Friday, November 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


The opportunity in Kashmir
EOPLE belonging to all communities are fed up with the scourge of militancy. Today they want peace. In such an atmosphere whosoever indulges in any destructive activity is bound to earn their ire.

Congress in angry avatar 
T was meant to be a discussion on the plight of farmers across the country. But it produced an unexpected fallout. The speeches of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her party members unmistakably showed that the days of “constructive” opposition are over. 


Befriending Myanmarese Junta
Right policy, but wrong style

By Inder Malhotra
AY back in 1998, in the city of Austin, Texas, I had occasion to interview Prof W.W. Rastow, John F. Kennedy’s adviser and an authority on economic growth. 



Court order vs disorder
November 23, 2000
Delhi’s pollution politics
November 22, 2000
Rathore must go
November 21, 2000
Forced confessions
November 20, 2000
Managing India and China
November 19, 2000
This is no reform
November 18, 2000
Sonia’s victory
November 17, 2000
Sell-off plan in mid-air
November 16, 2000
A presidential visit indeed
November 15, 2000
Mass murder of trees
November 14, 2000
Ganga-Mekong initiative
November 13, 2000

Where and how India went wrong
By G. Parthasarathy
MAGINE a situation where the charismatic Amitabh Bachchan is questioning a young contestant on the verge of becoming a “Crorepati”.


Information technology to win wars?
By M.S.N. Menon
OU can win a war by preponderance of weapons. Or, by paralysing the war-fighting capacity of the enemy. This will be cheaper, shorter and bloodless too.


Footballing robot
APAN’S legions of robot lovers were given a new object of desire on Tuesday when Sony unveiled a techno-baby that can move, groove and play football.

  • Snake scare

  • Space sex

  • Easy on the ear at $108,000




The opportunity in Kashmir

PEOPLE belonging to all communities are fed up with the scourge of militancy. Today they want peace. In such an atmosphere whosoever indulges in any destructive activity is bound to earn their ire. This may be one reason why militants picked up five non-Kashmiri, non-Muslim truck drivers and killed them on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway far away from the valley on Tuesday night. That the incident has occurred in an area near Jammu shows that the violent elements are working on a strategy to shift their activities beyond the valley. But, in any case, their main intention apparently is to destroy the congenial atmosphere that has come about with the tactically correct move for peace initiated by the Government of India by offering to suspend the anti-militancy operations by the security forces——in short, a ceasefire. Thus the killing of the innocent truck drivers, the first such incident after the government’s initiative, is nothing but a disperate attempt by the enemies of normalcy, which will further discredit them in the eyes of the Kashmiri masses as also of the rest of the world.

The Central government, by its well-meaning offer, to be effective during the coming fasting month of Ramzan, most sacred period of the year for Muslims, has won the hearts of the ordinary Kashmiris, and the militants who have failed to realise its great significance are obviously upset. Hence their rejection of the government’s offer. The Hurriyat Conference — an all-in grouping of various organisations which can be described as the moderate face of the militant forces — has appreciated New Delhi’s initiative, and in a way distanced itself from the subversive forces to a limited extent. If the militants have any source of sustenance, it is Pakistan. Somebody, obviously from among the international community, will have to make Islamabad understand that its good lies in dissociating itself from the forces of destabilisation prospering by misinterpreting the Quranic concept of jehad. The people of Kashmir have come to know the real meaning of these elements’ dirty designs, though at a great cost in terms of the loss of human lives and property. Reports and comments carried in the Pakistani media show that there are any number of right-thinking persons there too who are in favour of their government cracking down on the “jehadi” elements. But so far they have not been able to influence their military regime. These peace-loving Pakistanis will have to activate themselves in unison to contribute to curing the disease called Kashmir problem.

