|Friday, March 31, 2000,
House sans Elders
USA AND PAKISTAN
stakes Indias concern
we in the Western camp?
forces studying total amalgamation
March 31, 1925
FOR once news reports were not wrong. The large-scale cross-voting in the State assemblies which were called upon to fill vacancies in the Rajya Sabha followed the course predicted by the media with remarkable accuracy. A multi-edition English daily filed a tongue-in-cheek report from Lucknow on the dip in political senex as the value of an MLA fell from the all-time high of Rs 15 lakh to Rs 10 lakh on the eve of the crucial Rajya Sabha elections. It would be an exercise in futility to express deserved revulsion at the collective contribution of the political class in devaluing, in the eyes of the people, the worth of the House whose members were once held in high esteem. The Rajya Sabha was supposed to showcase the best available non-electoral political as also non-political talent of the country. The image of the Upper House has taken quite a few knocks in recent times on both counts. The rampant horse-trading in the current round of biennial elections which has returned a number of undeserving candidates to the House of Elders can be said to be the last nail in the coffin. That the Chief Election Commissioner, Dr M. S. Gill, took note of the reports of the sale and purchase of MLAs, provided circumstantial evidence of the Rajya Sabha elections having become as dirty as the ones which send lawmakers to the State assemblies and the Lok Sabha. But why lament the gradual loss of face of the Upper House? Filth begets filth and the politicians would have had to rise above their petty selves for sending to the Rajya Sabha men who are at least a centimetre taller than they are. To say that the verdict has sent out signals of turmoil and shifting political loyalties would be an understatement. It has heralded the process of the degeneration of the House from where Elders were supposed to give sincere direction to the Lower House the Lok Sabha based on their expertise and experience in their areas of specialisation. The entire electoral exercise was controlled and manipulated by the money-driven dirty tricks department cutting across party lines.
Most things may be fair
in love and war. But, unfortunately, the Rajya Sabha
elections are supposed to be neither an expression of
love for nor declaration of war against anyone. The
Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have both had to
face the embarrassment of not being able to stop their
MLAs from going against the directions of their
respective leaders simply because the ubiquitous
market forces offered to pay them in hard
cash for doing the needful. The BJP
leadership may able to survive the shock of the defiance
of the MLAs, of a party whose unique selling point was
the political and personal integrity of its members,
because only the surplus votes went to
non-BJP candidates. But for the Congress leadership,
particularly its President Sonia Gandhi, the open
defiance of the directives of the high command may mark
the beginning of a major political storm which may cause
more internal havoc then reflected in the voting pattern
in the biennial elections. Disgruntled Congressmen in
private admit that Mrs Sonia Gandhi has failed to revive
the party even two years after replacing Mr Sitaram Kesri
as Congress President. Some of them go to the extent of
saying she is not our leader. She may be the
partys boss. In a democratic setup the
tendency to boss around at the top can, by no
stretch of imagination, be called endearing. A leader can
well be accepted as the boss without having
to act bossy. Two years ago Mrs Sonia Gandhi
had to endure the humiliation of seeing her hand-picked
candidate from Maharashtra, Mr R. D. Pradhan, being
defeated because of cross-voting. This time West Bengal
Congressmen have shown the gumption to defy her writ. The
election of some undeserving candidates is bad news for
parliamentary democracy but the defiance of Congressmen
may be worse for the leaders of the oldest political
party in the country.
IN a stunning role reversal, born-again free market warriors successfully manipulated market forces and the suppliers of a key energy source rushed to the succour of the consumers. The result: crude price has marginally come down with the distinct possibility of staying around $ 20 a barrel for long months. This has produced immense international relief, since for a few days in January the price had hit the stratosphere at $ 34 a barrel. The OPEC decision to pump out more crude was neither purely voluntary nor unanimous. Iran, the second biggest crude producer, was aghast at the relentless pressure by the USA, particularly on Saudi Arabia, the weakest link in the cartel chain. It is globalisation, the American style, though the outcome is entirely welcome to countries like India which import a huge part of their growing need. Indian imports will be 75 million tonnes, including three million tonnes of petroleum products, this financial year and the value will be $ 13.6 billion. It was $ 6.5 billion a year earlier before OPEC set the price rising by cutting production by 2.1 million barrels a day. The import bill should come down by about $ 2.5 billion with Dubai crude selling at or below $ 25 a barrel. According to one estimate, an increase in output by 500,000-one million barrels a day will help stabilise the price at around $ 25 a barrel; a 1.45 million barrel increase will reduce the price to $ 20-25 a barrel and with 1.7 million barrels the fall in price may even be sharper to about $ 18 a barrel. The USA has been pressing for a boost in output by at least 2.3 million barrels both to bring the prices to a manageable level and to build the inventories it drew down to shield its oil economy.
