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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Mayawati goes berserk
Punishes officials for electoral setback
High on confidence, UP Chief Minister Mayawati had
never expected that her party, the BSP, would be
reduced to the third position in the state after the SP
and the Congress. The ‘Dalit ki Beti’, who had been
dreaming of becoming Prime Minister, is unable to
reconcile to the fact that the BSP is no longer as
popular with the electorate as it was in 2007, when
she won the assembly polls with a thumping majority
and formed the government in Lucknow on her own.

Surging expectations
New economic thrust is on anvil
I
N his second term, Dr Manmohan Singh has a tough
task ahead of living up to the high expectations that
the thumping Congress win has aroused. The wild
stock market upsurge, registering the highest weekly
gain in 17 years, is only one indication. With the
ever-protesting Left out of its way, the new
government will no longer have an excuse not to pull
the inconvenient bits of reforms from the freezer.






EARLIER STORIES

Mandate for Manmohan
May 24, 2009
Manmohan Singh’s A team
May 23, 2009
Perils of “arrogance”
May 22, 2009
The failed fronts
May 21, 2009
Advani stays put
May 20, 2009
Vote for growth
May 19, 2009
North by North-West
May 18, 2009
Risat 2: A feather in the cap
May 17, 2009
The countdown begins
May 16, 2009
Regional satraps in demand
May 15, 2009
Well-done, EC
May 14, 2009
Can’t be just goodwill
May 13, 2009
Before and after
May 12, 2009


Naveen’s hat-trick
The writing was on the wall for BJP
M
R Naveen Patnaik deserves credit for becoming the Chief Minister of Orissa for the third consecutive term. The uncanny manner in which he judges the pulse of the people is an object lesson to other chief ministers. Known to skilfully blend youth and experience, his new government, sworn in on May 21, has many new faces.

ARTICLE

Economic agenda
Global crisis calls for fresh thinking
by Arun Kumar
T
HE Congress as the dominant partner of the UPA is back in the saddle in New Delhi. It is being argued that there is a mandate for the new government to carry out some of what it wanted to do in its previous term but could not — privatisation or labour or insurance reforms. Has the public endorsed the UPA’s dominant economic agenda? Economic issues hardly came up in the election campaign because the Opposition lacked clarity on their importance.

MIDDLE

Every daughter can be Rani
by Sarbjit Dhaliwal
I
T was a hot day in mid-May of the year 1990. As we parked a truck -load of household goods in front of a house in Shant Nagar at Bathinda, a little girl came running. Appearing a little amused, she greeted us with Sat Sri Akal and rushed back with her father to the gate. I had got a portion of the house on rent following transfer from Ropar. After a brief chitchat, we got on the job of offloading goods. The little girl took our baby girl to play with her.

OPED

NPT: India is in a category of its own
by Manpreet Sethi
A
T the third NPT preparatory conference, the last of the PrepComs before the NPT Review Conference in May 2010, the US Assistant Secretary of State voiced her country’s fundamental objective as “universal adherence to the NPT” and called upon the four non-signatories to the NPT (India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea) to join the treaty. No sooner had the call been made than heckles were, expectedly, up in India. The NPT has never been a favourite of the country and is embedded in public perception as a discriminatory treaty that made India a victim of technology denials.

Making North Korea see reason
by Rajaram Panda
T
HE launch of a rocket by North Korea on April 5, capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii in the US and Japan, has sent shivers across the world, which is determined to eliminate nuclear weapons. In doing so, Pyongyang has defied the international community and stirred a chorus of worldwide criticism. It feels it is within its sovereign rights to strengthen its defence capabilities and the international community must not sit in judgement over its actions.

Chatterati
BJP out of touch with ground reality
by Devi Cherian
T
HE Bharatiya Janata Party in Delhi has hit such a low that it polled votes in a single digit in at least 400 polling booths. Amazing, it could manage the lead in just two of the 70 assembly constituencies. The state BJP poll managers admit that the party has been routed in the Lok Sabha elections to such an extent that the rot at the bottom level stands exposed.