The change of the climate in the valley and the sympathetic attitude of the international community have brought a new challenge before India. It must gear up its diplomatic machinery and make the maximum use of the opportunity. It will have to identify the world capitals from where Islamabad can be made to stop providing sustenance to the members of the Islamic Jehad — the confederation of militant groups — and others like them. When so cornered, at least militant outfits like the Hizbul Mujahideen can agree to come to the negotiating table. This special mention of the Hizb has its own significance as there is a lot of difference in the perception of its leadership on this side of the border and in Pakistan. But the Government of India will have to practise caution. At the initial stage it should identify such influential people in the valley as can be safely but quietly used as a front to negotiate peace with the disgruntled elements. The government’s open involvement in such a serious matter can land it in an embarrassing situation. Moreover, experience shows that quiet diplomacy produces encouraging results, specially when highly sensitive issues are involved. But time is of great essence. The government will have to take up the task as quickly as possible. 


Congress in angry avatar 

IT was meant to be a discussion on the plight of farmers across the country. But it produced an unexpected fallout. The speeches of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her party members unmistakably showed that the days of “constructive” opposition are over. From now on the party will not only not cooperate with the government in legislating economic reform measures but attack it at every available opportunity. This is the new avatar inside Parliament but outside it is reviving its old pro-poor plank with a vengeance. The scathing attack on Wednesday is just the opening salvo. The issues like the frequent attacks on the dalits and minorities, the difficult economic situation and the hardship caused by pruning subsidies will receive focused attention from the party. This change of ideology and strategy stems from its increasing compulsions. The party laid much stress on the Sonia magic but it did not materialise. It expected the recently held election for office-bearers, including the president, to fire the imagination of party faithfuls and supporters and bring it centrestage. It does not seem to have worked. On the contrary, faction fights surfaced in several states and the media gave it more than the deserved display. In its desperate search for a way to retain its political relevance and electoral base, it has stumbled on the old and long forgotten “garibi hatao” slogan suitably modified to reflect the changed context. It worked for one Gandhi (Indira) and the Congress ardently hopes that it will also work for another Gandhi (Sonia). It is heavily banking on the perceived disillusionment of a big section of the masses with the government policies to swing the popular opinion its way. And that does not spell happy times for the government.

The biggest impact of the change of policy gear will be felt inside Parliament. The party will either sulk or oppose all those Bills which do not fit in this new format. This time last year it supported the Insurance Regulatory and Development Bill and helped it become law. This time around it is getting ready to stiffly oppose the move to reduce government holding in banks to less than 51 per cent. The much publicised move to induct private capital into the banks is as good as dead. The ambitious disinvestment plans for Maruti Udyog, VSNL and MTNL are also in trouble. The Congress will lend its political voice and parliamentary clout to the protest of the employees and try to derail the initiatives. Without the party’s support no Bill can be passed into an Act since it can always block it effectively in the Rajya Sabha. This situation is likely to inject a dose of hostility in the relations between the ruling alliance and particularly the BJP and the main opposition party. A confrontationist mood will spill over to even those areas of legislation where there is no policy difference. The days of smooth functioning of the two Houses are over, at least for the present. The tone and tenor of the proceedings were set on Wednesday and it is too early now to reset the compass. What is worrying is that the Congress eagerness to score debating points went as far as to accuse the government of abandoning the Arab world and cosying up with its enemy camp. This argument will bring in a few thousand Muslim votes but will needlessly upset delicate foreign policy balance. This new angry mood coincides with the surfacing of the built-in incompatibility within the ruling alliance. Some of the members are opposed to select policies and though none of them will openly oppose the government, the feeling of solid stability and support has weakened. All in all, it promises to be a winter of discontent. 


Befriending Myanmarese Junta
Right policy, but wrong style
By Inder Malhotra

WAY back in 1998, in the city of Austin, Texas, I had occasion to interview Prof W.W. Rastow, John F. Kennedy’s adviser and an authority on economic growth. The subject of my inquiry was his favourite thesis at that time — that, in a 20-year timeframe, China and India would be among the half a dozen most advanced countries. After I had exhausted my questions, he turned round to say that he had a question to ask. “Why has India,” he went on, “lost all interest in Burma (now Myanmar), a neighbour of yours of the greatest geo-strategic importance?” I had to admit that he was right; that we Indians were not inclined to think strategically; and that for us Myanmar was the country next door about which we “knew little and cared even less”.

