|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Thursday, September 3, 1998
Clinton's dangerous tilt
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton has caused irreparable damage to Indo-US relations by using his visit to Moscow for trying to persuade his Russian counterpart, in effect, to change his principled policy of friendship and cooperation towards India. Russia is embroiled in a deep financial crisis which is assuming decimating socio-political proportions. Mr Yeltsin has stuck to the spirit of the original Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation despite the vicissitudes his country has been going through. Mr Clinton has been similarly steadfast in his country's anti-India and pro-Pakistan stance. Tradition implies continuity. But Mr Clinton's mask of peace, which he often wears in the course of his partisan utterances on the prospects of tranquillity in South Asia, was never torn off so thoughtlessly before Tuesday. He told (and not asked) the beleaguered Mr Yeltsin to stop military cooperation with India. This fictitious Nostradamus of the Lewinsky era opened his third eye in the Russian capital and visualised a nuclear war in South Asia. He also saw the apparition of "the two super powers" getting fully involved in it.
The American President's concern at the "arms race" between India and Pakistan is fake. After having encouraged Pakistan to ignore its obligations in respect of impingement on India's sovereignty, the USA has lent political and military support to the successive regimes in our neighbourhood. Nothing can be more harmful to the cause of peace than such instigative backing. Nobody, except Mr Clinton, sees the shadow of a nuclear war looming large on the Indo-Pak horizon. And, what is worse, the US President does not think it inappropriate to tell the mature Russian leader that the area of imaginary gloom is close to the Russian border. Washington is greatly alarmed at the continuing Delhi-Moscow negotiations for the development of a sound defence infrastructure capable of protecting India from punitive missile strikes similar to the recent ones launched by the USA on Afghanistan and Sudan. Mr Clinton's views mean only one thing: India should be weakened and isolated. He does not realise that a strong India, as a friend, can be a great asset to the value-free and adventurist administrative set-up in his country.
Mr Yeltsin is leading a
threatened political life. Mr Clinton's position is no
better in his country. The reasons for their misfortunes
are different, but a fall is a fall. In such events, no
Humpty is better than a Dumpty. Suffice it to say that
India and Russia are committed to their accords. It is
also worth reminding the world community of an article in
the vintage text of the Bilateral Agreements of
Cooperation signed by the USA with Iran, Turkey and
Pakistan in Ankara. "The Government of (Iran /
Pakistan / Turkey) is determined to resist aggression. In
case of aggression against Iran / Pakistan / Turkey, the
Government of the United States of America, in accordance
with its Constitution, will take such appropriate action,
including the use of armed force, as may be mutually
agreed upon and as is envisaged in the Joint Resolution
to Promote Peace and Stability...." The
geo-political situation has changed since the signing of
the agreements of cooperation between the Indian and
Russian governments and between the USA and its servile
client-states. New Delhi must have a hard look at Mr
Clinton's unfriendly observations which are calculated to
harm India's security and integrity. It is strange that
the government keeps on stretching its arms to embrace
hawkish American policy-planners even after getting ample
proof of US designs. Let us think of Mr Clinton's planned
visit to this country towards the end of this year. How
welcome will he be to the people? India must go on with
its defence preparedness and its friends like Russia must
not forget their sacred bonds based on global realities.
Closed skies policy
FOR Tatas the much-touted open skies policy has turned out to be a closed skies policy, and in a public admission of this, the company has pulled out of civil aviation. There is a painful irony in this; Tatas are the pioneers in this field and Indian Airlines grew out of what they started way back in 1932. Tatas did not lose in fair competition but are victims of unholy lobbying by a powerful rival, political busybodies who labour under misconceptions and trade unions which see a danger where none exists. Still much of the blame lies with the Civil Aviation Ministry and its successive bosses. Former Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad egged Tatas to enter the field but became indifferent after a detailed proposal came. That was in 1994. His United Front successor C.M. Ibrahim developed intense phobia against foreign investment, but only in the case of Tatas, and vowed to kill its bid and nearly did. The present incumbent is a great believer in studying and restudying the proposal in the light of guidelines and revised guidelines. When he ordered yet another study of the Tatas proposal, it was time for the company to withdraw its application and do something more worthwhile. Incidentally, Tatas have also decided not to proceed with their plan to build an airport at Bangalore, making it a double blow involving an investment of Rs 2,875 crore (Rs 1475 crore and Rs 1400 crore).
