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EDITORIALS

An ‘aam aadmi’ budget
The focus is on rural growth and welfare
P
RIME Minister Manmohan Singh summed up the thrust of this year’s budget aptly when he said soon after its presentation to Parliament by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday that it was “essentially a rural development-oriented budget.” Clearly, the budget is a major shot in the arm for the “aam aadmi” with special focus on the farm sector with the explicit aim of bridging the rural-urban gap.

Tennis enriched
No holding back Federer
T
HE tennis world is bedazzled every now and then by iconic figures who become the masters of all that they survey. Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras are among those who, when they were at their peak, dominated so thoroughly that it was said, only half in jest, that we would have to bring competitors from Mars or some other planet to vanquish them.



EARLIER STORIES



ARTICLE

Muscle-flexing by China
Is India’s Pakistan fixation risky?
by Wasbir Hussain
W
E are aware of developments in China, across the Line of Actual Control, both in the field of infrastructure and otherwise, but we cannot claim to know Beijing’s intentions,” the new Vice-Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal P. K. Barbora, told this writer during a recent interview in New Delhi.

MIDDLE

Sweet kiss – Chinese style
by Pushpendra Singh
W
E are going to China! The excitement is palpable even for blasé globe-trotters like us. I can hardly wait to ride the 400-kmph magnetically levitated train; climb the Great Wall; above all, to experience an exotic people, their culture and enigmatic nation.

OPED

Not every revolution is victorious
Iranian protests have faded
by Mary Dejevsky
T
HREE weeks have now passed since Iran’s election, and it seems pretty clear that the opposition, defeated at the ballot box by fair means or – more likely – foul, has suffered a second defeat in the mosques and on the streets. The protests have faded to almost nothing; and the foreign media have been sent on their way.

Today’s friends, tomorrow’s enemies
by Anita Inder Singh
T
HE killing of soldiers by Taliban suicide bombers in Pakistani Kashmir on June 26 is filled with grim irony. To Pakistanis, militancy and Kashmir have long been synonymous. Islamabad has pledged ‘moral, political and diplomatic support’ to what it claims are ‘freedom fighters’ in Indian Kashmir (and what neighbouring India deems to be Pakistani-sponsored extremists).

Delhi Durbar
Liberhan: A little more pain for BJP
H
AS the Liberhan Commission report come at an appropriate time for the BJP? If one goes by Murli Manohar Joshi’s reasoning, whose role was also scrutinised by the commission, this was not the correct time, for he wondered before TV cameras: “Why now?”`





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An ‘aam aadmi’ budget
The focus is on rural growth and welfare

PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh summed up the thrust of this year’s budget aptly when he said soon after its presentation to Parliament by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday that it was “essentially a rural development-oriented budget.” Clearly, the budget is a major shot in the arm for the “aam aadmi” with special focus on the farm sector with the explicit aim of bridging the rural-urban gap. This is indeed unexceptionable. Handsome additional allocation has been made for flagship programmes like the Urban Renewal Mission and the National Rural Health Mission. The allocation to the urban poor for housing and basic amenities has been substantially increased. The farmers would be happy that the targets for agricultural credit have been hiked. Rightly, the Finance Minister has given incentives to farmers on interest rates to pay back agricultural loans in time. The major allocation for the National Food Security Scheme is also a welcome welfare measure insofar as food would be provided to the poor at cheaper rates.

The expectations of industry, which had been raised unrealistically by the UPA’s break with the Left, have not been substantially met. Nothing reflects this better than the unfavourable response of the stock markets which have tanked dramatically. Indian markets do not necessarily follow a logical course but if they continue to remain depressed over the next few days, there would be food for thought. In all fairness to the Finance Minister, with four months of this fiscal having already gone by, he had no mean task in a year of economic slowdown. He has apparently gone about it with caution and a fair degree of prudence. In aiming to minimise the impact of global recession the emphasis has been on short-term requirements of the economy and medium-term goals.