Mercifully, this unhappy state of affairs started ending in the early nineties though New Delhi was caught in a cleft-stick. Myanmar was ruled by a military junta that had annulled the 1988 election and was repressing Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy that had won a landslide victory in the poll. In the initial years India had kept the military regime at an arm’s length and supported the demand for the restoration of democracy.

This was sound in principle but it was also injurious to some of this country’s vital interests. It was not merely that China became the isolated Myanmar’s only friend and mentor, building up extensive military infrastructure there, including a network of strategic roads, a naval base and an air observation post in the offshore Coco Island. China also supplied Myanmar with weapons and equipment worth over a billion dollars. Indeed, for all practical purposes, Myanmar was becoming China’s backyard.

Another, even more worrying, concern over the estrangement between New Delhi and Yangon (formerly Rangoon) was the worsening of the situation in the chronically disturbed North-East. The numerous insurgent groups in the troubled region were having a free run of the border areas of Myanmar. They were thus able to perpetuate their nefarious activities with virtual impunity because they could easily seek sanctuary in Myanmar’s border areas across the Indian border.

However, things changed, slowly and subtly. In course of time, Indian and Myanmar armies started cooperating in putting down the insurgents on both sides of the border, This collaboration extended also to a crackdown on the trafficking in narcotics that has a symbiotic relationship with terrorism. Furthermore, Myanmar invited this country to build a road connecting Tamu in Manipur and Kalemyu, the railhead to Mandlay. This road is now completed and is awaiting inauguration.

Nothing in Indian foreign policy is immune from accidents, however. A major glitch developed with Myanmar in 1995 exactly when the two countries were conducting joint operations against a whole lot of insurgents belonging to the NSCN, the Manipur PLA and Assam’s ULFA. This happened because the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding was conferred on Ms Aung San Suu Kyi. The Myanmarese generals were not pleased.

Over time, the relationship was repaired and a stage was reached when the Myanmarese side at least wanted the relationship to be more open and taken to a higher level. This suited India, too. Meanwhile, Pakistan, with or without Chinese encouragement, had also moved into Myanmar and was indeed building an air force facility there.

It is against this backdrop that a very high-powered delegation from Myanmar, headed by the country’s number two leader, Gen Maung Aye, was invited to India. In the strikingly unanimous words of the media, the government “rolled out the red carpet” for it. From all accounts, discussions with General Aye and his colleagues have been fruitful. The Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, the general’s host as the number two in the Indian Cabinet, underscored the commonality of interests between the two countries. This he did by disclosing, in the delegation’s presence, that in recent days the Myanmarese army, at New Delhi’s request, had acted five times against the Khaplang group of Naga rebels trying to operate from the Burmese side of the border. For its part, the Aye delegation emphasised that Myanmar wanted as close and friendly relations with India as it had with China.

On top of all this, Myanmar has become an integral part of India’s “Look East” policy that has of late been revived vigorously after allowing it to be in the doldrums for some years. It is indeed the crucial land bridge to the ASEAN region with which India, along with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is developing very close relations. The road that this country has built in Myanmar links with the Asian Highway. The Foreign Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, was in Laos only the other day for the inauguration of Ganga-Mekong project that has both economic and geo-political ramifications. Both Mr Jaswant Singh and the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, have paid bilateral visits to Vietnam. The President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, was in Singapore recently on a state visit, and the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, is scheduled to go to Hanoi early next year. India is already a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and a discussion partner of ASEAN. During the President’s talks in Singapore the idea of even greater Indian partnership with ASEAN was discussed. Myanmar, incidentally, is a full member of ASEAN and was so admitted despite American attempts to prevent this. China has also taken what is called the “Kunming Initiative”, envisaging comprehensive economic cooperation between the southern region of China, Myanmar, India’s North-East and Bangladesh.

Under these circumstances a policy of purposeful engagement with the ruling dispensation in Myanmar is the right one to adopt. However, there is no reason why, at the same time, New Delhi cannot tell the Myanmarese people and the world at large that close engagement with the Burmese junta does not detract from Indian support to the democratic aspirations of the people of Burma. India could, in fact, urge the military regime in Yangon to seek a peaceful and negotiated settlement with the democracy movement, led by Ms Suu Kyi. Unfortunately, this sophistication and skill has been lacking in South Block.

