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EDITORIALS

Modi’s claim nailed
Gujarat govt hand in riots exposed

The evidence emerging from the Special Investigation Team of the involvement of politicians and officials in the Gujarat riots flies in the face of Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s claims to the contrary. 

Save jobs
Protectionism is in no one’s interest

Stand-in Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s well-intentioned advice to industry to cut salaries, not jobs, may be in national interest, but for industry profit and survival often come before people.



EARLIER STORIES

A question of EC’s credibility
February 22, 2009
Habitual offenders
February 21, 2009
Punjab budget
February 20, 2009
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


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


Pak getting ungovernable
The world must act before it is too late 

Pakistan is finding it difficult to ensure that the writ of the state runs throughout the territories under its control. People are being killed with frightening frequency on one pretext or the other. 
ARTICLE

Democracy’s surge in S. Asia
A new opportunity in Bangladesh
by Maharajakrishna Rasgotra

Democracy is making strides in South Asia. A few years ago, Bhutan's highly respected and popular King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, created a bi-cameral parliament with a fully elected lower House, voluntarily gave up his absolute powers and ensured a smooth transition to constitutional monarchy. Last year, he installed his young son, a modern and liberal minded prince, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, on the throne.

MIDDLE

Made in heaven
by P.C. Sharma

RAZZMATAZZ of Indian marriages can be devastatingly confounding. Especially, when in big cities, far too many weddings take place on the same day, and around the same time.

OPED

Pakistan after Mumbai
Trapped in its own coils of deceit
by B.G. Verghese 

Pakistan has done well to have taken what looks like a step forward on the Mumbai incident though it indulged in much kicking and screaming before making the admission that the crime was partially planned on its soil. The evidence was compelling and international pressure too strong for it to remain in bland denial.

President Obama’s Iran strategy
by Doyle McManus

President Obama is working against time to untangle 30 years of enmity and prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb, but even his own advisors know the chance of success is slim. So they also have been working on Plan B: What do we do if Iran gets the bomb?

Chatterati
by Devi Cherian
  Third front  gets active
‘Netaji’ to face Rajnath
AICC recast, at last




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Modi’s claim nailed
Gujarat govt hand in riots exposed

The evidence emerging from the Special Investigation Team of the involvement of politicians and officials in the Gujarat riots flies in the face of Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s claims to the contrary. In an affidavit filed before the SIT, the state government has charged the present Education Minister and Naroda’s three-time BJP MLA Maya Kodnani with leading a mob of 15,000-17,000 rioters that killed 95 Muslims in Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam areas of Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002. She fired from her pistol and distributed swords to her supporters, the affidavit says. This nails Mr Modi’s claims that the riots were a reaction to the burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra which claimed 59 lives and that the state had no role in it. Clearly, Ms Kodnani’s continuance in the council of ministers has become untenable as she may hinder smooth investigation and trial. Constitutional propriety demands that she must be sacked from the ministry forthwith and proceeded against in accordance with the law.

Unfortunately, there is virtually no rule of law in Gujarat. While politicians and officers involved in the riots continue to occupy responsible positions, the victims are yet to get justice from an insensitive and indifferent government. The government has been trying to hide evidence, harass witnesses and subverting the judicial process. Gujarat High Court Judge Justice A.S. Dave has refused to hear a plea to cancel the anticipatory bail of Ms Kodnani and VHP leader Jaydeep Patel following tremendous political pressure. Suffice it to mention, he had earlier cancelled the bails of two main accused in the encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh.

As the state government was reluctant to investigate and prosecute politicians, officials and others, the Supreme Court had shifted 10 egregious offences during the riots to Maharashtra and appointed the SIT. The apex court will start hearing petitions from March 6 for the registration of FIR against Mr Modi and 70 others for their complicity and abetment in the riots. Significantly, two senior police officers — Mr R.B. Sreekumar and Mr Rahul Sharma — have deposed before the SIT against Mr Modi. Mr Sreekumar, former ADGP (Intelligence) during the riots, boldly revealed how Mr Modi had instructed him on May 7, 2002, “not to concentrate on the Sangh Parivar as its members were not doing anything illegal”. Indeed, such honest testimonies are the need of the hour and others, too, should come forward to bring the rioters to justice.

