Saturday, October 6, 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

Hijack drama
A
FTER the September 11 World Trade Centre calamity, panic is in the air - literally. Every straying plane appears to be a ticking bomb. Reputed airlines are going out of business for want of passengers. In such an uncertain and jittery state of mind, panic reaction is not something unexpected. Frayed nerves of several men in authority who are expected to have a grip on every situation gave way on Wednesday night and caused a chain overreaction that kept the whole nation awake about a plane hijack that was not.

Pakistan’s anti-Osama policy
I
N a spectacular diplomatic somersault, the second in three weeks, Pakistan has disowned the Taliban and its honoured guest, Osama bin Laden. It has declared in so many words that the Saudi terrorist millionaire is guilty of planning and plotting the car bomb attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1998 and also the September 11 outrage in New York and Washington. This assessment is based on a long dossier supplied by the USA, which incidentally took Pakistan into confidence the last.

This deal is all gas
F
ROM the very start, the $388 million deal between BG India and Enron Oil and Gas India Ltd signed on Wednesday appeared doomed based as it was on conditions to be met by a third party. When US oil major Enron sold its 30 per cent interest in the Tapti gas field and the Panna Mukta oil and gas field near Mumbai, besides a 62.4 per cent interest in the CB-OS\1 exploration licence in Gujarat to BG India, it was clear to both that the third party, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), would create a problem.

 

EARLIER ARTICLES

Saving the Taj
October 5
, 2001
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
 
OPINION

Hasty offer of help to USA
India lost scope for manoeuvre
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray
T
O repeat what the majority leader in the German parliament said recently, adapting John F. Kennedy’s famous words in Berlin, Wir sind Amerikaner, We are all Americans. But in spite of emotional affirmations of loyalty right across the globe, most governments are looking at the crisis and beyond to determine what they have to gain or lose by responding to the USA. At first sight, India has little reason to be pleased with that accounting.

MIDDLE

Comedy of errors
P. Lal
E
RRORS generally lead to trouble. Sometimes, however, they add spice to life. I recount a few such episodes below. In 1967, as our friend Ravinder (name changed) got into the car along with his newlywed “bride” after the conclusion of the Vidai ceremony, in a small town of UP, at the dead of night when unexpectedly the power supply had failed, we, the members of the marriage-party, jumped into the waiting cars, to drive down to Dhampur railway station on Saharanpur-Moradabad-Lucknow line, to catch the train for the journey back to Lucknow.

TRENDS & POINTERS

Schoolbag may become lighter
T
HE social sciences syllabus, said to have been so far loaded with information, will be made sleeker in the new syllabi for schools, according to India’s apex body that deals with school education. “The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) will make the social sciences curriculum comprehensive and yet not heavy with information,” said J.C Rajput, director of NCERT, announcing the new syllabi in Delhi on Thursday.

ON THE SPOT

He never forgot obligations of nobility
Tavleen Singh
T
HERE are tragedies that go beyond words. The terrible, untimely death of Madhavrao Scindia is one of them. The death of a young man always makes the world’s shadows lengthen, the death of a young political leader all the more so. In the case of Scindia the sadness is greater because he was one of the last of a handful of politicians left in Indian public life who represent values, decency and honour instead of the currently fashionable naked greed for power and self-aggrandisement.

WINDOW ON PAKISTAN

Helpless in the Afghan quagmire
Syed Nooruzzaman
W
HILE the USA, the leader of the anti-terrorism coalition, is busy applying its energies to punishing the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Pakistan has launched a frantic search for influential Afghans who may help it come out of the quagmire in which it is caught today. But so far it appears to be an exercise in futility. Pakistan's worries are related to the situation that will emerge after the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, which is almost certain once the military campaign against terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda outfit begins.

