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EDITORIALS

Punjab budget
Casualty of pre-poll politics
P
unjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal has been getting a good press for a number of reasons, especially for driving around without Gypsies loaded with gunmen. But he is hard put to explain why he has chosen to go in for a vote-on-account instead of a regular budget.

N-threat from containers
Time to make them safe from terrorists
At a time when terrorism has emerged as the most serious threat to life and property of citizens, Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta’s advice to prevent the misuse of containers deserves special attention. In his opinion, containers are likely to be used by terrorists to smuggle in nuclear weapons and other kinds of warheads to strike at their targets.



EARLIER STORIES

Offensive against Naxalites
February 19, 2009
Appeasing the Taliban
February 18, 2009
Carry on, Pranab
February 17, 2009
More open to FDI
February 16, 2009
Pitfalls of democracy
February 15, 2009
One step forward
February 14, 2009
Amarinder’s expulsion
February 13, 2009
Violence in the House
February 12, 2009
Deaths in custody
February 11, 2009
BJP in two minds
February 10, 2009


DGP unseated
Result of Maharashtra violating SC guidelines
There is ample merit in the Bombay High Court’s ruling quashing the appointment of Maharashtra’s Director-General of Police Anami Narayan Roy. The Bench consisting of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Sharad Bobde has stayed the order for two weeks.

ARTICLE

China tops Hillary’s agenda
Japan visit is a sideshow
by Inder Malhotra
N
o one can miss the significance of United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to make China the centerpiece of her four-nation Asian tour, her first as America’s top diplomat. This is no surprise. For, as presidential candidate last year, she had declared: “Our relationship with China will be the most important in this century”.

MIDDLE

Slum-boy golfer
by Rajnish Wattas
T
he golf course where I play is laid out along the river Ghaggar, flowing out of majestic, blue Shivalik hills, meandering to the plains below. The river is a trickle in summer but a torrent during the monsoon. The golfing fairways are like a rolling, undulating English landscape, placed alongside an Indian river. It’s a place to lose your heart to the game of golf; and along with it expensive balls to the river.

OPED

Pakistani peace deal
‘It's a surrender disguised as a truce’
by Pamela Constable, Karen DeYoung and Haq Nawaz Khan
A
controversial, closely watched peace agreement designed to end Taliban violence in the scenic Swat Valley hung in limbo on Wednesday, amid criticism in Pakistan and rising concern in Washington.

US warms up to Indonesia
by Paul Richter
U
S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Indonesians on Wednesday that she wanted to open a "robust partnership" with their fast-growing country, President Barack Obama's boyhood home.

Delhi Durbar
Advani on Pak websites

On record the BJP might be asking the government to break ties with Pakistan. But one wonders whether the party itself is prepared to do that, at least till the next general election.

  • PR work for aircraft deal

  • No time for debate


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EDITORIALS

Punjab budget
Casualty of pre-poll politics

Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal has been getting a good press for a number of reasons, especially for driving around without Gypsies loaded with gunmen. But he is hard put to explain why he has chosen to go in for a vote-on-account instead of a regular budget. Why a responsible minister like him should pin the blame for the Punjab government’s unprecedented decision to have a vote-on-account ahead of the Lok Sabha elections on Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, is inexplicable, if not suspicious. Mr Ahluwalia’s quick denial of postponing a meeting with the Punjab representatives for approving the state annual plan has earned the community of the Badals, running the state as a family enterprise, an avoidable loss of face.

Managing a cash-strapped state like Punjab with an extravagant political leadership bent on squandering the limited resources on populism is hard enough for any finance minister, no matter how shrewd or well-meaning. It is far better to be sincere and forthright in admitting what is wrong than playing political games. The fiscal mess in which Punjab finds itself today is not the creation of a single party. The ruling Akali Dal is as much to blame for it as the Congress party, now in opposition. The state has piled up an all-time high debt of more than Rs 57,000 crore. The continuation of the Punjab State Electricity Board is legally challengeable. The state public service commission is not allowed to do its duty. The government medical colleges face a constant disaffiliation threat. Hospitals are short of doctors and schools waiting for teachers. Lack of growth and jobs is driving hordes of youngsters abroad.

