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EDITORIALS

Friends, or foes?
Strange way of fighting the Taliban
M
any in the Pakistan establishment occupying key positions are doing all they can to save the Taliban from getting decimated. Their efforts may not be as visible as the military action in the Swat region. But what is going on behind the scene can be understood from the fact that top Taliban commanders were in the good books of a former Commissioner of Malakand division, Syed Muhammad Javed, before the army launched its operations against the Taliban under US pressure.

Near-misses
Why are airports getting accident prone?
Once again, a collision between two planes has been averted at Mumbai airport. Only an inquiry will pinpoint which of the two planes moved for a takeoff without a clearance from the air traffic controller. It seems unlikely that the traffic controller had given a simultaneous green signal to both. Fortunately, the planes, one of Jet Airways heading for Kolkata and the other of Air India leaving for Shanghai, stopped in time and the lives of about 240 passengers were saved.






EARLIER STORIES

Better days ahead
June 1, 2009
The fury of cyclone Aila
May 31, 2009
Tasks assigned
May 30, 2009
Team Manmohan
May 29, 2009
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


Politics of relief
Buddha, Mamata must rise above party concerns
Over two million people are reported to be marooned in 52 islands in the Sundarbans nestling against the Bay of Bengal following cyclone Aila that lashed the Bengal coast a week ago. Over a million homes are feared to have been blown away by the devastating cyclone, which took a death toll of 115 people and several thousand cattle. Reports also speak of people living in the open, without food and water. The state government is clearly in no position to cope with a disaster of such magnitude and the Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya has been prompt to seek Central assistance to deal with the calamity.

ARTICLE

The Kashmir story
Roles major powers have played
by S. Nihal Singh
K
ashmir has again gained salience with President Barack Obama’s preference for tackling it in order to concentrate Pakistani minds on fighting the Al-Qaeda menace. It is, therefore, appropriate that a new study of Kashmir in the perspective of the Cold War and the West by an Indian academic, D.N. Panigrahi*, in adding to the considerable literature on the subject, reveals how external factors came to dominate a problem rooted in the subcontinent’s partition.

MIDDLE

A house on fire
by Vepa Rao
W
E are looking for qualities like original thinking and initiative amongst you”, I informed the bureaucrats. We were interviewing them for a top award that would infuse more zeal into their working life. The National Knowledge Commission’s (NKC) recent report on our government system gave us this idea. Its Chairman Sam Pitroda, after working hard for over three years, has come up with great conclusions like — “there is resistance to new ideas, experimentation, transparency” etc.

OPED

Get down to it now
Devote more time to policy and evaluation
by B.G. Verghese
W
ith the elections dissected and the Council of Ministers in place, Parliament and the government must now buckle down to work. The government has a mandate and a mission as set out in its manifesto and must lose no time in getting moving.

Dealing with North Korea
by Rupert Cornwell
T
he major powers are scrambling to find a credible response to North Korea’s increasingly brazen sabre rattling — one that would punish the renegade Communist regime without triggering a second all-out war on the Korean peninsula in little more than half a century.

Delhi Durbar
Affidavits can lie also, says SC
The Supreme Court was aghast last week when a lawyer informed it through an affidavit that he had been unable to obtain a copy of a verdict from the Calcutta High Court for the past three months.

  • Advice to senior lawyers

  • Hair-raising exercise


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EDITORIALS

Friends, or foes?
Strange way of fighting the Taliban

Many in the Pakistan establishment occupying key positions are doing all they can to save the Taliban from getting decimated. Their efforts may not be as visible as the military action in the Swat region. But what is going on behind the scene can be understood from the fact that top Taliban commanders were in the good books of a former Commissioner of Malakand division, Syed Muhammad Javed, before the army launched its operations against the Taliban under US pressure. He reportedly feted the Taliban’s key functionaries at his official residence on April 12. These elements were responsible for wreaking havoc in Pakistan’s tribal areas, particularly in Swat and Buner, but that was not the concern of the highest Pakistan authority in the area. It could be that he was trying to strike a deal with the Taliban.

