Friday, February 16, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Budget bit by bit 
T is fine to shed the ultra secrecy about budget-making. Successive Finance Ministers from Mr Pranab Mukherjee onwards have done it by consulting different interest groups and hiking administrative prices weeks before the D-Day. To that extent what Mr Yashwant Sinha is doing right now is only a marginal increase in the dose of adrenal and not a radical departure.

V-Day vandalism
T would be instructive to find out whether the police has taken any action against the Shiv Sainiks in Delhi and Chandigarh for creating public disorder on the occasion of Valentine's Day. They may have indulged in similar acts of vandalism elsewhere also, but in the case of Chandigarh and Delhi photographic evidence is available of the Sainiks having forced their way into establishments offering special products to those wanting to celebrate the day in India as it is celebrated in the West.


Signals from Majitha
February 15
, 2001
Ayodhya will not go away
February 1
4, 2001
No saving grace this
February 1
3, 2001
More militant killings
February 1
2, 2001
Women in command
February 11
, 2001
Crisis time for Congress
February 10
, 2001
Police brutality
February 9
, 2001
Privatising the government! 
February 8
, 2001
Invitation to disaster
February 7
, 2001
Fresh signals from Kashmir 
February 6
, 2001


Repeated extension of ceasefire
Consequences of a unilateral decision 
by Harwant Singh
he recent killing of Sikhs, the murder of 15 civilians in Salohi village, the attack on a police control room and numerous other actions of Fidayeen since the cessation of the operations against terrorists in J and K have cast doubts on the wisdom in the repeated extension of the ceasefire. From the very beginning there has been confusion on the issue of the ceasefire.


A maverick politician forever
r Subhas Ghising is the most maverick of India’s maverick politicians. He was not known until the late eighties but then his advocacy of violence and his army background gave him the right credentials to the top spot.


Pakistan’s foreign policy as Musharraf understands it
by M.S.N. Menon
en Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is no foreign policy expert. But on security, he is. That is what he claims. He boasts, he can talk on Pak security for a whole day!


India’s only ape under threat
urvival of the only ape found in India, the hoolock gibbon or white browned gibbon, is under threat with its population in decline.




Budget bit by bit 

IT is fine to shed the ultra secrecy about budget-making. Successive Finance Ministers from Mr Pranab Mukherjee onwards have done it by consulting different interest groups and hiking administrative prices weeks before the D-Day. To that extent what Mr Yashwant Sinha is doing right now is only a marginal increase in the dose of adrenal and not a radical departure. Still, there is much room to disagree with him on presenting his budget in bits and pieces and in public. A few days earlier he all but formally declared that the interest rate on small savings and public provident fund would come down by a percentage point — from 11 per cent to 10 per cent. On Wednesday he rejected the demand for a reduction in direct taxes, both of individuals and corporations. And he “broadly hinted”, to use a favourite expression of newspapers, that even the surcharge would stay at 17 per cent. There will be no change in the excise duty structure with very few items attracting half of the basic 16 per cent and a few non-merit goods a higher 24 per cent. Import duty will come down from the present high level of 70 per cent to about 16 per cent but over a period of five years. All this is said to be to align Indian rates with those in the neighbourhood. This is said to be particularly true of income tax and Mr Sinha credits his two predecessors with having “cleaned up” the structure which is very reasonable and compares well with other Asian countries. He should be challenged on this. Despite the reduction first by Dr Manmohan Singh and then by Mr P. Chidambaram, the rates are very high, forcing many to hide a good part of their income. A tax expert has pointed out that rates in this country are higher even when compared to neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan charges a maximum of 20 per cent on income above Rs 3 lakh (in India it is 30 per cent over Rs 1.5 lakh) and in Bangladesh it is 25 per cent over an income of 2.5 lakh taka. China applies the maximum rate of 35 per cent on an income equivalent of Rs 45 lakh. In Hong Kong there is no income tax up to Rs 14 lakh and the starting rate is 2 per cent and the ceiling 20 per cent. Mr Sinha should study the Singaporean model. Income above the equivalent of Rs 2.5 lakh attracts a rate of 2 per cent and the maximum rate of 28 per cent comes into force at an annual income of Rs 1 crore or above! And Singapore collects twice the amount as income tax in relation to its GDP as India!!