Youth power in Parliament

 


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Mayawati goes berserk
Punishes officials for electoral setback

High on confidence, UP Chief Minister Mayawati had never expected that her party, the BSP, would be reduced to the third position in the state after the SP and the Congress. The ‘Dalit ki Beti’, who had been dreaming of becoming Prime Minister, is unable to reconcile to the fact that the BSP is no longer as popular with the electorate as it was in 2007, when she won the assembly polls with a thumping majority and formed the government in Lucknow on her own.

In the just concluded Lok Sabha elections, her party could get only 20 seats, a poor score, going by opinion polls. This called for serious introspection, identifying the causes for the BSP’s poor performance. Instead, Ms Mayawati, evidently, believes that this has been brought about by “non-cooperating” senior officials, who must be punished. One can see no other reason why she has ordered the transfer of 10 IAS and 34 IPS officers, most of whom were working in the constituencies where her party has been defeated.

It would be understandable if she were to say that those responsible for the implementation of the various development projects would be punished if the task was not accomplished within the time-frame fixed for the purpose. She claims to have launched a drive to break the nexus between politicians, middlemen, corrupt officials and mafia elements who come in the way of proper implementation of the government’s schemes.

She has also devised a mechanism to ensure that the fruits of development reach the targeted sections of society. While addressing a meeting of senior officials on Friday, Ms Mayawati specifically mentioned the controversies surrounding the handling of the various projects meant for the downtrodden which contributed a lot to the decline of her party’s popularity.

Apparently, the Chief Minister has already started preparing for the 2012 assembly elections. She has told her ministers, MPs and MLAs to concentrate on their constituencies. There is no harm in this if the realisation has dawned on her that even the so-called committed voters of the BSP cannot be taken for granted. But she must understand that people are interested only in good governance and nothing else. They will never forgive a party that ignores pressing problems like law and order and lack of job opportunities.

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Surging expectations
New economic thrust is on anvil

IN his second term, Dr Manmohan Singh has a tough task ahead of living up to the high expectations that the thumping Congress win has aroused. The wild stock market upsurge, registering the highest weekly gain in 17 years, is only one indication. With the ever-protesting Left out of its way, the new government will no longer have an excuse not to pull the inconvenient bits of reforms from the freezer.

What needs to be done is already being hotly debated. The outgoing members of the Planning Commission and the PM’ s Economic Advisory Council are advocating a third stimulus, while RBI Governor D. Subbarao has debunked the proposal. A worryingly high fiscal deficit and sinking government revenue may have prompted the RBI to disfavour another dose of cash injection at this stage, but the government has no easy choice.

During a crisis, the government cannot, and should not, raise taxes to bolster its revenue. It should rather reactivate the PSU disinvestment process. The slump-hit people and industry want tax concessions, lower interest rates and easy loans to spur consumer spending. Housing demand has not yet picked up, though market forces have pushed builders to shift their focus from luxury apartments and commercial buildings to more affordable housing.

On its part, the government has to raise spending on infrastructure and remove policy hurdles to let in more foreign investment. That policy bottlenecks are holding back growth is what the Prime Minister has himself admitted more than once. With the cantankerous Left off its back, the government can take up long-pending measures like opening up insurance, civil aviation and retail to greater foreign investment.

The pension bill is pending. Opening up banks to foreign capital may have to wait as the present global situation does not warrant this. The decontrol of oil prices is a politically sensitive issue. Lastly, the need for higher spending on agriculture, education and health cannot be over-emphasised. It is a key to inclusive growth.

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Naveen’s hat-trick
The writing was on the wall for BJP

MR Naveen Patnaik deserves credit for becoming the Chief Minister of Orissa for the third consecutive term. The uncanny manner in which he judges the pulse of the people is an object lesson to other chief ministers. Known to skilfully blend youth and experience, his new government, sworn in on May 21, has many new faces.

Judging by the thumping mandate that the Biju Janata Dal has secured, he is riding on high expectations. While the BJD won 103 seats in the 147-member Assembly, it captured 14 of the 21 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. One reason for its landslide victory was the party’s well-timed decision to dump the BJP, its 11-year-old ally. Following the Kandhamal riots in August 2008, which claimed the lives of many Christians, the BJP had become unpopular.

