|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Wednesday, December 29, 1999
TRIUMPHS AND DEFEATS
USA for better ties with India to
tackle cross-border terrorism
THE storming of the headquarters of the Special Operations Group (SOG) by a small bunch of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen terrorists in Srinagar on Monday is a horrendous happening. The belligerent organisation has demonstrated its striking capability as well as the sorrowful condition of our security arrangements. The SoG centre was heavily guarded. Haftchinar is part of the formidably high security zone. The building is supposed to have an impregnable defence shield. Around, or close to it, there are a number of Army camps with their own round-the-clock vigilance arrangement. The Central Reserve Police Force has its strong presence in the SOG complex. One can off-hand count 12 strikes on security camps in the valley during the past five months. The most nightmarish of them so far was the attack on the Badamibagh Army Headquarters on November 3 in which eight army men, including the Defence Public Relations Officer, Major P. Purushottam, were killed. Monday's exhibition of dare-devilry by just one of the many ISI-backed terrorist outfits in Jammu and Kashmir puts a big question mark on Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's claim that, with the help of the Army, the paramilitary forces and the newly organised J&K Police, he has defeated "Pakistan's nefarious designs" in Paradise Lost. Brave commandos rescue equally brave hostages dramatically. But does their expertise redeem the guilty of security failure?
And what about the Badamibaghs and the Haftchinars under the continuing and materialising threats that "such attacks will continue"? Blood-bathed Kargil has been sought to be glorified as a monument to valour after "Operation Vijay". Murderous militant assaults are being written like footnotes in doctored versions of "accidental systemic failures". Media persons are being described as "misguided collaborators" by politicians. Tropical resignation to fate is becoming the prescription for the living as it was for the dead during the darkest days of militancy. Since when have the Devil's agents started picking up free entry passes to Paradise at will?
According to a
factsheet, militants carried out 1001 violent attacks
against the security forces till October 31 this year.
Demonstrations against the forces and the state
administration, which had come down to 12 in a whole year
in 1998, have registered an upward trend. The number of
the wounded security personnel has been
"officially" put at 603 this year (again till
October 31) as against last year's number of 479. In
fact, the figure of the injured too is the highest in the
last four years beginning 1996 the year in which
an elected government was installed after a gap of over
seven years. The conclusion is bitter at the end of the
20th century. National security is being disastrously
ignored. The Prime Minister and (more than him) the
Defence Minister have to rewrite their published brave
impressions of the state of India's security.
Vote for panchayati raj
STATE governments tend to postpone elections to the local bodies if the narrow interests of the ruling party dictate it. They have now lost that power, at least the governments of Haryana and Punjab have. This is the powerful result of the brief judgement of the High Court delivered on Monday. In revising its own earlier order, saying it was issued in ignorance, the court has frustrated the Haryana governments plan to first have Assembly polls and then to various local bodies. It had a strong motivation to sequence polls this way. If the INLD-BJP does less spectacularly than in the Lok Sabha election it won all 10 seats the present buoyant mood will dissipate; conversely if the Congress does creditably, it will regain its lost vigour and put up a tough fight. This logic explained the eagerness of the officialdom to support a private petition to quash a government notification for timely polls. It also involved not being fully forthcoming in its information to the court. That explains the courts expression in ignorance, and it has now reacted by issuing a contempt notice. With the election to all local bodies mandated for February, the one to the Assembly will have to be put off to a later date. As the review petition by the Congress notes, new local bodies should be in place by the end of January when their term ends; but because of time constraint now the election will take place a few weeks later. The Haryana Chief Minister wanted simultaneous polls along with Bihar and Orissa which are scheduled to elect new Assemblies in March. If the Election Commission accedes to his request, the state will have one long election campaign, threatening voter fatigue.
amendments had made elections to local bodies and
reservation of one-third seats to women compulsory. And
it is the first time that a state government sought to
skirt the law and ride piggyback on a private complaint
to defer the election to a date more suitable to the
ruling party and its prospective ally. A High Court
ruling is binding on the state or states of its
jurisdiction and hence other governments can still
theoretically postpone the election. But the Monday
judgement is a strong precedent and hence inhibiting any
blatant violation. Democratic roots have struck deep in
the country but in feudalism-bound rural areas it is
still weak. At the village level what passes off as
self-government is a sham.
