock. For example, a boost is expected from Japan's reconstruction and supply-chain resumption. Another assist may come from America's recent move to tap its strategic petroleum reserves in an effort to push oil prices lower.

But in the aftermath of the worst crisis and recession of modern times—when shocks can push an already weakened global economy to its tipping point a lot faster than would be the case under a stronger growth scenario—the escape velocity of self-sustaining recovery is much harder to achieve. The soft patch may be closer to a quagmire.

This conclusion should not be lost on high-flying emerging-market economies, especially in Asia—currently the world's fastest-growing region and the leader of what many now call a two-speed world. Yet with exports still close to a record 45% of pan-regional GDP, Asia can hardly afford to take external shocks lightly—especially if they hit an already weakened baseline growth trajectory in the post-crisis developed world. The recent slowdown in Chinese industrial activity underscores this very risk.

Policymakers are ill prepared to cope with a steady stream of growth scares. They continue to favour strategies that are better suited to combating crisis than to promoting post-crisis healing. That is certainly true of the United States. While the US Federal Reserve Board's first round of quantitative easing was effective in ending a wrenching crisis, the second round has done little to sustain meaningful recovery in the labour market and the real economy. America's zombie consumers need to repair their damaged balance sheets, and US workers need to align new skills with new jobs. Open-ended liquidity injections accomplish neither.

European authorities are caught up in a similar mindset. Mistaking a solvency problem for a liquidity shortfall, Europe has become hooked on the drip feed of bailouts. However, this works only if countries like Greece grow their way out of a debt trap or abrogate their deeply entrenched social contracts. The odds on either are exceedingly poor.

The likelihood of recurring growth scares for the next several years implies little hope for new and creative approaches to post-crisis monetary and fiscal policies. Driven by short-term electoral horizons, policymakers repeatedly seek a quick fix—another bailout or one more liquidity injection. Yet, in the aftermath of a balance-sheet recession in the US, and in the midst of a debt trap in Europe, that approach is doomed to failure.

Liquidity injections and bailouts serve only one purpose—to buy time. Yet time is not the answer for economies desperately in need of the structural repairs of fiscal consolidation, private-sector deleveraging, labour-market reforms, or improved competitiveness. Nor does time cushion anaemic post-crisis recoveries from the inevitable next shock.

It's hard to know when the next shock will hit, or what form it will take; otherwise, it wouldn't be a shock. But, as night follows day, such a disruption is inevitable. With policymakers reluctant to focus on the imperatives of structural healing, the result will be yet another growth scare—or worse. A failed recovery underscores the risks of an increasingly treacherous endgame in today's post-crisis world.

The author, a member of the faculty at Yale University, is non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and the author of 'The Next Asia'.






Women fight for militaries around the world but rarely if ever are allowed to take the jobs most closely associated with soldiering — those focused on ground combat in close quarters and even hand to hand. That may be about to change in Australia.

A policy overhaul to be decided by Cabinet within weeks would remove all gender barriers from the military next year, arguably making the Australian Defence Force the world's leader on gender equality.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the first woman to lead Australia, and Defence Minister Stephen Smith are among those calling for the change. Smith has said that "what you do in the forces should be determined by your physical and intellectual capability or capacity, not simply on the basis of sex."

Questions remain, however, about whether troops and the public are ready for women to serve in combat roles. An influential security think-tank warns that it could inflict heavy casualties on Australia's women warriors.

If Australia's Cabinet supports the policy change it would be in place by the end of 2012. That could give Australian women a chance to qualify for infantry roles in Afghanistan before 2014, when the country plans to withdraw its 1,550 troops.

Gender boundaries have been steadily retreating in Australian defence services for years.

The government announced last month that women sailors will be allowed to bunk with men in submarines. Previously women had to sleep in female-only six-berth cabins. The shift will enable more women to fill a shortage of submariners by allowing more flexibility in assigning crews.

Australian women also can pilot attack helicopters and fighter jets. The positions closed off to them are mostly in the army, and include infantry, parachute, commando, special air services, artillery, tank and armoured cavalry.

Australia's current policy on women in the military is similar to those of other countries in Afghanistan, including the United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. None allow women in roles where their primary function is to fight enemies at close range, though women are trained to be combat-ready and can potentially find themselves in such gunfights.

Even Israel, which drafts both men and women and is often cited as an example of gender equality in the military, does not allow women to serve in front line ground units such as infantry, armour or special forces.

Series of tests

Australian defence officials are devising a series of tests to determine whether an individual soldier is physically capable of coping with combat conditions regardless of gender.

The current combat fitness test includes climbing a 16-foot (5-metre) rope twice without touching the ground while carrying a rifle and wearing a helmet. A soldier wearing a helmet also must carry a soldier similarly dressed over his shoulder while carrying both their weapons 160 yards (150 m).

There has been no suggestion that those requirements could be reduced, but Neil James, executive director of the Australian Defence Association, said that overseas experience shows that less than three per cent of women soldiers would be able to pass them. Women most often fail on the rope climbing because it requires considerable upper body strength, he said.

The association, a respected security think-tank, said there are biomechanical differences between the sexes — differences in muscle distribution, centres of gravity and rate of recovery from physical exertion — that make even physically strong women more vulnerable in combat.

In peacetime training exercises, Australian women soldiers are at least five times more likely than men to be incapacitated by injuries to backs, knees and ankles because of biomechanical differences in load-bearing abilities, the ADA said, citing Defence Department records.

"For a range of operational, moral and occupational health and safety reasons, it would not be fair to our female soldiers to expect them to fight male soldiers continually in a person-to-person physical sense," the ADA said in a recent issue paper.

The ADA compared combat roles to the sports world. It said there were no serious calls for women to be included in top-tier football teams, for instance, and noted that battlefields are tougher environments.

Eva Cox, spokeswoman for the feminist lobby group Women's Electoral Lobby, dismissed the ADA arguments as "a lot of rubbish."

The almost 8,000 women in Australia's army, navy and air force account for less than 14 per cent of total troop numbers and commanders are keen to recruit more. —AP






The Google Transparency Report for July to December 2010 makes this unflattering revelation: the number of requests from Indian authorities for disclosure of data about Internet users and for removal of content from websites has risen sharply. As a measure of intolerance and attempts at censorship, the Transparency Report now provides more data for analysis than in the past. The role played by governments in the deletion of content is among the additional features. On the face of it, India's requests may appear to be unexceptional. After all, several democracies, not to speak of countries with less tolerant regimes, have made similar demands on Google. What does set India apart from genuinely liberal countries is the nature of the content sought to be scrubbed out and the agencies involved. Most of the removal requests pertain to allegedly defamatory postings on websites such as YouTube and Blogger, and specific web search results. That they have been made by executive agencies and the police without recourse to due process is bad enough. What makes them ridiculous is that the authorities targeted online content critical of Chief Ministers and senior officials of different States. Google has done well to mostly reject these blatant attempts at censorship, complying with only 22 per cent of the cases. It is noteworthythat this is a low acceptance rate compared with other robust democracies.

The resort to non-judicial processes to curb Internet freedom in the majority of cases pertaining to India is part of a disturbing trend. It is of a piece with the new rules framed under the Information Technology Act 2000, diluting fundamental freedoms and ushering in a culture of suffocating surveillance. On content removal, it needs to be pointed out that in the United States, Google acted on court orders to remove material deemed defamatory. In Britain, fraudulent advertising linked to scams was removed. Naturally, the compliance rate for both countries is high, unlike the Indian experience. These pointers must convince India that its heavy-handed approach to scrub inconvenient speech off the Internet is earning it worldwide notoriety. It is also time the central government changed its Orwellian course on the question of privacy. Too much emphasis is placed on creating comprehensive, inter-linked databases citing security, without giving sufficient thought to data protection. Moreover, the new rules under the IT Act require intermediaries such as cyber-cafes and Internet Service Providers to retain personal data for long periods, increasing the likelihood of misuse. Correcting these aberrations, which do not sit well with tenets of democracy, is the right thing to do.






The bottom seems all but knocked out of the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The dramatic change in the fortunes of the former chief of the International Monetary Fund, who has been released from house arrest, is a result of the discovery that the Guinean hotel maid who accused him had told a string of lies about her background as well as her actions on the day of the alleged sexual assault. The ground-shifting revelations include her falsifying details in her application for political asylum, including fabricating a story about being raped and beaten up in Guinea; her telling an incarcerated drug dealer — the day after she levelled rape charges — that she could make money off the case; and her puzzling behaviour of entering another room after the alleged assault and returning to clean Mr. Strauss-Kahn's suite before reporting the incident. All of this may fall short of proving there was no attempted rape. Although called into question time and again, strictly speaking the reputation of a woman — including such things as her sexual or criminal history — is irrelevant in determining whether she was a victim of rape. However, given the nature of the heinous crime alleged, corroborative evidence is difficult to come by; as a result, courts depend a great deal on the credibility of the victim and her testimony.

In the Strauss-Kahn case, the forensic evidence establishes that a sexual encounter did take place in his Manhattan hotel suite. The issue was always whether this was consensual or forced. If the case does come up for trial, which seems unlikely at this juncture, the new revelations about the maid and her actions would leave any jury extremely sceptical that she was being truthful about what took place. Mr. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers are bound to portray him as a victim of an extortionist trap. If the case is given the burial that many now expect, the focus of attention will turn to Mr. Strauss-Kahn's political future. If he is cleared of all charges, his supporters will hope he will reclaim his position as the Socialist Party's front-runner for next year's French Presidential election. However, with the prosecution deciding to push on with the investigation, Mr. Strauss-Kahn could be running out of time. His party's primary for selecting its candidate to contest against President Nicolas Sarkozy is to take place in October. It also remains to be seen whether the slew of reports about his extra-marital affairs and his habit of making unwelcome advances, which appeared in the media soon after he was charged with attempted rape, will retard a quick and complete political rehabilitation.







When the Mumbai police finally cracked the daylight murder of investigative journalist Jyotirmoy Dey and arrested seven persons contracted by the long-absconding underworld gangster, Chotta Rajan, thousands of readers were still restless over the delay in discovering the motive behind the ghastly crime. Many readers of this newspaper, who expressed solidarity through their mails, attributed the breakthrough to the relentless pressure from journalists and the spontaneous support of the public, who were outraged at the brutality involved. While one reader wrote that the police must go beyond arresting the alleged assailants and wipe out "the entire crime syndicate responsible for the murder," another reader expressed the view that "the dismantling of the underworld is equally important." Yet another feared that "the main killers may never be apprehended" and advised the journalists and whistle-blowers to exercise the utmost vigil, especially when they deal with "the underworld and political corruption."

One could only hope that investigation and prosecution reach a speedy and successful conclusion. Even as this process proceeds, the State government would do well to honour its own word and put in place effective protection for journalists against their adversaries.

Rising trend in crime against women

Meanwhile, several incidents of violence targeting mostly the deprived sections of the people in different parts of the country are disturbing and disheartening. Growing violence against women is a cause for great concern.

Five recent incidents of violence have been reported in Uttar Pradesh within a couple of days in mid-June. In Kanauj district, a minor Dalit girl was assaulted by two young men in an attempt to molest her; when she resisted, the girl was stabbed repeatedly in her eyes. Doctors said later that the cornea of her left eye had been totally damaged and the chances of restoring her vision were ruled out. In another incident in Basti district, a Dalit girl was reportedly raped. A day later, a 35-year-old woman with two children was raped, allegedly by a gang of three in Etah district. The same day, in Gonda district, the body of a Dalit girl was found in a field. Three persons were said to be involved in the crime and the police did not rule out rape. In another incident in Firozabad district, a girl aged 15 was reportedly raped.

In Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh, a minor girl was reported to have been sexually assaulted and burnt on June 29 by a pastor. The girl died of severe burns at a hospital. The pastor was taken into custody.

In Tamil Nadu, P. Krishnaveni, president of the Thalayuthu village panchayat in Tirunelveli district, was brutally attacked by a gang a few weeks ago. Admitted in hospital with nine stab injuries, the Dalit panchayat chief is recovering. A fact-finding body that visited the victim and the village under her control said that the panchayat president faced discrimination from the day she took charge nearly five years ago. She was not even allowed to sit in the chair allotted to her in her office. Repeated complaints to authorities from the panchayat chief, the fact-finding body said, were of no avail.

Poor conviction rate

These crimes against women happened in three States and were reported by the news media in a short span of about two weeks. It is not as though most other States are free from such violence against women. About two lakh cases of violence have been registered by the National Crime Records Bureau, according to its recent data.

It is well known that discriminatory and oppressive social attitudes, not to mention plain greed and corruption, infect the attitude of the authorities, and especially the police, in many cases when serious complaints go uninvestigated or are poorly investigated. Only when investigation is free, fair, and speedy and only when the conviction rate improves in cases where women are the targets of various forms of violence can crimes against women be brought down. The press has a key role to play in working against any cover-up in this area.





The Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2010, approved by the Union Cabinet on December 24, 2009, and introduced in the Rajya Sabha on April 19, 2010, sparked great controversy for a number of reasons. First, in an unusual departure from the British legal tradition, inspired by French and German law, the Bill proposes guaranteed royalties for lyricists/composers for the commercial exploitation of their songs. Anticipating that these new rights will force producers to share 50 per cent of royalties with lyricists and composers, these proposals were simultaneously welcomed by the former and condemned by the film industry. Second, the Bill introduces the parallel importation of books in accordance with Article 6 of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement — a provision intended to provide readers in developing countries with books at cheaper prices but which, ironically, in India has been heralded by publishers as the death of books or at least the death of Indian publishing.

Section 2(m) of the Copyright At, 1957 defines the expression "infringing copy" as a reproduction of a literary work. The Bill proposes to add the following proviso: "provided that a copy of a work published in any country outside India with the permission of the author of the work and imported from that country into India shall not be deemed to be an infringing copy." The impact of this proviso is as follows. Currently, an Indian publisher has to enter into a license agreement with the owner of the Indian copyright in a foreign work (usually the foreign publisher) which authorises him to publish the work in India. If the proviso is added to section 2(m), the Indian publisher can buy the book abroad and freely import it and re-sell it in India without obtaining a license from the owner of the Indian copyright in the work — a practice called parallel importation. It is important to note that the book still has to be legally purchased from the foreign publisher and re-sold in India and cannot just be illegally copied or imported into India.

Allowing parallel importation only liberalises the distribution of books after the first sale of the work and does not affect the copyright holder's exclusive right to make the first sale of the work. Parallel importation takes into the international context the "first sale doctrine" in copyright law which provides that, after the first sale of the work, the copyright is exhausted and the copyright owner cannot prevent re-sale of the work.

Indian publishers oppose allowing parallel importation of books on the grounds that foreign publishers will stop licensing cheap Indian editions of their work to Indian publishers leading to rise in book prices in India. Further, if licensing ends, Indian publishers will have no incentive to invest in the marketing and promotion of books. In its report on the Copyright Amendment Bill 2010, the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development disagreed and found that the present practice of publishing books under a territorial license results in very high prices of books and the low priced books are confined to old editions. However, notably, no empirical evidence was discussed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee in its Report before arriving at this conclusion. If it is true that the "cheap Indian editions" are limited to outdated works, then clearly the Parliamentary Standing Committee was correct in recommending the introduction of parallel imports and Indian publishers are only decrying the loss of their comfortable "license raj" and the introduction of competition through parallel imports.

Copyright law

While the foregoing controversies have attracted a lot of press, little attention has been paid to the fact that the Bill also seeks to modernise copyright law in view of the challenges raised by the new digital environment and the internet which has been described by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) as "the world's biggest copy machine." While the older technologies of photocopying and taping were expensive, time-consuming and produced copies of lower quality than the original, the internet enables one to make instantaneous copies of the same quality. Earlier, copies had to be individually faxed or couriered to each recipient. Today, an unlimited number of copies can be distributed instantaneously around the world with the click of a mouse. Copyright law, therefore, has to rise to the challenge of how to protect the rights of authors of works published on the internet.

According to the Bill, the answer lies in the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) which address the challenge posed to the protection of copyright arising from dissemination of works over the internet. Curiously, even though India is not a signatory to either of these treaties which entered into force in 2002 and also refused WIPO's call to sign the treaties in July 2008, the Bill seeks to conform Indian law to these "Internet Treaties."

The first legal principle enshrined in the WCT and the WPPT is that existing rights will continue to apply in the digital environment. In other words, copyright holders will continue to be protected by copyright when their works are published on the internet. This principle is implicit in section 14 of the existing Copyright Act while not expressly stated.

The second legal principle of the WCT and WPPT is the "anti-circumvention provisions" which are intended to ensure that copyright holders can effectively use technology to protect their rights and to license their works online by, for example, using encryption technology, access control devices and copy control devices to protect their copyrighted works from cyber criminals hacking into passwords and illegally reproducing their works.

The second prong of the anti-circumvention provisions in the WCT/WPPT requires countries to prohibit the deliberate alteration or deletion of electronic "rights management information," that is, information which accompanies any protected material and which identifies the work, its creators, performer or owner and the terms and conditions for its use. The Bill seeks to introduce both of these two prongs of the "anti-circumvention provisions" into the Copyright Act through the new sections 64A and 65B. The new section 65A(1) provides that any person who circumvents an effective technological measure applied for the purpose of protecting any of the rights conferred by the Act with the intention of infringing such rights shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.

Interestingly, the Bill does not follow the approach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which incorporated the "anti-circumvention provisions" of the WCT into U.S. law in 1998 as it does not distinguish between technological measures which prevent unauthorised access to a copyrighted work and measures that prevent unauthorised copying of a copyrighted work. The DMCA only prohibits the circumvention of the access control measures and not the copy control measures because copying of a work may be fair use under appropriate circumstances. Moreover, the DMCA creates a civil right of action, in addition to criminal remedies, and any person injured by the circumvention of the technological measures intended to protect his rights can seek monetary damages against the offender in U.S. Federal Court. The Bill, however, fails to give copyright holders a right of action and provides only for criminal remedies.

Encryption techniques

The main objective of the proposed section 65A is to enable authors of copyrighted works to use encryption techniques in order to protect their copyrighted works against unauthorised dissemination on the internet. However, Indian law, in any case, severely restricts the use of encryption technology by providing that DoT approval is required for use of encryption levels higher than the outdated 40-key bit length. Today, 128-256-key bit length is required to protect communications from interception.

In sum, the Copyright Amendment Bill 2010 bravely takes socially progressive steps intended to ensure that lyricists and composers get a fair share of royalties and that Indians will have access to recent editions of foreign works at reasonable prices. However, in order to modernise Indian copyright law, the Bill has to go beyond only copying the provisions of the WCT and WPPT and should incorporate the provisions necessary to ensure that authors have the access to encryption and other technological means to protect their works published on the internet from hacking and can enforce those rights in the courts.

(Aparna Viswanathan is with Viswanathan & Co., Advocates, New Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.)

A look at what the bill introduces, proposes and the implications.





The recently reported decision of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) on additional restrictions for transfer of ENR (enrichment and reprocessing) technologies with adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) being a condition for transfer has caused huge unease in India. It negates the positive and forward-looking orientation with respect to ENR issues that was built into bilateral and multilateral agreements developed as a part of development of our international civil nuclear cooperation. The NSG waiver for India now seems to have been circumscribed. While this does not affect the commerce related to nuclear reactors and their fuel supplies and our rights to reprocess and recycle used fuel, it appears to shut doors on commerce related to enrichment and reprocessing technologies. The United States, Russia, and France have issued statements reiterating their adherence to understandings with India. One would only hope that this does not amount to doublespeak and the NSG waiver in respect of the NPT condition that was granted to India earlier remains undiluted in respect of ENR transfers as well. The statements of these countries are far from being explicit in this respect.

India is a responsible country with advanced nuclear technologies. Indian capability is comprehensive and covers the entire nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment and reprocessing. Understandings embedded in our international civil nuclear cooperation arrangements are premised on sustained access to international commerce for facilities that we place under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. At some stage, we would set up reprocessing plants to reprocess used fuel arising from reactors under IAEA safeguards. Similarly, we could set up enrichment plants for enriching imported uranium under IAEA safeguards to feed our growing programme. Such plants, if they have to be under IAEA safeguards, must have the benefits of international commerce and not denied that access. That we have our own technological capability in respect of these technologies cannot be an argument to allow others to reverse the positive and forward-looking sentiment built into our understandings.

Reprocessing and recycle (particularly in fast reactors) of used fuel from nuclear reactors enables extraction of several tenfolds larger carbon-dioxide-free energy from a given amount of uranium. Reprocessing is thus the key to nuclear energy, addressing the twin challenge of sustainable global energy supply as well as mitigating the threat of climate change. Claims made about the capability of available uranium to meet global energy needs, in once-through mode, for a long enough time are true only in the context of the current rate of consumption, which is primarily in rich countries with more or less stabilised energy supply needs. They are not true in the context of the rapidly growing energy needs of countries in the developing world. A closed fuel cycle involving reprocessing is thus a key necessity. Concerns on ENR technologies arise because they handle large quantities of weapon usable material in loose form. To meet the needs of the energy-hungry world and make the energy benefits more widely accessible, such technologies should be in responsible hands and technological solutions worked out to minimise the proliferation concerns. Simply depending on inspection and policing regimes and placing additional restrictions on ENR technologies, though necessary, could in fact jeopardise the larger contribution of nuclear energy to sustainable development and bring the climate change-related threat closer. We need to realise that restricting access to fuller carbon-free nuclear energy potential could present far greater risks to humankind eventually.

During the Bush regime, restrictions were sought to be placed on transfer of ENR technologies to countries that do not have them already. This would have limited the spread of these sensitive technologies, with India remaining eligible for their transfers, as we already have our own technology in this area. The latest NSG decision has changed the logic completely: it essentially targets India as we are the only country outside the NPT eligible for nuclear transfers.

For us, a closed fuel cycle involving reprocessing of uranium and thorium has been an integral part of our policy from the beginning of our nuclear energy programme. While our interest in thorium arises primarily due to the huge energy potential that thorium provides for us, it is now becoming increasingly clear that the thorium fuel cycle also offers several advantages with respect to proliferation resistance. Since thorium by itself does not have a fissile component, it needs initial fissile inputs. Enriched uranium with thorium makes for an efficient fuel that could produce as much energy from mined uranium and leads to used fuel that can be recycled with a much-reduced proliferation risk. Uranium enrichment has thus a special significance in the context of the thorium-based proliferation-resistant fuel cycle as well. Given the present comprehensive capability and the rapid pace towards reaching the full objectives of the three-stage programme, Indian developmental efforts could well be a part of the solution the world is so desperately seeking. While we have a well-defined programme ahead of us for setting up reactors as well as fuel cycle facilities to support a growing power programme, progressively these technologies would evolve towards large-scale thorium utilisation. This programme being somewhat unique would anyway have to be evolved by us on our own. However, the inherent proliferation-resistant features of thorium that are of wider interest should have led to greater interest in collaboration with India. That somehow does not seem to be the case, at least for the present.

There is also a question of supply of other hardware and equipment not specifically concerning ENR technologies to enrichment and reprocessing plants that India might set up under IAEA safeguards. Clearly, there could be a number of alternative approaches to configuring such plants. Denial of a specific hardware or equipment cannot be allowed to jeopardise a mutually satisfactory resolution between the IAEA and India to ensure the safeguardability of such plants.

We live in an interdependent world where the terms of engagement depend upon how strong and capable you are. We have an ongoing mission to expand the share of nuclear energy in our energy mix to meet our rapidly growing energy needs and to reduce carbon intensity in our energy production. With the framework for international civil nuclear cooperation and the key provisions that are already in place, we can accelerate that process keeping our strategic interests intact. We however need to exercise caution and due diligence at every specific step as we negotiate the establishment of nuclear power plants with France, Russia, the U.S., and possibly others and as we do so, also press for adherence to the letter and spirit of our understandings.

There is also the question of NSG membership in the air. It would be strange if India were to become a member of a group that denies us cooperation on the basis of the NPT.

(Dr Anil Kakodkar, an eminent nuclear scientist, is a former Chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission. He was a key negotiator of the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear deal.)

The recent decision of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group on the transfer of ENR technologies seems to have circumscribed the NSG waiver for India and is unacceptable. We need to exercise caution and due diligence at every specific step as we negotiate the establishment of nuclear power plants with France, Russia, the U.S., and possibly others and as we do so, also press for adherence to the letter and spirit of our understandings.







The clandestine American military campaign to combat al-Qaeda's franchise in Yemen is expanding to fight the Islamist militancy in Somalia, as new evidence indicates that insurgents in the two countries are forging closer ties and possibly plotting attacks against the United States, American officials say.

An American military drone aircraft attacked several Somalis in the militant group the Shabab late last month, the officials said, killing at least one of its mid-level operatives and wounding others.

The strike was carried out by the same Special Operations Command unit now battling militants in Yemen, and it represented an intensification of an American military campaign in a mostly lawless region where weak governments have allowed groups with links to al-Qaeda to flourish.

The Obama administration's increased focus on Somalia comes as the White House has unveiled a new strategy to battle al-Qaeda in the post-Osama bin Laden era, and as some American military and intelligence officials view Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia as a greater threat to the United States than the group of operatives in Pakistan who have been barraged with hundreds of drone strikes directed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in recent years.

The military drone strike in Somalia last month was the first American attack there since 2009, when helicopter-borne commandos killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior leader of the group that carried out the 1998 attacks on the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Although it appears that no senior Somali militants were killed in last month's drone strike, a Pentagon official said recently that one of the militants who was wounded had been in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical cleric now hiding in Yemen. The news that the strike was carried out by an American drone was first reported inThe Washington Post this week.

'Black Hawk Down' exercise

American military officials said there was new intelligence that militants in Yemen and Somalia were communicating more frequently about operations, training and tactics, but the Pentagon is wading into the chaos in Somalia with some trepidation. Many are still haunted by the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" debacle, in which 18 elite American troops were killed in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, battling fighters aligned with warlords. Senior officials have repeatedly said in private in the past year that the administration does not intend to send American troops to Somalia beyond quick raids.

For several years, the United States has largely been relying on proxy forces in Somalia, including African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, to support Somalia's fragile government. The Pentagon is sending nearly $45 million in military supplies, including night-vision equipment and four small unarmed drones, to Uganda and Burundi to help combat the rising terror threat in Somalia. During the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2007, clandestine operatives from the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command initiated missions into Somalia from an airstrip in Ethiopia.

Even as threat warnings grow, American officials say that the Shabab militants are under increasing pressure on various fronts, and that now is the time to attack the group aggressively. But it is unclear whether American intelligence about Somalia — often sketchy and inconclusive — has improved in recent months.

Over the past two years, the administration has wrestled with how to deal with the Shabab, many of whose midlevel fighters oppose Somalia's weak transitional government but are not necessarily seeking to battle the United States. Attacking them — not just their leaders — could push those militants to join al-Qaeda, some officials say. "That has led to a complicated policy debate over how you apply your counterterrorism tools against a group like Al Shabab, because it is not a given that going after them in the same way that you go after al-Qaeda would produce the best result," a senior administration official said last fall.

American officials said this week that they were trying to exploit the Shabab's recent setbacks. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Al Qaeda's leader in East Africa and the mastermind of the 1998 bombings, was killed on June 7 in a shootout at a security checkpoint in Somalia.

Somali clan militias, backed by Kenya and Ethiopia, have reclaimed Shabab-held territory in south-western Somalia, putting more strain on the organisation, said Andre Le Sage, a senior research fellow who specialises in Africa at the National Defense University in Washington.

Still, American intelligence and military officials warn of increasing operational ties between the Shabab and the Qaeda franchise in Yemen, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or A.Q.A.P. The group orchestrated a plot to blow up a jetliner headed to Detroit on December 25, 2009, and another attempt nearly a year later to destroy cargo planes carrying printer cartridges packed with explosives. Both plots failed.

American intelligence officials say that the Shabab so far have carried out only one attack outside of Somalia, a series of coordinated bombings that killed more than 70 people in Uganda as crowds gathered to watch a World Cup match last year.

In statements in recent months, the Shabab have pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and its new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri. American officials said that Mr. Awlaki had developed close ties to senior Shabab leaders.

"What I'd be most concerned about is whether A.Q.A.P. could transfer to Shabab its knowledge of building I.E.D.'s and sophisticated plots, and Shabab could make available to A.Q.A.P. recruits with Western passports," said Mr. Le Sage, referring to improvised explosive devices. (Souad Mekhennet contributed reporting from Frankfurt, Germany.) — ©New York Times News Service

It's Washington's new strategy to battle al-Qaeda in the post-Osama bin Laden era.






Indian sport is in the midst of its worst doping scandal. With as many as six athletes who were involved in last year's Delhi Commonwealth Games caught in recent testing, it is becoming clear that the malady is far more widespread than ever imagined.

For a nation striving for sporting excellence through decades, the recent triumphs at the Asian and Commonwealth Games were heartening. But the reason for such improvement in track and field performance is now becoming apparent. Indian sport would be pandering to a delusion if it allows its athletes to dabble in questionable practices like sustained use of performance enhancing drugs. Earlier, weightlifters of both sexes were the ones viewed with most suspicion.

It is clear now that sportsmen in different strength, speed and endurance disciplines on the track and field are indulging in the same unfair practices. The athletes who tested positive are trying to shift the blame to their coaches, particularly those who still swear by principles followed in the former Soviet bloc, where till not so long ago athletic excellence was a state-sponsored fraud indulged in to further delusional nationalistic ambitions.
As iconic sprint star P.T. Usha had recently pointed out, the very credibility of Indian athletics is at stake. Her intuitive suspicion of sudden improvements in performance, most noticeably seen in the CWG victory of the 4x400 metre national relay squad, proved justified. But her line of argument — that the government should step in to clean up India's athletics — is specious. As it is, the government and its investigating agencies are busy enough trying to nail the sports administrators involved in various scams relating to the Delhi Commonwealth Games. Ideally there should only be a minimal watchdog role for governments in sports administration; what it should concentrate on is to invest in improving the sporting infrastructure around the country. Our sports federations are autonomous: it is for them to guide young sports people and ensure that they stay on the correct path. Much as cricket plays an educative role in warning young players at the grassroots level of the ills of getting involved in betting and match-fixing, so too should the Indian Olympic Association, its affiliates and other sports bodies educate athletes on the dangers of looking for shortcuts to sporting glory.
By announcing hefty financial incentives for medal winners at the highest levels of international sports, the government is actually placing temptation in the path of young sports people. While it is hard to fault it for good intentions, it might consider whether to make the medal winners wait at least two years, say, before actually handing over the promised incentives. This would ensure that money is never forked out to athletes, some of whom might later be caught through newer and more streamlined testing methods, which are improving by the day, and thus ensure that the federations and the nation itself is not embarrassed. It is a moot point whether the athlete on drugs alone is to blame, as in some cases support staff members are just as culpable of introducing bad practices. But just as all the glory is the sportsman's alone when winning, so too must the blame be placed squarely at his feet in the event of his being caught doping. Modern sports people who live in an era of rigorous dope testing are often subject to harrowing procedures that try to ensure that they steer clear of all kinds of drugs, including recreational drugs, as they are anathema to the utopian view of sport handed down in the years since the founding of the modern Olympics in the 19th century. It's time India's sports people realised that doping (and thus cheating) have no place in the world they inhabit.





I was not particularly astonished to find that the word "slut" does not have a male equivalent. In many languages other than English, there is no male word for "prostitute" or "widow". Thus the entire debate over the "slut walk" is obviously centred on the rights and current disempowerment of women.

As we are all now aware, a particularly stupid Canadian policeman Michael Sanguinetti told an outraged student audience in Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, that women in order to avoid being victimised should "avoid dressing like sluts". And the outrage spread all over the world with women organising "slut walks" in order to "reclaim" the word.
The caveats I begin with are very simple. The first is that it passes my comprehension why anybody would even want to "reclaim" the word slut, with its unmistakably pejorative implication? Being called a slut is quite simply an insult and has little to do with the way you dress. It's not quite the same as the universal pejorative "bastard" which is meant to abuse a particular person, but actually questions his parentage, but the import is similar. In my experience men (and some women) call a woman a slut for a variety of reasons motivated by jealousy, frustration, chauvinism, stupidity, or rather simply, a lack of imagination. Thus the stated objective of organising a "slut walk" to reclaim the word seems extremely counterproductive to me. However, other issues that arise out of this protest are far more basic and very important.
My second and less important rather trivial astonishment has to do with the fact that a stray comment made by chauvinistic Michael Sanguinetti should have reverberated around the world as if it were a precious pearl of wisdom, or on the other hand, the worst thing anybody has ever said about women. Millions of nasty remarks about women are made every second of the day, and it is amazing to me why this one has generated so much debate.
Be that as it may, Delhi is set to have its own slut walk in late July, spearheaded by young Umang Sabharwal, who has Indianised the name to "Besharmi Morcha" and says rather sweepingly that the idea behind the "Besharmi Morcha" is to "point to the tendency to avoid facing the issue of sexual violence".
At first glance it appears to be a noble objective, but certainly it is dubious in the extreme if the "Besharmi Morcha" itself will be able to make any great impact upon the very horrible and real issues of sexual atrocities and violence against women in a country like India. However, I certainly do not agree with what some other outraged commentators have said, to the effect that the "Besharmi Morcha" will trivialise the whole issue of sexual atrocities and rape and what prevented these young girls from taking out protests against dowry deaths or female foeticide. Well, the answer to that is obvious. In our democratic country everybody has the right to protest, (and they do) about whatever has touched their lives or moved them. There are thousands of modern young urban women, in whose lives dowry deaths or female foeticide find no resonance, but who every day face harsh words, molestation and abuse from men in urban spaces. They, too, have the right to voice their own protest and it does not in any way detract from the much larger and wider issue of sexual violence and rape in other contexts. These young girls are trying to say that they want to reclaim public spaces in cities and make them non discriminatory and safe for women and also have the right to express themselves in their own way regarding the way they dress and still be safe from harassment and abuse. In other words, men have a duty to behave decently and responsibly and that duty is not conditional upon the dress of the women they see. To claim otherwise would be as silly as saying, that you should not keep anything valuable or beautiful in your house or else thieves would then be tempted to rob you.
Thus, in my view, these young girls certainly have the right to express their protest about the colonisation of urban spaces by chauvinistic men, particularly in Delhi, where according to some reports, one woman is raped every 18 hours, one is molested every 14 hours, four out of five are verbally harassed and one-third physically molested. However, this is a protest that is far removed from the deep and complex question of sexual violence, rape and other atrocities against women. A stark example of the difference is an exhibition recently held by the activist group "White Noise" in Bengaluru which simply displayed the garments worn by rape victims when the crime occurred. Not surprisingly most of the rape victims were covered from head to toe, and some even had their heads covered. Therefore, the most crucial issue of this entire debate is the fact that our democracy has simply failed to protect its women from sexual violence. Everybody knows that the real motivation of rape is less about lust and is really an assertion of power and dominance. That is the reason why during wars or communal riots the battles are not fought between men on either side, but rather, upon the bodies of women. A woman is alleged to have been raped by someone, and her so-called protectors, instead of punishing the man who raped her, go out and rape another woman who belongs to the other side! Thus it is the women of all sections who are being punished while society fights its communal and caste wars. Even the most enlightened sections of society have failed to understand the utter vileness of the crime of rape. When high court judges actually mull over a judgment that allows a rape accused to go scot-free because he offers to marry his victim, it is a telling commentary upon the still prevailing mindset in our country today.
Violence against women is a heinous crime and ought to be punished severely. Social, cultural and regional values are absolutely irrelevant in this regard, and unless we recognise this in the clearest possible terms, we do grave injustice to our women.

The author is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.
The views expressed in this column are her own.





The naming of Ranjan Mathai as India's foreign secretary has ended an intense race for the prestigious job, much of which was played out beyond the public gaze. Mr Mathai has been serving as India's ambassador to France since January 2007 and had to contend with the claims of Hardeep Puri, ambassador to the UN, and Sharat Sabharwal, high commissioner to Pakistan, among other notables.

Though the current incumbent and US ambassador-designate Nirupama Rao will move to Washington D.C. only next month, Mr Mathai may not have much time to learn the complexities of his new job. In fact, he may find his plate full already. Obviously, dealing with neighbours is going to consume much of his attention — the uneasy relations with Pakistan, the constantly evolving situation in Afghanistan, China and Nepal. Before his appointment, it was pointed out by some that Mr Mathai's lack of experience in our immediate neighbourhood would be a detriment. Obviously, the government does not think so and once again the iron law of seniority has worked its magic.

Playing safe

Fear and caution in the age of scams. Rattled by the spate of corruption scandals involving the high and mighty of the land, it is not surprising that both netas and officials are playing it safe. The P.J. Thomas affair has cast a long shadow over the selection of his successor, which has been delayed. Clearly, the government wishes to avoid a repeat of the Thomas situation and is therefore moving carefully.
The arrest of former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam, too, seems to have had a debilitating and paralysing effect on the upper echelons of babudom. Given the scam-a-day scenario and with Central Bureau of Investigation sleuths poking around everywhere, clearly babus are scared to handle files or take decisions, fearing anything they do may backfire on them. Naturally with everyone playing safe, nothing is moving in the sarkar. Unfortunately, that includes several big-ticket decisions, which now babus prefer to put off as far as possible.
The word now is that many senior babus are hoping that the Supreme Court will intervene and define the so-far rather arbitrary nature of the relationship between babus and their political masters. But, for now, it probably pays to play safe.








State Higher Education Department seems to be in utter quandary over its unclear and controversial policy of admission of students to the colleges in the urban as well as rural areas of Jammu. A piquant situation has arisen with the Director of Colleges issuing a circular to the principals of city colleges that rural students would not be given admission in city colleges except in special case. This stand has been taken in view of a large number of new colleges opened in rural areas of Jammu and the Government expecting rural student community to remain confined to them. But the instructions issued by the Director of Colleges are almost reckless and do not take ground realities into account. In the first place it is in contravention of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equal opportunities to all its citizens. Secondly, the authorities ought to have made sure whether the newly opened rural colleges have the requisite infrastructure in terms of accommodation, libraries, laboratories, faculty, hostel and subject combinations which fresh students are likely to offer. It has been reported that most of these newly opened colleges lack maximum infrastructure and the students are loath to waste their precious time in an institute that does not meet their requirements.

We know that a higher education institution is not made over night. It takes a long time to build it brick by brick. It is the making of an institution and not just four walls of a building. For example, it takes anything from one to two years to fill up faculty vacancies and it takes years and years to build a reasonably useful library or laboratory. Therefore the rural students should not expect that all this will come up that soon and that easy. But this cannot be a justification for the authorities to force them to get admitted to ill-equipped institutes where they will find themselves deprived of necessary wherewithal. The best policy for the government would be to adopt a middle path in which neither the aspiring rural student community is harmed in any way nor is unwieldy pressure brought on urban institutions. City colleges have specific seats available for offering the aspirants, and this number is fixed in view of the facilities available. Availability of facilities should also be the guiding principle for rural colleges. It should be possible for the department to marginally increase the number of seats in city colleges for a specific period of time by which the department envisages to equip the newly opened rural colleges to become full-fledged and functional. It could take a year or two and till then provisional arrangement shall have to be made. The circular issued by the Director of Colleges is flawed in more than one way. Any student from rural area having successfully fulfilled conditions for admission in a city college cannot be denied admission under law. Secondly, the plea that only such cases should be considered where subject combination in rural colleges is not available is also untenable. Government cannot make discrimination on that count between rural and urban educational institutions. Obviously, it supports the argument of the rural students that the newly opened colleges are deficit of many necessary requirements. In other words the department is obliged to increase the intake capacity of city colleges. Any student meeting the criterion for admission by a city college has the right to be admitted to it. It becomes a legal case and the law is on the side of the applicant. The Department would be well advised to take a realistic view of the situation and not stick to cliché like "intake capacity", or "non availability of subject combination" etc. No rural student would be eager to come to live in Jammu city for higher education if his needs are adequately fulfilled by the newly opened colleges in his or her area. Why should they undergo extra expenditure of living in a city far away from their homes? Without waste of further time and without getting bogged with controversy, the department should hasten to provide the entire sanctioned infrastructure for the newly opened rural colleges. It should create a taskforce to speed up equipping these colleges with all necessary requirements. Providing faculty should be taken up on priority basis. Once students come to know the urgency with which the Government is seeking to decentralize higher education, they will change their thinking also. Department should avoid any precipitate action in this matter.






The State is rich in cultural heritage because it has passed through several ruling dynasties during past one thousand years. Traditionally, the Archaeological Department of the Centre and of the State both have been doing their bit to explore and preserve elements of our cultural heritage. It is through their contribution that valuable fund of heritage has been preserved for the researchers and art lovers. The Union Government has now sanctioned fifty crore rupees under Naagar Nagar project for the protection and preservation of cultural heritage in the State. It appears that the Departments of Archaeology and Tourism will be joining heads to identify the sites for treatment and preservation. While it is sensible to rope in the Tourist Department in the project, yet subjecting the heritage sites entirely to the interest of streamlining tourism industry would not be advisable. Monuments and heritage sites have their independent history and value which need to be maintained and preserved. A committee of experts needs to be constituted to identify the heritage sites on priority basis. The priority will be determined by the threat in terms of space and time to the monument. Earlier it has been notified in these columns that some influential and politically connected persons are trying to encroach upon the heritage sites or seek their conversion to commercial purposes through underhand means or through connivance of authorities. The Mubarak Mandi case can be cited in this context. There are a large number of historically very significant heritage cites in various parts of Jammu region which have neither been formally identified nor given due recognition. The expert committee should make a just and equitable identification of sites in all the three regions so that our composite cultural history is reflected in its healthy form.








