Friday, October 5, 2001, Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


EDITORIALS

Saving the Taj
T
HE Supreme Court on Wednesday warned about 80 foundries in Agra that they would be closed down if they did not stop using highly polluting coke or coal. They have been given time until October 10 to file affidavits before the Agra civic authority that they would switch over to gas-based fuel. 

Goodbye, good monsoon
W
HAT promises to be the Agriculture Ministry’s gain is the Food Ministry’s grin. The monsoon has been proficient this year and, barring a few subdivisions in west Madhya Pradesh, evenly spread.

FRANKLY SPEAKING

Hari Jaisingh
Thus far and no farther
A chance for Pakistan to mend its ways
A
MIDST new-found global determination to fight terrorism the official Indian voice tends to be marginalised, notwithstanding the fact that this country, as pointed out in my last column, has suffered the most at the hands of trigger-happy militants in Jammu and Kashmir. 


 

EARLIER ARTICLES

After Taliban what?
October 4
, 2001
Killing spree unabated
October 3
, 2001
Madhavrao Scindia
October 2
, 2001
UN bans terrorism
October 1
, 2001
Kairon: Punjabi dynamism, American accent, lasting legacy
September 30
, 2001
India on the sidelines
September 29
, 2001
Dominant thinking in USA
September 28
, 2001
Shedding staff flab
September 27
, 2001
Proof muddle
September 26
, 2001
Have pity on civilians
September 25
, 2001
Terrorism in Kashmir
September 24
, 2001
First war of 21st century to combat terrorism
September 23
, 2001
 

OPINION

Downgrading respect for accuracy and truth
S. Nihal Singh
T
EHELKA dot com has won applause in India and the world for its daring piece of investigative journalism. It led to the resignation of the chief of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the head of the allied Samata Party and the Defence Minister. It also set in train investigations into the conduct of Army officers.

ANALYSIS

India, luckily, left out of Great Game
Arundhati Roy
I
N America there has been rough talk of bombing Afghanistan back to the stone age. Someone please break the news that Afghanistan is already there. And if it’s any consolation, America played no small part in helping it on its way. The American people may be a little fuzzy about where exactly Afghanistan is (we hear reports that there’s a run on maps of the country), but the US government and Afghanistan are old friends.

COMMENTARY

Is USA worthy of trust of the world?
M.S.N. Menon
N
O! And twice No! Because America is a country, which has only one interest: its own. The interests of the world have been of no concern to the USA, although it claims to be the leader of the world. Today, America says that the days are past when one can take to violence in the name of ideologies.

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS

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Saving the Taj

THE Supreme Court on Wednesday warned about 80 foundries in Agra that they would be closed down if they did not stop using highly polluting coke or coal. They have been given time until October 10 to file affidavits before the Agra civic authority that they would switch over to gas-based fuel. Evidently the order is based on the facts presented before the apex court. None of the parties for or against the use of less polluting fuel apparently informed the court that most developed countries, including Britain, have banned the running of foundries. Why? Because making them use less polluting fuel was found to be an uneconomical option. For the developed world doing “foundry business” with developing countries made more economic sense. There is another problem. The Agra foundries may give the undertaking for using gas as fuel, but where is the mechanism for ensuring that the owners do not step out of the strict guidelines laid down by the highest court of the land? The order raises several other related issues that need to be discussed threadbare by the best judicial minds in the country. The Supreme Court directive was issued in the interest of protecting the Taj Mahal from environmental pollution. Protection of human health was clearly not the primary concern, going by the newspaper reports on the subject. Of course, it goes without saying that what is good for the health of the Taj Mahal cannot be bad for the health of ordinary human beings. However, it must be remembered that the developed world banned the running of foundries in the larger public interest and not because of the likely damage to heritage buildings. However, to be fair, the apex court has taken an equally firm stand for the protection of human health. The order for cleaning up the Yamuna in Delhi and the one about the use of CNG by the public transport sector were, in the real sense of the term, based on the larger concept of public welfare.

