SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Team Manmohan
Now, time for resolute action
In
a country of the size and diversity of India, Cabinet formation is a complex and complicated task, even when a single party is voted to power. After all, so many parameters like caste, colour, gender, region, religion, etc, have to be satisfied. The task becomes all the more tedious when the pulls and pressures from supporting parties have to be taken into account in a coalition government. 

Nepal gets new PM
Consensus a must for ensuring stability
C
PN (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, who has taken over as the new Prime Minister of Nepal, is essentially a man of consensus. In his maiden address to the nation on Tuesday, he appealed to all, particularly Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, to help him in his pursuit of “politics of consensus, collaboration and unity” to take the Nepalese democratic process forward.



EARLIER STORIES

Lahore again
May 28, 2009
Let peace prevail
May 27, 2009
PM’s appeal
May 26, 2009
Mayawati goes berserk
May 25, 2009
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


Mr K and his clan
When lust for berths is overpowering
The
manner in which Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and his party leaders had conducted themselves over the issue of the DMK’s representation in the Union Cabinet ever since the Lok Sabha elections were announced on May 16 is shocking. They didn’t appreciate the onerous task of ministry formation and every sibling of the Karunanidhi clan wanted to become a minister. 

ARTICLE

It’s North Korea again
Cares two hoots about the world in N-game
by Inder Malhotra
I
N the midst of myriad international crises, North Korea, the world’s poorest and most isolated country, has conducted a second nuclear test that makes it the ninth member of the most exclusive nuclear club. Come to think of it, seven of these nine powers are on the Eurasian landmass, five of them on the Asian continent.


MIDDLE

Tiger, tiger burning bright
by Sumita Misra
I
T was just another day at work for Gomti, our favoured elephantine transport for the day. Oblivious to the warm afternoon sun glinting off the flowing water and delving deep, like nimble fingers, into the tall grass, she set off, a stately ship on a green sea.



OPED

Growing support for army action against Taliban
by Kuldip Nayar
I
NEVER accepted the explanation by Asfandyar Wali, leader from the NWFP, that the agreement Islamabad had reached with the Taliban on the rule of Shariat in the Swat Valley and the five adjoining districts would put a stop to their advance.

China is speaking up
by Sebastian Mallaby
With
extraordinary speed, China has morphed from a diffident player in international finance into an impatient table-banger. Six months ago, one could muse about whether the Chinese were interested in a larger role within the International Monetary Fund or in helping to rebuild the crisis-battered global system.

Paint your roof white, says climate guru
by Steve Connor
Some
people believe that nuclear power is the answer to climate change, others have proposed green technologies such as wind or solar power, but Barack Obama’s top man on global warming has suggested something far simpler – painting your roof white.

Corrections and clarifications

 


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Team Manmohan
Now, time for resolute action

In a country of the size and diversity of India, Cabinet formation is a complex and complicated task, even when a single party is voted to power. After all, so many parameters like caste, colour, gender, region, religion, etc, have to be satisfied. The task becomes all the more tedious when the pulls and pressures from supporting parties have to be taken into account in a coalition government. Under the circumstances, Team Manmohan Singh that has been sworn in now is a fairly balanced set of experience and youth. We are talking about the overall picture, because there are bound to be plenty of complaints from one section or the other, whichever way you distribute the ministerial berths. For instance, there is a lot of cribbing about the excessive representation given to Karnataka and Maharashtra — to some extent even Himachal Pradesh from where the Congress has won only one seat — and the short shrift given to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, etc. But seen with a birds’ eyeview, it is a fairly balanced dispensation.

Some of the recognizable deadwood is out and no tears are likely to be shed. Those who did well have been promoted – although so have been those who did not really show any such exceptional spark. There are 28 new faces, with several comprising the so-called youth brigade. Learning from the experience of the veterans, they can prove to be the youthful livewire that India badly needs.

