Sunday, January 14, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Yesterday America...and tomorrow the world

EOPLE are missing Bill Clinton already. Especially, his closest allies and sworn enemies, those who love him and who love to hate him.

Bush may not change attitude towards India
by Shyam Ratna Gupta
ANY political and social scientists are now engaged in delineating the “new” image of USA under the Presidential policy directives of George W. Bush in 2001-2004. Will there be a radical change in US approach to current national and international issues, a departure from the Clintonian era of 1993-2000?


The passport tangle
January 13
, 2001
Sugar melts in PDS
January 12
, 2001
Maruti in third gear
January 11
, 2001
Enron power cut
January 10
, 2001
With a bamboo sword
January 9
, 2001
Lower phone tariff
January 8
, 2001
Integrating IT into mainstream industry
January 7
, 2001
Flight of fancy
January 6
, 2001
Technology mission
January 5
, 2001
High voltage shock
January 4
, 2001


Winning over minorities a litmus test
by Sneha Reddy
EORGE W. Bush and his team has geared up for takeover and the transition team of the US President-elect has begun its race against the clock to go through the complex formalities to takeover power from the Democratic administration in Washington.


by Harihar Swarup
Child of the Chinese revolution

I PENG, a former Prime Minister of China, and the second most powerful leader after President Jiang Zemin, is a child of the revolution. He was orphaned when his father, Li Shuoxun, was executed by Kuomintang and was subsequently adopted by Zhou Enlai as his son.


Diplomatic games in Foreign Ministry
RIME Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, after his US trip last year, came to the conclusion that only a media-savvy personality should head the Indian Embassy in Washington. According to the grapevine, one name suggested by him was that of the young, energetic and articulate Arun Jaitley.


by Humra Quraishi
First Arab head to be R-Day chief guest
IRST things first, the chief guest for this year’s Republic Day will be the President of Algeria, Mr Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Elected as President of Algeria in 1999, this will be his first visit to India. Together with this also stands out the fact that he will be the first ever Arab Head of State to be invited as the chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations.


Yesterday America...and tomorrow the world

PEOPLE are missing Bill Clinton already. Especially, his closest allies and sworn enemies, those who love him and who love to hate him.

As Clinton’s successor prepares to assume office under a pall of illegitimacy, the departing President, who could so easily have become a humiliated lame duck, remains the dominant political figure not only in America but also across the world. The latest news that Clinton is, after all, to set up court not in New York but in Washington can only mean one thing — that the end of his final term of office will create a Presidency-in-exile, and that this is farewell but not goodbye to the man they once called the Comeback Kid. President Zeitgeist, whose time is not yet past?

There is a story about Clinton’s idol, Franklin Roosevelt: He used to travel with aides who could remember almost everyone he met on his rounds and who, upon a re-encounter, would whisper in the boss’s ear: ‘Name’s Jack; wife Sally. You played chess with him once.’ ‘Hey Jack!’ Roosevelt would say, to the amazed delight of those within earshot. ‘How’s Sally? We must play chess again sometime.’ The difference between Roosevelt and Clinton is this: Clinton doesn’t need the shadow. He can remember Jack and Sally by himself. Everyone who meets him (or most, at any rate) thinks Clinton is his or her special friend.

“And,” says his one-time aide Paul Begala, “the funny thing is that it’s totally sincere. For that moment he looks into your eyes, Bill Clinton really loves you, just for that nanosecond.” In a patrician way, of course, but that is the stuff of great leaders, statesmen and monarchs down the centuries. George Bush says he ‘trusts the people’; Clinton just adores them; he is an incorrigible flirt, not only with women but also with America.

He was and remains the master of the tactile, ancient art of politics. Sometimes, of late, this passion for the people became whimsical, even melancholy. More conscious than most presidents of his historical ‘legacy’, he nevertheless made a remarkable speech last year that concluded that ‘in 200 years’ time, no one will remember who we are’.

There was an occasion in Little Rock, Arkansas, about the same time; it was almost sad. Only yards from the podium on which he had bathed in the triumphal victory of 1992, Clinton had been addressing a crowd of senior citizens. The audience had for the most part disappeared into the night and the band was packing up. And there he was, working the rope line down to the last handshake, basking in the last drop of adulation.

But very few of Clinton’s subjects are above this kind of flattery — it turns us all into teenyboppers. Almost everyone that flocks to eat at Joe’s Restaurant in downtown Little Rock agrees with schoolteacher Patsy Wright that ‘Bill Clinton knows me better than I know him’. It is famously the case that women who do not generally feel these things go a little weak at the knees when their gaze meets Clinton’s.

Those who worked close to Clinton define his Presidency differently. The departee George Stephanopoulos sees two years of offence followed by six years of defence. Loyalists like Rahm Emanuel, who replaced Stephanopoulos, and Sidney Blumenthal see a resurrection of the legacy of America’s finest — Andrew Jackson and Roosevelt, in tune with a new political tonality across the democratic world.