No wonder, there has been a lot of criticism within the country of the welcome accorded to General Aye. This could have been easily forestalled had there been any tradition here of educating public opinion or at least the opinion of the intelligentsia that takes some interest in the conduct of foreign relations.

Some of the critics of the new turn in Burma policy have contrasted its engagement with the Vajpayee government’s refusal to talk to the military regime in Pakistan. Comparison in untenable. India refuses to hold talks with Pakistan not because it is ruled by the military (which also overthrew a duly elected civilian government) but because of continuing cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. In sharp contrast, Myanmar is cooperating with India wholeheartedly to combat terrorist activity along the India-Burma border.

A highly regrettable, indeed shocking, sidelight of the Burma policy has been the conspicuous dissociation with it of the Defence Minister. The armed forces are among the most active advocates, for very good reason, of the policy of engagement with Burma. Therefore, Mr Fernandes’ refusal to receive or talk to the visiting dignitary from the neighbouring country makes no sense at all. The matter becomes even more serious in view of the published reports that Burmese activists opposed to the regime in Yangon are merrily staying in and operating from the Defence Minister’s official residence at Krishna Menon Marg.

It is no good arguing, as some of Mr Fernandes’ apologists have done, that he is “not standing in the way” of cooperation and engagement with the Myanmarese government. There is such a thing as joint responsibility of the Cabinet. If a Minister does not like a particular policy he is welcome to resign. But he should not undermine it by behaving like a petulant child.

In all fairness, Mr Fernandes cannot be singled out for criticism. In this country, the Cabinet system has been chaotic even at the best of times. It has become even more anarchic under the 24-party coalition calling itself the NDA. Ms Mamata Banerjee and Mr Ram Vilas Paswan have been throwing the principle of collective responsibility to the winds over such vital domestic issues as petroleum prices and disinvestment in public sector undertakings. The Defence Minister is doing so over a delicate foreign policy issue.


Where and how India went wrong
By G. Parthasarathy

IMAGINE a situation where the charismatic Amitabh Bachchan is questioning a young contestant on the verge of becoming a “Crorepati”. As the young man and his family conjure up dreams of how they will invest their new- found fortune, Amitabh poses a seemingly simple question. He asks: “Name the neighbour of India that is regarded as the sacred land of Lord Brahma, was historically referred to as “Swarnabhoomi, the Land of Gold, that has a 1600-kilometre land border with four of our States.” Perplexed, the young contestant scratches his head. “It must be Nepal or Bhutan”, he thinks. Being cautious, he calls his father on the “Helpline”. “It must be Nepal”, avers the father. Alas, as the young man conveys, what his father had advised, his fortunes plummet. This is a very real scenario in our national life. Many Indians can narrate much about the USA and the European Union, but know very little about the spread of Indian civilisational influence over the centuries to its neighbours. Few of us would know for sure that the country that is being referred to by Amitabh is a traditionally friendly neighbour and indeed a country we have tended to forget or take for granted — Myanmar.

The ignorance of even the educated Indian about Myanmar flows not only from his yearning for things western, but also because of the isolation that Myanmar chose to adopt for nearly three decades, during the rule of Gen Ne Win. The military takeover in 1989 that annulled the results of the elections held earlier led to international criticism. With young Myanmar student activists seeking refuge in India, the entire approach of our diplomatic establishment became unidimensional and focused almost exclusively on the restoration of democracy. Those who championed “pragmatic policies” of non-interference and engagement in relations with countries ranging from the Soviet Union and China to Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, suddenly became the champions of placing the restoration of democracy in Myanmar above the interests of our national security and of peace and tranquillity in our North-Eastern states. By 1992, narcotics smuggling and cross-border insurgency assumed alarming proportions in Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, even as New Delhi and Yangon studiously refused to talk to each other. It was finally pressure from the armed forces and the Chief Ministers of the states bordering Myanmar that led to Prime Minister Narasimha Rao ordering a review of policies towards Myanmar and adopted a policy of quiet engagement and good neighbourly relations with our eastern neighbour. While it was noted that Indian public opinion was strongly in favour of the restoration of democracy in that country, New Delhi adopted a policy of non-interference and the development of extensive bilateral and regional cooperation with Myanmar.