Rates, the nature of exemptions and the efficiency of collection go into determining the tax revenue-GDP ratio. India suffers in all three as it jumps out of the presence of zero tax companies and leading industrialists not paying any tax. This can happen only in this country. Mr Sinha has told industrialists that he wants only a small share of their profits (not earnings) and it should not hurt them. But given the drafting of the income tax laws, there is ample scope for the super rich to escape the tax net altogether. G.D.Birla once famously said that he did not pay income tax because he owned only a bare cot and a pair of sandals. He was not very truthful but was perfectly legal; the income tax regimen allowed him this luxury of being poor while jetting around the country if not the world. Mr Yashwant Sinha, not as yet identified with the interests of money bags, should set right the whole situation before some rabble rouser latches himself on to this and make it a big issue. His proposals are sure to hurt one or all the middle class supporters. These people are easily swayed.


V-Day vandalism

IT would be instructive to find out whether the police has taken any action against the Shiv Sainiks in Delhi and Chandigarh for creating public disorder on the occasion of Valentine's Day. They may have indulged in similar acts of vandalism elsewhere also, but in the case of Chandigarh and Delhi photographic evidence is available of the Sainiks having forced their way into establishments offering special products to those wanting to celebrate the day in India as it is celebrated in the West. If the police refuses to take action, public-spirited individuals should demand punishment for the vandals through the courts. The issue is not whether St Valentine's Day should be celebrated in India or not. The issue is whether the Shiv Sainiks are above the law of the land which prohibits individuals and groups from creating public disorder for promoting whatever cause. The offence the Shiv Sainiks have been shown committing in the photographs, carried by most newspapers, attracts a spell in jail, plus compensation for the owners of the establishments which attracted their unwarranted wrath. In any case, Valentine's Day was not the first time when the self-appointed guardians of Indian culture indulged in acts of vandalism in support of their stand. Remember the nationwide mayhem they caused by attacking cinema houses showing Deepa Mehta's film "Fire" on the theme of lesbianism? The same elements used violence against the film crew when it landed in Varanasi for the shooting of "Water", on the plight of the widows left to fend for themselves in Mathura, Kashi and Vrindavan. In another case the District Magistrate of Varanasi was forced to assume the role of the censor board because a group of Pandits took umbrage to Amitabh Bachchan reciting the Gayatri Mantra without removing his shoes in "Mohabatien".

But who can dare book them when the voluble Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, herself threatens to take similar action against Fashion TV in her official capacity, because she has convinced herself that the constantly moving images on the channel offend Indian sensibilities? It must be remembered that the Constitution protects India's commitment to democracy and the individual's right to freedom of speech and expression. Those who have a problem with the celebration of Valentine's Day, have the freedom to express their views against it in a democratic manner. They probably have a case against the observance of what was until a few years ago a western festival. But they are making a hash of it by using physical violence. If they would care to look around they would realise that in the global village the market forces have not only succeeded in selling Valentine's related products to the new Indian youth, but have very cleverly upgraded Christmas too into a national festival. A large number of non-Christians have begun celebrating it with the same enthusiasm as it is celebrated in the West. On the flip side is the fact that Indian festivals, particularly Divali, too are becoming equally popular in the West. Last year Mr Bill Clinton sent special Divali greetings to the American-Indians when he was still President. Instead of opposing the celebration of western festivals in India the better strategy would be to reinvent some of the Indian festivals like Janmashthami, Holi and Divali for both the domestic and global markets. This objective cannot be achieved by indulging in acts of vandalism against the celebration of Valentine's Day by a very small section of urban Indian youth.


