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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

EDITORIAL 13.07.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



Month july 13, edition 000883, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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



































































A few days before this year's Budget session of Parliament, in an attempt to send out the message that he was alert to popular concerns and would kick-start the stalled Government he heads, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had admitted to what he described as "governance deficit" and promised corrective action. Between then and now, as Parliament prepares to convene its delayed Monsoon session, that 'governance deficit' has grown by leaps and bounds while the Prime Minister's promised corrective action is still awaited. For Tuesday's purported Cabinet reshuffle, which was billed by Mr Singh a couple of weeks ago as a major "work in progress", has turned out to be damp squib, belying expectations far and wide. The minor tampering that has been effected amounts to nothing, although it is nobody's case that Mr V Kishore Chandra Deo is a bad choice for a Cabinet post or that Mr Jairam Ramesh does not deserve the rural development portfolio. Both are competent and should do well in their respective Ministries. But beyond that, there's nothing to write home about the so-called 'reshuffle' — it would fail to enthuse even the rapidly dwindling band of the Prime Minister's publicists in the media. That Mr Gurudas Kamat and Mr Srikant Jena are in high dudgeon (the former has put in his papers) speaks volumes about Mr Singh's amazing lack of grasp over the art of political management. And, that Mr Sushilkumar Shinde remains where he was despite making a terrible mess of the power sector and ensuring that his poor performance becomes a stumbling block for meeting infrastructure and industrial development goals, while Mr CP Joshi, who gets paid a Minister's salary for doing nothing, will continue to hold up roads and highways projects, are ample evidence of what to expect from this lame duck regime for the remaining years of UPA2's tenure: Inaction in crucial areas of the national economy which is beginning to manifest signs of ill health. Seven crucial Ministries in urgent need of full time Ministers have been allocated as 'additional responsibilities'.

It is the Prime Minister's prerogative to decide who he wants in his Council of Ministers. But after Tuesday's non-event, it is doubtful whether Mr Singh has been able to, or allowed to, exercise that prerogative. Common sense would suggest that he would have wanted individuals of proven merit in his team to bring about reforms that cannot be kept waiting any longer without inflicting serious damage to the India Story which has already begun to lose its thrill. Yet, what he has done is at once stunning because of its inadequacies and alarming for what it portends. If he really means that this is the last reshuffle before the 2014 general election, if he actually does not plan to put in place a Government that delivers, then India is doomed to suffer for the next three years. The price the nation shall have to pay for this is incalculable; the cost of governance deficit, which will have to be borne by the masses, is set to multiply many times over. This is not only unfair but also unjust. There is no reason why the nation should be forced to live with a non-performing liability called UPA2. There is no justification for India to be saddled with a Prime Minister who, after seven years, remains in office without either power or authority.








The brutal assassination of the Afghan President's half brother at his own home in the southern city of Kandahar and at the hands of a close family friend is a stark reminder of what Mr Hamid Karzai has best described as the life and sorrow of the people of Afghanistan. It is also evidence of that country's fragile security situation wherein even the most powerful of men living in heavily guarded homes, strategically hidden behind eight-foot walls are as vulnerable as the masses. And make no mistake, Ahmed Wali Karzai was a very powerful man, especially in the southern part of the country where he was, in the words of a local politician, "the leader of all leaders." His official designation was that of Kandahar Council chairman but in reality he wielded more power than the provincial Governor. As he successfully lorded over a network of warlords and tribal chiefs who were routinely involved in a variety of trades, both legitimate and illegitimate, Ahmed Wali Karzai earned himself the sort of reputation flaunted by larger than life fictional characters such as Mario Puzo's Godfather. His political swagger, his alleged involvement in the narcotics and drugs trade and his connections to insurgents meant that he was never a favourite of the US and Nato officials, yet the death of this regional powerbroker could not have come at a worse time for those waging war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In preparation of its 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US has only just begun 'peace talks' with the Taliban who are headquartered in Kandahar, and Ahmed Wali Karzai played a crucial role in those negotiations. His death thus leaves behind a dangerous power vacuum that will be hard to fill.

Moreover, the loss of the one man who could have possibly reined in all the divergent and often disruptive forces under his command will also do irreparable damage to counter-insurgency operations in the region. Already, even after a year of intensive fighting, the US can only best describe its minimal gains as "fragile" and "reversible"; if there was one man who could have cemented those gains, at least in the country's restive south, it was Ahmed Wali Karzai. His death is thus a huge blow to American counter-insurgency forces in Kandahar. Moreover, it will quite possibly unleash a violent power struggle in the area. Ahmed Wali Karzai's killing has shaken the very core of the power structure in Kandahar, that is of course built around the Karzai family and its network of powerbrokers. In the days ahead, members of the ruling family and other influential tribal leaders vying for the position of the successor are thus expected to fight it out among themselves. Sadly, more bloodshed will follow.







The Raymond Davis affair and the success of the American operation to hunt down Osama Bin Laden have changed the course of US-Pakistan relations.

The strategic objectives of the 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom were to (a) destroy Al Qaeda as an entity, and (b) deny the Taliban the physical and political space from which it could become the haven for heaven for a particular kind of believers. The latter objective was achieved before the former and, in fact, by the end of 2001 the Taliban no longer existed as a viable entity. It was not a force any longer. But for the diversion that took the focus to Iraq, Al Qaeda would also have ceased to exist sooner rather than a decade later.

The fiction of an Al Qaeda alliance with Saddam Hussein didn't wash well with the Arab world, but it certainly did in the White House. Since that was the headquarters of the global war on terror, the decision to divert attention was taken. The rest is a terrible tale of bloodletting, sectarian strife, and the worst traits of humanity at the fore. But it did allow the Taliban to rise again as a force, and around that re-birth is where the tale centres, and where it will end.

The White House Chief of Staff, Mr Bill Daley, has announced the withholding of about a third of American military aid because Pakistan has "taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid". This was preceded by Mr Leon Panetta, the US Defence Secretary, stating that he believed the new head of Al Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahari, was living in Pakistan's tribal areas. And this, too, was preceded by the line taken by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the killing of Syed Saleem Shahzad — that it was the work of the Pakistani Army and its intelligence agency, the ISI.

All of these statements are in the month of July 2011, and are unprecedented in the fury that they represent and the scope that they cover. All of them are part of a deliberate plan set in motion in Washington, DC months back, and being implemented now, as the fatal attraction fades. That it was a fatal attraction is fairly obvious, and that it is fading is also plain to the eye. All of it has to do with the relationship running its course and not serving its purpose in totality.

The Pakistan-US relationship has often been described as a transactional one. Each came into embrace with their own set of objectives to gain from the relationship. It was not a relationship driven by a desire for the other, but the prospects of gain. In the region that this relationship was centred there was much to gain for both countries. But there was also the overhang of divergent worldviews. Even as Washington sought the physical space from which to launch its covert operations against the former Soviet Union, Rawalpindi needed the psychological space to launch its own covert operations, east and west.

Both countries sought to benefit from the peculiarities of Pakistan's geographical location; they also sought to benefit from the utility of faith. While geography is unchanging, its convenience is entirely dependent on the course of local and regional politics. For when they change, as they are wont to, geography serves no advantage. Faith, on the other hand, is even more dynamic and unpredictable. It serves a purpose only for some of the time, for within it exist energies that force a trajectory not governed by geography or politics. And that is when the transactional nature of the relationship takes a pasting.

Pakistan and the US benefitted from the transactional nature of the relationship. The US had an ally ready to give its land and its people in the war against Soviet Russia. This began in the 1950s and was to end with the demise of the Soviet Union in the last decade of the 20th century. In between there was much that Pakistan did for the US and benefitted from. Paramount among which was its nuclear weapons programme. Driven by its intense dislike and phobia for India, Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme was implemented through a series of dodgy transactions that begin in Europe, travel through China, and then end in North Korea. All of these surreptitious deals could not have been possible but for the cloud cover provided by the Pakistan-US relationship.

The US benefitted for it was able to fell its principal foe, the Soviet Union, through the use of Pakistan's territory, its military, and its proximate geography. Surveillance flights over the Soviet Union began from Peshawar in the 1950s, and raising legions of the faithful also began from the same place in the 1980s. Both, in their own way, provided the US with an enormous punch with which to hit the Soviet Union. And then there was, of course, the passage to Beijing that was facilitated by Pakistan, which then proved to be the last shot needed in the psychological battle between the two Cold War adversaries.

The Raymond Davis affair and the success of 'Operation Neptune Spear' to finish Osama Bin Laden have changed the course of this relationship. Each event further tore at the strings that have kept Pakistan and the US together. For each exposed contradictions in the fatal attraction. It isn't possible to sustain such relationships when the forces are contrarian, and in the public domain.

Which is where the US is now playing its game, what with a regular stream of comments that undermine the nature of the relationship, just as much as they undermine the credibility of the Pakistani Army and its agencies. The psychological operations underway are deliberate, planned and with an endgame in mind. It is either a complete divorce, which is unlikely, or a relationship with greater give and lesser take.

The US would now like the Pakistani Army to take steps to clean up its own stables, mend its ways within its own society, rethink its worldview and its sense of self. The Pakistani Army, on the other hand, is driven by its belief that the world needs it more than it needs the world, a view briefly enunciated by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. There was always an element of blackmail involved in its machinations, for that is the nature of an institution that seeks space through means other than legitimate.

Not that events of the recent past seem to have changed the Pakistani Army's belief. For the operative part of the spat on withholding aid is not what the US says, but what the spokesperson of the Pakistani Army said: Al Qaeda and other such groups operating in Pakistan are "not only a threat to us but also to others". ***************************************





Instead of needless debate over the powers of the proposed Lok Pal, we should consider investing the President of India with the authority to fulfil the responsibilities of an ombudsman. The Constitution can be suitably amended to ensure that this is done in a non-partisan manner and without succumbing to pressure from any political party. Let the nation debate this option

Apart from the issues of scandals like the 2G Spectrum scam, Adarsh Group Housing Society scandal and corruption in the Commonwealth Games, the issue of the demand for the installation of an institution called Lok Pal has become a severe headache for the Government in particular and the people in general. The moot question is whether India needs a Lok Pal. There have been enough enactments and mechanism to control and curb corruption in public life. Agencies of the state like the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Central Vigilance Commission are empowered to look into the issue of corruption. The problem, however, is that the people feel, and rightly so, that these institutions and the laws have failed to yield the desired results. The rate of corruption is mounting everyday and the people are the ultimate sufferers as they do not find an avenue for redressal of their grievances.

Therefore, the people at large are looking for a body that remains away, above and independent of the political system, judiciary and the bureaucracy. This is because the people have lost faith and trust in these systems. People honestly see a god in the proposed Lok Pal. The fact that the so far unknown ageing Gandhian social worker, Anna Hazare, could gather huge crowds at Jantar Mantar and the agitation spread like a wild fire all over the country within 48 hours makes it amply clear that people want a Lok Pal. Now there is no wisdom in rejecting the demand.

However, it seems that all efforts to bring in an amicable draft Lok Pal Bill have failed during the last two months. Neither the Government nor the members of the so-called 'civil society' nor the opposition parties have been able to reach unanimity on the proposed Bill. The differences among all stake-holders seem to be wide and serious. In the given situation, whichever draft that comes forth is likely to face steep opposition from many quarters of society. In case the proposed Bill fails to win the confidence of the people at large, it would defeat the basic purpose of the efforts.

And if the Bill drafted by Team Anna is accepted (even with certain modifications), it would amount to subverting the sovereignty of the present parliamentary system. The nation does not expect to have a 'dictator' in the name of the Lok Pal. The basic essence of a democratic set up in India is that the makers of the Constitution have carefully created checks and balances to ensure that none of the organs goes out of control. The draft Bill as proposed by Anna Hazare makes the Lok Pal an authority with all powers. The 'un-elected' authority will have fullest control over all duly elected representatives and bodies like the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, and other committees. Perhaps Anna Hazare and his team have not taken into account the fact that India is a democracy and the people's will manifested by the ballot is supreme. There cannot be a superior power than the House of the People.

Against this background, it is essential to end the wrangle at the earliest so that people retain their faith in the concept of meaningful dialogue at the highest level. In that case, why not try to entrust the responsibilities, functions and rights of the proposed Lok Pal to the President of India?

By the provisions of the Constitution, the President is the supreme constitutional head of the nation and the custodian of the faith and aspirations of the people. By virtue of being the head of state, the President is also the trustee of both the Houses of Parliament, Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister, the Armed Forces and all other institutions.

In case the authority to look into the complaints against any bureaucrat, Minister, the Prime Minister, judge or Army officer is entrusted in the office of the President, Indians at large can be assured that impartial inquiry and investigation shall be done and justice given to its fullest extent.

Now, the question arises that since the President is often a political nominee and member of a political party, what if he or she becomes a rubber stamp of the ruling party or leader? There are instances in Indian history when the President stooped to the level of a party functionary. However, there have been Presidents who rose above party philosophy, functions and interests. President Giani Zail Singh had shown the courage to return the controversial Postal Bill in spite of the fact that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi enjoyed a mammoth majority of 414 seats in the Lok Sabha. President Abdul Kalam was not attached to any party.

On the other hand, if an 'independent' Lok Pal is to be appointed, he would also be selected through a political process, involving the Prime Minister. What is the guarantee that the new Lok Pal will not turn out to be a 'rubber stamp'? At least the President is elected through both Houses of Parliament and all State Assemblies. Thus, the President enjoys a bigger mandate of the people. To avoid any possibility of political intervention in the functioning of the office of the Lok Pal, there could be constitutional amendment in the qualifications for the post of the President. There could be a provision that the candidate for the post of President should be away from any political, judicial or bureaucratic position for not less than five years. This provision can eliminate the participation of active politicians or bureaucrats from the fray. Moreover, special provisions can be incorporated in the Constitution by which recall will be easier and logical. This would quell doubts about the President being partisan.

This suggestion needs to be put before the concerned stake-holders before a final decision is taken. Also, it should be made open to debate at the national level so that able members of 'civil society' can participate in a matter of utmost national interest.

-- The writer is a Shiv Sena member of the Rajya Sabha and Editorial Director of Lokmat Group.







The thrust on achieving Millennium Development Goals has brought about tremendous differences in the areas of poverty, education and health in spite of the global meltdown and the food and energy crises. A lot more, however, is to be done

The 2011 Millennium Development Goals Report paints a mixed picture. On the one hand, it is clear that the Millennium Development Goals have made a tremendous difference; they have raised awareness and they have shaped the broad vision that remains the overarching framework for development work across the world, and they have fuelled action and meaningful progress in people's lives. Hundreds of millions have been lifted from poverty, more people have access to education, better health care and improved access to clean drinking water.

Despite the global economic downturn and the food and energy crises, we are on track to meet the MDG targets for poverty-reduction. Increased funding from many sources has translated into more programmes and resources for the neediest. We expect global poverty to dip below 15 per cent by 2015, well ahead of the original 23 per cent target.

At the same time, progress has been uneven. The poorest of the poor are being left behind. We need to reach out and lift them into our lifeboat. Now is the time for equity, inclusion, sustainability and women's empowerment.

Investing in human capital must be our strategy and touchstone. Some of the world's poorest nations have made some of the largest strides towards reaching universal enrolment in primary education. The goal now is to ensure similar results in secondary and tertiary education to make sure boys and girls have equal opportunity and to ensure that the education they receive is quality education.

On health, the targeted interventions such as vaccination campaigns have reduced child mortality. Measles-related deaths are down 78 per cent since 1990. Malaria is less deadly thanks to the wide distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

The Millennium Development Goals Report also shows strong results on HIV prevention and treatment. I expect to see this momentum continue with the new targets and resources adopted by world leaders at last month's HIV/AIDS Summit in New York. There is also good news on tuberculosis.

We have success stories to point to, to build on and to scale up. But achieving all the MDGs will require extra effort. Even where we have seen rapid growth, as in East Asia and other parts of the developing world, progress is not universal, nor are the benefits evenly shared. Stubbornly high unemployment persists in rich and poor countries alike. And in many cases, the wealth gap is widening between the prosperous and the marginalised and between urban and rural.

Solid gains in school enrolment and gender parity hardly signal mission accomplished. The pace of education reform has slowed measurably in terms of both access and quality. The state of maternal health is also worrying. Limited access to proper care makes pregnancy a needlessly high health risk in many developing countries. Sanitation, too, leaves much to be desired. More than 2.6 billion people still lack access to flush toilets and other basic forms of safe sanitation.

We must also recognise the real and growing threat to the MDGs posed by non-communicable diseases. This will rightly be the focus of a high-level meeting at the United Nations in September. Today's report stresses that equal opportunity for all is vital to our efforts.

Getting girls into school is a critical first step. Gender parity in primary and secondary education is still beyond reach in many regions. Moreover, enrolment disparities are notable between girls from wealthy families and girls from poorer families. This disparity is significantly greater for girls than it is for boys.

We face a similar situation with child mortality. There are huge differences in survival rates between children with educated mothers and those with unschooled mothers. We must protect against the domino effect in which one early deprivation leads to another, and another, and another.

The agreed deadline of 2015 is fast approaching. We need a rejuvenated global partnership for development. We need breakthroughs in trade negotiations and in climate action. We need to build resilience to shocks, be they conflicts, natural disasters or volatility in food and energy prices, and we need to make next year's "Rio+20" Conference a great success. Let us strive to connect the dots among water, energy, food, gender, global health and climate change so that solutions to one can become solutions to all.

Let us also look at the post-2015 picture. When the MDGs were first articulated, we knew that achieving them would, in a sense, be only half the job. We knew that too many men, women and children would go largely untouched by even our best efforts. That is why we are already working with all our partners to sustain the momentum and to carry on with an ambitious post-2015 development agenda.

-- Excerpted from the UN Secretary-General's remarks to the Economic and Social Council to launch the 2011 Millennium Development Goals Report in Geneva on July 7







The exit of the News of the World comes close on the heels of accusations that the paper resorted to unethical means to manufacture stories. But Rupert Murdoch did not shut down the Sunday tabloid for ethical reasons — his decision is driven by empire building

This may well be the biggest scandal in British journalism and politics. That is saying a lot in a country that is no stranger to scandal. News of the World, the largest tabloid newspaper by circulation in Britain and one of the largest in the English-speaking world, was printed for the last time on July 10.

Although the closing comes on the heels of accusations that the paper hacked into the phone of 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002, owner Rupert Murdoch is not closing the 168-year-old paper for ethical reasons. He is amputating the newspaper from his News Corp, a conglomerate of publishing, television and entertainment media, to save his other assets.

This is not an emotional decision but a business decision that is fully in line with Mr Murdoch's character. If someone were to make a modern-day Citizen Kane, Orson Welles's 1941 classic based on US newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, it would be based on the life of Mr Murdoch, the naturalised American media king from Australia.

Mr Murdoch had no choice but to axe the News of the World, which has been accused of hacking phones and voicemail accounts, bribing the British police and having ties with criminals. Furthermore, the newspaper's clients, from Ford and Renault to smaller companies, have pulled their ads from the newspaper, thereby reducing its revenue. Even tabloids, which have a larger circulation than quality papers, cannot live on their readers' interest alone.

The British Cabinet and Parliament have called for a public inquiry into the Sunday newspaper's illegal actions. The News of the World is not the oldest or the most serious and respected newspaper in Mr Murdoch's empire. It is more like cheap beer compared to The Times vintage wine.

The News of the World was a big success only because its editors — and Mr Murdoch — knew that on Sunday people want to read about "who's bedded who". It published serious news as a side dish to the sensational main course. But this is what tabloids are for — an unavoidable evil of modern journalism that earns money for other, more serious publications.

To better understand the scandal, one should remember that British tabloids stand apart from the rest of English-language journalism. They differ even from their US and Canadian cousins in that they publish not only social gossip and comics but any juicy news, including political and international stories, in a simple, crude and sometimes vulgar manner. But the average Brit likes it.

It is tabloids and not the highbrow Press like The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times or The Guardian that mould public opinion. This is a different kind of journalism, tailored to the tastes of the people. It is scathing and almost always shoots to kill.

The outcome of the inquiry into the newspaper's dealings is not what's most important. Mistakes will be corrected and someone will be put behind bars. Journalists can be forced to mend their ways, like phone hacking and bribes — there are laws and other means to see to it. The disease of corruption and bribery in the British police can also be cured with laws and prison terms.

But why have those laws not led to justice since 2002? Why did no one pay any attention to the charges levelled by the respected newspaper, The Guardian, two years ago?

Something must be seriously wrong with the system. The disease is shameful and will take a long time to cure, yet some treatment must be suggested. During debates in the House of Commons, the News of the World and Mr Murdoch were accused of every sin imaginable. "From everything said, News International is in breach of all the 10 Commandments, Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Broadcasting Code and very possibly Newton's Laws of Motion," The Independent wrote on July 7.

Unfortunately, the accusations were made in a Parliament whose deputies — though not all of them — accept services and gifts from lobbies, including Mr Murdoch. Relatives of the British establishment have worked or are currently working for the media king's newspapers, radio stations, TV channels, Internet companies, publishing houses and movie studios.

There has always been an unholy union between politics and the Press. But there comes a day when you say enough is enough.

Conservatives have always been closest to Mr Murdoch's empire, and Mr Murdoch himself has never made a secret of his conservative views.

The atmosphere at 10 Downing Street is said to be high-strung, because it was Mr David Cameron who appointed Andy Coulson, former editor-in-chief of the News of the World, his Press spokesman after last year's general election. Coulson was forced to resign in January over growing allegations that he authorised phone hacking and bribed the police, and now he was arrested.

It was not only Tories who sought Mr Murdoch's friendship, or rather his money and his influence. He was also befriended by Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, whose administrations included people from Mr Murdoch's newspapers and companies. For example, the daughter of the News of the World's editor-in-chief worked in Foreign Office under Mr Ed Milliband. Mr Murdoch infiltrated the establishment with his 'agents' and in turn hired away some of its staff.

He controls 40 per cent of the British Press and owns a staggering number of newspapers, magazines and TV stations in Australia, as well as The Wall Street Journal, the ultra-conservative US TV channel Fox News and the film studio 20th Century Fox.

Mr Murdoch owned or owns large stakes in newspapers and TV channels in Asia, the United States, Europe and Africa, including the private Georgian channel Imedi TV, the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti and Latvian TV channels.

It is said in Britain that the News of the World will rise from ashes when the scandal dies as a new supplement to the daily tabloid Sun, one of the most popular newspapers in Britain and an asset of News Corp.

Mr Murdoch's empire will not collapse. It will ride out the current crisis, because with enough money you can do anything.

-- The writer is Moscow-based political affairs analyst.








Given the policy paralysis that weighs on the government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could have utilised the opportunity of a reshuffle to inject fresh blood into the cabinet, pack it with performers and revamp the government entirely. Instead, the announced changes amount to a routine shuffling of the deck which bely the PM's earlier promise of an expansive ministerial rejig. Nevertheless there are incremental changes which could improve the UPA's performance marginally.

Moving Jairam Ramesh from environment to rural development, while installing Jayanthi Natarajan in Ramesh's place, is a good idea. Rural development is important in the Congress scheme of things and well endowed with funds. Ramesh - a man of energy and ideas - can do justice to rural development, pushing successful schemes like NREGS. While he certainly jolted the environment ministry out of habitual inaction, his penchant for controversy and Hamletian hesitation when it came to approving big projects became a drag and contributed to the Centre's paralysis. Natarajan can be expected to be a low-key, pragmatic environment minister who will take forward the good work while minimising the bad.

The decision to keep the big four - home, finance, defence and external affairs - unchanged is questionable. Antony has been conservative and lacklustre on defence, holding up its much-needed modernisation. And S M Krishna - in charge of external affairs - looks like a man at the end of his tether. Sharad Pawar remains in charge of food after presiding over spiralling inflation. Similarly questionable is the decision to keep two crucial portfolios under Kapil Sibal's hat, continuing what was thought to be a temporary arrangement. Sibal may be a competent minister, but telecom and human resources are too important to be managed by one person. The worst - albeit likely - interpretation is that Sibal is keeping the telecom seat warm, till such time as the DMK should anoint another worthy to take the place of A Raja or Dayanidhi Maran!

In that sense ministry formation has succumbed once again to the 'overlook non-performance, appease coalition partner' formula. Take the Railways being set aside for Trinamool man Dinesh Trivedi, right after Mamata Banerjee spearheaded an accident-prone and financially haemorrhaging Indian Rail. One can only hope Trivedi outdoes his party leader and actually focusses on the job he's been given. Equally galling is that young ministers haven't been given full cabinet berths and will continue to cool their heels. As the next editorial amplifies, even authoritarian China may outdo democratic (but gerontocratic) India when it comes to ensuring an orderly transfer of power.






It's said that dictators don't retire. Libya's whole problem is that Col Gaddafi, who's led the country for more than four decades, can't find a suitable way to hang up his boots. Authoritarian regimes have a succession problem, because it can be heresy to talk about who'll replace the existing leader while he lives. That problem came up in China as well, under Mao Zedong and under Deng Xiaoping. But even though the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) remains secretive about the state of Jiang Zemin's health, it's impressive the degree to which the CCP has managed to untangle the knotty problem of succession, so much so that Jiang's state of health doesn't need to become an affair of state. He stepped down as party chief in 2002 and as president of the country in 2003.

Now, all the signs point to a second orderly transition from current president Hu Jintao to current vice-president Xi Jinping over the next two years. Of particular interest will be whether Hu Jintao elects to follow his predecessor's example and take several of his associates with him when he goes. If he does, it will allow Xi Jinping, a relatively sprightly 58-year-old, to induct new blood into the party's leadership. At a time when China is faced with crucial choices about its economic and political future, Xi Jinping's succession might just provide the fresh perspective needed. Although just how long the dominance of the CCP can continue - given a growing middle class and growing exposure to the external world - remains to be seen. Should runaway Chinese growth hit a speed bump, the current compact between the CCP and the middle class might well be over.




                                                                                                                                                TOP ARTICLE




The exploration and production (EP) segment of the petroleum business has been much in the news recently. There was the tussle between Cairn and ONGC over the sharing of the fiscal burden: the CAG has reportedly criticised the production-sharing contract that defines the split of the " profit oil" between the contractor and the government. They claim it encourages the contractor to 'gold plate' their costs. A former upstream regulator is under the CBI scanner for contracts awarded without proper due process. It has been reported that the ministry of home affairs raised questions about Reliance Industries' recent sale of 30% of their EP business to British Petroleum. Whatever might be the facts of the case, i am concerned nonetheless at the possible negative impact of these disparate messages on investor interest.

EP is an inherently risky activity. It involves three interlocking uncertainties - the uncertainty that a given geologic structure contains hydrocarbons, the uncertainty that the hydrocarbons can be located and the uncertainty that once located, the hydrocarbons can be produced on a commercial basis. The gestation period between the search for hydrocarbons and first production (assuming, of course, exploration is a success) can be as long as a decade. It is because of such exposure that investors look for contract structures that balance fairly the risks ex ante discovery (which are borne entirely by the contractor) with the rewards ex post commercial production. They also look for an operating environment that assures contract sanctity. The "production sharing" framework is one such structure. It is an industry template and widely adopted because it not only achieves this balance but it also allows for a formula that gives the government (as the owner of the resource) increasing and disproportionately higher returns.

India has 26 sedimentary basins which, according to ONGC/OIL, contain approximately 35 billion tonnes of oil and oil equivalent of gas (OE). This is less than 1% of the world's resources but it establishes that our geology contains hydrocarbons. The challenge is to locate them. This is a challenge that has become increasingly difficult to overcome. The reason is the end of the era of easy oil. The Mumbai High field, for instance, which was discovered in 1975, had well-defined structures and was in shallow waters. The more recent KG D6 gas find is in water depths exceeding 2,000 feet and in complex geology.

Future discoveries will most likely be in terrain comparable to D6. They will not be easy to locate.

A compounding challenge is the consequential hike in costs and technical complexity. ONGC was able to bring a barrel of oil from Mumbai High into production at perhaps no more than $2-$3. Reliance, on the other hand, will have incurred a significant multiple of that number to get its D6 gas to flow. Costs have risen for many reasons but the surge in the price of essential inputs like drilling rigs, steel and cement is perhaps the most dominant. The capital cost index for setting up production facilities in 2000 was 100. It is now 220. The price of oil/gas has also, of course, risen, and internationally most companies have been able to more than offset these cost pressures and generate profits. But in India that has not always been the case. ONGC, for instance, is compelled to sell its crude oil to public sector refiners at a discount and the price of D6 gas has been administratively set at $4.20/million metric British thermal units which is less than half the LNG import price into India. The upshot is that whilst India does have hydrocarbons, it has to overcome significant geologic, technical and commercial obstacles to harness them.

The experience of other countries worldwide suggests that these are not insuperable obstacles. Most countries other than those in the Middle East are facing a similar challenge. For them too, the era of easy oil has ended. But the data suggests they are making good progress in meeting this challenge. The average size of new discoveries worldwide is increasing, and last year 60% of the discoveries were of giant fields containing reserves in excess of 500 million barrels/OE. Some countries have been particularly successful. The standout example is Brazil. It added 22 billion barrels/OE to its reserve base in 2010. But others like the US, Australia, Israel and Mozambique have also made notable discoveries. The common thread running through all of these successes is capital, operational excellence and technology. The latter has been particularly crucial. The application of innovative techniques like digital oilfields, horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing has made all the difference.

India imports more than 80% of its crude oil. With prices expected to stay in triple digits, this translates into a massive existing and emergent financial burden. The government recognises this reality and its annual NELP licensing round is testament to its determination to accelerate EP. However, to secure the required risk capital, operating best practice and technology, the government may now have to do more. It may have to proactively reaffirm to potential investors and partners its commitment to contract sanctity.

The writer is chairman of the Shell Group in India. Views expressed are personal.








Prof Kurt Mehlhorn, founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Computer Sciences at Saarbrucken, Germany, talks about cutting-edge research projects with Indian researchers through the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). He spoke to Narayani Ganesh:

What is the vision of the Max Planck Institute for Computer Sciences?
Our vision is to be the leading institution in algorithms and have impact beyond computer sciences. To this end, our curatory board includes industry participants like Siemens, Bosch, Google and others. We have established IMPECS, the Indo Max Planck Centre for Computer Sciences with IIT, Delhi towards enriching research with international collaboration. We have 10 research groups with IITs, Indian Institute of Science, TIFR and others. The budget to carry out collaborative research is four million euros for five years, with 50% contribution from India's department of science and technology.

What do you mean by "impact beyond computer sciences''?
In the field of computational biology, for instance, software has been developed that shows great promise in HIV-AIDS therapy. The programme titled Geno2Pheno contains a DNA database of several strains of the virus from feedback given by doctors - since the virus changes very quickly. It suggests treatment taking into account the fact that the virus is likely to change. It has been so successful that two-thirds of HIV-AIDS patients in Germany are being treated with the help of this system. This, for instance, is having impact beyond computer sciences. The programme is on a Web server and is available to all. Thomas Lengauer, who wrote the programme, is also working on a flu project.

What is the YAGO project?
Developed by researcher Gerhard Weikum and his team, the YAGO project is a knowledge base consisting of 80 million facts per person, at the rate of collecting 3,000 facts per day over the lifespan of an individual with an accuracy of 95%. The programme is being used in several academic and industry projects including IBM's Watson project. The highlight of the programme is replacing keyword search with semantic search - that is, the machine "understands" what you are searching for so that it can look for it and also interpret the idea. Currently the semantic search programme is being applied only to Wikipedia.

An unusual project is the one on software that captures motion. It records internal movement of a human in action and with the help of a database of human body types, size and shape, it is possible to, for example, replace the thin body of a man in motion with that of a more muscular or filled-out body while keeping the integrity of the background intact.

Photoshop in video movement? That might be useful in movies.

Yes, we're not yet clear about its applications. Arjun Jain, a student from Bangalore is currently working on the project with a team. They've filed for a patent.

How has the institute's work helped researchers navigate the information glut so typical of data collection?
We developed LEDA, the Library of Efficient Data types and Algorithms. When Celera, the private organisation, ventured to decipher the human genome, it built its software on top of our software to help the end-user.

We have also done other interesting projects like the Mercedes-Benz five years ago where we computed the size of a trunk in the early stages of development of a vehicle, to reflect its storage capacity in volume in terms of solid matter. How many standard bricks can you place in the trunk? Even a small increase in the computed capacity would contribute to increase in car sales!






It is small, pretty and looks pretty simple to use. That's where the simplicity ends and the battle begins. To begin at the beginning, this sleek-looking gadget was bought as its predecessor had become outdated, that is to say, looked as colourless as a white kurta-pyjama among its psychedelic younger versions. Son and i persuaded reluctant hubby to change his cellphone, of six-year-old vintage. And so, this one arrived, new and shiny in its colourful box, the pictures on it assuring us we'd almost brought home a mini-Disneyland.

Reverently it was unveiled and admired in its full glory. Well, for the full glory, it had to be charged first. Hubby stood with the ceremonial charger in his hand while i turned the little black thing every which way possible looking for that small, crucial recess to which the lead could be attached. When i found the 2mm recess covered with a slider, i yelled 'Hallelujah!', plugged it in and was relieved to see the bars dancing.

Eventually, they stopped, and even we know that means that the cell was now charged. Separating it from its umbilical cord, we looked at its blank face, the blankness reflecting brightly back from our faces too. If it won't tell us what it was up to, neither would we, so there! But we gathered soon enough that this wouldn't help very much. Almost like a glass of juice offered to a fasting unpredictable baba, we poked the cell gently, hoping to break the imbroglio. Almost as adamantly, it refused to cooperate. With cellphones as with babas, you have to know which buttons to push or things get turned on their heads.

Cellphones thankfully come with manuals. Ours told us how to receive and call back. The first was a breeze, the second proved dicey. In our untrained hands the numbers flew up or down with our clumsy swipes on the screen and i ended up calling a not-so-amiable acquaintance about 15 times in as many minutes, which must have made him wonder if i was stalking him.

'Tinker and thou shalt discover' had been the sage advice of the man at the shop, whose commands the self-same cell had followed without a hitch. Not so with us. But we, in the true spirit of 'We shall overcome', went on tinkering and learning.

And we learnt a lot. This little fellow has everything you can or can't imagine. A camera which clicks pictures with great clarity and applications which allow you to put pictures of loved ones as their 'ring-pics' along with their special ring-tones! Now you don't have to wait even for that infinitesimal second before you look to see who's calling. What a super time-saver.

Then, we have this nifty music-store which stores all our favorite songs - audio and video versions. Look at the thought behind it: who knows when you might feel like listening to or watching 'Sheila ki jawani'? With this handy mobile, Sheila practically travels with you! You can even make your fellow-travellers' day by providing them free entertainment. Or you may use the efficient earphones to block out any thoughtless, raucous birds with this silly habit of trilling when a person is taking his morning or evening walk, and listen once again to...sweet Sheila.

One accidental revelation was the state-of-the-art voice plus video recorder. Like that popular TV actress shows us, think how handy it is to get photographic evidence of the fact that your husband snores. You never know how helpful that might prove to be.

Finally, i made another discovery: we were spending more time figuring out the cellphone's various functions than actually connecting with anybody. I dreamt that night of a once-familiar bulky, black thing with wires, an instrument that couldn't follow you around and would be used just to talk.







There were no real rabbits pulled out of the hat — and just a few elephants pushed out of the room. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never needed a course in playing things down and when he met the group of editors late last month, he had indeed told his audience that the next Cabinet reshuffle would be a "work in progress".

But coming at a juncture when the UPA government really needed to send out a strong signal against the chipping away of its image as a clean and reforms-driven team at the Centre, Tuesday's much-awaited reshuffle was a missed opportunity.

Barring a question mark still hanging on the performance of the external affairs minister, the government didn't need to change ministers heading the important ministries of finance, home and defence — and it didn't. But there was a strong rationale to include new fresh faces and replace jaded ones in Mr Singh's team if the UPA's commitment to meritocracy and youth was to be driven home and taken seriously.

Instead, what we have is, at best, a mixed move betraying too much caution, and, at worst, an artful jugglery at a time when more than just eye-hand coordination skills were needed to be displayed.

The decision to take the rather noisy Jairam Ramesh out of the environment ministry and replace him with the less voluble — ironic, considering she has been a successful Congress spokesperson — Jayanthi Natarajan should bode well for a government backing and forthing too much on the industrialisation-developmental front.

Though to his credit, Mr Ramesh did put some life into a portfolio that is becoming increasingly relevant by the day.

Railways remain a Trinamool ministry — instead of being in charge of a true-blue technocrat. But hopefully, we will now have a minister whose day job is focused on his, well, day job. The inclusion of Milind Deora as a minister of state is welcome.

But instead of the inclusion of more young capable faces like Mr Deora and Jitendra Singh (new minister of state, home affairs), the government still seems to be obsessed about doing a 'balancing act'. A reshuffle is as much about bringing the best on board as it is about maximising a political advantage. Mr Singh, in the thick of a critical period of his stewardship, may have missed both opportunities.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, or so goes the cliché.

Either the UPA government hasn't realised that the 'going' has got tough — with consequences it may have to face in the assembly polls next year in Uttar Pradesh and other key states. Or, more worryingly, it believes that such a reshuffle is all that is required to 'get going'.

It isn't.

And if the people pinning their hopes on a more resounding, proactive UPA government realise that the latest reshuffle is little else but a shuffle, when what is really needed is a forward march, Mr Singh's incremental changes — or as he would prefer to call it, "work in progress" — would be honestly seen as a missed opportunity for the nation, the government and the ruling party.





When a train crashes, it is a tragedy, not a photo op. When the Kalka Mail derailed near Malwan station, killing almost 70 people and injuring about 300, the point was to save the living and get into quick emergency overdrive. Unfortunately, like bears to honey, journos to celebs and vultures to bodies, politicians have thronged to this accident site in Uttar Pradesh and don't we know why.

Mukul Roy, the railway minister of state, who at the time of the tragedy should have gone to the site, didn't turn up there. To the chagrin of the prime minister. But does that mean that the likes of Rahul Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharti and other UP leaders should have landed up there — or at the nearby Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital at Kanpur?

We don't think so.

Disaster politics has a certain stench to it. But if Messrs Gandhi, Singh, Bharti and others can facilitate emergency care, we are ready to eat crow. Until proven otherwise, the usual utilitarian purpose of rushing into a disaster zone — where medicos and salvaging personnel should be left to themselves — is not only banal, but counter-productive.

The site of the Howrah-Kalka Mail accident, unfortunately, happens to be electoral prime property. Show some concern, respect and anguish at Malwan, and you may come across as a politician with feelings.

That Malwan may not be another Bhatta-Parsaul or Ayodhya eludes our politicians. Perhaps, the poor things genuinely believe that their presence is a great solace.

For in the end, a train travelling from Kolkata to a town in Haryana gets derailed in UP and claims scores. What our netas will underline is that UP, not West Bengal or Haryana, is going to the polls next year, so...






The world is in danger of sleepwalking through one of the greatest injustices of our times. Despite all the promises made to the world's children, nearly 70 million children are denied a place at school.

Even worse is the shocking reality that despite our promise to get every child into basic education by 2015, on current trends the number of children out of school four years from now will have gone up to 75 million.

This assault on opportunity is the second great economic crisis of our generation. The first economic crisis was the failure of our banks and the subsequent impact on world economy.

The second crisis is of millions of young people uneducated not because they are uneducable but because they are unnoticed, joining the biggest ever army of young unemployed in a global epidemic, with the projection that over the years to 2025, nearly 1.5 billion young people will suffer a prolonged period out of work.

The consequences of that profound social failure will make this year's youth uprising in Egypt and Tunisia look like the opening salvo of a wider generational battle for justice for the world's young people.

Our failure to meet our promise on education is an immoral neglect of our most vulnerable citizens.

In the course of this campaign I have met young people from the remotest part of Tanzania, to the worst city slum of Delhi, and everywhere they ask me why they cannot go to school: why are there still no teachers, no school buildings, no computers or books? When you break a promise to a child you risk damaging them for ever.

You create a cynicism that is almost impossible to reverse.

India has made extraordinary advances in education in recent years  but there is still a long way to go. We will never reach our goals while vast educational inequalities persist within countries. In India, for example, girls make up around two-thirds of the out-of-school population, compared to a global average of 53%, while inequalities of access to education based on wealth are also severe.

We've developed some of the talent of some of the children for some of the countries. Now we need to develop all of the talent of all of the children of all of the countries. We spend about $100,000 in Britain and in America to educate a child from their infancy to teenage years.

In Africa, the average spending is $400. In other words, 250 times more is spent on the British child than on the African child. We collude in crippling the life chances of Africa's children and then blame them for a continent-wide lack of technology, industry and productivity.

The $13 billion extra a year we need to fund education for all is the equivalent of investing less than 5 cents a week in those children.

Those of us engaged in this fight are always prepared to answer the cynics who claim the world has already been overgenerous in aid, or that aid does not work. The fact is that a mere $10 a year goes in aid towards the education of the average child in a poor country: the equivalent of just four cents for every school day.

No one can say that aid does not work when only four cents a day is spent trying to educate an illiterate child. It is not that real aid has been delivered and found wanting; it has not been delivered at all.

Nor do I believe there is a fatigue in giving by the people of the world, or a retreat into individualism because of the recession. The willingness of the public to share  has never been stronger.

The British charity Comic Relief, under the leadership of Richard Curtis and Emma Freud, recently held a public appeal that broke all records, proving that the generosity and altruism of ordinary people is often sharpened by a climate where everyone is suffering.

Now is the time for the public to throw down the gauntlet to governments to honour the promises we made at the turn of the new millennium. The leadership on this issue provided by Sheikha Mozah, the UN special envoy for education, has been truly inspirational.

In the coming months my colleagues at the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) and I will be launching a coalition of faith groups, business leaders, civil society organisations and ordinary members of the public to support her  — combining fundraising, political action and ways for people to provide education directly.

I am honoured to be working alongside GCE's president Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world.

We hope you will join us in our campaign, because getting the children of the world into school is not just a noble aim; it's a deliverable result. The prize of a generation is within our grasp.

(Gordon Brown is former British PM and co-convenor of the Global Campaign for Education's High Level Panel. The views expressed by the author are personal)







What is it about Baba Ramdev that impelled the government to engage him in talks on an issue like corruption? Simple. It is the vast following he enjoys across India. But how is it that Ramdev and his kind have such a mesmeric hold over people? It is not just the spiritual salvation they offer.

It is the promise of physical well-being.

Satya Sai Baba was legendary for spotting diseases that were supposedly yet to manifest themselves and offer cures, often in the form of sacred ash. Amritanandamayi, the portly godwoman, is famed for hugging away ailments. And Ramdev, of course, is famous not only for his 'trademark' yogic 'kapalbhatti' breathing technique, but also for doling out pills and potions for free.

Many of Ramdev's followers aren't from the middle class. They are simple rural folk who couldn't care less about reversing the rupee-dollar exchange rate or demonetising high value currency notes. Ramdev's care may be free, but is it effective?

A more pertinent question is regarding the effect of the ingredients in his 'medicines' on people and his track record of curing even common illnesses — never mind cancer and diabetes.

Many ailments require common and affordable drugs. Expenditure on public health in India is abysmally low. But big pharma companies can afford to put out cheap generic drugs that can be subsidised by other, expensive categories of medicines. Half our problems would vanish if we were to focus on preventive care.

A host of ailments pose a crushing burden on the healthcare system. They can be prevented by simply improving sanitation and providing clean drinking water and basic amenities like oral rehydration kits in public hospitals. It's when people are left only to the mercies of the private sector, justifiably driven by the profit motive, that people turn to anyone who promises a free cure.

Alternative medicines have their place in the system. Indians are the world's largest users of alternative medicines. But the efficacy of many of these haven't been proved. On the other hand, allopathic drugs have to undergo years of rigorous testing before they are put out into the market.

Quite often, the poor and ignorant are mislead by quacks.

What we really need are more skilled and semi-skilled health workers at the rural and mofussil levels who can guide people as to the availability and effectiveness of legitimate medication. We need workers who can prescribe effective preventive interventions. This won't cost more than what is being squandered today on an ineffective and crumbling public health system.

Vaccines, too, should be made a more crucial part of the primary healthcare system. The idea should be to pre-empt the ailment wherever possible.

If this is done, there will be a significant decline in the popularity of godmen and godwomen. There will always be takers for promises of spiritual elevation. That's up to each individual. But when people put their health into the hands of spiritual gurus, it is a cause for worry.

(K Anji Reddy is the founding chairman of Dr Reddy's Laboratories Ltd and Naandi Foundation. The views expressed by the author are personal)






A stray insight sometimes goes unnoticed. Manmohan Singh's closed-door meeting with handpicked editors last month generated controversy about the UPA's communication deficit and its failure to manage perceptions.

The PM's statements about his readiness to be covered under the lokpal were deeply unsatisfying to a public longing to hear a more resounding clarion call for a more honest and transparent India.

Yet one statement of the PM needs deeper scrutiny. There is too much cynicism, said Singh, and such an atmosphere of cynicism in the country is dangerous.

The atmosphere is indeed overwhelmingly cynical and negative. An avalanche of negativism, bad blood and name calling seems to be rolling out of almost every public institution as well as from the citizenry. Mutual trust and respect has all but evaporated. The contemptuous language used by politicians seems to be mirrored by society.

Is there reason to be so negative? What has happened in the recent past is remarkable by any standards. Throughout the history of independent India, there are instances of the rich and powerful manipulating the law and getting away. The kin of the super rich believe that laws are to be followed only when abroad on campus.

India has always been their mere playground.

Yet now, today, in a tectonic shift, the dominance of elite over the law has vanished in the blink of an eye. Extremely powerful politicians and corporate leaders, who would have been untouchable by the law in another era, now find themselves behind bars.

Dayanidhi Maran, scion of a 'big' family of the DMK, is the latest VIP to find himself in the gaze of the law. Suddenly, troubling questions of conflict of interest among elected representatives — be it the Marans of Tamil Nadu or the Reddys of Karnataka or the Pawars of Maharashtra — are being debated and scrutinised with vigour. Some of them will still get away, but at least a beginning has been made.

The 2G scandal has become a national catharsis. A powerful anti-corruption mood — some of it politically manipulated, some of it spontaneous but most of it with undeniable public support — has forced accountability, forced a debate and forced an electric shock through the system, leaving us all scalded.

Are all institutions necessarily failing?

Is the entire system just one big 'DK Bose', to use the fashionable phrase from Delhi Belly? Not really.

Some of India's institutions do work and do deliver on their constitutional obligations. A determined Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) stands out as an institution that has performed its watchdog functions well, unearthing violations and scams from the 2G spectrum deals of 2010 to the functioning of the Commonwealth Games.

A dynamic Election Commission continues to deliver fair and violence-free verdicts. In violence-free elections in Bihar and West Bengal, the voice of the voter has been upheld by an efficient machine that sees itself as a servant of the people and not of any political party.

The Supreme Court may be accused of judicial overreach by its repeated rap on the knuckles to the UPA from issues ranging from black money to Salwa Judum. But the fact is that it has stepped in where the government's systems have failed and forced action and introspection, however grudgingly.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), accused of being the lapdog of the State, has — nudged by a hyperactive judiciary — pursued cases against the politically powerful with reassuring relentlessness. Security agencies too seem to have brought terror groups under some control.

The shockingly wide network of Hindu extremists responsible for some of the blasts has been cracked. The culpability of Islamist groups has been tracked too. Home minister P Chidambaram may be unpopular with the Sangh parivar for cracking down on 'saffron terror' and the CBI's actions against Amit Shah may have alienated the BJP.

Yet, these are only the flip side of the same upholding of the law that has sent A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi to jail.

Corporate elitism and sleaze remains a concern, but we are also seeing the beginning of massive acts of corporate philanthropy. Wipro's Azim Premji has transferred R8,000 crore worth of his shares to a trust to fund rural education, Nandan and Rohini Nilekani have donated $11 million towards the cause of sustainable urban development. BR Ambedkar once said that India would never be a true democracy unless social democracy accompanied political democracy. Social democracy, or liberation from birth-based privileges and hierarchies, is perhaps a long away, but it's making its presence felt subliminally in key areas of the economy and polity.

So perhaps this is the time to believe in India and play a constructive role, not surrender to numbing hatred and dismissal of the System. In Haryana, Kerala brides, purchased by their Jat husbands because of the shortage of women, are teaching their husbands to have more girl children and slowly transforming the brutally patriarchal world of Haryana society.

Society is alive with positive energies. If environmentalists and corporates, and civil society and the government, learn to trust each other, instead of seeing the other as a mortal 'enemy', a true democratic spirit of give-and-take would be established based on mutual respect.

There are two ways to deal with the undoubted daily horrors. One is the Arundhati Roy way, which simply dismisses Indian democracy as a sham. The other is to be a Neelam Katara and fight day after day against a history-sheeter like DP Yadav, fight the criminal justice system and fight until the judiciary wakes up, takes note and makes amendments to the criminal procedure code.

Believing in India may be hard work. But negativism and cynicism are not what Gandhi and Nehru lived by.

(Sagarika Ghose is deputy editor, CNN-IBN. 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






Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reshuffled his council of ministers, in a move long anticipated. Yet the disappointment engendered by the exercise turns out to be as great as were the expectations from it. And the main reason is the Congress party has again shown its inability to prioritise issues of governance and of accountability. UPA 2 has faltered, and it has faltered on issues of governance. It has been cursory with its reform efforts, going for incremental changes, and postponing any heavy-duty legislation that prunes the thicket of laws constraining India. Its ministries have been lacklustre, unable to rework their functioning for a larger, more complex economy. Many hoped that reshuffling would impart some momentum to a drifting administration. But what we have eventually been given is a massive let-down. The UPA is still undermining itself through its own complacency — or lethargy.

What was needed was a clear signal of accountability. Under-performers should have been dropped; those who had demonstrated capability, promoted. Instead, we get coy sideways moves. There is no reason to suppose that Veerappa Moily, for example, who has not been a success as law minister, would be able to steward the ministry for corporate affairs through these tough times. There are few new faces, young or otherwise. The whole exercise — typified by Vilasrao Deshmukh's puzzling move to science and technology — seems to be an exercise in balancing the Congress's politics. No defining big idea seems visible; instead, it is impossible to read this as being about governance. This is a pity; because it is on governance that UPA 2 will be judged by the electorate. The lack of big ideas extends beyond the lack of even an acknowledgement of the principle of accountability. The Congress seems to have forgotten that elections, even national elections, are won and lost in the states, and parties build strength through the power of their state-level stalwarts; it has shown no inclination to free its magnates up to go back to the states and help out their embattled partymen. That is a bad sign for 2014.

The Congress leadership seems to be convinced that big ideas — governance, accountability, reform — are risky. So the UPA will take no risks. It will try to rule risk-free for this term, expecting that that will be sufficient to return it three years on. There will be musical chairs once in a while. This is an old, outdated politics, and it comes with huge costs in terms of missed opportunities.






The West Indies may no longer field Test sides as formidable at those till the 1990s, but a series win in the Caribbean still carries a thrilling novelty for India. After the triumph of 2006, the series concluded in Dominica on Sunday too was taken by a one-Test margin (a victory at Jamaica, followed by two draws), and it helps India extend their dominance in the ICC rankings. And that, it would appear, is enough for Mahendra Singh Dhoni. In a timid-hearted decision, he refused the offer of 15 mandatory overs on Sunday evening and thereby the chance to force a victory. India were 94 for 3, and needed another 86 runs to register a win. But as Dhoni said after the match, he was not "risking a series win going after the target".

Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher were emphatic in their irritation to suggestions that they should have decided otherwise, but the signal sent this weekend will interrogate India for a long time. There is, first, the fact that, with Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman at the crease, and with Dhoni, Virat Kohli and recently spunky tail-enders like Harbhajan Singh yet to bat, India were very safely placed and at a crunch could have played out the 15 overs for a draw. The signal emanating from Sunday's decision is not so much that India were safeguarding their lead in the series — it is that, if easy victory is not assured and if it does not significantly alter their takeaway, they will not make the effort to snap it up. One-Test margin or two-Test, same difference.

But that's still a comparatively minor quibble. Because what India did this weekend was not in the spirit of cricket, of sport. Giving a competition your best is an essential contract — and of necessity it involves risk-taking. To cite the fear of risking a series win is incriminating for any captain, let alone one who leads the top-ranked Test team as well as the current one-day world champions — and certainly let alone one whose team was well-placed to make a bid for the match. This is not about a win at any cost — it is about being true to the possibilities a sport offers. This time, India have showed themselves to be unequal to their rank as the number one Test side.







The only signal that the Congress party gives these days is that it does not know what signal to give. This cabinet reshuffle was perhaps the most anticipated in recent times. The government has been beleaguered like no other government in memory. There is actually nostalgia going around for the days of Deve Gowda and Inder Gujral. Its legitimacy and efficacy have been profoundly eroded. The prime minister himself had been hinting elliptically at more like a restructuring than a meaningless rearrangement of chairs. There was the endless talk about giving the young an even more prominent role. On all of these criteria the reshuffle is a deep disappointment.

The reshuffle does nothing to restore the credibility of the government. It does nothing to signal that the PM wants to at least try and make a new start. And it only reminds people that for the Congress you have to be somewhere in your sixties to even begin to be counted as not young. Perhaps you can be a minister of state. But cabinet berths still require age seniority. It is an interesting question whether this is because the young brigade does not know how to claim power, or because it is actively sidelined to keep the spotlight firmly on Rahul Gandhi amongst those of his generation. Certainly the age pattern of ministers will fuel this speculation. In short, the reshuffle smacks of a tired old party, making the tired old moves.

Admittedly, the cabinet reshuffle was always going to be constrained by several factors: the need to induct ministers from particular states and the imperatives of coalition politics cut down the PM's room. It would be premature to comment on individual ministers; perhaps some will grow in their positions and do good work. Often, good work is not of the sort that catches the public eye. But the reshuffle seems to reveal something about the Congress's political strategy. First, the party will try and ride out the current dent to its legitimacy, not by introducing serious reform at top-level governance. It is probably safe to say that its political strategy is now largely going to be focused on Uttar Pradesh, not on major governance reform. The party will be hoping that if it can make a good showing in UP, the political momentum will again shift in its favour. In the meantime, it is best to keep things in a holding pattern. The strategy is premised on an assumption that anti-incumbency and direct mobilisation on the ground in UP are far more important electorally than governance performance at the Centre. This assumption may well prove costly.

Second, crisis managers have become indispensable to the party. The party has more legitimate cabinet aspirants than it can accommodate. But, despite many claimants, Kapil Sibal has, probably for good reason, become indispensable. He holds on to an unprecedented combination of portfolios: HRD and telecom. Pranab Mukherjee has long played the trouble-shooter, which left little room for manoeuvre amongst the big portfolios. Of the big four, the only vulnerable minister was S.M. Krishna. But the foreign ministry is a considerably diminished force, since foreign policy is very much controlled by the PMO. In the current context, parliamentary affairs may well turn out to be an important political ministry, and so another apparently skilful negotiator is inducted in.

Third, the party continues to be risk-averse; it finds it hard to take bets on fresh talent. Amongst the changes which seem to have substantive stakes, the departure of Jairam Ramesh, from the environment ministry, is perhaps of most interest. In terms of budget, the ministry of rural development, to which he has been moved, has considerable importance. The ministry is also involved in NREGA and anti-poverty programmes. But it is politically important as well. It will now have to pilot the important land acquisition bill, and will require some real consensus-building skills. Not least, there will be serious divisions on this bill within the coalition itself.

But in many ways Ramesh's performance in the environment ministry seemed game-changing at several levels. For one thing, he was unusual in his governance style. Whether you agreed or disagreed, whether they were partisan or rule-governed, his speaking orders took ownership of decisions in a way very few ministers' do. Lots of new ideas and institutions were in the process of being cooked. But, most importantly, India had staked out a new path in the important climate change negotiations. Whether we like it or not, this is the one change in which the world at large, and perhaps even business, will try and read some significance. It says something about our system that we can never tell for sure whether this change actually was a way of sending a signal, and if so about what. Was it a signal about the environment, or was it a signal about Jairam Ramesh?

The problem of signalling applies to the other seemingly significant shift. We may read something into Veerappa Moily's departure from the law ministry. But then corporate affairs is not exactly an insignificant ministry. So any conclusions will be mere speculation. The point is, the pattern of change does not add up to much by way of a signal on a minister's political performance. This is a political roulette, nothing more, nothing less. It makes nonsense of the claims that performance matters a lot. There will be some disappointment that the reshuffle does not signal renewed energy in a range of ministries important for India's future, such as power.

But more than the cabinet reshuffle, the interesting question is whether we will now see the cabinet functioning as a cabinet. This government has diminished the stature of several institutions, the cabinet amongst them. The idea of collective responsibility, the cornerstone of parliamentary democracy, has taken a severe beating in recent months. The PM cannot continue to project the cabinet ministers' actions as if they were done by some third party; ministers in turn will have to dampen appearances to the effect that each is on his or her own trip. More than a reshuffle, what is required is a change in the style of functioning of government.