The recent visit of the Vice- Chairman of Myanmar‘s Peace and Development Council, Gen Maung Aye, is the logical outcome of what New Delhi sees as the advantages of befriending Myanmar and adopting policies broadly similar to those adopted by that country’s South- East Asian neighbours. Our relations with Myanmar are now looking at new horizons with the passage of time. As our interaction with the economies of the ASEAN countries seeks to attain new dimensions, Myanmar gathers increasing strategic importance in our “look east” policies, as our only land bridge to South-East Asia and Indo-China. Engineers of the Border Roads Organisation will soon complete work on the construction of a highway linking Tamu on the Manipur border with the railhead to Mandalay at Kalemyo. This highway will be a part of the larger Asian Highway Network traversing across the Asian landmass. It will be an integral part of our efforts to build new bridges of bilateral and regional economic cooperation with the entire economically vibrant East and South-East Asian regions.

In the years following the events of 1989 in Myanmar, it was China that had the foresight to realise that there were innumerable strategic and economic opportunities to be secured by dealing positively with the authorities in Yangon. Border trade grew rapidly and the markets in Yangon, Mandalay and other townships were flooded with goods from China. These Chinese economic moves were supplemented by liberal military assistance. It was, however, the growing Chinese interest in providing radar and other equipment and in developing some of Myanmar’s ports that set alarm bells ringing in the capitals of ASEAN members and in New Delhi. ASEAN countries soon announced a policy of “constructive engagement” with Myanmar, leading to a series of high-level exchanges and a boost in economic ties. By 1997, Myanmar was admitted to ASEAN as a full member of the organisation. New Delhi also realised, albeit belatedly, that its strategic and security interests made increasing interaction with Myanmar imperative. The BIMSTEC economic grouping set up in 1997, bringing together the littoral States of the Bay of Bengal — Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand — is a significant initiative to build bridges of economic cooperation between members of SAARC and the member-States of ASEAN. Cooperation within the BIMSTEC and in the newly formed Ganga-Mekong Initiative should serve as a catalyst for moves to develop a larger Asian Economic Community.

The close interaction with Myanmar has shown substantive benefits in promoting our security and regional interests. Confidence was soon promoted to such an extent that in 1995 the Indian and Myanmar armed forces launched a coordinated operation against well-armed groups of insurgents from the NSCN (IM), the PLA and ULFA, among others, in an operation code-named “Golden Bird”. Such cooperation has continued, with the Myanmar armed forces launching operations in close consultation with us against the NSCN (Khaplang) — an insurgent group — which has not joined the NSCN (IM) in ending its military operations. There has also been expanding cooperation on dealing with the menace of narcotics trafficking. Contacts between the military authorities and the Home Ministries of the two countries have led growing cooperation in transforming the Indo-Myanmar border into a border of peace, tranquillity and cooperation. Representatives of state governments bordering Myanmar actively participate in discussions on these issues.

If Myanmar’s border trade with India has not grown as fast as its border trade with China, then one must acknowledge that the procedures that the Chinese have adopted to promote border trade are far simpler and more liberal than those adopted by us. It is only when the political leadership in New Delhi realises that it is increasing economic interaction along our borders that promotes growth and prosperity of the border areas and takes measures to achieve this, that our relations with countries like Myanmar will attain their full potential. Unrealistic trade practices and procedures only serve as incentives to promote cross-border smuggling. We should develop viable counter-trade agreements with Myanmar to purchase agricultural products, including rice, for our North-Eastern states in return for sales of Indian products. Likewise, the immense hydro-electric potential of Myanmar’s rivers close to our borders can be tapped to meet the growing need for electrical power in India. Myanmar’s agricultural potential is so rich that despite continuing western sanctions, it is today a net exporter of foodgrains. And the five lakh people of Indian origin in Myanmar have benefited immensely from the policies of economic liberalisation adopted by the government, especially in the agricultural sector.