Eliminating nuclear weapons is the democratic wish of the world's people. Yet no nuclear armed country currently appears to be preparing for a future without these terrifying devices. In fact, all are squandering billions of dollars on modernization of their nuclear forces, making a mockery of United Nations disarmament pledges. If we allow this madness to continue, the eventual use of these instruments of terror seems all but inevitable.
The nuclear power crisis at Japan's Fukushima power plant has served as a dreadful reminder that events thought unlikely can and do happen. It has taken a tragedy of great proportions to prompt some leaders to act to avoid similar calamities at nuclear reactors elsewhere in the world. But it must not take another Hiroshima or Nagasaki-- or an even greater disaster-- before they finally wake up and recognize the urgent necessity of nuclear disarmament.
This week, the foreign ministers of five nuclear armed countries the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China will meet in Paris to discuss progress in implementing the nuclear disarmament commitments that they made at last years Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference.
It will be a test of their resolve to transform the vision of a future free of nuclear arms into reality.
If they are serious about preventing the spread of these monstrous weapons -- and averting their use -- they will work energetically and expeditiously to eliminate them completely. One standard must apply to all countries: zero. Nuclear arms are wicked, regardless of who possesses them. The unspeakable human suffering that they inflict is the same whatever flag they may bear. So long as these weapons exist, the threat of their use -- either by accident or through an act of sheer madness -- will remain.
We must not tolerate a system of nuclear apartheid, in which it is considered legitimate for some states to possess nuclear arms but patently unacceptable for others to seek to acquire them. Such a double standard is no basis for peace and security in the world. The NPT is not a license for the five original nuclear powers to cling to these weapons indefinitely. The International Court of Justice has affirmed that they are legally obliged to negotiate in good faith for the complete elimination of their nuclear forces.
The New START agreement between the US and Russia, while a step in the right direction, will only skim the surface off the former Cold War foes' bloated nuclear arsenals -- which account for 95 per cent of the global total. Furthermore, these and other countries modernization activities cannot be reconciled with their professed support for a world free of nuclear weapons.
It is deeply troubling that the US has allocated $ 185 billion to augment its nuclear stockpile over the next decade, on top of the ordinary annual nuclear weapons budget of more than $ 50 billion.
Just as unsettling is the Pentagons push for the development of nuclear armed drones - H- bombs deliverable by remote control.
Russia, too, has unveiled a massive nuclear weapons modernization plan, which includes the deployment of various new delivery systems. British politicians, meanwhile, are seeking to renew their navy's aging fleet of Trident submarines -- at an estimated cost of ? 76 billion ($ 121 billion). In doing so, they are passing up an historic opportunity to take the lead on nuclear disarmament.
Every dollar invested in bolstering a country's nuclear arsenal is a diversion of resources from its schools, hospitals, and other social services, and a theft from the millions around the globe who go hungry or are denied access to basic medicines. Instead of investing in weapons of mass annihilation, Governments must allocate resources towards meeting human needs.
The only obstacle we face in abolishing nuclear weapons is a lack of political will, which can -- and must -- be overcome.
Two- thirds of UN member states have called for a nuclear- weapons convention similar to existing treaties banning other categories of particularly inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, from biological and chemical arms to anti- personnel land mines and cluster munitions. Such a treaty is feasible and must be urgently pursued.
It is true that nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented, but that does not mean that nuclear disarmament is an impossible dream. South Africa, gave up its nuclear arsenal in the 1990s, realizing it was better off without these weapons. Around the same time, the newly independent states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine voluntarily relinquished their nuclear arms, and then joined the NPT. Other countries have abandoned nuclear weapons programmes, recognizing that nothing good could possibly come from them.
Global stockpiles have dropped from 68,000 warheads at the height of the Cold War to 20,000 today.
In time, every government will come to accept the basic inhumanity of threatening to obliterate entire cities with nuclear weapons. They will work to achieve a world in which such weapons are no more -- where the rule of law, not the rule of force, reigns supreme, and cooperation is seen as the best guarantor of international peace. But such a world will be possible only if people everywhere rise up and challenge the nuclear madness. (INAV)







West Bengal is the only part of the world where a democratically elected Marxist party remained in power for 34 years. The state became an impregnable citadel of the left. The reasons for the rise and fall of the left in West Bengal are different than any where else.
The revolutionary elan with which Jyoti Basu led the march of the Left in 1977 was indeed unique. It was not merely a communist manifesto which inspired the people of the state to follow him and his successes of his party so far. It was not a class war, the classical communist strategy, which he led. He essentially symbolised sentiment of Bengali patriotism.
In fact Bengal, which had pioneered a reninassance movement in India, had always been inspired by a sentiment of Bengali patriotism. It, however, has followed two mainstreams, one with a message of universalism and the other by religious revivalist tendencies. Tagore was an outstanding example of the former while his contemporary Bakim Chander represented the latter. M N Roy was another outstanding personality of West Bengal who propounded philosophy of Radical Humanism, opposed to nationalism or religious sectarianism. Among Muslims also the two trends were visible. One who were among the founders of the Muslim League. The others were active leaders in the nationalist movement.
Subash Chander Bose represented militant nationalism which liberal nationalists led by Gandhi and Nehru opposed. He was, no doubt popular among the common Indians. But the organisation that he built namely Forward Block survived only in Bengal. Incidentally it became a part of Left Front led by Jyoti Basu, though the communist movement in the country had condemned him as an agent of Hiller, Mussolinog and fascist powers.
Dr. Shayama Prasad Mukerjee, the founder president of the Bhartiya Jana Sangh, led a staunch brand of Indian nationalism. His death in Srinagar jail was mourned more intensely and protest against it was stronger in West Bengal than elsewhere in the country.
These divergent brands of Indian nationalism had inculcated a sense of Bengali pride and a feeling that what Bengal thinks today, the rest of the country does tomorrow. In mid seventies of the last century, the policies of the Central Government, in particular promulgation of the emergency had provoked a sentiment of regional nationalism in many parts of India. The communist parties of West Bengal rose to the occasion and led the movement of Bengali patriotism. Jyoti Basu was as much a communist leader as a Bengali patriot.
He was flexible enough to listen to voices of dissent. I remember one instance to support this contention. I was invited by some dissenters to inaugurate a conference on Threat to Diversity at Siligury in West Bengal. It was attended by various ethnic identities of the state and some enlightened Bengalis. After the conference, I went to nearby Darjeeling to meet Subash Geishing leader of the Gorkha Praishad. I met him in his well armed underground cell and had a long discussion with him. I was able to convince him to demand autonomy for Gorkhaland within the state.
On return I wrote a letter to Jyoti Basu in which I appreciated the role of his Government in asserting autonomy of his state against Central Government but regretted his failure to extend the logic further and appreciate autonomous urges of Gorkahs within the state. I received very encouraging response. Eventually an agreement was arrived at between the Gorkha leaders and the State Government. Later some complications developed between them which revived asfeeling of disillusionment among Gorkha community with the Left Government and their own leadership. The talks initiated by the new Government has won over leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the successor of the Gorkha Parishad. According to them "they never felt such a warm welcome in Kolkatta."
Meanwhile other ethnic communities had started asserting. Some of them were non-Bengalis. Others were Bengalis but were conscious of their other identities also. In Naxalbari, a tribal area, they took a violent form and led to what is called Naxalite movement and has spread to other parts of the state as also to other states of the country. Naxalites participated in the recent election for first time as Mamata Bannerjee sympathised with their cause and they got a democratic outlet for their protest.
Similarly lower castes, tribes, Muslims, scheduled castes and non-Bengalis had their own reasons for not being satisfied with bhadralok led Bengali nationalism. Muslims who with 27% population of the state constitute a substantial minority were shaken by Sachar Committee report which disclosed that their share in employment, education, health facilities and other development indices in the state was less than most other states. The non recognition of their long standing demand for recognition of Urdu language was also cause of their discontent.
There were some immediate provocations to the community. Nandigram was a Muslim majority area where in the process of acquision of land many excesses committed on the land holders not only by the police but also by armed CPM cadres. An incident of death of a Muslim young man, who had fallen in love with daughter of a Hindu industrialist of Kolkata, under mysterious circumstances, provided another occasion of Muslim protest.
In fact the role of party workers in the administration of the state is the major factor in alienation of the people. The initial radical land reforms in the state were hailed by the Left parties throughout India as what the left can achieve if given an opportunity. But these reforms were implemented by party cadres. In fact the party and administration became synonymous in many fields. Party workers controlled the panchayats and held posts that provided all state facilities to rural areas. The party selected government officers or nominated its cadres to Government posts in various departments which it considered of importance. This is a pattern which was tried to be followed by Soviet Union and most communist countries where Government officers could discharge party responsibilities and party workers could run administrative services.
Such a system was supposed to be more efficient and serve the ideological objective of the ruling party in a better way. But it stifled dissent and hence democracy. For a while this system might ensure victory in election. But when urge of freedom and democracy is able to assert, the failure is as total as it was in the recent election.
The stunning Paribartan that Mamata Bannerjee has brought about in West Bengal is not only due to her reputation of personal integrity and her vague humanist philosophy of Ma, Mati and Maunish but more importantly, due to negative reasons that had caused discontent among the people against the Left Government.
Main lessons that the Government and the opposition must learn from the rise and fall of the Left in West Bengal may be summarised as follows. Regional nationalism has indeed progressive potentialities. But it must accommodate sub-regional aspirations and reconcile them with one other. Development is important but it must attend to the demand of equity. Good administration is vital for any state. But it must not stifle voices of dissent and urge for freedom. Above all no ideology or party can succeed which ignorers ground realities.








Uncertainty looms over the future prospects of the global economy. The International Monetary Fund and United Nations' agencies predict continued slow growth in the coming years. Other experts, however, see possibilities of a sudden decline.
The two engines of economic growth are new markets and technologies. Say a village in Himachal Pradesh is in equilibrium. Goods produced are consumed and growth rate is zero. Suddenly demand for potatoes comes from Maharashtra. Buyers are willing to pay a high price for them. Farmers of Himachal invest in making canals and increase production of potatoes. They sell the production at high price and earn good money. They buy TV and fridge from the money earned. Such opening of new markets leads to a virtuous cycle of demand, investment, production, income, consumption and growth. The same happens with the introduction of a new technology. Say tractors are introduced in the Himachal village. It then becomes possible to cultivate larger area of land. The increased production is sold and TV bought from the income.
Present high incomes of the developed countries are based on opening of the markets of colonies in the 18th and 19th century and development of new technologies of internal combustion engine, atomic energy, jet airplane, computer and internet. This happy situation is now coming under stress. Developing countries are themselves producing the goods that were being imported till recently. They are even exporting these goods to the developed countries. Only imported cars were available in India in the 1950s. Today indigenously built Indica is being exported. This is like the situation that Himachal potato growers would face after cultivation started in Maharashtra. They would have to sell their produce at low prices. Wages of their workers will decline. They would face negative growth rates.
No new commercially viable technology has also been developed in the last decade. The last such technological innovation was that of the internet. In the result the developed countries no longer have any unique product that they can sell to the developing countries at profit. The decline of the developed countries is pulling down the whole world economy because their share in the world economy is large.
The American Government put in place a fiscal stimulus package to help overcome this loss of incomes. Interest rates were slashed and tax breaks given to taxpayers to help them withstand the pressures of decline in wages. Buoyed by easy money, American people continued to borrow and consume as previously under the impression that the recession will soon come to an end. But the recession has not come to an end. American companies are finding their markets slipping. They do not have any new technologies which they could sell at high prices. On top of this the burden of the stimulus package is now devolving upon them. Revenues of the American Government are less due to slashing of tax rates. The Government has borrowed huge amounts from the market and also printed money to make available easy finance to the people. It has needed more of these funds for the war in Afghanistan. This debt is leading to decline in the value of dollar against other currencies. America simply cannot continue borrowing such huge amounts. It will have to set its house in order. That will entail imposing more taxes on the already distressed people and will be painful.
A report datelined June 15 has this to say: "The rich-world's economic prospects darkened over the last month, a Reuters poll of economists showed, with new signs of a slowdown in the United States compounding already stern fears about the poor fiscal health of Western economies... Economists took an axe to the outlook for US economic growth following a raft of dire jobs and industrial data this month... 'Two key downside risks have increased over the past few months -- the risk of a disruptive default in Greece and of a significant slowdown in the US,' said Kurt Karl, chief US economist at Swiss Re in New York, in a research note... The consensus forecast for US second-quarter gross domestic product was slashed to an annualized 2.5 per cent from 3.3 per cent in last month's poll, following a weak 1.8 per cent rate of growth recorded in the first quarter." The report shows buildup of pressures on the American economy.
One cannot repair structural weaknesses of the economy by implementing stimulus packages. Such packages are helpful only to overcome temporary problems. Tiresomeness of a healthy athlete can be removed by giving him lemon water. But tiresomeness of a cancer patient is not removed in this way.
The Euro's situation is no better. This region is equally affected by loss of markets of the developing countries and absence of new commercially viable technologies. Difference is in the strategy adopted to face the downside. America has provided tax cuts and easy loans and encouraged its people to face the choppy world markets. America has not much increased welfare expenditures. It has allowed reduction of wages so that cost of production is reduced and jobs are saved. The General Motors, for example, reached such a wage reduction agreement with its Unions. Europe, on the other hand, has ignored the global crisis and continued in its business-as-usual ways. Government welfare expenditures have been increased to shield the people from the downside. This has led to burgeoning debt and Greece is poised on verge of default. Public unrest has erupted on the streets of Athens against the proposed austerity measures. It is expected that Germany will bail out these troubled countries for the present. But this will only make things worse in the coming period. Germany itself is likely to come under pressure as its exports falter.
The world economy will face the fallout of problems of America and Europe. Share of these countries in the present global incomes is large. However, the contagion is unlikely to spread to the developing countries. Reason is that loss of the developed countries is due to gain of the developing countries. Transfer of manufacturing from America to India means that loss of America is gain of India. This can be understood by an example. Farmers of Himachal may lose due to increased potato cultivation in Maharashtra. But farmers of Maharashtra will gain and the Indian economy will be stronger as a whole. The cost of potatoes in the larger economy will decline and help people improve their standards of living. Similarly China and India will gain from the decline of the developed countries and the world economy will be better. Between the two, China will gain less because its economy is more dependent upon exports to the developed countries.
We are fast moving towards a new multipolar world economy which will see Mumbai and Shanghai emerge as centers of economic prowess equal to that of London and New York.











It is a matter of great relief for India that the US, Russia and France are ready to honour the commitments they had made to India under their respective civilian nuclear cooperation agreements signed with New Delhi. The Nuclear Suppliers Group's (NSG's) latest decision that the countries that have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty may get debarred from acquiring uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies from any of the NSG members is not fair so far as India is concerned. India had been given a clean waiver after the operationalisation of the 2008 Indo-US civilian nuclear deal on the basis of its impeccable non-proliferation record. The NSG had then accorded India the right to do nuclear commerce with its members despite not being a signatory to the NPT. This was a major achievement for New Delhi, as the NSG waiver ended India's status as a nuclear untouchable, particularly for the transfer of latest technologies.


At its coming meeting at The Hague the NSG is expected to announce strict conditions for the transfer of civilian nuclear technologies in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. No one can question the concern expressed by the 46-nation NSG. It intends to ensure that civilian nuclear technologies remain in safe hands. But clubbing India with such countries as have a dubious track record can never be justified. India has not signed the NPT because it considers it discriminatory in nature. But this has not affected in any way India's conduct as a responsible nuclear power.


The controversial NSG announcement made after its recent meeting in Noordwiik, the Netherlands, propelled the US, Russia and France to quickly come out with their stand that the civilian nuclear cooperation agreements they had signed with India remained unaffected. A US State Department spokesman said, "Nothing about the new enrichment and reprocessing technology transfer restrictions agreed to by NSG members should be construed as detracting from the unique impact and importance of the US-India agreement or our commitment to full civil nuclear cooperation." France and Russia, too, have made similar commitments. All other countries which had been planning to go in for nuclear trade with India should declare that they will go ahead with their plans regardless of the decision of the NSG. 









Haryana has got the country's first renewable energy-based mini-grid system developed by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The smart mini-grid system will ensure the supply of quality power and improve the working of the rural electricity supply systems. The mini-grid uses a solar photovoltaic system, a wind electric generator, a battery storage system and a diesel generator. It is a small but significant effort towards the use of renewable sources of energy, which have still not made any significant headway in improving the country's energy security.


The ever-widening energy demand-supply gap is an impediment to India's growth. The country's consumption of coal, oil, natural gas and electricity is expected to double by 2020. The heavy dependence on coal is a cause for concern as it adversely impacts the environment. Oil gives India jitters of another kind. Since the country is heavily oil-dependent, fluctuations in its global prices often jolt the economy and lead to price rise. Though clean, nuclear energy is yet to be fully tested and tapped. Moves to install nuclear energy plants often trigger protests by villagers. Even political leaders are divided on the issue. India has vast water resources for hydro power but does not attract sufficient foreign investment to build dams, which too raise the hackles of NGOs.


Beginning 2001, India has been pursuing power reforms. Power boards are being split to separate generation, distribution and transmission functions to encourage private sector participation. But states, barring a few, are reluctant. Power pilferage and transmission losses are a matter of concern. The non-polluting renewable sources of energy like the sun, wind and biogas hold promise but progress in this area has been limited — due to lack of political will and a shortage of resources. The use of solar energy devices has not picked up despite subsidies. To achieve and sustain high growth, India will have to efficiently exploit all possible sources of energy, especially green energy.











The blatant use of banned drugs by weightlifters, discus throwers and even runners is about the worst-kept secret of Indian sports. It is just that those who run the show and are supposed to prevent such illegality merrily turned a blind eye to it. It is thanks to this leeway that doping has become so very common that it has brought the entire sports community of the country into disrepute. In future, it will be very difficult for any budding sportsperson of the country to excel, without being suspected of having taken performance-enhancing drugs. Years of denial have taken a heavy toll.


As it has come out, far too many people are involved in this racket. Coaches, doctors and other advisers were all in the know and yet connived with the dangerous practice, which puts even the lives of the sportspersons at risk. In present times, winning a medal brings in mega-bucks. So, they are willing to take any risks. The coaches too know that their stock goes high only if their wards win laurels. So, they are ever willing to compromise on principles. In fact, they actively encourage the use of such drugs, especially foreign experts.


Now that the dirt has hit the fan, there is need for a thorough purge. Not only sports persons, but also sports administrators need to be sent through the wringer. It is also necessary to take chemists to task who have been selling such drugs without any prescription. The Indian Olympic Association has rightly castigated the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and the Sports Authority of India. After all, how could such an odious practice proliferate without their knowledge? Some players and officials have all along been trying to sweep the matter under the carpet but that has only made things worse. Now is the time to turn the carpet out of the house and do a thorough cleaning, dry or wet, or may be both. 









AS expected, the government and Anna Hazare's team have disagreed on vital points relating to the institution of Lokpal. The question of inclusion of Prime Minister within the ambit of the Lokpal is being falsely blown out of proportion by government apologists. The Prime Minister, though head of the government, is only the first among equals. In a democratic country, a political vacuum does not arise as the Cabinet has a collective responsibility. Also, our past experience does not show that all our Prime Ministers have been angels. Serious credible accusations have been made against them. The regret always was that in the absence of an independent mechanism like the Lokpal to enquire into these allegations, the ruling party was able to successfully scuttle any honest independent enquiry.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has in public consented to being included within the jurisdiction of the Lokpal as had his predecessor A.B. Vajpayee — the supposed concern of the ministers is puerile, being more loyal than the king.


The stand of ministers for the exclusion of Prime Minister is so incongruous when it is noted that the Standing Committee on Law and Justice, headed by Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan, has said that the Bill should cover Prime Minister also.


This cynicism is increased when we find that Mr Digvijy Singh, the self- proclaimed alter ego of Mr Rahul Gandhi, supports the Lokpal having jurisdiction over the Prime Minister — people are legitimately hoping that Mr Gandhi would also indicate his position on a matter which is causing such a division in society.


The suggestion to exclude the Prime Minister is sought to be justified by ministers by taking the puerile plea that the Prime Minister continues to be under the jurisdiction of the Prevention of Corruption Act. It is surprising that ministers are comfortable for the Prime Minister being prosecuted at the report of junior police officials but not at the instance of a high-powered body like the Lokpal. Is this not the unspoken premise that under the Corruption Act the CBI will have to get sanction from the government? But which subordinate will dare to sanction the Prime Minister's prosecution? For heaven's sake, do not play joke with the people and be reminded of what John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the US Constitution, said, "The people have a right, an inalienable, indisputable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge — I mean, of the character and conduct of their rulers."


Another laughable justification by ministers is that the exemption will not be applicable after the Prime Minister has remitted office — this is like locking the stable after the horses have run away. Incidentally, even the discredited toothless draft Lokpal Bill, 2010, included the Prime Minister and members of Parliament.


The inclusion of the higher judiciary consisting of judges of the Supreme Court within the purview of the Lokpal is undesirable. I am conscious of the shame that some in the higher judiciary have polluted the institution. I am only suggesting a separate National Judicial and Accountability Commission. Call it the Lokpal (Judicial) Commission with the same powers as the Lokpal. This will serve the purpose and still keep the distance between the executive and the judiciary as mandated by the Constitution.


The rhetoric of Mr Kapil Sibal challenging anyone to give an example that "which PM in office anywhere has been prosecuted in the world", I am sorry at this ignorance. Possibly, this is due to Mr Sibal not being assisted by his usually competent juniors who were with him when he was appearing in courts. Now, possibly, he is being ill served by his public relations officer — otherwise he would have been told that the present Prime Minister of Italy is being prosecuted before a magistrate on charges of corruption, having mafia links and deviant sexual behaviour. In France, proceedings were started against the then President Chirac for misappropriation of public money. Also in Israel, a former President has been sentenced to imprisonment for his deviant sexual behaviour by a magistrate.


The near contempt of the masses protesting at the scourge of corruption is shown by Mr Sibal comparing Anna Hazare to "Pied Piper of Hamlin". Mr Sibal cautiously did not complete the story because those who were said to have followed the Pied Piper were rats, and following the Piper they just drowned in the sea. I need not comment on such crude and insulting comparison of the masses who are waging a struggle against corruption.


The government's spurious claim by purporting to project Parliament as the real sovereign is fallacious. Dicey, the British constitutional authority, says, "Electorate is, in fact, the sovereign of England and the conduct of the legislature… should be regulated by understandings of which the object is to secure the conformity of Parliament to the will of the nation."


Another heresy put forth against the holding of protest meetings by people to force the government to pass worthwhile legislation is that it is undemocratic and the only resort people have is to try to persuade the legislators to pass a particular law, and if they do not agree, then they should try their chance during elections. This is sheer heresy and negated by the Supreme Court (1960) in Dr Lohia's case, who was arrested for asking farmers not to pay the increase in canal water rates to the UP government.


Ordering the release of Dr Lohia, the court said, "We cannot accept the argument of the learned Advocate-General that instigation of a single individual not to pay tax or dues is a spark which may in the long run ignite a revolutionary movement destroying public order. We can only say that fundamental rights cannot be controlled on such hypothetical and imaginary considerations. It is said that in a democratic set-up there is no scope for agitational approach and that if a law is bad the only course is to get it modified by democratic process and that any instigation to break the law is in itself a disturbance of the public order. If this argument without obvious limitations be accepted, it would destroy the right to freedom of speech, which is the very foundation of democratic way of life."


A restrained approach by the government alone can prevent a collision with the masses, who are determined to vigorously pursue their struggle for an effective Lokpal.


The writer is a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court.









One has heard about Churchill's ready wit. Here are some gems; and a few from my trips abroad.


Churchill had his chambers next to a minister who would talk at the top of his voice. One day, while leaving office, Churchill sent his secretary to tell the minister to lower his voice. The secretary came back and explained: "Sir, he says he's talking to Glasgow". "I know," replied Churchill: "Tell him to use the telephone!"


William Joynson-Hicks, British Home Secretary in 1920s, a supporter of General Dyer over Jallianwala Massacre, made some statements in Parliament to which Winston Churchill gave signs of demurring.  "I see my right honourable friend shakes his head', said Hicks, 'but I am only expressing my own opinion". "And I, Sir" answered Winston: "am only shaking my own head!"


During a dinner in Virginia before World War II, Churchill requested for some 'breast of chicken'. An American woman scolded him for using a 'vulgar' term, saying he should have just said 'white meat'. Churchill, who never missed a chance, sent the woman a corsage the next day, with a note: "Pin this on your white meat".


While the U.S. stock market was at an all time high, the ups and downs frightened a lot of small investors. A client went to his broker and asked if he was worried. The man replied that he slept like a baby. The client was amazed and asked, "Really; even with all the fluctuations?" The broker said, "Yes. I sleep for a couple of hours, then wake up and cry for a couple of hours."


The wit I enjoyed in some of my trips abroad was superb! Sample some from the UK.


Beef Eaters (wardens) in traditional robes conduct visitors on a free guided tour at the Tower of London. Our guide was humorous. The first question he asked: "How many from Asia". A few hands went up. How many from America... New Zealand...Australia etc. Having got replies, he said, tongue-in-cheek: "I must apologize to my friends from the US, Australia and New Zealand, that the commentary for this tour will be in English"!


The jewels at the Edinburgh Castle are very few vis-a-vis Tower of London, but what is interesting is a huge 'Stone', to which the guide pointed and said: "This has been 'the stepping stone' to the throne at all coronations for over 600 years from 1396, but the British do not want to return even a stone to us, as they want it for all future coronations, it being "Stone of Destiny" on which every British Monarch would keep his/her feet for being crowned/enthroned!" He then showed us the guns on the ramparts; took us to the 1 O' Clock Gun; explained its origin and as to why it didn't fire at 12 or 2 etc: "We Scots are miserly, so we 'waste" only one round per day to indicate time for the ships and not 2 to 12; more so for the 'British' King/Queen!"


At Edinburgh, like most tourists, I had photographs taken in a "Tartan" (Scottish Highlander) dress of my choice, in three poses. When I returned to my hosts in Aberdeen, we went to their neighbours: the Stuart's; the hostess insisted I carry my Tartan photos! Mrs Stuart said: "You look so impressive with that long and far away General's look". Stuart said he felt happy I had chosen a Stuart Tartan but I had demoted myself considerably, as it was a Sergeant's dress!








The Union Government's decision to place the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) outside the ambit of the Right to Information Act has come under sharp criticism. They do not seem misplaced either.


However, bonafide protection in the field of investigation already exists under section 8 (h) of the Right to Information Act that provides "....there shall be no obligation to give any citizen information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders..." That applies not only to CBI or other central investigating agencies, but also to similar agencies of all the state governments as well.


The decision to exempt the CBI from the RTI Act is sought to be justified on the grounds of national security and possible impact on intelligence gathering. It must be made clear in no uncertain terms that the CBI is neither an intelligence gathering agency nor a security organisation. It is an investigative agency assigned legally the job of exposing rather than concealing.


By the very nature of its work, the CBI has to be an open organisation notwithstanding the sensitive cases that it may be dealing with. The sensitivity in the context of the CBI is when it deals with cases against the high and the mighty " the investigations of which one was expected to conceal more and expose less..." It is precisely for this requirement on the ground, as against the legal or operational requirement of the CBI, that such secrecy is needed.


Functionally, as against an intelligence organisation that requires total protection from transparency, investigations actually require complete transparency after a certain stage. It is only the premature disclosure of information during the investigation that usually gives undue advantage to the accused, who may cover his tracks, destroy the evidence and scuttle the investigation.


Transparent investigation


But once the charge sheet has been filed, there is no requirement for any further protection. Incidentally, all the evidence to be relied upon is communicated to the accused person so that he may prepare his defence. Once it is filed in the court of law, the charge sheet also becomes a public document.


Some of the information collected during investigations and contained in the case diaries of the agencies may not be shown in the charge sheet as that may be related to the security of the witness or of the accused and, therefore, not advisable to be brought in the public domain. Such information and documents, on which the prosecution does not rely, are already protected under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Evidence Act.


However, to meet with the ends of justice and to ensure that nothing is held back, the court trying the case has a right to look into all these documents and to use them as per its discretion.


The prevalent laws are quite adequate. Further secrecy, particularly for the CBI in corruption cases, is designed

only to protect the people in high places. As such there is no necessity for any further privilege for any investigating agency in the country under the Right to Information Act. As a former CBI officer having fought the corrupt system from inside the government, I concluded that the CBI under the control of the government has to conceal more than reveal, against its lawful role of collection of facts truthfully and impartially without any fear or favour.


The exemption given to the CBI is an extremely retrograde step; it is going backwards and is completely undesirable and redundant. This will only encourage criminality and corruption in the government and may not leave even the CBI untouched as more you keep things under wraps, the more liable the process is likely to be misused by everyone.


Tradition to protect the powerful


This will only create another class of privileged people who would be beyond the operation of laws. Coming to the experience of other countries, such kind of protection has never been given to any agency in those countries that boast of the Rule of Law or uphold Human Rights.


Are we going to negate the rule of law that our constitution enshrines? In India, however, such steps by the governments to protect the high and mighty have been fairly common.


I am tempted to cite two instances. First, the directive that was issued in the eighties to protect politicians and officers beyond the rank of Joint Secretary against any inquiry or investigation. The direction was quashed by the Supreme Court as discriminatory and illegal in the famous Jain Hawala case in December 1997. But lo and behold, in 1998 itself it was placed back on the statute book through an ordinance and later enacted into the CVC Act in 2003. ( Significantly, the NDA government was in power in both 1998 and 2003)


The other instance is an investigation abroad that was to be conducted against a highly placed accused. That required a Letter Rogatory from the Indian Court to the court of the country where the investigations were intended to be conducted.


Under section 166 of the Criminal Procedure Code, any officer in charge of a police station can apply for such a letter. In 1993, a VVIP was to be protected, so the government modified the procedures by an executive order that the CBI should apply to the court for the LR only after obtaining permission from the government, thereby the possibilities of investigation abroad against any influential person were virtually closed, as the government could deny and did deny such permission indefinitely.


Requests were made to the government in this case for issue of LR in May 1993, but the Government of India did not give the permission till December 1996, when this writer left the CBI. ( It was of course the Congress which was in the saddle in 1993 )


So, there could be no investigations abroad, though the VVIP was accused of receiving kickbacks, keeping huge balances in banks abroad and acquiring a number of firms, in India and abroad. So much so, that power to apply for letter rogatory, vested in the SHO under the Code of Criminal Procedure, was withdrawn from the CBI and concentrated in Government of India and that too in the PMO (as was informally learnt), leaving nothing to chance.


Though the papers were pending with the Union Government for years but still this fact could not be made public by the CBI, as that would have amounted to censuring the Government, which the CBI under the control of the government itself could not afford.


The writer is a retired DGP of Haryana and former Joint Director, CBI









It is hard to understand why an agency concerned with investigating corruption should be exempted from the RTI Act. But the government has done just that: and done it against the protests of the strongest voices including people like a former Chief Information Commissioner.

The exemption is particularly disturbing because it signals the ability and the inexorable desire of the government to slowly but steadily nibble away at people's right to know. Detractors can be forgiven for feeling that the exemption from disclosing information about its functioning now offers the government a fine convenience to protect 'its own': bureaucrats in high places, opponents inside and outside; disgruntled business rivals who would probe why another is the favourite of the day; politically useful friends whose messes embarrass the government all the time; the biased investigations that wax and wane in vigour.


With graft gnawing at the edifice of governance, squirreling away the CBI from the public eye adds one more excellent tool to the cause of the corrupt. It will join the already handsome protections provided to the bureaucracy through the law that say, you cannot even begin an investigation against senior officers without specific permissions, let alone prosecute them for corruption. This is in line with the protections that the seniors in the judiciary have built in for themselves. Even an FIR cannot be filed against a High Court or Supreme Court judge accused of corruption, without the sanction of the Chief Justice of India.


The CBI is a most powerful hound in the kennels of whoever has the lease of the house for the moment. So it is unlikely that the Opposition will create any great furore in defence of openness beyond making the right noises. More likely it will satisfy the obsession to always criticise every move of the government with a drizzle of tepid criticism on the mountain already being heaped on government because of its handling of the Anna-Ramdev affair.


There is no doubt that this latest attack on RTI is intended to stem the deluge of dirt that is gushing out as the public wants to know who has dirty hands, and want to be governed by only those with clean ones. But with corruption being now such a complex cloth of connections, revelations tumbling out one after the other about powerful individuals are likely to threaten not only the government of the day but the whole edifice of governance. Perhaps this is exactly the catharsis that is needed but in all likelihood may never be allowed to happen. The chaos is too hard to even contemplate, let alone prepare for controlling it.


There is no rational argument for taking the CBI out from under the RTI Act. It is not an intelligence agency nor is it guarding national security like the armed forces. It is essentially an anti-corruption watch dog and prosecutor which has, over time, been subverted into a catch-all agency governed by whoever is ruling at the Centre.


Nothing in the RTI Act hampers its working. If a particular disclosure has the possibility of adversely affecting its investigations, it can simply fall back on one of the many exemptions that are readily available in the Act. But going through that process would mean that the refusal to disclose could be challenged before the Central Information Commission and the Bureau would have to give an account of itself; its actions, its reasons for secrecy and its progression of each case.


It is this accountability that it wants to avoid perhaps because it knows a lot of its discretionary actions will not stand up to scrutiny. A blanket ban for an agency like the CBI is so useful for hiding inconvenient truths. India's national motto –satyameva jayate- goes for a toss when dark deeds are rewarded with opaque robes of impunity. By retracting its decision to insulate the CBI, the Centre might like to give itself a fig leaf of a chance at running a decently transparent government.


Maja Daruwala is Director and Venkatesh Nayak is Programme Coordinator of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi




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




It is ironic that 20 years after India began the process of opening up its economy to the world, the government of the day in New Delhi had to bring the issue of the acquisition of assets in the country by a global firm to a close only after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). Worse, it intervened in a corporate matter and imposed a renegotiation of a production-sharing contract through arbitrary procedures. Clearly, a regression in the policy-making and approval process is evident when it comes to foreign direct investment (FDI) in India, more so where natural resources are concerned. The experience of the Korean steel company Posco and of Cairn Energy and Vedanta Resources shows that India needs a more self-assured and transparent process of clearing such proposals. Though the outcome, the CCEA's clearance of the sale of Cairn India's stake in public sector ONGC to Vedanta, has been a good one for all concerned, the process was not satisfactory at all. It is a moot point whether the process would have been speedier if the interests involved were different. But it appears as if the labyrinthine process was a consequence of crony capitalism as well as the legacy of inherited errors. Thanks to a combination of malevolent factors, the Cairn-Vedanta deal contributed to a weakening of India's image as a destination for FDI, even if some of the negative press in the West was driven by western corporate interests.

Hopefully, Vedanta boss Anil Agarwal will now have a better understanding of not just "the algorithms of oil" but also the "algorithms of policy making" and corporate lobbying in India. The government may defend its stance on the grounds that it was duty-bound to protect the interests of a state-owned firm and, in doing so, of the taxpayer. But the fact is that the wrongs being corrected were also committed by the very same state-owned entity and government officials who signed off on the now defunct production-sharing contract. Many have commented adversely on the government mixing up its role as owner and regulator. Though the criticism is fair, the fact remains that little can be done about it. The lines do get blurred in practice when a decision gets pushed to higher levels of the government. Down the pyramid of decision making, different arms of the government can behave as independent entities, but once a policy decision gets elevated to the Cabinet level, there is bound to be some blurring of lines. In the Cairn-Vedanta case, vested interests from outside government played their own games to create further confusion and delay decision making.


 Better late than never. A decision has finally been taken. But everyone has much to learn from this long-drawn-out drama, including foreign investors. The ONGC management must learn some important lessons about how to run a large global company more professionally, without hoping to cut corners by keeping joint secretaries and politicians happy. Cairn could easily have responded to governmental sensitivities earlier and renegotiated with Vedanta instead of using the media, including western media, and home-country politicians to influence the government and public opinion in India. Vedanta should know that the mood in India has changed and public opinion is increasingly hostile to cronyism. Playing straight has its advantages even when the playing field is not level.







Once again a lawyer has scored over an economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In choosing France's Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, a lawyer by profession, as IMF's managing director over Mexican central bank Governor Agustin Carstens, the Fund's board mimicked the preference of the IMF's founders. At its inception, at Bretton Woods in 1944, the original architect John Maynard Keynes, a distinguished British economist, was overwhelmed and irritated by the presence of far too many lawyers in the United States delegation. While Lord Keynes sought to build a global central bank and had an economist's vision, his American counterpart, Harry Dexter White, and his legal eagles built a multilateral institution that the United States could dominate and control. In the end, the lawyers won!

Ms Lagarde takes charge of the Fund at an important point in the evolution of global geo-economics and geo-politics. The very process of her selection brought into focus the growing importance of China and other "emerging" and "re-emerging" economies. But in large part the focus has been on power politics, voting shares and managerial control. While these are important both in themselves and in determining the course of policy making, one must not lose sight of the implications of the change in global balances for policy thinking. While the US and the European Union were able to reassert their primacy and dominance in organisational terms, in ensuring Ms Lagarde's victory, they must reckon with the fact that the ideas they have espoused for half a century through the Fund have come to be comprehensively discredited. The so-called "Washington consensus" on economic policy is in a shambles. If Ms Lagarde does not recognise the significance of the defeat suffered by the ideas that have ruled the IMF and is content with the victory she has won, she will continue to preside over the marginalisation of the IMF as a source of both funds and policy advice.



The challenge before Ms Lagarde is to bolster the Fund's intellectual credibility even as she bolsters the Fund's coffers. The old ways of running the world have become outdated, if not altogether discredited. A change in thinking was underway even during the tenure of the outgoing IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. But the IMF needs a fundamental rethink on many policy ideas, not just fine-tuning at the margin, and this is not easy. Identifying what that new thinking should be is the first step before identifying the people capable of delivering on such new thinking. Indeed, getting new money into the IMF's accounts may be less daunting than getting new thinking and new ways of thinking into the Fund's policy papers. In short, Ms Lagarde's brief will be more than a mere lawyer's. She will need to brush up on her economics









For my generation of economic journalists this is a month of nostalgia and columns are pouring out everywhere. Twenty years ago this month, we drove around New Delhi in our second-hand Fiat cars chasing stories about a balance of payments crisis, an unprecedented devaluation of the rupee, the mortgaging of gold bullion and, of course, the famous Budget speech of July 24, 1991, with the announcement of the end of the so-called "licence-permit raj".


It was a heady time. India was in the throes of a political crisis, with a former prime minister assassinated, a dark horse on the verge of retirement sworn in as head of a minority government, a professional economist becoming finance minister, and so on. The world outside was exciting too. We had just been taking in the meaning of the Tiananmen Square incident and Iraq's invasion of Kuwait when a coup in Moscow imploded a 70-odd-year-old regime. Soviet-style communism, a system my generation had come to accept as a given, had disappeared.

Newspapers and magazines have been full of reports this past week – and more will appear in the coming weeks – about the significance of what happened and its impact. Quite understandably, they will celebrate the role of people like Manmohan Singh, C Rangarajan, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Rakesh Mohan, P Chidambaram and so on.

The person who gave them all the required political cover to go ahead, and do what neither an Indira Gandhi nor a Rajiv Gandhi was yet willing to barely a few years earlier, was none other than a lonely traditional Congress politician called Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao, known as PV in his home state Andhra Pradesh.

On the morning of June 20, 1991, I drove into PV's empty courtyard on New Delhi's Motilal Nehru Marg. He was seated in his trademark dhoti and vest, sipping tea with the late Bhagwat Jha Azad. His loyal assistant Khandekar was the only other soul around. I asked PV if there was anything to the rumour that the Congress legislature party would elect him its leader.

"I have retired!" he said, "and The Times of India thinks Sharad [Pawar] will be prime minister." A news report to that effect had been filed by the late Subhash Kirpekar. We all smiled. I had my cup of tea and drove to work. Later in the day, what was rumoured, happened.

I chose to go to his house immediately and get a few quotes to file a story. The police had cordoned off the entire road. Hundreds of people had gathered. There was much slogan shouting and a few people tried to enter the house. A Congress activist was trying to catch the attention of Jairam Ramesh, who was inside the compound. The retiring PV was all set to become PM!

Every year on June 28, the auditorium at New Delhi's Andhra Bhavan fills up with a motley group that comes together to pay tribute to the memory of the former prime minister. An assortment of family members and friends and their hangers-on gather. Over the years, the number of recognisable faces has gone down. The one person who has never failed to turn up, and was present last week too, is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. No other representative of the Government of India and the Congress party ever turns up.

The afternoon PV died, in December 2004, Dr Singh was in Parliament. As he was walking out to reach his car, he told a group of journalists gathered in the corridor that Mr Rao was "like a father" to him. "Whatever politics I have learnt is because of him. When I was inducted into the Cabinet, I did not know much politics, even now I do not, but I learnt a lot from him," Dr Singh confided.

The most important reform initiatives of the Narasimha Rao government were taken in the months between July 1991 and March 1992. When Dr Singh presented his second Budget in February 1992, the Rao government was still a minority government. Opposition to the initiatives was already gathering momentum not just within the Left opposition parties but also within the ruling Congress party. Arjun Singh and Vayalar Ravi had become the focal points of internal opposition within the Congress.

Sensing the mood of the party, PV convened a session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in April 1992 at Tirupati and delivered his famous speech on "The Tasks Ahead" in which he spoke of "The Middle Way" between free-market economics and state socialism, quoting Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in support of his policies.

In the para that follows, he spelt out a vision that has since come to be known as the strategy of "inclusive growth".

"In the past ten months, our Government has initiated far-reaching fiscal and financial reforms. This was done in conformity with our Election Manifesto of 1991 which gives the main features of the reforms. It is remarkable that even when the Congress was in the opposition, the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi anticipated the economic crisis that was coming and incorporated clear and concrete remedial as well as positive measures in the Manifesto. The Government has introduced this reform programme with considerable dynamism. Simultaneously, we have also taken measures to mitigate any hardship likely to be caused in the process. We propose to continue, in fact increase, the thrust of our employment, poverty alleviation and welfare programmes. I must, however, add that these are two parallel and complementary programmes. Between the two of them all sections of the people are covered, at all levels of the social pyramid, with particular emphasis on the base of the pyramid. As a political party, the dynamic leadership and clear voice of the Congress are needed for the upliftment of the oppressed, even while we carry out reforms in the economy as a whole."







Alongside a troubling decline in farm credit from last June is an equally worrying increase in loans for personal consumption.

The current season seems to have thrown up a harvest of ironies that would be entertaining were they not fraught with grave implications. The Prime Minister recently appeared defensive when he spoke of the likelihood of inflation dropping by March 2012. For a nation reeling under persistently high food prices that may seem like an infinitely long and painful wait for relief, especially since it has seen the outcome of last year's confident assertions of prices falling by December 2010. Food stocks appear to be overwhelming our warehouses, yet prices remain high. Clearly, the bountiful harvests are the outcome of good rains and bouncy farm output. Yet the record of credit to this sector does not appear to have moved in tandem with its promise.

Data released by RBI show that the farm sector has trailed the non-food sector in credit growth. That would not appear unusual since industry and services are the driving force of economic growth and banks would want to seek greener pastures. For all the talk of priority sector lending, the farm sector has been a poor country cousin. But the data to May 2011 show something more worrying — a decline in farm sector loans over a 12-month period. Last May recorded farm credit expansion of 21 per cent; this May it has almost halved to around 12 per cent. What is surprising is the loans for personal consumption have increased over the same period by 17.7 per cent, as against just 5.6 per cent in the corresponding 12-month period to May 2010.

The decline in productive loans, according to bank officials, is on account of the failure of those farmers eligible for the debt relief scheme to pay the stipulated amount — a fact that made them ineligible for further bank loans. Farmers who were not eligible for the waiver or the debt relief scheme, and who could not repay existing bank loans, were also not eligible for further credit. Given the extent of decline in farm credit, the number of farmers unable to repay any of their liabilities was not insignificant. Yet the extent of personal loans to farmers has increased sizeably, thereby increasing the exposure of banks to future defaults; it is hardly surprising that the non-performing assets (NPA) from the farm sector have recorded a rise in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal. That consumption loans are rising and productive loans are declining should be worrying portents for the farm sector. .






India never really embraced this inefficient system of transferring money in all these years. It can, therefore, leapfrog from cash to electronic money transfers. The government and banks should show the way.

The image of women carrying a headload of firewood has for many years represented India's failure in taking development to every home. Everyone knows how much time the women spend to collect the wood each day, and how long it takes to cook food on the smoky chulhas. No one perhaps has precisely timed the various elements of this daily chore, but it would be no exaggeration to say that each woman in rural India spends at least a couple of more hours on it each day than do urban women who have LPG flowing through stoves at will.

These two extra hours represent the measure of inefficiency of the archaic system that a rural woman is condemned to live with.


Now take the cheque, an instrument that has been used since 1870 to make payments. Some 3.8 million cheques were written out every day in 2010-11. Just add up the time the person spent writing or preparing the cheque, the time he took to dispatch it to the receiver, the time the recipient took to fill out the bank challan, and then take it to his bank, the time officers in his bank took to note the details of the cheque, and send it for clearing.

The clock needs to tick again because the cheque now comes back to the sender's bank, where an officer has to verify the signature on the cheque before the money is cleared for transfer to the recipient's account.

Altogether, that would be more than two hours, at a conservative estimate. If you thought the time spent by those rural women on firewood was two hours too many, this is no less. The "elite" segment of the economy wastes as much time over a cheque as the rural woman spends over her chulha.

In terms of effectiveness, the cheque actually comes off worse. The woman is able to cook the food the same day she brings in the firewood. In the case of the cheque, rarely is the money transferred the same day it is written out; in most cases it takes a couple of days and with outstation cheques, it could be several days.


Now that we know how inefficient the cheque has become, let us see how much of a drag it is on the economy. Given the volume of cheques used every day, a back-of-the-envelope calculation shows over 8 million manhours were spent on cheques each day last year.