75 YEARS AGO


Visit to Poona

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS



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Hijack drama

AFTER the September 11 World Trade Centre calamity, panic is in the air - literally. Every straying plane appears to be a ticking bomb. Reputed airlines are going out of business for want of passengers. In such an uncertain and jittery state of mind, panic reaction is not something unexpected. Frayed nerves of several men in authority who are expected to have a grip on every situation gave way on Wednesday night and caused a chain overreaction that kept the whole nation awake about a plane hijack that was not. The situation which appears farcical now was so tense at that time that Rashtrapati Nivas and the Prime Minister's house were almost evacuated. What triggered the flurry of activity was a hoax call that a Mumbai-Delhi Alliance Air flight was going to be hijacked. Officials concerned put two and two together and added them up to 22. By the time the warning was conveyed to the commander of the plane by the Ahmedabad air traffic controller, it had acquired a grim certainty that the plane will be hijacked. The pilot asked the cabin crew to look for "suspicious" passengers. There were none, but the behaviour of two was considered to be unusual enough for the pilot to hurriedly press the panic button that the plane had actually been hijacked. He thought the hijackers were in the passengers' cabin while the passengers thought they were in the cockpit. Everyone on the ground, be it the Commissioner of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security or the Civil Aviation Secretary, made the situation worse by relying on rumours. Even Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaz Hussain added his mite. The result was that the passengers and their relatives had a harrowing time, as did thousands of people on the ground along with security personnel. The crisis management group was scrambled and the Prime Minister remained awake till 4 am.

The embarrassment that the episode has caused is palpable. Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee has not only expressed his displeasure but also ordered an enquiry by a special secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. That is highly significant, considering that normally such probes are conducted by civil aviation officials. There were goof-ups galore and instead of covering them up, it would be worth its while to learn valuable lessons from them. While government officials are trying to take credit that the CMG rose to the occasion in a matter of minutes, they are downplaying the fact that there were communication lapses galore. To err on the side of caution is all right in such a tricky situation, but the compounding of errors that occurred at every step was inexcusable. Various limbs of the government have yet to learn to function in harmony and one shudders to think of the consequences if there indeed was such a hijack. Were we prepared to avoid a repeat of the 1999 Kandahar hijack of a Kathmandu-Delhi flight? Unfortunately, it is not possible to give an emphatic affirmative reply. Quite expectedly, Pakistan has tried to give the incident a bizarre spin by saying that India had been trying to discredit it by stage-managing a hijacking. While Islamabad engages in its favourite pastime of peddling untruths, India cannot escape the responsibility of setting its house in order. And for heaven's sake, let's not make the plane commander the fall guy. Too many people slipped up. Make them all stand up and be counted.

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Pakistan’s anti-Osama policy

IN a spectacular diplomatic somersault, the second in three weeks, Pakistan has disowned the Taliban and its honoured guest, Osama bin Laden. It has declared in so many words that the Saudi terrorist millionaire is guilty of planning and plotting the car bomb attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1998 and also the September 11 outrage in New York and Washington. This assessment is based on a long dossier supplied by the USA, which incidentally took Pakistan into confidence the last. The USA had revealed the contents of its secret documents to India when External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh visited Washington earlier this week. Also British Prime Minister Tony Blair had placed the 21-page evidence on the floor of the House of Commons and the media has flashed it on front pages. There are two interesting points. One, until Thursday Pakistan has been demanding proof of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the terrorist attacks and indicating that it is convinced of his innocence. Two, the Taliban has been banking on Pakistan support to head off a US attack and save bin Laden. Both countries have radically changed their policies. Pakistan is now fully on the side of the US-led coalition and Afghanistan is defiant in protecting Osama bin Laden even if this provokes a massive US aerial attack. This is typical of the Afghans’s famous loyality.

This is only one side of the story. The other side is the hectic attempts to eject the Taliban regime and install a pro-democratic government. The main focus is on former King, Zahir Shah, and the USA is leading the campaign to restore him to power which he lost in the mid-eighties to his brother-in-law Daud. He is a Pushtun and is acceptable to the overwhelming majority of the different Pathan tribes. To give his proposed government a nationalist flavour, the Northern Alliance, consisting of the smaller ethnic groups, is being simultaneously mobilised to back the anti-Taliban campaign. There are some problems here. The Northern Alliance controls, if at all, only 15 per cent of the population of Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara communities settled in northern borders close to the Central Asian Republics. The major portion of Afghanistan is ruled by the Taliban, but without a popular mandate. The general feeling is that the Afghans will disown the Taliban as readily as Pakistan has done. But this is highly speculative. Many Pakistan newspapers argue that the insulated common people of Afghanistan might line up behind the Taliban regime if an outside aggressor mounts an operation. Similarly, ordinary Pakistanis who have been lukewarm in their support to the Taliban may erupt if the USA unleashes its mighty air power on the poor country. The time to watch is now. 
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This deal is all gas