The DMK and the Trinamool Congress have managed to get their men and women in after hard bargaining. That is bound to happen when no party has a clear majority. But it is not necessary that the Prime Minister will continue to succumb to pressure in the making of policies. He has the strength of numbers to push through policy decisions in wider public interest and not for sectoral reasons. Many of them remained in limbo during his first stint due to the tantrums thrown by the allies. Now he can make the team work for a national agenda. The 100-day action plan that he has in mind might transform the nation. Precious 13 days have already gone by in the task of Cabinet formation. No more time can be lost. The new men will in will have to pick up the batons and start running fast at once. There is no time to lose. 

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Nepal gets new PM
Consensus a must for ensuring stability

CPN (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, who has taken over as the new Prime Minister of Nepal, is essentially a man of consensus. In his maiden address to the nation on Tuesday, he appealed to all, particularly Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, to help him in his pursuit of “politics of consensus, collaboration and unity” to take the Nepalese democratic process forward. In the interest of peace, the Maoists, who will now be sitting in the opposition, must extend their cooperation to the new government. They should realise that people will never forgive a party that creates any kind of hindrance in the way of completion of the democratic process.

Mr Nepal, who was elected by the Constituent Assembly last Saturday to head the new government, formally took over on Monday. He has the support of 359 members in a House of 601. The Himalayan nation had plunged into political uncertainty after UCPN (Maoists) leader Mr Prachanda resigned as Prime Minister on May 4 following a controversy over the dismissal of Nepal Army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal. The removal of the top General was reversed by President Ram Baran Yadav as the Supreme Commander of the Nepalese Army. Mr Prachanda quit the government in protest against the presidential intervention as this upset his unholy plans.

The name of Mr Nepal was proposed by Nepali Congress chief Girija Prasad Koirala, though Mr Koirala’s party is the second largest group in the Constituent Assembly. Mr Nepal’s party holds the third position, but he emerged as the consensus candidate of the alliance of the parties looking for Mr Prachanda’s replacement. Mr Nepal is not new to running the administration, as he was Deputy Prime Minister when his party led the minority government in 1994. He has the experience of handling various portfolios like Defence and Foreign Affairs. Interestingly, he also heads the committee set up for drafting the constitution of New Nepal by 2010. How far he will succeed in accomplishing the tasks before his country depends on the extent of cooperation he gets from the Maoists. The capacity of the Maoists to derail the democratic process cannot be underestimated, but it will be wise of them to strive to come back to power with democratic means. 

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Mr K and his clan
When lust for berths is overpowering

The manner in which Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and his party leaders had conducted themselves over the issue of the DMK’s representation in the Union Cabinet ever since the Lok Sabha elections were announced on May 16 is shocking. They didn’t appreciate the onerous task of ministry formation and every sibling of the Karunanidhi clan wanted to become a minister. In a parliamentary system of government, the Prime Minister has the ultimate authority to choose his team and no ally can dictate terms to him either on the composition of the ministry or in the selection of portfolios. The problem with Mr Karunanidhi was that he wanted Cabinet berths for M.K. Azhagiri (eldest son), Dayanidhi Maran (grand nephew), Kanimozhi (daughter), A. Raja and T.R. Baalu (trusted lieutenants). Following the stalemate, seven DMK’s nominees were sworn in on Thursday instead of May 22.

Interestingly, it was only after Ms Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP, opted out of the ministerial race that the DMK could reach a satisfactory solution to the impasse. Mr Karunanidhi was keen on the inclusion of Mr Baalu as well. This, too, did not materialise because of the Congress stand that the DMK would be given only three Cabinet berths and four Ministers of State. All this proves the obvious — Mr Karunanidhi is running the DMK like a family. For him, kinship and not merit is the criterion for ministership.

What he and his family members do not realise is that allies must respect the coalition dharma. They should not make unreasonable demands for Cabinet berths or plum portfolios. Selection of ministers is purely the Prime Minister’s prerogative and as he is finally accountable to the people for his government’s performance, he should have complete freedom and authority to select his team. Any undue pressure on him will undermine his authority and compromise the national interest. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has handled the issue well and he — and Congress President Sonia Gandhi — rightly rejected the DMK’s unreasonable demand for more Cabinet berths and plum portfolios for their representatives in the Cabinet. Allies like the DMK, the Trinamool Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party would do well to follow the coalition dharma for the successful functioning of the Union Government.