Redefining consumer rights
THE Supreme Court verdict placing the provident fund scheme in the category of "service" as defined in the Consumer Protection Act should give at least one reason to the salaried class to celebrate the advent of the new year. The scheme, which was launched with the laudable objective of providing some form of post-retirement security to salaried individuals, has, over the years, become a source of harassment to most subscribers. The current dispute, which was resolved by the country's highest court in favour of the consumer, arose out of a complaint of a subscriber against the office of the provident fund commissioner concerned. The delay in the settlement of his full and final dues forced the consumer to slap the charge of deficiency in service by the provident fund office. A Division Bench of the apex court gave the verdict in favour of the aggrieved subscriber after he had been through the prescribed process of pleading his case before the district consumer disputes redressal forum and the state and national commissions. The Supreme Court rejected the contention that the provident fund scheme is not a "service" within the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act. The Provident Fund Commissioner failed to convince the court that since the employees did not contribute to the administrative charges of the fund, they could not be treated as consumers of a service.
The country's highest
court rightly upheld the plea of the aggrieved subscriber
who said that the provident fund scheme was a service
which was created for the benefit and welfare of those
who qualified to contribute to the fund through their
respective employers. In the present case, the court left
no scope for doubt that delay in payment of provident
fund to an employee amounts to deficiency in service.
However, there are other aspects of the "service
provider" which need greater administrative
scrutiny. For instance, a large number of usually small
establishments simply "gobble up" the
employees' contribution to the provident fund instead of
depositing the amount, along with their matching share,
to the district provident fund office. Hopefully, the
apex court's pro-consumer verdict may at long last result
in greater efficiency and transparency in the operation
of the scheme. A related matter which can be settled only
through the intervention of the national commission or
the apex court is the tendency of the district forums to
ignore the stipulated time-frame of 90 days for the
settlement of disputes. As of today there is hardly any
difference between the functioning of the district forums
and the civil courts. It goes without saying that
unjustified delay in the settlement of consumer disputes
amounts to negating the purpose for which a three-tier
system was specially created under the provisions of the
Consumer Protection Act.
CONGRESS TRIUMPHS AND DEFEATS
THE Congress seems to have learnt few lessons from its best triumph in the Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh elections more than a year ago. The main reason then was the atmosphere that spread against the BJP by the high prices of onions. That sent out the message that the BJP was not efficient enough to make for the economic betterment of the people. Economic ease, with reasonable prices, higher production and more jobs, is the key to the happiness of a people in a poor country. This should have provided to the Congress the way to win the affection of the voters. But it did not remember the lesson for long. That was one reason why it did not do so well in the parliament election. It does not seem to have been put wise to it even today.
Mr Antonys introspection report too has overlooked it. Yet this was the very message that had been lying before the Congress for nearly three decades, since Indira Gandhi swept the hustings with the all-embracing golden slogan of Garibi Hatao. Reports of how the Congress dealt with the introspection report suggest that it went about it the wrong way. The way of going back to Garibi Hatao is not by criticising the direction Manmohan Singh gave the economy in 1991 and before him Rajiv Gandhi himself when he took the pioneering steps for economic liberalisation.
Sonia Gandhi rightly directed the debate in Manmohan Singhs favour. The Congress must know that it cannot take to the posture of working for the poor by criticising the liberalisation process. The two processes, liberalisation and working for the poor, do not cut into each other. Both can exist in the Congress armoury. But liberalisation must be gone about in a humane way keeping the needs of the poor in view. In todays world India must be prosperous so that it can lift the poor into a new world of achievement. The Congressmen, reportedly Arjun Singh and Rajesh Pilot, who criticised Manmohan Singh were, therefore, wrong in the angle they took up.