Be that as it may, the real issue that the judiciary itself is in the best position to examine is the likely erosion of its authority when it gives itself the powers of the executive. Take for instance the Agra foundry order. The apex court has directed the civic authorities to disconnect the water and power supply of the units that fail to fall in line by December 31, 2001. What happens if the civic authorities fail to remember the deadline? The threat of action under the provisions of the contempt of court law in the past has proved ineffective in making the authorities concerned carry out the “executive orders” of the judiciary. The Agra foundry case again. A similar order by the same court was issued on December 31, 1996, in which it had given the foundries time until December 31, 1997, for switching over to environment-friendly fuels for running their units. There would have been no need for the apex court to issue the same order all over again on Wednesday had the civic authorities and the foundries complied with the one issued on December 31, 1996. It is clear that judicial activism, beyond a point, cannot be an effective substitute for executive efficiency.
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Goodbye, good monsoon

WHAT promises to be the Agriculture Ministry’s gain is the Food Ministry’s grin. The monsoon has been proficient this year and, barring a few subdivisions in west Madhya Pradesh, evenly spread. The monsoon is officially said to withdraw by the end of September but not being subject to the official diktat, it is mildly active in the South and western coast. This way even the deficient pockets may receive some rain. This is for the 13th consecutive year that the rain gods have been benevolent. In a country depending abjectively on agriculture for a quarter of its GDP (gross domestic product) and slightly more than 50 per cent of employment, bountiful rain covering all regions is a great blessing. A quick estimate has the increase in foodgrain output at between 2 and 4 per cent. That would mean India will record around 210 million tonnes, considering the production last year was nearly 206 million tonnes. The Ministries of Agriculture and Finance have reasons to be very happy; the first because the graph of farm output will again climb and the second because it will give a healthy look to the economic growth rate. But the Ministry of Food and Civil Supply will groan, wondering where to store the excess paddy stock and how to dispose it of. Procurement has just started after a confused September and it will take some weeks before the final figure is out. Going by last year’s figure, paddy procurement alone should be around 15 million tonnes or more. The FCI and on its behalf state agencies hold more than 62 million tonnes of wheat and rice. Union Minister Shanta Kumar’s problems are mountain-sized.

The South, particularly the oilseed growing area, has been less lucky. Entirely rain-fed, deficient rain often brings down production. This year the target for oilseeds production was 16.5 million tonnes and that was clearly ambitious. Now the country will be lucky to harvest about 12.5 million tonnes. India is dependent on imports to meet its edible oil demand. It has been making half-hearted efforts to boost output, including the famous, but now forgotten, Oilseeds Mission during the Rajiv Gandhi regime. The stark fact is that there has been no scientific advance in the cultivation of oilseeds or in developing high-yielding varieties. Since the oilseed farmers cultivate poor quality land and since their income remains stagnant, they get poorer by the year because of inflation. The sad state of oilseeds sector is not only adding to the number of poor people but also is a drain on foreign exchange. The Agriculture Ministry should bestir itself to accomplish two things. One, it should vigorously work for a change in the cropping pattern of wheat and rice in Punjab, Haryana and western UP and, two, it should make oilseeds production remunerative by offering to lift all market arrival at a fixed price. This was the trick that made the green revolution a great success. This is the time to repeat the old rule. 
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FRANKLY SPEAKING

Thus far and no farther
A chance for Pakistan to mend its ways
Hari Jaisingh

AMIDST new-found global determination to fight terrorism the official Indian voice tends to be marginalised, notwithstanding the fact that this country, as pointed out in my last column, has suffered the most at the hands of trigger-happy militants in Jammu and Kashmir. Monday's storming of the Assembly complex by Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists is yet another grim reminder of India's protracted and difficult struggle against terrorism.

At play is Pakistan's diplomacy of duplicity. It has successfully put itself at the centrestage of global happenings in the US campaign against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, notwithstanding the fact that Islamabad has been the frontline State for spreading terrorism for over a decade.

India's loss is Pakistan's gain. General Pervez Musharraf has emerged as a clever operator. He has managed to extract the maximum advantage from American weakness and the complex situation prevailing in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In a way, he has had the best of both worlds.

Everyone knows that the Taliban is the creation of Pakistan's ISI foisted on Afghanistan in close collaboration with America's CIA. For over 10 years, Islamabad has been nursing Osama bin Laden and his followers not with a view to fighting Americans but for utilising foreign mercenaries for waging a jehad in Jammu and Kashmir. The ill intention of Pakistani rulers has been known to everybody. They have turned into a hell what was called the paradise on earth in the name of Islam and have shattered the secular fabric of Kashmiri society.

In this grim setting, how and why the Indian leadership has failed to be effective is a separate matter. All that I can restate is that the country has suffered because of a lack of understanding of the problems we are faced with and the poor quality of leadership. If we fail to get at the root of problems in totality, the response evolved in the process is bound to be wrong.