It is not that there is no alternative to this inefficient means of moving money. Electronic transfers from one bank account to another are easy and swift, indeed instantaneous. They do not necessarily consume expensive stationery, there is no need to verify signatures, bank accounts are debited and credited, night or day without highly paid bank officers intervening each time to facilitate the process.

India is starting to embrace this new system. Many companies transfer salaries directly into the bank accounts of their employees, and dividends into shareholder accounts. Phone companies are collecting monthly subscriber bills by directly debiting their bank accounts. The Indian Railways has wrought the most magnificent change of all, allowing travellers to pay for their tickets electronically, and saving them long waits in the ticket queue. Even refunds are done painlessly. The Government's tax departments too are following this trail, with equally good results.

Yet, good as these seem, there is so much more to change. The 2.4 million electronic transactions recorded each day last year represent a small fraction of the total transactions in the economy.


Why are people not switching from cheques fast enough into the digital mode?

The remarkable revolution that the mobile phone has wrought in telecommunications in India is proof that people quickly adopt a system that delivers value for them. Speaking to one another is a basic human need, and the mobile phone answered it in a way that the fixed wire-line service of a hundred-year vintage could not.

The need to use money is just as basic, but why is the number of people who own a bank account far lower than those who use the mobile phone? The simple answer is that while almost everyone knows what to do with the phone, many people apparently have not had the chance to use the digital interface with their banks.

A great number of cheques in use are either generated by government or are destined for the government till. A reduction in the use of the cheque must, therefore, necessarily start with the government and its units. If electricity boards across the country, for instance, can take payments from all their customers as direct debit from their bank accounts, rather than by cheque or cash, a huge number of cheques that now clog the system will disappear. The electricity boards too can save themselves considerable human effort in bill collection.

Many countries in Europe, such as Germany, have already greatly reduced their use of cheques. People simply quote their bank account numbers if they want to receive payment and the funds are moved directly from the payer's bank account. Even in the UK, where cheques have been in play for over 300 years, there are plans to give them up by 2018.

India too must follow suit. It has an advantage because it never really embraced the cheque system fully in the 140 years it has been in this country and, therefore, can leapfrog from cash to the digital age of electronic money transfers.

The mobile phone showed how willing people are to change. The onus is on the government and the banks to carry the population into the new age.







While women fight against centuries of gender inequalities, they would do well to remember that it is probably the plough and man's monopoly over it that is responsible for their present status in society.

July 4, 2011:  

Is there a historical link between using a plough – a heavy agricultural tool to prepare soil before sowing – and the varied gender roles in society as we see them today?

Why is it that in some cultures, women are active participants in employment outside their homes, whereas in some they prefer to remain bound to the confines of their homes?

Time and again, these questions have thrown up many theories and hypotheses. There are a number of studies that provide evidence that the roles that women eventually play in the society actually are an outcome of the differences in cultural and religious beliefs across geographies.

But, a new paper by National Bureau of Economic Research raises the question of the historical origins of these norms and beliefs and the differences in their practice that define the role of women. It finds out that traditional agricultural practices may have influenced the historical gender division of labour that we see today.

The paper, "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough", by Alberto F. Alesina, Paola Giuliano, and Nathan Nunn, finds that women who belonged to societies that practised plough agriculture had lower rates of participation in the workplace, in politics and in entrepreneurial activities, In short, "there was greater prevalence of attitudes favouring gender inequality" in such societies.

Role differences

According to an earlier study in 1970, by Ester Boserup, gender role differences had their origins in different forms of traditional agricultural practices, such as shifting cultivation and plough cultivation.

"Shifting cultivation, which uses hand-held tools such as the hoe and the digging stick, is labour-intensive and women actively participate in farm work.

Plough cultivation, by contrast, is much more capital-intensive, using the plough to prepare the soil," says the study.

Since ploughing requires upper body and grip strength, some times even requiring the power to control the animal pulling it, men have been at a greater advantage than women.

"Reinforcing this gender-bias in ability is the fact that when the plough is used, there is less need for weeding, a task typically undertaken by women and children", says the study.

In contrast, using the hoe — a flat-bladed light tool for digging out weeds and planting saplings — for agriculture was more suited to women. And, since child care, which has always been a woman's responsibility, was considered more compatible with activities that can be stopped and resumed easily, hoe agriculture was considered better for women.

In his study, Boserup held that "societies that traditionally practised plough agriculture – rather than shifting cultivation – developed a specialisation of production along gender lines.

Division of labour

Men tended to work outside of the home in the fields, while women specialised in activities within the home."

It is this division of labour that eventually defined the role of women. Societies characterised by plough agriculture, and a resulting gender-based division of labour, developed the belief that the natural place for women is within the home, says the paper.

Unfortunately, these beliefs and practices with regard to women continue even today, when most economies are moving away from agriculture

Digging deeper into Boserup's thesis and using ethnographic evidence, the authors of this paper find more evidence of a historical link between plough use and decline in female participation in agriculture, more specifically in tasks such as land clearance, soil preparation, planting, crop tending and harvesting.

Control of property

Frederick Engel had explained the origin of gender role differences as a result of intensification of agriculture, leading to the emergence of private property monopolised by men. It is this control of private property that allowed men to subjugate women, making wives even more dependent on husbands and their property, and making them no longer active and equal participants in community life, he said.

This paper goes further and examines various other factors and variables, such as religion and ethnicity, even individual estimates, and links them to the traditional plough use and the subordinate status of women. It finds that the current differences in gender attitudes and female behaviour have indeed been shaped by historical differences in agricultural systems.

To drive home the point, the authors even examine variations across second-generation female immigrants born and living in the US, but come from different cultural backgrounds. They take two samples of women, one that includes all women aged 15 to 64 and another that only includes married women in the same age group.

In both cases, it is found that apart from the fact that all these immigrant women face the same labour market, institutions and policies, the one common history that they share is the use of the plough and its link with less female labour force participation.

So, while women fight against centuries of subjugation and gender inequalities, both inside and outside the home, they would do well to remember that it is, probably, the plough and man's monopoly over it that is responsible for their present status in society.





When it invited Shashi Ruia, Chairman of the Essar group, to address its members , the Rotary Club of Madras could surely not have imagined that it would turn out to be a spicy evening with the guest's address peppered with as much wit as insights — on India, China and the US. A member of the audience posed this question to Ruia: If I ask you to name one business you would enter now, what would you say? The journalists present there became alert, sensing news. What is it that Essar is not present in today? What would they want to get into? Aviation? Pharmaceuticals?

Now, it is not as if you can trap Shashi Ruia with a question like that. Combining subterfuge with wit, he replied: "It is too dirty to mention here."

P.S: But when the audience's laughter subsided, he gave a different response. "Whatever it is, it will not be telecom." Essar has just sold its 33 per cent in Vodafone Essar for a cool $5.46 billion!

His heart beats for Chennai

More on Shashi Ruia. At the same meeting, another member of the audience asked him that, given that he started his business in Chennai, would he come back?

This time, the response was not a joke — it was straight from the heart.

He said that nowhere did he find the kind of warmth among the people as he did in Chennai. "Chennai is Chennai, no question about that," said Shashi Ruia, who speaks Tamil fluently and without an accent. He still has his old house here. "After retirement, I will come and settle down there."

The real loser

The story goes that when two cats were fighting over a piece of bread, there came along a monkey, scales in hand, and under the pretext of divvying up the bread, ate up all of it, leaving the cats looking like jackasses.

Well, the Tamil Nadu government has made it be known that the French car company, Peugeot, is setting up shop in Tamil Nadu, although the company itself has said absolutely nothing.

The alternative site that Peugeot was considering was a piece of land that forms a part of the Sri City industrial estate, in Andhra Pradesh, just across the Tamil Nadu border.

Ever since newspapers reported Peugeot's 'choice' of Tamil Nadu, the promoter-Managing Director of Sri City, Ravi Sannareddy, has been having to respond to commiserating messages from friends, stressing that the French company has said nothing and the game was far from won. So, when some newspapers reported that Peugeot was talking to Gujarat, the smile came back on his face.

To connect up with the cats-and-monkey story, the flip side of the intense competition to pull in foreign investments is the self-emasculating 'I-more-than-you' generosity in offering concessions, a process that only benefits the investor. These are the whispers BL Diary is increasingly hearing these days.

A question of questions

We Indians love to express ourselves. We love the existence of another point of view, because we can hate it, and then what have you: An intellectual arm-wrestle. The more polemical a debate gets, the spicier it is.

But the man who thought he could inveigle the cool and erudite RBI Deputy Governor, Dr Subir Gokarn, into one, soon learnt who he was up against. Seizing an opportunity to ask a question after a speech that Dr Gokarn delivered in Chennai recently, this man expanded on something that that RBI did which he was unhappy about, until the others were visibly upset over the amount of time he was taking.

Dr Gokarn, on his part, was unflappable. "It is your opinion, but I didn't hear a question", he said, and moved on to the next questioner.

Small consolation

It was at a talk on trends in the aviation industry — a speaker recalled this conversation he had with somebody about the status of India's national carrier and its ongoing troubles.

Each time there is a strike by the airline, thousands of passengers are put to untold hardship. Why is it that the airline's staff always decides to strike work beginning from midnight, he had wondered sadly.

His friend gave a consoling reply: "Thank god, it is only midnight. Not mid-air."

Comedy of errors

"Dahar" in the Santhali language means a road. And, "Sindhu Kanu Dahar" in Kolkata was named after the heroes of the Santhal rebellion against the English. But the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, mistook 'Dahar' as another tribal hero. Addressing a programme on the occasion of a Santhal festival at "Sindhu Kanu Dahar", she went on referring 'his' contributions in the nationalist movement. If that was not all, another city road is proposed to be renamed after "Dahar"!

Elections, Minister?

Are general elections around the corner? Strange as this may sound, this is the question on the minds of aviation industry watchers.

What triggers this thought is that the Civil Aviation Ministry is busy inaugurating upgraded airport terminals across the country. If one day it is an airport in the North-East, the next day it is the turn of Bhopal in central India. What has set tongues wagging is the fact that just before the last general elections, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had gone on an airport-inauguration spree, cutting ribbons at various airports in a short span of time.







Over five years to 2009-10, unemployment has fallen but the work participation rate, which measures the share of workers in the total population, is also down. The fall in the participation rate is significant for women: from nearly 30% to a little more than 23%. In absolute terms, this means that nearly 35 million women — more than the entire population of Canada — dropped out of the workforce in five years. Two things explain this decline. First, many women are choosing to educate themselves for longer periods instead of being forced to work at the first opportunity. Second, many families newly-risen from penury into the lower middle classes, can afford not to send their women to work. Both show welcome trends, but in order to be able to afford these choices, incomes have to rise significantly across the country. Do the numbers support this? Fortunately they do. Between January 2008 and December 2010, agricultural wages jumped 106% in Andhra Pradesh, 84% in Punjab, 74% in Tamil Nadu and 63% in Maharashtra. In relatively backward Orissa, wages rose 63%, by more than 62% in Uttar Pradesh and by 59% in Bihar. As family incomes rise, families withdraw their women from the workforce. Instead of getting defensive about jobless growth, the government can take heart that growth is lifting people, especially women, out of drudgery and giving them a chance to educate themselves for better things. Now instead of basking in this warm feeling, policymakers need to think of ways to employ the huge numbers of educated women who will join the workforce soon. Typically, jobs like teaching in schools or nursing were exclusive preserves of women. Increasing the number of schools and hospitals will do no harm. Services, like IT, aviation and organised retail also employ women in large numbers, as do manufacturing units that rely on miniaturisation, and therefore, precision work. Instead of jobless growth, what India is witnessing today is an interregnum when vast numbers of women go from being rural or low-skilled workers to joining the skilled workforce. The government must make sure that by the time the women are ready, so are the jobs.







 The income tax department errs in asking the country's top software companies to pay tax on money they made by sending employees to work in companies overseas. After Wipro and Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has now come under scrutiny for past assessment years when its export income was taxfree. These companies operated from software technology parks and enjoyed a special dispensation due to a conscious policy decision. It is, therefore, absurd for the department to reopen their books and charge tax on their onsite revenues for past assessment years. Technically, an activity qualifies as export when it earns foreign exchange. Onsite software development, derogatorily called 'body shopping', is an export activity and export income is charged to tax under the applicable income tax provision. And software companies have been paying a minimum alternate tax (MAT) since 2007-08. The department should not take the lazy route of raising revenue by tax demands on companies already under the tax net. Instead, it should chase tax evaders.
The interpretation on the tax liability hinges on the fine-print of the contract between the software company and its client. However, similar disputes between software companies and the tax department are bound to surface in future when these software companies start operating from special economic zones. Ambiguity in tax laws will only compound litigation. So, tax laws should be simple and transparent. Certainty in the tax liability will also help minimise disputes. Advance ruling, where taxpayers get to know the tax liability on their transactions well ahead, is an effective way to curb litigation. Today, the facility of advance ruling is available only to non-residents and some categories of residents. The government should extend the scope of advance ruling to all domestic companies. These companies would then have the choice to seek advance ruling from the quasi-judicial authority, if they wish to. However, such a ruling would make sense only if it is binding on both the taxpayer and the government.








 Having led many into battle, Napoleon knew that an army moved on its stomach. India's military brass on the other hand, believes that an army moves on expired food. There can be no other reason why the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), India's government auditor, found that 3,00,000 soldiers of the northern command were fed with stuff that was six to 28 months beyond its sell-by date. The list of well-beyondexpiry foodstuff which our jawans consumed included flour, sugar, dal and cooking oil. This completely changes contemporary notions about what is junk food. The CAG does not tell us the consequences of what happened afterwards, but those are not hard to imagine. The makers of digestive potions and indigestion remedies would have made a killing just on military orders. Why are the generals feeding their soldiers junk food? The military isn't starved of funds to stock fresh food. After all, the defence establishment spent more than . 90,000 crore last year just to keep running. It's also not true that the finance minister is intent on cutting military spending: Pranab Mukherjee has budgeted another . 5,000-odd crore extra for them to spend this fiscal. The answer, obviously, is corruption among the people who buy stuff in the military and the people who sell it to them. And the benign oversight, lubricated no doubt with kickbacks, of the military's top leadership. The military we are told, has reacted swiftly after the CAG blew the lid off this sordid scam. Has it caught and punished the guilty? No. Has it purged the system to make sure this sort of thing never happens again? No. It has, instead, increased the amount of meat that each soldier can eat from 110 gm to 180 gm a day. Eating more is better than eating less, provided what is eaten is, indeed, edible.





Has civil society gone beyond its remit by refusing to back down on the issue of tackling corruption? The answer to that depends on which side of the on-going debate on the Lokpal Bill you are on. If you are with the civil society activists, then the question just does not arise. For too long has the government dragged its feet on the Lokpal Bill and civil society is entirely justified in using every means at its disposal to force the issue. If on the other hand, you are with the government, then this is nothing but an attempt by a few activists to hijack the legitimate role of government under the guise of speaking for society at large. Regardless of which side of the debate you are on, there can be no disputing that corruption in India has now reached a level where we can no longer brush it aside as one of the usual ills in any nascent nation-state. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has acknowledged as much in his interaction with a select group of editors last week, where he admitted his government is being described as the most corrupt ever.

His apprehensions are not without reason. On the contrary, they have just been corroborated by the World Justice Project's (WJP) Rule of Law Index 2011 released late June. On corruption, we rank as the 51st most corrupt out of a total of 66 countries while on 'order and security' or governance, the picture is even worse. We come in at an abysmal 65 out of 66, trailing even Bangladesh (44) and ahead of only Pakistan which is at the bottom of the table.

The irony is we have long stopped comparing ourselves with our South Asian neighbours. Ever since the Goldman Sachs report coined the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India, China) acronym, we've set our standards much higher; at the very least we like to compare ourselves with the Bric economies. But the picture is equally unflattering here.

Among the Bric countries, Brazil comes up best, followed by China with India and Russia bringing up the rear. While China, not surprisingly, fares worst on 'fundamental rights' where it ranks 64 and access to civil justice where it is 48, Brazil does badly on 'order and security (52) and 'effective criminal justice' (43).
We are at the bottom of the Bric league on three key parameters: absence of corruption, order and security and access to civil justice. We fare particularly poorly on corruption where at 51, we rank way behind Brazil (24), China (30) and Russia (39). Likewise, when it comes to 'order and security' where we are 65 compared to China (23), Russia (36) and Brazil (52).

Could our poor ranking be a contributory factor for the dwindling funds flow into India in recent months? Possibly! According to Kotak Institutional Equities, India received just $40 million during the past three months, the least among the Bric economies, compared to China's $1,300 million, Brazil's $484 million and Russia's $365 million during this period.

On the face of it, this is bad news. If our image as a country where there is little respect for the rule of law gains currency, it is only a matter of time before the trend of the past three months gets entrenched. And that is bad news for a country that despite the high domestic savings rate, desperately needs foreign capital to meet its huge infrastructure requirements. Fortunately, there is some good news. The good news is that on two parameters that hold the key to a possible remedy, limited government power and open government, not only do we head the Bric table, but we also have a respectable position in the global rankings where we rank 24 and 25, respectively.
'Limited government power' measures the extent to which those who govern are subject to law or the institutional checks on government power by the legislature, the judiciary and independent auditing and review agencies. Many of us may wring our hands at each fresh report of the millions swindled during the Commonwealth Games and the 2G spectrum auction, but the fact is none of these would have come to light but for the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report or the Supreme Court's activism and, of course, the media.

'Open government' has two aspects; one, clarity of law so that there is no ambiguity about what conduct is permitted and what is prohibited and two, the extent to which the process by which the laws are enacted and enforced is fair. The latter includes the opportunity to participate in the process by which laws are made and administered, i.e., it looks at whether people have the right to petition the government and whether records of legislative and administrative proceedings and other kinds of official information are available to the public. We do fairly well here too, which is why despite the general mood of despondency over the virtual collapse of governance and rising corruption, the overall picture is less bleak than what one might otherwise suppose.
Of course, as with any study of this nature, the rankings need to be taken with a pinch of salt. But the index is interesting because, unlike similar exercises, it looks at laws as implemented rather than at laws as they exist on paper and comprises factors derived from four universal principles:

Government and its officials are accountable under the law. Laws are clear, well-publicised, stable and fair and protect fundamental rights. The process by which the laws are enacted and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient. Access to justice is provided by a sufficient number of competent, independent, and ethical adjudicators who have adequate resources and reflect the views of the community.

The truth of these principles cannot be denied. The reality is the rule of law affects all of us in our everyday lives. Every section of society is a stakeholder; so when government ignores the voice of civil society, it does so at its peril.









Besieged by private equity investor Blackstone and a business gap in India's largest domestic BPO Intelenet Global Services, the company's CEO Susir Kumar had enough to worry about until January this year. That is when some bankers from Barclays and Avendus Capital set up a meeting for him with Chris Hyman, chairman of the $4.3 billion Serco Group in the coffee shop of London's Langham Hotel on Cavendish Square.
The meeting was to last just half an hour, but it ended twoand-half hours later. Kumar got Hyman interested in the Intelenet's back office story and in June, Serco bought Intelenet in a $634 million deal, the largest BPO buyout in the country. The buyout added a large international back office firm to the UK-headquartered Serco that runs prisons to cycle hire schemes to games venues to missile warning systems for the UK. It also operates the Dubai metro rail and air traffic control for UAE.
Hyman was looking to build an international back office capability to supplement Serco's front office capability. The buyout added customers such as Barclays, State Bank of India, Travelport, BSNL and Aircel to Serco, besides giving it a toe-hold in international back office operating at 15% annually.
"Intelenet was facing a business gap. We had to refuse business to clients who wanted us to handle their front office along with back office. We didn't have the capability on the ground in those markets. We didn't have people in the UK and US and it needed considerable investment," says Kumar in his first interaction with media post the sell-off.

In Mumbai, Blackstone, that held 66% in Intelenet, was looking for an exit option as its year five-year term was nearing expiry. The India fund itself was to end its term in 2016. HDFC, on the other hand, had just bought a 4.5% stake in the BPO, last year.

Kumar had three options for Blackstone to exit, and raise funds for the BPO. The company could go for a listing on an Indian or US stock exchange. "This would have meant Intelent would have had to sacrifice growth. Many deals require losses to be made in initial years. We would not have been able to absorb them, considering our stockholders' interests." The second option was to invite another private equity player, to buy the stake from Blackstone and HDFC. "But it would have again meant, looking for an exit option after another three years." And the last option was to integrate with a telecom player or an IT company. "Though we received an interest, telcos in India don't understand the BPO business. So it would not have been a good fit. Regarding a buyout by an IT company, none of the big companies came forward. Most already have large BPO businesses," says Kumar.
On the other hand, UKbased Serco, that had acquired the $100 million a year turnover business of Infovision in India in 2008, looked like an apt choice. Back from his London sojourn, Kumar met Akhil Gupta, chairman of Blackstone India, while officials of both companies made trips back and forth. Four months later, Serco bought 100% in Intelenet for . 2,800 crore. Kumar managed to convince Barclays, that held a 12.75% stake, to offload its stake. "It has been a clean exit for the investors and employees," says Kumar. It was a windfall gain for the 400 Intelenet employees who earned . 470 crore, selling their 16.5% stake.

"From $275 million in January, we have become a $500 million BPO in India now with addition from $100 million Infovision business and rest from Serco's other business," says Kumar. Intelenet now has a presence in East Europe, Australia and Asia-Pacific, with Serco. The BPO ranks in size just second to Genpact, India's largest BPO. Kumar has been able to operate Intelenet at domestic margins of about 18% for last few years, which is reckoned to be healthy as per industry standards.
"We are a global player now compared to six-seven months ago. In the deals which we go after now, we compete with the likes of IBM and Accenture. Not a single Indian player is invited to these deal bids. We are in 40 countries now, compared to just three markets of India, UK and US last year," he says. In India, the BPO runs the Aadhaar number customer care services. "The entire BPO industry is now thinking beyond back office. Customers now want that right from the canteen, to transport to call centres to HR processing should be done by a single vendor."

He gives the example of his parent company which runs trains, airports, prisons and hospitals in the UK and Australia. Serco's buyout of Intelenet has created a unique front-cum-back office firm, which can now handle outsourcing of most things on earth. "Outsourcing is moving from back office to front office, we should remember. The industry is going to change," sums up Kumar.


Intelenet Global Services







The results of the NSS 66th round survey (2009-10) on employment and unemployment show a striking decline in the female labour force and the workforce participation rates as per all the three criteria (the usual, weekly and daily status) in rural and urban areas as compared to 2004-05. Even among urban males, there is a decline in the rates as per the usual and weekly status, though the daily status work participation rate shows an improvement. Only the rural males reported an increased participation in the labour market in terms of all the three criteria.

The decline in the work participation rate of females can stem from their increased participation in education and withdrawal from petty or subsidiary activities. Women may withdraw from principal activities if male earnings improve considerably — female participation in the labour market is still seen as a matter of economic compulsion. But is this the right explanation? It gathers support from the declining daily status unemployment rate, which measures open unemployment and underutilisation of labour to some extent. If women are engaged in petty activities involving underemployment to a considerable extent they may like to withdraw if the male earnings go up or there are possibilities for women to upgrade their skill. The daily status unemployment rate shows adecline among both the males and females and in both the rural and urban areas. Therefore, the availability of quality employment in recent years may be said to have reduced the participation of women in the labour market. For example, instead of both mother and daughter working together, the mother alone might choose to earn. Broad corroboration comes from increased participation among rural males and rise in the urban male daily status work participation rate with a fall in urban male underemployment.

However, are these changes consistent with the rise in the relative size of population in the 15-59 economically active age group, which underpins India's demographic dividend? Even if one argues that participation in jobs has been delayed till 21 or so, are these changes governed entirely by the supply-side factors? There is certainly a major decline in demand for labour, which seems to have affected the women most. In the urban areas in low-income jobs, underemployment might have declined, implying a rise in male daily status work participation rate. But the rate of growth in the overall labour demand has dropped both for males and females in urban areas.
The lack of rural diversification must be a factor in reducing the pace of rural labour demand. On the other hand, the urban labour market is in a tight situation to provide for the surplus lot. The effect of the financial crisis cannot be ruled out, though there may be signs of improvement in certain quarters. Even some of the moderately skilled workforce has been forced to withdraw from the job market with a plea to pursue higher levels of skills and enhance future earnings. On the whole, the overall slack has motivated many to withdraw from the labour market, resulting in reduced work participation rate and unemployment rate both. Applying the participation rates to the provisional population total reported from the population census 2011, our tentative estimate of workforce growth turns out to be less than half a per cent per annum between the 61st and 66th rounds. Hardly an indicator of any robust demographic dividend.

On the other hand, given the rate of inflation, real earnings are not likely to have increased so much so that a large number could enjoy the luxury of staying outside the labour market. The phenomenon of discouraged dropouts implying women to withdraw from the labour market due to unavailability of suitable jobs for a long time, cannot be ruled out. And finally one may have reasons to suspect if the investigators could actually capture and implement the concepts and criteria while carrying out the fieldwork.

The nature of employment indicates that among the workers in the rural areas, around 54.2% are engaged in self-employment, 38.6% as casual workers and only 7.3% in regular wage employment. In the urban areas, the share of selfemployment turns out to be 41.1% and that that of casual employment 17.5%. Between the two survey years, the share of self-employment is on the decline, which is accompanied by a rise in casualisation both in the rural and urban areas and besides, there is a rise in the relative size of workforce engaged in regular wage employment in the urban areas. Possibly this increase in regular wage employment in the urban areas has taken place for the highly skilled workers, whereas the unskilled and semi-skilled variety witnessed a shift away from self-employment towards casual employment. Unless the terms and conditions of employment improve for the casual workers, it would be difficult to suggest that this change is beneficial.

(The author is Professor of Economics, Institute of Economic  rowth)










As one legal case in Mumbai sets aflame India's TV screens, another one that is collapsing in New York offers interesting comparisons.


The case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn virtually disintegrated, for all practical purposes, on the same day as the decision by Mumbai Sessions Court judge N W Chandwani to rule Maria Susairaj guilty of only destroying evidence in the murder of Neeraj Grover.


There is nothing in common between the two cases but the media coverage of both holds up a useful mirror to our respective media cultures. And the Indian reflection is not pretty.


The Susairaj case has engulfed our TV screens with what can only be called the sanctimonious righteousness of a lynch mob. You may or may not agree with the judgment in what was a horrific murder by any definition but news television should be reporting the facts and providing informed analysis, not leading a Klu-Klux style vigilante squad, as most networks seem to be doing. It's simply not their job.


 Contrast this with Strauss-Kahn's legal travails, which, till Thursday, seemed like an open-and-shut case of a powerful man losing his sense of any limits. The American and British media coverage of this case until this point underscored this storyline but only by factual reporting of what the prosecutors were saying. Most media writers, commentators and media consumers outside of France probably did think Strauss-Kahn guilty, but the allusion of guilt was implied by the facts in the public domain, never articulated explicitly on air or in print.


To see this in perspective, imagine what the Hindi networks would have done, with the facts as we knew them, had Strauss-Kahn been an Indian story. It would not be entirely unreasonable to imagine headlines such as 'Boardroom ka balaatkaari' or say 'IMF ka darinda'.


But like the headlines on cheap Hindi thrillers of the kind found on railway platform bookshops, this kind of journalism is so de rigueur on our screens that we don't even raise our eyebrows at it any more. Every story is a campaign, every allegation is a slogan.


And now that there are serious question marks over the Guinean-origin maid who accused Strauss-Kahn of rape, the Indian networks would have surrounded her building with a scrum of broadcast vans and hounded her – her uncle, her neighbour – till they gave a soundbyte, a visual, anything.


There is a peculiar 'Manohar Kahaniya' twist to Indian television, which the Hindi networks first pioneered and most of the English ones have tried hard to copy, in the self-destroying race for the holy-grail that is the TRP meter.


Irrespective of what anyone feels about Maria Susairaj or Emile Jerome, the bottomline is that there is little restraint in our reporting and in our television culture.


The visual violence we are seeing on our television screens now, in the language of the anchors, in the choice of the headlines, in the loud Ramsay Brothersstyle sound effects that animate even mundane news stories is the result of a mindset that has lost all sense of proportion of what journalism should be.


At its heart, it is the result of a quest to somehow, anyhow keep the viewer from pressing the next channel's button on the remote. It is Rating-ism, not journalism.


In covering court cases, different countries, have different media cultures. The US has a culture where it is normal for prosecutors to leak information to the press, always eager for a headline. In the UK, the established convention is not to do so, once charges are filed, lest it prejudice the outcome of a case.


Indian television hungrily adopted the US convention to begin with – you just have to see the salacious coverage of crime on our networks – but has since evolved into a uniquely Indian, screeching, shouting, judgemental model of reporting which combines the functions of reporter, prosecutor and judge all into one.


We deserve better, don't you think?




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Indian sport is in the midst of its worst doping scandal. With as many as six athletes who were involved in last year's Delhi Commonwealth Games caught in recent testing, it is becoming clear that the malady is far more widespread than ever imagined. For a nation striving for sporting excellence through decades, the recent triumphs at the Asian and Commonwealth Games were heartening. But the reason for such improvement in track and field performance is now becoming apparent. Indian sport would be pandering to a delusion if it allows its athletes to dabble in questionable practices like sustained use of performance enhancing drugs. Earlier, weightlifters of both sexes were the ones viewed with most suspicion. It is clear now that sportsmen in different strength, speed and endurance disciplines on the track and field are indulging in the same unfair practices. The athletes who tested positive are trying to shift the blame to their coaches, particularly those who still swear by principles followed in the former Soviet bloc, where till not so long ago athletic excellence was a state-sponsored fraud indulged in to further delusional nationalistic ambitions. As iconic sprint star P.T. Usha had recently pointed out, the very credibility of Indian athletics is at stake. Her intuitive suspicion of sudden improvements in performance, most noticeably seen in the CWG victory of the 4x400 metre national relay squad, proved justified. But her line of argument — that the government should step in to clean up India's athletics — is specious. As it is, the government and its investigating agencies are busy enough trying to nail the sports administrators involved in various scams relating to the Delhi Commonwealth Games. Ideally there should only be a minimal watchdog role for governments in sports administration; what it should concentrate on is to invest in improving the sporting infrastructure around the country. Our sports federations are autonomous: it is for them to guide young sports people and ensure that they stay on the correct path. Much as cricket plays an educative role in warning young players at the grassroots level of the ills of getting involved in betting and match-fixing, so too should the Indian Olympic Association, its affiliates and other sports bodies educate athletes on the dangers of looking for shortcuts to sporting glory. By announcing hefty financial incentives for medal winners at the highest levels of international sports, the government is actually placing temptation in the path of young sports people. While it is hard to fault it for good intentions, it might consider whether to make the medal winners wait at least two years, say, before actually handing over the promised incentives. This would ensure that money is never forked out to athletes, some of whom might later be caught through newer and more streamlined testing methods, which are improving by the day, and thus ensure that the federations and the nation itself is not embarrassed. It is a moot point whether the athlete on drugs alone is to blame, as in some cases support staff members are just as culpable of introducing bad practices. But just as all the glory is the sportsman's alone when winning, so too must the blame be placed squarely at his feet in the event of his being caught doping.







I was not particularly astonished to find that the word "slut" does not have a male equivalent. In many languages other than English, there is no male word for "prostitute" or "widow". Thus the entire debate over the "slut walk" is obviously centred on the rights and current disempowerment of women. As we are all now aware, a particularly stupid Canadian policeman Michael Sanguinetti told an outraged student audience in Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, that women in order to avoid being victimised should "avoid dressing like sluts". And the outrage spread all over the world with women organising "slut walks" in order to "reclaim" the word. The caveats I begin with are very simple. The first is that it passes my comprehension why anybody would even want to "reclaim" the word slut, with its unmistakably pejorative implication? Being called a slut is quite simply an insult and has little to do with the way you dress. It's not quite the same as the universal pejorative "bastard" which is meant to abuse a particular person, but actually questions his parentage, but the import is similar. In my experience men (and some women) call a woman a slut for a variety of reasons motivated by jealousy, frustration, chauvinism, stupidity, or rather simply, a lack of imagination. Thus the stated objective of organising a "slut walk" to reclaim the word seems extremely counterproductive to me. However, other issues that arise out of this protest are far more basic and very important. My second and less important rather trivial astonishment has to do with the fact that a stray comment made by chauvinistic Michael Sanguinetti should have reverberated around the world as if it were a precious pearl of wisdom, or on the other hand, the worst thing anybody has ever said about women. Millions of nasty remarks about women are made every second of the day, and it is amazing to me why this one has generated so much debate. Be that as it may, Delhi is set to have its own slut walk in late July, spearheaded by young Umang Sabharwal, who has Indianised the name to "Besharmi Morcha" and says rather sweepingly that the idea behind the "Besharmi Morcha" is to "point to the tendency to avoid facing the issue of sexual violence". At first glance it appears to be a noble objective, but certainly it is dubious in the extreme if the "Besharmi Morcha" itself will be able to make any great impact upon the very horrible and real issues of sexual atrocities and violence against women in a country like India. However, I certainly do not agree with what some other outraged commentators have said, to the effect that the "Besharmi Morcha" will trivialise the whole issue of sexual atrocities and rape and what prevented these young girls from taking out protests against dowry deaths or female foeticide. Well, the answer to that is obvious. In our democratic country everybody has the right to protest, (and they do) about whatever has touched their lives or moved them. There are thousands of modern young urban women, in whose lives dowry deaths or female foeticide find no resonance, but who every day face harsh words, molestation and abuse from men in urban spaces. They, too, have the right to voice their own protest and it does not in any way detract from the much larger and wider issue of sexual violence and rape in other contexts. These young girls are trying to say that they want to reclaim public spaces in cities and make them non discriminatory and safe for women and also have the right to express themselves in their own way regarding the way they dress and still be safe from harassment and abuse. In other words, men have a duty to behave decently and responsibly and that duty is not conditional upon the dress of the women they see. To claim otherwise would be as silly as saying, that you should not keep anything valuable or beautiful in your house or else thieves would then be tempted to rob you. Thus, in my view, these young girls certainly have the right to express their protest about the colonisation of urban spaces by chauvinistic men, particularly in Delhi, where according to some reports, one woman is raped every 18 hours, one is molested every 14 hours, four out of five are verbally harassed and one-third physically molested. However, this is a protest that is far removed from the deep and complex question of sexual violence, rape and other atrocities against women. A stark example of the difference is an exhibition recently held by the activist group "White Noise" in Bengaluru which simply displayed the garments worn by rape victims when the crime occurred. Not surprisingly most of the rape victims were covered from head to toe, and some even had their heads covered. Therefore, the most crucial issue of this entire debate is the fact that our democracy has simply failed to protect its women from sexual violence. Everybody knows that the real motivation of rape is less about lust and is really an assertion of power and dominance. That is the reason why during wars or communal riots the battles are not fought between men on either side, but rather, upon the bodies of women. A woman is alleged to have been raped by someone, and her so-called protectors, instead of punishing the man who raped her, go out and rape another woman who belongs to the other side! Thus it is the women of all sections who are being punished while society fights its communal and caste wars. Even the most enlightened sections of society have failed to understand the utter vileness of the crime of rape. When high court judges actually mull over a judgment that allows a rape accused to go scot-free because he offers to marry his victim, it is a telling commentary upon the still prevailing mindset in our country today. Violence against women is a heinous crime and ought to be punished severely. Social, cultural and regional values are absolutely irrelevant in this regard, and unless we recognise this in the clearest possible terms, we do grave injustice to our women. * The author is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson. The views expressed in this column are her own.








Change is in the air. One can now safely suggest that the days of the current Pakistan People's Party-led coalition government are numbered. The truly democratic forces of Pakistan seemed to have had enough. This government has broken all records of corruption, bad governance, intrigues and javelin throwing. Okay, so the breaking of the javelin throwing record is not such a bad thing, but still. As Plato said, "If a record-breaking javelin thrower is also a record-breaking corrupt person, then he is a record-breaking javelin thrower who is a corrupt person". Deep stuff this is. But since the great Muslim scholar, Al-Ghazali, said, "Muslims should refrain from indulging in Greek philosophy because it creates doubts in the minds of the faithful", I will not go into any more detail about Plato. After all why do we need Greek philosophy when we have our own, right? For example, the insightful modern Islamic scholar, Abul Ala Maududi, has written numerous chapters on javelin throwers. And he is the man we should be referring to in our quest to make Pakistan a truly democratic Islamic emirate republic welfare state. In his book, Men are from Mars, Women do not Exist, another famous Muslim scholar, Jalal Khan (PhD, MBBS, LLB, lol), is said to have predicted the ascent of a secular (thus corrupt) political party in a future Islamic republic in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Many believe Jalal was predicting the rise of the PPP in Pakistan. They use the following quote from his book to prove this: "In the century to come, there shall rise a so-called Islamic republic in which a secular and corrupt party of wrongful Muslims would announce, Billie Jean's not my lover…" So why did we not heed Jalal's warning? Religious scholars like Maududi, Sayyid Qutb and Junaid Jamshed kept pleading in their voluminous writings, lectures and chants that we should carefully pay attention to Jalal's works. But it is our great misfortune that the low literacy rates among Pakistani voters and the fact that hardly any one of them bothers to take a shower has left us with millions of illiterate and filthy people voting for corrupt record-breaking javelin throwers in the elections. That's why the country's gallant armed forces have had to step in on numerous occasions to save Pakistan from becoming a stinking den of corruption and an unholy nightmare where women go out without a veil and have to work alongside men (and some even dance), and where men are thus forced to look at such women. This puts all kinds of unclean thoughts in the men's otherwise clean heads. But not all civilian politicians have been bad. For example, Nawaz Sharif, before being misguided by Robert Ludlum novels, was once an honourable and loyal servant of the defenders of the faith of the Islamic republic of the emirates of democratic welfare state of Pakistan. Then there is Altaf Husain, the charismatic, dynamic and magnetic leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement who has been brave enough to finally accept his party's folly of not recognising the most devastating spectre that is haunting the republic: Dengue fever. It is a shame that our corrupt (thus civilian) leaders do not have the guts to stand up against dengue fever that is killing trillions of innocent Pakistani (Muslims) in the north-western areas. The mosquitoes carrying this fever are trained by the Americans and yet we remain quiet. Don't we know that once we stop these mosquitoes our economy will drastically pick up, there will be peace and harmony, crime and drug addiction will be eradicated, there will be plenty of food, and jobs (only for males, of course), and there will be an abundance of good homely wives who will cook yummy food for their husbands, and Pakistan will once and for all become the true bastion of faith? Many dismiss this as a fantasy. But not great men like Imran Khan and Munawar Husain and Cat Stevens. It is people like these who are the future of Pakistan's democracy. By democracy I mean six wise men (preferably four soldiers and two soldier-like civilians) deciding our fate through a six-men-consensus and lots and lots of beheadings. Look at the great kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Look what regular beheadings of bad men and women there has done for them. It has given them oil. There is scientific proof of this. Dr Ali Azmat has that proof. Read his latest book, My Tind is a UFO Landing Sight, to find out just how beheadings create vast reserves of oil. This time let's not let anti-Islam/Pakistan forces destroy our ways and dreams like they did in Afghanistan when they toppled the truly just, morally upright and manly kingdom of the Taliban. Can't the apologists of dengue fever see that it is turning young men into angry revenge-seeking rebels? It is a lie to say that such liberation fighters have killed over 35,000 civilians. It's a lie because the number is not 35,000 but 34,901. So are you a mosquito lover? Don't be one and join the jihad of true soldier-like democrats against corrupt javelin throwers and let's turn Pakistan into a true urban middle-class iPhone-loving, God-fearing, burger-chomping and American-flag burning Islamic republic emirate democratic welfare state. Amen.







I have two nationalities, Indian and Pakistani. But I am finding it more and more difficult to understand what is going on in Pakistan. Every other day there are bomb blasts in and around Peshawar taking heavy toll of human lives — Muslims killing Muslims. Other cities like Karachi and Lahore also have a blast or two every month and no one is sure why extremist elements like the Taliban and Al Qaeda have increased their hold in the country. They regard America as their enemy No. 1 and India No. 2. I can understand their animosity towards the Americans because they do not respect Pakistan's sovereignty. But hostility towards India is totally unjustified. We have not wronged them. We want a friendly and prosperous neighbour because we know it also ensures our own prosperity.The Mullahs seem to be extending their influence on the common people. The number of women in burqas is steadily increasing. They do not realise that a community which confines half of its population in purdah can never catch up with countries which treat women as equals. Male chauvinism is on the increase. At the same time, we have a woman like Asma Jehangir who is elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. She also happens to be the principal spokesperson for closer and friendlier relations with India. She visits India frequently and makes it a point to spend an evening with me. I await her next visit in the hope that she will clear the cobwebs I have spun in my mind about Pakistan which I claim to be my second nationality. Evil deeds that I had committed I spend many evenings going over the evil deeds I committed in my early years. With air guns I killed dozens of sparrows who had done me no harm. I shot a dove sitting on a clutch of eggs. It flew up scattering its feathers till it collapsed. I shot rock pigeons by the score every evening when I was staying with my uncle in Mian Channu, as their cotton factory was closed for a month. They were picked up by the children to be eaten. I joined Shikar parties and killed many innocent birds. At one organised shoot in Bharatpur I shot over a dozen ducks in two hours. No one told me it was a wrong thing to do and also a sin for which there will be no pardon. I am paying the price for my sins as they haunt me evening after evening. One or two or three lines... Rajnish of Shimla specialises in compressing wisdom in as few words as possible. Here are some examples: * Unless you can look interested when you are bored you will never be a success socially. * Early to bed and early to rise is a sure sign that you don't care for television. * You can't fall out of bed if you sleep on the floor. * One advantage of being stupid is that you never get lonely. * The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents and second half by our children. * Speech is a faculty given to man to conceal his thoughts. * Men have sight, women insight. * When he that speaks and he to whom he speaks and neither of them understands what is meant, that is "metaphysics". * I quote others to better express myself. Mohan: I suppose you think I'm a perfect idiot. Sohan: Oh, none of us is perfect. What do you think of the two candidates for Mayor? Well, I'm glad only one can be elected. Snorer — A sound sleeper. Reformer — One who insists on his conscience being your guide./One who makes his associates feel miserable about their pleasures. * When prices are high, money does not talk, it whispers. * If you can't think of any other way to flatter a man, tell him he is the kind that can't be flattered. Ponder: The hardest trial of the heart is whether it can bear a rival's failure without triumph. * There is no arena in which vanity displays itself under such a variety of forms as in conversation.