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Thought for the Day

No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace/As I have seen in one autumnal face. — John Donne

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It’s North Korea again
Cares two hoots about the world in N-game
by Inder Malhotra

IN the midst of myriad international crises, North Korea, the world’s poorest and most isolated country, has conducted a second nuclear test that makes it the ninth member of the most exclusive nuclear club. Come to think of it, seven of these nine powers are on the Eurasian landmass, five of them on the Asian continent.

Of Pyongyang’s reasons for acting as it has, the paramount was its determination to defy the United States in a resounding manner. Indeed, its defiance of the US and the UN Security Council, for that matter, could not have been more brazen. Whatever North Korea’s faults, the fact remains that Kim Il-jong had agreed to abjuring nuclear tests only in return for American willingness to provide him with “security guarantees”, economic aid, and reactors for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The US reneged on its part of the agreement; so has North Korea on its.

The second reason for the second North Korean blast is that the US and the West had tried to minimise, if not ridicule, Pyongyang’s first nuclear test in 2006, just as they had tried to downplay Pokhran-I and Pokhran-II. That ploy cannot be repeated because, according to Russian sources, the weapon tested this time is of the strength of the Nagasaki bomb.

No wonder, the US has condemned the North Korean test vigorously, and largely at its behest, the UN Security Council has passed a resolution along the same lines, but to little effect. The council has said that North Korea has violated its earlier resolution enjoining upon it not to test. That resolution was adopted after North Korea had conducted a ballistic missile test in April. Under which international law did the Security Council act? As for violation of UN resolutions, Israel is the worst culprit. Does the US utter a word against it? Moreover, North Korea, a signatory to the NPT, withdrew from it, in accordance with the prescribed procedure, way back in 2003. Pyongyang did not repudiate the CTBT, however, though it never ratified it. In any case, the CTBT is not in force because its sponsor, the US, hasn’t ratified it yet.

China and Russia have gone along with both the past and the present Security Council resolutions against North Korea. But both of them have refrained from endorsing America’s fulminations or its demands for exemplary action. The Security Council is wrestling with the question of punishing North Korea. But the moot question is that, given the severity of the sanctions already imposed on North Korea, what more can be done? Nor should it be overlooked that the North Korean regime is trying to build a nuclear arsenal not because it sees any security threat to itself but to deter any American attempt for “regime change”.

It so happens that China is the only country with any clout in North Korea worth the name. It did play the most important part in the six-nation talks intended to restrain North Korea, but it has absolutely no interest in a regime change there. For, any such eventuality could, in fact, result in a flood of refugees into the Chinese mainland. Ironically, therefore, China is virtually North Korea’s “protector”, just as it has been Pakistan’s protector during the latter’s proliferating activities through the infamous nuclear scientist, A. Q, Khan. Incidentally, Khan, once put under house arrest by the former Pakistani military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, is strutting about in Pakistan. All US efforts to get his custody for investigation into his nefarious activities have failed.

As for North Korea, it has never had any compunction about selling its missile technology and it could do the same for nuclear technology. It is no secret that in Benazir Bhutto’s time it bartered missile technology and missiles for Pakistani nuclear technology. Not long ago, Israel bombed an industrial plant in Syria that, it claimed, was really a nuclear facility being built with North Korean help.

Under the circumstances, New Delhi was right to join the US and the international community in criticising the North Korean test. At the same time, it wisely expressed itself mildly. (China had done the same at the UN.) Such restraint needs to be followed in future, too.

Understandably, the most powerful impact of the North Korean test has been on South Korea and Japan that have been gravely concerned over the North Korean threat to their security for a long time. TV images from Seoul show how angry South Korean demonstrators are. But it is also starkly clear that nearly 60 per cent of South Korean military and industrial assents are within the North’s artillery range. Seoul’s dependence on the American security umbrella would, therefore, increase manifold. The South Koreans would also seek anti-ballistic missile defence.

Japan’s is a different case. The Japanese constitution forswears nuclear weapons. But, of late, the sentiment for revising this provision has been growing across the country. If it decides to go nuclear, Japan can do so almost immediately. But America would not want it to have nuclear weapons of its own. China most certainly will not. And American dependence on China, especially in the face of the economic meltdown, is more than considerable. How this circle would be squared remains to be seen.