Tatas are justified in hurling a discrimination charge against the ministry. While their proposal was being repeatedly put under a microscope, the NRI-owned Jet Airlines and at least on two counts Modi-Luft had their way, despite the former openly defying government orders. Tatas were told to sever their links with Singapore Airlines since foreign involvement in civil aviation was a taboo. Jet Airways had no difficulty in operating with 40 per cent equity participation from Kuwait and Gulf Airlines. When orders went out to cut free from these two partners, Jet Airlines simply said yes, but refused to give details of new financial partners or the board of directors of Tailwinds which owns the Indian arm. Nor was it asked to explain the details of the 168 commercial and marketing agreements it has signed so far. Modi-Luft has been permitted to relaunch with the cooperation of British Airways and its key functions are in the hands of Speedwings, a BA subsidiary. It also has permission to raise funds from abroad. To be generous and indulgent to some and ultra strict with Tatas seems to be the ministrys policy. And in the days to come, the ministry will have much to answer.
In a diverting interlude,
some MPs and the trade union of the Indian Airlines
employees joined the stop-Tatas campaign. The entry of
another operator would damage the interests of the flag
carrier, they chorused. But their fear was plainly
baseless and unconvincing. Tatas wanted to start with
seven aircraft to be increased to 19 over the next three
years. Compare this with IAs fleet of 56, Jet
Airlines 19 to go up to 25 very soon, and Saharas
five. Then there is the growth projection prepared by the
ministry itself. Passenger traffic is expected to expand
by 10 per cent a year, needing the induction of at least
47 aircraft of 127-seat capacity over the next three
years. Can anyone see a latent threat of Tatas squeezing
IA out of business? Competition is not the dearest ideal
to many, and they believe in crush em
young policy. The message that the Tatas story
sends out is ugly and unwholesome. From now on every
government appeal for investment in infrastructure will
sound that much less appealing. That has implications far
beyond what the government has done to Tatas.
Seismic feedback on N-tests
GLOBAL seismic systems which monitor nuclear explosions have been assiduously at work to meet the challenge of assessing the Indian nuclear tests at Pokhran, particularly the three simultaneous explosions of May 11 interpreting and updating data which initially showed wide divergencies. It was the most intensive bout of nuclear testing since 1991, when the USA and France conducted seven and six tests respectively, says the London-based Verification Technology Information Centre (VERTIC). All the more challenging because the May 11 tests were totally unexpected.
The feedback now available tells a thrilling story which, after the first round of tabulations that disputed Indian data on the tests, ends up by according full credence to the Indian statement on the yield of the explosions. Even more significant is Western analysts giving high rating to Indian technology, planning and execution of the Pokhran tests, and specially the two-stage thermonuclear test.
Two authoritative Western monitoring systems went into action, in the wake of the May 11 tests, surveying and tabulating data on the tests from seismic centres spread round the globe. These two monitoring systems at work are the US-based Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) global group, and the CTBT monitoring system which is still at the formative stage. The CTBT system is an elaborate four-tier bunching which when complete will be able to monitor all variety of explosions. It comprises a seismic monitoring network, hydroacoustic monitoring network, radionuclide monitoring network and infrasound monitoring network. Of these, the one most relevant to the Indian tests because it detects underground nuclear explosions and evaluates them the seismic monitoring network is fully operational with its primary and auxiliary networks in place.
How did the two systems respond to the May 11 tests, and what has been the final feedback? It has been no smooth sailing with any readymade surveys being fed into the monitoring systems. Such a notion of seismic surveys yielding cut and dried data from their remotely located centres would be simplistic. Apart from variations in seismographs because of their locations and a variety of other factors, there is an uncertainty factor to be taken into account. Secondly, the detection of separate signals from multiple explosions was even more problematic. Simultaneous explosions as in the case of the Indian tests on May 11, with ground separation of barely 1 km, would give seismic signals which are likely to appear as a combined signal, say the experts. Only a careful analysis of waveform could perhaps detect the subtle variation in the signals, and thus the multiple explosion source of the May 11 event. However, even this is by no means guaranteed.