I am not blaming the central leaders alone. I am equally perturbed by the way most politicians belonging to different parties and groups have failed to see issues in a broader national perspective. They are stuck in vote and notebank politics and herein lies the Great Indian Tragedy.

I discussed the question of political behaviour of leaders belonging to different parties and groups in my last column. Subsequent events following the ban on SIMI have proved me right. Of course, I believe that banning an organisation creates a halo around it and does not help much to tackle the core issue in the long run. It is, at best, a short-term measure to convey the message that such activities will not be allowed.

However, it must be said that the timing of the ban was both wrong and unimaginative. This is typical of the government's functioning.

I understand the authorities had evidence about the dubious activities of some SIMI leaders for months together. Still, they were hesitant to go in for a crackdown for reasons best known to them. In fact, this is the bane of the government's working. Dithering is very much part of its habit, with the result that we either miss the bus or send wrong signals to different quarters.

The Indian authorities have to be clear and candid and learn to call a spade a spade. There must not be any compromise when it comes to the unity and integrity of the nation.

India has its own civilisational values. It is one of the few extremely tolerant nations in the world. There is religious freedom. The Constitution guarantees this, and the judiciary and enlightened citizens defend all forms of freedom rather zealously.

Still, no civilised society will tolerate any attempt to sabotage the established democratic institutions and weaken the nation by its very foundations.

The crackdown on SIMI is not a political matter. Nor should it be viewed from a communal angle. Any attempt by the Bajrang Dal and other such Hindu outfits to launch a hate campaign against the Muslim community on this count must not be tolerated.

The Centre, however, needs to make public the reasons behind the crackdown on SIMI. This is a reasonable demand. In fact, it should have done before imposing the ban.

India, as a nation, is not negotiable. It cannot tolerate extra-territorial loyalty by any section or group of persons. Viewed in this light, the call given by the Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, asking the Indian Muslims to be part of the announcement by the Shoora (the Advisory Council of the clergy in Afghanistan) is in bad taste.

Communalism is one thing and those propagating and advocating communal lines have to be severely dealt with under the law. But extra-territorial loyalty falls in an entirely different category and it is desirable that every citizen must view problems within a broad national framework rather than in terms of the Hindu-Muslim divide.

No one questions the loyalty of Muslims in India. Unfortunately, politicians of different shades and hues have both communalised and politicised the issue to the disadvantage of the minority community.

Who is more communal and who is less so? Who is more secular and who is less so? There are stereotyped answers to each of these questions depending on the persons they are addressed to. In fact, today we have become a "Mutual Blame Society".

An honest postmortem of events is one thing; hurling abuses is another. Such an exercise does not solve problems. It only complicates them.

The fact is that communal and caste games are being played by nearly every political group, the difference being only one of degree. There are more forces at work than can be imagined, with the result some of the old social and religious equations are constantly under pressure.

There are both visible and invisible currents that keep the Indian social, religious and political scene on the boil. Religion is used and misused. Information and misinformation go hand in hand. Religion is no longer a matter of faith. It is an art of the possible. And the possibilities are endless in a complex social setup like India's.

The scenario is disquieting. Misplaced religious tendencies damage some of the well-established civilisational roots. India has a rich, liberal tradition inherited by Hinduism which goes back at least 10,000 years and reflects the impact of Islam and Christianity. Every faith has been assimilated and absorbed in the Indian scene, partly if not fully.

Be that as it may. Politico-communal games have thrown up innumerable undesirable forces in the polity. In this setting, the government may or may not get frightened by fundamentalists, but it certainly lacks the requisite political will to provide a proper lead to the nation in view of the majority-minority sensitivities. If anything, the authorities and various political groups have used the different shades of fundamentalism to create confusion. Indeed, the wages of drift are clear—they are for everyone to see.

To meet this formidable challenge, the state has to be firm where firmness is needed the most. It cannot opt for soft options in an area where the very edifice of the nation rests.

The world is on our side. We were not sure of that before. It is time we told the terrorist outfits operating in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country: thus far and no farther. If they fail to change and mend their ways, they must be hunted down like Osama bin Laden and his followers.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has written to President George W. Bush wanting Pakistan to understand that there is a "limit to the patience of the Indians". Fine. It is, however, for Mr Vajpayee to decide how far his patience is stretchable.