A Pakistani friend of mine recently asked me why we were avoiding a dialogue with Gen Pervez Musharraf, even as we were warmly hosting Myanmar’s Gen Maung Aye. I told my friend that Gen Maung Aye represented a government that had cooperated extensively with us in dealing with cross-border terrorism and in promoting bilateral and regional cooperation. We would be happy to accord a similar welcome to Gen Musharraf when he stopped proclaiming jihad against us from the rooftop, ended cross-border terrorism and worked constructively with us to promote trade and economic cooperation both bilaterally and regionally. It is time a conscious effort is made to explain this simple home-truth to those sections of public opinion in India that naturally have some doubts and misgivings about the recent developments in our relations with Myanmar. 


Information technology to win wars?
By M.S.N. Menon

YOU can win a war by preponderance of weapons. Or, by paralysing the war-fighting capacity of the enemy. This will be cheaper, shorter and bloodless too.

What is the course that India should take? Surely the second option. With India’s pre-eminence in information technology, the choice is obvious.

In the last 50 years, military science has made tremendous progress. But it only led to making war inevitable. Today, the emphasis is to deny the adversary his war-fighting capacity.

Military analysts are of the view that the computer will lead the weapon revolution for at least a few more decades. And the computer is all about information technology.

The world has seen two revolutions in military technology; first during World War I and next, during World War II. The next leap, according to one authority, will be in miniaturisation, automated control systems, sensor technology, and precise guidance weapons — most of them based on the computer.

With ICBMs and precision guidance, war has now become possible a Paradox? Yes, a country like America can still wage a war from the safety of its depth.

In fact, a US air force authority has claimed that in the first quarter of the 21st century, the guided system can “find, fix or track anything located on the face of the earth.” Perhaps an exaggeration. But that is the goal. However, America does not feel secure, which is why it wants to go for the anti-missile system. And it is vulnerable to attacks on its information system.

The nature of the enemy has changed over the years, which is why the USA failed to subdue the Somali warlord, Mohammed Farah Aidid. It also failed to bring to book Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden. And US spy satellites and Cruise missiles failed to locate the Iraqi arsenals.

Today the enemy is more often a mercenary “without borders”, or a terrorist, drug cartel or rogue state. They will not fight a conventional war, but will resort to psychological war, information sabotage and terrorism.

There are still many constraints to overcome. There is still need to patrol the skies. This calls for foreign bases. Aviation technology is marked by slow growth. Ships move slow; the stealth system is free from detection by radar, but it can be seen by the naked eye in daylight, thus opening itself to attack by fighters. And air forces are still needed to protect ground forces, which are essential to seize and hold on to territories or occupy them.

The days of large forces are perhaps over. We need small but efficient forces today. Ships carrying as much as 500 missiles are like huge bases. And missiles located hundreds of miles away on platforms that can destroy military targets with ease.

While the soldier cannot be dispensed with, the robot has taken over many of the soldier’s risks. Acoustic sensors can pick up the location of a sniper from his gun. In fact, one can see through a wall with the use of microwave radars.

More advances are needed. For example, infra-red detectors cannot see through thick clouds. Sensors cannot penetrate thick metals, water, concrete and soil. And, what is more, these cannot penetrate tree trunks, which is why militants are safe in the forests of India.

But this does not mean that the challenge from a nation state is a thing of the past. It is not. Nor are inter-state conflicts over.

American advance in technology has been a matter of concern to the European powers, as also to Russia and China. The Chinese are keeping a close vigil on US developments. According to a Pentagon study, China is planning to wage a short-duration and high intensity war. According to Taiwanese, China’s emphasis is on information war.

How will this revolution in military technology affect foreign policy of the USA and other nations? Theoretically, the USA can withdraw from the world. It can wind up its bases. But in practice, this may not be easy. By 2010 or 2020, the USA expects to deploy a more automated, precise and long-range strike forces. Already America has reduced its military force by half after the cold war.

The USA spends 20 per cent of its defence budget on overseas bases (about $ 50 billion). Naturally, the Pentagon is keen to reduce its liability. It is here that these precision weapons come handy. Its space power and long-range air power are formidable. But there are limitations to what it can do.