What will Iran make of the latest developments and what these would do to its own nuclear programme is another major question worrying all concerned, especially the US. According to American sources, Tehran’s nuclear quest is ahead of what was thought earlier.

What can America do in this context and what impact the current flurry might have on this country? In the first place, the NPT Review Conference is scheduled for next year. North Korea would be the main item on the conference’s agenda. There might indeed be a concerted move to remove from the NPT the clause that allows the signatories to opt out of the treaty. American demands for an immediate expansion of non-proliferation measures such as universalisation of the NPT, enforcement of the CTBT and conclusion of the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) would become more strident. Already, the non-proliferation ayatollahs in the Obama administration are making outlandish suggestions about what India should or should not do,

The crowning irony is that to the US and its cohorts, disarmament means only arms control, not total elimination of nuclear weapons even though some retired American statesmen are paying lip service to this wholesome objective. India will have to be watchful.

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Tiger, tiger burning bright
by Sumita Misra

IT was just another day at work for Gomti, our favoured elephantine transport for the day. Oblivious to the warm afternoon sun glinting off the flowing water and delving deep, like nimble fingers, into the tall grass, she set off, a stately ship on a green sea.

Her passengers, two adults and our two teenaged children, were tingling with anticipation, eager to absorb everything unfolding before us. This was the Dhikala Chaudh in the Corbett National Park — prime territory for animal spotting and, tiger tracking.

Having covered a fair bit of the forest earlier, on jeep, I must confess, we were already a bit blasé. A herd of chital grazing quietly, no longer evoked excitement. Wild boar, sambar, barking deer, even wild tuskers all were par for the course. Our jungle-jaded senses could only be tickled by the ultimate prize — sighting a tiger! And that was our quest that April afternoon.

Tigers and I go back a long way, with me gracing various tiger sanctuaries since childhood, each time convinced that this would be the lucky visit. But the king of the jungle always gave me the slip, fresh pugmarks being the closest I had come to a sighting.

Param, my husband, was a similar luckless veteran. Together we thought our kismet would change — our ‘honeymoon’ was spent prowling around two major tiger reserves, but nary a tiger crossed our paths.

So as we rolled along, the old desire, dormant for so many years, rekindled. Yet all that was happening was Gomti, both her orifices in continuous action, munching nonstop while, at the same time, generously fertilising/irrigating the trails.

Then suddenly, Gomti lurched and snorted, even as we heard a low growl. A blur of orange leapt away from right under us. The Rajah himself! Disturbed in his siesta, he stalked away, haughty, magnificent and utterly disdainful.

But what glory he personified! A natural grace in every sinuous movement, as he turned, stretched and arched his head to survey his domain. His golden body emanated pure beauty, power and danger.

Our initial shock quickly metamorphosed into excitement, and confusion. Whether to simply gaze, in abject adoration (me) or to click some photos (the family) for posterity and more practically, for proof, that we actually had seen a tiger!

After a full 45-minute darshan, we turned away, leaving the royal beast lolling, his deep amber gaze steady upon us. I wondered, did he know what impact he had on us? Did the years of searching increase the intensity of the moment? Is it possible for any quest — whether for god, celebrity or beloved, to leave the object of the seeking entirely unaffected?

Some questions are never quite satisfactorily answered. But as we basked in the collective euphoria of that moment, life seemed indelibly, more vivid, more technicolour, for having encountered, a tiger in the wild.

Sorry, folks, you just have to experience it to know what I mean.

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Growing support for army action against Taliban
by Kuldip Nayar

I NEVER accepted the explanation by Asfandyar Wali, leader from the NWFP, that the agreement Islamabad had reached with the Taliban on the rule of Shariat in the Swat Valley and the five adjoining districts would put a stop to their advance.

He was not happy over the understanding reached but, as he told me, they had no other option when the government found that the people in Pakistan were not opposed to the introduction of Shariat even in the whole country.

When Islam was the foundation on which the structure of Pakistan was built, chastising those who claimed to bring back true Islam was not possible, he argued.