Writing in Foreign Affairs (Spring 2000), Mr Strobe Talbott, former US Deputy Secretary of State, argues that the idea of self-determination cannot be used to dismember the present states. That is why Mr Clinton told his Pakistani audience during the last phase of his tenure in the White House that they should not plan to redraw borders with blood.

Mr Talbott says the emphasis hereafter should be on democracy, good governance, federalism, secularism and the protection of human rights, and not on breaking up states. This exactly is the Indian position which has not been conveyed to the world clearly and effectively.

The message for General Musharraf is sharp and clear. The Afghan events put the onus on Pakistan to show how it should conduct itself. Otherwise, the consequences will be disastrous for Islamabad. 
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Downgrading respect for accuracy and truth
S. Nihal Singh

TEHELKA dot com has won applause in India and the world for its daring piece of investigative journalism. It led to the resignation of the chief of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the head of the allied Samata Party and the Defence Minister. It also set in train investigations into the conduct of Army officers.

Tarun Tejpal, the Tehelka chief, basked in the applause and overnight the web portal became the rage. He had accomplished what print journalism finds so difficult to achieve, seeming proof of the cupidity of our ruling classes. Some of those affected protested their innocence but few were prepared to listen to them. After all, the camera does not lie. Or does it?

The first signs of a fly in the ointment came with reports that apart from money and hospitality that had been extended to those who could help the fictitious arms agents in the equally fictitious military equipment offered for sale, prostitutes had been engaged. True enough, part of the proceedings were on tape and Tejpal protested that he had not destroyed them and had supplied the tell-tale evidence to the Army authorities and the Venkataswami Commission of Inquiry but had not sought to exploit them in the original publicised tapes.

There was no demand from the Army officers to be entertained by female company; the demand, it was said, was made on their behalf. Was it justified to use the flesh trade to gain a scoop. First, it was said that extraordinary circumstances demanded extraordinary methods. When the cry against the use of prostitutes rose several decibels higher, Tejpal admitted that it was “a transgression” on his part.

But the issue has remained a live one for those interested in the ethics of journalism. Is it justified for any news organisation to use entrapment to obtain a story? Where does one draw the line? Back in the eighties, when “investigative journalism” became the vogue, it was done to death by half-baked one-sided stories that were not researched. Headlines and bylines, it had seemed, became more important than truth and accuracy. Are we then to see the great potential of new media to be compromised by the impulse of making a splash, rather than seeking the truth?

Documents now in the public domain with the Venkataswami Commission include the following exchange between one of the Army officers proceeded against, Maj-Gen Manjit Singh Ahluwalia, and Tehelka reporter Samuel Mathew:

MSA: In your transcript you have stated, “Our next meeting with me takes place 10 days later. Here he accepts a token bribe of Rs 50,000 which is never delivered to him.” In the transcript you later state “Syal (Lieut-Col Syal] goes near Ahluwalia and tries to hand Rs 50,000 which he accepts later”. In your statement before the court of inquiry today you have stated that the money was not paid to me. Is it not a fact that no money was paid to me?

SM: I categorically say that I have not paid a single penny to Maj-General Ahluwalia.

The witness, however, states: Lieut-Colonel Syal said that Maj-General Ahluwalia would not take the money from my hand, but he will take it from Lieut-Colonel Syal.

MSA: Is it a fact that I never demanded Rs 10 lakh from you?

SM: Yes.

MSA: Is it a fact that I have never demanded Blue Label whisky from you?

SM: Yes.

The Army has its own procedures to investigate transgressions, but the above exchange is symptomatic of the warts in the Tehelka dot com account. The portal required tremendous stamina to proceed with its daring inquiry into corruption in high places. It scored a few bull’s eyes and exposed most of all the loose talk, the name dropping and those willing to accept money or favours for undertaking commissions that may or may not be executed.

Everyone knows that the wheels of political parties are oiled by under-the-table donations, but catching the ruling party President putting away wads of currency notes while loquaciously offering to influence government decisions is something else. Nor is it a pretty picture seeing serving and retired Army officers talk in the vein they did in the presence of fictitious arms agents whose gaucherie should have struck them from a mile. In any event, India’s “no agent” rule for arms purchases, belatedly amended, was naïve in the extreme.

But what happens to the honest civilians or Army officers caught in an investigation designed to prove corruption in high places? Presumably, the innocent will be cleared by the investigations in progress but their careers, particularly for those in the Army, lie shattered, their consolation presumably would be in saving their honour and name.