In his first interview after he retired as Union home secretary on the last day of June 2011, G.K. Pillai tells Sanjay Basak and Namrata Biji Ahuja that he learnt of the bugging of the finance minister's office in January this year. Mr Pillai also speaks of a "trust deficit" in the Northeast and says the government should work more towards "affirmative action" and "building societies". Q You are still on the shortlist for the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), though you once said you were not interested in the job. A. I have said I am not available for it. I need to spend more time with my family. And there are other things to do, like reading, travelling, teaching. Q. Congress MPs and MLAs from the Telangana region have threatened to resign in a couple of days. What do you think of the government's handling of the sensitive issue? A. The home minister has made absolutely clear the circumstance under which that announcement was made in December 2009. There was then an all-party decision and major parties went back on their decision. That is why there was the need to set up the Srikrishna Committee to get people's opinion and to give political parties the time to come to a consensus. I expect in July a final decision will be taken on the recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee. Q. The Srikrishna report has broadly favoured a united Andhra Pradesh. A. That is the favoured recommendation. Q. How do you see the Telangana issue playing out politically? A. I think, politically, setting up of a new state is going to unleash a roller-coaster effect in other areas, whether it is Gorkhaland, Bodoland, Vidarbha, Uttar Pradesh and so on. This needs to be taken into consideration. Q. When will we close the chapter on Ajmal Kasab, who has been convicted for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks? A. The Kasab case is part of our judicial process. The High Court has dismissed it, and the case has come to the Supreme Court. Then he has the right of the mercy petition. That legal route is available to everybody. But what we have to ensure is that it is speeded up as much as possible and the conviction taken to its logical conclusion. Q. What was the episode of the bugging of the finance minister's office about? A. Let me put it this way. There was suspicion of the office being bugged. This was reported from finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to the Prime Minister on September 7 or 8 (2010). Q. When did you get to know about it? A. We were not informed then. I learnt of it six or seven months ago. There were correspondents who were in touch with me. They said this incident had taken place and that the finance minister's North Block office was being cleaned by private parties and that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was out of the loop. I remember checking with the IB in January. The other allegation was that the IB was out of the loop. Actually, the IB did the entire sweeping. There are regular sweeps of North and South Block (these house the Prime Minister's Office and the ministries of external affairs, defence, home and finance). Q. The home minister says he did not know about all this until June (last month)? A. The home minister didn't know! I assumed that the home minister knew. Otherwise, I would have definitely mentioned it to him. But the story was a non-event. Q. Is there a possibility of any eavesdropping or a suspicion of a threat? A. The IB carries out blanket sweeps across buildings to see whether any signal is going out from any building. There is a regular sweep of ministers' and senior officials' offices, (particularly now) when new technologies are available and people don't have to come and plant a bugging device in your room. You can be a kilometre away and listen to everything that one is saying on one's cellphone. So you don't really need to come and place adhesives or chewing gum... (to do that) you have to enter the finance minister's room, you must have a visitor's pass, give your identity. Professional snoopers won't do that. Q. What were the findings of the IB? Why is the private agency (engaged by the finance ministry) still raising suspicions that there could be something to it? A. We are investigating that and finding out from the private agency what they found through their sweep and forensic analysis. I am sure that questions will be asked in the next Parliament session. We need to be prepared to give a full report. Q. Should the PM be brought into the ambit of the Lokpal? A. Ideally, the PM should be because the Constitution does not say that you cannot investigate the PM. But the concern that the government has is that if you make an allegation against the PM, the pressure then is on him (her) to resign... When a PM resigns, the government falls. You can't have that happening... it will upset the whole democratic system. That is why whether the higher judiciary should be brought under the Lokpal is also being questioned. Q. What are your views on Baba Ramdev? A. I won't go into details. But I would say, for a person who is campaigning against black money, is he all that clean? I would leave it there. Q. What do you think of Anna Hazare and his team? A. I think they are well-intentioned people. But they have to realise that we are living in a democracy where everyone has opinions. You can't have a meeting where you say here is my draft, or that I will go on fast if it is not accepted. Others may also have a view, and you may have to adjust. You may not get a law that is 100 per cent, but only 80 per cent. So, you work from there and move towards your goal. Q. Do you think there are saffron forces behind Anna's team? A. I don't want to get into it. If you ask me whether a Lokpal Bill is required, I would say yes. Should the Lokpal be effective? Yes, it should be effective, within the system. They said give the Lokpal one per cent of the GDP, which is about `20,000 crore. Can that happen? Q. After 9/11, it took the US just two years to set up the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC). What happens to our plans? A. We have got the clearance for the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid, to provide real-time intelligence on terrorism issues). I think Natgrid is our first step towards something like NCTC. Now that the Cabinet has approved it, I expect that Natgrid would be ready in another 26 months. Q. How do you see Pakistan's inaction on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks? A. Pakistan is not sincere. The evidence is clear that even during 26/11, instructions were coming from the handlers across the border. Now the voice samples of those handlers from Pakistan are available with us, they are available with the FBI, and I am sure they are available with the Inter-Services Intelligence. We say the voices belong to (Zakiur Rehman) Lakhvi and so on. It is enough for the Pakistan authorities to check the voice samples. Don't give me the samples. You have Lakhvi in jail. Take the voice samples and see whether they match, or take voice samples of any of the other four handlers who were instructing. Such a simple exercise is to be undertaken since he is in their custody. And if it matches, you say yes, he's the man. And if it does not, please come to us and say, you've got the wrong guy. Q. How do you see the threat of Hindu terrorism? A. There are five or six cases. If you look at the whole spread, the whole group would not exceed 100 people all over India. We hope that after the arrest of some of the ringleaders and the whole publicity that has accompanied it, people will be a little more careful, that they will realise that it is not in India's interest which they were claiming it to be when they took up this course. Q. There still seems to be a division in the government on the issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)? A. The government set up the Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission. Apart from the retired Supreme Court judge, it had members from the Army and civil servants. A unanimous decision was made that the act should be repealed. But they also said that you need certain protection for the security forces. They said that protection should be provided under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAP Act). My belief is that the recommendations of the committee were good. If the AFSPA is repealed and significant provisions are provided in the UAP Act, the concerns of the security forces can be taken care of. But other ministries have differing opinions and the government has not been able to arrive at a consensus. The process of consultation is still going on. Q. How do you see the Maoist problem? A. This is a very serious problem because it has been neglected for decades, since the 1970s. A variety of issues are involved, such as tribal land rights, forest rights and so on. But I fully agree with what the home minister has said — that please don't mistake the Maoists for do-gooders. Arundhati Roy calls them Gandhians with the gun. I don't think they are that at all. If you see the casualties at the hands of the Maoists, 70-80 per cent are innocent tribal people, and women and children. In another 10-15 years, this problem will begin to taper off, I have no doubt. You keep up this augmenting of governance structures, open up communication, properly implement forest rights, the tribal rights under Sixth Schedule, the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA). The Maoists would be happy to have the so-called exploitation continue. But you need to stop that. In areas liberated from Maoists, people have come forward. Normal life has started. Q. Can you give us a sense of the situation in the Northeast? A. There was a major blockade in the state last year and nobody in the national newspapers was concerned till the price of LPG went up. There is an infrastructure deficit in the Northeast. But more than that there is what I call a trust deficit, which needs to be addressed. How would a Manipuri feel after the railway minister in 1970 declares that Manipur is connected by rail, and all you have is one kilometre of railway line from the neighbouring state? In Tripura, you had one in Kumaraghat and now a railway line has finally come to Agartala, the state capital, in 2010. There were, I think, 26 airports in the Northeast at the time of Independence, and now there are only 12. Q. As Union home secretary, what do think you could have done better? A. As home secretary I would have loved to have got more achievement in police reforms. We managed to make a beginning insofar as transparent, merit-based recruitment is concerned and in setting up training institutions... If we look at the world today, radicalisation of people has taken place... I think the government also needs to do much more in terms of affirmative action, in terms of building societies.










PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh's criticism of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India for holding a press conference in January last after its report on 2G spectrum irregularities was tabled  in Parliament only exposes his unfamiliarity with this vital constitutional institution which still commands the trust and respect of a vast majority of the people of the country. In his interaction with a select group of editors last Thursday, Dr  Singh said that never in the past had the CAG held a press conference and commented on policy issues. It should limit the office to the role defined in the Constitution, he said. The Constitution does not restrain the CAG from meeting the press. Briefing the media on the contents of the CAG reports after presenting them in Parliament or in the relevant State legislatures has been the established practice. When this practice was challenged by PG Narayanan, an AIADMK member of the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 2005, claiming the CAG had misused his authority by going to the press on an audit report inconvenient to the State government headed by his party, the Madras High Court upheld the right of the CAG and its functionaries to brief the media on the contents of reports prepared by them and presented before the legislature. It would seem the Prime Minister would rather gag the CAG so that the misdeeds of the government are hidden from the public.
A notable feature of the administrative arrangement envisaged by the Constitution is the strict control over financial matters of the government. When the draft Articles 149, 150 and 151 dealing with the Auditor-General of India came up for consideration before the Constituent Assembly on 30 May, 1949, TT Krishnamachari sought to change the designation of the Auditor-General to Comptroller and Auditor-General because the duties of his office were not merely of audit but also of exercising control over government spending. He also sought a provision that before entering his office the CAG should take an oath similar to that taken by the judges of the Supreme Court. BR Ambedkar said the CAG should be regarded as the most important dignitary or officer in the Constitution. His duties were more important than even those of the judiciary. Ambedkar pointed out the incongruity of letting the executive make rules regarding the duties of the CAG who is supposed to control the executive with regard to the administration of finances and hoped that a future Parliament would take the earliest opportunity to replace those rules by a parliamentary statue. That, alas, is yet to be done. The lame excuse of the lame duck Prime Minister that "we take decisions in a world of uncertainty and that is the perspective Parliament, CAG and our media must adopt if this nation is to move forward" is a sure recipe to move backward. Manmohan Singh should realise the people exercised their franchise in an environment of "uncertainty" and voted for the UPA hoping it would deliver, only to find post facto that its government not only failed to deliver but turned out to be the most corrupt since independence.



IN the manner of Singur, Rajarhat has the potential to become another storm-centre. With the crucial distinction that the present ruling party doesn't have a readymade punching-bag in the Left. To use the language of understatement, there is little or no coordination within the government. And this could turn out to be disastrous, in that one hand of the government doesn't know what the other is doing. Or worse, chooses to ignore it even if it does. It thus comes about that in the aftermath of the Chief Minister's order against land acquisition in Rajarhat, that facilitator for all parties ~ the Housing and Infrastructure Development Corporation ~ is determined to execute its plan to take over the land, largely agricultural, for public purpose. The express objective cannot be faulted ~ road connectivity and laying of underground electricity cables, two prerequisites for an emergent township. Hidco might appear to have gone off at a tangent; yet it must be conceded that Rajarhat-New Town will languish as an under-developed satellite if the basics are not in place. As with the Barasat-Raichak highway, development of infrastructure is bound to founder in the absence of a palatable agreement on land acquisition.

Not surprisingly, the Hidco plan ~ somewhat reminiscent of its functioning under the CPI-M ~ has caused a flutter in the farmers' roost. This testifies to the lack of coordination, one major reason why the previous dispensation's new economic policy had foundered. To the shocking extent that the Chief Minister's decision to withdraw notices for the acquisition of 1013 acres has effectively been negated by Hidco. As much is clear from the latter's decision last Wednesday to acquire the land in the Rajarhat-New Town area. Farmers are already up in arms with Hidco officials being told to leave the area, recalling the treatment meted out to Tata Motors officials on their first visit to Singur in May 2006. There can be no dispute with Mamata Banerjee's intent on protecting the farmers' interest. Equally, the town needs to develop with roads and an underground network of drainage, electricity and communication cables. There has to be a halfway house. A confrontation over land and development in the periphery of the city will be disastrous.



MOTORCYCLISTS of yesteryear ~ veterans of the times when a "biker" was the poor chap who pedalled around on a bicycle ~ would react with nostalgic thrill to reports that the legendary British-made Triumph mobikes (again a more recent term) would be re-entering the Indian market next year, maybe even set up a production unit. How that brand will compete against top-of-the-line Japanese and Italian models that are establishing a presence, not to mention the ever-macho (also part of contemporary lingo) Harley-Davidson, is difficult to predict as of now. Yet it would be fair to assume that the 109-year-old firm ~ it also produced some classic sports cars ~ would have done its homework before contemplating making six or eight of its current models available to Indian users. Those are issues pertaining to balance-sheets, market-shares, and other ice-cold business indices ~ for the oldies the Triumph's comeback is a matter for the heart to savour. Or for seasoned eardrums to reverberate to the pulsating throb of the four-stroke engines that reigned supreme before such mundane factors as fuel-efficiency and emission-levels came into the reckoning. Those old-timers will be anxious for reassurance that modernisation has not robbed the Triumph of what was music to them, in comparison with which contemporary workday models sound decidedly "tinny". Colonial "compulsions" probably had a lot to do with it, but the Triumph flourished along with other UK-manufactured motorcycles. Equally legendary were the machines produced by BSA, Matchless, Ariel, AJS, Norton etc. Post-independence only the Enfield (it dropped its 'Royal' prefix) survived since it had a production line in Madras and catered to the needs of the military and the police. A scooter revolution followed: Lambretta and Vespa (later their Indianised clones) ruled the roads, with only two East European motorcycles (Jawa and Rajdoot of Czech and Polish origin) for competition. As things began to open up the Japanese "bikes" took over, and assumed a position of dominance. Now the wheel could be turning full circle: Vespa is back, Triumph is on its way…







MINSK, 3 JULY: On a quiet street strewn with weeds in the suburbs of Minsk, a few dozen people file into the knocked-through living room of a dilapidated bungalow. It is hard to believe that this ramshackle building houses the home stage of one of the world's most celebrated theatre troupes, which later this month will play a run at London's Almeida Theatre, and which has a glittering array of celebrity actors and playwrights acting as its cheerleaders.

This is the Belarus Free Theatre, a daring band of actors who put on risque plays in the stifling political and cultural atmosphere of Belarus, where the neo-Soviet President Alexander Lukashenko tolerates no dissent, and the KGB security services make life a misery for anyone who opposes the regime. They have attracted a following across the globe, but here in Minsk, they have to keep a very low profile. The audience are informed of shows by e-mail or text message, and know that at any time the police could raid the building and arrest the actors and audience. It has happened before, and as an economic crisis grips Belarus and the protest mood increases, the authorities are cracking down on opposition harder than ever before.

With the audience members packed in like sardines, many on the floor or sitting on each other's laps, there is just about enough space for 50 people in the small room, which has whitewashed walls and cardboard slats covering the windows. On Thursday evening, it was packed with young Belarusians as the theatre performed a three-part play called Zone of Silence. The play intersperses biting social commentary with touching coming-of-age stories, and the final part is the most powerful. The actors perform a series of abstract skits and grotesque mimes, while grim statistics about domestic violence, poverty, and political prisoners in Belarus are beamed up on to the wall behind them ~ "72 per cent of Belarusians find it hard to define the word 'democracy'" says one of the captions.

Despite the uncomfortable conditions and the sticky humid heat of a Minsk summer evening, nobody says a word or moves a muscle during the mesmerising two-and-a-half hour show. At one point, one of the actors does a strikingly realistic impression of Mr Lukashenko. In a country where people lower their voices before talking about the President, mocking him on stage is only for the extremely brave or the foolish.
"We thought for a long time whether we should put this on now, given the current political situation," says Marina Yurevich, one of the actors in the play. "But in the end we decided to go ahead with it."
the independent








Piracy on the high seas is as old as the merchant marine. The golden age of piracy came to an end through the use of overwhelming force by navies of the affected nations. Such a course is no longer feasible as it would lead to avoidable deaths of hostages. But paying huge sums as ransom to free hostages will only embolden other pirates. The only permanent solution is to smash the pirates' onshore infrastructure and to pursue and destroy their ships at sea, as the Royal Navy used to do when Britannia ruled the waves.

After the successful joint campaign against pirates in the Malacca Strait a decade ago by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, piracy has spread to the Gulf of Aden in northern Somalia. In 2010, Somali pirates took 1,381 people hostage and collected $238 million in ransom. The problem has worsened considerably this year. On New Year's Day itself Somali pirates hijacked MV Blida, a 20,586-tonne bulk carrier with a crew of 27.  Three more attempts on the same day were thwarted. Since then pirates have been attacking ships regularly at the rate of more than one a day. International navies have taken a tougher stance against pirates with the Indian Navy alone arresting nearly 140 Somali pirates in the last few months.

The drifting of a boat to the Gujarat coast with 18 suspected Somali pirates on board last week raises India's security concerns. Following the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, patrolling the Arabian Sea by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard has been intensified.  How the boat with the suspected Somali pirates reached the Gujarat coast undetected remains a mystery. According to 'Information Dissemination', a widely read web blog covering international naval affairs, Somali pirates have targeted India for cleaning up territorial waters and piracy operation in their economic zone. The UN Convention of the Law of the Sea states: "All states should cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any state."

More than 35,000 Indian nationals are employed globally in merchant ships flagged from a number of countries. There are some powerful maritime unions to protect the rights of these workers but the unions are helpless when any of the ships they work in is hijacked by pirates. Once a merchant ship is hijacked, it is almost impossible to mount a rescue operation because the lives of hostages are at stake. The decision of the Directorate-General of Shipping to issue a notification allowing armed security guards on board Indian merchant vessels is of doubtful value to combat piracy in the high seas. Any comprehensive strategy to deal with piracy must have preventive naval patrolling in the waters where the pirates operate. Lack of coordination among navies patrolling the Gulf of Aden has left pockets where pirates are able to hijack unsuspecting ships. The sea lanes through the Gulf of Aden are used extensively by merchant ships of China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, besides India and Pakistan.

India should get over its reluctance to involve Chinese and Pakistani navies in preventive patrolling to make the sea lanes safer for merchant vessels. The issue of Somali pirates requires dedicated, concerted effort to ensure innocent seafarers are not held hostages for lack of initiatives by the concerned governments. As a big regional power with the strongest naval presence among the Indian Ocean rim nations, India has a special responsibility in tackling the piracy menace.

During the last budget session, external affairs minister, SM Krishna, in a statement assured Parliament that the Cabinet Committee on Security has approved a series of measures to address the administrative, legal and operative aspects of combating sea piracy. The committee also formed an inter-ministerial group to deal with early release of crew held hostage and hijacked ships and cargo. A standard operating procedure would also be framed to deal with exigencies arising out of piracy. The pirates, meanwhile, have extended their area of operation to 1,000 to 1,200 nautical miles from the Somali coast. In the first six months of this year, about 200 ships were attacked by Somali pirates and 27 vessels hijacked. The ransom demand has multiplied many times in the last three years. Part of the ransom paid goes to Al Shabaab, a pro-Al Qaida organisation based in Haradheer. It  has declared a "sea jihad."

Indian seamen taken captive have been subjected to harsher treatment because of the arrest, detention and prosecution of Somali pirates captured by the Navy and the Coast Guard. Capt. Prem Kumar of  MV Rak Africa, captured by Somali pirates last year and released in March this year, died of brain haemorrhage shortly after due to injuries suffered while in captivity. MT Asphalt Venture, released after paying millions of dollars in ransom, held back seven Indian sailors in an attempt to swap Somali pirates detained by India.
According to the International Maritime Bureau estimates, the annual cost of piracy in the Indian Ocean is between $5 billion and $7 billion. Jack Lang, a former French minister who advises the UN on piracy, warned the Security Council earlier this year that Somali pirates were becoming masters of the Indian Ocean. The Maritime Security Centre for Horn of Africa, based in Northwood, near London, as part of Operation Atlanta, a European Union initiative against Somali piracy, picks up distress calls from ships under attack and directs naval ships under its control to render all necessary help.  European Union and Nato forces have a combined task force of 151 vessels under different flags patrolling the piracy ridden Somali coast.

India could learn from the experience of the Northwood centre and consider establishing a similar unit, involving the regional navies, including China's and Pakistan's.  After the rescue of the crew of Pakistani captained MV Suez, including six Indian nationals, by PNS Babur, New Delhi should not have any qualms about associating Pakistan Navy with such a venture. As the monsoon retreats in another month and the sea is expected to be calm, attacks will increase and the numbers of ships and hostages held will rise.  India cannot remain a silent spectator.

On New Year's Day this year, London's marine insurance community and security consultants put out an advisory declaring the Arabian Sea up to 75 degrees east longitude as risk-prone.  As a result, every ship that sails in these waters must pay a much higher insurance. The additional burden is impacting our trade and commerce. Some shipowners are reluctant to employ Indian seamen after the experience of  Asphalt Venture in which six Indian sailors were detained by Somali pirates even after payment of ransom.

Shipowners, after all, are responsible for the safety and security of the crew.  Detaining Somali pirates captured by our Navy and Coast Guard has only added to the woes of Indian seafarers.  The Indian Navy and Coast Guard successfully intercepted and captured MV Alondra Rainbow  hijacked by Somali pirates in 1999.  The captured pirates were brought to Mumbai and prosecuted.  The High Court acquitted them and allowed them to go.  Unless our laws are suitably amended, the same fate awaits the140-odd Somali pirates detained by India.
An anti-piracy Bill is sought to be introduced in Parliament during the coming monsoon session to define the offence of piracy, identify the trial courts in which pirates can be prosecuted and spell out the punishment for those found guilty of committing piracy. Until such time the proposed Bill becomes law, India could consider outsourcing the trial and punishment of pirates to Kenya for a fee as some countries have done and hand over the captured pirates to the Kenyan authorities.







The decent growth of the Indian economy in the past decade is well known. Pakistan's misfortunes also make news from time to time. The floods in the Indus last monsoon yielded graphic pictures of marooned people and dead cattle. But the implications of the difference in economic performance have still to sink in. A shorthand description is provided by figures of gross domestic product at purchasing power parity. In 1990, India's GDP was 5½ times Pakistan's; in 2009, it was 8 times. Pakistan has not held a census for decades, so its population is uncertain. But various international institutions put India's income per head at 20-40 per cent above Pakistan's. The disparity is smaller when it comes to military strength; Pakistan's army of 617,000 men is almost half of India's 1.325 million. If one were to go by Pakistani generals' theory that a Pakistani soldier is worth India's ten, then Pakistani superiority is unchallengeable. But soldiers are not much use without ordnance. India has 6,900 tanks, three times as many as Pakistan's; even a Pakistani general may find it difficult to convince himself that a Pakistani tank is three times as good as India's. He would have to comfort himself that since Pakistan has 502 fighters against India's 780, a Pakistani pilot has to be only 1½ times as good as his Indian counterpart. But the overall disparity is unmistakable; the $34 billion that India spends on its armed forces must count for something more than the $5.2 billion that Pakistan spends.

These and other figures show that Pakistan is no longer a serious military competitor. A similar comparison would show that India is not a serious military competitor for China. The implications have still to sink in: that nothing that India does in the short run can change India's military situation, and that it is a good time to think of other things. In particular, India has proved to be good at economic growth, and could get better at it. Its economic performance has lagged consistently behind China's. The long-term consequences are there to see. The Chinese prime minister told European leaders last week that they could count on China to rescue them in the event of an economic crisis. India would be hard put to make such an offer even to Greece.

There is no doubt that the government in India could do much to bridge the gap. For it has been a chronic runner of fiscal deficits, and hence the major contributor to the excess of Indian inflation over China's. It has also traditionally allocated little of its huge expenditure to investment; its short-sightedness is largely responsible for India's inferior infrastructure. It can perhaps save a per cent of GDP by restraining military expenditure; but it could save five times as much by restraining private loot of public social expenditure.






A regime that has survived for over four decades cannot be toppled by a war that is a little over 100 days old. This is the bitter truth that the Western allies are coming to terms with in Libya. Even after relentless airstrikes, the Nato is yet to destroy Muammar Gaddafi's support base, while cash-strapped nations such as Britain and France are left in the awkward position of having to fund another unwinnable war, if only to save face. The situation now seems to be getting out of hand with Mr Gaddafi threatening war on Europe to avenge the havoc that the West has wreaked in the North African nation. The warning sounds particularly sinister in the light of the recent arrest warrant on Mr Gaddafi issued by the International Criminal Court. Clearly, such injunctions are not going to deter the maverick leader from fighting fire with fire. The real sufferers are the ordinary people, who continue to die in hundreds as this battle of wills rages on.

In spite of Hillary Clinton's resolve to continue with the Nato operations, Mr Gaddafi's threat should not be treated as empty words. Although in recent years Mr Gaddafi managed to befriend the West after complying with the Lockerbie bombing investigations, the Libyan leader has been notorious for supporting anti-West ventures by Islamic and communist terrorists. He fuelled full-scale insurgencies in the Philippines, unleashed the Irish revolutionaries on Britain, and attempted to radicalize Australian Aborigines. So, it would not take much for him to retaliate against the West if the Nato operations in Libya are not called off soon. However, the Western powers remain hesitant over the question of ceasefire — for them, the cessation of the Libyan operation would amount to accepting defeat. The alternative — the continuation of the war — only seems to appeal to the rebel forces, certainly not to the ordinary citizens who are paying with death the price of this futile strife.






Those of us interested in gender equality tend to be obsessed with the politically and economically important areas in which we need this equality — education, employment, health, political representation. But equality in these important but grim attributes leaves out many things that actually make life more enjoyable and thus more worth living.

Women deserve more from gender equality than better housekeeping and management skills. In most societies, men are much more likely to be granted rights to the time and money to spend on themselves, often in harmless, sometimes in more invidious, ways. Indeed, one of the reasons that women's employment is touted in development literature is that women are less likely than men to spend their incomes on tea, cigarettes and gossip and more likely to spend it on things like child nutrition.

But tea and gossip are good for women too (even if cigarettes are not). They add to the joys of life. Fun and leisure may be strange things to worry about for poor households intensely preoccupied with day-to-day survival. But there is no doubt that access to leisure enhances the quality of life immensely.

Leisure is of course not a clearly demarcated activity; it can often be combined with work (gossiping with neighbours while peeling potatoes, for instance). To that extent, statistics may understate women's access to leisure. At the same time, separating out the 'leisure' component of a day's activities becomes important as women's lives change; while it may easy to combine gossip with the peeling of potatoes, it may be less easy to do so with the formal assembly line work that accounts for much of the rising female employment in developing countries.

Very broadly, one can think of leisure as made up of activities that afford pleasure or happiness in themselves, not because they lead to some other kind of good; that is, not for their instrumental value. For example, child care does not count even if it is inherently pleasurable because it does achieve a larger purpose, that of child welfare.

For the bulk of women, leisure is probably best described in terms of very simple things such as a chance to rest, to socialize, to be entertained; in other words, as the ability to be what may be called 'unproductively free'. Such unproductive freedom should include the freedom to occasionally lie on the terrace gazing at the stars without the milk boiling over, as well as the right to stand on the street and laugh loudly at a performing clown without being called a hussy.

Rights to leisure reflect larger power structures in the home and in society. So it is not surprising that the very idea of leisure is so alien to poor women that many of the women in a survey in Kerala mentioned washing clothes and cleaning the house when asked what they did in their free time. There is also much fine tuning regarding who can claim how much and what kind of leisure. Moreover, norms are often not directly about leisure but about other matters which have an impact on leisure. For example, norms about femininity can severely restrict the access of young girls to outdoor sports.

Rights to leisure cannot be exercised without the opportunities for it. What are some of these platforms? Leisure activities may be social/communal or solitary (singing bhajans versus reading), active or passive (playing badminton vs watching television), organized or casual (playing badminton vs gossiping), family centred or extra-domestic (going out for a movie with family vs going out with friends), creative or unproductive (painting vs sitting in the sun on a winter afternoon). While all these things are more or less legitimate at different times and for different people, for women in South Asia leisure is more commonly likely to be social, passive, casual and unproductive.

Women's leisure is also more likely than men's to be 'fragmented' and to be a 'secondary' activity. Fragmented leisure refers to leisure enjoyed in small units of time rather than in blocks — which makes it difficult to develop any sustained leisure interests. Leisure as a secondary activity refers to leisure that is combined with non-leisure doings (listening to the radio while cooking) — once again, this is relaxing, but does not allow wholehearted immersion in anything.

Material resources matter. But for women, it is not money that is the primary constraint, given the inexpensive nature of most of their leisure activities; it is time and it is space. Both these constraints are overwhelming and so there are fewer socioeconomic differences in women's leisure activities — rich men play golf while poor men drink tea in the neighbourhood stall, but both rich and poor women seem to experience more fragmented and secondary leisure.

Women's keen interest in free time was well brought out in field work I did in rural West Bengal some years ago. When we asked what they thought was the most important positive change that women had experienced in the last 15 years, we got a chorus of praise for, of all things, the pressure cooker. Elaborating, the women declared that nothing gave as much freedom as the ability to cook in 15 minutes what usually took a couple of hours. As to what they would do with all the free time that the hypothetical pressure cooker provided, many of the women dispensed with platitudes about how this would make them even better mothers or earners. Instead, what came out in the responses was the sense that life can be and should be fun.

Notwithstanding all these constraints, there are some specific forms of leisure that women have over time secured some rights to and that policies must somehow make an effort to protect:

Leisure and Obligatory Work: This is the leisure that women manage to extract from what are called 'obligatory' activities — non-remunerative but necessary tasks like housework, shopping, personal hygiene; many of these tasks are the responsibility of women, many are onerous, but women also manage to turn them into an opportunity for leisure. Water and fuel collection in poor countries is one good example. Because they are so time-intensive, policy is constantly harangued to deliver piped water and cheap, market-bought cooking fuel. While this is certainly a necessary policy intervention, these activities are often welcomed by women as a way to engage in non-domestic social interactions.

Work as Leisure: The second unexpected source of leisure for women is employment outside the home. There are no Indian data on work as leisure. But work outside the home, when it is not backbreaking, is also a form of escape from the routine and controls of domestic life, especially for the young married woman. No wonder women have taken to low-level office work in droves in urban India. This hunger for leisure outside the home at least partly explains to me the curious sight of crowds of young women spending all day outside the gates of the schools their children go to in Calcutta. Motherhood legitimizes the time outside the home for these women, who look relaxed and cheerful even in the blazing sun.

Indeed, the pleasures of work — when it is not too demanding — seem to be universal, as is suggested by recent research on the changing workplace as the site of traditionally home-centred activities, especially social interaction, and the home as increasingly the place where discipline is enforced, routines are followed and life is busy.

Religion and Leisure: Universally, people spend a significant amount of free time on religion-related activities. While some of this involvement is directly religious, much of it is more social. Religious activities as leisure are probably more significant for women. The current Ramdev agitation seems to have shrewdly recognized the importance of this form of social activity by welcoming women; this strategy also allows the agitation to paternally claim to be protecting women and not its own turf when the going gets tough.

Religion is also important for women's leisure in India because it affords one of the few avenues they have for travel and tourism, especially alone or with other, often unrelated, women. Religious pilgrimages are fulfilling in more ways than in their promise of religious enlightenment.

Self Care as Leisure: Time spend on 'personal hygiene' is an 'obligatory' activity, neither work, nor leisure. But change 'personal hygiene' to 'self-care' and one sees that with sufficient time and resources, indulgent investments in the physical self can become serious acts of leisure. As recent sociologies of the local beauty parlour attest, women use these places to let off some of the steam accumulated from suffocating domestic demands as much as to adorn themselves for the glory of the household. For many women, there is nothing as liberating as a long pedicure.

The author is professor, department of Development Sociology, Cornell University







Before the European Union's finance ministers met on July 3, the Greek parliament passed legislation mandating 28 billion euros of spending cuts and tax rises over the next five years. This means that each of the 10 million Greeks will ultimately be about 2,800 euros poorer.

That's why they're rioting in Athens. Without the next 12-billion-euro instalment of the current EU-International Monetary Fund bailout package, Greece would default on its gigantic debt. The IMF recently hinted that the euro itself might crash, taking the European or even the global economy down with it — and yet China seems strangely unworried.

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

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

They know that there is nowhere to hide. Holding euros is risky, but holding US dollars is riskier, and the pound and the yen are only marginally safer. China has to put its money somewhere, and it calculates that the euro is not quite as bad a bet as it seems. Even though Greece certainly will default at some point. Greece can never repay the 300 billion euros it owes, no matter how harsh the austerity measures that it forces on its own population. If it still had its old currency, it could make the debt shrink by printing more drachmas and inflating the currency, but it's stuck with the euro.

Debt trap

It's a trap. The euro's low inflation rate meant a low interest rate, so although Greece could not keep its economy competitive, it could borrow money very cheaply. And since the euro's value is backed by much stronger economies the banks were willing to lend Greece large sums. Ridiculously large sums, in fact. So large that Greece could never pay them back. The banks realized this — but they reckoned that the richer countries in the euro zone would cover Greece's debts in order to preserve the integrity of the currency. That is what is happening now.

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

A lot of Greeks don't see why they should pay such a high price for this charade. They are far from blameless — they cynically milked the EU system for a long time — but their rage is understandable. So at some point Greece will decide to default on its debt. The money that the EU and the IMF are giving to the banks by laundering it through Greece will then have to be shovelled directly into their coffers by the financial authorities, embarrassing though that is.

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








All signs indicate that the government of Israel has taken steps to receive the present Gaza flotilla in a manner much more systematic than last year's actions. Instead of relying entirely on the use of force, diplomatic measures were taken this time, and friendly states, first and foremost Greece, mobilized to help Israel and hampered the flotilla's departure. This diplomatic action proved that there are alternatives less violent than Israel's predilection for discharging armed soldiers to suppress civilian protests.

Yet the industriousness and creativity which Benjamin Netanyahu and his government have displayed merely underscore the folly that serves as the foundation of their policy. Israel removed its settlements and soldiers from the Gaza Strip six years ago, and withdrew to the Green Line in order to end its occupation of a strip of land densely populated by Palestinians. The move was taken so that they could conduct their own lives. Since then, it appears as though Israel became addicted to occupation and is unable to liberate itself, even after it declared a "pull-out." Hearing the cabinet's statement about how Israel will act "with determination" to stop the flotilla, as well as the defense minister's declaration yesterday about Israel's intention to "defend its borders," sufficed as evidence that the government still views the Gaza Strip as part of Israel, and insists on monitoring every entry and exit to and from Gaza.

The blockade, which was eased but not eliminated as a result of the fatal entanglement with the first flotilla, is unethical, and also mistaken on diplomatic grounds. Placing stiff restrictions on movement and commerce, in an embargo policy affecting one and a half million Palestinians, does not contribute anything. It only perpetuates the conflict and the hatred, and casts light on Israel as a cruel, occupying power.

The government justifies the blockade on Gaza by pointing to the hostility of Hamas, the organization which rules Gaza; Hamas, the government points out, refuses to recognize Israel and the Oslo Accords. In fact, the naval embargo is justifiable, in terms of the need to prevent the entry of heavy weaponry. Yet the economic pressure has not brought about moderation in Hamas' positions, and stopping protesters en route to Gaza will not change the military balance. Dealing with Hamas necessitates the use of diplomatic methods which might bring about change in the organization's approach; the military effort should concentrate on stopping the smuggling of arms.

Halting the second flotilla does not compensate for the total failure of Israel's policy toward Gaza.







In October 1991 he came with U.S. President George H.W. Bush to the Madrid Conference, which squandered the fruits of the Gulf War victory. In September 1993 he celebrated, with U.S. President Bill Clinton, the birth of the battered Oslo Accords. In early 1997 he managed to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign the Hebron Accord, which left tens of thousands of Palestinians to the mercy of the students of Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba. In late 1998 he was among those who gave birth to the Wye River Memorandum, which died in infancy. In 2000 he was a senior partner to the reverberating failure of American diplomacy in Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. And here he is again, this time as U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy responsible for prolonging the death throes of the terminally ill patient known as the peace process.

Before Dennis Ross' comeback, our acquaintance managed to write a new book (together with David Makovsky ) called "Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East."

It would be tough to find a bigger expert than Ross on the myths and illusions related to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. For years he has been nurturing the myth that if the United States would only meet his exact specifications, the Israeli right would offer the Arabs extensive concessions.

During the years he headed the American peace team, Israeli settlement construction ramped up. Now Ross, the former chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute, is trying to convince the Palestinians to give up on bringing Palestinian independence for a vote in the United Nations in September and recognize the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people - in other words, as his country, though he was born in San Francisco, more than that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was born in Safed.

If they give up on the UN vote, Ross argues, then Netanyahu will be so kind as to negotiate a final-status agreement with them. Has anyone heard anything recently about a construction freeze in the settlements?

Ross is trying to peddle the illusion that the most right-wing government Israel has ever seen will abandon the strategy of eradicating the Oslo approach in favor of fulfilling the hated agreement. In an effort to save his latest boss from choosing between recognizing a Palestinian state at the risk of clashing with the Jewish community and voting against recognition at the risk of damaging U.S. standing in the Arab world, Ross is trying to drag the Palestinians back into the "peace process" trap.

If Obama really intended to justify his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, he would not have left the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hands of this whiz at the never-ending management of the conflict.

Let us hope that the Palestinians are not tempted to give up on the UN vote in favor of the appearance of negotiations, which will serve to further prolong settlement expansion under the cover of the Oslo Accords. All we need is to recall the statement by Netanyahu, in which he was recorded telling settlers in Ofra in 2001 that he had previously extorted from the Americans a commitment that he would be the one to determine what qualifies as the "defined military sites" in the territories that will remain under Israeli control.

Netanyahu said that from his perspective the entire Jordan Valley qualifies. "Why is this important?" he asked. "Because from that moment I put a halt to the Oslo Accords."

As for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Palestinians need to trap him with his own words; he had previously threatened that if the United Nations recognizes a Palestinian state, Israel will annul the Oslo Accords.

If I were in Abbas' place, I would tell Dennis Ross that he should tell his president to forget about negotiations without recognition in writing from Netanyahu stating that the permanent borders will be based on the 1967 lines with agreed-upon changes and committing to a total freeze of settlement construction during negotiations and a set timetable for withdrawal from the territories.

You don't want Oslo? Fine, we don't need it. No more "Palestinian Authority"; no more Area A, B or C (a division that has in effect created a Land of the Settlers on 60 percent of the territory ); no more "peace process."

Restore military rule in the West Bank. At the same time, you can reoccupy Gaza and go back to Gush Katif.

According to the Oslo Accords, the final-status agreement was supposed to have been decided upon 13 years ago - meaning that we would be celebrating its bar mitzvah this year. On September 13, the accords themselves will be turning 18, the number signifying life in the Jewish mystical tradition. The time has come to put the Oslo Accords out of their misery.







First, let me say this: As a descendant of one of the Sons of Noah who has violated all manners of prohibitions, I am doomed to any number of odd and sundry deaths. The choice offered to those of my ilk is one of the following three: death by sword, death by stoning or death by strangulation. In his "Law of Kings," Moses Maimonides (the Rambam ) specifies that for violating the Noahide laws I am sentenced to death by the sword, unless I have sex with a Jewish maiden who is engaged to be married, in which case I shall be stoned to death; alternatively, if she is already married, then I am to be strangled to death.

I am addressing this matter in light of the tempest over the detention for police questioning of the recalcitrant Rabbi Dov Lior, who did not report for an interview despite repeated supplications from law enforcement authorities.

I don't understand what all the fuss is about. None of the racist things attributed to one rabbi or another, or one Muslim sheikh or another, are new. Anyone who looks at the laws of the monotheistic religions can easily determine the root of the problem. Monotheists not only like to enter the bedrooms of others; they not only stuff themselves into other's guts in an endless search for something that made its way there without permission; they not only put veils, burkas or headscarves on their pious women, who pray for children - monotheists from all their religions and all their sects love to spill blood, lots of blood. This must be said. The naked truth must be told.

There are some good-intentioned, if entirely naive, souls who are quick to quote verses such as "Love your neighbor as yourself." They seek to coat the bitter pill by presenting some positive side of religion. But they forget that "your neighbor" refers solely to another Jew. The verse (Leviticus 19:18 ) commands: "Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." In his explication of the verse Rambam specifies that this applies to all members of the House of Israel who follow the Torah and its commandments, and that it is a mitzvah to hate anyone who does not accept the Torah.

Not to mention "Haviv adam shenivra b'tzelem" ("Beloved is man who is created in the image" ), which is cited incessantly as supposed proof of humanity of any kind in humanism in general and in Judaism in particular. Here, too, the reference is to Jews only. According to the sages, only Israel, Jews, are called "adam," "and not the nations of the world." Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook ("Haro'eh ), providing a persuasive explanation to his flock: "The difference between the Israeli soul, its independence, its inner yearning, its aspiration, its characteristics and disposition, and the soul of all the other nations, is greater and deeper than the difference between the soul of a human being and the soul of a beast." What could we possibly add to these warm sentiments?

All the greatest experts in halakha (Jewish law ) follow this concept. For the sake of example, here's the explanation of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel (the Maharal ): "The perfection of creation, which relates to the human in particular, applies to Israel and not to the nations." He added that the gradation of Israel in comparison to the other nations is comparable to the gradation of the human being in comparison to non-speaking animals.

If this is the situation, then why are so many politicians and self-declared defenders of the law picking on the respected rabbi of the national religious movement? The "enlightened" rabbi did not invent the wheel, after all. He only hung the monotheistic dirty laundry out in public. The populist politicians show off their dirty clothes in their media-blanketed appearances at every available opportunity (see under: Jewish democracy ), and in their eyes the rabbi is guilty of slander.

It must be said, clearly and unequivocally: The moral impurity resides in the benighted teachings of monotheism. Until everyone with the pretense of being cultured recognizes this, in this region and throughout the world, there will be no light at the end of the tunnel.







Britain has millions of Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, atheist and Republican citizens, but none of them suggests changing the British anthem, which begins with the words, "God Save the Queen," and encompasses not only the sovereign of the entire world, but also the queen who heads of the Anglican Church of England.

In France, there are millions of Catholic and Royalist citizens who believe that the French Revolution and the terror it brought - the execution of King Louis XVI and thousands of others - were unforgiveable crimes. But none of them demands changing the anthem, "La Marseillaise," a violent and bloodthirsty Republican song that served as the battle cry of the post-Revolution French army when it invaded neighboring countries. "Do you hear the roar of those ferocious soldiers coming to slit the throats of your sons and companions ... Let's march so that [your] tainted blood will water our fields," the French sing.

When it comes to the issue of the national anthem, perhaps it would be wise to learn a thing or two from the way it is treated by those two shining examples of Western democracy.

The powers-that-be at the law faculty of the University of Haifa, who decided not to play "Hatikva" at the graduation ceremony last week, on the grounds that it is a "Zionist anthem," are ignoring a simple fact: The origins of "Hatikva" are of course Zionist, but today, it is the national anthem of the State of Israel. "Hatikva" is not a "Zionist anthem": It is Israel's anthem - just like the British anthem, which was born out of the historical hegemony of the Anglican state-church, is today the anthem of Britain; and just like "La Marseillaise," which was conceived in the victory of the Republicans in 1789, is France's anthem today.

One would expect law professors to understand the significance of this distinction.

One can certainly understand that it is difficult for an Arab Israeli citizen to identify with "the yearning Jewish spirit," just as one can understand the problem a British atheist may have with respect to the Royalist-religious anthem of his country, or one can identify with the distress of a Catholic-Royalist French citizen in light of his country's blatantly Republican anthem. But this is the nature of state symbols, which come to express the beliefs of the majority in a democratic state.

I don't know what a Muslim or Orthodox Jew does today in Britain upon hearing the anthem and recalling its religious significance. In all likelihood, they stand at attention out of respect for the symbol of the state of which they are citizens and in whose army they may even have served - just as in the past.

I am not aware of Jews or Muslims who have asked any British public body whatsoever not to play the anthem as it "hurts their feelings." I am willing to understand those who will suggest changing the anthem's words, and perhaps even the flag and state crest, and maybe even the name of their country, somewhere down the line - so as to bring them in line with the will of this or that minority. This, of course, would be their right. Although I do not believe that this minority position would be accepted.

It is a shame that there are individuals at the University of Haifa who are leading themselves down a path that is reminiscent of that of Neturei Karta. Democracy demands a fine balance between the majority and the rights of the minority, and Israel has failed to find this proper balance in many aspects of life. But one must remember that rights are not only for the minority, but for the majority, too - and certainly when it comes to the level of symbolism.







At the University of Haifa's Law Faculty, participants at this year's graduation ceremony did not sing "Hatikva." The same thing happened at some ceremonies in past years. Other academic institutions in Israel staged graduation ceremonies without singing the anthem. This time, however, a controversy flared. Public discourse in Israel has changed the rules.

Whoever thinks this is about a post-Zionist act to omit the national anthem does not know what he or she is talking about. Ceremony organizers chose to close the event on a light note, and decided that the anthem would not suit the tone. As background to this decision, there was also a civil-humanitarian calculation: Arab students (18% of the faculty's student population ) and their family members do not need to stand up and pay homage to "a Jewish heart, still yearns" on a day of celebration, during an event whose essence is professional-social, not national. Needless to say, the faculty would never consider omitting the anthem during Holocaust Day and Independence Day ceremonies.