It could win only six seats in the Assembly as against 32 in the 2004 elections. The Congress picked up 25 seats as against 38 last time. The BJD and the BJP parted ways mainly because of the latter’s arrogance and exaggerated opinion of itself. It often acted as the big brother and tried to undermine the BJD. Despite reverses at several places in the panchayat and municipal elections early this year, it did not understand the ground reality and instead demanded more seats from the BJD for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

Mr Patnaik is known to be politically shrewd. However, some of his colleagues did not quite appreciate his parleys with CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat in the run-up to the elections and his inclination towards the nebulous Third Front. The people have indeed shown the door to Mr Karat and his style of politics.

Now that Dr Manmohan Singh has taken over as Prime Minister for another term, Mr Patnaik would do well to extend all possible support to the government at the Centre and pursue constructive politics in the larger interest of the state. At the same time, he must continue to govern the impoverished state with a forward-looking approach.

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Thought for the Day

I can sympathise with people’s pains, but not with their pleasures. There is something curiously boring about somebody else’s happiness. — Aldous Huxley

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Economic agenda
Global crisis calls for fresh thinking
by Arun Kumar

THE Congress as the dominant partner of the UPA is back in the saddle in New Delhi. It is being argued that there is a mandate for the new government to carry out some of what it wanted to do in its previous term but could not — privatisation or labour or insurance reforms. Has the public endorsed the UPA’s dominant economic agenda? Economic issues hardly came up in the election campaign because the Opposition lacked clarity on their importance.

The only economic issue that stirred the pot was the more than a trillion dollars of black wealth stashed abroad in tax havens by corrupt Indians — politicians, businessmen and others. As such, claiming endorsement is an overstatement. The mandate for the UPA is made up of victories in different states for different reasons. In West Bengal, it was the anti-people attitude of the ruling Left Front on the SEZ issue (like in Nandigram), the anti-farmer attitude in Singur and, more recently, in Lalgarh. In Kerala, it was the internal divisions in the CPM that helped.

In Tamil Nadu, it was the Sri Lankan situation that tilted the balance. In Andhra Pradesh and UP, the multi-cornered contests helped and in Maharashtra the undermining of the Shiv Sena by the MNS and so on. This is not to argue that there was not a 2 per cent swing of votes in favour of the Congress and that this is important in multi-cornered contests, but that this is not a massive swing as is being made out and used to push for pro-business policies.

The business lobbies are reading in the victory a chance of getting more concessions. However, if anything, the swing in the rural areas is due to the implementation of NREGA and loan waiver schemes in the last phase of the UPA regime. It may be recalled that these schemes were launched under pressure from the liberal and left opinion in the country and were opposed by the corporate lobbies in the UPA. So, the mandate is for the pro-poor and not pro-business policies.

The mandate is being misinterpreted deliberately but worse, the policies being pushed for by the vested interests are a prescription for aggravating the economic crisis which has deepened globally. We cannot escape it because we are far more integrated with the world today than earlier. The government has managed to keep under wraps the actual economic situation by repeatedly harping on the rate of growth being above 6.1 per cent and that things would improve in six months — keep the lollypop dangling.

Currently, large parts of the economy are experiencing negative growth — the industrial sector, exports, agriculture and major segments of the services sector like transportation, retail trade, real estate, finance and tourism. Thus, the current (and not the average) rate of growth will be close to zero, if not negative. If any projections are to be made, these need to be made from the current trends and not the average of the past year.

Recent reports indicate that the US, Japan and the Euro zone are going deeper into recession, and the IMF in its last report suggested that currently we are at the beginning of the crisis. So, things are likely to get worse in the coming year(s). Chances of a recovery seem to be slim, in spite of the massive fiscal deficits created the world over. The recent sharp rise in the stock markets does not necessarily reflect a turn-around because they have not proved to be good indicators of the health of the economy. They have risen several times during the last one and a half years only to fall steeply.

