Friday, December 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Bush and court ambush
T is Texas Governor George W.Bush, courtesy a convoluted and confusing court order. His opponent Vice-President Al Gore is not a beaten man though. 

Bollywood’s mafia links
HE arrest of film producer Nazim Rizvi in Mumbai for his alleged links with gangster Chhota Shakeel has once again turned the spotlight on the hold of the underworld on the Mumbai film industry.


by Hari Jaisingh
Extremism harming Kashmiris
Fresh look at facts can help
HE Kashmir question has once again reached a critical stage. In fact, the entire issue with all its multi-dimensional complexities is at the crossroads. 


Disadvantage public
December 14, 2000
Problems can wait, we are parliamentarians!
December 13, 2000
Custodial violations
December 12, 2000
Thaw in PM’s stand
December 11, 2000
Bhopal gas disaster
December 10, 2000
Paralysed Parliament
December 9, 2000
Sharpening a controversy
December 8, 2000
Enron’s power burden
December 7, 2000
All aboard peace wagon
December 6, 2000
Resignation gesture
December 5, 2000
Death at 70 kmph 
December 4, 2000



Absorbing oil shocks
by R. N. Malik
THE oil lid is finally off. The Union Finance Minister has admitted that the Centre is concerned about the economic slowdown caused by rising inflation, the interest burden, a swelling oil import bill, unsold agricultural surplus, the unrelenting pressure on the rupee, tardy disinvestment process, the failure to downsize the government and the drop in FDIs.


Ministry for all
by Madan Gupta Spatu 
MORE than 100 crore people and only 28 Chief Ministers. Bahut Nainsafi Hai! That’s why so many leaders are chairless. Our country is heading towards unemployment for our destiny makers. We require at least 101 CMs to run the country in 2001.


India’s expansion in Asia
by M.S.N. Menon
ARYAN India was aware of the world around it. But it cared little for its neighbours. The Manusmriti talks of Yavanas, Dravidas, Pallavas, Cinas (Chinese) and other neighbouring tribes.


Heyday for complainers
USTRALIANS are more likely to complain than ever before, according to the findings of the National Complaints Culture Survey. Men grumble more than women and choose to do so in person. 
  • Back to square one

  • Weight cyclers




Bush and court ambush

IT is Texas Governor George W.Bush, courtesy a convoluted and confusing court order. His opponent Vice-President Al Gore is not a beaten man though. He has won more popular votes (358352) than the ultimate winner, but a many-layered electoral system and a seemingly sacrosanct deadline have robbed him of the most powerful political office in the world. In the US tradition a defeated candidate, even at the party convention to nominate its candidate, faces a uniquely bleak future. Mr Gore will hopefully avoid it since his dour battle and the graceful exit from the race have won him popular acclaim. Age (he is 51) is on his side. Moreover,  Mr Bush faces four tumultuous years with tainted legitimacy, a bare majority in the lower House, a tied Senate, people divided on the basis ideology, political sympathy and assessment of the role of courts. Above all, the economy is slowing down after the longest period of growth and differences with Europe are entering an awkward phase. Add to this Mr Bush’s total lack of experience and it is a prescription for global uncertainty. Indian Foreign Service officers feel comfortable with the latest turn of events. They believe that a Bush presidency will be less meddlesome since it will follow a relaxed policy on human rights and economic sanctions. All this is based on a partial understanding of the mind of Ms Condaleeza Rice who is the favourite to become the next national security adviser. She is an African-American professor and if Mr Colin Powel takes over as chief of staff, it will be the first time that the minority community occupies the two top slots. Despite the indecisive nature of the verdict and the defective nature of the electoral structure, Americans are sure to stick to them. They are nostalgic of whatever the founding fathers set out in an era when speedy communication was on horseback and the nation consisted of clusters of rural communities and ethos. They will not allow the information technology mindset to hack into this cosy programme.

The late night judgement by US Supreme Court and its logic have evoked near unanimous criticism of the legal brotherhood. The New York Times sought the reaction of several law professors who were all contemptuous to openly hostile. Everyone quoted Judge John Paul Stevens as an atonement of sorts. He wrote in his dissenting judgement: “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.” This scathing remark against his four brother judges and one sister judge is substantiated by two points. One, the majority of five judges has taken December 12 to be the deadline for counting and electing the Florida state’s 25 electoral college members. It is not since this date is important only to insulate their election from any legal or governmental attack. The formal election of the next President is on December 18 and there is no law to prevent counting of more than 45,000 disputed votes until that date. Some pundits refer to a little invoked constitutional provision to keep the process of counting until January 6, giving enough time to identify the winner according to the electorate’s choice and not that of five Supreme Court judges. The second serious flaw in the verdict is to stop the counting since there is no uniformity and hence the right to equality of all voters is violated. Set this on its head and 45,000 voters are virtually defranchised since their preference is being ignored. The so-called disputed votes are a code name for uncounted votes. As Mr Gore has been stressing all through the five weeks of legal campaign, a vote is not just a piece of paper but an expression of democratic preference and an assertion of democratic right. A vote uncounted or miscounted is a democracy diminished. One British law professor put it tellingly. He told the BBC that given the genetic irreverence of Americans for authority, some election official will go ahead with his own counting and most probably give Florida state’s 25 votes to Mr Gore. That will be after January 21 when Mr Bush takes over. Then the USA will have a usurper President, a coup d’democracy! 