David Gergen sees a dual presidency between a husband and wife who ‘came to Washington to do good things’ but which ‘I wish had turned out differently’. Dick Morris, sometimes called the President’s ‘Rasputin’, sees a dichotomy between an ebullient public figure and a mysterious, solitary man, a man visibly wounded by his exclusion from Al Gore’s election campaign.

It was at the conclusion of that period of apparent melancholy, however, that Clinton burst forth with a speech at the Democrat convention in Los Angeles last summer. Many called this litany of self-assertion one of the great political speeches of our time, and not a few believed that it had been delivered by one of the great statesmen of the epoch, and one of America’s great Presidents. Certainly, it reaffirmed once and for all that there is such a thing as Clintonism and that Clintonism remains a major force, if not the major force, not only in America but also in the world.

Much is being written about Clinton’s achievements, and rightly so. America is not the same country as he inherited. In 1992, the USA was in limbo, an interim period in Ronald Reagan’s shadow presided over by the ancient regime of George Bush, economically and politically unsure of itself. Clinton now bequeaths to Bush Junior a buoyant nation basking in the most economically prosperous epoch in its history.

Poverty remains a scourge, but the war against it has been declared. The stubborn steadiness of the growth rate has been staggering, wages and the standard of living are high, and labour is more powerful than it has been for decades. Health care, although a disgrace by the standards of European welfare states has moved closer, despite the American traditions, to a system that protects the majority of citizens. Clinton’s welfare reform was bitterly criticised by the Left, but unemployment rolls are low - America is busy working.

Internationally, Clinton has become synonymous with the new global commercial order; he is, perhaps above all, the advocate of economic diplomacy, the President of Trade. He presided over the years of liberal democracy’s unsteady conquest of the communist East. With others, he devised and became the figurehead for a new politics, the Third Way, a political hegemony to which not only Messrs Blair, Jospin, Schroder and D’Alema subscribe, but also the leaderships in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic — and even Israel and Russia in their fashion.

Clinton’s record is one of intervention in the world and its crises. In Bosnia — true — he was protean and infuriating. Each catchpenny gesture of resolve played hard on the hopes and fears of those under siege in Sarajevo - ‘KLINTON TRAZI NOVI PLAN’ (Clinton Tries a New Plan) — was a ghastly and familiar headline.

But Clinton did halt the genocide in Kosovo. More than anyone, he did try to forge peace in Ireland and to make the end of war a realisable dream in the Middle East. He ended Uncle Sam’s image as oppressor and adviser to fascists and torturers in the Latin hemisphere; he removed the dictator Cedras from Haiti; he courted communist China and in his last days built bridges to Hanoi and Pyongyang.

Set against all this, there is the one thing everyone will remember about the Clinton years: that this is the President of the USA who was grilled for four televised hours about which part of his penis Monica Lewinsky did or did not touch. This is the President who engineered the handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzak Shamir on the South Lawn, but about whom a prosecutors’ tome was compiled detailing ‘oral-anal contact’ in the Oval Office.

What is really interesting about Clinton is not what he did but how he did it. Harold Ickes, a loyal but rebuffed confidant who has since become a propeller behind Hillary Clinton, once told me: “Bill Clinton does so much more for his enemies than he does for his friends.” Ickes’s is a good point and one that defines at least one face of Clinton’s presidency.

Clinton-hatred is special, qualitatively different from most political antagonism. For many on America’s Conser-vative Right, Clinton’s presidency - for all his popularity (and ironically, given the way Bush Junior was elected) — was in some way illegitimate. He was an upstart, a draft-dodger, a man who brought ‘un-American’ values to the White House.

Working among these persons, who detonated the impeachment crisis, in Arkansas, Washington, and across America, it became clear that there was indeed, as Hillary said, a ‘vast, right-wing conspiracy’ to depose the President. After failing to achieve this through the paltry Whitewater scandal, it just happened to mobilise around the President’s one Achilles’ heel, a lusty droit de seigneur that has been customary among political leaders for centuries.

Most interesting were the reasons for this hatred. In down-home, hoe-down Arkansas, Clinton was a cocky rebel; clever, ambitious, at ease with blacks. Writer Toni Morrison even called him America’s first African-American President.

He played the saxophone and no one believed that he hadn’t inhaled. He and Hillary brought people into the White House — such as Blumenthal, Begala, Stephanopoulos, the ragin’ Cajun James Carville, Laura Quinn and so on — who were just as amazed to find themselves at work at the heart of power as the ancien regime was appalled.

Clinton populated the State Department and embassies across the world, hitherto associated with the Cold War and Reagan diplomacy, with young and dynamic diplomats under the directorship of Madeline Albright and young James Rubin. Clinton and his era wove a new US Presidency with a texture that the incoming old guard will now unravel, as it returns to the faded, jaded colours of 1992.