The responsibility of the media is, therefore, greater in employing different methods for seeking truth. The armed forces, particularly of the great powers, might justify civilian casualties as “collateral damage” but the media cannot hide behind such antiseptic phrases in damning the innocent with the guilty. The media’s strength is their credibility and once it is compromised, they cannot command their readers’ or viewers’ respect and attention.

A free Press can only rely on peer pressure and a voluntary code of conduct. The tragedy is that sections of the Indian media seem to be so caught up in the excitement of new technology that they have downgraded respect for accuracy and truth. Tehelka dot com has demonstrated the impact of new technology to pry open those who operate in the shadows in the corridors of power. It would have done itself a disservice if it is proved that the portal has been deliberately economical with truth in its desire to make a splash and was prepared to employ any means to achieve its goal.Top

 

India, luckily, left out of Great Game
Arundhati Roy

IN America there has been rough talk of bombing Afghanistan back to the stone age. Someone please break the news that Afghanistan is already there. And if it’s any consolation, America played no small part in helping it on its way. The American people may be a little fuzzy about where exactly Afghanistan is (we hear reports that there’s a run on maps of the country), but the US government and Afghanistan are old friends.

Can there be anything more ironic than Russia and America joining hands to re-destroy Afghanistan? The question is, can you destroy destruction? Dropping more bombs on Afghanistan will only shuffle the rubble, scramble some old graves and disturb the dead.

The desolate landscape of Afghanistan was the burial ground of Soviet communism and the springboard of a unipolar world dominated by America. It made the space for neocapitalism and corporate globalisation, again dominated by America. And now Afghanistan is poised to become the graveyard for the unlikely soldiers who fought and won this war for America.

And what of America’s trusted ally? Pakistan too has suffered enormously. The US government has not been shy of supporting military dictators who have blocked the idea of democracy from taking root in the country. Before the CIA arrived, there was a small rural market for opium in Pakistan. Between 1979 and 1985, the number of heroin addicts grew from zero to one-and-a-half million. Even before September 11, there were three million Afghan refugees living in tented camps along the border. Pakistan’s economy is crumbling. Sectarian violence, globalisation’s structural adjustment programmes and drug lords are tearing the country to pieces. Set up to fight the Soviets, the terrorist training centres and madrasas, sown like dragon’s teeth across the country, produced fundamentalists with tremendous popular appeal within Pakistan itself. The Taliban, which the Pakistan government has supported, funded and propped up for years, has material and strategic alliances with Pakistan’s own political parties.

Now the US government is asking (asking?) Pakistan to garotte the pet it has hand-reared in its backyard for so many years. President Musharraf, having pledged his support to the US, could well find he has something resembling civil war on his hands.

India, thanks in part to its geography, and in part to the vision of its former leaders, has so far been fortunate enough to be left out of this Great Game. Had it been drawn in, it’s more than likely that our democracy, such as it is, would not have survived. Today, as some of us watch in horror, the Indian government is furiously gyrating its hips, begging the US to set up its base in India rather than Pakistan. Having had this ringside view of Pakistan’s sordid fate, it isn’t just odd, it’s unthinkable, that India should want to do this. Any third world country with a fragile economy and a complex social base should know by now that to invite a superpower such as America in (whether it says it’s staying or just passing through) would be like inviting a brick to drop through your windscreen.

Operation Enduring Freedom is ostensibly being fought to uphold the American Way of Life. It’ll probably end up undermining it completely. It will spawn more anger and more terror across the world. For ordinary people in America, it will mean lives lived in a climate of sickening uncertainty: will my child be safe in school? Will there be nerve gas in the subway? A bomb in the cinema hall? Will my love come home tonight? There have been warnings about the possibility of biological warfare smallpox, bubonic plague, anthrax the deadly payload of innocuous crop-duster aircraft. Being picked off a few at a time may end up being worse than being annihilated all at once by a nuclear bomb.

The US government, and no doubt governments all over the world, will use the climate of war as an excuse to curtail civil liberties, deny free speech, lay off workers, harass ethnic and religious minorities, cut back on public spending and divert huge amounts of money to the defence industry. To what purpose? President Bush can no more rid the world of evil-doers’ than he can stock it with saints. It’s absurd for the US government to even toy with the notion that it can stamp out terrorism with more violence and oppression. Terrorism is the symptom, not the disease. Terrorism has no country. It’s transnational, as global an enterprise as Coke or Pepsi or Nike. At the first sign of trouble, terrorists can pull up stakes and move their factories’ from country to country in search of a better deal. Just like the multi-nationals.

