|Friday, April 7, 2000,
tears for Nawaz Sharif
CHATTI SINGHPORA MASSACRE
& ecstasy of freelancing
missing focused economic agenda
of Bengal in Indias strategy
April 7, 1925
THE day of judgement has come to Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with lesser severity than most of the world had expected and feared. Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf had made a strong case which called for the death penalty. Nawaz Sharif was accused of waging war against the State, hijacking a plane, making an attempt to murder and hatching a criminal conspiracy. General Musharraf projected himself as a victim. Corruption was a rather muted allegation against Nawaz Sharif, the major partner in the highly profitable business empire called Ittefaq. The former Prime Minister has been punished for hijacking and terrorism but let off the hook for alleged kidnapping and attempted murder. His younger brother Shahbaz and five other co-accused persons have been exonerated. The imposing of a fine and the confiscation of property appear relatively minor dispensations for the offences enumerated in the Nawaz Sharif chargesheet. Life imprisonment in Pakistan means 25 years in prison. The verdict, viewed in its totality, means the end of the political career of this highly ambitious man and the most powerful Prime Minister in Pakistan's history. A brief flashback is warranted here. The making of this amazing political survivor is related to the historicity of Pakistan's largely undemocratic survival. Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf are outstanding dictatorial jackboot images.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir were Janus-faced rulers with a frenzied undemocratic record and ignoble individual end. Father Bhutto was hanged. Daughter Bhutto, charged with countless crimes, is a fugitive from the law and a non-resident Pakistani living luxuriously abroad. Nawaz Sharif's staying power, flashes of administrative brilliance, the mustering of strong military backing for some time and good luck bring comic relief in a tragedy. He was elected twice and deposed twice. In the last phase, he got a huge parliamentary majority that enabled him to amend the Constitution in accordance with his convenience and gain such power as goes straight to one's head. He was the first industrialist to hold the Prime Minister's post. Winning the 1990 General Election after President Ghulam Ishaq Khan sacked elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, he went on a wild political ride. He opened up the regulated economy, causing confusion and criticism as a "privatised PM". He nearly wrote off the public sector industries and traded enterprises to benefit relatives and friends. This led to his resignation in 1993 after conflicts with the President and the Army. His toil in the Opposition meant opportunistic sweating. His victory in the 1997 elections brought out his real slimy self. The climax was reached when he made the President resign and got the Supreme Court's Chief Justice removed. He was the Executive and he was the Judiciary.
Nawaz Sharif made
Pakistan an openly condemned nuclear power in a
militarised country. His real political trouble began on
October 12, 1999, when he sacked his once hand-picked
General, Pervez Musharraf, while he (Musharraf) was on a
regular visit to Sri Lanka. Pervez Musharraf inspired the
powerful military to go all out against Nawaz Sharif, who
was deposed. The bloodless coup cannot be described as a
baser thing than Nawaz Sharif's fake democracy. India
remembers him as a co-author of the Kargil intrusion.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's trust in him was
reciprocated with a stab in the back. Besides Kargil,
there was the suicidal fuelling of insurgency in Jammu
and Kashmir and an unimaginable rise of attacks on Indian
defence posts from across the Line of Control. When we
blame Pervez Musharraf, we also remember the wiliness of
Nawaz Sharif with equal disdain. US President Clinton,
during his stopover in Islamabad, might have saved the
life of Nawaz Sharif. But he did not do anything for
democracy. Bereft of sympathy, Nawaz Sharif, a
practitioner of double-standard and crude political
skulduggery, has gone to jail for life. We in India do
not rejoice over such punishments. But we are concerned
about the predicament of the people of the neighbouring
country who have lived in more grievous circumstances
after Independence than their forefathers lived when
there was one India. Freedom has meant liberty for India.