But at the same time, Clinton dazzled the global power brokers: the IMF, the World Bank and the wizard of capitalism, Alan Greenspan, with his grasp of political and economic realities. Clinton is an insatiable listener, obsessed with the fine-tuning of policy. The professionals of politics, diplomacy and economy were almost exhausted by his need to explore every nook and cranny, to hear every view before forming his own.

In two weeks, Clinton becomes the youngest ever ex-President, but this is a man too young and restless to retire. There have been innumerable speculations about what he will do next. The easy, affectionate version predicts a good life of sex, prestige lectures and videotape. But there is a more serious plan afoot, a high-risk scheme that could have a major and original impact on world politics, discussed with The Observer over the past few weeks, that emanates from among the inner circle at the White House which has no intention of putting eight years’ work into mothballs.

The fundamental notion is this: that whatever the constitutional strictures that prevented him from running again, and whatever the election ‘result’ that puts Bush in the White House, Clinton is a man of his time.

That time is the end of the Cold War; the decade in which his Presidency took over America from the ancien regime was that which also saw the shedding of other skins: Margaret Thatcher giving way to Tony Blair in Britain, Chirac to Jospin in France, Kohl to Schroder and Fischer in Germany, Andreotti to D’Alema in Italy, Yeltsin to Putin in Russia, Netinyahu to Barak in Israel — in short, the Third Way. It is the same current running midstream along the same river — it is the Zeitgeist, both generational and ideological.

Everyone knows that Al Gore fitted into this nexus like a round peg into a round hole. He must have envisaged himself at those G8 summit meetings, and the vision deprived must torture him. Everyone also knows that George W. Bush is a square peg in that round hole. Bush himself says he wants to take America back to the year that his father’s lost office.

The programme of Clinton and his close entourage, as explained to London-based The Observer newspaper, rests on the natural political affinity between Europe and the Clinton court in Georgetown on the Western edges of Washington DC, rather than Bush’s White House.

The Presidency-in-exile has, or is making, contacts with allies at home in the USA, in Europe and Russia. In the US, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore or both are laying the foundations for a Democrat siege of Capitol Hill in the elections of 2002, and a presidential candidacy in 2004. Overseas, there is intensive chatter between the outgoing White House and people for whom a Bush administration is both temporary and politically anomalous — with friends in Tony Blair’s New Labour, Jospin’s Socialists and Schroder’s Social Democrats.

For all their formal diplomatic obligations, it will be hard for any of these parties to flourish in a ‘special relationship’ with George Bush while the Jacobite President Clinton and his busy entourage are wheeling, dealing and frequent-flying across the Atlantic.

There is no doubt that a hesitant, isolationist Bush could fall under the shadow of a busy, globetrotting Clinton. This year’s Third Way conference in Stockholm, at the conclusion of social democratic Sweden’s chairmanship of the European Union, is intended to be a coming-out party for the shadow Atlantic Alliance.

Bill Clinton, of course, will have no official title, except for that which those who are weaving this plot give him: ‘World President of the Third Way’. Or perhaps more appropriately, as one close aide prefers:

‘President of the World’. Even if that title fails to convince the entire planet, one thing is for certain: this is no time to bid a final goodbye to the Comeback Kid. 

(The Observer)


Bush may not change attitude towards India
by Shyam Ratna Gupta

MANY political and social scientists are now engaged in delineating the “new” image of USA under the Presidential policy directives of George W. Bush in 2001-2004. Will there be a radical change in US approach to current national and international issues, a departure from the Clintonian era of 1993-2000?

While marginal shifts in US postures at home and abroad cannot be ruled out, its basic constitutional law of “checks and balances” will continue to operate unhampered as in the preceding two decades in domestic and world affairs. Being the only unchallenged super power now, USA, with President Bush has no compelling reasons to redirect its attitude to India.

The realities of South Asian situation and the points of conflict in the region are recognised in the USA, cutting across the recent electoral divide, and India need not entertain any apprehensions from the next US Administration. Moreover, there are inbuilt restraints in its lively intellectual, academic and research climate in the contemperous environment, which will guard against a resurrection of the Johnsonian or Mixonian aberrations of the 1970s towards India. A leading Republican “think tank”, the Heritage Foundation in the USA has consistently been critical of China’s dominance in Asia and had repeatedly advocated “tough” measures against business tact in international political economy in the global market.

Another “think tank”, Brookings, which had reportedly funded marginally the election campaign of the Democratic presidential elections in the 1990s, also considers China a potential business rival to the USA. Indeed, Chinese hegenomism is seen as a menace to US supremacy in Asia-Pacific region.