Bollywood’s mafia links

THE arrest of film producer Nazim Rizvi in Mumbai for his alleged links with gangster Chhota Shakeel has once again turned the spotlight on the hold of the underworld on the Mumbai film industry. Of course, there are those who believe that Rizvi has been picked up by the police “on demand” to ensure increased box office interest in the Abbas-Mastan directed film “Chori Chori Chupke Chupke” due for release later this month. In other words, his arrest is a publicity stunt for arousing audience interest in the film starring Salman Khan, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukherjee. The film may attract more than the usual interest because of the controversy, but to dub the arrest of the producer as stagedmanaged is unadulterated nonsense. It is an open secret that the Mumbai film industry is itself responsible for allowing the underworld to become an important factor in the entire process of film-making. The charge against Rizvi is that he virtually forced the actors to work in “chori chori...” and was putting pressure on other producers not to release their films along with the one he has made allegedly with Chhota Shakeel funding the project. Three years ago “audio king” Gulshan Kumar was gunned down by the underworld and the police followed an important lead to the sensational crime to the London apartment of music director Nadeem Akhtar. The Bow Street court has found prima facie evidence against Nadeem who has now gone in appeal against the order to extradite him to India where the formal hearing in the Gulshan Kumar murder case would begin from December 21 in the Mumbai Sessions court. Both Nadeem and Rizvi are believed to have close links with either the Abu Salem gang or the one’s headed by Chhota Shakeel and Dawood Ibrahim, who has now shifted his base to Karachi following pressure on the UAE authorities by India for his early extradition. However, the fact remains that there can never be any smoke without a fire. The Mumbai film industry in its greed to make expensive block-busters did not hesitate to receive funds from the underworld.

Even the dumbest person on the planet earth would know that clean money is invariably in short supply, but anyone who is willing to pay the kind of price most filmwallahs demand can pick up bucketfuls of dirty money from the cesspools of the underworld. It is not just the Mumbai film industry which is responsible for the mess it has created for itself with most super stars and others associated with film-making receiving death threats and extortion notices from either Dawood, Salem, Chhota Shakeel or Chhota Rajan. The Maharashtra government, and even the centre, have allowed the canker to grow because in the public perception most politicians and even senior bureaucrats and police officers are on the payroll of the underworld. The dithering over making a formal request for the extradition of Chhota Rajan, who has since escaped from a hospital room in Bangkok, has only confirmed the suspicion about politicians and bureaucrats being in cahoots with the mafia leaders. Film-making has become a costly business in India with stars and others demanding and receiving mind-boggling amounts for their services. Yet the authorities concerned have never bothered to examine the source of funding of at least the multi-crore film projects. It is never too late. Henceforth, the authorities should make it a point to seek details of the source of funding of films with extravagant budgets. The government should also give serious thought to creating a separate agency for keeping an eye on the budgets of films and television programmes. Yes, even television is in the grip of what can be called the “crorepati mania”. It started with Amitabh Bachchan’s “Kaun Banega Corepati” and resulted in the hurried conceived, and equally quickly buried, “Sawal Dus Core Ka” anchored by Anupam Kher and Manisha Koirala. It is strange that the appearance fee most top television and film stars receive has never aroused the interest of either the income tax department or the enforcement directorate. In a poor country like India it is difficult to imagine an individual becoming a “crorepati” by merely receiving money which is totally clean. Those associated with the film industry in India would themselves have to take a conscious decision to drastically lower the rates of their “service charges” to more realistic levels than are currently in vogue. Otherwise, they should learn to live with the kind of demands the underworld makes on them for funding their exorbitant tinsel dreams.


Extremism harming Kashmiris
Fresh look at facts can help
by Hari Jaisingh

THE Kashmir question has once again reached a critical stage. In fact, the entire issue with all its multi-dimensional complexities is at the crossroads. The point of interest now is whether there will be a breakthrough in finding an amicable solution to the vexed imbroglio.