accounts for only 40 per cent of the total crude
production. But its capacity to influence price comes
from the fact that it sells much of the output, unlike
non-OPEC countries like Britain and the USA which consume
what they pump out. It is not a well-knit outfit, nor are
the members known for their discipline. After 1973 when
through concerted action the OPEC levered a fourfold
increase in crude prices to induce what the West unitedly
condemned as oil shock it watched helplessly
as the rich countries hammered the price down. In fact
through much of the eighties and the nineties, crude was
selling at a rate lower than what it was in 1973 in real
terms though at current prices, it appeared to be costly.
Its biggest and vociferous critic is the USA which
imagines that it has the first claim on the worlds
energy sources. Americans are long accustomed to filling
the huge tanks of their gas-guzzlers at a dollar a
gallon, and they feel exploited and harassed if the price
crosses the dollar mark. For several weeks now they have
been paying on an average $ 1.60 a gallon or in some
cities even $ 2 a gallon. In terms of the Indian rupee
the price still comes to less than Rs 18 a litre but
car-owners in the USA are an angry lot. With the
presidential election scheduled for later this year, the
US administration was nervous that crude price might
dominate the poll. Perhaps they remembered in the wake of
President Clintons visit to Delhi, the role of
onion price in the November, 1998, assembly election in
PRESIDENT Clinton's yatra to the subcontinent needs to be assessed objectively, and not through angularities of success here or failure there. At the end of it all, the visit is already being seen as a radical departure from all that the USA has advocated in the pursuit of its national interest in South Asia. This is a safe inference, notwithstanding the fact that Mr Clinton is a lameduck President and that in reality various lobbies and interest groups influence American policy options.
However, for the present, President Clinton has opened a new window on the subcontinent. He has at least begun to see afresh some of the contentious issues and problems in the region, though it will be a mistake to judge the latest American exercise in terms of tilts.
It is no secret that traditionally South Block has viewed Indo-American relations in terms of a prolonged US tilt towards Pakistan. The tilt business was very much part of the Cold War era, particularly during the days of President Nixon.
Interestingly, the US spokesman has dismissed President Clinton's new-found warmth towards this country as a "tilt" away from Pakistan. Talking to White House media persons accompanying the US President, the spokesman said that the notion of a tilt was really obsolete and outdated. "I think we now need to define a relationship with India in terms of what is in US interest. And I think we need to define our relationship with Pakistan (also) in terms of what is in the US national interest," he stated aptly.
Washington is in the process of redefining its relations with Islamabad. It is not yet sure how it should respond to a military regime fighting for its survival amidst political and economic uncertainties. It realises that General Musharraf is a complex person. Equally complex is his calculated defiance. He is trying to act like General Zia without his skills and without full control on the levers of power in Pakistan. Above all, his is the first military regime to be in power against the wishes of the USA!
There is yet another factor which has prompted Washington to adopt a cautious attitude. It is apparently not happy with the vindictive manner in which the Chief Executive is going about the trial of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who, till the other day, symbolised Pakistan's commitment to democracy.
Another point of worry for the US administration is General Musharraf's open links with Islamic fundamentalists, both in his own country and Afghanistan, especially with Osama bin Laden whom Washington has dubbed its Number One Enemy.
In the past, the USA found it easy to deal with military dictators in pursuit of its own interests. Though General Musharraf has bent over backwards to placate the world's most powerful President, the USA is obviously not fully convinced of his intentions.
In fact, it must have been very humiliating for the Pakistani dictator to find the US President talking tough on some very sensitive issues like trans-border terrorism, violation of the LoC and the targeting of civilians in Kashmir which Pakistan has been pursuing relentlessly.