Thus, for the first Indian series of May 11 totally unexpected seismic data were quickly available from the US-based IRIS global network group but its interpretation got altered over a period of 10 days. IRIS stations are located worldwide from around 6 degrees epicentral distance from Pokhran (the station in Nilore, Pakistan) to some 90 degrees (stations in Canada) and further afield.
The data showed a single event, originally estimated at magnitude 4.7, equating to a yield of some 20 kilotons (KT) of TNT, with an uncertainty factor of 2. This was at considerable variance with the Indian yield data.
But eight days after the event the US Geological Survey, using more reliable seismic data from 125 IRIS stations, estimated the May 11 explosions differently. The new magnitudes suggested a combined yield of 30-60 kt, consistent with the Indian announced total yield of 56 kt, says the London-based scientific journal Trust & Verify. Similar is the CTBT monitoring systems finding. Seismic survey data on the tests at the prototype International Data Center (PIDC) of the CTBT, which receives seismographs from its primary and auxiliary networks all over the world, recorded only 25 kilotons yield for the May 11 tests. However, Roger Clark, a seismologist at the University of Leeds, found that when data from 125 stations similar to the number used by the US Geological Survey are taken into account, the estimate is nearer 60 kt. (New Scientist)
In confirmation of this data assessment, on May 23, Dr Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist and well-known consultant on nuclear issues, gave current yield estimates as 25 to 80 kt, and confirmed that this range was indeed consistent with the Indian yield data.
An interesting analysis and commentary by Western experts on the feedback on the Indian test surveys put it this way. There has been a distinct thread of skepticism in the commentary about Indias tests questioning the veracity of the reports issued by the Indian government. One vein of doubt regarding the number of tests and their yield seems to have largely collapsed, with the balance of the evidence being consistent with Indias claims.
Even more eulogising for India is the expert view put out by Microsoft Internet Explorer, working on the theme, India goes thermonuclear. It says: It should be noted that having the Indians come forward with this type of detailed information about weapon tests so soon after they were conducted is remarkable, even unprecedented. By comparison the USA and USSR/Russia have kept the exact yields of the vast underground shots dating back to the early 1960s classified up to the present day.
Crucial international investigation, however, centred on another, even more vital question: whether the Shakti-I test was a true H-bomb or a boosted fission device. As experts cited by the Microsoft Internet Explorer put in nuclear jargon, whether it was a weapon that employs the Teller-Ulham (staged radiation implosion) scheme that allows the construction of efficient light weight weapons with (in principle) unlimited yields. On the other hand, suggestions were afloat that the Indian test might be a less ambitious boosted fission device given its comparatively modest yield.
On this key question, which was an important test of Indian nuclear capability, a historical example was being put forth of such misrepresentation the fourth nuclear test of the Soviet Union, Joe-4, touted as an H-bomb test, but was in reality found to be a test of the type of boosted fission weapons. The Indian Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, Dr R. Chidambaram, was quite explicit when on May 17 he stated that the 43 kt device was a true staged thermonuclear design. A megaton explosion would have shattered the surrounding villages and was not necessary.
Finally, when worldwide seismic surveys had come in, the Microsoft Internet Explorer, putting out an analysis of top Western experts, endorsed the Indian claim fully. Skepticism about the nature of Shakti-I test based purely on its yield seems unwarranted. Dr P.K. Iyengar, former AEC Chairman, clarified: We need not go for a megaton explosion while testing a H-bomb. Such tests are required only if we are planning for a total destruction of the opposite side. They dont have relevance in our strategy. To keep the explosive yield of the device low, Dr Iyengar said it contained only a token amount of the hydrogen variant, tritium.
Say nuclear analysts, cited by the Microsoft Internet Explorer: It has been routine practice for all weapon states to test their thermonuclear device designs in low-yield tests prior to firing high-yield versions. Only a few early, mostly experimental thermonuclear device designs were tested at a high-yield by the USA without first being fired at a low-yield. It would thus have been unusual, and from an engineering viewpoint inadvisable, for India to have attempted a full yield test on its first thermonuclear shot. Together with Indias stated interest in gathering high quality physical data for use in simulations, it is quite consistent with a well planned weapon development effort, analysts cited by the Microsoft Internet Explorer said.