The whole process of peace will, of course, be a long-drawn affair. For, Kashmir developments do not follow a straight line. They are largely dictated by outside forces which hardly reflect the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Viewed in this light, the statement by senior Hurriyat Conference leader Abdul Ghani Lone that Islamic extremists pose a threat to Kashmir must not be lost sight of.

Mr Lone has also restated that "peace needs to be given a chance and all militant outfits should come out with a united response to Mr Vajpayee's initiative for peace". He also suggests that all non-Kashmiri militants will have to leave the valley once political dialogue starts. Mr Lone's declaration is specially significant since he has just come back from Pakistan after attending his son's wedding. During his three-week stay there he met Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

However, the problem with most Hurriyat leaders is their identification with hardcore fundamentalists and extremists whose sponsor is Pakistan's military regime. This is a major stumbling block to peace in the valley. After all, Kashmiriyat does not represent fundamentalism; it signifies common cultural bonds among the Muslims and the Pandits. Historically speaking, the rich tradition of sufism along with the cult of Rishis had always provided for a healthy and multi-layered religious harmony at the ground level. The tradition has been under constant threat for quite some time.

Left to themselves, the people would want peace, and nothing but peace. The problem arises when their wishes get hijacked by Pakistan-sponsored mercenaries and their collaborators.

On India's part, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee took the bold step forward by unilaterally announcing a ceasefire during the Ramzan month. It was a calculated risk, which has had serious implications for security in the valley and beyond. In any case, it requires more courage to come out with a peace initiative than follow the path of conflicts and proxy war.

Notwithstanding his occasional miscalculations, Mr Vajpayee is surely made of a different stuff. When he took over as Prime Minister, a number of knowledgeable persons in Pakistan thought that the deadlock between the two countries could end during his time. This assessment was based on their close monitoring of his functioning from the days he was External Affairs Minis-ter and later Prime Minister.

Looking back, Mr Vajpayee acted in good faith, took the bold step of taking a bus ride from the Wagah border to Lahore in the quest of friendship with Pakistan. History has very few parallels of such an initiative.

To say this is not to deny the grave risk inherent in that historic journey. But then history is made only by the bold and the beautiful and not by the also-ran category of leaders. It is a different matter that Islamabad's Kargil misadventure dashed all hopes of peace. It was a big betrayal which, again, has a few parallels in history. Indian policy-makers miscalculated their moves and had to pay a heavy price for their failure to correctly understand the Pakistani mindset.

It takes two to make friends. The yearning for peace has to be genuine on both sides. One can still not be sure of the real face of Pakistan. It is also not certain what turn Pakistan politics will take with the exit of Mr Nawaz Sharif. As of today, the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf is in command, though there are innumerable undercurrents of unrest in the polity. Pakistan is actually under siege. However, the military will continue to play a pivotal role not only in Pakistan's domestic politics but also in its dealings with India, especially concerning Kashmir. For that matter, the Kashmir problem is Pakistan's creation. It is a legacy of Partition written in blood.

From India's point of view, Kashmir is very much part of Indian nationhood and its history, culture and civilisational roots. This point is not properly understood by the outside world. It is also a fact that after Indonesia, India has the second largest concentration of Muslims in the world.

What makes Kashmir special is its roots in Indian civilisational and cultural values — more than the fundamentalist face of Islam that is being propagated by Islamabad and its militant groups for its nefarious design to grab Kashmir by hook or by crook.

The basis of the people of the valley has been Kashmiriyat and sufism. There are several facets of religious traditions and practices which are common to both Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir.

It has been India's endeavor to strengthen its secular bonds with a view to ensuring communal harmony, peace, development and prosperity in the subcontinent. I believe that religions do not divide . Rather, their basic messages provide the silken bonds of brotherhood, kindness, mutual tolerance and compassion. Problems arise only when religious messages are distorted or politicised for personal or sectarian gains.

Be that as it may. The ground realities in Jammu and Kashmir are simple.

One, the people of Jammu and Kashmir want peace. They are sick and tired of the politics of the gun as practised by Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups. It is no secret that militants are aided and abetted by Islamabad. In fact, what is being waged as a holy war is nothing but an open war against the people they wish to subjugate.

Two, Pakistan has been playing a disruptionist role in the valley. It has a one-point programme of annexing the entire state through armed conflicts. I understand that Pakistan-blessed militant groups have their eyes set on Jammu. And the authorities should know what this means. Such a belligerent approach can hardly be conducive for a negotiated settlement of the problem.

Three, Pakistani rulers have been using militant groups in the furtherance of their grand designs. They have set up training camps along the Line of Control as well as within the Pakistani territory. If Islamabad is serious about peace, then it must fold up these training camps and also put a stop to its protracted proxy war. General Musharraf's negativism can hardly help create the desired atmosphere for a dialogue and the subsequent peace process.