A strong desire to safeguard the interests of the Taliban could be seen in all the so-called deals reached between the extremist outfit and the government. The last agreement with the jihadis that led to the virtual surrender of the administration of Malakand division, including the Swat valley, to the Taliban thoroughly exposed Pakistan’s non-seriousness in fighting terrorism. The deal was cancelled not because of its violation by the Taliban but owing to intense US pressure. It is possible that the on-going fight against the Taliban may be quietly called off or diluted soon after the external pressure on Islamabad eases.

Irrespective of what Pakistani officials say for international consumption, Islamabad cannot win the war against the Taliban because it does not want to do so. The reason is the enormous clout the Taliban and other militant outfits enjoy in the Pakistan establishment, including the army and the ISI. It may be possible that the pro-Taliban elements in the establishment have used their links in China and the UK to prevent the inclusion of the names of Masood Azhar, Azam Cheema and Abdur Rehman Makki of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in the UN’s sanctions list as they unsuccessfully did earlier in the case of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. Pakistan, it seems, is yet to come to terms with the view that these militant elements pose as grave a danger to Pakistan as they do to the region.

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Near-misses
Why are airports getting accident prone?

Once again, a collision between two planes has been averted at Mumbai airport. Only an inquiry will pinpoint which of the two planes moved for a takeoff without a clearance from the air traffic controller. It seems unlikely that the traffic controller had given a simultaneous green signal to both. Fortunately, the planes, one of Jet Airways heading for Kolkata and the other of Air India leaving for Shanghai, stopped in time and the lives of about 240 passengers were saved. The frequency with which such incidents take place is alarming. Countrywide, some 70 cases of airfield accident have been pending with the Director-General of Civil Aviation since 2007.

Earlier in February this year, when a helicopter from President Pratibha Patil’s fleet and an Air India plane had a providential escape at Mumbai airport, one thought the airport and other authorities concerned would have learnt their lessons. Unfortunately, that has not happened. Take-it-easy attitude, it seems, pervades the Civil Aviation Ministry, which needs to be a little more concerned about human life. After every serious mishap an inquiry is held. By the time its report and recommendations come, the mishap is forgotten and forgiven. The guilty usually get away lightly. There are excuses and justifications for every human error. Basic amenities at airports are stretched to cope with increased traffic. Flights get frequently delayed. More passengers are booked than airlines can fly and more flights have been sanctioned than airports can handle.

Rising incomes and falling fares have led more people to shift from trains to planes. Airlines have expanded fast, but infrastructure has not kept pace with the explosive growth in passenger and cargo traffic. Mumbai airport is the busiest in the country. On an average it handles 635 landings and takeoffs in a day. There is a shortage of trained staff, especially air traffic controllers, pilots and engineers. Troubled airlines, forced to cut costs by a credit crunch, eagerly await government clearance for infusion of foreign investment and tie-ups. The government, nevertheless, has to ensure that the safety of passengers is not compromised.

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Politics of relief
Buddha, Mamata must rise above party concerns

Over two million people are reported to be marooned in 52 islands in the Sundarbans nestling against the Bay of Bengal following cyclone Aila that lashed the Bengal coast a week ago. Over a million homes are feared to have been blown away by the devastating cyclone, which took a death toll of 115 people and several thousand cattle. Reports also speak of people living in the open, without food and water. The state government is clearly in no position to cope with a disaster of such magnitude and the Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya has been prompt to seek Central assistance to deal with the calamity. But while both major political parties in the state, the CPM and the Trinamool Congress, have made the right noise in public by calling for concerted efforts to provide for relief and rehabilitation, in practice they appear to be engaged in a game of one-upmanship.

While the administration on Sunday locked up relief workers before the Chief Minister’s visit, worried that they might expose the gaping holes in the state government’s operations , Ms Mamata Banerjee has muddied the water by opposing the Chief Minister’s plea for a Central government grant of Rs 1,000 crore to tide over the crisis. The money, she has alleged, would not reach the victims but line the pockets of the CPM cadres. She has suggested instead that the money be sent directly “from the PM to the DM” and disbursed through panchayats and zila parishads. This would suit her because it is the Trinamool Congress which controls a majority of the panchayats and zila parishads in the affected areas. What is more, the two protagonists are clearly vying with each other in the popularity stakes with an eye on the Assembly election that is due in 2011.