FROM the very start, the $388 million deal between BG India and Enron Oil and Gas India Ltd signed on Wednesday appeared doomed based as it was on conditions to be met by a third party. When US oil major Enron sold its 30 per cent interest in the Tapti gas field and the Panna Mukta oil and gas field near Mumbai, besides a 62.4 per cent interest in the CB-OS\1 exploration licence in Gujarat to BG India, it was clear to both that the third party, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), would create a problem. Why should the ONGC, which holds the biggest stake of 40 per cent in the Panna Mukta oil and gas field, give up its claim to take over the lucrative operatorship of the field? The very next day, the Chairman and Managing Director of the ONGC, Mr Subir Raha, clarified that as per the production sharing contract, the operatorship of the oil field has to be based on consensus. Also a party to the contract is Reliance, which owns a 30 per cent stake in the oilfield and whose consent is also necessary to reach a consensus. BG India, an arm of the British oil and gas producer, BG Plc, had made it clear at the time of signing the deal that the acquisition would fall through if it did not get the operatorship.

What is so lucrative about the operatorship of the oilfields? To lure companies to the field of oil exploration, the Government of India had in 1993 offered incremental revenues to the operator. In this case, the operatorship went to Enron and the contract signed with the other two partners — the ONGC and Reliance — provided that in case of Enron vacating the operatorship, the right for it would rest with the other two partners. Analysts regard India as one of the fastest growing market for energy and that has attracted the foreign oil and gas giants. If the ONGC relents, which is quite unlikely unless pressurised or compensated to fall in line, and the Enron joint venture partners also bless the deal, BG India has grandiose plans for the country. Among them is the decision to double the gas production capacity of the Tapti gas field by 2004. How much investment it would entail is something the company is unwilling to disclose at this stage. What is the Central Government’s role in this deal? That of a facilitator, says Petroleum Minister Ram Naik. That means he has left the issue to the parties concerned. So it depends on the ONGC to save or spoil the deal. 
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Hasty offer of help to USA
India lost scope for manoeuvre
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

TO repeat what the majority leader in the German parliament said recently, adapting John F. Kennedy’s famous words in Berlin, Wir sind Amerikaner, We are all Americans. But in spite of emotional affirmations of loyalty right across the globe, most governments are looking at the crisis and beyond to determine what they have to gain or lose by responding to the USA. At first sight, India has little reason to be pleased with that accounting. China and Pakistan have upstaged it in the initial diplomatic skirmishing. A confident China offers support only on its own terms and is still heard with respect. Worse, so drastically have roles been reversed that India seems now almost like an accidental beneficiary of Washington’s decision to lift sanctions against Pakistan. It was obviously naïve to surrender India’s scope for manoeuvre by rushing in with a gratuitous offer of operational cooperation.

Yet, all may not be lost. More than two weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the USA still has not taken overt military action. It is relying instead on sophisticated moves to cut off funding and build up a global consensus, which suggests a more considered view of long-term prospects than George W. Bush Jr’s first alarums and excursions indicated. The apparent agreement — obviously under American pressure — between Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres also indicates Washington’s growing appreciation of the relevance of factors beyond just the elimination of its Enemy Number One. The argument over whether or not to topple the Taliban —America’s own monstrous creation — also means that the clamour for vengeance has not obscured the importance of Afghanistan’s political future.

It is here that India might still be able to help to restore stability to southern Asia once the tumult has died down. Foreign policy paradigms are bound to change drastically, and in the altered pattern of alliances, India may play a constructive role in ensuring a stable secular Afghanistan that does not obstruct the passage of oil pipelines from Central Asia through Pakistan to the Ambani petrochemical complex in Jamnagar.

When that will be is anybody’s guess. But as Andrei Kozyrev, the Russian Foreign Minister, has warned, American policy could send waves of violence throughout Central Asia. Kozyrev knows what he is talking about for he played a key part in the 1990 negotiations over a battered and humiliated Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Obviously, he does not now expect the fledgling six-nation Shanghai Cooperative Organisation (the Central Asian alliance of which China and Russia are leading members) to be able to contain the damage.

If his warning is proved right, then Pakistan cannot hope to escape the backlash of unrest. Its complicity (with the USA) in creating and sustaining the Taliban makes it especially vulnerable. Pakistan’s fundamentalist seminaries, military training camps and heroin producing units make the 2,240-km border with Afghanistan of mainly academic interest. It would not have guaranteed physical security even if there were not doubts about the validity of the Durand Line which was agreed to for only 100 years and which the Afghans have since refused to extend.