Four, a line has to be drawn between genuine Kashmiri groups and the foreign mercenaries. The latter are neither interested in peace moves nor are they concerned about the honour, dignity and prestige of the people of Kashmir. This is a highly sensitive area. A large number of Hurriyat leaders understand this fact privately. It is a pity that they adopt different postures publicly for reasons best known to everyone.

In fact, the main problem in Kashmir is the games most politicians play in the name of Islam and at the behest of Pakistan. This is the biggest stumbling block in the process of peace and harmony in the subcontinent.

It is futile for Hurriyat leaders to insist on holding tripartite talks with Pakistan as a party in the dialogue. We know what Islamabad wants. It is also no secret that Pakistan has only been playing war games to the disadvantage of Kashmiri people in particular. To involve the military regime in negotiations at this juncture will only complicate matters.

Of course, Pakistan will have to be involved sooner or later. After all, it is sitting over a large chunk of territory after its invasion of the state in 1947. Out the total area of the state (2.22 lakh sq km), about 35 per cent (78,000 sq km) is under the occupation of Pakistan, about 2 per cent (5000 sq km) has been handed over by it to China, which is in illegal occupation of an additional area of roughly 17 per cent (35,000 sq km). This means that the area under our effective control is only 46 per cent (1.01 lakh sq. km.).

Notwithstanding this harsh truth, it must be realised that this cannot mark time. The peace process must begin. Equally vital is the continuation of dialogue among various Kashmiri groups with a view to finding an amicable solution to the vexed question. It is also necessary to take early and effective steps for diffusing tension.

More often, we have chosen to be mute in the hope that time will resolve the problem. Time does not resolve such problems. Only political will can. Indeed, if peaceful answers have to be evolved to silence the guns of militants and mercenaries, then there has to be a precise and determined approach to all issues related to the Kashmir problem.

However, leaders have a very short memory and they do not learn from history. And those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.Top


Absorbing oil shocks
by R. N. Malik

THE oil lid is finally off. The Union Finance Minister has admitted that the Centre is concerned about the economic slowdown caused by rising inflation, the interest burden, a swelling oil import bill, unsold agricultural surplus, the unrelenting pressure on the rupee, tardy disinvestment process, the failure to downsize the government and the drop in FDIs. He described this gloomy scenario while addressing the Conference of Economic Editors in October. In the same conference, Mr Ram Naik, Petroleum Minister, also admitted that India’s oil import bill for the current fiscal year is projected to soar to Rs 81,000 crore, a 51 per cent increase over the Rs 53,500 crore (Rs 24000 crore in 1998-99) spent on oil imports during the last financial year. The projections are based on the average price of oil at $ 30 per barrel during the next six months.

The intensity of the oil shock lies in the drain of massive foreign exchange — Rs 81,000 crore in a single year for the same quantity of crude for which the payment was Rs 24,000 crore two years ago. Foreign exchange reserves have already got reduced to $ 32 billion from $ 38 billion, and a further drain of $ 19 billion will bring the country to the pre-1991 situation. The real side effect is more pernicious. So much cash outflow will devalue the rupee further against the dollar. a reduction in the value by one rupee gives a loss of Rs 20 crore. Domestically, the increased prices of petroleum products will push up the cost of transport and other related activities and propel inflation. The downhill journey of sensex is also linked to the heavy oil import bill.

But what is most disturbing is the fact that nobody is discussing this issue of far-reaching significance. Parliament is silent. The government is silent. The Planning Commission is silent and, above all, intellectuals are silent. It appears as if this is the problem of a neighbouring country.

To understand the economics of oil, let us go back to memory lane. A conglomerate of 10 countries called OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) met in Vienna in March, 1999, and decided to cut down production by 3 per cent. This short declaration was enough to cause panic and scare to make the consumer-countries to scramble for bulk purchases (like onions in India last year). It did so earlier in 1973 and 1986 with the same success story. OPEC produces 40 per cent of the total oil (175 mbpd) and its trade volume is 60 per cent. As a result of slowdown in Asian economies and flooding of the international market with cheap crude by Russia, oil prices fell to an all-time low — $ 10 per barrel (7.3 barrels make one tonne) in 1997-98. The decrease or increase in prices is never proportional to the percentage increase or decrease in demand, and a 5 per cent increase in demand can treble the prices and vice-versa. Massive stocking of oil by Europeans and Americans for fear of extreme cold winter this year and the use of unethical means by oil companies further pushed up the prices to $ 38 per barrel in the last week of August, 2000.