But this reshuffle has become such a metaphor for this government: high expectations, poor performance. It seems people in charge cannot take decisive actions that will signal new directions. What the PM signals and what he does are two entirely different things. The more the Congress promises change, the more things remain the same. Its response to serious malfunction is not to reboot; it is to hope that the problem will sort itself out.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi,








The B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, which runs a prestigious medical college and a hospital in eastern Nepal, has been wracked by strikes. The institute, a gift from the Government of India to Nepal, is modelled on the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. Now there is speculation about its future.

The B.P. Koirala Cancer Hospital in central Nepal, a gift from China, with modern facilities, especially for cancer treatment, is in a similarly chaotic situation. After the government, which has a Maoist leader as health minister, tried to put in place a new management with explicit political loyalty to his party, violent clashes broke out in the hospital. Patients needing regular treatment and chemotherapy have been asked to report later.

The seven universities in Nepal are without vice-chancellors for the past two-and-a-half months. Education Minister Gangalal Tuladhar has admitted that "we have not been able to appoint VCs as the major political parties have failed to agree on it". The appointment of a vice-chancellor should hardly be a party affair, but in these days Nepal all plum positions and appointments are decided by the three major parties. Each party is trying to get its loyalists to head the universities.

This kind of an institutional impasse is not confined to the education and health sectors.

The constitutional council, which makes the final recommendation for appointment in constitutional bodies, has not been able to select the chief of the election commission or the head and members of the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Authority (CIAA), an anti-graft body, and many other institutions for over a year because each of the three major parties — the Maoists, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) — staked its claim to these posts. The CIAA chief's post is the most sought after at the moment, since the parties believe that having a loyalist to head the anti-graft body could guarantee them protection from corruption inquiries.

The political parties, especially the big three, have been able to sell the idea that once the elusive new constitution comes into being, everything will fall into place. But no one knows if political behaviour will change overnight, and whether they will become accountable as soon as a new constitution gets drafted.

In the midst of all this, the annual economic survey for 2010-11, that was released by the government, shows the growth rate during the period was just 3.5 per cent, the lowest in the past decade. A turnaround seems unlikely in the present circumstances.

The budget to be presented this week could be a populist one, mostly an appeasement of the Maoist party, as its support is crucial for Jhalanath Khanal to continue as prime minister. The CPN-UML-led government's eagerness to please the Maoists was evident when the annual programme and policies of the government called the decade-long insurgency (1996-2006) — that resulted in the killing of over 16,000 people — a "people's war". The objections by many other parties, including the Nepali Congress, were hardly taken note of. There are also fears that a part of the budget allocation will go to the party coffers, as has happened in the past, as "salary" for Maoist combatants lodged in different cantonments.

Sources say the budget will offer compensation to the families of about 13,000 "killed by the state" during the "people's war", leaving out the families of over 3,000 security personnel from the list of beneficiaries.

Other political parties are taking a cue from this. Those based in Madhesh, plains contiguous to India, are demanding financial benefits for families of those who had lost their lives during their agitation for "more autonomy" for the region.

Immediate gain — political and financial — seems to be the motto of the ruling and the opposition parties. What is lacking is a serious commitment, matched by action, to have the constitution-drafting process completed within the new deadline.

Manmohan Bhattarai, a firebrand parliamentarian belonging to the opposition Congress, sums up: "We are simply and solely pursuing money politics — a politics of short-term gain — at the cost of vital interest of nation and nationhood." Sadly, one cannot disagree.







As far as clean slates go, there is nothing like a general election or a Kamaraj plan (a plan thought up by the master politician K. Kamaraj, which asked all ministers to tender their resignations and allow the political executive to choose, rather than merely juggle, shuffle or reshuffle). But since neither was really an option, a few months ago the prime minister himself voiced his determination to reallocate work and restructure ministries.

The much-awaited reshuffle, despite not touching the big four ministries and displaying a touching deference to coalition allies, does have something to offer if you look at the new politicians brought in — credible, solid faces like K. Chandra Deo can make much of the ministry they have been given. It's a thumbs up to Jairam Ramesh's unorthodox thinking, and Salman Khursheed has been brought in the hope of stemming the damage caused to this government and the PM's image from the legal wrangles they have been entangled in. Jayanthi Natarajan, Rajeev Shukla and Jitendra Singh, among others, can be expected to represent the party in government and forge a more enduring bond between the two powerful forces that make UPA 2 what it is — the Congress president and the prime minister.

So why is a reshuffle within the government important at all, where most of the political heavyweights are still "outside" ? At one level, it is a tautology, in any dispensation, that the party and government are bound together: the party wins the mandate, and then the government delivers. But in the UPA's case, with political heavy-lifters often being outside the government — and proudly so — the government's functioning matters a lot, ironically, to its politics.

UPA 1 set the tone, heavily influenced by two crucial forces outside the government: the Congress president, who consciously renounced the top job; and the Left, which stayed away despite 61 MPs. In the case of UPA 2, Rahul Gandhi's silent renunciation combines with Sonia Gandhi's power on this influential outside. But never mind how heavy it gets outside Raisina Hill, governance and shifts in ministries are not extraneous to the UPA's politics, they are central to its political positioning.

Reams have been devoted to the tensions, stresses, strains and perils of those caught between the party and the government. However, the fact is that UPA 2's campaign and mandate — the way the idea was stitched together two years ago — fuses party and government much more closely than they would like to believe. A fusion of its slogans with the government is what carved out its unique politics, and ensured its success, the last time around.

Exactly 20 years ago, when the present PM delivered his first budget speech as finance minister, the slogan for undertaking economic reforms stressed on the "human face" — but in the immediate aftermath and the enormity of the changes unleashed by the new ideas, there was some trouble identifying this human face. Exiled from government for eight years after 1996, there was no political ownership of the new economic policies by the Congress — until 2009 when, willy-nilly, they were sold as a route to better deliver to its constituents.

UPA 1 appeared to be composed of disparate forces; the National Advisory Council thought and asserted itself differently. But the underlying premise was that the politics of delivering to the aam admi had to be through the new economic policy, and on dividends secured with greater liberalisation. The ability to talk of a better investment climate to one section, along with material benefits to a different set of political constituents, was to be achieved by drawing a distinction between certain "progressive parties" that catered to specific social categories, and itself. The claim was that the Congress was not fixated on identity issues. It was progressive — "progressive plus", if you like, as it delivered on material goods for Muslims, Dalits, the new middle classes and all the other social groups it was politically committed to.

This simultaneously complex and straightforward political argument that made UPA 2 (or Congress) shine among its political competitors in 2009 was premised on the fact of its government delivering on its promises — by cleaning up and decluttering administration, and by legislating on a whole host of entitlements. As he took on his second innings, the prime minister emphasised his commitment to making "delivery mechanisms" work. The talk of food security, an anti-communal violence bill, and more recently, the offer of better things to UP voters are all premised on this boast of better delivery mechanisms. That is also what will be showcased in UP. And that is why even small changes, in both leading faces and policy, are as important for the party "out there" as they are for those within the system. Party and government are more closely locked together than ever.

The distinction between party and government is a good alibi for both sides to bank on when Anna Hazare skips a meal, or the Supreme Court frowns at an appointment. But when elections are around the corner, the reality is made clear.

For example, when it came visiting railway accident sites in UP and in Assam, the minister of state for railways, Mukul Roy, virtually told the PM to go to Kamrup himself. However, all wired up to face the UP test, Rahul Gandhi offered to visit at least one of the sites, in an example of the party rushing in to compensate and cover up for misgovernance — demonstrating his awareness of how entwined the two are.







By the time you read this, the minor or major cabinet reshuffle will no longer be TV news. Mercifully. Every single day of the last week has been spent in speculation. It's odd to discuss something that is still to occur— rather like reacting to an incident before it takes place.

Finally, on Monday night, we were informed that the reshuffle would occur on Tuesday evening — well in time for all the TV news discussions later. At 8 pm, Monday, NDTV 24x7 had a full-fledged discussion on the subject, and the guests included the BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad. What, you thought, could he possibly tell us about the Congress's proposed reshuffle? Did he have insider information? Had he hacked, a la News of the World, the mobiles of Congress leaders who were being raised higher or laid low? Ditto the rest of the panel. We didn't learn much except that a new railway minister was required pronto after the two train accidents.

CNN-IBN did well to give us the statistics of how many accidents had taken place during Mamata Banerjee's all-too-frequent and long absences from her seat in Rail Bhavan and at the UPA's cabinet meetings. (Far, far too many.) As for the coverage, one glance at the face of a child, left cheek a crimson pulp, was enough to turn you away. But this was one occasion when you wished TV news would show more of the train accidents' victims. Not because we are Draculas, but because only such violence might move the authorities to corrective action.

On to an entirely different subject. Last Sunday, DD National repeated the telecast of an interview with the film director Mani Kaul who died last week. The interviewer was outside the frame — a pity because it would have been good to see who it was — and the whole focus was on Kaul and his replies. It was such an interesting interview: Kaul spoke on his films, on people who had inspired his work, like

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and how he thought Ritwik Ghatak's Komal Gandhar was the best film by an Indian. There was a fascinating explanation about his approach to acting as well — he explained how he told actors not to act, but be the character. A waiter does not act like a waiter but is a waiter, so in a film, the actor must be the waiter not act like one. Lost? If you listened carefully it made a great deal of sense and required you to think. Not often does television make such demands of us.

For instance, Aap Ki Adalat (India TV) with actors Aamir and Imran Khan, did not require much intellectual effort. Anchor Rajat Sharma attacked Aamir for the foul and "shitty" language in his film Delhi Belly, and Aamir, repeatedly and in the same words, defended the film as an adult entertainer. The show had a happy ending when the judge pronounced her verdict: may A.K. continue to make good films. A no-brainer.

Come Dine with Me (BBC Entertainment) does little for the grey cells, but it did titillate the tastebuds. In this cookery reality show, contestants cook for each other and sample each others' preparations, then vote for the best of the lot. The person with the highest score wins. The stars of the show are the contestants, as they sit at the dining table and react to each other. Watched it with great pleasure — if not a great appetite.

And finally, saw the Dance God himself. Yes, there he was; but, alas, not dancing. Hrithik Roshan was being kind, instead, to those who were dancing: the contestants of Just Dance (Star Plus). He was so nice to them that you wanted him to turn nasty. Better still, why doesn't he show them a few fancy steps?






Fair warning: This column is a defence of Rupert Murdoch. If you add everything up, he's been good for newspapers over the past several decades, keeping them alive and vigorous and noisy and relevant. Without him, the British newspaper industry might have disappeared entirely.

This defence is prompted in part by seeing everyone piling in on the British hacking scandal, as if such abuses were confined to News International (we shall see) and as if significant swathes of the British establishment had not been complicit. It is also prompted by having spent time with Murdoch 21 years ago when writing a profile for The New York Times Magazine and coming away impressed.

Before I get to why, a few caveats. First, the hacking is of course indefensible as well as illegal. Second, Fox News, the US TV network started by Murdoch, has with its shrill right-wing demagoguery masquerading as news made a significant contribution to the polarisation of American politics, the erosion of reasoned debate, the debunking of reason itself, and the ensuing Washington paralysis. Third, I disagree with Murdoch's views on a range of issues — from climate change to the Middle East — where his influence has been unhelpful.

So why do I still admire the guy? The first reason is his evident loathing for elites, for cozy establishments, for cartels, for what he's called "strangulated English accents" — in fact for anything standing in the way of gutsy endeavour and churn. His love of no-holds-barred journalism is one reason Britain's press is one of the most aggressive anywhere. That's good for free societies.

Murdoch once told me: "When I came to Britain in 1968, I found it was damn hard to get a day's work out of the people at the top of the social scale. As an Australian, I only had to work 8 or 10 hours a day, 48 weeks of the year, and everything came to you."

So it was easy enough, from 1969 onward, to rake in the media heirlooms. Along the way he's often shown fierce loyalty to his people — as now with Rebekah Brooks, the embattled head of News International — and piled money into important newspapers like The Times that would otherwise have vanished.

The second thing I admire is the visionary, risk-taking determination that has placed him ahead of the game as the media business has been transformed through globalisation and digitisation. It's been the ability to see around corners that has ushered him from two modest papers inherited from his father in Adelaide to the head of a company with about $33 billion in annual revenues.

Yes, there have been mistakes — MySpace, the social media site just sold for a fraction of its purchase price is one. But I'd take Murdoch's batting average. He's gambled big on satellite TV, on global media opportunities in sports, and on the conflation of television, publishing, entertainment, newspapers and the Internet. British Sky Broadcasting and Fox alone represent big businesses created from nothing against significant odds.

A favorite Murdoch saying is: "We don't deal in market share. We create the market."

Of course, his success makes plenty of people envious, one reason the Citizen Kane ogre image has attached to him. (He would have endorsed Kane who, when asked in the movie how he found business conditions in Europe, responded: "With great difficulty!") His success has caused redoubled envy in Britain because there he is ever the outsider from Down Under. (America doesn't really do outsiders.)

The Times, which I've found a good read since moving to London last summer, has impressed me with its continued investment in foreign coverage, its bold move to put up a pay wall for the online edition (yes, people should pay for the work of journalists), and with the way the paper plays it pretty straight under editor James Harding. The Telegraph to the right and the Guardian to the left play it less straight.

British Sky Broadcasting is emphatically not Fox. It's a varied channel with some serious news shows. Overall, the British media scene without Murdoch would be pretty impoverished. His breaking of the unions at Wapping in 1986 was decisive for the vitality of newspapering. He took The Times tabloid when everyone said he was crazy. He was right. He loves a scoop, loves a scrap, and both the Wall Street Journal and The Times show serious journalists can thrive under him.

But Murdoch's in trouble now. An important deal for all of British Sky Broadcasting hangs on his being able to convince British authorities News Corp management is in fact reputable. He'll probably have to sacrifice Brooks for that. Politicians who fawned now fulminate. Prime Minister David Cameron is embarrassed. Both Murdoch and his savvy son James Murdoch (of more centrist views than his father) are scrambling.

I'd bet on them to prevail. When I asked Murdoch the secret of TV, he told me "Bury your mistakes." The guy's a force of nature and his restless innovations have, on balance and with caveats, been good for the media and a more open world. Roger Cohen







Corrupt logic

In an article in CPM journal People's Democracy, Prakash Karat links corruption with the UPA government's neo-liberal policies. He says the wages of neo-liberalism are corruption and the loot of public resources, and claims the government has been acting as facilitator of this process.

"The 2G spectrum case has dramatically exposed the nexus between big business, ruling politicians and bureaucrats, which itself is an outcome of the neo-liberal order. The PM and the cabinet is at the heart of this process. That is why the architect of liberalisation is now directly feeling the heat of these scandals, which are endemic to the policies and the framework that he has pioneered," he says.

Karat says the representatives of all the three sections of this "nexus" are lodged in Tihar jail: company executives, a former minister and former bureaucrats.

Karat targets the BJP as well. "We saw the eruption of high-level corruption earlier under the NDA government with the same economic regime," he says. He adds that Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa thought of a novel way to tackle corruption charges against him. "He does not believe in the Lokayukta or the courts to decide the matter. Yedyurappa wanted to visit the temple in Dharmasthala and let Lord Manjunatha deliver the verdict! If the Congress has become a byword for corruption, the Hindutva style of fighting corruption has become farcical," he says.

Cracks in the land

After the Supreme Court judgment on land acquisition in Greater Noida, an article in the CPI's New Age says the real problem was the continuance of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, calling it a legacy of colonial rule.

It says a new law needs tp be enacted limiting land acquisition by the government to public infrastructure projects. It also calls for a separate law for the rehabilitation of displaced farmers: "Apart from adequate compensation and job guarantees for the displaced in the industrial units to be established... there should be provision for disbursement of a certain percentage of profits of the new

industrial and other establishments among the displaced families annually."

The article argues that while most political parties welcomed the observations of the Supreme Court, they avoided the central question: abolishing the act. "Even the scion of the ruling family... is silent on this core issue and just indulging in dramatics for limited gains in the UP Assembly elections." The article refers to the agitations against land acquisition in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Orissa, and questions why the "mainstream" media is silent about these "new Nandigrams and Singurs."

Class warfare

An editorial in People's Democracy focuses on the attacks on its cadre after the Trinamool Congress won the West Bengal Assembly election, describing them as the launch of a new class offensive to undo the "gains" made by the working class in rural Bengal under the Left Front government. It says 24 CPM leaders have been killed after the Trinamool came to power. "The propaganda of our class enemies, assisted by the corporate media, spread the disinformation that the initial attacks on the CPM and the Left cadre was the result of the release of pent-up anger against the 'misrule' of the Left Front government. That such attacks continue even nearly two months after the election results have been declared nails this lie," it says.

The article links the attacks with the rights of the working class. It says there are reports that in some places working hours for agricultural labourers are being forcibly increased from eight to 10 hours a day, and their lunch breaks are being discontinued.

It adds; "There are reports that former landlords, who were illegally in possession of surplus land above the legally prescribed ceiling that was acquired by the Left Front government and distributed to the landless through the land reforms programme, are now seeking to regain the possession of these lands. This is a class offensive."






Little else beyond Jairam's exit. Most NPAs remainPrime Minister Manmohan Singh couldn't have found a better way to signal the economy was back on the agenda than by removing Jairam Ramesh. A good environment minister is critical—keep in mind that A Raja was Jairam's predecessor!—but Jairam took it to the other extreme and was seen as the biggest hurdle to investment. While the cancellation of Vedanta clearances at Niyamgiri were aimed to coincide with Rahul Gandhi's date with the tribals, in the case of Posco, the ministry went out of its way to show Posco hadn't dealt with tribal sensitivities (months later, it agreed there were no tribals there!); in the case of hill-town Lavasa, the objections weren't serious enough to merit the punishment ... The choice of Jayanthi Natarajan is a bit curious given her lack of experience but with her legal background, it could work out.

Some changes, like upgrading Beni Prasad Verma to Cabinet rank and giving Salman Khurshid Law & Justice are aimed at the UP elections, and Veerappa Moily was probably punished for the mess in the law ministry, best exemplified by the Solicitor General's tantrums a few days ago. Part of the government's problem with the Court has been dumped at Moily's door, though the bulk of the damage—when law officers were approached directly by Raja—such as in the 2G case was done before he took over. Why Moily should do well in Corporate Affairs if he did badly in Law is an open question, and applies to other ministers—power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde did precious little but hasn't been shifted. Dinesh Trivedi, expectedly, has got Railways and we have to hope he rises above his party loyalties—when the Kalka Mail crashed, fellow TMC minister Mukul Roy preferred to accompany Mamata Banerjee than visit the crash site!

That said, how much more should we expect from the new Cabinet? It's just a tad younger and has some more dynamic ministers in some key places—Jairam in Rural Development gives it the kind of energy that Vilasrao Deshmukh could never impart. That Deshmukh has been given Science & Technology speaks poorly of how it continues to be viewed. In terms of specifics, issues like Cairn-Vedanta and the big delay in appointing heads in ONGC and UTI (witness the finance ministry's fight with US investor T Rowe Price) still remain, and no changes have been made here. Jairam dealt a big blow to Vedanta by cancelling its environment clearance on the eve of his departure and we have to see how Natarajan undoes this. The government remains unable to take a decision on closing Air India, but refuses to let it function—once again, no changes here. The NAC-driven agenda of asking mining firms to share profits with tribals, the expensive Right to Food Act, more reservations … all will continue to dog UPA-2. There are legislative hurdles in implementing important reforms like FDI in insurance and multi-brand retail, and there is no progress on the critical land acquisition Bill (with over 70% of Singur farmers in favour of selling to the Tatas, the Bill would have killed the agitation!). The niggardly hike in FDI limits for FM radio, from 20% to 26%, and the paralysis on oil price signals the government's overall lack of comfort with big reforms. So UPA-2 has a long haul ahead. India Inc, however, is happy with Jairam out. For now.





Though his company's shares fell over 4% after it failed to meet the Street's expectations, Infosys CEO S Gopalakrishnan is right when he says his job is not to meet analysts' expectations. Indeed, Infosys beat its own guidance by posting a 15.7% rise in consolidated net profit—it clocked a net profit of R1,722 crore and revenues of R7,485 crore. What's worrying, however, is what Infosys signalled about the future—TCS's results are on Thursday and Wipro's next Wednesday, and, once they're all in, we'll get a better idea of how the sector's future looks.

Analysts were expecting Infosys to increase its full year EPS guidance but, by raising it by just R2, it has not helped investors gain any more confidence in the company—with just 26 new clients, this is the lowest client addition in four years. It has maintained its full year guidance, in a clear departure from the previous trend where it continued to raise guidance every quarter. The company has said that margins will fall by 2.5% this financial year, compared to the previous guidance of 3%. Margins have been a source of concern for Infosys and EBIT margins for the April-June period stood at 26% against 29% (QoQ). The Street was expecting a decline in profit margins but lower operating margins have come as a bit of a surprise. Infosys COO SD Shibulal admitted that economic issues in Europe have created delays in decision-making, leading to a drop in business from the continent. While BG Srinivas, the head of European operations, holds that demand from sectors like energy, retail and life sciences could drive better growth in the third and fourth quarters, there is some hope. But early indicators are not encouraging.







We are so focused on berating ourselves, and often with good reason, we're unable to focus on the good news. To be sure, India has a long way to go on any parameter you can think of, but the past week has seen a series of good news coming out from two NSSO samples, one on employment and the other on consumption. Both indicate economic growth has begun to deliver results, something even the government has been unwilling to believe, given its sole focus on all manner of anti-poverty programmes.



Take the jobs data first. This is the first time since the reforms began in 1991 that unemployment levels have come down, and mind you this is when 2009-10 was a drought year—indeed, the NSSO has agreed to do another large survey for 2011-12 so that more meaningful results can be got. It is true that 401 million jobs were created in 2009-10 as compared to 383 million in 2004-05 and 338 million in 1999-2000—that is, while the NDA government created 45 million jobs, the UPA created just 18 million. That's on the surface. The reason why less jobs got created by the UPA is that there was less demand for jobs. Keep this in mind and the NSSO data shows unemployment fell—after rising from 6.06% in 1993-94 to 7.31% in 1999-2000, it went up to 8.2% in 2004-05 and then fell to 6.6% in 2009-10, a drought year.

Many argue this doesn't wash, that since women are being discriminated against and find it difficult to get jobs, they're just not entering the labour force (defined as those looking for jobs)—so the unemployment numbers, the argument goes, are misleading. Between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the participation rate of women is down from 22% to 18% and that for men is up from 53% to 54%. While there's no explanation given as to what new factor ensured women were suddenly not getting jobs in the last five years, the more likely explanation is that with an increase in schooling levels among girls, more of them are no longer in the labour force—around 12 million more girls enrolled in schools in this period. The figure for boys is 16 million, implying that 28 million people are not in the labour force out of choice. Indeed, this explanation of less people being available for employment is consistent with the rise in wage levels. In the period 2004-05 to 2009-10, wages and salaries have gone up by 72-102% for men and women in rural and urban areas.

For salaried women workers in rural areas, salaries grew at 1.7% per year in the 1999-2000 to 2004-05 period as compared to a whopping 12.8% between 2004-05 and 2009-10; for urban women, the growth rose from 1.8% to 15.1% in the same two periods. For salaried men in rural areas, salaries grew by 2.6% per year in the first period to 11.5% in the second period. For casual workers who are women, annual growth in wage rates rose from 3.5% to 14.6%; for urban women who were casual workers, income growth was 2.8% per year in urban areas in the first period and this rose to 11.8% in the second period.

This hike in employment growth and in wages, logically enough, led to a sharp hike in expenditure levels. In real terms, monthly per capita expenditure in rural areas rose by 0.2% per year between 1987-88 and 1993-94; this rose to 0.8% in the 1993-94 to 2004-05 period, and then to 1.4% per year in the five years from 2004-05 to 2009-10. For urban areas, real per capita expenditures grew by 0.98% in the 1987-88 to 1993-94 period, by 1.47% between 1993-94 and 2004-05, and further to 2.67% between 2004-05 and 2009-10. Given how NSS data capture less and less of consumption in the country (the consumption you get from NSS data is around 40% of the consumption you get from National Accounts or GDP data), the actual growth would be a bit higher.

As a result, poverty in 2009-10 is likely to have fallen to 32.2% (the real number should be out in a few months), which means poverty levels fell by one percentage point each year since 2004-05—keep in mind 2009-10 was a drought year, with the worst agriculture GDP growth since 2002-03. While poverty fell by one percentage point each year between 2004-05 and 2009-10, it fell by 0.81 percentage points per year between 1993-94 and 2004-05. For some states, the fall was nearly double the national average over the five years—9.9% for Andhra Pradesh, 10.6% for Tamil Nadu and 11.7% for Andhra Pradesh.

Equally important is the further improvement in health indicators like infant mortality, maternal mortality (17% fall in 5 years) and the under-5 mortality rate—all go to show that most states are focusing on health delivery. Nine states have a fertility level that ensures no growth in population (2 children per woman)—in 12 years, that will be true of the entire country. As in other cases, there's a long way to go (the UN's Millennium Development Goal for maternal mortality is 109 by 2015; just three states have achieved it and four are close to it), but the improvement is steady. Pity the UPA's not talking about what it has achieved.






Back in the spring, when Giulio Tremonti, Italy's finance minister, and Bank of Italy governor Mario Draghi were frantically urging the country's banks to raise fresh capital and strengthen their balance sheets, it was an uphill battle. The banks squealed, squirmed and resisted.

With some justification, they argued that they should be seen through a different lens from many foreign rivals in the wake of the financial crisis. Unlike lenders in the US, the UK, Ireland or Spain, the banking system in Italy had not lent into a speculative property bubble. There was no looming bad debt disaster.

Eventually, with the exception of UniCredit, they caved in to the pressure and have since raised a combined 10bn euros of fresh capital. Last week, Monte dei Paschi successfully completed its rights issue, the last in the wave, raising 2.15bn euros.

So imagine the banks' frustration over the past few days. Their share prices have plunged and bond yields have soared as investors have taken fright, essentially predicting that Italy's banks will be the next victims of the eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Is that analysis right?

On one level, it could be. What the market has focused on of late is the worrying parallel between banks in Greece and in Italy. Greek banks have been similarly peeved about their plight, having been generally cautious lenders with no big self-inflicted problems. But they are Greek. With their home country in all kinds of trouble, they will inevitably be hurt by two things—the bleak outlook for the Greek economy and the threat of default hanging over Greek sovereign bonds, which they own in great quantity.

Italians naturally bridle at the idea of being compared with Greece, but at a macroeconomic level, the market is focused on one data point more than any other at the moment: the 120% gross debt-to-gross domestic product ratio the country is expected to show this year, according to the International Monetary Fund though stable, is too close for comfort to Greece's 150%. It is way more than the 64% in Spain, about which there has been far more investor concern up to now.

If there is concern about the 27% of Greek GDP accounted for by domestic bank holdings of Greek sovereign debt, how much more concerning is the 32% tally held in Italy?

Adding to the market's nervousness is a perception that Italian banks may not have done as well as some others in European stress tests, the results of which are due to be published on Friday. Assurances from Mr Draghi late last week that Italian lenders would pass the tests by a "significant" margin have fallen on deaf ears.

The continued rout prompted Italy's stock market regulator on Monday to move to force traders to reveal short selling positions.

This is where the normally steadfast collegiality of the Italian financial system may be breaking down. The country's regional foundations, which are an essential part of the fabric of society—funding and administering local services—have come under unprecedented strain in recent months. With so many of their assets invested in the banking sector, the foundations have found themselves facing vast cash calls to support the wave of rights issues.

Italian bank dividends—a key source of income for the foundations—have also been slashed.

Under such pressure, it is little wonder that the foundations, via the fund managers that run their investment portfolios, are now said to be lending out more of their holdings—both sovereign bonds and bank shares—to shortsellers, thereby helping exacerbate the bear run.

For the foundations, it is a largely academic issue. These are long-term investors focused on the income the holdings will generate, not their day-to-day value. Any fee income they can make along the way is welcome.

For the broader eurozone, it is yet another front in the attack on a fragile single currency and the region's over-indebted governments. It also sends an important message to Europe's leaders, both political and within the eurozone banks, that the outstanding issue of dealing with Greece's sovereign debt restructuring cannot be allowed to drift until September, as a frightening number of participants in the talks seem to believe.

For Mr Draghi—who will be elevated to president of the European Central Bank on November 1—the revived attack on Italian banks, which he thought he had headed off in the spring, adds a personal nightmare to the broader challenge of fixing the eurozone. Other than hope for an uplift from a clean sheet result in Friday's stress tests, there is little he can do to stem the contagion in Italy. But at the very least, he must urge UniCredit, whose shares have been the weakest performers of late, to join peers in boosting capital.

The author is the FT's banking editor

©The Financial Times Limited 2011






If the long-awaited Union Cabinet reshuffle was intended to refurbish the scams-tainted image, and boost the declining political stock, of the Congress-led government, it has conspicuously failed to do so. The principal message sent out is one of political drift: that this United Progressive Alliance regime is stuck in a course that has taken a heavy toll on its reputation and that it is not willing to act boldly, taking well-calculated risks, to cleanse the system and raise the performance bar for policy-making and governance. As in most such exercises, there are welcome changes: some Ministers judged to be non-performers or underperformers being dropped, a few competent administrators raised to Cabinet rank, a couple of promising young faces inducted. But what stands out is the stickiness and indeed the apparent immovability of the heavyweights in the Cabinet irrespective of their performance, good or bad, and the measurable results of their tenure in office.

The change that raises deep concern over its motivation is the shifting of Jairam Ramesh out of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. He is one Minister who has distinguished himself in a vital and challenging area of governance — by studying environmental and climate change questions seriously, interacting with experts as well as the wider public, standing up to pressure from special interests, corporate as well as political, acting boldly and transparently, and doing valuable agenda-building. The government can argue that Mr. Ramesh's contribution has been rewarded by his elevation from Minister of State (with independent charge) to Cabinet rank and by his being entrusted with the big responsibility of Rural Development. But that argument would be ingenuous. One hopes that Jayanthi Natarajan, Mr. Ramesh's successor, will emulate his example and not allow the momentum he has built on key environmental and climate change issues to dissipate. It is disappointing that at a time when India's massive infrastructural deficits are under the spotlight, the crucial infrastructure ministries whose leadership can at best be described as lacklustre have been left in the same old hands, with Beni Prasad Verma being rewarded with Cabinet rank (for Steel) on account of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections rather than for his performance. Particularly distressing is the manner in which Water Resources, a crucial Ministry, has been dealt with under UPA-II. It is a political football that has now been kicked back, as 'additional charge,' to Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. Finally, the door has been left half-open to the DMK so that it can send, should it so decide, replacements for the two Ministers who were compelled to resign. Textiles, which has been placed in the 'additional charge' of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, is surely a portfolio reserved for the aggrieved ally. If this is not a story of drift, what is?






The Microfinance Institutions (Development and Regulation) Bill, unveiled recently, envisions a larger regulatory role for the Reserve Bank of India and proposes that all microfinance institutions with net-owned funds of over Rs.5 lakh register with it. The RBI will define and fix what the Bill calls "an annual percentage rate", to be charged by private MFIs, and also set the range within which it can operate. That rate will include interest, processing fees, service charges and any other charges or fees that are payable by the borrowers. Although these stipulations seek to remove a serious lacuna in the regulation of microfinance, they are extremely cumbersome and will be difficult to enforce. In mainline financial sector regulation, the accent has been on laying down broad rules for banks and others to follow. Moreover, given the low threshold for registration envisaged under the Bill, the number of MFIs that will come under the regulatory scanner will be too large for any meaningful supervision. Neither self-regulation nor regulation by Nabard, which also lends to the MFIs, has been found viable. Hence the onus has fallen squarely on the RBI.

Evidently, the context in which the new legislation is proposed is as important as its substantive provisions. About a year ago, the government of Andhra Pradesh — the State that accounts for nearly a third of microfinance business in the country — introduced tough rules to clamp down on such practices as overcharging customers and employing coercive methods to recover loans. These stringent rules came in the wake of allegations that some MFIs were indulging in such wrongful and high-handed practices. As a consequence of the government's action, some high-profile MFIs were badly hit because banks pulled out their loans and this, in turn, snapped those institutions' loan recovery circle. If enacted, the new Bill, which empowers the central government to override existing laws, might give the MFIs some relief, but there is very little chance they will be allowed to go back to their old ways. For its part, the Andhra Pradesh government has voiced its opposition to several of the provisions and pointed out that, even if the RBI became the principal regulator, it would be well within the State government's jurisdiction to exercise control over money lenders and check usurious practices.





Pity the poor people of Bahrain. They have been shot, beaten, tear-gassed — and patronised. On March 7, at the height of the pro-democracy protests in the tiny Gulf island kingdom, a crowd gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Manama, the capital, carrying signs that read "Stop supporting dictators" and "Give me liberty or give me death." A U.S. embassy official emerged from the building with a box of doughnuts for the protesters, prompting a cleric in the crowd to remark: "These sweets are a good gesture, but we hope it is translated into practical actions." It hasn't been. Syria was subjected to sanctions and Libya to air strikes; Bahrain, however, was rewarded with visits from the Pentagon's two most senior officials — the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, and the then Defence Secretary, Robert Gates. Disgracefully, at the same time as peaceful protesters were being imprisoned, both men offered full-throated endorsements of King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa's brutal regime.

The Sunni Khalifas have ruled Shia-majority Bahrain — officially a constitutional monarchy — since 1783. Bahrain's Prime Minister since 1971, Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa — the King's uncle — has the dubious distinction of being the longest-serving unelected Prime Minister in the world. Unemployment stands at 15 per cent — the highest in the Gulf — and Shias have long complained of discrimination and disenfranchisement.

The Arab spring reached Bahrain on Valentine's Day; protesters — both Sunni and Shia — arrived in Manama's Pearl Square on February 14 to demand political freedoms, democratic reforms and greater equality for the Shia majority. They were met with rubber bullets and teargas; three days later security forces switched to live ammunition. Within a few weeks some 2,000 Sunni soldiers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had arrived in Bahrain, at the invitation of the Khalifas, to impose martial law — and, in doing so, poured oil on the fire of sectarian tensions.

Since February at least 30 protesters have been killed and more than 500 people detained. Meanwhile, up to 2,000 people across the country have been dismissed or suspended from work — almost all of them Shia. According to al-Jazeera, 28 Shia mosques and religious institutions have been destroyed.

Few have been spared the wrath of the Khalifas. Last week friends and relatives of the Bahraini football stars A'ala Hubail and his brother Mohammed claim they were beaten and threatened in custody after being arrested in March for their participation in the protests. "You are British: imagine David Beckham gets arrested and tortured. It's unthinkable," a friend of Hubail told the Times .

The Orwellian regime in Manama continues to round up people for the most minor of "offences". Last month the 20-year-old university student Ayat al-Qarmezi was arrested, assaulted and sentenced to a year in prison for reading out a poem criticising the King at a rally.

Yet western leaders and journalists continue to callously avert their eyes. Those who itched to drop bombs on Libya have little to say about Bahrain — Misrata, yes; Manama, no. Bahrain is "complicated," say our leaders. It isn't. A king has turned his security forces on his own subjects. And the reason the U.S. hasn't come out against him is as cynical as it is simple: Sunni-led Bahrain is a strategic ally of the U.S., a counterweight to Shia-led Iran, and home to the U.S. Navy's fifth fleet. Syria isn't. Neither is Libya.

War on terror

Since September 2001 Bahrain has been a key Middle East collaborator in America's so-called war on terror; in 2002 it was designated a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) ally by George Bush. And, on a visit to Manama last December — two months before the Khalifas began killing their people — Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, called Bahrain a "model partner." Since February, the failure of western governments to do anything more than go through the motions of "condemning" the violence by Bahrain's rulers has been a dismal vindication for those of us who have long maintained that in the clash between our interests and our values, the former almost always trump the latter. Nonetheless, the sheer brazenness with which our elected leaders have continued to cosy up to, and apologise for, Bahrain's tyrants, is startling. Referring to the Obama administration's decision to emphasise "stability over majority rule", a U.S. official was quoted in March as saying: "Everybody realised that Bahrain was just too important to fail." Meanwhile, the Queen invited King Hamad to the royal wedding in April, and David Cameron welcomed Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to London in May, greeting him on the doorstep of No 10 with a handshake and bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "blood on our hands."

The blood, however, is on all our hands. Successive British governments have supplied the Khalifas with submachine guns, sniper rifles, smoke canisters, stun grenades, tear gas and riot shields. These have been deployed against unarmed civilians in Pearl Square and Shia villages across Bahrain.

'Bahrain is not Syria'

Defenders of the Khalifas say it is wrong to compare countries in the Middle East; Bahrain is not Syria, they argue, and the Khalifas are not the Assads. Yet as Joshua Landis, a Middle East expert at Oklahoma University, says: "Bahrain has killed twice as many of its citizens as Syria has, if one adjusts for population size." But Bahrain's crimes are ignored and forgotten; in recent days, the U.S. and U.K. governments have heaped praise on the government—sponsored "national dialogue" between the royal family and opposition. It is, however, a cruel charade. "How can there be real dialogue when most [of the opposition] is in jail?" says Kristin Diwan, a Gulf specialist at American University in Washington DC. In fact, of 300 invited participants, just five are from the main Shia opposition party, al-Wefaq, which gained 60 per cent of the vote in last year's parliamentary election. The government, meanwhile, has involved a huge number of diverse organisations to try to dilute opposition voices.

What contribution will the Bahrain Astronomical Society make to discussions on reform? "It is a joke," Said Shehabi, a London-based member of the Bahrain Freedom Movement, tells me. "It makes a mockery of dialogue." It is bad enough that we helped arm and equip the brutes of Bahrain and then turned a blind eye to their violence and torture; we must not now allow our leaders to endorse this farcical "national dialogue" or further patronise the country's bloodied and battered opposition. Bahrainis need democracy, not doughnuts. ( Mehdi Hasan is senior editor (politics) at the New Statesman.) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011






The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaeda leader's family, a Guardian investigation has found.

As part of extensive preparations for the raid that killed bin Laden in May, CIA agents recruited a senior Pakistani doctor to organise the vaccine drive in Abbottabad, even starting the "project" in a poorer part of town to make it look more authentic, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials and local residents.

The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has since been arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) for co-operating with American intelligence agents.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad, already severely strained by the bin Laden operation, have deteriorated considerably since then. The doctor's arrest has exacerbated these tensions. The U.S. is understood to be concerned for the doctor's safety, and is thought to have intervened on his behalf.

The vaccination plan was conceived after American intelligence officers tracked an al-Qaeda courier, known as Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, to what turned out to be bin Laden's Abbottabad compound last summer. The agency monitored the compound by satellite and surveillance from a local CIA safe house in Abbottabad, but wanted confirmation that bin Laden was there before mounting a risky operation inside another country.

DNA from any of the bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.

So agents approached Afridi, the health official in charge of Khyber, part of the tribal area that runs along the Afghan border.

The doctor went to Abbottabad in March, saying he had procured funds to give free vaccinations for hepatitis B. Bypassing the management of the Abbottabad health services, he paid generous sums to low-ranking local government health workers, who took part in the operation without knowing about the connection to bin Laden. Health visitors in the area were among the few people who had gained access to the bin Laden compound in the past, administering polio drops to some of the children.

Afridi had posters for the vaccination programme put up around Abbottabad, featuring a vaccine made by Amson, a medicine manufacturer based on the outskirts of Islamabad.

In March health workers administered the vaccine in a poor neighbourhood on the edge of Abbottabad called Nawa Sher. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually given in three doses, the second a month after the first. But in April, instead of administering the second dose in Nawa Sher, the doctor returned to Abbottabad and moved the nurses on to Bilal Town, the suburb where bin Laden lived.

It is not known exactly how the doctor hoped to get DNA from the vaccinations, although nurses could have been trained to withdraw some blood in the needle after administrating the drug.

Role of nurse

"The whole thing was totally irregular," said one Pakistani official. "Bilal Town is a well-to-do area. Why would you choose that place to give free vaccines? And what is the official surgeon of Khyber doing working in Abbottabad?" A nurse known as Bakhto, whose full name is Mukhtar Bibi, managed to gain entry to the bin Laden compound to administer the vaccines. According to several sources, the doctor, who waited outside, told her to take in a handbag that was fitted with an electronic device. It is not clear what the device was, or whether she left it behind. It is also not known whether the CIA managed to obtain any bin Laden DNA, although one source suggested the operation did not succeed.

Mukhtar Bibi, who was unaware of the real purpose of the vaccination campaign, would not comment on the programme.

Pakistani intelligence became aware of the doctor's activities during the investigation into the U.S. raid in which bin Laden was killed on the top floor of the Abbottabad house. Islamabad refused to comment officially on Afridi's arrest, but one senior official said: "Wouldn't any country detain people for working for a foreign spy service?" The doctor is one of several people suspected of helping the CIA to have been arrested by the ISI, but he is thought to be the only one still in custody.

Pakistan is furious over being kept in the dark about the raid, and the U.S. is angry that the Pakistani investigation appears more focussed on finding out how the CIA was able to track down the al-Qaeda leader than on how bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad for five years.

Over the weekend, relations were pummelled further when the U.S. announced that it would cut $800m (£500m) worth of military aid as punishment for Pakistan's perceived lack of co-operation in the anti-terror fight. William Daley, the White House Chief of Staff, went on U.S. television on Sunday to say: "Obviously, there's still a lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama bin Laden, something the President felt strongly about and we have no regrets over." The CIA refused to comment on the vaccination plot. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011





The Supreme Court's decision in Nandini Sundar and Ors. v. State of Chhattisgarh is no ordinary one and, unsurprisingly, it has invited mixed feelings. The Court declared the State of Chhattisgarh's appointment and arming of Special Police Officers (SPOs) to be unconstitutional, and many have taken pride in its defence of civil liberties. Simultaneously, though, there is some discomfort over the decision's grand rhetorical narrative and its seemingly ideological framing. The Court travelled considerable distance to attack the State's 'amoral' economic policies and the "culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by modern neo-liberal economic ideology." Animated though these views are, mixed feelings over the decision are largely unwarranted and it is important to explain why.

The Court's rhetoric in Nandini Sundar makes for lively conversations but it shouldn't obscure the significance of the order or the importance of the issues at stake. The central concern in the case was the State of Chhattisgarh's creation and arming of a civilian vigilante group — the 'Salwa Judum' — in the battle against insurgencies by Maoist/naxalite groups. Thousands of tribal youth were being appointed by the State as SPOs, and allegedly being called to battle. For the State, this presented one of the only ways in which the Maoist threat could be met, and SPOs were defended as being merely guides and sources of intelligence; they were apparently provided firearms only for their self-defence.

The petitioners, on the other hand, argued that the true story was darker, the entire policy lacked legal sanction, and that it had led to gross violations of human rights in the Dantewada district and other parts of Chhattisgarh. The SPOs were being casually trained and armed, and were engaged in unrestrained acts of violence; all being carried out under a stealthily created legal framework.

One of the major legal troubles here was excessive delegation from the legislature to the executive. The SPOs were appointed under the Chhattisgarh Police Act, 2007. But the Chhattisgarh Police Act said little, leaving far too much in the hands of the executive. No details or limitations were provided on the number of SPOs who could be appointed, their qualifications, their training, or their duties. The blatant vagueness of the law stood, as the Court observed, in sharp contrast to the Indian Police Act, 1861, which also provides for SPOs. Despite being a colonial law, beset with its own problems, the Indian Police Act nonetheless contains certain safeguards. It requires, for instance, the appointment of SPOs to receive approval from a magistrate.

Contrary to the State's assertions, the Court found that SPOs were playing a major combat role in counter-insurgency operations, and that their brief was not limited to non-combative assignments. The Court's findings paint a disturbing picture. Youngsters, with poor training, were being recruited by the State to engage in dangerous and deadly operations. They lacked both the legal and professional education necessary for their tasks. In about two dozen, hour-long periods of instruction, they were trained in all relevant criminal laws such as the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act. Another 12 hours were devoted to the Constitution and human rights. In fact, their education was so modest that the Court rejected the State's argument that the SPOs were being armed for self-defence on, inter alia , the ground that they did not even possess the necessary judgment to determine instances of self-defence.

In arguing its case, the State government put forth a desperate and churlish set of arguments. It sought to reduce its culpability by asserting that the youngsters appointed had voluntarily sought to engage in counter-insurgency operations, almost as if to suggest that it is consent which was at issue here. It further asserted that by providing such youngsters employment, the State was giving them livelihood and the promise of a better future. The Court was rightly aghast at such a suggestion, observing that it "cannot comprehend how involving ill-equipped, barely literate youngsters in counter-insurgency activities, wherein their lives are placed in danger, could be conceived under the rubric of livelihood."

We often witness the Court making such majestic statements but in Nandini Sundar it walked the talk. These strong words were backed by strong remedies. The SPOs were expected to perform all the duties of police officers but were paid only an honorarium. This, and the arbitrary and vague nature of their appointment and functioning, was held to violate the equal protection guarantee in Article 14 of the Constitution. Article 21, the right to life clause, was also hit, as the State displayed insensitivity towards the lives of SPOs, placing them in danger without giving them the necessary education and support they needed. There was some clever craftsmanship here, but perhaps also a deeper point, with the Court regarding the SPOs as victims rather than perpetrators. The appointment of SPOs was thus struck down, and the State of Chhattisgarh was asked to "immediately cease and desist from using [them] in any manner or form." The Union was also barred from funding the project; all arms were to be recalled; the SPOs were to be given appropriate security; and, most important, the State of Chhattisgarh was asked to ensure that no private group engaged in counter-insurgency activities. Finally, the Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate alleged acts of violence.

On each of these issues, the Court's view was crystal clear and powerfully articulated. The ratio of the interim order, i.e. the operative part of a legal decision which binds further state action and future cases, is carefully constructed, and holds important implications for the exercise of executive power. There are other legal aspects of the decision that merit reflection. Article 355 of the Constitution, an often forgotten provision, mandates that the Union ensure that every State government acts in accordance with the Constitution. The Court correctly criticised the Union's hands-off policy on SPOs, which involved funding the project but no follow through on how precisely these forces were functioning.

Sadly, though, these legal niceties have been nicely ignored in much of the public debate the judgment has triggered. Many commentators appear far too fascinated with the rhetorical flourish with which the decision begins, rather than the true legal character of the order. Admittedly, the widely publicised, ideologically-ridden narrative is bewildering and was unnecessary; it had no bearing on the dispute being debated. But it is also precisely for this reason that we ought not to belabour it. The affinities of individual judges can help us develop some sort of institutional sociology of the Supreme Court. Such a sociological study would be illuminating, but we mustn't confuse it with the legal impact of the case, and fail to appreciate the varying significance of these issues. The anti-neo-liberal lecture in the case binds no one, not even the judges themselves. The ideological position espoused in the preamble may have generated a fierce debate, yet the character of the battle against insurgency operations is more important than it. The ratio of the judgment in Nandini Sundar will outlive its rhetoric. Many have criticised the judges as being a little too judgmental. As we unpack the details of the decision, we ought not to be guilty of the same charge.

(The author is at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.)

The carefully constructed decision to disband the untrained force of young Special Police Officers in Chhattisgarh holds important lessons for the exercise of executive power.





They captured national attention during their nerve-wracking stand-off with the police barely a fortnight ago over the Orissa State's forcible acquisition of their land for POSCO. Today, Dhinkia and Govindpur villages seem, on the surface at least, quite relaxed.

"That," says Abhay Sahoo, smiling, "is partly because the 24 platoons of police which came here to throw us out have been busy with the Jagannath rath yatra in Puri (where they beat up the priests). They were needed there for some days." Sahoo is the main leader of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) that is fighting the land acquisition. Another reason for the lull, he says, is that "after they messed up in June, the Orissa government might worry about a new embarrassment. That too with a Parliament session just days away." Hence the pause in the conflict. Anti-POSCO villagers won the last round, both on the ground and in the media. But, as they see it, the police serve Lord Jagannath's wooden rath for only two weeks. "Their commitment to Posco's steel rath is round the year. They'll be back."

The returning police will meet a stubborn people. Quite determined to resist the State government's takeover of their farmland for the South Korean giant's proposed integrated power and steel plant and captive port. The project would also allow for the mining of 600 million tons of iron ore.

The vineyards

People here are among Orissa's better off agrarian communities. The betel vine ( pan leaf) economy is central to their well-being. There are 1,800 vineyards in the project zone in official count. Betel farmers here put the number at 2,500. About a thousand of them in Dhinkia and Govindpur. The daily wage rate is Rs.200 or more plus a good meal. That's the highest in the State's agrarian sector, higher than what construction workers in Bhubaneswar get and close to twice Orissa's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) rate. It can go up to Rs.450 plus a meal for specific tasks in the vineyards. A tiny vineyard on a tenth of an acre can produce 540 labour days or more in a year. That's apart from 600 days of family labour. Some landless workers earn even more by being fishermen as well. That source of income collapses if POSCO's captive port comes up at Jatadhari. So locals mock the claim of projects bringing jobs, pointing to labour shortages and no major demand for employment. In all classes, even amongst traders, most are unwilling to lose their livelihoods for a project they find destructive and a compensation they see as meaningless.

Cases and warrants

Below the calm surface is a larger tension flowing from the State's way of dealing with the anti-POSCO struggle. With multiple cases filed against large numbers of people — and countless warrants issued — several have been unable to go out of these villages for five years. "Many can't attend close family weddings in other villages. They can't visit very ill siblings or parents," protestors at the "human wall" guarding Dhinkia and Govindpur against police told us. This has fostered a state of siege feeling.

Abhay Sahoo has 49 cases filed against him and spent 10 months in Choudwar Jail while fighting them. "In all," he says, "over a thousand people here have had 177 cases filed against them for resisting POSCO." Trying to criminalise protesters seems a standard operating procedure in dealing with anti-displacement struggles in Orissa and beyond. Barely a hundred kilometres away in Kalinganagar is Rabi Jarika, leader of the tribal resistance to acquisition of land for a Tata steel plant. "I couldn't leave my village of Chandia in years. The police had slapped 72 cases on me under every section you can name."

Jagatsinghpur district's Superintendent of Police S. Devdutt Singh attacks the PPSS' count as "utterly false. There may be," he told us on the phone from Delhi, "200-300 troublemakers against whom there are cases. Cases have also been filed by those harassed by the PPSS, including 52 families they drove out forcibly. And if there are innocent people fearing arrest if they step out, they may have been misled by the PPSS."

2005 MoU

Back in Dhinkia, Sahoo seems to be right about the present calm. While pouring rain was the reason advanced for a lull in the land battle, political embarrassment seems a more potent one. The latest is the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights asking the State "to withdraw police forces sheltered in schools meant for the education of children" in the project area. Critics point out that the government is forcibly acquiring land for a project whose memorandum of understanding (MoU) expired a year ago. The 2005 MoU between the State and the corporation gave POSCO the mineral at way below market prices. Top government sources say "the renewal is likely in 15 days." But the lack of an MoU has not stopped the State from moving to acquire 4,004 acres of land for the project. Roughly half of that is in Dhinkia and Govindpur.

Priyabrata Patnaik, CMD of the Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation and the officer-in-charge of all land acquisition, declares: "It is not mandatory for us to have an MoU to acquire land. We have acquired and allotted over 9,000 acres for industries which have no MoU with the State."

The Orissa government Chief Secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik told TheHindu , "We are acquiring only government land. Most of it here is forest and we will not take private land (which is a small portion of the total)." The vineyards," he insists, "are fairly recent." Villagers, however, point out that survey records show betel farms existing in 1927. "And we have been here even longer," says Gujjari Mohanty at her vineyard. She is past 70 and has been "engaged in this work from an early age."

Devdutt Singh asserts: "Of seven villages in the project zone, things have moved smoothly in all except Govindpur and Dhinkia, where there is resistance. Even in Govindpur, I believe the majority are not with PPSS, only in Dhinkia they might be. Right now, we are clearing the work in the first five. Then we will go on to the others. There is no war here. We will do our job. But I cannot discuss how many platoons we have there or our plans."

He is right that there is no war here — in that one set of combatants is totally unarmed. But when the police do move in on Dhinkia and Govindpur, POSCO's steel rath might run into that human wall.

Trying to criminalise protesters seems a standard operating procedure in dealing with anti-displacement struggles in Orissa and beyond.






The reshuffle in January touched a number of ministers and their portfolios, but the Prime Minister was not quite satisfied. His government had been doing reasonably well in the UPA's second edition but had suddenly been ambushed by corruption and never-ending inflation. Apparently to meet the challenges generated on account of these factors, without wanting to lose the growth momentum or letting go of the Congress Party's logo of "inclusive growth", Dr Manmohan Singh had said that the next round of changes in the council of ministers — after the Budget Session of Parliament — would be "structural" in nature. But that is not an appellation that naturally lends itself to the reshuffle effected on Tuesday, although it came after interminable rounds of consultations with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The so-called top four Cabinet-level jobs — finance, home, defence and external affairs — remain undisturbed. That gives a broad indication that the thrust of the government remains unchanged. The personnel at agriculture, industry and commerce have not been altered. The totality of this would suggest that the economic orientation of the government, which includes its willingness to confront runaway prices, will be the same as before. On the infrastructure side, the good news is placing Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamul Congress with Cabinet rank to manage the railways. We can only hope that his party chief Mamata Banerjee will let him devote all his energies to this extremely important portfolio.
In terms of the choice of new Cabinet ministers, the only real new inclusion is V. Kishore Chandra Deo, a sterling politician with long experience of public life who has held top positions in Parliament. If he is permitted to wield his charge of tribal affairs and panchayati raj well, potentially he can make a difference to the vast stretch wracked by sustained Maoist violence. Others brought to Cabinet rank are a consequence mainly of politics qua politics (Beni Prasad Verma and Dinesh Trivedi) or the politics of economic development, as appears to be the case with Jairam Ramesh, who moves up to the Cabinet as the new rural development minister. His dynamism is not hidden, but the portfolio is among the most complex, with rural uplift, in all its dimensions, being its focus. He will have to add value to the Congress' flagship NREGA programme for the rural poor, and take on further responsibility for homestead farmers being wooed by Rahul Gandhi. This is a big ask. Of course, speculation will linger that he had to leave environment and forests as he was seen to be slow in giving environmental clearances for new mega projects. A columnist for this newspaper, Jayanthi Natarajan, takes his place, and will have to approach her charge with circumspection. Salman Khurshid has got additional charge of the law ministry. This might be useful with Mr Khurshid having a better understanding of the superior judiciary as he is a practising lawyer at that level, but it may be early to make a judgment on the PM's decision to switch them around.
Orissa's Srikant Jena and Mumbai's Gurudas Kamat, unhappy at not receiving their political due, boycotted the swearing-in, and Mr Kamat subsequently left the government in protest. The Congress would be wise to view the wider political sensitivities of the regions they represent. The two Cabinet positions held by ally DMK have been filled. But scope has been left for their accommodation later as Anand Sharma and Pawan Kumar Bansal are holding additional charge of key portfolios. Speculation about inducting at least one minister from Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD and Ajit Singh's RLD has proved empty. This suggests that the Congress' future strategy for the Hindi heartland is yet to take shape. Dr Singh has said this will be the last reshuffle before the next general election, three years away. That could be premature. In the last lap of the race, governments do act to make last-minute corrections before the electorate tests them.