Repeated extension of ceasefire
Consequences of a unilateral decision 
by Harwant Singh

The recent killing of Sikhs, the murder of 15 civilians in Salohi village, the attack on a police control room and numerous other actions of Fidayeen since the cessation of the operations against terrorists in J and K have cast doubts on the wisdom in the repeated extension of the ceasefire. From the very beginning there has been confusion on the issue of the ceasefire. Initially, it was interpreted as cessation of operations against terrorists. Then it was confused with the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC). Finally, it embraced both activities.

In fact, there are three aspects to it. One is the ceasefire on the LoC, (the futility of exchange of fire on the LoC has been repeatedly highlighted in these columns), the other is checking infiltration (which though continues) and the third is the suspension of operations against the terrorists operating in J and K. The declaration of unilateral ceasefire was decidedly a bold political step and an honest attempt to give peace a chance in that strife-torn state. Though the cessation of counter-insurgency operations was initially welcomed by the population in the valley as these, in the past, did cause inconvenience and at times harassment to the affected public, but the substantial increase in the killing of innocent civilians has since resulted in a change of perceptions.

We seem to carry our experience of dealing with the insurgency in the North-East to Kashmir, both in terms of ceasefire and dialogue with insurgent groups or their political wings. But there is no similarity between the two situations. Nor is there any parallel in the situation in Punjab during the 1980s-90s with the one in J and K. While the insurgency in the North-East has had some degree of indirect support, during certain periods, from outside, but in the main it has essentially been indigenous in nature and content. Whereas in J and K it is essentially Pakistan supported and sustained. Gradually but surely, the composition and structure of the insurgency in J and K has been changing whereby, according to some assessments, upto 70 per cent of the terrorists operating in the state are of foreign origin. However, operations of all the groups, including those with larger local elements in their ranks, are controlled from across the border. In fact, insurgency has taken the form of full-scale cross-border terrorism with decreasing local support and sympathy. This is not to say that the alienation of the valley’s population with India is any the less. Therefore, political initiative to tackle the insurgency in the state, by itself, can be of little avail.

The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) at one time was considered the political face of the insurgency in J and K. But with the composition and control of insurgents increasingly passing into the hands of Pakistan and foreign elements, the APHC’s relevance has diminished considerably. Its political clout and influence have been mainly confined to the valley, but here too it has been on the wane. It had given a call to boycott the recent panchayat elections in the state, but the turnout, notwithstanding inclement weather and threats from terrorist organisations, has been unexpectedly high. Additionally, and evidently, it has no influence over the more virulent terrorist outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, not even through Pakistan by proxy. Therefore, the complexion, contours and control of insurgency has undergone a paradigm change, which we do not seem to preceive well enough.

This brings into question the wisdom of entering into confabulations with the APHC. Allowing the APHC to enter into a dialogue on the Kashmir issue with Pakistan and extremist groups operating from the other side will willy-nilly amount to bringing a third party into the dispute. While we may seriously consider shedding our extreme aversion to third party intervention (mediation), the APHC is hardly an appropriate third party! This approach of drawing the APHC into a dialogue and then despatching its representatives to interact with Pakistan and the terrorist groups controlled by it, would give a discredited and irrelevant organisation legitimacy and sustenance. Be that as it may, here we should be more focused on the issue of the extension of the ceasefire and its possible ramifications on the future security scene in J and K.

Those supporting the ceasefire have been busy putting across the canard that the people of the state are very happy at this move of the Government of India. If this happiness springs from increased civilian casualties (in the six weeks preceding and following the ceasefire these increased from 117 to 150, grenade attacks from 33 to 57, etc) then it is a case of perverted logic and motivated assessment of the ground reality. It also exposes the lie of the killing of innocent civilians by the security forces, as human rights activists have often alleged, because such killings have substantially increased while the security forces are more or less “confined to the barracks”. Admittedly, inconveniences such as frisking, searching of vehicles and cordon and search of localities and villages may have ceased, but the increase in the figure of civilian casualties cannot bring relief to the populace. Undoubtedly, aggressive or excessive firing in the course of cordon and search operations or during encounters with terrorists, can lead to civilians being caught in the crossfire and, as such, they are resentful of these types of operations.

