118 years of Trust M A I L B A G THE TRIBUNE
Friday, December 18, 1998
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Efficacy of anti-missile systems

  THIS has reference to a very informative article, “Costly missile shield for Delhi”, by Lieut-General Harwant Singh (retd) in The Tribune of November 11. The reported decision of the government to go in for an anti-missile system must have been guided by the national security considerations. But that it is meant to provide protection to Delhi only betrays logic, and that too at a colossal cost of Rs 2000 crore, which may escalate well beyond that figure by the time the system is put on the ground.

It is extremely difficult or rather impossible to develop an anti-missile system which can provide complete aerial protection. Any such system has a host of technical and operational limitations, too little warning time being the major one. Present-day supersonic bombers and ballistic missiles would leave us with a warning time of a few minutes only for reaction.

It may not be worthwhile spending crores of rupees on a system whose efficacy is suspect. The author has taken great pains to bring out vivid details in his article and wants us to learn a lesson from the experience of America’s multi-billion Star Wars anti-missile project which has failed to give the desired results even after a long wait of two decades, or from the poor performance of their blue-eyed Patriot anti-missile system during the Iraq war which reportedly had an added advantage of getting early warnings about the firing of Scud missiles, through the US network of satellites.

Wg. Cdr. C.L. SEHGAL (retd)

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Foreign policy consensus

Apropos of Mr Hari Jaisingh’s article, “Foreign policy consensus” (Dec 11), the credibility of a country’s international relations reflects the skill of effective communication supported by professional dignity and sophistication of its foreign affairs department. No country can afford to stick to old, outdated and dogmatic moorings in the face of the stupendous global changes of the modern times. The political leadership, howsoever divided or mutually inimical must adopt and maintain a consensual approach to foreign affairs.

Unfortunately, for sometime our approach to foreign affairs and international relations seems to have lost a clear sense of direction; the Nehruvian ideology has got a setback and we moved into the areas of unrewarding and frustrating submission and compromise. Even on the vital issue of the CTBT, we developed no clear consensual approach, and the political leadership retraced its steps and made quite conflicting statements very often only to confuse the rest of the world. The foreign policy of a country of India’s stature cannot remain limited to the individual brain-waves of political leaders or policy-fixers and lobbyists. It must have a clear sense of direction.

In the face of the global changes and economic sanctions, our leadership should not only safeguard Indian interests but also develop consistency and coherence in foreign affairs.

The fast changing market trends — market access and consolidation — need to be our guiding principles. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has also advised the Indian Finance Minister to “stop thinking in wrong terms” and make the economic priorities people-oriented. For an effective economic growth we need also to cast a fresh look at our ties with our neighbours, including China. No longer can the national security remain segregated from economic growth and development.


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The cosmetic hoax

The much-envied sheen is wearing off the herbal cosmetics business with the exposure of falsehoods that led the people to believe that the goodness of herbs was being showered on them.

The harsh reality is that a vast majority of the so-called herbal remedies are loaded with chemicals. The bluff has been finally called with the Revenue Department convincingly establishing that the beauty aids hawked with well-known brands were more chemical than herbal.

The breakthrough came after the Directorate-General of Anti-Excise Evasion got hold of the formula behind some of the herbal cosmetics which promised glowing skin, healthy hair and much more. The basic properties were coming from the chemicals while the herbal inputs were minor, and the public was paying through its nose for unquestionably chemical cosmetics.

The companies were evading excise duty by classifying these cosmetics as ayurvedic medicines whereas the same were advertised as beauty care products. More than the excise evasion, the case has revealed how people have been duped into believing that they were buying herbal remedies.


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Dissent in HP Cong

The Tribune report “Dissident partymen censured” (Dec 12), highlighting the proceedings of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) meeting held at Shimla the other day is dismaying, to say the least.

Whereas one ardently expected the PCC to seriously deliberate upon the causes/factors responsible for the party’s humiliating defeat, propitious circumstances notwithstanding, in the recent byelection for the Baijnath Assembly seat, so as to devise/initiate the requisite remedial measures to rejuvenate the party in the state, the PCC leaders seem to have utilised the opportunity just to settle personal scores against one another, virtually playing the game of “one-upmanship”, mindless of its dangerous repercussions on the party as a whole. How sad!

To my mind, the leadership at the helm of party affairs in the state would be well advised to allow party members sufficient room for “dissent”/steamletting rather than suppressing it in the name of discipline, etc.

In fact, “dissent” must enjoy the pride of place in the historic party’s general scheme of things as, indisputably enough, it is the very essence of democracy. Sans dissent and steamletting, things are bound to explode sooner than later with disastrous consequences for all concerned. Communist Russia provides an exceedingly pertinent/telling example of the aforesaid type.

To conclude, appreciating the opposing point of view and a degree of tolerance on the part of the leadership seem imperative for healthy functioning of the party.

Ambota (Una)

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National agenda

A couple of days after the declaration of the results of the elections to four assemblies, the BJP’s allies rallied behind it, unanimously reaffirming their “unequivocal commitment” to the national agenda for governance and the government led by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. A meeting of the coordination committee of the coalition partners resolved that the “designs to artificially destabilise the government by creating uncertainty ... do not subserve the national interests. This will be defeated.” (The Tribune, December 1).

The resolution is quite surprising, for, if the BJP-led government today looks so unstable, it is more because of the attitude of its alliance partners themselves rather than of the Opposition parties. Their never-ending demands and blackmailing tactics always seem to be creating circumstances which do not subserve the national interests. The allies have now unanimously reaffirmed their “unequivocal commitment” to the national agenda for governance. They must not forget that they had made such a commitment earlier also but failed to stand by it”.


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Governance & the BJP

The dictionary meaning of the word “govern” is “to rule with authority, conduct policy and control affairs of State, and to influence and coax the world to its point of view”. The BJP has been accused of not being able to govern.

During the Quit India days, I remember the influential British newspaper Punch coming out with its advice to the British government as to how to govern India. In this special issue, on the cover page, there was a note which said, “turn to pages 14 & 15 for Punch’s advice of how to govern India.”

Pages 14 and 15 were completely blank, except for two words, “Govern It”. That is precisely what the BJP should do. Unfortunately, it lacks the leadership that can face the reality of public opinion, no matter how negative it may be. It lacks the dynamism to deliver with imagination and impact.

Brig N.B. GRANT (retd)


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