The work of the new government is now cut out — to stop the economic slide and the steeply declining employment. While inflation rates are low, food prices are still rising. This is bad when wages are under pressure due to rising unemployment. The retrenchments started with the ad hoc and temporary workers which do not show up in the statistics. After the Jet Air fiasco of mass retrenchments, now companies are retrenching permanent staff members piecemeal.

Today the fiscal deficit is over 12 per cent of GDP and likely to climb as the tax revenue collection falls short. According to the RBI data, the corporate sector’s post-tax profits fell by 17 per cent in April-December 2008-09 while they rose by 28.6 per cent in the comparable period of the previous year. Worse, in the third quarter of 2008-09 they fell by 53.4 per cent, indicating a deepening slowdown. A few sectors may be doing well, but one swallow does not make a spring.

Due to the slowdown, corporate tax collection, the largest source of taxes now, is likely to fall short of the targets. It would also mean less excise duty collection (in addition to the decline due to the duty cut announced). Further, due to the rapidly declining imports, customs duty collection would also fall short. For the states there would be less sales tax collection, etc. Due to the decline in the real estate activity, transfer changes will also show a drop. Therefore, there would be little scope for the government to offer more concessions to businesses without worsening the fiscal deficit further.

It is also known that concessions (including in taxes) may not increase the demand but a rise in government expenditure certainly does so and especially in labour- intensive sectors. For this, taxes need to be increased, otherwise deficit would rise further. This strategy would also mitigate the difficulties faced by workers. As argued in these columns last year, preventing unemployment from worsening is important to control social and political problems because once they take hold in a society, economic policies become ineffective.

Indira Gandhi in 1971 got 352 seats and Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 got 414 seats but both lost the mandate within three years. Today, the Congress has only 200-odd seats and if problems grow the UPA allies have shown that they can quickly act pricey and/or switch sides, aggravating the situation.

The deepening global crisis requires new thinking. US President Barack Obama has already argued for creating jobs in Buffalo rather than in Bangalore. There is a rising tide of protectionism and this is not going to end soon. There is also talk of reform of the IMF and the World Bank, and re-architecturing of the global financial system. We have to work out our stand on all this. There is no time to make mistakes and learn from them because of the speed of the evolving global crisis.

Alan Greenspan, who was considered “God” by the financial markets and who was the Fed chief from the late eighties onward, has admitted that he was wrong and that financial markets are not self-correcting. So, the free market ideology is in for a major overhaul.

Further, in the US and elsewhere, assets are getting socialised with the government buying into major companies both from the financial and real world. This can only rise as bankruptcies increase. So, if we do not have policy makers whose mindset is different from that which has been in evidence in the last 18 years, we quickly race towards a deeper social crisis.

The writer is a senior professor at JNU, New Delhi.

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Every daughter can be Rani
by Sarbjit Dhaliwal

IT was a hot day in mid-May of the year 1990. As we parked a truck -load of household goods in front of a house in Shant Nagar at Bathinda, a little girl came running. Appearing a little amused, she greeted us with Sat Sri Akal and rushed back with her father to the gate. I had got a portion of the house on rent following transfer from Ropar. After a brief chitchat, we got on the job of offloading goods. The little girl took our baby girl to play with her.

The little girl was none other than Sharandeep Kaur, who has done Punjab proud by standing second in the IAS examination this year. For all of us she is Rani, her nickname. I have seen her growing since then. As her father Manjit Brar was a busy farmer and mother Surjit Kaur, a teacher in Government Girls Secondary School, Sharandeep on return from local Joseph Convent School spent most of her afternoons playing with my daughter. While playing, both used to sleep on the floor without bothering much about the heat.

On weekends, she, along with her father, used to move to her Mehma Bhagwana village, near Bathinda, and my daughter missed her. We moved to Patiala from Bathinda after staying one and half years in Mr Brar’s house, but our close association continued. As she was doing exceedingly well in her studies, her father often shared with us her progress in academic career. She secured 90 per cent marks in XII standard.

It became a little difficult for her father to decide a future course for her. In mid-1990s, Bathinda had emerged as an excellent coaching centre for admission in the MBBS Brar opted for medical stream for her at plus two level. She did very well in exam but dropped the idea to be a doctor.