The ceasefire gives one or the other side a breather, time to recoup, regroup and reorganise, and in genuine cases time to prepare for negotiations and settlement. Obviously, under the circumstances, it is solely the terrorist groups which stand to benefit. Given the efficacy of Indian intelligence in J and K, we will not be any the wiser as to where all the new bases, caches for “arms-ammunition-explosives”, regrouping, sources of information and contacts, etc, are being created by the insurgent groups. It will further reinforce the dangerously high content of defensive mentality prevalent in the Army. A slight aside may be relevant here. During an interaction with the top brass of the Army prior to my presentation to the Arun Singh Task Force on the Indian Army’s 20 years future perspective, a very senior gunner officer, connected with the Kargil operations, when queried, told me that his artillery had no means to correct fire during counter-bombardment task, where the expenditure of ammunition is believed to be 60,000-70,000 rounds. When I asked as to why small parties of two to three personnel were not sneaked across the LoC, through the wide gaps in the enemy positions, to some hiding places from where they could direct the fire of our guns, his reply left me aghast. They were not supposed to sneak across the LoC, he said! The alleged withdrawal of some troops from the LoC by Pakistan must be seen in the light of the totally defensive mentality of India. Pakistan’s experience of 52 years of Indian defensive attitude on the LoC involved no risk in withdrawing some troops from this line.

From the very beginning, the terrorist groups did not accept the ceasefire (cessation of anti-insurgency operations). Consequently, it has been unilateral. A unilateral ceasefire has a definite life-span, depending on the response from the opposite side. Where the other side does not respect the ceasefire and, in fact, increases the tempo of terrorist activities, it is difficult to understand logic behind the idea of continuing with the unilateral part, month after month. Admittedly, our approach has been well received in Western capitals as also by an odd political party in Pakistan, but these marginal gains are no substitute for a well thought-out long-term approach to the problem in J and K. The peripheral advantage apart, the final outcome may not be in the best interests of the people of the state, more so the security forces, who will sooner than later face heightened activity from the terrorists, their jihadis and Fidayeen elements, who stand to gain from the ceasefire.

Even during a war, at some stage, negotiations can be opened between the opposing sides while there may be no let-up in the tempo of operations. There is no logic in a sustained perseverance with the stand that cross-border terrorism must cease as a prelude to talks with Pakistan. It is not our contention that positive results will immediately materialise or cross-border terrorism will fold up once we take a seat at the table, but we would have taken the first essential step and drawn Pakistan into a dialogue and tell it, face to face, to stop cross-border terrorism. Kashmir is a complex problem and there are no easy or quick solutions to it, but approaching the problem with patience and moving forward, say one step at a time, does hold out promise, no matter how remote and hopeless it may appear at the moment.

We must persist with the ceasefire on the LoC and perhaps take some additional steps on the same lines in regard to Siachen. Continue to check infiltration with greater vigour. But there should be no let-up in the tempo and scale of operations against the terrorists operating within J and K. And if and when we start dialogue with Pakistan step up these all the more. However, greater care needs to be taken that in these operations, minimum harassment and injury is caused to the local population.

The writer is a retired Lieut-General. 


A maverick politician forever

Mr Subhas Ghising is the most maverick of India’s maverick politicians. He was not known until the late eighties but then his advocacy of violence and his army background gave him the right credentials to the top spot.