I now realise that Wali’s point was valid. By allowing the Taliban to assume power in six districts, Islamabad exposed their contention before the public. When on the first flush of authority at Swat, they said that Islam did not believe in democracy, demolished 200 girls’ schools and chastised a seven-year-old girl before TV cameramen, Islamabad’s calculation came true.

The Pakistanis realised that what the Taliban were trying to bring back was not the true version of Islam, but antediluvian extremist rule in the name of Islam. There was a feeling of horror all over the country as the Taliban talked in the language of brim and stone.

For Islamabad, it was a pact with good faith. But for the Taliban, it was a stepping stone for a rule that wanted to do away with democracy and all that went with it. Their advance meant the destruction of the institutions that Pakistan has built so far.

Once there was sympathy for the Taliban. They were considered a set of people who were trying to remove the deficiencies that had crept in Islam over the years. People’s mood has changed now.

They are angry to find what a set of fanatics the Taliban have turned out to be and how they are trying to destroy Pakistan.

Some well-meaning Muslim leaders are still supporting them in the hope that they can retrieve the Taliban.

The support by Fazl Rehman, who once headed a conglomeration of six religious parties, and the Jammat-e-Islami, has stopped meaning anything.

The two are, in fact, considered a stumbling block in the way of the army which has already captured the Swat Valley and moved to Mingorce town and other places where the Taliban have taken shelter.

It is not going to be a short operation because the army would have to go into the caves and other hiding places in the deep mountainous areas.

There is yet another factor that has made all the difference in the thinking of people. When the dead bodies of officers and Pakistani soldiers from Swat and other places arrive in their home towns — Lahore, Multan or Faislabad — people’s anger heightens.

Apart from sharing the grief, they raise slogans against the brutalities committed by the Taliban. The anger is rising and so is the support for the army action.

The manner in which the army has destroyed many hideouts of the Taliban, killing them in great number, has given hope to the people that the Islamic extremists would be ultimately defeated.

In fact, people regretfully recall how the Taliban were built by General Zia-ul-Haq and even sustained by the late Benazir Bhutto, who used to say that they were “her children.”

This unthinking support made the Taliban bold and helped them penetrate into society. Some gullible Pakistanis still help them.

The blast which has taken place in Lahore this week at a busy road, killing some 20 people, shows that there are insiders helping the Taliban. Society on the whole will have to cleanse the stable if such incidents are to be stopped.

The fallout that is assuming dangerous proportion is the influx of refugees from Swat and its adjoining areas. Roughly two million people are said to have fled from there and Wazirstan.

Feeding them is a problem which the US and European assistance is mainly taking care of. But the real solution is how to relocate them.

Punjab is reluctant to take in the refugees. Those who have come are living either on their own or with their relatives and friends. Refugee camps are not welcome there.

This may have something to do with politics because Nawaz Sharif is not in tune with President Asif Ali Zardari’s policies. Yet this is a human problem which the entire nation of Pakistan should attend to collectively.

Refugees seeking shelter in Sind, governed by Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, are being opposed by the MQM, a party of migrants from UP and Bihar.

They do not want more people to come to Karachi and other Sind towns which they have pointed out are already choking facilities like sewage and electricity.

Making people of a state welcome in another state of even their co-religionists is a difficult proposition because it poses problems to those who are already living in reasonable comfort.

I recall that Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri wrote personal letters to the state chief ministers, when migrants from East Pakistan began to pour into Assam. But his pleading for rehabilitation had no effect on any state except Madhya Pradesh, which offered space for only 25,000.

The number was too small in the face of demand of lakhs. In fact, India has not been able to solve the problem of rehabilitation of the oustees. Take the case of people uprooted from the Narmada Valley.

Pakistan will find the problem of rehabilitation even harder because the influx of population can change the complexion of population, a development which has political overtones.

The greatest danger that Pakistan faces is that the misery which has fallen on the Pushtu-speaking people. The army has nearly 25 per cent Pushtuns. The Taliban are also Pushtu-speaking.