Equally unnerving must have been the US President's direct telecast to the people of Pakistan. The message was clear and forthright. Washington has not yet reconciled to General Musharraf's rule. This leaves a big question mark hanging over his future.
Pakistan is in a deep mess, both politically and economically, and it can hardly do much without the patronage of Uncle Sam. President Clinton has made it clear that Pakistan will get further isolated in the international community if it does not mend its ways and stop supporting attacks against civilians across the LoC in Kashmir.
General Musharraf's regime may still put on a brave face. Even the hardliners in Pakistan may look at Mr Clinton's televised address as a direct interference in their internal affairs and hence unfair to their country. General Mirza Aslam Beg, a former Army chief, has gone to the extent of suggesting that Pakistan needs to differentiate between friends and foes. For this purpose, he has advocated renewal of Pakistan's friendship with old allies like China, Iran and Afghanistan.
What General Beg seems to forget is that Afghanistan is already a Pakistani pocket-borough. As it is, Iran has rediscovered the importance of moderation in global politics. As for China, it has been a long-standing military ally of Pakistan. Islamabad's nuclear power owes a lot to the Communist giant.
In fact, over the years Islamabad has cleverly pursued the twin policies of aligning with the USA and remaining close to Communist China. What has queered the pitch with Washington is Islamabad's hobnobbing with Islamic fundamentalists.
Whether it admits it or not, Islamabad is badly caught in its own trap. It is pursuing a highly destructive course to grab Kashmir. This misadventure is beyond its military capacity and economic means. The Kargil infiltration was its major folly. It has cost Pakistan democracy.
The problem with Pakistan's Generals has been that they see the world, especially the subcontinent, in terms of their own obsessions. For the past 52 years, they have been out to destabilise the subcontinent in the name of Islam and with the aim of snatching Kashmir by hook or by crook.
What has been the result? Apart from losing goodwill and support of the giant in the neighbourhood (India), it has turned its old military ally (the USA) cold and indifferent.
Americans have their own calculations. There was a time when they used to see the world in terms of the Cold War with the erstwhile Soviet Union. They now understand that sound economy and widespread information technology hold the key to global supremacy.
In this setting, America sees India as the second largest market after China and hence New Delhi figures prominently in Washington's calculations. President Clinton's new warmth towards this country needs to be seen in this light.
This is a simple proposition. What is required now is an objective analysis of Indian interests by South Block. There should be no room for being carried away by the Clinton euphoria.
We must properly reassess India's national interest in the new global setting. A few points need to be hammered at in this context.
One, New Delhi has to evolve a new policy package for Pakistan in the wake of Mr Clinton's observations. A no-dialogue option with Islamabad is not a happy proposition. India must find ways and means for the resumption of the dialogue with the ruling establishment in Islamabad, even if we may not like the stern face of General Musharraf.
Two, New Delhi will have to find its own answers to handle the problem of cross-border terrorism and frustrate attempts aimed at wrecking the system. This can be done by strengthening our intelligence network and further professionalising and modernising the armed forces.
Three, a new strategy is also called for to isolate the militants and their outfits from the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Foreign mercenaries deserve no sympathy. The authorities in New Delhi would do well to learn a lesson or two from the late Beant Singh who as Punjab's Chief Minister extricated the state from militancy.
Four, the Centre in coordination with the State government in Srinagar will have to show the requisite political will to tackle the problem of militancy firmly and decisively.
Five, and finally, New Delhi will have to identify afresh its enlightened national interest, especially in critical areas of the economy.
globalisation are fine. What is, however, important is to
draw a lakshman rekha which should ensure that the
country is not surrendering its base of self-reliance,
while improving the infrastructure, upgrading technology
and accelerating other engines of growth by attracting
stakes Indias concern
THE stakes of USA political-strategic as well as economic in South Asia have become stark after the visit of President Bill Clinton to India. In contrast, the concerns of India, the most important and viable democratic state in the region, have been visibly blunted and diffused.
This is an ironic denouement of a long-drawn exercise in secret diplomacy after the Pokhran nuclear tests. The tests were initially claimed by the government and widely hailed in India as a defiant assertion of its sovereign rights and security concerns.
The tests, however, became the starting point for Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee to shift the focus of official policy from security to the acceleration of the so-called economic reform process. The dissipation of the hostile reaction of the USA and its allies to the tests and easing of their economic sanctions against India have since become the overriding concern of the government headed by Mr Vajpayee.
