Friday, December 22, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E

It’s now R-Day ceasefire
HAT started as Ramzan ceasefire will be in force till Republic Day. The peace process initiated last month thus gets a weak but visible momentum of its own. Prime Minister Vajpayee links the extension of no-combat role by the security forces to a perceptible decline in terrorist violence and infiltration from across the border.

Bofors booms again
HE timing of the arrest of Ottavio Quattrochhi in Malaysia has understandably given birth to the "political conspiracy" theory in India. Which, given the limitations of Indian politicians, is a normal response. After all, for the past fortnight the Congress-created din over the Ayodhya issue, both inside and outside the two Houses of Parliament, could never have been mistaken for the sound of music either by the Bharatiya Janata Party or its friends in the Sangh Parivar.


A rotting scandal
December 21, 2000
Hell called Pak jails
December 20, 2000
Positive pointers
December 19, 2000
Reforms talk again
December 18, 2000
Global concern over children’s plight
December 17, 2000
A ritual with meaning
December 16, 2000
Bush and court ambush
December 15, 2000
Disadvantage public
December 14, 2000
Problems can wait, we are parliamentarians!
December 13, 2000
Custodial violations
December 12, 2000

by Hari Jaisingh

Himachal needs new development ethos

T is political business as usual. Not much is happening on the development front. So, problems of yesteryears continue under the BJP-HVC coalition headed by Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal. Where is the difference between Congress raj and BJP raj? In power, they all look alike and act alike. The only redeeming feature today is that the present Chief Minister is easily accessible,” an old-time doctor who is politically agile and development-oriented, told me at Kangra the other day.


From Delhi to Kurukshetra
by V. N. Datta
OING over for a day from Delhi to Kurukshetra by car what struck me most forcibly and not agreeably was that the days of leisurely travel were over. On the way to Haryana which is at a distance of about 35 km from the metropolis, the traffic jams that one encounters at various places are a nerve-racking wait.


  • Flexi-time schooling for child workers
  • Bicycle spokes can injure
  • Smoking may damage the brain


With Bush, USA is a less “natural ally”
By M.S. N. Menon
OW that George W. Bush is in the Oval Office, will he keep his campaign promises? No way. How can he forget that half the voters have voted against his policies? Well, it seems, we have to wait for his policies.




It’s now R-Day ceasefire 

WHAT started as Ramzan ceasefire will be in force till Republic Day. The peace process initiated last month thus gets a weak but visible momentum of its own. Prime Minister Vajpayee links the extension of no-combat role by the security forces to a perceptible decline in terrorist violence and infiltration from across the border. Other factors too have gone to shape the policy to seek normalisation. The All-Party Hurriyat Conference has endorsed the Prime Minister’s announcement, no doubt after huffing and hawing. It is a deeply divided outfit with leaders ranging from Prof Abdul Ghani Lone, who is all for an early end to violence, to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a fire-spitting pro-Pakistani chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Others take a stand between the two extremes. It is this diversity, representing every possible strand of thinking, that vests its muted support to ceasefire with welcome relevance. That called for a mature response, positive enough to keep alive the slowly changing popular mood but cautious enough not to kill other options. Militants too have played a role, so far unnoticed by all. They have ceased to attack soft targets like civilians and relatives of ruling politicians. No, they have not put aside their weapons but concentrate on the uniformed forces, mostly to make their presence felt. Then there is Pakistan. It first offered to practise maximum restraint and within hours of the ceasefire extension has pulled back some army units from near the Line of Control. Even when put together, all these mean nothing in concrete terms but the new mood of nervous expectation has a new lease and that is very important in a state convulsed with violence for over a decade. Everybody has moved an inch from their rigid stance and they seem to enjoy it; the trick is to keep the prospective participants in the peace process from freezing their step. The government has two choices. It can choke the Hurriyat and the militants with a series of ambitious and even audacious offers. That will pin them down but the flip side is that it will strand the government with no policy to fall back on. Instead it has opted to take one step at a time, so that there is movement and no headlong rush. The issue of a passport to Hurriyat chief Abdul Ghani Bhat is another tiny morsel. If the Hurriyat leaders are allowed to visit Pakistan, as indeed they should be, a third instalment will be on the way.

