Let elections shine
Good luck Team India
Targeting the media
Renewed threat to free flow of information
WITHIN a week of the daring attack on Jammu’s jail complex, terrorists struck in Srinagar’s busy Residency Road area, adjacent to the Media Enclave, on Tuesday. The building they wanted to blow up has special significance as it houses the offices of the Press Information Bureau and the Kashmir Information Department.
India’s ties with neighbours
The business acumen
Let elections shine
THE Election Commission’s directive to the Central and state governments to get all hoardings pertaining to the ‘India Shining’ campaign removed is yet another step taken by the Commission to ensure a level-playing field for all political parties and candidates in the coming elections. ‘India Shining’ is an official campaign, funded by the Central government, to highlight the achievements of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. The government may have launched it much before the Model Code of Conduct came into force, but under the Representation of the People Act, this kind of continued campaign through hoardings is unacceptable as it has the potential of making elections unequal. With 40 days still left for the first phase of polling on April 20, the Commission wanted to ensure that the Vajpayee government, in the interregnum, did not draw any undue advantage over other parties through a campaign like ‘India Shining’.
Over the years, the concept of free and fair elections has come under strain because the ruling party has shown a tendency to misuse the official machinery for partisan ends. Ideally, the Model Code of Conduct should come into effect from the date of the dissolution of the Lok Sabha or the State Assembly as the case may be and not from the date of the announcement of elections, which has been the practice so far. An amendment to the Representation of the People Act in this regard has become imperative as this will act as a deterrent against any misuse of office by the party in power.
There is, of course, a thin line of
demarcation between the day-to-day working of a caretaker government
and the distribution of official patronage as part of its routine
functions during elections. Complaints of misuse of office by the
Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka governments
have been reported. The Commission has asked for details. It should
come down heavily on these governments if it finds that the
allegations are indeed true.
Good luck Team India
THE Indian cricket team is now in Pakistan. One billion Indians will be praying for Saurav Ganguly and his talented team members to beat Pakistan in Pakistan. The thousands of fans who have managed tickets for the Test and the one-day series will follow them everywhere and match the decibel level of the verbal ruckus that the local fans will create for their team. A slinging match on the sides is possible and if the limits of decent conduct are not violated, it may even contribute to making the game livelier.
If things begin to get nasty in the general stands, the Indian fans should remind themselves that discretion is the better part of valour. They have to defend a glorious legacy of having given the Pakistan players a standing ovation when they won a Test match by 12 runs in Chennai in 1998-99. Of course, arrangements have been made by the security agencies to prevent any untoward incident that might turn a sporting contest into an ugly fracas. As far as the players are concerned, both teams have been adequately briefed and it is unlikely that anyone would be so daft as to overdo the aggression act for unsettling rival players.
The pre-tour hype will remind old timers
about the infamous 1932-33 Bodyline series in Australia in which England
captain Douglas Jardine set the precedent of turning cricket into an
ungentlemanly contest. The media and the market forces are responsible
for the pre-tour build-up of tension. It is unfortunate. But that is the
way the sponsors want any game to be played. There is nothing that the
lovers of the game of cricket can do to prevent the induction of the WWF
culture. It goes without saying that the team that holds its nerves, and
whose players show mental toughness and agility on the field, will have
an edge. May the better team on the given day win. Ultimately, it is the
game of cricket that should triumph.
Targeting the media
WITHIN a week of the daring attack on Jammu’s jail complex, terrorists struck in Srinagar’s busy Residency Road area, adjacent to the Media Enclave, on Tuesday. The building they wanted to blow up has special significance as it houses the offices of the Press Information Bureau and the Kashmir Information Department. Both institutions cater to the media people, most of whom have their residences and offices in the prestigious locality. They represent not only Indian newspapers and TV networks but also international media organisations. The incident indicates a renewed threat to the free flow of information from the Valley.
The militants might have noticed chinks in the security arrangement in the area and hence their unholy attempt. This calls for a thorough and quick enquiry to prevent any further incident of this kind. The journalists and the government officials posted there must be able to function without being sitting ducks for terrorists. In other words, they should be assured of a foolproof security system.
The same day,
terrorist also struck at a contractor’s house in Badgam district,
killing three persons on the spot. In fact, there is no end to militant
violence despite reports that the infiltration from across the border
has declined. Three reasons are invariably given in support of the
claim: nearly 80 per cent fencing of the international border and the
Line of Control, change in the attitude of the Pakistan Army and
inaccessibility of the routes because of heavy snow. The terrorists
already on this side of the divide are a desperate lot and can be
immobilised. But it seems the security forces are getting complacent
because of the changed political climate. They should concentrate on the
task of flushing out the killers hiding in the Valley and elsewhere.
Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.