Several other research institutes, such as Carnegie Peace Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rockfeller Foundation, International Centre for Economic Growth, East-West Centre, and possibly many more, are engaged in studies of US political economy at home and abroad, and all these have their imprint on US policy formulations.

Similarly, US universities as well, right across the country from Stanford and California to Harvard and Princeton, with varied academic or political linkages, exchange views on foreign affairs with US Administration, and any major redirection on the eve of a new presidential outlook is analysed minutely, thereby softening its angularities. Further, as many as 6,000 former policy-makers in the preceding administration are likely to be absorbed in research and academic centres who obviously ensure that their work is not completely erased.

All these research-academic studies politicised and of benefit to US principal concerns, would make US-watchers to believe that the Republican and Democratic Party Presidents are essentially a pair of Tweedledum and Tweedledee — only functionally different from each other. The announcement of the appointments of General Collins Powell as the new Secretary of State may thus be interpreted that a blunderbuss may be wielded by USA, with the olive twigs concealed behind on the global stage. In West Asian peace initiatives as also in North Ireland, where the outgoing President Clinton had directed his effort, will perhaps be informed now by compulsion or coercion only to stem violence. It is highly unlikely that the Gulf War, unleashed by the Elder Bush, would or could be resumed in the current world setting, which has changed since the 1980s-early 1990s. Even if the US policy makers are hawks, they will have to wear kid gloves in the international arena, still liberally sprinkled with booby traps.

A welcome shift would perhaps be towards international militancy and terrorism with their overt or covert connections with drug peddlers, lawless mafiosie and cross-border violence whether these occur in Asia, Africa, America or Europe. Territorial feuds have not turned purple, blood red robes, and detection of crime has become a Herculean, if not also impossible, task. The new Bush Administration could derive some advantage from its dubious inheritance of the memory of excesses in the Gulf War, the Balkans, Vietnam and Latin America.

The Clintonian era had been famous—or rather infamous for the rise of sexism, women power, over-affluent life-style, setting an unworthy example by its leadership before the world. Not surprisingly, the leaders have been suspect everywhere. A return to traditional values, based on morality, rectitude, commercial and business ethics could guide leadership all over the world to the paths of peace and truth. The new First Lady, Laura Bush, has already declared that her role will be that of a traditional wife besides her husband.

Finally, it may be anticipated that we might see the US policy in national and international affairs as firm but fluid on the changing global stage. If money manipulation, sexism and freewheeling political moves are curbed, the leadership might still lead the world to a better more honest world. On a lighter, perhaps frivolous vein, it may be recalled that the State Department Wing of the US government is located in an area usually called “Foggy Bottoms”, implying that its approach is beset with confusion and lack of clarity. Can the new Bush Administration keep clearing the “fog” around it and banish “bottom” lines.

The writer, a retired diplomat, and former Chief Editor, Indian & Foreign Review, New Delhi, had research assignments in international political economy, in London, Calcutta and Delhi in 1950-1993.


Winning over minorities a litmus test
by Sneha Reddy

GEORGE W. Bush and his team has geared up for takeover and the transition team of the US President-elect has begun its race against the clock to go through the complex formalities to takeover power from the Democratic administration in Washington. Generally, the President-elect gets a grace period of nine weeks after the election to prepare himself for his eventual take-over. This luxury is not available to Bush because of the delay in the election process.

It is not all that easy for a President-elect in the USA to settle in the Oval office unlike his counterparts in other Parliamentary democracies where the administrative machinery is marked by continuity. Bush must appoint around 6,000 staffers and wade through 21,000 or so job application ahead of his January 20 swearing-in. The person he hires must necessarily pass the FBI’s intensive background checks, a process that takes time.

President-elect George Bush has already announced most of the important appointments which very clearly indicate continuity in the outlook of the new Republican administration in tune with the earlier one led by none other than Bush’s father. He has already designated Colin. L. Powell as Secretary of State, Paul H. O’Neill, a seasoned corporate executive, as the Secretary of Treasury, Donald H. Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defence, Don Evans as the Secretary of Commerce, Maj Marinez as the Secretary of Housing Ms Ann Veneman as the Secretary of Agriculture and Ms Condoleezza Rice as the National Security Adviser.

Another surprising selection by the new administration is that of Norman Mineta, the outgoing Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration as the Secretary of Transport. Spencer Abraham, the defeated Republican Senator from Michigan, has been named to head the Department of Energy.

Vice-President-elect Richard Cheney, along with Clay Johnson, has been playing the major role in the selection, mixing and matching personnel to get the right blend of personal chemistry, expertise, diversity and loyalty to form a team that can win approval from the Senate, which is going to demand all wits of the Republican President-elect. Richard Cheney who played the major role in selecting the Cabinet will continue to have a say in the remaining significant unfilled positions like the director of central intelligence and the Ambassador to the United Nations.