Rani is fond of music and reading books right from her childhood. Once she took money from her father to buy clothes. However, she returned with books. Father did not mind it. She is very dear to him. Otherwise of a very shy and reserve nature, Rani is a brilliant communicator but never talks out of turn. After consulting some close friends her father decided to put her at MCM College, Chandigarh, where she topped in IInd and IIIrd year. On passing out with distinction from MCM she took admission in MA psychology and topped in MA part- I and remained second in the MA part-II in the university.

As she passed degree course from the college, a team from University of Manchester in the UK visited her to offer her scholarship for study in psychology there. However, as she was the only child of her parents, she chose not to proceed to the UK. After doing MA, she thought of appearing in the IAS examination. Though she was selected as lecturer in SGGS College at Chandigarh but she did not join as she was certain of making it to the IAS. In the first attempt she made to the final list. However, as her rank was not to her satisfaction, she decided to give one more try and came out with flying colours.

A girl from Bathinda, known for its social backwardness and poor human resource development index, making to the second spot in the IAS final examination, is certainly an achievement worth celebrating for people from Bathinda region, especially for girls. By bringing glory to her parents, Rani has proved that a daughter can be worth several sons. Those who kill daughters in the womb in this region must understand that a Rani can take birth in their family also.

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NPT: India is in a category of its own
by Manpreet Sethi

AT the third NPT preparatory conference, the last of the PrepComs before the NPT Review Conference in May 2010, the US Assistant Secretary of State voiced her country’s fundamental objective as “universal adherence to the NPT” and called upon the four non-signatories to the NPT (India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea) to join the treaty. No sooner had the call been made than heckles were, expectedly, up in India. The NPT has never been a favourite of the country and is embedded in public perception as a discriminatory treaty that made India a victim of technology denials.

The US statement has variedly been interpreted in strategic circles as “end of the promise of Indo-US strategic partnership heralded by the nuclear deal”, “downgrading of India’s position in US calculations”, or “certainty of India’s subjection to immense pressure by the Democrat administration”. Before jumping to such conclusions, however, it is necessary to see the statement a little more dispassionately. First of all, it was made at the third PrepCom of the NPT, two of whose earlier meetings have accomplished little.

The next RevCon is due in just a year from now and the NPT supporters are obviously looking for straws to keep the treaty afloat in one piece. Secondly, this will be the first RevCon after the grant of the special waiver to India that allows its participation in international nuclear commerce without having to accept full scope safeguards on its nuclear programme.

This has amounted to a tacit acceptance of India’s strategic programme. Obviously, this has not gone down well with several countries and some of the acrimony was visible during the NSG’s consideration of India’s exceptionalisation. It should be expected that other countries would voice their unhappiness over the grant of ‘reward’ to India.

In the light of the above facts, the US statement begins to look a little less ominous. Such calls might actually be safety valves for relieving the resentment and frustration at the special status accorded to India. After all, these calls can be of little more than symbolic value since the NPT is so rigidly structured that it has no category under which today’s India can be a member.

In this respect, in fact, India is now in a category of its own, different even from the other three non-signatories whose strategic programmes do not have the same acceptability. It must also be remembered that the NPT is under substantive strain. The withdrawal of North Korea from the NPT in 2003 and the enduring crisis over Iran’s non-compliance with its NPT obligations have led to the impression that the treaty is doomed to failure.

An increasing interest in nuclear energy and the need to reconcile this growth with the concomitant dangers of proliferation that could accompany the spread of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies is a current preoccupation. If the US has its way, it would like to engineer another distinction within the NPT of the ENR haves and have-nots. Obviously, the NNWS are not ecstatic at this development and in order to make this acceptable, the NWS, especially the USA and its allies, the UK, Japan and Australia, have raised the pitch on nuclear disarmament.

However, identification of credible goal posts to get to global zero will be subject to a difficult debate within the NPT. Given the many issues of disagreement on which the NPT could unravel, if there is one question on which all member states (NWS and NNWS) agree, it is the need for universality of the treaty. In fact, “universality” is presently the only glue that holds the members together.