Mr Bhattacharya on Sunday had to bear the brunt of the anger among the victims and was asked to go back — possibly the first time a Left Front Chief Minister in West Bengal has had to face such public humiliation. It would be tempting for the Chief Minister to believe the protests to be engineered by the Trinamool Congress, and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury has already gone on record to blame Ms Banerjee for obstructing relief work. West Bengal’s misfortune appears to lie in Ms Banerjee’s exaggerated efforts to discredit the state government and also in the Left Front government’s inability to provide relief adequately and quickly. Both the CPM and Ms Banerjee are forgetting that in their mutual sparring, the cyclone victims will suffer.

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Thought for the Day

This modern efficiency you are hearing about is the same old hard work your grandfather dreaded. — E.W. Howe

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Corrections and clarifications

n In the report related to the Prime Minister’s visit to Russia (Page 2, May 31), the Russian President’s name should be read as Medvedev.

n In the report on fears of group clashes in Mangalore (Page 2, May 31), it should read ‘abated’.

n In the report on JD-U drifting away from BJP (Page 2, May 31), it should read ‘counselling restraint’.

n In the report related to a fire in a chemical factory (Page 3, May 31, Haryana edition), it should read, ‘controlling the blaze’.

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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ARTICLE

The Kashmir story
Roles major powers have played
by S. Nihal Singh

Kashmir has again gained salience with President Barack Obama’s preference for tackling it in order to concentrate Pakistani minds on fighting the Al-Qaeda menace. It is, therefore, appropriate that a new study of Kashmir in the perspective of the Cold War and the West by an Indian academic, D.N. Panigrahi*, in adding to the considerable literature on the subject, reveals how external factors came to dominate a problem rooted in the subcontinent’s partition.

In an admirably concise account, Mr Panigrahi has had access to the now declassified papers of a succession of British rulers to prove his point on how British and US interests trumped the merits of the dispute to convert a complaint made by India against Pakistan sending in armed tribes and disguised Army men into Kashmir to try to wrest it by force into a dispute by two equal parties. There also seemed to be a Western bias for the argument that since India was partitioned to give Muslims a homeland, the Muslim-majority princely state should go to it.

Mr Panigrahi’s story ends with Sheikh Abdullah’s trip to Pakistan in 1964, which came to an abrupt end with Jawaharlal Nehru’s death. While much of the ground covered in the new study goes over familiar territory, it is the new perspective that shines a light on Kashmir’s tempestuous journey through a variety of international forums leading to many mediators and reports yielding much sound and fury.

It is, of course, well established that a reluctant Nehru was persuaded by Lord Mountbatten to refer Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council while halting the advance of Indian troops midway. And India has had decades to rue the fateful decision because it was, in fact, converted into an albatross around its neck. What is less well known is how clear British and American objectives were in favouring Pakistan.

Prime Minister Clement Attlee wrote in a Personal Minute of May 4, 1949, “Broadly speaking, I think, that we should be well advised particularly having regard to the importance of Middle East, to do everything we can to assist Pakistan.” The UK High Commissioner in India had informed the India Office in London on February 11, 1948, that Nehru thought the United States was guided by its pro-Pakistan policy by power politics alone, volunteering his opinion that this could be so only if Nehru accepted Communist propaganda.

Among the papers mined by Mr Panigrahi is a fascinating conversation Nehru had with the then Belgian ambassador of substance, Prince Eugene de Ligne. As Nehru detailed it, the Ambassador let it be known that the approach to Kashmir in the UN and elsewhere would be influenced less by intrinsic merit than by broad considerations of American world strategy in the prevailing tensions between the US and the Soviet Union. In the ambassador’s view, the US was following a policy of supporting Middle-Eastern states from Greece to Iran to secure bases and otherwise ask them to help America in the event of hostilities with Moscow. If Pakistan cooperated with the US, Washington would try to befriend it by resolving the Kashmir dispute.

On the other side of the fence, the Soviet representative to the UN, Yakov Malik, looked at American moves through his Cold War prism: “Eventually the purpose of these (American and British) plans in connection with Kashmir is to secure the introduction of Anglo-American troops into the territory of Kashmir into an Anglo-American colony and military and strategic base”. Indo-British waters were considerably muddied by the British invasion of Egypt and India’s strong criticism, the proposal to station UN troops in Kashmir being interpreted as teaching India a lesson.

Indeed, Kashmir was soon destined to become truly a pawn in Cold War politics by the grant of US military aid to Pakistan. Even as Nehru wrestled with ideas on resolving the Kashmir issue, including a partition of the state through a plebiscite, he was veering towards the view that the status quo, with minor modifications, was the only solution.

India’s debacle in the Sino-Indian border war gave Britain and the United States an opportunity to try to force India’s hand on Kashmir. The series of marathon discussions with Pakistan under the shadow of India’s humiliation at the hands of the Chinese is now part of political folklore. Among the score of proposals then doing the rounds was a joint air defence policy, vetoed by President Kennedy. But US Ambassador J.K. Galbraith turned down the idea of consulting the British and the Commonwealth with the comment that “there were only two and half cities in the world where the Commonwealth was taken seriously, namely, London, Washington and Canberra”.

Papers now in the public domain make it clear that Britain’s policy around the time of the subcontinent’s division was tilted towards Pakistan. Attlee made no secret of his interest in the “Muslim world”, particularly Middle -East oil essential in the “air age”. The US thought Pakistan could take the leadership of Muslim countries “being the most progressive and capable”. Although Britain was more sceptical, “they did agree that Pakistan might set an example and its leaders exercise a useful influence”.

The one deficiency in this volume is that Mr Panigrahi hews close to the official Indian line. It is well recognised that Nehru’s agreement, reluctant though it was, to go to the United Nations was a grave error. Western orientation on India’s Independence was markedly in favour of Pakistan and against India, and once Pakistan decided to join America’s Cold War against the Soviet Union, Kashmir inevitably became a plaything of grander schemes. When Sheikh Abdullah flirted with independence, it undermined an Indian pillar and the Indian case was not enhanced by the political manoeuvres that underlined the political processes that were then put in place.

Although concepts such as a plebiscite are long forgotten, except when Pakistanis want to score propaganda points, was India justified in repudiating it on Pakistan joining the Western military camp? There are, indeed, many lessons to be learnt from the turbulent story of Kashmir and the role major powers’ interests play in looking at disputes once they are internationalised.

«Jammu and Kashmir, the Cold War and the West by D.N. Panigrahi; Routledge; pp 265; Rs 595

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MIDDLE

A house on fire
by Vepa Rao

WE are looking for qualities like original thinking and initiative amongst you”, I informed the bureaucrats. We were interviewing them for a top award that would infuse more zeal into their working life. The National Knowledge Commission’s (NKC) recent report on our government system gave us this idea. Its Chairman Sam Pitroda, after working hard for over three years, has come up with great conclusions like — “there is resistance to new ideas, experimentation, transparency” etc.

“Suppose”, I asked the candidates, “you see a house burning. What would you do?”

“We will draw up a plan for building another house”, said a young one. “No sir”, said a middle-aged one, “I will order an inquiry”. An older one intervened, “ I will get the ashes examined for fixing the responsibility — the quality of wood and cement used etc”.

“But brothers, the house is on fire, the immediate steps…”, I said impatiently.

“OK, sir. We will issue a stern order marked immediate that the fire should be extinguished forthwith. A copy marked urgent will be mailed to the fire-wallahs. They will, like all departments, plead shortage of men. So thinking well ahead, we will immediately move a file for recruiting more firemen”.

“I have a better idea”, butted in the middle-aged bureaucrat, “I will then and there start drafting a vision document for housing policy and better fire insurance”.

Bhai Saab, the political leader heading the interview committee was not impressed. Such response was fundamental to good governance, he conceded. But we were looking for something more creative. What about transparency, he questioned. Someone suggested introduction of half-pants, half-shirts, partly see-through dresses etc on an experimental basis.

How do you handle the bureaucratic habit of saying “no” to any new idea straightaway, saying “but, it can’t be done” even before a request is made, and raising objections at the drop of a hat….

“Simple, sir, just say nothing new! Even Pitroda saab has said nothing new in his lengthy report!” Everyone grunted. Bureaucrats prefer to grunt or nod, instead of saying cheers. Bhai Saab intervened.” But most of you accept a new idea if you are told that your wife has liked it. Or that your clerk has shown interest in it”. Some people nodded, but others said that the matter could be “examined”.

We noticed a gentleman sitting quietly in the corner, not opening his mouth even once in response. He had a sullen face, but an occasional grin. “Sir”, my aide whispered, “he is the greatest among these officers. He doesn’t have to respond to any suggestion. Look long at his face and physical posture — your new idea, suggestion, request etc will just die instantly in your heart itself. You will lose your way, you won’t be able to articulate…”I stared at him, involuntarily.

That’s all!

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OPED

Get down to it now
Devote more time to policy and evaluation
by B.G. Verghese

With the elections dissected and the Council of Ministers in place, Parliament and the government must now buckle down to work. The government has a mandate and a mission as set out in its manifesto and must lose no time in getting moving.

Parliament can do no better than to pledge to function as it should as a deliberative and legislative body and to resolve that the rowdy, intemperate, disruptive tactics witnessed in the last Lok Sabha will not be repeated. There is no point in straining every nerve to get elected to the Lok Sabha and then do everything possible to prevent it from functioning.

Party leaders must take responsibility to guide and discipline their members and not leave it to a harassed Speaker to discipline them.

Defiant and disruptive MPs must be expelled from the House and the principle of no-work-no-allowance should be applied rigorously.

Question hour can be much more purposeful if thoughtful, non-repetitive queries fetch pointed answers that ensure both information and accountability. In earlier Lok Sabhas, twenty or more questions would be answered. No more, as verbosity and obfuscation have tended to become the norm.

A more purposeful question hour will make Parliament more participative. The standing committees too should be encouraged not merely to take up Government business but also issues of public concern and examine expert witnesses whose knowledge and insights could influence and assist policy making and legislation.

This is where diligent members could make a mark without craving for ministerial rank. And the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TV could play a lively role in widening the ambit of debate.

Within the government, ministers must devote more time to policy and evaluation and not get locked into the minutiae of administrative detail which should be left to desk officers with the Secretary playing a role complementary to the minister and not merely pushing routine files.

India’s administrative procedures are notoriously complex and slow and since delay amounts to denial, petty corruption greases movement.

Consultation and inter-ministerial references are necessary, but time lines can be fixed and inter-ministerial meetings and conference calls set up to expedite the process.

Higher up, transparency can deter malpractice with rules, procurement policies, contract bids and tenders being posted on web sites that provide access and obviate routine queries.

The Administrative Reforms Committee, the Law Commission and expert commissions have recommended useful reforms which should not be allowed to gather dust. Indeed, each department would do well to assign a special officer to chase up implementation and advise the minister on where de-bottlenecking is required.

Matters like police reform have been placed on the back burner despite the Supreme Court directives and their fundamental importance to basic security, intelligence gathering, combating corruption and the working of the criminal justice system.

Within a week of the recent election results, Mayawati transferred 34 senior police officers in one go because she had fared poorly in the polls. The inference is obvious. Policing is seen as a handmaid of partisan politics. Can the country afford to countenance this kind of conduct which is widely pervasive?

The elections have witnessed enormous expenditure and money openly changing hands. Are election expenditure returns and the assets and asset appreciation of MPs and MLAs being closely scrutinised?

Again, should candidates facing criminal charges of a certain kind be permitted to contest elections, sometimes on bail.

A committee of Parliament could be asked to examine such questions, including the auditing of party accounts, to see where we can go from here.

Of course, there will be objections by those with something to hide. But can the country continue to tolerate electoral sleaze with its sinister backward and forward linkages?

The economy is slowly picking up and, while growth must be revived, this may be a good time to review the balance between need and greed, social versus ostentatious private consumption, and corresponding lifestyles.

This could call for adjustments in the content and trajectory of inclusive growth. Education, health housing and infrastructure represent critical areas of neglect.

J&K is poised for a settlement based on greater state and regional autonomy. The Northeastern insurgencies are variously ripening for resolution, especially the Naga question.

Naxalism too needs to be handed not just with a big stick but with deft openings to dialogue and development that build partnerships with tribal, dalit and other dispossessed.

Neighbourhood policies must be refashioned within a framework of regional cooperation into which Pakistan and Afghanistan and AfPak issues must be fitted. There are disquieting reports of Pakistan enhancing its nuclear arsenal which could be a dangerous plaything in wrong or desperate hands.

How long can we insist that the peace process in Pakistan cannot be resumed until we get satisfaction on 26/11 and credible evidence of the dismantling of the cross-border terror infrastructure? These are perfectly valid concerns but could become a circular argument.

It is increasingly clear that the civil authorities are not fully in charge and need to be strengthened to contest both military and jihadi hegemony. We have to help the people of Pakistan to help us for mutual benefit.

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Dealing with North Korea
by Rupert Cornwell

The major powers are scrambling to find a credible response to North Korea’s increasingly brazen sabre rattling — one that would punish the renegade Communist regime without triggering a second all-out war on the Korean peninsula in little more than half a century.

A co-ordinated and effective response by the United Nations Security Council became even more urgent after Pyongyang threatened to launch an attack on South Korea, after Seoul announced that it would join an international effort to stop and search vessels leaving North Korean ports, which are suspected of carrying nuclear technology or materials.

In its shrillest language since last Monday’s nuclear test that triggered the confrontation, North Korea declared it was no longer bound by the terms of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, and that Seoul’s participation in the naval cordon sanitaire would amount to a declaration of war.

“Now that the South Korean puppets were so ridiculous as to join in the said racket and dare declare a war against their compatriots,” the North felt compelled to take “a decisive measure”, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by the state media in North Korea.

This quasi-explicit threat of war underlines the dire state of relations between the two Korean states. It was met by a warning from Seoul, which had previously refused to participate in the naval measures, that it would respond “sternly” to any provocation by its northern neighbour.

It was moreover the most ominous of a series of moves by the regime of Kim Jong-il. These include a new batch of short-range missile firings — clearly intended to serve notice of the fate that awaited hostile ships and aircraft within striking distance of the coast — and an apparent partial restart of the North’s main nuclear fuel re-processing plant at Yongbyon.

Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s biggest circulation newspaper, said there were “various indications” that Yongbyon had resumed operations, including steam coming out of the facility, detected by US surveillance satellites. There was no immediate confirmation of the report in Washington.

Pyongyang’s escalating defiance adds to the pressure on the Security Council to come up with a coherent response. But familiar doubts were already emerging about how far Russia and China, two of the five permanent members of the Council with veto powers, were prepared to go in agreeing a resolution containing the tough sanctions the US seeks, that might detonate a hot war centred on a country with which both have land borders.

After speaking by phone with Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov summed up the dilemma in Moscow. “I repeat again,” he said, “we must stand up for the non-proliferation regime, but at the same time we must not forget that problems can be resolved only through talks.”

In a further sign of the Kremlin’s concerns, Russia announced that it was taking preventative measures “in case a military conflict, perhaps with the use of nuclear weapons, flares up on the Korean Peninsula” — in the words of a senior foreign ministry official. Such concerns are, if anything, greater in China, North Korea’s most important patron, which is ever fearful of chaos over the border that could spill on to its own territory.

These factors all limit the likelihood of really severe action by the UN. Officials from the US Treasury Department raised the possibility of a tighter financial squeeze on the North but years of privation, poverty and sanctions have not prevented the country from developing the nuclear capacity Pyongyang sees as its one real bargaining chip with the US and its allies.

Indeed, the North’s media have hailed last week’s test — more powerful and apparently more successful than its first one in 2006 — as “a grand undertaking” to protect the supreme interests of the country and “defend its dignity and sovereignty”.

Some Korea-watchers maintain that the US has no real alternative but to restart the stalled six-nation talks that involve itself, Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreas.

In the meantime, the North — assuming its war rhetoric is no more than calculated brinkmanship — could take further provocative steps, including the launch of a long-range missile or a full resumption of operations at Yongbyon.

For the moment, another test is considered unlikely — if only because of the need to conserve stocks of weapons-grade material, currently estimated as sufficient for no more than half a dozen nuclear devices, Washington analysts say. The main task now for the North, they argue, is to perfect the miniaturising technology needed to put a nuclear warhead on a missile.

But as the Western governments trying to contain North Korea readily admit, all this is basically guesswork. Hard information about events taking place inside the hermetic regime, and its precise intentions, are next to impossible to come by.

Almost certainly though, Pyongyang’s belligerency in part reflects a succession crisis for the regime. Western analysts believe that Mr Kim is in poor and declining health after a reported stroke nine months ago and that his days in power are numbered.

He may now be trying to ensure power ultimately passes to his third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, perhaps after caretaker rule by his brother-in-law, Jang Seong Taek.

For the Kim dynasty to survive into a third generation, the support of the armed forces leadership is essential. The nuclear test, and the missiles show of strength may be above all deliberate signals by Kim Jong-il of his commitment to the military.

The strategic realities of the Korean peninsula remain, scarcely less forbidding for the US than they were in the early 1950s. Seoul and its 10 million people stand well within the North Korean artillery range, less than 40 miles south of a narrow demilitarised zone left by a war that no peace treaty has ever formally ended, and where nearly two million highly armed troops stand virtually face to face.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Delhi Durbar
Affidavits can lie also, says SC

The Supreme Court was aghast last week when a lawyer informed it through an affidavit that he had been unable to obtain a copy of a verdict from the Calcutta High Court for the past three months.

It was next to impossible that this could be true at a time when the HC’s functioning had been computerised, a vacation Bench headed by Markandey Katju remarked and asked whether there was any lawyer from Kolkata present in the courtroom. There was none.

Then he turned to the lawyer and remarked: ‘Suppose, you file an affidavit, stating it is midnight now, should I believe it, though I could see it is noon now. Affidavits taken on the oath are also sometimes false.”

The lawyer was rendered speechless.

Advice to senior lawyers

Another issue on which Justice Katju of the Supreme Court is cut up with is the fact that senior advocates keep coming to the court even during the summer vacation, depriving their juniors a chance to earn some money, at least during the two-month period.

His daily refrain on seeing seniors: “Don’t have this ‘aye paisa, aye paisa’ attitude”. After all, junior lawyers also have families.

But Katju’s advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Hair-raising exercise

The election results have put several important politicians, particularly those from the BJP, out of work for some time.

Many in the BJP have belatedly realised that berating Dr Manmohan Singh as a weak Prime Minister and the party’s campaign on terrorism and inflation did not appeal to the common man and, therefore, it is good for them to lie low for sometime. Many of them have started looking for diversions to while away time.

The latest extracurricular activity of BJP politicians is to altar their bald pates and reduce hair recession. There is no dearth of BJP leaders avoiding the mirror for fear of facing the reality. There is L.K. Advani but then he is too old to bother much about it. The younger lot — particularly party chief Rajnath Singh, general secretary Arun Jaitley and Delhi leaders like Vijay Goel and Vijay Jolly — is conscious of looks.

One of them has been doing good deal on the subject. He says in Dubai it costs just 2.5 Euros for hair transplantation and a person needs at the most 4000 Euros on his head for weaving. If Nawaz Sharif can get an entirely new look, why can’t Rajnath Singh or Jaitley?

Contributed by R. Sedhuraman and Faraz Ahmad

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