The ground has thus been prepared for India to give in to the pressure of the USA on all contentious issues. It is no longer hidden that the government has been driven to the point where it is ready and even eager to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It has been deterred from signing the treaty because of the forbidding popular-political reaction in India. It has been actively moving to build some sort of national consensus for signing the CTBT as early as possible.
Economic policy-making in India too has come under similar pressures. The government on this score has been bolder, even reckless. The precedence given to honour international obligations has, after all, a logic of its own. The aim of the USA to secure a position in which Our (US) point of view will be Indias point of view, as a senior US diplomat has openly declared, has come close to being achieved. The visit of President Clinton was, however, not too well timed to achieve in full measure all the US objectives in India.
An outgoing President of the USA and the Prime Minister in India who is heading a coalition government of disparate political parties facing internal dissension and obdurate opposition are in no position to clinch vital matters of their interest into binding agreements. The visit of President Clinton has, therefore, yielded more demonstrative than substantive results. The demonstrative aspect was in full play. But the landing of the US marines in New Delhi has connotations that cannot be missed.
President Clinton, on his part, certainly displayed his famous personal charm and deft political skill. The signing of a futuristic statement on Indo-US ties was a remarkable exercise in obfuscation of reality. His address to the joint session of the Parliament unfolded his strategic aims in South Asia with candour but without rancour. He called upon India and Pakistan to enter into bilateral negotiations with the suggestion that they should be ready to seek the support of others for their labours to succeed. He drove home his point with specific reference to his personal role in bringing an end to the armed flare up in Kargil.
The very concept of Indian nationhood and political independence, however, will lose its quality and substance if foreign domination and intervention are allowed to sway Indias external relations, especially with its neighbours. The countrys freedom movement generated the sense of Indian unity and identity. But the partition of the Indian sub-continent when the British rulers left made it imperative that the integrity of the independent Indian state be upheld by strengthening its anti-imperialist character. This has tended lately to be questioned and diluted by the cosmopolitan elite in India in the name of playing a global role and is providing opportunities to the USA for active interference in South Asia. It is not surprising either that successive governments in India in the nineties, after accepting the structural adjustment of the Indian economy under duress, have tended to distance themselves from the rest of the developing countries and have been seeking close strategic and economic relations with the developed countries, especially the USA.
The smug talk of transnational corporations (TNCs) acting as lobbies for Indias political interests in the USA and worldwide has thus debilitated official Indian diplomacy. The fact is that the TNCs, if and when they come to India do so only on their terms terms which have tended to be stiffer for the government in India to accept meekly. Foreign investment garners high returns for repatriation from India and assets created by such investment in the country continue to remain foreign property, fully guarded by the Indian state. To talk of the partnership of India with the group of developed countries led by the USA on this basis is obviously a misleading notion. The address of President Clinton in the Central Hall of Parliament on the virtues of free markets, free trade and the role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), therefore, deserves critical examination.
It is not at all surprising, that as against the support expected by him from India for the WTO as the regulatory authority for so called rule based international trade, the developed countries, in particular the USA, have observed little inhibition in flouting the WTO if and when they consider it necessary to uphold their national interests. The US administration has not abrogated and on the contrary invokes from time to time the Special 301 provision of its trade law without the slightest care for the authority of the WTO. It has reserved the right for itself to apply domestic laws to protect its interests, notwithstanding any treaty and its enforcement mechanism. The group of the developed countries led by USA too have been manipulating the WTO to press for bringing new issues under the WTO ambit to secure their special interests in international trade. The rights of the developing countries are, however, cynically denied and attempted to be prohibited in WTO. India, for example, has been made to remove all quantitative restrictions on imports from the USA under a bilateral agreement in advance of the time frame fixed under the WTO. India has been threatened again and again with retaliation in the event of its failure to honour and protect the so-called intellectual property rights and foreign direct investment in India.
The principle of rule-based multilateral trade, not only in goods across national borders but also for what are euphemistically called trade-related matters of a diverse nature, has far reaching implications. The working of this principle has been such that the rules for global trade and business enterprise are being interpreted and influenced more and more openly to abridge the sovereign rights of developing countries and their autonomous socio-economic development. These rules are being used by the developed countries to exercise hegemony over the global market and secure special rights for their TNCs in the developing countries. The regulatory systems concerning business activity, labour standards and consumer interests in the developing countries have to conform to the requirements of the developed countries as their international obligations.