Mr Ghising sought demobilisation from the Army in 1966 as most Nepali soldiers did after the Chinese aggression in 1962. But he had the instinct to articulate the aspirations of the people of Nepali origin in Darjeeling. His unique achievement is to give a pointed thrust to the wishes of the people of Darjeeling of Nepali origin. This he did dramatically by first organising the Neela Jhanda (blue flag) party and later challenging the annexation of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and the Doors area of Assam into India. This bravado act pushed him to the top of the heap.

He went to the International Court of Justice at the Hague by hiring Nepali lawyers but nothing came out of it, but his leadership of the people of Nepali-origin soared. It was a curious development; his political game flopping but his leadership game flourishing.

In the eighties he was the most news-worthy person of eastern India. His demand for an independent Darjeeling to be called Gorkhaland set off an alarm bell in the Left Front, the ruling party in the state of West Bengal. This was his second unintended achievement. He shaped the thinking of the Left Front much against its traditional mooring. The front came out against the formation of a small state just because it will vivisect the larger Bengal concept. This is the curious reason why the Left Front opposed the popular demand for the formation of Uttaranchal and Jharkhand.

Mr Ghising controlled the political options of the residents of Nepali origin so much that his word was law in Darjeeling for long months. He decreed bandhs for days, always counted in terms of hours like 72 hours (three days) or 120 hours (five days) and the region went dead, yes dead, during these hours. This soon became a very popular form of protest and professional protestors of Assam became its acolytes.

Mr Ghising was an authority before the CPM defeated him in two Lok Sabha elections, rather his nominees on both occasions. The myth was broken and the angry Gorkha leader became a human like everyone else.

These days he is just the president of the Gorkha Hill State Council, an autonomous body without much power. But that post gives him a car, a security convoy and much provocation for political and personal enmity. The attack on him and his miraculous escape tie up not only with his political success but also political risk. One thing is for sure. He will not quit, for he is no quitter. He loves a fight and he will do so even after a near deadly ambush. After all, there is something about the Nepalis, and the kurki is not venerated in futile.

Serving the depressed

Jitterbugs who dread appearing in examinations and get butterflies in their stomach when the results are round the corner now have the benefit of getting help just a phone call away. “Snehi”, a Delhi-based non-government organisation set up in 1994, claims credit for being the lone centre that provides counselling to students before examinations. Its programmes are the brainchild of freelance consultant and Snehi Director Abdul Mabood.

A former researcher at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Mr Mabood saw his classmates, especially IAS aspirants, experienced a lot of disillusionment, and felt it was imperative to start a helpline to enable students overcome their problems and take right career decisions.

A pre-examination helpline, better known as Disha and introduced in 1999, enables students to cope with their stress, anxiety, nervousness and psychosomatic problems. Students complaining of memory problems and lack of concentration can dial 011-6521415/6521494 between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from February 1 to March 6. The pre-and-post-result helpline called Hopeline, introduced in 1998, offers counselling round the clock between May 25 and June 10 when the class X and XII results are declared. The schedule of this helpline is drawn according to the result dates.

Mr Mabood says his organisation is trying to persuade Delhi’s Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited to give toll-free numbers to enable more students and parents to seek counselling from a voluntary team of phychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors. The team comprises Prof Ajit K. Pal and Dr Ashok Nagpal, both psychologists; Dr Amiya Banerjee, consultant at the Vidya Sagar Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences; and Dr Arvind Kumar Mishra, psychology lecturer at Jamia Milia Islamia. These programmes have been getting an overwhelming response from places like Meerut, Dehra Dun, Rohtak, Bhiwani, Agra, Darbhanga and Patna.

Super enumerator

Conducting a census in a vast country like India with linguistic and cultural plurality is a mind-boggling exercise. The person who has the privilege of overseeing such a stupendous task is the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner of India, Mr Jayant Kumar Banthia. A 1977 batch IAS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, Mr Banthia’s team of enumerators has completed the “houselisting” operation, which means the first phase of the census. The census work in militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir is also over.