During the parliament electioneering the stress of the Congress manifesto and speeches should have been on what it would do for the poor and the dispossessed of the country. It should have laid down a programme for uplifting them and make out that it could do this by furthering liberalisation. The appeal for uplifting the poor would embrace all castes and religions and enable the Congress to hold all of them closer to itself. Unfortunately, for the Congress, Sonia Gandhis energy was overtaken by the criticism on the foreign origin issue and Bofors. She and her advisers mistakenly thought that these were going to be the two main election issues. They were not. These received more attention in the Congress than they deserved. As Sonias own two elections showed, the people did not give too much attention to the foreign origin issue. She could have received wider support if she appealed directly to the people with the plan of working for the poor. This is what will help the Congress whenever it wants to win the next vote. In this its relations with the leftists is going to be important. It must decide whether it should have adjustments with the leftists or not. That may not be possible if it wants to woo the anti-left Mamata Banerjee. Also, the left must not make too much fuss about liberalisation as propounded by the Congress.
The success of the Congress strategy would be known when elections will take place in Bihar, Orissa and Haryana and later on in UP. Is the Congress planning properly for it? For the BJP, UP is in such a bad stage that the Congress can reap a rich harvest. Before UP Bihar will go to the polls. The Congress must find out whether it can win on its own. It embraced Laloo Prasad Yadav when he was in the dumps of popularity. It is now giving him up when he may do a little better with the race on in the BJP and the JD (U) over chief ministership. The Congress may have to make adjustments. The RJD is being wooed by Mulayam Singh Yadav. In Bihar the Congress is not in such a strong position that it can win on its own.
The parliament election showed that in the present political situation all parties must have allies. Is the Congress looking for them? There are at present no indications of what it will do in Haryana. Tackled properly, the Congress which has been out of power in Haryana for several years can frighten Chautala no end.
The introspection committee report discussions showed that the Congress is concerned too much with personalities, peripheral issues of who should constitute the working committee and how many should they be. These are issues which do not much concern the people. These only seem to satisfy newspaper readers curiosity. The people are more interested in what the Congress can do for them, for the education of their children, the uplift of the minorities, providing succour to the old. No party has regrettably shown much inclination towards tackling these issues. This should form the forte of the Congress campaign if it wants to do well. It must never lose sight of the electoral value of the onion (read food and jobs) prices.
Sonia Gandhi had begun well by favouring low key, clean and incorruptible leaders for chief ministerships. That is why Sheila Dixit, Gamang and Ashok Gehlot rose to the helm. But one lesson which she did not learn was that in the sad story of India, the low key, incorruptible people are not often capable of winning votes. In every state which she wants to win Sonia must look for leaders who would win elections while being clean. Can she manage this?
Orissa was a particularly sad case. Gamang became a tragic figure. Was Patnaik removed too hastily, without a proper analysis after the gruesome Staines killing? Later came Gamang and the deluge. Perhaps the Congress should have shown better imagination. It should have separated the issue of Gamangs exit and the disaster relief. It should have concentrated on relief. There should have been a moratorium on the campaign against Gamang so that all attention could be given to relief work. What was done in a mixture of relief and politics was not impressive. It was a good idea for the party to ask the Congress states to come to Orissas help. The Congress workers should have turned up full blast in helping Orissa. Here, it must learn something from the RSS. Whenever there is an emergency, be it a flood or a railway accident, RSS volunteers go out in numbers to help. The Congress must not forget its social service obligations with which it was familiar during the freedom movement. Sonia Gandhi should instil this spirit of work among the Congress workers through its frontal organisations, like the Mahila Congress, the Youth Congress and the Seva Dal. Do they want to work sincerely or only jockey for power?
Sonia Gandhi should also have a second look at occupying the three posts of the Congress President, Leader of the Opposition and the chairman of the parliamentary party. These offices should be spaced out. When you do not do this, you produce Sharad Pawars and Sangmas. Sonia should be able to lead not by holding offices but by using her moral authority. It is argued that if such posts are distributed there will be too much recrimination and a constant race for whatever little power there is. The Congress, if it has to survive, must learn to share and distribute power. In this it will again have to learn from the BJP, where Atal Behari Vajpayee and Advani, two centres of prominence, have kept their so-called rivalry within reasonable dignity. Sonia should try to study how Mahatma Gandhi or Jayaprakash Narayan could provide moral leadership without holding an office.
The elections in Amethi
and Bellary (has she visited the voters there to thank
them?) showed that the country accepts her. She is the
one leader who without holding an office, can still have
a sway. Congressmen depend on her and trust her. In
popularity there is no one equal to her. In her moral
stature she must rise equal to it.