All this is in bold relief. But the message in fine print is highly significant. Prime Minister Vajpayee wove into his R-Day ceasefire a flickering signal to Pakistan that composite talks are possible. There are some pre-conditions but the blanket refusal to seat the dictatorship across the negotiating table is past. In fact a daring speculation is that quiet diplomatic efforts are on and the Prime Minister took the plunge only after some unspelt assurance from both the Hurriyat and Pakistan. A respected reporter with excellent contacts in the External Affairs Ministry has strongly suggested this. Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Vijay Nambiar was in Delhi seemingly for briefing. But his visit lasted full one week and he met Mr Vajpayee, Mr Jaswant Singh and all others. The broad contours of Pakistan policy with the Kashmir issue as the core seem to have been evolved. If it is so, the Prime Minister’s tangential remark about the Shimla accord and the Lahore process is very revealing. Until the other day the only geographical location finding mention by government spokesmen while referring to Kashmir used to be Kargil. Happily it has given place to Lahore. Is it hopelessly premature to see a pattern in the Prime Minister’s speech and Home Minister Advani’s comments about satisfactory response from the neighbour?


Bofors booms again

THE timing of the arrest of Ottavio Quattrochhi in Malaysia has understandably given birth to the "political conspiracy" theory in India. Which, given the limitations of Indian politicians, is a normal response. After all, for the past fortnight the Congress-created din over the Ayodhya issue, both inside and outside the two Houses of Parliament, could never have been mistaken for the sound of music either by the Bharatiya Janata Party or its friends in the Sangh Parivar. The controversy caused serious damage to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's moderate image. Now, the resurfacing of the Bofors scam with the arrest of the Italian businessman in Kuala Lumpur is expected to put Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi on the defensive. Quattrochhi's friendship with what was once the number one political family of the country through its Italian "bahu" helped him get out-of-turn lucrative contracts, and the Bofors deal was just one of them. In real terms his arrest, although he was later released on bail, and the possibility of his extradition for trial in India has given the Bofors case new life. Win Chaddha, another accused in the same case, voluntarily returned to India to face trial. If Quattrochhi too is made to stand in the dock, it would be a major achievement for the Central Bureau of Investigation. However, the "political conspiracy" theory deserves to be treated with contempt. Congress spokesperson Margaret Alva went to the ridiculous extent of stating that "it is obvious that the government is feeling insecure after the debate on Ayodhya" and saw in the arrest of the Italian businessman in distant Malaysia indications of early Lok Sabha elections in India! And Mrs Alva enjoys the reputation of being the more serious and level-headed member of Mrs Sonia Gandhi's charmed circle of confidants. It is almost like saying that the government of Malaysia is run by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and it decided to turn on the heat on the Congress in general, and Mrs Sonia Gandhi particular, by having Quattrochhi arrested in Kuala Lumpur.

The fact of the matter is that the government had been working on the extradition of the Italian businessman for some time. Mr Vajpayee had reportedly even made a personal request to Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Mahathir for early action in the case. In Kuala Lumpur Quattrochhi too harped on the conspiracy theory by telling the media, on being released on bail, that "if Sonia Gandhi was not in politics, this case would have been dead many years ago. It is an attempt to get Sonia". If he really cared so much for Mrs Sonia Gandhi, he should have given himself up voluntarily instead of running away to Malaysia. Flight, he is perhaps not aware, is usually taken as proof of guilt. The timing of his arrest may have had something to do with the Indian Prime Minister's scheduled visit to Malaysia in February. Malaysia is keen on improving business ties with India. If a crooked businessman's arrest can translate into better ties with an emerging economic power in the region, why should Mr Mahathir not do the needful? However, the Bofors case is not only about Rajiv Gandhi surrendering the crown of "Mr Clean" to Mr V.P. Singh and inviting trouble for his family and the Congress. The angle which neither the BJP nor any other outfit of the Sangh Parivar likes being highlighted is the alleged role of the famous Hinduja brothers. The shrewd businessmen that they are, the Hindujas are said to have invested substantial amount of money in the "political well-being" of both the Congress and the BJP. They have proved that it indeed pays to be on both sides of the fence. Securing the extradition of the Hindujas would most certainly result in political embarrassment to both the Congress and the BJP in equal measure. The predicament of the Congress is that it can cry foul on the arrest of Quattrochhi, but cannot demand the handcuffing of the Hindujas.