It is an all-round failure of governance in which the non-presentation of a budget, a constitutional obligation of the government, should not come as a surprise. It is part of a take-it-easy attitude prevailing at the top. The imposition of new taxes and the non-implementation of the latest pay commission report may or may not deny votes to the ruling coalition, but its abject failure on the issue of governance definitely will.

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N-threat from containers
Time to make them safe from terrorists

At a time when terrorism has emerged as the most serious threat to life and property of citizens, Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta’s advice to prevent the misuse of containers deserves special attention. In his opinion, containers are likely to be used by terrorists to smuggle in nuclear weapons and other kinds of warheads to strike at their targets. The reason is that over 70 per cent of the global trade through sea routes is done with containers. There is, therefore, need to devise a system to ensure that containers do not have anything that can help terrorists in implementing their nefarious designs. Even the leakage from any such cargo can prove to be devastating for the country.

Keeping such threats in view, the US came out with the Container Security Initiative and the Proliferation Security Initiative after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. India, however, had its reservations and hence its refusal to be a part of these initiatives. What happened in Mumbai on November 26 last year shows that India will have to go in for foolproof security measures at its ports. Efforts are already on for “special security audits”, vehicle tracking systems and other such arrangements at major ports. There is need to lay greater stress on maritime domain awareness. The likely threats from cargo containers will have to be given top priority. Till today there is no system to find out what exactly is there in the containers, which sometimes have much storage space left after the accounted cargo has been put in.

Stepping up maritime surveillance is a highly challenging job. Of course, there is no dearth of funds for the purpose, as the Central government communicated to all the coastal states and Union Territories in the wake of 26/11. But money alone is not enough to take care of India’s long coastline (7,516 km in all). The emerging maritime security threats call for a change in the mindset, as traditionally sea routes have not evoked as much attention of the authorities as land and air routes. The ambit of port security is much larger. New laws will have to be enacted so that tighter security is built into the system.

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DGP unseated
Result of Maharashtra violating SC guidelines

There is ample merit in the Bombay High Court’s ruling quashing the appointment of Maharashtra’s Director-General of Police Anami Narayan Roy. The Bench consisting of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Sharad Bobde has stayed the order for two weeks. Though the state government has reportedly decided not to appeal against the order, the issues the Bench has raised are pertinent in the context of the whimsical appointment of DGPs in almost all the states. The High Court has ruled that Mr Roy’s selection was arbitrary, against principles of equality and the Supreme Court guidelines. In appointing him a year back, the Vilasrao Deshmukh government had overlooked three officers senior to him. One of the officers, Mr Suprakash Chakravarti, moved the Central Administrative Tribunal, which set aside Mr Roy’s appointment. The government, supporting Mr Roy, challenged the CAT’s order before the High Court.

Significantly, the Bench ruled that the then Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil did not apply his mind correctly, ignored the relevant parameters and took into account irrelevant considerations while selecting Mr Roy. By refusing to consider the suitability of the three officers senior to him, Mr Patil took the decision in undue haste which was also not in conformity with well laid-down administrative norms.

In its landmark ruling in the Prakash Singh case (2006), the Supreme Court laid down two important conditions. Essentially, it stated that the state DGP had to be chosen from the three seniormost officers empanelled by the Union Public Service Commission and that the officer selected must have a two-year tenure irrespective of the date of superannuation. The Maharashtra government willy-nilly violated these guidelines while selecting Mr Roy. The selection panel should also be made transparent and broadbased by including the Leader of Opposition. In fact, the Dharam Vira Commission had recommended these guidelines in 1979. Unfortunately, state governments are reluctant to implement them since they don’t want to lose their hold on the police. Moreover, seniority cannot be the sole criterion for the DGP’s appointment. What will happen to governance if the seniormost person is incompetent? The state governments would do well to promote professionalism in the police to face the challenges rather than pursuing narrow partisan ends while making crucial appointments.

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Thought for the Day

Every drop of ink in my pen ran cold. — Horace Walpole

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ARTICLE

China tops Hillary’s agenda
Japan visit is a sideshow
by Inder Malhotra

No one can miss the significance of United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to make China the centerpiece of her four-nation Asian tour, her first as America’s top diplomat. This is no surprise. For, as presidential candidate last year, she had declared: “Our relationship with China will be the most important in this century”. This had raised eyebrows in Washington’s foreign policy circles and caused concern in Tokyo, America’s key ally.