However, it has signified endless slavery under the
jackboot for Pakistan. There is no sympathy for Nawaz
Sharif in his political party, the Muslim League; or in
the Pakistan People's Party. But we, the Indian people,
will never write an epitaph for democracy in that
country. Therein lies hope for better days for those
THERE are faint stirrings on the Kashmir front, away from the extremely bloody counter-terrorist campaign. Three Hurriyat leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, walked out their detention in the Jodhpur jail and the fourth, Mr Yasin Malik, will be free soon. Simultaneously Home Minister L.K.Advani has offered to hold talks with the All Party Hurriyat Conference even if its demands are perverted. On the surface, these two steps may seem to signal a change of tactics on the part of the Centre. But that is exaggerated optimism. There are sharp differences of opinion between the two sides and also within the Hurriyat leadership. Mr Advani says the release of the leaders has been under consideration for long and it will be wrong to read any meaning into it. This is his way of rebutting the other sides claim that President Clinton pressed for the end of detention which, the Home Minister now admits, has become pointless. In fact their detention itself was pointless, since their capacity to influence events in the Kashmir valley evaporated years ago. What is more, the Centre and the state government have chosen a particularly wrong moment to end the detention. The peoples mood in the valley is nasty after the killing of seven persons in police firing and the presence of the Hurriyat leaders is not going to moderate this. If the Jodhpur jail gates were opened just before Mr Clintons visit, the effect might have been different and beneficial. That kind of planning has become a thing of the past.
Mr Advani has inserted two conditions into his talks offer. One, the Hurriyat should frame its demands within the constitutional provisions. In other words, yes to talks about greater autonomy but no to talks about self-determination. Second, the venue will be within the country. This has reference to the demand that the Centre should deal with Kashmir in the same way it is dealing with Nagaland. The Prime Ministers Office has a direct hand and former Home Secretary K.Padmanabhaiah represents the Prime Minister in his meeting with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland and Bangkok is where the two sides met last. Obviously New Delhi does not want to initiate talks at the PMO level, without ruling out that possibility at a later date; this is clear from Mr Advanis comparison of the insurgency in the two states. On its part, the Hurriyat insists on two items on the talks agenda. It will not compromise on its demand for ultimate separation from the Indian Union and Pakistan should sit in the talks as it is the third party to the Kashmir dispute. These pre-conditions would suggest that the two sides are far too apart to make a joint effort meaningful. But it is well to remember that all this is the opening gambit and some posturing is necessary to move from a frozen position to one of reasonable firmness.
There is a subtle change
in the perception of the dispute in the subcontinent.
Pakistan is yet to come out of the shock of the blunt
television address by President Clinton. One keen
observer has written that with skilful diplomacy it can
be goaded out of its present faith in exporting terrorism
provided General Pervez Musharraf is given something in
return to display to his people as a bargaining trophy.
The worldwide condemnation of the massacre of Sikhs in
Chitti Singhpora and the 30,000-strong congregation to
pay homage to the victims have carried its own message to
the AK-47 toting killers. The decision to order a
judicial inquiry into the massacre and the police firing
by a Supreme Court Judge seems to have calmed frayed
popular nerves. New Delhi feels it should do its bit to
bring about normalcy as part of the Clinton prescription.
This is a constellation of propitious signs but it is
just the start. Tough and energy-sapping talks are ahead
if peace should finally come on the national radar
screen. The alternative, as first Punjab and now Kashmir
have shown, is costly, time-consuming and bloody.
THE Chatti Singhpora massacre of 35 Sikhs has, understandably, sent shock waves across the country. This was a provocative act by Pakistan-backed mercenaries whose sole aim is to create communal disharmony, foment cross-border tension and destabilise this country. It is regrettable that certain elements overseas, especially the Khalistanis, allow themselves to be misled by the ISI propaganda and unsuccessfully try to confuse the real issues in Jammu and Kashmir and beyond.
The fundamentals of the Indian Republic are sound. Barring the occasional tantrums of mad-caps, the people as a whole want communal harmony, peace and development. They want rapid improvement in their living standards with basic amenities like health, education, drinking water, communication and marketing of their products.
Even US President Bill Clinton has had a first-hand experience of urban Indias new development ethos and villagers craving for modernisation. He was gracious enough to acknowledge this after returning to the USA.
I am stressing this point to remind the military regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf that violence and terrorism do not pay in the long run and that the massacre of innocent citizens goes against the basic teachings of the Quran. What is regrettable is that the so-called custodians of the Islamic faith do not care to practise what the holy book preaches. They are obviously guided by their petty personal ambitions and package this in the name of Islam.
It is a fact that most Muslim leaders in West Asia and beyond do not wish to see terrorist outfits in their backyard. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is very clear on this. So is Saudi Arabia. They may be active in spreading Islam by financing the network of madrasas. But when it comes to forces of destabilisation and terrorism within their own territories they are totally ruthless. In fact, they will hardly tolerate the sight of a single terrorist in their midst. No wonder, Saudi billionaire-fundamentalist Osama bin Laden operates from Afghanistan and Pakistan. What a paradox!