Moreover, Pakistan’s external debt of $37 billion, annual loan repayments of about $3 billion and internal fissures, both secular and sectarian, do not endow it with the resilience to withstand or absorb shocks.

India needs quiet on its western front. It will have to pay a high price for any kind of military adventurism that leaves behind a shattered Afghanistan which, in turn, takes toll of a Pakistan that finds itself hoist with its own petard.

Whatever happens in Afghanistan has always been of intense interest to India. It was said in the 19th century that the authorities in Calcutta were “nervous” when the town of Merv fell to Tsarist forces. That could have been one reason for Jaswant Singh’s eagerness. Another was an anxiety to board the bandwagon early enough to be counted among America’s friends when the day of reckoning comes. From that flows the third — and somewhat simplistic – hope that a grateful USA would pressure Pakistan to draw back from Kashmir. Instead, it’s Pakistan that the Americans must now placate, which means even more of the same. Long before September 11, Washington tacitly went along with the Pakistani argument — most recently reiterated by Pervez Musharraf – that the murderers, bombers and saboteurs in Kashmir are freedom fighters and not terrorists. Now, the USA has once again clarified that it is just not interested in stamping out forms of terrorism that endanger other nations but do not affect American life and property. Its agenda remains extraordinarily narrow, with no reflection of the responsibilities that go with superpower status.

Being aware that this has always been America’s expedient position, India should have drawn a necessary distinction between the need to support the USA and the need to safeguard its own interests. New Delhi should also have anticipated that any offer that he made would at once invite competitive, or superior, bids by Pakistan and China.

For, whatever India can do, Pakistan will always claim to be able to do better. In this case, the advantages of geography, religion and political ties are heavily weighted in Islamabad’s favour. In exploiting those advantages, Musharraf has again shown himself to be the consummate strategist that he proved to be in Agra when he so cleverly stole a march on Atal Behari Vajpayee. The clerics, the Pashtuns and perhaps even some sections of the Pakistani armed forces might resent the plunge their ruler has taken, but the decision has once and for all secured his American constituency.

Third world dictators, whether Syngman Rhee or Ferdinand Marcos, seek no stronger credentials. They might come a cropper in the long term, but politics is all about the here and now. Recast again in the familiar role of Washington’s faithful ally, Pakistan can expect all the help, overt and covert, that used to prop up so many Asian rulers during the Cold War years. The difference this time round is that India is no longer an entity to be written off. It is not nonaligned, there is no opposite camp for it to flirt with, and it has promised support. Above all, it holds the promise of high returns on foreign investment, and a huge market for international merchandise. Though denied Pakistan’s geopolitical advantages, India could emerge into an important economic partner.

For now, however, the advantage is all with China. It has 3.3 per cent of the world’s trade against India’s 0.7 per cent. It attracted $38.8 billion in foreign direct investment in 1999 against the $2.2 billion that went to India. Exports from China’s Guangdong province alone, which accounts for 40 per cent of the national total, are two-and-a-half times that of India’s. According to John Wong, director of Singapore’s East Asian Institute, half the number of motorcycles in the world, one-third of its airconditioners and a quarter of its colour television sets are made in China.

Of course, the Chinese exaggerate their achievements, and ethnic Chinese worldwide lend credence to the exaggeration. Of course, China’s non-performing assets amount to about 50 per cent of the gross domestic product. But even making allowance for hyperbole, China would not have attracted the huge volume of foreign investment that it does if it had not been making impressive strides.

That is where the real challenge lies. New Delhi cannot just sit back and imagine that Washington would prefer an understanding with India because China’s hegemonistic ambitions pose a military threat to American supremacy. In order to influence US policy in Afghanistan or elsewhere, India must be able to position itself as an attractive partner in its own right. It can do so only through economic pragmatism that avoids repeating the Enron and Air-India fiascos.
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Comedy of errors
P. Lal

ERRORS generally lead to trouble. Sometimes, however, they add spice to life. I recount a few such episodes below.

In 1967, as our friend Ravinder (name changed) got into the car along with his newlywed “bride” after the conclusion of the Vidai ceremony, in a small town of UP, at the dead of night when unexpectedly the power supply had failed, we, the members of the marriage-party, jumped into the waiting cars, to drive down to Dhampur railway station on Saharanpur-Moradabad-Lucknow line, to catch the train for the journey back to Lucknow.

