Sunday, January 7, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Integrating IT into mainstream industry
by Rajesh Kochhar
OME years ago, when the Internet was still predominantly an American phenomenon, an American astronomer at an international conference, enumerated its three biggest beneficiaries. At the first position were the Ph.D. students for whom the Internet was a vast improvement over the classical channels of academic communication. 

Clouds over the mountain kingdom
by Rakshat Puri
HE situation in Nepal is returning to normal. The dust raised by agitating crowds protesting against alleged remarks by the actor Hrithik Roshan denigrating Nepal and the Nepalese is gradually settling down. There can be hardly any doubt that, in the words of the foreign office spokesman in New Delhi, the events in Nepal were part of a motivated campaign to impair the special relationship between India and Nepal.


Flight of fancy
January 6
, 2001
Technology mission
January 5
, 2001
High voltage shock
January 4
, 2001
Vajpayee's message
January 3
, 2001
Elected coterie
January 2
, 2001
Agenda for New India
1, 2001
History: When the past talks to the present
December 31, 2000
Sukhoi deal
December 30, 2000
Now, a conclave
December 29, 2000
Red Fort and “red alert”
December 28, 2000


Recognising Indian diaspora’s contribution
by Surinder Kumar Singla
HEY are about 15 million in number—whether taken to far-flung countries like the Caribbean and South Africa much earlier or having immigrated more recently to Europe and America in search of better prospects.


by Harihar Swarup
Persons who will shape US foreign policy
WO America-born Africans will give a new thrust to US foreign policy and the coming months may see a formidable defence screen being raised against a possible missile attack on the most powerful nation of the world. Unlike the Clinton regime, the Bush dispensation may keep off using its mighty military machinery for peacekeeping in civil and ethic conflicts around the globe.


Empowering women Vajpayee's way
EMEMBER Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee's glowing tributes to Mrs Indira Gandhi when India won the 1971 war for the liberation of Bangladesh. Though a member of the Opposition, Mr Vajpayee had compared Mrs Indira Gandhi with Goddess Durga. He has now gone one step forward in showing his reverence for women.


by Humra Quraishi
Combating hatred — Sahmat style
HE year ended on a dark note...what does one do when at the fag end of the year you sit or stand or lie down powerless. With most of us not possessing the means or the resources to even hop out of immediate jurisdiction what to talk of Southern ho! new year sessions which started on a bleak note.


Integrating IT into mainstream industry
by Rajesh Kochhar

SOME years ago, when the Internet was still predominantly an American phenomenon, an American astronomer at an international conference, enumerated its three biggest beneficiaries. At the first position were the Ph.D. students for whom the Internet was a vast improvement over the classical channels of academic communication. The second position was occupied by the supermarket chain Wal-Mart, whose computer-assisted salespersons could keep track of the movement of the goods and help bring down inventory and procurement costs. The third was a group for which the Internet offered new opportunities; it comprised child abusers!

It is a measure of the computer’s versatility that it could be enlisted as an ally by a wide variety of users, ranging from a Ph.D student to a criminal. The computer age is barely half-a-century old. It began in 1946 in the USA with the switching on of the world’s first general purpose electronic computer called Electronic Numerical. Integrator And Calculator (ENIAC). The machine was as unwieldy as its name; it employed some 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighed a hefty 30 tons. Still, it demonstrated that electronic computing circuitry could actually work. With permissible exaggeration, its success has been called America’s second revolution.

Subsequent history of the computer has been fashioned by three major developments. The first is the invention, in 1971, of the microprocessor, which is an integrated circuit (or a chip) containing the entire central processing unit of a computer. The microprocessor launched a million personal computers and workstations. These computers, in turn, could be interconnected via the Internet, introduced in 1973. The Internet is a decentralised-by-design, inherently anarchic, global network of cables and otherwise-independent computers, which can send packets of information from one computer to another till they reach their destination. The way it is designed, neither can the computer connectivity be thwarted nor the Internet contents censored.

The Internet owes its vitality and mass appeal to the World Wide Web, invented in 1990. The Net links the computers; the Web unites them. All information that is available online (printed word, pictures, moving images, sound and, futuristically, whatever can be expressed in terms of the digits zero and one) is perceived by the Web as a single, hyper-linked document which in turn is made available to each computer for perusal and interaction. Thanks to the Web, and the browsers (such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigation) introduced into the market in 1993, the Net is now a multimedia vehicle for research, business, experimentation and fun.

Fun is the last thing IT pioneers would have associated with it. Both, the computer and the Internet are children of fear. The ENIAC began as a secret World War II project, whereas the Internet was started so that the communication network would withstand a nuclear attack. The Web had sedate origins; it was invented as a research aid for scientists at CERN. (The French acronym denotes European Centre for Nuclear Research, Geneva) Interestingly, the official publication, Highlights of CERN 1949-1994, makes no mention of the Web. This omission should not cause much surprise. A development becomes a breakthrough only by transcending its immediate context. Since we are all embedded in our own context, it is not always possible to say whether the context would be transcended and if so how. That is why history records many a forecast, which were made with great fanfare but now look foolish.

One of the technological forecasts about computers that has held its ground so far is Moore’s law, named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel Corporation. First enunciated in 1965, the law in its present form predicts the doubling of a chip’s processing power every 18 months. For the last 30 years, computers have been dutifully living up to Moore’s law, becoming in the process increasingly more powerful and faster. (Moore’s law is expected to hold for another 10 years). Remarkably, the fall in the computer price has been even more spectacular than the rise in power. It is this combination of high sophistication and low price that has enabled the computer to reach out to the whole world.

It is however only the application part of the IT that has become broad-based, not the manufacture part. Making of computers remains a highly specialised, geographically restricted activity. But computer is no ordinary machine; it responds to human command via software, which is a program that translates the system of human logic into a set of electromagnetic impulses. Software economics cocks a snook at the received wisdom of traditional economy. Software brings human intellect and innovation centre stage. It is possible, today like never before, to convert (mental) labour into capital without requiring capital to begin with. A material good once sold belongs to the buyer. Its duplication requires material and extra expenditure. In contrast, a software product can be duplicated at practically no cost, and can be sold again and again, while still remaining the property of the seller. The premier role of intellect in the new economy can be gauged from the fact that computer hackers, though branded criminals, are often hired as consultants by mainstream organisations, including the government. (May be, India will be deemed to have come of software age when it produces a world-class hacker!)

In computer software India seems to have discovered its true calling, even if the inspiration has been missing. It is probably not entirely irrelevant to note that the term algorithm, an essential part of computers, has an Indian connection. It is derived from at Khwarizmi, a 10th century Central Asian astronomer whose derivative work in translation introduced Europe to the Indian numerals.

Software as a commodity was launched in the mid-60s when IBM, farsightedly, started charging its computer customers separately for the software supplied. Ten years later, in 1974, India made entry into the world of software export, when Tata Consultancy Services solicited and obtained a small programming contract, of US $2.5 m from Burroughs, the then second largest American hardware company. Since the contract involved merely sending out Indian labour abroad, the government machinery did not come in the way. From these modest beginnings, India has come a long way. Today (1999-2000) India’s gross software export revenue stands at $4 b, accounting for as much as 25 per cent of all Indian exports. This high figure is more a reflection on the weakness of the general export effort rather a measure of the strength of the software export, which is a mousy 1.5 per cent of the global market. It should also be noted that the figures quoted here and elsewhere are the gross figures. A more meaningful figure, which is not furnished, is the net revenue obtained by deducting from the gross the concomitant hard-currency expenses incurred on import of hardware and software and on sending software workers abroad. Net revenue is estimated to be about 40 per cent lower than the gross.

The hype and the excitement built around the Indian software enterprise by the Indian players and their foreign cheerleaders cannot hide the rather obvious fact that the Indian IT, while sucking in all available talent, is doing low-calibre work at low rates. The real intellectual challenge as well as profit lies in developing branded products, which can be sold to thousands of customers in the first place, and then again and again after upgradation and enhancement. India has been earning its pennies not by developing products but by helping others develop theirs. If branded products are property, India’s export of labour and services is equivalent of bricklaying, a low-paid dead-end.

Products account for a mere 8 per cent of India’s software export revenue (SER); the remaining 92 per cent comes from work done on-side (58 per cent) and off-shore, that is, in India (34 per cent). The peripherality of the Indian effort can be seen in the terminology itself. Both, on-side and off-shore, are location-specific. If the work was worthwhile it would have mattered where it was done. Onsite work is done on contract at the client’s site under his supervision, by Indian labour sent out specifically for the purpose. It involves writing and testing of software already analysed and designed. ‘‘It does not rely on creativity, organisational understanding, or consultation with end users.’’ As we have already seen, India began its tryst with software through onsite work. In 1988 onsite work accounted for as much as 90 per cent of India’s SER. Since then, India has moved towards the somewhat more respectable, offshore work, gushingly described by Nasscom:

‘‘Even if a client is situated 10,000 miles away, he or she can still monitor the software development on a minute-to-minute basis, ensure quality checks, communicate with the programmers as if they were just next door, and still get efficient software developed, all at immense savings of both time and costs.’’

India has so far been focusing on what we may call soft software. It should now focus on hard software. Even more importantly it should look ahead.

Without begrudging India’s success on the software front so far, one must warn against long-term dangers. Hardware developments (Moore’s law) in which India anyway has no role will be over in 10 years. Software development would probably reach a plateau in 20-30 years’ time. After that, IT will not be a kalpa-vriksha, but merely a tool, an aid in other industries. While making the software hay while the IT sun shines, India should recognise that the next generation would benefit only if IT can be integrated into the mainstream industry.

In mythology, Lord Ganesha is associated with mouse. We can identify the mouse with the IT, and Ganesha with the traditional economy. If the new economy mouse is to be of use it must serve the Ganesha of traditional agriculture and manufacture.


Clouds over the mountain kingdom
by Rakshat Puri

THE situation in Nepal is returning to normal. The dust raised by agitating crowds protesting against alleged remarks by the actor Hrithik Roshan denigrating Nepal and the Nepalese is gradually settling down. There can be hardly any doubt that, in the words of the foreign office spokesman in New Delhi, the events in Nepal were part of a motivated campaign to impair the special relationship between India and Nepal. They were clearly orchestrated, as they were built on an unsubstantiated rumour at a specific time. The Council of Ministers at Kathmandu has described the violence and vandalism in Nepal as contemptible, and urged upon the Nepalese public to guard against misleading propaganda and conspiracy.

On top of the trouble, so obviously engineered, came the unwisely timed comment by BJP leader K. R. Malkani, about the late King Tribhuvan wishing to join the Indian Union. The comment was uncalled for in the obtaining circumstances. Reuters quoted Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Poudyal as telling pressmen that Nepal had lodged a strong protest with India. It may be true that, if the Nepalese leaders did seriously turn to the history of those years, they would realise there was more than a modicum of truth in Malkani's remark. The hold of the Rana's on governance in Nepal had just ended. The Nehru administration had been throughout very sympathetic to the endeavours of King Tribhuvan to free himself and his government of them. In that situation, the King's wish to join the Indian Union was never taken amiss in any quarter. The wish was common knowledge, and was widely discussed. But Malkani's recalling this when the angry anti-Hrithik Roshan protests were beginning to taper off was curious and regrettable. The Indian Government did well to distance itself immediately from Malkani's remarks.

With things returning gradually to normal it seems important that the authorities concern themselves now with questions about how the report of the alleged remarks by Hrithik Roshan got into the media; who were the gainers and who the losers from the turmoil so obviously engineered; and who consequently might be the prime movers behind it all — even if answers to and speculation upon this last should best remain unstated for the present.

Putting together the bits and pieces available in the media and elsewhere, it would seem that a report about Hrithik Roshan making the derogatory remarks first appeared on December 15 in a local daily, Chitwan Post, published and circulated mostly in Bharatpur, a little over 200 km to the southwest of Kathmandu. Chtiwan Post is, from all accounts, edited by a veteran journalist called Dharmaraj Acharya who is quoted saying the report he published was a simple and straight report on an incident, based on a photograph of young men burning a picture of Hrithik Roshan. The young men told him that Hrithik has made some provocative remarks about Nepal and the Nepalese in an interview to Star Plus. “. . . I myself hadn't seen the Star Plus programme.” Who told the young men? Why didn't Acharya, a veteran journalist of 20 years standing, check out what the young men told him? He is not reported to have even asked the young men he quoted about how they came by the information. Hrithik Roshan, from all accounts, spoke on Star channel three times. First, just before the release of the film Kaho Na Pyar Hai; a second time just before his wedding; and the third time in Simi Garewal's Rendezvous show. Her interview took place a few days before reports appeared in the newspapers of his alleged remarks. Garewal is quoted stating categorically that he didn't utter a word about Nepal either on or off the record. It has also been stated by others on Hrithik Roshan's behalf that there was no reference whatever to Nepal or the Nepalese in any one of the interviews.

On December 25, a DPA report is said to have put out Roshan's alleged remark that he disliked Nepal and the Nepalese. According to the DPA report, Roshan said this in a television interview replying to a question about which country he most disliked. The following day, two Kathmandu newspapers, Rising Nepal and The Kathmandu Post carried reports about Hrithik Roshan's remarks. Rising Nepal is reported to have mentioned a December 14 talk show with Hrithik Roshan on Star Plus TV channel. Who fed these newspapers? Considering the report already published by Chitwan Post and its results, why didn't the editors, sub-editors and correspondents of Rising Nepal and The Kathmandu Post check on its veracity?

Who were the gainers in Nepal's anti-Hrithik agitation against India? The most obvious might be the mafia which rules the underworld — and possibly some sectors that are not underworld enough to remain concealed! Reports have lately connected the underworld with the Indian film industry more closely than previously imagined. Hrithik's father Rakesh Roshan is quoted to say, "Ever since Kaho Na Pyar Hai became a hit in January 2000 we have been facing trouble. I got shot at. Now Hrithik has been put under all this pressure. This is the price of success.”

Some film industry insiders in Mumbai are reported commenting that Rakesh Roshan is paying the price for saying no to the dons. The police don't comment. They may have a great deal or nothing to tell. Meanwhile, it is by no means inconceivable that other anti-Indian elements should be connected with the doings of the underworld in Mumbai — and elsewhere in India and various parts of South Asia. It may not be out of place here to recall that Nepal today is in the midst of political ferment which provides easily exploitable elements to whoever might set out to engineer trouble. Two most easily usable sets of agitators are, first, the backward castes and tribes, known as Jana Jatis, who are pitted against the forward caste Brahmins, Chetris and Newars — considered to be the ruling elite; and secondly, leftist Nepali groups and cadres who have been carrying on insurgency in Nepal for a number of years.

One of the reported demands by the Jana Jatis is for abolition of the monarchy. Ordinarily, it would not be easy to understand this kind of sophisticated concern among them, and such a demand coming from them. The King has literally, and traditionally, been worshipped in Nepal. In order to understand the why and how of the Jana Jatis concern and of their political demands in relation to the King and the Constitution, it would be necessary to consider the second set of usable agitators in Nepal — the various leftist groups, reportedly led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Next to the Maoist party in degree of influence is said to be the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist).

Nepal is at present reported to be in the throes of a now-on-now-off Communist insurgency — Maowadi Jana Sangarsh, or a Maoist peoples struggle — which started from all accounts in 1995. The Maoist Communist Party is said to have a hard-core cadre of about a thousand rebels, who can summon to agitation many thousands of local supporters in various parts of the kingdom. Maoist tactics include terrorist attacks with petrol and plastic bombs, ambushes, abductions, assassinations and the rest — activity that ought to be familiar enough in India! According to various reports, it is only the police that is used against the insurgents in Nepal, never the Nepal army. The police is said consequently to be in a fairly downhearted and demoralised condition.

There has occasionally, it seems, been talk in the government at Kathmandu about using the army against the Maoists, but this has never happened. It was recalled in a commentary in The Pioneer on December 25 last that the army was however used against the Tibetan Khampas in the mid-1970s. (The commentary doesn't say whether it was used against Khampas in Nepal or in Tibet. The Khampas have been the most determined of Tibetan fighters against Chinese occupation of Tibet.) Coincidentally, the Communist movement, under the Maoists and the Marxist-Leninists, is said to have got into stride in the early 1970s. The prime losers up to now in the agitation, so obviously engineered to harm Indo-Nepal special ties, have been India and Nepal. A number of companies which had started out on investment and joint ventures in Nepal — including the Birla cement factory project at Surkhet; the Surya Tobacco Company, a joint venture with ITC; Nepal Lever; Nepal Battery, a joint venture with Eveready Batteries in India; and others — are actually considering whether to continue operations in that country. Bicycle manufacturers Atlas and Jain Tubes, in addition to a number of other interested companies, have decided to delay for the time being their decision to venture into Nepal.

Considering everything, it should not be difficult to place who were behind the agitation, which, hopefully, has not upset Indo-Nepal relations irremediably. It should not be difficult for Kathmandu and New Delhi to get together to discuss how best they might counter such conspiratorial offensives in future. In the obtaining circumstances in Asia and in South Asia, there are bound to be more offensives. — Asia Features.


Recognising Indian diaspora’s contribution
by Surinder Kumar Singla

THEY are about 15 million in number—whether taken to far-flung countries like the Caribbean and South Africa much earlier or having immigrated more recently to Europe and America in search of better prospects.

They’ve ruled Fiji. British Columbia is presently governed by Ujjal Doshanj of Punjab. They’ve initiated and later helped in bringing down the curse of apartheid in South Africa. They’ve bought and raised huge hectares of agricultural land in California. They have contributed much to the economy of Hong Kong and Singapore. And of course, they’re now close to being the majority population in Mauritius and Maldives.

They, in recent times, have stolen the thunder in leading the revolution of new economy in the world. There is a scramble for them to be part of economy whether it is Japan, Germany or U.K, besides, of course, many of the developing countries.

They are bright, intelligent, sincere, loyal, hard working and fiercely tenacious.

Yes, I am talking about the PIOs—or People of Indian Origin who left the shores of their country on a journey of unknown lands and eventually made it adventurous and exciting by the dint of their hard work and perseverance.

Looking back, how strange does it feel that Indians, in their own society have limited success and are condemned as ‘pre-ordained’ or destined to happen’? But the same set of genes, when they are exposed to outside “environment”, flourish and adorn themselves. They have, by now, well figured out that it is the system in their own country that is letting them down. The system which should have facilitated them actually becomes a roadblock to undertake a meaningful enterprise. The revolutionary success in IT-related enterprise is but one example of the potential of Indians to take off with an escape velocity if they are not pulled down with the weight of unnecessary controls and regulatory mechanism of the state. It is not only the policies but people behind them as well, while administering those policies, who really become responsible in not running but ruining their lives. Many Indians have preferred to migrate out to the Western world with just the seed of hard work, rich culture and honest approach, a perfect genetic combination, in search of what they miss in their own country — the outside environment, the systemic support that is needed to enable the seed to grow into a healthy tree with fruits all around its branches.

Be it the story of the bright, young Indian engineers, doctors, and other professionals who went to the USA and United Kingdom in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s or the software professionals in the ’90s, persons of Indian origin live in almost every country of the world and they have made their mark in an increasing number of professions and occupations.

Wherever they are, they have earned a good name for themselves and for their mother country — India — with their hard work, talent and, of course their loyalty to the country that they are citizens of. They have contributed to the economic prosperity and cultural heritage of their host countries. In the process, they have achieved the noblest tasks of all — found respect for their motherland, perhaps much more in comparison to the combined effort of the political leadership of our country that could neither focus on our role nor could channelise our qualities in search of excellence.

Not only are they wonderful Ambassadors of the country — they represent all four corners of India and its well-rounded-culture as well. They may be labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who took to various British colonies all over the world; Gujarati traders who sailed to various parts of Africa; Sikh farmers who went to the USA and Canada nearly 100 years ago; Tamil workers and entrepreneurs who went to Singapore and Malaysia; and Sindhi businessmen who went to Thailand and Hong Kong.

The story of their journey has been of great courage and character.

Their contribution and achievement have been of a very high order. Ascending the ladder of success; initially working mostly at the lower rungs of the economic ladder in their host countries, they have rapidly climbed up. It is a matter of great pride that many Indians are now heading large banks, airlines, consultancy firms and, of course, information technology companies abroad besides being the core professionals like doctors, engineers and architects.

They are among the richest in many countries and as they become more and more prosperous, they are naturally looking to India as an attractive place for investment and doing business.

So is India, of course, with the opening up of India’s economy and the ambitious growth plans on which India has embarked.

Together we can make the difference and turn it into a perfect symbiotic relationship.

It is a matter of great happiness that many persons of Indian origin are beginning to play lead roles in the business activities of the country of their origin. This process, however, is so far slow and needs to be accelerated.

Now is the time when your economic strength and professional achievements have begun to be matched by your voice and influence in politics, culture, business and the social life of your adopted countries.

May you then, not participate responsibly and effectively in your country’s business life by supporting every worthwhile cause?

The underlying features of the economic reforms in India include

— decontrol and deregulation of licensing regime,

— procedural simplification and streamlining of the system,

— disinvestment in public sector,

— drastic changes in FERA and MRTP rules,

— foreign direct investment and foreign technology with minimum controls on fiscal, trade and industrial policies to provide impetus to attract inflow of foreign investment into India. The licensing requirement for almost all imports have been dispensed with.

The economic liberalisation is aimed at moving the Indian economy towards a free market system and integrating the same with the global economy. These sweeping economic reforms have won considerable appreciation for India from all corners of the world.

The Indian rupee is in the process of being made fully convertible. The liberalised industrial policy has brought in its wake significant changes and now no licence is required to set up practically any industry.

While globalising the economy, the Government of India has taken special care to get increasing involvement of persons of Indian origin in the industrial development of the country. In the preceding two decades several facilities and incentives have been announced for Persons of Indian Origin and Overseas Corporate Bodies to encourage them to invest in India, with the right of repatriation of investment and profits as well as on non-repatriation basis.

Non-Resident Indians are known to have sizeable resources in terms of finance scientific talent and technical know-how and keen interest in contributing to the economic development of their motherland.

Distant though they are in geographic terms, yet the links continue to remain strong with their homeland, and could contribute in more concrete ways than just economic.

Whenever the need and the occasion arises Indians would like you to strongly articulate India’s case to the various constituencies in your adopted countries. Your contribution in disseminating thoughts during the Kargil war and during the hijack crisis had been positive in influencing the international community. Indians would urge you to do this on a more sustained basis over issues such as India’s stand on Kashmir, strong secular tradition and against state-sponsored terrorism which has actually become a menace.

In the larger context, it is not just the economic, cultural or the political mandate that we are expecting of you — but a plea to inject a new enthusiasm and “awaken” India and Indians to create opportunities for themselves, inspire them to create systems that facilitate excellence, and in the process, eventually revive the glory of our rich civilisation that we are all proud of.

India is proud of your achievement and contribution and so be it.

The author is a former member of Parliament.


Persons who will shape US foreign policy
by Harihar Swarup

TWO America-born Africans will give a new thrust to US foreign policy and the coming months may see a formidable defence screen being raised against a possible missile attack on the most powerful nation of the world. Unlike the Clinton regime, the Bush dispensation may keep off using its mighty military machinery for peacekeeping in civil and ethic conflicts around the globe. Ms Condoleezza Rice, appointed National Security Adviser, and Gen Colin Powell, appointed Secretary of State, by the President-elect, Mr George W. Bush, will be the key persons who will formulate the Bush regime's foreign policy. Ms Rice will hold the most important advisory position in the United States on matters affecting national security, such as environment, trade, the defence budget and education.

There is almost a generation's gap between Ms Rice and Gen Powell; yet both possess super intellect, as if, a computer is running in their brains. Ms Rice is 46 and Gen Powell has just celebrated his 64th birthday. The first woman to hold the sensitive post of National Security Adviser, Ms Rice was born in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, in the autumn of 1954 while Gen Powell opened his eyes in the world in Harlem in New York. Both had worked with the President-elect's father, Mr George Bush, who was elected President of America in 1988.

The elder Bush's National Security Adviser, Gen Scowcroft, had recruited Ms Rice at a time when the Berlin Wall was collapsing and the Soviet Union was crumbling. Her association with the top team, which formulated US policy at that time, enabled her to gain valuable experience. She might have never thought that after eleven years she would herself become the National Security Adviser. Gen Powell too, almost at the same time, reached the pinnacle of his profession, having been appointed Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, the most powerful military position in the world. He emerged as the key adviser to President George Bush and came to be known as the architect of Operation Desert Shield. The exercise involved the movement of American and international forces and materials to the Middle East to execute the most intricate and high-tech military campaign. In March, 1991, the global alliance of forces had defeated the Iraqis, with Gen Powell earning much of the credit for the military success.

Ms Condoleezza Rice, known among her friends and admirers as ‘‘Condi’’, was barely nine years old when a deplorable bombing took place at a church, killing four black girls, including a school friend. The segregationist violence made the struggle for equal rights a national cause in America. At 15, Ms Rice wanted to take music as her career and become a pianist but did not make much headway. She was motivated by Mr Joseph Korbel, father of the present Secretary of State, Ms Madeleine Albright, to take to international studies. Unfortunately, Mr Korbel did not live long enough to see his daughter become the Secretary of State and his protege, Ms Rice, to be pitchforked to the position of National Security Adviser.

Ms Rice, during her academic career, became a specialist on the Soviet Union and, as far back as 1989, was drafted by Gen Scowcroft to serve on the National Security Council of former President George Bush. The assignment enabled her to have free access to the President. They developed a friendship which paved her way, after a decade, to become the National Security Adviser to the incoming President. Her first meeting with Mr George W. Bush took place in 1995 in Texas when the future President was visiting his father. Condi may not be considered a match to Mr Henry Kissinger, the legendary National Security Adviser but, observers say, she is among the ‘‘smartest, most articulate and charming people’’.

Having spent 35 of his 63 years in the US army, rising to the position of General and Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, the new Secretary of State keeps under the glass of his table a quote from a lesser known Greek historian, Thucydides, which says: ‘‘Of all manifestation of power, restraint impresses men most’’. Shortly after his marriage in 1962, Gen Powell was sent to South Vietnam as adviser. He was drafted for the second time to the war-ravaged country in 1968 as a battalion executive officer in an American division. His Vietnam experience had been nerve-racking.

Someone asked Gen Powell in an interview to describe the most frightening experience of his life. His reply was: ‘‘The first time, I was shot in Vietnam war, I did not get hurt, but a soldier in the same patrol was killed; and I suddenly realised, it was no longer some training exercise or game — it was all for real. There were people on the other side of the war, who were trying to kill me, and if they failed one day, they would try to kill me the next day. That was pretty scary’’.

Gen Powell had another frightening experience in Vietnam. In the words of Gen Powell: ‘‘I was walking on a patrol through a jungle and I slipped and fell into a trap that the enemy had put on the trail. It was a covered hole in the ground that had sharp bamboo spikes at its bottom. I slipped into the hole, my foot went down and a spike went through my foot. It was painful, but it was not serious. I was okay again in a few weeks’’.

President-elect George Bush's national security team comprising Ms Rice and Gen Powell are expected to give a new direction to US foreign policy — erecting a formidable missile defence system and avoiding peacekeepers in ethnic conflicts abroad.


Empowering women Vajpayee's way

REMEMBER Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee's glowing tributes to Mrs Indira Gandhi when India won the 1971 war for the liberation of Bangladesh. Though a member of the Opposition, Mr Vajpayee had compared Mrs Indira Gandhi with Goddess Durga. He has now gone one step forward in showing his reverence for women.

Prime Minister Vajpayee's spontaneous reciprocity of touching the feet of two recipients at the presentation of the Stree Shakti Puraskar will be remembered for times to come. Just when the recipient of the Mata Jijabai Award touched the Prime Minister's feet, he also reciprocated in a similar manner. Mr Vajpayee expressed the same reverence for another recipient from Himachal Pradesh. The function also marked the launch of the Women's Empowerment Year. While expressing his deep reverence for women, Mr Vajpayee also made a New Year promise of ensuring the passage of the much-awaited Women's Reservation Bill.

Historian Joshi

Future historians in India could be a divided lot as Indian students learn history according to the ideologies of their respective schools.

The Union Human Resource Development Minister, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, seems indifferent to warnings on distortion of history. Only recently Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu have warned against falsification of history. While Mr Basu urged all secular parties to resist the falsification of history, Dr Sen said it was imperative that ‘‘we resist from taking a sectarian stand on history’’. Dr Joshi, on the other hand, says that his ministry is only concerned with education in government recognised schools or those affiliated to education boards as the CBSE. It has no control over what is being taught in RSS schools, madarsas or private schools.

Amoebic expansion

Whether it creates record for the number of years it stays in office or not, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) seems set to create a record as one of the biggest coalition experiments in the parliamentary history of the world. This is being achieved not by addition of more allies but by divisions within existing ones.

First, it was Union Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan who broke off from the Janata Dal (United) to float his own new party Lok Janshakti (LJS). Now, within a month of the formation of LJS, the Samata Party is on the verge of a split. Earlier, the Biju Janata Dal, another coalition partner of the NDA, had seen some senior leaders walking out. For all the troubles being given by the allies, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will have the satisfaction of heading one of the biggest coalitions in democratic history.

New Year with a difference

This is one New Year celebration that should bring cheer to the votaries of Swadeshi. The spirits were missing but there was lot of spirituality around. The music too was with a difference. Setting a trend of a different sort, a Sikh priest of Gurdwara Tikana Sahib in West Delhi's Punjabi Bagh area has been holding New Year celebrations since 1975. Mahant Baba Gurumukh Singh Ji Maharaj says he started the spiritual celebrations to divert those youngsters who indulge in ‘‘undesired activities’’ on New Year eve. More than a lakh devotees heralded 2001 by hearing kirtans by popular hymn singers. There were eats too. It included aloo tikki, dahi bhalla, fruit chat and sambar vada. There was also tea and coffee to cheer up the devotees. A special langar was also organised to mark the celebrations.

Commercial cartoons

The onslaught of commercialisation is sparing none. Not even the serious cartoonists. The latest to be lured by the moolah is India's senior cartoonist Sudhir Dar. Dar, who dominated the front pages of a leading national daily for decades, has now lent his strokes to a range of specially designed everyday cards by a private greetings and gifts company. The multicoloured cards are available for everyday occasions like birthday, anniversary, wedding, missing you etc. The texts of the cards have been kept to the barest minimum with the cartoons conveying the message in the typical Sudhir Dar style.

Changing of name

The pace at which the world is adapting itself to the world of computers has prompted the Indian Army to take steps to prepare its men for the challenges of the future. While the Army has already taken some major initiatives in the past to ensure that its men were technology savvy and has also gone about computerising most of its departments, the latest step taken by it actually shows that the force is conscious of the advancements in the world of technology.

In its continuing efforts the Army has gone ahead and changed the name of one of its corps — EME. From being the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, the EME has now been renamed as Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers. The EME was raised on March 2, 1943, to provide engineering support to all Army equipment during World War II. The major activities of the corps centered around engineering support to wheeled and tracked vehicles, small arms, guns and engineering and radio equipment. Since electronics constitutes a major engineering discipline in all weapons systems now, the EME has also been renamed.

(Contributed by T.V. Lakshminarayan, Girja Shankar Kaura, Tripti Nath, Prashant Sood and P.N. Andley)


Combating hatred — Sahmat style
by Humra Quraishi

THE year ended on a dark note...what does one do when at the fag end of the year you sit or stand or lie down powerless. With most of us not possessing the means or the resources to even hop out of immediate jurisdiction what to talk of Southern ho! new year sessions which started on a bleak note. Anyway, there seemed some brightening up, as Sahmat stretched out an entire evening of programmes on January 1 — a practice they’d been following for the last 12 years — right from the day when Safdar Hashmi was assaulted whilst performing a street play on the outskirts of Delhi. This year’s highlights were the release of two books by writer Arundhati Roy, the release of a statement cum appeal by Sahmat chairperson Bhisham Sahni to combat the divisive forces of hatred.

And as the evening progressed the cultural events took on. Maya Krishna Rao came up with a remarkably well written satire on the present situation where she spoke non stop, with a traditional Kerala boat placed right next to her, to match the commentary. And what was especially noteworthy were the talented young artists holding the floor, right till midnight. Just to mention a few names — Dhruv Sangari, Mannu Kohli, Suhail and Faisal Khan, Rahul Ram of the Mrigya fusion band, Aneesuddin and Nafeesuddin Dagar... in fact there was such diversity in programmes and artists drawn from different areas that SAHMAT activists rightly pointed out, “The programme so strongly demonstrated the syncretic character of Indian culture practices as to make one wonder about how can the Sangh Parivar even talk of one language and one culture?”

Dr Arjun Sengupta’s book

Dr Arjun Sengupta’s book — ‘Reforms, Equity and the IMF: An Economist’s World’ was released here on Jan 5. There seemed considerable excitement in political circles because the chief guest was former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and this was to be his first public appearance after the verdict. In fact I am filing this column leaving the function midway (because of the deadline) so cannot comment on what the panelists spoke. In fact, two of the panelists did not turn up. Dr Manmohan Singh “because of an eye infection” and Dr Pranab Mukherjee because “he has been caught up in Calcutta, because of the bandh.”

I heard Dr Arjun Sengupta’s inaugural speech so let me quote from it. “In India, unlike in many other developing countries, we did not lack in economic expertise in policy making both at the level of Finance Minister and of their advisers. Dr Manmohan Singh brought to bear his extraordinary skills in the policies of the 1991 reforms, and his name will remain enshrined in the history of Indian economic policies. But he had Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao as his Prime Minister and the credit for the 1991 reforms should go to him, because he had the courage of taking the risk of launching those reforms, at that very difficult time in our history. But very few people know, or have talked about it, that several months before that, a budget was prepared by the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, which had almost all the elements of the reforms that were introduced later. But the then Prime Minister, for whatever reasons, decided not to present that budget. I might also add that later the budgets that were presented by Mr P Chidambaram were probably the best examples of professionalism....”

Pavan Varma’s eighth...

Pavan Varma has done it once again. His eighth book — “People Like Us” (Har Anand) was released this week. But before I go on with further details, let me add that two more of his books are in the pipeline — On January 24 the President of India will release ‘The Millennium Book of New Delhi, (co-edited by Pavan Varma and published by OUP) and in the first week of February Pavan’s 10th book will be released — ‘Anthology of Erotic Literature’ which he has co authored with Sandhya Mulchandani, of the “The Indian Man: His True Colours” fame.

And in the midst of writing, this career-diplomat (presently posted as J.S. Africa Desk, before he goes to Cyprus as our High Commissioner) finds the time to focus on issues. For this latest book is a compilation of a series of write ups focusing on people who manage to take time off from their hectic schedules to reach out to the disadvantaged. “There has been a dual purpose to write these series — project people who are doing their bit for society, for with so much cynicism around, people find it hard to believe that positive work is actually going on and the other aspect was to help such organisations and individuals... in fact I still remember that soon after I wrote a feature on an NGO `Deepalaya’ I got a letter from a retired army personnel saying that after reading the write-up he took on the responsibility of sponsoring a child’s school education... if my writings can help others, then what more can I ask for....” Pavan does have the knack of managing to reach out and keep up with friendships — in fact at this book release function Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley spoke about how he and Pavan had been friends and classfellows right from school days till Law Faculty when they were even part of a debating team.

We lose another of the Dagars

With the passing away of Ustad Aminuddin Dagar, out of the seven brothers only three remain. In fact what is particularly noteworthy is that the Dagar brothers are the 20th generation of Dagars, continuing the Dhrupad Parampara, right from the time of Mughal Emperor Akbar.

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