India’s ties with neighbours
AS the nation prepares to go to the polls, it would be useful to analyse whether the last few years have seen any real progress in relations with the countries in our immediate neighbourhood, ranging from the Persian Gulf region to our west, to the Straits of Malacca to our east. Any attempt by us to focus attention solely on our South Asian neighbours would be myopic, as Indian security and strategic interests extend well beyond South Asia. We should never forget our crucial economic stakes in the Persian Gulf from where we get over 70 per cent of our oil supplies and where 3.5 million Indians who remit back over $ 7 billion annually reside. Similarly, the ASEAN countries are set to re-emerge as one of the fastest growing regions of the world, with rapidly expanding markets for Indian goods and services. The events following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington have also brought about profound changes in our entire neighbourhood. The defeat of the Taliban has led to the scattering of terrorist elements all across the Indian Ocean region — from the Philippines and Indonesia to Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The entire region is now the focus of continuing American and NATO military involvement.
New Delhi has responded to the challenges posed by the dispersal of global terrorism imaginatively. Friendly ties have been established with the Karzai government in Afghanistan. An effective programme of economic assistance has been initiated. A strategic partnership has been developed with Iran to ensure that landlocked Afghanistan is freed from Pakistani blackmail, by getting access to the sea through Iran. While there has been much hype about a “breakthrough” in our relations with Pakistan, following the Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting in Islamabad in January, time alone will tell whether Pakistan will irrevocably end the use of terrorism as an instrument of State policy. The last five years have been a roller-coaster ride on relations with Pakistan, with overblown rhetoric and unrealistic expectations often getting the better of mature judgment. We also have to acknowledge that precious little was done in the last five years, to give meaningful and substantive content to our relations with the Arab Gulf countries, where millions of Indians reside.
South Block wasted the first three years of the Vajpayee government by pretending that it could play Curzonian “Great Games” in its neighbourhood, instead of focusing on building strong ties of regional and bilateral economic cooperation in South and South-East Asia. With Mr Jaswant Singh at the helm of the Ministry of External Affairs, there was little recognition of the fact that economic integration is the most crucial element in the conduct of foreign policy in today’s world. Many of our smaller neighbours felt that we were being overbearing and supercilious in our conduct towards them. It was only during the Kathmandu SAARC Summit that New Delhi belatedly got its neighbours to endorse a time- bound plan to establish a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). We are now moving towards establishing a South Asian Economic Union. The signing of a framework agreement for establishing SAFTA is an achievement that New Delhi can be proud of. But when one goes through the fine print of SAFTA, there is cause for concern. We have provided an unprecedented, open-ended commitment to compensate Bangladesh for revenue losses in import duties. New Delhi evidently failed to realise, even during the Kathmandu Summit, that such an open-ended provision is unprecedented and, in the long-term, unworkable.
New Delhi’s mistake in agreeing to the Bangladesh demand for compensation soon became evident when ASEAN countries like Myanmar and Thailand flatly turned down a Bangladesh proposal for such compensation when negotiations were held recently in Thailand to conclude a free trade agreement between Bhutan, Nepal and the members of the BIMSTEC grouping — Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh may well find itself excluded from this free trade agreement if it persists with its demand. The most notable achievement of the Vajpayee government on regional cooperation is, however, the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation signed with 10 members of ASEAN in Bali on October 8, 2003. This agreement opens the way for free flow of goods, services and investment between India and the dynamic economies of ASEAN. New Delhi would now have to move ahead purposefully in implementing this agreement. We would be in a good position to derive maximum benefit from it by meaningful economic reforms within India, like the removal of barriers on inter-state commerce and the early introduction of a comprehensive value added tax.
If the free trade and comprehensive cooperation agreements that we have signed in the past few months are properly implemented, we could look forward to a giant free trade area extending from Peshawar to our west to the Philippines to our east, within the next 12 years. One sincerely hopes that the vision of an economically integrated and prosperous Asia will persuade the rulers of Pakistan that invocations of jihad against India are not the best way to progress and prosperity. What is, however, most heartening is that our initial apprehensions about the opening of our market to China have been proved to be baseless. With our bilateral trade with China reaching around $ 7.6 billion last year, we are one of the few countries that actually have a surplus balance of trade with China. And Chinese manufactures have not unduly disrupted the industry in India.
The last five years have thus been marked by some notable
developments in our economic relations with the countries in our
neighbourhood. But we should remember that the improvements in India’s
relations with its ASEAN neighbours really commenced with the
enunciation of a distinct “Look East” policy by the Narasimha Rao
government. It is, however, to the credit of the Vajpayee government
that it overruled the objections of organisations like the Swadeshi
Jagran Manch and of protectionist lobbies in Indian trade and industry
and adopted a policy of trade liberalisation and free trade that will
serve us well in the long-term.