Humanity is trapped in a vicious circle as far as nuclear weapons are concerned. There is no prospect of a world without nuclear weapons. It is the ultimate reserve. And as long as there is no move to abolish nuclear weapons, non-nuclear powers that have the resources and capacity will be tempted to go nuclear. So, unless there emerges a reliable alternative to nuclear deterrence, nations are unlikely to give up the nuclear option. Information technology can be as intimidating a deterrent as nuclear weapons.

Information has become the fifth dimension of war, in addition to land, water, air and space. What does this mean? It means that aircraft, ships, tanks and guns are less important compared to information technology. The micro-chip may be the last word in military technology.

What is information warfare? The US definition says: “Action taken to achieve information superiority in favour of national military strategy by affecting the adversary’s information and information systems.” To put it simply, it means “any action taken to deny, exploit, corrupt or destroy the enemy’s information and its functions.” What does this mean in practice? It means destroying the command and control systems, communication facilities, TV and radio stations. This was what the USA did during the Iraq war. The Iraqi leadership was denied these facilities right from the beginning of the war.

Of course, the media can be used to disseminate disinformation. CNN was used openly and extensively to win support during the Gulf war and to misguide the enemy. Media management, news blockade, propaganda and disinformation are the usual means resorted to.

Alwin Toffler, the famous author of “Future Shock” says that the task before war planners is not to plan war but to develop anti-war strategies. He says that future victories will be without combat. Whoever has information superiority, he asserts, “can prevent, or even win, wars before these begin”. Toffler was proved right earlier. But there are sceptics.

What should be India’s option? To go for warships, fighters and guns? No doubt, these are important. But it is more important to prevent war. This can be done by paralysing the enemy. In this, we have the advantage of being pre-eminent in information technology. We have advantage over Pakistan in this field. And we have a lead over China, too.

Today, Information Technology is in a position to enter the enemy’s decision-making process and gain insights into his strategy.

The Chinese have a long tradition of studying the enemy. Sun Tzu, the Chinese expert on war, had spoken centuries ago of the importance of “knowing” the enemy in order to defeat him before the battle was joined. The Chinese are reported to be studying the Gulf war in detail.

It was industrial technology which gave the West global supremacy. If it masters information technology, it will continue to dominate the world. 


Footballing robot

JAPAN’S legions of robot lovers were given a new object of desire on Tuesday when Sony unveiled a techno-baby that can move, groove and play football.

The Sony Dream Robot, or SDR-3X, is a 50cm-tall humanoid that packs a wicked shot and celebrates a goal by going down on its silver knees and throwing its arms up in the air in triumph.

With 24 joints, the anthropomorphic machine is also a smooth mover when it comes to Japan’s latest dance craze - the para para, which is a cross between Saturday Night Fever disco style and line dancing.

The robot resembles an astronaut wearing a helmet, gloves and backpack. It has a camera for eyes, microphones for ears, speaker for a mouth and sensors in its torso and feet to maintain balance.

Voice-recognition technology enables it to respond to about 20 verbal instructions and reply with a vocabulary of about two dozen words. (Guardian)

Snake scare

If you are in Australia and trying to kill a snake, which has transgressed the mutually agreed boundaries defining personal space, think thrice.

Firstly, if you succeed in your nefarious design to kill the reptile, a protected species, you could be looking at a fine of Australian $8,600. Secondly, the whole exercise may end up in snake outwitting you and turning into an exterminator itself. Thirdly, you may set your pants on fire during the grisly life-threatening episode.

According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio, this is exactly what happened to a 21-year-old man in the Queensland town of Toowoomba who tried to kill a snake, which had attacked him. The young man, in his endeavour to burn the aggressor with a bottle of methyl alcohol, accidentally set his pants alight. He was also not aware about the fine payable if a serpent is killed intentionally.

Bret Modra, a snake expert in A Mackay, another Queensland town, told ABC Radio that all snakes are protected in Australia. “It is actually illegal to kill a snake, it is a $8,600 fine,” he said.