I wish they could be equally ruthless in checking the spread of terrorism and fundamentalism in other countries. This will change the global scenario for the better.
Terrorism is a double-edged weapon. In the long run, it devours the promoters themselves. I wish General Musharraf realises this simple truth.
The choice before the Pakistani dictator is very limited. He is caught in his own trap and this will make it impossible for him to continue his proxy war against this country without destroying himself. He should read the writings on the wall and resist the temptation of continuing with cross-border terrorism which, for all practical purposes, is being controlled by foreign mercenaries under the patronage of the Pakistani army and the ISI. It may be a matter of time before these rootless mercenaries pounce upon their sponsors. For, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by creating chaotic conditions in Pakistan itself. The military ruler should understand this and positively respond to President Clintons rational advice to discard the instruments of violence and terrorism and get on with a meaningful dialogue with India.
It will be worthwhile for Pakistani leaders to at least learn one basic lesson: not to put too much trust in its friends. For, there are limits to which friends can go to support mad acts.
In 1971, in spite of Pakistans appeals, both the USA and China did little to save the day for Islamabad. Where Pakistan has erred is in assuming that its friends will bail it out from every mess it gets into.
And Pakistan must not take on India in a conflict (a bitter pill it will be for it), for, India is too powerful an adversary. Even a nuclear bomb will be of no avail, for while New Delhi can survive a nuclear exchange, there will be nothing left of Pakistan.
Kargil has proved that the nuclear bomb cannot be used in ordinary circumstances. It can be used only in an act of harakiri.
Pakistan has been the home of fundamentalism for half a century. It was born of the two-nation theory, which brought about the partition of India. Later it turned to terrorism. And yet Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, never envisaged a theocratic state. He wanted Hindus and Muslims to live together. But after his death (in fact, even before it) power passed into the hands of fundamentalists and the army. The fundamentalists were behind the hate-India campaigns, behind the wars of 1965 and 1971, and the Kargil misadventure.
Ironically, Washington had a major hand in creating the mujahideen. They were needed to fight the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. And unlimited resources were poured into Pakistan to train and equip tens of thousands of the so-called mujahideen.
Washington finds itself helpless today to tackle the problem of fundamentalism-cum-terrorism. It is even powerless to deal with Osama bin Laden. It is a fact that America has created monsters all over the world. But the Taliban is perhaps the most monstrous creation. It stands for the antithesis of democracy. Today Washington frowns on the policies of the Taliban. With what result?
The USA could have anticipated all these problems when it was creating this monster. But it did not. What was important to Washington was the rout of the Soviet troops. It was clear then that these mercenaries would have to be provided alternative jobs once they were demobilised. But neither Washington nor Islamabad had any such plans. Fearing repercussions within Pakistan, Islamabad decided to let them loose in Kashmir, thus creating a major problem for India. For the past 10 years India has been the victim of these killers.
Democracy, as we know it today, took a thousand years to evolve. Of course, it is not perfect. But it is the best form of government, guaranteeing the rule of law. The law is made by the people. But fundamentalism does not believe in democracy. It does not believe in dialogue, in discussion or in consent. It does not believe in representative government. It is amazing how the USA came to create such a monster.
Fundamentalism in Jammu and Kashmir began with ethnic cleansing in the valley. The Pandits, among the original inhabitants of the valley, were driven out. The fundamentalists would have turned the valley into a Talibanese experiment had it not been for the Indian Army.
Today these fundamentalists, earlier trained and equipped by the USA and now patronised by Pakistan, are to be found all over the world from Algeria to the Philippines and there is no international effort to combat them. Kargil has shown to Washington and the world what these fundamentalists can do. They are dedicated killers inspired by the ideology of jehad (holy war). And one day they might even get hold of the nuclear bomb! God forbid!
The situation in Kashmir surely does pose a big challenge to this country.
First, it is necessary that the ruling class shows a collective will to stand together against all odds.
Second, it is equally necessary that Kashmiri Sikhs do not buckle under the pressure of the ruthless killers and remain united to fight them. It would be suicidal to give up their traditional homes and migrate to safer parts of the country. This is what the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir want. But they should not play into their hands. The Sikhs are known for their valour and bravery. They should stand firm and united and defeat the forces of secession. This is the true spirit of the Khalsa. This needs to be remembered when the country is celebrating the concluding part of the tercentenary of the establishment of the Khalsa.