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Save jobs
Protectionism is in no one’s interest

Stand-in Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s well-intentioned advice to industry to cut salaries, not jobs, may be in national interest, but for industry profit and survival often come before people. Some representatives of industry feeling the heat of the economic slowdown have accused the government of being in a state of denial and not doing enough to help beleaguered industrial units in the textile, IT, automobile and real estate sectors, in which, according to Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes, five lakh jobs have been lost so far. The loss of jobs and the prospect of unemployment could lead to social unrest, threatening the peaceful environment so vital for industrial growth. It is time corporate social responsibility and good governance come out of TV talk shows and become a reality.

Mr Pranab Mukherjee, inaugurating a labour conference in Delhi on Friday, also came down heavily against the growing trend towards protectionism. Though he had in mind the US, which has passed a law forcing industries getting government aid to employ Americans rather than H1B visa-holding foreigners, the fact is globalisation is on retreat and almost every country is protecting its own interests, jobs and companies by raising barriers. If the US stimulus legislation contains a “Buy American” clause requiring the use of American products in government-funded projects, European countries are doing the same. India, too, has imposed curbs on cheaper imports of steel, soybean and toys.

Increasing protectionist tendencies are hurting poorer countries more than the developed world. There have been protests or riots sparked by protectionism in Russia, China, Britain, France, Iceland and Greece. To limit the spread of recession, ease the credit crunch and stop the collapse of banks, global cooperation is required. Jobs should not be sacrificed at the altar of profit. It is part of Asian culture to keep employees even at lower salaries rather than go in for mass retrenchment to tide over a crisis. Mr Mukherjee’s advice to industry to protect jobs at a time of crisis should be viewed in this context.

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Pak getting ungovernable
The world must act before it is too late 

Pakistan is finding it difficult to ensure that the writ of the state runs throughout the territories under its control. People are being killed with frightening frequency on one pretext or the other. Even such solemn occasions as burial processions are not safe as Friday’s suicide bomb attack in Dera Ismail Khan, leading to the death of 28 mourners, shows. The victims were part of a funeral procession taken out for a prominent Shia cleric, killed by unidentified gunmen a day before. Only two weeks have elapsed since 35 people lost their lives in sectarian violence in this NWFP town. Such incidents, occurring in different parts of Pakistan quiet routinely, are clear symptoms of the country becoming ungovernable.

The state of paralysis has been more visible after the clerics controlling the Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa complex in Islamabad openly challenged the government, asking for the implementation of the Sharia laws in Pakistan. The then Musharraf regime committed a number of blunders which amounted to allowing those violating the law to gather arms and ammunition and convert the students of the two madarsahs attached to the mosque into jihadis. It was too late by the time the government decided to take them on militarily in July 2007. All this only contributed to the spreading lawlessness in Pakistan.

Even the virtual surrender to the diktats of the Taliban in both parts of Waziristan could not help restore any semblance of order or authority. The Taliban and other militant elements used the deals they had entered into with Islamabad to strengthen their position to cause death and destruction at will. The result was that Islamabad lost most parts of the NWFP, including the Swat valley, to the Taliban. Now in the Malakand-Swat region, Pakistan has swallowed the same bitter pill in the mistaken belief that it may help cure the paralysis it is suffering from. There are indications that the fate of the latest peace deal, too, will be no different from the earlier ones. The international community cannot afford to remain silent spectators. After all, Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons, which must not be allowed to fall into the hands of militants. 