Of all the wounds that the Congress-dominated United Progressive Alliance has inflicted on itself in its second tenure (UPA-II), arguably the worst is the dithering over the burning Telangana issue. The thundering silence of the top leadership of the government and the Congress Party amidst tempestuous turmoil on the ground speaks for itself. The duration for which the festering sore has been left unattended is appalling.
To put the UPA-II's nay the Congress' acts of omission and commission in perspective, the problem's history needs to be encapsulated. At the time of Independence, indeed until September 1948, Telegu-speaking Telangana was part of the multi-lingual princely state of Hyderabad, ruled by the Nizam who was hell-bent on making Hyderabad an independent entity, a design in which Pakistan was complicit. But his people, fed up with his autocratic rule and depredations of the notorious Razakars, would have nothing of this. A sideshow was the Communist Party of India's revolt against both the Nizam and Independent India. It was also crushed.
Another major strand in the saga is that though the Mahatma had always favoured linguistic states on the ground that administration must be run in people's mother tongue, the towering leaders of the Union government — Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad, collectively called JVP — decided to put the issue of linguistic states in deep freeze. But they had reckoned without the reality of escalating sentiment for a separate Andhra state among the Telegu-speaking population in what was in British times Madras Presidency and is now Tamil Nadu.
After an Andhra Gandhian, Potti Sriramulu, fasted until his death, the Central government was forced to form the Telegu-speaking state of Andhra. Telangana, however, continued to be a part of Hyderabad. A rash of linguistic demands erupted across the country. A States Reorganisation Commission was appointed and, in accordance with its report, the country's political map was redrawn in 1956, largely but not entirely along linguistic lines. Telangana became part of Andhra and Hyderabad city became the capital of the new state.
In subsequent years, Telangana's grievances against its neglect and lack of development in it were heard from time to time, but it was only in 1969 that a strong movement for a separate state of Telangana erupted. Its leader was a Congressman from the region, Chenna Reddy. Indira Gandhi had the stature and the skill, both lacking in the present dispensation, to contain the agitation. She virtually bought over Chenna Reddy (who became successively governor of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra's flamboyant chief minister).
Fast forward: The sentiment for Telangana gained momentum again after the turn of the century. So much so that in its election manifestos in both the 2004 and 2009 elections, the Congress committed itself to forming a separate Telangana state. Indeed, in 2004, the Telangana Raksha Samithi (TRS) was part of the UPA-1 and its leader, K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), a minister in the Union Cabinet. When the Congress showed no sign of honouring its promise, he resigned.
In the 2009 elections, however, the TRS was routed because the Congress in Andhra won a spectacular victory in the poll for both Parliament and the state Assembly. Unfortunately, the sole architect of this triumph, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR), died in a helicopter accident. The Central Congress leadership failed to cope with his young son, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy's demand that he be allowed to claim his "political inheritance". Consequently, he walked out of the Congress and formed his own party. In recent by-elections he (and his mother) demonstrated the staggering mass support they enjoy. At the same time the two successive Congress chief ministers have put their utter ineptitude on display. The Andhra Congress that sent the largest contingent to the current Lok Sabha is now in a shambles.
Meanwhile, hatred between the politicians of the two regions — Telangana on one hand and Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra on the other — cutting across party lines has reached a crescendo, making a compromise of any kind extremely difficult.
However, to rewind, in the aftermath of YSR's death, KCR saw his opportunity and went on a "fast unto death" in the winter of 2009. The drama that followed was dismal beyond belief. As his condition deteriorated, the Congress Core Committee panicked. (Were there shades of Potti Sriramulu here?) Late in the night of December 9, 2009, Union home minister P.C. Chidambaram conceded the demand for the state of Telangana, adding that the "process" for this would begin "with a resolution in the state Assembly". When members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra rose in virulent protest, offering their resignations, just as MLAs and members of Parliament from Telangana are now resigning or threatening to, within a fortnight the UPA government beat a retreat and proclaimed that "wider consultations with all stakeholders" were needed. To facilitate this it resorted to the old ploy of appointing a commission. Justice Sri Krishna headed it. The commission reported in December last year, but the government and the party are still at a loss about what to do. They are, however, drawing some comfort from the fact that with cinestar Chiranjeevi's party's merger with the Congress, its bedraggled ministry in Andhra is "safe".
As it happened, the Sri Krishna Commission made no specific recommendation. It outlined six different "options," even though it seemed biased towards maintaining the unity of the Andhra state, with regional devolution of power. There are two difficulties in this. First, that the devolution package offered to Telangana years ago has meant nothing. Secondly and sadly, the Sri Krishna Commission also submitted a "secret note" — exposed to the light of day by a court — opposing a separate Telangana state and recommending that the Union government should "mobilise" the media towards this end and offer it "inducements".
In this foul atmosphere how does one do anything about the concern of non-Telangana population of the state about its enormous stakes in Hyderabad while the Telangana people would not settle for anything less than this city becoming Telangana's exclusive capital.
The problem is indeed complex. But it is time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi bite the bullet. All other options are worse.





Not long after the horrific terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 26, 2008, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani publicly stated that while he shared India's sorrow, he also wished to underscore that Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism. Given the rising graph of wanton acts of terror that have swept across Pakistan since then, there is more than a kernel of truth to that seemingly fatuous and insensitive statement. That said, Mr Gilani's claim requires greater scrutiny.
The individuals who took part in that swarming attack that left the city and India's security forces virtually paralysed for the better part of three days and cost 166 lives were all Pakistan-based terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). That terrorist organisation was spawned in Pakistan, abetted by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI-D) and continues to operate freely from its headquarters in Muridke, outside Lahore.
Consequently, while a host of terrorist organisations are now wreaking havoc across Pakistan, it needs to be underscored that key elements of the Pakistani state have yet to terminate their dalliance with terror. Specifically, the security establishment continues to rely on terror as a critical element of state policy, even though some of its acolytes have now trained their guns on their erstwhile sponsors. As matters are now seeming to spin out of control, a new trope is being increasingly relied upon: a considerable part of the violence is now increasingly attributed to India's apparent machinations. Yet these assertions are made without a shred of accompanying evidence.
The unwillingness of Pakistan's political and security apparatus to forthrightly come to terms with their own complicity in dubious ventures is, however, not of recent vintage. Their antecedents can be traced to the time of the creation of Pakistan. Barring marked exceptions, the vast majority of Pakistanis still argue that Indian intransigence and malfeasance on Kashmir triggered the 1947-48 war. Even today, despite ample evidence to the contrary, they refuse to recognise their own role in actively supporting the indigenous rebellion against Maharaja Hari Singh in Poonch. Instead, they continue to harp on the question of the timing of the acceptance of the Instrument of Accession and the arrival of Indian troops in Srinagar, thereby seeking to obfuscate their own collusion in the conflict.
This, of course, is not the only case of an unwillingness to come to terms with some of the more unsavoury features of their country's history. Even the Justice Hamadoor Commission Report failed to forthrightly address the horror that the Pakistan Army unleashed on the hapless Bengali population of East Pakistan in 1971. Instead, it focused its attention on the decision-making pathologies that contributed to the military and political debacle. While apologies, both qualified and unstinted, have become the currency of international politics, no Pakistani leader of any note has come close to proffering one for the genocidal behaviour of the Pakistan Army in 1971.
Such a failure to apologise is not the most egregious failing of the Pakistani state and its citizenry. Even otherwise thoughtful and informed Pakistani scholars in private conversations with this author have argued that the Pakistani military, most assuredly, were also victims of violence in the East Pakistani crisis. They contend that the Bengalis showed little quarter to the beleaguered garrisons in East Pakistan and so there is little that the Punjabi-dominated Army of the time has to account for. Yet, as the British journalist
Murray Sayle revealed in a remarkable article, "A Regime of Thugs and Bigots", in the Sunday Times in July 1971, the horrors that the regime visited on the Bengalis made British colonial atrocities in the North-West Frontier pale into insignificance. He compared the tactics of the Army to those of Mussolini and Hitler.
The passage of nearly 30 years did not lead to an end to this form of historical obfuscation. In the wake of the Kargil War, two forms of exculpatory arguments were set forth. The first suggested that the Pakistani military had not participated in the crossing of the Line of Control but instead local Mujahideen had chosen to act of their own accord. The war, they argued, was really the result of India's jingoism and disproportionate military response. When ample contrary evidence undermined this questionable claim, Pakistani apologists suddenly argued that the Kargil incursions were merely a response to India's occupation of the Siachen glacier in 1984. One might well wonder why it took the Pakistani state a decade and a half to attempt a military riposte to the Siachen conflict.
This mythmaking, sadly, did not come to a close with the Kargil War. As Mr Gilani's statement in the wake of 26/11 demonstrated, it persists under yet another civilian regime. The Pakistani propensity to avoid coming to terms with politically and morally flawed choices is not a matter of mere academic historical accuracy. Instead, their failure to forthrightly confront ugly, painful and erroneous choices has had profound consequences for the fate of the Pakistani state. The obsession with the Kashmir dispute has made the military primus inter pares within Pakistan and has grossly distorted the country's developmental priorities. The grotesque maltreatment of the Bengalis led to the break-up of Pakistan. Subsequent failures to deal fairly with other ethnic minorities have contributed to endemic conflict within the country. And finally, the willingness to use terror as an instrument of state policy has come to haunt the country's domestic politics. In the absence of an honest accounting of these deeply problematic choices that started from the nascent days of the Pakistani state it is far from clear whether Pakistan will be able to extricate itself from the morass that it finds itself mired in.

The author is director of research at the Centre on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington, US







How amusing that for the first time any Minister from the Valley has publicly questioned the feasibility of existing script for Kashmiri language. One would think that doing anything of the sort is short of blasphemy. Minister for Agriculture, Ghulam Hassan Mir was speaking at a function organized in connection with 'Fazil Day' by the Cultural Academy in Srinagar. He asserted: "The script of Kashmiri language that is in vogue these days is too much complicated. It has got many symbols and it is difficult to understand it. It needs to be simplified so that the computer literate generation is wooed to accept it. This will make the language easy to understand. The complicated script is one of the reasons for less interest of people in reading and writing the Kashmir language."

The Minister is no phonetician or philologist to opine on technicalities of a script. Nevertheless he seems to have raked a very important and crucial debate in local academic and literary circles. This debate should have taken place long back when populist regime came to power in 1947. The Academy of Art, Culture and Literature, installed as a semi-autonomous institute, had the jurisdiction of initiating a purely academic debate on the choice of a script for Kashmiri language. Services of reputed experts in the branches of phonetics and philology from the country and even from outside the country should have been requisitioned to invent a scientific and technically sound and viable script for Kashmiri language. This was never done, and chauvinism blurred the vision of those who decided in favour of Arabic script with totally unscientific modifications. The result is what Minister Ghulam Hasan Mir has said candidly.

Arbitrary imposition of a script whose alphabet, even with unimaginative diacritical marks, fail to represent Kashmiri phonemes with desired precision and accuracy, is the greatest disservice done to Kashmiri language. How can we expect such a script to be the right vehicle of conveying the ideas of a creative writer? Kashmiri script has suffered the loss of historical continuity. It has become a victim of prejudice and sentimentality, both unscientific and illogical. For centuries Sharada script, borrowed and modified from Sanskrit remained the vehicle of transmission for ancient Kashmiris. It was the closest to Kashmiri vowel and consonant sounds, and a good deal of literary fund was brought out in this script. Its total rejection, motivated by myopic vision of culture and language was not only a retrograde step but also meant pulling down the blinds for further improvement of the script to make it really compatible. This is not to deride Arabic script which is one of the most perfect scripts like that of Sanskrit.

In the early decades of the 20th century, acutely nationalistic movements gripped Turkey and Iran. In a euphoria of sorts Pan-Turkic and Pan-Iranist protagonists demanded a change in the script of their written languages. While the demand was turned down in Iran, the Turks replaced the Arabic with Roman script with added diacritical marks and the new script came to stay. Excellent literature in all genres has been produced in Turkey ever since enriching her corpus of literary fund. In Iran this change could not take place owing to the reality that Iran's enormous and rich fund of Persian manuscripts remains preserved in its Arabic script. Iranian nation could not afford to lose it. But in the case of Kashmir, there is no such fund in Kashmiri (Arabic) script (except scanty Sharada manuscripts still extent but made irrelevant). As such, a scientific change in in-vogue Kashmiri script remains facilitated to a large extent. It has to be remembered that in totality till date Kashmiri literature, quantitatively and qualitatively, is insignificant and mundane. We don't have a single history of Jammu and Kashmir, or a biography of a world figure, or a work of philosophy or scientific discovery or technological marvel or children's stories in this language. There is nothing to boast about its richness when we look at Persian or Arabic or Hindi or Bengali or Urdu literary treasures. This does not mean there is lack of talent. The reason is the lack of a scientific script. Therefore Kashmir's cultural punditry and broad literati should not lose a single day in initiating a comprehensive but dispassionate debate on the proposition of changing Kashmiri script to anything new that is scientific rational, technically sound and practically viable. Once this stage is covered, then we will see how the existing talent makes a rich contribution to all genres of Kashmiri literature. Till then it is an exercise in futility. It is important that induction of Roman script for Kashmiri with necessary diacritical marks as in the case of Turkish is made an option for discussion at the level of Cultural Academy if it wants to react to the suggestions of Agricultural Minister Mir Ghulam Hasan.






Senior most officer of the Army who looks after the security of entire Kashmir Valley and the LoC has won the hearts of the people so much so that they call him "People's General" out of sheer goodwill and affection. Lt. Gen. S.A. Husnain has opened a new chapter of army-civilian relationship in Kashmir after a long spell of bitterness and mutual suspicion. Presence of more than a thousand civilians at the function organized by the 35 Rashtriya Rifles at the town of Beerwah in Tangmarg, Kashmir signifies a changed climate in relationship that has been built brick by brick by the imaginative and innovative General of the Indian Army. Masses of people in the locality have reposed trust in him because he not only listens intently to their difficulties and grievance but also issues orders on spot to mitigate all that could be done. The country has been long waiting for creation of this pattern of relationship between the Kashmiris and the Army in which they feel they are complementary to each other in foiling the attempts of miscreants by destabilizing peace. The General is reaching the people, in their towns, villages and homesteads to know their difficulties and to assuage their hurt feelings; he sees to it that army medical services under his command render free health services to the poor and distressed villagers; he has incepted Army Goodwill School for the children of poor and backward sections of Kashmiri society; he has launched Bharat Darshan programme so that kids in Kashmir schools go on a tour and see for themselves the country to which they belong. These are no small measures and the General will always be remembered for reversing the old story and generating enormous goodwill for the army among the people in Kashmir especially in rural areas.







The habitual silence of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on controversial issues being vigorously debated throughout the country that has the effect of damaging the Government's image, provides him no opportunity to vindicate his stand. Whenever he is persuaded to open up before the media after a long gap of time, he appears to be on the defensive. The tragedy is that although he runs the country as its chief executive, he does not command institutional and party support to the desired extent. Lack of coordination and cohesion among the top leadership reflects not only on the quality of governance but also impinges on the public support enjoyed by the ruling party. The situation has come to a point where neither the Government draws strength from the Congress party nor is it in a position to clear itself of the many serious charges of wrong doing hurled at it by the opposition.

He denies all the things that the opposition says about him and the functioning of the Government, but does not clear its image in the face of relentless criticism, joined even by the Supreme Court, of its inability and lack of will to combat corruption. Even though some people may be presently behind bars because the charges against them have not been put up for regular court hearings, the Government has little to show by way of conviction of the big fish. What makes thing worse is Dr. Singh's own assertion that there are "no obstacles" to the functioning of the Government. Then why does action follow only when the opposition comes into the streets, and not by the Government itself, to set an example of a functioning Government and not one that is driven to act under pressure or criticism.

The Prime Minister contests the view of a "lame duck" or "comatose" government gripped by a policy paralysis, which was clever propaganda by the opposition to which some sections of the media had lent an ear. But, truth would ultimately prevail. There was a growing perception that the government was under siege and not able to deliver on the agenda. He goes hammer and tongs at the media, which was fully supportive of him during his first five-year term, and says that its role in many cases had become that of an accuser, the prosecutor and the judge. When politicians are in trouble, or when scandals are exposed, they tend to blame it on the media and accuse it of being hand in glove with the highly critical opposition which, for a long time, has been searching for issues to spoil the image of the government to present its return to power at the next general election.

The compliant may be genuine, but he should ask his media advisers how well or badly they have been performing. So incompetent and so disinterested these people are is shown by the fact that they put his off-the-record observations about political parties in Bangladesh also on the Prime Minister's official website and withdrew the same only after media uproar over it. The Prime Minister needs to be saved from his advisers who often give him wrong advice because they have no political stakes and function like bureaucrats to whom the survival or credibility of the government does not matter. The same is true of some of his economic advisers, who dole out advice on liberalization and diminishing the role of the public sector and handing over the economy to freebooters without, for a moment, evaluating the harsh political consequences of drastic action.

If the world economic situation is grave and the Indian economy cannot escape its harsh effects, and has to resort to certain unpopular measures, such as, regular hikes in petroleum products prices, the least that is expected of a democratic government is to take the people into confidence at every step. The Prime Minister should establish a regular channel of communication with the people, who have elected his government, keep them informed of the economic situation and convincing them of the necessity of certain harsh measures to protect the economy from the consequences of the global economic downturn. Step after step is being taken without taking people into confidence and even the Congress party often gives the impression that it is not privy to some of the decisions taken and it trusts the wisdom and capability of the Prime Minister appointed to run the country's government. Loose talkers, such as, Digvijay Singh (who is unable to wrest control of his state of Madhya Pradesh from the BJP) who are not amenable to any party discipline, make it appear that the leadership lacks cohesion and unity of purpose.

There is little doubt that the Congress President has not put any obstacles to things he wants to do. He maintains that the Party has entrusted him with a certain job and, he has not got a contravy indication from the High Command. He accepts full responsibility for all the bad things that his government might have done. Taking responsibility as head of government may be courageous, but does the nation take it that bad things will not be repeated, full accountability in government will be respected, corruption will not be tolerated, the corrupt will be swiftly tried and sentenced and transparency, about, which there has been much talk, will be practiced. No doubt, to err is human, but to correct the mistake and not let it happen again, is super human.

At the same time, while respecting these principles, the government's functioning should not be paralysed and decision-making come to a stop. Several major decisions in various fields await attention and the transparency excuse should not be permitted to scuttle them. Defence is one field which has suffered the most on account of delays in decision making and the equipment with our defence forces is fast becoming obsolete and plans for replacement and technological upgradation are making no headway. All requests for new equipment have been pending for years, and paralysis in decision making has even led to surrender of budgetary allocation of the Ministry. Land acquisition legislation needs drastic revision and insurance reform should be speeded up.

Corruption, which has emerged as a priority national issue, needs to be tackled comprehensively. One can sympathies with a Prime Minister, who has no choice in the matter of selecting his ministers but is forced to accept persons of doubtful integrity as his colleagues. This happened also during the Prime Ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was forced to accept NDA partners as ministers, who proved corrupt and thoroughly inefficient and brought own his government. "Coalition compulsions" may be an explanation, but once a minister from a party is appointed, there is no reason why he should be allowed to flout rules and established procedures with impunity, as Raja and others did, in full knowledge of the Prime Minister. If the 2G spectrum and other scams have spoiled the Government's image, someone has to bear their political consequences

Want of governance has led to the dangerous phenomenon of judicial over-activism and the judges seem to harbor a feeling that they are qualified to run the country. Unless the Congress Party and its Government put their acts together, there is danger ahead for both. The two must function in perfect harmony and exercise the demons of corruption, misgovernance and trust deficit. Their deeds should be in public good and lead to the upliftment of those who are still very poor, strengthen democracy and sinews of the economy, without being intimidated by NGOs and civil society activist whose foreign-inspired agendas and doubtful source of funding make them worthy of rejection. (NPA)






Recently hearing a PIL, the Supreme Court expressed concern over the fact that India which has emerged as world's third most powerful country, is still facing deaths from starvation as reported from many parts of the country. The Supreme Court has asked a question that how can there be two India, one suffering from starvation and another enjoying extra luxuries. Different figures are being presented by the Government about poverty. Therefore, it is difficult to understand that how many people in India are poor. Periodically varying definations of the poverty line tend to complicate the matter further. In the absence of an appropriate definition efforts to remove poverty cannot be meaningful. In the past various measures have been adopted by the Government to tackle the menace of poverty in the country. Cheap grain, other foods and kerosene through the PDS, rural and urban employment programs, free education and health facilities, etc, are some key government programs in this direction. Government has also proposed a food security legislation , according to which, for all people living below the poverty line, provisions would be made for access to necessary food at affordable prices.

But absence of appropriate definition is coming in way of a judicious poverty elimination programme. Supreme Court has asked Planning Commission's Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia that, on what basis the Planning Commission contends that people today living below the poverty line are only 36 percent of the population? It may be noted that some time back an Expert Group constituted by the Planning Commission under the chairmanship of Prof. Suresh D Tendulkar had suggested a different definition for measuring poverty, on the lines of which formula for measuring poverty has also been notified. Before the report of the Expert Group, the government has been saying that in 2004-05 only 28 percent people were poor and the same has dropped to only 20 percent in 2007. The Expert Group headed by Prof. Tendulkar suggested a new definition of poverty (which has forthwith been accepted by the Government) according to which necessary expenditure on health and education has also been included while assessing poverty.

But Supreme Court has questioned even this 'improved definition' of poverty. According to Prof. Tendulkar's definition a person would be treated as poor, as on 2004-05, if his monthly income is less than Rs 446.68 in rural areas and Rs 578.8 in urban areas. Considering the data submitted by the Planning Commission, Supreme Court questioning the methodology, has asked from the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, that how come a person would be able to consume 2400 calories in rural areas and 2100 calories in urban areas with less than Rs 20 income a day in urban areas and less than Rs 15 income a day in rural areas. It may be noted that a sper the basic definition of poverty, intake of 2100 calories in urban area and 2400 for urban areas has been the basis of drawing the poverty line in India. As per this standard, 56 percent of population was estimated to be living below poverty line in 1973-74. Before 1973-74. poverty line was properly defined and so was the estimation of poverty line based on the requisite expenditure to attain the desired quantum of calories. But estimation of poverty in 1993-94 and 1999-2000 was devoid of any sense of proprtion and statisticians at Planning Commission were able to bring down the number of poor by statistical jugglery and change in definition of poverty. Critics believe that as per the calorie standards, had the price data been properly used poverty figures in rural areas would have been 80 percent and in urban areas it would have been 50 percent.

If we accept the data presented by the Planning Commission, we find that a person getting daily income of Rs 20 or more in urban areas and Rs 15 or more in rural areas would not be called poor. If we look at the internationally most commonly accepted definition of poverty, it is US$ 1.25 a day. If we convert the same in rupees, it would amount to Rs 58 per day. Though even this is lower than what is required for subsistence, but a definition which gives poverty line with an amount which is nearly one third of this amount looks redundant. This in fact indicates at insensitivity of the government towards the poor, whereby it is notable to provide for minimum subsistence cost of living.

Some time ago, the Government constituted a committee for the unorganized sector under the chairmanship of Arjun Sengupta, which reported that more than 77 percent of the countrymen are managing with less than Rs 20 a day or less. It is easily understandable that is not possible to meet Minimum requirement of a person's food, shelter, health and clothing with so little. It means that more than 77 percent of the countrymen cannot even meet their basic needs, whereas poverty measured as per the mathematical method gives a figure of merely 36 percent. Such varying figures about the number of poor create confusions and make the task of elimination of poverty difficult.

As per the data provided by the UN, more than 22 crore population in India is reeling under hunger. Report of a British research organisation, which says that about 3000 children die due to malnutrition every day, is in conformity with UN data about hunger in the country. In the last about four years, prices of food products have more than doubled, pushing a large number of people below poverty line.

Though Tendulkar's report has tried to correct the definition of poverty by including requisite expenditure on education and health, but even that has failed to address the realities. Poverty line based on just calories can at best be called hunger line. To make it real poverty line, Government has to take a realistic view of poverty. If the government has to implement right to food earnestly, it must correct its assessment of poverty, and stop statistical jugglery, ending crude joke with poor.





Over the years, though the agricultural marketing and trade scenario in India has undergone tremendous changes, the present system is far from satisfactory as it has failed to address the basic problems of the agricultural sector and farming communities. The ills plaguing agricultural marketing are many. Limited access to market information, middlemen, low literacy level among farmers, lack of storage facilities, multiple channels of distribution and so on are just to name a few.

This year a warning has already been issued that India's overflowing grain reserves will lead to a crisis, if the government does not take urgent steps to offload the stocks. The warning came from none other than Dr Ashok Gulati, Chairman of the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). Dr Gulati says that the government needs to clear the grain inventories before the 'kharif' harvest hits the market in September, amid reports of wheat and paddy farmers having received below support prices in the 'rabi' marketing season, and of grain rotting with Central and State agencies for want of proper storage facility. "We could be looking at another storage crisis if we don't take a decision soon," Gulati added.

The investment in the country to store agricultural produce, in relation to the amount spent on production, has been pitifully low. The facilities for storing perishables like fruits and vegetables, which require cold storage, are almost non-existent, particularly in the APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) stockyards. India's Agriculture Ministry faces a serious problem in storing safely all the grain it collects.

In a nation, where 70 per cent of the population of approximately 1.2 billion lives in rural areas, 55 per cent of the population is employed in the agricultural sector contributing approximately 17 per cent to GDP. Even then, the sector is subjected to pervasive government interventions at almost every level and is almost completely insulated from global markets through numerous trade restrictions.

Even the wholesale markets that have been established in most states under the respective Agricultural Produce Marketing Regulation Acts are monopolistic. The market committees, whose members are nominated by the State Government, manage the markets. No person or agency can carry on any wholesale marketing activity in the market area, except through a license issued by the market committee. This has made the traders a dominant force. As a result monopolistic practices and procedures have taken root and have prevented development of free and competitive trade in agriculture.

"Agricultural marketing is a very peculiar and complex issue. Any producer of any good in the free economy has the privilege to decide the cost of his produce; even a sweet shop owner decides the cost of his sweets depending on the input cost and his profit margin, but farmers have no such liberty. Even after toiling hard their fate is in the hands of middlemen," says Rajesh Patil, District Collector, Kandhamal, Orissa.

The government funding of farmers is still at nascent stage and most of the small farmers depend on the local moneylenders, who charge high rate of interest. There are several loopholes in the present legislation and there is no organized and regulated marketing system for marketing the agricultural produce. Patil says that besides providing loans to the farmer at low rate of interest all state governments should establish Regulated Market Committees (RMCs) in every district so that farmers are able to sell their produce at competitive bided price; all RMCS should have cold storages and godowns so as to enable the farmers to store their surplus produce at a nominal rent. Grading, packaging and export facilities for special products should be available at many important locations as far as possible.

Take Bhagirath Chaudhury. When the 40-year-old farmer from Sikar in Rajasthan owning six hectares of agricultural land talks about selling his produce, he says that in order to have the best advantage to market his crops, he should have proper facilities for storing his goods along with the financial ability to hold on, so as to be able to wait for times when the prices are high. In that event, he would not be forced to dispose off his stocks immediately after the harvest when the prices are very low. As an example, he cites how onion prices shot up last year from Rs 3 per kg (his selling price) to Rs 80/kg within weeks of his distress sale. In the process, he could not even recover his input cost. As regards wheat, he says that Rs1120 per quintal is the MSP whereas his cost of production is Rs. 2000/per quintal. He says that if he had his way he would quit farming. Not just him, 40% of Indian farmers want to quit agriculture is the finding of a 2005 study by the Ministry of Agriculture. And now it is a fact gradually coming to light. Many Andhra Pradesh farmers have chosen to work as NREGA labourers, which means abandonment of 5000 acres of fertile land. With many resorting to distress sale of their bumper crop below the minimum support price, the work as a labourer under the NREGA is a better option. (NPA)











IF the intention of the reshuffle of the Union council of ministers effected by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday was to give a clear signal for change at a time when UPA-2 is beset by corruption scandals and charges of misgovernance, it has fallen well short of expectations. Surely, there are some changes for the better, but not enough to signify a dynamic push. While the top four ministers have been left untouched, the irrepressible Jairam Ramesh has been elevated to Cabinet status as Minister for Rural Development, while losing out the Environment and Forests portfolio in which he fuelled many a controversy. Sonia Gandhi loyalist Jayanti Natarajan has been rewarded with the Environment portfolio while the suave Salman Khursheed has been promoted as Law and Justice minister replacing Veerappa Moily who has evidently been punished for the manner in which the government had to cut a sorry figure before the Supreme Court several times. Milind Deora and Jitendra Prasad are the welcome mascots of the Rahul Gandhi youth brigade.


It is a measure of the ascendancy of the Trinamool Congress that its nominee, Dinesh Trivedi, has been given Railways, with Cabinet rank. There is a clear message in this for Mukul Roy who as Minister of State for Railways had recently failed to visit the Assam train crash site despite the Prime Minister's directive. The DMK, with its 18 members of Parliament, has lost out with no fresh induction in place of A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran, both of whom were forced out of the Cabinet for their involvement in the 2G scam. While UP, which goes to the polls next year, has Salman Khursheed and Beni Prasad Verma with Cabinet rank, Punjab, which too is due for elections, has lost Cabinet rank minister M.S. Gill, who is one of seven ministers shown the door.


Evidently, the reshuffle exercise in not complete with HRD Minister Kapil Sibal continuing to handle the additional responsibility of Telecom, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi retaining additional charge of Civil Aviation, Anand Sharma holding on to Textiles and Pawan Bansal to Water Resources in addition to their other responsibilities. A lot would depend on what stance the DMK takes at its crucial meeting on July 23-24.








Since the Punjab Public Service Commission makes top state-level appointments, it is essential that its members and Chairman must be above reproach. They may be from any field but must be outstanding in their chosen work and known for unquestionable integrity so that the public in general and candidates seeking jobs in particular have faith in the fairness of selections. The PPSC credibility has got shaken in recent years, particularly after the Ravi Sidhu scandal. The latest controversy over the doctors' recruitment shows it has not come out of the murk yet.


Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who faces elections in eight months, had a chance to refurbish the PPSC and bury its scandalous past. He has missed that opportunity. By handing over the top post of PPSC Chairman to a party MLA from Ludhiana, he has rewarded loyalty but disregarded public expectations. One need not pre-judge Harish Rai Tanda, but there is not much to say in his favour. He is known for little beyond recommending Capt Amarinder Singh's expulsion from the state assembly which was later set aside by the Supreme Court. That was a motivated political act. It shows Dhanda may be good at doing the CM's bidding, but this is not a qualification one looks for in a post as important as this.


The PPSC is not a place for parking unemployed politicians. Both Mr Badal and Capt Amarinder Singh have filled this august constitutional body with loyalists. The Congress too had appointed a politician (Santosh Choudhry) as its Chairperson. Mr Badal has defended his choice with rustic logic he is known for: If a politician can become a Prime Minister or a Chief Minister, why not the PPSC Chairman? The sooner Mr Badal understands the fallacious nature of his argument, the better it would be for the PPSC and for the state. 












Withdrawal statements by great powers have always spelt retreat, whatever the gloss that imperialists have tried to put on them. President Obama's announcement that 30,000 American troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 2012 is no exception. Instability could be exacerbated in Afghanistan itself and a new regional great game is on the cards. Indeed, the Taliban attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on June 28 was just one indication that their terrorist habits die hard.


The Taliban have never even accepted a ceasefire, let alone the Afghan constitution of 2003, international norms and obligations. They have vowed to avenge Osama bin Laden's death — that means more extremist attacks — and insist that all foreign troops must leave Afghanistan. At the moment it is uncertain what the outcome of the preliminary contacts between the Taliban and the US will be.


Despite President Karzai's brave words about the Afghan National Army being able to defend Afghanistan (against whom — Pakistan? The Taliban?), many Afghans, including Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's defeated electoral challenger, and his former intelligence chief, Amanullah Saleh, are fearful of a Taliban comeback. True, the American military surge of 2009 did not force the Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani trainers to the negotiating table. Probably that is because NATO had not made enough headway, and any gains it had made were reversible. But Obama's decision will not give either the extremists or Pakistan any incentive to make concessions and engage in dialogue, either with Karzai or the US.


Regional powers — including Pakistan, Russia, China and India — have a stake in the political future of Afghanistan. Russia and India wanted NATO to stay the course. But NATO's presence in Afghanistan has not been in Pakistan's interest: the alliance has prevented the Taliban from returning to the Afghan helm. Now, the problematic question for New Delhi is whether the American retreat could give Pakistan the influence and strategic depth it seeks in Afghanistan against India.


The country which is close to Pakistan is China. Both seek to contain Indian influence in South Asia. And China has provided Pakistan with arms and nuclear technology.


In the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's killing by American forces in his home in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, China displayed its all-weather friendship for Pakistan. It was the first country to express support for Pakistan's anti-extremist efforts.


Even before American forces killed Bin Laden, strains in the US-Pakistani relationship were reflected in Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's advice to President Hamid Karzai that Afghanistan should dump the US and instead look to Pakistan — and its Chinese ally — for help in making peace with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy.


US officials played down the significance of the Pakistani proposal, noting that the idea of China playing the leading role in Afghanistan was fanciful at best.


Instead, Washington warned Islamabad that if it did not crack down on Al-Qaida and Afghan Taliban extremists enjoying safe havens on its turf America might do the job. Pakistan was clearly displeased. In contrast, Pakistani leaders expressed gratitude for China's support.


But China would be concerned about the possible spread of extremism among its Muslim Uighurs in the western province of Xinjiang. More generally, China has a stake in a stable Afghanistan. It has invested $ 3.5 billion in the Aynak copper mine in Afghanistan, which is the country's largest-ever infrastructure project and also in irrigation, communication and health projects. China is also potentially the largest foreign investor in Afghanistan.


However, China has been unwilling to please the US to put pressure on Pakistan to eliminate extremists. This was largely because China has feared that NATO's success would consolidate America's position as the regional bully in South and Central Asia, and that its Asian rival, India, would benefit from a prolonged American presence in Afghanistan.


But China has never made an unconditional commitment to Pakistan. And it recently disappointed Pakistan by refusing to build a naval base in the port of Gwadar. At another level, Sino-Pakistani trade exceeds US-Pakistani trade, but Beijing will not be able to replace the American largesse — more than $3 billion annually — to Pakistan. The fact that at least half of supplies to NATO still pass through Pakistan has given Islamabad a powerful bargaining chip with Washington. But Pakistan needs American aid badly, partly to fight extremists, partly to rescue its economy from the devastation triggered by last year's summer floods and from misgovernance, which has failed to deliver essentials to ordinary people. Islamabad also has problems in repaying its international debts.


Making life more difficult for NATO could cost Pakistan not only aid from the US — (post-Osama, some American legislators are already calling for cuts in aid; even to stop it altogether) — but also from international institutions like the IMF.


It is unlikely, though, that China will join the US in putting pressure on Pakistan to accept Washington's version — whatever that might be — of an Afghan peace settlement.


For China must contend with the fact the US welcomes Indian reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, and that Russia and its Central Asian neighbours do not wish to see a Pakistani-steered Taliban in Kabul again. So, like Islamabad, Beijing clearly does not share all American ideas in the Af-Pak area.


But in the aftermath of Obama's withdrawal announcement and the changes in the regional environment that it augurs, there are signs that China wants to improve its relationship with India. Members of its Foreign Policy Advisory Group have opined that China should have the "same kind of relationship" that it has with Pakistan, and that Beijing does not wish to arouse Indian or Pakistani suspicions about China's relationship with either country. Does that imply that China will discourage Islamabad from seeing its future ties with New Delhi as a zero-sum game and asking whether Beijing is India's friend or Pakistan's.


It is too early to say this. If Beijing really wants to mend fences, reduce tension with India, and rebalance its ties with New Delhi and Islamabad, the latter's reaction to any shift in China's stance will be of interest.


Pakistan's stability — like Afghanistan's — is of strategic and economic importance to China. The planned American withdrawal from Afghanistan threatens to increase regional tensions and extremist violence. Preventing that outcome should be in China's interest, as it seeks to advance its economic progress. The unanswered question is whether China could persuade Pakistan - perhaps behind closed doors, rather than through an American-style war of words in the media — to refrain from living up to its reputation as being the epicentre of global terrorism.


The writer is Visiting Professor, Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, New Delhi.








It is an established fact that the world blows hot and cold at us all the time.


In the literal sense, those who live in India learn the meaning of 'hot' quite early in life. But it takes a ride on the Shatabdi Express to learn the meaning of 'cold'!


No journey on the Shatabdi is complete without the inescapable feeling that the North Pole has shifted somewhere in the vicinity of North India. Nowhere on the planet is the yearning for Eskimo-type clothing as intense as on the venerable train that runs from Chandigarh to Delhi.


Try as one might one just cannot escape being frozen to the bone after a ride on this train. One could try to cajole the train officials into increasing the temperature; one could even try to meddle with the air-conditioning machinery when no one is looking. Whatever one does, the chances are that the super-cool treatment would surely continue after the shortest of breaks.


The general excuse that is handed out to one is that people have paid extra money to travel on an air-conditioned train and that they would only get their money's worth if Icelandic conditions are simulated for them.


The one way in which one can avoid such a severe trial by ice is by wearing woollens and thermals, no matter if summer is at its peak. Thus the sight of experienced Shatabdi-goer clad in layer upon layer, complete with monkey-caps, does not surprise one.


Some hotels and offices follow suit. The Chief Air-Conditioning Officers (CACO) of such establishments insist on keeping the room temperature at 18 degrees Celsius, thereby not paying any heed to the demands of energy conservation and environment protection. The resultant body aches and colds that AC-sufferers like us develop are of no consequence to them at all. One wonders if the previous experience of such CACOs included a stint aboard the Shatabdi Express.


Even car drivers seem to have ganged up against us mortals these days. They feel extremely proud when the interiors of the car feel more like the insides of a refrigerator. And conversely, they feel extremely annoyed when one asks them to tone down or switch off the bone chilling action of the AC.


Restaurant waiters too look at us askance when we ask them to spare us the extra chill so that we may enjoy our meal.


'Chilling out' may well be the mantra for today's generation but for us old-timers the omnipresence of air-conditioning in the modern era is very off-putting. We would much rather feel the heat like most Indians do anyway.










THE issues of black income and corruption at high places have come to attract considerable attention from civil society at large. Some eminent social activists, including a yoga guru, have started serious campaigns for the eradication of this scourge. The demand for getting back money believed to be stacked in Swiss bank accounts has been getting louder by the day.


Black income is a well-known and unfortunate reality of the Indian economy. Yet the accurate estimates of black money and income remain elusive, despite numerous studies conducted by economists since the early-fifties. We do not know precisely how much of black money is hoarded within the country, and what amount stands siphoned off to foreign bank accounts and other tax havens.


Amateur claims


In this background, the claims like "a sum of $1500 billion (Rs 67,50,000 crore) Indian money is sitting in Swiss bank accounts alone, which if brought back is enough to pay Rs 1,00,000 to every poor in the country!" are amusing, to say the least. Naiveté of these claims and the people making them notwithstanding, even the apex court seems to have got influenced by amateur claims.


Research on the subject enables us to draw several plausible conclusions about the magnitude of the illegality in the economy. It also provides fairly reliable estimates of the money illegally transferred to overseas. Even if we go by the lowest of the estimates, the magnitude is confounding. At least Rs 35,92,344 crore of black income is going to be generated during the current year alone!


Similarly, the amount of money stashed away in tax havens and shell companies overseas is at least Rs 20,79,000 crore. This latter figure, though large in itself, is likely a gross under-estimate of the total illicit outflows. Since, it does not include funds transferred through illegal activities -- hawala, smuggling, drug-trafficking, among others -- on which data are unavailable.


It will help to put the above terms and numbers in perspective. The black income is that part of the income which should be reported to the tax authorities but is not, including the earnings from illegal activities. This income, if unearthed and taxed, can generate an additional tax revenue of Rs 7,18,469 crore in the current year itself, and much more during the subsequent years.


This additional revenue can enable the central government to avoid all borrowings, and simultaneously double the budged expenditure on infrastructure, rural development, agriculture, primary education and various social welfare schemes! Alternatively, it is sufficient to finance universal food, health, education, and employment programmes throughout the country. Similarly, a fraction of the black money transferred abroad is sufficient to liquidate all of India's external debt.


Apart from facilitating criminal and terrorist activities, black money inflicts huge damage to the legal part of the economy, and seriously harms the honest taxpayer. For instance, illicit financial flows across borders greatly add to the volatility of financial markets, at times endangering the growth and macroeconomic stability. Black money is the primary cause behind the continuous rise in the real estate prices in India. Due to the black money parked in the sector, the housing prices have risen almost ten-fold since 2000.


Several commentators attribute the generation of black money to high income, corporates, high stamp duty and other tax rates. The illicit outflow of funds is also attributed to high Customs duty and trade restrictions in the past. True, the higher the tax rate, the greater are the benefits from its evasion and so lower is the incentive to report true income and transaction price.


Curiously, black income has increased in direct proportion to the decline in tax rates (see the box). Similarly, two-thirds of the illegal outflows pertain to the post-liberalisation era, the period that has seen drastic cuts in the Custom duty and other restrictions on financial flows. Clearly, there is much to the issue than meets the eye.


Real estate is the breeding ground for black income. Bribes and "informal" fees are said to increase the cost of housing projects by at least 25 to 30 per cent. Obviously, developers pass these costs on to the final buyers. However, they need to generate black money to pay bribes. They do so by understating their income and overstating expenses. Due to the unreasonably high prices, even the layman has incentives to generate black income to afford buying a house, wherever possible. Finally, to save on stamp-duty and other taxes, buyers and sellers in the property market leave 20-30 per cent of transaction unreported, further adding to the pool of black money.


The service sector is also a leading source of black income. Services, by nature, are intangible and in most cases personalised. Therefore, there is tremendous scope for service providers to save taxes by manipulating bills and invoices. For some activities such as legal and medical services, transactions are cash-based and generally go unreported.


Corruption inflates costs


Moreover, corruption in public procurement and contracting is also an ever-expending source of black money. The government and its agencies spend huge sums on the purchase of goods and services for various welfare programmes and also for their own use. In reality, substandard goods and services are procured, and only a part of the total spending concerns the actual cost; the rest is pocketed by corrupt officials and contractors. As to the government contracting, the example of 2G-specturm is enough to illustrate the extent of corruption and black money involved.


The macro data also corroborates the inference that real estate, services and the public sector are the major sources of black income, though other sectors also contribute. Since 1991 the share of these sectors in the GDP has increased substantially and so has the size of black income and money. This period is also marked by increasing economic inequality between the haves and the have-nots. Plausibly, most of black money lies with rich realtors, professionals, bureaucrats and politicians. The people who can curb the illegal economy are also its beneficiaries. So is it really surprising that black income continues to grow bigger with each passing year?


The writer is a Professor, Delhi School of Economics. Email:






Several peculiar solutions have been proposed to eradicate black money: Declare the illegal funds, including those presumably stashed in Swiss bank accounts as national assets; impose jail terms and confiscate money if the owners do not declare or bring it back by a pre-announced date. These measures are useless, to say the least.

Till date not a single property has been proved benami and confiscated, though there has been a law empowering the authorities to do so since 1988. The detection and confiscation of illegal funds is even harder. First, the crooks and their overseas banks are not waiting for the government to come and trawl through their account – unless criminality of money is established.

Moreover, a large part of transferred funds does not go into bank accounts or does not stay there for long; it gets invested in shell (cover) companies through complex arrangements. For example, in the 18 Indian accounts traced with the LGT bank in Liechtenstein, only Rs 39.66 crore has been found to be deposited during 2002-04. The tax authorities are having a hard time in establishing the illegality of these funds. On top of it, offenders use their ill-gotten resources to scuttle the investigation. The Supreme Court is spot on in attributing the laggardly paced investigation to the nexus of the keeper and the breaker of the law.

If the government and the SC constituted SIT are serious about eradicating the menace, they should target the corrupt practices in the reality sector – the mother source and reservoir of the black money. There is need to ensure time-bound and single-window clearances for projects. Applications should be received online. Details of official decisions on approval requests should be available publicly along with data on property transactions. These steps will help curtail the arbitrary powers of babus to extract pay-offs, thereby reducing the need to generate illegitimate funds.

The scope of the goods and services tax (GST) should be expended to cover real estate and micro-services. The GST requires separate vouchers from sellers and buyers. So unilateral misreporting or non-reporting of transactions can be detected. Moreover, by granting input tax credit, it reduces the incentive to under-report transaction value. Also, there is need to bring objectivity and transparency in public procurement and contracting.

As for the illegal outflow of funds, it is crucial to identify the ultimate beneficiary of international wired transactions. It will help to control terrorist and other criminal activities. Manipulated export and import accounts and the abusive transfer pricing (ATP) are the major conduits for illegal outflows of funds. The government should use the available data on international trade. Moreover, it should collect comprehensive real-time data on quantities and prices from exporters and importers independently. The enriched dataset can be used to detect trade mis-invoicing and the related parties' transactions.

Moreover, the use of tax havens and the double taxation avoidance agreements for money laundering should be stopped. The government should renegotiate all of 77 agreements to require the partner countries to share information on the reported profit and tax payments by Indian companies as well as MNCs. This measure, by detecting inconsistencies, can help reduce the scope of the ATP.


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As already stated in these columns, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi could easily have taken the view that this was not the opportune time for the kind of "expansive" reshuffle the prime minister had promised earlier this year ("Reconstitute, not reshuffle", July 12). Moreover, given the inability to meet the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's demands, the exercise had to appear tentative. Judged against the expectation of a major shake-up aimed at lifting the sagging image of the government, the exercise undertaken on Tuesday would be regarded as disappointing. It does not fundamentally alter the current image of the government. On the contrary, it gives the impression that the ruling coalition is paralysed and either unable or unwilling to undertake fundamental reform. Replacing Murli Deora with his son Milind Deora is not exactly the kind of reconstitution that many would have had in mind while expecting a revival of the UPA government's fortunes. A veteran Congress party leader like Kishore Chandra Deo is a good addition to the team and deserved the Cabinet rank but his induction does not address the complaint of Telangana's backward classes about their under-representation in both Hyderabad and New Delhi.

However, if the reshuffle is judged as a routine political exercise that every prime minister is entitled to undertake from time to time, this Tuesday's exercise has much merit. It does empower some of the performers and punishes some of the non-performers. It fills certain obvious gaps, in terms of regional and other social representation. This team can take the government forward. As the new rural development minister, Jairam Ramesh can be expected to ensure that his ministry spends its annual budget of Rs 74,100 crore more effectively and in a more electorally rewarding manner. The new environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, enjoys a good rapport with the prime minister and the Congress president, so she can be expected to steer clear of avoidable controversies. The prime minister cannot afford to leave ministries of human resources development (HRD) and telecommunications in charge of one man, however energetic and intelligent he may be. The HRD ministry desperately needs reform and revitalisation, and deserves a full-time minister. These marginal benefits will help the prime minister run the government more effectively. However, it remains unclear whether they will alter the government's image, especially among the sullen middle classes.

However, this is clearly not the team with which the UPA can afford to decisively reverse the recent tide of public criticism, much less return to the hustings in 2014. To ensure that, Ms Gandhi and Dr Singh will need a major overhaul of their teams, something that neither is willing to risk at the moment. Perhaps they do not feel the pressure to do much. As long as the Opposition remains weak and in disarray, any real political pressure for change is not forthcoming. Therefore, the ruling coalition will be ready for change only around the next election, or when the Congress party's first family has an exit strategy in place for the "big five" of Raisina Hill. Between now and then, Dr Singh can tweak his team with minor reshuffles.






One of the first issues that the new Union minister for law and justice, Salman Khurshid, will have to deal with would be the resignation submitted by Union government's Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium. On Saturday last week, Mr Subramanium shot off his resignation letter, apparently in protest against the move to hire Rohinton Nariman to argue for the government in a Supreme Court case against Communications Minister Kapil Sibal. Mr Nariman is a senior advocate, but his name does not figure on the government's panel of law officers. Presumably, Mr Subramanium may have also felt offended by the government's move to hire Mr Nariman without prior consultation with him. Also adding to his pique must have been his disappointment over the manner in which the Supreme Court has been making critical observations about his client, the Government of India. In the recent black money case, the apex court had dismissed Mr Subramanium's fervent plea against setting up a special investigation team to monitor the probe into unaccounted wealth. Seen in the context of the recent adverse verdicts and the appointment of a lawyer in a case without his knowledge, Mr Subramanium's resignation is perhaps understandable. However, it could be argued that a better option for him would have been to resolve the issues that bothered him through internal consultation instead of shooting off a resignation letter and insisting on it, thus adding to the long list of embarrassments the government is already burdened with.

Not keeping Mr Subramanium in the loop while appointing Mr Nariman to argue a government case in the Supreme Court may not have been a prudent move, but it would be wrong to assume that having appointed a solicitor general or a panel of law officers, the government cannot choose someone else to defend it in a court of law. In the past, the government has used the services of senior advocates, who were not on the government's panel of law officers, the late Nani Palkhivala being one celebrated example. There have also been many instances in which specially appointed advocates for specific cases have reported directly to the law minister. Indeed, there were good reasons for hiring a fresh lawyer for this particular case, which pertained to Mr Sibal's actions with regard to a telecommunication company. This is because the government's primary argument was to de-link it from the case on the 2G spectrum allocations, with which Mr Subramanium was closely involved. Thus, it made sense to have that case argued by another lawyer. In any case, the government as a client has every right to choose the advocates who should defend its cases without any encumbrances and not always necessarily from its panel of lawyers. A solicitor general is a valued member of the government's legal team, but that cannot deny the government the right to get the best legal advice available within or outside the system. Finally, as a general principle the government should retain the right to hire the best talent available in the market for any such professional work and not be constrained by the officials at its disposal.







Two conferences I attended in Beijing last month revealed a sea change in the Chinese thinking on the evolution of the international monetary system and the role China expects to play. India needs to judge whether these plans are well-grounded and realistic or largely a diversionary play. If they are judged to be serious, India will need to decide how it should react.

Two years ago, in the depths of the financial crisis, the Chinese were busy fending off charges that their trade and exchange rate policies played a key role in causing the crisis. Accordingly, they sought to shift the narrative away from the role of the "savings glut" in generating global imbalances, a view famously popularised by United States Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

In Dr Bernanke's view, US' macroeconomic policies played a largely passive role in the build-up to the crisis. Other countries, notably emerging markets in Asia and oil exporters, built up large net financial positions in the US financial markets. The US economy adjusted to these large net inflows by a corresponding widening of the current account deficit. In other words, the main source of the problem lay outside the US.

In response, the Chinese seized upon the privileged position of the US dollar in the global monetary system as the key contributor to global disequilibrium. In their view, the willingness of the rest of the world to hold dollars had permitted the US to indulge in unsustainable fiscal and monetary policies to the detriment of global stability. As America's major creditor, the Chinese were also fearful of the long-term reliability of the dollar as a store of value in either domestic or global terms.

Accordingly, at that time the Chinese laid great stress on the need for the global community to generate alternatives to the dollar as the core reserve currency, in part by enhancing the role of the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) as well as rebalancing the currency composition of the SDR to include emerging market currencies, notably the Chinese renminbi.

Much water has flowed under the bridge in the intervening two years. In the Anglo-Saxon world employment growth remains anaemic. In continental Europe the German-speaking core is thriving, largely by exporting to Asia, notably China. However, the travails of peripheral Europe are proving to be a huge distraction and are preventing the euro from consolidating its position as a robust rival to the dollar. In their eagerness to ensure that the euro survives, the Chinese authorities have agreed to buy Greek debt currently being scorned by the private market.

Within China, while the economy has rebounded, inflation has emerged as a persistent problem. More importantly, though, the authorities have had time to fashion a political response to the vulnerabilities in their growth strategy revealed both by the global crisis and by domestic restiveness on a number of fronts. This response is best encapsulated in the 12th Five-Year Plan, which was finally approved in March this year.


Given the importance of China to India in all areas (bilaterally, in third markets and in global governance), it is surprising that China's Plan has not received greater attention in the Indian press. The theme of the plan is the rebalancing of the Chinese economy, a development that could be of great moment to the Indian economy. That, though, is the subject of a future column. Here I wish to focus on the shift in thinking that has apparently taken place on internationalising the renminbi's role as part of this overall shift in growth strategy.

China has already embarked on the first step of the journey by liberalising renminbi accounts for Hong Kong residents and by encouraging issuance of bonds by international organisations and foreign corporations in the renminbi also in Hong Kong. The authorities are also encouraging direct settlement of bilateral trade imbalances through the use of the renminbi rather than the US dollar. The next stage would be greater liberalisation of inbound capital inflows much along the lines of our foreign institutional investor policy. In due course (a time frame of 15 to 20 years was mentioned), the renminbi could become an important investment currency. I got the unmistakable sense that China had shifted its focus from reforming the global monetary system that it sees as asymmetric, precarious and unfair to engaging with the system as a major player.

What has been presented so far is not much more than a declaration of intent, one that obscures the many difficult decisions that lie in the way. Japan and Germany are large and successful trading economies which have actively resisted internationalisation of their currencies. Most impartial observers would judge that today India is ahead of China in areas such as the management of its exchange rate, and in access to its equity markets by outside investors. Arguably, India's banks are stronger and better managed than China's despite the latter being enormously larger. And though the Chinese financial system is currently bigger than ours, India's is likely grow faster over the coming decades.

India will, therefore, face two issues in the years ahead. The first is how to respond and the second is how to compete. On the first, issues will soon arise on how to position ourselves with respect to settling our bilateral trade with the Chinese, or on holding significant quantities of renminbi-denominated securities as part of our official reserves. We would also need to take a call on the inclusion of the renminbi in the SDR basket, and the weight to be given to the renminbi in any Asian Currency Unit. It may be impractical to insist on symmetric treatment of the rupee in all these contexts, so pragmatism will need to be deployed.

The second issue is even less straightforward. The case for developing a strong international financial centre in Mumbai was cogently expressed in the Percy Mistry committee report, and promptly rubbished by the good and the great. The shenanigans of international finance in the intervening period have scarcely strengthened the case. Following a serious internal debate, the Chinese have apparently decided that they wish Shanghai to be the next New York in order to serve their own long-term interests, despite the short-term costs. The debate needs to be relaunched here as well.

The author is country director, India Central, International Growth Centre
Member, Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council
Views expressed are personal







Singur in West Bengal is where Mamata Banerjee's battle against the Left Front gained a decisive edge. The question that many observers of Bengal politics may be asking today is whether Singur will also mark the beginning of Ms Banerjee's political downfall. The question may appear premature since Ms Banerjee has not even completed two months after recording a convincing victory in the Assembly polls in May, bringing to an end the 34-year-long Left Front rule in the state. Yet, it would be instructive to evaluate how Singur even in this short time has enmeshed her government in all kinds of avoidable controversies.

Within months of the Left Front's victory in the Assembly polls in 2006, the re-elected chief minister of the state, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, had invited the Tatas to set up their factory to produce Nano from West Bengal. Since the Tatas had the option of setting up the Nano factory in Uttaranchal as well, the West Bengal government offered many concessions in a bid to win the project for the state. There were also murmurs of protest over the manner in which the state government went ahead with the deal.

That, however, did not stop the Tatas from acquiring 997 acres of land in Singur, though a little less than 20 per cent of the farmers who had to give up their land for the small-car project refused to accept the compensation cheques the state government had issued. Over time, this became the nucleus of a movement against Tata Motors' Singur project, spearheaded by none other than Ms Banerjee and her party, Trinamool Congress. The Tatas were keen to have the entire land allotted to them, while Ms Banerjee wanted the government to return the land belonging to reluctant farmers, estimated at around 300 acres. With no resolution in sight, the Tatas decided to pull out from Singur in October 2008, even though by then they had almost commissioned the small car project and had even rolled out a car.

Not surprisingly, therefore, one of Ms Banerjee's poll promises was to return the Singur land to the farmers. That was a significant promise and was indicative of the importance she herself accorded to the Singur agitation. So when she won the elections in May this year and formed the government, one of the first decisions she took was to issue an ordinance to annul the allotment of the Singur land to Tata Motors and return it to the farmers. It was a decision taken in a hurry. It was bad in law, because the Assembly was technically in session.

The Left Front leaders, who lost the elections to the Trinamool Congress just a few days ago, sensed an opportunity to regroup and lead a delegation to register its protest over the ordinance with the Governor. Ms Banerjee realised the mistake, put the ordinance on hold and got a new legislation passed by the Assembly soon after it convened. Even before the Tatas could challenge the new legislation forcing them to return the land, the state government started the process of re-possessing it. The Tatas went to court and obtained a stay on repossession until the court gave its verdict.

A few questions arise. Has Ms Banerjee gained more popularity among the Singur farmers? That seems unlikely. Remember that of 13,350 farmers, who gave up their land, only around 2,300 farmers with about 300 acres of land were reluctant to accept the compensation package. If the government returns the entire land, how would those farmers who had given up the land after accepting the compensation react to the new development? Many of them have plots of land adjacent to the disputed site and were earlier expecting an appreciation in their value after the Tata Motors factory became operational. Now that there is no hope of any project coming up there, would they be happy with Ms Banerjee?

Also, if the Singur land, where the Tata Motors factory had come up, is returned to farmers, what can they do with that land? The top soil of almost the entire 997 acres is now damaged, making immediate farming there almost unviable. Farmers will first have to invest a lot in that land to make that cultivable. So, giving the land back in that condition is not likely to solve the farmers' problems.

Could Ms Banerjee have handled the Singur issue differently? The Tatas had written to the government saying that they would vacate the land if compensation was paid to them. According to various estimates, the compensation would range between Rs 440 crore (if only the value of the investment made in Singur is calculated) and Rs 1,400 crore (if everything including the goodwill cost, factory shifting expenses etc is estimated). If Ms Banerjee had gone to Singur and in a public meeting announced that she would pay up Rs 1,400 crore to the Tatas, what would have been the Tatas' response? The Tatas would have had no option but to accept the compensation and give up the land. Would that course be better than the one Ms Banerjee has chosen now?

With a long-drawn-out court battle likely now, the Singur issue will continue to simmer for many more months. Farmers will not be happy with this. Nor will the industry, which would be wary of making investments in the state, given what happened to the Tatas. So, should it be surprising if Singur marks the decline in Ms Banerjee's popularity and becomes the rallying point for political parties opposed to her?