The trade regime and the
dispute settlement mechanism under WTO auspices for
cross-retaliation has abridged the independence of
policies and administrative action of governments in the
developing countries. The working of the WTO after its
formation is such that India and all other developing
countries should fight against the harmful and malicious
designs of the developed countries and call for a
fundamental review of the organisation and its functions.
The signing of the treaty to set up the WTO and the
alacrity with which the Government of India ratified it
was wrong. The failure to take advantage of even the
transition phase facilities has made matters
worse still. The government in India must change its
subservient stance and assert its sovereign status to
redefine its engagement in the WTO to safeguard national
Are we in
the Western camp?
HAVE we become part of the Western camp? I cannot but raise this question after seeing the mesmeric effect of the Clinton visit on our media and leadership.
We have never been part of the Western civilisation. Or of its history. This is what colonialism sought to achieve to take us on the tow as permanent helots of European nations.
Today, the word nonalignment is causing us hurt even consternation. To wit, the reaction of the media to the use of the word by President K.R. Narayanan in his banquet speech.
Yet this is what Jawaharlal Nehru said of nonalignment: I have not originated the policy of nonalignment. It is a policy inherent in the circumstances of India, inherent in the past thinking of India, inherent in the whole mental outlook of India, inherent in the conditioning of the Indian mind during our struggle for freedom and inherent in the circumstances of the world today. I will go further: it is inherent in the age-old civilisation of India. Alignment is a dead-end, a dead alley. It is the end of progress. India has always been on the move in the quest for truth. In that lay freedom. In it lay renewal. In it lay our fulfilment. India cannot be aligned to any particular theology or dogma. That is the way to slavery and bigotry. It cannot be Indias way of life.
Alignment would have been unnatural to India. We had nothing to gain from being part of military blocs or ideological alliances. In fact, much to lose.
We stand for peace, for peace preserves and promotes our work and achievement. And not only for these reasons. Peace is the way of a civilised being. War is the way of the barbarous past.
And let us not forget that our struggle for a new world order, for a new information system and against cultural domination is not over. We cannot be aligned with the existing order, for that is to accept it. But this is not to say that we reject the existing order. There is much in it that is laudable, but we judge issues by their merit. But how can we agree with the claim that a unipolar world is a democratic world, that globalisation, which is driven by a few hundred MNCs, is for the good of all, that we should all go for one way of living, thought and practice?
Capitalism is the product of European history and experience. It grew through foreign conquests and colonisation through the plunder of other nations. These methods are no more open to us. We have to choose a path that leads to peace and prosperity, to equity and justice. It must be a system in which man is at the very centre, not at the periphery. But the system that the West has fashioned inexorably drives the weak to the wall. We cannot be aligned with such a system. We cannot be part of it.
Today we are engaged in a major struggle to bring about a new world order. In the making of the present one, we had no hand. We demand a say in the making of the new order. The West talks of democracy and yet refuses to practise it. It excludes vast numbers of nations in the shaping of the world. We are for a democratic world. Our freedom and sovereignty are not negotiable, for in the final analysis we must retain the right to say nay.
We still hear talks of superiority, of spheres of influence, and vital interests. This is the language of imperialism, not of democracy and equality.
The Western nations, which are affluent, are not going to give up their privileges. They will give in only inch by inch. They will protect the interests of their millions. And it does not make much difference if we are in a different age of information technology or information explosion. There has been no difference to human greed. Yes, India is going to be a super power in software. But who is going to benefit from it? Largely, America. We will still be picking up crumbs.
India is easily mesmerised. It is easily won over by a few great gestures, by a few sweet words. That is our weakness. Such was the case with the Clinton visit. He came, he saw, he conquered all by some pleasant promises. What is going to happen in the coming months and years no one knows. The future is not made by Clinton, but by global circumstances. I am not saying that we should throw doubts on his intentions. But there is no case for euphoria.
Indias future is not going to be shaped by those who are mesmerised by the Western way of life, by Western values, by those who are the children of Macaulay. Times have changed. For far too long we have seen ourselves in the mirror held out by the West. And many of us have come to despise ourselves by what we have been told we are. We continue to see ourselves in the same mirror in what the Western media tells us about the world and ourselves. But the Western media will not tell us the nature of our economic and cultural bondage. We must create a mirror of our own. And we must do it fast before the West closes all our options by its technical dominance.
Of equal importance to us is the need to free ourselves from the cultural domination of the West. We believe in diversity of cultures and civilisations and the human condition. We do not believe in a universal way of life. Americans refuse to recognise these facts. Our religions and cultures have a native genius and we want to preserve it.
And one last thought. But not less important. We are not against the Western peoples. How can we? There are a million Indians in America. And many more in the West. Mahatma Gandhi used to say that he was not against the Western peoples (in fact, he had many friends in the West), but only against their system, which he called satanic. And Gandhiji would have applauded Pope John Paul II for having had the courage to confess the crimes of Christianity in the past.
But there is always a time for a new beginning. And it should be now, or never, for we are losing control of our direction. We are losing our sense of value. And once this happens, we are no better than animals.
We have the burden of a great legacy that of a great civilisation. We must continue to be worthy of it. We must be rooted in it. We must not be tossed about by the winds of change.
They used to say that we were in the Communist camp. We were not. Nehru could not have been a camp follower. He was proud of India, of Indias past. Do we want to be a camp follower of the West today?
And what of our old connections above all with the Russian people? They stood by us thick and thin in the worst days of our trials. Do we want to push those memories down into oblivion? This cannot be. And what of our neighbour China? It may want to crush us next time. But do we want to give an impression that we are part of a new equation to contain China? This, too, cannot be.
To be in the Western camp involves several obligations in our part. Above all, to promote the hegemony of the West. Is this what we want to do? If not, there is no place for euphoria.
India must have good relations with America. This is most desirable and we must pursue this goal. But we cannot be part of a quest for world domination. Or, for exploiting other peoples. These have not been part of our civilisational quest.
THE Army, Navy and Air Force are studying the possibility of complete amalgamation of their staff within a joint doctrine of interoperability.
At a seminar at the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington which is the highest seat of military studies which prepares officers from all the three Services for command postings, the Chief of Army Staff, Gen V.P. Malik, enjoined that the armed forces must be fully joint: doctrinally, institutionally, organisationally, intellectually and technically because cyber war will be to the 21st century what the blitzkrieg was to the 20th century.
In his keynote address General Malik said this implied a joint doctrine, joint command, joint staffs, joint planning and joint training to speed up decision-making as an universally accepted form of reference that harmonises the thinking, actions and plans of the three Services.
There is an increasing awareness in military circles in India that unless at the apex level there is adequate joint and integrated interoperability the desired joint strategy, doctrine and synergy in planning and execution could not come about.
Central to this concept is the need to adopt more flexible, more easilytailored, mission-specific force structures and organisations, integrating the capabilities of the three Services.
The current revolution in military affairs is the product of technology which continues to be the engine of change as also the currency of power.
General Malik pointed out that there is great potential for information exchange between the three Services. He cited Intelligence, Logistics and Procurement, Training and Joint Staff as areas that would benefit by fostering greater cohesion, jointness and commonality of purpose.
The armed forces have learned that the transition from a peacetime scenario to a Kargil-like situation can occur without warning and it is only joint effort that will ensure success.
The contrasting styles
of Pakistan and India in the conduct of that campaign
underscores the point about synergy. The Pakistan Army
kept its plans secret even from the other two wings, the
Navy and the Air Force, whereas in India the
politico-military-diplomatic aspects were carefully and
continuously monitored and contingency plans evolved by
all the three Services. ADNI
INDIAS perpetual guardians are determined to see that their wards interests are properly safeguarded. How else could one explain the efforts that are being made under the authority and on behalf of the Secretary of State to stimulate the recruitment of Europeans for the I.C.S. at the cost of this country.
It is true that India
herself, in her mad folly, has again and again declared
that her best interests require that the further
recruitment of Europeans for the All-India Services
should cease, so that the day of her admission to equal
partnership in the British Commonwealth of Nations may
not be unduly and unnecessarily deferred. But she is,
after all, only a ward and cannot be trusted to know what
is best for her.
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