The never-say-die spies
SMILEY has retired. The Circus has nothing new to offer. John Le Carre, the most brilliant espionage writer of the recent times has switched over to different themes, like the Middle East and the illegal arms dealers. The breakup of the Soviet Union, the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the exit of the Cold War had affected the spy industry adversely. When the USA and its western allies were ready to pump in billions of dollars to prop up the Yeltsin government in Russia, how can one still think of moles, double and triple agents and SMERSH (immortalised by Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond).
The CIA collaborates with the KGB. Finally, the British government admits to the existence of Intelligence organisations like the MI5 and MI6. All over the world, spies were being retired or put to the cold. While Russia was no longer the Evil empire as former US President Ronald Reagan once said, even the Chinese do not figure in spy stories. The Yellow Peril is now wooed actively by the West for economic dialogue and openings. The famous anti-communist fictitious hero, Nick Carter, can now grow vegetable marrows and write his memoirs.
Well, that is exactly some of the former spymasters had been doing. But when these men bring out memoirs and reminiscences former spies of all hues tumbled out of the closet. Some years back, KGB defector Vasily Mitrokhin brought to Britain a vast volume of documents, detailing the activities of the Soviet spies in Britain. The British government basking under the new system of detente and goodwill towards the Russians, had no use for these documents. Mitrokhin was allowed to collaborate with a Cambridge Don and produce a book detailing the activities of the Soviet spies in the West before and during the Cold War. The BBC released a television documentary on the material, which was made available to it. The spy list was splashed all over the British media and today spy talk is back in fashion.
Will the world ever get tired of former spies and former Nazi leaders? The Nazi hunt is still off and on and occasionally, we hear of reports of a 90-year old former commandant of a concentration camp arrested in some obscure town and made to stand trial for war crime. Blind, senile and hardly aware of the world around them, such former SS men argued through their lawyers that they hardly knew what they were doing and were only carrying out orders from above. Justice and revenge, after so many years, had become irrelevant. Only the fanatical Nazi baiters took any interest in the proceedings.
The same was the case with former spies. When the CIA and the KGB had their arms around each other and worked together on many international issues, why bother about spies who operated some 50 or 60 years back? Today, the West, particularly the USA, saw new dangers in leaders like Saddam Hussein,Gaddafi and the generals of Sudan. Islamic fundamentalism bred terrorists by the dozen who targeted the West and now Russia. The focus of espionage had to shift. Today, the West required moles to be planted among the terrorist groups. As for Communist spies... well, they were only of historic interest.
The British media took the Mitrokhin Archives seriously. The BBC produced a film on British spies who worked for the Soviets. The revelations focused on 87-year old Mrs Melissa Norwood, who for several years worked for a British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association which was a cover for a nuclear laboratory. Now a grandmother and living in a quiet suburb of South London, Mrs Norwood spied for the Soviets for several years and passed on to them nuclear secrets which enabled the Communists to bridge the yawning gap between them and the West. They reached parity in no time and began exploding their own nukes.
The little old lady who tended her garden was well liked by the neighbours. She was proud of her home-made chutneys, jams and squashes. When the media landed on her doorstep, Mrs Norwood did not lose her cool and freely admitted to have spied for the Soviets. She was born into a communist family and continued to be dedicated communist. No, it was not the money which prompted her to part with British nuclear secrets. She did not accept any money, but was inspired by the socialist ideology and her fear of the domination of the West. I did this to help the Soviets rather than betray my own nation. She explained. Mrs Norwoods husband, also a communist, however, disagreed with her actions, but did not stop her.
It is too early to judge how important a spy Mrs Norwood was. But sections of the British media said she had done more damage than the Infamous Five of Burgess, Mclean, Philby, Cairncross and Anthony Blunt, who were exposed during the Cold War era. This may be an exaggerated version because Philby was generally acknowledged as the Master Spy. The British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said that the government had all along suspected Mrs Norwood, but had no proof to nail her. As time went on, she was provided with documents which were not important enough and would not have helped the Soviets much. But that could be the argument of someone who bolted stable door after the horse was stolen!