Terrorism as a phenomenon may never go away. But if it is to be contained, the first step is for America to at least acknowledge that it shares the planet with other nations, with other human beings who, even if they are not on TV, have loves and griefs and stories and songs and sorrows and, for heaven’s sake, rights. Instead, when Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, was asked what he would call a victory in America’s new war, he said that if he could convince the world that Americans must be allowed to continue with their way of life, he would consider it a victory.

The September 11 attacks were a monstrous calling card from a world gone horribly wrong. The message may have been written by Bin Laden (who knows?) and delivered by his couriers, but it could well have been signed by the ghosts of the victims of America’s old wars. The millions killed in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, the 17,500 killed when Israel backed by the US invaded Lebanon in 1982, the 200,000 Iraqis killed in Operation Desert Storm, the thousands of Palestinians who have died fighting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. And the millions who died, in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua, EI Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama, at the hands of all the terrorists, dictators and genocidists whom the American government supported, trained, bankrolled and supplied with arms. And this is far from being a comprehensive list.

Someone recently said that if Osama bin Laden didn’t exist, America would have had to invent him. But, in a way, America did invent him. He was among the jihadis who moved to Afghanistan in 1979 when the CIA commenced its operations there. Bin Laden has the distinction of being created by the CIA and wanted by the FBI. In the course of a fortnight he has been promoted from suspect to prime suspect and then, despite the lack of any real evidence, straight up the charts to being wanted dead or alive.

From all accounts, it will be impossible to produce evidence (of the sort that would stand scrutiny in a court of law) to link Bin Laden to the September 11 attacks. So far, it appears that the most incriminating piece of evidence against him is the fact that he has not condemned them. From what is known about the location of Bin Laden and the living conditions in which he operates, it’s entirely possible that he did not personally plan and carry out the attacks that he is the inspirational figure, the CEO of the holding company. The Taliban’s response to US demands for the extradition of Bin Laden has been uncharacteristically reasonable: produce the evidence, then we’ll hand him over. President Bush’s response is that the demand is non-negotiable.

(While talks are on for the extradition of CEOs can India put in a side request for the extradition of Warren Anderson of the US? He was the chairman of Union Carbide, responsible for the Bhopal gas leak that killed 16,000 people in 1984. We have collated the necessary evidence. It’s all in the files. Could we have him, please?)

But who is Osama bin Laden really? Let me rephrase that. What is Osama bin Laden? He’s America’s family secret. He is the American President’s dark doppelganger. The savage twin of all that purports to be beautiful and civilised. He has been sculpted from the spare rib of a world laid to waste by America’s foreign policy: its gunboat diplomacy, its nuclear arsenal, its vulgarly stated policy of full-spectrum dominance, its chilling disregard for non-American lives, its barbarous military interventions, its support for despotic and dictatorial regimes, its merciless economic agenda that has munched through the economies of poor countries like a cloud of locusts. Its marauding multinationals who are taking over the air we breathe, the ground we stand on, the water we drink, the thoughts we think. Now that the family secret has been spilled, the twins are blurring into one another and gradually becoming interchangeable. Their guns, bombs, money and drugs have been going around in the loop for a while. (The Stinger missiles that will greet US helicopters were supplied by the CIA. The heroin used by America’s drug addicts comes from Afghanistan. The Bush administration recently gave Afghanistan a Dollars 43m subsidy for a war on drugs’...)

Now Bush and Bin Laden have even begun to borrow each other’s rhetoric. Each refers to the other as the head of the snake. Both invoke God and use the loose millenarian currency of good and evil as their terms of reference. Both are engaged in unequivocal political crimes. Both are dangerously armed one with the nuclear arsenal of the obscenely powerful, the other with the incandescent, destructive power of the utterly hopeless. The fireball and the ice pick. The bludgeon and the axe. The important thing to keep in mind is that neither is an acceptable alternative to the other. President Bush’s ultimatum to the people of the world if you’re not with us, you’re against us is a piece of presumptuous arrogance. It’s not a choice that people want to, need to, or should have to make. 

(By arrangement with The Guardian, London).