Thus, leading Western
nuclear analysts put Indian nuclear capability, including
thermonuclear weapon technology, on a high rating. This
feedback has greatly enhanced Indian technologys
status, a new gift to the nation by the scientists.
Privatisation in India & abroad
PRIVATISATION has been on a strong uptrend since 1995, with the global total amount raised doubling to $153 billion in 1997, from $74 billion two years earlier an increase shared by both the developed and developing countries.
Industrialised nations raised $98.4 billion or 68 per cent of the total in 1997, two-thirds of it within the European Union, while the developing countries and the countries in transition realised an estimated $55 billion, up from $28 billion in 1996.
According to the data released by the Paris-based OECD (the grouping of developed countries), $585 billion had been raised through privatisation by all countries between 1990 and 1997. In industrialised countries, public offerings in equity markets were the preferred method for privatisation transactions.
In the developing world, where $182 billion was raised since 1990, much of privatisation has taken place in Latin America and in the countries in East Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. Brazil has taken the lead in the sale of state enterprises such as those in the areas of electricity, telecommunications and mining. Mexico and Argentina have been the other major gainers. South Asia had raised a total of $8 billion of which Indias share was $5.7 billion in 1996.
Telecom privatisation generated the highest proceeds in the OECD countries followed by transport and other public utilities. In developing countries, power utilities, telecom and postal undertakings, insurance companies and banks owned by the state were covered by privatisation, in full or part.
India embarked on a policy of limited privatisation with disinvestment of government share in public undertakings in 1991 and till March, 1998, a little over Rs 11,000 crore was realised against Rs 30,000 crore budgeted for in seven years. The tempo of earlier years could not be sustained because of the market conditions, technical problems in share value determination or political instability, especially since 1996.
Disinvestment was initially conceived mainly to improve the position of government finances in order to bring down fiscal deficit notwithstanding the demands that the revenues should be used to retire public debt. It was also envisaged then that government equity would not be lowered below the majority holding (51 per cent).
However, there was a build-up of opinion in favour of a larger level of disinvestment by as much as 74 per cent in non-strategic undertakings. The United Front government in 1996 set up a Disinvestment Commission to suggest the extent of the States withdrawal from public undertakings referred to it and suggest modalities for disinvestment. But the seven reports of the commission in relation to some 40 PSUs have been cold-shouldered by the government.
The BJP-led coalition, which took over from the United Front government in March last is yet to redefine its stand vis-a-vis the Disinvestment Commission which would hopefully end divergent views voiced by ministers and the dismay of the commission chairman, Mr G.V. Ramakrishna.
For his part, the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, announced, in his budget speech, that the government had decided to bring down share-holding to 26 per cent in all but those public sector enterprises where strategic considerations warranted the retention of government majority share-holding (51 per cent). He also announced a liberal retrenchment package for the workers who would be displaced because of the closure of non-core loss-making enterprises and the setting up of a Restructuring Fund with budgetary funds to offer compensation to the workers.
The Finance Minister is
highly confident that the government would hit the target
of Rs 5000 crore from disinvestment in the current year
beginning September. Four undertakings have been listed
the Indian Oil Corporation, Gas Authority of India
Ltd, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd and the Container
Corporation of India. Mr Sinha says sales would be done
at the market pricenot necessarily at
the share prices determined by the government. There is
an element of desperation in this in the anxiety to make
up the budgeted figure, otherwise the 5.6 per cent fiscal
deficit would further widen. IPA
Harem without walls
IT is harem without an enclosure, a specific habitat. It is spread over in different parts of the country. Its distinctive feature is that it has a female chief. A role reversal, the libbists are likely to see as reprisal, nemesis and poetic justice.
Its membership is highly selective and it has life members of their own accord that is what most of them are. They relate to one another very well. There is nothing small or sordid about their conduct as inmates of the harem. They, in fact, cherish others association with the chief as their own and are busy finding an idiom and elan for it.