As we arrived at the railway station, we noticed Ravinder alight from the car, glum faced. Before we could ask him of his “exploits” during the one-hour car-journey, out came from the car a woman with a long ghoonghat over the face. She, though quite decked up, did not look like the bride. She turned out to be the maid-servant sent along with the bride who, however, had reached the station in a different car. It then came to be known that in the darkness created due to the sudden power failure, back in the town, the maid-servant who, too, was in ghoonghat and also decked up, was led into the car of the groom, by mistake, of course. The bride had then to be sent in another car.

We laughed and laughed over the incident till our stomach ached.

In 1986, while on a training programme in Wakefield, England, we, 10 police officers from India, were introduced to our course director and his deputy, David and Will respectively, on the day of our arrival.

The next day, I chanced to see one of them in the corridors of the hostel building.

“Good morning, David”, I smiled at him and greeted him warmly.

“Good morning, Sharma, “he reciprocated and added, “but I am Will, not David.”

“Oh I am so sorry”, I said, “I am not too good in remembering names and faces. But Will, I, too, am not Sharma, I am Lal.”

Sharma was another participant in the course.

Obviously, Will was also not good at remembering names and faces. We, of course, laughed to our heart’s content.

The other day, while on a morning walk beside the lake in Chandigarh, as I approached the tower, I saw “Miglani” coming from the opposite direction. I raised my hand to wave to him. However, before I could complete the gesture, I realise that it was not Miglani but somebody else not known to me. I, therefore, deftly put the hand, now caught between the devil and the deep sea, to the eyebrow to bristle the hairs. Meanwhile, the other fellow, thinking that I had raised my hand to wish him, had raised his own hand to reciprocate the gesture, but finding me touching my eyebrow, gave up his efforts in time, observant as he was, and started scratching his ear. Of course, we flashed a wry smile at each other, as we both knew what had actually happened!

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Schoolbag may become lighter

THE social sciences syllabus, said to have been so far loaded with information, will be made sleeker in the new syllabi for schools, according to India’s apex body that deals with school education.

“The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) will make the social sciences curriculum comprehensive and yet not heavy with information,” said J.C Rajput, director of NCERT, announcing the new syllabi in Delhi on Thursday.

NCERT, he said, has completed the task of developing new syllabi for all subjects, including social sciences, after working on them for a year.

Citizenship education has been recognised for the first time as an essential part of social sciences education. “In the proposed curriculum, topics are fewer in number, but the depth of treatment is greater. A thematic approach has been adopted for selection and organisation of ideas,” said an NCERT press note.

Instead of having separately rigidly structured courses in each subject, NCERT suggests that a theme be selected for each class addressing the needs of the learners in the corresponding age group.

NCERT advises and assists the Indian government in formulating and implementing policies and programmes in the field of education, particularly school education.

Its recommendations are not binding on the states and NCERT does not enjoy statutory powers.

Though Rajput said the new curriculum will not politicise the story of India’s past, he did not name a single eminent historian whose help had been taken to formulate the new syllabus.

“We also want to see the system of pass and fail scrapped. The system of marks has to be replaced with grades and we hope to introduce these changes soon,” said Rajput.

At the upper primary stage, grades 6 to 8, it is proposed to introduce pupils to the basic concepts necessary to understanding the world. The content may be drawn from history, geography, civics, economics and sociology. The idea is to also introduce the children to the country’s past through selected events.

At the secondary stage, grades 9-10, students will have to take to intensive study of contemporary India. “By reducing the number of topics and areas, the course coverage may have narrowed but the quality will be enhanced,” promised Rajput.

The new syllabi is devised for students of grades one, two, six, nine and 11 and the books will be made available in the 2002-03 session. IANS

Quit smoking with laughing gas

A dose of laughing gas a day may help smokers kick the habit, new research has suggested.

According to a hypothesis by Jesse H. Haven at the Anchor Health Center in Naples, Florida, nitrous oxide may help smokers quit because it has been shown to replenish stores of dopamine, a brain signalling chemical that is depleted during drug and alcohol withdrawal.

In their study, Haven and his colleagues administered a mix of half nitrous oxide and half oxygen to 25 smokers on the day they planned to quit. The patients inhaled the gas for 20 minutes through a mask. The researchers then monitored the smokers for three days after the treatment to see how many had refrained from smoking. None of the smokers were taking any other kind of smoking cessation therapy during the study.

Overall, the investigators found an 85 per cent reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked per day in the three days after the patients took the gas.