This explains why she has made Japan, where she reached on Monday, her first stop though that is only symbolic. It is China that is at the heart of her current tour and on the top of her foreign policy agenda. She has left no doubt that she intends to “move dramatically forward” in the relationship with the People’s Republic. The idea is to find “new avenues of cooperation between the world’s biggest economy and the world’s fastest-growing economy”. Obviously, this has President Barack Obama’s concurrence.

In a well-timed speech to Asia Society in New York last week, Mrs Clinton dismissed the notion that China was, by definition, a rival to the US. On the contrary, she said, the two countries had much to gain from and contribute to each other’s progress. Middle-level military cooperation between the US and China is being resumed, and “very frequent talks at very high levels” are being planned. Moreover, she thinks that the global economic meltdown is not a barrier to greater Sino-American cooperation but an incentive to it.

China already owns $700-billion worth of US treasury securities. Many fear that Beijing might use this leverage in case there is some friction between the two countries, possibly on such issues as human rights, Tibet and climate change, China having overtaken the US as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, a top Chinese official has stated: “If you don’t buy US treasury bonds, what else can you buy?”

As presidential candidate and earlier as the First Lady when her husband was President, Mrs Clinton was sharply critical of China’s human rights record. In her New York speech she gently hinted that the US itself and its friends must respect human rights. She hoped that “Tibetans and other Chinese” would enjoy these rights.

Mrs Clinton agrees with the widespread impression that good relations with China — “the best in 20 years” — were one of the few foreign policy success stories of the Bush administration. But she feels that the entire agenda was “hijacked” by the Treasury. She wants a more comprehensive engagement. In order not to dismay Japan, she declared simultaneously that the 50-year US-Japan security treaty “must remain unshakeable”. The difficulty in this respect is that the government of Japanese Prime Minister, Taro Aso is weak and unpopular, and the Japanese investors having withdrawn their investments abroad, the Japanese economy offers little scope for cooperation.

In addition to China and Japan, Mrs Clinton is visiting South Korea and Indonesia. The North Korean nuclear programme is a major worry of the US. The impression in Washington is that, contrary to previous agreements, Pyongyang is perhaps trying to have another nuclear-capable missile test. China presides over the six-nation talks on North Korea, which accentuates America’s need to have good relations with China.

As for her sojourn in Indonesia, the Secretary of State appears to have two objectives. By visiting the largest Muslim country, she wants to send a message to the entire Islamic world, especially in view of turmoil in West Asia and the receding of hopes of any kind of settlement between Israel and Palestine. She also wants to convey to ASEAN nations that America wants to have closer relations with them. She has already announced that she would attend the ASEAN ministerial meeting this summer. Her predecessor, Ms Condoleezza Rice, had skipped the last meeting of this body. America is conscious that its trade with and investment in ASEAN are less than China’s.

So far Mrs Clinton has refrained from saying anything definitive on India. But an authoritative indication of policy towards this country is available in the testimony to the Senate Committee on Intelligence by the Director of Intelligence, Mr Dennis C. Blair. His main point on the overall world situation was that the global economic crisis had become the greatest threat to security, greater than even terrorism and climate change. He also admitted candidly that the situation in Afghanistan was much worse than it was made out to be. (President Obama’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, was in Delhi when the US Secretary of State was in Tokyo. But he was in a “listening mode” during his talks.)

As for Admiral Blair’s testimony, it was refreshingly objective. On the international stage, he said, Indian leaders would “continue to follow an independent policy”, dictated by “economic and political pragmatism”. India would not automatically follow or oppose American positions. However, close relations with the US would enable India to deal with China, which is more powerful economically and militarily, and “mitigate” threats from its “long-time adversary, Pakistan”. In short, India is neither an ally nor an opponent of the US, but a partner, which seems appropriate from the Indian point of view. It would be unrealistic, however, to believe that the warm feelings that Bush had for India would continue under Obama even though good relations with India suit America’s purpose, too.

Yet we should have no illusions about the future. Despite the Indo-US nuclear deal that went through the Nuclear Suppliers Group principally because of the push Mr Bush gave it, nonproliferation Ayatollahs in the present US administration would create problems for us. They want India to sign and ratify the CTBT that America itself has yet to ratify. If the US does so and China follows suit, this may not create too much difficulty. But the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) can be a source of trouble.