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Thought for the Day

Is this her fault or mine? The temper or the tempted, who sins most? –– William Shakespeare

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Democracy’s surge in S. Asia
A new opportunity in Bangladesh
by Maharajakrishna Rasgotra

Democracy is making strides in South Asia. A few years ago, Bhutan's highly respected and popular King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, created a bi-cameral parliament with a fully elected lower House, voluntarily gave up his absolute powers and ensured a smooth transition to constitutional monarchy. Last year, he installed his young son, a modern and liberal minded prince, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, on the throne.

In a parallel development in Nepal, after years of civil conflict, an elected Parliament ousted an autocratic king and replaced a centuries' old monarchy with a federal republic. In the Maldives, a new constitution and a free and fair election resulted, in 2008, in the defeat of an entrenched oligarch and the rise to power of a long-suppressed opposition.

Even in Pakistan, long inured to rule by its army, a military dictator was forced out by a non-violent protest movement and democracy restored in the country once again. But, once again, because of disunity among the leading political parties of the country, an elected government is beginning to slide under the dominance of its power-hungry military. Nepal's democratic epiphany is also shadowed by the denial of equal rights to half of the country's population and the ideological rigidity of its Maoist rulers. But the people have tasted power in Nepal and democracy should be expected to survive the present turbulence.

It is in Bangladesh, however, that democracy's fortunes have taken the most dramatic and promising turn. In a series of remarkable developments in that country, the Army stepped in to remove Begum Khalida Zia's corruption-ridden government, installed and oversaw a non-party interim government, cleansed the political environment, streamlined the administration, organised a free and fair general election and went back to the barracks after handing over the reins of government to an elected Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, commanding support of 280 members in a House of 300.

India has large stakes in the political stability, peace and development, progress and prosperity in each one of its South Asian neighbours. Their weaknesses are often a source of unease for them and of avoidable problems for India: their strength would enhance India's own strength and stature. Therefore, it has been India's policy to strive for a relationship of friendship and cooperation with its South Asian neighbours. But India's disparately large size and resources rouse in them a psychosomatic syndrome of dependence and inequality, unwarranted envy, fear and jealousy and a ceaseless search for an external balancer, a role which China is ever eager to grab.

Nevertheless, democracy's recent surge in India's neighbourhood opens up new opportunities for closer South-Asian relationships, and our relations with Bangladesh, in particular, offer special promise and deserve India's close attention. For, Bangladesh is a moderate Muslim country with two large political formations and a tolerant society, and the overall prospect is one of stability and steady progress in economic and industrial development. Unlike Pakistan, Bangladesh does not view India as a rival and a threat. Relations between the two countries had soured during Begum Zia's regime because of its blatant sheltering of Indian insurgent groups, the freedom allowed to Pakistan's ISI to plot terrorist actions in India, and because of official encouragement of the ceaseless flow of illegal Bangladeshi migrants into India, especially the sensitive North-Eastern region.

Begum Zia's antagonistic India policy was driven by a small, radical Islamist coalition partner, a remnant of collaborators of the Pakistan Army in the 1971 war. The exercise to repair the damage to India-Bangladesh relations will require determination and the most careful attention on both sides to each other's concerns and needs. The governments, the media, the elites and NGOs, industrial and commercial circles and the armed forces of the two countries should get involved in the process at the highest levels. It would be appropriate for India, the bigger neighbour, to take the initiative to promote contacts and exchanges in all these areas, but without in any way treading on the sensitivities of our smaller neighbour. Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee's low-key visit to Dhaka is a good start in that direction.

Ministerial visits are useful but they are, of necessity, episodic and there is an expectation at the end of each visit of some immediate result. At the governmental level what is needed is a sustained, confidential dialogue for which the best way would be for the Prime Ministers of the two counties to appoint trusted special envoys to discuss ways and means of resolving sensitive issues: the anti-India activities of ULFA and Pakistan's ISI from Bangladesh, cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries, migrations, the unresolved border and enclaves, and Bangladesh's grievances concerning the sharing of waters.