Not all faculty members supported the decision. Some students also protested. The faculty, these critics complained, brought harm to the sensibilities of the Jewish majority. Their appeal stimulated an impressive, respectable discussion between students and lecturers, one which continues. Yet beyond the walls of the faculty were some occurrences that cause despair.

The Im Tirtzu movement demanded that the dean, Prof. Niva Elkin-Koren, apologize in public. Im Tirtzu operates in a Jesuit fashion: Its method of denunciation and delegitimization, of suppressing freedom of expression, is antithetical to the spirit of Herzliyan Zionism. Meanwhile, in newspapers and on the internet there was a flood of castigation and just a few drops of fair-minded discussion.

This witch-hunt season is directed not only against real or imagined "anti-Zionists," but also against persons believed to be substandard Zionists. It is waged against those who sing the anthem in too low a voice, and against those who have not ironed the flag of Israel that flies from the porch. How strange it is that precisely those who demand that no concession be made of the land of the patriarchs are so willingly precipitous when it comes to giving up on entire sections of Israel society, and to transform them from fellow citizens and comrades to traitors slated for expulsion.

Regrettably, I believe, the University of Haifa's administration hastily issued a sweeping denunciation of the law faculty, without trying to speak to its heads. To my surprise, the university's administration prohibited the faculty's dean from giving interviews. Yet strangest is the difference in the formulation of the official announcement, as tailored for local consumption and for overseas. The Hebrew statement referred to the University of Haifa as a "Zionist university in a Jewish, democratic state." The English version of this statement was more circumspect, and referred to a university in the "Jewish-democratic state of Israel." Who is the bad adviser who reasoned that nobody would notice such internal self-censorship?

The university is a strange historical creature: It is always part of civic culture, sometimes it is funded publicly, never is it subordinate to the government. A university's connection to the nation, to a city and to a culture is conceivable, as a supplement to its primary commitment to the universal search for truth. Yet a university cannot take on an ideological hue, even if the ideology in question constituted the driving force in a people's rebirth. Thus I myself, as a Zionist, do not want to teach at a "Zionist university." For me it suffices to teach proudly at an Israeli university, in a Jewish, democratic state in the Hebrew language.

In my eyes, Hatikva is the most moving, personal and delicate anthem that any state in the world has chosen as its own. When it gets taken out of the sphere of rhetorical escalation, we can go back and discuss its place. We can clarify whether Arab citizens of Israel ought to be provided with a version of the anthem they can be proud of, and which reflects the yearning of their hearts. We can designate the ceremonies in which the playing of the anthem ought to be obligatory, and identify events where its singing could be voluntary. Yet such a discussion is less urgent than the burning need to deal with the violence, rank insensitivity and cowardice that erodes public discourse in Israel today.








ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News


Prime Minister Erdoğan's meeting with US senators McCain, Lieberman and Graham might be a step to a turning point in Israeli-Palestinian talks

Only Turkey can convince the Palestinian organization Hamas to join in peace talks with Israel, three U.S. senators told the prime minister over the weekend, according to well-placed sources.

In response, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham that if Hamas was "encouraged" to participate in Palestinian peace talks, then Turkey "would do its best" to convince the organization to sit at the negotiating table, according to sources.

The senators visited Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodğan on Friday to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Well-placed sources told the Hürriyet Daily News that the senators asked Erdoğan about the Israeli-Palestinian situation and he told them that peace would be nearly impossible without Hamas involved in the talks. They told Erdoğan that with its rising prestige on the Arab street, Turkey could perhaps be the only country that able to bring Hamas to the table, according to the sources.

A group of ranking members of the United States Senate told Turkish Prime Minister in a meeting in Ankara last week that only Turkey could convince Palestinian organization Hamas to sit for peace talks with Israel, well-placed sources told the Hürriyet Daily News over the weekend.

Erdoğan's answer to the U.S. senators, according to the same sources, was that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, was "encouraged" to take part in the peace talks and that "Turkey would do its best" to convince the organization.

The sources were speaking on condition of anonymity, but according to what the HDN has learned, the Israeli-Palestinian issue came up during the visit of U.S. Senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham to the Turkish PM as follows: When Turkey's possible contribution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian talks was asked about, Erdoğan told the senators that it was practically impossible to have peace without Hamas sitting at the negotiation table. The senators then told Erdoğan that Turkey has a rising prestige on the Arab street and perhaps is the only actor that can convince Hamas to recognize the existence of Israel and to accept the result of peace negotiations. In answer to that, Erdoğan said that if Hamas was "encouraged" to have a place at the table, then Turkey could do its best to convince the organization to join the peace talks.

Erdoğan also told the senators he was planning to visit Egypt soon and said his visit could be extended to Palestine; implying the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Senator McCain told journalists after the Friday meeting with Erdoğan that they discussed "Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, developments in Libya and Syria, as well as Turkish-U.S. relations."

Senator Graham was more open to say that he "hoped Turkey could play a role in a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute," adding that Erdoğan was "the most impressive spokesperson in the region."

The HDN learned from diplomatic sources that there was a plan to visit Egypt on July 21 with a contingency plan to drive to Gaza through the Rafah border gate, but Erdoğan himself had put a hold on that visit for now. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, on the other hand, flew to Egypt - on his way to Libya - on Saturday to have talks there on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Davutoğlu had separate talks with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Masha, who paid a visit to Turkey after the June 12 elections.

The main reason for Erdoğan's postponement of the visit was the uncertainties over the flotilla crisis, in which Israeli soldiers killed nine Turks on board the Mavi Marmara ship carrying aid to Gaza under an Israeli blockade last year.

Erdoğan, according to sources, told the senators that Turkey's demands from Israel about an apology, compensation for the losses and lifting of the blockade on Gaza still remain to be fulfilled. The Mavi Marmara, under the control of the Turkey-origin religious-based humanitarian aid organization İHH, was excluded from a second flotilla this year, reportedly after indirect recommendations from Turkish government officials. That move decreased tensions a bit and then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter to Erdoğan, congratulating his victory in the June 12 elections.

According to one source, diplomats have been working like linguists to find a word that "would sound like an open apology in Turkish," but "not that so in Hebrew," in order to overcome the crisis and ensure Turkey's active contribution to bring Hamas to the peace table.







Here we go again. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a United Nations-backed body investigating the killing of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, has accused four people of his murder. They all belong to Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shiite movement that Israel and the United States define as terrorist. But they are probably not guilty.

Special tribunals of this sort have no intelligence agents of their own. In practice, they rely heavily on information supplied to them by national intelligence services that they trust. But they are judges, lawyers and other unworldly types, and they don't seem to understand that there is no such thing as a trustworthy intelligence service. Immediately after the explosion that killed Rafiq Hariri and 22 other people in Beirut in 2005, Western and Israeli intelligence services said that the Syrian government was behind it, and that the Iranians were behind them. Well, of course. The main aim of the US and Israel at that time was to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon, where they had been stationed since shortly after the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975. Four Lebanese generals accused of working for Syria were arrested. The non-violent "Cedar Revolution" broke out, demanding an end to Syrian meddling in Lebanese politics and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country. And in the end the Syrians left and a pro-Western government took power: mission accomplished. But there was actually no evidence against the four Lebanese generals, and as one of its first acts the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, created in 2009, ordered their release. So who had organised the killing of Hariri, then? Well, accusing the Syrians had worked pretty well for the Western intelligence agencies. So maybe they decided to blame Hezbollah now, and see if that worked too. During the last Israeli attack on Lebanon, in 2006, Hezbollah fought the Israeli army to a stand-still in southern Lebanon. But its leadership has always been intelligent and subtle, and the notion that it would let itself become a tool for some ham-fisted Syrian operation to kill the Lebanese prime minister seems simply unbelievable to most Lebanese. The judges of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon were persuaded by evidence that Western intelligence services pointed them towards, particularly about mobile phone calls allegedly made by Hezbollah officials. So arrest warrants have now been issued for Mustafa Badreddin, Hezbollah's chief operations officer, and three other Hezbollah officials. They probably had nothing to do with Hariri's assassination. It's more likely that they are being framed by Western intelligence agencies because Hezbollah is seen as a serious threat to Israel. If this sounds paranoid, consider the case of the Lockerbie bombing. The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 killed 270 people, most of them American. At first US intelligence blamed Iran, claiming that it used an Arab terrorist group based in Syria to carry out the operation. So Syria was under pressure too – but then in 1990 Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, and Washington needed the Syrians as allies in the war to liberate it. Suddenly the whole Iran-Syria case was abandoned, and the new suspect was Libya. Libya under Muammar Gadhafi was an enemy of the West, so new evidence was found linking Libyan intelligence agents to the attack. Gadhafi was brought to heel, and one Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was tried by an international court and sentenced to life in prison. Alas, the new "evidence" was then gradually discredited as key "witnesses" turned out to be incredible. In 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission announced that it would refer al-Megrahi's case to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh because he "may have suffered a miscarriage of justice." To avoid all this coming out into the open in a new trial, al-Megrahi was released in 2009 and sent home on the grounds that he was a dying man who wouldn't last three months. (He's still alive.) If Western intelligence agencies played this kind of game over the Lockerbie bombing, what's to stop them from doing the same over the murder of Hariri? And why would they want to do that? Because Hebollah and its Christian and Druze allies now dominate the Lebanese government, and are seen as a threat to Israeli and American interests. The Middle East runs almost entirely on conspiracy theories, most of them ridiculously implausible. But some of them are real.

Lebanon: Another Frame-up?







 "Do not worry. Your friends in Europe will eventually find a solution for your country. They have to, otherwise the crisis will undermine the whole system of the Eurozone," said Sociology professor Savvas Katsikides from the University of Cyprus, a known scholar on European Union, or EU, affairs. "It is the sociological aspect of the Greek crisis that I am more concerned about," he added. The conversation took place over breakfast at a hotel in Brussels at the end of an interesting youth conference on "Turkey on the doorstep of Europe" hosted by the Cypriot MEP Eleni Theocharous and participated by Turkish, Greek Cypriot and Greek politicians and scholars, as well as students from Turkey, Greek Cyprus, and Brazil. The former Foreign Minister and Justice and Development Party deputy Yaşar Yakış and the former Republican People Party, or CHP, deputy chairman Onur Öymen were the main political speakers on behalf of Turkey. They both claimed that at a moment of a deep economic and structural crisis in the EU, the entry of Turkey as a full member could give the kiss of life for a Europe that has lost its dominant role in world political and economic affairs. But however interesting and challenging our meeting in Brussels was, it was obvious to me that neither the Cyprus issue nor Turkey and its problematic relationship with the EU, was at the center of the attention in Brussels this time. The worrying developments evolving at that "remote tip of the Balkan peninsula" had suddenly brought the very idea of the European political and economic integration to question. In a highly politicized society as the Greek society, this serious economic crisis is now developing into a deeper existential crisis, which shakes the very foundations of the perception that Greeks had of themselves as a nation state and their position in the family of the European democratic nations. One of such certainties which had been formed since the Greek rebellion against the Ottomans in the 19th century was that the Philhellenism legacy would keep Greece at a respected place among the Europeans as the "nation who invented democracy". The threat that Greece's economic crisis poses in the whole Eurozone structure is fast eroding this concept. In fact, looking more carefully, behind the public statements of support "to our friends, the Greeks", the attitude of the powerful European member states towards a "misbehaving, corrupt and unruly Greece" has brought to the surface a new intellectual fashion of anti-Hellenism, quite the opposite to what brought so many Western Europeans to fight on the side of the Greek rebels against the Ottoman rulers. The new intellectual trend, which creates a new series of stereotypes among the western populist media, places on the shoulders of Greece – and notably to a much lesser extent on those or Ireland of Portugal – the blame for an obvious systemic weakness. In the words of the eminent Greek historian Prof. Antonis Liakos, "We are witnessing the revival of an internal orientalism, the rise of new nationalist populism in all the European countries, even the ones in the north who were known for their democracy and tolerance." It may be too far stretched for an idea, but my recent visit to the EU capital, showed me that there are now curious similarities between the way the Western Europeans view Greece and Turkey, albeit for different forms of misbehavior. As if these two countries possess an inherent systemic inability to adjust to the European standards; even if the context of these standards is increasingly becoming obscure against the forces of the market.






We tend to believe that in the rest of the world it is not as important as it is in the people of the "eastern" cultures. That is a big lie. Semantics and symbolism do matter throughout the world irrespective of what language is spoken or what meanings might be attributed to the same symbols. Meanings, of course, do change depending on time, society that is according to conjectural or circumstantial factors. But, the word and the symbol transcend time and generations.

There are people, for example, who prefer to reject something saying "Yes, but..." while there are some who prefer to be more frank and simply say "No, but…" Interesting enough, while in essence both those two politicians indeed rejected what was offered to them, one becomes "Mr No" because he said "no" with a "privative" mindset while the other becomes the "constructive statesman" just because he said no with an "affirmative" standing.

While particularly after Nazi Germany the Swastika symbol, which is believed to have emanated from the Indian culture, has become synonymous with evil, death, suffering and even holocaust, for most part of its over 4000 years history. That symbol, if its arms are placed clockwise, was synonymous with success, good luck and indeed source of life. The same symbol used in one culture as source of life and the same symbol transforms into a very sad meaning in another time frame because of the tragedy lived under the flag it was decorating…

Semantics is important

For some time Turkey and Israel have been conducting discreet talks – that somehow everyone knows a lot about what's being discussed. Of course the subject of those discussions has been the Turkish demand for Israel officially apologizing for the May 31, 2010 ambush of Israeli navy in international waters of an international humanitarian assistance flotilla bound for the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip and agreeing to pay compensation for the Turkish relatives of the victims murdered in that raid.

Apparently in talks carried at various levels and in many places, including Ankara, Israel agreed at least three times over the past weeks to apologize and to pay compensation. But when it came for a political decision the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vary of the probability of his shaky coalition with the far-right Avigdor Lieberman collapse, hesitated to walk the last step and suggested to express his deep regret over what has happened and issue a special statement expressing plainly that he was sorry with the lives lost while Israeli troops were undertaking their legitimate duty of safeguarding Israel and Israelis.

That was not of course what either Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon discussed in Geneva or what Özdem Sanberk and Yosef Ciechanover , the Turkish and Israeli representatives at the UN panel probing the May 31 attack, have been talking over as they try to soften conclusions of the so-called Palmer report.

Apology or regret… Semantics does matter particularly if in the case of Israel it will be the first time the Jewish state will have to accept it did something so wrong that it could not evade a first-ever public apology, besides paying compensation to the victims.

And, for Ankara, of course, semantics does matter as well and obviously there is a difference between an Israeli apology and an expression of deep regret. Turkey will not settle for anything less than a qualified apology from Israel over murder of its nine citizens in an act of piracy by Israel in high seas of the Mediterranean.





Growing unrest in Syria is increasingly spilling over the border into Turkey. So far 12,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey, and with a crackdown on the way in Idlib near the border, thousands more could be heading that way.

Ankara has expressed outrage at the situation, calling the Syrian regime's oppression of civilians a "savagery." It has also said it might set up a buffer zone inside Syria to manage the flow of refugees on the Syrian side of the international line.

Wait, could Turkish troops actually enter Syria, without seeking Damascus' permission first, and set up shop there?

You bet. To start with, the Turks are restless, for they are now stuck between a rock and a hard place. The first instinct of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government in Ankara in reacting to the unrest in Syria is to avoid conflict and try to maintain good relations with Damascus. Since coming to power in 2002, the AKP has put in place a "zero problems with neighbors" policy, which included promoting rapprochement with Syria, and subsequently becoming one of Damascus' best friends.

However, as the Syrian crisis threatens to spill over into Turkey, the "zero problems" policy may not be sustainable. If unrest moves into Aleppo, a Syrian city with 3 million inhabitants located only 26 miles from the Turkish border, there could be a massive wave of refugees into Turkey. And do not forget the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. This group, which has launched destructive terrorist attacks in Turkey, is well organized in the ethnically Kurdish areas of northern Syria along the Turkish border, including Azez. The Syrian membership of the PKK also represents the group's hard-line, violence-is-the-best-policy branch. A flow of Syrian refugees into Turkey would mean at least a few undetected hard-line PKK members slipping across the border, which is something that Ankara does not want. Ankara's first reaction to the spiraling violence in Syria will be to contain the crisis in Syria. This would also help Turkey maintain the growing soft power it has painstakingly built in the Arab world since the AKP rose to power in 2002. So, expect Turkey to avoid direct military intervention to the extent possible. Instead, expect Ankara be serious about its proposal to set up a buffer zone inside Syria, in which the Turkish government and military would provide the Syrian citizens with security and relief. This happened once before in 1991 when during the Gulf War, Saddam unleashed violence on Iraq's Kurdish population in the north. Around 1.5 million Iraqi Kurds fled towards Turkey. Ankara set up a buffer zone inside Iraq to contain the flow of refugees. In April 1991, following these efforts, the United States began Operation "Provide Comfort," which set up bases to deliver humanitarian aid to refugees from inside southern Turkey, and sent a U.S.-led coalition force into northern Iraq to establish a de-militarized zone and construct resettlement areas. In July, Operation Provide Comfort II began, which served mainly to protect the Kurds from Iraqi attacks. Ankara might pursue at least the first, Turkish-led part of this model again so that the refugee problem does not end up in its lap.

But there is always a chance that Syria might turn out to be worse than Iraq. Should the Assad regime carry out massacres in large cities such as Aleppo – certainly a possibility, given that Assad's father bombed downtown Hama in 1982, killing at least 10,000 to crush an uprising there – the AKP might find Turkish public sympathies for the persecuted fellow Muslims next door too unbearable to ignore. Genocidal massacres in Syria, coupled with the breakdown of law and order, would make Turkish intervention almost unavoidable. So, a Turkish buffer zone inside Syria might well be Turkey's best option to avoid a direct military intervention for humanitarian reasons, but only so long as Assad does not turn genocidal on his own people.





During the first years of the Kennedy era some institutions in the U.S. announced that per capita income in the Soviet Union would catch up with America's figure just in a couple of years. That was a time that most of the American people were demoralized because of the bad news following each other. Yuri Gagarin, became the first man in space, general secretary of the communist party of the Soviet Union Mr. Khrushchev banged his shoe on top of the table in front of him in the UN and was shouting "we bury you" (he meant the American people), and in addition a double Cuban crises created tremors in domestic and international politics.

There were so many conspiracy theories flying in the air. The most famous of them was that the CIA spread that per capita income estimation on purpose to convince the Congress to get more funds from the budget. After it was understood that it was a false alarm. Now the OECD announced that in 2015 the Chinese gross domestic product will surpass America's figure in purchasing power parity term and China will become the world's biggest economy. In spite of President Obama's recent encouraging remarks on the U.S. economy, according to a Gallup poll, most of the American people think that China is the world's leading economy. In addition, Standard and Poor warned that U.S. credit rating is in jeopardy because of huge public debt, which is now by European standards 92 percent of the gross domestic product; and budget deficit to the GDP is also 10.6 percent. These two indicators are as bad as some troubled European economies' figures. Are Americans uneasy because of this dreadful (!) news?

But simple people generally are not aware of a country's serious macro- economic problems which might create problems in the long run but not in the short. However people already have some short term problems such as unemployment, slow growth and rising prices. There is a slowdown in GDP growth which forced the FED to cut its yearly growth rate estimation from 3.4 percent to between 3.1-3.3 percent. And it is now estimated that yearly average productivity growth will be 1.5 percent in the coming decade – down from 2 percent in the previous two.

Even after the American people are aware about all these pessimistic projections, if they are asked where they wish to live in 2015; the answer will obviously be the U.S. Does it mean that even China becomes the biggest economy and will keep this position during the coming decades, will the U.S. be the better place to live for the American people? The answer to this question is positive. This does not mean that the Chinese endeavour and success are underestimated by the American people. There are other very important facts, such as democracy, freedom and human rights, besides the size of the economy, which shape the quality of life. The contribution of those facts guarantied the sustainability of rapid growth and development together. Another fact is that compared with some European countries' troubles, the economic problems of the U.S. seem more serious. Europe was once very attractive for some Americans, especially for intellectual elite. Nowadays a lot of things changed and troubled Europe is losing slowly her appeal. The reason might be the lack of old-style powerful leaders such as President Charles de Gaulle, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Margaret Thatcher.



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



If you thought the do-it-yourself anti-immigrant schemes couldn't get any more repellent, you were wrong. New laws in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina are following — and in some ways outdoing — Arizona's attempt to engineer the mass expulsion of the undocumented, no matter the damage to the Constitution, public safety, local economies and immigrant families.

The laws vary in their details but share a common strategy: to make it impossible for people without papers to live without fear.

They give new powers to local police untrained in immigration law. They force businesses to purge work forces and schools to check students' immigration status. And they greatly increase the danger of unreasonable searches, false arrests, racial profiling and other abuses, not just against immigrants, but anyone who may look like some officer's idea of an illegal immigrant.

The laws empower local police officers to demand the documents of people they meet, and to detain those they suspect are here illegally. That means they can make warrantless arrests for assumed civil immigration violations, a stunning abuse of power.

The laws also make it illegal to give a ride to the undocumented, so a son could land in jail for driving his mother to the supermarket, or a church volunteer for ferrying families to a soup kitchen. They require businesses to check employees against the error-plagued federal E-Verify database, and to fire those who are flagged as unauthorized. Once the purge takes hold in agriculture, there will be no one left to pick onions, peaches and cotton. The immigrant labor shortage is already being felt in Georgia, where crops are rotting and the governor has called for using jobless ex-convicts in the fields.

Alabama's law is the most extreme. It forces public school districts to determine the immigration status of students and their parents and report the data to the state. Alabama still can't bar them from enrolling, since the Supreme Court declared in Plyler v. Doe that all children are entitled to a public education. The state's law seems designed to challenge that ruling, as it turns school officials into de facto immigration agents and impels frightened parents to keep their children home.

It has long been clear that America is suffering for lack of a well-functioning immigration system that better protects workers and families, promotes lawfulness at the border and in the workplace, and gives hardworking people a path to legality.

Congress's inaction has let the states run amok with their own destructive ideas. Supporters insist they are only trying to enforce the law. But trying to catch and deport 11 million people is lunacy. The damage to this country — its citizens and its laws — is enormous.

Civil rights organizations are suing or threatening to sue to block these noxious state laws. So far federal courts have enjoined parts of bad local laws in Arizona, Georgia, Utah and Indiana. President Obama's Department of Justice has sued Arizona but not the other states. It needs to fight harder.






When the New York State Senate legalized same-sex marriage with a simple majority last month, it was a reminder of how unthinkable that would have been in Washington. In the United States Senate, the most routine measures are filibustered and require 60 votes to pass.

Supermajority requirements are not the only way that democracy is routinely bypassed, and Albany has its own underhanded methods for ensuring that a small group of lawmakers can dominate the majority. The majority leader can, for example, decide what comes to a vote and what does not. In the case of same-sex marriage, the Republican leader, Senator Dean Skelos, brought it to a vote and allowed Republicans to vote their consciences.

That doesn't happen nearly often enough. Many of Mr. Skelos's predecessors would have bottled up the bill, or traded it for something. But it is not nearly as bad as the last few years in the United States Senate, where virtually every measure is filibustered.

Any senator can object to a bill, and often kill it, by triggering the 60-vote threshold. Bills that pass are often watered down or seriously compromised to win the last few votes, long after a majority has consented. As noted recently by Matthew Yglesias, a blogger with the Center for American Progress, the supermajority rule has blocked pricing limits on carbon use and the Dream Act for young immigrants, limited the 2009 stimulus bill, and diluted the reform of health care and the financial system — just since the beginning of the Obama administration.

In earlier decades, Southern Democrats used the filibuster to make a stand against civil rights legislation. And in between there have been many talented and qualified presidential nominees whose appointments have never even been considered because one senator blocked them.

The filibuster can usefully prolong debate on the most extreme measures, but its automatic use has left the chamber nearly dysfunctional. Several members proposed a reasonable plan to require senators to actively maintain their filibusters, but the Senate squandered the chance to make that modification earlier this year.

Which brings us back to New York. Considering that many of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's accomplishments this term were built on simple-majority votes, it was galling that his tax-cap legislation requires a 60 percent vote in school districts and other jurisdictions to increase property taxes. Supermajority requirements allow small groups of people to exert undue influence.





As the United Nations has said, access to the Internet is a human right. A report by the U.N.'s special rapporteur presented last month to the Human Rights Council in Geneva warns that this right is being threatened by governments around the world — democracies included.

The main concern is about oppressive regimes trying to squash political dissent — like China, which jails bloggers, blocks Web sites and filters the Internet to eradicate words, including "democracy," from the conversation.

The report also warned against overzealous attempts by democratic states to control or censor online communications. Stopping infringement of intellectual property or the distribution of child pornography is legitimate. But governments must protect citizens' rights to speak freely — anonymously when necessary.

In Italy, a court convicted Google executives because a user uploaded a video on YouTube depicting cruelty to a disabled teenager, even though Google quickly removed the offending content. Brazil's Congress is debating legislation that would require Internet service providers to keep a log of customers' online activity for three years, which authorities could access without a court order to pursue crimes such as calumny.

The French and British parliaments have passed draconian laws that would ban users from the Internet for illegally downloading copyrighted material. The United States Senate is considering an intellectual property bill that would allow the government or private businesses to take action against a potentially large array of Web sites for "facilitating" piracy, an excessively broad definition.

The U.N. has proposed sound guidelines to defend free expression: censorship of content online must be transparent and enforced only through the courts. Governments should not rely on private entities like service providers to censor content and should not hold them liable for user content. Counterterrorism should not be an excuse to bar expression, unless it is to prevent imminent threats.

With few exceptions, governments should not adopt Internet registries that require users to reveal their identities. And defamation — so often used as a legal tool to repress political speech — should be decriminalized. Finally, nobody should be banned from the Internet. It is a fundamental tool for enabling free speech.





Here we are, high noon in the year 2011 — a little past it, actually. July 2 is the middle day of an ordinary year, but the Fourth will do. How the Fourth feels, time-wise, is a matter of temperament. Does it seem like the last outpost of the first part of the year? Or is it the border crossing into the next province of the calendar? Perhaps we can think of all those fireworks bursting overhead as a way of celebrating the new half-year.

The Fourth-ness of the Fourth feels inevitable now. But the resolution that declared the colonies "free and independent states" was passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2. That might well have been the Independence Day we ended up celebrating. But on the Fourth, we do not celebrate the resolution of freedom. We celebrate the articulation of freedom, the newborn nation's ability to explain its reasoning and its purposes to itself, to Britain and to the world. The vote made independence fact, but the Declaration made it principle.

What is hard now, as a nation that grew up on its language, is to feel how radical a document the Declaration of Independence really is. In one sense, it was merely the next step in a long series of events that prepared the colonies for their breach with Britain. But it was the step that made the breach irrevocable. It helps to think back to the first English settlers landing here in the 17th century, having set sail — so improbably — for a new land. On July 4, 1776, the American colonies set sail as well, the fate of their experiment as uncertain as the fate of those first settlers embarking across the Atlantic.

They were at the beginning, the men and women who first heard the news of independence. We have no idea where we are now — at high noon or somewhere else in this nation's history.

The real point of those fireworks overhead is to let us hear the news again, to remind us that a fresh and unheard-of beginning is at the heart of our very nature.






In 44 states, the future of gay marriage still depends on legislatures, governors and voters — and eventually, perhaps, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. But in New York, as in five states before it, gay marriage's future is in the hands of gay couples themselves.

Over the decades ahead, their choices will gradually transform gay marriage from an idea into a culture: they'll determine the social expectations associated with gay wedlock, the gay marriage and divorce rates, the differences and similarities between gay and lesbian unions, the way marriage interacts with gay parenting, and much more besides.

They'll also help determine gay marriage's impact on the broader culture of matrimony in America.

One possibility is that gay marriage will end up being a force for marital conservatism, among gays and straights alike. In this vision, the norms of heterosexual marriage will be the template for homosexual wedlock. Once equipped with marriage's "entitlements and entanglements," Jonathan Rauch predicted in his book "Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America," "same-sex relationships will continue to move toward both durability and exclusivity." At the same time, the example of gay couples taking vows will strengthen "marriage's status as the gold standard for committed relationships."

At the other end of the spectrum from Rauch's gay conservatism are the liberationists, who hope that gay marriage will help knock marriage off its cultural pedestal altogether. To liberationists, a gay rights movement that ends up reaffirming a "gold standard" for relationships will have failed in its deeper mission — which Columbia law professor Katherine M. Franke recently summarized in a Times Op-Ed article as the quest for "greater freedom than can be found in the one-size-fits-all rules of marriage."

That's the kind of argument that makes social conservatives worry about polygamy (and worse). But liberationism has been gradually marginalized in the gay community over the last two decades, and gay conservatism seems to have largely carried the day. The desire to be included in an existing institution has proved stronger than the desire to eliminate every institutional constraint.

Still, there's a third vision that's worth pondering — neither conservative nor liberationist, but a little bit of both. This vision embraces the institution of marriage, rather than seeking to overthrow it. But it also hints that the example of same-sex unions might partially transform marriage from within, creating greater institutional flexibility — particularly sexual flexibility — for straight and gay spouses alike.

This idea is most prominently associated with Dan Savage, the prolific author, activist and sex columnist who was profiled in Sunday's Times Magazine. Savage is strongly pro-marriage, but he thinks the institution is weighed down by unrealistic cultural expectations about monogamy. Better, he suggests, to define marriage simply as a pact of mutual love and care, and leave all the other rules to be negotiated depending on the couple.

In "The Commitment," his memoir about wedding his longtime boyfriend, Savage described the way his own union has successfully made room for occasional infidelity. "Far from undermining the stable home we've built for our child," he writes, "the controlled way in which we manage our desire for outside sexual contact has made our home more stable."

The trouble is that straight culture already experimented with exactly this kind of model, with disastrous results.

Forty years ago, Savage's perspective temporarily took upper-middle-class America by storm. In the mid-1970s, only 51 percent of well-educated Americans agreed that adultery was always wrong. But far from being strengthened by this outbreak of realism, their marriages went on to dissolve in record numbers.

This trend eventually reversed itself. Heterosexual marriage has had a tough few decades, but its one success story is the declining divorce rate among the upper middle class. This decline, tellingly, has gone hand in hand with steadily rising disapproval of adultery.

There's a lesson here. Institutions tend to be strongest when they make significant moral demands, and weaker when they pre-emptively accommodate themselves to human nature.

Critics of gay marriage see this as one of the great dangers in severing the link between marriage and the two realities — gender difference and procreation — that it originally evolved to address. A successful marital culture depends not only on a general ideal of love and commitment, but on specific promises, exclusions and taboos. And the less specific and more inclusive an institution becomes, the more likely people are to approach it casually, if they enter it at all.

In courts and now legislatures, this has been a losing argument. But as gay New Yorkers ponder what they want their marriages to mean, they should consider one of its implications: The hardest promises to keep are often the ones that keep people together.






Watching the evolution of economic discussion in Washington over the past couple of years has been a disheartening experience. Month by month, the discourse has gotten more primitive; with stunning speed, the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis have been forgotten, and the very ideas that got us into the crisis — regulation is always bad, what's good for the bankers is good for America, tax cuts are the universal elixir — have regained their hold.

And now trickle-down economics — specifically, the idea that anything that increases corporate profits is good for the economy — is making a comeback.

On the face of it, this seems bizarre. Over the last two years profits have soared while employment has remained disastrously high. Why should anyone believe that handing even more money to corporations, no strings attached, would lead to faster job creation?

Nonetheless, trickle-down is clearly on the ascendant — and even some Democrats are buying into it. What am I talking about? Consider first the arguments Republicans are using to defend outrageous tax loopholes. How can people simultaneously demand savage cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and defend special tax breaks favoring hedge fund managers and owners of corporate jets?

Well, here's what a spokesman for Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, told Greg Sargent of The Washington Post: "You can't help the wage earner by taxing the wage payer offering a job." He went on to imply, disingenuously, that the tax breaks at issue mainly help small businesses (they're actually mainly for big corporations). But the basic argument was that anything that leaves more money in the hands of corporations will mean more jobs. That is, it's pure trickle-down.

And then there's the repatriation issue.

U.S. corporations are supposed to pay taxes on the profits of their overseas subsidiaries — but only when those profits are transferred back to the parent company. Now there's a move afoot — driven, of course, by a major lobbying campaign — to offer an amnesty under which companies could move funds back while paying hardly any taxes. And even some Democrats are supporting this idea, claiming that it would create jobs.

As opponents of this plan point out, we've already seen this movie: A similar tax holiday was offered in 2004, with a similar sales pitch. And it was a total failure. Companies did indeed take advantage of the amnesty to move a lot of money back to the United States. But they used that money to pay dividends, pay down debt, buy up other companies, buy back their own stock — pretty much everything except increasing investment and creating jobs. Indeed, there's no evidence that the 2004 tax holiday did anything at all to stimulate the economy.

What the tax holiday did do, however, was give big corporations a chance to avoid paying taxes, because they would eventually have repatriated, and paid taxes on, much of the money they brought in under the amnesty. And it also gave these companies an incentive to move even more jobs overseas, since they now know that there's a good chance that they'll be able to bring overseas profits home nearly tax-free under future amnesties.

Yet as I said, there's a push for a repeat of this disastrous performance. And this time around the circumstances are even worse. Think about it: How can anyone imagine that lack of corporate cash is what's holding back recovery in America right now? After all, it's widely understood that corporations are already sitting on large amounts of cash that they aren't investing in their own businesses.

In fact, that idle cash has become a major conservative talking point, with right-wingers claiming that businesses are failing to invest because of political uncertainty. That's almost surely false: the evidence strongly says that the real reason businesses are sitting on cash is lack of consumer demand. In any case, if corporations already have plenty of cash they're not using, why would giving them a tax break that adds to this pile of cash do anything to accelerate recovery?

It wouldn't, of course; claims that a corporate tax holiday would create jobs, or that ending the tax break for corporate jets would destroy jobs, are nonsense.

So here's what you should answer to anyone defending big giveaways to corporations: Lack of corporate cash is not the problem facing America. Big business already has the money it needs to expand; what it lacks is a reason to expand with consumers still on the ropes and the government slashing spending.

What our economy needs is direct job creation by the government and mortgage-debt relief for stressed consumers. What it very much does not need is a transfer of billions of dollars to corporations that have no intention of hiring anyone except more lobbyists.






New Haven

FAMILY law reform is gaining momentum in New York State: last month lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage, while last year they adopted no-fault divorce, allowing couples to end a marriage without a demonstration of wrongdoing. In separate legislation adopted at the same time, New York also became one of the few states to adopt a formula for setting certain alimony awards, making them fairer and predictable. The rest of the country should do the same.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, former spouses pay around $9 billion in alimony each year. The amounts and payment schedules are usually decided by family court judges using a list of factors, including the length of the marriage, the ages and health of the spouses, their financial situations, their earning potential and their contributions to the marriage, financial and otherwise.

These criteria are sensible enough. But judges are on their own in deciding how to prioritize the various factors and how to translate them into dollar amounts, resulting in wildly inconsistent alimony awards. When asked how much alimony a lifelong homemaker married to a doctor deserved, judges in an Ohio survey estimated as little as $5,000 a year and as much as $175,000.

The unpredictability of alimony rules imposes several costs. Negotiating a settlement deal is much harder when spouses have no idea what they'll end up with if they take their chances in court. Litigation drags on and the bills pile up when lawyers and experts have to prove their clients deserve any alimony at all.

All the while, the emotional costs mount as people awaiting divorce continue in unhappy marriages; some stay married indefinitely because they don't know if divorce will leave them with enough money to make it on their own. That's particularly troubling in cases of domestic violence: some wives endure years of abuse because they can't be sure husbands who control the family finances will be required to give them the money they need to live if they leave.

New York's law minimizes these costs by establishing a mathematical formula to calculate temporary alimony, which one spouse pays the other while the divorce is pending; it also allows judges to adjust those awards up or down under special circumstances.

Under the formula, alimony is set at 30 percent of the higher-earning spouse's income, minus 20 percent of the lower-earning spouse's, as long as the recipient doesn't end up with more than 40 percent of the couple's combined income. For example, a banker making $500,000 a year married to a writer earning $50,000 could expect to pay around $140,000 a year.

Along with New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado have also switched to numerical guidelines. But these apply only to temporary alimony, which ends once a divorce is finalized; no state has applied a formula to ordinary alimony, which is paid for months or years following a divorce.

There is no reason they, and the rest of the country, shouldn't go all the way: the group that created the formula adopted by the Legislature, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, intended it to be used for all alimony awards.

Moreover, several local bar associations and family law organizations have come up with their own, slightly different, formulas for permanent alimony, giving state legislatures plenty of models to choose from. And lawmakers, recognizing that no formula will get it right every time, can also allow judicial discretion to modify alimony awards in unusual circumstances.

In fact, judges already have the discretion to rely on formulas if they want. But many are reluctant because state laws tell them to rely on their own judgment; consulting a mathematical formula can thus seem like dereliction of duty.

Maryland has taken the lead in putting this concern to rest. Last year its top court ruled that, even though the state alimony law mandates that judges exercise discretion, it allows them to consult a formula to inform their decisions. That's a big victory: it's a lot harder for judges to make outlandishly large or small alimony awards when parties can point them to an objective standard.

Legislatures should go further and require judges to start with alimony formulas, and then apply discretion. Changing alimony from a gamble to something more predictable would make the judges' jobs a lot easier — and the divorce process a lot fairer.

Alexandra Harwin is a 2011 graduate of Yale Law School.






AMERICA and Indigenous Peoples are now friends.

Christopher Columbus wrote on America's wall: "This IS India, right?"

America has joined the New World network.

America is no longer friends with Indigenous Peoples.

The Pilgrims wrote on America's wall: "Thanks for the add!"

America added tobacco, fur and hardship to Interests.

America invited Boston to an event: "Party THURSDAY! B.Y.O.T!"

America added Great Britain to Kingdoms I Am Fighting With.

America has joined the United States of America network.

Ben Franklin tagged America in a note: "Here's hoping that people in the future refer to this new document whenever they want to justify anything!"

Eli Whitney invented a cotton gin for America's Plantationville.

Plantation owners like this.

African-Americans dislike this.

America added Louisiana to Territories I Have Purchased.

America added "The Star-Spangled Banner" to Favorite Music.

America sent American Indians a gift: "Oklahoma!" (original cast recording).

America listed gold to the Marketplace.

The South has left the United States of America network.

Abraham Lincoln posted on the South's wall: "Can't we all just get along?"

John Wilkes Booth is Maybe Attending "'Our American Cousin' at Ford's Theater": "Anyone have an extra ticket?!"

The South changed privacy setting to accept carpetbaggers.

America and Josef Goldberg, Colin O'Boylan, Giuseppe Moretti and five million other huddled masses are now friends.

America asked a question: "Who is Archduke Franz Ferdinand, exactly?"

America added Half the World to Countries I Think I Am Fighting With.

America added an event: "Party all decade long! B.Y.O. Milk!"

100,000,000 people Not Attending.

America added flappers, jazz, and overspeculation to Interests.

America is feeling depressed.

Soviet Union likes this.

F.D.R. posted a Deal: "New."

America added dust, grape-picking and quasi-socialism to Interests.

Japan tagged America in a photo: "Surprise!"

America was ranked No. 1 by its friends for "Most Superpowerful."

America added the Korean DMZ to Demarcations I Will Not Cross.

America added babies, Chevys and suburban conformity to Interests.

America created the Military-Industrial Complex group.

Soviet Union poked America in Cuba.

America poked Soviet Union in Cuba.

Abraham Zapruder uploaded a video.

African-Americans changed their status with America to "It's Complicated."

America added an event: "Draft Party!"

Half a million lower-income people Attending.

America took a quiz: "What kind of flag burner are you?"

America added turning on, tuning in and dropping out to Interests.

America took a quiz: "What kind of bra burner are you?"

Richard Nixon made a peace emoticon on chat.

America is feeling malaise.

America posted a note "25 Random Things About Me": "1. Sometimes when I wait in line for gas, I siphon the tank from the car in front of me. 2. When I see the people in my carpool, my mood ring turns purple. 3. I have a hugely inflated sense of self-worth... ."

America added pastels, cocaine and mutually assured destruction to Interests.

Ronald Reagan created a page: "People Who Like Trickle-Down Economics."

Half a million upper-income people like this.

America and Osama bin Laden are now friends.

Ronald Reagan wrote graffiti on East Germany's wall: "Tear this down."

America SuperPoked! Soviet Union.

America was ranked No. 1 by its friends for "Most Coca-Cola/Levi's/Michael Jordan/Awesome Cool Hollywood!"

America sent O. J. Simpson a gift: Isotoner gloves.

America sent Monica Lewinsky a gift: Gap dress.

America took a quiz: "What kind of pirated-MP3-burner are you?"

America received 270 electoral requests from George W. Bush.

50.27 percent of America is no longer friends with Florida.

George W. Bush and five people on the Supreme Court are now friends.

America is no longer friends with Osama bin Laden.

America played the game Wild-Goose Chase While Nation-Building.

America added Iraq to Countries I Am Fighting With Alongside Poland.

America posted zero W.M.D. to Marketplace.

America received four trillion easy credits.

America added flat-screen TVs, broadband pornography and overspeculation to Interests.

America changed its status with African-Americans to "Everything's O.K. Now, Right?"

African-Americans changed their status with America to "No, It's Still Complicated."

America is feeling recessed.

America wrote on the globe's wall: "Are you sort of warm, too, or is it just us?"

America posted a link to its Read-for-Free App: "Newspapers, Magazines, Books Dying."

It is Barack Obama's birthday today.

Donald Trump suggested Barack Obama rejoin the Kenya network.

America stopped playing the game Wild-Goose Chase While Nation-Building.

America was ranked No. 1 by its friends for "Most Post-Empire."

America received no new friend requests.

America has joined the China network.

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel "Kapitoil." Mike Sacks is on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair and is the author, most recently, of "Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason." Thomas Ng is a designer.








The government seems bent on sabotaging the investigation into the scam involving the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL). The Supreme Court is just as determined to get to the bottom of the matter. At least for this, we can be glad. A three-member bench hearing the case has ordered that the transfer of Additional DG FIA Zafar Qureshi be immediately cancelled and he be reassigned to the case which the court has noted he was proceeding with very well. It has also asked why officers who exhibit integrity and honesty should be pushed aside from key investigations. The answers are obvious to all of us who have, over the last three years, been following the working of government and its tendency to cover up scandals of various kinds. The NICL scam is obviously a very sensitive one, especially as it involves Moonis Elahi, the son of PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi, whose party is now a key government ally. This would explain the desperation to ensure that the truth does not emerge.

There is also new indication of an intensified clash between the government and the court. Appearing before it, Law Minister Babar Awan told the bench that the prime minister had refused to reappoint Zafar Qureshi, directly going against SC orders first issued in January this year. What this says about the government is quite clear. The court has pointed this out and also noted that more officers like Qureshi are needed. It has warned that his efforts to get to the bottom of the NICL affair must not be impeded, and that he should, in fact, be assisted in these efforts. We must hope that this happens. The danger is that the government will continue along its present path adding to the degree of distrust that exists for it in many quarters, and will with its actions encourage corruption and nepotism in premier investigative organisations such as the FIA that need instead to be encouraged to work with the kind of dedication exhibited by men such as Qureshi. It is a tragedy of our times that he was punished rather than rewarded for his efforts to combat corruption.






The political cauldron bubbling away on the burner that stands below the national scene is becoming fuller as more ingredients are chucked into the boiling pot. It is becoming harder to identify these individually. We have the new PPP-MQM rift, the arrival of the increasingly active PML-Q in the centre of the arena, and the ongoing attempts to forge an opposition alliance which may even bring the PML-N together with the MQM, despite their years of bitter animosity. The JUI-F, which also seems more active than before, meanwhile says it is the PML-N that is holding up an alliance. If one looks back to the chart of parties after the 2008 polls, and where they stood in terms of coalition relationships, it is astonishing to note just how much the situation has changed, within a relatively short period of time.

As things stand now, a strong, united opposition could be beneficial. The government shows no sign of moving back on track and things seem to be worsening in many spheres. Balochistan writhes in agony; in Karachi there has been a fresh wave of killings in various incidents of shooting. We do not yet know if this is in any way linked to the bitter fall-out between the government and the MQM, but the development adds to the potential for unrest in a city that is known to be volatile. There is disquiet on other fronts too. We do not know where the process of devolution will lead and whether it could contribute to more administrative chaos. This is not something to look forward to. Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has already expressed reservation over the way in which the matter was handled. Ties with the US remain under strain, and again, it is hard to know where things are headed. The implications of events on this front are many. What we have cooking up then is a pot brimming over with all kinds of uncertainties. This does nothing to create stability which is vital as far as the economy goes. Without this, the inflation that is crippling people will continue to grow adding to the wave of dissatisfaction sweeping across the country like a tidal wave.







Just a day after the International Cricket Council (ICC) banned its member nations from making political appointments to national cricket boards, the Sri Lankans announced that they accepted the ruling and had disbanded an interim committee appointed by their government to run cricket in the island. But Pakistan, where a gentleman handpicked by the government is running a one-man show, is a different story. What a top Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official told the media after his return early on Saturday morning from Hong Kong which hosted the ICC moot shows the extent of government meddling in our cricket affairs. PCB's Chief Operating Officer Subhan Ahmed made it clear that the Board would decide its course of action on the ICC ruling after discussing the issue with the government. "How we implement this reform will depend on our talks with the government," Ahmed told reporters. However, the writing is on the wall for the PCB bigwigs. The ICC executive board has given cricket boards 12 months to implement free elections and another 12-month grace period before any sanctions would be considered against a member nation.

According to the ICC, the idea behind this move is to free cricket from undue influence and outright government meddling. The reform allows the ICC to suspend a member country in the event of government interference in the running of a national cricket board. Unsurprisingly, the ICC move has been welcomed by people like Imran Khan, the former Pakistan Test captain, who is a staunch critic of the current PCB set-up. Political meddling is certainly spoiling our cricket. PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt has been heavily criticised for his poor policies both at home and abroad. But he continues to weather all sorts of storms because he has the backing of President Zardari who, as the PCB's chief patron, has the powers to hire or fire Board chiefs. Because of such direct political involvement, it is difficult to run Pakistan cricket in a transparent manner. There isn't much accountability either. It is time our government learnt to separate sports from politics.








ittle Sohana was kidnapped from Peshawar's Hashtnagri vicinity on June 19. She was drugged and a suicide jacket was fastened to her body. The nine-year-old was then taken to Darra Islam in Lower Dir and left near the Frontier Corps check post with instructions to detonate the explosives. Instead, the terrified child ran towards the soldiers and, sobbing uncontrollably, told them about her harrowing ordeal. Sohana thus saved not only her own life but also that of many others. The horrifying incident has already faded from public memory but the ideology that prompted such savagery continues to thrive.

At the international conference in Tehran on the "Global Fight Against Terrorism" President Zardari mumbled: "Pakistan supports the idea of a counter narrative to win the battle for hearts and minds. It is only by defeating terrorists on the ideological front that victory can be achieved." Such words have been heard before but nothing substantial has been done in the three years that the PPP-led government has been in power.

As the president rambled on about the need for the ideological conquest of terrorism, he was not even aware of an unprecedented meeting on June 13 of some 300 prominent ulema (religious scholars) at the Nizamia madressah at Eidak in the Mir Ali district of North Waziristan. The participants risked their lives to unanimously declare all forms of terrorism, and in particular suicide attacks, as anathema to Islamic tenets.

The ulema also decreed that it was forbidden to declare anyone a kafir (non-believer) or a munafiq (hypocrite) no matter what his personal beliefs. The ruling is completely in accord with the Quranic passage: "...and do not – out of a desire for the fleeting gains of this worldly life – say unto anyone who offers you the greeting of peace, 'Thou art not a believer.'" This poses a formidable challenge to Al-Qaeda's concept of takfir under which deviants from their literalist interpretation of Islam are considered apostates and therefore worthy of being killed.

If the government is at all serious about defeating the ideology of terrorist violence under the guise of religion then it must first understand and then deconstruct the false narrative on which Al-Qaeda and its affiliates base their so-called jihad. Extremist outfits have perverted the concept of jihad to imply "holy war" – a term which does not exist in Arabic. According to Professor Abdel Haleem of the London University, the word "which is specifically used in the Quran for fighting is qital. Jihad can be by argumentation, financial help or actual fighting."

The first Quranic revelation allowing Muslims to fight came in 622 in Medina. However the permission, which had nothing to do with the propagation of the religion, was conditional and was restricted to fighting only in self-defence. This stress against aggression is reiterated in several passages of the Quran. Al-Baydawi, who is considered "the soundest and most authoritative commentator of the Quran," defined aggression as: "initiation of fighting, fighting those with whom a treaty has been concluded, surprising the enemy without first inviting them to make peace, destroying crops or killing those who should be protected."

The Quran does not allow any deviation from the norm that the only justification for war is to repel actual aggression or to pre-empt an attack. Hostilities must be terminated should the aggressor subsequently incline towards peace. Fighting in self-defence is further restricted to "those who fight against you" i.e., only combatants are to be fought and civilians must not be subjected to any form of violence. Furthermore, the damage inflicted on the aggressors must never be excessive and always proportional to the harm they have caused. There cannot be a stronger condemnation of terrorist violence and, in the contemporary context, also the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Despite the emphatic renunciation of violence and aggression by the Quran, Al-Qaeda and its associates have managed to construct a narrative based on the fanciful doctrine of abrogation advanced by a few Muslim theologians. The concept relies on two or three Quranic passages particularly verse 106 of Surah Al-Baqara which states: "Any message which We annul or consign to oblivion We replace it with a better or a similar one..." The word "message" (ayah) in this formulation relates to the earlier scriptures and this is obvious from the preceding verse which declares that the Jews and the Christians will never accept any scripture subsequent to their own. All that is stated here is that the Quran has superseded the Bible.

However, "ayah" is also used in a more restricted sense to denote any of the verses of the Quran because they unfailingly contain a message and this is the basis of the doctrine of abrogation. It assumes that some of the earlier verses of the Quran were cancelled by subsequent ones during the 23 years that the process of revelation lasted. The ridiculous implication is that God made His commandments known but then had second thoughts and amended His earlier pronouncements. Some of the greatest Muslim theologians notably Abu Muslim al-Isfahani cite the Quranic passage "There is nothing that could alter His words..." to reject the doctrine of abrogation.

It is this absurd doctrine on which the ideology of terrorism in the name of Islam is largely based. The passages of the Quran forbidding aggression and violence are assumed to have been annulled by later verses pertaining to fighting. These are taken out of context to justify indiscriminate slaughter and suicide bombings in violation of the indispensible principle of Quran-interpretation that its verses cannot be isolated and have to be interpreted against the entire corpus of revelations pertaining to a particular subject.

The intellectual incapacity or, even worse, unwillingness of the government to expose the deceitful narrative that underpins extremist violence has enabled groups such as the Hizb ut-Tahrir to influence powerful elements of Pakistani society. Though some analysts believe that the Hizb ut-Tahrir is not a terrorist outfit, its agenda is no less deadly. It is built around the military overthrow of governments in Muslim majority countries in order to enforce its own interpretation of Islam. Its approach is gradual and is based upon the contamination of influential segments of society, particularly in the military, with its perverse ideology.

One of its internal documents cited by Maajid Nawaz, a member of the Hizb ut-Tahrir till May 2007 and currently director at the London-based counterterrorism think tank Quilliam Foundation, states that the first step is the indoctrination of those in authority and "after this the military would be capable of establishing the authority of Islam. Hence a coup d'etat would be the manifestation of a political change..." Against this background the recent detention of Brig Ali Khan and the interrogation of other army officers for their alleged involvement with the Hizb ut-Tahrir become alarming.

Hizb ut-Tahrir operatives are highly educated and are committed to waging "an intellectual warfare of ideas and narratives" aimed at establishing an Islamic caliphate. Thus Maajid Nawaz, who was educated at London University's School of Oriental Studies and at the London School of Economics recalls that the Musharraf regime also arrested Hizb ut-Tahrir sympathisers in 2003 and then confesses: "Regrettably, I had helped recruit some of these officers while they were studying at the famous Sandhurst military academy in the UK."

Al-Qaeda and outfits such as the Hizb ut-Tahrir strive to monopolise the interpretation of Islam and build an ideology based on the distortion of its tenets. This can only be defeated by the actual message of the Quran. The nineteenth century reformer, Jamal-ad-Din Afghani understood this only too well when he wrote: "Every Muslim is sick, and the only remedy is the Quran."

The writer is the publisher of Criterion quarterly. Email: iftimurshed








Pakistan's current political status quo – resting on coerced friendships, forced allies and an uneasy alliance with the khakis – has had a good shelf life. It did not expire with Raymond Davis being handed over so casually to the US. It could have, given to the kind of street power and escalating television drama that erupted after the killing of Faheem and Faizan. Kudos to those who maneuvered the campaign to fever pitch, then led it to a great finale. 'Diyat' laws rule.

The political balance did not shake when the US Navy Seals carried out a covert operation in Abbottabad to hunt down Osama bin Laden. The fury and embarrassment was addressed in a joint parliamentary session and the issue resolved via a resolution. The PNS Mehran incident led to some damage – within and without – but the political equation remained intact. There was however, one serious casualty: Saleem Shahzad. This, too, was taken care of by setting up a commission to investigate the matter. A few days later, another tragedy – this time in Karachi – reared its ugly head threatening to take at least some out of their political comfort zone; the merciless killing of Sarfaraz Shah at the hands of Rangers' personnel led many to lose their sleep, some to cry, and the chief justice to take suo moto action. The political set-up, however, remained unchanged.

But what can endure tragedies and security lapses, has succumbed to what we now know as "rigged" elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. An attempt at forced seat adjustment with the PPP's most trusted ally has forced the MQM to file for divorce. With this annulment of marriage comes a political crisis for the existing coalition that is now more dependent on the support of the PML-Q. The PML-Q itself faces a new dilemma. It will now have to stay in central quarters, not where it wants to be the most: Punjab. The PPP is visibly shaken by the MQM's harsh rhetoric and is only beginning to understand how demanding an only coalition partner can get. The PML-N has alleged that the AJK elections fell prey to the evil designs of the PPP and is not just stopping at rhetoric. The PML-N has decided to challenge the AJK elections in the Muzaffarabad High Court. The MQM too is seeking help from the courts to be able to contest the two seats whose elections were postponed by the government. The PPP describes it as a law and order situation, while the MQM terms it an attempt to hijack its mandate.

The AJK elections are a relatively minor election but have led to major changes in the political set-up. AJK is a free state, which means, it is neither an independent country, nor a constituent of the Pakistani federation. With this election, our political parties have dragged Kashmir into the mess that is Pakistani politics. Now, there is a call for re-polling in Mirpur, mud-slinging in Islamabad and petitions in Muzaffarabad and the Sindh High Court filed by the PML-N and the MQM respectively. If the issue is about the elections being rigged, yes, it may be true. There is some truth to the fact that the voter lists were grossly flawed, and one could always question why the Nadra offices were open on a Sunday. The scenes of violence and people actually walking away with ballot boxes speak volumes for the transparency that this election witnessed.

However, there is a bigger truth that needs to be seen. The AJK elections have defied our analyst approach – rigged elections or not, most of the 2.9 million eligible voters did exercise their constitutional right to elect candidates of their choice. The pre-poll campaigning remained focused on two men representing two different parties with contrasting manifestos: Mian Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Sharif upped the ante against Zardari – the loot and plunder man – citing the dollars he has stashed away, the promises he has broken, the commissions he never formed and the issues of the state he never resolved. Gilani, on the other hand, reiterated that Kashmir is Pakistan's jugular vein, spoke of future welfare plans to help the people of Kashmir, and reminded that it was the PPP that gave AJK its interim constitution and the Supreme Court in 1974.

Nawaz Sharif had his heart in the right place but his words rang hollow for people who think that the Benazir Income Support Programme is right on target to alleviate poverty. They couldn't care less for anchors going wax lyrical on the government's corruption or analysts dismissing the Zardari government on grounds of being pro-establishment. The people whose vote matters are easily wooed by Gilani's promises.

Kashmir is unresolved territory. Most who came out to vote don't expect to achieve autonomy, independence, or freedom from either side of the border. They are more concerned about their todays and tomorrows, about their livelihood, and any chances of improvement. However, I'm not saying that Sharif's words fell on deaf ears. His anti-establishment stance rang true to many ears – the eight seats won by the PML-N are proof of this. Even more challenging was the fact that Kashmir is still predominantly controlled by the establishment. The PPP's win is testimony to that fact. However, the fact that the PML-N lost out to rigging attempts means there are people in this dominated valley who have the will to stomach going against the tide.

Sharif's words are great topics for a television discussion and provide an excellent debate for intellectuals. Sadly however, our people don't fall prey to the intellect or guidance being offered by TV anchors. No countdown or deadlines mean anything to those whose votes mean everything to political parties. Campaigning on issues such as 14 hours of loadshedding a day, two days of gas outages, rising petrol prices, and longer lines for water make for a sure win with people in industrial cities such as Faisalabad and Gujranwala. But for the many in rural settings, who don't know electricity or gas, know the party who installed that one isolated tap during the last election. They also recognise small favours, such as the building of that one odd road, or that one rare chance at being employed, even if it meant being someone's chowkidar.

Aside from its many faults, the PPP has one saving grace: its clear stance against terrorism. It was Benazir Bhutto who spoke passionately of hoisting the flag once again over Swat and it is still her party that speaks openly against terrorism. For many, anti-terrorism is better than anti-establishment. Do they know the difference?

The writer works for Geo TV.








Politics is about two things: tactics and strategy. The PPP plays a rather sleazy tactical game but its strategy is taking every other political player to the cleaners. The PPP's 'reconciliation' is a slick façade but behind that greasy pretense, the party has already conquered AJK. The next triumph, capturing the 100-member upper house of our bicameral parliament, is a mere nine months in the waiting. Nine months in the waiting and then the Senate brace shall last till 2018. Remember; when the elected president of Pakistan is not around, the chairman of the Senate acts as president.

Nawaz Sharif is now out in the wilderness – isolated within his own country and disconnected with the US-led world view. Imagine; the Senate is about to be subdued by Sharif's one-time brother and longtime archrival. Imagine; the Punjabi heartland's vote stands split – courtesy of the PPP's clever maneuvering. The PML-N, now wide eyed and gazing deep, into what is turning out to be a series of tactical bloopers leading right into a strategic abortion. Honey, who shrunk the tiger? Nawaz Sharif is going from a national leader to a provincial chieftain to a city boss.

The MQM's strategy revolves around 25 National Assembly, 50 provincial assembly and 250 local-bodies seats. For the MQM it's all about controlling Pakistan's biggest city Karachi and Sindh's second largest city, Hyderabad. And then, to use this base in order to become part of the ruling coalitions both at the provincial and the federal level. The MQM's strategy is a 22-year story of ministerships grabbed and goals achieved. The MQM has partnered with – and then parted ways – both with Shaheed Benazir and Nawaz Sharif.

The PPP and the ANP are now scheming to break the MQM's hold over Karachi and Hyderabad by reverting either to the old commissioneri system and/or the delimitation of constituencies. What that means is that the PPP is threatening to strike at the MQM's strategic interests – thus the parting of ways.

The PML-Q has more leaders than followers. It is a party of barons, caliphs, caesars, kaisers, and khans. It is all about self-interest, self-love, and self-worship. The PML-Q has somehow convinced itself that politics is the second oldest profession and that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.

At the centre, the PPP has 127 MNAs, and along with 13 from the ANP, the PPP only needs 32 out of the PML-Q's 50 MNAs. With the MQM moving out, the PML-Q becomes – more or less – the powerbroker. In Sindh, the PPP with 93 MPAs has eight more than a simple majority and really doesn't need a coalition. In Punjab, the PML-N is secure as it needs only 15 MPAs for a simple majority. But, secure only till the next election.

No wonder Pakistan is a democracy where 42 percent of the population lives on Rs100 a day while its ministers cost it Rs100,000 a day. That's democracy – the 'art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them'.

No wonder Pakistan is a democracy where our democrats are in love with cartels. We have a sugar cartel, a banking cartel, a cement cartel, a steel cartel and a rental power cartel. Ever wondered why cartels are so filthy rich and three out of four Pakistanis live in extreme poverty? Answer: Our rulers are in love with cartels. They think cartels

are beautiful and if Jack's in love, he's no judge of Jill's beauty.

Then there are our real kingmakers, the ones in uniform. They are in a ditch right now and coming out of the deep depression means a paradigm shift. But militaries around the world are conservative, status quo players. Would it be status quo or a paradigm shift?

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email:








We, the poor scribes who chronicle the sorrows of this troubled land, are tired of locating Pakistan at a crossroads. And while we recycle our thoughts, that familiar adage – the more it changes the more it remains the same – asserts itself. Some expressions keep popping up in our elegiac compositions. Perhaps the trophy would go to the lines from Yeats' 'The Second Coming'. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Or, the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.

But hasn't the tide turned? Is this not a new ball game? Trying to grasp the meaning of what is happening to Pakistan, I am tempted to rephrase the well used adage and say that now, the more things change, the more they cannot remain the same.

For instance, relations between the United States and Pakistan cannot remain the same. There are indications that the US is changing its strategy to deal with terrorist activities in the region. Besides, its decision to draw down troops in Afghanistan will have its consequences. Tensions between Pakistan and the US have been mounting and Pakistan is reviewing its anti-terror cooperation with its long-term ally.

That old equation between the civilians and the military, with the army in the driving seat, is under stress. The army leadership was very much on the defensive after the Abbottabad operation and the unprecedented rash of criticism of the military, including by the leaders of the party that is in power in the Punjab, gained a new dimension when investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad was found dead after being tortured. This time, fingers were pointed towards ISI.

On Wednesday, a preliminary investigation report on the Mehran base attack was tabled before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence. According to reports, defence authorities informed the committee that insiders were involved in the attack mounted by a group of terrorists. This had been widely suspected, raising more questions about the professional and operational integrity of the armed forces.

Even if the army is able to reassert itself in some dramatic fashion, which is very much a possibility in the light of the deepening paralysis in the civilian administration of the state, it will not be an action replay of previous interventions. The stage is being set for a new thriller and perhaps even the leading players are not sure about the roles they will be assigned. It could also be a street theatre, with a cast of thousands. Or a black comedy because the lights are generally out.

It is interesting how separate enactments, apparently unconnected to a central theme, are forcing the pace of the narrative towards a chilling climax. It appears that the opening scene in this serial was the Abbottabad operation, fitting for a Hollywood spectacle. Equally action-packed was the Mehran base terrorist attack in Karachi. The Saleem Shahzad episode provided more depth to the story.

Our gut feeling that what we are living through could be a tale of horror was confirmed by that video recording of the killing of an unarmed young man by a group of on-duty and uniformed Rangers in a public place in Karachi. The Kharotabad encounter was filmed from a distance and was not in sharp focus like the Karachi killing.

In this gripping narrative of our lives, told in disjointed and random eruption of events on different locations, we were treated to another representational incident that took place in Karachi during the last weekend. There was a gunfight at a dance party in which six persons were killed. One of them was Taleh Bugti, a grandson of Akbar Bugti. It is not hard to imagine the entire scene. But it is not easy to comprehend its significance in the context of the overall situation.

A depiction of what may have happened in a gathering of young boys and girls from wealthy and powerful families who need to distract themselves with drugs and booze should glaringly stand out in a story that is mainly about the dispossessed multitude. If separate segments were to be given separate titles, this may be called: 'Before the deluge'.

I detect another symbolism in the shoot-out in the Defence Housing Authority in Karachi. We identify Bugtis with the rugged and lawless environs of Balochistan. It is a measure of what is happening to this country that Karachi provides an appropriate setting for tribal princes to live it up without mending most of their ways.

According to one newspaper report, the Bugti family had rejected the account of the clash as noted in the FIR. When an elder of the family was asked whether they would file their own FIR, the reply was: "We are Baloch. We do not lodge FIRs. We take revenge". Come to think of it, revenge is the story of Karachi and it is not restricted to the tribal and feudal families.

I do realise that in selecting these vignettes to tell the story of today's Pakistan, I have left out many more indicators of our alarming descent into chaos. There is, for instance, the energy crisis and the mayhem caused in Karachi by the conflict between the KESC and the protesting trade unions. What is happening is unbelievable and the fact that the higher authorities have not resolved this issue is a sign that there is absolutely no governance and non-state actors have taken over.

In the midst of all this gloom, there is, however, an interlude of hope. With the implementation of the historic 18th Amendment, the concept of provincial autonomy is finally put into practice. Friday, the first of July, was marked as the day of provincial autonomy. Senator Raza Rabbani almost personifies this success. Addressing his last press conference as the Chairperson of the Commission on the Implementation of the 18th Amendment on Thursday, he underlined the importance of the devolution of 17 ministries and their departments to the provinces.

Though this is surely a great achievement, there are bound to be doubts about how the political concept of provincial autonomy would work in the present and evolving circumstances. Much will depend on how problems that arise in the process of implementing the 18th Amendment are resolved by the federal and the provincial governments. Incidentally, devolution to the local level is considered the bedrock of democracy and the present leadership does not seem anxious to revive the local government.

In any case, there was hardly any popular and enthusiastic celebration of what is potentially a major breakthrough. But any political or administrative transformation has to be judged on the basis of benefits or relief that it would provide to the ordinary people. On that score, the entire scene remains very depressing.

The writer is a staff member









Those who line up on the wrong side of the digital age are having a hard time with no one to sympathise with them, because just about most have opted to join the winning side. The ones left behind are like virtual whales on virtual sandy beaches, becalmed and gasping for breath. Of course now everything is virtual – whatever that means because if one were to say 'virtual certainty' God knows what that would virtually mean now.

This digital age has us foxed, the geriatrics club that is and those who are waiting for their applications to get processed for eventual membership do so with mixed feelings. This global fixation bordering on madness where everything has to be the size of a pin head has some of us who are not very bright, clutching their heads for steadying support. Things becoming compact one can understand up to a point but when you virtually (there's that dreaded word again) cannot even see the object, it is no longer cute. And more and more people now speak a strange lingo which now and then sounds like English and at most other times sounds like a chimpanzee at the three o'clock matinee show.

Words are randomly inserted in, to lure the unsuspecting victim to deeper immersions. RAM, CAD, delete, cut, paste, copy, ALT, ESC, mouse, memory, bytes – what do they really mean? A CAD is no longer someone making a fool of himself at the club and I must confess that the size of what they call RAM is no longer impressive either.

Along with everything becoming so small comes the added hardship of print so fine that only a very powerful magnifying glass held steadily under the beam of an even more powerful torchlight can help you just make out the few words that are placed on the smallest of surfaces. Mostly these are the same colour as the item itself and are therefore invisible to the human eye – one refrains from using the word 'naked' in case the holy brigades are incensed.

Those still in the habit of listening to music and having been coaxed to buy one of those new fangled devices, would understand that the simplest operation like off/on is now something of an ordeal. For one thing these no longer are to be found where they used to be. Then printed black on black or grey on grey does not help matters. Most digital functions seem to work on the principle of double clicks. That is you click twice whatever it is you are handling and it will get going. Why it cannot do so on one prod is not for me to say. Remotes which now control our lives are just as abominable because they contain dozens of buttons with strange letters – SYN, THEA, prog, mem, shift, DBS/CAB, vol, CDR, EXIT (to where for God' sake?) and so on. There are innumerable circles with arrows going this way or that, signs which look like many Egyptians in a chatty mood and the mother of all, ESC which provides different results at different times. If pressed too often, these can take you to areas where you are even more perplexed. Other times you are rudely confronted by things like Torrents, Chrome often in the company of Google, DOCS (which is not a list of doctors you might need) and other gems like QuickTime.

Telephones too have gone nuts. The ordinary humble phone is now a mystery on to itself. It gives you non nonsense orders like stop. Other times it cryptically suggests you pause but why you must pause it is not willing to share. Flash is not what I thought, which was what dirty old men in raincoats did in dark alleys to unsuspecting virgins. The brilliant Hold makes no sense at all, since you are already holding it. Does it mean clasp but is too bashful to suggest? Who can tell? No longer content with wires they now demand that you poke them with all kinds of what are often called devices.

There are any amount of EVOs and EVDOs that PTCL unleashes at the speed of light and while you are still doing long hand tables working out the savings on the previous deal, there are more deals. Phones too have strange signs. Arrows going right or left or even up or down – which has most geriatrics in a huff. These directions to nowhere signage are significant because it is next to impossible to find the arrows. They are so designed on purpose because less is more. Finding these is dead easy, like finding a vagrant flea on King Kong's behind.

Ali Azmat formerly of the band Junoon (though from all the publicity Salman Ahmed squeezes out of a gullible media only Salman was Junoon and nobody else mattered), once told me that when he bought a BMW he started it and almost fell out of the car hearing what sounded like a woman speaking German with a Japanese accent or Japanese with a German accent. Sensibly, he quickly killed the ignition and made a hasty retreat to his room where he took stock of the situation. Later, they managed to take the woman out of the system.

But while I can have an uneasy coexistence with most of these new fangled fancy devices where screens move at the touch of your grubby hand, I think that there is a global conspiracy afoot that makes it impossible to open anything anymore. I particularly dread the airlines where you cannot find the tiniest slit that you can tear off and get half a teaspoon of ketchup, or the various little obstacle courses that they plonk on your meal tray and leave you to find how to reach the knife. The tear aways and self have a full hate you relationship. I am eventually reduced to a maniac biting all parts of the plastic bag.

Bags of chips remain a mystery. How do you open those infernal things? The more you tug at the bags the harder they fight back. And that empty space above the chips that is supposed to contain beneficial gases makes gripping a bag just as hard as getting the prime minister's attention.

As the entire planet gets into smaller and smaller gadgets, it is gratifying to know that in Pakistan not everything is getting smaller. The armed forces budgets and egos are bigger than ever before as is the government's ineptness and legendary corruption. Two religious leaders sitting with the Chaudhries this morning look at least 500 tons each, of dead weight I might add! Had we the magical 'open sesame' we could have managed, but we don't and that's a virtual dead end.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email:







A controversy has come to fore as to whether the Shamsi airbase, which was being used by the CIA for launching drone strikes inside Pakistan was still being used by the American intelligence agency or it was being shut down. The Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar on Wednesday last stated that the US has been asked to leave the remote desert air base used as a hub for covert CIA Drone attacks.

After that some statements came out from Islamabad and Washington which were contradictory to each other and created ambiguity. One report from Washington quoting officials said the United States had rejected demands from Pakistani officials that American personnel abandon the military base used by the CIA. The American officials stated that their personnel were still at the Shamsi Air base and there was no plan to move them out. What was note worthy was that even in Pakistan there was no supportive statement to the Defence Minister's disclosure and indications were given that no such demand was made. But on Saturday the authoritative Washington Post newspaper came out with another disclosure that the CIA suspended its long standing use of the Shamsi airbase since April, 2011 as a launch site for armed drones targeting members of al-Qaeda and other militant groups. It has also been reported that the drone operations were suspended after a dispute over a CIA contractor who fatally shot two Pakistani citizens in Lahore in January. Attacks by US unmanned planes in Pakistan have become a contentious issue and opposed by the majority of people because many innocent people have lost their lives. Though Drones, in some cases, have hit high-value targets like Taleban leader Baitullah Mesud but on many occasions the information drone operators relied on proved wrong leading to killing of civilians. For almost a decade US drones have been making relentless efforts to hunt down Al-Qaeda and Taleban militants hiding along the tribal belt but they failed to achieve their ultimate objective and in fact gave rise to more militancy in the tribal areas because people whose innocent relatives died also switched sides to take revenge. However the May 2 attack by US without taking Pakistan into confidence widened the trust gulf between the two countries and people openly started demanding that Pakistan must bring an end to its cooperation in the war on terror and close the Shamsi airbase for drones operation. In this situation, in our view, there is need that the government should come out with a formal official statement on the Shamsi airbase status as it will clarify the murky situation and give some sense of satisfaction to the people.







THE Petroleum Ministry has sent a summary to the Prime Minister for increase in gas prices by 15 percent for domestic consumers and 18% for commercial users. If the Prime Minister approves the summary, it will make gas too expensive not only for domestic poor consumers but also for power generation and fertilizer plants and lead to a new wave of inflation.

No doubt there is shortage of gas and load shedding is being applied in Punjab at the CNG stations which have deprived the motorists to use this comparatively cheap source of fuel because petrol and diesel is beyond their reach. It appears that the decision to increase the gas price has been taken to bring its tariffs equal to other POL products. People in the knowledge of the development say that the authorities have succumbed to the pressure of oil lobby because increase in use of gas by the transport sector has significantly brought down their huge profits. These oil importing companies are now persuading the policy makers through their lobbies to raise the CNG prices to bring the transport sector back to Diesel and Petrol use. We believe that any unreasonable increase would have a crushing impact and lead to strong reaction from the public and industrial sector. The proposal to enforce three days a week closure of CNG stations in Punjab and two days in Sindh has already created an alarm and the Gas station operators and the people are strongly opposing the impending decision. The Government must therefore think twice before giving a go ahead signal to the two recommendations as these would have a negative impact on its popularity among the people who are already suffering due to inflation, unemployment and long hours of electricity load shedding. What is needed is to launch oil and gas exploration activities on war footing, use new technology to bring on production line the abandoned fields and hasten the process of laying of gas pipeline with Iran to import it for industrial use. According to reports, Iran has already completed the pipeline on its side of the border and it is now for Pakistan to expedite work so that the supply starts as per agreement and some relief is given to the masses.







LEAVING aside the Israeli-US strong opposition to Iran's nuclear programme, the neighbouring Arab countries too are apprehensive to the development and viewing it with some concern.

The Americans used the good offices of United Nations and the IAEA to keep a check on Iranian nuclear programme but Teheran did not bow down to the pressure. From the UAE, a neighbour of Iran, occasional statements have been emanating expressing concern over nuclearisation of the area but addressing senior officials at RAF Moleswarth, a British airbase used by NATO to gather intelligence on the Middle East and the Mediterranean a few days back, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, a former Saudi Intelligence Chief warned that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia too would go nuclear. Turkey Al Faisal's statement reflects by and large the concern and thinking of the mainstream Saudi establishment and therefore his address is quite meaningful. However in our view this statement cannot be construed at this point of time, a formal official statement of the leadership of Saudi Arabia viz a viz Iranian nuclear programme which is moving ahead at a fast pace. But it is understood that the programme will certainly have its impact in the Arab world and they too may give a serious thought to launch their own nuclear programmes in view of their security perceptions. Nuclear programmes, in fact, in addition to deterrence have also become a necessity for power generation and other peaceful uses as well as a source of prestige for many nations and therefore we may see more countries going nuclear in due course of time.







In one of my interviews on Pakistan Television, the Anchorperson asked me about the situation of literacy in Pakistan. I explained to him that the literacy rate on an average has increased by 1.1% annually between 1981 and 1998. Incidentally, no census has taken place between this period i.e. 1981 to 1998. The Ministry of Education had been simply adding 1.1% every year to the last year's figures for literacy without any empirical basis. Obviously, therefore, the figures of literacy do not reflect the true situation of literacy in Pakistan.

The Anchorperson asked me the reasons for such low literacy rate in Pakistan. Was it because of the paucity of funds, the Provincial Governments do not cooperate with the Federal Government for the promotion of literacy which falls within the provincial domain or is it that our people at large who are illiterate, are not interested to become literate. My answer to his query was that none of the three assumptions he had mentioned are valid. Infact, it is the Government which is not interested to make the society literate. A literate-unemployed will become more dangerous for the Government and would ask questions for which the political leadership of Pakistan have no answers.

The stance, I had taken in that interview has been proved right. The Prime Minister, Mr. Yousuf Raza Gilani, has recently announced that the "year 2011" will be the "Year of Literacy". The statement of the Prime Minister was widely quoted by the Press, Radio and Television. However, the steps taken by the Government have proved that the year 2011 will be the "Year of Illiteracy" instead of the "Year of Literacy". Some of these steps are enumerated below:-

i. The National Reconstruction Bureau had recommended the devolution of 11 departments to the Districts which also included "Education" and "Literacy" separately. An Executive District Officer (Literacy) had to be appointed in each District with three District Officers working under him. Each of the District Officers was to deal with "Literacy", "Continuing Education", and "Vocational Education" separately.

A senior representative of the Reconstruction Bureau visited the Provincial Capitals of Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta, and Muzaffarabad in order to explain to the E.D.Os (Literacy) and D.Os (Literacy, Continuing Education, and Vocational Education), the scope of Literacy, Continuing Education and Vocational Education. Each of the E.D.Os (Literacy) was also given the "Census Report" of his District to him. A proforma was also circulated to prepare the budgets for making each District literate. Unfortunately, the post of Executive District Officers (Literacy) alongwith those of D.Os (Literacy, Continuing Education, and Vocational Education) have been abolished.

ii. During the first stint of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the issue of literacy in Pakistan was raised by her with the visiting Director General of UNESCO. The Director General appointed a "United Nations Commission on Literacy" which included the Resident Representatives of all the UN Offices in Islamabad. The Commission presented its report to the then Prime Minister during a few weeks time. The Commission recommended the establishment of two lakh fifty thousand Non-Formal Basic Education Schools in Pakistan to achieve 100% literacy by the beginning of the next Census. Unfortunately, 7000 of such schools opened by the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) and a few thousand Non-Formal Basic Education Schools opened all over the country by "The Literacy and Mass Education Commission" have been abruptly closed down with one stroke of pen rendering more than 20,000 employees unemployed and more than 800,000 students with no access to Primary Education. In this wake the National Commission for Human Development alongwith Pakistan Human Development Fund-UK, Pakistan Human Development Fund-USA, and American Human Development Fund would be terminated by 30th June 2011 as per the decision of the Council of Common Interests dated 1st June 2011.

iii. At the same time the Non-Formal Basic Education Schools being run by educated young persons in their own homes by a large number of Non-Government Organizations under the aegis of the Pakistan Education Foundation have also been closed down.

iv. It will be interesting to note that the Mosque Schools opened under the Special Priority Development Program of Late Dr. Mehboob-ul-Haq in 1982, have already been closed down and do not form a part of our educational system.

The above measures adopted by the Federal and the Provincial Governments would certainly go a long way in spreading illiteracy in Pakistan. This obviously would result in increasing the poverty situation, rapid increase in the population of Pakistan and further shortages of availability of water, energy and even food items per capita. This will be in addition to accelerated unemployment situation in Pakistan.







President Obama's announcement of promised drawdown of forces from Afghanistan has evoked a flashback of 'Gorbachev in Vladivostok', who wanted nothing more than an honourable exit from a disastrous war. During his address to the Soviet Politburo in November, 1986, President Gorbachev said that even after six years of military effort, 'no end was in sight'. "In general, we haven't found the key to resolving this problem." Gorbachev's retreat was an admission of defeat. For the United States, the picture is not so bleak. Despite a substantial cost in blood and treasure, the US does not face an imminent disaster; though a deferred one it cannot escape. Luckily, Obama understands that embracing of graceful failure is a better option than a strategic meltdown. He has asserted his leadership well in time and said: "America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home". Nevertheless, announcement of drawdown without achieving the stated objectives and without any reference to "conditions on the ground" is a tacit admission of America's eroding staying power. Moreover, window of opportunity for a face saving exit is narrowing down on a fast pace.

Even though United States may be able to carry on military operations at the current pace for quite some time, American national will to stay the course viz.a.viz use of military as a tool of first choice is eroding at a pretty fast pace. The US House of Representatives matched the national mood by flatly rejecting a bill to authorize American military operations in Libya. The resolution failed 295 to 123, with 70 Democrats bluntly crossing over to the Republican side to oppose the bill. Administration is of the view that operations in Libya do not qualify to be called a war, however, Congress thinks otherwise; same corollary is applicable to drone attacks in Pakistan.

Pentagon has termed the drawdown as too speedy and Taliban have termed it as 'only a symbolic step'. However, what seemed to be a modest withdrawal plan has begun to have serious rippling effects. Taking the US plan to extricate its 33,000 troops from Afghanistan synonymous to throwing down the towel, the NATO states seem to be in a tailspin of panic. Most of NATO states which were enthusiastic to stay much beyond 2014 during their rhetoric at Lisbon NATO summit, a couple of months ago, are now eager to pullout their troops fast. Germany and France have promptly announced that they would look at scaling down their own presence in Afghanistan. France has indicated that it would carry out a progressive pullback of France's 4000 forces with a timetable similar to the one announced by the United States. Germany has voiced concern on the safety of its troops especially when Taliban militias are emboldened and motivated to hit back following what they conceive as the US defeat in Afghanistan. Germany has also decided to pullout its 4,900 troops deployed in Northern Afghanistan which have been facing the brunt of combat operations for quite some time. Other NATO allies including Canada and Italy have already set the timelines for their troop withdrawal. ISAF component is already in a state of despair. This coalition of the unwilling does not have the stomach to continue its presence in Afghanistan for even a day more.

America will cut down 10,000 troops by the end of this year. Another 23,000 troops will leave next summer. If Obama loses re-election, he would hand back Afghan war to a Republican president at the resource level at which he inherited it. There would still be over 60,000 troops left, out of which 25,000 may be stationed indefinitely in Afghanistan under an arrangement being thrusted upon President Karzai.

The permanent US military presence in Afghanistan could be mischievously linked to imaginary threat from Pakistan. The New York Times' David Sanger suggest that Islamabad's angry reaction to operation Geronimo, "makes it more urgent than ever that the United States maintain sites outside the country to launch drone and commando raids against the militant networks that remain in Pakistan and to make sure that Pakistan's fast growing nuclear arsenal never falls into the wrong hands". Bruce Reidel, a retired CIA spy with pathological anti Pakistan bias is of the opinion the US needs a base to strike targets in Pakistan. "The geography is simple: You need to do that from Afghanistan."

The delusional scenario that Obama built for his people is that America is drawing down from a position of strength, though he was not in denial of the fact that many important dimensions of the Afghan nation-building had gone astray. He hoped that Afghans would be able to build an alternative to the war economy. Peace, he said, is achievable, but it has to be led by the Afghan government, with those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan, and break from al Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution. Here Hillary and Obama are on different planes. Hillary during her Asia Society speech in February had postponed these preconditions as end objectives. The Soviets, too, had thought they could arrange a face-saving political solution. They were proven wrong when the country soon got in to the quicksand of a civil war.

Soon after Obama's draw-down discourse, Hillary Clinton described the US-Pakistan relationship as frustrating. However, she said that "We cannot walk away from this relationship... we cannot repeat the mistakes of 1989." But "When it comes to our military aid, we are not prepared to continue providing that at the pace we were providing it unless and until we see some steps taken." Likewise, just before leaving the office it dawned upon Secretary Gates that Afghan war could be won without Pakistan. US$ 500 million tranche of Coalition Support Fund has been held back which was "firmly committed" for release by 30th June. Further aid is likely to be cut down drastically. Pakistan has asked Americans to vacate Pakistani base Shamsi which has been under American usage for surveillance and drone attacks. The so called bilateral 'Strategic Dialogue' is now in abeyance, sine die.

It is amply clear that America has decided to abandon Afghanistan and dump Pakistan. Partnership with the US has never been easy yet recent spate of doubts and uncertainty has reinforced strains and fault lines. The war that is being abandoned in Afghanistan rather abruptly has the potential of reversing the frontiers and find its way into Pakistan as indeed other countries bordering Afghanistan. Presently all American options towards Pakistan are primed towards a single objective of putting extra pressure on Pakistan, on one pretext or the other. Gorbachev and Obama are the same side of the coin as far as post war dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan is concerned. Pakistan needs to understand this quickly and adjust to fast changing realities. Recent initiative by Iran to hold a trilateral summit with Afghanistan and Pakistan on the issue of terrorism needs to be expanded to include all countries bordering Afghanistan.—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.







The two-day Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary level talks were conducted on June 23-24, 2011 in Islamabad. Pakistani delegate was headed by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, whereas, the Indian side was led by Secretary External Affairs, Ms. Nirupama Rao. Apart from the threats posed by terrorism, the delegates talked about the peace and security including existing series of CBMs and their implementation process, promotion of friendly exchanges, and the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Owing to the complexity of the relationship, and chequered Indo-Pak history, Mr. SM Krishna, the Indian External Affairs Minister, said in a statement that, both sides should not expect too much from the talks as, "this is one relationship that we have been trying to cultivate in the last few months."

Regarding the peace and security, the spokesman of Indian External Affairs Ministry, said, "All aspects relating to peace and security have been discussed and terrorism is an issue which is confronting both the countries and of course it is very relevant to peace and security." Pakistani side, however, said that, "They exchanged views on all issues relevant to peace and security including CBMs that exist between the two countries. A number of ideas were discussed and reflected upon. The talks were substantive, held in very cordial atmosphere and were forward looking."

In connection with the peace and security, the Indian delegate raised the issue of slow pace of the probe by Pakistan on the Mumbai terror attacks. Pakistani side updated the Indian delegate on the progress made so far on the issue and non-availability of authentic evidence against those, India feel are responsible for the incident. Indeed, there are many complexities involved in investigating the issue and India has not shared the details of the incident with Pakistan, as the only survivor of the Mumbai attack (Ajmal Kasab), is in Indian jail. Pakistan, however, conveyed its dismay over the Indian indolent investigation over 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing by Hindu terrorists led by serving Indian army officers, where dozens of its citizens were forced to burn alive. Pakistan is seriously waiting for a positive outcome of the investigations being carried out by India, for the satisfaction of the grieved families, who lost their loved one during this brutal incident.

At the bi-lateral level, Pakistan considers that all other issues can be dealt with side by side; however, the main focus should remain on Kashmir, the only core issue between India and Pakistan, since independence of both countries. This is a reality that, for Pakistan resolution of the Kashmir issue is very important, hence, it would like that the issue to form part of the agenda of all the Indo-Pak talks. To counter this demand, India is emphasizing to make terrorism as part of all the bi-lateral talks. Keeping terrorism at the centre point, India believes on the blame game. Indeed, the biggest problem hounding the Indo-Pak bi-lateral relationship is the trust deficit. By no way, India desires the resolution of Kashmir issue as per the wishes of Kashmiri people in the light of UN resolutions. India feels that, in such a scenario, it would lose its occupied portion of Kashmir; therefore, a status quo would be a better option, one; to starve Pakistan and two; to further maltreat Kashmiris for their non acceptance of Indian rule. Indeed, all the mistrust between Pakistan and India or in South Asia in general is the product of one issue; the disputed nature of the Jammu and Kashmir. If today India agrees to the solution of Kashmir, there would be no worthwhile issue left between India and Pakistan and peace would prevail in the region, giving way to the regional prosperity. Why cannot India buy this reality is a big question mark? During the current round of the Foreign Secretary level talks; though Kashmir was included and discussed as an agenda of the meeting, however, just a few days later, Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh gave a very distressing statement on Kashmir issue. Indian Premier while talking to the editors of the news papers said that, he hoped that, Pakistan "will leave Kashmir alone," because "they have their own share of internal problems." Harping on to the old mantra of terrorism, Dr. Singh categorically said that, Pakistan has "not done enough on terror. I still feel they need to do more." By giving this statement, India tries to equate itself with United States. The way US has been emphasizing Pakistan to do more, throughout the global war on terror; India is now behaving in the same manner. This means that India has a major role in bringing Pakistan to the current situation of domestic instability, so that Pakistan stops demanding a just solution of Kashmir issue. This statement of Indian Premier is indicative of the fact that Indian top political leadership is in line with its infamous spying network; RAW, that is deeply involved in destabilizing Pakistan, especially Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkha. The statement is immature, seems to be of a half-fed and mystified leader. This statement speaks of a conspiring mindset, which lacks sincerity to bring peace and stability in the region.

For Pakistan and Kashmiris, the issue needs an immediate resolution. It is the only core issue between India and Pakistan. As stated very clearly by Ms. Hinna Rabbani Khar, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, "If Kashmir is not core concern, then what is core concern?" Pakistan feels that, through forward movements and engagements at diplomatic level, India Pakistan and Kashmiris should find an amicable solution of the Kashmir issue. After meeting the Indian delegate, Ms Rabbani said that, "It is better to resolve long-standing issues rather than let those issues fester and become larger than life and affect development and peace of the region." Pakistan desires that, we must get rid of status quo on Kashmir, contrary to Indian desires of maintaining that.

While tracing the history, one would know that, wars are not the solution of issues, rather wars and conflicts further complicate the issues. Even after wars, issues have been resolved through negotiations and talks. This is a positive step that India and Pakistan are resorting to the bi-lateral talks for the resolutions of their issues and differences. However, issuing distressing statements by Indian leadership would enhance the trust deficit, rather reducing the gap. The current uncertain situation in South Asia calls for a very mature and dedicated leadership and a positive approach to resolve the basic cause of distrust (issue of Jammu and Kashmir), rather maintaining the status quo.

Let there be a consensus resolution of Kashmir issue as per the wishes of its people. A just resolution of the issue would bring stability, peace and economic prosperity in the region. It should be clear to India that, neither Kashmiris nor people of Pakistan would ever accept the status quo on Kashmir. India should accept the reality that, Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris, who did not accept its forced rule over the state's territory, even after sixty-four years of Indian occupation. International community should take a note of the aforesaid statement of the Indian Prime Minister. Pakistan and people of Kashmir consider that, this statement indicative of the facts that, India is behind the current instability in Pakistan. By creating instability in Pakistan, India desires to entangle Pakistan in a situation where it is unable to concentrate on issue like Kashmir. Provoking armed conflict within Pakistan by its neighbour (India) would mean promoting terrorism. Should not international community question India for such an act of global concern?

—The writer is an IR analyst.







In the just concluded elections for the ninth legislative Assembly of AJK, PPP has achieved a thumping victory by winning 21 seats out of 41 directly electable slots. It might add to its tally of seats when elections are held in the three constituencies where they have been postponed due to security reasons as well as for 5 special seats reserved for women and one each for Ulemas, technocrats and overseas Pakistanis. Ostensibly it looks in a commanding position to form the next government on its own but there are indications that it might prefer to opt for a coalition government with Muslim Conference that has clinched only 4 seats, in conformity with its policy of reconciliation.

The losing political parties have kept up the tradition of not accepting the elections results open-heartedly and with a ritualistic devotion have accused the winning party of rigging the polls; a claim that they have not been able to substantiate. Violence and rigging at the individual level have invariably remained the hall mark of elections in Pakistan and for that matter in AJK and we have also seen it during the current elections through the eye of our electronic and print media. However to generalize the phenomenon on the basis of individual and sporadic incidents is not fair. These elections were of special significance, as for the first time PM (N) which usually has been supporting Muslim Conference and fell out with it because of its alliance with Musharraf, directly participated in the AJK elections and has been able to win 8 seats. The presence of PPP and PML(N), the two main political parties of Pakistan, in AJK as a ruling and opposition parties respectively, is a healthy development in regards to strengthening of democracy in the territory and imparting legitimacy to the electoral process.

On the other hand the PPP victory is viewed as a vindication and endorsement of the strong bonds that exist between the party and the people of Kashmir,specially AJK. Although the democratic set-up in AJK was installed in 1970 through Presidential system, but the real architect of parliamentary democracy in the territory was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who introduced this system through an Act of the parliament in 1974.

The history of elections in AJK reveals that the Muslim Conference who was considered to be the flag-bearer of the cause of Kashmiris has ruled the territory six times, barring a period from August 1977 to September 1985 when the region was ruled by the Chief Executives appointed by the martial law regime. Other than Muslim Conference, PPP is the only party from Pakistan which also has had a power stint in AJK. The defeat of Muslim Conference in the present elections is also a ranting proof of the fact that its archaic political creed is fast losing its relevance to the new realities.

Another noteworthy phenomenon is that even when Muslim Conference was in power in AJK, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the most popular political leader among its people who looked upon him as their hero and the staunches supporter of their cause of self-determination. His famous words in the UN Security Council" We will fight for a thousand years" raised his popularity to dizzying heights. In fact he was the one who choreographed Pakistan's foreign policy that laid stress on friendship with China and hard line stance towards India on the issue of Kashmir as well as building bonhomie among the Muslim countries. The tidal wave that he created in Pakistan with his social philosophy also swept across the whole of Kashmir. The people of AJK have paid the debt by reposing confidence in PPP.

In the domain of foreign relations, he strengthened relations with China and garnered support for the formation of an Islamic bloc through the holding of Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore in 1974. The Islamic countries looked up to him as a leader of the Muslim world. He had very strong commitment to the cause of Kashmir and advocated hard line posture towards India.







The deadline is now July 3. That's when the European Union's finance ministers meet again, and by then the Greek parliament should have passed legislation mandating ?28 billion of spending cuts and tax rises over the next five years. If it goes through, each of the 10 million Greeks will ultimately be about ?2,800 ($4,000) poorer.

That's why they're rioting in the street these days in Athens. But unless the European finance ministers approve the plan, Greece will not get the next ?12 billion ($17 billion) instalment of the current EU-International Monetary Fund bailout package in July, and it will default on its gigantic debt. As the IMF recently warned, "A disorderly outcome cannot be excluded." It was hinting that the euro itself might crash, taking the European or even the global economy down with it — and yet China seems strangely unworried.

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

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

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

Greece can never repay the ?300 billion ($425 billion) it owes, no matter how harsh the austerity measures that it forces on its own population. If it still had its old currency, it could make the debt shrink by printing more drachmas and inflating the currency, but it's stuck with the euro. Like other Mediterranean countries that joined the euro, it has a less efficient economy than the big northern European countries that dominate the currency. It used to stay competitive by letting inflation rip, thus making its exports cheaper in foreign markets.

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

Didn't the banks realise this? Of course they did — but they reckoned that the richer countries in the euro zone would cover Greece's debts in order to preserve the integrity of the currency. That is what is happening now. The banks stopped lending Greece money after 2008, and the European Union stepped in to prevent a default. The enormous sums that it and the IMF are now lending Greece (at a high interest rate) are immediately handed over to the foreign banks that let the situation get so far out of hand in the first place. But the political price extracted from Greece for this bailout is savage cuts in the country's budget and a soaring unemployment rate.

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

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

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

—The writer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries. — Courtesy: The Japan Times







HOWEVER inconvenient the grounding of budget carrier Tiger is for tens of thousands of stranded passengers during the winter school holidays, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority is to be commended for being proactive in enforcing the rigorous standards crucial to Australia's excellent safety record.

Airline competition is a plus for the public and good for the tourism industry. Tiger had emerged as a handy foil to competitive rivals Qantas and Virgin Blue and it would be disappointing to see the airline's Australian operations fall by the wayside like Compass and other low-cost carriers.

Safety, however, is paramount and Tiger's management must restore public confidence by addressing the serious issues raised by CASA in its alarming warning that permitting the airline to continue to fly would pose "a serious and imminent" risk. It should not be beyond the capacity of such an experienced Singapore-owned carrier to address problems, including the proficiency of pilots, pilot training and checking, fatigue management, maintenance control and airworthiness systems and to ensure that management and operational positions are held by well-qualified people.

Cost, though, is secondary to maintaining aviation safety.





AS a case of lunatics taking over the asylum, it would be hard to beat the announcement that North Korea has assumed chairmanship of the UN Conference on Disarmament, the premier world body charged with the cessation of the nuclear arms race and prevention of nuclear war.

That's right: the wacky regime that constantly violates the UN's nuclear controls, is the target of UN sanctions, and is the leading proliferator of nuclear technology to Iran and Syria is now putatively in charge of the organisation responsible for negotiating multilateral arms control agreements such as the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions and the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.

It's because of a Buggins's Turn arrangement under which each of the 65 member states serves a term. And it's only for four weeks. But the symbolism of having North Korea in charge of world disarmament for even four hours, let alone four weeks, is monstrous. Its weapons proliferation and human rights record is such that to find its officials running a match factory would be disturbing. That it is being allowed to serve as head of the UN Conference on Disarmament reflects badly on UN processes and the administration of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Earlier this year, there was outrage when it emerged that Libya was a member of the UN Human Rights Council while Muammar Gaddafi's forces were slaughtering his people, and it took a mighty effort to remove it. China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia remain council members. And Mr Ban did the UN's standing no favours last week by endorsing an International Conference on the Global Fight Against Terrorism organised by Iran, and which included representatives of North Korea and Syria as well as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges.

UN apologists argue that having North Korea heading the Conference on Disarmament doesn't matter as it doesn't do much. They're wrong. It's an outrage. After drawing condemnation from the US and China in May 2009 for defying the UN by testing a bomb comparable to those that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, North Korea has no credibility on disarmament. The sooner UN processes are amended to bar countries beyond the pale of civilised behaviour from such appointments, the better.






GLOBALISATION has been fundamental to Australia's development, especially the impact of foreign capital and expertise from Britain, the US and later Japan and now China and Korea in opening up vast coal, iron ore and natural gas resources.

Foreign investment has also played a crucial role in developing world-class tourist facilities, CBD building projects and major agricultural enterprises. Community anxieties about "selling off the farm" erupt periodically, but such debates need to be informed by an understanding of why our economy must remain deeply enmeshed with global commerce and freer trade.

In 1988, impassioned debate in Queensland over Japanese investors buying up land for resort developments prompted the creation of the state's Foreign Ownership of Land register. At the time, some of the arguments smacked of xenophobia, but almost a quarter of a century later it is clear the state has benefited enormously from such investments. The register shows foreigners now own just 2.56 per cent of the state's land.

Current concerns over foreign purchases of agricultural land, including the Chinese government-controlled company Shenhua Watermark Coal paying several times the going rate for 43 farms on the NSW Liverpool Plains, have highlighted the lack of a national register. It is reasonable that Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten has asked the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences and the ABS to provide an accurate picture of what lands in Australia are foreign-owned. The maintenance and updating of such information, however, should not become an excuse for more burdensome bureaucracy and red tape.

At a local level, concern runs deeper than the fact that the Liverpool Plains farms have been bought by the Chinese, and reflects rising anxieties in regional and rural communities about mining companies acquiring agricultural land. Foreign investment and the preservation of prime agricultural land for farming are separate issues. But as concerns about food security have escalated they have become more closely related as foreign miners have sought to buy up Australian farmlands. State and federal governments need to do more to inform local communities about the issues at stake or risk an overblown One Nation-style backlash against foreign investment in general. Where conflicts arise, a sound, long-term balance must be found between the competing needs of mining projects that will produce several decades of high returns and agriculture that will feed the nation and our export markets for much longer. If governments are to maintain and improve public confidence in the value of foreign investment and mining approval processes, the public needs to be reassured that a sufficient proportion of the best agricultural lands will be retained. Applications to mine agricultural land, whether from Australian or foreign interests, must be determined on the basis of the national interest. The protests of xenophobic opponents of foreign investment should be disregarded, but legitimate, commonsense concerns about food security deserve to be addressed.

Until recently, relatively little debate had taken place in Australia about food security, but the urgent need to better feed a protein-hungry world opens vast opportunities for Australian exports, which is why this nation should be in the forefront of freeing up world trading processes. Foreign investment has been essential in building Australia's meat and grain export industries and should remain so, although vertical integration in which foreign interests produce vast quantities of food and supply it cheaply to their own countries with few benefits to Australians should be discouraged.

In assessing foreign investment applications, the "national interest" test has also become more complex for Foreign Investment Review Board regulators to apply with the growth of sovereign wealth funds owned by governments that do not share Australia's democratic and free-market values, and which impose unreasonable barriers to entry in their own economies. Within broad parameters that support development in mining and agriculture, successful applications to buy Australian land must support this nation's long-term interests.






IN RESOURCE-RICH developing nations the noted Oxford economist Paul Collier has observed a corrosive political culture of the ''survival of the fattest''. Democracy notwithstanding, Collier argues that a sudden rush of money into a poor economy so distorts the function of government that it is the local big men - not society as a whole - who reap the rewards. As Papua New Guinea experiences an extraordinary resource-led boom, Canberra will be hoping that Collier will be proved wrong. Particularly as it enters a new political era with the retirement last week of the ailing prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, PNG's enduring political chief. In his 43 unbroken years in Parliament, Somare was dubbed ''The Great Unifier'' for his ability to hold together fractious groups in a society dominated by local and tribal loyalties. And as PNG's founding father and first prime minister, Somare has personified the link between the Australian colonial administration of the past and an evolving, independent nation.

The coincidence of his retirement and the resources boom raises some crucial questions. First, without his unifying presence, will PNG's political contest be reduced to a factional fight within the elite over the spoils of the boom? More broadly, how will tensions be resolved between the massive flows of foreign investment into resources, logging and development - mainly from Asia - and Australia's persistent efforts to use our large aid program to fight corruption and to promote good governance?

PNG's economy is expected to grow faster than China's this year and massive new liquefied natural gas projects alone promise to push GDP up by 20 per cent. Other projects are following the resources money, like a proposed $480 million special economic zone and new city on the island of Bougainville, site of a massive copper mine closed during the secessionist conflict.

Yet despite the frenzied exploitation of its natural riches, PNG stands at 137th on the UN's Human Development Index, at 154th on Transparency International's corruption index and in 2008 the Auditor-General estimated corrupt officials were stealing $356 million a year in a nation with an annual GDP of just $13.4 billion. The post-Somare generation of politicians is concurrently facing unprecedented opportunity alongside chronic problems of inequality, crime, environmental damage and the failure of basic service delivery. For Australia, PNG represents both a historic responsibility and a strategic priority.

There is little choice but to keep banging, and funding, the good-governance drum, because only strong institutions can ensure resource wealth is translated into stability and prosperity - not just for the fattest, but for all.





AS THE education system has changed around it, the NSW School Certificate exam now resembles a shag on a rock, an unhelpful vestige of a bygone age. It no longer performs its central purpose, which was to assess the performance of school leavers in their final year. That's partly because the school leaving age is now 17, which effectively means year 11 is the earliest a student can leave school. When the year 10 exam was introduced in 1965, only a minority of children went on to senior high school. Today more than 80 per cent do so. NSW is the only state that retains an external year 10 exam, but that is the least important reason for abolishing it. For decades, experts such as Professor Barry McGaw have warned of the damage and disruption this unnecessary exam causes in what is for most students their final three years of school.

It is, therefore, welcome news that state cabinet is to consider a proposal to abolish the exam. The adoption of rolling tests under the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy - especially the year 9 test - means there is now an excessive amount of examining going on. If an exam is needed to keep students focused in their middle years of high school - and surely there are more intelligent ways of engaging them - NAPLAN probably suffices. With most students now forced to stay on into year 11, it seems churlish and destabilising to demand that they ''qualify'' to attempt the HSC a year later. The only reasons the School Certificate exam has not already been abolished are the previous state Labor government's trademark muddling through, and a lack of agreement about what should replace it.

It is more than a decade since McGaw recommended a new exit certificate for those who leave school before the HSC. There is no point embroiling the bulk of the student body in such an assessment designed purely for a minority of their classmates. Abolishing the year 10 exam could save money - if it does, such funds should be retained in education - but, more importantly, it will save time for teachers and students who have better things to do. If the state's new Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, can initiate and lead the process whereby the exam is abolished, and its goals achieved in more effective ways, he will have made a lasting contribution to the improvement of education in our state. The NSW School Certificate exam has outlived its usefulness. The case for its abolition is, we believe, conclusive.





WHO owns Australia? This is the rhetorical question implicit in the foray by Greens leader Senator Bob Brown into foreign ownership of the mining sector. Senator Brown's assertion that there is too much foreign ownership and his associated call for a tougher mining tax than that proposed by the federal government has added significance because he and his colleagues on Friday assumed the balance of power in the upper house.

Senator Brown finessed his position in a speech at the National Press Club in Canberra, saying he is not calling for a reduction in foreign ownership of the mining sector but for a debate about wealth generated by the mining boom. It is a fortunate clarification. Australia has long relied on foreign capital to help unlock our natural resources. And The Age has long held this is as it should be, both in terms of principles and practicalities. There is insufficient capital in Australia to develop our abundant resources adequately. That is the practical part.

The principle to which we adhere is that an open, trade-focused economy best provides the material well-being of our citizens. As long ago as the 1970s, then prime minister Gough Whitlam made the fundamentally important move of opening the economy to the world by slashing tariff barriers that were misallocating scarce resources by protecting inefficient local producers.

Australia does not need to change its policy on foreign investment. It must remain open. There is already a robust safeguard; the federal government has long had veto on national security grounds, through the Foreign Investment Review Board, over sizeable purchases of domestic assets by offshore entities. The board's involvement is automatically triggered by proposed purchases worth $231 million or more. The key issue today in all of this is the return on assets, whether they are owned by domestic or international investors. It would be folly for any Australian government to seek to restrict the free flow of investment funds in or out of our nation. Our living standards would fall.

Natural resources are owned by the Australian people, and the people have an inalienable right to a fair share of the exploitation of those assets. That benefit should extend well beyond the creation of ports and transport links required to get the resources to the global market.

The Age holds that some of the billions upon billions of taxation revenue generated each year, a sum that will be boosted should the proposed minerals resource tax become law as expected, should be channelled to a sovereign wealth fund. It is here that Senator Brown has fallen in behind Malcolm Turnbull, the former - and perhaps future - opposition leader, who has been advocating the establishment of such a fund.

It is the best way to share the dividends of the mining boom with future generations. As we have pointed out, other exporting nations, particularly oil producers, harness the proceeds this way. Norway, with only a quarter of our population, did it 20 years ago and now has some $600 billion in its fund.

But we have only taken small steps so far. The Future Fund was set up by the Howard government to cover public service superannuation. It does not draw directly on resource revenue. Since then infrastructure, health and education funds have been set up, overseen by the Future Fund board. But these initiatives do not add up to a true sovereign wealth fund with dedicated revenue to buttress economic development.

The question ought not be who owns Australia, but whether Australians are getting appropriate benefit from our assets in an open economy. A sovereign wealth fund would deliver that, and deserves bipartisan support.





FOR most foreigners, Burma is an unknowable place, governed in a manner more reminiscent of Kim Jong-il's rule in North Korea than anything resembling democracy. But Burma's rulers have recently shown a desire to distance themselves from the sort of isolationist policy pursued by Mr Kim. As with most things to do with the Burmese government, the reasoning is inscrutable - perhaps it is a response to the 2007 Saffron Revolution, which, despite being brutally thwarted, showed the ruling generals they could not take their people for granted; perhaps a result of regional pressure; or, more likely, it is because of concerns about continuance of foreign trade.

Whatever the motive, the government has been at pains to pretend that it cares about democracy. First came a new constitution, then national elections, and now greater freedom for Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the revered Nobel peace laureate who has for two decades endured great privation in the cause of her people's freedom.

Only the last of these has any real significance. For the most part, the Burmese reforms have been duplicitous. Take the country's first election in 20 years, held last November. An election after two decades of authoritarian rule would normally be acclaimed as a victory for democracy. But this one was neither free nor fair. The National League for Democracy led by Ms Suu Kyi won the 1990 election but was barred from participating in 2010, and the new constitution ensured continued military control of parliament.

The victorious Union Solidarity and Development Party, which enjoyed the backing of junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, is dominated by former officers who resigned so they could stand as civilians. Clearly this is not democracy as the West understands it.

That said, concessions by the newly installed ''civilian'' government encourage some cautious optimism. These include allowing Ms Suu Kyi to meet representatives of foreign powers as long as this is in a personal capacity and not as leader of a political party. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd is the latest dignitary to visit since her release from house arrest last November. He also met President Thein Sein, with whom he discussed human rights, economic reform to tackle massive huge poverty, and foreign policy.

Mr Rudd has not yet offered a clear justification for his visit, but it is encouraging to note that Australia retains a strong interest in Burma and is prepared to use what influence it may have as that country's second-largest donor.









As the Old Vic takes on Shakespeare's Richard could there not be a flicker of the thoughtful, intelligent man he really was?

Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, was crowned in 1483 following the sudden death of Edward IV. Richard, known more for good sense and restraint than his high-living brother, lasted barely two years before being turfed off his throne, and his horse, at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Shakespeare, who it must be remembered was working for a Tudor monarch, painted Richard's character as dark as the malmsey wine in which his brother, the Duke of Clarence, was drowned; but in reality he was very different from the child-murdering, hunch-back bogeyman of Tudor propaganda. Richard was a brilliant military tactician, a loyal deputy to Edward and a reformer. In an ultra-short reign he did more for medieval human rights than most of his predecessors put together. He founded the Council of the North to look after the economic rights of common people, which were meagre enough in a 15th century, London-centric economy. In 1483 he began an early form of legal aid for those who could not afford representation and he instigated a system of bail we would recognise today. But as he took to the field at Bosworth to quell yet another rebellion, he was in the throes of great personal grief, having recently lost both his wife and son, and he vowed that day to "make an end either of war or of life". Who knows how history would have played had it been the former, but as the Old Vic takes on Shakespeare's Richard could there not be just a flicker of the thoughtful, intelligent man he really was?





Any diagnosis of the health of the British high street must begin by sorting the singular from the general

Any diagnosis of the health of the British high street must begin by sorting the singular from the general. So it is with the slew of hard-luck stories there has been from the shopping sector in the past few weeks. Take the collapse of the Jane Norman fashion chain: that is largely a story of a decent business sold to a posse of Icelandic investors, loaded up with debt, and then badly caught out in the credit crunch. Or Habitat: a once-trendy interior design retailer whose style was effectively aped and possibly even bettered by Ikea. TJ Hughes: a traditional department store group that was, well, just a little too traditional. These are sad cases, to be sure, but not so different from the rest of the business-casualty ward.

But add in the closure of up to 180 shops by the confectioner Thorntons, 50 more by Carpetright, the fact that Moben Kitchens, Sharps Bedrooms and Dolphin Bathrooms are all now in administration – and a bigger and more alarming picture emerges. This is feel-bad Britain in all its grim glory – a consumer economy still recovering from the hangover left by the huge credit boom, and in no state to withstand the spending cuts that have just begun. Other macro-economic indicators confirm this: in May, retail sales slid 1.4%, wiping out the April boom from the burst of warm weather and royal wedding enthusiasm. Consumer confidence, as measured by GfK NOP, is lower than at any point in the whole of last year.

What is curious about this protracted malaise is that it comes years after Lehman Brothers fell over and Britain emerged from recession. Then again, the labour market is years from recovering its pre-recession composure and inflation-adjusted wages have been shrinking for well over a year now. As Mervyn King, the head of the Bank of England, has been pointing out, the British are undergoing the biggest squeeze in living standards since the 20s.

From all this two policy conclusions flow. First, it is highly risky to engage in tightening – whether of government budgets or of bank interest rates – now. The economy is already in a feeble state, with consumers and businesses still precariously leveraged. As reported in this paper last week, the banker who now looks after the mortgages made by Bradford & Bingley and parts of Northern Rock foresees a "tsunami" of repossessions if official interest rates edge up. Second, when it comes to micro-economic policies, it is time to rethink what our high streets are for. If Britain is all shopped out and years of retail contraction lie ahead, then town halls and Whitehall should be encouraging a greater mix of buildings on UK high streets: shops, yes, but flats and community leisure centres too. Better that than boarded-up storefronts.





The intervention saved Benghazi but as we predicted four months ago, it has produced partition and military stalemate

With the Libyan civil war now dragging on into its fifth month, and the western involvement into its fourth, the airwaves have been thick with entreaties that Nato should stay the course, as if the only impediment to pursuing a successful intervention these days is faint hearts and empty coffers back home. There are others. One is that the rebel army is stuck in the woods, 15 miles outside Misrata and 130 miles east of Tripoli. Another is that, despite a stream of high-level defections, rising bread prices, a naval blockade and long queues at the petrol stations, Muammar Gaddafi has held firm. Describe his ruling clique as you will – a family clan, the men of the tent, war criminals – but the fact is they are still there, and what's more, they appear to enjoy a measure of support. Assessing how much is an inherently flawed activity in a rump state under siege, whose prisons are filled with torture victims, but it is an inconvenient truth that Tripoli has just seen one of the biggest demonstrations of the campaign.

The most significant impediment to an end of the war is none of the above. At the heart of Nato's campaign lies a wish: if only the rebels were better armed, better trained and disciplined, if only one of those bombs were smart enough to find Gaddafi himself, the gates to Tripoli would fall open. In this fantasy, the omnipresent face of the dictator is replaced overnight by monarchy-era flags, and the Transitional National Council (TNC) marches straight in. Victory day. All you need to sell are the film rights, but this is a long way from becoming a reality. Still less does it amount to a policy.

The intervention saved Benghazi but as we predicted four months ago, it has produced partition and military stalemate. An intervention launched in the name of saving civilians has morphed into a drive for regime change. It is as if a coalition ground force is rumbling towards Tripoli. But nothing is rumbling anywhere. The Libyan rebels demand not just that Gaddafi go, but that the order he established be replaced. As this involves the fate not just of his own tribe, the Qadhadhfa, but those of two major tribes from which his armed forces are drawn, the Magarha and the Werfella, it is hardly surprising that western Libya is still fighting this one out.

This is not to say tribal loyalties are set in stone. But it means that even if the regime was decapitated in an airstrike, it would still continue. It does not mean that the Benghazi rebels would be welcomed with open arms into Tripoli. As the International Crisis Group cogently argued, Nato's absorption of the rebel's demands that has made Gaddafi going a precondition for a ceasefire and negotiations has been one of the central miscalculations of the whole saga. Yesterday the TNC welcomed an African Union offer to open talks with the government in Tripoli without the involvement of Gaddafi, but maintained that his departure was essential for a ceasefire. This, as the ICG argued, confuses two aims: securing a ceasefire and ensuring that neither Gaddafi nor any of his family are involved in the post-Jamahiriya settlement. To secure the latter, you will need the former. To secure a ceasefire in the absence of any military breakthrough, it will be on the understanding that Gaddafi will not leave Libya. Indeed, the most likely partners of such a negotiation would be two men who until recently were in the same reformist faction: Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the former justice minister and now chairman of the TNC, and Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's eldest son, for whom the International Criminal Court last week issued an arrest warrant.

Reversing out of a course of action that demands nothing less than the immediate capitulation of Gaddafi and sons, and the tribes from which they derive their power, is going to be painful for Nato. If Tripoli does not fall, it will have to be done.






An experts' panel at the Central Disaster Management Council of the Cabinet Office on June 26 announced in its interim report a new approach in working out countermeasures to large-scale earthquakes and tsunami. It took lessons from the March 11 quake and tsunami, which devastated the Tohoku Pacific coastal areas, killing some 15,500 people with some 7,200 more people missing.

The central point in the report is the emphasis on the importance of "software" in preparations for major quakes and tsunami — the same direction as taken by the Restoration Design Council.

The disaster management council is headed by the prime minister and includes all the Cabinet ministers, heads of public organizations like the Japan Red Cross and experts.

The central government must flesh out the software side of disaster prevention and show local governments as quickly as possible what concrete measures they must take.

The panel pointed out that damage from the March 11 disasters was catastrophic because the central and local governments pushed anti-disaster measures without taking into consideration the possibility that an earthquake and tsunami of the scales of the March 11 disasters could occur.

In the past, the forecast of large-scale earthquakes was based on records spanning several hundred years. Countermeasures were based on the assumption that major earthquakes that had happened frequently during the span had a high probability of recurring, the panel said.

But during the time span of several hundred years, a quake of the scale of the one that hit on March 11 did not happen.

The panel said that the time span to be studied for prediction of a large-scale earthquake should be extended back 1,000 years or so. It is said that a major quake that happened in 869 during the Jogan Era of the Heian Period was close to the March quake in power. The Jogan quake is believed to have caused tsunami that hit present-day Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

The panel said that the central government and experts concerned must do some soul-searching over why they excluded the effects of the Jogan earthquake during their studies of past quakes. It also stressed the need to study not only written records but also littoral sediment layers to estimate the force of past tsunami.

Mr. Yoshiaki Kawata, head of the panel and former head of the Research Center for Disaster Reduction Systems of Kyoto University's Disaster Prevention Research Institute, said there is the need to "push comprehensive measures" to deal with not only a quake likely to happen once every 50 to 100 years but also a much stronger one likely to happen once in 1,000 years.

But the panel thinks that it is unrealistic in terms of cost to build sea walls that can stop once-in-1,000-years mega-tsunami. Still, it said that sea walls to cope with less powerful once-in-50-to-100-years tsunami must be built.

The panel said that while these sea walls might not hold back a once-in-a-millennium mega-tsunami, they would at least delay its arrival at inland locations.

This thinking is based on the assumption that such sea walls would be strong enough to withstand the force of a tsunami that occurs once in a millennium. New sea wall design will become necessary.

Under this thinking, it will be important to establish a system that will enable people to flee to safe places once a tsunami is forecast. It will require improving evacuation routes, building evacuation towers and preventing construction of buildings in areas where damage from tsunami is expected to be great.

Very strong quakes are predicted to occur off Shizuoka Prefecture and in western areas in the first half of this century. These quakes are already named the Tokai, Tonankai and Nankai earthquakes. One quake occurring could trigger the other two.

The central government and local governments concerned need to step up preparations for these quakes by taking into consideration the panel's thinking.

In the case of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning several minutes after the quake happened. But many people died because they did not know in what direction they should flee or because there was difficulty in leading children and elderly people to safety.

The central and local governments need to carefully study topographical features in areas likely to be hit by tsunami, draw hazard maps showing where tsunami water is most likely to intrude, and prepare escape routes.

They also need to improve evacuation training for local residents and disaster prevention or reduction education for children. They have to think about the possibility that past training and education may have been perfunctory.

The height of tsunami forecast in the first warning March 11 was lower than the actual height. Some people complained that because the warning predicted that the tsunami would be three meters high, they thought they did not have to escape.

Both the central and local governments must closely examine what went wrong with the warnings and evacuations on March 11. The lessons should be applied so that correct information will be given promptly to help people, both young and old, evacuate in time ahead of a future disaster.






SEATTLE — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made a series of stern and fiery statements recently, giving the impression that war is somehow upon us once again.

Oddly, Clinton's sudden reappearance into the Middle East diplomacy scene was triggered by the brave attempts of peace activists to break the siege on Gaza.

In recent months, as Arab nations settled old scores with their insufferable dictators, U.S. foreign policy started taking a backseat. Attempts at swaying Arab revolts teetered between bashful diplomatic efforts to sustain U.S. interests — as was the case with Yemen — and military intervention, as in Libya, which is still being marketed to the U.S. public as a humanitarian intervention, as opposed to the war it actually is.

The indecisiveness and double standards on display are hardly new.

The U.S. stance during the Tunisian popular revolution ranged between complete lack of interest (when the protests began brewing in December 2010), to sudden enthusiasm for freedom and democracy (when the revolts led to the ousting of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14).

The same foreign policy pendulum repeatedly swung both ways during the Egyptian Revolution. The U.S. political definitions of Hosni Mubarak shifted from that of a friendly leader to that of a loathsome dictator who had to go for the sake of Egyptian democracy.

It took Tunisians 28 days to overthrow their leader, and Egyptians 18 days to outset Mubarak. During these periods, U.S. foreign policy in the two countries — and the Middle East as a whole — seemed impossible to delineate in any concrete statements. Hillary Clinton was an emblematic figure in this diplomatic discrepancy.

Now Clinton is speaking in a lucid language that leaves no room for misinterpretation. When it comes to the security and interests of Israel — as opposed to those of the entire Middle East region and all its nations — Clinton, like other top U.S. officials, leaves no room for error: Israel will always come first.

Clinton's forceful language was triggered by the decision of humanitarian activists from over 20 countries to travel to Gaza in a symbolic gesture to challenge the Israeli blockade of one of the poorest regions on earth. The 500 peace activists on board 10 boats will include musicians, writers, Nobel laureates, Holocaust survivors and members of Parliament.

"We think that it's not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves," Clinton told reporters on June 23.

Of course, the foreboding language offers another blank check to Israel, giving it permission to do as it pleases. If Israel repeated the same scenario it used to intercept and punish activists abroad the first flotilla on May 31, 2010 — killing nine activists in the Mavi Marmara — then it would constitute another act of "self-defense," according to Clinton's avant-garde rationale.

Responding to Clinton's comments, Irish Member of the European Parliament Paul Murphy told the Irish Examiner on June 24: "It is not true that we will be entering Israeli waters. We will be sailing through Gaza waters. ... Ms. Clinton's comments are disgraceful. She has essentially given the green light to Israeli Defense Forces to use violence against participants in the flotilla."

Indeed, Israeli diplomats will be utilizing Clinton's advanced verbal and political support for the Israeli action in every platform available to them.

According to Clinton, the entire business with the flotillas is unnecessary. "We don't think it's useful or helpful or productive to the people of Gaza," she told reporters in Washington, adding that "a far better approach is to support the work that's being done through the United Nations."

The United Nations had already declared the Gaza siege illegal. Various top U.N. officials have stated this fact repeatedly, and the international body had called on Israel to end the siege.

Notable among the many statements was a 34-page report by U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay. Published Aug. 14, 2009, the report "accused Israel of violating the rules of warfare with its blockade stopping people and goods from moving in or out of the Gaza Strip," according to the Associated Press. The Gaza blockade," Pillay stated, "amounts to collective punishment of civilians, which is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare and occupation."

Before the 34 pages could be thoroughly examined, both the U.S. and Israel dismissed the findings. Now Clinton is suddenly urging all interested parties to work through the same institution that her department has repeatedly undermined.

Pillay's report was issued nearly two years ago. Since then, little has been done to remedy the situation and to bring to an end the protracted Palestinian tragedy in Gaza. In fact, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency has recently put Gaza's unemployment at 45.2 percent, allegedly among the worst in the world.

The U.N. report, released June 14, claimed that unemployment in the first half of 2011 had increased by 3 percent. Monthly wages were also shown to have declined significantly. It seems the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is not only bad, it is progressively worsening.

This time, Clinton is speaking from a power position. As diplomatic pressure from Israel finally dissuaded Turkey from allowing the Humanitarian Relief Foundation from joining the flotilla, it seems the Mavi Marmara won't be setting sail to Gaza anytime soon.

As if to confirm that the decision was motivated by political pressure, Clinton "spoke to her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu to express her happiness at the announcement" (according to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News, June 21).

With political victory in mind, the State Department travel warning of June 22 read like a legal disclaimer issued by the Israeli foreign ministry.

It warned U.S. citizens to avoid any attempt to reach Gaza by sea. Those who participate in a flotilla risk arrest, prosecution, deportation and a possible 10-year travel ban by Israel.

In a region that is rife with opportunities for political stances — or at least a measurable shift in policy — the U.S. State Department and its chief diplomat have offered nothing but inconsistency and contradiction.

Now, thanks to a group of peaceful civil society activists, including many pacifists and elders, the State Department is getting its decisive voice back. And the voice is as atrocious and unprincipled as ever.

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story" (Pluto Press, London).







The recent WikiLeaks release of cables from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing has helped finally to kill the myth of an alleged massacre in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on the night of June 3-4, 1989.

But how did that myth come to exist in the first place?

After all, those embassy cables have long been available, at the Tiananmen site on Google, provided courtesy of the U.S. government. As well, several impartial Western observers in the square at the time, including a Reuters correspondent and a Spanish TV crew, have long insisted, and written, that they saw no sign of any alleged massacre.

Recently the massacre believers have begun to tell us that while maybe the "massacre" did not occur in the square, it certainly did occur in the streets and alleys leading to the square. But here, too, the Embassy cables tell a very different story. Relevant details include:

• Beijing sent in unarmed troops in its bid to clear the square of remaining students as the demonstrations wound down. When those troops were mocked and blocked by protesting crowds, Beijing hurriedly decided to send in armed troops, whose vehicles were also blocked.

The vehicles were also fire-bombed with their crews incinerated inside. (Reuters has yet to release a photo of an incinerated soldier being strung up under an overhead bridge.)

• Wild shooting then broke out, mainly from an out-of-control unit, which other units sought to restrain sometimes by force. Chaos reigned and casualties, on both sides, were heavy in the streets leading to the square.

• There were also disturbances near the square entrance, after students attacked and killed a soldier trying to enter.

• The remaining 3,000 students in the square left peacefully when requested by the troop commander early on the morning of June 4.

So whence the story of a Tiananmen Square massacre?

A lurid BBC report at the time was one important source. Other reporters may then have felt compelled to chime in even though none of them, including the BBC, had actually been in the square.

The best expose of what happened can be found in a detailed 1998 report from the Columbia University School of Journalism titled "The Myth of Tiananmen and the Price of a Passive Press." Prepared by Jay Mathews, a former Washington Post Beijing bureau chief, it notes how the Western media's pack instinct not only created the false massacre story; it also led those media to miss the far more important story that night, namely a popular uprising against the regime in its own Beijing streets. (A summary of the report can be found at

Mathews traces much of the problem to a Hong Kong newspaper that immediately, after the 1989 disturbance, ran a long story under the name of an alleged student protester. He claimed he was at the square when troops arrived with machine guns to mow down students in the hundreds.

Distributed around the globe, the article was seen as final proof that the original BBC and other massacre reports were accurate. But the alleged author of that report was never located, and for good reason: The article was almost certainly planted — one of the many black information operations organized by British intelligence over the years.

U.K. black information efforts are much more pervasive than most realize. They began in the Cold War years with the creation of an International Research Department within the Foreign Office whose job was to provide gray and black information propaganda for use from unattributed sources.

Black propaganda was, according to an Australian researcher into the topic, Adam Henry, "the strategic placement of lies and false rumors," while gray propaganda was "the production of slanted, but not fictitious, nonattributable information."

According to Henry, it played a key role in helping to justify or downplay one truly dreadful postwar massacre in Asia, namely the slaughter of up to a half a million leftwing Indonesians in 1965.

Its Forum World Features was also active in planting seemingly impartial articles endorsing the Saigon version of the Vietnam War.

Ironically, after seeking to cover up real massacres by pro-Western regimes in Asia, the U.K. operation then seems to have excelled itself by inventing a phony massacre by a Chinese regime.

The fact is that for seven weeks the Beijing regime had tolerated a student protest occupation of its iconic central square despite the disruption and loss of face to the regime. Some regime leaders even tried to negotiate compromises, which some of the student leaders later regretted having rejected.

When eventually troops were sent in to clear the square, the demonstrations were already ending. But by this time the Western media were there in force, keen to grab any story they could.

Ironically, the Western media, which barely noticed the massacres of protesting students in Mexico in 1968 and Thailand in 1976 (no hint of negotiations for compromises there as the killings were immediate and brutal), still goes out of its way to paint a false picture of a brutal Chinese regime willing to march in and massacre its protesting students in the hundreds, if not thousands.

This is not to deny that the regime can be highly insensitive, even brutal, at times. I was once a minor victim, back in the bad old Cultural Revolution days. Despite having organized single-handedly a visit by an Australian team to join the all-important 1971 ping-pong diplomacy, I was first threatened with expulsion and then formally reprimanded by the Chinese Foreign Ministry for the sin of having tried to help non-Chinese-speaking Australian journalists cover the visit.

I could sense, even then, the simmering anti-regime hostility that would erupt on Beijing streets in 1989. And diplomatic sources tell me that there was a real massacre of protesting students back in 1976 following anti-regime protests after former Premier Zhou Enlai died.

That was China then — when more media coverage of regime excesses would have been better than gushing reports of ping-pong friendship. But that is no excuse for the later media excesses over Tiananmen.

True, the regime does itself no service by its continuing crackdown on some of the 1989 student leaders. But an April 17 review in this newspaper of Philip Cunningham's book, "Tiananmen Moon: Inside the Chinese Student Uprising," — a book whose blurb on Amazon still manages to talk about a Tiananmen Square massacre — provides a clue.

It quotes one of the student leaders, Chai Ling, saying that creating a "sea of blood" might be the only way to shake the regime. If frustrated students leaving the square carried out those petrol bomb attacks on troops (in those days protesting citizens did not use petrol bombs), then the anger of the regime becomes a lot more understandable. But I doubt whether any of those responsible for the original phony story will get round to details like that.

Tiananmen remains the classic example of the shallowness and bias in most Western media reporting, and of governmental black information operations seeking to control those media. China is too important to be a victim of this nonsense.

Gregory Clark is a former Australian diplomat who specialized in Chinese affairs. A Japanese language translation of this article will appear at







As predicted, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has picked Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) chief Lt. Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo as the new Army chief, replacing the retiring Gen. George Toisutta. The three-star general was installed Thursday.

Pramono met the qualifications for the post, given his vast experience as territorial commander and stints at the Army's Special Forces and Kostrad, which traditionally serve as training grounds for Army chief hopefuls. That Pramono is Yudhoyono's brother-in-law is a plus that other candidates are missing — by fluke.

Does the Army change of guard revive nepotistic practices, which the nation branded as the number one enemy apart from corruption and collusion and hence vowed to eradicate at the beginning of the reform movement back
in 1998?

Such an allegation is not without grounds. The choice of Pramono comes on the heels of Yudhoyono's falling approval rate that some analysts say prompted him to find someone who could help him feel secure. Many have also linked Pramono's rise to the top Army post to the 2014 presidential election, as Yudhoyono's Democratic Party is desperately seeking a warranted successor as the Constitution bars him from eying a third presidential term.

To cynics, the hard-won democracy in Indonesia has given rise to nepotism as evident in the nomination of politicians' wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nephews or in-laws to public posts either in executive or legislative powers. Through nepotism, if it means favoritism granted to relatives or friends regardless of merit, political dynasties are built to preserve power at the expense of democracy.

A similar, or perhaps fiercer, controversy was rife when US president-elect John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Robert Kennedy the attorney general despite the fact that he had never practiced law in any state or federal court. Arthur Meier Schlesinger's book Robert Kennedy and his times says that the president-elect, among other considerations, needed people who he could talk to as his aides.

For better or worse, favoritism or nepotism may have been in place not only in Indonesia and the US. But it is merit or competence that can make a difference.

As the President, Yudhoyono holds the prerogative to appoint his trusted people to military chiefs of staff as he did when he formed his Cabinets in 2004 and 2009. Nothing is peculiar if he chooses people he thinks he can work with.

We believe the President consulted many parties, took into account pluses and minuses and strength and weaknesses of all the Army chief candidates, and measured all consequences before he tapped Pramono.

Rather than speculating on the motive behind Pramono's appointment, it will be more productive to demand the new Army chief prove his commitment to help build a professional armed force that the military reform looks up to.

One of the perennial challenges facing the Army is withdrawing itself from business in line with the 2004 Indonesian Military Law. It will require not only a strong will but also altruism from the force that for decades has had access to lucrative enterprises.

The consequence of the exit from business is a ballooning state budget to meet the minimum essential force and personnel's well-being.

Next in line is the Army's respect for human rights, which was tarnished following a series of abuses against civilians in Papua early this year.

Only time will tell whether the new commander will live up to the nation's dream of an army that is ready to protect the country without reservation.