The Durand Line in the north still divides the Pushtuns from others. Can all Pushtuns come together to constitute the state of Pakhtunistan, the dream of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi?

Pakistan has to integrate its country first. The nation must rise above parochialism to feel as one united people. It is necessary for Pakistan to become a pluralistic society. If India with so many religions, languages, castes and even standards of living can emerge as one nation, why can’t Pakistan which has the advantage of pursuing only one religion?

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China is speaking up
by Sebastian Mallaby

With extraordinary speed, China has morphed from a diffident player in international finance into an impatient table-banger. Six months ago, one could muse about whether the Chinese were interested in a larger role within the International Monetary Fund or in helping to rebuild the crisis-battered global system.

Now, the Chinese are pumping almost $40 billion into a new East Asian version of the IMF, browbeating trading partners into using the yuan, and floating fantastical ideas about a new international reserve currency.

Visiting Beijing last week, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva picked up on his hosts’ changed mood. Calling for a “new economic order,” he suggested that it was time to stop denominating trade in dollars.

It’s great that China is speaking up. The country accounts for a large share of the world’s savings and much of its growth; if a stable economic order is to emerge from this crisis, it will need Chinese buy-in. But there’s a not-so-great side to China’s transformation, too: Its contribution to the global debate is mostly muddled.

Why have the Chinese found their voice? Put simply, they have bought so much of the international system that they can no longer be indifferent to it. By running colossal trade surpluses, they have accumulated vast holdings of bonds and shares denominated in dollars, the currency at the core of global finance. If the greenback declines, China’s government stands to lose a fortune.

The political backlash from such a loss could be brutal. Already, Chinese bloggers have ripped into the officials who invested $3 billion in the U.S. private equity group Blackstone, only to see the stock plummet.

So Chinese authorities are searching for a way to reduce their exposure to the greenback. The surest method would be to stop buying so many U.S. Treasury bonds; but that would mean allowing the Chinese currency to rise against the dollar, which would hurt Chinese exporters when they are already suffering. So the government is scrabbling around for something — anything — that can spring it from the dollar trap without driving up its currency.

China’s ideas come in two categories. The wackiest popped up unexpectedly on the Web site of the Chinese central bank — itself a stunning sign of the nation’s ambitions to shape the new order. It proposed that the IMF greatly expand its issuance of “special drawing rights,” the multilateral quasi-currency it dreamed up in the late 1960s.

The notion is that the IMF would trade these SDRs for some of China’s dollars, and — presto! — China’s dollar exposure would go down. But the hitch is that either the IMF or one of its member governments would be left holding the bag. The idea is a non-starter.

China’s other approach is to promote the global use of its own currency. Its central bank has offered yuan to Indonesia and Argentina in return for rupiah and pesos. It hopes more trade will be denominated in yuan. Its contribution to the new IMF-like East Asian reserve fund may one day mean that a crisis-prone country in the region borrows partly in yuan.

All this is intended to buy China’s currency some respectability. But as an escape from China’s dollar trap, it is laughable. The idea is that once the yuan goes international, foreigners may be willing to borrow in it. That way, China can keep running a trade surplus and exporting capital, but instead of accumulating bonds denominated in dollars it would be able to accumulate bonds denominated in yuan.

Again — presto! — China’s exposure to the greenback would be reduced. But the hitch is the same as with the IMF idea: The currency risk would be transferred, in this case to China’s borrowers. Given that the yuan is artificially held down by Chinese policy and will almost certainly rise over the medium term, a foreigner would have to be desperate (or intimidated) to help China out of its impasse by borrowing in its currency.

So neither the IMF idea nor the scattershot attempts to internationalize the yuan will rescue the Chinese from their dilemma. China has accumulated at least $1.5 trillion in dollar assets, according to my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Brad Setser, so a (highly plausible) 30 percent move in the yuan-dollar rate would cost the country around $450 billion — about a tenth of its economy.

And, to make the dilemma even more painful, China’s determination to control the appreciation of its currency forces it to buy billions more in dollar assets every month. Like an addict at a slot machine, China is adding to its hopeless bet, ensuring that its eventual losses will be even heavier. It is easy to appreciate China’s sudden appetite for bold new ideas about international finance. But Beijing’s leaders look less like the architects of a new Bretton Woods than like aspiring Houdinis.