Bangladesh, unlike some other South Asian nations, is a homogeneous and stable country, free from any serious cause for internal confrontations and strife. It has a thriving civil society and an abundance of young talent. Despite the poor governance and corruption of recent years, the country's economy has progressed steadily at a GDP growth rate of 5 per cent per annum. If it can bring itself round to allowing development — with help from the World Bank and other international bodies — of rail, road and river transport facilities across its territory, Bangladesh can become a hub of South Asia's trade with South-East Asian countries, with substantial gains for itself in wealth and employment opportunities. In the process, it will make India dependent on it in the vital area of transport.

We in India need to remind ourselves, from time to time, that Bangladesh is very different from Pakistan and its people are not ashamed or resentful of their shared heritage of the subcontinent's civilisational tradition. At the people's level, there is considerable Bangladeshi-friendly engagement with India. More than half a million Bangladeshis visit India every year. India is the single most important destination for Bangladeshis needing medical treatment. Around 200,000 Indian professionals — doctors, engineers, bank heads and other managerial personnel — are working in Bangladesh, and their numbers can grow with visa facilitation and greater frequency of air and surface transport services between the two countries.

Bangladesh has a huge trade deficit with India, which is not a particularly healthy situation for either partner, and India should seriously consider removing the numerous tariff and non-tariff barriers against Bangladeshi goods. These barriers, a political irritant and a hindrance to trade flows, are of little economic consequence to the much larger Indian economy. However, their removal alone will not resolve Bangladesh's problems. It has few manufactured goods to sell to India. Therefore, the two governments should devise measures to encourage private sector cooperation for setting up industrial joint ventures in Bangladesh to produce exportable goods.

Bangladesh's reluctance to export to India natural gas and coal, of which it has huge reserves, is understandable. A better, mutually beneficial course would be for reputed Indian companies— Reliance Industries Ltd, the Tatas and the Birlas — to invest in Bangladesh to generate cheap energy there for domestic consumption and for export.

There are other projects too in the implementation of which India could play a role, e.g. Chittagong port development. In an improved climate of confidence, trust and cooperation, an enlarged and modernised Chittagong port could become a major trading hub for Bangladesh, north-eastern India, Bhutan and Nepal. And a cooperative India-Bangladesh relationship, in addition to benefiting the two neighbours, could become the catalyst for a whole new era of cultural, economic and political coming together of South and South-East Asia.

The writer, a former Foreign Secretary, is President, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

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Made in heaven
by P.C. Sharma

RAZZMATAZZ of Indian marriages can be devastatingly confounding. Especially, when in big cities, far too many weddings take place on the same day, and around the same time.

The range of decorations of venues, of course, depends on how much one is prepared to splurge. A practice of yore that still persists is having the bride and the bridegroom heavily draped and swathed in embellishments. Outlandish menu for dinner is also often a common sight.

This look-alike show of festivities creates serious problems for the first-time invitees, particularly, those who arrive before time and have to attend more than one marriage. They are in a tearing hurry to hand over the gifts. Once my former chief and I walked into a wrong venue. We handed our packets to a person whom we thought was the kin of the host. He betrayed no emotion and said no thanks.

A nagging doubt alerted us that our gifts had landed in wrong hands. We soon noticed the real host in “pandal” right opposite. Tactfully, we retrieved our gifts and passed them on to our friend.

This is only a minor episode of mix-up Indian marriages can lead to. A wedding was solemnised in a coastal town of eastern India. Dazzled by decorations, the marriage party missed the right “pandal”. But the guests did not care. Late and hungry, they headed straight for the food “pandal”.

The bridegroom with his face covered was escorted to a tastefully decorated mandap. The mother-in-law waiting eagerly to welcome him suffered a rude shock when she noticed that the boy was not the one they had chosen for their daughter. She complained to her husband that the groom was too dark and looked too aged and certainly not the one they had selected.

The husband tried to pacify the lady, saying that because of the long journey the boy was not his usual self. Doubts were confirmed when the bride arrived and found that the groom in front of her was not the one she had set her eyes on.