The business acumen
AS a college student I had to often travel between my hometown of Rohtak and Delhi. The bus always halted midway in the small town of Bahadurgarh for passengers to have a cup of tea and pakoras. There were a large number of youngsters who came into the bus hawking their wares. Among these, one always caught my eye. In his teens and poorly dressed he had a wooden box strapped around his neck in which several small bottles containing a blackish powder were laid out. He was selling tooth powder and as he sang rhapsodies of the benefits of his wonderful product he made an impression. However, he hardly made any sales.
One day I noticed a change in his strategy. Apart from the virtues of his powder, he also claimed to perform an on-the-spot and painless tooth extraction. For a while there were no takers. Then a middle-aged man in the back row sought his help. His face was creased in agony caused by his troubling tooth. He had kept his palm on the cheek as if to soothe his pain. A prominent ‘S’ scar above his right eye was contorted by the facial exertions caused due to distress.
The young powder seller calmly walked up to his “patient”, wrapped the end of the latter’s turban around his fingers, inserted his thumb and forefinger in the mouth and with one expert jerk brought the ailing tooth out and handed it over to its owner. The man’s face at once eased into relief as he blessed the young man and addressed him as a “doctor sahib”. What followed was a brisk sale of his tooth powder. I was very impressed to see the bloodless operation.
During my next visit some weeks later, I again noticed the young man with his box containing the tooth powder bottles. His being much better dressed was a proof of his business having picked up. After the usual rattling off of the numerous benefits of his product the “doctor” announced his prowess in removing aching teeth without pain. After a minute-long pause I heard the voice of a volunteer sitting on the row left of me. The young “doctor” took out a handkerchief from his pocket wrapped it around his fingers and repeated his feat. There was a round of applause and there was a clamour for his product.
Concerned about Islamabad’s nascent nuclear programme, Israel considered military action against Pakistan in the late 1970s.
According to recently declassified State Department documents, nuclear proliferation in Pakistan featured high on the agenda of a meeting of the U.S. General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament on September 14, 1979.
The committee, created in the 1960s, was a high-level presidentially appointed body of former officials and scientific experts that offered policy advice to the White House, the State Department and the former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA).
Then Assistant Director of the ACDA’s non-proliferation bureau, Charles Van Doren, discussed “apparent Israeli consideration of military action against Pakistan.” He told the committee the Israelis were the “most highly motivated to do something about this.”
The United States itself, Mr Van Doren said, had not discussed “preemption plans” with Israel.
A committee member noted: “I keep wondering, is there a window in time when you can stop something and that window isn’t open very long, and if you don’t do that you’ll never stop them?”
Another member, Paul Doty, replied: “That’s essentially what the Israelis are saying when they speak about Entebbe Two.” In 1976, Israeli commandos carried out a daring rescue of hostages held by hijackers in Entebbe, Uganda.
In October 2001, journalist Seymour Hersch reported in the New Yorker magazine that an elite American military unit was preparing for possible incursion into Pakistan in order to steal its nuclear weapons arsenal.
According to Mr Hersch, the Special Forces unit was training with Israel’s most trusted anti-terrorist unit, and would be called into action in the event that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf lost power in Pakistan. There have been at least two reported attempts on Gen. Musharraf’s life since then.
Mr Hersch said that members of Israel’s Unit 262, or Sayeret Matkal, came to America soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks and had been training with Pentagon Special Forces. He quoted a “senior military officer” as confirming that intense planning was going on for the “exfiltration” of warheads.
In New Delhi last month, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom expressed concern over a recent confession by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, that he had proliferated nuclear material to other countries.
“We believe that it is a global threat and all democracies around the world should do everything we can in order to disarm all ... regimes that would like to bring destruction to their enemies or their neighbours and we should do it against states, countries and organisations,” Mr Shalom said.
Asked if this meant that he was advocating an attack on Pakistan, Mr. Shalom said, “We have enough military actions against others, so we are not looking for other countries. We believe that it should be solved.”
Dr Khan and others have described Pakistan’s nuclear bomb as an “Islamic bomb” and rich Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya reportedly financed the Pakistani programme while China provided technical aid, nuclear materials and a design for the bomb.
Blueprints stolen by Dr Khan from the Netherlands enabled Pakistan to build centrifuges to refine uranium to bomb-grade.
“The obvious case of greatest concern is Pakistan,” Mr Van Doren told the committee in 1979. “After the Indian explosion of 1974, there were immediate rumblings that Pakistan wanted to get some plutonium; they sought it from several sources and were turned down, fortunately.”
“The Pakistanis obviously claim that the enrichment programme is for peaceful purposes but it has no relevance whatever to their current nuclear programme,” he said. “We are worried about their importation of some unsafeguarded nuclear materials for it.”
At the time, there had been rumours that Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq, faced with elections, would find it “handy… to have some great show of strength.”