Concluded
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Is USA worthy of trust of the world?
M.S.N. Menon

NO! And twice No! Because America is a country, which has only one interest: its own. The interests of the world have been of no concern to the USA, although it claims to be the leader of the world.

Today, America says that the days are past when one can take to violence in the name of ideologies. Terrorism, it says, is an anomaly, that it cannot be permitted, that it should be rooted out of the world. When did this thought occur to America? On September 11? Certainly not before that. Should the world trust the words of America? Again, no. It can betray the world. We must be careful.

Bush may get Laden dead or alive, but he cannot stop the growing anger among Muslims against the USA and the West.

The anti-communists of the world did not know that in the process of destroying the Soviet Union, the Americans were creating new global problems which would haunt the world for ages. Such was the case when it created the Taliban, a Frankenstein monster that threatens not only to eat up its creator, but also to set the world ablaze.

It had the blessing of no less a person than Dr Henry Kissinger, who, as a consultant to the US oil cartel UNACAL, was eager to build an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan. He was really effusive in his praise of Ms Bhutto for having created the Taliban.

Today the Taliban is sworn to destroy America. Poetic justice? You may call it what you will, but it is an event which persuades us to believe in the “Infinite Justice” of God!

Why am I writing all this? For one major reason: because even today America has no sympathy for India, the worst victim of terrorism in the last over a decade. Even today America is ready to make accommodations to Pakistan at the expense of India. It has already forgotten that Pakistan is the inspiration behind the Taliban.

For Pakistan, control over the Taliban and Kabul is important. It forestalls the demand for redrawing the boundaries of Pakistan and Afghanistan, it provides depth to Pakistan’s military strategy and promotes the great power ambitions of Pakistan. That is why it will not allow the Taliban to be ousted from Kabul. It seems US Secretary of State Colin Powell is impressed by Pakistan’s argument. In any case, the USA will need the Taliban in the future against Iran, Central Asia and Russia.

In other words, the Taliban will remain, terrorism will remain, training camps will remain and the proxy war against India will remain. All this talk of a global fight against terrorism will peter out and the reality will emerge.

Is this why we have gone to the support of America in such great hurry?

India has never understood the hidden agenda of US foreign policy. When dollar became the international currency, little did we know its long-term implications. When WTO was created, we hailed it. When globalisation was launched, even Dr Manmohan Singh did not feel the need to express any reservations. And yet there are very few economists who support globalisation today.

Today India is courting Uncle Sam. It is like a young damsel courting an old man. America is a power in decline. There are gloomy forebodings about America’s future. Paul Kennedy predicts a slow decline of the USA in the 21st century. American think-tanks admit this. The decline will gain momentum with the increasing hostility of the Islamic world. And when America loses its monopoly over oil, America’s decline will be complete.

This is why there is need to prop up the UN, for there is no other power which can take the place of America. The only two countries which can qualify for the job are Russia and India. But they are not yet ready for that role.

So what is the upshot of this earthquake on terrorism? Very little. India will have to fight its battles alone. But the world is with it now. The sooner the better.
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Great rivers, shady trees, medicinal plants and virtuous people are not born for themselves but for the good of mankind in general.

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Knowledge is the health of the body, poverty is the plague, gaiety is its support, sadness makes it grow old.

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Just as milk nourishes the body and intemperance causes it to sicken, so does meditation nourish the spirit, while dissipation enervates it.

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Unhappy is the son whose father contracts debts; unhappy is the father whose son bears a bad character; unhappy is the wife whose husband is unfaithful.

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Pride and arrogance suit no one; constancy, humanity, sweetness, compassion, truth, love for one’s neighbour, conjugal fidelity, goodness, amiability, cleanliness are all qualities that distinguish really virtuous people. He who all these ten qualities is a true guru.

— Niti Shlokas

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Said one man to another, "At the high tide of the sea, long ago, with the point of my staff I wrote a line upon the sand; and the people still pause to read it, and they are careful that naught shall erase it." And the other man said, "And I too wrote a line upon the sand, but it was at low tide, and the waves of the vast sea washed it away. But tell me, what did you write?"

And the first man answered and said, "I wrote this:

"I am he who is'. But what did you write?"

And the other man said, "This I wrote:

'I am but a drop of this great ocean,"

—Kahlil Gibran, The Wanderer

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I can say with conviction that the orthodox aids to Brahmacharya pale into insignificance before Rama nama, when this name is enthroned in the heart.

—From Pyare Lal, Mahatma Gandhi, - The last Phase
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