“The other thing, there is really only three ways to get bitten by a snake and that’s to accidentally stand on it, to try and kill it or try and catch it,” he added. (IANS)

Space sex

They are calling it the 200-mile-high club — after decades of avoiding the subject, space travel experts are preparing for the first orbital docking between man and woman.

The arrival of an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts at the International Space Station earlier this month heralded a new era in which people will learn to live and work in space for long periods. The next crew, due to arrive in February, will include an American woman.

Nasa has always avoided the topic of sex in space, and Russia’s explorations in this area have been cloaked in Cold War secrecy. But the agencies involved in the ISS have been forced to confront the issue after the publication in a specialist journal last week of an exhaustive study on the effects of isolation on astronauts.

Prof Stephen Johnson, editor of Quest, a quarterly journal on the history of space flight, said one passage of the study dealt with how astronauts coped with sexual stress in space. ‘We don’t know in long duration space flight whether cosmonauts or astro-nauts masturbate and relieve their sexual tension that way,’ Dr Victor Schneider, chief physician for the Nasa/Mir mission, told the study’s author. ‘As long as they do it in private, it’s a potential relief of sexual problems that may have occurred.

The 15,000-word, peer-reviewed study, The Psychological and Social Effects of Isolation on Earth and in Space, was written by science journalist Peter Pesavento, who investigated allegations of adultery in space by two Russian cosmonauts, the watching of pornographic videos on board spacecraft, and plans to film a couple having sex on Mir. (Observer)

Easy on the ear at $108,000

It is described as the Rolls Royce of hi-fis and priced at £ 75,000 ($108,000). But if money is no object and the prospect of spending £ 35,000 ($50,400) on a set of speakers does not make you hit the high note, then you too can attain the holy grail of home entertainment.

Requiem by Yamamura Churchill is described by the company as ``entirely free from the limitations normally imposed by commercial necessity’’. In other words, it will cost you an arm and a leg.

Created by acclaimed Japanese musician Be Yamamura, the Requiem system boasts an impressive range of features that rely on complex calculations to determine just what is needed to handle the complete frequency range of the widest possible array of music.

The horn loudspeakers stand seven and a half feet tall and four and a half feet wide and according to the company’s brochure, ``each speaker is covered by hand with layers of tiny granules of Sardinian cork in order to eliminate any potential discolouration of pure sound’’.

Similarly the speaker drive units - the voice coil, bobbin and cones are hand crafted from special paper used by traditional Japanese painters. Racing car technology has also been incorporated into the speakers’ suspension.

The Wiltshire-based manufacturers believe that even in this digital age, vinyl rules supreme and claim to have constructed the world’s first true uni-pivot turntable, relying on a complex system of outriggers to support the disc itself instead of a conventional platter which, they say, impairs sound quality. 



Nervousness is of two kinds — psychological and mechanical or superficial and organic. The psychological or most common variety is due to mind excitement. This condition, long continued in and accompanied by association with uninspiring people and wrong diet and health habits, causes the chronic or organic manifestations of nervous diseases.

The best cure for nervousness is the cultivation of calmness, one who is naturally calm does not lose his sense of reason, justice or humour under any circumstances. He can always separate sentiment or wishful thinking from fact. He is not led astray by the honeyed tongues of dishonest man with improbable schemes for acquiring unearned wealth. He does not poison his bodily tissues with anger or fear.... It is a well proven fact that the milk of an angry mother can have a harmful effect on her child.

Poise is a beautiful quality. We should pattern our life by a triangular guide: calmness and sweetness are the two sides; the base is happiness.

— Paramahansa Yogananda,
Man's Eternal Quest.
Nervousness: Cause and Cure.


Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of Thy words.

—The Holy Bible: The Proverbs. 23:9


Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

—The Holy Bible, The Proverbs, 26:5


Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless, the poor man's wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.

—The Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes, 9:16


God is... perfect righteousness.. To know this is true wisdom and virtue, and ignorance of this is manifest folly and vice.

—Socrates in Plato’s Theatetus


Wisdom insinuates itself into holy souls, and makes them the friends of God and his prophets, and noiselessly informs them of His works.

—St. Augustine, City of God, XI, 4

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