In place of jealousy there is an unexpected goodwill among those who are in the inner circle, those who were once in it and those who are not in it now, the used-to-bes. No less distinguished than the other, they are the creative elite of the country from diverse fields painting, sculpture cinema, fiction, poetry, education, sports, medicine, technology and environment. Social and cultural activists are all of them. How did each of them fall for her and see for them they do not know. Almost all of them, however, have an apocalyptic awareness of the still-lingering aftermath. For her each of her affairs, by and large, at least in its prime, was a tornado, an earthquake, a deluge the primordial nature in-action she is fairly at home with.
Being situated at different places does not stand in the way of their belongingness which depends on at what frequency and level of intimacy they are perched with her at a particular moment. Their hour of intimacy would not last long, they do not know. What they consider as theirs has been, would be and is others as well. It is a measure of their vulnerability and her credibility that she is able to give to them all, sometimes or the other, the feeling of being yours exclusively without creating bad blood among them.
Lest you should think of
it as a surreal extravaganza, I wish to upset your
associations with the idea of a harem. The goings on in
this harem, the routine and ritual ones, are not a light
or lurid affair. Erotica in the space and time of the
harem is suffused with issues and causes such as sanctity
of literature and arts, compassion for the victims of the
Bhopal gas tragedy, the environment disasters and those
rendered refugees by the Tehri and other dams being built
elsewhere. How the suffusion liquifies into an
inter-personal, emotional and sexual energy is no minor
miracle for those under the spell and also for those who,
in a manner of speaking, are out of it. She answers their
desperate need for a quick symbol. Their talents
notwithstanding, they are spoonfed on such a heightened
(not hyped) view of themselves and their creativity that
do not think of quitting the harem.
From Pokhran to Private
I ARRIVE in New York a few days after India blasted its way into the nuclear club. Suitably puffed up with patriotic fervour I recall the words of George C Scott, playing World War IIs prima donnish general, Patton, in the 1970 film of that name: No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other bastard die for his country. So, on arrival, my first impulse is to see how the other poor bastards, the Pakistanis, were coping with our new-found pride and self-respect. What right, I ask myself, has the American President, who cant hold his own zipper in place, to lecture to us over the immorality of owning a nuclear bomb? How dare the Chinese, the Brits, the Japs and the Russians deny us our place in the nuclear monopoly? And what right have the Pakistanis to cry fire when they were all along readying their own bomb with stolen uranium? My pride balloons further when I read my friend Harish Trivedi of Delhi University ticking off New York Times for not taking note of us as a nuclear state. Thus arm-plated in confidence, I set out to reconnoitre.
I call up my friends at the university where I occasionally teach to know how they felt about us. They respond with the usual familiarity I am accustomed to. I notice no awe in their voices at my new status as a nuclear power. The same banter, the same opening gambits to conversation about who was in and who was out at the school. No hallelujahs at my new avatar as a nuclear-breasted third world academic. A close friend, particularly sympathetic to India, doesnt even bother to ask how it feels to say with Wordsworth: We are seven now. Instead, she asks when my niece Priya, a Columbia University undergraduate, is giving her next Bharatnatyam performance and if my friends daughter could get an invitation. I begin to simmer with indignation. While the rest of the world shivers with the tremors from Pokhran, here is a friend who isnt even aware (or pretends not to be) of our achievement. Is it envy or racial arrogance (two excuses the friends of the BJP in America readily offer) that keeps the West from genuinely appreciating our exploit? Access the BJPs website and read the print columns to grasp the swaggering self-righteousness of our rulers. Turn to the common people and you are assailed by their indifference to what is happening outside their yard-sized self-absorbed world. Why does the American establishment hate us so? I wonder. Shouldnt they rejoice that the worlds largest democracy is finally at par with the worlds greatest democracy? I recall William Hazlitts 1826 essay On the Pleasures of Hatred wherein he speaks of hatred as a spur to achievement. Then the penny drops. First, it was the Russians and Americas hatred spurred them into space exploration. Would the blasts from Pokhran and Chagai spur them on to some deadlier technology?
