18 March 2013

Promise of a new beginning

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By  Chinmaya R. Gharekhan 
March 18, 2013 

President Mohamed Morsi’s visit is a fresh opportunity for India and Egypt to bury the irritants of the past and rebuild their neglected ties 

The ostensibly secular President Hosni Mubarak took 18 years to come to secular India to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for International Understanding; he had visited China more than once during that time. The avowedly Muslim Brotherhood member President Mohamed Morsi is visiting India within two years of assuming office. The conclusion suggests itself. Mr. Mubarak always looked West, perhaps for good reasons from his point of view, giving diminished priority to relations with developing countries and even to the interests of the Palestinian movement. 

Conscious decision 

Mr. Morsi seems to be keen on looking equally at the East, perhaps more than towards the West, though he knows that it is the West which is going to provide him the much-needed funds and tourists. He has taken a conscious decision to assert Egypt’s strategic autonomy. The Egyptian President is visiting us despite being besieged by many extremely difficult challenges — raging riots, rapidly degrading economy, massive unemployment, and, above all, the clamour for reform, protection for the rights of minorities and women, to scrap the Constitution and, even to abdicate office. India should make a note of this and welcome his visit. 

India-Egypt relations never regained the warmth that obtained during the Nehru-Nasser era. Nasser became a hero for us, as also for the entire developing and non-aligned world, especially after he nationalised the Suez Canal, asserting his country’s sovereignty and standing up to western pressure, including the International Monetary Fund’s refusal to give loan for the construction of the Aswan dam. Nasser’s successor Sadat did right by his country by signing the peace treaty with Israel since he managed to recover the Sinai Peninsula which Israel had occupied during the 1967 war. But he lost esteem, not only in the non-aligned world but also among large sections of his own people as he was perceived to have compromised the rights of Palestinians and to have given in to American persuasion. As for Mr. Mubarak, most Egyptians do not want even to talk about him. 

U.N. resolution on Sri Lanka: India to decide after studying final draft

March 18, 2013 

Tamil activists, protesting against Sri Lanka’s alleged war-time abuses, hold placards demanding “Tamil Elam,” an independent state that Tamils aspire to create in Sri Lanka, during a protest in Chennai on Monday. 

Amidst stepped up pressure by southern parties to vote against Sri Lanka at the U.N., the government on Monday said the “call” will be taken after studying the final draft of the U.S.-backed resolution even as India’s Representative to the U.N. in Geneva will be in New Delhi on Tuesday for consultations on it.

“The resolution in its final form will be available late this evening, Geneva time. The Foreign Secretary has also asked our Permanent Representative to the U.N. Dilip Sinha to come over to Delhi tomorrow.

“So, that we can have consultations in the matter as it is an important matter for us and he will be able to brief senior officials of the government on what are the ground realities in Geneva and latest position on that.

“So, the call will only be taken subsequent to availability of a resolution and arrival of the Ambassador here for consultation with the senior official in the MEA,” official spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said.

On Sunday, the government had clarified its statement appreciating the Sri Lankan government for implementing India’s suggestions to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report and to promote trilingual policy at the meeting of working group at U.N. Human Rights Council on 15th March, in Geneva.

The clarification by the government came amidst threats by one of its key allies DMK to withdraw support on the issue.

Defence Budget far from Threat Perception

18 Mar , 2013 

There is an overall decrease in the defence outlay of almost all countries in the world including India except China and Pakistan. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China’s annual defence spending rose from over $30 billion in 2000 to almost $120 billion in 2010. The total military spending in 2012, based on the latest announcement from Beijing, is around $160 billion. Reduction in defence spending will be the main target for US’s deficit reduction programme for the next ten years — yet, US spends more than four times of that of China. 

…it is wise to remember that the plan to modernise the Indian military was put on hold during the 1990s, which proved disastrous subsequently during Kargil operations. 

India, vilified as the largest importer of weapons, is nowhere near China or the US — not only in spending but also in keeping up with the pace of technological developments. Its efforts at achieving taint-free acquisition, what with blacklisting of leading arms manufacturers and cancellation of contracts, have stalled the process of defence modernisation. Defence deals are mired in scams like the present deal with Augusta Westland, which is more about VVIP movement. 

To some extent, the Finance Minister in his Budget allayed apprehensions by not ‘slashing’, but by allowing a modest increase of 14 per cent over revised estimates of Rs.178,503 crore, or 4.5 per cent over Budget estimates – the lowest increase in the last three years, at Rs 2,03,672 crore with Rs 86,741 crore for capital acquisition. Unfortunately, the allocation is not based on the threat perception of two-pronged offensive from China and Pakistan. 

Mr Antony said that the government is drastically cutting down on expenditure across the board however, there will be no cuts in “priority areas” and the “operational preparedness” of the military will not be affected. 

More importantly, revenue expenditure (day-to-day costs and salaries) stands at Rs 116,931 crore, surpassing by far the capital needed for new weapons, sensors and platforms at Rs 86,741 crore. It reflects a poor “teeth-to-tail” ratio. Also, a major chunk of capital outlay will go for “committed liabilities”, not leaving much for new projects. The finance ministry will once again step in towards end-December to slash the allocated Budget. In the going fiscal, the capital outlay was cut by Rs 10,000 crore, and revenue by Rs 4,904 crore. 

China’s Defence Budget: 2013-14

March 18, 2013 

“Building a strong national defense and powerful armed forces that are commensurate with China’s international standing and meet the needs of its security and development interests is a strategic task of China’s modernization drive...” 

- Hu Jintao, in a speech to the Party Congress, November 8, 2012. 