It is a safe bet that China would urge Mrs Clinton to be firm on these issues. After all, her husband, as president, on his last visit to Beijing had made the curious statement that India must roll back its nuclear programme and that the US and China would “jointly” work for peace and stability in South Asia. The endorsement of the nuclear deal by the NSG has opened doors to civilian nuclear cooperation with countries like Russia and France. It is up to America’s nuclear industry to partake of the great and growing Indian nuclear market.

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MIDDLE

Slum-boy golfer
by Rajnish Wattas

The golf course where I play is laid out along the river Ghaggar, flowing out of majestic, blue Shivalik hills, meandering to the plains below. The river is a trickle in summer but a torrent during the monsoon. The golfing fairways are like a rolling, undulating English landscape, placed alongside an Indian river. It’s a place to lose your heart to the game of golf; and along with it expensive balls to the river.

But before the course came up, the place was a squatter colony. And a part of the slum still adjoins the course. No wonder, some of the younger caddies come from there. They wait near the car park — laughing, jostling, monkeying around; eyeing the prospective player. One day, as I waved out for a caddy, the boy who came forth, appeared too small even to carry my bag!

But Chhotu had the confidence of a cocky golfer, and the persuasion of a salesman. As I teed off with much flourish, the ball determinedly found its favourite target; the treetop. “Sahib, abhi aap warm up nai hoohe,” Chottu said encouragingly, and helpfully moved the ball from the rough to the fairway.

The next shot was to be hit from a slope. As I opted for a 5 wood, Chottu coughed gently, and suggested if a 6 iron might be considered instead. I stuck to my guns or rather the club. And botched it up. The ball was topped and rolled downhill in a small trickle towards the river, never to be found again.

For the pitch shot near the green, he suggested a scoop with the sand wedge — head down, balance of a ballet dancer and the shoulder swing of a symphony conductor. Too much for a paunchy, middle-aged Sunday golfer, who has taken to the game more for the pleasures of the 19th hole than to challenge Jeev Milkha Singh!

With a prayer to the gods of golf — especially those that preside over the “triple-digit handicap department” — I swung, the ball went up in the air to fall on the green and happily rolled down towards the hole!

Chhotu was the one who now called the shots. I wondered as to how he had picked up the game so well. “Sahib, in our colony, instead of gilli-danda, we play with clubs carved out of wooden sticks and, of course, always keep observing the good players. Obviously, their young supple bodies and eager eyes pick up the nuances of the game very well — and above all, they have the will and the talent of the deprived”. Their hands may be tiny, but are gifted. Jai ho!

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OPED

Pakistani peace deal
‘It's a surrender disguised as a truce’
by Pamela Constable, Karen DeYoung and Haq Nawaz Khan

A controversial, closely watched peace agreement designed to end Taliban violence in the scenic Swat Valley hung in limbo on Wednesday, amid criticism in Pakistan and rising concern in Washington.

Neither the Pakistani government nor the Islamic extremists was willing to formalize the accord, announced by Pakistani officials on Monday. The proposed pact marks an unprecedented and risky attempt to disarm some 2,000 Taliban fighters, who have invaded and terrorized a once-bucolic tourist area of 1.5 million in northwest Pakistan, by offering to install a strict Islamic law system in the surrounding district.

Supporters see the offer as an urgently needed bid for peace and a potential model for other areas ravaged by Pakistan's growing Islamist militancy, which now controls areas 80 miles from the capital of this nuclear-armed Muslim nation.

Critics say it would make too many concessions to ruthless religious forces and provide them with a launching pad to drive deeper into the settled areas of Pakistan from their safe haven in the rough tribal districts along the border with Afghanistan.

"This is a bad idea that sends a very wrong signal," said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of defense and security studies at Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad, the capital. "It legitimizes the existence of violent armed groups and allows them to draw the wrong lesson: that if you are powerful enough to challenge the writ of the state, it will cave in and appease you."

In Washington, where the Obama administration has been conspicuously silent about the agreement, officials said privately they considered it a major setback for U.S. goals in the region. "It's a surrender disguised as a truce," one official said, describing it as an admission that the government lacks the capacity to defend the crucial western part of the country.

Several officials said the proposed pact was evidence that the Pakistani government has no coherent plan for combating militancy. One noted that Islamabad had offered no comprehensive package of economic aid or outlined a long-term structure for the region. "This is signing a deal and calling it done," this official said. "What comes next?"

In December, Pakistani military efforts to roust the Taliban from the Swat Valley were defeated by the far smaller extremist force. The miltiary "met resistance that they and we didn't expect," a U.S. official said, citing sophisticated Taliban tactics, command and communications and participation by extremists from Chechnya and Afghanistan. The military, he said, "won some tactical victories; they didn't win their strategic objectives."

Monday's proposed peace accord took the Obama administration by surprise, U.S. officials said. They received no advance notice of the deal and remained uncertain of what was happening on the ground. "We're not even sure if it's a real deal," a senior U.S. military official said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic and military sensitivities, said they hoped for clarification by next week, when senior Pakistani and Afghan delegations are due to arrive in Washington for high-level talks that are part of the administration's strategic review of the Afghan war effort and its policy toward Pakistan and the region.

The delegations will be headed by the foreign ministers of the two countries and will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and special envoy Richard Holbrooke, among others. Holbrooke, who set up the visits during a tour of the region last week, said on Wednesday that the administration expected two things from the meetings.

"One, a sense of both countries that they are participating actively in shaping our strategy toward their countries, that it's not just a unilateral diktat. Secondly," he said, "to stimulate them to do similar strategic thinking."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose government faces an identical challenge from Taliban insurgents controlling large portions of the Afghan countryside, plans to travel to Islamabad Thursday for talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and other officials.

In the Swat Valley, a second day of confusion and uncertainty about the pact passed Wednesday, with rising hopes and a jubilant peace march among the local population, followed by the brutal killing of a Pakistani TV journalist, Musa Khan Khel. He was apparently seized and shot by militants while covering the peace march, despite a Taliban offer of a 10-day ceasefire while elements of the accord are implemented.

Thousands of people turned out on Wednesday morning in Swat to cheer and follow a delegation of religious and political leaders who entered the Taliban-controlled territory to persuade the extremists to sign the pact and put down their weapons.

The Taliban have ravaged the once-pristine, affluent area for months, burning schools, killing police and ordering women to remain home. More than half the populace is believed to have fled their homes.

Leaders of Pakistan's secular Awami National Party, which orchestrated the deal, insist it will bring a better justice system to the region and that they can reason with the Taliban because they are from the same ethnic Pashtun tribe. But other prominent Pakistanis assert that civilian leaders underestimate the danger posed by the insurgents.

"All segments of society and the general public need to be educated that Talibanization is a real and serious threat to the country, and that if nothing is done to stop its advance, then the anarchy will spread," Asad Munir, a retired brigadier and former intelligence chief head in Northwest Frontier Province, wrote in The News newspaper Tuesday. Pakistan's intelligence service once helped create Islamist militias to fight other wars.

In Swat, where followers of a non-violent Islamist leader named Sufi Mohammad have been demanding the enforcement of Sharia law for years, the announcement of the agreement on Monday was greeted by widespread relief and hope.

Shops reopened and people flooded the streets after months of hurrying home in fear. Preparations were made to welcome Mohammad, who had offered to come to Swat and persuade the fighters to lay down their arms.

On Wednesday morning, Mohammad's "caravan of peace" made its way into the valley, and thousands of well-wishers rallied in the central town of Mingora. Many people seemed nervous and uncertain, however, and black-turbaned Taliban fighters were seen patrolling the outskirts of the city with weapons and walkie-talkies.

"We want peace at any cost," said Gul Bad Shah, 46, a shopkeeper in one town as the marchers passed. "We are very happy to see the hustle and bustle in the markets after a long time."

All day Mohammad and his delegation moved from town to town, chanting for peace and being cheered by supporters. Senior provincial officials and legislators, who rarely dare venture into Swat these days, accompanied them. But a negotiating committee from the Taliban remained meeting in an undisclosed location and made no public comment.

The government's position on the deal also remained unclear, creating further anxiety. President Zardari, reportedly under pressure from the West, delayed for a second day without signing the pact or making public the details of the new Sharia system. Several leaders in Swat told Geo television that they could co-exist with the Taliban and blamed the government for sabotaging their chance for peace.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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US warms up to Indonesia
by Paul Richter

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Indonesians on Wednesday that she wanted to open a "robust partnership" with their fast-growing country, President Barack Obama's boyhood home.

Arriving in Jakarta on the second stop of her first trip as the top American diplomat, Clinton also announced that the Obama administration intended to sign a treaty moving the U.S. closer to a key regional group, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Bush administration declined to sign the treaty, a move that critics took as a sign of its lack of interest in the region and preoccupation with the Middle East.

Clinton's announcement was the latest signal of distance from the Bush administration and the new administration's intention to increase cooperation with other governments.

U.S. officials said closer ties to Indonesia are being sought because it is a regional powerhouse and a democratic Muslim-majority nation in a strategic location.

In a news conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda, Clinton said the country was proof that "democracy, Islam and moderation can not only co-exist, but can thrive."

Indonesia's cooperation will be key to solving regional and world problems, officials said, including climate change.

The country, which has the world's largest Muslim population, is also the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases -- behind the United States and China -- largely because of deforestation, according to U.S. officials.

"The United States must have strong relationships and a strong presence here in Southeast Asia," Clinton said.

Clinton visited the association's headquarters in Jakarta and held a joint news conference with its secretary general, Surin Pitsuwan, to underscore her interest in regional cooperation.

Pitsuwan joined in criticizing the Bush administration, saying Clinton's visit "shows the seriousness of the United States to end its diplomatic absenteeism in the region."

Pitsuwan, like the Japanese leaders Clinton met earlier this week, showed his concern about new signs of U.S. protectionism. He said he welcomed Clinton's "strong commitment not to erect trade barriers."

The Indonesian foreign minister joked that Obama, who lived in Jakarta as a youth, enjoys a "strong constituency" in Indonesia. There has been speculation that Obama may deliver a long-promised speech to the Muslim world from Indonesia, perhaps in November, before he is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The police had warned that Clinton's arrival could provoke protests, but only small groups of demonstrators showed up.

Din Syamsuddin, the leader of the country's second-largest Muslim organization, declined to attend a dinner between Clinton and local civic groups, saying that the occasion was meaningless because Clinton was not going to discuss substantive issues.

Clinton arrived at a military airport in the city and was serenaded by uniformed children from the school Obama once attended.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Delhi Durbar
Advani on Pak websites

On record the BJP might be asking the government to break ties with Pakistan. But one wonders whether the party itself is prepared to do that, at least till the next general election.

That is because the BJP campaigners have been advertising and publicising the campaign of their prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani through the e-papers of Pakistan.

It seems the campaign had been launched on all Pakistani e-papers but even today you open the site of at least two of the most well-known and widely-read newspapers, Dawn and The Nation, and the contemplative mug of Advani stares in the face.

It is the same picture that the BJP is circulating on its stickers which read “Advani for PM and www.lkadvani.in. “ with Ashok Chakra in the background and a small lotus on one side.

So much for the BJP campaign against Pakistan.

PR work for aircraft deal

Last time around it was Ratan Tata, who made a brilliant PR pitch for Lockheed Martin, one of the two American companies in the fray for the contract of 126 multi-role fighter aircraft to be bought by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

This time the company went a step ahead and roped in correspondents of various newspapers and television channels to fly the F-16 at the just-concluded Aero India at Bangalore and they put their stamp of approval on the aircraft.

It was indeed a brilliant effort made by the company to send its message across to the mandarins in the South Block. However, what stood out of this effort were the claims of the correspondents and their respective organisations that the sorties being made by them were exclusive to them and that only they had it.

But it clearly reflected an attempt at one up-manship by those involved.

No time for debate

Short of time for a full debate on the motion of thanks to the President, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee last week asked most of the interested members to lay their speeches on the table of the House — a situation many termed as “unhappy”.

But the Speaker barely had a choice, as a lot of time of the House was lost in the din and adjournments. So far as the practice of submitting written speeches goes, it was started earlier in the context of the Railway Budget, during which many members consume a lot of precious time, raising constituency specific demands.

With the passage of time, however, this uncalled for practice has been extended to other significant matters, even the discussion on the Presidential address, which should normally be fully debated in an ideal situation.

For the record, it is not against the rules and the Speaker ensures that unparliamentary references in members’ speeches, if any, are deleted.

Contributed by Faraz Ahmad, Girja Kaura and Aditi Tandon

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