The situation became more tricky when the real marriage party arrived, profusely apologising for delay on account of alighting at a wrong venue on the way. Very little of the food items were left for the stragglers. But this did not mar the mood of the host and the guests as the right groom had arrived for the right bride. In-laws, on both sides, heaved most satisfying sighs of relief and exclaimed almost in a chorus that marriages are made in heaven.n
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Pakistan after Mumbai
Trapped in its own coils of deceit
by B.G. Verghese 

Pakistan has done well to have taken what looks like a step forward on the Mumbai incident though it indulged in much kicking and screaming before making the admission that the crime was partially planned on its soil. The evidence was compelling and international pressure too strong for it to remain in bland denial. This is good as far as it goes, and though Islamabad managed to get entangled in the coils of its own deceits, it did take an effort of will to break out. Having done that, it should go the whole way and be encouraged by India to do so by calibrated responses that bring it corresponding comfort.

As of now, the reply to the Indian dossier is grudging. The argument is that the conspiracy was only partly hatched in Pakistan and that, according to a Foreign Office spokesman, “India must come clean on the multiple facets of the Mumbai tragedy and expose the names of persons in India who were also responsible for acts of omission and commission”.

The reference here is possibly to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s irresponsible statement that the conspiracy could not have been executed without local help and to an earlier report that Col Purohit, being investigated for the Malegaon blast, and who was alleged to have purloined some RDX from military stores in Jammu that was conceivably used in the Samjhauta Express blast, could be linked to Mumbai.

Mr Modi was only trying to score electoral points against the Congress while the ATS later denied any Purohit connection. Those are red herrings, as also the so-called Deccan Mujahideen . The ATS is following all trails and if any Indian hand is detected it will and must be pursued and exposed. Reference to “acts of omission” is irrelevant. If anyone or agency failed in his or its duty in Mumbai, punishment is in order. But that cannot extenuate, let alone condone, the actual conspirators.

The Maharashtra Home Minister has also stated that investigations do not so far reveal the involvement of any HUJI hand from Bangladesh as earlier hinted by Islamabad.

The Indian government was cautious in its initial comments, but if media and political responses were sharper these were provoked by stonewalling from Islamabad and the combination of denial and belligerence in which it has indulged. It is reasonable for Pakistan now to request that any additional information available with India be shared in order to nail the eight Pakistanis who have been detained. Hopefully, the kingpins like Lakhvi, Zarar Shah and others named in earlier terror crimes committed in India will be booked.

Scepticism prevails because many of these men have walked through revolving doors, been kept under “house arrest” or banned and yet been seen on Pakistan TV leading demonstrations and spewing hatred. The recent release of the notorious A Q Khan through a secret agreement approved by the court inspires little confidence in what is going on. The trial remitting the eight arraigned Pakistani accused to judicial custody and the interrogation of Lakhvi are reported to have also been conducted in secrecy with even the lawyer representing the right accused being barred from the proceedings.

This is irregular and understandably fetched an official Indian statement that it expected the actions taken by Pakistan to be speedy, verifiable and transparent. It would add greatly to the credibility of the hearings if an Indian legal representative were present as an observer. One does not wish to be churlish but there is a moral in the fact that President Zardari felt unable to entrust inquiries into the assassination of his own wife, Benazir, to the Pakistan judiciary, fearing a cover-up or other mala fides. The UN has been called in to assist in this case.

President Zardari has in an interview stated that large parts of Pakistan have been overrun by the Taliban and that the country, long in denial of this fact, is in peril. Others too have constantly taken the plea that Pakistan also is a victim of terror. This is true but what is not conceded or is too easily forgotten is that the Taliban and jihadi terror generally have been deliberately nurtured by Pakistan as an instrument of policy which has yet to be clearly abandoned. Else there is no reason why its territory should be handed over to these elements to operate with impunity.

The effort to evoke sympathy on this score is akin to the plea taken by a person who murders his parents and then seeks clemency on grounds of being an orphan.

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President Obama’s Iran strategy
by Doyle McManus

President Obama is working against time to untangle 30 years of enmity and prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb, but even his own advisors know the chance of success is slim. So they also have been working on Plan B: What do we do if Iran gets the bomb?

Today, the Obama administration is debating its Iran policy behind closed doors. Last year, however, four of its key appointees wrote about the issue as private citizens, and their writings suggest they are already planning for how to handle a nuclear Iran.

Dennis Ross, the former Middle East peace negotiator who is expected to be named as Obama's top Iran adviser, argued for giving diplomacy a chance to work but suggested that containment might have to be the future course of US policy.

"Maybe, even if we engage the Iranians, we will find that however we do so and whatever we try, the engagement simply does not work," Ross wrote in a September report published by the Center for a New American Security, a think tank that has supplied several appointees to the new administration. "We will need to hedge bets and set the stage for alternative policies either designed to prevent Iran from going nuclear or to blunt the impact if they do."

If diplomacy fails, another Obama advisor wrote in the same report, the alternative "is a strategy of containment and punishment." That was the conclusion of Ashton B. Carter, Obama's reported choice as an Undersecretary of Defence, who also warned: "The challenge of containing Iranian ambitions and hubris would be as large as containing its nuclear arsenal."

Most (and maybe all) of Obama's advisers see the costs of attacking Iran as outweighing the benefits. If Iran gets closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, they've warned, military action won't look any more appetising than it did under George W. Bush.

But that doesn't mean the United States would do nothing. Instead, Obama aides suggested in their writings, the US should pursue a Persian Gulf version of the containment strategy used against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

What would that mean? For starters, a nuclear-capable Iran would face continued, serious pressure from the United States and its allies to dismantle whatever it had built. Obama might declare that a nuclear attack on Israel would be treated as an attack on the US homeland. And the US military would act to bolster Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states against conventional-warfare threats from an emboldened Iranian regime.

And there is some optimism among administration officials that a nuclear Iran would practice restraint. Gary Samore, Obama's top adviser on nuclear proliferation, and Bruce Riedel, who is running Obama's review of policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, wrote last year that a nuclear-capable Iran, while undesirable, would not be the end of the world. For example, they argued, it seems unlikely that Tehran would give nuclear weapons to terrorists.

"If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is likely to behave like other nuclear weapons states, trying to intimidate its foes, but not recklessly using its weapons," Samore and Riedel wrote in a report for the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations. "As such, Iran will be subject to the same deterrence system that other nuclear weapons states have accommodated themselves to since 1945."

None of this thinking means Obama has abandoned hope in negotiations to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons. At this point, one official said, the administration is focusing on Plan A, not Plan B. But it's welcome evidence that behind the slogan of hope lies a realistic appraisal of the possible outcomes.

During his presidential campaign, Obama called the idea of a nuclear Iran "unacceptable," and offered to meet with the Tehran regime without precondition to persuade it to change course. And his advisers agree that there's still a window for diplomacy.

Samore and Riedel forecast that Iran is "at least two or three years away" from being capable of building a nuclear weapon, and note that there are several stages between capability and deploying a bomb -- stages at which the United States could still work to freeze the programme and contain Iran's behaviour.

The first step, Ross wrote, would be to gather support from Europe, China and Russia. (Undersecretary of State Bill Burns is working on that already.) Next, Obama would seek direct, comprehensive talks with Tehran –– with a tangible threat of tougher economic sanctions if the Iranians don't cooperate, and the promise of rich rewards if they do.

So what should we expect? The contacts with Iran might start with secret talks in Europe between special envoys on both sides, but they're unlikely to begin before Iran's presidential election in June. To pave the way, Obama and his aides have toned down their rhetoric on Iran and talk mostly of outstretched hands and mutual respect. (They are learning to live without the phrase "carrots and sticks," which Iranians say should be used only when talking about donkeys.)

Negotiations won't be easy, and they won't be fast. It's not even clear whether the faction-ridden Tehran government will be able to agree on a coherent negotiating position.

Still, Obama has two advantages his predecessor didn't. First, he has sent unambiguous signals that he's ready to talk with Iran and recognise its legitimacy. That gives Tehran no clear reason to walk away, and Russia and China no easy excuse for opposing tougher sanctions.

Second, with oil revenues tanking, Iran's mullahs are likely to be feeling more vulnerable -- perhaps the only silver lining in the global financial crisis. Russia, Iran's biggest arms supplier, and China, Iran's biggest non-military trading partner, will have less to lose from joining in sanctions if Iran is cutting back on foreign purchases.

Ross, Carter, Samore and Riedel all declined to talk last week when asked if they wanted to expand on what they wrote last year. But their work on Iran before they joined the government adds up to this forecast: Negotiations with Iran are worth trying, but they're not likely to succeed.

If talks fail and Iran moves closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, the United States and its allies will have three options: more sanctions, even though they haven't worked; containment, including a stronger security commitment to Israel; or war.

And of those three unpalatable choices, containment –– with all its uncertainties –– will look like the middle way.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Chatterati
by Devi Cherian
Third front gets activ

The third front is working overtime to woo all small parties in a possibility to form a coalition government after the Lok Sabha elections. Prakash Karat and Amar Singh along with Mulayam Singh have been hobnobbing with Jayalalithaa, the Shiv Sena and the JDU.

Of course, if anyone else like Mamta or the JDS wants to join the bandwagon they are welcome. All this exercise is a power play and a method of pressurising the Congress. They all want a piggyride on the Congress’s back but as usual are playing hard to get whereas it should be the other way round.

The Samajwadi Party is a bit upset with the Congress for not allowing it to have the upper hand in the seat distribution in UP. In other words, they want the whole pie. And the Congress should be grateful for that too.

But they obviously underestimated astute leader Digvijay Singh. They also want to pressurise the CBI to go slow on the cases against Mulayam and not to even entertain Mayawati or her friends.

Sharad Pawar has gone back on his word and is contesting the elections now. He wants the next government of the SPA — Sharad Power Alliance. Even though the third front gets enough seats, he knows that they will need the Congress support, at least from outside.

Of course, the BJP is untouchable for them. In all this power game, one forgets that Lalu Prasad thinks he is the most eligible leader for the Prime Ministership in future. So, we have Jayalalithaa for a change ready to shake hands with the Congress. She is another Prime Minister candidate. So many Prime Minister aspirants even as Manmohan Singh sits pretty with a clean and dignified image.

‘Netaji’ to face Rajnath

The Supreme Court may have rejected a quota for eunuchs but kinnar Daya Rani is all set to fight the coming general election against Rajnath Singh, president of the BJP. Daya Rani is very clear that the BJP chief along with his colleague may have made a lot of money but she has the public’s affection.

She claims that all communities will support her. Her supporters call her “Netaji” and she is the founder of the Sarva Samaj Sewa Samiti. Daya Rani lives with 10 other kinnars in a huge bungalow called Ashiana Bhawan in Ghaziabad.

AICC recast, at last

Just before the Lok Sabha elections the Congress president has reshuffled the AICC. The Congress has been rejuvenated with the induction of Ghulam Nabi Azad as a general secretary. The responsibility of four most difficult states in the country — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Orissa — is not going to be an easy task to handle and deliver.

But keeping in mind his commitment, hard work and organisational skills, he will succeed. Digvijay Singh continues with Uttar Pradesh and sends a strong signal to both the Samajwadi Party and the BSP. Mohsina Kidwai is another Congress worker who is hard working, dedicated, knows and acknowledges the capability of the grassroots worker.

Mukul Wasnik has age on his side with great organisational skills and knows ground realities. The reshuffle has spared the MPs like Priya Dutt and Jitin Prasad, who have to concentrate on winning their constituencies. Now everyone is lobbying for the ticket.

In this general election political parties are going to concentrate on how to reach the numbers that can either make or break the next ruling alliance at the Centre.

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