With the second and main phase of the census operation beginning on February 9, Mr Banthia who joined the Census Commission as Officer on Special Duty on July 5, 1999, and then rose to become the Census Commissioner within the next two months — is busy fine-tuning the various preparational aspects of the exercise. Though the completion of Census-2001 as per the schedule in itself will be a major achievement, the earthquake in Gujarat has complicated the Census Commissioner’s job. Conscious of the problems in the wake of the large-scale devastation, Mr Banthia is determined to complete the census in the quake-ravaged districts of the state on time.


Pakistan’s foreign policy as Musharraf understands it
by M.S.N. Menon

Gen Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is no foreign policy expert. But on security, he is. That is what he claims. He boasts, he can talk on Pak security for a whole day!

The foreign policy of a country is based on global and domestic circumstances. That is true for Pakistan, too.

Musharraf says that the cold war is over and that bipolarity has given way to unipolarity. The West has thus won the ideological war, but a new conflict has begun — that of civilisations. Musharraf really believes in it. He is impressed by the reality on the ground. He says: “We (Muslims) are on the spot, and suspected in many ways and we are targeted.” If he can say this, he really believes in this theory. It must be clouding his entire global outlook. He sees Muslims surrounded by a hostile world.

Similarly, he believes that the fall of the Soviet Union began in Afghanistan. And he is not impressed by the Russia which has emerged out of the debris of the Soviet Union. Russia’s future is “ambiguous”, he says. Has it to do with his new thoughts on Central Asia?

Afghanistan is still in “turmoil”, he says. But the Taliban is the “new reality” in Kabul. It is in control of 90 per cent of the territory. The rest 10 per cent is held by the Northern Alliance — that is by “Ahmed Shah Masood — one personality and a Tajik,” he says.

Musharraf has high praise for the Taliban. It has “brought peace” to the territory under its control and has disarmed everyone “which we are finding it difficult to carry out in Pakistan,” he says. An unguarded confession?

Musharraf believes that the Taliban will change its ways. A society undergoes changes with changes in its cultural environment, he claims. And he cites the case of Iran, which came out of its isolation and became more moderate of late.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, he believes, Central Asia has emerged as a “Muslim bloc”. It has affinities with Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. This “Muslim bloc” has abundant natural resources. But it is landlocked, which, he affirms, gives Pakistan a geographic and strategic advantage. Pakistan is the natural outlet for this bloc, he claims. This explains why he was keen to take up the pipeline project between Iran and India. Perhaps he is more sincere on this than Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif.

“Pakistan stands at the crossroads between the Middle East and the Gulf, the Central Asian countries and South Asia. That enhances its strategic importance.” This is his key belief. Its importance cannot be minimised.

Musharraf is convinced that China is emerging as the strongest contender for the second pole, and is standing in the way of India’s aspirations for a regional and global status. But India’s aspirations may find common cause with that of America, he says.

He admits that the nuclear equation between India and Pakistan has become a major factor of international concern. But it has brought Kashmir, he says, into world focus.

Going into what determines Pakistan’s foreign policy, he mentions five factors: security interest, which is the most important; economic interest; international concerns (for example CTBT, human rights etc); Pakistan’s ideological interests, namely its desire to preserve Islamic identity and, lastly, upholding the country’s principle, which he associates with the issue of Kashmir.

Gen Musharraf believes that the strength of any country’s foreign policy is directly proportional to the domestic viability. And he sees this viability as the sum of military and economic strength.

The security of Pakistan is the prime concern of every Pakistani, he proclaims. It shapes the foreign policy of Pakistan. But is there a real threat to Pakistan? There is, he says. But there are people in Pakistan, he admits, who favour reduction of armed forces and peace with India.

But the Indian threat is not confined to Kashmir, but goes beyond, he says, for India’s real intention, he believes, is to dominate over Pakistan — both its economy and foreign policy. This impinges on Pakistan’s sovereignty, he says, and is, therefore, a real threat.