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Paint your roof white, says climate guru
by Steve Connor

Some people believe that nuclear power is the answer to climate change, others have proposed green technologies such as wind or solar power, but Barack Obama’s top man on global warming has suggested something far simpler – painting your roof white.

Steven Chu, the US Secretary of Energy and a Nobel prize-winning scientist, has said that making roofs and pavements white or light-coloured would help to reduce global warming by both conserving energy and reflecting sunlight back into space. It would, he said, be the equivalent of taking all the cars in the world off the road for 11 years.

Speaking in London on Wednesday prior to a meeting of some of the world’s best minds on how to combat climate change, Dr Chu said the simple act of painting roofs white could have a dramatic impact on the amount of energy used to keep buildings comfortable, as well as directly offsetting global warming by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth.

“If that building is air-conditioned, it’s going to be a lot cooler, it can use 10 or 15 per cent less electricity,” he said. “You also do something in that you change the albedo of the Earth – you make it more reflective. So the sunlight comes down and it actually goes back up – there is no greenhouse effect,” Dr Chu said.

When sunlight is reflected off a white or light-coloured surface much of that light will pass through the atmosphere and back into space, unlike the infrared radiation emitted from the Earth’s warmed-up surface, which is blocked by greenhouse gases and causes global warming.

“What we’re doing is that, as we put in more greenhouse gases, we’re putting in more insulation for infrared light. So if you make white roofs and the sunlight comes in, it goes right through that [insulation],” said Dr Chu.

The principle could also be extended to cars where white or “cool colours” designed to reflect light and radiation could make vehicles more energy efficient in summer. “If all vehicles were light-coloured, there could be considerable savings because then you can downsize the air conditioning... and downsizing the air conditioner means more efficient air conditioning and a considerable reduction in energy,” he said.

“Now you smile, but if you look at all the buildings and make all the roofs white, and if you make the pavement a more concrete-type of colour than a black-type of colour, and you do this uniformly... It’s the equivalent of reducing the carbon emissions due to all the cars in the world by 11 years,” he said.

“It’s like you’ve just taken them off the road for 11 years. It’s actually geoengineering.”

The idea would even work in countries with temperate climates, such as Britain, because white-coloured roofs would help to reflect the radiated heat from homes and offices back into the building during winter months, said Dr Chu. One unresolved issue concerns the aesthetic considerations of making sloping roofs white. But with flat roofs that are not visible from the street, there should be no objection to painting them white, he said

Dr Chu is one of 20 Nobel prize-winning scientists attending a meeting on climate change at the Royal Society and St James’s Palace organised by Cambridge University. He said energy efficiency will be the most immediate way of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

White revolution: How it would work

* The idea of painting surfaces white to conserve energy is being actively pursued by the US. Earlier this month, Barack Obama’s chief scientific adviser, John Holdren, received a scientific memorandum on the subject.

* Scientists estimate that making roofs and pavements white or more light-coloured would counter global warming with “negative radiative forcing” – reflecting sunlight back into space. They said that retrofitting urban roofs and pavements in tropical and temperate regions with solar-reflective materials would offset about 44 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

* The scientists said it would lower the cost of air conditioning, making buildings more comfortable and mitigate the “urban heat island” effect caused by the concentration of concrete surfaces in cities.

By arrangement with The Independent

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Corrections and clarifications

In the report on Dera Sachkhand (Page 18, May 28), it should read, “We do not condone violence” in the last paragraph.

The slug “Ragging Menace” to the Supreme Court’s admonition to students (Page 18, May 28) was inappropriate as the case was not related to ragging but of students behaving like politicians or political activists.

A headline on the Health & Fitness Page (Page, May 27) spelt ‘hormonal’ as ‘harmonal’.

The headline of a review of a book by Khushwant Singh (Page 5, Spectrum, May 24) should read, “Forthright and fearless”.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error. We will carry corrections and clarifications, wherever necessary, every Tuesday & Friday.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Uttam Sengupta, Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is uttamsengupta@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief

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