There is no half-way house between terrorism and peace. The forces of militancy have to be crushed ruthlessly and decisively. This onerous responsibility will have to be discharged by the Centre and the state government without causing any harassment to civilians.
As it is, it is not going to be an easy summer along the Line of Control (LoC) where Pakistan-supported terrorists and army regulars are out to create mischief. Are we ready? I understand that the Indian armed forces are leaving nothing to chance. Still, there are snags and loopholes which need to be corrected speedily so that the operational efficiency of our Army officers and jawans is not compromised.
The time has come to stamp out this scourge of fundamentalism. And it is here that the world will expect Washington to take a firm stand against the forces of fundamentalism. To destroy Osama bin Laden will only be a symbolic step.
India is a country of
the greatest diversity in the world. And it has a stake
in secularism. That is why fundamentalism is anathema to
us. It will completely destroy the cohesion of the Indian
polity. We are aware that there are fundamentalists in
this country. That they are illiterate will be no excuse.
They will be hunted down finally. But it is not enough to
deal with the local ones. We must try to destroy the
foreign sources. For this we have to organise globally.
Without US cooperation, this cannot be a success.
& ecstasy of freelancing
MANY with brilliant ideas swimming in their mind, want to see their names in print. Some, like Byron, hope to get up one fine morning to find themselves famous! Little do they realise that they will be joining the tribe of glamorous unemployeds.
Many of them are blissfully unaware that writing is a zealous mistress who bestows more frowns than favours on her loony or moony lovers.
Barring some (with heart of steel and skin of a rhino) others either fall by the wayside. Or remain like out-of-work actors.
They are also unmindful of the rejection-slip stabs in the chest that await them. They are disappointed. They may or may not concede that they want to write for the sake of money. They do think that writers roll in what the French call filthy lucre. If they want to nurse and live in this illusion, they are free to do so.
The harsh reality is that a few exceptions apart, most freelancers struggle from rejection-slip to rejection-slip. Payments are princely and often inordinately delayed. They are tantalising so-near yet so far.
The freelancers, if they have arrived meaning that because of their specialisation, the editor invites them to write for his publication remain at his mercy. Most do not acknowledge letters. Nor return manuscripts.
Sooner or later, however, they realise that the way to hell is paved with good intentions.
There is a yawning gap grime and glamour of this world. And the imaginary rainbows have no gold pots at the end. Also, there is nothing like reputation. You are as good as your last article. One success may follow a string of rejection slips.
I say it from personal experience because I have suffered blows for nearly 36 years in the world where pen is mightier than the sword.
The printed word has a strong glamorous appeal. For nearly two years (I was then young and foolish) I slogged at my Smith-Corona with a single finger. The hard-boiled editors rightly frowned at my frilly follies. Some busy ones did not have the time (read courtesy) to detach the covering letter from the article. Having the tenacity of the crab and the stamina of a pest, I persisted and pestered them.
Then came the break, breaking the chain of stabbing rejection slips. Like Oliver Goldsmith, I felt like buying a lyre with my fat remuneration and wander about the city, announcing my triumph.
All this is changed now. In the dusk of my life, I look back and ruminated. There is a tinge of regret but the memory of the rewards and some decent people in newspapers and magazines blots it out.
I have a couple of regular columns in two newspapers and three magazines which pay well. This came about only six years ago.
Six years of prosperity and 30 of penury. Has it been worthwhile? Yes. Because success does not mean making money; it means becoming what you want to.
missing focused economic agenda
IT may look a sign of the times that India is gradually moving towards a lower interest rate regime in real terms. The Reserve Bank of Indias latest 1 per cent cut in the bank rate a move hailed by industry and trade is an indicator.
By reducing the reference rate from 8 to 7 per cent the lowest level since early 1970s, the RBI has carried forward the process of lowering the cost of funds for banks from a high of 11 per cent at the beginning of 1998 to 7 per cent on April 1, 2000.
Although a similar post-budget one percentage point cut was made by the RBI in April, 1999, the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, had gone out of the way to nudge the bank towards lowering interest rates, especially in the context of the widespread disappointment his millennium budget had caused.