By delivering 57 reasoned judgments in five days immediately after the Supreme Court reopened, the judges have disproved the criticism that they enjoy long laid-back summer days. Some of the decisions have rattled the rulers, like those on black money and Salwa Judum. However, one significant judgment, which affects industries and large projects in the context of sustainable development, has been accepted without much ado.

In this judgment, T N Godavarman vs Union of India, the court has again emphasised its power of judicial review. Though the case dealt with the mining rights of French company Lafarge, the judgment used the occasion to assert its power to review government decisions on the touchstones of various doctrines with jaw-breaking names: the doctrine of margin of appreciation, the doctrine of proportionality, inter-generational equity and the like.

The weakness of the decision is that these doctrines are pliable in the hands of bureaucrats and canny legal advisers. However, the court formulated the questions to be asked to test whether the decisions of the ministry of environment and forests are "fair and fully informed, based on correct principles, and free from any bias or restraint."

The key indicators are: Have all the relevant factors been taken into account? Have any extraneous factors influenced the decision? Is the decision strictly in accordance with the legislative policy underlying the law (if any) that governs the field? Is the decision consistent with the principles of sustainable development in the sense that, has the decision-maker taken into account the said principle and, on the basis of relevant considerations, arrived at a balanced decision?

Another significant aspect of the judgment is the court's attempt to tidy the confusion prevailing in environmental clearances for industries. The National Forest Policy was declared in 1988. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 confers power coupled with duty on the Centre to appoint an appropriate authority, preferably in the form of a regulator, at the state and central levels for ensuring the implementation of the National Forest Policy. But it has not been done for a quarter of a century.

In view of this failure on the part of the government, the court has stepped in and now passed a direction to set up a regulator. Critics of judicial activism are bound to howl, as they did when a special investigation team (SIT) headed by two judges was set up to probe the issue of black money. In tune with this revolutionary trend, the court directed the government to read the national forest policy guidelines into the two major environment laws, namely the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and set up the long-delayed regulatory machinery. The catch is that the court has not set any deadline.

Justifying its action in these contentious days, the judgment said, "This direction is required to be given because there is no machinery established even today." The government has the "power coupled with duty" to set up the machinery, but it had so far neither exercised this power nor performed its duty.

The court also indicated its intention to shed some of its own burden in environment disputes. At present, two Benches of the Supreme Court are dealing with "green" issues, adjudicating on problems that should be decided by other authorities with adequate expertise. The judgment explained the different roles of the court and the regulators. "The court is basically an authority which reacts to a given situation brought to its notice," the judgment said, "whereas a regulator is a pro-active body with the power conferred upon it to frame statutory rules and regulations. The regulatory mechanism warrants open discussion, public participation, circulation of the draft paper inviting suggestions." It is the task of the regulatory bodies to act in accordance with the basic objectives of the National Forest Policy and take "pro-active" steps.

The court pointed out another strong reason for the regulatory mechanism to be put in place. At present, the court is faced with conflicting reports on a given project. Similarly, the government is also faced with a fait accompli that leads to the grant of ex facto clearance. A regulatory mechanism will obviate such situations. Till it is established, the court has asked the government to prepare a panel of accredited institutions from which the project proponent should obtain the environment impact assessment.

There are larger lessons to be learned from this judgment. The court was depending on a "centrally-empowered committee" consisting of experts to help it decide on disputes brought before them. The expert committee was purely a creation of the court in the absence of a statutory body. The burden will now be passed on to the regulator. Second, the court has acknowledged that it cannot adjudicate on hundreds of environment wrangles even with two Benches devoted to them. The apex court is not meant for that. Finally, critics who accuse judges of hyper-activism should note from this episode that unless push becomes shove, the government would not do its basic job.





No, curbing it requires a radical overhaul of our political structure, but since the executive has failed to act in public interest the court had no other choice but to take matters into its own hands.


Senior Counsel, Supreme Court*

The order is nebulous and vague and it does not indicate the specific guidelines to be followed

The spectre of black money is one of the biggest problems facing our country. Unfortunately, neither the government in power nor other political parties have a clear-cut programme to meet this menace. A parallel currency is as bad as a parallel government. To solve the problem, all political parties will have to make a common resolve and consult experts for a final solution.

In that sense, the Supreme Court's decision to appoint a Special Investigation Team (SIT) shows its earnest desire to tackle the problem. Having said that, it is also true that the appointment of SIT will not solve the problem. The order is nebulous and vague and it does not indicate the specific guidelines to be followed and whether any directions given by the SIT will be binding on the government or not.

So, the formation of an SIT amounts to being just another committee that will try to probe the enormous depth of this problem. It may become like one of the four blind people trying to describe the elephant by feeling various parts, as mentioned in the Panchatantra. But the fact is that the problem is far too serious and needs to extend beyond just a Supreme Court-appointed SIT.

That is because the menace of black money is intricately connected with corruption. So, to eliminate it, the entire structure of our administration and our political philosophy will have to change. The problem is two-fold. One is the immediate problem of unearthing the black money already in the country and that stashed outside the country. The next problem is to see that it is not generated in the future. For that, it is necessary to change the structure of our economy and the example should come from the top. When top ministers are accused of corruption and generating black money, it encourages people lower down to indulge in corruption and generating black money.

Solutions for the immediate problem and the future problem can be separately worked out. The solution to the problem of existing black money can be found through a voluntary disclosure scheme (VDS) that should give immunity from all the laws including the Prevention of Corruption Act. Past VDSs were only partially successful because the immunity from the Prevention of Corruption Act was not provided so bureaucrats and politicians could not take advantage of the scheme and bring their black money out in the open. Black money kept outside the country in foreign banks does not yield any returns and many people are interested in bringing that money back home, provided they get immunity and a slight concession in the rates. A system of discounted bearer bonds can address this issue but it has to be skillfully designed and properly implemented. The scheme should be designed not merely by bureaucrats but also by people who are conversant with tax laws as well as business people who are actively involved in the economy.

On the question of future generation of black money, it is important to examine the reasons responsible for it creation and try to change the system. All political parties must seriously think about this issue so that they do not have to depend on black money for elections, rallies and even day-to-day expenditure.

To prevent the future generation of black money we must increasingly use electronic systems in administration to reduce the interface between citizens and bureaucrats. Second, we must do away with the controls and liberalise the economy as much as possible. Third, citizens should have access to the necessary and required information for their day-to-day activities. However, while doing so the Right to Information Act should not be allowed to be misused to violate individual privacy.

*Also NCP member in the Rajya Sabha

As told to Sanjay Jog


Former Chief Justice, Calcutta & Andhra Pradesh High Courts

The court has issued such orders only when others designated to act failed to do so

Article 32 of the Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court to issue writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights conferred by part III of the Constitution. Fundamental rights include provisions to enforce laws of the land that protect, on the one hand, life and personal liberty of individuals and, on the other, such laws that impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred in the interest of, besides other things, public order, and in the interest of the state and public interest. It is fundamental indeed that the Constitution empowers the Supreme Court to make orders necessary to ensure that public interest is served. Parliament and state legislatures are given powers to make laws and courts are constituted to enforce them. There is no possibility of a conflict of interest or of the jurisdiction of court and legislatures if they keep their functions strictly within the limits prescribed by the Constitution or the laws made under it.

The Constitution provides that no discussion shall take place in Parliament with respect to the conduct of any judge of the Supreme Court or high court in the discharge of its duty except by way of a motion for presenting an address to the president for removal of a judge. It also provides that the validity of any proceeding in Parliament cannot be questioned on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure and also that no officers or members of Parliament in whom powers are vested for regulating procedure for the conduct of business or for maintaining order would be subject to the jurisdiction of any court in respect of those powers. These and other such provisions are made to ensure that no authority transgresses jurisdictional limitations. Why, then, is there discord or murmur when courts issue orders commanding the authorities to enforce laws and in cases in which such authorities, particularly executive authorities, fail to act in national and public interest? It will not be correct to say that in making such orders courts encroach on the jurisdiction of either the legislature or the executive authorities who are empowered to act for enforcing such provisions.

No one can say depositing money and transactions and deposits in a foreign bank in violation of laws should be ignored and such violators allowed to go free without being punished and that it will not affect national security and public interest. Against this background, let us appreciate the value of the appointment of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) by the Supreme Court to ensure that laws are implemented and black money is brought under proper action.

The point that the appointment of an SIT is innovative is uncalled for and misconceived. The court has appointed an SIT, for example, to investigate the Gujarat riot cases. This is the first time, however, that the court has appointed an SIT in a case associated with finance and black money. This has been done in the interest of the state and public interest. When the authorities concerned have failed to act, setting up an SIT is a noble cause and a step that urgently needed to be taken. Arguments that there are agencies assigned for such work and the court should have exercised discretion to direct any such authority to take steps instead of appointing an SIT are also uncalled for. The Bench of judges that has passed this order was also conscious of this fact. The SIT is constituted by taking officers from all such relevant agencies. Since any such agencies have limited powers, one or the other agency alone may not be able to locate and find black money, fix responsibility for violations and prosecute.

No one should feel hurt if a court asks authorities to act in the interest of the state and public interest. After all, the court has issued such orders only when others designated to act failed to do so. Such orders are a welcome relief in the prevailing situation.






The Government is no worse than it was before the changes; but sadly, it is not better off either. There lies the tragedy: the reshuffle is a non-event.

In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, when Alice gets lost, she asks a cat: "Which way should I go from here?" The cat replies "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to." Tired, dispirited and indifferent, Alice replies, "I don't much care where, so long as I get somewhere." In that case, says the cat, "it doesn't matter which way you go, as you'll surely get somewhere." Whether the Prime Minister and the Congress President took a cue from Alice and the cat while shuffling ministerial portfolios on Tuesday is not yet known, but citizens who are familiar with the story can be forgiven for thinking so.

The shuffling had been on the anvil for over a year. The Prime Minister had been repeatedly asked about it. Each time, he had answered that he would not discuss the composition of 'his' Council of Ministers with the media. He had said this with such gravity that everyone had been led to believe that a major reshuffle was on the cards. In the end, it was a tame affair, so tame indeed that it has strengthened the impression that the Dr Manmohan Singh has very little room for manoeuvre. He may have liked to have removed deadwood and bring in some young sparks to give his Government some pep and fizz. But, clearly, the charm of minimalism has prevailed. The Government of India is no worse, for sure, than it was before the changes; but sadly it is not better off either. There lies the tragedy: the shuffle is a non-event.

The same cannot be said for the individual ministers, however. The shifting of Mr Jairam Ramesh, for one, sends a wrong signal, especially at a time when sustainable growth and environmental concerns are twin focus areas for the Twelfth Plan. Of course, the corporates will be a happy lot as Mr Ramesh's 'no-go' stance had been giving some of them sleepless nights. However, on the environment, Ms Jayanthi Natarajan, who replaced Mr Ramesh, is no pushover and can be expected to do the needful for party, Government and country. Bringing in Mr Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress as Cabinet Minister in the Railways is another change that raises little hope. His leader, Mamata Banerjee, had been running the Ministry virtually in absentia since she took charge in 2009. He has his task cut out because her style of functioning has left the Railways in disarray. The absence of DMK ministers in the reshuffle action will lead to some raised eyebrows. After all, the party has 19 MPs, even if there is a cloud over two of its erstwhile Ministers. This does not portend well for their alliance. Mr Salman Khurshid in Law can be expected to bring some energy to that Ministry and the political skills of Mr Rajiv Shukla in Parliamentary Affairs will be useful in negotiating issues in Parliament.






The role of banks and telecom companies in mobile payment services needs to be worked out

Financial inclusion has been a policy priority of late. The RBI has indicated the importance of involving all agents in the universal financial inclusion exercise by opening the space to business correspondents (BCs) and for-profit companies.Its insistence that banks should recognise the poor as a business opportunity calls for newer strategies from the banks.

For businesses to be profitable, one of the most important steps ahead is to build an extensive network by facilitating transactions — whether remittances or payments/receipts — essentially building up volumes. International experience shows that there are three main hurdles to overcome while scaling up deployment of a new payment system — expanding the network of users, attracting and retaining customers and retail agents, and building up trust and confidence in the new system.

Given that rapidly scalable financial inclusion models tend to rely on low-cost e-money transactions that help overcome these hurdles, it is essential that the inter-connected systems are able to smoothly 'talk to each other'. In essence, this points to inter-operability, amongst telecom operators, and between telecom operators and financial institutions. Unfortunately, there are constraints to such inter-operability that need to be smoothed out to achieve universal financial inclusion.

Mobile payment service

Regulation can only go so far in creating an enabling environment; in the end it is for the operators and financial institutions to work out viable models amongst themselves.

In Ghana, for instance, the regulator has prohibited exclusive partnerships, mandating a many-to-many model; the aim is to have maximum connectivity and maximum outreach so that all banks and all telecom companies (telcos) should be able to interact with each other.

Even with such regulation backing the basic need for seamless integration, the nitty-gritty of the relationship between mobile network operators (MNOs) and banks remains to be resolved in that country — there is dispute over the roles and responsibilities of each partner, over revenue sharing and, in general, there is a reluctance to invest in a service that will benefit a competitor's customers.

In India, where such regulation does not exist, the Inter-bank Mobile Payment Service (IMPS) has been a big step forward in connecting payment transactions between various players. However, it appears that banks are still not working towards taking the most out of it and do not seem to be aggressively marketing the convenience and security of these transactions to their existing customers.

Another significant block here is that each bank requires its own application downloaded on the phone, rather than a common platform. While this may make for bank branding, it takes away from the ease of doing transactions.

Then there is the problem of sharing of infrastructure. In some countries, such as Tanzania, markets are looking at sharing the agent infrastructure. A retail store can service multiple mobile money schemes, this eases the access of customers and increases competition at the agent level, but the agent now has to maintain separate accounts with different operators, constraining working capital and overall liquidity. Of course, mandating inter-connected mobile wallets has its own set of issues, yet sharing of agents would go a long way in increasing access to a broader base of customers, especially in difficult-to-service areas.

Infrastructure access

Allowing MNOs to act as Business Correspondents in India has already yielded some more lessons. It appears that some operators are restricting connectivity to ward off competition, creating blocks to inter-operability. What is needed, as Mr Abhishek Sinha of EKO India Financial Services puts it, is "a policy framework that allows third-party use of the communications infrastructure as a utility to enhance delivery of other essential services such as financial services, education, and healthcare among others."

Over the long run, allowing access to infrastructure, whether technology or retail, will be vital in expanding networks. Competition amongst financial service providers should be on the basis of scope and quality of financial services rather than restricted by access to infrastructure.

In the end, branchless banking will spread essentially through building up economies through volumes. However, it must be kept in mind that since the early adopters to any new system would be those who are financially literate and technologically savvy, moving into the lower rungs would be another leap altogether.

Both banks and MNOs need to recognise that financial inclusion can be a win-win situation and learn to work together in an environment that is co-operative and competitive. While there will be stumbling blocks along the way, with regulators and governments across the developing world bent on achieving financial inclusion, such a scenario of what is termed 'co-option' is not as improbable as it sounds.

(The author works with Indicus Analytics.)






The UPA's formula to govern seems to be: We shall not, neither shall we brook others.

If there has been a near unanimity on any subject across the political spectrum it is this: India is in the throes of a governance deficit. This year began with 14 eminent citizens writing an "open letter to our leaders" to express alarm at the "governance deficit" in "government, business and institutions." They underlined the "urgent need" to tackle the "malaise of corruption, which is corroding the fabric of our nation."

An honest admission in February, by the Union Home Minister to The Wall Street Journal voiced the concern at the highest levels:

"There is indeed a governance deficit in some areas and perhaps there is also an ethical deficit. But to conclude that these deficits have surfaced only now, in my view, would be totally wrong. These deficits have been there and we have from time to time tried to put in systems in order to meet the challenges of these deficits. But it is obvious that the systems that have been put in place are not entirely adequate and therefore any suggestion to improve the systems should be taken into account seriously."

The time to take suggestions seriously has indeed come as they are pouring in from the Supreme Court of India. By now we know they are coming in with a regularity that can fatigue the nation. But is anyone listening?

Unenviable standards

Last year, the UPA set unenviable standards in governance. The Economic Times (January 17, 2010) reported: "The government's stamina for running the course with policy decisions nosedived in 2010... This confirms the widespread sense that governance has suffered in UPA's second term... The union cabinet managed to sign off on an abysmally lower number of decisions in 2010 compared with previous years."

As if this were not enough, for the first time in independent India's history, in November 2010, in the 2G case, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was asked to file an affidavit in the apex court when it was not satisfied with the oral submissions of the government's top law officers. Even by late October, the Court's anguish was being voiced: "the nature of the complaint is serious. You have not done anything till now. The same minister is continuing".

In January 2011, on Hasan Ali Khan not being interrogated in custody and taking objection to the victimisation of officials handling this case, the Supreme Court gave vent to its frustration, "What the hell is going on?"

Early March 2011, quashing the appointment of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, the Court said, "the High Powered Committee's (HPC) selection of Thomas was non-est in law."

Black money issue

The incessant reprimands did not make the government sit up, as it were. Only a few days ago, the Supreme Court appointed two retired judges to lead a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the issue of black money and plan for ways to get the money back. Reporting directly to the court, it has been asked to "prepare a comprehensive action plan, including creation of necessary institutional structures that can enable and strengthen the country's battle against generations of unaccounted monies, and their stashing away in foreign banks or in various forms domestically". But wasn't a comprehensive plan in place already? The Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, had appointed special study groups to ready a plan, hadn't he? Even the special press conference held in January, the Minister claimed, "had its roots in a suggestion by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking the Finance Ministry to place in public domain the strategy to deal with black money" (, 25 January, 2011).

Contrary to the view expressed by the Home Minister that if the systems that are put in place are found not adequate... suggestions... to be taken seriously, the government is likely to seek a review of the appointment of the SIT on the ground that it is unconstitutional! The UPA's formula to govern seems to be: We shall not, neither shall we brook others. The nation be damned!

Grain distribution

Corruption and black money are not the only issues where the government is in a state of shocking inaction. About distribution of grains, the Court felt that the government "allots 35 kg food-grains to a family of 10 persons. The same quantity is given to a single person. The single man is likely to sell his excess grain for a profit, while the parents in the family of ten are forced to purchase additional grain at non-BPL prices in order to feed their children".

There is no gainsaying that UPA came to power in the name of aam aadmi. However, till date they have not resolved as to what defines poverty and how many people are indeed below the poverty line (BPL). The dichotomy in the views of the Planning Commission and the Tendulkar Committee was brought to an end with the Supreme Court agreeing with the Committee's view. Further it directed the Planning Commission to re-examine its criteria for BPL.

Even health concerns such as those relating to Endosulfan do not move the UPA to action. It was the Supreme Court that slapped an eight-week ban on the pesticide while expert committees objectively looked at its impact on people.

Trisanku-like state

Going by these examples, people on the death row, understandably, cannot be of any priority to the UPA. On being approached on one such case, the Supreme Court reacted as to why people are kept in this state, like in a Trisanku swarga, and for how long?

So, what's new about this narration? After all, this chronology of events is well-known. The irony is that the government which is elected to govern also feels so! There are no indications to hope that lessons have been learnt and systems are being improved upon.

As this is being written, there is not a minister to take responsibility for the tragic derailment of the Kalka Mail. The Minister of State defied the Prime Minister's instruction to visit the accident site, citing ongoing relief work. Surely, as the concerned minister he could better enable the operations and ensure better systems are put in place to assure the public on railway safety. Unfortunately, the railways have got accustomed to be headless, now for over two years.

Even a Cabinet reshuffle is difficult for this government. Cabinet positions are left unfilled for months on end. Two questions need answers: Whom did the aam aadmi elect to govern us? Is governance deficit mandatory for sustaining growth?

(The author is a spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party. The views are personal.






India is not one nation, it is 32 different nations speaking 330 different dialects. That is possibly why we can never replicate what we see happening in Singapore in terms of physical and infrastructural development.

Every time one visits Singapore, there is always a surprise, or surprises, waiting. The last time one saw a half-finished project, it has been completed today, and another has been begun. Indeed, the level of confidence is so high that public announcements are made for visitors to return in a few months' time to see a project completed. The statistical profile of such development always tends to be very impressive, specially if one happens to come from a developing Asian country. The question that always comes to mind is: why is it that what is possible in Singapore is not replicated back home?

And then the usual, comforting thoughts flit through the mind, such as: Singapore is such a small country that things are always under control, and more easily controllable, than is the case in India, "small" in the sense that there are fewer people to deal with and the geographical area is minuscule compared with our own vast mass; on top of this the social-political system is far more regimented than is the case back home, the result being that there are fewer obstacles to overcome in the planning and implementation of development projects.

Long, colourful history

Does this mean then that, if India were a smaller geographical proposition and with a less open political system, we too could have done all that the Singaporeans have been able to accomplish over the past four decades? Let us keep the answer open because such questions are not always easy to crack. They are not only too hypothetical, but the variables prevalent in the two different situations are too numerous and varied. The nagging thought, however, is that perhaps we in India are in a situation where we can never replicate what we see happening in Singapore in terms of physical and infrastructural development because of reasons beyond our control and which are deeply rooted in our long and colourful history.

This in fact was what was strongly hinted at on Monday by former Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, when he told the Future China Global Forum, at Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel: "You look at the construction industry (in India and China) and you will know the difference between (country) that gets things done, and another that does not get things done, but talks about things . . . . It is partly because India is such a diverse country — it is not one nation, it is 32 different nations speaking 330 different dialects. They became one nation under the British, but it hasn't changed the nature of the country".

Oranges vs apples

Elaborating further the difference between China and India, the creator of modern Singapore said: "In China, it is 90 per cent Han Chinese all speaking the same language, with different accents, but reading the same script. If you stand up in Delhi and speak in English, out of . . . 1.2 billion people maybe 200 million will understand you". Mr Lee said it was the same with Hindi or Tamil. There was, therefore, an "enormous difference between the two countries" and, as Mr Lee put it, you simply cannot compare oranges and apples: "They are different, and the taste is different". So, is this also why we should not try to compare ourselves with the Singaporeans? And yet there must be a way to get things done as impressively as in Singapore, for that is the only way in which India can catch up with the developed world? What is it, and when shall we begin doing so?










The most positive fallout of the Cabinet reshuffle is that it is finally over. Now, ministers can get down to work, without uncertainty about what that means. Does the reshuffle rope in fresh talent and dynamic leadership for the government? Barely. Does the exercise weed out inefficient ministers and reallocate portfolios to match available talent with their most suited responsibility? Obviously not. Has the Prime Minister cracked the whip and shown he is the boss? He has not even dropped Mr Mukul Roy, who was too busy following Mamata Di around as her personal little lamb to visit a railway accident site even after Dr Singh had asked him to, and a couple of ministers of state have registered their protest, one resigning. Many would thus be tempted to say that the answer is obvious. Particularly when the Prime Minister has not disturbed his senior-most four colleagues. However, there is another dimension to this seeming passivity. Any change in the positions of the big four that eroded the Prime Minister's authority would have been greatly unwelcome. Given this, the status quo is a sign as much of the Congress' readiness to support Dr Singh as it is of its reluctance to empower him further.


However, the failure of the reshuffle to install a political mind in the Prime Minister's office is a disappointment, indeed. Three additional points to be noted about the reshuffle are: one, Uttar Pradesh enhances its presence, complementing the Congress' aspirations in the state; two, Rahul Gandhi's handpicked team gets a ministerial representation; and, three, estranged ally DMK continues to be wooed, with ministerial berths kept warm by Congressmen holding additional charge.

Handsome is as handsome does. The government, the UPA and the Congress should take the lead to clean up political funding, to initiate a new chapter in India's political history, and vastly expand and overhaul the lower judiciary, to end judicial delay. Having created vital new rights — to information, work, education and, in the case of tribal people, forest-based livelihood, the UPA must energise the institution of the political party to enforce these rights, through political mobilisation.







The latest estimate of industrial production is lacklustre, but not without promise. The index of industrial production (base 2004-05 = 100) has moved up to 165.3 for May, which denotes a 5.6% rise (over the like period last year, read year-on-year). And growth for April-May stood at 5.7% y-o-y, which is better than modest because it is on top of a solid 10.8% increase posted in the same period last fiscal. Sectoral figures for May show that manufacturing (which has 75.5% weight in the index) have grown by 5.6% y-o-y, and that mining (weight 14.2%) output is down in the dumps with a mere 1.4% rise, what with long-pending policy reform still very much work in progress. The brightest spot in the sectoral breakup is in fact electricity (10.3% weight in the industrial index), with y-o-y growth for May a credible 10.3%. Power output is clearly on the rise, thanks to capacity addition. But without stamping out routine power theft, stepped-up generation would merely rev up revenue leakage and systemic risks. The last mile in power distribution needs urgent policy attention.
Use-based data show that capital goods have grown 5.9% y-o-y for May. But this is on top of the high 15.8% increase notched up in the like period last year. Similarly, for April-May, capital goods growth adds up to just 6.6% y-o-y, but on top of a massive 25.2% rise seen during the same period last fiscal. It suggests that capital goods output for this two-month period has grown at an average of over 15% for two years in a row, which implies still buoyant investment demand. Notice also the strong growth in May for segments like alloy steel (49%), textile machinery (41.3%), printed circuit board (63.7%) and commercial vehicles (32.1). However, output in several sectors has actually declined for the month, such as textiles (-6.6%) and machinery and equipment (-5.1%), while that for chemical products is a lowly 4%. As for consumer goods (weight 29.8% in the index) output has gone up by 5.4%; how the consumer durables and the non-durables segment perform in the festive season and beyond would likely much affect overall industrial production.








 In India, where the Union Budget gets saturation coverage both in the print and electronic media, perhaps the only entity to be left out of the innumerable discussions and analyses is God! In the USA, which is a very religious country, God is very much part of the national discourse on even economic and other temporal issues. "In God We Trust" is the official motto of the USA and is printed on currency notes. The other day, US Representative Charles Rangel (Democratic) held a press conference where he asked the question "What would Jesus do about the national debt-crisis of America?" Rangel's reply was: "If you read your scriptures, you will see clearly that Jesus would have something to say about this debate. The issues are so morally clear. We are our brothers' keepers." Rangel also wondered why American rabbis, priests, ministers and imams had not expressed their views on the ongoing political controversy over the mounting US public debt (close to the ceiling of $14.3 trillion and growing at the rate of $40,000 a second) and on the Republicans' stand that taxes for the rich should not be hiked but that the Social Security and Medicare entitlements for the poor be cut.
There were over 1,200 responses to the Fox News' report, many noting that Rangel had recently been judged guilty of ethical misconduct by a House of Representatives' panel. One respondent quoted from the Gospel according to Matthew to make the point that when Jesus was asked by someone who wanted to trap him whether taxes should be paid to Caesar, the reply was "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's." In India where TV anchors are already accused of being sanctimonious, it is perhaps just as well that God is not part of the news-hour debate panel!





 While the world predicts a robust economic upsurge for India in ensuing decades, the country's own mood remains entrapped in gloom and uncertainty. A clear manifestation of failed governance, systematic corruption today engulfs the country and epitomises people's disdain and alienation. Aware of the glaring chinks in governance apparatus, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured his first and primary aim would be to substantially improve the service delivery system. Seven long years have gone by. Despite the Second Administrative Reforms Commission acknowledging that governance is "admittedly the weak link in our quest for prosperity and equity", there has been no tangible move towards what the Commission itself maintained that several of the palliatives recommended "could be implemented immediately through executive directions".
How will the change come about? The media and some activists have taken up the cudgels, but ultimately it is the responsibility of the government, the buck perforce stopping with its chief executive. The subject deserves to be an inviolable ingredient of a common minimum national programme to be unambiguously affirmed by all mainstream parties.

Our apex civil service has a lot to explain for its greed and ineptitude. Individually intelligent and sharp, civil servants somehow atrophy and vegetate, and swell the stymied system. The higher the seniority level, the more the vulnerability and timidity, toadyism and yesmanship among them. As Chaucer said centuries ago, "if gold shall rust, what will iron do?" The steel-frame, now so malleable, is only a creaking bamboo-frame. Governments must grant no extension of service to anyone, no assignment to any superannuated officer as regulators, governors or ambassadors, or elsewhere. Stability of tenure at the Centre and in states is a critical factor of effective administration. An officer must have an uninterrupted tenure of at least two years on a post. The "transfer industry" promoted by many state satraps needs to be ruthlessly stamped down. One hears it said, in extenuation of corruption in civil services, that babus are not paid enough. This is a fallacy. With their present pay-scales and perks, the civil service is well enough remunerated to lead a life of integrity as they did in the old days when they got much less pay and were examples of honesty.

A bloated bureaucracy clogs the channels of communication, debilitates the system, and leads to delays and diffusion of responsibility. Civil Service today is a leviathan with immense power, circumscribing the whole panoply of the State. Countless subterfuges on its part have increased the number of ex-cadre positions and created hundreds of attached offices, all this notwithstanding dismantling of licence/permit raj. The multitiered, over-manned establishment implies not merely a huge drain on country's resources; it adds to the disguised employment of parasites. The Fifth Pay Commission recommendations for raising productivity of administrative outfit deserved earnest implementation.

The whole VIP/VVIP culture is antithetical to an egalitarian democracy with its avowed aim of equity and inclusiveness. We the people in the republic were all ordained to be equal but more and more among us become more equal than others. Why nothing is done to arrest and eliminate the virus symbolised by the ever-rising incidence of red and blue beacons flashed by all and sundry, security becoming a well-cultivated paranoia to commandeer commandos? Are these people the representatives of the common man or are they peers of a new realm they have created?

    There was a time, within living memory, when an hour or so was kept available for people to meet all echelons of power top to bottom. Where is that open time for people to air grievances and seek redressal? Officers have walled themselves with retinues of personal staff, insulated from aam aadmi.
A structured and effective inspection system with instant deterrence needs to be mandatory for all supervisors and senior officials. Today, inspectors do not inspect, they only extort. Naturally, citizens bear the trauma of Uphaars. The old plague city of Surat showed the way: every senior official in Surat under Commissioner S R Rao had to spend five hours in the field, of which half the time had to be in the slums, working in the same heat and dust, grime and filth. Surat stood transformed.

Ministers in Tony Blair's government in Britain had to resign on such minor improprieties as a telephone call to the concerned person to fast track the issue of a visa for the 'nanny' of the minister's child or the grant of British citizenship to a generous contributor to a cause supported by the government. In India, MPs and MLAs and anyone else in authority deem it a natural right to lobby and demand favours for anyone. It was country's first Prime Minister who clearly directed that public representatives must not take up issues such as government servants' cases in HR domain. There is a clear need to address the malady that afflicts our system today. Bosses of all political parties need to direct their representatives to refrain from exerting any pressure, directly or indirectly, on officials for any case of transfer, promotion, etc. involving government employees.
One would believe Prime Minister has picked up the gauntlet. He would need support and understanding from all. Ideas are aplenty; the imperative need is to act firmly. "Canst Thou draw out Leviathan with a hook"? God asked of Job. Perhaps the question which the Indians have yet to answer clearly is not only "Canst Thou", but "Wilt Thou, truly and urgently"?









A perverse, yet novel reason put forward to explain high inflation is that the poor are eating more as they are becoming less poor. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has been extolled for being responsible for higher consumption, which in a way is a vindication of high inflation. The extended logic used here is that if the poor are eating more and we are paying high prices, then there is nothing amiss.

There are two thoughts here. The first is that higher demand per se, especially of food items, has to be met by augmenting supplies; and this holds for any good or service. If people want more mobile handsets, industry produces more of them, which leads to lower prices. Therefore, ideally if people are less poor and demand more food, then we should produce more food at a lower cost. This is the duty of any economy that works and hence we cannot sit back and take pride in such a development as it is a reflection of the failure of the system to deliver if there are persistent supply imbalances.

However, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that this theory has a basis and prima facie makes sense. This leads to the second issue. Do the numbers really add up? The MGNREGS allots around . 40,000 crore on an annual basis, and while the code speaks of an allocation of 60:40 for wages: materials, it has turned out to be 70% for wages. Therefore, there is an additional income of . 28,000 crore. Let us suppose that all this money is actually spent and nothing is saved as the people are poor and think only of the present. Here one cannot be sure whether or not this income will lead to additional spending or will merely substitute other sources of funding. This is so because on an average, the MGNREGS in reality provides 37 days of employment to households when they are entitled to 100 days, which means that this becomes an income supplement when they are between two harvest seasons. In the extreme case, it will fully substitute other sources of income or else they will spend the money progressively on non-food items.

Now, the consumption pattern in the country points towards around 36% of expenditure going into food items and another 7% or so into clothes, which would be the areas the farmers would be looking at. This means that around 85% of their incomes would go into food as an approximation (36 divided by 43). Total consumption expenditure on food was estimated to be . 16.20 lakh crore for the country by the CSO in FY10 while the MGNREGS money of . 24,000 crore (i.e., 85% of . 28,000 crore) will be the maximum that can be spent on food items.

Now, this amount works out to 1.5% of total food consumption (or 1.7% in case the entire . 28,000 cr is spent on food products), and considering that farm output has increased by 6.6% in FY11, one cannot really see a mismatch between demand and supply for food items in general.

At the next stage we can get down to the micro level and examine whether this theory can still hold. Out of the . 28,000 crore being spent on food products, CSO data shows that around 25% is spent on cereals and pulses, where prices showed a decline or marginal increase. Besides, they would be covered under the public distribution system where prices have remained unchanged. Fruits and vegetables account for another 26.5% and the problem is not higher demand but high losses on account of absence of storage facilities. The Union Budget admitted that around 40% of the crop is wasted due to the absence of logistics support. Another 21% is spent on milk products, where the higher price is due to higher cost of production (i.e., animal feed such as oilcakes and fodder) while another 12% is on meat/poultry products where prices have increased due to higher cost of animal feed. There is hence reason to believe that this higher purchasing power would not have significantly affected the demand picture, given that the problem is still on supply and cost factors.
Therefore, either way the theory that inflation in FY11 has been caused by the poor becoming less poor does not hold. The problem is on the supply side as also our inability to manage surpluses. India is traditionally in surplus when it comes to cereals, horticulture, sugar and deficient in pulses and oilseeds. The curious case here is that when production of pulses and oilseeds increase, prices move downwards and we also simultaneously lower our imports as we do not store them for the rainy day.

On the other hand, when production declines, we import more. Given that we import around 15-20% of our pulses requirement and 55% of edible oils, international prices are also influenced by this demand. Hence, inflation gets imported into our system. The wastage in horticulture is now quite well known and the country struggles to create the storage facilities to harness the production levels.

Therefore, to use diminishing poverty as a factor causing inflation is neither an explanation nor an excuse.
(The author is chief economist, CARE Ratings. Views expressed are personal)







    Social scientists have argued that social capital, defined broadly as the capacity of people in a community to cooperate with others outside their family, is an important determinant of various economic outcomes. The list of such outcomes includes the provision of public goods, economic growth, formation of large firms and organisations, financial development, trade, as well as methods of state intervention. Many social scientists have also argued that social capital is highly persistent over time, largely because the underlying beliefs regarding the benefits of trust and cooperation are transmitted in communities through families or social interactions. In a recent paper, Andrei Shleifer of Harvard University and his co-authors examine the effect of the method of teaching on the development of social capital in a community. The methods of teaching differ tremendously across countries, and between schools within a country. Some schools emphasise what the authors call "vertical teaching methods", whereby teachers primarily lecture, students take notes or read textbooks, teachers ask students questions, and the central relationship in the classroom is between the teacher and the student. Other schools emphasise what the authors call "horizontal teaching methods", whereby students work in groups, do projects together, and ask teachers questions. In this method, the central relationship in the classroom is among students.
The authors use data from the Civic Education Study, which was run in 1999 in 23 OECD countries to assess the level of civic knowledge of mostly 14-year olds in the 8th and 9th grades. The assessment was designed to measure beliefs about cooperation among students and cooperation between students and teachers using questions of the following kind: "In your class, (a) How often do students work in groups? (b) How often do students work on projects? (c) How often do students study textbooks? (d) How often do students participate in role play? (e) How often does the teacher lecture? (f) How often does the teacher include discussions? and (g) How often does the teacher ask questions?" The answers to these questions took on values of 1 for Never, 2 for Sometimes, 3 for Often and 4 for Very Often. Using this data set, the authors report the following findings. First, teaching methods vary systematically across countries. Second, teaching methods indeed affect student beliefs — they find strong correlations between teaching methods and student beliefs in the importance of social capital after controlling for several observed and unobserved factors that would influence the formation of social capital at the country-level.
Third, the authors examine whether the differences in teaching methods reflect only the preferences of the community or do they also have an independent component that shapes student beliefs. The authors find evidence that the role of schools and teaching methods in shaping the social capital in a community cannot be ignored.
They find that students in countries with vertical teaching methods assess a lower value of cooperation with other students. However, vertical teaching is also associated with the greater belief that it is the duty of children to respect their parents. Thus, compared to vertical teaching methods, while horizontal teaching methods encourage more cooperation among individuals later in their lives, they are also associated with the erosion of the institution of the family. Insofar as they build low levels of social capital, vertical teaching methods are also associated with citizens demanding more government regulation, even if they perceive government officials to be corrupt, largely because they distrust businesses more. Finally, with respect to the immediate outcome of schooling, i.e. academic performance, the authors examine whether educational quality might be compromised by teaching practices favourable to the formation of social capital. They find that extreme bias toward either the vertical or horizontal teaching methodologies is detrimental to student test scores, and that a mixture of horizontal and vertical teaching practices supports best academic performance.
This finding is particularly important in the Indian context since the traditional Indian method of schooling which resembles the vertical method of teaching) emphasises the hard, analytical skills over the softer 3Cs: critical reasoning, creative thinking and communication. On the other hand, the American system of education (which resembles the horizontal method of teaching) emphasises the softer 3Cs. Thus, complementing our traditional strength in building analytical skills with a judicious mix of the ways to developing the 3Cs would generate a compelling combination that would position our youngsters to conquer the world in any area of endeavour.
(The author is currently a faculty in finance at the Indian School of Business)








While we weren't looking, our concession stands sneakily turned into food courts. Bad food courts, granted, ones that serve up inedible hotdogs smothered in cheap mustard and day-old dosas and pride themselves on the stubborn roomtempereaturedness of their cardboard samosas, but food courts all the same. There is a smorgasbord of junk food to choose from during the intermission of a film, from confectionary to corn, all earning movie houses the money they lose screening duds nobody watches. (Less than fifteen films a year actually 'work' in theaters. True story).

 Yet for a nation that collectively relaxes the national beltbuckle come dinnertime, we make perplexingly few films about food itself. Which comes as even more of a shock when you consider the staggering proliferation of cookery shows across our television channels. And I don't mean a film about a talking burger (though I think that'd be genius and I bet Pixar'll churn one out real soon and make us cry about relish) or even a film about chefs, like Julie and Julia. There just isn't enough khana on screen.


Food and its preparation make for a tremendous visual aesthetic we seem to be missing out. Sure, one hero can pledge on a bread pakoda while another is offered Maggi, but where's the art? We are a country that swears by spices, a nation which can be compartmentalized based on choice of grain and meat, and one with delicacies, from gourmet to street, that sparkle with a near-psychedelic range of colour. Almodovar would go stark raving mad for our peppers.


I'm not suggesting that we suddenly start making movies about chefs. (For every delicious Cheeni Kum, a Chandni Chowk To China lurks in the wings.) I just think we could explore the metaphor more, visually and thematically. From the poetry of piping hot rajma-chawal to the lyricism of the lachcha paratha, from a gratuitous extra dollop of butter making everything better to an extra dash of sugar in the espresso failing to make the hero forget. A shot highlighting the fiery saffron of the paav-bhaaji so emphatically we can smell the burning bits of onion. Advertisers do it all the time with immense flair, but why don't our films? Maybe Gulzarsaab will even actually write a song about salt.


For all we know, the answer may lie prosaically in the fact that nobody eats in Bollywood anymore. Heroines starve themselves to an FHM ideal, heroes go on, tragically beerlessly, about six-packs. Gone are the days when the lads could have a bit of a belly, the girls could pack some thunder on her thighs. Food isn't focussed onto on screen perhaps for fear that it'd make the gorging audience stop guiltily, the warped logic possibly being that seeing pretty thin people would make you feel like one while you crammed another momo into the mouth.
    I just hope we embrace food on screen more, because it's always such an evocative joy. From Preity Zinta's burger-mouthed candour about virginity in Dil Se to Boman sinisterly licking his chops in Irani dhabas in My Wife's Murder, from the filthy yet somehow arousive street chicken in Delhi Belly to Amitabh's Zaffrani Pulao obsession in Cheeni Kum. We all relate, however hungrily, and it almost always works. At the very least, it's a noble effort and our kabab-loving stomachs applaud, looking forward to seeking solace in something deep-fried after the movie.


 I leave you now with my two favourite scenes about food, from two movies that thematically have very little to do with kitchens and recipes. One is the sequence from Kramer Vs Kramer when Dustin Hoffman's wife has left him and his kid son teaches Daddy, and everyone watching, how to make French toast. The other is from the fantastic A Fish Called Wanda, when the clueless and bastardly Kevin Kline tortures the stammering Michael Palin by sticking French fries up his nose and going on about how the English don't know how to eat. (Again, a truism.)

  Throw something onto the screen stove, Bollywood, and give us a ringside view. Famished.





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



The reshuffle in January touched a number of ministers and their portfolios, but the Prime Minister was not quite satisfied. His government had been doing reasonably well in the UPA's second edition but had suddenly been ambushed by corruption and never-ending inflation. Apparently to meet the challenges generated on account of these factors, without wanting to lose the growth momentum or letting go of the Congress' logo of "inclusive growth", Dr Manmohan Singh had said that the next round of changes in the council of ministers — after the Budget Session of Parliament — would be "structural" in nature. But that is not an appellation that naturally lends itself to the reshuffle effected on Tuesday, although it came after interminable rounds of consultations with Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. The so-called top four Cabinet-level jobs — finance, home, defence and external affairs — remain undisturbed. That gives a broad indication that the thrust of the government remains unchanged. The personnel at agriculture, industry and commerce have not been altered. The totality of this would suggest that the economic orientation of the government, which includes its willingness to confront runaway prices, will be the same as before. On the infrastructure side, the good news is placing Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamul Congress with Cabinet rank to manage the railways. We can only hope that his party chief, Ms Mamata Banerjee, will let him devote all his energies to this extremely important portfolio. In terms of the choice of new Cabinet ministers, the only real new inclusion is Mr V. Kishore Chandra Deo, a sterling politician with long experience of public life who has held top positions in Parliament. If he is permitted to wield his charge of tribal affairs and panchayati raj well, potentially he can make a difference to the vast stretch wracked by sustained Maoist violence. Others brought to Cabinet rank are a consequence mainly of politics qua politics (Beni Prasad Verma and Dinesh Trivedi) or the politics of economic development, as appears to be the case with Mr Jairam Ramesh, who moves up to the Cabinet as the new rural development minister. His dynamism is not hidden, but the portfolio is among the most complex, with rural uplift, in all its dimensions, being its focus. He will have to add value to the Congress' flagship NREGA programme for the rural poor, and take on further responsibility for homestead farmers being wooed by Mr Rahul Gandhi. This is a big ask. Of course, speculation will linger that he had to leave environment and forests as he was seen to be slow in giving environmental clearances for new mega projects. A columnist for this newspaper, Ms Jayanthi Natarajan, takes his place, and will have to approach her charge with circumspection. Mr Salman Khurshid and Mr M. Veerappa Moily have essentially swapped jobs. This might be useful with Mr Khurshid having a better understanding of the superior judiciary as he is a practising lawyer at that level, but it may be early to make a judgment on the PM's decision to switch them around. Odisha's Mr Srikant Jena and Mumbai's Mr Gurudas Kamat, unhappy at not receiving their political due, boycotted the swearing-in, and Mr Kamat subsequently left the government in protest. The two Cabinet positions held by ally DMK have been filled. But scope has been left to accommodate them later as Mr Anand Sharma and Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal hold additional charge of key portfolios.





Of all the wounds that the Congress-dominated United Progressive Alliance has inflicted on itself in its second tenure (UPA-II), arguably the worst is the dithering over the burning Telangana issue. The thundering silence of the top leadership of the government and the Congress amidst tempestuous turmoil on the ground speaks for itself. The duration for which the festering sore has been left unattended is appalling. To put the UPA-II's nay the Congress' acts of omission and commission in perspective, the problem's history needs to be encapsulated. At the time of Independence, indeed until September 1948, Telugu-speaking Telangana was part of the multi-lingual princely state of Hyderabad, ruled by the Nizam who was hell-bent on making Hyderabad an independent entity, a design in which Pakistan was complicit. But his people, fed up with his autocratic rule and depredations of the notorious Razakars, would have nothing of this. A sideshow was the Communist Party of India's revolt against both the Nizam and Independent India. It was also crushed. Another major strand in the saga is that though the Mahatma had always favoured linguistic states on the ground that administration must be run in people's mother tongue, the towering leaders of the Union government — Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad, collectively called JVP — decided to put the issue of linguistic states in deep freeze. But they had reckoned without the reality of escalating sentiment for a separate Andhra state among the Telugu-speaking population in what was in British times Madras Presidency and is now Tamil Nadu. After an Andhra Gandhian, Potti Sriramulu, fasted until his death, the Central government was forced to form the Telugu-speaking state of Andhra. Telangana, however, continued to be a part of Hyderabad. A rash of linguistic demands erupted across the country. A States Reorganisation Commission was appointed and, in accordance with its report, the country's political map was redrawn in 1956, largely but not entirely along linguistic lines. Telangana became part of Andhra and Hyderabad became the capital of the new state. In subsequent years, Telangana's grievances against its neglect and lack of development in it were heard from time to time, but it was only in 1969 that a strong movement for a separate state of Telangana erupted. Its leader was a Congressman from the region, Chenna Reddy. Indira Gandhi had the stature and the skill, both lacking in the present dispensation, to contain the agitation. She virtually bought over Chenna Reddy (who became successively governor of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra's flamboyant chief minister). Fast forward: The sentiment for Telangana gained momentum again after the turn of the century. So much so that in its election manifestos in both the 2004 and 2009 elections, the Congress committed itself to forming a separate Telangana state. Indeed, in 2004, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) was part of the UPA-1 and its leader, Mr K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), a minister in the Union Cabinet. When the Congress showed no sign of honouring its promise, he resigned. In the 2009 elections, however, the TRS was routed because the Congress in Andhra won a spectacular victory in the poll for both Parliament and the state Assembly. Unfortunately, the sole architect of this triumph, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR), died in a helicopter accident. The Central Congress leadership failed to cope with his young son, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy's demand that he be allowed to claim his "political inheritance". Consequently, he walked out of the Congress and formed his own party. In recent by-elections he (and his mother) demonstrated the staggering mass support they enjoy. At the same time the two successive Congress chief ministers have put their utter ineptitude on display. The Andhra Congress that sent the largest contingent to the current Lok Sabha is now in a shambles. Meanwhile, hatred between the politicians of the two regions — Telangana on one hand and Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra on the other — cutting across party lines has reached a crescendo, making a compromise of any kind extremely difficult. However, to rewind, in the aftermath of YSR's death, KCR saw his opportunity and went on a "fast-unto-death" in the winter of 2009. The drama that followed was dismal beyond belief. As his condition deteriorated, the Congress Core Committee panicked. (Were there shades of Potti Sriramulu here?) Late in the night of December 9, 2009, the Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, conceded the demand for Telangana, adding that the "process" for this would begin "with a resolution in the state Assembly". When members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra rose in virulent protest, offering their resignations, just as MLAs and Members of Parliament from Telangana are now resigning or threatening to, within a fortnight the UPA government beat a retreat and proclaimed that "wider consultations with all stakeholders" were needed. To facilitate this it resorted to the old ploy of appointing a commission. Justice Srikrishna headed it. The commission reported in December last year, but the government and the party are still at a loss about what to do. They are, however, drawing some comfort from the fact that with cinestar Chiranjeevi's party's merger with the Congress, its bedraggled ministry in Andhra is "safe". As it happened, the Srikrishna Commission made no specific recommendation. It outlined six different "options," even though it seemed biased towards maintaining the unity of the Andhra state, with regional devolution of power. There are two difficulties in this. First, that the devolution package offered to Telangana years ago has meant nothing. Secondly and sadly, the Srikrishna Commission also submitted a "secret note" — exposed to the light of day by a court — opposing a separate Telangana state and recommending that the Union government should "mobilise" the media towards this end and offer it "inducements". In this foul atmosphere how does one do anything about the concern of non-Telangana population of the state about its enormous stakes in Hyderabad while the Telangana people would not settle for anything less than this city becoming Telangana's exclusive capital. The problem is indeed complex. But it is time Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, bite the bullet. All other options are worse.






Debate about America's energy supply is heating up: Gas prices are rising, ethanol is under attack and nuclear power continues to struggle in the shadow of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. But an abundant, safe and clean energy source once thought to be the stuff of science fiction is closer than many realise: nuclear fusion. Making it a reality, however, will take significant investment from the government at a time when spending on scientific research is threatened. Harnessing nuclear fusion, the energy that powers the sun and the stars, has been a goal of physicists worldwide since the 1950s. It is essentially inexhaustible and it can be created using hydrogen isotopes — chemical cousins of hydrogen, like deuterium — that can readily be extracted from seawater. Fusion energy is created by fusing two atomic nuclei, in the process converting mass to energy, which appears as heat. The heat, as in conventional nuclear fission reactors, turns water into steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity, or is used to produce fuels for transportation or other uses. Fusion energy generates zero greenhouse gases. It offers no chance of a catastrophic accident. It can be available to all nations, relying only on the earth's oceans. When commercialised, it will transform the world's energy supply. There's a catch. The development of fusion energy is one of the most difficult science and engineering challenges ever undertaken. Among other challenges, it requires production and confinement of a hot gas — a plasma — with a temperature around 100 million degree Celsius. But potential solutions to these daunting technical challenges are emerging. In one approach, known as magnetic fusion, hot plasma is confined by powerful magnets. A second approach uses large, intense lasers to bombard a frozen pellet of fusion fuel (deuterium and tritium nuclei) to heat the pellet and cause fusion to occur in a billionth of a second. Whereas magnetic fusion holds a hot plasma indefinitely, like the sun, the second approach resembles an internal combustion engine, with multiple mini explosions (about five per second). Once a poorly understood area of research, plasma physics has become highly developed. Scientists not only produce 100 million-degree plasmas routinely, but they control and manipulate such "small suns" with remarkable finesse. Since 1970 the power produced by magnetic fusion in the lab has grown from one-tenth of a watt, produced for a fraction of a second, to 16 million watts produced for one second – a billion-fold increase in fusion energy. Seven partners — the European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States — have teamed up on an experiment to produce 500 million watts of fusion power for 500 seconds and longer by 2020, demonstrating key scientific and engineering aspects of fusion at the scale of a reactor. However, even though the United States is a contributor to this experiment, known as ITER, it has yet to commit to the full programme needed to develop a domestic fusion reactor to produce electricity for the American power grid. Meanwhile other nations are moving forward to implement fusion as a key ingredient of their energy security. Indeed, fusion-research facilities more modern than anything in the United States are either under construction or operating in China, Germany, Japan and South Korea. The will and enthusiasm of governments in Asia to fill their energy needs with fusion, as soon as possible, is nearly palpable. What has been lacking in the United States is the political and economic will. We need serious public investment to develop materials that can withstand the harsh fusion environment, sustain hot plasma indefinitely and integrate all these features in an experimental facility to produce continuous fusion power. This won't be cheap. A rough estimate is that it would take $30 billion and 20 years to go from the current state of research to the first working fusion reactor. But put in perspective, that sum is equal to about a week of domestic energy consumption, or about two per cent of the annual energy expenditure of $1.5 trillion. Fusion used to be an energy source for my generation's grandchildren; now, plans across the world call for a demonstration power plant in about 20 years. Fusion has the potential to help with all the emerging challenges of this still-new century: energy independence, national economic competitiveness, environmental responsibility and reduction of conflict over natural resources. It is a litmus test for the willingness of our nation to tackle the tough challenges that will shape our future. Scientists and engineers stand ready to help.






Not long after the horrific terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 26, 2008, the Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr Yousaf Raza Gilani, publicly stated that while he shared India's sorrow, he also wished to underscore that Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism. Given the rising graph of wanton acts of terror that have swept across Pakistan since then, there is more than a kernel of truth to that seemingly fatuous and insensitive statement. That said, Mr Gilani's claim requires greater scrutiny. The individuals who took part in that swarming attack that left the city and India's security forces virtually paralysed for the better part of three days and cost 166 lives were all Pakistan-based terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). That terrorist organisation was spawned in Pakistan, abetted by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI-D) and continues to operate freely from its headquarters in Muridke, outside Lahore. Consequently, while a host of terrorist organisations are now wreaking havoc across Pakistan, it needs to be underscored that key elements of the Pakistani state have yet to terminate their dalliance with terror. Specifically, the security establishment continues to rely on terror as a critical element of state policy, even though some of its acolytes have now trained their guns on their erstwhile sponsors. As matters are now seeming to spin out of control, a new trope is being increasingly relied upon: a considerable part of the violence is now increasingly attributed to India's apparent machinations. Yet these assertions are made without a shred of accompanying evidence. The unwillingness of Pakistan's political and security apparatus to forthrightly come to terms with their own complicity in dubious ventures is, however, not of recent vintage. Their antecedents can be traced to the time of the creation of Pakistan. Barring marked exceptions, the vast majority of Pakistanis still argue that Indian intransigence and malfeasance on Kashmir triggered the 1947-48 war. Even today, despite ample evidence to the contrary, they refuse to recognise their own role in actively supporting the indigenous rebellion against Maharaja Hari Singh in Poonch. Instead, they continue to harp on the question of the timing of the acceptance of the Instrument of Accession and the arrival of Indian troops in Srinagar, thereby seeking to obfuscate their own collusion in the conflict. This, of course, is not the only case of an unwillingness to come to terms with some of the more unsavoury features of their country's history. Even the Justice Hamadoor Commission Report failed to forthrightly address the horror that the Pakistan Army unleashed on the hapless Bengali population of East Pakistan in 1971. Instead, it focused its attention on the decision-making pathologies that contributed to the military and political debacle. While apologies, both qualified and unstinted, have become the currency of international politics, no Pakistani leader of any note has come close to proffering one for the genocidal behaviour of the Pakistan Army in 1971. Such a failure to apologise is not the most egregious failing of the Pakistani state and its citizenry. Even otherwise thoughtful and informed Pakistani scholars in private conversations with this author have argued that the Pakistani military, most assuredly, were also victims of violence in the East Pakistani crisis. They contend that the Bengalis showed little quarter to the beleaguered garrisons in East Pakistan and so there is little that the Punjabi-dominated Army of the time has to account for. Yet, as the British journalist Murray Sayle revealed in a remarkable article, "A Regime of Thugs and Bigots", in the Sunday Times in July 1971, the horrors that the regime visited on the Bengalis made British colonial atrocities in the North-West Frontier pale into insignificance. He compared the tactics of the Army to those of Mussolini and Hitler. The passage of nearly 30 years did not lead to an end to this form of historical obfuscation. In the wake of the Kargil War, two forms of exculpatory arguments were set forth. The first suggested that the Pakistani military had not participated in the crossing of the Line of Control but instead local Mujahideen had chosen to act of their own accord. The war, they argued, was really the result of India's jingoism and disproportionate military response. When ample contrary evidence undermined this questionable claim, Pakistani apologists suddenly argued that the Kargil incursions were merely a response to India's occupation of the Siachen glacier in 1984. One might well wonder why it took the Pakistani state a decade and a half to attempt a military riposte to the Siachen conflict. This mythmaking, sadly, did not come to a close with the Kargil War. As Mr Gilani's statement in the wake of 26/11 demonstrated, it persists under yet another civilian regime. The Pakistani propensity to avoid coming to terms with politically and morally flawed choices is not a matter of mere academic historical accuracy. Instead, their failure to forthrightly confront ugly, painful and erroneous choices has had profound consequences for the fate of the Pakistani state. The obsession with the Kashmir dispute has made the military primus inter pares within Pakistan and has grossly distorted the country's developmental priorities. The grotesque maltreatment of the Bengalis led to the break-up of Pakistan. Subsequent failures to deal fairly with other ethnic minorities have contributed to endemic conflict within the country. And finally, the willingness to use terror as an instrument of state policy has come to haunt the country's domestic politics. In the absence of an honest accounting of these deeply problematic choices that started from the nascent days of the Pakistani state it is far from clear whether Pakistan will be able to extricate itself from the morass that it finds itself mired in. * The author is director of research at the Centre on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington, US






While they were treading on through a seemingly unending stretch of a desolate wasteland, Mardana requested Guru Nanak to halt as he was not only weary but also awfully hungry. They had not had anything to eat for many days and there was no prospect of being able to reach a habitation soon. Mardana complained of hunger pains and said, "O Master! You being a God-blessed soul feel neither hunger nor thirst, but I am an ordinary mortal cannot do without food and water. It has been many days since I have eaten, and now I have grown so famished that I can hardly take a step. I belong to the tribe of Dom so at home I could, at least, beg to sustain myself. With you, I have not had even a morsel of food for so many days. Permit me to return home where I can at least beg to get some food. Who knows, here in this desolate place, even a man-eater might suddenly appear and devour me." Guru Nanak smiled again and said, "Mardana, have faith. We are not unaccompanied in this wilderness. Our omnipotent Lord God is always and everywhere with us. He will not let us perish. Have faith, no man-eater is going to eat you up. Let us move on, we might soon find a hamlet where we might get something to eat." But no counsel could be of any avail with Mardana; it only disturbed him further. So he said, "Instead of trying to do something to solve my problem, you only counsel me patience. One can have patience only up to a limit, and mine has already exceeded that. If you cannot do anything for me now, please permit me to leave and go home." The Guru smiled again and said, "Mardana dear, if you are so famished that you cannot move onwards, how would you manage to get back to the habitation that we left several days ago? Pick up your rebec and play it, let us sing the praises of our Lord." A more irritated Mardana said, "Master, no, I just can't play my instrument for I am dying of hunger pains. I am collapsing with weakness and might pass away soon." The Guru did not smile this time, but became somewhat grave and said, "Mardana, if nothing but food will satisfy you now, climb up that tree and eat its fruit. You will really like it. You may eat to your fill, but do not carry any with you for the morrow." Mardana went up that tree and started eating its fruit. He found it very delicious — much juicier than any other fruit he had ever eaten before. So he ate as much as he could. However, he then became tempted to stealthily carry some for the next day for hunger would surely visit again and he might not be able to get anything to eat then. So he quietly packed some of that fruit in the back of his waistband. Then they resumed their journey onwards. A couple of days passed when Mardana again felt hungry. It wasn't so much hunger as his greed for that delicious fruit. So he slowed down and let the Guru walk ahead of him. Then he took out the fruit from his waistband. But no sooner had he stolen just one bite that he simply collapsed and fell on the ground. The Guru looked back and said, "What happened to you, Mardana? How did you collapse so suddenly?" Mardana did not look up, but when questioned again by the Guru, said sheepishly, "I have simply been disobedient. You had forbidden me from carrying with me any more of that fruit that I ate at your bidding two days ago from the tree you had graciously pointed to. However, it was so delicious that I got tempted to carry some surreptitiously in my waistband. I had let you move some distance ahead of me so that I could eat some of the forbidden fruit without you knowing of it. I had hardly taken one small bite when I simply collapsed. Pray, save me." The Guru touched Mardana's head with his big toe, Mardana sat up and said, "I sinned by disobeying you, but you still have saved me. I can no more deserve to be your companion. Pray, let me go and leave me to my fate." The Guru took Mardana in his arms and said, "I cannot let you go. Is there any way you can continue to be with me?" Mardana said, "Only on two conditions: First, that you will raise me above hunger and thirst like yourself, and second, that you will not judge my deeds." The Guru said, "So be it!" and Mardana instantaneously became aware of the here as well as the hereafter. He promptly picked up his rebec and played it so very heartily as he had never played before. And the Guru began to sing: "Our sustenance is not in the hands of any person. The hopes of one and all rest on the One Lord, For apart from Him, no one else really exists." — The author, a psychiatrist of international repute, was director of PGIMER, Chandigarh. He also received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to Punjabi verse. Currently he is Professor of Eminence in Religious Studies at Punjabi University, Patiala.