Forty per cent of patients were able to completely abstain from smoking during the three-day period, and 92 per cent said their craving for tobacco had “noticeably decreased”.

The authors conclude that “nicotine cravings were helped significantly by the administration of nitrous oxide”. Reuters
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He never forgot obligations of nobility
Tavleen Singh

THERE are tragedies that go beyond words. The terrible, untimely death of Madhavrao Scindia is one of them. The death of a young man always makes the world’s shadows lengthen, the death of a young political leader all the more so. In the case of Scindia the sadness is greater because he was one of the last of a handful of politicians left in Indian public life who represent values, decency and honour instead of the currently fashionable naked greed for power and self-aggrandisement.

Scindia had extraordinary personal charisma and the best way to explain it is through a few anecdotes. My first encounter with him, in a political context, was during the 1984 general election when he challenged Atal Behari Vajpayee for the Gwalior seat. It was a sudden, last minute shift from Guna to Gwalior as part of Rajiv Gandhi’s election strategy to make major opposition leaders face such formidable competition in their own constituencies that it would retard their abilities to campaign elsewhere. So, Amitabh Bachchan was pitted against Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna in Allahabad and Scindia against Vajpayee in Gwalior. It took the BJP so much by surprise that Vajpayee did not even appear in Gwalior for the first few days and it was in those first few days that Scindia fashioned his victory.

Those were days when the media consisted mainly of print journalists and politicians could afford to treat us of the English Press with a certain disdain. So, while Scindia would take off in regal splendour in his white Ambassador covered in marigold gardens we would race after him in our own rattling, un-airconditioned taxis because he did not take journalists in his car unless he was gracious enough to grant an interview.

He would usually start his campaigning in villages where he would stop to address small, roadside meetings, mount a horse to go to villages without motorable roads, walk if it was the only way to get somewhere and everywhere he went he found time to stop and ask people about their personal problems and remind them of his family’s connection with them. He would remind them of times that he had come hunting in the area and of how one or the other of his ancestors had done something special for them and they would invariably stand before him with folded hands and adoring eyes.

His day usually ended with public meetings in Gwalior city and an image that has stayed with me after all these years is of him driving down a narrow street with women pouring rose petals down on his car from balconies and shouting, “Har vote pey naam likh diya, Madhavrao Scindia”. Not only was this a particularly effective political slogan but they meant what they said. Vajpayee did not stand a chance against Gwalior’s Maharajah. He began on an apologetic, whining note explaining that he had not come earlier because of a broken leg and by the time he realised that he needed to do much, much more and started walking through the streets of Gwalior canvassing support door-to-door it was too late. Scindia defeated him by more than 200,000 votes.

I was to see Scindia in Gwalior on many other occasions. Some were events fraught with rancour because his mother had taken her fight against her son to the public. It did not work.

Scindia responded to her attacks on his character and choice of political party by saying not one word against her. He merely pointed out whenever he could that if their loyalty was to the Scindia family then they should remember that there could only be one head of a family and where the Scindias were considered it was him.

One of his most impressive political performances was shortly after the Babri Masjid was demolished and as a Congress minister he was obliged to take on the communal divisiveness that was in those days the BJP’s leitmotif. I remember following him around on what I think of as his Babri Masjid tour and what I remember most clearly is how aggressive Hindu audiences would be persuaded by him that he was a better Hindu than most but did not believe that Hinduism needed to demolish mosques to be strong.

On another occasion I saw him in his role as Maharajah. I remember going down with a TV crew to do an earlier version of the programme that later became ‘Ek din, ek jeevan’. He walked me through his life as a student at Scindia School and then took me on a tour through the Jai Vilas Palace explaining the stories behind mementos and priceless artefacts. Through the entire day, though, ordinary people were always allowed access to him as if he wanted to make it clear that he never forgot at any moment that his heritage as a prince included constant noblesse oblige — obligations of nobility.

He seemed to believe that his role in public life was an extension of the idea of noblesse oblige and tried always as Minister to do his best to make a difference. If as Railway Minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s government he is remembered for his competence, as Minister for Civil Aviation he is credited with starting the open skies policy which allowed private airlines to start functioning in India’s formerly closed skies.
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Helpless in the Afghan quagmire
Syed Nooruzzaman

WHILE the USA, the leader of the anti-terrorism coalition, is busy applying its energies to punishing the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Pakistan has launched a frantic search for influential Afghans who may help it come out of the quagmire in which it is caught today. But so far it appears to be an exercise in futility. Pakistan's worries are related to the situation that will emerge after the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, which is almost certain once the military campaign against terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda outfit begins.