“So we are concerned that they may in fact try to pull off an explosion here,” Mr Van Doren said. “We see the makings, but more than the makings, of another Indian disaster coming up.”
“This is a railroad train that is going down the track very fast and I am not sure anything will turn it off,” he said of the situation on the Indian subcontinent.
A June 22, 1983, a secret briefing paper — “The Pakistani Nuclear Programme” — opened with this emphatic language: “There is unambiguous evidence that Pakistan is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons development programme.”
After detailing the elements of the weapons programme, the report expressed confidence that China had played a significant role in Pakistan’s effort to build a bomb. While Pakistan had far to go before it possessed nuclear weapons, China had provided assistance with the production of fissile materials and possibly in “nuclear device design.”
Over the course of three presidential administrations, U.S. governmental officials repeatedly pressed the Chinese government to explain whether it was providing any assistance to Pakistan in the nuclear weapons field, but Chinese officials responded with denials and equivocation.
The recent turnaround in Libya’s nuclear policies and the many disclosures of Pakistan’s role as a super-proliferator of nuclear weapons technology produced another extraordinary revelation: the discovery by U.S. and British intelligence of Chinese language material among the nuclear weapons design documents that Pakistan had supplied the Libyans.
The extent to which Chinese government agencies actually
assisted the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme remains conjectural.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has announced an investigation into the
latest charges as well as strengthened commitment to the
Hyderabad: All the 184 grinding units of wheat flour and 10 roller flour mills of the town were closed on Tuesday as there was no wheat stock left for grinding, according to flour mills’ representatives.
Haji Nawab Khan, President of the Atta Chakki (grinding units) Owners Association (ACOA), appealed at a news conference to Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali to take prompt action to save the people from starvation in the absence of flour, and predicted that if the situation continued there would be no flour in Sindh.
He said all the 153 godowns of the food department in Hyderabad and Kotri were empty. He claimed that there was not a single bag of wheat in these government godowns to be supplied to them. — The News
Jirga for release of tribal leaders
Wana: Tribesmen here on Tuesday said they would launch a hunt for terrorist suspects believed to be hiding in their areas if four of their leaders were released unconditionally.
Thousands of tribesmen from the South Waziristan tribal region attended a Jirga in Wana to press the government to free the four key tribal chiefs. The tribesmen said their chiefs were necessary to organize an armed force of some 600 tribesman to hunt down suspected foreign terrorists believed to be linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda network in the tribal area.
“The government is ready to release tribal chiefs on bail, but they are adamant on unconditional release,” local administration official Rehmatullah Wazir said. The four tribal chiefs were taken in custody for allegedly not cooperating with the authorities in operations against Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects. — The News
Special cars for Musharraf
Islamabad: Saudi Arabia has gifted Pakistan three exceptionally expensive, made-to-order Mercedes Benz cars fitted with high-tech gadgets and electronics equipment which fully secure them even against high intensity explosives.
Such vehicles are said to be in use by world leaders who face a constant threat to their lives from terrorists. Sources said these vehicles would most likely be inducted into the fleet of cars reserved for President Pervez Musharraf. — Dawn
Punjab to control fort
Lahore: Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali is said to have refused to re-evaluate his decision to hand over the federally-controlled Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens to Punjab despite pressure at the last Cabinet meeting.
According to sources in the federal and provincial archaeology departments, two ministers at the meeting were of the view that the decision would create legal complications. They also proposed that the government should take the World Heritage Centre into confidence on the issue as both monuments were on the World Heritage List (WHL).
The PM had announced the
decision at a programme in the Lahore Fort last month. A six-member
Committee on Decentralization of Monuments, headed by former Peshawar
University archaeology department chairman Farid Khan, submitted its
report to the federal culture ministry two weeks ago, recommending
that the WHL monuments must not be transferred to provinces. However,
the PM set aside the recommendation. — Dawn
That system alone is worth
pursuing which sings the praises of God. In it does rest your true
glory. — Guru Nanak It is not complete abstinence from action but
restraint in action that is advised. When the ego is established in the
Self, it lives in a transcendent and universal consciousness and acts
from that centre. — Dr S. Radhakrishnan The happiest life is that
which constantly exercises and educates what is best in us. — Hamerton The
path of Truth is as narrow as it is straight. Even so is that of
Ahimsa. — Mahatma Gandhi Care admitted as a guest, quickly turns to
be master. — Bovee
— Guru Nanak
It is not complete abstinence from action but restraint in action that is advised. When the ego is established in the Self, it lives in a transcendent and universal consciousness and acts from that centre.
— Dr S. Radhakrishnan
The happiest life is that which constantly exercises and educates what is best in us.
The path of Truth is as narrow as it is straight. Even so is that of Ahimsa.
— Mahatma Gandhi
Care admitted as a guest, quickly turns to be master.