Soviet moles were not confined to matronly grandmothers. Another spy exposed in the Mitrokhin Archives was Prof Vice Allen of Leeds University who admitted he provided the East German network with British nuclear secrets. Explained the Professor: I have no shame, no regrets. My only regret was that we did not succeed.
It is worth wondering why such men and women were tempted to spy for the enemy. In the inimitable political satire, Yes, Prime Minister, the PMs principal private secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby divided the bureaucrats and others in the government as we and they. They also included Cambridge Dons who spied for the Communists and Sir Humphrey was glad and proud of the fact that he was from Oxford! He openly acknowledged that the British government was full of moles. Every bureaucrat on his retirement produced a memoir, which exposed more and more spies.
Many sensitive people in the West, during the 1930s and 1940s, were alarmed at the highly materialistic attitude of the society which ruled them. The gulf between the rich and the poor was constantly widening. Housing, jobs and public health were put on the back burner. There was thus more sympathy towards the socialist system which favoured the poor. The Soviet Union was hailed as the champion of the masses. The Cambridge Dons and even members of the British aristocracy found nothing wrong in helping the Soviets by passing, what they thought, innocent information to them.
The persecution of the Communist system in the West also helped this attitude. The Communist party was outlawed in the most powerful nation in the world, USA. The FBI and other government agencies targeted the communists, spied on them, tapped their phones. The Rosenberg couple became a victim of the anti-communist frenzey during the 1950s and were executed for allegedly passing on nuclear secrets to the Soviets. Their guilt was never proved hundred per cent. Many Western intellectuals found such victims to be genuine martyrs of the system and resolved to help the Soviets. In India, however, Communism was accepted as a political ideology. The Marxists contested elections like any other party and were often elected to power in Kerala and West Bengal. If only the West had been a bit more tolerant to Communism, perhaps, the spies would not have been so enthusiastic. Such an approach would have helped to expose Communism.
USA for better ties with India to tackle cross-border terrorism
NEW DELHI: Even as the world is agog over the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar in Afghanistan US Ambassador Richard F. Celeste has said that issue of cross-border terrorism and the support it gets from Pakistan is a real serious issue and the USA has expressed concern about it to the leadership of Pakistan, both former and present.
In an exclusive interview to Mr Anil Narendra for Asia Defence News International, he said both the USA and India big, visible, democratic countries are going to be affected by terrorism. So I believe that we ought to build a relationship in which we can discuss every issue....
To the specific query: Do you agree, Sir, that Pakistan has waged a proxy war against India he answered in the affirmative that the issue of cross-border terrorism and the support it gets from Pakistan is a real issue and the US Government has conveyed its concern to Pakistani leaders.
Q: The USA has a No Negotiation Policy towards terrorism then why is it that it has reservations about Indian action against militants, mercenaries and the Taliban who have been carrying on a proxy war against India at the behest of Pakistan. And what prevents the USA from declaring Pakistan a terrorist state?
Ambassador Celeste: In our procedures we begin by looking at terrorist organisations and identifying them. You know we have identified the Harkat-ul-Ansar as a terrorist organisation, we have identified the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. We look at others.
Recently we had a senior leader from the Department of State of Counter-terrorism, Michael Sheen, in Delhi for a brief visit. He spoke to the most senior officials of Government of India about our desire to cooperate. We have had FBI agents visit India from time to time. We have talked to Indian authorities about terrorism. We have a particular concern because we had an American hostage in Kashmir 4 years ago. We would like to greatly strengthen the cooperation between our two countries in the field of fighting terrorism.
Ultimately the decision whether any country is declared a terrorist state is made at the highest levels of our government and in that situation I cannot give you a very knowledgeable answer about what the details are and how these deliberations are made. But I would like to point out that we have not hesitated to declare organisations active in Kashmir to be on our terrorist lists and to undertake sanctions against them.
Q:Does the US agree or subscribe to the view that these terrorist organisations are funded and morally supported by Pakistan directly or indirectly?
Ambassador Celeste: We have certainly trusted the Government of Pakistan to do everything it can to ensure that cross-border terrorism does not take place. I want to be clear about something. Because now I have been two years in India I am more and more aware of an experience of interviews like this, that is, we find ourselves talking most of the time about the USA and India and yet people ask why is the USA equating India and Pakistan.