The harried salaried class has received Mr Mukherjee’s welcome attention through an increase in the income tax exemption limit and the removal of the 10 per cent surcharge. Also, as in the last few years, the list of items affected by indirect tax proposals is not large. Indeed, there is a welcome reduction in the basic customs duty on the influenza vaccine and nine other specified life-saving drugs used for treating breast cancer, hepatitis-B, and rheumatic arthritis. Customs duty will also be reduced on two specified life-saving devices used in treating heart ailments. While this is happy augury, health care infrastructure has been ignored. Likewise, while branded jewellery will be cheaper now, gold bars and silver import will become costlier. With an eye on increasing employment in the small-scale industries sector, the prices of thin, flat screen LCDs and monitors will come down. However, mobile phones, which have been increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, will become somewhat costlier through this budget.

Industry, in general, has reason to be happy that its longstanding demand for the abolition of the Fringe Benefit Tax has been met. But its sense of relief has been tempered with the increase in the Minimum Alternate Tax on booked profits from 10 per cent to 15 per cent and the decision to continue with the Security Transaction Tax. There is merit in the view of some captains of industry that at this juncture, industry needed a bigger stimulus than has been provided for in the budget, so as to spur demand. With a third of the year already gone by, perhaps the Finance Minister would like to deal more comprehensively with this aspect in the full year’s budget eight months down the line.

What is heartening, however, is the continued emphasis on infrastructure. The Indian Infrastructure Financial Corporation Limited has been tasked to evolve financing mechanism for giving increased support to infrastructure projects and the Indian Infrastructure Finance Company Limited will re-finance commercial bank loans up to 60 per cent in critical projects through public private partnership to the tune of Rs 1,00,000 crore to raise investment in the sector.

All in all, this year’s budget is a worthy blueprint for action. It marks a new thrust in welfare and rural upliftment. Though it falls short of the expectations on incentives for growth, it could well be a good springboard for action in future.

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Tennis enriched
No holding back Federer

THE tennis world is bedazzled every now and then by iconic figures who become the masters of all that they survey. Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras are among those who, when they were at their peak, dominated so thoroughly that it was said, only half in jest, that we would have to bring competitors from Mars or some other planet to vanquish them. Well, vanquished they were by earthly men of flesh and blood themselves but what matters is that the game has become more and more competitive and enriched through the exploits of such greats. It grew taller on Sunday when Roger Federer inched past Andy Roddick to claim his sixth Wimbledon title and 15th Grand Slam crown. What a final it was, whose outcome could not have been surmised till the very end! The last set was the longest ever played in a Wimbledon men’s final and could rightly be called an epic. What matters is that in the end, Federer achieved what no man has ever achieved: erasing Pete Sampras’ mark of 14 majors is the stuff legends are made of and those who watched history in the making may be telling their grandchildren about it some day.

Not only Sampras but also Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg were there to witness this historic moment at Centre Court. Roddick even joked with Sampras sitting in the front row: “Sorry Pete, I tried to hold him back”. But this Sunday there was no holding back Federer, who now has a rightful claim on being in the very short list of all-time greats. Borg already calls him that, and coming from The Borg, the compliment means a lot. Although Federer is 27, he still has the killer instinct in overdrive and might even cross fresh milestones.

Yet, soon enough another player may come up on the scene who may eclipse even that record. That is the beauty of the game. What is once considered impossible is soon achieved — and then even surpassed. Federer has put the bar way too high, whether it is in terms of Grand Slams won, tournaments won or the number of years at the top. The achievements will draw the competitors of tomorrow like a huge piece of gold. Thanks, Federer, for setting the terrific benchmark.

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Thought for the Day

The green shoots of economic spring are appearing once again.