Be that as it may, a sustained level of low inflation in India whatever the factors makes it possible for stimulating the growth process when the economy has barely recovered from a four-year recession. It is here Mr Sinhas budget, whatever its other merits, failed to satisfy the tests.
The RBI has also announced a reduction in the cash reserve ratio (CRR) the balance required to be kept by banks from 9 to 8 per cent in two stages in April so as to augment lendable resources by Rs 7200 crore. Hopefully, the reduction in the bank rate would bring down the prime lending rates of banks to 11 to 11.5 per cent. This helps industry and trade to get cheaper finance, its long-standing demand, benefiting in the main the large borrowers.
For the common man, it is hardly any comfort beyond hoping any overall lowering of the interest rate structure coupled with marginal movements in the wholesale price index should contribute to expanded economic activity in general leading to higher growth and incomes. On the flip side, the savers are hit by a simultaneous reduction in the deposit rate of banks from 4.5 to 4 per cent at the minimum. The expectation is that it would not materially affect the flow of deposits into the banking system, relatively safer compared to other savings instruments for low-income groups.
In recent months, the banks have not been faced with any liquidity crunch and the governments excessive borrowings have been gone through whatever their side-effects on fiscal deficit and interest rate pressures. Now that the RBI has taken the timely step, as Mr Sinha put it, the government will step in comfortably to launch its borrowing programme for the new fiscal year. The CRR reduction takes care of that.
The RBIs interest cuts, announced well ahead of the monetary and credit policy for the first half of 2000-01 (to be outlined on April 27) also extend to export credit refinance. For exporters, the major worry is the budget proposal to effect a phased withdrawal of tax exemption on profits, an issue already being taken up by the Commerce Ministry with the Finance Minister.
Coming to the broader implications of the RBIs interest rate package, a general toning up of industrial activity is assumed along with the revival of new investments. Should it materialise, albeit slowly, small investors will have option to park funds in equities and bonds with better yields than banks can offer, provided again the current off-and-on boom in the stock market extends beyond the IT (information technology) sector.
For international investors, Indias present moves in interest rate and trade policies should hold greater attraction. Whether rightly calibrated or not, India is aspiring to join the global mainstream with its somewhat delayed progress towards import-free regime and lower interest rates, which are still far above the levels in the developed world.
The new fiscal year has opened on a highly encouraging note against the background of strong signs of industrial recovery, if not in all segments, and more importantly, exports. Firstly, Indias trade liberalisation launched in July, 1991, is now nearing its logical conclusion with the partial elimination of quota restrictions on imports from April 1. Secondly, the interest rate reductions would give a boost to industry and commerce. The slowdown in industry, which has clouded the economic scene since 1996-97, has nearly been overcome while exports in 1999-2000 will register a respectable growth of 11-12 per cent after a low-to-negative growth of the previous three years.
Although Mr Sinha projects a not less than 7 per cent growth in the GDP in the new fiscal year, his third budget has been devoid of growth-stimulating initiatives. Nevertheless, India has managed to maintain an average 6 per cent GDP growth even in the years of economic slowdown, and this is considered highly respectable for any developing country.
Given yearly fluctuations in agriculture, a stronger revival in industry and investment, and the output of value-added services (in which IT would play a major role) alone will determine the GDP growth rate of the future, which should be not less than 8 to 9 per cent a year for raising incomes allround.
Currently, the country has abundant food and foreign exchange reserves ($ 33 billion) and inflationary expectations can be held in check with freer imports when world prices are lower than ours so as not to allow the annual rate to exceed 4 to 5 per cent at the end of the year.
India has not witnessed a monsoon failure after 1987, and the trend may hopefully continue. Rainfall deficiencies, if serious, and the varying impact of budget proposals in indirect taxes, along with administered price changes (through the PDS and the revision of petroleum product prices), would exert pressure but within limits.
While the government and the RBI will be concerned with the macro-economic stabilisation, the uncontrolled fiscal deficits of the Centre and the states, many of which are close to a debt-trap, the lack of thrusts in public investments, especially in infrastructure and agriculture, and failures in consensus-building on implementing the announced reform policies do not augur well.
Nor has the budget,
whose passage through Parliament will not be a smooth
affair, addressed the problems of the poor and the
unemployed, increasingly marginalised in the
liberalisation-globalisation era. IPA
Bengal in Indias strategy
THE Bay of Bengal is no more the quiet lake that we thought it was. It is threatening to become a hot spot.