Himachal needs new development ethos
 by Hari Jaisingh

“IT is political business as usual. Not much is happening on the development front. So, problems of yesteryears continue under the BJP-HVC coalition headed by Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal. Where is the difference between Congress raj and BJP raj? In power, they all look alike and act alike. The only redeeming feature today is that the present Chief Minister is easily accessible,” an old-time doctor who is politically agile and development-oriented, told me at Kangra the other day.

Hailing from West Bengal, he has been living at Jwalaji for three generations, serving patients with dedication and care. His involvement in people's wellbeing is fascinating. Equally genuine is his concern for the common man. He knows what he is talking about.

"How can there be development if funds available for this purpose are eaten away by an unwieldy administrative structure?", he lamented.

This, indeed, is the crux of the multi-dimensional problems facing Himachal Pradesh. For a tiny hill state, the government staff of 2.70 lakh, including daily wagers, are surely on the high side. This works out to be nearly five per cent of the population.

There are as many as 126 IAS officers in various departments—much more than the work could justify. The IAS cadre apart, the state has 190 gazetted police officers, including 76 belonging to the IPS, and 107 to the Indian Forest Service besides 185 of the HPAS cadre.

Think of overheads and other paraphernalia that go with the officers and ministers. Salaries and perks put a heavy burden on the state exchequer to the disadvantage of the poor and the have-nots. However, nothing can be done about it. This is a politically explosive issue in a state where job opportunities are very limited. Mr Shanta Kumar learnt this lesson the hard way. It cost him his Chief Ministership.

No politically conscious Chief Minister who has his personal wellbeing in mind would like to take the risk and join issues with government employees whatever category they belong to. After all, every family has stakes in government services.

Being a hill state with inaccessible terrain, Himachal has limited revenue and limited funds for development. It heavily depends on Central assistance. It cannot have big industries which could play havoc with its environment. As it is, a number of blunders have already been committed. That the cement factories at Barmana near Bilaspur (belonging to ACC) and at Daralaghat (Ambuja) are a major pollution hazard is acknowledged even officially. But then vested interests in Shimla are as powerful as in any other state capital.

What is equally tragic is that Himachal politicians and bureaucrats neither learn from past mistakes nor do they wish to think on futuristic lines and set the pace for new development ethos, so essential for maintaining an ecological balance in this colourful land of gods and goddesses. Equally important is the development of pilgrimage centres which can attract lakhs of tourists from all over India.

It is my conviction that if a new forward-looking dynamic approach is applied to development matters, Himachal can not only be self-sufficient but also save enough to become a model state in the country. This requires tremendous political will.

Unfortunately, most Chief Ministers just manage to survive politically in the face of visible and invisible opponents. Mr Dhumal must have learnt this harsh fact of governance when he was recently faced with a virtual revolt from some of his ministerial colleagues.

The concept of development for the hilly region has to be refreshingly different. For example, the exploitation of hydel resources for energy can be a major area of activity. It must be said that the state has taken a number of initiatives for this purpose. As many as 12 hydel power projects are on the cards with an installed generation capacity of 6100 mw. Over Rs 22,500 crore is proposed to be invested on the project over the next 10 years which, on completion, will hopefully fetch Rs 1,000 crore annually to the state exchequer. Going by past experience, we shall have to keep our fingers crossed.

It is a pity that Himachal could not exploit its hydel power. Many projects like Nathpa Jhakhri, conceived during his tenure, have taken years to take off. This has mainly been due to the lack of coordination among the states in the neighbourhood and shortage of funds. Where was the need to set up costly thermal stations in Punjab and Haryana when Himachal has abundant unexploited hydel potential?

If handled carefully keeping in view the ecological parameters, hydel power generation can change the face of this beautiful Himalayan state. This, again, demands a vision and political will — the two vital components which, alas, are missing in the present-day generation of leaders in the state.

What Himachal Pradesh needs is a 21st century Y.S. Parmar, the first Chief Minister whose vision had the right dose of pragmatism. Dr Parmar led a very simple life. Unlike today's politicians, he did not even build a house for himself and lived in his ancestral mud cottage in the backward village of Bagthan in Sirmaur district near Nahan. He decided things on merit and never worked under pressure as has of late been happening under the new political culture. His priority then was roads, horticulture, hydel generation and tourism. He also floated the concept of three-dimensional forestry — forest for food, fuel and fodder — which subsequently paved the way for agroforestry. He actually laid the foundations of what Himachal Pradesh is today.

Horticulture can certainly add to the lustre of the state. What Himachal needs is a chain of agro-based and food-processing units which ought to be globally competitive and cost-effective. Instead of state-run units, the Himachal Government can work out a new plan which should make these propositions attractive for private entrepreneurs. This will generate employment and add to the prosperity of the state. Along with this, cottage industries can improve the village-level economy.

There are already a number of positive straws in the wind which make me hopeful about the future growth of the state.

One, the most remarkable development is Himachal's rising literacy level. More and more girls in the state are going to schools these days than ever before. The credit for this goes to the present Chief Minister, though the foundations of this revolutionary step were laid by the previous regimes.

Looking closely, I have no hesitation in saying that a silent socio-economic revolution is taking place at the grassroots level in Himachal. The panchayats have come alive. Devolution of powers to panchayats and reservations for women and the Other Backward Classes have brought about a seachange in the rural scene.

What has also made a difference is the devolution of development funds to panchayats. On an average, the untied funds account for 20 per cent of the total funds received. A panchayat gets about Rs 2.5 lakh in a year under various schemes like the Jawahar Gram Smridhi Yojana, the Employment Assurance Scheme and decentralised planning. The availability of funds has become an attractive proposition. This is drawing a large number of youngsters and women to panchayat elections.

The in-thing in Himachal today is Pradhanji. The number of villages I visited during my whirlwind tour of Kangra district last week came as a revelation. The issues during poll campaigning were related to local development. Interestingly, the rural folks are asserting themselves and demanding their share in development.

"We want basic amenities like potable water, better education and health facilities, accessible roads, etc," villagers told me.

We have several instances of villages where non-performing persons have just been hooted out. The classic example in this regard is that of Mr Shanta Kumar, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution. During the last Assembly elections, he was not allowed to enter his native village Sulah in Palampur subdivision because the villagers felt that he had not done enough for them. This trend has caught on.

This awareness coupled with the empowerment of women and the rising literacy level are positive pointers to the quiet transformation taking place even in far-flung villages of the state. The people are becoming conscious of their rights. They are assertive about what they consider as their right. This shows the villagers want performance and not mere promises. They want their representatives to be responsible and accountable.

Unemployment, however, continues to be a major problem. According to one estimate, the state has as many as 9.6 lakh jobless persons. In the absence of the desired economic activity, everyone looks to the government for jobs. Herein lies the real problem. The state government has apparently failed to respond to this revolution of expectations visible at various levels. An ordinary Himachali wants better education facilities and higher standards of living. The degree of new awareness among the people is to be seen to be believed.

However, as in the rest of the country, the present establishment in Himachal does not know how to cope up with the people's demands without complicating simple issues and non-issues.

The task ahead is gigantic. But given the present politico-bureaucratic culture, a number of knowledgeable persons I met are not very optimistic about the new order in the making.

All the same, young persons seem to be regrouping themselves and thinking on new lines to explore new opportunities. For the present, they find that they can settle for 30 per cent of the development funds made available at the grassroots level. This provides a new watershed between the Himachal of yesteryears and the Himachal of tomorrow. Indeed, Himachal Pradesh will be worth watching in the months and years to come beyond its rich folklore, colourful folk dances and slow but scintillating folk music.


From Delhi to Kurukshetra
by V. N. Datta

GOING over for a day from Delhi to Kurukshetra by car what struck me most forcibly and not agreeably was that the days of leisurely travel were over. On the way to Haryana which is at a distance of about 35 km from the metropolis, the traffic jams that one encounters at various places are a nerve-racking wait. And once we step on the GT road, there is a pleasant relief from the close and confined air of a city life. The highway is lined with rows of tall eucalyptus trees and is punctuated at intervals by shacks, tenements, shops and factories. Despite these dispersed constructions which have sprung up, one cannot miss the broad sunshine of rural surroundings and a delicious view of the distant horizon.

Perhaps nowhere in the country such events of great historical significance have occurred as in the area stretching between Delhi and Kurukshetra. The Grand Trunk road is a cultural legacy of the visionary Sher Shah Suri which the British later used for their military expeditions. Delhi witnessed the rise and fall of kingdoms. Three famous battlefields of Panipat, 90 km from Delhi, changed the course of Indian history. Kurukshetra was the battlefield of the Mahabharata war, and the birthplace of the Gita, the sublime portion of our history, and the foundation of our philosophical thought.

Fifty years ago hardly a building was seen on the road connecting Pipli with Kurukshetra but now all is hurry and bustle. A cluster of shops has come up which offer a wide choice of merchandise to the surrounding area. Many changes have taken place in Kurukshetra but essentially the place has remained the same. It has not grown into an industrial town like Panipat. Nor does it enjoy the military aura of Ambala Cantt. It has its own flavour. There was little that the British did for Kurukshetra. Now even rice production is in steep decline. The chief attraction of Kurukshetra remains its religious sites, famous in history and fable. How one tread, as it were, in the footsteps of antiquity to escape the commonplace realities of the present? The religious places draw millions of pilgrims from the country who come here for a dip in the holy tank.

It is not often realised that on the development of Kurukshetra the big refugee camp which had been set up just after the Partition in 1947 left its indelible impact which can be seen in the composition of the population constituting the town. Thanesar, now a part of Kurukshetra, barely had about 7,000 people, but now the population is a lakh and half. What impresses about Kurukshetra is its historical antiquity and religious character on which quite a number of travellers had recorded their observations.

The first university in Haryana was established at Kurukshetra. With its idyllic setting, Kurukshetra University retains its charm as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. The idea of setting up the university at Kurukshetra was initiated by Sir C.P.N.Singh, Governor of Punjab, himself a Sanskrit scholar, who was deeply interested in the promotion of the study of ancient Indian history and culture. For the realisation of his object, he enlisted the services of Mr P.V. Kane, a profound scholar of Indology. But it was Sardar Pratap Singh Kairon, Chief Minister of Punjab, who provided a generous financial aid for building up the university. Kairon also realised that a mere teaching in Indic studies would not serve the interests of the educationally backward region. So within a few years the original character of the university was changed, and it became a multi-faculty institution. It is regrettable that Pratap Singh Kairon finds no place anywhere in the annals of Punjab. He was, indeed, the maker of modern Punjab. He built schools, colleges, hospitals, bridges and dams. A first-class dashing administrator, he had few peers.

This is not the place to dilate on the history of the university, nor is it intended to assess its achievements. How to draw a balance-sheet of a university is the question that is difficult to settle. Perhaps prudence lies in evading such controversies. In the beautiful and sheltered place I have passed several years of my existence, and seen the shades of mornings and evenings, and completely lodged in one of the houses on the campus. Recently when I went there I felt almost a stranger, championless, and saw “new men, strange faces and other minds”. “The old order changeth, yielding place to new”. So was it when life began, and so be it when we move on. The whole establishment had an air of monastic quiet and serenity congenial for learning, self-education and meditation. So many memories flitted across my mind. Past became clouded with doubt and certainty, and I did not know how to shape it. Past cannot be swept away, it sinks, and settles in the mind.

Despite its geographical limitation Kurukshetra University appears to have done fairly well. Of course, there are its critics who lament its slow progress as a seat of learning and research. I think that a period of four decades is not long in the development of an educational institution. And what could be more wonderful than its own alumni holding positions of responsibility in the university, and winning recognition in the country? A university is not a money-spinning institution, and it is the responsibility of the State to provide funds for the growth of educational institutions.

Education is the panacea of human ills. It is the awakening of mind and regeneration of society. I think it is the state of Haryana that has paid insufficient attention to the educational needs of society. Primary education is the foundation of higher education, but this capital issue has been neglected. The crux of the question is what type of students come up for higher education in Haryana? In a democracy we have to take soundings across the whole spectrum of society. While saying this we have to hold the other end of the stick, and ask whether the teaching community is conscious of its responsibilities as guardians of the student community, and is doing all it can for their moral and intellectual development. This question has to be answered.


Flexi-time schooling for child workers

ALTERNATIVE schools for working children in Ferozabad district in Uttar Pradesh, hub of the glass industry, have adopted flexi-timings to ensure that a child can both work and study. Ferozabad’s glass industry employs over 50,000 child workers, who constitute 25 per cent of the total work force. They handle hazardous chemicals like soda ash and work at high temperature furnaces because children are the cheapest, most exploitable labour available. This, compounded by abysmal working conditions, makes the children prey to diseases like bronchitis, asthma and skin problems.

There has been overwhelming response from the urban community in identifying out-of-school child workers, especially girls. Regular street, ward and municipal committees have enabled focussed targeting of this special segment.

Pre-and post-intervention enrolments in three wards of Ferozabad have shown a sharp rise in girls’ enrolment in particular. While only 77 girls went to school before, 480 girl workers in glass factories enrolled in special schools after the drive, while the number of boys enrolled rose from 104 to 476. The rise in girls’ enrolment is significant, because for poor families, their schooling is the last priority after work in factories and at home.

The government’s National Child Labour Policy lists the glass industry as one of the nine industries in the country for priority action on the problem of child labour. The idea behind the policy is not to eradicate it completely, as this would create economic deprivation within families, but to slowly disengage the children by providing other inputs like education, health care and minimum wages. (WFS)

Bicycle spokes can injure

Children who ride as passengers on bicycles can be injured when their feet get caught in the spokes, according to a group of Japanese researchers. What’s more, prevention of this kind of injury has not improved over the past 50 years.

“As physicians, we should enlighten and educate people about these injuries and encourage bicycle manufacturers to install protective gear to avoid this type of injury,’’ according to a group of physicians led by Dr Ryutaro Mine of Nagasaki University School of Medicine in Japan.

The report, published in the December issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, describes 26 patients who were treated for spoke injuries over a 5-year period. Only three of the patients were teenagers; 88% were children between 2 and 6 years old. Most of the injuries occurred when the child was sitting behind the rider.

The most common injuries involved either cuts or scrapes, the authors report, usually around the ankle. Wounds were typically cleaned and bandaged, but about one third of the children required stitches. Although none of the injuries required a skin graft, four did require that the child be hospitalised for an average of 18 days.

Mine and colleagues report that several of these injuries happened to children who were riding in a child seat, and conclude that having such a seat installed ``may not be enough to prevent this type of trauma.’’

A protective net around the rear wheel of the bicycle might help prevent many injuries that result from getting caught in the spokes, the researchers suggest. (Reuters)

Smoking may damage the brain

Tobacco is not only bad for the heart and lungs but also damages the brain.

Dr Martin Price of London’s Institute of Psychiatry studied 417 people aged 65 and over and found that smokers were four times more likely to develop serious mental impairment in old age than non-smokers.

The research contradicts past studies that claimed that smoking could protect against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the study, former smokers had the same risk factor as non-smoking. Addiction to cigarettes contributed to the hardening of the arteries which decreased the blood flow to the brain affecting its performance, a report in Spectrum says.

Research has also shown that addictive habit of smoking can cause impotence in men. Besides, dermatologist claim that habit causes wrinkles by upsetting the body’s mechanism for renewing skin.

The enzymes, called matrix metalloproteinases, form collagen that constitutes 85 per cent of normal skin. Subjection to continual cigarette smoke causes a drop in collagen production of up to 40 per cent, causing wrinkles. (PTI)


With Bush, USA is a less “natural ally”
By M.S. N. Menon

NOW that George W. Bush is in the Oval Office, will he keep his campaign promises? No way. How can he forget that half the voters have voted against his policies? Well, it seems, we have to wait for his policies.

The Republicans represent all that is conservative and racist in the United States. They are also for a free for all form of capitalism.

But, as they say, the business of America is business. That is true of both Republicans and Democrats. As with the Clinton regime, it is business which will decide US policies.

As India means more and more business today (it is expected to be the fourth largest economy in the world) the Republicans will see India in a new light. In any case, the Indo-US business lobby and the NRIs are strong enough to resist any radical departure from the Clinton policies.

But will India be a “strategic partner” of America? This will depend on what policies the Bush Administration pursues. India cannot be a “natural ally” in these circumstances. Surely, it cannot endorse all of America’s policies.

With two strong personalities like General Colin Powell as Secretary of State and the ultra-conservative Dick Cheney as Vice-President, one can never be sure what policies the Bush administration will come to have. (Cheney was the Defence Secretary under Bush Senior) India is really foreign to all of them. That includes Bush.

Of course, Bush will be less demanding on human rights and non-proliferation. China will welcome this. But Bush can be tough on a variety of other matters.

The Republicans have been in favour of “containment” of China, while the Democrats want to “engage” it in a constructive relationship. India can have nothing to do with “containment”. Nor can India be a “strategic partner” of the USA in the pursuit of US national interests.

The fact is: even Bush cannot follow the policy of containment. There is a powerful US lobby in favour of existing US relations with China. China supplies vast quantities of high quality, low priced consumer products. No other country can replace China in this. Not even Japan. That is why Washington is unlikely to boost the military sinews of Japan. China will consider it inimical.

But, yes, as far as Taiwan is concerned, the Republicans will be tough. They will boost the military potential of Taiwan. But China is unlikely to provoke the Bush Administration for fear of the latter making it difficult for Beijing in Tibet.

India will no doubt welcome a major US presence in Asia. This is to check Chinese ambitions. One can expect a modest military cooperation between India and the USA in the future. As for economic relations, the Republicans are less likely to make concessions to India.

India will naturally watch with a measure of anxiety the unfolding of US policies in the Gulf, Central Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These are areas of vital interest to both India and Russia.

Bush is reported to have vast financial interests in oil and gas. The same is true of his Vice-President Cheney. Both must be part of the powerful US oil lobby. Now that they hold the highest jobs in the country, they are expected to pursue the interests of the oil cartels, especially in Central Asia. Needless to say, they will be opposed to fundamentalism and terrorism. A victory for the Taliban is the last thing they will countenance.

If the oil lobby is in favour of making up with Iran (which is likely), then Washington will get tough with Pakistan and Kabul. If Washington tries to wean away Central Asia from the Russian sphere of influence, the cold war is bound to come back. Russia can be equally upset if Bush goes ahead with his anti-missile programme. If, however, the USA prefers to construct a pipeline via Afghanistan and Pakistan to take advantage of the huge demand for hydrocarbons in India, then the Bush Administration is likely to put pressure on Pakistan to tame the Taliban. Pakistan has everything to gain by adopting the economic route. It may be even willing to surrender Osama bin Laden. And China is expected to put pressure on Islamabad to opt for this course. But will it?

As it is, Taliban does not see the economic advantages open to it. It is set on its course of fundamentalism and terrorism. It has not responded to UN efforts to restore peace and normalcy. This explains why the USA, Russia and India have come together and formed an alliance. In fact, Russia and India are already supplying arms to the Northern Alliance of Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmed Shah Masoud. More support is expected.

But there is no way to know what the alliance proposes to do. It is obvious, support to the Northern Alliance by way of arms and finance is not enough. It is difficult to believe that the Northern Alliance can dislodge the Taliban from Kabul on its own. In fact, it has more faith in an internal revolt. Such a prospect cannot be ruled out. The people are fed up. They have been through this war for 20 years!

What, then, is the course open to the US-Russia-India alliance? Will it take up air strikes against the Taliban? Only time will tell.

Pakistan has a huge stake in Afghanistan. It has always wanted a pliant regime in Kabul. One is not sure whether the present Taliban regime is pliant enough. I do not think so. It is defiant — defiant of the world and also of Pakistan. Be that as it may, Pakistan is unlikely to allow the dismantling of the Taliban outfit without a fight. It will be a matter of prestige to the military regime in Islamabad to preserve the Kabul regime.

The Pak army is reported to be well entrenched in Kabul. It will not be easy to take on the combined forces of the Taliban and Pakistan. We know what happened to the Soviet forces. In any case, if it is to be done, it will involve a full-scale war. The UN is unlikely to support it.

The alternative is to allow the slow process of sanctions to work. But experience has been discouraging. Perhaps the sanctions had no teeth. That is why the USA and Russia have now called for more effective sanctions. But will Pakistan allow sanctions to succeed?

The only way to hobble Kabul is to disrupt its narcotic trade. This can be done by taking up the bombing of the narcotic fields. Simultaneously, it is possible and necessary to bomb the terrorist camps and training centres. The international community can be expected to back these efforts.

Of late, there have been signs of a rift between Islamabad and Kabul. Pakistan has sealed its borders with Afghanistan in the face of massive influx of new Afghan refugees fleeing the drought-affected country. Pakistan has also started expelling the two million Afghan refugees, who had taken shelter in Pakistan during the Russian occupation. Kabul is in no position to rehabilitate them.

The military regime in Pakistan is no more supportive of Taliban extremism. In an editorial, the Frontier Post (Pakistan) says : “The Taliban have driven themselves to the point when they are not their own best friends.”

The Taliban have few friends in the world today. But that has not affected its morale. Fundamentalism has gone into their heads. For this, the USA is partly responsible, for it is in two minds how to deal with the Taliban. Washington has little quarrel over fundamentalism, though it is the new scourge of the world. The USA is mainly concerned with apprehending Osama bin Laden. But Laden is the symptom of an epidemic. But America sees him as the disease.

Will the Bush Administration evolve a policy towards Kabul?



Let happiness and sorrow

come and go

like the clouds.


Whatsoever you think

That you become.

That is the great secret.


Resolve and act

whatever you do.

Do it with all your might.


The key of existence

lies in

The palm of my hand.


Oh, the endless anxieties

of endless births,

when will these delusions end?


If a lamp is black with smoke

you cannot see the light.

Similarly Maya obscures the Atma


O cave-dwelling Shakti,

Universal energy lying coiled

and dormant within me,



Everywhere, all the time

and in everyone,

You can hear the voice of God.


When the mind and soul

become one with God

It is samadhi.


The company of great souls is necessary.

Love of the satguru is

most praiseworthy.

— Satguru Yogaswami From Sivaya Subramuniyasawami, Know Thy Self Enlightenment Lessons for Discovering the Divine within you


There is no power greater than courage. A courageous person can achieve everything in life. By way of enterprise he can change his fate, his destiny. On the other hand a person devoid of courage and having a malignant mood spoils his work and invites trouble for himself. Courage is the source of all types of wealth; courage and enterprise one must have concentration of mind, inward happiness, a sense of inner power, physical strength and the art of preserving vigour.

— From Dr Manjula Sehdeva, Maharishi Valmiki Ke Upadesha

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