The release of China’s defence budget is an annual event watched keenly by defence analysts the world over. This year, the procedure of declaring the figures a day prior to the National People’s Congress (NPC) convention was also changed, in keeping with the on-going change in leadership. The defence budget figures were released on March 5, 2013, just before Wen Jiabao’s ‘work report’ to the 12th NPC. But the figures neither evoked surprise nor caused a flutter because they were along expected lines—a 10.7 per cent increase over 2012 to RMB 720.2 billion ($117 billion; the figure varies between $114 and 117 billion in various sources). In the past, China’s defence budget had increased at an average 15.9 per cent from 1998 to 2007, 14.5 per cent from 1988 to 1997, and 3.5 per cent from 1978 to 19 87. In 2012, it increased by 11.2 per cent to RMB 670.2 billion ($106.4 billion) over the 2011 figures of RMB 602.6 billion ($95.4 billion). In terms of percentage of GDP, this year’s budget is pegged at 1.3 per cent of the GDP, a marginal increase from 1.28 per cent in 2012, but below the 1.33 per cent registered in 2008. 

Zhao Xiaozhuo, Deputy Director of the Academy of Military Sciences, a think tank of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has justified the continued double-digit growth in China’s defence spending thus: China’s vast land and maritime frontiers, four nuclear neighbours, and the four disputed areas in its proximity have exacerbated tensions in the region. Falling back on the cliché of ‘century of humiliation’, he asserts that it is essential to modernise to avoid being attacked again. Finally, Zhao avers that ‘diversified military tasks’ has increased the multi-faceted roles of the PLA. All these necessitate a double digit increase in military spending.1 Zhao has also criticised the Western media as having ‘made it their wont to criticize China’s defense budget’ without taking into account the fact that “China’s per capita expenditure on defense is only 3.46 percent of the US, 8.29 percent of the United Kingdom and 18.45 percent of Japan, according to the SIPRI Yearbook 2012, published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an international defense think tank.”2

At the official level, the Parliament spokesperson Fu Ying was quick to state that, “It’s not good news for the world that a country as large as China is unable to protect itself….China’s peaceful foreign policies and its defensive military policies are conducive to security and peace in Asia.”3 And as if to give the budget acceptability, the Global Times, in a poll conducted the same day, stated that as many as 50.1 per cent people agreed that the budget was ‘reasonable’ and 28.7 per cent wanted it to be increased. Only 12.7 per cent said that it should be cut while 8.5 per cent had ‘no opinion’.4

'Chinese dream' will haunt the new world

By Manoj Joshi
18 March 2013

On Saturday, China completed the process of its once in- a-decade leadership transition. It has been one of the smoothest transitions of leadership in recent decades. 

Xi Jinping, who was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chairman of its Central Military Commission in November, has taken over as the President of the country, along with a new prime minister Li Keqiang and a council of ministers. 

In taking over the three offices in such quick time, he has emerged as the most powerful Communist party boss since Deng Xiaoping. 

He has wasted little time in consolidating his authority. No doubt circumstances, notably the Bo Xilai affair and other corruption scandals have aided the process. 

Though his first tour to the southern, economically vibrant zones, including Shenzhen was aimed at signaling his commitment to economic growth and reform, his most significant actions so far seem to have been in stamping his authority over the crucial pillar of the CPC - the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the country's national security policy. 

It was in this tour that he delivered a speech to senior PLA brass and party officials, where he stressed the need for "absolute loyalty" of the PLA to the CPC. Many western analysts have been pointing to the signs of the growing importance of the PLA and the role that it has played in the factional politics of the Chinese leadership. 

In the four months that Xi has been in power, he has undertaken a largescale reshuffle of the top leaders of the PLA general staff departments, as well as the seven military regions. 

Last month, the military authorities issued "Ten Regulations on improving the Work Style of the Army", aimed at checking corruption and high living among the mid and senior level officers. 

The War Crimes Trial and Forthcoming Elections in Bangladesh

March 18, 2013 

When Sheikh Hasina expressed her desire to prosecute war criminals after getting elected for the second time as the prime minister of Bangladesh, people who follow developments in that country knew that it would lead to street battles and clashes. It was not difficult to predict this as it was known that the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has considerable following in the country and in all likelihood would support the Jamaat in the event of war crime trials convicting top Jamaat leaders. What is surprising is that these protests have started a little too early, thanks to the spontaneous movement that erupted at the Shahbagh square in Central Dhaka after the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah to life imprisonment. Since then things have become worse. The subsequent verdict awarded the death penalty to Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee for his war crimes. This has made some analysts suggest that Sheikh Hasina should moderate her quest for justice. 

The important question here is will the Shahbagh protestors tolerate any leniency on the part of the government. And even if they do, such a move will only discredit the Awami League. The youth protestors at Shahbagh square do not have affiliations to any political organization or group. They were outraged by the verdict against Abdul Quader Mollah who was given only life imprisonment. Tribunal-2 Chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan and members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Judge M Shahinur Islam unanimously held Mollah guilty on five of the six charges brought against him. The only charge that the prosecution could not prove was the one for killing hundreds of people at Ghatar Char and Bhawal Khan Bari in Keraniganj. 

The Bangladeshi people were surprised at the verdict. They wanted Mollah hanged, given the severity of his crimes. The verdict caused frustration among the country’s liberation war heroes. The Sector Commanders' Forum issued a statement saying that “the verdict is unacceptable to the martyrs' families, freedom fighters and the common people.” This was not unusual to expect from a country which had won its liberation after sacrificing more than a million lives. The worst kinds of atrocities were committed on Bengali men and women. Nearly 300,000 women were raped. Possibly, it must be one of the first occasions in modern times where rape was used as an instrument of war. In these crimes the Jamaat and its leaders worked as local collaborators (Razakars) of the Pakistan army. Today, a large number of Bangladeshi families of Muktijodhas (freedom-fighters) have a story to tell about what they faced during those times. Clearly, the educated and progressive youth of Bangladesh today want maximum punishment awarded to the war criminals most of whom are Jamaat leaders of that era. 

United States Strategic Blunders in Southwest Asia

By Dr Subhash Kapila 

“Order is preferable to disorder. Just consider what happened to Iraq after we toppled Saddam Hussein. The United States should not want Iraq’s immediate past to be a foretaste of the region’s future”---Robert Kaplan 

Introductory Observations 

South West Asia has been a region of critical strategic significance for the United States comprising regions of the Middle East, the Gulf Region, Iran and Afghanistan 

Its geostrategic significance for United States security interests can best be gauged from the fact that the United States undertook military interventions twice in Iraq and its on-going military embedment in Afghanistan. 

The United States also has been locked in a seemingly unending adversarial and conflictual confrontation with Iran for the last three decades or so. 

United States strategic policy formulations in South West Asia have in essence been Israel-centric focused on ensuring the security of the Jewish State surrounded by Islamic nations opposed to its state survival. 

United States strategic formulations are also markedly pro-Arab monarchical regimes sitting on and controlling world’s largest energy reserves. 

The United States in both cases has all along been in a state of severe disconnect with the political dynamics in South West Asia and impulsively being led to resort to military solutions rather than pushing political processes that could somehow mark the first small steps towards peace and stability in the region. 

The United States in South West Asia suffers from an overall trust-deficit in the perceptions of the countries of the region. This impedes initiatives for conflict resolution and headway in peace processes. 

When historians fifty years hence begin objectively analysing United States involvement in South West Asia the conclusions likely to be drawn would be one of major strategic blunders despite having at its disposal some of the richest resources and assets for prudent policy formulations. 

Not so strictly legal

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By Robert P. Barnidge Jr. 
March 18, 2013 

 British soldiers in Basra in this March 2003 picture. 
International lawyers must introspect about how their partisan allegiance clouded their determination of the lawfulness of the 2003 Iraq war. 

As some celebrate and others decry the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States, the United Kingdom and their Coalition partners, much attention undoubtedly turns to the ongoing Chilcot Iraq Inquiry in London. It is unclear precisely when the Inquiry’s final report will be published, but it is understood that the Inquiry is in the final stages of its deliberations. 

The Inquiry has a wide-reaching mandate, and has essentially been tasked with looking at all manner of “lessons learned” related to Iraq. As then Prime Minister Gordon Brown put it in the House of Commons on June 15, 2009 when establishing the Inquiry, it would “consider the period from summer 2001, before military operations began in March 2003, and our subsequent involvement in Iraq right up to the end of July this year.” 

Although this mandate does not centrally focus on assessing the lawfulness under international law of the use of force in Iraq in March 2003, the legality question has always hovered in the background, and it continues to do so. Indeed, several days of testimony before the Inquiry were devoted to the issue. 

The legality debate, however, if not necessarily pointless, has been, and will ultimately remain, inconclusive, in perpetuity. 

Much of the categorical insistence on the part of both sides in this debate has stemmed from a mistaken belief that it is possible, as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s legal adviser at the time of the invasion, Sir Michael Wood, contended in his January 26, 2010 testimony before the Inquiry, to “look[] at a text objectively.” While putting aside for the moment the question of whether the interpretation of language, perhaps particularly international legal language, can ever be conducted “objectively,” it is difficult to see how the circumstances of late-2002 and early-2003 allowed anyone, much less international lawyers, to “objectively” apply the international law related to the use of force to the facts of Iraq. 

Why New Delhi wants to forget 1962?

Issue Net Edition | Date : 17 Mar , 2013

While the Indian National Congress is still able to remember the role of former prime ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi in the India-Pakistan conflicts of 1965 and 1971, it has forgotten the 1962 War with China.

‘Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation’, a souvenir released on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the party and edited by senior leader Pranab Mukherjee says that in 1971 Indira Gandhi “was hailed as Durga, an incarnation of Shakti.” The events which saw the birth of Bangladesh are still considered to be ‘her personal success’.

Nehru begged to the US to immediately despatch a ‘more comprehensive’ US military aid, “if the Chinese are to be prevented from taking over the whole of Eastern India.”

During the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War, Shastri had already demonstrated to the world that India could defend its territory with modest resources: “The aggression by Pakistan was effectively checked. The Indian troops even crossed over to Pakistani territory near Lahore”, write Congress historians.

The 1962 conflict with China remains a deep scar on the Indian psyche, but the 172-page book entirely omits the episode. To many, it resembles a Stalinian way to write history.

This reflects a great deal on the level of the historians working for the Congress. Foremost is Mridula Mukherjee, the director of Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture who flouted all government rules, which prohibit the director of such bodies from associating with a particular political party. Interestingly, the release of the book came soon after another ‘release’: two letters sent by Jawaharlal Nehru to US President John F Kennedy on November 19, 1962.

Thanks to the truly eminent journalist Inder Malhotra these two missives are today in the public domain. Did the Indian National Congress know that the first prime minister of India informed the US President that the situation in November 1962 was ‘desperate’? Nehru begged to the US to immediately despatch a ‘more comprehensive’ US military aid, “if the Chinese are to be prevented from taking over the whole of Eastern India.” Till these letters were ‘declassified’ by the veteran journalist, there was only a brief mention about their existence in the “Foreign Relations of the United States” which mentions: “The letter conveyed in Telegram 1891 was the first of two letters sent by Nehru to Kennedy on November 19.

The second was delivered to the White House by the Indian Ambassador on the evening of November 19. These letters have not been declassified by the Indian government.” The Office of the Historian of the US government quotes their summary published by S Gopal, Nehru’s biographer: “Nehru, apparently without consulting any of his cabinet colleagues or officials, apart from the Foreign Secretary, M J Desai, wrote two letters to Kennedy describing the situation as ‘really desperate’ and asked for the immediate despatch of a minimum of twelve squadrons of supersonic all-weather fighters and the setting up of radar communications.

Issue of sensitivity & responsibility

In every nation state the majority-minority syndrome is one of the great political paradoxes of our time since it is in the very foundations of a democratic government that the rights of minorities are most often jeopardised.

Fali S. Nariman

Every religion must go back to its original teachings and make itself more relevant today — Thai activist Sulak Sivaraksa

IN a modern democracy (and no civilised country professes that it is not) everything is determined by counting heads — euphemistically described as "the will of the people" — necessarily the majority of the people. But even though democracy be the rule of the majority, it is important to know that the protection of minorities is not a matter of compassion.

Indian-ness of minorities

Jawaharlal Nehru was the first to emphasise the overriding characteristic of Indian-ness of the minorities. He had written that "Moslems, Christians, Jews and Parsees, who professed a religion of non-Indian origin, coming to India, settled down here and became distinctively Indian in the course of a few generations. Indian converts to some of these religions never ceased to be Indians on account of a change of their faith. They were henceforth looked upon in other countries as Indians and foreigners, even though there might have been a community of faith between them.

This eloquent passage from the "Discovery of India" (1946) describes our true heritage. It inspired us in our college days. It needs to be translated into all Indian languages and more widely disseminated, especially in our educational institutions to inspire the students of today, because it represents India's great cultural tradition.

We all know as to how the word 'propagate' (in the expression "right to freely ... propagate religion") was deliberately introduced in draft Article 19 during the debates in the Constituent Assembly, and was after much discussion adopted. This is now Article 25 of India's Constitution.

But what had been deliberately inserted by the Constituent Assembly was virtually deleted by a judicial diktat of India's Supreme Court in the case of Father Stanislaus decided in the year 1977 - since when the fundamental right to propagate one's religion has been virtually taken away. But like it or not (I certainly do not like it), Father Stanislaus has stood the test of time, and we have lived with it for 35 years without too much inconvenience. No State can presume to confer the right to adopt or change one's religion and no civilised State can take it away.


If allegations prove guilt, Modi alone is not in the dock
Commentarao: S.L. RAO

The ‘disinvitation’ of a University of Pennsylvania invitation to Narendra Modi to deliver the keynote address at an annual conference on India at Wharton is now an old story. It still needs comment. It was ugly and insulting. The ‘disinvitation’ for Modi was initiated by a petty publicity-seeking Indian-origin assistant professor of social sciences at the university, with two other more reticent followers. On Indian television channels this assistant professor was given time to explain his position. The university rescinded the invitation after receiving a letter, co-signed by the two others.

Modi is a politician with boundless ambition. He seeks a national and international reputation and role. Such invitations help to bolster his image as a major political figure. His basic image was made in Gujarat and India, and does not depend on speaking at a few overseas universities, including Ivy League ones in the United States of America. But they spread his name. Given the Indian penchant for foreign praise, it will help in fund-raising from overseas Indians.

It is strange that the University of Pennsylvania decided to invite him in the first place without the usual checks. This assistant professor was too low down the pole to have been consulted then. Many others must have persuaded the university to invite Modi. The university must also have done some checking of its own and decided that the three times elected chief minister of Gujarat was a fit person to address the conference. What were the fresh arguments (as detailed by the assistant professor, on Indian media) for withdrawing the invitation?

One was the allegation of Modi’s responsibility in the killing of over 2,000 Muslims in the Gujarat riots of 2002. The other was that his model of development in Gujarat was mostly media hype and that the reality was much inferior to the claims. No court has yet ruled against Modi for any role in the Gujarat riots. He was the chief minister at the time. The allegations were that he instructed ministers and top policemen to let the killings continue. No credible evidence that this was so has been submitted in the numerous inquiries and court hearings. If we accept that allegations are facts, Rajiv Gandhi can be accused of allowing the killings of many thousands of Sikhs in Delhi to continue for three days. Had he instructed the police to allow this? His home minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, was incommunicado during the killings. Can he be held responsible? The People’s Union for Civil Liberties published a leaflet titled “Who are the Guilty?” that described what happened and named the ring leaders who led the targeted killings of Sikhs. No one has so far been punished. Indeed, Jagdish Tytler, who was, was made a Union cabinet minister. He and Sajjan Kumar, who was also named, enjoy Z plus security at the nation’s cost. They were charged but the cases have been allowed to drag on for years.

The second succession

Mon Mar 18 2013

The Congress top brass rallied around Indira Gandhi in the leadership tussle after Shastri's death

LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI'S death, unlike that of Jawaharlal Nehru barely 19 months earlier, was sudden and utterly unexpected. Moreover, in 1964, succession to Nehru by Shastri had been all but settled before the iconic prime minister's passing. This time the issue was wide open. The decision-making machinery, headed by Congress president K. Kamaraj, that had then masterminded the transition, was still intact. But the new situation was entirely different.

A supremely important difference was that in 1964, the seamless succession was settled by consensus, ascertained by Kamaraj. This was ruled out in 1966. For, Morarji Desai — who had grumbled bitterly on the previous occasion that he was "outmanoeuvred" by the powerful party bosses and thus "cheated out of what was rightfully his" — made it crystal clear that he would contest for the leadership. At the same time, he insisted that there should be a free and secret ballot by the Congress Parliamentary Party without any "interference" by organisational bosses or state chief ministers. All concerned promptly accepted the inevitability of a secret ballot by the CPP. But they tersely told Desai that the Congress's "Grand Council", consisting of the Congress Working Committee, of which all top Central ministers were members, and state chief ministers, all of whom were then Congressmen of substance, had an equal stake in the choice of the new PM, as was underscored in 1964.

Yet another new element in the situation that some considered bizarre was that caretaker PM G.L. Nanda had decided to throw his hat, or rather Gandhi cap, in the ring. On the morning of January 11, even before the plane carrying Shastri's body had left Tashkent, Nanda went to see Indira Gandhi and asked her whether she wanted to be PM. As was her wont, she disavowed any such ambition. Whereupon, he inquired whether she would support his candidature. Her carefully worded reply was that if all others supported him, she wouldn't "stand in his way". Nanda interpreted it as her unconditional support. From there he went to Kamaraj and told him that he was tired of being a "stepney" PM again and again and should therefore be "confirmed" in the top job.

However, realising his limitations, he also spelled out a fall back position: let him be PM for a year until the 1967 general election. "Thereafter you can chuck me out if you so want." He added that the only Congress leader he would agree to serve under was Indira Gandhi. The silent, strong man from the south heard him out and maintained his customary silence.

There is plenty of evidence to show that as he took the first available plane to Delhi from what was then Madras after hearing the tragic news, Kamaraj had virtually made up his mind that in the transition during difficult times, Indira Gandhi would be the best bet for the Congress and the country. The next election, the first without Nehru, was only 13 months away. No other rival had even a fraction of her appeal to the voters, partly by virtue of being Nehru's daughter. Moreover, she was above all divisions — religious, regional or caste. Most importantly, she would almost certainly defeat Desai, an objective on which all members of the Syndicate were agreed, whatever else they differed on.

Even so, Kamaraj knew that some of his cohorts would have reservations about Indira Gandhi. These, he discovered, were stronger than he had anticipated. Two very influential members of the Syndicate, S.K. Patil and Atulya Ghosh, for instance, insisted that Kamaraj should take over the responsibility himself. His rather belated reply to them was vintage Kamaraj: "No Hindi, No English. How?" They both then argued that in that case, Nanda should continue as PM "at least for the present".

Don't let Europe off the hook

March 17, 2013 
Nitin Pai 

India must not allow EU to distance itself from Italy's mala fide act 

In recent months, Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign affairs chief, has found it in her line of responsibility to criticise the execution of Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab on account of the EU's opposition to the death penalty. She also welcomed the Kerala High Court's decision to allow the two Italian marines facing murder charges to return home for two weeks to celebrate Christmas. So her silence on Italy's refusal to send the two marines back to India for trial is conspicuous.

For an entity ever ready to comment on India's domestic matters, it is remarkable that the EU's foreign affairs chief has nothing to say when one of its constituents brazenly reneges on a commitment it made to India's apex court. (Also, curiously, while the EU issued a statement welcoming the Kerala High Court's pre-Christmas decision, it remained silent on the Supreme Court's even more generous order allowing the marines to go home for four weeks ostensibly for the purpose of casting their vote.)

Italian newspapers reported that the EU's reaction to Rome's sovereign default on its commitment to the Indian Supreme Court was a "no comment". On March 15, Gazzetta del Sud quoted a spokesperson for Ms Ashton as saying, "The EU is taking note of the disputes between India and Italy and continues to hope that a common solution can be reached through negotiation."

Brussels appears to want to wash its hands of the matter, but New Delhi must not allow the EU and its member states to distance themselves from Italy's mala fide act. If the spokesperson's statement is the EU's policy, then New Delhi must make it abundantly clear to Brussels, Berlin, Paris and London that India will see no difference between Italy's stand and the EU's.

Why drag the EU into what appears to be a bilateral matter between India and Italy? Well, because Italy is part of the EU, and under the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon, the Union arrogated to itself a foreign-policy role. If one of its members conducts itself in a manner that is grossly inconsistent with the norms of international behaviour, then it should concern the EU and its member states.

There is another reason. The matter has gone far beyond the criminal case against two Italian marines. The Italian government has converted the issue from a legal matter into a geopolitical one. So while the Indian government and the Supreme Court must continue to pursue the case in the domain of law, let us be clear that the matter is now firmly in the domain of power. New Delhi must move beyond its preference to play the game of dossiers and lawsuits and respond to the Italian transgression on the geopolitical and geoeconomic chessboard.

New Delhi has done well to downgrade diplomatic ties with Rome. This is the first step and serves to signal India's displeasure. This must be followed by action against the Italian ambassador - either his expulsion by the executive branch or his indictment by the judicial branch, if the latter is allowable under the Vienna Convention.

Given the scale and nature of the India-Italy bilateral relationship, there are few good options to punish the Italian government. Targeting economic ties would not be prudent because the balance of trade is in India's favour and is likely to remain so. While Indian citizens and civil society are free to protest by boycotting Italian goods, New Delhi must remain agnostic to actions of this kind.

Democracy and Indian Muslims

March 16, 2013 by Team SAISA
Filed under Analysis

An outstanding article from the Daily Times of Pakistan. This is an article which needs to flow down to all minorities. A country which can look after its minorities eventually thrives. It happened with America. In our context it is a matter of perception. Minorities in any part of the world perceive themselves as a persecuted lot, always unequal to the majority; it is a victim status which comes to human beings when they are outnumbered ethnically, or on religious count. In these circumstances all they need are reminders of the virtues of secular, liberal democracy. These reminders are essential and the Government of the day should emphasise on this.

Pakistan and much of the Arab world is feeling the heat of too much of religion. It is breaking their fabric rather than uniting them. As against this, whatever one may say of the frailty of India’s secular credentials no one can question the success of the model.

By Tufail Ahmad

The organising principles of Indian polity and society are the same that define a western country: a multi-party system, individualism, liberty, a free press and rule of law.

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the self-confessed leader of the banned outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, may think that Pakistan is the best Islamic nation for the Bollywood star, Shahrukh Khan to move to, but it is India that is arguably the best Muslim country today. Muslims in India enjoy complete political and religious liberty, a free legislative environment to undertake economic and educational initiatives, a vibrant television media and cinema that teach liberal coexistence, and access to a vast number of universities and institutes of modern education. There is absolutely no Muslim country that offers such a vast array of freedoms to its people.

India is able to offer these freedoms to its citizens because it is a successful democracy. It was good for India to lose the 1857 war; if the British had lost, Indians would have continued to be governed by kings and nawabs, and under shari’a courts that existed during the Mughal era. At the time of independence, the British left behind a justice system that was blind to religious and caste inequities in Indian society, an inclusive democracy that guaranteed equal rights and religious and political freedoms for all; English language that opened doorway to enlightenment and scientific education; and a civil service that treated everyone as Indians rather than Muslims, Hindus or Christians. Muslims in India enjoy these freedoms because India is a thriving democracy, unlike Pakistan that chose a discriminatory constitution, barring its own citizens from holding top positions such as the president of Pakistan because they are Hindus or Christians. Over the past half century, hundreds of millions of Dalits and women have found political empowerment and social freedoms in Indian democracy.

Religion cannot be a good model of governance for modern times because it fails to imagine situations in which non-Muslim citizens could be trusted to govern a Muslim country. Conversely, democracies trust their citizens irrespective of their faith. In a democracy like India, any citizen could compete to be the elected ruler.As democracy matures, India has appointed its Muslim citizens to top positions, currently Hamid Ansari as vice president, Salman Khurshid as foreign minister, Justice Altamas Kabir as Chief Justice, and Syed Asif Ibrahim as the chief of the Intelligence Bureau. It is also true that Muslims lag behind in India’s collective life, but this is because they are under the influence of orthodox ulema or because Muslim politicians fail to imagine themselves as leaders of all Indians. A Muslim politician will be the country’s prime minister the day Indian Muslims begin to view themselves as leaders of all Indians and not only of Muslims, much like Barack Obama who imagined himself as a leader not only of blacks, but of all Americans.

Effectively, India is a ‘western’ country. In the popular imagination, the west is viewed as a geographic concept, covering mainly the United States, Britain and parts of Europe. However, the ground realities are otherwise. Several countries, notably Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, are situated in the east, but in terms of their values and politics are firmly part of the west. Conversely, countries such as Russia and some in Latin America are geographically in the west but cannot be called a western country as their citizens do not enjoy the social and political freedoms available to free people in the west. The organising principles of Indian polity and society are the same that define a western country: a multi-party system, individualism, liberty, a free press and rule of law. As in a western country, consensus about governance, politics and society is moderated by media and political parties and is derived from differences rather than similarities of religion and ideology as in Saudi Arabia or North Korea.

Ranthambore: Tigers crawling out of the woods!

Tiger overpopulation in the Ranthambore reserve is leading to aggression, against both fellow tigers and humans

Akash Bisht Ranthambore (Rajasthan)

It’s 5 pm and forest guard Harlal Saini has just returned from a long walk through a dense patch of forest that comprises his beat in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (RTR) in Rajasthan. Every day, he makes two such trips to the forest to ensure that there is no imminent danger to the habitat or its wild inhabitants. This has been his routine for the past 20 years. He lives in a small tent on a dry patch of forest deep inside the reserve. Next to the tent, a fire burns slowly in a small mud chulhah. Exhausted by the strenuous routine, Saini decides to drink some tea before getting back to work. He puts a kettle on the chulhah and adds milk powder, sugar and tea leaves when the water begins to simmer. After boiling the drink for several minutes, he pours it into small china cups. Sipping it, he remarks that he will have to spend the night alone as his partner, a fellow forest guard, is on leave. 

Only 48, Saini has many years left until retirement but he looks much older; his skin is wrinkled and most of his hair has turned grey. “The daily hardship of the work makes us look much older,” he smiles. He has his share of hair-raising stories — and not all of them are tall ones. Thoroughly familiar with the forest, he has seen many tigers from very close quarters. But the one encounter he will never forget is when he was attacked by a tiger. 

The fear of death stalks several forest guards who patrol the deep interiors of the reserve. Even the brave ones like Saini fear for their lives. They feel that Ranthambore’s tigers have become strangely aggressive in the past few years 

“It was July 8, 2009, when some new forest guards and a forest officer had joined work and they all wanted to see a tiger. I knew that a tiger was camping in the area and took them to the spot where he usually rested. Soon after we reached, while I was looking around, he suddenly pounced on me. When I looked back for help, everyone had run away,” he says.

Saini blames himself for the attack. Had he not disturbed the tiger, the incident would not have happened, he says. “If he wanted to kill me, he would have done that, but he just wanted to warn me.” He then proudly displays the scars on his hand, left by the massive canines of the tiger.

While Saini survived to tell the story, forester Gheesu Singh wasn’t so lucky. On October 25, 2012, Gheesu was walking between two groups of labourers inside the reserve when a tiger attacked him. He had gone to the forest to inspect the progress on the road that was being repaired at Rajbagh naka area of the Kundal Forest region. Forest officials said that most of the labourers and forest guards ran away as soon as they heard Gheesu scream, “Pakad liya(he has caught me).”

Gas pipeline becoming a reality

Iran and Pakistan outmanoeuvre US
by S. K. Sharma

PRESIDENT Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari have virtually mocked at the US-led sanctions against Iran at the ground-breaking ceremony, which marked the start of the construction of the Pakistan portion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. The present phase of the project involves the laying of a 780-km section of the pipeline on the Pakistani side at an expected cost of $ 1.5 billion. Around 1100 km of the pipeline in Iran between Bandar Abbas and Iranshehar has already been completed by Iran. The pipeline will terminate at Multan in Pakistan after traversing through volatile Balochistan province. The pipeline will export 8.7 billion cubic metre of natural gas to Pakistan, which will be sufficient to generate 5000 MW of power.

This pipeline was conceptualised in 1950. However, serious discussions between the governments of Iran and Pakistan started only in 1994 and a preliminary agreement was signed in 1995. India also joined the project in February 1999, resulting in the increase of the pipeline distance to 2760 km. India withdrew from the project over pricing and security issues in 2009. Iran and Pakistan signed an agreement on the pipeline on March 16, 2010, in Ankara. According to the agreement, each country must complete its section of the pipeline by 2014.

Reluctance of India to join this project in spite of perpetual shortfall in the availability of natural gas in the country was influenced by a number of factors. Most important was the security of gas supply due the volatile situation in the Balochistan area and the threat from Jihadi terrorists to harm India's economic interest. Take and pay clause would have made India pay for the gas whether it received it or not due to these disruptions. The stoppage of the supply would have made a profound adverse economic impact on the downstream users. The high price of gas demanded by Iran was another major impediment for India in joining this project.

Iran had demanded a price which was more than double the prevailing market price in India. However, in its desperation to sell gas in the face of US sanctions, Iran has agreed to sell the gas now at $ 4.93 per million Btu to Pakistan after India has withdrawn from the project. Even this price, with an additional transit cost and hefty pipeline security charges being demanded by Pakistan, would have increased the price of gas to a high level of $ 8-10 per MM Btu to India. It has been estimated that gas-based power plants in India become economically viable only if the landed cost of gas remains below $ 7 per million Btu.

In 2005, due to its insistence for a higher price of gas, Iran scrapped an already signed deal of $ 22 billion between Iranian gas Export Corporation and Indian companies, GAIL and IOC, to sell 5 million tonnes per annum of LNG to India at $ 3.215 per million Btu. It cited the lack of approval by the higher authorities as the reason. India was apprehensive that Iran may not play the same game at a later stage.

Another factor which has come into play against India joining the pipeline project is the tremendous reduction in the cost of production, shipping and regassification of liquified natural gas (LNG). As a result, the transportation cost of gas through the pipeline and as LNG has become comparable within a distance range of 2000-3000 km, which corresponds to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline length. Keeping in view the economic, geopolitical and security issues into consideration, the Indian establishment feels that LNG is a better option than the pipeline for gas transportation. A large number of LNG terminals have been already established and more are in the pipeline. These were the main reasons for India to opt out of this project, instead of the nuclear deal bogey being raised by the distractors.

The South Par gasfield from where the pipeline is originating is one of the largest gas fields in the world and is spread over 9700 square kilometres. Out of this, 3700 sq km falls in Iran and 6000 sq km falls under the jurisdiction of Qatar. While Qatar is producing more than 230 billion cubic metres of gas per year, Iran is producing only 110 billion cubic metres per year. One of the main reasons for the low production of gas by Iran is its inability to sell the gas due to US sanctions.

Human rights situation in Pakistan

March 17, 2013 by Team SAISA
Filed under Uncategorized

Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar arranged by CIRAC & ICRAC during the 22 session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

It is unfortunate that whoever speaks about problems of Pakistan is immediately declared as ‘anti-Pakistan’ and ‘agent’ of some country; and intimidated and harassed and in some cases killed. Let me declare that I am not anti – Pakistan; however, I am seriously concerned about what goes on there, as it also concerns me and my countrymen.

I want Pakistan to be stable, democratic and responsible country that promotes peace and tolerance; and that protects all citizens of Pakistan irrespective of their religious and ethnic background. It is sad that those who run affairs of Pakistan have different agenda. Their agenda seems to be promotion of religious hatred, extremism, and terrorism; and this policy has come to haunt Pakistan, hence the present chaos and terrorism which is tearing Pakistani society apart. I and many others strongly believe that destruction and disintegration of Pakistan is not in the best interest of people of South Asia, so we should help to make Pakistan stable and democratic.

It is prime responsibility and duty of the State to protect life, liberty and property of the people. However, in Pakistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir and in Gilgit Baltistan, secret agencies and those religious and terrorist patronised by them have a licence to kill and torture innocent people.

Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan provides that “all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”. Reality, however, is that only some people benefit from this law; and majority of people feel unsafe in Pakistan. This is the country that was established in name of Islam and for Muslims; what to talk of rights and protection of minorities when even Muslims are not safe there.

Situation is so bad that every other day incidents of violence and terrorism take place and valuable human lives are lost. Members belonging to ethnic minorities or certain religious groups are systematically targeted and killed. Even places of worship are also attacked and destroyed. People in Balochistan, FATA, Gilgit Baltistan, so-called Azad Kashmir and other parts of Pakistan are subject to massive human rights abuses.

Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on its mission to Pakistan (10 to 20 September 2012), and presented to the UN Human Rights Commission on 26 February 2013, during 22 Session says:
  • ‘Pakistan has endured several periods of military dictatorship throughout its history, which have resulted at times in massive violations of human rights. The perceptions of different groups in society of not being treated on an equal footing with others created frustrations and demands that were often countered by violent means and further inequalities’.
  • It is good to note that Pakistan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; but question is what has changed since this ratification. Killing of innocent people has increased, and different sects of Islam are targeted and killed mercilessly. Apart from that members of ethnic minorities are regularly attacked, their houses burnt, and at times, forced to convert or killed.
  • Pakistani officials claim that because they are fighting terrorism and that result in strict procedures and some abuse of human rights. First thing is who created and promoted these terrorist groups. One CIA report asserted that Pakistani agencies are God Father of the Taliban and groups that promote religious hatred and terrorism. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, titled: Pakistan – The Taliban’s God Father claim that 
‘State Department cables and U.S. intelligence reports describe the use of Taliban terrorist training areas in Afghanistan by Pakistani-supported militants in Kashmir, as well as Pakistan’s covert effort to supply Pashtun troops from its tribal regions to the Taliban cause in Afghanistan-effectively forging and reinforcing Pashtun bonds across the border and consolidating the Taliban’s severe form of Islam throughout Pakistan’s frontier region’.

The Afghan endgame

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Afghanistan war will observe its 12th anniversary this Monday, but the situation in that country remains as fluid as ever. The Taliban are back in the reckoning, so has been the Pakistan Army. And the Government of India appears clueless

The most definite outcome of the American intervention in Afghanistan, whose 12th anniversary falls on Monday, is that the war is ending. Life moves on and the discourses today need to be principally about the morrow. One can look back in anger and bewilderment at all that happened in the past 12 years and wonder whether it adds up. The war could not be won, the Taliban are back with a vengeance, the region has been radicalised and Pakistan chronically destabilised.

There are two divergent narratives today regarding post-2014 Afghan scenario. The dominant one insists that the country will descend into civil war and bloody anarchy once the Western troops depart. However, Afghans reject this apocalyptic vision.

President Barack Obama is redeeming the pledge he made during his election campaign in 2008 that he would extricate the American troops from the war. But this is more than the redemption by a bold politician. The US is also reeling under the financial burden of the war and the public opinion all over the West militates against the war. The war has reached a stalemate and other foreign policy challenges loom large for the Obama Administration — upheaval in the Middle East, rise of China and the geopolitical realities of a transformative period of modern history where the US’s capacity to dominate global politics is visibly diminishing.

Unsurprisingly, India’s pleas to press ahead with the war on terror in Afghanistan fell on deaf ears in Washington. The idea also gained ground that an enduring Afghan settlement involves reconciliation of the Taliban. India may have to swallow the bitter pill shortly as the Haqqani network secures habitation in the Afghan peace process. Meanwhile, the leadership of Hamid Karzai, who has been a close friend of India, is under duress and the US seems determined to dispatch him to oblivion and replace him with an amenable political figurehead in the post-2014 period ahead.

The unkindest cut of all from an Indian perspective would be that Pakistan has regained its centrality in the search of an Afghan settlement, and, even more galling, the “international community” is openly encouraging the military leadership in Rawalpindi to optimally play the role of the Taliban’s mentor, leading them to the negotiating table. The “grand bargain” among regional states — which at one time formed a vital component of the roadmap that former US special representative late Richard Holbrooke drew up — is all but abandoned as far too ambitious by Washington. So indeed, the promise of ‘nation-building’ in Afghanistan has been thrown out of the window.

Inuits worried as they confront new realities

Meena Menon

AP In this September 2006 file photo, ice chunks float in the Arctic Ocean as the sun sets near Barrow, Alaska.

The rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice has rejuvenated interests in the region, ranging from oil and gas and mineral exploration to the possibility of shorter sea routes and increased tourism. But all this poses fresh challenges to the survival of the Inuit and other indigenous people who live there.

While some speakers at The Arctic Summit held by The Economist on March 12 seemed to favour the line that the local people needed money just as anyone else and would welcome the chance to blow it up on fast cars and gizmos, a more studied view was put forth by Aqqaluk Lynge, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, who was quite firm that “We don’t want the fate of the North American indigenous people.”

The council represents about 1,60,000 Inuits living in the Arctic region.

Mr. Lynge told The Hindu, “We are in the middle of a changing situation and we have to establish our economies. There is a new mood among the young in the Arctic region and they want better living conditions.” Living in harsh biting cold conditions, they could certainly do with lots of improvement. Many small villages have no transport or access. Yet Mr. Lynge pointed out that the Arctic people knew that if you destroyed nature, it would destroy your way of life. It would hurt if mining in Alaska would lead to influx of labour.

Mr. Lynge appealed to India, which is aspiring for a place on the Arctic Council, to consider the plight of the 60,000 Inuits in Greenland who live in darkness and ice every October to June, before embarking on commercial interests in the region. ‘In the High Arctic, especially in Greenland, they don’t see the Sun from November 17 to February 24,’ he said. “Those people can only survive because of the snow and ice and the light from the moon. That’s extreme survival and the Russian indigenous people live off reindeer herding — it’s the Arctic way of life. But we also need doctors and dentists and now there is the strong influence of TV,” he said.

Change in ecological balance

Describing the soul of the Arctic as unique and strong, he said development did not mean everyone aspired to be billionaires. “It’s important for the world to realise we also need to survive,” he said. The Arctic Council was a means of international cooperation and the only instrument which could set international standards on navigation, and oil drilling and the eight Arctic nations were working closely together. Of the over four million people living in the region, some 700,000 to 800,000 were indigenous people. With climate change, traditional means of livelihood were being hit. “There are new fish species in abundance but they are not ready to be used in the fishing industry,” he said. “The market for marine mammals has collapsed and now certain groups are not allowing us to sell seal skin,” he lamented.

The ecological balance of the Arctic was also changing rapidly and the Inuits were confronting new realities. They were spread over Greenland, Canada and Far East Russia, where there were 21 different Arctic nations.

Mining issue

The recent elections in Greenland had as one if its major issues — the question of allowing mining— and the Opposition party which came to power favoured mineral exploitation, including that of uranium. The Inuit people owned their land in Greenland, Mr. Lynge said, but there were some 120 mining leases now. That’s the harsh reality, he noted.

Others too sounded a cautionary note against exploiting the Arctic. Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the Oceans at Potsdam University was not in favour of drilling for fossil fuel in the Arctic while mineral extraction could be decided on a case-by-case basis. Frederic Hauge, president of the Bellona Foundation said changes in the Arctic region were seen long before science reported them. The ecology was already rapidly changing.

Jan-Gunnar Winther, Director of Norwegian Polar Institute, said: “The rapidity of the changes has taken us by surprise. We have been underestimating the changes.” Increase in shipping, energy, tourism and fishing would be a challenge for the sensitive Arctic ecosystem. “No one will want to see an oil spill. What would be the effects of local emissions from ships, and soot which can increase the ice melt” he asked.