Earlier OPEC had declared in March that it would like to have a price band of $ 22-28 per barrel, and if the prices crossed the $ 28 barrier for 20 business days, production of half a million bpd would be increased to restore the $ 28 level. But when the band was broken in June, 2000, OPEC started sidetracking the issue and avoided a production increase. Even the September hike in production by 0.8 million bpd was doubtful and lacked transparency, and the prices continued to rule at $ 32-34 band instead of the desired $22-28 band. Developing countries strangely and foolishly did not make any noise and resigned to their fate. Had they woken up and made a counter declaration, “Well! we cut down our imports/demand by 10 per cent”, the prices would not have crossed the $ 25 barrier and converted the sellers market into a buyers market.

Now come back to the Indian scenario. The production level of oil in this country is almost steady at 33 mt/year. The chances of its increased production are minimal because of ageing oil wells. The consumption has gone up from 56 mt to 80 mt at the rate of 6 per cent during the last decade.

This acceleration in consumption is due to the growing car culture, increasing air conditioning of buildings and the setting up of individual liquid fuel-based power plants by leading organisations. When the situation is so bad the best strategy always is to conserve and reduce the demand. During World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill appealed to the British nation to limit the consumption of eggs to the needs of pregnant women and children in order to send more supplies to soldiers. Next day, there were long queues of people to return surplus eggs back to stores. But Indians are no British and the government has never asked for austerity. At pre-increase prices, the import bill would have been Rs 36000 crore. Therefore, there is an extra need for capital by Rs 45,000 crore for this year for the same quantity of crude. A sum of Rs 45,000 crore is equivalent to 60 mt of wheat. In others words, 60 mt of wheat will go free to the Arabs. Will the country be able to absorb this shock is the billion dollar question and what will happen in 2001-2002 if prices do not fall? The Indian economy can remain stable only if the import bill can be contained at the Rs 36,000 crore level.

What should we do in such a situation? The answer lies in opening five fronts simultaneously: (a) India should call an international meeting of developing countries and exhort them to reduce the demand by 10 per cent through conservation and austerity measures and put strong pressure on OPEC to cut down the prices to $ 20 pb. Or open new channels with other oil producing countries like Russia and Mexico to purchase oil at a reasonable cost of $ 20 per barrel, and break the cartel. (b) It must cut down its own consumption by 20 per cent conservation and austerity measures and lay more stress on the use of convertional fuels and solar energy. (c) For a long-term solution, India should chalk out a strategy to depend more on gas than on oil. It should start an immediate dialogue with Bangladesh to purchase gas and lay the pipeline from Dhaka to Jagdishpur on the condition that Bangladesh will allow to lay a gas pipeline from Tripura to Calcutta. Bangladesh and Tripura are floating on a sea of gas reserves. The proven reserves are 16 trillion cubic ft of gas. Initially, Bangladesh was not keen to sell the gas as it wanted to convert it into electric power to meet domestic needs. Now it is desperate to sell to India. Even America is having its eyes on the gas reserves of Bangladesh as an alternative source to Arab oil.

Australian companies too have developed a technology to transport liquefied gas in specially manufactured vessels to Orissa. Indonesia has huge gas reserves. If we open this new front of importing bulk gas supplies from the East, Arabs will run after us in no time.


Ministry for all
by Madan Gupta Spatu 

MORE than 100 crore people and only 28 Chief Ministers. Bahut Nainsafi Hai! That’s why so many leaders are chairless. Our country is heading towards unemployment for our destiny makers. We require at least 101 CMs to run the country in 2001.

We may create a new state, Kangarh, on the pattern of Chhattisgarh in Himachal where Shanta Kumar has the majority and carve out another one for Dhumal. In case the ruling party loses in the coming elections, Virbhadra Singh can have Kinnar Pradesh and Sat Mahajan can become CM of Kuloot Pradesh (In Mahabharata Kullu has been mentioned as Kuloot)

Uttar Pradesh can also be reorganised to accommodate Mayawati by carving out Indraprastha, Ajit Singh may replace her if she so desires after acquiring the power. Other states can also chalk out such programmes for next year. The public will adjust as per the convenience of the politicians after airing slogans for some time. Remember what happened to the Nagarwala case in which Indira Gandhi was allegedly involved? The Tandoor case of Delhi? The suitcase case of one crore? Jessica Lal’s murder .... and so on.

Dr Ranavat replaced the knee of the Prime Minister. Local experts are now out to diagnose the nation. One Mumbai based specialist has come out with his treatment. He has suggested to set up a new Ministry of Sex Affairs on the pattern of External Affairs. According to him, India immediately requires the ministry to improve the nation’s health.

If Parliament approves, which I’m confident it will, the Bill will not be opposed even by a single vote.

The PM being honest and bachelor, may like to keep the new portfolio with him. In case he is disinterested due to knee or age, he can oblige disgruntled MPs. They can be accommodated as Deputy Minister, State Minister and such. Similarly, several bureaucrats can be adjusted.

The name of the new ministry may sound bizarre but it is perfectly in order and as per our ancient history, traditions and culture. Looking back to mythological era, Lord Indra seems to have headed this type of ministry for the first time while Kamdev would have been his Deputy Minister assisted by personalities like Maneka and Rati.

To start with, the new ministry can have its headquarters at Khajuraho. Many modern Vatsyayans like Dr Kothari, can be appointed as advisers. If this ministry is opened, our politicians will get an opportunity to go abroad for cultural exchange. Officers may go for latest technical knowhow.

Local Viagra can be declared as National Medicine. The manufacturers of takat da tohfa type medicines could be conferred the titles of Health Shri or Chayavan Shri for their valuable contribution to the health of nation.

The nation can expect a diamond medal in the Olympics under this ministry at least.


India’s expansion in Asia
by M.S.N. Menon

ARYAN India was aware of the world around it. But it cared little for its neighbours. The Manusmriti talks of Yavanas, Dravidas, Pallavas, Cinas (Chinese) and other neighbouring tribes.

It was Gautama the Buddha, who gave India its first mission abroad. But conquest was far from the mind of India, least of all to spread the message of Gautama. He could not have approved of it. But others were engaged in conquest — the Greeks, Romans, Persians and Chinese, who carved out the known world among themselves, while India chose to remain immersed in its spiritual quest.

And yet Ashoka’s was the first and largest empire in the world. And India produced Kautilya, the world’s first political philosopher. In rallying Asia against Western pressure, Buddhism played a central role. Like no other religion before or since, its influence extended to the whole of Asia.

Ashoka’s was a spiritual empire, like the Holy Roman Empire. He exhorted his descendants not to aim at vijaya (victory) but only at Dhamma-vijaya (moral victory). According to D.R. Bhandarkar, Ashoka exhibited a tremendous passion for the moral elevation of mankind.

Tradition has it that a grandson of Ashoka went into South-East Asia via Myanmar and the Mekong Valley as far as Yunan in China. The Mekong-Ganga project in a way marks this event. Both Buddhism and Saivism held sway over most of these regions.

Being a great warrior and emperor, Ashoka had no need for political alliances with his neighbours. Nor did he feel any external threat. His mission was to spread the message of the Buddha. In this, he was highly successful. In the process, he gave to the world the concept of “brotherhood of man.”

What was China doing at this time? Shi Huang Ti (3rd-4th BC), the Chinese emperor was perhaps not even aware of India. He was busy building the Great Wall of China against the marauding tribes of Mongolia and Central Asia.

Peninsular India played a key role in spreading Indian civilisation to South-East Asia. Hindu migration to Indonesia began as early as 75 AD. I Tsing, the Chinese pilgrim, says that knowledge of Sanskrit was widespread in Malaya and Indonesia. Dhammapala, Amoghavarsha, Buddhidamma, all from the South, went to South-East Asia to propagate Buddhism.

According to one tradition, Buddhaghosha, the great commentator on Buddhism, went from Sri Lanka to Myanmar to propagate Buddhism there. The Saka king of Gujarat reached the west coast of Java in 600 AD. The Pala kings of Bengal were in touch with the Sailendras of Malaya. The Kalinga dynasty played a key role in promoting emigration to South-East Asia.

It was in the 2nd century BC that Chang K’eien, one of the greatest Chinese generals, came closest to India. He must have secured information on India from the Bactrians.

It is not my intention here to go into the details of the embassies sent out from India or received by it. The objective is to give a few examples and their motivations.

The first Chinese embassy to India was from emperor Ni Ti (Ist century BC), who, enamoured of the “heavenly” horses of Ferghana, sent an ambassador to King Moga (first Indo-Parthian king) with a request for these horses. As Moga murdered the envoy, war followed, in which Moga was killed. The Chinese carried away the horses. Horses were highly valued in China.

By the Ist century AD, the Kushanas, a prominent tribe of the Yueh Chi, had occupied Punjab. They kept contacts with the Chinese emperors, but as equals. It was during this period that emperor Ming Ti introduced Buddhism into China officially, and invited the Buddhist scholar Kashyapa to teach Buddhism. China thus came under Indian influence, which lasted till the 15th century. And in the competition between India and China for influence in Asia, it was India which won the race. For centuries the whole of Asia was under Indian influence.