So such calls will be repeatedly made, not so much as to put pressure on the non-signatories to join, as to keep those within the NPT united as a coherent group. It is a different matter that the already existing near universality of the NPT is in no way contributing to the robustness of this instrument. Rather, the NPT is today more threatened from within its own ranks than by the holdouts.

As a state with nuclear weapons and enjoying the special exceptionalisation from NSG guidelines, India occupies a unique position in the non-proliferation regime. In fact, it is pertinent in this context to make the distinction between the NPT and the larger regime. While India is not a subscriber to the NPT, it has consistently supported and held the cause of non-proliferation and is a participant in several other components of the regime such as the IAEA safeguards, the UNSC 1540 resolution, commitment to early conclusion of FMCT or the voluntary moratorium on testing.

Even in the case of the NPT, India supports the principle underlying the treaty, but objects to its form. It would do India well to publicly support the principle of the NPT while exhorting the treaty members to resolve the internal contradictions that weaken it. India need not be ruffled by calls to join the NPT that will be made every now and then. Instead of going on the defensive, India must spread the word that it supports the efforts of the NPT subscribers in dealing with the contemporary nuclear challenges.

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Making North Korea see reason
by Rajaram Panda

THE launch of a rocket by North Korea on April 5, capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii in the US and Japan, has sent shivers across the world, which is determined to eliminate nuclear weapons. In doing so, Pyongyang has defied the international community and stirred a chorus of worldwide criticism. It feels it is within its sovereign rights to strengthen its defence capabilities and the international community must not sit in judgement over its actions.

Far from exercising restraint, North Korea has vowed to end all talks on dismantling its nuclear facilities and indicated that it might restore nuclear facilities disabled under previous accords and “actively review” building a light-water reactor. Pyongyang feels that it is left with no choice but to strengthen its nuclear deterrent in light of “additional military threats by hostile forces”.

It seems that North Korean generals are firmly in the saddle and have convinced Kim Jong Il that his best option is to first play its military card. Pyongyang has announced its withdrawal from the six-party talks in response to the UN Security Council statement condemning the rocket launch, deemed insulting to North Korean people.

It has decided to operate, disabled so far, its five-megawatt plutonium-producing reactor and other facilities at the Yangbyon complex of Pyongyang. It will reprocess spent fuel rods and “actively consider” building a light-water nuclear reactor. Such a stance is likely to heighten regional tension and is being perceived by its southern neighbour as “armed provocation”. It is possible that North Korea’s brinkmanship is designed to win maximum concessions from the US and the international community.

While China has called for “calm and restraint” from all sides, Russia has expressed regret over Pyongyang’s actions. South Korean analysts see that Pyongyang has limited its communication with the outside world to bilateral talks with the US and China. Notwithstanding the careful crafting of the UNSC statement to keep North Korea from leaving the negotiating table, Pyongyang lost no time not only to pull out from the six-party talks but also to eject international inspectors.

For Kim Jong Il, the rocket launch served multiple agenda: demonstrating toughness to a domestic audience at a time when some may be questioning his life expectancy, retaliating against both South Korea and Japan for perceived and real slights, enhancing the country’s marketing strategy for foreign missile sales, and raising the price for any possible buy-out should the six-party reconvene. Seen in this light, Pyongyang’s decision seems not bad for a poor, dysfunctional, friendless country.

What does it mean to the Obama administration? Saddled with domestic issues stemming from the economic meltdown and evolving an appropriate policy response to the AfPak strategy with the ultimate aim of implementing an exit strategy, the news from Pyongyang only exposes Obama’s vulnerability. Pyongyang’s decision to restart its nuclear facility has left the Obama administration scrambling to demonstrate resolve while leaving the door open to talks that will defuse the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Obama has proposed imposing United Nations financial sanctions on 11 North Korean companies it says are involved in the country’s lucrative trade in ballistic missile technology. It is unclear if Obama will indeed impose the sanctions when US officials make frequent statements that North Korea should return to the six-party talks on eliminating its nuclear stockpile.