— Norman Lamont

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Corrections and clarifications

  • The headline “Staff indicted of negligence of duty ” (Page 4, July 3) should have been “Staff indicted for negligence”.
  • In the second edit (Page 12, July 4) “defuse situation” has been mis-spelt as “diffuse sitaution”.
  • In the Chandigarh Tribune (Page 1, July 4), the headline “Rail Budget: City has nothing to cheer” should have been “City has nothing to cheer about”.
  • In the report headlined “Accidents have reduced by 30 pc: Police” in the Chandigarh Tribune (Page 6, July 5), the word used in place of “reduced” should have been “come down”.

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 Kamlendra Kanwar, Senior Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is kanwar@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua
Editor-in-Chief

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Muscle-flexing by China
Is India’s Pakistan fixation risky?
by Wasbir Hussain

WE are aware of developments in China, across the Line of Actual Control, both in the field of infrastructure and otherwise, but we cannot claim to know Beijing’s intentions,” the new Vice-Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal P. K. Barbora, told this writer during a recent interview in New Delhi. Is it because India is not quite sure of China’s possible military manoeuvres, particularly in the far-eastern Arunachal Pradesh sector, that New Delhi is reinforcing its military might in this area? One just can’t rule that out.

On June 15, the Indian Air Force (IAF) deployed four Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads at a newly refurbished airbase in the northern Assam garrison town of Tezpur that lies on the way to the Chinese frontier across Arunachal Pradesh. The Sukhoi strength is expected to be raised to two squadrons in the area. Just before this development, former Army Chief Gen. J. J. Singh, now Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, announced that the government would add two Army divisions to the 10 mountain divisions that already remain deployed along the border with China. Besides, at least three Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) are being put in place, and airstrips and advanced landing stations in the area are being upgraded.

The year 2009 is not 1962. Yet history cannot be brushed aside or forgotten. The disaster that was Operation Leghorn — meant to push the Chinese further behind the McMahon Line along the border with Arunachal Pradesh (then the North-East Frontier Agency) — is still fresh in the minds of the surviving old guard in the Northeast. After all, in that bloody battle in the winter of 1962 (October-November), the Chinese Frontier Guards virtually overran Arunachal Pradesh, taking even Bomdi La, within reach of Tezpur, the town where the Sukhois are now located.

In the 47 years that followed, India has advanced by leaps and bounds and has become a nuclear power. We now have a highly modern and, as always, a committed Army. But geography has not changed. The terrain along the 1,030-km-long heavily wooded border that Arunachal Pradesh shares with China’s Tibet region continues to be as inhospitable as before. And, therefore, India’s emphasis now is not on simply having more sophisticated armaments in the area, but improving roads and other kinds of infrastructure along the frontier.

Not many in the Indian security establishment or the strategic community believe that Beijing would embark on a military adventure or misadventure with India anytime soon. But India doesn’t want to take a chance and is gearing up for “future security challenges” from China as General Singh would like to put it. Is it just about being ready for “future security challenges”? Has there been no challenge at all from the Chinese side as of now? There are challenges even now as the following revelation suggests — there has been 270 “intrusions” by the Chinese during 2008 compared to 60 in 2007. This, however, is not the sole reason for concern.

It is no secret that India has a Pakistan fixation over matters of security. The question now being asked, perhaps more seriously than ever before, is whether India’s Pakistan fixation could run the risk of exposing the country to Chinese threats in the East. That aside, some would even like to ask if there is a hidden Chinese hand somewhere in backing the Naxalites or the Maoists in India, who are actually wreaking havoc in half a dozen states. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh only recently described Naxalism as the “greatest threat to (the country’s) internal security.” The Indian security establishment is also taking note of the reports that Paresh Barua, military chief of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), one of northeastern India’s most potent separatist groups, has moved his base from Bangladesh to China’s Yunnan province along with a few dozen trusted fighters.

New Delhi is also wary of the Chinese encirclement of the Indian sub-continent. China’s access to refuelling stations in Myanmar, port facilities in Bangladesh, all the “listening posts” in Asia’s southern coast, and, of course, its stake in the Pakistani deepwater port of Gwadar are a matter of concern for New Delhi. China has even managed to have a stake in the building of the Sri Lankan port of Hambontota in the island’s south.