Chastened by its failure to successfully negotiate a settlement in the recent border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, Indonesia has been noticeably silent on the recent explosion of tensions in the South China Sea.

Only a few months ago, Indonesia was positioning itself as an 'honest broker' in the South China Sea dispute. Now it appears much more circumspect.  Jakarta knows that only through wider regional discussions, which must include the US, can the quarrels be resolved.

Indonesia took up the rotating chair of ASEAN at the beginning of the year with a great sense of confidence. The largest country in the region, with a booming economy and flourishing — if messy — democracy, Jakarta saw the ASEAN chair as a good opportunity to solidify its credentials as the region's de facto leader.

In January Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa signaled that the long-running series of territorial disputes in South China Sea, which had again flared up during 2010, would be a key focus of Indonesia's diplomatic efforts.

Since then, Natalegawa has been distracted by another territorial spat closer to home.

Following an outbreak of fighting between Thailand and Cambodia around the disputed Preah Vihear temple in February, which resulted in 10 deaths, Natalegawa flew to Bangkok and Phnom Penh attempting to negotiate a solution.

In its capacity as ASEAN chair, Jakarta agreed to send unarmed Indonesian observers to monitor the situation on both sides of the border.

Yet despite months of frantic diplomatic effort, including a crisis meeting on the sidelines of the annual ASEAN Summit in Jakarta in May, the dispute remains unsolved. In spite of Indonesia's efforts at a regionally brokered solution, Cambodia has now taken its case to the International Court of Justice.

If ASEAN can't resolve a territorial quarrel between its own member states, can it expect to broker a solution in the high-stakes South China Sea?

The Cambodia-Thailand border dispute is a reminder of the limited role that ASEAN can realistically play in assuring regional security.

The only real option available to ASEAN in the South China Sea disputes, and to Indonesia as its chair, is to continue encouraging the US to play an active role in the region to counterbalance to China's growing weight.  

This does not mean ASEAN is irrelevant. China maintains that the South China Sea disputes should be settled on a bilateral basis. But the ASEAN states involved – Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei – recognize that only by acting in concert can they hope to stand up to their powerful northern neighbor.

Strength in numbers has long been ASEAN's raison d'être. Formed in 1967 at the height of the Cold War, the founding five members thought that sticking together would give them the best chance of standing up to the circling superpowers.

A pact of non-interference in each other's internal security affairs enabled them to put their own animosities aside. But it also meant that security cooperation always lagged well behind economic integration. It has been through the US-led 'hub and spokes' system of bilateral relationships, rather than formal multilateral agreements, that security cooperation in Southeast Asia has largely taken place. ASEAN's key role has been to bring the major players together.

This should again be its role in the South China Sea.

Indonesia, as ASEAN chair, could push for the issue to be resolved in a wider ASEAN-led multilateral forum such as the East Asia Summit or the ASEAN Regional Forum, where the presence of the USA might force China to moderate its behavior. Jakarta understands that keeping both China and the USA inside the ASEAN tent is crucial.

Last year Indonesia welcomed US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's offer to mediate the dispute, made in response to China's claim (which it has since backed away from) that Beijing would now consider the South China Sea a 'core interest' on par with Taiwan and Tibet.

ASEAN's subsequent invitation for America (along with Russia) to join the East Asia Summit was widely interpreted as an attempt to dilute China's growing influence in the grouping, giving the Southeast Asian states more bargaining power in areas such as the South China Sea.

Jakarta's failure to broker a deal between Cambodia and Thailand is a reminder that settling territorial quarrels is not ASEAN's strong suite. It is a cautionary warning against institutional overreach. ASEAN is not the best forum in which to tackle the South China Sea disputes.

Where ASEAN can play a role is in bringing the major regional powers together, and giving the smaller Southeast Asian states a bigger voice than they could muster alone.

Indonesia's recent silence on the issue suggests it has realized this.

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) in Sydney and author of Jakarta's Juggling Act, published by the CIS






In a Foreign Affairs article last year, Robert Kaplan wrote that notwithstanding its continental being, China would eventually expand seaward as a consequence of growing overseas commercial interests and soaring demands for energy imports. It is too early to tell whether China's seaward turn will create instability in the maritime domain. But one must comprehend the fact that the shift is inevitable.

The recent incidents and tension in the South China Sea (SCS) are but only symptoms of China's growing maritime assertiveness. The US Energy Information Administration reports that Chinese sources estimated the area to hold as high as 213 billion barrels of oil and 2 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. Not to mention its significance for fisheries and international navigation. Given these factors, the tension stemming from the dispute seems natural. It is, however, everyone's responsibility to prevent the situation from spinning out of control.

True, thus far, China has managed to avoid conflict with its neighbors. It still adheres to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) on the South China Sea, deploys mostly paramilitary forces to patrol its coastal waters and economic exclusive zone (EEZ) and has scaled down its rhetoric concerning the threat or use of force.

Yet China has explained very little about its future expansion of naval and marine paramilitary force.

Jane's Intelligence Weekly reports that Beijing will expand the China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) from 9,000 to 15,000 personnel by 2020. The patrol fleet will be increased to 350 vessels by 2015 and 520 by 2020, with 16 aircraft by 2015.

Furthermore, China is already the largest submarine operator in the littoral, possessing more than 70 boats, with 21 stationed in the South Sea Fleet alone. In late 2010, a new type of diesel-electric attack submarine (SSK) was launched, apparently of indigenous design equipped with advanced propulsion system that enables it to stay submerged for a longer period of time.

This is not to mention Beijing's active aircraft carrier program based on the ex-Ukrainian vessel Varyag, which is already nearing completion. Although some observers posit that the vessel will have more training than operational utility, China has indefinitely laid an ambitious plan for its navy.

Such developments have aroused concerns of many regional states. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have added submarines to their fleets. Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines have stated their intentions to follow suit. In December 2009, Vietnam agreed with Russia to purchase six Kilo-class SSKs and additional Svetlyak-class fast attack craft.

Although not a claimant to the SCS, Thailand has stated clearly that its Type-206 submarine procurement from Germany is in response to neighboring countries' naval modernization activities. Even the Philippines, whose navy is somewhat the least assertive, has unveiled the "Sail Plan 2020," which includes, among others, submarine procurement.

While the dispute still lingers unresolved, such developments, if not buttressed on an effective regulatory mechanism, could generate miscalculations and misperceptions. Worse, it could set off a chain reaction that can potentially spur a precondition for a regional naval arms race.

As the current ASEAN chairman, Indonesia has a pivotal role to play not only in defusing tension, but also in presenting ASEAN's collective view of the dispute. Indonesia must be able to convince Beijing that how the latter is being perceived by its neighbors as a whole will resonate well with the way it handles the SCS. Indonesia has had its own experience when China claimed part of its EEZ.

In response, Jakarta held its largest joint military exercise in 1996. China is now walking a tightrope. Any misstep will make the situation more precarious. If China is to continue its saber-rattling, not only will its neighbors increase their own militaries, but they will also welcome external parties, such as the US, to get involved.

The first step Indonesia could take is to support efforts to revise the DOC. The document is simply ineffective due to its lack of clarity and binding arrangements. Without forcing one to contemplate a final resolution of the dispute, several measures can at least be taken to prohibit the use or threat of force in its process.

The first measure is to elevate the DOC to a more legally-sound basis, binding to all parties and be more meticulous about things on the ground. One provision might be to include the sort of 1972 US-Soviet "incidents at sea" agreement, which could provide parties with tactical guidance whenever they come into a crisis involving their vessels or aircraft with other parties. Although providing sanctions to violators might seem too sensitive, such endeavors must not be ruled out altogether.

The second measure is to make a coordinated, if not joint approach, to undertake "cooperative activities" as stipulated by Article 6 of the DOC. This could mean that whenever any party wishes to, say, conduct marine scientific research, it must invite other parties to observe, or at least to keep them informed. Such policy could also be part of confidence-building measures needed to build trust among the claimants.

The third measure is to strengthen regional institutions relating to maritime issues. For example, the issue of SCS can be made a routine agenda for discussion in the ASEAN Maritime Forum. It should be calibrated as to provide parties not only with avenues for dialogue, but to establish a common agenda in the SCS for, say, joint oil and gas exploration.

The fourth measure is to improve current mechanisms for states to conduct military exercises. This means that the DOC mechanism of "voluntary" notification of military exercises must be made obligatory. The most effective approach might be to conduct joint military exercises among the claimants.

The example of joint naval exercises, such as the Pacific Rim, could be implemented in the SCS. It could invite other claimants as observers, if not participants themselves, in military exercises conducted by any party.

Thus, Indonesia must be able to portray to all parties that they are on the same boat, be it in Hanoi, Manila, Jakarta or Beijing. That they believe peaceful resolution of the dispute is not yet impossible. And military saber-rattling will only make the situation cataclysmically worse.

The writer is post-graduate student in Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), NTU, Singapore, and a researcher, Center for East Asian Cooperation Studies (CEACoS), University of Indonesia.









The growing tension in the universities, with regard to academics grievances is one that demands immediate attention. The manner in which the situation has been allowed to grow into the gigantic proportions it has now come to is undesirable. Apart from the fact that it as left thousands of innocent children languishing in campuses awaiting the commencement of lectures; it has also allowed for a break in discipline to the lowest ebbs that the country has experienced in recent times.

Certainly, we as a nation are not unused to scenes of revolting students demanding anything from better employment opportunities to hostel facilities to change of government. Yet, the force with which we today, see the lecturers unmoved in their demands however fair or otherwise they may be, is a sight that leaves much desired of these so-called intellectuals. The very notion of those of a teaching cadre stooping down to the levels exhibited is in itself one demanding condemnation. Yet, to have them sacrifice the very futures of the children that are their responsibility can only result in the break of the much respected and long treasured bond between teacher and student. A situation, that can have very negative impacts on a long term basis.

No one certainly grudges the rights of the lecturers given the financial realities they as human beings are being  forced to  live  struggling under the present conditions. This is however not a plight exclusive to them. Be they professionals or otherwise it can only be a handful that are spared the day-in, day-out struggle for survival. However, the depths of such undignified expressions of demands as witnessed over the last few years from these unions are a condition that cannot be condoned. The streets are certainly not the forum for those in the calibre of academics that the country has thus far been accustomed to respect. It is imperative therefore, that whatever agenda they are pushing and how serious their need be for de-stability, they must remain mindful of the long term damage they bring upon themselves as well as the respected institutions they represent.





The Minster of Industries & Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, has said that  there are similarities in the products manufactured within the SAARC region and  does not enhance our export earnings. It is true with regards to products, but  the service sector which has a competitive edge within the SAARC needs promotion  to compete within the region. Sri Lanka can promote stable outsourcing under a Partnership Agreement with the neighbors. As once expressed by the Minister of Power & Energy our professionals would benefit immensely under a partnership agreement for service exports with India. We have the best service providers who can compete in the Region in Architecture, Hospitality Management and  Educational Services having exposure for nearly 500 years of foreign domination.

In reality our minds are trained in the Western Standards and  with the spread of IT our literacy can reach the zenith in this century. We can be considered a nation who has the capacity to compete in services in the Globalization programme.

Unfortunately we are behind times with some line State Agencies responsible for upgrading these sectors are dysfunctional or willfully remaining non functional.

We have to identify these core economic agencies and  motivate them to work. The  Export Development Act enacted in 1979 for promotion of export of tangible goods  is now obsolete and  needs to be revised in the context of the new economic boom  that is emerging under Mahinda Chintana.

There is no provision for outsourcing services under the protection of the legislation.

The founders of the free economy advocated that we have to either export or perish.

We need not perish if we open  our service sector to the world. We have almost done nothing to upgrade the service sector. Not even have we  a database for service outsourcing in Sri Lanka.

There are positives and negatives in a Partnership Agreements. There are several Senior Ministers who can contribute a lot to make a study and make recommendations on the complicated provisions in a partnership Agreement.

 Bandula Nonis

Discipline of our roads

As a driver on the roads of Colombo it is very clear that the 2 wheelers and the 3 wheelers are a menace. They make it difficult for us to drive. The presence of these vehicles is a sign of our times –an open economy. 

Once upon a time Lee Kwan Yu wanted to build Singapore with Sri Lanka  as a model. Later on J.R. Jayewardene wanted to build Sri Lanka with Singapore as a role model. Singapore controls and limits the intake to Colleges like Medicine and Law. This is because of the law of demand and supply. On the other hand our economy is very open and at Peradeniya the University begun by Sir Ivor Jennings and declared open to be more open than usual is always closed because of the current problem between the Government and Universities.

Over to all in Mother Lanka who treasure discipline and values.

Sydney Knight

Zebra Crossings even in by lanes will minimize accidents

When I walking towards Bambalapitiya from Geetanjali Place yesterday afternoon, I noticed that at the entrance to all these by roads and by lanes -Edward Lane, School Lane, Temple Lane, Alfred House Avenue (which are on the landside of Galle Road), pedestrian crossings have been painted by the Colombo Municipality. Alfred House Garden which leads to the British Council library also now has a pedestrian crossing at the Galle Road entrance. At the entrance to Schofield Place which is on the sea side, a pedestrian crossing has been painted. These were not there prior to making Galle Road one way and the Municipality should be commended for being proactive and for the above initiative to curtail accidents.

This is indeed a good move and if pedestrians use these crossings accidents no doubt can be avoided to a large extent. Motorists lives will be made easy if all the road users make use of the crossings at all times and the motorists do equally comply by stopping at  a these points to facilitate crossing.

Mohamed Zahran





As was only to be expected, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has clarified that the proposal to set up a Parliament Select Committee (PSC) to negotiate a political solution and power-devolution package to the unending ethnic issue was not a diversionary tacti. If so, the Government will need to do more. If not, the Government will be deemed to have slipped into a denial mode. The consequences in the latter case would be undeniable.

There is justification in the Government's argument that Parliament being the final arbiter of law and constitutional amendments at birth, a PSC would be the next natural course. The first question would have been if a PSC would be picking up the issues to be addressed out of a hat, or would be drafting legal and constitutional amendments in vacuum.

Petroleum Industries Minister Sushil Premajayantha has since answered this part by clarifying that the Government would send its proposals to the PSC, when constituted. The question is whether such a document would be majority-driven within the Government, or whether it would be driven by 'the majority' in the Government.

Even at this stage, the Government can adapt the Tissa Vitharana Report of the All-Party Representative Committee (APRC) as its own. If political representation is the key, then the report has had its way. Even the UNP Opposition that boycotted the APRC for most parts did not seem to have any reservations. What more, the recommendations also addressed the basic concern of 'Sinhala nationalists', by sticking to the 'unitary State model'.

The TNA and or other stake-holders, including possibly the Muslims and the JHU, may have other drafts.  Others may have fresh ideas. The PSC can then work on them, along with the Government proposals. But a time-limit will be required, if a committee of this kind were to produce results.

Nor can the evolving dynamics of the post-war situation be used to argue out what had been offered the previous day. There is thus a need to acknowledge that the post-war political dynamism needs to be retained. Fresh ideas and solutions to specifics should be considered at every turn. A political solution to a 30-year war with its independent consequences could not be – and should not be – found overnight. Some issues would come to pass -- others would persist, as they have done from the past. Their priority and longevity should not be confused.

At the commencement of the current negotiations with the TNA on power-devolution, President Rajapaksa nominated former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, a perceived hard-liner, as the head of the Government delegation. He has since been replaced as a member of the Government team by Parliament member, Rajiva Wijesinha, an acknowledged Liberal.

The UNP Opposition, as always, has promised its support for any solution that the Government and the Tamils would arrive at. In the past, if not under the incumbent President, the party had found reasons not to back a power-devolution package. Rather than isolating specifics on power-devolution that it could have put to vote from the Chandrika-II package, party members burnt the whole Bill in Parliament.

The JHU is a partner in the Government. It wants a political solution but does not want power-devolution. The party continues to say that the Tamils in the post-LTTE Sri Lanka have no complaints. It says the TNA continues to be a 'proxy LTTE'.

The JHU refuses to hear the repeated Government assertion that the TNA was not the 'sole representative' of the Tamil-speaking people. It is also true that the Tamils in the North continue to favour the TNA in elections. The JHU does not want to read the writing on the wall.

The JVP Opposition wants a political solution to the ethnic issue. Its leaders have been making a beeline to the war-ravaged Tamil North over the past months. Yet, it wants to stay away from a PSC, as and when constituted. The last time round, the party had stayed away from the APRC. The JVP seems wanting power to scuttle results without responsibility to producing any.

Sections within have said that the TNA would stay out of a PSC, if formed. The Government had kept the TNA out of the APRC, saying that it would be the party to negotiate a 'Sinhala-majority consensus', when arrived at. Post-war, the TNA should see the PSC as an opportunity, not a digression or denial.

The TNA cannot underpin its current apprehensions with an underlying proposition hinging on 'sole representative' status. Many others in Sri Lanka, and not just the Sinhala polity, share the JHU apprehensions in this regard.

The TNA needs to prove otherwise, going beyond electoral gains in the North. The truth lies somewhere between the TNA's political majority within the Tamil community and the sentiments of the majority community. A right balance need to be struck. Until recently, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), a post-poll partner in the Government, had been saying that it would talk to the TNA, on the demands of the community. Today, they want a third seat in the Government-sponsored negotiations, a demand they had made when the LTTE was around.

The TNA should have no hesitation in acknowledging that the problems of, and solutions to the Upcountry Tamils, are different. At the end of the day, Sri Lanka needs to address ethnic and socio-economic issues wholesale, for the moment, providing cushionfor future changes in approach and amendments to the law and Constitution, as and when required. The Tissa Vitharana Report addressed most of them.

Not being a party to the APRC recommendations, the UNP, JVP and the TNA – and not necessarily in that order – would get an opportunity to give their opinion in the PSC, if it is made a basic document for negotiations. The Government can also report to the PSC the progress made, or not made, in the on-going negotiations.

The Government has two-thirds numbers for passing constitutional amendments. It will require adjustments, either to the political package that would need voting. Or, it would have to make political adjustments for piloting an acceptable solution through Parliament and possibly in a people's referendum, too. That requires imagination and initiative. The results would be worth it – for the nation, the people, the polity and the personalities involved. The TNA too should realise the same.





The July 3 parliamentary election in Thailand is the culmination of a bitter five-year-political battle that haunted the country, leading to constant unrest and uncertainty. In December 2007, a year after the Thai Army removed the billionaire Prime Minister Thakshin Shinawatra in a coup and banned his political party, its proxy, the People Power Party, managed to win the parliamentary elections impressively. However, within a year, it found itself outmanoeuvred, and the opposition Democrat Party led by Abhisit Vejjajiva put together a coalition and took office. Since then, there has been a rash of protests resulting in bouts of political paralysis. Last year, security forces put down anti-government protesters with bullets, leaving some 90 people dead. Clearly, in the coming election, Mr. Thaksin, who lives in self-exile abroad after fleeing Thailand to escape prosecution on corruption charges, is eager to avenge his 2006 removal. His party, now called the Pheu Thai, has fielded his sister Yingluck Shinawatra as the prime ministerial candidate. Evidently, the former Prime Minister hopes to run the country through her. There are fears that the election itself will not remove the tensions between the colour-coded political camps — Red Shirts, comprising mainly the rural and urban poor, for the Shinawatra clan; and Yellow Shirts, made up of the prosperous old ruling elites, for Mr. Abhisit and his Democrat Party — until Thailand addresses the deeper malaise of the military's role in politics.

The Royal Thai Army — which has carried out a total of 18 coups, and like the Pakistan Army, has played a backroom role supported by the monarchy during times of civilian rule — is a powerful player in this election. Army chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha declared recently that as a neutral entity, it had no intention of meddling in the election. But his warning that the monarchy was under threat and his demand that voters must elect "good people" have left no one in doubt that the Army has already made its choice. General Prayuth led the 2006 coup, and his televised speech came as polls predicted Mr. Thaksin's PTP in the lead. With the Army having helped put together the 2008 Democrat Party-led coalition, there is concern that if the Pheu Thai Party wins this election it will not be allowed to remain in office for long. On the other hand, it is certain too that the political roiling will continue should voters choose the Democrats — Mr. Thaksin has enough money and street power to ensure that the government will never have it easy. Either way, it appears that political peace in Thailand is still a distant prospect.





With two resolutions in as many days, and both relating to neighbouring Sri Lanka, the Tamil Nadu Assembly has unwittingly sought to introduce elements that were absent so far in the bilateral relations. More importantly, the two, moved by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa as private members resolutions, have triggered a chain reaction, reviving in the process complex pan-Tamil issues nearer home, with consequences flowing from across the world.

Considered by some as a fall-out of alliance competition than compulsions, the first resolution related to the issue in Sri Lanka. The resolution called upon the Centre to work towards bringing to book those charged with 'war crimes' in the aftermath of the war. It also called for rehabilitation of the Tamil IDPs, a just political solution to the issue, and sanctions against Sri Lanka, in the process. The resolution was more in tune with western initiatives and at variance from the known thinking of New Delhi.

The second resolution called upon the State Revenue Department to implead itself in a Supreme Court petition moved by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, when in the Opposition, relating to alleged procedural lapses in the handing over Kachchativu islet to Sri Lanka, as part of the international maritime boundary line (IMBL) agreement signed by the two countries in the mid-Sixties. The resolution, as also the court case, is closely linked to fishing by Tamil Nadu fishermen in Sri Lankan waters. The fishing issue has larger and long-standing implications for bilateral relations than possibly the ethnic issue, whose solution lies in Sri Lanka.

"Whatever be the resolutions that were passed in the Assembly," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,  in an interaction with select newspaper Editors subsequently, said that he found the Chief Minister "fully conscious of the complexities and the realities of managing this (bilateral) relationship." "I raised this matter with her the very first time. What she asked of me was moderate," the Prime Minister said, obviously referring to Jayalalithaa calling on him after assuming office as Chief Minister for a third term, and the State Assembly had passed the two resolutions. "Our challenge is to keep the Tamil Nadu Government on our side," he said.

Though scheduled in advance, the periodic visit of the Indian troika, comprising National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, was preceded by the NSA calling on Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. That was after the State Assembly had passed the two Sri Lanka-linked resolutions. As coincidence would have it, the troika's Colombo visit was followed by the Chief Minister calling on the Prime Minister, which again was to have been expected after Jayalalithaa had returned to power. Yet, the coincidences were given a political meaning in some circles in India, and at times in Sri Lanka, too.

Governor's address
The two Assembly resolutions came within a week of Governor Surjit Singh Barnala's customary address to the inaugural session of the post-poll Assembly. It confined reference to the rehabilitation issue, and stressed the fact that more needed to be done. There was no reference to other aspects of the ethnic issue, or to Kachchativu.

Leading the electoral alliance led by her AIADMK, Jayalalithaa had touched upon the 'Sri Lankan issue' and the fishermen's problems at various points while traversing the State. The exit of the MDMK and the absence of the PMK and the VCK in the AIADMK-led alliance had meant that the combine did not take extreme positions on such ticklish issues. The mood of the CPI partner in the matter often got cancelled out by the presence of the CPM, which had distinct views on the subjects concerned.

The two resolutions have thrown up many questions. The one on the national issue referred to sanctions against Sri Lanka. It did not raise the question - and, hence did not have to answer it - if sanctions would ease the miseries of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, particularly in the war-ravaged North. After having got the Assembly to pass the resolution, which also referred to 'war crimes' in strong terms, Jayalalithaa in her meeting with Prime Minister Singh asked for a delegation of Tamil Nadu legislators visiting Sri Lanka to study the ground situation for themselves. The contradiction in the approach was striking.

The Kachchativu resolution, it is believed, was aimed at ameliorating the situation of the Tamil Nadu fishermen, who have often complained about alleged harassment by Sri Lanka Navy (SLN), for violating the territorial waters. If the idea behind the resolution was to pressure the Sri Lankan Government, it could produce only opposite results. Using the Kachchativu cause to impress upon the Centre, the need to persuade Sri Lanka on the issue too cannot be expected to serve the purpose. Nor does Kachachativu solve the woes of the Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu, whose issues are more complex, and oftentimes self-inflicted.

Return of pan-Tamil idioms
The weeks after the Assembly resolutions have witnessed an increase in the activities - and local media reportage - of pan-Tamil groups identified with the 'Sri Lanka Tamil cause' in general and the LTTE otherwise, in Tamil Nadu. Saturated already with an over-dose of Sri Lankan Tamil information and propaganda, the Tamil media has been emboldened in the light of the Assembly resolutions, to report details of pan-Tamil political activities and speeches with increasing regularity.  Traditional sections of the pan-Tamil local media that had fought shy in the past seems to have changed their approach now.

Already in the race are pulp magazines and other news publications for an increasing share of 'Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora' readership for their web editions. They had often been joined by sections of the Tamil filmdom, which now has a larger global viewership in overseas screening, in the Diaspora. Unlike in the past, and as is applicable to the larger Hindi-viewing Indian Diaspora but for different reasons, the Tamil filmdom has commenced simultaneous overseas release of new films along with the limited Indian/Tamil Nadu release. The cash-box is tinkling, yes, but there had also been reported incidents of film-makers wanting their stars to protest in favour of the suffering Tamils in Sri Lanka when the latter were reluctant. In the weeks after the Assembly resolutions, a group of Tamil film actors, both men and women, called on the Chief Minister, outlining an action plan to stage an industry protest in the matter. The venue could either be Chennai or Delhi, newspapers quoted them as saying.

Pan-Tamil issues and their reach
Unlike understood, there are different streams of pan-Tamil issues dominating the discourse in the State. The terrorist war did not influence the electoral pattern in Tamil Nadu in 2009, when MDMK leader Vaiko lost his parliamentary campaign. The ruling Congress-DMK combine at the Centre and the DMK Government in the State had taken a lot of flak from pan-Tamil elements, nearer home and afar. That did not influence the election results even at the height of 'Eelam War IV' in Sri Lanka. The continuing consternation of the average Indian to the Rajiv Gandhi assassination was a cause. So was the ability of the Centre and the State and also the respective leaderships to keep the 'terrorist war' from the electoral discourse.

To be continued tomorrow.

CourtesyObserver Research







Eliminating nuclear weapons is the democratic wish of the world's people. Yet no nuclear-armed country currently appears to be preparing for a future without these terrifying devices. In fact, all are squandering billions of dollars on modernisation of their nuclear forces, making a mockery of United Nations disarmament pledges. If we allow this madness to continue, the eventual use of these instruments of terror seems all but inevitable.

The nuclear power crisis at Japan's Fukushima power plant has served as a dreadful reminder that events thought unlikely can and do happen. It has taken a tragedy of great proportions to prompt some leaders to act to avoid similar calamities at nuclear reactors elsewhere in the world. But it must not take another Hiroshima or Nagasaki- -— or an even greater disaster — before they finally wake up and recognise the urgent necessity of nuclear disarmament.

This week, the foreign ministers of five nuclear-armed countries — the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China   will meet in Paris to discuss progress in implementing the nuclear-disarmament commitments that they made at last year's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. It will be a test of their resolve to transform the vision of a future free of nuclear arms into reality
If they are serious about preventing the spread of these monstrous weapons  — and averting their use  —  they will work energetically and expeditiously to eliminate them completely. One standard must apply to all countries: zero. Nuclear arms are wicked, regardless of who possesses them. The unspeakable human suffering that they inflict is the same whatever flag they may bear. So long as these weapons exist, the threat of their use  — either by accident or through an act of sheer madness — will remain.

We must not tolerate a system of nuclear apartheid, in which it is considered legitimate for some states to possess nuclear arms but patently unacceptable for others to seek to accquire them. Such a double standard is no basis for peace and security in the world. The NPT is not a license for the five original nuclear powers to cling to these weapons indefinitely. The International Court of Justice has affirmed that they are legally obliged to negotiate in good faith for the complete elimination of their nuclear forces.

The New START agreement between the US and Russia, while a step in the right direction, will only skim the surface off the former Cold War foes' bloated nuclear arsenals – which account for 95 per cent of the global total. Furthermore, these and other countries' modernisation activities cannot be reconciled with their professed support for a world free of nuclear weapons.

It is deeply troubling that the US has allocated $185 billion to augment its nuclear stockpile over the next decade, on top of the ordinary annual nuclear-weapons budget of more than $50 billion. Just as unsettling is the Pentagon's push for the development of nuclear-armed drones  — H-bombs deliverable by remote control.

Russia, too, has unveiled a massive nuclear-weapons modernisation plan, which includes the deployment of various new delivery systems. British politicians, meanwhile, are seeking to renew their navy's aging fleet of Trident submarines — at an estimated cost of £76 billion ($121 billion). In doing so, they are passing up an historic opportunity to take the lead on nuclear disarmament.

Every dollar invested in bolstering a country's nuclear arsenal is a diversion of resources from its schools, hospitals, and other social services, and a theft from the millions around the globe who go hungry or are denied access to basic medicines. Instead of investing in weapons of mass annihilation, governments must allocate resources towards meeting human needs.

The only obstacle we face in abolishing nuclear weapons is a lack of political will, which can – and must – be overcome. Two-thirds of UN member states have called for a nuclear-weapons convention similar to existing treaties banning other categories of particularly inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, from biological and chemical arms to anti-personnel land mines and cluster munitions. Such a treaty is feasible and must be urgently pursued.

It is true that nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented, but that does not mean that nuclear disarmament is an impossible dream.

My own country, South Africa, gave up its nuclear arsenal in the 1990's, realising it was better off without these weapons. Around the same time, the newly independent states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine voluntarily relinquished their nuclear arms, and then joined the NPT. Other countries have abandoned nuclear-weapons programmes, recognising that nothing good could possibly come from them. Global stockpiles have dropped from 68,000 warheads at the height of the Cold War to 20,000 today.

In time, every government will come to accept the basic inhumanity of threatening to obliterate entire cities with nuclear weapons. They will work to achieve a world in which such weapons are no more – where the rule of law, not the rule of force, reigns supreme, and cooperation is seen as the best guarantor of international peace. But such a world will be possible only if people everywhere rise up and challenge the nuclear madness.

Desmond Tutu is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and supporter of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons











WHEN it comes to issues involving Israel, politicians in Washington can become quite hysterical, making the dumbest remarks or doing the most illogical things.

Evidence of such bizarre behaviour abounds, and the past week provided several examples.

Taking top prize would be newly elected Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, who wanted the US to use military assets to stop humanitarian flotillas on their way to Gaza.

He wrote that the US should "make available all special necessary operations and naval support to the Israeli Navy to effectively disable flotilla vessels before they can pose a threat to Israeli coastal security or put Israeli lives at risk".

Apparently, it doesn't matter to Kirk that several dozen US citizens are on those ships (including a number of retired US military personnel) and hostile action would put them at risk.

It also doesn't matter that with the US actively engaged in several conflicts in the region and with US-favourable ratings at record lows in the Arab world, an act of this sort would further compromise the US in the Middle East.

Almost as disturbing was the letter from Texas Governor Rick Perry to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Perry, believed to be considering entering the Republican presidential primary contest, takes his hysteria over the flotilla in a different direction.

In his letter, he says: "More importantly, I write to encourage you to aggressively pursue all available legal remedies to enjoin and prevent these illegal actions, and to prosecute any who may elect to engage in them in spite of your pre-emptive efforts."

Perry doesn't note which US laws have been violated. Nor does he describe which "legal remedies" should be pursued. What he does reveal is that in his pursuit of the presidency, he will say or do almost anything.

And then there's the action taken by the entire Senate, which unanimously passed a resolution that expresses its "opposition to the inclusion of Hamas in a unity government... (while noting that) Palestinian efforts to gain recognition of a state outside direct negotiations demonstrate absence of a good faith commitment to peace negotiations ... (which) will have implications for continued US aid".

In speaking for their aid-threatening bill, the two senators who introduced it made comments worthy of note.

Lead sponsor of the legislation, Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, accused the UN of having a "well documented record of being hijacked" by Palestinians for use against Israel.

Collin's co-sponsor, Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, denounced the UN effort, describing it as a "unilateral attempt by the United Nations to establish a Palestinian State".

Collins ignores the many times the Senate has "been hijacked" by supporters of Israel to take actions detrimental to the Palestinians (like this resolution which threatens to cut aid).

And Cardin's comments are nonsense, since it defies logic to describe any action taken by a vote of the overwhelming majority of the more than 190 member states of the UN as "unilateral".

But when it comes to demonstrating loyalty to Israel, logic and good sense are put aside in favour of outlandish, dangerous displays.

In the first place, actions and statements like these send horrible messages overseas about the inability of American politics to deal fairly with any Middle East issue involving Israel - undercutting US diplomacy.

Secondly, these actions and the one-sided politics they reflect tie the hands (or, at times, force the hands) of administrations, negatively impacting the ability of policymakers to act.

Finally, these comments and actions embolden hardliners in Israel and the Arab world, who both come to believe there are no restraints on Israeli behaviour and no way that Arab concerns will be heard or respected in US policy debates.





I spent last week on holiday in Bahrain contemplating how much things had changed in my lifetime.

This was largely because last Wednesday I qualified for a free bus pass back in Scotland having hit the dizzy, if somewhat worrying, age of 60.

Now as well as pondering over all the hair and teeth that have gone west over the past six decades and the fact that I can't kick a football for more than a few minutes without risking cardiac arrest these days, I was thinking about how much the world had changed politically and economically.

I have come to the conclusion that while a lot of things have improved, a lot of things have got worse.

I was born in a one bedroom apartment that had a shared outside toilet and a tin bath in a cupboard that was placed in front of our coal fire every Saturday for the weekly immersion.

The UK was still suffering from rationing in the wake of the war, but the nascent National Health Service (NHS) provided us with free orange juice and various other concoctions to ensure healthy bones and body.

Much to my displeasure, the new NHS was also obsessed with protecting me from various maladies ranging from smallpox and whooping cough to diphtheria.

This involved being trailed along to Dr Bennie's surgery where he would plunge needles into my little limbs.

I was always promised a Dinky toy if I didn't cry when I got inoculations.

I always cried. But I got a small metal vehicle painted with lead paint nonetheless.

Still it was probably worth it because those ailments, along with a lot of others that I got jabs for have largely disappeared back home and no longer take the lives of children.

Like most people of my generation, we never had a television until I was about five, largely I think because you only got about four hours of black and white broadcasts a day and you only got the BBC.

I would have been around 10 before the UK had two channels and 16 before the third one came along.

I was shaving by the time colour arrived on the scene.

You still got rag and bone men plying their trade with horses and carts in those days and ice-cream vendors who sold their wares from hand-pushed vehicles.

You could play football in the street because there were very few cars around and where I was brought up in Cambuslang we were next door to fields and farms where today there are only housing estates.

But the big difference for grown-ups was that, even with rationing, they were living in a period where after a depression and a war there was a new spirit of hope.

As a baby boomer I was born into a world where everyone believed that things could only get better, that their children would have a better life than they had and that future prosperity was just around the corner.

And so it proved.

For the next 20 to 25 years the economy boomed. It did not take off as fast as that of the US, Japan or Germany, but things definitely continued to improve, people's real wealth increased greatly and the world seemed to have put its woes of the 1920s and 30s behind them as it launched into a new Elizabethan era.

How things have changed!

Today across the UK, Europe and the US no-one seriously sees things getting better.

Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain have unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression with up to 40 per cent of young people out of work.

The future looks anything but bright for the next generation.

In order to get anything like a decent job in the UK in the future children will have to look to going to university and that is set to saddle them with massive debts unless they have very rich parents.

From the 1950s onwards people got longer holidays, shorter working hours and were retiring early on adequate pensions. That has certainly gone out of the window with people having to work longer hours and postpone retirement until well into their 60s if not even longer for future generations.

I find it rather sad that in spite of all the technological advance in the past six decades, for most young people, the future looks like things are just going to get worse rather than better and that the West embroiled in facing massive debt problems and austerity for decades to come.

Protecting bankers

I find it unbelievable that the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) think that they have solved the Greek debt crisis by their bailout.

There is something distinctly wrong to me that Greece, which invested in democracy, is now being run by a bunch of unelected central bankers who have come up with what they call a rescue plan which is in fact a short-term knee-jerk reaction to protect unscrupulous bankers.

These guys have demanded that Greece sell off the family silver, increase value added tax to 23pc, increase income tax and pay off hundreds of thousands of public sector workers.

Do you get the impression that these people have got about as much an understanding of economics as Muammar Gadaffi does about winning popularity polls?

Anyone with an ounce of knowledge about the dismal science will tell you that the austerity measures demanded by the money men will drive Greece into an incredible recession.

There will be mass unemployment, even worse than at present, and even more tax avoidance the Greek people are already pretty good at.

As the country goes into deep recession, its ability to meet its debt obligations will become massively more difficult and somewhere down the line, having seen its economy destroyed, it will default anyway.

Handing over ECB and IMF millions to Greece is simply attempting to transfer debt from German and French banks to German and French taxpayers.

In the current situation it is unlikely that the Greek government will survive.

But unless the country is allowed to default to some extent, the German and French electorate may also start questioning what their governments are up to.

There is an old saying that if you owe your bank $10, you have a problem but if you owe a million, the bank has a problem.

I would suggest that the banks that lent Greece 340 billion euros have a problem and should start negotiating with Athens about an orderly agreed level of default.











It is nearly five months since the beginning of the protests in Libya, which started a month after the downfall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and three days after Hosni Mubarak was deposed in Egypt.

The protests in Libya began at about the same time as the popular uprisings in Yemen and Bahrain. Therefore, from the beginning, many hoped to see the domino effect in other countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

However, despite such aspirations, the popular uprising in Libya did not achieve the desired result, and a high price had to be paid in terms of human suffering and financial losses. And the situation became more complicated due to some unexpected developments. For example, some military and political figures, such as the interior and justice ministers and a number of army commanders, joined the opposition and formed a political and military organization (the National Transitional Council) to fight against Gaddafi. Most importantly, the NATO military intervention had a great effect on developments in Libya, creating an exceptional situation compared to the other uprisings in the Arab world.

The slowdown in the pace of developments is not limited to Libya, and this phenomenon can also be seen in Bahrain and Yemen. Many political analysts have concluded that this slowdown is the direct result of the overt and covert intervention of the West, which is trying to manage and control the process of change. Other political analysts say the slowdown has occurred due to the military and political capabilities of the governments of those countries.

However, there is no doubt that developments in Libya are gradually taking new dimensions that will have more influence on other countries of the region. Some point to the fact that for the time being, the prolongation of the war in Libya has had an influence on the uprisings in other countries, and it will have more negative effects, particularly if the military intervention prepares the way for new Western-backed figures to come to power. Of course, the continuation of the resistance in Libya can also have a positive effect on other popular movements in the region.

The special situation of Libya in terms of population and wealth, compared to other countries of the region, and Muammar Gaddafi's use of an iron-fist policy to suppress street protests created many concerns from the very beginning regarding the prospects for the resistance in the country.

Gaddafi did not hesitate to use heavy weapons against the protesters in the very early stages of the uprising. This created a gloomy outlook for the uprising in Libya. Accordingly, street protesters in Libya, unlike the demonstrators in Egypt and Tunisia, were forced to resort to weapons to fight against the dictator.

Libya's vast oil and gas reserves, the geostrategic location of the country in the Mediterranean region, its position among countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and finally UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which resulted in the West's military intervention, are the most important factors which have made the nature of the Libyan uprising different.

Meanwhile, the unsuccessful record of over three months of NATO intervention and the pessimistic view of Muslims about Western meddling in Islamic countries have created a challenge for the Western powers.

This situation could lead to an endless battle between Islamic countries and the arrogant Western powers that will have some decisive effects in favor of the Islamic world.

In addition, the U.S. Congress has seriously reprimanded President Barack Obama for the intervention, which is another blow to the arrogance and egotism of the West in this issue.

Jafar Qannadbashi is a university professor and an expert in African politics based in Tehran.







At a time when the American people have been asked to tighten their belts, teachers are receiving pink slips, the vital statistics of the American people reveal a health care crisis in the making, and the U.S. government is in serious threat of default, our President and Congress have decided that a new war, this time against the people of Libya, is appropriate.


This comes at a time when the U.S., by one estimate, spends approximately $3 billion per week for war against Iraq and Afghanistan. The President and Congress continue to fund the war against Libya despite the fact that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that the U.S. had no strategic interest in Libya; and despite the fact that the Senate Chairwoman of the Select Committee on Intelligence admits that the U.S. really does not know who the "rebels" are; while the rebels themselves, according to a Telegraph report of March 25, 2011, admit that Al-Qaeda elements are among their ranks. So while the apparatus of our government has been used for over ten years to inform the American people and the global community that Al-Qaeda is an enemy of freedom-loving people all over the world, our President chooses to ally our military with none other than Al-Qaeda elements in Libya and other people whom U.S. intelligence say they do not know.

Additionally, U.S. Admiral Locklear admitted to a Member of Congress that one of NATO's missions was to assassinate Muammar Qaddafi. And, indeed, NATO bombs have killed Qaddafi's son and three grandchildren, just as U.S. bombs in 1986 killed his daughter. NATO bombs just recently killed the grandchildren of one of Qaddafi's associates in a targeted assassination attempt. Targeted assassination is not within the scope of the United Nations Security Council Resolution and targeted assassination is against U.S. law, international law, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law. Targeted assassination is also a crime. We certainly cannot encourage others to abide by the law when we so openly break it.

While in Libya, I witnessed NATO's targeting of civilians: NATO bombs and missiles landed in residential neighborhoods, hit schools, exploded near hospitals, destroyed parts of the public broadcasting infrastructure, and narrowly missed killing students at Al Fateh University. When civilians are targeted in war, or "low kinetic" activities, (1) crimes are committed.

NATO practices in Libya are exactly like Israel's practices in Gaza: fishermen are killed as they go about their fishing business, a naval blockade allows arms to flow to NATO's Libyan allies, but stops food, fuel, and medicine from entering non-NATO ally-held areas. The entire population suffers as a result. Collective punishment is illegal when Israel practices it against the people of Gaza and collective punishment is illegal when NATO practices it.

NATO and hyperbolic press accounts have introduced a kind of race hatred that the Libyan people have been trying hard to erase. Approximately 50 percent of Libya looks like me. Innocent darker skinned Libyans have been targeted, tortured, harassed, and killed.

The people of Libya have the right to self-determination. They have a right to "resource nationalism." They have a right to live in peace. They have a right to determine their future and they need not exercise their rights underneath the shock and awe of NATO bombs and missiles.

Notes 1. I guess this is what President Obama would call low kinetic military activity:

The U.S. Corporate Media, and the U.S. government, continue to methodically hide, from the public, the fact that the Libyan rebels they are supporting have been, and continue to, rape, mutilate and brutally murder Black Africans within Libya. The rebels are not who they say they are -- they are brutal racist killers who are completely being supported by the U.S. government and its corporate media minions.

Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman and a member of the Green Party since 2007. As a member of the Democratic Party, she served six terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives. In 2008, the Green Party nominated McKinney for President of the United States. She is the first African-American woman to have represented Georgia in the House.


Photo: A Libyan rebel fighter arrives to take position at Misrata's western front line, some 25 kilometers from the city center on May 26, 2011. (Reuters photo)



 EDITORIAL from The Pioneer, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, The Statesman's, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Economic Times, The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, Pakistan Observer, The Asian Age, The News, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The New York Times, China Daily, Japan Times, The Gazette, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, Jakarta Post, The Moscow Times, The Bottom Line and more only on EDITORIAL.


Project By


a trust – of the people by the people for the people

An Organisation for Rastriya Abhyudaya

(Registered under Registration Act 1908 in Gorakhpur, Regis No – 142- 07/12/2007)

Central Office: Basement, H-136, Shiv Durga Vihar, Lakkarpur, Faridabad – 121009

Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email –,

Registered Office: Rajendra Nagar (East), Near Bhagwati Chowk, Lachchipur

Gorakhnath Road, Gorakhpur – 273 015




No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.