What are then the options before Obama? Military option is not viable, especially when the US is already committed to two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Short of a second Korean war, military options have priced themselves out of the market as indeed they have for the past 50-plus years. Economic sanctions have been ineffective in shaping Pyongyang’s behaviour. Despite the past UN resolutions banning luxury items, there appears to be no shortage of fine cognac and fancy electronics in Pyongyang.

Moreover, China and Russia are unwilling to impose additional UN sanctions. The US, Japan and South Korea could unilaterally adopt commercial and other trade sanctions. But these countries’ leverage is limited due to their relative lack of interaction with the North. Then, while Pyongyang does not want to allow its people to suffer hardship, China would not allow the North to collapse.

Diplomatically, that leaves the six-party talk option open. The Bush administration put untenable conditions on the North only to capitulate after the latter raised tensions, whether over the Banco Delta Asia accounts in Macau or the October 2006 nuclear test. Rewarding North Korea’s behaviour has only encouraged more misbehaviour. By pleading the North to return to the six-party talks, the Obama administration now appears to be making the same mistake.

It will be a mistake if Obama follows what Bush had tried to do by bribing the North back to the negotiating table. It is for the North to want to come to the table to investigate whether it makes sense for them to abandon their nuclear weapons programmes and forge a fundamentally new relationship with the US and the region. The US and the other members of the six-party talks cannot make this calculation for Pyongyang.

The possible options for Obama are, therefore, three: (a) resume the six-party talks whenever the North is ready and maintain patience; (b) repair relations with Japan and South Korea, which were bruised in recent years; and (c) welcome South Korea to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and encourage China to do so. The message may be sent to Pyongyang loud and clear that the international community will not tolerate the North’s export of any nuclear technology or ballistic missile.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses,
New Delhi.


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Chatterati
BJP out of touch with ground reality
by Devi Cherian

THE Bharatiya Janata Party in Delhi has hit such a low that it polled votes in a single digit in at least 400 polling booths. Amazing, it could manage the lead in just two of the 70 assembly constituencies. The state BJP poll managers admit that the party has been routed in the Lok Sabha elections to such an extent that the rot at the bottom level stands exposed.

In the assembly elections, 234 polling booths had seen single-digit votes for the party. The youth leaders in the party are now up in arms against the state leaders, accusing them of having a “disconnect” with the voters in the capital. Also that the municipal corporators and mandal presidents of the party are indulging in money-making and harassing people in their areas, thus projecting the image of a corrupt BJP at the grassroots level.

If any construction activity is seen in the area, BJP municipal corporators and the mandal presidents see to it that they milk the people to the maximum. With 90 percent of the city having an interface with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the BJP has been handed over right punishment by the people. So unaligned were BJP leaders with the ground reality that some senior leaders had, in fact, allocated portfolios to themselves.

Youth power in Parliament

Parliament has just got older and acquired more criminals. There are cold and harsh statistics to support this. But the mood at the moment is defined by a new energy that goes well beyond the dramatic story of a stable government with a comfortable majority. Suddenly, it’s a story of youth power coming to the fore. And strangely, a majority of the young MPs are a part of the ruling alliance.

So led by the redoubtable Rahul Gandhi, they are all raring to go. There is no doubt that there are young voters, young leaders and parties making promises to the youth all over. The good news is that it’s the young who have been victorious in a big way. Both Deepender Hooda and Supriya Sule have huge margins to be proud of. Hooda,  for example, has won with the highest margin in the country.

And the smallest constituency in the nation, the Andamans, can boast of returning the youngest member to Parliament. Another winner, Agatha Sayma, was the youngest MP in the last Parliament. So a young new team marches in. Most of the young winners happen to be the inheritors of political legacy. Only the Rahul brigade’s 10 young office-bearers have no such legacy to bank on.

The Prince Charming clearly intends to lead them to positions of responsibility in the Congress. He is the one who made sure that benefits of all schemes of the Central Government trickled down to the ground level.  The grand old party has stolen a march over its rival, the BJP.

The story of youth clearly remains the big theme the electorate this time will watch carefully. Young voters have spoken, but so have the not-so-young and the old. Believing it’s time to hand over responsibility to the new generation is one thing, expecting them to deliver is quite another. And on that, we still have time to wait and watch.

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