Word from the Capital Hill is that some of Bush’s nominees will not have a smooth sailing time during the confirmation process in the Senate, which is evenly divided 50:50. For 17 days, the Democrats will be in the control of the Senate as the current Vice-President Al Gore, will cast any tie-breaking votes. After January 20, this role of breaking the tie vote will be in the hands of the next Vice-President, Richard Cheney. It is a slightly different story in the House of Representatives where the Republicans continue with their slender majority of 221 to 211 with two Independents and one vacancy.

Though the Democratic leadership in the Senate has said that it will not use its temporary majority to rush through legislations, the Democrats have been calling for equality for heading Committees and for setting legislative agendas. The 50:50 split among the Republican and the Democrats in the Senate has naturally led to some strident calls for power sharing with which the Republicans are not quite happy about.

Senate confirmations are expected to start as early as January 22 and the Bush team is preparing itself to meet any challenge that might arise while clearing the nominees. At least two of Bush’s nominees are already under attack by his detractors and are likely to face trouble during the confirmation process in the Senate. With civil rights groups having targeted them, it would be difficult for the Democrats to extend kind gestures to the new Republican administration.

The nominations of John Ashcroft, Attorney-General designate, and Ms Christine Todd Whitman, administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to be tough since the Democrats who have been sore at their party losing out on the Presidential election may be itching for a major spar with the incoming Republican President.

John Ashcroft’s appointment is a high profile one since he will be the nation’s top law enforcement official. He is generally seen as having impeccable credentials but his critics maintain that the Republican espouses strong conservative ideas including his anti-abortion stand. He is also charged with racism because of his leading role in killing the nomination of Missouri Supreme Court Judge, Ronnie White, an African American, to the Federal Bench. Ms Whitman is also widely seen as a racist because of racial profiling by the police in the state of New Jersey where as Governor she was photographed frisking a black youth who had been detained by police.

Beneath the veil of cordiality and grace that President Bill Clinton exudes, there lies a silent disapproval of the way George W. Bush has sneaked into the Oval office without a clear mandate from the electorate. Probably the out-going President does not express it in words but his actions certainly expose it. The Bush-Clinton meeting last month did go off well with the President-elect offering to listen and the later advising him to get a good team and do what he thinks is right. According to a White House aide it was a serious meeting that covered primarily foreign policy matters and lasted for about 70 minutes. The formal meeting and the niceties associated with it does not divulge the mutual disrespect they hold for each other, that is not purely political.

When President Clinton appointed a black lawyer, Roger Gregory, to a Federal Appeals Court, he was prodding at one of his successor’s most glaring weaknesses, namely, his derisory support among African Americans. It is to be noted that only eight per cent of Black Americans voted for Bush. The announcement of the appointment came while the Senate was in recess. The President does not generally take advantage of his power to make such an appointment and leaves it to the Senate to review any appointment to the Federal bench. It is the first time in the last two decades that a President has invoked his powers to make such an appointment. And that too when his days in the White House are numbered.

In yet another subtle move that might stoke a Black-led movement to have the District of Columbia, which includes Washington DC, turned into a full-fledged State with its own Congressmen and two Senates, the outgoing President has quietly changed the license plates of the Presidential limousines to read — ‘taxation without representation’. The slogan is a reflection of the fact that the District of Columbia which is predominantly Black with over 80 per cent African American population does not have Federal representation. Any move by Bush to change the license plates might further alienate him from the Blacks and also reinforce the popular perception that the Republicans are racists and anti-Blacks.

Senior Republicans and supporters of the President-elect dub these last-ditch moves by the outgoing President as an exercise in trouble-making. They call it the final acts of revenge by a President who was impeached by a Republican Congress. It is no secret that the Republican campaign during the election focused on Clinton’s personal life and Bush himself had pledged in his campaign speeches to restore ‘honour and dignity’ to the White House, a reference to Clinton scandals. Republicans cry foul about the moves by the outgoing President which they interpret as deft and subtle moves to lay political mines that might explode beneath his successor.

Bush also has more than 60 vacancies in the federal courts awaiting him when he takes office. When his father George Bush left office in January 1993, about 50 of his nominees before the Senate Judiciary Committee were left without hope of getting confirmed to the bench. Now they might get another chance. The names of several former and senior environmental officials from big states are circulating as potential nominees for key positions in that area.

The litmus test for having won the legitimacy to rule from the Oval office will be his only when George W. Bush manages to win over the support and confidence of the Black section of the American population. That will be too difficult for him to achieve. He can at least try not to annoy them and alienate them any further. This is also going to be more complicated than simple lines from the past might suggest.