To feel how our traditional enemies, the Pakistanis, were cowering under our nuclear threat. I saunter into Nagma House, the famous Pakistani electronics store on Lexington Avenue where the subcontinental shoppers pick up their gadgets in 220 volts and shop for papers and magazines from India and Pakistan. The affable young owner greets me with the same warmth as on other occasions and inquires why I hadnt stepped into the store for quite some time. I sense no bitterness in his voice nor any menace in his manner. Knowing my preference for Urdu papers he signals his assistant to bring the latest issues of Jung and Nawai Waqt. With screaming headlines vowing the destruction of India, the papers carry extensive reports on how the country is coping with Indias hegemonism. A middle-aged man enters the store and asks for a Bhim Sen Joshi CD. Nodding to me as fellow shoppers do in a store, he says: You dont get them in Pakistan. A youngster, another Pakistani, asks if Amol Palekars Dayara was available on video-cassette. Meanwhile, the owner tries to sell me a pay-per view ticket for the forthcoming India-Pakistan cricket series in Toronto. A bubbly girl with her semi-rouged mother in tow comes in to return the cassette of the Pakistani play Marvi. What a relief from the dreary fare from Doordarshan, she chortles. Papers tucked under, I leave the store rather dismayed at the absence of any visible sign of hatred inside.
Are the other bastards just putting up a brave face? Are they plain ignorant? Or are they unconcerned as long as I buy their magazines and they our CDs? Suddenly, as if in a flash, I realise that these private gestures are more revealing of the inherent commonality of us all than the public postures of belligerence. At Nagma House you sense no war but a commerce of cultural give and take and even occasional open cordiality if not total bonhomie. (Cynics call it shrewd business, which it also is). Nuke-rattling would kill these sentiments. After, all in a real sense, there is no patriotism but only an instinct to preserve our private selves under the grandiose slogans of Love Your Country above everything. These private transactions constitute the only spontaneously civilised bulletins on barbaritys scabrous reverberations heard at Pokhran and Chagai. These alone endure amidst the war cries of our ruling establishments. They are incorporated into our common vulnerabilities, our not-to-be-wished away desire to defend our individuated selves against the attacks of jingoists on both sides. Patriotism has no meaning unless it is privatised a fact brought home to me in Steven Spielbergs latest movie Saving Private Ryan.
In this film the gung-ho warmongering of the likes of Patton or the chief protagonist of the 1962 film The Longest Day is put to a severely close scrutiny. Private Ryan opens and closes with the Stars and Stripes spread on the screen. But unlike in Patton, it is faded, suggesting the difficulty of surrendering private self to the states version of patriotism. A clear shift is visible here: ones private prerogatives are preferred over the aggressive public demands for conformity. Private Ryan is more important than all the blather about defending your country against its enemies who also, it would appear, have their private Ryans. Even the mission undertaken by Captain Miller to find Ryan (his two brothers are already dead on the Omaha beach) is justified in the hope that at the end I could go back to my wife. The first 30 minutes of the film showing broken limbs, hanging entrails, bodies torn asunder in tender spots, mock the hollow language of exhortation to war. Every death becomes my death, every agony my pain. Spielberg has ripped the mask from the shibboleths of consoling vocabularies.
is appropriate for the subcontinental occasion as it
reveals the actual enormities of war in the midst of
sensational slogans. I begin to wonder if it is not more
moral and just to oppose nuclear war on the ground that
it negates my private world as well as my enemys
than to support regimes that encourage all round
destruction. Americans needed Vietnam to cool their
patriotic frenzy. Do the new Godzillas of Pokhran and
Chagai need another enactment of the killing fields
before they step back from the Armageddon?
THE resignation of six Hindus elected members of the Ferozepore Municipality have already been made public. We have now received for publication a copy of the resignation of the only remaining Hindu member, Lala Mukand Lal Vakil, who was not in Ferozepore when the other members resigned. The resignation runs thus: To The Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, Through the President, Municipal Committee, Ferozepore.
For sometime past it was a serious question with us (Hindu members of the Ferozepore Municipal Committee) as to what course we should adopt in view of the attitude adopted by Mohamedan members who constitute the majority in matters municipal. It was becoming daily apparent that a communal colour was being given by the majority, and matters were decided simply on a communal basis.
Agreeing with the other
Hindu members, who have tendered their resignations on
the 29th June, 1923, and for the reasons stated by them I
take the earliest opportunity on my return from the hills
to hereby resign my seat as an elected member of the
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