Musharraf admits that there are two schools of thought on Kashmir: one is in favour of putting it on the backburner in order to foster stable relations with India and the other is opposed to a compromise because it is tantamount to accepting India’s dominance over Pakistan’s policies.

It is this threat from India, he concludes, which shapes Pakistan foreign policy responses. The Government of Pakistanis acts on the belief that the Pakistan are aware of this threat from India and refuse to sideline Kashmir — because “Kashmir is in the blood of every Pakistani.”

So, what is to be done? Musharraf rules out a war with India, “because no sane person can think of war in modern days.” He says; “We must avoid war through a total deterrence (hence the nuclear bomb?) and diplomacy.” He does not spell out how. Instead, he says, Pakistan must “engage” India on Kashmir (in the proxy war?) and on the peace front (in propaganda?). And Pakistan must mobilise international organisations like the UN, OIC, SAARC and others.

Pakistan must avoid a two-front threat, he asserts. That was the situation, when the Soviets invaded Kabul. So Pakistan must maintain good relations with Kabul and Tehran, he says. And he claims that Pakistan has “very good” relations with Iran, specially after his talks with President Khatami.

As for Kabul, it is absolutely necessary for Pakistan, he says, to have “the Pashtuns on Pakistan’s side.” For two reasons: because of the demographic factor of Afghanistan (70 per cent of Afghans are Pashtuns) and the geography of Afghanistan (because this 70 per cent live around the border of Pakistan). It does not matter whether they are led by Gulbudin Hekmatyar or the Taliban, he says. This is realpolitik.

There are three issues facing Pakistan in Afghanistan: (1) peace; (2) terrorism, sanctuaries and training camps; and (3) Osama bin Laden. Musharraf wants to find a solution for all these.

On Pakistan’s relation with China, which is crucial for Pakistan’s security, Musharraf says that there is a convergence of the strategic security concerns of the two in this region.

On Pakistan’s economic future, Musharraf appears to have put his full faith in the country’s geographic location. He says, gas has emerged as the fuel of the 21st century just as oil was of the 20th. Now Qatar wants to sell its gas to India. So does Iran. In both cases, it has to go through Pakistan, he says. So Pakistan’s economic interests are tied to the Gulf region. The same can be said of Central Asia, which is landlocked. “God has given us this strategic location”, he says, “the importance of which is emerging fully now.”

Musharraf sees Pakistan as the “hub” of this oil and gas flow to South Asia, South East Asia and the Far East. He seems to be unaware of alternative schemes.

As for India’s fears on going for an oil/gas pipeline through Pakistan, he says; “We are a responsible country and when we reach an economic agreement we will abide by it.” Perhaps he will.

Musharraf admits that terrorism “is striking at our roots.” But in Kashmir, it is freedom struggle. However, he agrees that there are splinter groups which have taken to terrorism. Pakistan is opposed to them.

On CTBT, Pakistan is not standing in its way. On narcotics, Pakistan has stopped its production, but admits that Pakistan is being used as a conduit. It is a matter of concern.

Speaking about Pakistan’s experience in diplomacy, Musharraf says that he is for a pro-active policy, and is not ready to accept world’s judgement on men and matters. He does not see Taliban as an “evil force” nor does he see the Mujahideen as terrorists. There is no “terrorism” in Kashmir. “That is our point of view,” he declares.

This article is mainly based on Musharraf’s address to the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs — author.


India’s only ape under threat

Survival of the only ape found in India, the hoolock gibbon or white browned gibbon, is under threat with its population in decline.

Changing environmental conditions have made Hylobates hoolock or the hoolock gibbon an endangered species and its average family size has dropped down to two-three individuals from four-seven, Zoological Survey of India Director J R B Alfred says.

The ape is confined to the forests of North-East India- restricted to the south-east of the Brahmaputra river and extending up to the south-east of Dibong in Arunanchal Pradesh.