In 221 AD, the Han dynasty came to an end and China broke up into three kingdoms. One was Fu-Nan (Cambodia). There is evidence that the king of Fu-Nan was in contact with the king of Mathura, a Saka. According to Chinese records, there were 300 Indian merchant families in Fu-Nan.

The first embassy (early 6th century AD) to China from the south of India was of the Chera (Kerala) king Senguttuvan, made famous in the great Tamil classic “Silappadikaram” (written by his brother Ilango Adigal). He was a great ruler with his capital at Karur (Trichy). He conquered much of peninsular India. He had no need for any political alliance with China as he perhaps had the most powerful navy in this part of the world. Pliny writes of his seaport Muziris (now Kannur) that it “abounds in ships.” Senguttuvan’s interest must have been in promoting trade with China. India was the greatest economic power of the world then. His embassy to the court of Wu-Ti of Northern Wei dynasty carried among other things spices. The Chera kingdom was already having trade with Syria, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Senguttuvan was a Buddhist. The people of Kerala were “particularly devoted Buddhists,” writes a Chinese historian.

In 539 AD, emperor Wu-Ti sent an embassy to Magadha to collect original Mahayana texts and for obtaining the services of Buddhist scholars. There is a famous Chinese classic called “Monkey King” based on this expedition.

In the heyday of Chola imperialism, there was a Tamil invasion of South-East Asia and the conquest of Sri Vijaya empire. From the day of Rajendra I to the days of Kultunga I there is reason to believe that the Cholas held political sovereignty over at least part of the territories which now constitute Malaya and Indonesia. There are two Kaundinyas mentioned in South-East Asian history: 1) founder of the Balinese culture, and 2) founder of the ruling dynasty of Indo-China. Both were Brahmins.

Yet another period of interest to us is of the Arab and Tibetan resurgence. King Harshavardhana of Kanauj and emperor Tai-Tsung (627-650) were contemporaries. It is said that they exchanged embassies. Harsha was a great king, but he had a rival in Pulakesin II of South-West India. During the reign of Kao-Tsung, son of Tai, China pushed its frontiers to the Oxus river. But the Tibetans defeated the army of Kao twice and continued to attack the Chinese provinces. And in the west, the Chinese were face to face with the conquering Arabs. As for Tibet’s threat to India, Magadha was still powerful to resist any invasion. And the western Chalukyas, a major naval power, were also in contact with China.

When Tibet was consolidating its position between 710 and 730 AD, China looked to India as an ally against Tibet, particularly to Magadha. It was during this period that two alliances emerged: 1) between China and Kashmir 2) between Kanauj and China (732 AD).

Chandrapida of Kashmir sought China’s help against Arabs (Sind fell to the Arabs in 712 AD). Lalitaditya Muktapida (695-732 AD), the greatest king of Kashmir, is supposed to have sent an embassy to China. Although a great conqueror, he wanted to strengthen his hands against the Arabs. For the Chinese, the Kashmir connection was useful against Tibet. In fact, China had proposed to its neighbours a league against Tibet.

Arab traders began to appear in South-East Asia from the 2nd century AD. By the 8th century their influence became substantial, with their maritime prowess. With that Indian influence began to wane. Malacca, the trade artery of Asia, came under Arab power. And the Indian kingdoms got little help from mainland India.

The last great Indian figure to go to Cambodia was Somasiva, disciple of the great Sankara, the philosopher. With the advent of European powers in South-East Asia, all Indian contacts were cut off. And India itself was under Muslim power.

Kautilya was perhaps the first to expound a diplomatic code. He gives several clues, which are important. He talks of “respectful” reception to an envoy, enquiring about the health of friends, taking part in the narration of virtues, giving a seat near the throne, closing the envoy’s mission with satisfaction.

Bana Bhatta, the court poet of Harsha, gives some details of the protocol followed in Harsha’s court in his “Harsha Charita.” According to Bana, an envoy was never to be kept waiting, his arrival was always announced by a high dignitary and he lived in the house of a prominent minister. All this before the rest of the world knew anything of diplomacy!


Heyday for complainers

AUSTRALIANS are more likely to complain than ever before, according to the findings of the National Complaints Culture Survey. Men grumble more than women and choose to do so in person. Women opt for the phone to complain about bad meals, incorrect bills or a dress spoilt at the dry cleaners. Only four per cent of the people surveyed complained by email.

The survey, commissioned by the Customer Service Institute of Australia, found that only 2 per cent of the people never complained, a majority (65 per cent) said they were more than willing to have an occasional whinge. The main reason for women not complaining was lack of time, while for men it was “too much trouble”. Older people in the age group of 51 to 65 years were more likely to complain.