Now, all eyes are on January 20 when George W. Bush Jr. will be sworn-in as the 43rd President of the United States of America, reinforcing the reality that dynastic succession in one form or the other has not ceased with royalty but has its strong roots even in democracy!                                                            (Newscribe)


Child of the Chinese revolution
by Harihar Swarup

LI PENG, a former Prime Minister of China, and the second most powerful leader after President Jiang Zemin, is a child of the revolution. He was orphaned when his father, Li Shuoxun, was executed by Kuomintang and was subsequently adopted by Zhou Enlai as his son. Li's father was one of the earliest member of the Communist Party and had the distinction of being a close comrade-in-arms of Zhou Enlai. As far back as 1931, Li Shuoxun was made Party Secretary of Military Affairs for Guangdong province, where he directed guerrilla warfare against the enemy regime after the rupture of the Kuomintang-Communist collaboration. He was getting ready to hold a council for war with his comrades when an informer betrayed him to the ‘‘enemy’’, leading to his arrest and, two months later, was execution by a firing squad.

In a moving letter to his wife, Zhao Juntao, from prison, Li Peng's father wrote: ‘‘Farewell to you all. There are executions every day, some carried out at the front, some in the rear areas, and I will be among them. Don't weep too much over my death. Take good care to bring up our son (Li Peng) and send him along to my family. Make an effort to earn a living by yourself’’. The letter was reproduced in the authoritative biography of Zhou Enlai, published in English by the Foreign Languages Press, Beijing.

Li Peng spent his childhood with a relative till Zhou Enlai came to know about his whereabouts and his wife, Deng Yingchao, brought him back, adopted him and made arrangements for his education. To Li Peng, Zhou Enlai was always ‘‘uncle Zhou’’ and Deng Yingchao "Mama Deng". That was in the year 1939. Li Peng was the target during the Cultural Revolution but he was fortunate to survive while Zhou's adopted daughter, Sun Weishi, was eliminated at the hands of Jiang Quing's gang of killers. Both Li and Sun were children of ‘‘revolutionary martyrs’’ and grew up under the guardianship of Zhou and his wife. Both were sent to the erstwhile Soviet Union to take up further studies; Sun in humanities and Li in science, mainly electrical and hydraulic engineering.

Le Peng became a member of the Communist Party in 1945 when he was yet to come out of his teens and a long road of struggle lay before him. At the age of 56, he became one of China's four Vice-Premiers. According to the account given in Zhao Enlai's biography, Mama Deng (Zhao's wife) still considered Le Peng as a kid who needed prodding from his elders from time to time. One a sweltering summer day in 1983, Mama Deng, the 79, visited Li's new office to wish him success. She gave two pieces of advice to her foster son — ‘‘never think too big of yourself and never keep aloof from the masses’’.

One wonders if Li Peng, now on a week-long visit to India, to reportedly explore the prospects of triangular cooperation among India, Russia and China, remembers the counsel of ‘‘Mama Deng’’. He is currently Chairman of China's National People's Congress, a position roughly equivalent to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Li was the Prime Minister when Mr Rajiv Gandhi visited China in December, 1988, and the talks between the two Prime Ministers paved the way for normalisation of relations between the two mighty nations of Asia. This correspondent, accompanying Mr Rajiv Gandhi, got an opportunity to meet Li Peng and the instant impression gathered was that the strong man of China was absolutely unassuming. Perhaps, he has taken Mama's Deng's advice to his heart.

My second meeting with him was in Rio de Janeiro in the early nineties where the Chinese Prime Minister had come to attend the World Environment Summit. He walked to the makeshift office of India's Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao at the venue of the summit. I had a chance meeting with him because the Chinese security officials mistook me to be an officer of the PMO. He stopped as I introduced myself, replied to a few questions and warmly shook hands with me. The Chinese security officials, however, was not kind when, to their dismay, they discovered that I was a journalist and virtually tried to bash me up.

My third meeting with Li Peng was on Friday at a reception hosted at Delhi's Ashok Hotel, by Ms Najma Heptulla, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. The biggest challenge in Li Peng's long and eventful career was the Tiananmen Square massacre in June, 1989, and the black spot has come to be associated with his name. A just published book, ‘‘Tiananmen Papers’’, reveals what transpired behind the scenes during the protest that rocked China in 1989. Based on documents smuggled from Beijing, the book, reviewed in the latest issue by Time magazine, says: ‘‘The man with the most to lose in a reassessment would be Li Peng, who issued the martial law order as Premier in 1989 and still retains the No. 2 position in the party’’. The papers reveal ‘‘the Chinese Premier's hardline heart that moves his comrades inexorably towards a final confrontation".

An American Sinologist, Orville Schell, while stressing that the smuggled documents were real, gives his own assessment of the role of Le Peng in Tiananmen slaughter. He says: ‘‘Consider the treatment of former Premier Li Peng, who is often identified as the villain of Tiananmen Square. Rather than appearing as a tyrannical madman, Li emerges in the document as a solid party disciplinarian, true to his principles’’. 