I dont think our relationship should be judged what we do vis-a-vis Pakistan. Our relationship should be judged on what we do vis-a-vis India. Maybe good, maybe bad. Thats the right way I think how we view India and how we view Pakistan. In the last couple of years perhaps for the first time in many, many years we look at India on its own terms and not because we think that relations between India and Pakistan are unimportant, terrorism issues are unimportant but I want to make the point that it goes to show the changing relationship between the USA and India.
Q: Your Excellency, I could put our relationship in a different form. Unfortunately, the relations between India and the USA depend on Pakistan. Let me explain: Today America is softer towards India because of certain recent developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Today, America has for the first time after Osama bin Laden and other incidents realised that Pakistan is supporting terrorism and is openly defying the USA. To counter that America has shifted its policies to prop up India.
Ambassador Celeste: I heard that point of view and I realise that point of view is held by many here but I think it is important to look at the historical record. We actually began to change our policies towards India more than two years ago. Before I came here you may remember that Tom Pickering, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, came to India in mid-1997 to talk about a change in US policies in which we wanted to broaden the dialogue and enter into a strategic dialogue and the goal was to have President Clinton visit here in February, 1998. Now this was before Osama bin Laden became a high-profile figure.
This was before many of
the events people look in Pakistan to explain the change
in the US policies took place. It was based, frankly, in
President Clintons own instinctive belief that it
was time that the USA and India to have a qualitatively
Oil slicks cause eco-disaster
BREST: Oil slicks from the sunken tanker Erika spread along the west coast of France as new storms threatened to disrupt operations to save beaches and thousands of sea birds.
Gale moving at 140 km an hour was expected to batter the Atlantic Coast where the oil came ashore at weekend.
French Transport Minister Jean-Clause Gayssot, meanwhile, called for international action against flag of convenience ships such as the Maltese-registered Erika, which broke in two and sank on December 12.
Gayssot told the RTL radio station that Erika had caused an ecological catastrophe on the French Coast and that polluters must be forced to pay damages.
He announced a special conference on maritime security for February. Many oil industry groups, including French oil giant Totalfina, which chartered the doomed tanker, have already said they will attend.
More than 300 kilometres of the Loire-Atlantique coast were left coated in oil from Erika early yesterday, the authorities said.
Oil slicks washed up on to beaches from Finistere on the South Coast of Brittany down almost as far as La Rochelle, was pushed by the gale.
PARIS: White-suited Greenpeace protesters smeared oil and dumped the cadavers of petrol-coated sea birds at the headquarters of Totalfina, blaming the Franco-Belgian oil group for an ecological disaster on Frances North-Western shores.
Waving banners reading totally responsible, finally guilty a word play on the companys name the protesters yesterday urged Totalfina to take legal, moral and financial responsibility for the thick, foul-smelling oil spill sullying stretches of some of the nations most beautiful coastline.
We were on the beach on Monday and there was nobody from Totalfina anywhere, Greenpeace leader Bruno Rebelle told AP television news.
Protesters emptied bags filled with the sticky black cadavers at Totalfinas front door at La Defense, the corpoate high-rise centre outside Paris.
We want them urgently to decide how they will clean up the beaches and recover the fuel still in the wreck, Rebelle said theyre the ones who chose this dangerous ship to carry their fuel.
In Madrid, Greenpeace
members left a barrel of oil from the spill at the
Spanish headquarters of Totalfina to protest against the
ecological disaster in France. They waved banners which
read Totalfina: dirty oil for Christmas.
ON rising to speak at a convocation in Lahore, Mahatma Gandhi was greeted with deafening shouts of jais. As owing to his weak state he had to deliver the speech sitting, a chair was placed on the platform on which he took his seat. He spoke in Hindi in a clear voice which was heard everywhere in the hall.
He began by referring to
the vow that the new graduates had taken, and prayed to
God to grant them strength to avoid everything calculated
to harm their creed of country. He congratulated them on
their getting their degrees and asked them to keep always
in view the goal of Swaraj for their country, whatever
line of work they might wish to take up.
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