It is well known that the Northern Alliance, hell bent on overthrowing the Taliban regime, has strong dislikes for Pakistan. It is unlikely to mend its fences with Islamabad even under pressure from the superpower. The Alliance is the fighting arm of the Burhanuddin Rabbani group which suffered a defeat at the hands of the Taliban between 1994 and 1996 mainly because of Islamabad's military support to the forces led by Mullah Omar. Even the tribal matrix shows that there is no meeting ground between the Northern Alliance (dominated by Tajiks and Uzbeks) and Pakistan, which has the second largest concentration of Pushtuns after Afghanistan.

The truth, however, is that no group which may share power in the post-Taliban Afghanistan is prepared to trust Pakistan. This is not so mainly because Islamabad has ditched the Taliban, its straunch ally till September 11. Islamabad has always tried to interfere in the affairs of the neighbouring country whereas Afghans have a history of never agreeing to compromise their independence. Zahir Shah still remebers Pakistan's destabilising activities when he was in power in Kabul. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a powerful Afghan commander, cannot forget how he was insulted by Pakistan's ISI during the crisis that erupted after the Soviet withdrawal from his landlocked country. Initially, it was Hekmatyar who was backed by Islamabad for installing a friendly administration in Kabul. Later the ambitious rulers in Afghanistan's immediate neighbourhood developed dislike for him and began to promote the Taliban of Mullah Omar, and the rest is too well known to need repetition.

Thus, Pakistan's anxiety is obvious when the US-led coalition is trying to find an answer to the question concerning the dispensation that can be helped to come up after the Taliban chapter is over. Writing in The News International, Rahimullah Usufzai says: " Eightysix-year-old Zahir Shah has emerged as the rallying point for the anti-Taliban forces and for the USA and other powers wanting to overthrow the Taliban regime. His home in Rome, where he has lived in self-exile since 1973 after being ousted from power by his cousin Sardar Mohammad Daoud, has become the hub of political activity and is increasingly being visited by diplomats and politicians seeking a change of government in Kabul.

According to Najam Sethi, Editor of The Friday Times, "...the premise that the people of Afghanistan are bound to line up behind the Taliban because they love them is questionable. Indeed, the opposite may be truer, since the Taliban have not provided any institutional justice or prosperity to the Afghans. In fact, many of the local commanders acquiesced in Taliban rule when the Taliban first swept across the country in 1994-95 with the backing of Pakistan may be tempted to switch over sides once the writing on the wall is clear and the Pakistani props have been removed."

In any situation that will emerge in the days to come, Pakistan should be prepared to wash its hands off Afghanistan. Someone has truly said: as you sow so shall you reap.

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Visit to Poona

Poona
The South African Deputation paid a visit to the Servants of India Society where they were received by Mr Devadhar, Vice-President, and Messrs, Joshi, Patwardhan Vaze, Limaye and Ambekar, members of the Society, and Dr Zacharuies. They were shown round the Society's premises and the library, and seemed to be interested in all that they saw. A group photo was taken before they left.
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Life eludes all scientific analysis. Each organ and function is modified in substance and varied in effect, by the subtle energy which pulsates throughout the whole economy of things, spiritual and corporeal. The each is instinct with the all; the all unfolds and reappears in each. Spirit is all in all. God, man and nature are a divine synthesis.

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Matter is ever pervaded and agitated by the omnipresent soul. All things are instinct with spirit.

— Amos Bronson Alcott, Orphic Sayings

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We are... mere shadows in a cosmic dream. But behind the unreality of these fleeting pictures is the immortal Reality of the soul. Life here on earth appears futile and chaotic until we are anchored in the Divine.

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There is no way back Home if you weave around you a snare of wordly desires.

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Although the force of desires is strong, the potency of Divine will is stronger. That will is in you and will work through you, if you permit it, and if you refuse to let wordly motivations weave nets of incarnations around you.

— Paramahansa Yogananda's discourse at Self-Realisation Fellowship Temple, California, October 8, 1944.

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An untruthful person leaves many a loophole for himself. And when he escapes through one or the other, he thinks he is very clever! In fact, by doing so, he only digs pitfalls for himself.

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Why is it that man is afraid of speaking and practicing truth, not untruth.

— The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. eighty
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