Diplomatic games in Foreign Ministry

PRIME Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, after his US trip last year, came to the conclusion that only a media-savvy personality should head the Indian Embassy in Washington. According to the grapevine, one name suggested by him was that of the young, energetic and articulate Arun Jaitley. It was felt that Mr Jaitley, with his known capabilities, would be an ideal choice especially when the US presidency was undergoing a change. The Law Minister was sounded for the job, but he politely declined the offer, much to the happiness of the officials in the External Affairs Ministry. Thereafter, Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh lost no time in getting his name cleared for the US assignment.

Another proposal from the Prime Minister's Office was that of Mr Vajpayee's media adviser, Mr H.K.Dua, as the Indian High Commissioner in London. The high profile diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, however, put a spoke by opposing his candidature on the ground that in a fast changing world only a seasoned diplomat could take care of vital national interests. They have also reportedly scuttled a move to appoint Mr Ronen Sen, once Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, for the post in London. Mr Nareshwar Dayal, currently Indian High Commissioner in London, has been given an extension. Meanwhile, a low profile Foreign Service officer heading the Pakistan desk for years in the External Affairs Ministry, Mr Vivek Katju, is moving to Yangoon on an important mission to build up ties with a neighbour as India's Look East policy gains momentum.

All pleasure and no business

The Indian Government plays the perfect host when it comes to entertaining visitors from abroad. Well almost. With the External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia next week, the media managers in his office decided to invite a bunch of scribes from that country to precede the Minister's visit. The visit of the scribes was described as a familiarisation trip.

During the week-long familiarisation trip, the three-member media team from Riyadh was treated with warm hospitality. However, the media managers in the External Affairs Ministry failed to make their visit worthwhile. The scribes drew a blank on the professional front. A visiting scribe from the Saudi capital pointed out that they had been waiting ever since their arrival in India to meet either the Minister or the Foreign Secretary but nothing had materialised. This, despite a promise from the Indian Embassy in Riyadh that the scribes would have a meeting with the top guns in the Foreign Ministry. When asked what he thought about the familiarisation trip, the scrip retorted: ‘‘What a waste’’.

Murasoli Maran's rebirth

The first thing that Union Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran did after recovering from a life threatening ailment was to call on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and go through the southern ritual of presenting him a shawl. A gleeful Mr Vajpayee was relieved to see Mr Maran back to his ministerial duties and responsibilities. After wishing Mr Maran well, Mr Vajpayee asked the DMK stalwart if he believed in rebirth. A somewhat bewildered Mr Maran answered the question with a big smile, heaving a sigh of relief that the worst was behind him and he was back with the job on hand. Mr Vajpayee had his reasons to be happy that Mr Maran was back in the NDA Government because without the critical role played by the shrewd Dravidian leader, the DMK would not have been part of the BJP-led NDA Government. Even though the DMK leaders as well as their rank and file claim to be atheists, Mr Maran's wife was constantly invoking the blessings of various deities that her husband should recover while being treated in a major private hospital in Chennai.

Petroleum jamboree

The high-profile Petrotech Conference 2001 held in the National Capital was primarily aimed at wooing foreign investors and it will take a while in assessing if such investments are in the pipeline or the high cost conclave turned out to be a jamboree for all and sundry. Interestingly, there were quite a few retired officials of Indian oil majors brushing shoulders with international experts. However, what oil and gas sector strategists found rather out of tune was the organiser's decision to ask the controversial former ONGC Chairman, Col S P Wahi, and former Petroleum Secretary H.K Khan to chair a session each pertaining to technology and oil production. These sessions were described as antiquated and out of sync with the latest trends in the oil and gas sector.

Scratching backs

After scoring brownie points on Ayodhya during the recent session of Parliament, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are now battling it out on the situation in West Bengal. In the game of oneupmanship over demand for imposing President's rule in the state, each party is trying to gain political advantage with an eye on the coming Assembly elections in the state. It is the NDA constituent Mamata Banerjee who has been vehemently raising the demand to impose President's rule in West Bengal following ‘‘political killings’’ in Midnapore. NDA leaders, particularly the BJP, which are overtly supportive of the demand, have tried to put the ball in the Congress court by saying that since the NDA does not have majority in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress should spell out its stand on the issue. Not willing to let BJP take any political advantage, specially since relations with Communists have to be carefully handled, the Congress is keeping the cards close to its chest. ‘‘Let the government first take a decision and then we will tell our stand,’’ says a Congress spokesman. ‘‘If the Congress supports us, then the option of President's rule could be considered,'' says a BJP leader. ‘‘You scratch my back and I yours,’’ he quipped.