THERE wasn't much that the Prime Minister could have done with his Council of Ministers; this is now confirmed because he hasn't done very much. The same, tired faces are on view because it is not possible to find even a handful of untainted politicians from the resources available to replace discredited Ministers. Business goes on as usual, and the minor changes that Dr Manmohan Singh has made are aimed more at managing the crises he faces than striving for change. In short, this is a fire-fighting exercise, not one aimed at making the edifice fire-proof. The government is at sixes and sevens in courts, hence Veerappa Moily has made away for Salman Khurshid, who is expected to know Delhi's courts better (of course, his friendship with at least one inmate of Tihar jail will cause some cheer within those walls). The Railway portfolio was not really a matter for the PM; it was more a question of whether Mamata Banerjee would claim the seat and who she would choose to fill it. She has chosen carefully, a non-Bengali who is not likely ever to be able to leverage his rank in Delhi to build a political base in Kolkata. Jairam Ramesh has been moved from Environment to Rural Development with a promotion. This solves two problems; his occasional tetchiness in grant of clearances will no longer be a deterrent and Jayanti Natarajan can safely be expected to put environment in its place. And Ramesh gets a chance to do some rural development work in, well, an urbane way. Governance is like show business, and  Ramesh does occasionally spin out a good act; whether rural India will buy the plot is quite another matter.
Beni Prasad Verma, who was Cabinet minister more than a decade ago but agreed to be Minister of State in UPA-II because politicians are like that, has been elevated for muttering ~ and not voicing ~ his grievance. He gets the Steel ministry, which means he must be over the moon. Murli Deora, fingered by the CAG for his role in the gas exploration saga, has been allowed to leave quietly. But to tell him there are no hard feelings and that his only sin was to have been caught, his son has been made a Minister of State. Don't be surprised though if one of these days the elder Deora fetches up at a Raj Bhavan. The other departures are along predictable lines and at least a couple of those shown the door may also be contenders for gubernatorial assignments. There is a new Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Rajiv Shukla, who might well be described as the Congress' answer to Amar Singh. The reasoning seems to be that if he can manage cricket, he ought to be able to manage parliamentarians, at least some of whom including one Leader of the Opposition relish running cricket associations. This isn't so much of a reshuffle as it is a cynical exercise to contain the damage the government has already suffered. It ought neither to inspire nor excite Indians; we are as inadequately led as were on Sunday.



EVERYTHING is in flux, but how much will really change? The Chief Minister's invitation to the private sector to set up super-speciality hospitals in rural Bengal has been generally welcomed. Theoretically, there may be hope yet for the rural populace. By Mamata Banerjee's own admission, the underpinning is to relieve the unmanageable pressure on city hospitals and often mortally so, the 20-odd crib deaths in Kolkata being the latest tragedy. The government's point is well taken. However, private venture or public-private partnerships are no substitutes for generally affordable, efficient and caring government hospitals. For all the "surprise" visits by the Chief Minister, there is yet no semblance of an effort to tone up the state health sector. Admittedly, this calls for a massive investment which is not possible amidst the dire fiscal straits. Hence the appeal to private enterprise, but there are red herrings along the trail towards super-specialised treatment in the backwaters of Bengal.

Do the rural poor have the spending power to avail of treatment in private hospitals? Overwhelmingly, they don't. And there is no indication yet that they will be subsidised. The other ponderable is whether private sector specialists will be willing to serve in rural areas. Will they readily give up the lucrative practice in the city? It is a fair guess that specialists are unlikely to be based in the districts 24 X 7? Successive governments have failed to make rural service mandatory for health service doctors and this is one major reason why the system has very nearly collapsed. The state sector will have to be spruced up and dramatically so with a suitable outlay in the forthcoming budget. This will ensure the fulfilment of the Benthamite doctrine of the "greatest good of the greatest number". A string of private hospitals can only be the icing for those who can afford it. But here's a suggestion. Why doesn't the Chief Minister invite service organisations with a proven record in healthcare to set up rural health centres and hospitals, and provide funds to them with a promise of non-interference? The Ramakrishna Mission is perhaps the most prominent of such organisations; its hospital in central Kolkata is in many ways a model. There are other similar bodies that run healthcare facilities; they are more efficient than the government, and less grubby than the private sector.



TRACK records, rankings and statistics do not suffice to confirm a team as the world leader. To those must be added determination to always assert superiority, rising to challenging situations, or what is called the "killer instinct." A high degree of "dare" had marked MS Dhoni's leadership, taking Indian cricket to heights it had never commanded before. The team exuded confidence and self-belief as it took on all comers. Some people went as far as citing that attitude as evidence of the nation having shed its uncomplimentary "developing" tag. Hence it was "Incredible India" of another kind on display at Dominica when Dhoni & Co, made only a brief attempt at forcing a victory, declined to strive for 84 runs in 90 balls with seven wickets intact. Even if the conditions did not make for easy run-getting, the squad that has so much success in the fast-scoring shorter versions of the game could have given it a "crack". The skipper could have promoted himself in the batting order ~ surely he has not given up on the aggressive willow-work that was his initial claim to fame ~ and held Laxman back to join Dravid in playing safe if the situation so dictated. The "risks" and "gamble" Dhoni has offered as an alibi for throwing in the towel before taking heavy punches is totally out of character. To place winning a series above winning the match in hand is negative thinking: hopefully this will not prove the mindset of the revamped Indian "think tank". One of the most positive trends in recent times had been carrying forward to Test cricket the result-oriented approach of the limited-overs format. Test matches have ceased to be the boring exercises that had turned spectators away. The clock has now been turned backward. Even if sportsmen do not appreciate being called "entertainers", they have a duty to the paying public. The packed stands at Windsor Park, Roseau, witnessing its first Test match deserved a whole lot more. If the BCCI looked beyond its money and clout it would tell the skipper what he did "is just not done". There's a flip side to the no-show: even before Dhoni and Strauss walk out for the toss at Lord's a fortnight hence the Poms will be waltzing over having a headstart in the mind-game, although their refusal to go for the kill at Lord's in June suggests caution isn't only an Indian trait.







THE Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India, Prasad Kariyawasam, now in Colombo for consultations, has sought an appointment with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalitha, in Chennai to extend to her a personal invitation from President Mahinda Rajapaksa to visit Sri Lanka.  In its attempt to pamper Rajapaksa to serve the agenda of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, India had betrayed the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils who have been struggling for equal rights with the majority Sinhalese. While the DMK, an important constituent of the UPA, remained passive content with amassing wealth, even as India extended military, material and moral support to Sri Lanka in its war on its Tamil citizens in the crucial 2008-2009 period, the AIADMK, voted to power in the Assembly election held in April, and its leader Jayalalitha, have chosen a proactive role in rescuing fellow Tamils across the Palk Bay who have been progressively reduced from second class citizenship they enjoyed since independence in 1948 to serfs of the Sinhalese.

David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, former foreign ministers of Britain and France respectively, after a recent visit to Sri Lanka, wrote: "Tamil life is treated as fourth or fifth class citizens. If foreign policy is about anything, it should be about stopping this kind of inhumanity."  South Block remaining a silent spectator, Chennai has wrested the initiative and Rajapaksa is worried. When the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a resolution seeking retrieval of Kachchatheevu, a part of Ramanathapuram district which Indira Gandhi illegally ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974, and urged the Centre to call upon the UN to investigate war crimes against Rajapaksa, Colombo dismissed the whole thing as the rantings of a Chief Minister who has no locus standi on foreign affairs.

Even our own external affairs ministry which gave scant regard to public sentiments in Tamil Nadu while gifting Kachchtheevu to Sri Lanka or while fishermen from the State were being shot dead like wanton flies by the Lankan navy seems to have undergone a sea change after Jayalalitha's assumption of office in Fort St. George.  Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told a group of Sri Lankan journalists visiting New Delhi last week "the Indian government can no longer remain insensitive to the sentiments expressed by the Tamil Nadu government, the politicians and the people of Tamil Nadu about the issues affecting the Tamils in Sri Lanka."
The screening of Channel 4's "Killing fields of Sri Lanka" by a national television channel for three consecutive days last week showing naked Tamil prisoners shot in the head, dead bodies of women who had been raped and dumped on a truck, the immediate aftermath of shells landing on a hospital in a 'no fire zone' and the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the final moments of the brutal civil war have left the people nauseated and shell-shocked.  The authenticity of the footage has been confirmed by a forensic pathologist, forensic video analyst, firearms evidence expert and a forensic video expert of international repute.  Channel 4's senior news executive Dorothy Byrne had cautioned viewers not to watch the programme saying "it is horrific, the images will remain in your mind may be for years." The 53-minute footage is being dubbed in Tamil to be screened by Jaya TV owned by Jayalalitha in the next few days.  Already Tamil Nadu is on the boil for India's contribution to the genocide Sri Lanka.

There is an untold story about how New Delhi became instrumental in the brutality brought out in the Channel 4 documentary. India was hoping for the victory of Ranil Wickremasinghe of the UNP with whom our then High Commissioner in Colombo, Nirupama Rao, had established a close relationship, in the 2005 presidential election. Rajapaksa of the SLFP, a known hawk, won by the narrowest of margins, as President.  Had it not been the boycott of the election by the Tamils in response to a call given by the LTTE, Wickremasinghe would have won easily. Rajapaksa wanted to outlive his image of a hawk and establish rapport with the Indian political leadership but New Delhi repeatedly rebuffed him.

This made him realise the importance of involving civil society in Tamil Nadu to resolve the intractable ethnic problem in his country.  His emissaries were scouting for a group in Tamil Nadu who could act as a bridge between the two countries. After much persuasion by Colombo, a small four-member group comprising MG Devasahayam, a former IAS officer and close associate of Jayaprakash Narayan and Mother Teresa as convenor, SP Ambrose, retired IAS officer who was home secretary of Tamil Nadu and Secretary to Government of India, a senior journalist working for a national daily, and a military veteran well versed in Sri Lankan affairs was formed and held its preliminary meeting in Chennai on 10 May 2007, with Sunimal Fernando, adviser to President Rajapaksa, participating. It was unanimously agreed that a military victory for one side without a political strategy to address the grievances of the Tamil community was unlikely to produce a lasting solution to the ethnic crisis.

The group had its first meeting with President Rajapaksa and his team comprising Lalith Weeratunga, secretary to the President, assistant secretary Waruna Sri Dhanapala and adviser Fernando in Colombo on 17 July 2007. Throughout the two-hour discussions, Rajapaksa gave the impression that he was not unduly worried about international criticism of his regime but was greatly concerned about Indian opinion. He fully endorsed the group's opinion expressed by Devasahayam that the solution to the crisis should emerge from within Sri Lanka and refined through international opinion, particularly from India. After the two-day meetings with the Tamil Nadu group, Rajapaksa said at a public function "we ought to be sensitive and responsive to the genuine grievances of the people in the North-East," traditional homeland of the Sri Lankan Tamils.
To cut a long story short, the Tamil Nadu civil society group had a series of meetings with Rajapaksa's team of officials and ministers in Sri Lanka and Chennai to carry forward the progress made so far and agreed upon many steps to resolve the conflict. A crucial conference was held with President Rajapaksa in Colombo on 25 March 2008, followed by a series of meetings with DEW Gunasekara, Sri Lankan Minister for Constitutional Affairs and National Integration, Raja Collure, chairman of official language commission, and others for evolving a political solution and confidence-building measures.  An action agenda was set.

The Indian High Commission in Colombo got wind of the Tamil Nadu group's activities and the Deputy High Commissioner, A Manickam, sought an appointment with Devasahayam. It was fixed at 5 p.m. at the hotel he was staying which was next door to Manickam's office.  Manickam never kept his appointment but the High Commission later reprimanded the Sri Lankan presidential team for holding peace talks with 'unauthorised' persons. The civil society initiative was conveyed to Sonia Gandhi by a Congress member of the Lok Sabha from Tamil Nadu who was trying to sell the idea of panchayat raj system to Rajapaksa to resolve the ethnic crisis.

Unaware of these developments in New Delhi, Devasahayam wrote to TKA Nair, one of his former colleagues who was occupying the post of principal secretary to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on 1 April 2008, recalling the Indian defence ministry's annual report to Parliament which said: "We strongly believe that there is no military solution.  What is required is a settlement of the political, constitutional and other issues within the framework of a united Sri Lanka which addresses the concerns of all communities, especially that of the ethnic minority." Devasahayam outlined the progress made by the Tamil Nadu group and the action agenda that had been set. The letter regretted that government of India, while providing Sri Lanka with weapons systems and training facilities, remained indifferent to activating any peaceful negotiated settlement. It requested the government to support the initiative taken by the Tamil Nadu group to end the long-festering humanitarian crisis. The letter remains unanswered to this day.

It was after this group's successful initiative that India changed track and gave the green signal to the Sri Lankan government to go all out to decimate the LTTE without insisting on a political solution to resolve the ethnic crisis. According to sources in Colombo, Sonia Gandhi wanted LTTE leader Velupillai Pirapaharan and its intelligence chief Pottu Amman decapitated and pledged all military support to Sri Lanka to achieve her goal. The then national security adviser MK Narayanan, foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon and the clique controlling the Prime Minister's Office put Sonia Gandhi's interest above national interest and actively assisted the brutal Sri Lankan genocide that could be seen in the Channel 4 documentary thus creating the quagmire Sri Lanka finds itself in. This is evident from the fact that while the whole world is seething at what they saw in the documentary, the government of India is deafeningly silent.

There is every possibility of Rajapaksa and company being hauled up before the International Court of Justice at The Hague to stand trial for war crimes and genocide. In the event, New Delhi cannot escape responsibility for this horrendous brutality. The bell is tolling.

The writer is a veteran journalist and former Director of The Statesman Print Journalism School








The long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle has neither strengthened nor reinforced the credibility of the UPA government. Instead, it has exposed the government and the Congress leadership to be totally directionless and lacking in the wherewithal to lend substance and relevance to the Union Cabinet. It is as if a pack of cards was reshuffled randomly and ministries allocated to faces on the cards drawn thereafter.

It was clear from the beginning, even though some sections of the media speculated otherwise, that the top four ministers ~ Mr Pranab Mukherjee, Mr P Chidambaram, Mr AK Antony and Mr SM Krishna ~ would not be touched. A primary reason is that if even one were to be shifted, it would have triggered a controversy as well as chaos with other ministers and assorted Congress hopefuls starting to jockey for the post. Rivalries at the top are acute and senior ministers do not see eye to eye on most issues.

Mr Krishna could well have been a fall guy but he has the support of the Prime Minister who has the run of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) because the minister at the helm is weak. It is interesting, though, that Mr Anand Sharma, despite trying hard, has not been brought back to the MEA that remains the preserve of the PMO and national security adviser  Mr Shiv Shankar Menon.

The changes are cosmetic, the usual "rewards and punishment" handed out by the Congress to its minions. An NGO favourite, Mr Jairam Ramesh, has been moved out of the environment ministry to be put in charge of rural development just when he had given the ministry a fairly high profile ~ perhaps for the first time in decades. The Congress has played it cleverly in that it moved the controversial minister out of the environment ministry but promoted him to Cabinet rank so that it appears that he has been, in fact, rewarded. Mr Ramesh was holding up big industrial projects on environmental grounds and the industrial lobby is visibly jubilant at his "exit". The more pliable Ms Jayanti Natarajan has been brought in as the minister of state with independent charge for environment. In her case, it is a clear reward for her loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family as a Congress spokesperson. It can be safely said at this stage that she will not lock horns with the industrial lobby in the manner her predecessor had done.

This reshuffle affirms the rise of Mr Salman Khursheed, who from being out in the wilderness a few years ago, has made a remarkable comeback. He stays in charge of minority affairs but has been given the law ministry in a clear indication that both the Prime Minister and the Congress President repose a great deal of trust in him. Mr Khursheed is also the only high-profile Muslim in the Cabinet now, and with him coming from Uttar Pradesh that goes to polls next year, this is a decided plus. Interestingly, while another leader from Uttar Pradesh, Mr Beni Prasad Verma, has been elevated to Cabinet rank and put in charge of the steel ministry, other hopefuls from the state have been left out. Obviously, the Congress is not willing to pull out leaders from the state unit at this stage with all hands needed to make Mr Rahul Gandhi's "UP strategy" work.

Erstwhile law minister Mr Veerappa Moily has been made to pay the price for talking more frankly than his ministerial colleagues and shunted to corporate affairs just vacated by the scam-tainted Mr Murli Deora. Mr Moily is not going to be happy with the shift and will likely make his displeasure felt in the coming weeks. Besides, it is not clear why adverse Supreme Court judgments have been laid at the law minister's door as these have nothing to do with his ministry. This is another directionless shift that will serve no purpose other than creating fresh dissent.

Apart from Mr Khursheed, another minister clearly on the rise is Mr Kapil Sibal. His controversial decisions and his loud mouth are evidently favoured by the Congress leadership as he has been deemed fit to be in charge of both the gigantic human resource development ministry and the telecom ministry simultaneously. Mr Sibal's aggressive posturing has worked for him and he remains very much in the inner power loop of the party and the government. It is also clear that his decision to bypass the solicitor-general and appoint his own lawyer is being seen as necessary by the government which has now made it apparent that would let Mr Gopal Subramanian go.

Mr Rahul Gandhi's close friend Mr Milind Deora is firmly ensconced as the minister of state for communications and IT ~ both large and powerful departments. Old loyalist Mr Rajiv Shukla has finally been rewarded with a position as minister of state for parliamentary affairs. As a journalist, he was very close to late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and continued to be close to the Nehru-Gandhi clan even after Rajiv's death. Mr Shukla speaks for the family but has never committed a breach of confidence or said an extra word that could whip up a controversy. His loyalty remains unquestionable.

The DMK may be sulking but Miss Mamata Banerjee has managed to get exactly what she wanted with party colleague Mr Dinesh Trivedi becoming the new Union railway minister. It remains to be seen whether he visits the scene of the train crash and what measures, if any, he takes to improve safety and security of Indian Railway. Civil aviation, a vital area of governance, is still without a full-fledged minister months after the NCP's Mr Praful Patel relinquished his post.

All in all, it was a reshuffle that need not have been effected as it has not armed the party with a strong, clean Council of Ministers on the eve of what is going to be a stormy Parliament session. The charges of corruption against the government remain, the problems of foreign policy have been compounded and inflation continues to spiral. This was nothing but a reward and punishment exercise for the Congress which shuffled the cards all right, but failed to come up with a King, let alone an Ace. The Knaves, of course, have been accommodated.

The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman







The vibes emanating from the recently-concluded South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meeting of speakers and Parliamentarians held in Delhi were encouraging. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh set the tone by saying that no outside power could help South Asia resolve its problems. He asked Saarc nations to create conditions for a joint fight against terrorism. The delegate from Afghanistan sought Pakistan's help to allow transit movement of trade from India to Afghanistan. But it was the Pakistan Speaker, Ms Fehmida Mirza, who was most blunt and unambiguous.

She said: "I would like to propose that that this forum graduates to the next level where eventually the idea of a South Asian Parliament becomes a reality. Through this idea I am envisioning a Parliament that commands the trust of 1.7 billion South Asians – the largest forum if its kind anywhere in the world… I am envisioning a forum that will, in fact infuse a new life into SAARC exactly in the same manner as the European Parliament remains the driving force behind the European Union."

All this is very encouraging. But somewhat similar sentiments were expressed during the tenure of the Vajpayee government. Will anything come to pass? The overall context in South Asia is very different from those days. That gives some hope. But the crucial question remains, of course, how the Pakistan army reacts. At present it faces a crisis of confidence with America. The USA has curtailed military aid to Pakistan. It has sought demonstrable action against terrorism by the Pakistan army before aid can be resumed. Pakistan remains defiant. The option of China filling the gap created by the US decision is yet in the realm of speculation.
The USA has also demanded that Ayman-al-Zawahiri, the new leader of Al Qaida, allegedly holed up in Pakistan, be captured or killed by the Pakistan army. The operation against Osama bin Laden became controversial because it was undertaken by US operatives inside Pakistan. This time around Pakistan is being given the opportunity to act on its own. Will General Kayani seize it?

The Pakistan army has responded to the US demand by seeking American intelligence on the whereabouts of Zawahiri. At first sight this appears to be stonewalling. But if the Pakistan army were to take action it would have to go through the motions of responding in this fashion. The fiction that Pakistan is unaware of the whereabouts of Zawahiri has to be maintained. The US demand gives opportunity to General Kayani to establish his bona fides. Will he respond positively to deliver Zawahiri or will he continue to evade? This will be the litmus test to decide whether the fine sentiments expressed in the recent Saarc conference will have any substance or not.                   

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist







Research at Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) seems to be suddenly bothering top Indian ministers with Mr Jairam Ramesh and Mr Kapil Sibal choosing to lock horns over it. Mr Ramesh, as an IIT alumnus, can lay claim to knowing the situation at the IITs intimately. He must also be aware that improving the quality of and facilities for research is a long and arduous process but it's not clear why he chose to declare so vehemently that the research conducted at the IITs and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) was not up to the mark and that their faculty was far from world-class. Mr Kapil Sibal must be commended for defending the IIT faculty though his response made it clear that he knows precious little about how research is conducted at institutes of higher learning: "Twenty-five per cent of IIT faculties are students of IITs who have done their B Tech (there). Surely such 25 per cent students, who are world-class students, must be world-class faculty." Mr Sibal may be well-meaning but the logic of his statement will escape any bona fide researcher.

There is no doubt that students cracking the joint entrance examination (JEE) for IITs are the very best in the country in their peer group. But, this, however, does not mean that they will do just as well after enrolling at the IITs. There is a real qualitative difference between the kind of knowledge acquired at the secondary-school level and at universities. A sparkling IIT-JEE rank does not necessarily translate into an equally luminous run at the IITs. It is quite possible that someone, who has been unable to crack the IIT-JEE and has acquired his B.Tech elsewhere, turns out to be a better engineer than many IIT graduates.

The build-up to the IIT-JEE involves a lot of focused, gruelling preparation by rote that doesn't encourage satisfying curiosity peculiar to adolescent minds. As such, they may well end up clearing the tough test but without learning how to use their faculties in an imaginative manner. Most students wish to get selected to the IITs with the express purpose of eventually seeking higher education abroad, especially in the USA. Once a student joins a graduate school abroad, he/she gets all opportunities to develop into a top researcher. But by that time, some may unfortunately have lost their ability to think laterally ~ the competitive edge sought by every researcher.

Research requires dedication and genuine interest in the subject matter. It is anyone's guess how many students at the IITs find themselves there out of a genuine love for sciences or technology or, for that matter, driven by a spirit of enquiry. The choice of discipline is often governed by what will be most conducive to gaining a graduate school berth abroad. Such sensibilities do not exactly generate the ability to conduct pioneering research at a later stage.

IITs were envisaged even before Independence with an eye on producing top-quality engineers essential for managing the industrial growth in free India. This idea was a natural corollary to the Soviet model of growth that India was in awe of at that time. When the first IIT was set up in the early 50s, the emphases were clearly on attracting the brightest students of science and have them trained by the best-possible faculty leading to a B.Tech degree. Cutting-edge research was not a priority at the IITs for a long time.

There is an additional difficulty regarding engineering research. Engineering, just as medicine, law and business, is a derivative discipline and not a fundamental one. Traditionally, successful engineers have been innovative designers who used their existing knowledge of science to solve some seemingly-impossible design challenges. Many famous professors of engineering traditionally came from R&D departments of major corporations and their achievements were judged differently from their colleagues in the fundamental academic disciplines. Patents and creative designs were considered just as important as journal publications. Considering this, low priority for academic research at the IITs in the past is not surprising.

The way IIT, Kharagpur was set up, confirms this. It was hermetically seclude from any major university and there was no serious effort to develop a parallel high-quality programme in basic sciences. As B.Tech degree holders from IITs enjoy exceptional social prestige, a few basic sciences programmes are offered grudgingly at the IITs. This makes interaction between the engineering and science faculties awkward at the IITs and any comparison with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in this regard will be pointless.
After the Second World War, scientists and engineers had started collaborating in real earnest in America and Europe. The war made cooperation essential, culminating in the success of the Manhattan Project. Cold War only intensified the process with the space race lending an added thrust. There was no such organic reason for intense collaboration between engineers and scientists in India. Multidisciplinary research has now become a norm in the West, with even life science and medical researchers collaborating with physical science researchers and engineering experts in a big way to make valuable contributions to biomedical engineering. Our government has belatedly realised this drawback and is now pushing for better collaboration among researchers. But it is not an easy task given the lack of contact between the IITs, top research institutes and universities for such a long time. Once the dividing lines are blurred, quality of research at the IITs can improve dramatically.
PhD candidates and graduate students at major US universities are often required to teach engineering undergraduates. This takes a lot of burden, mostly administrative, off the faculty there. Often, the faculty uses funds from research grants to buy off teaching load freeing them up for research. It is also relatively easy for engineering faculty to obtain grants from diverse government agencies, most notably the US department of defense. Research grants from the industrial sector too has increased considerably over the past few decades. This enables the engineering departments of most US universities to employ many Ph.D candidates and post-doctoral fellows. It gives a huge impetus to engineering research in that country.

The situation in the IITs is just the opposite. The faculty has to devote inordinate time and energy to undergraduate teaching. Twenty contact hours per week are not uncommon in many situations and the teaching load is often more overwhelming than in general degree colleges in India! Research grants are nugatory in comparison with universities in the West. Worse still is the chances of obtaining suitable PhD candidates for the few available positions. Practically all IIT graduates with a B.Tech leave for the USA and the rest are absorbed by the information technology sector. Some even change careers after a stint at the IIMs. This opens the door for graduates of other engineering colleges for M.Tech programmes at the IITs. The European universities have identified such M.Tech pass-outs from IITs as potential PhD candidates, leaving the IITs with very little possibility of attracting good PhD candidates. No wonder, this affects research activities at the IITs.
Improving quality of research at the IITs needs a multi-faceted approach and collaboration with other high-profile research universities and institutes in India. The lure of the USA has given the IITs such a haloed status that some basic facts about quality research have been overlooked. Quality research in every discipline is equally difficult and all researchers in all disciplines must have respect for each other. Specifically, scientists and engineers must interact and exchange ideas freely. BTech graduates should be able to do research in a field of pure science if not lacking in relevant academic background and motivation. Similarly, bright students of sciences may be accepted as PhD candidates in an engineering discipline related to his/her specialisation and interest. In a country which acutely suffers from brain drain, compartmentalised padagogy is not an option ~ all available talent must be harnessed. The Indian industrial sector can act as a link between science and engineering researchers. Perhaps, the HRD ministry could take a cue from the research framework programmes devised in the European Union.

At the time of inaugurating new IITs, the government must make efforts to introduce programmes in basic sciences with as much urgency and dedication that it reserves for engineering disciplines. Such as setting may also be ideal for developing courses exploring the philosophy of science and/or engineering to cultivate a culture of scholarship. In the West, some highly-motivated students work towards an MTech (MSc) or PhD in this area after obtaining a BTech. Their inter-disciplinary command is highly appreciated in the job market. With India experiencing a resolute growth, our students should slowly be able to look beyond qualifying for a mere livelihood and experiment with unconventional career paths. Finally, PhD candidates must be given more facilities to make research an attractive option for them. And, this shouldn't be restricted to higher pay alone. The researchers must have the best of equipment and a closer collaboration with industry (which could easily extend to job offers after graduating) other than funds and facilities to attend conferences regularly in India and abroad in order to routinely engage with peers and experts. Finally, Indian media must stop eulogising IIT graduates who end up moving abroad or high salaries commanded by graduates of the country's top management institutes. This unwavering fixation with upward mobility is a uniquely post-reforms Indian phenomenon which could and does have a devastating effect on the quality of research at the IITs.

The author is ex-dean and professor of applied mathematics at the University of Twente, The Netherlands







It may not be the only ministry in the Union government that is poorly run, but the failings of the railways ministry are much more than an economic worry. The two train accidents on Sunday show yet again the tragic cost of inefficiency and neglect in railway administration. Given the lack of responsibility and accountability in the railways ministry, the surprising thing is that such tragedies are not more frequent. The most shocking part of this story is that the ministry seems to know the reasons behind its poor performance but is both unable and unwilling to mend its ways. And that is due to the fact that populism, not hard-nosed policy, is what drives the railways ministry. It is one ministry which has traditionally been seen as a political tool by those heading it. The railways' resources are routinely used in order to serve petty political ends. Irrespective of the parties they belonged to, railways ministers over the decades have sacrificed efficiency and economics to partisan politics. Mamata Banerjee's last term as the railways minister highlighted the vacuum in the railway administration as she devoted all her time and energy to her political battle in West Bengal. But several of her predecessors, including Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, ran the ministry in much the same manner.

This abdication of responsibility has created holes in the administration that make railway journeys very unsafe and the ministry's finances utterly ruinous. Several reports by government agencies point out the ministry's failures in crucial areas such as the renewal of tracks, modernization of other assets and improvement of safety-related systems. The ministry has done little over the past few years to fill up nearly 100,000 vacancies, the majority of which are said to be in safety-related work. It is not that the ministry lacks funds to initiate the necessary reforms. Between 2003 and 2007, it spent Rs 17,000 crore on improving safety measures. But the spate of accidents and the deaths show how inadequate and inefficient the efforts have been. Since Ms Banerjee's departure as railways minister, the ministry has had no cabinet minister. Tuesday's reshuffle of the Union cabinet makes her party colleague, Dinesh Trivedi, the new railways minister. What the ministry needs, though, is a new approach that will make train travel less insecure and its administration a little less inefficient.






With the birth of South Sudan as the world's newest nation, the peace process, shepherded by the international community between the northern and southern halves of Sudan, has reached its logical conclusion. Although an overwhelming mandate for Sudan's bifurcation in the referendum held in January this year had established South Sudan as an irrefutable political reality, the violence that preceded the formal separation and continues despite it has cast a shadow over the momentous event. The bloodshed has also highlighted the terrible odds against which South Sudan has to fight to carry on with its task of nation-building. One of the most onerous among these is to demilitarize and demobilize the armed guerrillas who fought for the nation's independence and now fight among themselves, albeit with what South Sudan believes to be encouragement from its big brother in the north. There are supposed to be six internal rebellions raging in South Sudan. Given the fact that the borders are still fluid, particularly along disputed territories such as the oil-rich Abyei, the chances are that the violence might escalate. That is bound to add to South Sudan's existing problems — take first its dependence on the north for the infrastructure that will keep aloft its oil export-driven economy. North Sudan, which has relented with regard to the separation, knows about this chink in South Sudan's armour and is hellbent on wresting the best deal it can get in the renewed round of negotiations with its southern neighbour on revenue-sharing and the settlement of transit fees. Add to this South Sudan's ethnic tangle, backwardness, poverty — all of which have been aggravated by decades of warfare — and it should be obvious why South Sudan's birth is being greeted with as much joy as dread in Africa, which has seen a similar experiment go haywire in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is obvious that much will depend on the political acumen of Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of South Sudan, who has attracted much adulation the world over for leading his country through a difficult transition. Certain factors are beyond his control though, particularly the lust of foreign powers to make the most of this troubled situation. Unfortunately, South Sudan's birth defects are likely to make it dependent on outside support for a long time to come. It can only hope that its well-wishers do not turn gold-diggers.





The land problem in Singur was a turning point in the political fortunes of both the Left Front and the Trinamul Congress. The story is far from complete, and the legal twists and turns between Mamata Banerjee and the house of Tata could unfold in surprising ways. The issue of adequate compensation for farmers, who had to part with their land, is still an open question to which many well known economists of the country are trying to come up with acceptable answers. There are important related issues too, such as compulsory versus voluntary transfers of land, the definition of what constitutes 'public purpose' to justify acquisition, and the precise role of the government, on which debate continues. The Singur case has been recognized as one which is representative of many other instances of land acquisition for economic development, and the significance of finding a 'just' price of land. The debate is certainly worth the attention it has received in the media because of its significance for determining future directions of development of both agriculture and industry. In this debate, however, a couple of issues seem to have been pushed aside by the emphasis on finding a purely economic solution to the rather thorny problem.

The first aspect of the problem is the difficulty of finding the 'equilibrium' market price of land at which voluntary transactions can take place where both the buyer and the seller benefit, and, as economists put it, all mutually advantageous trade is exhausted. Land, because of its intrinsic nature of being naturally given and fixed in quantity, attracts rent. Hence, as every economist knows, prices based on the current incomes from land are inadequate. How much of the potential rent can be extracted by the buyer and the seller is a matter of bargaining. In large transactions, such as the one in Singur, it becomes a matter of political bargaining. When economists talk of an acceptable solution, they obviously mean that there is no unique solution. A complete failure of bargaining to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution is also a distinct possibility. Therefore, a theoretical solution may or may not be feasible on the ground. Political strengths of the bargaining parties determine outcomes. The historical context becomes critically important. Even the word 'bargaining' sounds softer on paper than on the ground. The use of coercive force, where land transactions are concerned, is extremely common — it can be observed everywhere starting from the big land mafias, the ruthless promoters and their middlemen working for a fee, to the small landlord evicting an even smaller tenant.

This brings me to the second aspect of the land problem. The land problem in India relates to finding an answer to the question: how best to acquire large tracts of land for development? Here, development is almost axiomatically understood as industrialization and its supportive physical infrastructure of roads and power plants and ports. Indeed, elementary textbooks on economic development use the words modernization, industrialization and urbanization interchangeably, as they do with the words traditional, agricultural and rural. Even Karl Marx once referred to all development as the progressive urbanization of the countryside. If it is all about development, then the land problem clearly is much more than finding the just price of land or even an acceptable solution on paper. It is about the creative destruction of natural spaces and geographies for the promotion of modern economic growth.

Modern economic growth as understood by the process of industrialization is quite recent, relative to the time frame of humans in the world, or even the period where humans discovered agriculture. Modern economic growth is only about 250 years old, in all shapes and speeds, from the great transformation in Western Europe to the socialist interregnum in the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to the story of Mao's and post-Mao China, to the variety of post colonial experiences in Asia, Africa and America.

Whatever may have been the actual stories of the advent of industry-led economic growth in different parts of the world, a common feature has been the dispossession of land and livelihoods of some people, sometimes many people, almost invariably with some connection to land and agricultural livelihoods. Indeed, as many economists have observed, the key role of agriculture has been to provide resources easily and cheaply for industrialization to proceed with minimum interruptions. Agriculture has provided land and its produce (food and raw materials) and released labour from productive activity. In return, agriculture is supposed to gain access to industrial inputs that enhance productivity like tractors and fertilizers, and other industrial consumer goods. This relation between the two sectors is not as obvious and smooth as it might appear. The mechanism of this transfer of resources has been either through the aegis of State control or through extremely imperfect markets. At the initial stages of industrialization a critical mass of resources (primitive accumulation as it is sometimes called) have to be transferred from the rural, agricultural, non-modern sector. This has invariably been a troubled process fraught with instances of violence, cruelty and injustice, and always with the tacit support of the modern State.

The historically famous enclosure movement in England, the rise of the Zaibatsu and the Meiji reforms in Japan, the dispossession of the American Indians and the large-scale violence of Stalin's collectivization programme are all stories of violence of varying degrees — where the peasantry or other indigenous people have had to bear heavy costs. The American story is particularly telling, since the continent is known to have always had abundant land compared to the number of people who inhabited it. I remember once seeing a poster on display in a shop on an American Indian reservation some years ago which claimed quite starkly: "They made many promises but kept only one; they promised to take our land, and they took it."

It was in the erstwhile Soviet Union, perhaps for the first time in history, that a conscious debate took place in the 1920s about the role of agriculture in modern industrialization. One view was to allow the farmers to enrich themselves, which in turn would create the demand for industrial goods, and the tempo of industrialization could be stepped up. The other view was to put industry in command and ensure that all resources from the agriculture sector would be made available as easily and cheaply as possible. The first view never got off the ground, and Stalin's version of the second view had disastrous long-term consequences, in terms of human costs as well as the productivity of land. Even much later, in the decades of the 1960s and the 1970s, mainstream development economists debated the complex theory of the State-led urban bias in rural planning for growth and transformation of the agricultural sector in backward economies.

The economies which came late into the race for modern economic growth, a country like India for instance, had dreams of a fast and decisive transformation, led by planned industrial growth. Industrialization was not as rapid as was envisaged and the planning strategies went awry in terms of poverty reduction and employment generation. The narratives of the dispossessed, during that phase of planned industrialization are gradually coming into the open. Agriculture did develop to some extent, but with stark inequalities and widespread economic deprivation. However, a new emerging group of landowning farmers did turn rich, and they did not want to be left out from being able to consume modern industrial goods and services. A significant component of the urge to industrialize came from this source. This was part of the second push for industrial growth after the opening up of the economy since 1991.

The push to industrialize in West Bengal came from the necessity of increasing income and employment opportunities after the growth of the agricultural sector began to stagnate in the state. After years of effectively denying the necessity of modern industry as a submission to capitalism, the Left Front woke up late to the lure of global capital, and, more importantly, lost the political bargaining game in the process of acquiring land for the big push towards industrialization. The rest is recent history.

The new government in West Bengal now has the daunting task of stepping up industrial growth to improve the state's domestic product, but with a commitment to avoid the human costs. It has admitted the need for industrialization as an instrument for increasing the welfare of the people. The ideology of modern industrialization, in this sense, is shared by both the Left Front and the new coalition in power. The story of modernization, industrialization and urbanization, however, is about growth with violence and dispossessions. It can come only at increasing costs. And without the blessings of the state, no industry can grow and survive. Any government that believes costs are likely to be negligible could be sadly mistaken.

Singur, then, is not merely a question of land and its right price; it is an issue of changing spaces and geographies of land and the people who live on it. It was not the first instance of developmental violence, nor by any stretch of imagination, is it going to be the last. The only good that may yet come out of the experience is that it might provoke some thinking beyond the text-books of the past century on what development should really be all about, and the instrumentalities of attaining that goal.

The author is professor of economics, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta






India's hopes of participating in football in the Olympic Games were dashed when it lost on aggregate against Qatar. There is nothing surprising about this as Qatar was the more fancied side and nobody had expected India to win. The worry lies elsewhere. What will be the state of football in the days to come in this country? Indian football was restricted to just four states for long: Punjab, Goa, Bengal and Kerala. Now, with JCT Phagwara deciding to disband its football team and the game languishing in Kerala, it is left to Goa and Bengal to carry on the show. However, there is every reason to be worried about the future of football in Bengal.

First, there is the question of finances. Sport, today, is an expensive business and players and clubs cannot survive without sponsors. West Bengal's economy does not allow for such sponsorship; there are no big industrial houses to start with. The Big Two of Calcutta football, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, share a common sponsor — the liquor baron, Vijay Mallya, from distant Bangalore. This gentleman is involved in the Indian Premier League in a big way. His interest in football, particularly Calcutta football, will wane if the two teams continue to fail to deliver the goods in the I-League. Where will the funds come from then?

Without funds, there will be no foreign players who rule the roost at present. Nothing wrong about this as football clubs the world over look to hire foreign players. When the teams — big or small — play, it is these players that their supporters bank upon. This, of course, implies that the local boys have been mostly playing a supporting role. Where have the Goswamis, the Banerjees, the Senguptas or the Deys gone? The situation may change for the better in this aspect but the question about funds will remain.

Big problems

The lack of concern on the part of the authorities for junior footballers has added to the problem. These players should be looked at as talent pools to replenish Calcutta football. Common sense suggests that they be treated with care. They have to play on grounds that are not fit for any game. Heavy monsoon showers turn these into vast sheets of water, and the players are forced to play a game that resembles water polo and not football. When the water recedes, it leaves the ground so heavy that no meaningful football is possible. At other times, the grounds are mere dust bowls with only a few patches of green. Such are the conditions that junior footballers are expected to contend with.

Improving ground conditions or providing proper medical facilities in cases of injury — common in a body contact game such as football — is clearly too big an ask for those in charge of the game. But what they surely can do is change the local football calendar to avoid the fury of the monsoon. This will at least ensure that there are no abandoned ties that put added pressure on the purses of the small clubs. The players will be able to play in agreeable weather conditions. In Britain, for instance, football, cricket and other games are played in summer and not in the biting cold.

There are other issues as well. The smaller clubs do not own tents on the Maidan. Consequently, the boys have problems while changing. This, despite the fact that tents are held on to by those who had been big names in the hoary past and have practically no interest in the game at present. Many such problems plague Bengal football at the lower levels that are supposed to feed the state and national side with players. These issues need to be dealt with. Otherwise football in Bengal will go the Punjab way. A time may come when talking about football in Bengal will be akin to talking about history.






If something can compare with the arrest of Aziz Yıldırım, the chairman of Fenerbahçe, Turkey's most popular football club, it could be the arrest of Gen. Bilgin Balanlı, the commander of the Military Academies, in late May.

It would be correct to say at least because the chairman of Fenerbahçe has been considered as more influential and prestigious than some military commanders or even Cabinet ministers up until recently. In his famous book "The Republic of Fenerbahçe," seasoned journalist Yalçın Doğan gives many examples about the depth of power the club has had in politics and the economy. One example was that in order not to let rival Galatasaray transfer up-and-coming scorer Cemil Turan, potent Air Force Commander Muhsin Batur used – or abused - a fighter jet to transport – or kidnap – the athlete.

That was in the mid 1970s and Batur, besides being a sworn fan of Fenerbahçe, was one of the leaders of the 1971 military coup.

And Turan is in jail today as a Fenerbahçe official together with his chairman. They are accused of being part of the biggest match-fixing probe ever carried out in Turkey, involving the 2010-2011 season in which Fenerbahçe won the championship after a neck-and-neck finish with its Black Sea competitor Trabzonspor.

The chair of Trabzonspor, Sadi Şener, is also in jail, but as the head of Fenerbahçe is arrested, it's not big news for Turkish football fans anymore whether the rest of the heads of the clubs were arrested, too. That's why nobody showed much interest yesterday when the coach of another untouchable institution, Beşiktaş's football club Tayfur Havutçu was taken into custody.

Yıldırım was a part of a group of untouchables not only because of Fenerbahçe; he belonged to a family whose companies and sister companies used to get the construction contracts of almost each and every NATO infrastructure project in Turkey for decades from the Cold War years on. That was brought to an end only in early 2000, when the government got rid of the circle only by abolishing the NATO infrastructure department of the Defense Ministry.

Some of those companies now have lucrative construction contracts with the current Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti, government, and to nobody's surprise they all have chairs on Fenerbahçe's executive board. Nihat Özdemir, the acting chairman – in absence of Yıldırım – is one of the examples.

To the surprise of many, the operation took place right after an election in which another Fenerbahçe fan; Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan increased his vote support to 50 percent. Adding to that surprise another embezzlement case in other field connecting charity organizations and pro-government media, Erdoğan's one time protégé Zahid Akman, the former head of the Radio and Television Supervision Board, or RTÜK, was arrested as well.

It started with retired officers scaled up to on-duty generals, prosecutors, politicians and now football clubs.

It is good to know that the state of law doesn't discriminate whether a certain person or institution is considered untouchable. Now it's time to correct how those operations are carried out by protecting the basic civil rights of the accused and detained as well.







It is difficult in a country with a strong tradition of summary sentencing to talk about the sanctity of the right to justice. Over the years, most of us have grown accustomed to a rather freakish situation. Was it much different in the past? Probably not, but perhaps it was not staged on such a huge scale as to make us feel that this awesome situation might eventually reach us. Or perhaps we had a different perception of justice…

Indeed, among other examples, I might list the slow judicial process, justice bought (I will not say "bribery in courts" as using such an expression might still be very costly), a politically influenced judiciary, military tutelage, and judges who protect the state and the regime as though they are the members of a paramilitary force among the perennial problems in this country.

There is a popular joke about a competition between the police organizations of two faraway countries. A monkey is released into the wild and police teams are assigned to catch it and bring it back. One group returns with a badly beaten gorilla that confesses to being a chimpanzee. The other team was more creative: it catches an elephant who, too, swears it is a monkey.

If this joke were staged in Turkey today, there would probably be a divided media response, with some praising in bold headlines the great successes of the two police teams in capturing the criminals, and others shyly trying to report that, perhaps, there was confusion and that the animals' identities were unknown.

Is it not interesting? Before a legal case is launched; before evidence is collected; indeed, before an indictment is written by a prosecutor and accepted by a court, allegations, counter-allegations, and, indeed, a "verdict" or "fatwa" concocted by some officious personalities are splashed on the front pages of the papers and on primetime news programs.

Worse, officious informants within the police and justice network may supply serious details of the judicial probe to media outlets.

Thus, before a case is handled by a court and people are given the chance of defending themselves, with supposedly correct evidence and supposedly correct charges, people are tried on the front pages and primetime news programs and sentenced.

Yes, late justice is injustice but this is summary sentencing. Even in the process of late justice, the accused must be given the chance of defending him or herself.

Now, many people may think I wrote this in response to the Ergenekon or Sledgehammer thrillers during which many people have been thrown behind bars and forgotten there, some for more than three years, while the screens and front pages of the pro-government media long ago determined their fates.

But, unfortunately, I am writing this in connection to the detentions or arrests of many leading executives of sports clubs and footballers under the "bribery network" or "clean cleats" judicial probe.

Everyone will need justice one day, and the right to defense is sacred.







It's very interesting to see that the two-week long oath-taking crisis of the main opposition party has ended just a day before Stefan Fule, the European Union's commissioner responsible for enlargement, visits Turkey. To give credit where credit is due, the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, strongly took a role in overcoming the deadlock after it agreed to announce a press statement Monday. As for the Republican People's Party, or CHP, it narrowly escaped from being called a crisis-maker, something the new administration was trying to break since it came to power.

Thus, Ankara saved itself from hosting Fule in the midst of a deep political crisis. It embraced a strong willingness to catch up to the EU agenda, and the country's two strongest parties have declared their desire for a new charter broadening freedoms – something that has of course been in line with Brussels' expectations all along.

However, one should not forget that the 35 deputies who have yet to take the oath and participate in the legislative works at Parliament are still casting a shadow over the representativeness of the current Parliament. That would not be a far-fetched idea to expect the same move from the government in approaching the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, in a move to find a formula to let them take their oaths. Leaving aside the domestic political consequences of allowing the problem to become frozen, this will surely set an agenda in talks with Brussels.

Turning a blind eye to the pro-Kurdish party deputies' problems also contradicts Turkey's foreign policy approach toward the Arab world, as the country has called upon governments in the region to listen to their people's demands. Isolating Kurds in the country – alienating them from the political sphere – will bring nothing but more chaos, as the past has proven.

For many, this is the right time, the right time for many things: a new constitution, speeding up EU talks and pondering creative formulas to settle the Cyprus problem. The new government's program also supports this expectation. Indications show that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will once again sit at the table with the Europeans on what both sides could do to get Turkey closer to Brussels.

The government program has named full accession to the EU as one of its major priorities and has linked the proposed new constitution and other planned reforms to it. It is noteworthy to recall Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's inspiring statements on a possible solution in Cyprus next year, making it crystal clear that Erdoğan's third term in government will not neglect EU relations. This campaign will also look to work on Erdoğan's poor image in Western capitals as growing concerns about freedom of the press and other freedoms have especially done damage to the prime minister's standing there. As a leader who has won three consecutive elections, Erdoğan will obviously put another landmark success story into his CV by either solving the Cyprus problem or bringing Turkey into the EU.

But to do so, his government should look for genuine methods to eliminate obstacles to the improvements of Turkish democracy. With a concept taken from information technology, it's high time to reboot Turkish democracy if it no longer wants to be called a country of never-ending crises.






A quick search on Google would give you 162 million results if you typed "Turkey" and "EU." Sadly, a more intellectually refined search based on the ultimate criteria that is full membership will produce no result.

While the Turks bitterly wish all the best to their starting-point-mates, the Croats, in their full membership venture by July 2013, they hardly remember their own cheers and joy over the start of accession talks in October 2005. Six years later, it is almost clear that there is no mention of the Crescent and Star in the EU's budget till 2020.

Since the start of membership negotiations, we journalists must have filled up tens of thousands of pages of columns, articles, speeches and exchanges with friends as to whether or how soon Turkey could join the club. There must have been hundreds of different, sometimes clashing opinions and predictions proudly appearing in various annals of public domain. As always, time is the best referee. These are excerpts from an article published in this column at a time when all newspaper headlines heralded that "We are in the EU!" (A partial eclipse of the sun (or is it the Crescent?), Turkish Daily News, Oct. 5, 2005): "On Oct. 3 (2005), millions of people living in Europe (and Africa) watched as the moon passed across the face of the sun causing an annual eclipse. Only a partial eclipse could be viewed from Turkey. Was it coincidence, or simply fate?

"On Oct. 3, Turkey and the EU once again put off their deep-rooted problems – till the next act of the never-ending opera buffa (comic opera). Judging from the theater drama on stage, it's hard to judge if the Turks are becoming Europeans, or the Europeans becoming Turks.

"Although parts of Turkey now cheer for 'our dreams have come true,' the bitter truth may be a little bit different from fanfare… No doubt; there is progress, at least in 'status.' So, when things go from worse to worst, it will be 'back to square two,' instead of 'back to square one.'"

It's time to be realistic. What, really, may come out of a coupling, if everyone's talking of a divorce during the engagement ceremony? "If the dispute over ports is by some miracle resolved (if, for example the EU said granting access to the Cypriot fleet does not mean recognition; or if sanctions on Turkish Cypriots too are simultaneously removed) then other problematic areas will surface in 2007 or in 2008. That's a too bad start. "When over 50 percent of the Europeans oppose an eventual Turkish membership, the bitter truth is that 'otherness' still divides Turkey and the Old Continent… Every new day that adds to the 'otherness' will further prune the Turks' EU appetite, especially when Europeans play too much with 'explosive issues…' "The wise thing for Turkey to do is to keep up its democratic reforms as if it will join the club one day, but always to calculate the possibility that it may not, or when it joins it would join an entirely different club than what it sees today. "What, in these circumstances, must Turkey do? Seek a bizarre alliance northward or eastward? Forget the EU entirely? Align itself with an increasingly anti-European United States? These do not look entirely feasible or like pleasant options. "Turkey should stay on track – but without giving up its security deliberations and with a good calculation in mind for a contingency plan. Turkey needs to democratize for its own sake. Turkey needs to reform itself for its own sake too. With or without the EU."





When the Arab Spring began earlier this year, first in Tunisia and then in Egypt, many in the West were supportive. It was people power, after all, rallying against longtime dictators, asking for the very democracy the West so cherishes. But other Westerners saw risk amid this historic moment: What if the initially democratic Arab Spring acted as midwife to a series of Islamist dictatorships?

The deposed dictators of Tunisia and Egypt were unmistakably authoritarian, but they were also secular while their opponents included religiously motivated parties like the Muslim Brotherhood. What if these Islamists took advantage of democracy to establish their own dictatorships? What if these "bad guys," as U.S. politician Donald Rumsfeld reportedly put it in a recent meeting in Washington, emerged triumphant instead of the "good guys"?

I am very familiar with this "democracy-is-dangerous-for-Muslims" argument, for it has been used in Turkey for decades. The Kemalists, who used to enjoy excessive and undemocratic power, staked the imagined legitimacy of their authoritarianism on their secularism. In other words, a bit like the medieval "divine rights of kings," we were subjected to the undivine rights of Kemalists, deriving from their supposed access to "science and reason."

The people who buy this argument often make two important presumptions. The first one is that secular people and their parties, by definition, must be more liberal. But there is hardly any empirical evidence to support this. (Just look at Turkey and see how the Kemalists have behaved with regards to free speech or minority rights.)

The second, and perhaps more definitive, presumption is that a political view inspired by religion, and particularly Islam, must be authoritarian. There are, of course, examples to support that view, but there are examples to the contrary as well. One of the latter came recently from none other than Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar in Cairo, one of the top centers of Islamic learning in the world. In a news conference that made its way to global headlines, the grand imam called for "the establishment of a modern, democratic, constitutional state" in Egypt, based upon the separation of powers and guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens. He also urged "the protection of places of worship for the followers of the three monotheistic religions" and considered "incitement of confessional discord and racist speech as crimes against the nation." In the same declaration, Imam al-Tayyeb also said that the principles of shariah, or Islamic law, should remain "the essential source of legislation," while Christians and Jews should have their own tribunals. (One might recall the "millet system" of the Ottoman Empire, in which various religious communities were subject to their own laws.) I am sure that the advocacy of Islamic law here will ring many alarm bells. But it should be noted that Islamic law is already a part of legislation in Egypt. There is no harm in deriving laws from a tradition (whether it be Islamic, Roman or "Common"), as long as the tradition is reformed to encompass modern human rights standards. So, al-Azhar will perhaps need to revisit some problematic aspect of classical Islamic law – such as the bans on apostasy or blasphemy – if Egypt is to truly become a "modern, democratic, constitutional state" with the shariah as its "essential source of legislation." Such a synthesis between democracy and Islam is not only possible, it is also the most promising path for the future of the Muslim world. To see why, the Westerners and the Muslim secularists who are obsessed with keeping the Islamic pious out of the game should understand that this very exclusion has led to more radical forms of political Islam. They need to realize that they have helped to create that which they fear.





The most striking aspect of the 61st government's program being debated in Parliament (even if it is not so much of a surprise to many observers) is the strong emphasis it has given to the goal of full membership in the European Union.

The full membership pledge has been placed as a main strategic goal right after the general introductory section where election results are being evaluated.

Do all roads lead to the EU?

Interestingly, all other topics in the government's program are listed after the EU goal that has been mentioned at the beginning. For example, such topics as the new constitution, advanced democracy, justice, security and the economy follow the EU goal. This situation makes the EU an "upper goal," guiding and overriding all other topics.

 Full membership in the EU, after the master role it plays in the beginning, emerges again toward the end at the foreign policy section and occupies the first place again there also after the main vision is drawn. The section on the Middle East comes after the relations with the EU, the United States and the Cyprus issue.

 When reviewed all together, this situation, against all odds, reflects a strong declaration of intent toward the non-severance of the affiliation with the West, and the EU as the primary preference and continuation of the reforms in this direction.

 Indeed, many observers may find it hard to believe the area such a pledge occupies and the weight it has gained in the government's program at a period when negotiations with the EU have virtually stopped, thus evaluating this as an entirely tactical outburst.

Message to the region: Democracy first

Without any doubt, the bases of these criticisms cannot be underestimated. But, again, it is important politically that the government has made a pledge both before the outside world and before Turkish society in this regard despite the odds. Acting contrary to this from now on will create a serious credibility problem.

Also, with this preference, the government is opening itself to the EU's teachings, as well as committing itself to act and not be deaf to the strong criticisms recently coming from Brussels, especially on topics such as freedom of the press and detention periods.

 Another side of the government program that needs to be strongly highlighted is the expectation that "the region achieve a more democratic, transparent and effective governance" and the principle that "administrations base their legitimacy on the people."

Thus, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has adopted the most progressive attitude recorded up to now toward the change process in the Middle East. The government, in the future of the region, has very clearly chosen the side of the peoples of the region who demand change, not for the existing kingdoms and oppressive regimes. This is a principled stance becoming of Turkey.

 The program mentions "dynamic foreign policy management that balances idealist values and rational necessities." Despite that, one can say that the idealism aspect is still one step ahead of real politics in the program.

 Without any doubt, it is important homework for a government who demands such a strong democracy for the region to adopt a new viewpoint for the serious inconveniences in the context of democracy and law within its own borders. This is also a necessity of being principled.

Continuation with the Kurdish initiative

Another significant commitment apart from the foreign policy goals is the prioritization of the "new constitution" in the next term in the political field.

 There have been pledges to write the new constitution with the "widest participation possible" and "consensus." In other words, a promise has been made that the fait accompli mentality that was adopted in past constitutional amendments will be abandoned. We will wait and see.

 The government, by naming it the "Kurdish issue," also pledges that the initiative on this subject will continue but does not elaborate on its coordinates. It seems as if this topic will be largely included within the writing of the new constitution.

 Likewise, the Alevi initiative that was launched with a series of workshops in the past term, is briefly referred to with an implicit expression as it is grouped in with other issues.

We should interpret the statement, "The search for multidimensional and permanent solutions on such subjects as language, religion, sectarian [affiliation] and ethnic origin," as a sign that the Alevi initiative will continue.






Last year I met with a Russian official at the international conference in Moscow. During our long and controversial discussion on the problem of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict settlement, he argued that any attempt by Armenian leadership to try to change the status quo in a positive sense will result in the similar developments that previously took place in 1997, when former President Levon Ter-Petrosian was forced to resign and/or in 1999 when several local top officials were shot dead by terrorists in the national parliament.

I was not surprised to hear such a convincing opinion from a Russian colleague just as well as I was not surprised to learn news about a new failure of the opposing parties to reach a breakthrough in the peace talks recently held in Kazan. In reality, the external factor has always taken a special place in the conflict settlement process. Many agree that there are outside strategic concerns behind the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis. Clearly, an influential group of principal powers (in which Russia, the U.S. and the EU dominate) play the key role in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, when it comes to the issue of conflict resolution. In recent years Russia has taken a proactive stance in the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process, thus trying to convince the West that the Kremlin has quite a big potential to impose a diplomatic solution on the parties or at least to be a credible mediator.

Indeed Moscow has succeeded in strengthening ties with both Yerevan and Baku, with the West progressively losing ground to increasing Russian economic, military and political advancement – military agreement with Armenia and growing energy ties with Azerbaijan. Moscow really tries to create a new balance of relations in the Armenia-Russia-Azerbaijan triangle, and all the latest diplomatic steps by the Kremlin were aimed at maintaining a geopolitical equilibrium in the conflict-torn region. By doing so, Russia has enhanced its positions in the South Caucasus and one of the main resources of Russia's successful foreign policy is more a result of other geopolitical players' failure or at least the systemized weakening of their stances.

In fact, the Obama administration's short-sighted policy has seriously weakened the U.S. strategic objectives in the South Caucasus. The failure of Washington to craft any coherent vision on how the entire region fits into a broader U.S. strategy shows that America's role has increasingly been defined through the prism of Russia. The lack of a meaningful response to challenge the protracted conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh not only highlights the low level of U.S. engagement in this troubled region, but also questions America's inability to be an impartial player in the OSCE Minsk Group. Likewise, the EU lacks a visionary and principled approach in its reactive neighborhood policy toward the conflict resolution. Brussels has practically no role in the conflict settlement and therefore does not have the necessary tools to intervene in the peace process, offering only confidence-building activities. Such a situation strongly limits the EU influence and dramatically hinders Brussels' capacity to formulate policy toward simmering secessionist conflicts. As a result, the lack of a common and integrated strategy will possibly lead, already in the near future, to a withdrawal of the West from the South Caucasus, thereby leaving ground to a more assertive foreign policy of Russia.

In turn Russia is seen as essentially having a monopoly of peacemaking process in Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict settlement, a role which the OSCE has effectively forsaken. By orchestrating the negotiations, the Kremlin seeks to enhance Russia's "sphere of influence building", thus disintegrating Euro-Atlantic security arrangements in the region. The failure of the OSCE and the weakness of the EU do not only demonstrate to be aphasic in front of the regional crisis, but also show their incapacity to build groups of interest in competition with Russian ones.

Meanwhile, Moscow's mediating mission has given rise to the intensive speculation as to whether Russia is presently interested in a definitive solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. More precisely, the question that needs to be answered is: Does Russia want a soonest resolution of the conflict?

It is very unlikely that Russian-led peace talks will effectively bring a solution in the near future. It is rather possible that Moscow will exploit the peace process to regain more economic, military and political power. In order to obtain a progressive shift of the region into its own orbit of influence, Russia has nothing to do but keep the status quo in the South Caucasus. Given these circumstances, Russia is simply interested in maintaining the "managed instability" in the region.

Nevertheless, Russia's role in finding an ultimate solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis is very critical. Without doubt, the Kremlin holds the key to the Armenian-Azerbaijani quandary. Russia does have a golden opportunity for ending this protracted territorial conflict and helping reconcile the two nations. However, Moscow seems to await a suitable period of time: when a new, beneficial geopolitical situation that fits fully well into Russian strategic interests is finally formed in the post-Soviet Southern Tier.

Until this happens, the game goes on and its final part is still ahead. The Western democracies are surely not powerless to foster a change of Russian behavior in Europe's backyard. The US and the EU must understand that they can lose all influence in this strategically important area. Moreover, the Western players will risk losing a major geopolitical game if they continue to pursue a "Russia first" policy and calmly watch how Russian economic, military and political influence looms in the shadow of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

*Dr. Elkhan Nuriyev is Alexander von Humboldt Research Professor of Political Science (Germany) and the author of "The South Caucasus at the Crossroads". (LIT, Berlin)








Moshe Katsav's sex crimes case wended its way through four stations on the law enforcement highway: the police, the prosecution, the attorney general and the courts. It began with the then-president complaining of an attempt to extort him, continued with a police investigation that turned the complainant into a suspect and recommended indicting him, then moved on to the prosecution's deliberations over the strength of the evidence.

Next, then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz agreed to a very generous plea bargain under which Katsav would confess to relatively minor offenses and be spared any jail time. From there, the case went to the Supreme Court, which examined the plea bargain and in the process offered a glimpse into the details of the case as a whole.

But Katsav backed out of the plea bargain, forcing the prosecution to submit an amended and far more serious indictment. His trial ended in conviction and a seven-year prison sentence. But his request to defer his sentence until after the Supreme Court had finished hearing his appeal was accepted by Justice Yoram Danziger, whose reasoning indicated that he saw a real chance of the Supreme Court overturning the district court's verdict, acquitting Katsav and sparing him the threat of jail.

In an effort to make this happen, the Katsav family hired private investigators who, using various cover stories, tried to pump key figures in the case, including witnesses and complainants. Whether the goal was legal, whether the means employed were criminal, and whether responsibility rests with those who commissioned the private investigation or those who carried it out are all questions now being investigated by the police. The findings will be passed on to the prosecution and may result in additional indictments.

For Katsav personally, the question of whether he was involved in the private investigation is critical. But even if it turns out that only his agents, and not the former president himself, were involved in accosting the witnesses, the law enforcement agencies must deal severely with this plague, which surfaced in previous cases involving public figures accused of sex crimes.

It is difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to persuade a woman who was sexually assaulted to file a complaint against a high-ranking official. This is not just a case of "his word versus hers"; the defense will try to smear both her testimony and her personally. Thus both to deter criminals and to encourage victims, it is necessary to severely punish those who harass witnesses and obstruct justice.









Benjamin Netanyahu was right when he spoke about the dangers of a messianic, nuclearized Iran, and the difficulty of creating a stable balance of terror with it. That is precisely why the prime minister's actions are so shocking. In our terms, they constitute a serious dereliction of duty. In the terms of the circles he is so fond of whipping up in a demonstration, they constitute treason.

In the face of a nuclearizing Iran, in addition to international sanctions and covert actions, Israel has three main options: a military assault, which is looking increasingly irresponsible; a switch from insufficiently deterrent nuclear ambiguity to a policy of open nuclear deterrence; and reliance on NATO's umbrella of defense.

All three options share a single key: a close alliance with the West. Without it, the thought of a military operation, and especially a day-after scenario, are not even a hallucination. Without it, there can be no move to effective open deterrence. Without it, there is no huddling under NATO's nuclear defense umbrella.

This was one of the main causes that led Yitzhak Rabin to choose to move toward a strategic, stabilizing peace before Iran acquired nuclear capabilities. It should have been one of the reasons that would bring Israel now to the unequivocal recognition - as a matter of principle - of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines. Not a miserly formula for purposeless negotiations, but rather genuine generosity, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.

This is not a simple deal, Itamar in exchange for Bushehr. But were it not for the 1956 withdrawal from Sinai, there would be no Dimona; if not for the peace with Egypt, there would have been no attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor. An alliance with the West requires proof of intentions and of values. But Netanyahu consciously chooses to go in the opposite direction, thus revealing the depth of his unbridled extremism.

Under normal circumstances, the military establishment is to the right of the political establishment. That is its nature. Only in rare cases is the situation reversed, as in the waning days of the Second Temple Era, and in fascist regimes. In all these cases, the end is similar. Israel is now joining these anomalies. Not only is Netanyahu not building an alliance with the world's democracies, he is creating a fascist, messianic Iran here. Churchill, whom he claims to admire, distanced himself from Britain's racist Naziphiles. Here, things are approaching the threshold of non-distancing. Netanyahu's coalition is vigorously legislating "red heifer laws," that purify the impure and pollute the pure. Laws that invert the legal and the criminal.

It is no longer just the government of Rabbi Dov Lior. Now it is simply the "dov" regime - the Hebrew acronym for the suppression of traitors. Dov was the name of an extreme right-wing group that got its start among groups of university students in Jerusalem. Dov Shilansky often lectured them about the Altalena. These groups would later give rise to Avigdor Lieberman. The organization's name is an acronym for its philosophy: dikui bogdanim ["suppression of traitors" in Hebrew].

Now violence is being privatized. In typical Netanyahu fashion, individuals on the radical right are given the push, the encouragement and the authority to take the "Operation Price Tag" route, with much more than winking approval. The days that preceded Rabin's assassination as a "traitor" are returning. Rabbi Dov Lior, who by dint of receiving tens of thousands a shekels a month and controlling an Israel Defense Forces hesder yeshiva is a direct extension of the Israeli government, is not alone. The method of delegating revenge against traitors to private hands, after incitement by the leader, is growing stronger and more focused.

Menachem Livni, the head of the "Jewish underground" terror organization, who when he was convicted of multiple murders testified that he had acted on behalf of Lior, now has a vineyard and a winery. Now, anyone who does not want to directly fund Livni is a potential target for "price tag" actions from him, and without being subject to the restrictions of the criminal code and the attorney general. Now, in addition to the weapons entrusted to him by the IDF, Netanyahu is giving Livni and the Yitzhar thugs the weapons of civil prosecution, with no need for proof of damages.

Those who are against the occupation and who refuse to cooperate with the criminality of the settlements will now have to pay huge sums for their unwillingness to cooperate - in addition to paying their taxes, which fund the illegal settlement enterprise. Navot must pay for being put to death by Ahab.

Our own Captain Ahab is leading the boat and the whales to disaster. Removing him from power is becoming a top global priority.







Without fanfare, a labor court issued an order this week referring the dispute between Haifa Chemicals' management and its striking workers to mediation. It's hard to believe that management, which just two months ago said that nothing of the sort would happen, would have sought mediation if it weren't for the upcoming hearing on a NIS 3 million damage claim that the employees filed against the company. One can understand management's apprehension over mediation both then and now.

The strike is perhaps the most symbolic of all the strikes of the past few years, not only because it's one of the longest industrial strikes (so far 72 days ) since the last strike at Haifa Chemicals, which lasted six months. It is symbolic, however, because it has the potential to decide the most important principle relating to organized labor, human dignity and the privatization of the workforce.

It is not by chance that this strike is off the media's radar. Everyone involved other than the workers want to hush things up. Its organizers, particularly longtime workers subject to a collective labor agreement, are paying a heavy price for their insistence on fighting for what is being portrayed publicly as a lost cause. For its part, the Histadrut labor federation, which in 1996 abandoned the workers and entered into an agreement with the employers behind their backs, fell into line with industry.

The workers took the tough and courageous decision to turn to another trade union, Koach La Ovdim, known in English as the Democratic Workers' Organization, to represent them. From then on they were labeled as violent rejectionists, even though all they've been doing is exercising their fundamental right to strike after a deadlock in negotiations.

It's not just the fact that 250 employees would dare leave the Histadrut that sows fear in the stewards of the economy. It's mainly that they are demanding that the unfortunate labor-relations model that took shape after the failed strike in 1996 be scrapped. That model was designed to "tranquilize" a relatively small group of veteran workers by leaving the collective agreement with them in place while forging inferior agreements with all the other workers and dividing them into several groups.

The first group, which is about to disappear in any event because its members are approaching retirement, is called the Generation A group. Then comes the Generation B group, whose employment terms are far worse. (These shift workers, the ones most subject to burnout and risk, earn half of what their counterparts in the first group take home. ) Next come the workers with individual wage contracts, and finally, at the very bottom, are outsourced manpower-agency workers. This model has become highly popular in industry and other workplaces.

The system in industry is simple - basically dividing plants and production facilities into various locations and subsidiaries, thereby obliterating the concept of "the workplace" and dispersing management's responsibility. As part of the sweeping privatization of labor in Israel, which has been euphemistically called the injection of flexibility into the labor market, only about 20 percent of the workforce is unionized, compared with about 80 percent in the 1980s. Neoliberal logic, which is at work at every level, from the workplace to the television show "Survivor," has taken root.

Israel is in second place after Japan in the number of hours worked. Every year, people work more, earn less and are able to buy less with their shrinking paychecks. In the face of such pressure, the effect of the strike at Haifa Chemicals takes on added force due to the impressive solidarity shown by the Generation A workers. Though they are the main losers from the strike, they are refusing to repeat the mistake they made in 1996 and are demanding equal work conditions for everyone, along with a commitment on environmental issues.

That's what scares management, the Histadrut, the manufacturers and the government most, because the strikers are not waging a financial battle but rather one of principle over their dignity as workers and human beings. They understand that a democracy that ends at the factory gate, clearing the way for a dictatorship of capital, is not really democracy at all. They also understand that if they are successful, their success will spread throughout industry, and the bond between industry and the Histadrut will be broken. And if they fail, nothing will stand in the way of big business, and the undemocratic process will be complete, turning citizens who purportedly have rights into slaves.







Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the political right argues, has a solid parliamentary majority, so not accepting such a majority's decisions is undemocratic. Right-wing advocates use this argument widely. But of course, this argument harms Israel because it treats its colonialism as if it were part of its political structure.

For the sake of argument, let's put aside the conventional wisdom, which holds that democracy is an arena of constant struggle, also between elections, one that involves lobbying and persuasion, demonstrations and donations - even boycotts. Let's put aside the way this government is shortening its rivals' stride and curtailing its rights. And let's ignore the way the mass-media outlets quickly turn into propaganda instruments the moment the government describes any circumstance as "a crisis."

One can even accept the allegation that on the militant left's margins, the fringe that confronts the police and intones the pathetic chant "p-o-l-i-c-e s-t-a-t-e," as if any of them have ever lived in a police state, there is contempt for democratic institutions. One can even concede that the fascistic signs of Israel's governing culture beget a new left marred by conspicuous signs of "red fascism." That is, this leftist fringe has contempt for the democratic process. Let's look beyond all that - none of this relates to the main point.

The key aspect of claims about democracy by right-wing spokesmen - be they supporters of a negotiation process and peace talks, or activists who unreservedly maneuver to foil the process - is that it rests on a dubious form of democracy, perhaps the lowest imaginable. That form imputes to residents of the occupied territories the results of "our" democratic decisions, decisions they are not privy to at all.

Not only is this "democracy" tainted with racism, not only does it bestow upon its subjects in schools, the army and other dens of learning a completely distorted understanding of the concept of democracy, it also is the cause and explanation of a long list of anti-democratic laws.

Israeli democracy, and all its stable and shaky foundations, is not based on the idea of "the will of the people." Its basis is something else, something murky that, as the long years of the occupation progress, increasingly takes on a religious cast. It can even account for the brazen messianic chutzpah of the settlers and their cohorts. "The will of Israel" does not derive from civilian, minority-majority norms, nor is it based on a constitution that guarantees minority rights and defines when a minority has the option to rise up against the government. Instead, "the will of Israel" derives from an ultra-nationalist version of the Jewish religion. That religion long ago turned into the unofficial constitution that rules our lives. According to this vision, Israeli sovereignty derives from the sacred text.

Israel's left was never able to say that, regarding the occupation, there was no possibility of forging a real opposition without Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. Because such cooperation is needed to bypass the obstacle of this racist, unwritten constitution. In fact, it was left-wing activists who were drawn to the dubious proposal of conducting a referendum on the "future of the territories."

This mentality produced a paternalistic leftist-Zionist approach (which fortunately has eroded ): You, the Palestinians, have to do or say this or that. The Zionist left disappeared because it was unable to fashion forms of solidarity with the subjects of the occupation. The solidarity march in Jerusalem on Friday to support Palestinian independence can mark a historic turn of events. Whatever happens in the future, the struggle against the occupation must be binational and conducted by anyone who rejects its legitimacy.








The main problem with the Boycott Law is that it renders unnecessary any effort to explain what makes a law unsuitable and repugnant. The law's strength is its outrageousness. Anyone who points out that the law is anti-democratic abases him or herself - by venturing such criticism, a person dons the robe of a pontificator who merely says what is self-evident.

The political agenda of those behind the scenes of the bill's passage is utterly transparent, and analyzing it seriously seems almost to be an insult. The familiar faces who supported the bill - Yariv Levin, Danny Danon and others - take the wind out of the sails of any possible discussion. The immediate use applied by MK Michael Ben-Ari of the sanctions allowed under the law shows that there is no point in climbing aboard the opposition wagon.

Not only anti-democratic, the Boycott Bill is also a degrading: It represents an advanced stage of parliamentary hegemony which does now allow a critic to charge himself with the energy needed to wage an opposition struggle. The Boycott Law sends a clear message: there's no longer any point in arguing.

The 18th Knesset will be remembered mainly as a body that rendered superfluous the necessity of arguing. This is because the act of critical argument is founded upon the assumption that there is a point to argument. This assumption about the utility of argument is a staple of democratic governance; it is rooted in traditional liberal theory which holds that opinions and thoughts are subject to change.

This is an axiom upon which the which the wheels of democracy revolve. The citizen in a democracy is essentially a dialectical creature: he understands that any thesis, no matter how well-rooted it seems to be, will at some stage be challenged by an antithesis, one which is no less logical; and the fusion of the two leads to a synthesis which at some point turns into a thesis, which in the future will also beget an antithesis.

Not internalizing the foundations of such a dialectic leads to the annulment of democracy, and the creation of some other form of governance in its stead.

The 18th Knesset will be remembered as the one which nullified the tradition of parliamentary dialectics. This is the Knesset which, in a deliberate, consistent fashion institutionalized faith in one policy path, one political position, one acceptable public viewpoint. It adopted as an overriding goal the need to penalize and harm anyone who casts doubts on the veracity of the one accepted path, who wonders about the rectitude of the one accepted public viewpoint, and who dares to challenge the country's hegemonic perception.

The widely held view that the slew of anti-democratic laws legislated by the 18th Knesset is a slippery slope to Fascism in the future is disingenuous. The Boycott Law is Fascism: it is a categorically anti-democratic law whose goal is to annul any possibility of legitimate protest.

There's no slope to slide down here; we're not talking about symbols, or process. We are instead witnessing purposeful, palpable manifestations of Fascism. This is the reality itself - not something which will happen in the future; and it leaves no crevice for a voice of opposition to make itself heard in what was once called the only democracy in the Middle East.

That is the cause of the deep feeling holding that "there is no point in arguing." One of the most conspicuous signs of Fascism is an assumption laden within any discussion or argument: it is assumed that all debate is a mere formality. Debaters who take positions are nothing other than puppets, devoid of free will; their discussion is a mere showcase, an appealing picture covering an ugly reality.

This Knesset will be remembered as an apparatus that forcibly repealed any prospect of new ideas and possibilities, of freedom of debate crucial to any society that seeks to last for any prolonged period, and not deteriorate in utter stagnation.




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



Political gain, not economic sense or sound policy, has always been at the core of Republican strategy on the debt-ceiling talks — a cynical ploy to appear serious about cutting spending while actually holding hostage the nation's strong credit rating. Now that the real risks to their strategy are becoming apparent, including the possibility of cutting off Social Security checks, the more experienced members of the party are beginning to rethink their plans.

On Tuesday, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, proposed a convoluted fallback solution that would at least defuse the crisis his party created a few weeks ago by threatening to force the country into default on its national debts. The plan is no less cynical than the original threat, but if the House goes along, it may allow Washington, the credit markets and the American people to breathe a little easier.

Mr. McConnell's plan would allow President Obama to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion in three increments through the end of 2012. Congress could vote to disapprove each increment, but the president could veto its resolutions of disapproval, and the debt ceiling would then rise.

The president would have to identify possible spending cuts equal to the debt ceiling increases, but he would get to choose the cuts, and would not have to make them before the two chambers vote. Congress would be unable to force him to make the cuts it wants, except through the regular appropriations process.

The proposal is clearly meant to shift all the blame for raising the debt ceiling onto the president, and away from Republicans. Every Republican in Congress could proudly vote against the debt increases, but the ceiling would still go up, because there are not enough Republicans to override a veto. It's a distinction that makes sense only in the current Washington frame of mind, but it's a trade-off worth making to avoid either a default or radical cuts to discretionary spending and entitlement programs.

Republicans always planned to "blame" Mr. Obama for the debt ceiling increase, even if there was a deal. The House speaker, John Boehner, said Tuesday that the debt ceiling was the president's problem, as if Mr. Obama alone had cut taxes, started wars, expanded Medicare and bailed out Wall Street. Republicans are no less complicit in running up the nation's borrowing; they simply do not want to pay the bills now that they have come due.

Twice in the last few weeks, Republicans have walked away from proposals that would have cut trillions from federal spending, including entitlement programs, because Democrats insisted there could be no widespread cutting without tax revenue increases. Although some conservatives and presidential candidates are already accusing Mr. McConnell of surrendering, he and others in the party's leadership apparently decided that charge would be easier to bear than raising taxes. That's especially true now that the White House is warning that a default could halt Social Security checks.

All Mr. McConnell wants is the ability to yoke the debt increase to Mr. Obama, and his offer gives him two extra chances to do so. He hopes the maneuver will help his party win back the Senate and the White House, which remains a long shot. But at least he is no longer holding the economy hostage to his goals. It is now time for the House to reach a similar conclusion.






The phone hacking scandal in Britain that has already brought down The News of the World and now hangs over at least two other newspapers has exposed a culture of illegal intrusions, systematic bribes to corrupt police officials and thuggish threats of damaging publicity to silence criminal investigators. It is not over yet.

Hard lessons must be drawn. Investigations into criminal behavior must be taken to their conclusions, wherever they lead. Honest journalists — and they abound in England, as elsewhere — should not fear those inquiries.

But there is one course of action the authorities most emphatically must not pursue: the new system of press regulation that Prime Minister David Cameron darkly hinted at last week. Mr. Cameron, whose own judgment has been called into question by the scandal, may pine for a tamer press. But now especially, British public life needs the disinfecting sunlight of a free press, not the chilling shadow of official oversight.

And Mr. Cameron should keep this in mind: the scandal is not about journalism and whether it should be allowed to flourish, it is about intentional lawbreaking — including by public officials. The News of the World episode revealed a widespread practice of illegal hacking of private phones and e-mails. The paper's alleged targets included a teenage girl later found murdered, families of fallen soldiers, police investigators, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth II.

While the story has mainly focused on illegal methods attributed to The News of the World, the latest accusations implicate two other leading newspapers: The Sun, a tabloid, and The Sunday Times, a broadsheet. Both, like The News of the World, are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International. But other British media organizations appear to condone similar practices.

This sordid affair is about more than the press and the police. Andy Coulson, until recently Mr. Cameron's communications adviser, resigned as editor of The News of the World in the wake of a 2007 scandal involving hacking into the voice mail of the royal household.

Last week, Mr. Coulson was arrested on charges of approving phone hacking and payoffs to the police during his editorship. As his arrest demonstrates, phone hacking and bribing police officers are already criminal offenses.

Britain does not need new laws, it just needs to better enforce the ones it already has. In other areas, Britain's press already faces more hurdles than are healthy in a democracy. An Official Secrets Act lets the government decide what news can and cannot be printed. Libel laws heavily weighted toward complainants chill the publication of unflattering facts.

Enacting further government restrictions on news gathering and publication would be a terrible idea — blinding the public in the name of protecting it.





Right now, the official drought map of the United States looks as if it has been set on fire and scorched at the bottom edge. Scorched is how much of the Southeast and Southwest feel, in the midst of a drought that is the most extreme since the 1950s and possibly since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The government has classified much of this drought as D4, which means exceptional. The outlook through late September shows possible improvement in some places, but in most of Texas, Oklahoma, southern Arkansas, and northern Louisiana and Mississippi the drought is expected to worsen.

Dry conditions began last year and have only intensified as temperatures rose above 100 in many areas. Rain gauges have been empty for months, causing a region-wide search for new underground sources of water as streams and lakes dry up. The drought is produced by a pattern of cooling in the Pacific called La Niña. A cooler ocean means less moisture in the atmosphere, which shuts down the storms shuttling east across the region.

Droughts are measured in dollars as well as degrees. The prospects for cattle and wheat, corn and cotton crops across the South are dire. There is no way yet to estimate the ultimate cost of this drought because there is no realistic estimate of when it will end. Farmers have been using crop insurance payments, and federal relief is available in disaster areas, including much of Texas. But the only real relief will be the end of the dry, hot winds and the beginning of long, settled rains.





President Obama's top immigration enforcer, John Morton, recently instructed his officials to take mitigating factors into account, like an immigrant's family ties in the United States and education status, when deciding which deportation cases to pursue. It was not a major breakthrough, but it was sensible and humane, which is why it drew the ire of Representative Lamar Smith, who thinks Mr. Obama is too soft on illegal immigrants.

Mr. Smith, who heads the House Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday introduced a bill to suspend the executive branch's ability to use discretion in immigration cases. He would not suspend it for every president, just this one.

In a memo to colleagues, he said his proposed law would expire at the end of Mr. Obama's term, when it would "restore these powers to the next president whom the American people elect — on January 22, 2013."

The idea behind the discretion is that immigration officials cannot go after everybody, so it makes sense to focus resources on people worth worrying about, like drug dealers, gang members and violent criminals. This is standard practice everywhere in law enforcement.

Without this authority, the administration would be barred from deferring the removal of people who it decides should be low priorities on the deportation list. They could be stable members of their communities, with citizens in their families; or students brought here as children by their parents. They could be temporarily stuck here because their home countries were devastated by natural disasters.

Back in 1999, Mr. Smith was one of several members of Congress who wrote the attorney general and the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, arguing that "unfair" deportations had caused "unjustifiable hardship" for otherwise law-abiding immigrants who had jobs and families and close citizen relatives. "True hardship cases call for the exercise of discretion," the letter said.

Hard to explain the change, although hypocrisy and rank opportunism seem likely.






The rise in the unemployment rate last month to 9.2 percent has Democrats and Republicans reliably falling back on their respective cure-alls. It is evidence for liberals that we need more stimulus and for conservatives that we need more tax cuts to increase demand. I am sure there is truth in both, but I do not believe they are the whole story. I think something else, something new — something that will require our kids not so much to find their next job as to invent their next job — is also influencing today's job market more than people realize.

Look at the news these days from the most dynamic sector of the U.S. economy — Silicon Valley. Facebook is now valued near $100 billion, Twitter at $8 billion, Groupon at $30 billion, Zynga at $20 billion and LinkedIn at $8 billion. These are the fastest-growing Internet/social networking companies in the world, and here's what's scary: You could easily fit all their employees together into the 20,000 seats in Madison Square Garden, and still have room for grandma. They just don't employ a lot of people, relative to their valuations, and while they're all hiring today, they are largely looking for talented engineers.

Indeed, what is most striking when you talk to employers today is how many of them have used the pressure of the recession to become even more productive by deploying more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, robotics — anything they can use to make better products with reduced head count and health care and pension liabilities. That is not going to change. And while many of them are hiring, they are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people — people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can't, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.

Today's college grads need to be aware that the rising trend in Silicon Valley is to evaluate employees every quarter, not annually. Because the merger of globalization and the I.T. revolution means new products are being phased in and out so fast that companies cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to figure out whether a team leader is doing a good job.

Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure the employer is asking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today's hyperconnected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don't fulfill those criteria.

But you would never know that from listening to the debate in Washington, where some Democrats still tend to talk about job creation as if it's the 1960s and some Republicans as if it's the 1980s. But this is not your parents' job market.

This is precisely why LinkedIn's founder, Reid Garrett Hoffman, one of the premier starter-uppers in Silicon Valley — besides co-founding LinkedIn, he is on the board of Zynga, was an early investor in Facebook and sits on the board of Mozilla — has a book coming out after New Year called "The Start-Up of You," co-authored with Ben Casnocha. Its subtitle could easily be: "Hey, recent graduates! Hey, 35-year-old midcareer professional! Here's how you build your career today."

Hoffman argues that professionals need an entirely new mind-set and skill set to compete. "The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone," he said to me. "No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it's now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business."

To begin with, Hoffman says, that means ditching a grand life plan. Entrepreneurs don't write a 100-page business plan and execute it one time; they're always experimenting and adapting based on what they learn.

It also means using your network to pull in information and intelligence about where the growth opportunities are — and then investing in yourself to build skills that will allow you to take advantage of those opportunities. Hoffman adds: "You can't just say, 'I have a college degree, I have a right to a job, now someone else should figure out how to hire and train me.' " You have to know which industries are working and what is happening inside them and then "find a way to add value in a way no one else can. For entrepreneurs it's differentiate or die — that now goes for all of us."

Finally, you have to strengthen the muscles of resilience. "You may have seen the news that [the] online radio service Pandora went public the other week," Hoffman said. "What's lesser known is that in the early days [the founder] pitched his idea more than 300 times to V.C.'s with no luck."







At this late date, when we believe we know absolutely everything about Adolf Hitler, could it be that he was even crazier than we thought?

From Caligula to Nero to Qaddafi, dictators are often not just cruel and evil, but lunatics. It's very rare to find a rational dictator. Absolute power deranges them and gives them delusions and fantasies. So we shouldn't be surprised by news reports suggesting the Führer was batty beyond even Mel Brooks's satire.

First, an MI5 document was declassified in London in April, revealing megalomaniacal schemes for Nazis to rise again if they lost the war by scattering sleeper agents around the world; and by killing Allied officers with poison infused in sausages, chocolate, Nescafé coffee, cigarettes, schnapps and Bayer aspirin.

German agents said they were instructed to first offer Allied targets a cigarette treated by Nazi scientists to give the smoker a headache, then finish the job with a poison aspirin that would kill within 10 minutes.

Secret weapons included a pellet that would emit a fatal vapor when heated by cigarette ash; poison for books, desks and door handles; a tablet of exploding powder that would activate when placed next to a wet glass; and a belt buckle with a silver swastika that concealed a .32 pistol that could fire two shots.

"The Werewolf organization, a network of Nazi saboteurs who would fight to create a Fourth Reich in the event Hitler's empire crumbled, were to leave tins of instant coffee powder and other foods laced with toxins where they could be found by British and American soldiers," The Daily Mail of London wrote, describing the declassified dossier.

Four German spies captured after they parachuted into France in 1945, including one woman, spilled some of the assassination plots. Female agents were given purse mirrors with microbes hidden inside them, so they might infect top Allied occupiers with deadly bacteria.

British military officials at the time considered the agents' stories "somewhat fantastic," but were worried enough to prohibit "the eating of German food or the smoking of German cigarettes" by advancing Allied troops.

A new book, "Amazing Dogs," by Dr. Jan Bondeson, a senior lecturer at Cardiff University School of Medicine in Wales, reveals that Hitler supported a German school that tried to teach large, muscular mastiffs to "talk" to humans. This story set off a panting spate of "Heel Hitler," "Furred Reich," "Wooffan SS" and "Arf Wiedersehen" headlines in British tabloids and plenty of claims that Hitler was "barking mad."

"There were some very strange experiments going on in wartime Germany, with regard to dog-human communication," Bondeson writes, wondering: "Were the Nazis trying to develop a breed of super-intelligent canine storm troopers, capable of communicating with their human masters of the Herrenvolk?"

He discovered a 1943 Nazi magazine piece about the headmistress of the canine school, a Frau Schmitt, claiming that some of the dogs spoke a few words. "At a Nazi study course, a talking dog was once asked 'Who is Adolf Hitler?' and replied 'Mein Führer!" Bondeson writes of these claims, noting that "the Nazis, who had such conspicuous disregard for human rights, felt more strongly about the animals."

Nazi propaganda dwelled on Hitler as a dog lover. He owned two German shepherds named Bella and Blondi. He tested a cyanide capsule on Blondi and killed her just before he committed suicide.

The Nazis took their dogs seriously. As The Guardian reported in January, the Nazi government was so furious about a dog in Finland that had been trained to imitate Hitler with a Nazi salute that the foreign office in Berlin started "an obsessive campaign" to destroy its owner.

Bondeson writes that in Germany in the early 20th century, some people had a strong belief in the potential of super-intelligent animals. He said that along with Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse, an Airedale terrier named Rolf was considered one of the leading German intellectuals of the time. Rolf's owner said she taught him his own alphabet with a system of taps of his paw on a board and, Bondeson notes drolly, "he successfully dabbled in mathematics, ethics, religion and philosophy."

The latest wacky Hitler story comes from the British author Graeme Donald. He says that, while researching a military book, he stumbled across a story that Hitler and Heinrich Himmler were so worried about German soldiers' getting sexual diseases from French hookers that they cooked up a plan for soldiers to carry small blow-up blond, blue-eyed dolls called "gynoids" in their backpacks to use as sex "comforters."

Donald said Himmler ordered 50 dolls but the soldiers were too embarrassed to carry them. "In the end the idea fizzled out," Donald told The Sun, "and the place where they were made and all the dolls were destroyed in the bombing of Dresden."






Lahore, Pakistan

SENIOR American and NATO officers in Afghanistan have wanted Ahmed Wali Karzai gone — set aside, retired, out of the country or worse — for many years now. His killing by a close family associate yesterday may have granted their wishes. But what now follows the death of the most powerful political broker in southern Afghanistan may be much worse than Mr. Karzai ever was.

In fact, Afghanistan just got more dangerous and unpredictable.

After Hamid Karzai became president in 2002, his half brother Ahmed Wali virtually ran the southern provinces for him. However much Ahmed Wali Karzai was loved or loathed, his death leaves a huge political vacuum for the Americans and President Karzai at a critical moment for three efforts — the war against the Taliban, the start of the drawing down of American forces, and American efforts to talk to the Taliban and forge a peace agreement.

Ahmed Wali Karzai was involved in all three. He had forged tribal alliances to defend his half brother's presidency and extend the central government's rule outside Kabul. He openly helped American and British forces with strategic advice and knowledge of the tribes, and ran a clandestine Afghan special operations team for the C.I.A. And, as early as 2007, he was the first prominent Afghan leader to start talks with the Taliban in a bid to end the war.

Of course, he was far better known in other, less savory contexts. He was accused of being a drug smuggler or at least a protector of drug cartels — which he denied — and he was involved in the business rackets that the millions of dollars in American military spending brought to the south, in activities that included building bases, other construction projects, transportation of military goods and property speculation. You could not do business in the south without Ahmed Wali's knowing about it.

He was ruthless with the tribes who did not support the president; for example, he cut them out of the aid largesse that poured into the south once United States Marines arrived in force in 2009. His tribal politics often led his rivals to join the Taliban. He was a wheeler-dealer in the classic Afghan mold. But if he was a rogue, he was a lovable rogue who charmed you — one way of doing political business in Afghanistan.

Yet the corruption, controversy and tribal rivalries that always surrounded him did not endear him to American and British commanders when they arrived in the south; they had yet to learn how Afghans wield power. You got the feeling that many of these officers washed their hands after shaking Ahmed Wali's, not fully appreciating that this was Afghanistan, not West Point or Sandhurst.

I got to know Ahmed Wali before Sept. 11, 2001, when he lived in exile from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in Quetta, Pakistan, with his half brother Hamid. He was the practical operator while Hamid was the ethereal dreamer. After 9/11, when Hamid Karzai became the first Pashtun tribal leader to enter Afghanistan (on a motorbike) to take on the Taliban, it was the ever-practical Ahmed Wali who provided him with cash to buy food, guns and a pair of binoculars. 

For the rest of the war from Quetta, Ahmed Wali ran a clandestine network of Afghans in the city of Kandahar who, over satellite phones, called in the location of Taliban commanders so that the Americans could target them with cruise missiles. It was a nerve-racking job, and he lost many good friends to the Taliban.

At that time he was quiet, unassuming, removed from the news media or controversy. I spoke to him often because he would tell me when his brother's satellite phone was free so I could ring Hamid Karzai and ask how the war was going.

He came into his own immediately after the fighting of 2001 ended, when his half brother gave him the task of securing Kandahar — the Karzai family heartland — and the southern Pashtuns. By then the Taliban, who had never surrendered, had disappeared into Pakistan, as rival Pashtun warlords sponsored by the C.I.A. and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence fought to control Kandahar.

When Ahmed Wali slipped into Kandahar, nobody took him seriously. But he soon made his presence felt. He was elected head of the provincial council of Kandahar province, a lowly job compared with that of provincial governor. But because of his connections in Kabul, and with American support, he soon made his word law in the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan. He made many enemies, and fewer friends.

The motive of his killer, a family friend and onetime bodyguard of another brother of Hamid Karzai, is still unclear. But what seems certain is that nobody can entirely replace Ahmed Wali in holding the south together as he did.

President Karzai is likely to install another of his brothers in the south to oversee the tribal politics and reassure his supporters. But there is a fear now of even greater fragmentation there. Governors, tribal chiefs, transporters and contractors in the four provinces will fight over the political and financial spoils. They will start to cut their own deals with neighboring Pakistan, the Taliban and power brokers in Kabul.

Now the fear is that despite the military surge and the successes of American forces, uncertainty has once again returned to the south.

Ahmed Rashid is the author of "Taliban" and "Descent Into Chaos."






FOR decades, we have neglected the foundation of our economy while other countries have invested in state-of-the-art water, energy and transportation infrastructure. Our manufacturing base has migrated abroad; our innovation edge may soon follow. If we don't find a way to build a sound foundation for growth, the American dream will survive only in our heads and history books.

But how we will pay for it? Given the fights over the deficit and the debt, it is doubtful that a second, costly stimulus package could gain traction. President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a similar predicament in the 1930s when the possibility of a double-dip Depression loomed.

For this reason, the New Deal's second wave aggressively pursued public-private partnerships and quasi-public authorities. Roosevelt described the best-known of these enterprises, the Tennessee Valley Authority, as a "corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise."  

A bipartisan bill introduced by senators including John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, seeks a similar but modernized solution: it would create an American Infrastructure Financing Authority to move private capital, now sitting on the sidelines in pension, private equity, sovereign and other funds, into much-needed projects.

Rather than sell debt to investors and then allocate funds through grants, formulas and earmarks, the authority would get a one-time infusion of federal money ($10 billion in the Senate bill) and then extend targeted loans and limited loan guarantees to projects that need a push to get going but can pay for themselves over time — like a road that collects tolls, an energy plant that collects user fees, or a port that imposes fees on goods entering or leaving the country.

The idea of such a bank dates to the mid-1990s. Even then, our growth was hampered by the inadequacy of our infrastructure and a lack of appetite for selling public debt to cover construction costs. Today we find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle that makes this proposal more urgent than ever. Our degraded infrastructure straitjackets growth. We resist borrowing, fearful of financing pork-barrel projects selected because of political calculations rather than need.

 While we have channeled capital into wars and debt, our competitors in Asia and Latin America have worked with infrastructure banks to lay a sound foundation for growth. As a result, we must compete not only with their lower labor costs but also with their advanced energy, transportation and information platforms, which are a magnet even for American businesses.

A recent survey by the Rockefeller Foundation found that Americans overwhelmingly supported greater private investment in infrastructure. Even so, there is understandable skepticism about public-private partnerships; Wall Street has not re-earned the trust of citizens who saw hard-earned dollars vacuumed out of their retirement accounts and homes. An infrastructure bank would not endanger taxpayer money, because under the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, passed after the savings and loan scandal, it would have to meet accounting and reporting requirements and limit government liability. The proposed authority would not and could not become a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It would be owned by and operated for America, not shareholders.

The World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank and similar institutions helped debt-burdened developing countries to grow through infrastructure investments and laid the foundations for the global high-tech economy. For instance, they literally laid the infrastructure of the Web through a fiber-optic link around the globe. Infrastructure banks retrofitted ports to receive and process shipping containers, which made it profitable to manufacture goods overseas. Similar investments anchored energy-intensive microchip fabrication.

President Obama has proposed a $30 billion infrastructure bank that, unlike the Senate proposal, would not necessarily sustain itself over time. His proposal is tied to the reauthorization of federal highway transportation money and is not, in my view, as far-reaching or well designed as the Senate proposal.

But he recognizes, as his predecessors did, the importance of infrastructure to national security. For Lincoln, it was the transcontinental railroad; for F.D.R., an industrial platform to support military manufacturing; for Eisenhower, an interstate highway system, originally conceived to ease the transport of munitions. America's ability to project strength, to rebuild its battered economy and to advance its values is possible only if we possess modern infrastructure.

Michael B. Likosky, a senior fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University, is the author of "Obama's Bank: Financing a Durable New Deal."









With every passing day, relations with America become ever more complex. The recent decision to suspend $800 million of American military aid to Pakistan, pending the latter's compliance with publically unspecified conditionalities, has been strongly defended by the US. At least some of this money is what the country is due to be paid by America via the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) – placing the Americans even further in arrears when it comes to paying what they owe. Pakistani officials have demanded that American trainers leave, and the Americans now argue that they cannot provide support unless their trainers are in place. About $300 million of the suspended monies would have been spent supporting the operation on the northwestern borders with Afghanistan, and America could be cutting off its nose to spite its face if, as a result of its own actions, Pakistan finds it necessary to draw back its forces from the western border areas. This is money that has already been spent, it is not 'new' money or money sought over and above already agreed sums.

Pakistan is continually urged to 'do more' and continually fingered as falling short of American objectives. America says it wants to improve the counterterrorism cooperation bilaterally while Pakistanis are less than enthusiastic about aspects of American foreign policy and its impact on them at a range of levels. This is a 'needy' relationship at just about every level. The Americans need the Pakistanis and the Pakistanis also need the Americans – if for no other reason than that they are perhaps the only people who can make a significant input to the ongoing energy crisis. But need doesn't necessarily translate into like. Pakistanis dislike American unilateralism in a multilateral world, a unilateralism that has hitherto been mostly unchallenged. It is significant that that the military response to the American announcement has been cool, and much along the lines of 'we have managed without before and we can manage without again'. Indeed, Pakistan will, and moreover it may, choose not to do the job for the Americans that they have chosen not to pay for. There is now in place a regime of intense scrutiny of visa applications emanating from the US, just as the US scrutinises visa applications by Pakistani citizens, and rejects many. This is right and proper, and is closer to the reciprocity that mutuality in a relationship demands. This may also be a good time to remind America that of the $1.5 billion promised under the Kerry-Lugar Act, the US government has thus far disbursed about $374 million – against a commitment to disbursing $718 million by June 30 this year. 'Do more' is a two-way message, and if America wants more from Pakistan then it can start by putting its money where its mouth is.






Just a day after there was some hope that peace may be returning to the strife-torn streets of Karachi, the eruption of renewed violence in the multi-ethnic Lyari area has dashed such forecasts. The intense exchange of firing between members of the the Katchi Rabita Committee and the Lyari Aman Committee, in which gunmen went on a firing spree taking up positions on rooftops, has led to at least seven deaths and injuries to at least 12 others. Almost as damaging, was the sense of fear that took hold in the area and in other parts of Karachi, as the sound of gunfire once more echoed in the streets of a city where fear has now taken a firm hold. It seems this grip will not be released easily. Police say rumours of an attack on Lyari from another area, possibly motivated by ethnic factors, have led to the surge in tensions between two groups. What is also disturbing is the apparent inability of authorities to do very much to tackle the situation. A visit by Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Hussain Wasan to Lyari failed to persuade the perpetrators to drop their weapons, while Interior Minister Rehman Malik was only marginally successful during a meeting at the chief minister's house. The situation is essentially out of control. Mounting political tensions further aggravate things. The Lyari Aman Committee – involved in the gang warfare familiar to Lyari – has been linked in the past to the PPP. Rising tensions between it and the MQM add to the threat of violence, with anti-PPP graffiti also appearing on the city walls. Tensions between the ANP and the MQM also add to ethnic friction in the city.

Lyari, one of the oldest parts of Karachi, is a microcosm of the city, showcasing all its diversity and ethnic variety. The violence there could spill easily over into other areas. This does not portend well for Karachi; if tensions continue to rise at this rate, the country's commercial capital could be plunged into a still worse frenzy of violence. Urgent measures are needed to try and avert this at all costs with all the major parties playing their role and acting to improve, rather than aggravate, a situation which develops ever grimmer hues with each day that passes.






With the onset of summer and the first rains of the monsoon season, we have reports coming in from many places of outbreaks of gastroenteritis and other serious stomach illnesses which most adversely affect children. This is something we see year after year as hospitals fill up with seriously ill patients. The problem is linked with the state's inability to deliver safe drinking water to the people. This is not a minor issue, but a very serious one which has an impact on the lives of millions across the country. The chronic shortage of safe water is one that could turn into a still graver national crisis in the very near future as international experts warn that Pakistan is rapidly running short of water to meet the needs of its growing population. The pollution of existing resources through the dumping of industrial effluents and the leaching of pesticides used in fields into ground water has aggravated the problem.

The time has come for urgent action. It is not enough for experts to simply discuss the problem at seminars or at other forums. Decisive action needs to be taken to provide safe water to the people. Ways need to be found to manage this. It is true that our leaders are constantly preoccupied with all kinds of issues related to the political turmoil we seem to live amidst at all times. Despite this, ways need to be found to meet the most basic needs of the people and prevent the needless deaths we see every year as a result of factors such as lack of access to clean water.









The country is indeed in a complicated economic logjam. It has a very low rate of economic growth, which is barely ahead of the rate of population growth. And, combined with unequal sharing of the fruits of growth, it is leading to the increasing poverty of the population. Superimposed on that is the high rate of inflation which is an inequitable form of taxation of the poor while it provides a subsidy to the rich. A slow-growing economy is unable to generate enough jobs to provide employment to the new entrants in the labour force, to say nothing of reducing the existing high level of open and disguised unemployment.

One dire consequence of political instability has been the inability of the major political parties to develop their in-house economic expertise to handle from within the ministry of finance, and through it, the economy. Accordingly, not only the military dictators but even most of the political leaders had to rely on "imported" technocrats to help develop and implement their economic programs. All of them had some kind of technical skills, but none of them had come out from within the political system with a political base and standing. They could propose only those policy prescriptions that were likely to be acceptable to their leaders who hired their services with the belief that they would make their task of economic management easier. Having no political clout and no long-term stakes in the system, most of them proposed short-term solution to tide over immediate difficulties and the cumulative impact of successive patchworks is that the economy is now on the verge of tearing itself apart.

In the initial period after independence, foreign aid and foreign borrowing were relied upon as a painless solution to the deficiency of domestic resources in the public sector and it was used indiscriminately and unproductively without modernising the agricultural sector, creating social and economic infrastructure and building a strong industrial base. At the same time, the country's foreign debt began to climb, and with the passage of time debt servicing and repayment itself turned into a major headache. With the drying up of net foreign inflows (foreign inflows minus foreign outflows) by the 1980s, the government began to adopt another easy way to finance its expenditures. It indulged in extensive domestic borrowing rather than mobilisation of real resources. Siphoning off of private savings for public consumption and reckless printing of notes not only stifled the domestic private sector and economic growth, it also fuelled a high rate of inflation. As a result of the cumulative impact of short-sighted budget policies of living on "borrowed resources" the country got trapped in a state of high unemployment and low growth, high inflation and low living standards, high debt- servicing burden and low revenue generation, high investment requirements and low domestic savings and high imports and low exports.

In a parliamentary democracy, finance ministers have to be political insiders having their own base in the party and able to prevail on their colleagues to take hard decisions required to achieve the national economic agenda. Unfortunately, Pakistan hardly ever had a finance minister with political clout, as well as the ability to understand the intricate links of economic policies, a fair knowledge of the factual economic situation, and qualities to lead, and not to be led, by government functionaries and technocrats hired to do analyses that serve to support policy decisions. Finance Minister Hafiz Sheikh, like his predecessors, is failing not because of technical incompetence but because of lack of political stature and influence.

The PPP government could make a decisive at the beginning of its current term to tackle the budgetary problems in a fundamental way and by the next election could claim credit for it. It lost the last chance it had in its current term by not doing it even in the budget for 2011-12. With the next elections due soon and the coalition weakening, it is unlikely that bold steps will be initiated in the remainder of its term. However, there should be no doubt that, sooner or later, this government or another one, would need to address the problems squarely. Hopefully, the next finance minister would have a political base and an understanding of the urgency and scope of budgetary reforms and will initiate bold steps immediately to save the economy from complete collapse.

What is it that a bold and competent finance minister will have to do? The first and foremost budgetary decision should be to temporarily freeze foreign debt at the existing level and limit borrowing from abroad to no more than what is needed for debt-servicing and repayments. In simple terms, it means that net financing of the budget from external borrowing should be brought to zero. Second, printing of notes to finance developmental and non-developmental expenditure of the government should be completely stopped till the overhang of liquidity in the system created by reckless note-printing in the past several years is worked off and inflation comes under control. Third, the government should commit itself to limit its expenditure to the level of its tax and non-tax revenue. In other words, the level of expenditure should be determined by the level of revenue, abandoning the present practice of expenditure targets leading the government to beg, borrow or steal to finance them. This would require generation of saving in the public sector to finance development expenditure. Fourth, all loss-making public enterprises should be privatised and the proceeds so generated should be used to retire the expensive internal debt. Fifth, a major tax effort needs to be made, but it should focus on taxing consumption and encouraging savings, expanding the base and improving collections. It is this principle that should guide tax reforms rather than the convenience of collection points, political expediencies or pressure tactics of vested interest groups. Sixth, the provinces should be bound to have balanced budgets, implying that they would have to restrict their expenditure to the level of their real resources. Their increased autonomy must be accompanied by more accountability.

Adherence to these simple principles of budget making would require strong and difficult decisions. There would be a need for drastic cuts in current expenditure, a critical review of the essential defence needs, elimination of nonessential and wasteful subsidies, scrutiny and prioritisation of development expenditure to limit them to the available level of real resources, proper pricing of public goods, a major restructuring of the taxation system, improvement in tax collection, and austerity in and accountability of the entire public sector.

One area of expenditure cut that will be resisted most is development expenditure with a professionally plausible argument that it will hurt growth. Statistically, there is no clear-cut evidence of a significant correlation between the level of so-called government development expenditure and the rate of economic growth. Moreover, distinction between deployment expenditure and current expenditure is very murky. For example, building of official bungalows of deputy commissioners would constitute development expenditure. Similarly, expenditure on school building is development expenditure, but that on teachers' salary is a current expenditure. Proper scrutiny and elimination of all low-priority "development expenditure" would in fact be a welcome development and will not hurt growth in the short run. In fact, large development expenditure financed by excessive printing of notes will be more hurtful for growth than a properly prioritised lower level of such expenditure.

Bold measures on these lines can only be taken by a leadership that has public confidence, strives for good governance and is sincerely committed to taking the country out of the present situation. Nobody can carve out easier solutions and the ones who promise it should not be believed. There is no magic wand to escape from hard and painful choices. Indeed, there is no free lunch any more in budget-making.

The writer is a former governor of the State Bank.







It's been one heck of a roller coaster office stint for the soft-spoken and hard-smoking Pakistani army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. He started off as the Teflon man, impervious to the minutest of scratches by the strongest of adversaries.

He was right there in the midst of the deals being hammered between Benazir and Gen Musharraf, courtesy the United States and yet, no one (including Nawaz Sharif) ever questioned his role while lampooning the fallen dictator for the dirty NRO.

Every intelligence cooperation with US was heaped on Musharraf even though Kayani was the ISI chief. Yet no one accused him of playing footsy with the Yanks. Zardari could not have become Mr President had the then top military brass, including Gen Kayani, opposed his elevation after first forcing a reluctant but increasingly unpopular Musharraf to give up his uniform.

Yet, while Zardari is criticised for every sin imaginable, the man primarily responsible for this action through his inaction (if not outright support) was never blamed for this fiasco.

During his first term as COAS, he was the darling of the Americans and a personal friend of the likes of Admiral Mullen, etc., who he now feels back stabbed his institution. Of course he had also bent backwards to prove a diehard friend of Pakistan's democracy (if it can be so called).

Life couldn't get any better, so apparently it decided to go the other way.

His world has literally transformed over the past one year. A three-year extension later, he carries the heavy burden of proving that his loyalty lies with his institution, to the state, and not to an individual who gave him an unprecedented extra three years in the second most powerful office in the country.

The same Kayani had, in 2010, returned a very happy man from his NATO get-together in Brussels, convinced that the US and others had become converts to his assessment of the Afghan imbroglio and his proffered tenable solutions.

Today, the same Americans and others view his viewpoint as being the biggest impediment to their own Afghan solution and would like to see his back along with that of ISI chief Gen Pasha.

As for democracy, well he's surely had his fill of the democrats in the wake of the Osama and Mehran base incidents. Despite being a thorn in the West's side, he is being viewed by his own top generals, and the middle-order officers in particular, as being a trifle soft on Americans and the president alike.

That is why all eyes are on the ongoing corps commanders' meeting being held in the wake of the US withholding its $800 million military assistance package. By the time of this column going into print a lot of details of the meeting would already have come out and analysed threadbare by analysts of all ilk and acumen, but what shall unquestionably remain the most scrutinised aspect, both by the outside world of observers and his own peers, will be all that the chief said, or even more important chose not to.

To quote one of his most trusted and loyal top commanders: "The chief is someone who likes to think his way through very carefully," adding in the same breath however, "but sometimes too much thinking also is not necessarily good as you can miss that vital right time to take the right action."

A more ominous assessment was made by another many-starred general who added rather sombrely: "The army works in a different manner. A point comes where if the chief does not, or cannot run the army then the army runs the chief." Hardly a comforting thought.

The COAS will definitely be judged for his ability to:

a) Ensure that the armed forces are not isolated as a separate recalcitrant factor by the Americans by specifically blocking the so-called military aid and that the political dispensation stands by its side.

b) Come up with a prudent, and justifiable, response to the increased public bashing by the US military and political establishment

c) To stand up for his institution that increasingly feels besieged both at home and internationally while preserving his professed democratic credentials

d) Convince the nation whether the policies being pursued by the army are pro-Pakistan, pro-Afghanistan or simply anti-US.

But most important of all, the time is fast approaching where Gen Kayani may have to decide whether he is part of the national solution or the problem. Could there be a greater dilemma?

The writer is editor The News, Islamabad.






Watching from afar as new revelations of impropriety in the British print media unfolds; there is a growing realisation that within the UK's Fourth Estate something is very rotten. Pakistan – security services aside, one presumes – is a stranger to the arcane science of phone hacking by news organisations. Phone hacking is not unlike computer hacking and employs many of the same techniques. It enables a third party to read messages or delete messages on the phone of a person who has little or no idea of what is going on. Movements can be tracked and personal conversations 'lifted' to be used in a news story. In the UK this is illegal – which has not prevented unscrupulous journalists from hacking phones in search of a story.

Hitherto the targeted phones have usually been of celebrities, or so it was thought. While it remained at the level of public figures, figures who often courted publicity themselves, then there was little by way of public backlash. Even when the phone of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, was hacked and two journalists sent to jail for the offence there was little by way of public outcry. It was all said to be the work of a handful of 'rogue reporters' and limited to the celebrity lifestyle and culture. We now know that not to be true.

It was the alleged hacking of the phone of a teenage murder victim called Milly Dowler that really sparked public outrage. That outrage has grown, as has the realisation that the phones of as many as 4,000 otherwise-ordinary people have been hacked. Phones belonging to relatives of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, phones belonging to victims and relatives of the 7/7 bombings in London, and phones owned by people whom crime has touched or who have achieved brief and passing fame. These are not public figures, high profile or in the news every day, these are people who have a right to their privacy and that right was traduced many times over not just by a handful of 'rogue reporters' but by an unknown number of print media reporters who number more than a handful.

At the centre of the storm is one of the most powerful media-moguls on the planet, Rupert Murdoch, owner of the News Corporation which until last Sunday was the publisher of the now-closed News of the World. He owns a string of newspapers globally and his newsgroup is politically extremely powerful, perhaps most powerful in the UK and Australia, less so in the USA. He and his newspapers exert a dynamic influence on the political life of the UK, and have impacted more than once on electoral outcomes. Murdoch's newspapers can make or break a politician or celebrity – and do, regularly. They also pander to the lowest common denominator with much of their readership (those of 'The Times' excepted) by feeding the public desire for celebrity gossip at the same time as maintaining the hunger for the gossip that they happily assuage. On the plus side they have also exposed, rightly, corruption in sport – who can forget the match-fixing story that convulsed the world of cricket last year – and put behind bars dangerous paedophiles, fraudsters and other violent criminals.

On Tuesday there was another breaking story. The Sun, another Murdoch newspaper had published a story in 2006 which said that a child of Gordon Brown, lately British prime minister, was suffering from cystic fibrosis. This is an ultimately fatal disease, and the news that the Sun was about to publish details which could only have come from medical records illegally obtained, reduced Gordon Brown and his wife to tears according to a BBC interview aired on Tuesday. Gordon Brown is far from being a popular political figure – but the story again touched a chord in the collective British psyche and the sense of revulsion at what was being done all in the name of 'the public interest' has been deepened again.

There has been an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the affair, at least two public enquiries are to be set up, criminal investigations and proceedings are in train and searching questions are to be asked of the police – some of whom are accused of both demanding and accepting bribes from journalists. High-profile people stand to be scrutinised, and the morals and methods of British journalism are under the microscope.

What we see is deeply repulsive to anybody with a shred of decency or morality in their body. Journalists invaded the privacy of grieving men and women, they subverted or bypassed the checks and balances designed to protect individuals from intrusion, they acted illegally in pursuit of stories – any story – and had no scruple about whose rights they trampled, whose lives they dirtied, to get what they wanted. We are beginning to get a picture of a corrupt relationship between elements of the media and the police, with more than a whiff of massive corruption in the possibility of a police cover-up of the scale of phone hacking and its wider implications. We are beginning to see more clearly the collusive relationship between powerful media figures and the upper echelons of British political life, and the way in which the media has infiltrated the corridors of power. We are beginning to see what may be just the tip of a very grubby iceberg and it may be the start of a profound change in the way that news is gathered and what is deemed by newspapers to be 'in the public interest' in UK.

It could take years to unpick the layers of deception that surround this sorry tale, and as these words are written there will be mass deletions of emails from journalists' computers across the UK – indeed several million are already reported to have 'disappeared'.

Something broke in the value systems of some UK journalists, and the bad apples infected others as well as their dreadful practices becoming institutionalised within organisations which saw themselves as being above the law, outside the checks and balances and with an internal morality at variance with that of the rest of humanity. Those corrupted values were protected by power, money and influence, ringfenced to suit the business and political ends of a minority. That they are today being exposed is as much the product of a population who for the most part have the ability to tell right from wrong, as it is by any willingness on the part of the media to police itself. We in Pakistan need to look, listen and learn; and not allow the invisible elephant into our own sitting room.

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







"The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened." – John F. Kennedy.

You've got to hand it to our Federal Minister for Interior Rehman Malik for turning painful situations around through amusement. His knee-jerk reaction to any situation is evasion of reality and responsibility. His first version of any event is disputable and mostly erroneous. Whenever an "unfortunate incident occurs" it not only stirs up sympathy but solemn resolve amongst the people to condemn the terrorists and fight till the last but the goof-ups that follow ignite anger, the blame game starts and we loose focus.

When all hell broke loose in Karachi and over a hundred people killed after political and ethnic violence erupted in the city, our security czar held the "third force" responsible for trying to destabilise Pakistan and claiming that enemies are targeting Karachi because of its strategic importance. What a discovery? The very next day he points to Taliban presence in the city involved in acts of militancy and holds them partially responsible for the violence in Karachi. So, did the network of the Taliban active in the northern part of Karachi suddenly pop up out of nowhere, overnight? And what about the government's first and foremost duty to maintain law and order, so that life, property, honour and the religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the state? Has that been hijacked by the third force and Taliban too?

During the Karachi PNS Mehran base incident the interior minister took photos of the three dead "Raymond Davis-style" and described them as "Star Wars characters" and confirmed in a media conference that there were four attackers in all, adding that two others were suspected to have run away. The eyewitness's account that stated the number of attackers from 12 to 15 was totally disregarded. The next day we were humiliated worldwide and the competence of our security apparatus was questioned. Everyone wondered how a small group of militants, as few as six, equipped with heavy weapons could attack the Pakistan Navy's airbase for nearly 16 hours. Common sense prevented one from believing such ludicrousness. Later the first information report (FIR) registered by the navy put the number of attackers at 10-12. Syed Saleem Shahzad the Pakistani investigative journalist, who was brutally murdered, also revealed that three groups had attacked the naval base, one group targeted the aircraft, a second group took on the first strike force and a third finally escaped with the others providing covering fire. Which clearly refutes the official assessment? Incidentally the cause of Saleem Shahzad's death was declared "personal enmity" by the interior minister, without any investigation or proof.

From the twin blasts on Benazir's home-coming reception parade in Karsaz, Karachi (October 18, 2007) to Karachi's Mehran Naval base attack (May 23, 2011), the key accused have always been the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Even though our interior minister recently claimed that the government had broken the back of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Such a statement might be music to "foreign ears" but for Pakistanis it creates a false sense of security and encourages people to take risks. Instead of being careful and alert people end up "lowering their guard" and becoming vulnerable targets for the terrorists. Thousands have fallen prey to the "all's well" mantra of our interior minister.

Pakistanis want to know what the interior ministry is doing to prevent such incidents. How do terrorists enter and where do they disappear after the attacks? Hundreds of terrorist attacks are followed by no credible action, never a result-oriented inquiry, just lectures and appeals for patience from our leaders. But for how long will we live with this false sense of security and believe that we are safe when we are not.

Journalists the world over write about state secrets, Pentagon, CIA, Blackwater; they unearth corruption and sex scandals but one never hears of them being threatened, kidnapped or killed for their line of reporting. Nor has anyone heard of the media being targeted and harassed by the government to such an extent that knocking on the Supreme Court's door is the only option left. Pakistan was declared the "world's deadliest country for the press in 2010" with eight dead. With at least five journalists killed this year, Pakistan might be named the deadliest country for journalists for the second consecutive year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Perhaps it's time to acknowledge that our security apparatus is "brimming" with gross negligence, irresponsibility and incompetence is not only undermining the national security of Pakistan but eroding the county's image, reputation and credibility in the world, making it look like a Banana republic, when it's not.

Terrorism has harmed the country in more ways than just creating terror and fear among the people. The March 3, 2009 attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore not only revealed embarrassing gaps in the country's security setup but it also led to the end of international cricket in Pakistan and isolation in the world of sports. David Morgan, the president of the ICC, described Pakistan as "a very dangerous place" and speaking about the World Cup, he said: "I think that international cricket in Pakistan is out of the question until there is a very significant change, a regime change I guess." Geoff Lawson, the former Pakistan coach, predicted that the side will become "a wandering team" and that is exactly what happened.

Time is running out! If we don't put our act together and allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency thinking all is well then perhaps we will never know what hit us. Each successive revelation of incompetence leading to security failures is damaging our repute and taking us towards isolation.

The writer is an MNA. Email: nosheensaeed







The writer is a former ambassador.

Relations between Muslim nations are plagued by a bitter history which they cannot leave behind, somewhat like a nightmare from which a troubled soul never fully awakens. One such example is the age-old Arab-Persian divide, currently reflected in the embittered relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which religion has further inflamed in the form of the Wahhabi-Shia schism.

For a while in the seventies when King Faisal and the Shah were leading their countries, the rivalry seemed to be waning. The oil boycott had drawn the oil- producing nations within hailing distance of each other. Although it was self interest and necessity which propelled them towards their new found camaraderie it did impart a semblance of Muslim solidarity. Alas, such amity did not last long and it effectively perished with the advent of the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Since then their rivalry has been stoked by America for its own advantage. Finding the Arabs and Iranians at each other's throats during the Iran-Iraq conflict, a delighted Henry Kissinger remarked that it was a pity that the Iran-Iraq war would have to end one day. Kissinger would have preferred to see them go on killing each other indefinitely. Hence the CIA provided Saddam Hussein with satellite photos of the disposition of Iranian troops in battle and plied him with weapons including mustard gas which Saddam used against them and, subsequently, against the terrorised Kurdish minority of Iraq.

But it is Iran's nuclear ambitions that most worry the Saudi royals. They consider their kingdom to be Iran's prime target and have never really masked their fear of a resurgent nuclear armed Iran which they believe would become an irresistible force in the Gulf. However, there are other reasons why the Saudis are so concerned. The emergence of a Shia dispensation in Iraq with strong pro-Iran leanings; Iran's military ties with Hizbullah; Tehran's growing conventional military prowess; the close rapport Tehran has established with the Ba'thist Assad regime in Syria, and what one Saudi pointed out as the "incessant stoking of anti Saudi sentiments" by Tehran in the Gulf states, particularly in Bahrain, where the majority Shia population is unhappy with its traditional Sunni rulers. And, of course, not least, Saudia's own Najdi Shias, the proverbial Trojan horse against which all Saudi rulers remain ever watchful. In many ways the morbid suspicions Saudi Arabia harbours of Iran is similar to the distrust and misgivings we have towards India.

So entrenched are the Saudis' perceptions of the strategic and existential threat posed to their rule by Iran that at one time rumours were rife that in order to encourage Israel to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities Riyadh was amenable to Israeli fighters over flying Saudi territory. And it is no secret that Saudi leaders constantly urge their American counterparts not to take their eye off Iran's nuclear program as, in their view, it was obvious that Iran intended to acquire nuclear weapons.

It came as no surprise therefore that Prince Turki al Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief who wields considerable authority, should have said in a speech to a gathering in England that nuclear weapons in Iran's hands would "compel Saudi Arabia to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences." While he was not specific about what these policies might be, a senior official in Riyadh said 'we cannot live in a situation where Iran has a nuclear weapon and we don't. It is as simple as that. If Iran develops a nuclear weapon that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit'. According to the transcript of his speech, Turki told his audience that 'Iran was a paper tiger with steel claws' that was meddling and destabilising' the situation across the region.

Prince Turki's remarks are significant in as much as they are now being voiced publicly thereby greatly increasing the pressure on the US to rapidly come to a definitive conclusion about Iranian intentions. However there is hardly any more pressure that the US can bring to bear on Iran by way of sanctions. These are already fairly comprehensive and to impose further UN sanctions would require more IAEA corroborated evidence of Iranian mala fides regarding the acquisition of nuclear weaponry in order to influence Russia and China with which Iran has fairly substantial economic and military ties.

Besides, while some may fear a war between the US and Iran, it is not for the foreseeable future a serious possibility, and much less under Obama than it was under Bush. The consequences of an inconclusive and highly destabilising war and the sharp escalation in the price of oil will put the feeble US economy in a dangerous slide. It is one thing for the US to support Israel, like the Congress did recently when Netanyahu addressed it, but it is quite another matter for the US to do Israel's dirty work. Nor is waging war on Iran something that necessarily enjoys consensus in Israel itself; Israel's departing intelligence chief went public against any such venture. Similarly, the US might work with Saudi Arabia against Iran, since Iran is rivalling both in the Middle East, but it is quite another for the US to carry Saudi Arabia's burdens in the region, especially at a time when monarchy and oligarchies are no longer entrenched facts of life as before.

The unfolding Arab spring drama is something more important for the US right now than its persistent Iranian headache. Nor is Iran dangerously close to becoming a nuclear-weapons power yet. For one thing, recent sabotage by cyber warfare has slowed the momentum considerably.

A great deal will depend on how the Arab Spring upsurge will play itself out. This phenomenon is non ideological and focused more on governance issues than on retrogressive ideas that the Saudi and Iranian regimes represent. Saudi Arabia, in particular, is trying feverishly to take the wind out of the sails of this unique phenomenon, even to reverse it.

Sadly, the portents of the Arab Spring don't look so good. In Tunisia the transformation of society which so many fought for is by no means certain. The public senses it may have to take to the streets again to complete the revolution. Similarly in Egypt the slow pace of reform has roused the public to seek a revival of their protest movement. The replacement of an aged air marshal, Mubarak, by an equally old field marshal, Tantawi. is clearly not why they suffered beatings and bullets. The reluctance of the Egyptian military to forego its political dominance and fears that elections will once again be manipulated to leave it in the role of the arbiter are gaining currency by the day.

In Yemen, the Arab Spring has degenerated into a civil war. Ali Abdullah Saleh clings on tenaciously to office though admittedly not to power. But there is no gainsaying the fact that his opponents have not yet managed to garner the strength to cut him adrift. Yemen once two countries and now one, looks like becoming two again.

As for Syria the public is being bludgeoned into surrendering somewhat like in Iran when popular outburst against Ahmedinijad's allegedly rigged elections was soon crushed. And in the citadel of counterrevolution – Saudi Arabia – the threat to use massive force followed by an astonishingly generous handout of $90 billion to the public has ensured that they remain quiescent.

A victory for decaying regimes and their declining ideological appeal from which they continue to draw their legitimacy will amount to a grave setback for those brave Arabs who have died so that the political renaissance that their folk yearn for becomes a reality. Radicalism and obscurantism has done much harm to the Muslim world and the ideological rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, financed by the oil bonanza has been a major factor behind it.









 Pakistan cannot complain that it had not been warned of an increasingly tough attitude towards it in Washington. In salvaging its core interests in Afghanistan, Pakistan remained the one factor in the complex of elements that could be most easily manipulated by Washington because of its utter dependence on the United States and the IMF in the midst of growing economic disarray and the availability of a pusillanimous political group that dominates Pakistan's polity to serve foreign interests better than our own. Pakistan has a long history of grave distortions in civil-military relations but there would only be a few countries where politicians take such delight in the trials and tribulations of their own armed forces. Pakistan is also the only nuclear weapon capable power in which a group of intellectuals sniggers when the western media malign and rubbish this capability.

I have written more than once that the drawdown of American and Nato forces from Afghanistan would inevitably result in heightened pressure on Pakistan. On the eve of Prime Minister Gilani's recent visit to China I had argued that Pakistan should draw up contingency plans for a serious down turn in economic relations with the United States in not-too-distant a future and that he should earnestly discuss emerging geopolitical and geo-economic scenarios with the Chinese. Evidently, Washington is convinced and now claims to have irrefutable evidence that several of Osama's comrades are allegedly hidden in the Pakistani woodwork. These warnings of an impending hardening of American approach to Pakistan were sounded by many of us while reminding the nation that the United States would not simply let go of Pakistan but subject it to intensifying coercive diplomacy.

The latest salvo in this game of duress has come in the United States 'suspending' $800 million worth of military assistance in a move, as New York Times puts it "to chasten Pakistan for expelling American military trainers and to press its army to fight militants more effectively". This aid, reports the newspaper, includes about $300 million to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border to combat terrorism. There would also be a deferment of equipment important for the military operations that Washington demands till "relations improve and Pakistan pursues terrorists more aggressively". The layman would conclude that General Kayani has to sacrifice many more officers and men without the deferred equipment and then expect its release. NY Times story confirms that comments on Saleem Shahzad's tragic death by Adm Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also reflected a potentially more confrontational approach to Pakistan.

The trouble with coercive diplomacy is that far from concentrating the mind on the merits of the situation it vitiates the atmosphere with highly emotive factors such as sovereignty, national pride and honour. In this particular instance, the defining image of the Pakistani armed forces is at stake. It is a cliché of international discourse that Washington regards Pakistan's military as a mercenary force to be used at its discretion. General Musharraf had no urgent reason to dispel this assumption. General Kayani, working with an elected government and a volatile national media, cannot be indifferent to the task of uniting the army and the people. For the first time, doubts have arisen whether he can withstand the internal pressures and the blatant American demands. In future military operations he would have to work twice as hard as before to convince the people that these are being undertaken in national interest and not under foreign diktat.

The writer is a former ambassador and foreign secretary of Pakistan









NEWLY appointed Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan has pointed out that foreign elements and different gangs were involved in disturbing peace and order in Karachi. There is no denying the fact that notorious elements are creating violence in one area after the other as they move on to avoid the law enforcement agencies but at the same time create trouble in comparatively peaceful localities.

In the meantime new developments in Karachi are like alarm bells. An MQM office was attacked on Monday while the graffiti splattered walls in the city demanding a Mohajir province fuelling speculations that the situation was bound to deteriorate. In certain areas gang wars, though minor ones, also erupted which give the impression that the situation has all the potential to suck the whole of the city. Incidents of firing continued in Lyari on Monday while armed men took up positions at roof tops in different localities particularly in Lyari and Kharadar without having any fear or regard for the law enforcement agencies. These armed men are surely allied to one gang or the other whose businesses depend on an unstable situation in the city. However what is encouraging and positive is that the PPP leadership is still keeping its doors open for dialogue and perhaps behind the scene efforts are going on to bring back the MQM into its fold. We believe that PPP, being the senior partner in Sindh has a major responsibility to demonstrate large heartedness and show accommodation and tolerance. At this point of time when MQM has been hurt, and perhaps they feel rightly that they are being pushed to the corner through different actions, there is need for some positive gestures to pacify the party to avert an all out confrontation. We would caution that although today the MQM is not of the 1990s but it still has all the potential to fire back. We hope that wisdom would dawn on all stake holders and they would not allow the city, which is a mini Pakistan, to drift towards violence and gang wars.







IN a very extensive and elaborate white paper issued in Beijing, China has thrown light on different aspects of Tibetan issue, pointing out that it has remained part and parcel of China for centuries. The paper observed that archaeological and academic research findings show that since ancient times the Tibetan people have been closely connected with the Han and other ethnic groups in blood relationship, language, culture and other aspects, and economic, political and cultural exchanges between Tibet and inland China have never been broken off.

We would even go to the extent of saying that even if this white paper was not issued, Tibet, from every point of view, had been and is inseparable part of China and in no way Beijing ever thought it a separate entity. Tibet has officially been part of Chinese nation since mid-13th century and the territory did not receive any recognition from the international community when it declared independence in 1912. We fully endorse Chinese claims that their troops freed Tibetans from effective slavery in a feudal society, developed its economy and improved both human rights and living conditions. It has a point in complaining that some elements, aided by some foreign powers, were plotting to separate Tibet from the motherland. Chinese think and rightly so that the West's real motivation is to deny China the triumph it deserves for its enormous successes. Chinese skepticism about the Western commitment to human rights is well founded because those who have committed genocide against American Indians or Australian Aborigines are now castigating China on Tibet. Furthermore, Guantánamo—which Amnesty International has described as "the gulag of our times"—plus Abu Ghuraib and European complicity in Washington's extraordinary rendition programme have badly damaged the West's credibility and legitimacy. Not to speak of Tibet, Taiwan too would one day fall into the lap of China like a ripe apple because of mature and far-sighted policies of the Chinese leadership.







WHILE India has understandably been quick in greeting American decision of halting military aid for Pakistan, Director-General Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR), in a very terse and to the point statement, has made it absolutely clear that conditional aid was not acceptable. In an interview, he said Pakistan was capable of fighting the war against terror without US assistance and this has amply been proved in successful operations in South Waziristan and Bajaur.

The statement made on behalf of Pakistan Army, in fact, mirrors sentiments of people of Pakistan vis-à-vis oft-repeated pressure tactics and arms twisting by the United States that has been at the heart of trust deficit between the two countries. Americans left Pakistan in the lurch in the past at least on six occasions and this is seventh time that they have blocked the assistance just to dictate terms that impinge upon the very sovereignty and security of Pakistan. Though Pakistan Army and the Government have expressed their resolve to continue the fight against terror with or without US aid but we believe that the country, which has suffered cumulative losses worth over $80 billion in the war against terror, can ill-afford to finance the bottomless war from its own sources, diverting money from poverty alleviation, social services and development. What is the logic to continue spending money on this war when we borrow from multilateral institutions to run day-to-day affairs of the country? It is time to exhaustively review the kind of cooperation being extended to the United States and the terms of engagement, as the existing ones have failed to safeguard our own national interests and have brought only humiliation and insults. There are about 200 countries of the world but statements and signals emanating from Washington clearly point out that Pakistan is the only focus and target of the US policy-makers these days. Pakistan has immense potential to stand on its own feet and therefore, the Government should take the nation into confidence and exploit our internal potential to falsify the wrong notion of Americans that the country would crumble down the day they would block their assistance. No one wants total break up of relations or promotion of anti-Americanism in the country but the relationship should strictly be based on the universally recognized principle of sovereign equality and that is why the statement of Major-General Athar Abbas has widely been acclaimed by people of Pakistan.








Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington on April 12-13 last year. India tried to exploit the event by drumming up vulnerability of Pak nuclear program and to make a case to deprive it of its nukes. All its plans to get Pakistan censured dashed when Obama and other US leaders expressed complete confidence in Pakistan 's security system. In the wake of AQ Khan Network scandal in 2004, Pakistan had taken series of effective measures to prevent recurrence of nuclear proliferation. India in concert with its friendly US officials, media and think tanks then started playing upon the possibility of theft from within by Taliban sympathizers working in nuclear establishments.

189-nation Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signed by three recognized nuclear powers USA , former USSR and UK in 1970 had been formulated essentially to restrain all other nuclear powers or would be powers from indulging in nuclear arms race and to free the world of menace of nuclear weapons by an early date. Review conference has taken place every five years but so far the dream of a nuclear-weapon-free world has remained elusive mainly due to reluctance of leading nuclear powers from getting rid of their nuclear arsenal. The main objective of NPT was to put an effective check on other states from acquiring nuclear capability rather than curtailing or eliminating their stockpiles. However, Israel and India were clandestinely helped by the nuclear club to become nuclear powers which impelled several Arab countries, Pakistan and Iran to pursue the path of nuclearization. India-US civil nuclear deal inked in 2008 has enabled India to acquire unlimited nuclear technology and fuel from Nuclear Suppliers Group to pursue its nuclear weapons program. This was done despite knowing that India is not a signatory to NPT. This discriminatory act has blown the very concept of NPT to shreds.

40 years have lapsed and the US and Russia , both possessing 95% of world's nukes have still not fulfilled the obligations. SALT was signed in 1991 and it took them almost twenty years to agree to make a cut in their arsenals. On ground, it will take several years to implement April 2010 agreement. Even if it is implemented in the coming future, it will be more of a charade to impress upon smaller nuclear powers to roll back their nuclear programs rather than making the world safe. The number of WMDs held by the two major powers after the so-called reduction would still be enough to destroy the world. Possession of WMDs by eight states is a matter of grave concern for non-nuclear states, particularly those faced with external security threats.

While the US is sermonizing non-nuclear states not to turn nuclear and wants Pakistan to limit its nuclear program, not only it is keeping its huge arsenal intact, it is beefing up Indian nuclear program in complete disregard of regional balance of power and Indo-Pakistan deep seated antagonism. It has never uttered a word against Israeli nuclear program, knowing that Israel has dangerous designs in the Middle East . Indo-Israeli collaboration in nuclear field and closely knit alignment geared towards Pakistan 's nuclear program is well-known to USA . The two had made several attempts to destroy Kahuta plant in the 1980s and 1990s and are still looking for opportunities to carryout surgical strikes.

Israeli air force had destroyed Iraq 's nuclear plant in 1983 when Iraq was fully embroiled in US sponsored war against Iran . It also destroyed Syria 's factory in Negev desert allegedly involved in nuclear program in 2006 when its forces invaded Lebanon . Libya 's nuclear program was rolled back under Israeli pressure since it cannot digest any Muslim country possessing nukes. All out efforts are now being directed to force Iran to cease its nuclear program. Iran has been subjected to harsh US-UN sanctions since 2006. Four sets of sanctions have been imposed and the noose is being tightened to restrain Iran from acquiring weapon grade nuclear capability. Notwithstanding apprehensions of Arab leaders about Iran 's growing military capability and nuclear ambitions, their demand that Israel should open up its nuclear facilities for international inspection came as a rude shock for both USA and Israel . It became one of the reasons to trigger uprisings in Arab countries and to invade Libya .

America has not learnt any lessen that economic sanctions seldom lessen the resolve of nations pursuing national goals. Iraq was invaded in August 1991 and put under brutal sanctions; yet Saddam regime having gone through 8-year war with Iran remained defiant and faced the US led allied forces invasion in March 2003 with fortitude. Pakistan continued to pursue its nuclear program in spite of heavy sanctions under Pressler Amendment and discriminations. Such a discriminatory policy pursued by USA makes its position as a preacher of non-proliferation weak and comical. It has to first lead by example to expect others to follow suit. If USA feels so threatened from Al-Qaeda attacks on its homeland, should it not seriously consider shifting its nuclear arsenal to Mexico or Canada for safekeeping particularly after the recent serious security lapses.

Huma Yusaf based in Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington in his article dated March 14, 2011 in Dawn newspaper, titled 'Undefined Nuclear Goals' suggested supporting FMCT with a proviso that India's fissile materials were monitored by International Watchdog. She is of the view that if Pakistan continues to defy international demand of FMCT and remains irresponsible on nuclear security and disarmament, its nuclear arsenal will become a liability. She forgets that the ones who matter in the world are on India's side and in gross violation of their own established rules; they are enhancing and upgrading its nuclear capability to enable it to match China's nuclear strength and also become a member of the recognized nuclear club. The US has not hidden its intentions to make India a permanent member of UNSC, a predominant power of South Asia as well as global power. The US is firm on its stance and finds no role for Pakistan in its global power game.

Huma also overlooks the fact it is India and not Pakistan that is defying UN and other international institutions on Kashmir, nuclear and missiles issues. Pakistan has on several occasions suggested converting South Asia into a nuclear free zone and has agreed to sign CTBT if India also agrees to do so. Gen Ziaul Haq and Nawaz Sharif in particular made sincere efforts to minimise the risk of nuclear clash. It is a well established fact that India had conducted nuclear tests in May 1998 to overawe and blackmail Pakistan and other neighbours. Pakistan on the other hand went for the extreme step to prevent India's military adventurism like the one it had undertaken in 1971.

Indo-US-Israeli nexus is gunning for Pakistan. All its efforts are focussed on disabling Pakistan's nuclear program as well as its delivery means. For the achievement of its objective, the trio has made full use of media and psychological war as well covert war to level the ground for the final thrust. The US pretending to be a friend has proven its enmity by systematically weakening Pakistan politically, economically, militarily and socially. It has pursued biased nuclear policy and is raining Hellfire missiles in FATA and has carried out commando assault in Abbottabad. It has brazenly stated that suchlike assaults would be undertaken in future as well to kill high value militant leaders or to take control of Pakistan's nuclear and missile sites if threatened to be stolen by militants. It is high time that our rulers start seeing the US as a foe and guard its strategic assets accordingly. As long as the deadly nexus is based in Afghanistan, Pakistan will have to keep a vigilant eye on its western border to prevent 02 May like recurrence.

—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.







Rich countries are getting richer and poor are getting poorer day by day. The phrase seems very ordinary but is it possible that expression hidden in it can be a cause of global revolution in future?? This question is catching the attraction of many and the history of French and Russian revolutions teaches us to ponder upon it. As many years before at the time of Russian and French revolution, it was avowed that these revolutions were consequences of social and political upheaval against autocracy. In fact these revolutions were not mere mounting against monarchs but these revolutions were result of voices raised by 'haves not'. Their voices caused such a mammoth blow up that it compelled 'haves' to leave their seats. If we take a close view of history we will observe that the contemporary western democracy came into birth after this French revolution and the modern capitalism was delivered through contemporary western democracy. Whatsoever is currently happening in world concerning with revolutions is somehow very much related to efforts for saving capitalism. All these are tactics and treacheries to save capitalism for which different reason are being given up for these revolutions.

The basic reason behind these revolution is one, that on national and international level, difference between haves and haves not is increasing day by day, a gap between rich's and poor's is getting hype promptly, whether we accept it or not. There is a war going on between rich countries and poor countries for grasping resources and this war is totally one-sided as it can be seen clearly that how speedily affluent countries are holding their strong grip over the world resources and we are going towards a global revolution. This verity can be understand by the World Bank report (2005) that was published on the statistics related to conquest of world resources by the rich countries, the statistics were unbelievable! The report said that world can be divided into three divisions, first, twenty percent people are poor, second, approximately sixty percent belongs to middle-class, third, twenty percent are rich. The report spoke an astonishing fact that the twenty percent poor's are getting only 1.5 percent of world resources. Twenty percent of world resources are in the hands of sixty percent middle-class while seventy-seven percent of world resources are being enjoyed by the twenty percent rich people! World Bank prepared this report in 2005 but due to the fear of intense remonstration by the world deprived circle, the report didn't appear publically till three years and this report got published in 2008.

Before this report, United Nations also prepared an analogous repot in 1995 that also was not publicized till three years and was published in 1998. The statistics mentioned in United Nations report are even more horrifying as compared to World Bank report, as the United Nation's report revealed that the world rich countries are holding eighty-seven percent of world resources while the underdeveloped are only holding 1.3% of world total resources. It was mentioned in this report that from total production of meat in world, rich countries use forty-five percent while only five percent goes for underdeveloped countries. Similarly if we talk about the energy resources fifty-eight percent are being used by the rich countries and only four percent power is being used by the underdeveloped countries. Likewise, seventy-four percent of telephone facility is being used by rich countries and 1.5% by the underdeveloped countries. Eighty-seven percent vehicles are for the wealthy states and only 1% vehicles are being utilized by the poor countries. It's interesting according to this report that in Europe people spends eleven Arab dollars annually on ice-cream, while in America and Europe people apply perfumes of twelve Arab dollars. Moreover America and Europe spends seventeen Arab dollars on dog's food and Europe squanders fifty Arab dollars on smoking and one-hundred five dollars on wine. While underdeveloped countries are able to spend only six Arab dollars on education and eleven arab dollars on health which is equal to the ice-cream budget of Europe. This is how the world pattern is going on; tricks and treachery are being used by the rich countries against the under-developed countries in order to uphold their hegemony. Those who become the victims of their tricks budge to decline.

It will not be wrong to say that the human beings of rich countries are taken superior as compared to underdeveloped countries. Humans of rich countries are treated as superior and humans of poor are treated as inferior. It can be understand by a minute illustration of Buford town. In American state Wyoming , there is a small town Buford. This town is located on 8000 feet height. In winters the wind often blows at 70 mph (113 km h) and gives a wind-chill factor of minus 20. This town was developed in 1866 by General John Buford, and since the town is associated with his name. This town is considered unique in all over the world because Don Sammons, 60, is the only person in Buford, who lives up a cold mountain. Mr. Sammons left Los Angeles in 1980 with his wife and son, and came in this town. Then his wife died 15 years ago and his son moved to Colorado three years back and left Sammons in Buford on his own. Here he is the owner of a small store; he punctually went to his store and wait for the visitors. But despite of his old age and intricate environment he is living there peacefully because this one-man town has all the facilities. For this one man, this town has roads, petrol pumps, electricity, gas, water; town has the facility of telephone and internet, while it also has post office and railway lines. So the man living at 8000 feet height enjoys all the facilities of life and I am sure that if ever he fell in serious illness, he will not die without medical care. This is called the humanity and governance and for practicing these two things, a country needs not to be a first rate rich country.

As a Pakistani I am sure that the facilities which a man is enjoying in one-man town, even our big cities are not enjoying all of those facilities. No doubt there is no logic of making comparison between US and Pakistan in term of facilities and wealth, but nations don't purchase humanity and governance by wealth. We are badly lacking these two; we are living in a country where every pillar of society revolves around its own individual benefits. Where blood is thinner than water and money is superior to man. Our governance has been restricted to fallow the foreign orders and the humanity has been sold for dollars. Public has become a victim from all around. Government and every institution is meant to govern the public by giving them all the basic necessities and rights of life and off course the most important is the right to live. Life of each human should be secure, rights should be given. Each institution should be accountable for its responsibilities, and it can only be possible in a case when our establishment will ensure humanity and rule of law.







Recently horrendous incidents of 'Kharotabad' and killing of unarmed person by Rangers personnel in Karachi, induce everyone against Armed forces. Immediately after these incidents, security personnel told those people as suicide bombers and looters respectively. But after the passage of time, the media exposed the truth. When people saw those incidents on screen, many of them started to cry. In National Assembly meeting and after one famous TV Show, the prominent MNA Makhdoom Javed Hashmi during his speech could not control his emotion and started to weep. At that moment everyone was very tense. It might be first time in history of Pakistan that people are talking very crossly and openly against armed forces. Prior to these incidents, the Sialkot incident, in which two brothers were killed people very brutally, shook the whole country. There are many incidents in Pakistan in which people or security personnel particular police forces killed to people very brutally or in encounter before the case reached into court. Due to freedom of media, now everyone has access to TV and they are aware most of things. Now the questions are that why are these protector of people killing our own people? Why are people becoming so cruel?

Why are people becoming looters, robbers and terrorists? Now first question is that why the armed personnel are killing unarmed are innocent people only on the base of doubt. Have the order been given from high level authority that you can do as you want? Have they become rogue due to their authorities? Are they frustrated due to day night duties, threat of suicide attacks, round the clock remain in war situation made them harsh or they think that the courts are not taking true decisions so the killing of these skeptic people on the spot is right? It is a fact the higher authorities have given them authority to shoot only in self defense. So no one even layman does not agree on this argument that security institution will give them order to shoot the innocent people.

The second argument is some how or others true that when these security personnel particular police is on the duty, they become rogue. So this factor is really affecting the peace of society. The third argument is mostly effecting to these personnel. It is true that these personnel have confronted with that enemy which does not want his life but want to kill many people. In this scenario, every personnel would have to save his life as well as kill to this irrational enemy. So if he gives chance to him (skeptic suicide bomber) then the chances of his own life and other people decreased. Armed personnel have also belonged to poor families and mostly live their life in hand to mouth. Like normal people of Pakistan, they are also victim of poverty, basic necessities, inflation, and problem of education of their children etc. So these things also depressing them and make them harsh. It is also true that our justice system is very slow and weak. Many looters, killers and gangster release due to have strong back and lack of evidences. So when these criminal people come back, they again start their illegal activities and create the difficulties for security personnel.

So the armed personnel do not want to take this risk and kill to people on the base of doubt or certainty that they have not to confront with these people again. On the other hand we are seeing that people are also becoming harsh, looter and getting involved in criminal activities including terrorists' activities. In this context, we can see the recently incident of Sarfraz Shah who killed by Ranger were very brutally but before his murder he also tried to robbing. Sialkot incident in which two brothers were killed but before their murder they also killed to one man. Many robbers were burned by people before handover to police. Our young generation is giving preference to looting, gangster, suicide attacks or Jihadism rather than becoming the responsible citizen of this country. It is true the activities of these looters or robbers are not true, but it is also actuality that the brutally killing of these criminals by the people or law enforcement personnel is not justice. Now the question is that why people are getting involved in such terrible activities?

Are people really hating Pakistan? Are they against government and its institution policies? Are they victim of Government policies and that's why are they becoming harsh, criminal and terrorists? No doubt people of Pakistan do love their country but due to the policies of our leaders and institutions, people are much disappointed. Due to the inequality policies of our leaders, Bangladesh had been separated from us, and we have been blaming on India. It is true that India was deeply involved in Bangladesh's separation, but we have to remember that India is our enemy, and enemy will give never single chance to us that we can strengthen our integrity. Question is that when we know that we have enemies then why we are giving them chances in the form of deprive to own people. When this own people stood against own government then we called them 'Mukti Bahni', 'Baloch Insurgence' TTP' etc.

If we see with the glass of reality then we can realize that these people 'Mukti Bahni', 'Baloch Insurgence' and 'TTP' were or are our own people, but due to the wrong policies of our leaders and institutions, these people are using by our enemies against us. If one man who is uneducated, deprive from basic necessities of life and has no source of employment, and our government which spend million billion rupees for their own decoration, and have the expectation of patriotism from that man, then it would be great madness of Government. If some one is minister or appointed at high level authority then there is no law or punishment rule for him, but on the other side if a poor man do any mistake then our law make him sign of admonitory. If we want to maintain peace and unity inside the country then we have to give the basic rights to people such as justice, equality, education, and basic needs of life rather than to force them that they stand in line whole the day for flour and other basic needs. So first of all we have to admit that the critical flaws that are exist in our state's policies and review the policies in the favour of people rather than compromising each other and giving and taking extensions, because Pakistan could not sustain further loss.

—The writer is a research scholar at NDU, Islamabad.







Pakistan is faced with a serious governance challenge primarily manifested through the continuing complexity of fighting the Global War on Terror and the ailing economy. The Government has been paralyzed by terrorist incidents and the Abbotabad incident. It does not even have a counter insurgency strategy of any substance to fight off the terrorist challenges. The Pakistan Army is exhausted because of the Global war on Terror actions. Another looming conflict is soon going to appear when the US demands Pakistan to do more in the Global war on Terrorism. The Islamic radical phenomenon is too deeply entrenched in Pakistani society and institutions and cannot be easily eradicated. A mushrooming effect happens when a known Islamic radical entity is ended. Another simply grows in that space available. Plus, the reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden will continue for a while.

Our intelligence agencies have been weakened because of lost focus. The military brass is itself unfocused as it is not only responsible for the security of the country but also its foreign relations. The Army chief calls the shots in Pakistan. The Gilani government is crippled because of corruption, incapacity and political bickering with the Opposition. The morale is at its lowest in history. A real crisis is looming across the horizon in the shape of greater interventions by the US and India. The Government of Pakistan does not have a foreign policy to speak of. It only reacts to events by external powers, especially the US and India. It does not have an agency like Homeland Security in the US that can become the thrust of the fight against Islamic terrorism. Meanwhile, the political parties are discredited because of their actions, the bureaucracy demoralized because of bad governance, society divided on sectarian, linguistic and ethnic social cleavages. Most importantly, the youth are loosing hope in the Pakistani dream. In fact the country's educational institutions are in a shambles and the youth are frustrated as a result. Given the recent stark failures of the Pakistan military, it is time for serious introspection and a rethink of our country's direction. Firstly, the Army brass has not responded to the terrorist challenges in a serious way and has instead reacted to recent public criticism. This is unwarranted development, to say the least.

The fact of the matter is that Pakistan is in a mess because of repeated military interventions. However, this does not absolve the civilian leadership of their duty to salvage the country. The tragedy with Pakistan is that the civilian leadership has been generally as bad as military rule, if not even worse. The high expectations of the people on the coming of the Gilani government have been now dashed to the ground. We need to rethink our foreign policy. Dependence on the US and succumbing to its dictates has weakened us considerably. There is hardly much convergence in our national interest and that of US. Pakistan needs a friendly government next door in Afghanistan to protect itself from regional destabilization. The Karzai government in Afghanistan is a grave failure. Corruption, ineffective governance, and incapacity are the norm and not the exception in Afghanistan. Although the same can be said of the Gilani government also. But Pakistan is no banana republic. Given its large nuclear arsenal, it is one of the strongest military powers in the world. Afghanistan meanwhile has become a waste basket cause and an example of bad planning and poor governance. It is in our national interest that the Taliban have a share of power in the Karzai government. The US and Karzai government are already negotiating with the Taliban to achieve that end. Do not confuse the Afghanistan Taliban with the al-Qaeda. They are very different creatures. The al Qaida has a regional agenda of sorts and is pitted against Arab despots and their American backers. The Afghanistan Taliban are simply out to regain power in their native land. It has been about ten years now that they lost out to the Karzai government installed by the US in Kabul. Karzai is just an American puppet not to be taken seriously. The real masters of Afghanistan are the Americans. It is in our national inters that the Global War against Terrorism be ended immediately as the al Qaeda's leadership has been crippled.

Let us be clear in our strategic goals. We want regional peace and that is only possible with the solution to the Kashmir dispute. Our nuclear weapons cannot save us from this landslide. Bad governance and corruption is now endemic in the country. We are facing an unconventional war and nuclear weapons are of no use here. The primary threat is from within.







In the 2010 university entrance exams in Japan, the number of applicants for economics and business administration programs nation-wide fell sharply amid a conspicuous rise in the number of applicants for medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, jurisprudence and teacher training — where students could most likely obtain professional licenses after graduation.

I can think of several reasons why economics and business administration have become less popular majors. The first is that students graduating in these areas are not likely to obtain a professional license unless they aspire to be a certified public accountant. In Japan, economists are not given full "professional" status, and the degree of master of business administration is not widely recognised.

The second reason is that once employed by government agencies or private corporations for non-engineering jobs, those who have majored in law have relative advantages over those who studied economics or business administration. In the United States, economists are recognised as professionals, and a doctorate degree (or at least a master's degree) is a prerequisite for whoever wishes to claim qualifications as an economist. The private and the public sectors offer plenty of opportunities where knowledge in economics gained at a university can be fully put to use.

In Japan, on the other hand, among those who appear on television programs, or contribute articles to magazines or newspapers as "economists," only a handful possess a master's degree. Moreover, no small number of self-styled economists majored in natural sciences or engineering at university. Those who majored in engineering account for quite a large proportion of teachers at departments of economics, business administration or policy sciences.

Even though business schools have recently been established in Japan as one form of professional graduate school, most have failed to attract enough students to fill the prescribed enrolment number because Japan lacks a generally accepted idea that the MBA is a respectable qualification.

In Japan, one wishing to become a CPA must pass a very difficult examination. Ironically, though, quite a few people who have passed the exam cannot find jobs with accounting firms. In stark contrast with the bubble economy of the 1980s, when firms scrambled to hire CPAs, the oversupply of CPAs now appears to be the norm. Why is it that those who majored in economics or business administration are disadvantaged in the corporate or bureaucratic ladder compared with those who majored in law?

Teaching methods perhaps. Today, Microsoft's PowerPoint system is used in most university classrooms for economics and business. For teachers, this is a convenient system as it eliminates the need to write on the blackboard or speak skillfully to attract students' attention. For students, it eliminates the need to take notes because copies of the PowerPoint presentation are distributed to them.

PowerPoint deprives teachers of the motivation to improve their teaching skills, and students of the opportunity to learn how to take notes. Students in the past learned well what was taught because they had to take notes. Today's students are not helped by the large number of papers shown via PowerPoint in rapid succession.

PowerPoint is used in most economics and business administration classes, but it cannot be used in law classes. Law teachers seldom use even the blackboard. They tend to give lectures that require students to take copious notes.

Whether students have been trained to take notes can determine how valuable they are after joining a government agency or private corporation in a nonengineering job. In the early part of their careers, they may be given assignments such as writing minutes of an internal meeting or preparing a report on an outside conference. Because they relied on the PowerPoint system without having to take notes, economics and business graduates have fallen behind law majors.

Classroom lectures by professor Michael J. Sandel of Harvard University have been widely televised in Japan. He never uses PowerPoint in his political philosophy lectures. He conducts a dialogue with about 1,000 students. Japanese professors of humanities or social sciences would do well to acquire such skills.

Consider how two new employees — one an economics major and the other a law major — might answer their supervisor if asked to justify conclusion A over conclusion B. The economics major might say that he or she cannot do that because it involves a value judgement, while a law graduate might try to come up with the logic to justify the proposition. A joke making the rounds some time ago was that if you could not say that a crow is white, you could never succeed at what is now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. However, the logic that a bureaucrat with a jurisprudence background might come up with, while accepted in Japan, would likely be rejected at any international conference. At meetings attended by delegates from various countries, what prevails is a logic based on economic rationale. Japan needs to foster a social climate of respecting economic rationale in formulating policies. The writer is president of Shiga University, Japan.

— Courtesy: The Japan Times







JULIA Gillard has no option at present but to adopt Winston Churchill's advice: "When you are going through hell, keep going."

The Prime Minister is about as popular as her carbon tax, and her party's standing in the polls is at such dire levels the only good news is that an election isn't due for two years and the caucus doesn't meet for more than a month. Seldom has an Australian leader pinned their fortune so clearly to one issue. Despite the broadly rational package of measures she negotiated over many months and announced on Sunday, Ms Gillard faces a seemingly impossible task to deliver this policy and survive politically.

Much of the difficulty stems from its history. Five years ago, Labor chose climate change and pricing carbon as its light on the hill for the 21st century. But Ms Gillard and her supporters plunged the government into turmoil by first urging Kevin Rudd to abandon the policy, then disposing of him and sensibly sidelining the climate issue. After squandering Labor's majority, the Prime Minister managed to cling to power partly by promising the Greens she would impose a carbon tax. This undercut her own sound reasoning for awaiting international action and building a national consensus. It also represented a blatant breach of her word that haunts and taunts her daily.

Ms Gillard likes to characterise the tax package as a historic economic reform in the mould of the Hawke-Keating era. If most of the world's large economies eventually do move to pricing carbon, she will be proved right. But this invites the question of why Hawke and Keating succeeded. The economic reforms of the 1980s had the incalculable advantage of bipartisan political support. While financial deregulation and tariff reductions were unpopular with sections of the public, and therefore politically susceptible, they were embraced as a public good by the conservative opposition. These reforms promised short-term pain for long-term gains and were implemented without destroying the government.

Carbon pricing enjoyed bipartisan support for the first two years of this government before it disintegrated at the end of 2009. Labor overplayed the politics and fractured the opposition on the issue; the Coalition had a change of heart and switched leaders; the Greens played an absolutist game and destroyed the scheme. People will apportion blame where they will, but the point that matters now for the Prime Minister is that consensus is not possible. As intrinsically as her future is linked to taxing carbon, Tony Abbott's is joined to opposing the tax.

So her partner for success, at least in the rarefied atmosphere of Capital Hill, is the Greens. But passing the package through parliament won't be a successful outcome for Labor unless it can remain in power to bed down its legislation. And by conspiring in the capital with the Greens, Labor only fuels voter scepticism and resentment in the real world.

Mr Abbott is exploiting discontent and campaigning unambiguously to rescind the package. If he wins the next election, he could have a powerful mandate to do so. It is hard to imagine Labor inflicting a double dissolution on the issue months after losing office.

Still, that is getting way ahead of where Ms Gillard is now. One reason she is losing the debate on climate change is because she has not convinced the electorate of the rationale for her action. Both sides of politics promise to meet the same emissions reduction target of 5 per cent from 2000 levels by 2020. And most people now understand this will have no discernible impact on global climate. It only matters if the world acts -- and the largest emitters such as the US, China and India are not pricing carbon. Labor promises a historic economic reform and faces the awkward question from the electorate: "For what?"

On top of all this, Ms Gillard is choosing to make this tax the centrepoint of national debate, rather than carve out a reform agenda in, say, productivity, infrastructure or immigration. She once recognised the need to build national consensus on this issue, but now seeks to crash through. So she turns up every day contesting the Coalition's preferred issue -- the carbon tax. Churchill proffered some other wise advice: "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."





THE live cattle trade with Indonesia will resume and Jakarta has pledged to stun animals before they are slaughtered. Problem solved, right?

Sadly, no. The end of the ban is good news but the industry will take time to recover. West Australian authorities suggest the trade will be at only 10-15 per cent of normal levels by the end of the year. The move towards stunning addresses the cruelty inflicted on animals at some abattoirs as workers tried to control them before slaughter. But stunning will not be mandatory and the challenge is to ensure promises are honoured. Australian cattle farmers are not the only ones damaged by this incident: Joe Ludwig badly mishandled the matter. Once the ABC TV Four Corners program screened, the Agriculture Minister had little choice but to impose a temporary ban. Yet as we report today, it should never have got to that point. The minister had plenty of warning of community concerns and of his obligation to control the trade, not just leave it to the industry to manage. His failure to heed advice from his department in its incoming briefing, or "Red Book", that the live cattle trade was a red-hot issue has exacted a high price. The onus is now on Senator Ludwig to ensure the $320 million industry gets back on the rails quickly-- in a manner that is acceptable to Australian voters.






UPGRADING the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to Cairns is a priority not just for Queensland but for the nation.

This corridor of prosperity stretching for 1670km from Brisbane to Cairns links centres of mining growth as well as farming, industries that will fuel our export growth for decades. As far as it goes, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh's 20-year plan to upgrade the highway incorporates much-needed improvements after a recent RACQ motorists' survey labelled the highway Queensland's most unroadworthy road. The 340 km of highway duplication, new bridges, ring roads, deviations, intersection upgrades and passing lanes will improve safety, capacity and flood immunity. As the population expands, the promise of at least four lanes from Brisbane to Bundaberg, 380km north, by 2031 will be especially beneficial, although at peak times traffic flows from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast warrant eight lanes in some stretches.

The problem with the so-called "masterplan" is that it is too modest. By 2031, it would leave most of the coastal corridor, one of Australia's fastest-growing areas, linked by just one lane in either direction. With an extra 2.5 million people expected to boost Queensland's population to seven million within 20 years, a four-lane divided highway from Brisbane to Cairns should be a priority for the federal and Queensland governments.

The opposition LNP's response so far has been unimaginative -- with some justification, it branded the plan a "sham". But Queenslanders thinking of changing their votes in coastal seats at the coming state poll will be looking for an alternative that meets the needs of provincial Queensland. Ms Bligh and LNP leader Campbell Newman both have strong track records of road-building in Brisbane and understand the importance of upgrading infrastructure to boost productivity. They can do better. As the Queensland Infrastructure Plan shows, each dollar spent on infrastructure boosts economic activity by as much as $1.60.

Both sides of Queensland politics ruled out a suggestion by Michael Keegan, head of Infrastructure Australia, to impose tolls on the Bruce Highway, but with much of the federal government's global financial crisis stimulus wasted on unproductive projects and Queensland struggling to regain its AAA credit rating, taxpayers will be hard pressed to find the capital to bring the highway up to standard.






THE liquor industry's decision voluntarily to attach health warnings to most beer, wine and spirits products is welcome. It is also a tactically shrewd move - a pre-emptive show of virtue designed to forestall, or at least put the industry in a better position to resist, any government move to impose a mandatory and potentially more commercially damaging regime. Whatever else, the Big Booze approach is more responsible and sophisticated than the cover-ups and "nanny state" hysteria drummed up by Big Tobacco.

True, the interchangeable warning labels aimed at young people, pregnant women and problem drinkers that will now appear on most liquor products - "Kids and alcohol don't mix", "It is safest not to drink while pregnant" and "Is your drinking harming yourself and others?"- seem discreet to a fault. They are certainly less robust and explicit than medical experts and health workers have urged. But at least they are an acknowledgement by those who make, advertise and sell alcohol that, however pleasant the stuff may be when taken in moderation, it can also be dangerous, even deadly.

This modest gesture towards self-regulation, while welcome, will not and should not put an end to the campaign to reduce the unacceptably high social and economic toll of alcohol abuse - a toll that includes its large and rising contribution to road deaths, disease, crime, suicide, workplace injuries and broken families. State and federal governments, which have been dithering for ages over the liquor labelling issue, should certainly take note of the industry's initiative. But this does not relieve them of their responsibility to decide whether more forceful warnings are needed.

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Besides, labelling is only one aspect of the challenge of minimising the abuse of, and harm caused by, alcohol - and arguably not the most important. More dramatic results might be achieved, particularly among the young, by simply making the stuff more expensive, perhaps by taking up the Henry review's suggestion that liquor should be taxed by alcohol content. Obviously, at a time when the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is facing trouble enough trying to sell a carbon tax, increasing the tax slug on booze, however rational and socially desirable such a reform might be, would be politically difficult. So would restricting advertising or making drink less easily available.

But that's the rub. Alcohol is etched into this nation's culture. Its abuse is a multi-faceted problem, not amenable to easy, comfortable or popular solutions. It is not a challenge the Prime Minister wants just now, but she should face it.






ON MAY 21 this year, according to the Oakland, California, evangelical broadcaster Harold Camping, the first stage of the end of the world was going to begin. The small number of true Christians, about 2 per cent of those professing the faith, would be ''raptured'' to heaven. The rest of us would be left wallowing in ''tribulation'' until the fiery end on October 21. We haven't noticed any missing Christians and the general level of tribulation seems normal, but perhaps the actual number of the chosen was very small and October 21 is still some way off. Yet for most people, Camping is now one of a long line of false prophets of doom.

Tony Abbott is taking the risk of joining them with his stump around the country warning of economic disaster striking come July 1 next year when the Gillard government's new carbon pricing system comes into operation. If, in the outcome, the carbon tax produces only a small blip in the cost of living for most households, similar to the quickly-forgotten impact of the GST, and the coal industry is not brought to its knees, he could end up a political version of Mr Camping, perhaps predicting doomsday is coming, but that it will take just a bit more time to work through.

At the weekend, Abbott donned his customary hard-hat and safety vest to spruik at the Wambo coal mine in the Hunter Valley and declare: ''This mine will be one of many mines under threat if Julia Gillard's carbon tax goes ahead.'' On Monday it was revealed that Peabody Energy, the American company which owns Wambo and other mines cited by Abbott as under risk, had launched the biggest takeover for an Australian coal company yet seen, for Macarthur Coal. From the sharemarket's jump in coal stocks, the $4.7 billion offer may be only the forerunner of a new wave of investment in Australian coal properties. Abbott's immediate take was that the tax had made an Australian company subject to the tax more open to foreign takeover. But Peabody clearly thinks it can run Macarthur at a healthy profit even with the tax.

At the moment, the polls show Abbott on a hiding to nothing to win if an election were held. But he may have to wait two years, with a relatively harmless introduction of carbon pricing undermining his fear-mongering before then. He risks looking like someone talking down Australia and its economy, warning investment away. Perhaps we have entered a time of tribulation.






A LONG drought led to the Black Saturday bushfires of February 2009. Then came the rains, bringing vast floods last summer. Each disaster cruelly exposed the inadequacy of emergency responses. An interim report on the floods, released on Monday, and the Bushfires Royal Commission both found services were overwhelmed. The fires happened on the Brumby government's watch and the flooding peaked within months of its defeat, but it is up to the Baillieu government to fix systemic flaws in the state's disaster management.

The scale of the disasters is not an excuse for the failings of the policies and systems that are meant to protect Victorians. The commission rejected the defence that the fires were unprecedented. These were not the first such disasters and will not be the last. In opposition, one of Ted Baillieu's lines of attack was that the government had ignored many previous recommendations. ''There's no point in having lengthy and expensive inquiries, reports and royal commissions if the Premier continues to ignore and fails to implement their recommendations,'' he said.

The commission found no single person or agency was in charge and that confusion and system breakdowns contributed to the bushfire death toll of 173. Mr Baillieu pledged to act on all the inquiry's recommendations. As Premier, he now has another report before him that finds emergency services were overwhelmed as a result of lack of planning, poor understanding of who was in charge, and incident control rooms ignoring local knowledge. Residents of the 140 flood-hit towns praised the State Emergency Service volunteers, but not the disorganised emergency responses.

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While this is an interim report, the key lessons of recent disasters are clear. The report, which also reflects on the bushfire responses, states: ''The government may wish to consider the benefit of central co-ordination of Victoria's emergency services agencies to allow for maximising capacity and enhanced interoperability, training, resources and an effective multi-agency response to future emergency events.''

Acting Premier and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan is right to commit to an ''all hazards, all agencies'' approach. Fire and flood may seem to be opposites, but the same principles of disaster management apply. Last October, Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley likened his new role to that of the Defence Force chief. The separate firefighting services would

co-operate more under his command, he said. ''My job is all about making sure we can deploy integrated resources.''

The new post was created on the recommendation of the royal commission, which wisely focused more on systemic deficiencies than individual failings. Political leaders and agency chiefs come and go; sustained protection depends on getting the right structures and systems in place. This is a government responsibility.

The Baillieu government must heed the recommendations of every disaster report, but it will not be enough to prepare specifically for the next flood or fire. The state must be ready for the next disaster, whatever form it might take. To extend Mr Lapsley's analogy, the various arms of the military must be ready to launch a

co-ordinated response to any attack by land, sea or air. Similarly, emergency agencies must be able to work as one. That requires absolute clarity about responsibilities and procedures so all elements of the emergency response fit together.

After the September 11 attacks and Bali bombings a decade ago, governments invested a huge amount of time, money and effort in anticipating and preparing for terrorist threats. Natural disasters are probably a bigger threat to Victorians. The challenge before the government is to act on the big picture of disaster management. This means improving the laws, policies and chains of command and control that apply to all agencies charged with protecting the people of this state.





ABOUT 1 million people die each year from malaria, a disease that has until now resisted efforts to find a vaccine that will prevent it. Caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes, malaria infects up to 250 million people a year, mostly in Africa, where a child dies from the disease every 45 seconds. Over time, this disease and poverty trap is responsible for gross underdevelopment. Economist Jeffrey Sachs has calculated that per capita growth and productivity in malaria-free countries is five times that of malaria-ridden nations.

People in the developing world have had little hope of avoiding the disease other than by relying on sprays and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets. This stop-gap approach has necessarily been the major focus of aid agencies. While these strategies have limited the spread of malaria, scientists have long sought a more permanent solution. The development by Australian researchers of a vaccine that completely protects mice against multiple strains of malaria - a very hopeful sign that it could be effective in humans - is a heartening breakthrough.

At Queensland's Griffith University Institute for Glycomics, a team led by Professor Michael Good has developed a method by which ultra-low doses of malaria parasites are ''put to sleep'' using a unique chemical treatment. Human vaccine trials, to be conducted by the institute's Laboratory of Vaccines for the Developing World, are expected to produce an immune response that will protect against all known strains of malaria.

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The work has been supported by funding from a National Health and Medical Research Council Australia fellowship and program grant as well as a grant from the US National Institutes of Health. It is an unambiguous example of the potential returns on investment in research, which are measurable both in human well-being and economic growth. In an era when industrial output has dominated the national economic discussion, it is easy to lose sight of the value of research to a knowledge economy. But we neglect it to our detriment.

The results of scientists' painstaking work can be unpredictable but often have profound and enduring effects on the way we live. Elusive achievements such as a malaria vaccine - a holy grail of medical research - not only offer commercial returns for Australia but can benefit all humanity. As we applaud the achievements of Professor Good and his team, we remind the government that it is vital to fund universities to achieve both these goals.







It was heartening to see parliamentarians begin to recognise that a malady which began with the intimidation of elective power can only be remedied through its reassertion

The kowtowing of the political class to the Murdochs has been dismal, but it is familiar enough. Any suspicion that the police were similarly deferential would take things to another and more disturbing level, undermining every assumption about the integrity of public authority. The MPs who quizzed past and present top Metropolitan police officers seemed genuinely mystified as to why New Scotland Yard had seen fit to open and shut the remarkable NoW files in such short order. They were troubled by the failure of the police to inform victims that they may have been hacked and by the extraordinarily cursory 2009 "review" of the original investigation. And they heard a former head of counter-terrorism describe News International as a "major global organisation with access to the best legal advice, [which was] ... deliberately trying to thwart a criminal investigation".

It was heartening to see parliamentarians begin to recognise that a malady which began with the intimidation of elective power can only be remedied through its reassertion. Back in 2009, Rebekah Brooks declined to dignify the culture committee with her presence, and – according to one former member – it was fear of reprisals which deterred MPs from pushing matters further. But Tuesday's request for a date with both Brooks and the Murdochs was accompanied by talk of commanding them to the bar of the Commons. Today, the whole house will have its say in an opposition day debate. Plainly worded and to the point, Labour's motion calls on Murdoch to withdraw the bid for BSkyB. Even now, Whitehall's technocrats may be briefing ministers that such a resolution is impotent, citing the reference to the Competition Commission. But this Whitehall view is blinkered in so many way, it is hard to know where to begin. The notion of Jeremy Hunt meting out disinterested jurisprudence was always absurd. He has himself commented on the oddity of an elected politician taking on this role and he has gone out of his way to be accommodating to NI. Over the last eight days the ersatz wig has tumbled from his head.

Politics is the art of the possible, and neither ministers nor regulators – nor, indeed, international corporations – can ignore the possible forever. News Corp's buying back of its own stock to arrest the slide in its share price is only one reminder of that. The company has reaped a whirlwind of rage which, by Monday, had forced it to seek shelter in the Competition Commission. By expressing the clear will of the people – that the takeover cannot be countenanced – the Commons would be fulfilling one of its principal democratic functions, even if there were no further effect. But it could very well be that there will be consequences, even if News Corp itself is too brazen to concern itself with what the people think. Both the Competition Commission and Ofcom, the latter the prospective applicators of the "fit and proper person test", would want to reflect and weigh the concerns of parliamentarians. Both bodies are, quite properly, subject to judicial review if they overstep the law by acting irrationally. To act irrationally in public law is, however, to act in a manner which no reasonable person could countenance. The approach of the people as a whole is arguably pertinent to this sort of a test, and so MPs would do well to express the nation's sense that letting the deal proceed just now would be outright perverse.

Every Lib Dem would have wanted to follow Ed Miliband into the lobbies tonight, even before reports started to emerge that the Conservatives, too, would want to back the motion. No matter that, a week ago, David Cameron told the house that it would be entirely improper to connect phone hacking and the BSkyB bid. This week has proved an ocean of time in politics. By pitching the popular will against the disgraced popular press, MPs can on Wednesday night perform a useful service.





At a time when consultation has become a byword for pretending to listen to people while really ignoring their views, the Payments Council deserves credit for admitting it was wrong and changing its mind

A couple of weeks ago, this column praised cheques and lamented their impending abolition. Banks had intended to phase them out by 2018, as too expensive to process (though still much used: 1.4bn were written last year). The Treasury select committee has been campaigning to save them. So have many charities, since cheques are not only an easy way to make donations, but are much used by older people, who do not always find computers, cards and pin codes easy to use. But until yesterday, the banking industry had stood firm: cheques would soon die. The UK Payments Council – the body which sets policy on dealings between banks – encouraged people to switch to online banking and electronic transactions. So three cheers for the news that it has just had a change of heart. The 2018 deadline has now been dropped and cheques will survive at least into the next decade. "Over the last two years we have learnt a great deal," the organisation said in a statement yesterday afternoon. "We should reassure customers that the cheque is staying." At a time when consultation has become a byword for pretending to listen to people while really ignoring their views, the Payments Council deserves credit for admitting it was wrong and changing its mind. On a day in which everyone's minds at Westminster were on a rather bigger switch in government policy amid rising public anger, the good news about cheques is another cheering reminder that making a fuss can sometimes make a difference.





The eurozone's third-largest economy, Italy, is coming under increased suspicion

Europe's periphery keeps expanding. Just over a year ago, Greece was in severe financial crisis. Then came Ireland, followed a bit later by Portugal. Throughout the first year of the single-currency crisis the rule of thumb was that only the states on the edges of Europe were in dire trouble. But over the past few days, what markets treat as the risky periphery has got a whole lot bigger.

Financiers are now treating Spain's government debt with fresh wariness, pushing up the interest rate on 10-year IOUs to over 6%. That is over double the rate at which markets are willing to loan to Germany, and implies that Spain is still being treated as a much bigger credit risk than its northern European neighbours. Even more worrying, the eurozone's third-largest economy, Italy, is also coming under increased suspicion – interest on its 10-year bonds is almost 6%. In theory, as members of the same single currency, with the same central bank setting a single benchmark interest rate, each country should be able to borrow at near enough the same rates. Instead, what's happened over the past couple of years is that markets have divided the eurozone between the wheat (Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and a few others) and the chaff – which is an ever-expanding category. Spain and Italy now risk being marked chaff, and being charged consistently punitive rates for loans from the money markets.

If that happened, the eurozone really would be under existential threat. The cash Europe would need to scrape together to lend to Spain and/or Italy would exhaust existing funds. The next few months offer plenty of opportunity to test Rome's creditworthiness: it has €335bn of loans maturing over the next year, a sum much larger than all its troubled neighbours put together, and will need to borrow hundreds of billions. And each time it goes to the market for a loan, investors around the world are likely to worry about the results.

There is little to link Italy with Spain or Greece or Portugal. Spain had a massive property bubble that brought its banks to collapse but a relatively strict fiscal regime; Greece had huge budget overdrafts that it tried to hide; and Italy has simply racked up a huge amount of debt since the second world war. The main connection is that anxious creditors now see them as risky bets; and the single biggest cause of market anxiety at the moment is the inability of the European policymaking elite to resolve the Greek crisis. Should Athens default on its loans or not – and on what terms? It has taken policymakers over a year even to agree that this is the question on which Greece's fate hinges; and there is still no sign of an answer.






The Supreme Court's ruling last Friday, which technically sent a housewife, Prita Mulyasari, to jail over an active Internet campaign, was controversial in nature as it had defied the general public's sense of justice and therefore revived the public's outcry with the country's judicial system. A lower court — the Tangerang District Court — had acquitted her of all charges in the criminal case.

So strong was the general public's condemnation on the court's ruling that a legal expert of high caliber like former Constitutional Court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie even categorized the prosecutors and judges on her case as "anti-justice".

The Court sentenced Prita to a conditional six-month jail term for violating the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions Law over her initiative in August 2008 to
send an email to relatives and friends, alleging she received poor medical treatment and customer service at the Omni Hospital in Tangerang, Banten. The ruling upheld an appeal filed by prosecutors to overturn her acquittal.

The Supreme Court's ruling on the criminal case was also controversial in substance as it had been inconsistent with a previous ruling of the same court, which ruled last year in favor of Prita — substantially rejecting the Rp 2 billion (US$236,000) civil lawsuit filed by the hospital.

It is therefore logical if experts in the legal circle call on the party of interest — in this case Prita — to file a case review as the last resort available in Indonesia's judicial system to challenge a Supreme Court ruling. Others suggested she challenge the substance of the 2008 Law at the Constitutional Court in an attempt to have the ruling on the criminal case annulled or even ask the House of Representatives to have the law revised. Judicial Commission chairman Eman Suparman went further, saying that the commission would study the ruling to determine if the panel of judges in the case had made any ethical violations.

All the criticisms and arguments against the court's ruling were technically and reasonably correct as judges recognize principles of consistency, conscience and independency in each of their rulings. But it was the same principle of independency and conscience that had likely been the basis of their ruling on Prita.

It is apparent that the judges were confident that Prita was guilty according to the law. But they were at the same time aware that handing down a jail term against her would hurt the general public's sense of justice and further trigger massive condemnation and pressure, as the public had demonstrated on the social media network at the initial hearing of the case which had led to her acquittal by the Tangerang Court.

And imposing a probational jail sentence, which would mean that Prita would need not serve the six-month jail term unless she committed a crime within a year of probation, is likely a legal-political compromise that the judges may think as a win-win solution — for the general public and Prita on one side and law enforcement on the other.





The newly declared South Sudan will formally join the United Nations this week as its 193rd member. The Security Council is set to discuss the application Wednesday and the General Assembly is expected to endorse it on Thursday — a formality, albeit an important one.

The people of South Sudan overwhelmingly voted to secede from Sudan proper in a January referendum. The break up of any nation may seem tragic, but defending an indefensible unity, one that has cost 50 years of violent warfare, millions of deaths and millions more displaced, was even more tragic.

With the war put behind them, Sudan and South Sudan can now get on with the more difficult and arduous task of nation building and providing for development. The experience of newly independent nations, including Indonesia some 66 years ago, shows that building the nation is the hardest part; even harder than winning freedom itself. So many things could go wrong, and many things do go wrong.

The UN membership and the wider international recognition that follows should open the way for countries around the world to lend assistance to South Sudan. The prolonged war had condemned South Sudan, in spite of its vast oil resources, to be one of the poorest countries in the world. Some of the attention and the aid should also go to Sudan.

Indonesia, as a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, should take the initiative in organizing assistance in the framework of South-South cooperation for South Sudan. While the movement's members may have limited resources, they, including Indonesia, have had experience in providing technical assistance in the past. Any new nation will need to recruit and train as many civil servants as possible in all areas, and some of these civil servants could be the beneficiaries of experience and training from other developing countries.

South Sudan security will also be important in ensuring political stability. Given that race and religion were the dividing factors in the Sudan war, Indonesia could offer its good offices and experiences in promoting interfaith dialogue in the two countries.

The opportunities to assist a new nation are as ample as the challenges it may face. Indonesia made the right gesture in sending its envoy in Sudan, Sujatmiko, to represent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the independence declaration in Juba on Saturday. Indonesia should open diplomatic ties with South Sudan as soon as it is admitted to the UN.






A fellow political observer once told me that reform in Indonesia died the day former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati was ousted by her political opponents. Mulyani was much respected for her performance as a minister (for getting Indonesia out of the economic doldrums), and for determinedly tackling corruption, one of the campaign promises of the first Yudhoyono administration (2004-2009).

The sorry state of politics in Indonesia suggests my friend was right. The nation has been transfixed for three months by the saga of Muhammad Nazaruddin, the former treasurer of the Democratic Party, now formally declared a corruption suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). He's a fugitive, firing off graft accusations at his mates from abroad, and generally threatening to bring the party down.

And the party itself is beset by infighting and corruption allegations, floundering under the weak leadership of its chief patron, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). Could Nazaruddin be the final tug that makes the ball of twine unravel?

The Democratic Party was set up as a vehicle for SBY, successfully winning him landslide victories in the 2004 and 2009 elections (mainly by default, since there were no other viable candidates!), but now it is fast losing ground to the Golkar Party. Once Soeharto's political machine, Golkar was considered the embodiment of evil for many years after his downfall, but it looks on track to win the popularity polls now. How did that happen?

So, think about the eight elements of democracy — rule of law, human dignity, political equality, political freedom, common good, being informed and getting involved, personal freedom and respect. It looks a lot like reform is grinding to a halt here.

But guess what? We're still the most democratic nation in Southeast Asia! In fact, compared to our neighbors, Malaysia and Thailand, we're quite advanced. In 1998, our reform movement confronted the powers-that-be and ushered in a new era. In 1999 we had our first free and fair elections. Thirteen years later, we're described as a buoyant democracy. Only now is Malaysia going through its "1998", while Thailand is a bit further ahead, experiencing the results of its "1999".

You know things are getting really bad when women take action. In Indonesia the Voice of Concerned Mothers (SIP), a group of professional women, activists and housewives, took to the streets in early 1998. On Feb. 23 that year they staged a historic demonstration demanding social, economic and political reforms. It took until May, two-and-a-half months later, before everybody else (including the students) followed suit.

In Malaysia, it's once again a woman leading efforts to shake her country free of the authoritarian stranglehold. Ambiga Sreenevasan, a Malaysian lawyer and the president of the Malaysian Bar Council from 2007 to 2009, chairs Bersih 2.0, a coalition of Malaysian opposition parties and NGOs pushing the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) to ensure free elections. Their eight demands include the use of indelible ink, strengthening public institutions and wiping out corruption.

It's high time, too. While Malaysia supposedly has a multi-party system, UMNO (United Malays National Organization) has been the ruling party since Malaysia's establishment in 1963. There wouldn't have been any manipulation involved, would there, for it to be able to stay in power for 48 years?

On July 9, Bersih 2.0 staged their long-planned "walk for democracy" with a crowd estimated at about 20,000 in attendance. The authorities greeted them with tear gas, chemical laced water and batons, and arrested over 1,600 peaceful protestors, including Ambiga, an opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. Even before the march, the authorities barricaded the city with roadblocks.

An overreaction? Maybe not, if Malaysia's own "1998" is on its way.

A little further north, Thais are celebrating their first female prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Yep, she's the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted leader toppled in a coup in 2006 and currently in exile in Dubai fleeing corruption charges.

Thaksin was a controversial figure, to say the least. He was very popular because he defended the interests of the poor, but was hated by the ruling elite because he took on the military and the monarchy. He was also Soehartoesque—authoritarian: ruthless, and not above extrajudicial killings.

In an interview, Yingluck said she was her "brother's clone", "but not his puppet," she quickly added (as if being a clone is better!). Whatever the case, she's got a hell of a task ahead of her.

So far Yingluck has been quite impressive, especially given that she's never been a politician before. She's professional, conciliatory and cool as a cucumber (so much for women being emotional!). But what she needs to do first is simply deliver a procedural democracy to a Thailand that has been stuck in the chaos of "1998" for several years.

Gosh, Indonesia is so far ahead. We can afford to be smug, no?

Hardly. We've had procedural democracy for a while, but not substantive democracy.

Here's a shortlist of the issues we need to tackle before we get there: End the growing influence of intolerant hard-line Islamists; make existing law reforms work properly; enforce human rights uniformly, for rich and poor; reform the many rotten bits of our judiciary; end rampant collusion, corruption and nepotism in the House of Representatives; and — please! — find a fresh crop of new, competent and ethical leaders, fast.

Indonesia's reform may be stagnating, but my answer to my friend is that while we have democracy, we still have hope.

And, perhaps Sri Mulyani will come back if we ask her nicely!

The writer ( is the author of State Ibuism.






Controversy has been rife over whether fuel subsidies are necessary. The anti-subsidy camp suggests that subsidies will inflict a severe deficit on the state budget that may force the country to seek more foreign loans.

The pro-subsidy group deems the main concern is not whether to scrap subsidies or not. Rather, it is a matter of a mismanaged mechanism that leads to a poor allocation of oil subsidy. Hence, they say, a fuel subsidy is acceptable as long as it goes to the poor.

The government seems to prefer the second approach, which is to improve the subsidy management mechanism. The public is waiting for its execution, which so far has neither been seen nor taken.

By the same token, the government is reluctant to see any changes in some basic features of the subsidy, i.e., in particular, the subsidized prices of premium gasoline and diesel fuel.

The reasons are two-fold. First, the government is afraid of a fuel price increase, although only Rp 500 will push inflation. Second, are the potentially negative political consequences of the unpopular move ahead of the legislative and presidential elections in 2014.

The government has no choice but to make a decision, the sooner the better.

Let us now focus more on the country's energy security. As far as oil is concerned, facts and figures in the sector are quite staggering. Once known as a major oil exporter, Indonesia has become a net importer since 2005, when domestic demand surpassed its oil production capacity.

By that year, the domestic demand reached 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd), while the production was 1.06 million bpd.

Last year the country imported 277,000 bpd of crude oil and 407,000 bpd of fuels. The crude oil import complemented the oil supply of 809,000 bpd, while the fuel import was part of 1.259 million bpd of fuel sold last year.

Of the total sales per day, domestic refinery production contributed 704.000 barrels. It's clear that the demand increased while the domestic supply and production decreased, if not stagnated.

Since Indonesia left OPEC in 2008, the country has struggled to maintain its production capacity. As of June 20, 2011, capacity reportedly reached 906,000 bpd, well below the target of 970,000 bpd, and the revised target of 945,000 bpd.

The trend is there to stay unless progressive efforts are made to boost capacity. At the same time, demand is expected to soar steadily.

With such a depressing situation, the oil element would put a significant liability to any policy designed and formulated in the larger context of our energy sector, including that of the subsidy. The policy trap seems to be quite simple to escape, i.e. by boosting domestic production capacity.

However, over the last 10 years efforts to attract more and more investments in oil exploration, exploitation and the refinery industry have been ineffective.

Focusing too much on such liabilities will eventually weigh down the importance of the oil industry not merely as a commodity, but also as an opportunity to develop the industry to generate added values.

The next major reform in our oil industry must circumvent such policy traps that have reduced the strategic industry to a liability rather than an asset. It is particularly true with regard to the controversial fuel subsidy.

Under the 2001 Oil and Gas Law, the reform is stuck on two major fronts. First, it lacks accountability as mandated by Article 33 of the Constitution. So far, there has been no agreement between mission and action as to how the law and its implementing mechanisms can serve the principles explicated in Article 33.

Is subsidy the "only" alternative available to serve the principles? Certainly not.

Second, the last 10 years of reform was certainly short of effectiveness and efficiency in assuring sustainability in oil supply and production. It simply failed to meet any targets in production capacity. Long delays in approval, and the announcement of blocks to be explored and exploited, were commonplace.

The roles of upstream oil and gas regulator BP Migas and the Directorate General for Oil and Gas at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry overlapped. Politicking and political economic complications in the upstream investment were said to cause ineffective and inefficient oil investment policies.

The next oil industry reform, therefore, has to get rid of the fallacies and legacies of the earlier reform. The focus now should be on the intensification of the oil and gas industry's roles in generating added value. The upstream, midstream and downstream of the industry alone offer a variety of opportunities.

Any attempt to enhance the three streams shall lead to strengthening the roles of BP Migas and the downstream oil and gas regulator BPH Migas. The changes have to facilitate corporate reform within state oil and gas company PT Pertamina as well because its branding strategy is positively in line with the upgrading endeavors.

The writer is the chair of WTO Chairs Program (WCP) Indonesia and a lecturer/researcher at the Institute of International Studies, Department of International Relations, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta.






For a number of reasons, all ASEAN+3 countries have sterilized the surplus in their balance of payments (both in the current account and the capital account) and therefore have accumulated large international reserves.

The first reason is to control inflation rates and dampen overheating by controlling their monetary base and money supply. In theory, those countries that adopted the IMF Program in 1997-1998 (Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Korea) had shifted to independent floating.

This exchange policy is replaced by inflation targeting as a monetary policy operating strategy and is supported by conservative fiscal policy and a sustainable debt strategy. In theory, the flexible exchange rate requires a smaller war chest of foreign reserves as the system reduces the need for market intervention.

The second reason for building up foreign exchange reserve is to use the reserves as tools for intervention to avoid large exchange rate fluctuations and prevent adverse impacts on their economies.

In reality, the monetary author is still accumulating foreign exchange reserves and intervening in foreign exchange market to stabilize the exchange. In contrast to the fixed exchange system, there is no more exchange target under the current floating exchange rate system.

The third reason is to prepare for a defense against speculative attack and foreign exchange instability due to shortfalls in exports and capital flow reversals. Large portions of securities of ASEAN countries denominated in national currencies are absorbed by volatile short-term capital inflows. This is because institutional investors (such as pension funds and insurance companies) are at early stages of development in this region. Unlike in Japan, there is no Postal Saving Bank in ASEAN countries that can mobilize low cost domestic savings.

The current crises in the peripheries of eurozone indicate that securities denominated in domestic currencies are shielded from currency risk but not from interest rate risks that could cause fiscal crisis. In 1997, Malaysia introduced market based capital control to prevent massive capital outflows.

The fourth reason is to provide a fiscal space when facing economic crisis. Because ASEAN countries were treated badly when they sought help during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, these countries are reluctant to turn to the IMF.

The fifth reason that the less volatile exchange rate minimizes currency risk of foreign borrowing of domestic companies. As mentioned earlier, this is because the dependency of companies, banking system and the public sector in this region on foreign financing.

Sitting on huge foreign exchange reserves, it is natural for ASEAN+3 to strengthen regional cooperation to provide for financial needs, particularly during the crisis. The meeting of ASEAN+3 Finance Ministers (AFMM+3) in Madrid 2008 made strategic decisions to enlarge the size of the currency swap facility under the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI), increase the portion that is non-linked to IMF Programs and multilateralize it.

Multilateralization of the CMI is a great leap forward towards greater political cohesion in this region as the member countries transfer some national powers to a regional institution. The multilateralization of the CMI will result in the pooled fund becoming self-managed under a single contract thus reducing costly and time consuming bilateral and wasteful duplication of loan contracts.

In theory, the multilateralization of the CMI, along with the existence of bilateral currency swap arrangement between central banks in ASEAN+3 countries and the revisions of the IMF conditionality should reduce the need for self-insurance by holding external reserves.

In terms of assets and branch network, the commercial banking industry is the core of the financial systems in ASEAN member countries. Financial intermediation is primarily in the form of bank lending rather than issue of bonds and equity in capital market. Banks operations are mainly concentrating in traditional deposit taking and lending and less involved in capital and bond markets.

Despite the rapid growth of their assets, the role of the non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) is still relatively small and only beginning to provide a competitive challenge for the banks. Domestic financial institutions used few financial innovations such as structured products, derivative and securitization. In addition, their consumer and housing indebtedness are still relatively small.

The leading NBFIs are insurance companies, pension and provident funds and mutual funds. In a least developed country such as Indonesia, most of the pension funds are for civil servants and the military and a few large companies.

The roles of state-owned and family owned banks are dominant in many ASEAN countries. The government has started to corporatize the state-owned financial institutions and reduced intervention on their day-to-day operations. In Indonesia, markets for public sector banks are still well protected. By government regulations, the group of state-owned banks has exclusive monopoly on public sector deposits. Regional development banks are cashiers to their owners, namely, the provincial governments, regencies and cities. Stricter enforcement of legal lending limits regulation reduces related lending provided by private banks to their sister companies that are prone to insider trading and principal-agency problems.

To tap the high domestic savings in ASEAN, local and regional institutional investors need to be developed to provide financing of long-term investment for both the private companies and the public sector, such as infrastructure. The deeper local money and financial markets would allow replacement of foreign institutional investors with domestic financial institutions. The more matured local markets also allows diversion of investment from the US government papers that produce low yields to high returns investment in this region.

At present, most of the monetary authorities in this region sell securities with high coupon rates to buy the foreign exchanges. The yields from their investment in foreign assets (mainly in the US government papers) are close to zero because of the monetary easing policy in advanced economy to push down interest rate close to zero.

Central banks of the EMEAP countries, the ASEAN+3 Asian Bond Market Initiative and ASEAN+3 Bond Market Forum have addressed various important technical issues on how to develop local bond markets in this region.

The issues include new debt instruments, settlement processes, standardization of market practices and harmonization of regulations for cross-border transactions.

The progress, however, is very slow because creation of effective and efficient market also requires modernization of legal, judicial and accounting system to help solve asymmetric market information problem. The legal reforms allows better enforcement of business contracts, protection of property and creditor rights, and makes it possible to define, pledge and execute collaterals.

The writer is professor of Monetary Economics at the University of Indonesia. He is former senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia, the country's central bank. This article is based on his presentation at a recent international conference in Yogyakarta hosted by Gadjah Mada University.










The right to information is something that's made the news.  Indeed it should not be in the news but ought to pervade everything associated with 'news'.  We are not privileged in this regard.  A few weeks ago I commented in this column about the burying of Karu Jayasuriya's Private Member's move to institute Right to Information legislation.  The shrill objections from the Government benches indicated nothing if not regime-unease regarding the use to which such legislation could be put, never mind the fact that Karu's document proposed relevant and even necessary safeguards with respect to national security.

There are many things we need to  thank Mahinda Rajapaksa for, but gratitude on one or more matters is not license for as-I-wish and certainly no reason to expect or demand gratitude, approval or silence on all things.  We don't have the worst media policy on earth.  When cowards and politically compromised individuals or organizations scream about media freedom or rather the lack of it, I am not impressed.  There was a time when this society suffered all kinds of deprivations silently and consciously.  'Greater threat' was a legitimate excuse for silence.  Absence of threat, however, makes certain deprivations and silences unacceptable.

It takes time to ease into 'normalcy' and acceptable speed is a subjective matter, I know, but as we move out of the war zone, we need to build un-war like systems.  This government has the numerical strength in parliament, a discernable backing of the general population, thrives on the largely unfair assaults directed at it by spoilers in the international community and so on.  It is not operating as though it does not trust its constituency. This is a bad sign. Indeed it is the first sign of a formal and unabashed preference for the coercive elements of the state apparatus.  It means there is something to hide or plans that need to be hidden.

Gagging is hard in this day and age, but even partial gagging can make a difference to the power equation.  That 'difference' is impacted by who and what is being gagged.  An oppressed people can and will, sooner or later, get rid of the oppressor, but an oppressor, however hard he/she may try can never get rid of the people.

It all involves hard work.  It requires integrity too. Some years ago it was observed, that a government which opts for a fifth rate media policy cannot complain about third rate journalism.  No media policy, however bad, justifies journalistic sloth, arrogance and lack of integrity, though.  Our problem seems to be less about low quality journalism than third rate advocacy for media rights.  Indeed, we are so bad on the advocacy front that we make governments with poor track records on media policy actually look quite the champions of the freedoms they are said to be suppressing.

Yes, I am talking about the Free Media Movement (FMM), an organization which in agitation-coalition and individual pronouncement have frequently acted in ways to promote the cause of separatism and served to whitewash terrorism.  

I wrote about the FMM way two years ago ('Some thoughts on media rights advocacy,' in 'The Nation', August 2, 2009).  This was after someone decided to check FMM accounts and matters pertaining to financial management.  This was when Sunanda Deshapriya, one time Convener of the FMM resisted an internal audit being conducted.  This was just after he was found to have defrauded the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).  The CPA hushed it all up by asking the man to resign; limiting 'action' to the issuance of a media release purporting that there had been some 'lack of clarity'. Repeated calls for elaboration were received with dead silence by the CPA. Subsequent disclosures of financial hanky-panky only strengthen the perception that the CPA was terrified of an investigation opening a veritable can of worms.

On May 29, 2009, the FMM issued a release stating that its Executive Committee had been dissolved on January 20, 2009 and an Interim Committee appointed along with a 3-member committee to investigate allegations of fraud.  Investigations revealed that a massive fraud had been committed in the years 2007 and 2008 (i.e. during Deshapriya's tenure).    The release also stated that the General Body of the FMM had authorized the committee to carry out further investigations.

This had happened when accounts submitted regarding a Rs. 3.06 million project handled by Deshapriya had not been accepted by the General Body.   This was (hold your breath!) and 'Anti-Corruption' project, jointly proposed by Transparency International (!), the CPA (!) and the FMM (!!).  In short, money was robbed from a project that aimed to put a stop to robbery!

It was found that a certain Jackie Park of the IFJ (International Federation of Journalists, i.e. a global version of Deshapriya's FMM) had unabashedly instructed Deshapriya to try out the time-tested pilfering method of double-billing.  She was then the Asia-Pacific Director of that organization.  I am told that Ravindra Chandralal, Manjula Wediwardena and Athula Vithanage were told about this.  A subsequent Convener of the FMM had complained to the Executive Committee of the IFJ, only to be told that audits had been done and nothing could be done. This amounted to more sweeping under the carpet; perhaps another can of worms that no one wanted opened.  

At the AGM on March 20, 2010, it was stated that relevant documents had been suppressed by project coordinators, making it impossible for a proper and complete audit to be conducted for the said years.  The General Body had authorized the newly elected Committee to request all project coordinators to release relevant documents within a month.  To my knowledge, Sunanda Deshapriya and others are yet to do so.

A new committee should not be answerable to the crimes of the thieves it has replaced of course, but the FMM given its vision, mission, moral posturing and so on, cannot sweep things under the carpet.  'He went abroad' is not excuse worthy of consideration.  The signal it gives is simple: rob and leave.  Like Deshapriya, perhaps.  'Not enough money' doesn't sound right, given the vast sums the FMM has received and continues to receive for doing zilch for media freedom (individual journalists who have done what journalists are supposed to do, i.e. write the truth, have done more).  The FMM is poor indeed if it can't find a single capable investigative journalist ready to do a pro bono investigation.  If there's something wrong about that, I can find the money for such an investigation.  Would the FMM take me up on the offer?

Methinks there's a can of worms that the FMM doesn't want to touch.  It is up to the FMM to prove me wrong.  I really don't care what happens to the FMM, let me be honest.  My only concern is that advocacy organizations that engage in odd operations only make true advocacy difficult.

Two years ago I thought the FMM will clean up its act and clear the ground for true, meaningful and effective advocacy.  I was disappointed.

It is up to Sunil Jayasekera and his team to turn things around.  Dodging the hard issues won't get them very far in the matter of winning democratic space.  It could take them far.  Like it did people like Deshapriya.  Let's see what happens.





Since the 2002 Commonwealth Games, India has faced major embarrassment in international sports because of doping by leading sportspersons. If the malady used to be deep in weightlifting, it has now spread alarmingly across Indian athletics. The news that eight athletes, including three members of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold-medal winning 4x400 relay quartet, Mandeep Kaur, Ashwini Akkunji and Sin Jose, have tested positive is a matter of shame. Predictably, all have pleaded innocence, triggering a blame game. The suspicion points to coaches and administrators. In a quick response to the public outrage, the Sports Ministry has sacked the coach of the relay team from Ukraine, Yuriy Ogorodonik. Indian coaches who were assisting him have also been placed under suspension. Measures aimed at cleansing the system have been initiated, with Mukul Mudgal, former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and an expert in sports law, being appointed to enquire into the modus operandi of doping in Indian athletics.

Where the lure of money, privilege, and fame becomes irresistible, many athletes turn to doping as a short cut to success. Several coaches and doctors aid the racket. Sports administrators, if they are not directly complicit, often turn a Nelson's eye to the goings-on in the camps so long as success is ensured to enlarge their own influence. The logic of sending teams for training to Ukraine and other countries, with the same set of coaches who have been assisting them in India, is difficult to understand. This policy needs to be reviewed. The current scourge appears to be a calculated fraud by coaches, doctors, misguided athletes, and unscrupulous officials.

The Hindu

Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken must be commended for making a tough stand against doping and stepping in boldly to make it clear that there will be zero tolerance of such practices. He surely knows that the malaise is deep-seated and that dismissing the foreign coach, who denies any wrongdoing, touches only the fringe. A thorough probe and stiff penalties for those abusing the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) code will help curb this menace. The public mood favours withdrawing the rewards and awards from the offending athletes. Since 2006, Indian athletes have remained prominently on the international dope-testing radar — without actually getting caught. Now, with the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) playing a leading role in catching the culprits, there is new hope that the dope cheats will be weeded out. Mr. Maken's insistence that punishment should be meted out to coaches and officials, apart from the athletes, reflects the mood of the sports fraternity.





There is to be another parliamentary select committee to find a political settlement of the ethnic conflict.  The simple question is why, given that there have been many committees, all party ones, the famous Mangala Moonesinghe Committee way back when and the more recent APRC.  All labored and reported and that was that.  There are also talks between the TNA and the regime.  Will they continue and if so what relationship will they have to the deliberations of this proposed select committee?

At the heart of the matter is the sincerity and commitment of the regime towards a political settlement.  The public rhetoric is that the military victory was not enough and that a political settlement is necessary.  Yet we have not been told as to what this could be apart from that it should be within a united and unitary Sri Lanka and home grown.  Furthermore that there could be a second chamber and that Thirteenth Amendment Plus, the short hand for some time on the political settlement, will be at the most Thirteenth Amendment Minus because police and land powers will remain with the centre.  The evidence points to a conclusion suspected by some, including this columnist, that the military victory is indeed considered the solution and that keeping alive the talk about a political settlement is in the nature of play acting to placate international opinion which in turn is relieved that tougher decisions and/or the exposure of the limits of their leverage is thereby postponed, yet again. 

What is the regime really offering in terms of a political settlement if as the available evidence suggests, it desires and intends to go back to a pre-1987 constitutional status quo?  There is a consensus within the regime, between those who wield real power and influence within it that the unitary state now reinforced by a military victory is the end of the story. For them it has always been and for them, it ain't broke and therefore there is no reason to fix it.   It is not that the regime is eternally grateful to the Sinhala nationalists, or being held hostage by them.  They both think alike.   The political settlement farce will go from APRCs to talks with the TNA to a parliamentary select committee and probably all of the above again and again in rotation as long as the international community continues to talk about a political settlement.  As to what the key players in the international community will do once they realize that the farce cannot be sustained anymore remains to be seen. (Presumably the regime has some concerns on this score or else it could come out and say that there is no need for a political settlement).  Most important though is what this does to the Tamil polity now caught up in the throes of the second phase of local government elections.

The TNA has a problem.  It is keen to show, the international community and India in particular, that it is not rejectionist when it comes to invitations from the regime to engage.  This is integral to their need to demonstrate that they have come out from under the LTTE shadow. Domestically though, they will have to calculate as to whether talking indefinitely with land and police powers off the table, no list of detainees, attacks on meetings and now a parliamentary committee, will lose them credibility in the eyes of their constituency in the north and east. That is surely what counts in terms of power and leverage as opposed to what can be acquired from        across the sea, whichever sea.  The local government elections will provide an indication of its electoral fortunes which buoyed by the Panel Report, the Channel 4 documentary and violence against its MPs and supporters will probably be quite favourable.   What happens thereafter needs serious strategizing.  Integral to this is the proposed committee and the issue of participation in it. 

Having held to a political settlement as an article of faith, does Tamil political representation continue to engage with a regime that does not seem at all serious about it?  Can they accept a pre 1987 constitutional status quo or Thirteenth Amendment Minus?  What are their sources of leverage if any in an engagement in which they are perceived of as representatives of a defeated polity?

Statesmanship on the part of the president will go a long way in laying this issue to rest and in taking the heat off his regime internationally as far as human rights accountability is concerned.  This though seems a pipe dream.  In this context Tamil political representation must consider coming together on the basis of common principles re a settlement and a common position on Thirteenth Amendment Plus as crucial to the movement of this country from a post-war phase to a post-conflict one in which the sources of conflict are not sustained or reproduced.  And as important, a common position on what is to be done if and when talks with the regime go nowhere.

There is a sense of going back to the future.  Will it be one of satygrahas or will it be one of adapting to the exigencies of the day?  Or will it be one that breeds armed resistance?  God forbid it should be the latter.   With a regime that is so ideologically committed to the unitary state and riding high, current Tamil political representation has a huge challenge and responsibility in defining the future not just of the Tamil polity but of the country as well.

If Plan A is to talk, is there a Plan B when the other side firmly believes there is nothing to talk about?






Political man is a complicated species. Cultural conditions and history differ widely. Humility in the interpretation and prediction of human nature is the wisest bet.

The evolving "Arab Spring", as the media term it, is viewed through Western eyes as if the transformation of Ali Baba and the Seven Thieves into Thomas Jefferson and the International Court of Justice. This is a joke, and an insult to Arab political man.

Western eyes are often shaded by ideological or provincial thinking. Other political cultures arise from different circumstances than the West and shape their thinking accordingly. Western democratic forms of government transplant only with dignity and are no cure-all. The Philippines with a Western-style democracy has less economic development to show for it than any number of autocracies. Even in the United States right now, our sometimes elegant and venerable democracy seems on the verge of running out of gas. Its theoretical one-man-one-vote inclusiveness seems mostly notable nowadays for producing brain-dead divisiveness along partisan lines and thus gridlock.

Arabias "Arab Spring" is especially complicated—and hugely important, of course. Regarding Egypt, almost all Western observers imagine that ancient civilisation as evolving Western style. But we should wager a different outcome: Yes, people there are frustrated and angry…. up to a point. But they have not been through the horrendous experience of people in the former Soviet Union or even in Syria, under the thumb of Bashar al-Assad.

Egyptians are volatile but not desperately irrational. They want palpable material progress and won't settle for less. But the ousted long-time Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak was no totally evil Assad, much less a devil Stalin. Somewhere in their hearts Egyptians know this. They simply want choices and a sense of genuine hope for themselves and their children. 

What particular political form allows them to attain that is not as big a deal to them.  They will be flexible on form as long as they get results in hand.  In Indonesia, the late Suharto was a dictator, to be sure, but he was no Mussolini. He left behind a mainly unified country now proceeding to develop at its own pace and style its own Muslim democracy. It is a potentially thrilling story. Malaysia is now in street-demonstration turmoil, even as the economy has been solid. The government's police-crackdown response has only made the country less stable. Just because politicians have been elected more or less democratically  —  as is the case with incumbent Prime Minister Najeeb Razzaq  —  doesn't make them smart enough to handle the tough spots of governing. Crackdowns are almost always a mistake unless they are early, decisive and rare. Machiavelli taught us that. In Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, now 88, was no "Little Hitler," as a New York Times columnist once tarred that country's exceptional modern founder. And so when in the recent election Lee's long-ruling party garnered "only" 60 per cent or so of the total vote, he felt the winds of change blowing in his face and retired from government for a long-deserved rest.  His country now moves slowly toward a genuine two-party system but don't hold your breath and think it will become Switzerland or Sweden next year. (In some sense Singapore will always (be Singapore.

A yearning for clone-like Western-style democracy is not universal.  Neither is it wise. Surely Afghanistan would be better off with an Islamic Lee Kuan Yew than, say, a Western Jimmy Carter. Democracy fundamentalists who continue to believe Iraq is good to soon copy the British parliament had better not get their hopes up.

People  —  from Arab or Thai  —  want opportunity and choices. They want better governance, whatever form it takes; and they want a voice and a measure of participation. How precisely they get it is less important than that they do.

The point is extremely simple, even though human beings are not. If democracy provides progress, that's what they want. But what they are searching for isn't a political ideal but something more down-to earth: a practical and credible political delivery vehicle. It only stands to reason.

( Plate is a distinguished professor of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola (Marymount University in Los Angeles)





It will go down in the history as one of the best speeches ever delivered by a Sri Lankan on international threshold, or it may turn out to be a piece of literature studied by generations to come. But none of this will serve its original purpose, if instead of netting the culprits, the powers that be take to punish the man who was brave enough to call a spade a spade knowing very well he had so much to lose by doing so.

People would have remembered Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara as just another cricketer who played a classy square cut, a perfect cover drive and ruled the record books as a brilliant batsman Sri Lanka could ever produce. But history was decided otherwise, when he delivered the 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lord's last week.

There's nothing to be said that has not been said already. Sangakkara's eloquence not only held an entire nation in awe but it amazed  the international community who kept their fingers ready to be pointed at us for every trivial incident occurs inside the walls of the island's entity. While most of the local press wondered how it would have been to get him to write a weekly column, diplomats who are paid big chunks of public money to uplift Sri Lankas image looked like leprechauns who were not strong enough to stand abreast with him.

His were the words that could make a vast attitudinal change in those who viewed Sri Lanka and its people through tinted glasses. His proud narration on Sri Lankas history, the glory of winning and the values of its people wouldn't have come at a better time than now when Tiger money spills from every television that's tuned into Channel-4.  It is rather sad that some people who were trusted for their good judgment fail to differentiate between traitors and patriots.

It was not Sangakkara's fault that he fell into the former, nor does he deserve the scorn and fury from the very people who should be commending him for his spirit of ' Sri Lankan-ness' that outshone every other lecture delivered at that podium. Needlessly to say, he  is no fool to expect a fanfare and a regal welcome at BIA for his heroics at Lord's nor would he look forward to receive a salary increment, a house or vehicle in recognition of his services.

Distorted by doping dilemmas and seared by the Air Force gunfire recently, sports in Sri Lanka has very little dignity to safeguard in the face of the public. Perhaps with the hullabaloo, it may be  natural for certain parties to get their  wires crossed, but going to the extent of pelting stones at someone who deserved to be garlanded is pure insanity.  If it ever comes to a juncture where people have to make a choice between a two, they have already made up their minds as to whose side they would stand by.His words have been transcribed, published and translated. People have read, re-read and digested them. That was his way of paying compensation to an entire nation for losing the World Cup.  People who only knew him as 'Sanga the cricketer' learnt to love 'Sanga, the Sri Lankan' in him. 

So, the least the authorities can do to repay him, would be to manacle the dirty hands which contaminated the pure  spirit of Sri Lankan cricket not leaving any space for  another Sangakkara to grieve on them.

When the late Lakshman Kadirgamar delivered his Oxford Union speech referring to his tenure at Oxford said, 'Oxford was the icing on the cake but the cake was baked at home,' leaving his listeners feel patriotism seeping through the words.

After years, another Trinitian spoke his heart out when he said 'I am today, and always proudly Sri Lankan.' It was the resonance of the voice of twenty million people, a chorus of which is strong enough to turn deaf, the ears which are insensitive to the heartbeats of the ordinary who are the ultimate arbitrators of democracy.





Cricket fans and others following the rot that is taking place in the cricketing establishment in the country today would be wondering what would have happened to administrators had they misused or busted up millions of dollars in earlier eras.

Today it is a different scorebook where not only could one acquire wealth from cricket for three or four family generations but also get away with no-balls or bodyline bouncers and even go into new ventures of an unprecedented scale. Why won't it be possible when you can be on the side of the powers-that-be to shield you?

In the light of all this we are made to wonder whether anyone who is guilty of mass fraud and plundering of public resources would be brought to justice although opposition politicians and some government parliamentarians are questioning the income and expenditure of Sri Lanka Cricket.

The case of the dismissed former secretary Nishantha Ranatunga is interesting. He pleaded ignorance a few days ago when he was questioned by the watchdog parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on whether he had any interests other than cricket administration and if it were the case who was his boss.

His response leads us to believe that people who have been shielded by political patronage have the audacity to even take a parliamentary select committee for granted and be assured they could get away with it. But what must be borne in mind by COPE is that the country is watching and waiting to see whether the guilty will be brought to justice at a time when partly because of corruption and cronyism in the administration, the Sri Lanka team are losing their clout in the international arena and sliding down the ranks.

Ticket racketeering at the World Cup, the millions paid to employees as bonuses for the global showpiece and the millions of dollars more that have been busted beyond estimates in building or rebuilding three World Cup stadiums in the country are unparalleled in the history of World Cup tournaments, be it cricket, rugby or football. In a nutshell, if the first World Cup  hosted by Sri Lanka made the country champions, the second showcased to the world that we are to a large extent a nation of crooks.

Perhaps Sri Lanka will also go down in world rugby history as the first country where a player grabbed a gun from a military guard providing security at a match and fired into the air threatening thousands of spectators in Kandy a fortnight ago. Questions are now being raised on the wisdom of letting rugby fall into the hands of some VVIP sons who have virtually taken over the country's glamour sports like the late sons of the executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Had a stray bullet hit anyone in the crowd, the consequences would have been most dangerous for the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union which would have been accused of turning rugby into thugby and risked being branded a pariah organisation by the International Rugby Board.








I experienced a state of numbness when I lost my grandmother recently, three weeks short of her 100th birthday.

Grief is a painful experience. It strips you of any rational thinking as your emotions go haywire and you struggle with the sense of loss that grips you.

When I visited her last year, she said repeatedly how tired she was of living and wanted to die. It broke my heart and I remember weeping as I hugged her, silently saying to myself "please don't go".

But none of us can escape from the reality of death. From the moment of our birth, our days on earth are numbered. Death comes unannounced and there is no choice but to succumb to its calling.

Unfortunately, I couldn't fly to Hong Kong for the funeral, but couldn't have been more grateful for technology as I was then.

Messages flew back and forth via BlackBerry, on Google Chat and Skype as family members in the US, the UK, India, the Gulf, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Japan stayed connected.

We updated one another on what we knew, often repeating news the other already knew, as we grieved during what was a difficult time for all of us.

In seconds we knew who had arrived, how the funeral arrangements were coming along, when rituals started and ended, almost as though we were there.

We all agreed that grandma had indeed lived a full life and given that her health was failing, some of us prayed for her to be released from what she considered the burden of living.

As the oldest member of our large family, her importance could not be undermined. I jokingly referred to Hong Kong, where she lived with her son and his family, as our family's CNN headquarters, where all news was received first.

If anyone wanted a family update, all it took was one phone call to Hong Kong to get it.

Grandma's approval was crucial prior to any major decision and her word was final; no-one dared get on her wrong side, because it would never be forgotten.

While she could be loving and kind, she couldn't tolerate any kind of stupidity and would give you a piece of her mind, sometimes to the point of being painfully blunt.

My sisters and I were sometimes subject to that bluntness, but we loved her too much to take offence.

I admired her strength, faith and courage in the face of adversity. Despite her failing health, her mind was alert, she hadn't lost her wit or sense of humour and that was admirable indeed.

She was the glue that held us all together and kept the family united. Now, with her gone, our so-called "CNN centre" will never be the same again. It has lost an irreplaceable leader who was a guiding light in our lives.

All in all, she was a force to reckon with and she left behind a legacy - 21 grandchildren and 28 great grandchildren, some of whom she never got the chance to meet, but who will surely hear stories about her when they are old enough to understand.

Despite that, the last goodbye and letting go is never easy. The void it leaves can never be filled and the ache remains a reminder of what once was.

But love never dies and despite the loss, time heals all wounds. The memories will never fade as each one of us savours our personal memories of grandma that will remain etched in our hearts forever.








Among multiple layers of deception and newspeak, the official Washington spin on the strategic quagmire in Afghanistan simply does not hold.

No more than "50-75 'Al-Qaeda types' in Afghanistan", according to the CIA, have been responsible for draining the U.S. government by no less than U.S. $10 billion a month, or $120 billion a year.

At the same time, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been adamant that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is "premature". The Pentagon wants the White House to "hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012."

That of course shadows the fact that even if there were a full draw down, the final result would be the same number of U.S. troops before the Obama administration-ordered AfPak surge.

And even if there is some sort of draw down, it will mostly impact troops in supporting roles -- which can be easily replaced by "private contractors" (euphemism for mercenaries). There are already over 100,000 "private contractors" in Afghanistan.

It's raining trillions

A recent, detailed study by the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University revealed that the war on terror has cost the U.S. economy, so far, from $3.7 trillion (the most conservative estimate) to $4.4 trillion (the moderate estimate). Then there are interest payments on these costs -- another $1 trillion.

That makes the total cost of the war on terror to be, at least, a staggering $5.4 trillion. And that does not include, as the report mentions, "additional macroeconomic consequences of war spending", or a promised (and undelivered) $5.3 billion reconstruction aid for Afghanistan.

Who's profiting from this bonanza? That's easy -- U.S. military contractors and a global banking/financial elite.

The notion that the U.S. government would spend $10 billion a month just to chase a few "Al-Qaeda types" in the Hindu Kush is nonsense.

The Pentagon itself has dismissed the notion -- insisting that just capturing and killing Osama bin Laden does not change the equation; the Taliban are still a threat.

In numerous occasions Taliban leader Mullah Omar himself has characterized his struggle as a "nationalist movement". Apart from the historical record showing that Washington always fears and fights nationalist movements, Omar's comment also shows that the Taliban strategy has nothing to do with Al-Qaeda's aim of establishing a Caliphate via global jihad.

So Al-Qaeda is not the major enemy -- not anymore, nor has it been for quite some time now. This is a war between a superpower and a fierce, nationalist, predominantly Pashtun movement -- of which the Taliban are a major strand; regardless of their medieval ways, they are fighting a foreign occupation and doing what they can to undermine a puppet regime.

Look at my bankruptcy model

In the famous November 1, 2004 video that played a crucial part in assuring the reelection of George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden -- or a clone of Osama bin Laden -- once again expanded on how the "mujahedeen bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat."

That's the exact same strategy Al-Qaeda has deployed against the U.S.; according to Bin Laden at the time, "all that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written Al-Qaeda in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note, other than some benefits to their private companies."

The record since 9/11 shows that's exactly what's happening. The war on terror has totally depleted the U.S. treasury -- to the point that the White House and Congress are now immersed in a titanic battle over a $4 trillion debt ceiling.

What is never mentioned is that these trillions of dollars were ruthlessly subtracted from the wellbeing of average Americans -- smashing the carefully constructed myth of the American dream.

So what's the endgame for these trillions of dollars?

The Pentagon's Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine implies a global network of military bases -- with particular importance to those surrounding, bordering and keeping in check key competitors Russia and China.

This superpower projection -- of which Afghanistan was, and remains, a key node, in the intersection of South and Central Asia -- led, and may still lead, to other wars in Iraq, Iran and Syria.

The network of U.S. military bases in the Pentagon-coined "arc of instability" that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf and South/Central Asia is a key reason for remaining in Afghanistan forever.

But it's not the only reason.

Surge, bribe and stay

It all comes back, once again, to Pipelineistan -- and one of its outstanding chimeras; the Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline, also known once as the Trans-Afghan Pipeline, which might one day become TAPI if India decides to be on board.

The U.S. corporate media simply refuses to cover what is one of the most important stories of the early 21st century.

Washington has badly wanted TAP since the mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration was negotiating with the Taliban; the talks broke down because of transit fees, even before 9/11, when the Bush administration decided to change the rhetoric from "a carpet of gold" to "a carpet of bombs".

TAP is a classic Pipelineistan gambit; the U.S. supporting the flow of gas from Central Asia to global markets, bypassing both Iran and Russia. If it ever gets built, it will cost over $10 billion.

It needs a totally pacified Afghanistan -- still another chimera -- and a Pakistani government totally implicated in Afghanistan's security, still a no-no as long as Islamabad's policy is to have Afghanistan as its "strategic depth", a vassal state, in a long-term confrontation mindset against India.

It's no surprise the Pentagon and the Pakistani Army enjoy such a close working relationship. Both Washington and Islamabad regard Pashtun nationalism as an existential threat.

The 2,500-kilometer-long, porous, disputed border with Afghanistan is at the core of Pakistan's interference in its neighbor's affairs.

Washington is getting desperate because it knows the Pakistani military will always support the Taliban as much as they support hardcore Islamist groups fighting India. Washington also knows Pakistan's Afghan policy implies containing India's influence in Afghanistan at all costs.

Just ask General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's army chief -- and a Pentagon darling to boot; he always says his army is India-centric, and, therefore, entitled to "strategic depth" in Afghanistan.

It's mind-boggling that 10 years and $5.4 trillion dollars later, the situation is exactly the same. Washington still badly wants "its" pipeline -- which will in fact be a winning game mostly for commodity traders, global finance majors and Western energy giants.

From the standpoint of these elites, the ideal endgame scenario is global Robocop NATO -- helped by hundreds of thousands of mercenaries -- "protecting" TAP (or TAPI) while taking a 24/7 peek on what's going on in neighbors Russia and China.

Sharp wits in India have described Washington's tortuous moves in Afghanistan as "surge, bribe and run". It's rather "surge, bribe and stay". This whole saga might have been accomplished without a superpower bankrupting itself, and without immense, atrocious, sustained loss of life, but hey -- nobody's perfect.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for the Asia Times. His latest book is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at

(Source: Al Jazeera)

Photo: The Pentagon wants the White House to 'hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012'. (Getty Images)







The Palestine crisis has been intensifying day by day, mainly because of the intransigence of the Israelis.

Israel, with the full support of the United States, has been trying to undermine the efforts of Hamas and Fatah to reach a reconciliation deal.

Making matters worse, there is a U.S.-Israeli conspiracy to stifle the voice of the Palestinians in the international arena.

But a new international movement has taken up the cause of the Palestinians, and some of its members have taken the UN track and are calling for a vote to be held at the UN General Assembly to recognize the statehood of Palestine based on the borders before the Six-Day War of 1967.

Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook is making strenuous efforts to convince the international community to vote for a UN resolution that would put a Palestinian independent state on the map.

But U.S. President Barack Obama said last month, "No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his approval, saying, "We'll follow what our well wishers say."

In response to the statements of Obama and Netanyahu, Abu Marzook said, "It is wrong," adding that the Palestinians will definitely establish an independent state in the near future. "Hamas is sure that Almighty God will help the Palestinians to have their own state very soon."

The UN created this problem in 1947 with a resolution that led to the establishment of the Zionist regime in 1948, but now, hypocritically, the Israelis and their allies are saying that the UN cannot be used to solve the problem.

And unfortunately, the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2000 Camp David Summit never set a timetable for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, the current dispute between Fatah and Hamas is another obstacle undermining the efforts to create an independent Palestinian state.

Hamas officials blame Mahmoud Abbas, the acting president of the Palestinian Authority, saying he is "responsible for the current deadlock in the creation of Palestine."

Although serious efforts are being made to form a unity government, the two groups cannot agree on who should be the next Palestinian prime minister.

However Mahmoud Abbas, who is also the leader of Fatah, and Khaled Meshaal, the chief of the Political Bureau of Hamas, have agreed to attend a meeting in Cairo to attempt to resolve their differences.

"The real reason for the delay in forming and convening of the government is disagreement over Prime Minister Fayyad," an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

"Fayyad is against the meeting because his name is linked to Palestinian division, the debt-ridden Palestinian economy and operations by the Palestinians," he added.

Samir Awad, a professor of political science at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, said that while Salam Fayyad has the personal backing of Abbas, he does not have total support within Fatah, AFP reported.

And Hamas insists that it must maintain its position to avoid falling into a "trap" set by the Zionist regime and the United States.

The Hamas stance is that all of Palestine must be liberated.

However, Hamas has said they are ready to accept a hudna (temporary truce) with the Israelis.

Thus, the Hamas call for a hudna should be incorporated into the talks for the establishment of two states based on the 1967 borders. This would be the best path to take.



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