Has China already established a naval presence along the western seaboard of Myanmar? Did President Clinton seek a US naval base in Bangladesh during his visit to that country recently? These are questions of utmost importance to us. We cannot remain indifferent to these matters.
Super-power rivalry in the Indian Ocean diminished with the end of the cold war and the debacle of the Soviet Union. If the Chinese, however, push through their plan to have a naval presence in the Bay of Bengal, a new rivalry is bound to begin a rivalry in which the USA and India will be on one side and China on the other. What shape such a rivalry will take, it is difficult to say at present. It is in Indias interest to prevent it.
The Indian Navy will be greatly concerned if an extra-regional power is to establish itself in the Indian Ocean, not to speak of the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea. At present, in the balance of naval power, India has the advantage in the region, but it will disappear once the Chinese and Americans appear in the bay.
About 98 per cent of Indias foreign trade depends on the sea. Which explains why the Navy is extremely important to India. With 3000 ships passing by India daily, the task of keeping the sea lanes safe is a heavy responsibility for the Indian Navy. With growing drug trafficking and piracy, the sea lanes are no more safe as they were.
The Indian Navy cannot be indifferent to the growing Asean-Chinese maritime tensions, either. According to American sources, China is resisting every attempt to settle the disputes over the South China Sea or to establish a regulatory mechanism there. Already, there had been several naval clashes in the region between the Chinese navy and the navies of the ASEAN members.
The reported move by America and China to establish a naval presence in the Bay of Bengal must be seen against this background.
What should be Indias response if the Chinese are already there? It is a serious provocation to India and India must respond in a fitting manner. Perhaps there is ground for a US-India military cooperation. At least, for the granting of naval facilities to the USA in India.
If, however, the Chinese have no intention to set up a naval base in Myanmar, India should resist American attempts to establish a base in this region. It will be an affront to the Indian navy and a needless provocation to India.
America has already a base in the Indian Ocean at Diego Garcia, which was aimed at the southern regions of the Soviet Union. There is a rapid action force in this base to deal with the Arab world. To set up yet another base is to encircle Asia. There will be no support for this in Asian countries.
Whatever may be our military response to the presence of an extra-regional power in the Bay of Bengal, there is still the case for initiatives to evolve a new policy towards Myanmar. Only if Myanmar is weaned away from China can we prevent the militarisation of the region.
Today, the Chinese have a visible presence all over northern Myanmar. There are about two million Chinese in the region. They have bought vast properties. A Chinese Consulate-General has been opened to help the Chinese. Mandalay has thus become an outpost of China. China has built a number of bridges and roads to link Yunan with Mandalay. The old Stillwell road of World War II has been modernised. There is considerable road building activity. If these roads come up to Indian borders, there will be cause for concern.
In the meantime, Chinese goods are flooding the Myanmar markets. The Myanmar military junta is completely dependent on China for its very existence. It has no other source but China for arms. And the Myanmar army has grown from 200,000 to 300,000. China has already supplied fighters, tanks and guns to Myanmar, which have come handy in the fight against the insurgents.
It is true, India is committed to support the democracy movement in Myanmar, which is led by Aung San Suu Kyi. She has shown that she is the most popular leader of the Myanmarese. She got 392 seats out of the 485 in the 1990 election held by the junta. This being so, India has no other option but to wait for a change of regime. And the change has to come soon.
But how long can we wait? The ASEAN has gone ahead and established a constructive engagement with the junta. Already Thailand and Singapore have invested substantial sums in Myanmar. The idea is to finally absorb Myanmar into ASEAN.
Is there scope for a different approach on Indias part? There is. After the visit of Mr J.N. Dixit, former Foreign Secretary, to Yangon in 1993, relations between India and Myanmar had warmed up. India permitted the free movement of Myanmarese along the border after the border trade was formalised in 1994. In 1995, Indian Airlines began its flight to Yangon. Myanmar was admitted into the grouping of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand an initiative of Thailand, in June, 1998.
There is also cooperation between India and Myanmar in fighting insurgency on both sides of the border. However, more cooperation is called for, such as joint military exercises along the border. The last joint operation was conducted perhaps in 1995. This was because of needless irritations in the relations between the two countries.
There are Nagas and Mizos on both sides of the border. Apart from the personal problems this can create it is said that this creates a law and order problem. It is time the two countries resolved this problem in a way satisfactory to all.