(Contributed by TRR, Satish Misra, T.V. Lakshminarayan, Prashant Sood and P.N. Andley) 


First Arab head to be R-Day chief guest
by Humra Quraishi

FIRST things first, the chief guest for this year’s Republic Day will be the President of Algeria, Mr Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Elected as President of Algeria in 1999, this will be his first visit to India. Together with this also stands out the fact that he will be the first ever Arab Head of State to be invited as the chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations. Sources decline to comment whether this is the government’s way of balancing the tilt towards Israel or one of those ways to lessen the strain between India and the Arab countries — writ large on several occasions in the last several months. In fact, in this context let me also mention that at a reception hosted on Iraq’s Army Day (January 6) by Iraq’s Ambassador to India, Salah Al Mukhtar, one couldn’t spot any of those ‘active’ politicians/ that is none from the present coalition setup. The not so active ones to be spotted that evening were Bhishm Narain Singh, Jaipal Reddy, P.M. Sayeed. And then there was not a single representative from the MEA and nor from the Ministry of Defence or for that matter from any of the three wings of the armed forces. On the other hand, I could spot military attaches from the embassies of Russia, North Korea, UAE and Egypt.

So will MEA continue to tilt and balance or come out with a clear policy vis a vis the Arab states?

Transparency is required

I am just back from a book release function. Titled ‘Generals And Governments in India and Pakistan’ (Har-Anand) and edited by defence analyst Maroof Raza, the very title seems rather telling and what could have been a routine book release function fared better because the chief guest, the former Chief of Army Staff, General V.P. Malik, decided to speak along rather informal lines. He began by saying, “When I saw the very title of this book I told Maroof how can you compare the generals of the two countries, after all generals of Pakistan rule the country whereas in India the generals are servants of the civil servants!” There came more from him. “There are four duties of the chief of the Indian Army — defence policy, defence planning, strategic interaction and management of the service. And there is a problem with the defence planning and it requires updating and, also, we are at the micro management level where defence policy is concerned... “And to a query by Major-General Ashok Mehta as to why the Army had not really played a more assertive role especially in recent times. General Malik said though he didn’t quite like the very word ‘assertive’ but a change is definitely coming about. “In fact the other day I was reading a writeup wherein the journalist had mentioned that earlier the routine line (‘to any of the civilians’ orders/commands etc) was yes. It will be done, but now it is ‘yes...we’ll come back to you’.”

The only politician present at this book release function — that is present right till the end, for Ram Jethmalani left early — was Vasant Sathe and once Sathe speaks he bares all. On this occasion he bared this fact. “During the Emergency the then Defence Minister (Bansi Lal) told me in the Central hall of the Parliament that why can’t we continue the state of emergency and assume total control... So that thought had indeed crossed some minds!”

Before moving ahead it is important to mention why Maroof Raza undertook to edit this book. I quote “Today, India’s media as well as a number of intellectuals and academic institutions have started to debate issues of national security, and this is the start of a healthy tradition. The reason is that a growing number of Indian politicians and the people they represent are now interested in military affairs concerning India, specially so, in an era when India faces and fights proxy wars and terrorism unleashed by Pakistan. Southern Asia is now perhaps the most heavily militarised region in the world, and nuclear India remains boxed between the region’s two other nuclear powers — China and Pakistan. And while both are in land contiguity with India, diplomatic relations with them are far from perfect.

Despite this, India sadly continues to lack a national security establishment and its people remain inadequately informed about the military issues that concern every citizen. ..... For too long the Indian establishment has continued to muddle through issues, without any informed debate on crucial matters of national security. This must now change.”

The German film festival

‘A Decade of German Cinema’ took off on January 10 And needless to add that 11 of latest German films will be screened during this festival. Space constraints have begun to haunt and hover around, so let me skip all those filmi details but I have got to mention that it was a refreshing change to hear two members of the German film delegation. During an interaction with the media, Director Hans C Schmidt and actor August Diehl spoke in an absolutely down to earth, honest manner and told us that there is no film censorship in Germany, there are plenty of state grants even for upcoming film makers, there is no demarcation of films into slots — art, commercial etc. And together with this let me also write that perhaps the very first time German films are to be screened in our theatres on a commercial basis. Let ‘s see how they fare.

Time to ponder!

Mr Javed Abidi, executive director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), now also known as the man who has organised the van for Dr Stephen Hawking, has sent this message in his new year card: “As we prepare ourselves to end one more year and usher 2001 in, let’s take a hard look around us. How many public places are accessible? How many schools and colleges are integrated? How many corporates are now offering jobs to the disabled? ...... New Year should also be a time to introspect! According to the Government of India, the population of disabled people in this country is a mere 1.9 per cent. This has been the case for the past 10 years. All our policy, all our planning and all our resource allocation have been based on this pathetically low figure. You can well imagine the loss that the Indian disability sector has suffered because of this anomaly! It is that time in history to correct a huge wrong. Tireless efforts of thousands of disability activists across the country have ensured the inclusion of disability as a category for data collection in Census 2001.”

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