Except in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh, the Ape’s population has dwindled. The animals are now restricted to very limited areas, Alfred said.

Habitat loss due to cutting of trees and jhoom cultivation has resulted in loss of the feeding trees for the animals. These gibbons are highly dependent on fruits.

With loss of habitat they are driven towards peripheral villages where they usually get killed, Alfred said.

Besides, the loss of habitat is also leading to prevention of formation of new groups of animals, which are highly monogamous and after reaching puberty leave their original family to form new groups.

Alfred said the immediate restoration of habitat and conservation measures, based on animals’ behaviour and ecological needs, are required for their survival. PTI

Low-cost mine detector

Every 20 minutes someone in the world takes a step that either kills or maims them. Each year about 25,000 people die from stepping on a landmine and virtually all survivors require at least one amputation and then endure a lifetime of physical and usually economic hardship.

The mines, hidden in the soil and designed to explode at the slightest pressure have stubbornly remained a cruel scourge — 85 per cent of all child victims die before they reach hospital - mainly due to the high cost of mine clearance. But now it is hoped that a new British-made low-cost mine detector that works without batteries could help save thousands of lives.

The manufacturers, Roke Manor Research, say mines could be detected more easily with their machine, which, if mass produced, could halve the rate of mine casualties.

The device is called SPLICE - Self-Powered Locator and Identifier for Concealed Equipment. As the user sweeps the detector over the ground the sweeping action generates enough power for the machine to work and give the user audible signals. Tests by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in the UK found that SPLICE could find mines five centimetres below the surface.

No one knows how many mines lie in the soil. Estimates of the numbers scattered across the landscape range from 60 to 100 million in at least 70 countries from Afghanistan, Angola, and Cambodia, to Somalia, Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. All deliberately placed to maim or kill.

Apart from the human cost in deaths and disfigurement mines also blight the economic potential of the land in which they lie. Mined farmland lies idle and farmland thought to be mined lies idle as people prefer to stay safe rather than risk growing food in what could be lethally contaminated fields.

“It can take only two of three mines to make an area useless”, says Landmine Action, the UK section of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. The late Princess Diana gave publicity to the cause when she visited a landmine clearance project in Angola, run by the UK-based voluntary agency, the Hazardous Areas Life-support Organisation (Halo) Trust. The Halo Trust employs nearly 4,000 people in mine detection work in 10 countries. Last year it cleared upwards of 10,000 mines and 25,000 tonnes of unexploded shells.

But detection remains expensive because equipment usually needs batteries, maintenance and trained staff. It can cost as much as $ 1,000 to get rid of a single mine - only 100,000 are cleared in a year. Observer



Cursed are the hands and feet that engage not in service.

—Bhai Gurdas, Varan, 27.1.


Our service in the world gets us a seat in the Court of the Lord.


He who is turned towards the Guru finds repose and joy in Sewa.


He whom the Lord enables to work under His Hukam, is the real Sewak performing service.


Serve the Lord alone; none else must you serve.


I beseech you, I, Merciful One, make me the slave of your slaves.... Let me have the privilege of fanning them, drawing water for them, grinding corn for them and of washing their feet.


You become like the one you serve.


I, your servant beg for the service of your people which is available through good fortune alone.


That home in which holy men are not served, God is served not. Such mansions must be likened to graveyards where ghosts alone abide.

—Sri Guru Granth Sahib, pages 26, 125, 471, 490, 518, 549, 802, 1374.


I have looked upon women never as an object of or satisfaction of sexual desire, but always with the reverence of my own mother.

—Mahatma Gandhi, conquest of Self, Vol.I


If we render service with an ulterior motive or with pride and arrogance, we are deprived of its real reward. But if we perform service without any desire for reward we can attain great heights.


Those who render no service to mankind cannot hope to achieve anything in this world or hereafter. One who does not serve his fellow beings is worthless.


The mind is rendered pure by service and then becomes worthy of devotion to him.


—Huzur Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Series One

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