Of late, the junta has shown interest in India-Myanmar economic cooperation. Yangon wants Indias help and knowhow in a number of fields like forestry, livestock breeding, fishery, oil and gas exploration, agriculture, information technology, computer education, etc. India has offered in addition cooperation in hydropower and oceanography.
All these are welcome. But these will not loosen the Chinese hold on the military junta. There is only one way to achieve it. It is time to strengthen the idea of the Bay of Bengal community envisioned in the June, 1998, agreement. Consisting of India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, it can be the first step to a larger Bay of Bengal community including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Of this region, Kenneth Mcpherson has said: The Indian Ocean region was the home of the worlds first urban civilisation, and the centre of the first sophisticated commercial and maritime activities. It is unfortunate that there has been little progress from 1998. It is time to give these matters a fresh look.
The Burmese are a
fiercely nationalist people. They have opposed entry of
other people into Burma. There are officers within the
military junta who are afraid of Chinese hegemony. It is
unbelievable that the Myanmarese will allow the Chinese
to overwhelm them.
NEW DELHI, (ADNI) In all the countries of south-east Asia that he visited Pakistans military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf was cautioned about cross-border violence. The most telling comments in the same vein came from the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr Bulent Echevit, a nation from which the Pakistan CEO says he draws inspiration.
The founder of modern Turkey, Kamal Ataturk, has left behind a legacy of religious moderation and a modernism tempered with equality and political eclecticism. Soon after ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power Chief of Army Staff General Musharraf paid his first official visit abroad to Ankara to underscore the point that his credo was in consonance with the founder of modern Turkey. He had raised expectations in the region that he would be taking Pakistan off the road to fundamentalism on which it was travelling at breakneck speed.
These expectations were belied by revelations that he was pandering to the fundamentalists within Pakistan who were seeking to inflame passions over Kashmir, that temperatures were being stoked in Kashmir in the hope that it would attract world intervention and the issue would be internationalised to Pakistans advantage.
President Clinton was the first to disabuse him of a favourable fallout for his policy of brinkmanship with India. He went to south-east Asia in the hope that influential members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) will bale him out of the isolation that began with the Commonwealth and ended jarringly with Clintons bald accusation that elements in the Pakistan Government were involved in the violence in Kashmir.
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Echevits comments on cross-border terrorism are of particular significance given that countrys close association with Pakistan over many years. Both were partners in the Baghdad Pact by which the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) was created as part of US Secretary of State John Hoster Dulless chain of military bases intended to surround and contain the Communist Soviet empire.
As part of that network Pakistan allowed the US Central Intelligence Agency to use the Peshawar airbase to launch flights by U-2 spy planes over the former Soviet Union. Pakistans collusion came to light when one of the aircraft was shot down and its pilot Gary Powers was taken prisoner.
Turkey is also an influential member of the OIC and, therefore, the perception in Ankara on cross-border terrorism will accentuate the growing awareness in the Islamic world that what is brewing in Pakistan is detrimental to its interests.
Taken aback by international reaction to the continuing cross-border assaults in Kashmir, Gen Musharraf has changed tack and has been insisting on the resumption of talks with India to help defuse the situation. The point that arises, and underscored by India, is that of what use would a resumption of the dialogue be if cross-border terrorism continues unabated.
The Pakistani position that the events in Kashmir are manifestations of an indigenous uprising is beginning to wear thin and has few buyers even though it is being propagated assiduously by the Pakistani media.
THE municipal water supply of Lahore has been going from bad to worse during the last few years, and the situation gets more serious every summer. But the Municipality seems so far to have done precious little to improve the water supply.
The supply of water is not only insufficient and uncertain, but a large number of pipes are old and require to be replaced again, not only has the Municipality failed to supply to the consumers the quantity after which it is its duty to do, but no serious effort has been made to check the undoubted wastage of water which goes on in the shape of the watering of lawns and gardens.
So long as the
Municipality or its officials cannot supply a sufficient
quantity of water for human consumption, it is their
clear duty to stop all supply of water for luxuries like
these. If the Municipality, as at present constituted, is
incapable of increasing the water supply, it should at
least be able to ensure that the water actually supplied
is not wasted. The committee ought to give the whole
question its immediate and serious attention.
|| Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
| Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | In Spotlight |
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
| 119 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |