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EDITORIALS

Arrest of a terrorist
Get hold of other Madanis also 
T
HE arrest of Mohammad Umer Madani, a key Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative, by the Delhi Police near Mehrauli on Friday is a significant catch and may help unravel the secrets of the network that the terrorist organisation had managed to establish in India and in the neighbourhood. 

Message of reconciliation
But can Obama tackle W. Asian imbroglio?
P
resident Barack Obama on has made a good beginning in his effort to improve relations between the US and the countries in West Asia and Iran. In his much-awaited Cairo University address, aimed at inter-faith reconciliation, he rejected the inevitability of “clash of civilizations”. 



EARLIER STORIES

Terror Down Under
June 7, 2009
Washington has erred
June 6, 2009
President speaks
June 5, 2009
Pak flexes muscles, again
June 4, 2009
Treading the beaten path
June 3, 2009
Friends, or foes?
June 2, 2009
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


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


Better late than never
Nuclear-powered sub will be of great use
I
N just a couple of months India is expected to launch its first nuclear-powered submarine, a capability that is currently the exclusive preserve of a select group of countries that incidentally comprises the Permanent Five in the UN Security Council.
ARTICLE

Nepal’s awkward balance of power
How Maoists can be won over
by Maj-Gen Ashok K. Mehta (retd)
W
AR and peace processes have alternated in Nepal and Sri Lanka with a military solution triumphing in the latter and abandoned for a political settlement in the former. Light at the end of the tunnel in one case has switched to the tunnel at the end of light in the other. Competing for success, bullet and ballot produce their separate narratives of political and military leadership and human tragedy. Both have become post-conflict countries limping towards peace and reconciliation.

MIDDLE

The thirst-quenchers
by Jupinderjit Singh

Journalism takes one to places. And which place is better than diverse India? Travel a few kilometres in any direction and one discovers how different we are. Our language changes, our dress, food habits differ. Our gods and ways of worshipping them also changes.

OPED

India and China need peace for further growth
by Premvir Das
A
IR Chief Marshal Major, Chief of Air Staff, is reported to have recently said that it is China, not Pakistan, which threatens India’s security. Whatever may be the issues involved in such a public pronunciation by an officer in his position, the context is important and merits discussion.

Army success in Mingora
Anita Inder Singh
T
HE Pakistani army has driven the Taliban out of Mingora. But that good news is not the same as turning the tide against extremists in Pakistan. The army’s success came after a year of battles lost by security forces in north-western Pakistan, and it was not achieved easily: it took 15,000 soldiers to defeat an estimated 5,000 Taliban there.

Chatterati
by Devi Cherian

Bonhomie on the first day, first show

  • AICC reshuffle

  • Boxing lessons



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Arrest of a terrorist
Get hold of other Madanis also 

THE arrest of Mohammad Umer Madani, a key Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative, by the Delhi Police near Mehrauli on Friday is a significant catch and may help unravel the secrets of the network that the terrorist organisation had managed to establish in India and in the neighbourhood. Information gleaned from him so far is alarming and puts the focus back on how the masters sitting in Pakistan are orchestrating their nefarious operations. Madani was closely associated with Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who was arrested by Pakistan for masterminding the 26/11 Mumbai attack but was strangely set free on Wednesday by the Lahore High Court citing lack of adequate proof, causing revulsion in India. In fact, Madani was initiated into terror by Saeed himself. Madani headed the LeT operations in Nepal and his main task was to pump terror funds into India via Nepal and widen the network.

He came to India following instructions from LeT and JuD leadership to recruit at least two persons each in the four metropolitan cities – Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. He was also to develop contacts with fishermen in Konkan and Malabar coastal region and do “talent hunting” for potential terrorists in Jharkhand and elsewhere. The idea was to recruit people working in fireworks factories and train them in the handling of explosives.

It is not yet known how much of his assigned task Madani had completed before his arrest. Even if he did not succeed, there could be many Madanis in our midst, indulging in similar activities. All of them would have to be systematically ferreted out if the country is to escape the spectre of more terror attacks. The way terrorists based in Pakistan have spread their tentacles to countries surrounding India is a matter of concern not only for us but also all other countries who swear by peaceful means. It is a travesty that while proofs of the misdeeds of men like Hafiz Mohammad Saeed are everywhere, Pakistan is eager to give them a clean chit than to prosecute them. This has been going on in spite of the fact that now Pakistan itself is being wrecked by terrorist depredations. 

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Message of reconciliation 
But can Obama tackle W. Asian imbroglio? 

President Barack Obama on has made a good beginning in his effort to improve relations between the US and the countries in West Asia and Iran. In his much-awaited Cairo University address, aimed at inter-faith reconciliation, he rejected the inevitability of “clash of civilizations”. A clear shift was noticed in the approach of the Obama administration from the previous one headed by President George W. Bush to tackling the issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraq crisis, the US role in Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He offered to address all major “sources of conflict” used by Islamic militants to implement their own agenda of discord and destruction. Interestingly, he did not use such expressions as “terrorism”, “terrorists” or even the Axis of Evil.

Mr Obama talked of the “undreakable” US bond with Israel because of cultural and historical reasons. But at the same time he disapproved of the Israeli policy of expansion of its settlements on the Palestinian land occupied in the 1967 war. He expressed the view that the cause of peace in West Asia demands that an independent and sovereign state of Palestine must be allowed to come up alongside Israel. This was bound to cheer up the Palestinians which it did. But his “roadmap” for peace evoked adverse comments from the rightists in Israel. How President Obama gives a practical shape to his ideas remains to be seen. He did not spell out the details of his West Asia policy, which will not be easy to implement with the Netanyahu government in Israel opposed to Mr Obama’s scheme of things in the volatile region.

President Obama can, however, silence the opponents of his policy in Israel by handling the Iranian nuclear issue tactfully. His offer of dialogue with Iran “without preconditions” appears to be a well-calculated move. This plus Mr Obama’s acknowledgement that Iran has the right to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy may help begin a new chapter in US-Iran relations. But the real challenge before Mr Obama lies in making Iran abandon its nuclear weapon ambitions. The US is under tremendous pressure from its regional allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel to prevent Iran from going nuclear. There is freshness in Mr Obama’s style of functioning which may create a climate for better relations with Iran, but can he really persuade Teheran to give up its ambitions to become a nuclear weapons power?

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Better late than never
Nuclear-powered sub will be of great use

IN just a couple of months India is expected to launch its first nuclear-powered submarine, a capability that is currently the exclusive preserve of a select group of countries that incidentally comprises the Permanent Five in the UN Security Council. The submarine, termed as Advanced Technology Vessel or ATV, will provide a credible second-strike capability to the Navy, besides being a useful part of a strategic defence system.

The development of India’s most ambitious defence project has taken 25 long years, which witnessed many ups and downs. From facing dual technology denial regimes to overcoming the technological challenge of first constructing, fitting and then operationalising a miniature nuclear plant to power the submarine, both the Atomic Energy Commission and the Defence Research and Development Organisation have travelled a long and difficult road for which they deserve praise for their fortitude, perseverance and technological breakthrough. The ATV is critical to the defence needs of India, flanked as it is by two not-so-friendly nuclear- weapon states. While Pakistan does not yet possess this capability but has a more advanced nuclear-tipped missile capability, China has a fleet of about 60 submarines (against just 16 with India) that includes about a dozen nuclear-powered submarines armed with long-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads that can strike any part of India. Unlike conventional diesel-electric submarines that are vulnerable to detection because they need to regularly snorkel air to power their batteries, a nuclear-powered submarine can stay submerged for weeks together and, therefore, stay undetected.

The expected launch of the ATV will only mark the beginning of a long journey for India. The ATV will have to undergo extensive sea trials and will be successfully fitted with nuclear-tipped Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missile, currently under indigenous development, before India can qualify to have developed its strategic capability. This will take another three or four years. Moreover, India will need to build a number of such sophisticated vessels. As an interim measure, India is expected to soon lease a Project 971 Shchuka-B (also known as Akula) nuclear-powered submarine from Russia, which will help Indian sailors gain experience for handling such sophisticated weapon platforms. Even if it has taken two and a half decades to build a nuclear-powered submarine, there is nothing like being self-dependent in matters of defence of the nation. 

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Thought for the Day

Change is inevitable in a progressive society. Change is constant. 
— Benjamin Disraeli

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Nepal’s awkward balance of power
How Maoists can be won over
by Maj-Gen Ashok K. Mehta (retd)

WAR and peace processes have alternated in Nepal and Sri Lanka with a military solution triumphing in the latter and abandoned for a political settlement in the former. Light at the end of the tunnel in one case has switched to the tunnel at the end of light in the other. Competing for success, bullet and ballot produce their separate narratives of political and military leadership and human tragedy. Both have become post-conflict countries limping towards peace and reconciliation.

For Nepal, Prachanda was the awesome one, graduating from a guerrilla leader to the first elected Prime Minister of the country. Last year, he gave some tips to visiting Sri Lanka Health Minister Nimal Sripala Desilva on wiping out the LTTE. President Mahinda Rajapakse, who scripted the military conquest of Prabhakaran’s Tamil Tigers, has turned out more formidable than Prachanda. His reputation preceded his visit to Nepal in March this year, the name “Raja-Paksa” creating quite a flutter. Having got rid of the 240-year-old monarchy, the Maoists feared he had come to revive Raja Gyanendra’s discredited monarchy. The buzz today in Kathmandu is about the return of monarchy.

Fortune favours the brave. Rajapakse, now a national hero in the mould of legendary Sinhala king Duttugemunu who defeated Tamil counterpart Ellara, is celebrating the demise of Prabhakaran clinging to his gun at Mullaithivu. The Maoist defeat in the battle of Khara in 2005 opened Prachanda’s eyes to a political solution.

Having won a stunning electoral victory and led the government for nine months, Prachanda surprisingly resigned his premiership over civilian supremacy of the military when his dismissal of Army chief Gen Rukmangud Katwal was revoked by President Ram Baran Yadav. He was under tremendous pressure from the PLA, the Maoist combatants whose integration and rehabilitation has been stalled to remove General Katwal who was seen opposing their induction into the Nepal Army.

Neither Prachanda nor the party high command had intended risking their government through which they had made immense political gains. Few, if any, had predicted a change in government in just nine months. After winning the elections in April 2008, it took four months for Prachanda to be elected Prime Minister and form a council of ministers. Nepal had an interim seven-party alliance government led by Prime Minister GP Koirala operating under an interim constitution. Even as Mr Koirala reluctantly agreed to resign after Maoist ministers threatened to quit the government and take to the streets, there was no President to accept his resignation.

Electing the President, Vice President and Speaker of the House was not easy as Maoists insisted on their nominees for President and Prime Minister. When it became clear that they would get only one of the two, they promised the Presidency to fellow Communist United Marxist Leninist’s (CPNUML) Madhav Nepal in order to get Mr Koirala to step down, but Nepal was betrayed. Horse-trading for the three constitutional appointments led to the formation of a grand alliance of the UML, the Nepali Congress and Madhes Janadhikar Forum , each party keeping one post and isolating the Maoists.

The next battle was for the defence portfolio. Just how important this was became apparent during the long-standing confrontation between Maoist Defence Minister Rambahadur Thapa and Gen Katwal. The Maoists were adamant on keeping defence, the post the Nepali Congress considered coveted and was denied, which led to their sitting in the opposition. The SPA government did not yield easily or gracefully to the Maoists forming the new government. It extracted several concessions in the form of the Fifth Amendment to the interim constitution which included a simple majority to unseat the Prime Minister and elect a new one if there was no consensus choice. When further delay in forming a new government began testing the patience of the Maoists, Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood and Special Envoy Shyam Saran went public, saying that the Maoists must be allowed to unconditionally form a government.

Although Mr Prachanda said his government would lead the country to the next elections after the constitution was written by May 2010, he demanded that his government be allowed to run undisturbed for two years and that the unholy alliance of the UML, the NC and the MJF be broken. It was this very alliance that sealed the Maoist government’s fate last month and threw up the alternative Madhav Nepal-led non-Maoist coalition government. That the Prachanda-led government would be toppled was unthinkable even after the Maoist-Army row had hotted up. The Maoists certainly overplayed their hand, sacrificing a legitimately elected government slated to last its full term.

In just three weeks compared to the four months they had to wait, the Maoists lifted the blockade of Parliament and allowed Mr Madhav Nepal to be elected the second Prime Minister of the Republic of Nepal. What’s more, Mr Prachanda pledged his commitment to the peace process and drafting the new constitution. His party submitted to the Speaker a resolution for discussion in the House that condemned the President’s unconstitutional action of revoking his Cabinet’s decision dismissing the Army Chief.

The Maoists hope to draw the maximum mileage from their unwavering stand of upholding civilian control over the Army and will block Parliament till their proposal is discussed. Mr Prachanda blamed India for the fall of his government and the installation of “a puppet regime”.

This is the second UML government after Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikary’s nine-month term in 1994-95. The coalition partners of the new government belong to the parties which are factionalised and the glue that keeps them together is their distrust of the Maoists and spoils of the Cabinet. The NC is, perhaps, the only party congenitally opposed to the Maoists and vice versa. The Maoists believe that they can easily buy off the Madhesi parties, and they call the UML the “Third Sex”. The Maoists have long wanted an alliance of all the Left parties but the UML has resisted a merger for fear of losing its identity altogether.

With the Maoists as the single largest party in the opposition in the 601-member House, an awkward balance of power prevails. While the Maoist bloc in the house holds 240 seats, the 21 parties supporting the government have 361 members. Distrust between the Maoists and the other political parties is the highest since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, especially after the Prachanda-gate revelations exposed the Maoists in their true colours. Relations between them are going to get worse before they get any better.

The four main parties in the government — the UML, the NC, the MJF and the TMDP — have agreed on a 50-point Common Minimum Programme,but instability will dog the government. Like the Maoists, the UML has kept Defence and Finance ministries with Finance seen as the key to socio-economic reforms and Defence to maintain a credible minimum deterrent against the Maoists. Defence Minister Vidya Bhandari has categorically ruled out the integration of the PLA with the Nepal Army. One way of winning over the Maoists is to relent on integration. Falling back on an earlier informal agreement between the Maoists and the NC to induct 5000 to 6000 of the 20,000 qualified PLA in the Army, and to rehabilitate the remainder appears to be the method of resurrecting the peace process. Delhi has a role here.

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The thirst-quenchers
by Jupinderjit Singh

Journalism takes one to places. And which place is better than diverse India? Travel a few kilometres in any direction and one discovers how different we are. Our language changes, our dress, food habits differ. Our gods and ways of worshipping them also changes.

Different communities often clash with each other. They kill, loot and plunder. We fight over anything — religion, caste, land, relations, right of way, marriages, love affairs, dowry, garbage and water.

But despite all gloom and bloodshed and hatred and regional divide, the spirit of true India lives on. The spirit that knows only how to help and serve and to give food and water to the hungry and thirsty is omnipresent — be it the cruel Thar desert in Rajasthan or the chilly and blood-mixed peaks of the militancy-ravished Jammu and Kashmir or the now green and now gold fields of Punjab.

The finest example is of the “piyaoos” seen in the country.

The Piyaoo is usually situated inside one’s premises or just outside along the wall. It usually has a tap hanging outside for poor persons, who live off the road, carting rickshaws, rehris or carrying loads over their heads.

In Rajasthan, the Piyaoo is in form of urns or big mud pots. All are placed on a small and often worn-out table inside a thatched hut, which keeps the water cool. There is hardly any road on which you won’t find such free water supplying units.

Supplying water free at a place where each drop of water is costly is definitely some service. It becomes more important in the backdrop of reports about people killing others for right to drinking and irrigation water in the state. More so when many wells are still out of bounds for lower castes in the state.

Cut to Jammu and you see taps attached to large water containers or water coolers, peeping through a hole in the walls or craned over it to offer free water. There are also cemented enclosures outside homes for animals to quench their thirst.

In Punjab and especially in Ludhiana, the old part of the city has earthen pots covered by wet sacks for the same purpose. In the new section of the city, water coolers, locked inside an iron box, and filled with fresh water many times a day provide the free supply.

Indian spirit permeates each region. One remembers the tale of Bhai Kanhayiaji, who despite being part of the Sikh Army served water to the wounded enemy — the Mughal soldiers. Indians may be fighting, clashing, rioting over trivial issues but the soul that offers water — the elixir of life — is the same everywhere. Only the form varies. Salute to diverse yet same-spirit India. May there be no one thirsty on this land. Amen.

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India and China need peace for further growth
by Premvir Das

AIR Chief Marshal Major, Chief of Air Staff, is reported to have recently said that it is China, not Pakistan, which threatens India’s security. Whatever may be the issues involved in such a public pronunciation by an officer in his position, the context is important and merits discussion.

The historical background of India’s relations with both countries is well known. There have been several wars fought with Pakistan, in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999, and none of them have benefited that country in any way; in one of them, it lost half of its territory apart from considerable face as 90,000 of its soldiers remained captive in Indian camps for many months thereafter.

The sole war with China, in 1962, was one in which India was on the losing end, ceding 40,000 square kilometres of its territory, even if barren, to the adversary. This real estate continues to remain in Chinese occupation till today.

By just this one standard, there is much merit in the postulation that the greater threat comes from China. On the other hand, there is the fact that against four conflicts with Pakistan, the last in 1999, there has been only one with China,
nearly five decades ago.

It is interesting to see how the India-China equations have developed over the years and compare them to India-Pakistan engagement. In less than 15 years, bilateral trade between the two countries has crossed $50 billion, from an insignificant $500 million in 1995, making China, India’s largest trading partner; on the other hand, trade between India and Pakistan refuses to cross even $2 billion.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jia Bao brought a 100-men trade delegation to India in 2006 and stated that combining together, the two countries could become global IT superpowers of the 21st century.

He went on to sign a document which desired that the boundary dispute be settled in “peace and tranquility” on the principle of “settled populations”.

Even before that, China had resiled from its position that the Kashmir question should be settled on the basis of the UN Security Council resolutions and advised both countries to resolve the matter bilaterally, a significant policy change.

After blowing hot and cold in 1998 following the Pokhran blasts and the leak of Prime Minister Vajpayee’s letter to then US President Bill Clinton, it has remained quite passive to the development and tests of our Agni missiles, one of them quite clearly focussed on targets well beyond Pakistan.

During the processing of the 123 Agreement, China did support passage through the Nuclear Suppliers Group, even if without great enthusiasm. A one word “No” would have finished that India-US deal.

These positives have to be matched by the bad news. There is no visible approach for a speedy resolution of the border dispute. There is repeated deviation from the ‘settled populations’ theory by raising the Tawang and Arunachal Pradesh issues.

Political involvement in India’s immediate neighbourhood, on issues impinging on its sensitivities, has not ceased. Military aid to these countries, principally
Pakistan, continues.

There are port development programmes in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, sometimes referred to as “String of Pearls” which gives the feeling that India is being encircled.

Chinese capability to deploy its military on our borders, in the Tibetan plateau, has increased substantially through the building of the railway. Modernisation of the Chinese navy is continuing at a fast pace with induction of aircraft carriers not too far away; capability to launch nuclear weapons from submarines is already there.

It is very probable that China seeks to be an Indian Ocean player; its energy interests in the Gulf and in Africa lend credence to that presumption. Looking only at the bad picture, it would appear that the Air Chief has got his sums right.

It could also be argued, based on what has been highlighted earlier, that the possibility of Pakistan posing a military threat is not high. In the first place, India’s military deterrent will not permit this supposed adversary from making any major gains.

There is widespread realisation in that country that war will only further damage its coherence as a sovereign nation. But the more important thing is that exploitation of non-state actors has now become that country’s chosen weapon.

Pakistan has realised that such actions deliver more ‘bang for the buck’ than any military conflict. As things stand, there is no reason to expect that these will disappear or even diminish, regardless of whether a civilian or military regime
operates in Islamabad.

Considering India’s pluralistic and soft democratic society, it offers very suitable ground for practice of what the Army calls a “proxy war”.

Till recently, this was mainly to be seen in the Kashmir Valley and the Northeast. In the last 15 years or so, we have seen its spread almost throughout the country.

Since civilians are the primary target, there is potential for disturbing internal stability and consequently, economic growth.

In brief, without embarking on a purely military adventure, which has always been self-punishing, Pakistan has fine-tuned the non-state actor approach which can yield results disproportionate to the small investment.

One just has to look at the 26/11 assault from the sea on Mumbai to understand the dimensions of the threat.

While China has in the past supported insurgent movements in the Northeast, and possibly is still doing so, this bears no comparison with what is happening and will continue to happen through Pakistan.

China is seeking to become the second most important global power, economically and militarily, in the next 20 years, in short, to come on par with the USA. It needs peace and tranquility in its extended neighbourhood to go through this process unimpeded.

India, over the same period, seeks to reach some kind of reasonable parity with China. It also needs a peaceful environment. So, there is a mutuality of interests. Both nations know that the emergence of the other as a major power cannot be prevented. They will need to engage, even as they compete, for energy, for markets and for political space.

As they grow, the global security network will also reshape itself with some old stalwarts giving way to new ones.

Networking has its own compulsions and any expectation that China is not aware of them or does not care, is simplistic. In the emerging security scenario, the focus is shifting from the threats posed by traditional nation state actors to those emanating from non-traditional sources.

In shaping responses we must recognise this change even as we safeguard our flanks by maintaining the desired military deterrent. So, even as we watch the Dragon carefully, let us not forget what lies next door.

The writer is a former Director General, Defence Planning Staff

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Army success in Mingora
Anita Inder Singh

THE Pakistani army has driven the Taliban out of Mingora. But that good news is not the same as turning the tide against extremists in Pakistan. The army’s success came after a year of battles lost by security forces in north-western Pakistan, and it was not achieved easily: it took 15,000 soldiers to defeat an estimated 5,000 Taliban there.

The decisive battles are yet to be fought — on the military and civilian fronts. Even after throwing the Taliban out of Mingora, the military authorities have admitted that in Swat ‘this is an elusive enemy that has strongholds in the countryside’ and that they cannot confirm when the army’s operation in the area would be complete.

More than that, the tougher reality is that the Taliban are strongest not in Swat, which they took over only recently, but in South Waziristan, which has been the springboard for the attacks which have frustrated Nato’s Afghan campaign for the last seven years. Thanks to the hospitality and training provided by Pakistan’s army and intelligence since 2001, that is the region where the Taliban are deeply entrenched.

Part of the problem faced by the army is that the Taliban are not organised into neat little military barracks. They are a loose congeries of groups, united by little except a fanatical interpretation of Islam.

In many areas the Taliban have mingled with the local population. That is partly why American drones have found it hard to target extremist outfits accurately; that is partly why they have ended up killing more civilians than extremists. And that is why it is possible that some Taliban have joined the refugees and escaped the army’s guns in Mingora.

So the military campaign in Swat is just the first of many steps needed to defuse the extremist threat to Pakistan. In the meantime extremists can easily spread panic among ordinary Pakistanis by launching attacks at the time and place of their choosing.

The recent bombing attacks on major cities like Lahore and Peshawar suggest that the Taliban will target civilians and security forces alike.

The intention is to test the determination of the army and the government to rout them to foster doubts about the wisdom of a strategy aimed at quashing the Taliban.

How popular is the army’s action in Mingora? Few Swats — or Pakistanis generally — may have wanted to be flogged by Taliban thugs. But the military operation in Swat has created a humanitarian crisis and three million displaced people who are lacking the most basic amenities.

It will be, at least, a fortnight before even essential services like water and electricity are restored in Mingora.

Pakistan needs massive international aid to cope —and the US has already offered $ 110 million to help those displaced because of the battle in Mingora in order to show ordinary Pakistanis that it is concerned about their welfare.

How Islamabad handles the humanitarian crisis will have a bearing on the extent of popular support it can win for anti-extremist military operations.

The problem is that Pakistan’s civilian and military rulers have for long inflicted poor governance on its citizens, and there is no certainty that the aid will reach those who need it. (Did someone whisper Mr Ten Per Cent and President Zardari in the same breath?)

Long-term aid programmes will take time to show results — and the success of the anti-Taliban operation cannot hinge on that — rather, vice-versa.

Not even Islamabad is now saying anything about talks with ‘good’ or ‘moderate’ Taliban, if only because they do not seem to be in evidence, and at the moment, no one really knows who the bad and not-so-bad Taliban are. Pakistan’s army says it is determined to defeat the Taliban, and it must fight on. But undoing the extremist-training job it did for several years may be a long haul.

The writer is a Professor at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, New Delhi.

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Chatterati
by Devi Cherian
Bonhomie on the first day, first show

THE first day of the Lok Sabha session was as colourful and rich as the culture of India. It is nice to see that some of the MPs wore there regional outfits and also took their oath in their regional dialects.

Seventy-eight new MPs were sworn in on the first day. While L.K. Advani and Sonia Gandhi stuck to English and Hindi to take their oath, Chidambaram set the ball rolling for all Tamil MPs present to take the oath in their local dialect.

Sushma Swaraj and Sumitra Mahajan took the oath in Sanskrit. Kirti Azad wore his Bihari pink cap while Shatrughan Sinha arrived in his dapper khadi suit with a golden silk scarf.

The Punjabi ladies — elegant and sophisticated Preneet Kaur and Sukhbir Badal’s wife, Harsimrat, arrived in their Patiala salwaars to make a statement.

It is a good change to see our leaders from different states stick to their regional dresses. Takam Sanjoy, the Congress MP for Arunachal Pradesh West, stood out in his dark blue jacket called Galuk and a cane headgear embellished with a hornbill beak, an animal hide and knitting needles.

It was a happy, cheerful lot. Leaders cut across party lines and left the election campaign bitterness behind to greet one another. The cue was taken from Rahul Gandhi, who went to the Opposition benches to shake hands with Advani and others.

AICC reshuffle

Rahul Gandhi is a busy man once again. He feels he needs to revamp the AICC. He has started a performance assessment of the Youth Congress office-bearers who had been assigned various jobs during the elections.

The AICC general secretary will examine their contribution and hard work and match it with the data available from the 2004 general election.

While some AICC general secretaries have become ministers, an AICC reshuffle is on top of the agenda for Sonia and Rahul. They are in a mood to relieve ministers of organisational responsibilities and bring in young new faces.

Some of the top guys who have been left out of the Cabinet may find a position here depending on their performance. Hopefully, relatives and hangers-on may not find a place here.

Rahul just wants to rid the organisation of useless functionaries. In many states there are groups created by the old and useless with their own deadwood baggage. They do not let youngsters take over.

Boxing lessons

Rahul Gandhi’s knockout punch on his opponents in the parliamentary elections shows what a quick and good learner he is.

In a strenuous three-day a week workout, Rahul sweated it out for two months in the heat taking boxing lessons from Dronacharya awardee O P Bharadwaj. While Bhardwaj was surprised when he got the call to coach Rahul in June 2007, he quickly realised that the young Nehru-Gandhi scion was looking for self-defence lessons. Rahul is a fit man and is a regular at the gym.

Rahul’s lessons stayed a secret like most of his other activities. Rahul Gandhi’s boxing training continued till he made the transition in his fledgling political career by being inducted in the party hierarchy as a general secretary. That was when he began to tour often and the lessons came to an end.

A boxer is supremely confident, loses negativity and works with great endurance. Rahul, without turning negative, countered all sniggers to win over people successfully.

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