Only a third of the firms surveyed encouraged customers to complain, while 30 per cent of their staff said they were adequately trained to handle complaints. A project officer at Energy Australia’s 300-strong call centre said: “For us the key skills are listening and making sure staff are able to match the mood of the customer.” Sevently per cent of the people wanted their problems solved on the first call, but a large percentage of staff said they didn’t feel empowered to provide the solutions.

The survey also found that organisations were losing more than a quarter of their potential sales each year as dissatisfied customers switched to other businesses. (WFS)

Back to square one

Pradeep, 12, is back is Prayas Observation Home for the fourth time in as many years; Madan, 14 of Ferozabad has been thrown out by his “cruel” big brother twice after having accepted his custody before the Juvenile Welfare Board; Javed, 13, from Eastern U.P. was ill-treated by his step-mother and has been constantly on the run, he is here for the third time. These three boys (real names withheld) have one thing in common. They are the “repeaters.” “We are working mainly as a post-office. It’s a big social problem,” says Mr Rameshwar Goyal, member Juvenile Welfare Board who has the unhappy role of restoring these children to their parents or the next of kin (the biological bond) knowing well that they are incapable of doing so.

Both, Mrs Anita Pandit and Mr J.P. Tiwari, the other two members of the Board who have the powers of a Metropolitan Magistrate, are equally helpless. “Under the present law we have no jurisdiction and no right on these children. We are aware that the natural guardians have no means to support the child. Yet we can do little, but to go on giving custody to the guardian.” It’s an aimless exercise. Within days of being restored, the child is sent off to work once more in the hope that the keeper of the child will send some money to his parents in return for the child’s labour. This seldom happens.

The records tell a heart rending story. A four-year-old was picked up by a vigilant constable who saw him wash dishes in a Delhi dhaba. A doctor couple was fined Rs 1 lakh for exploiting a girl-servant who had been a domestic help for five years, left with the couple when she was merely 11, by her own mother. Another 10-year old boy was compensated with Rs 25,000 as he had been severely beaten up by a police constable for stealing a mobile phone. The father of the child refused to take him back. A street beggar’s child ran away as he refused to beg with his father. He was picked up from the railway station.

Some were restored thrice, some others, four times. They still continue to be on the run from poverty related situations: too many children, sick father, no work, beatings at home, step-mother, father migrant worker does not send money, and so on. In Delhi most of the children wandering around railway stations or working under inhumane conditions are from Bihar, eastern U.P., Nepal and Bangladesh. “ We are aware that the child’s future is not safe even after restoration, yet parental right cannot be taken away from the child,” explains Mr Tiwari. Under the present juvenile justice system, however, a child can be sent to a “long-stay home” only if cruelty or abuse is feared, or the life of the child is in danger. (Grassroots)

Weight cyclers

Women who repeatedly gain and lose weight, especially if they are obese, may be at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, because such women have significantly lower levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol than do women who maintain their weight.

A research, carried out by researchers from four institutions conducting the women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation study, sponsored by US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, defined weight cycling as intentionally losing at least 10 pounds at least three times during one’s life. It involved 485 women who were undergoing coronary angiography to evaluate chest pains.

Of the 130 participants who reported a history of weight cycling, 19 per cent cycled 10-19 pounds, six per cent cycled 20-49 pounds and two per cent cycled 50 pounds or more. Women of greater body mass index (BMI) tended to cycle more weight and to exhibit the lowest HDL levels.

However, the effects of weight cycling on HDL levels were independent of other factors known to affect HDL levels, such as BMI, excess abdominal fat, smoking, lack of exercise, alcohol intake, hormone replacement therapy, diabetes and race. 
— (PTI)



Lust is like a dark whirlpool of agitation, but love is like a clear stream. Lust is like coal, but love has the value of a diamond.
—Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Series II, chapter 3


It is an accepted fact that whether a person is a householder or a sannyasi, it is a must for him to observe brahmacharya and self control for the sake of physical health, mental peace and self realisation.
—Sudarshan Kumar Biala, Yoga for Better Living and self Realisation


The parrots and the grackle birds

Are caged because they utter words;

The stupid herons go scot-free

For silence is a master-key.
—The Panchatantra, Book IV


Speech is of time, silence is of eternity.
—Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus


The stillest tongue can be the truest friend.
—Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris


Three silences there are:

the first of speech,

the second of desire,

the third of thought.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Three Silences of Molinos


Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage.
—Publicius Syrus, Moral Sayings, 914


... silence is a part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth.

Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word.


Silence of the sown-up lips is no silence. On may achieve the same result by chopping off one's tongue, but that too would not be silence. He is silent who having the capacity of speak, utters no idle word.
—Mahatma Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth,
Vol I; Harijan, June 24, 1933

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