The rise of the Maoists in Nepal in 2006 was another ominous development for India and the Chinese are known to have been hobnobbing with the red brigade in the Himalayan nation. Beijing is even believed to have been interfering in Nepal’s political system, something New Delhi cannot reconcile to in view of the special relationship it has been sharing over the years with Kathmandu.

India has rightly realised the need to improve infrastructure along the Chinese frontier in the Arunachal Pradesh sector, parts of which are inaccessible and have to depend on the Air Force for supplies more than 60 years after Independence. New Delhi’s realisation has a lot to do with the massive infrastructure boost in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), just across Arunachal Pradesh, complete with a rail-link to mainland China that is nothing short of a technological marvel.

It was not surprising that during his visit to Arunachal Pradesh in January 2008, Dr Manmohan Singh launched an ambitious road project — the 1,840-km-long Trans-Arunachal Pradesh Highway — that will connect every district headquarters and facilitate easy movement of civilians and war machinery till the international border.

Chinese responses to these developments on the Indian side are not surprising. The People’s Daily on June 11, 2009, described India’s “tough posture” as “dangerous”. The newspaper called upon India to “consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China.” The daily went to the extent of being sarcastic and mocked New Delhi for failing to match up to China’s economic progress. China on its part has continued to push ahead with its claim on 90,000 square km of territory ruled by India in the eastern part of the border, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.

But the most blatant statement about Beijing’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh was made by Ambassador Sun Yuxi in an interview with an Indian television channel just ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to New Delhi in November 2006. The Chinese envoy to India had said: “In our position, the whole of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory. And Tawang is only one of the places in it. We are claiming all of that. That is our position.” New Delhi politely refuted that claim on that occasion as also later similar claims by the Chinese.

While diplomacy continues, India’s latest bid to replace the ageing MIGs with the more potent Sukhoi-30 MKIs on its eastern frontier with China, its decision to have two more Army divisions in the area, and the road and highway projects goes to reinforce the thinking in certain quarters that New Delhi cannot afford to take chances with Beijing. Oblivious or even indifferent to the diplomatic and military manoeuvres, the people of Arunachal Pradesh can only be happy about the transformation that is taking place in their homeland. After all, it is far too long that they have been deprived of good communication links not just to the outside world but also within their own state.

The writer is Director, Centre for Development and Peace Studies, Guwahati.

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Sweet kiss – Chinese style
by Pushpendra Singh

WE are going to China! The excitement is palpable even for blasé globe-trotters like us. I can hardly wait to ride the 400-kmph magnetically levitated train; climb the Great Wall; above all, to experience an exotic people, their culture and enigmatic nation.

Kuala Lumpur, from where we are to embark for Shanghai onto Beijing, has a sizeable Chinese population and I learn a few basic Chinese phrases. ‘Ni hao – Hi! Wo hao – I’m well. Xie-xie – thanks’.

The first thing which strikes us when we land at Shanghai, ‘My God! How crowded it is! (even by Indian standards)’. The second is the manner in which many Chinese, particularly women and children, react to my turban and rolled-up, grey beard with flabbergasted looks, making absolutely no effort to disguise their open astonishment — as Europeans, Americans, even us Indians would. In many cases, it’s downright rude and even embarrassing. However, a most interesting experience awaits me in Beijing.

Any Indian tourist worthy of his salt loves shopping and my wife is the undisputed Maharani! So, a time-window is carved from our busy schedule of sight-seeing, culture et al. Our interpreter-guide escorts us to Silk Alley and discreetly promises to return after 90 minutes.

The Palika-Bazaar-style market is a five-floor, airconditioned mall with you-name-it; we-got-it shops, crammed with art, artefacts, leather goods, whatever. These are owned and ‘manned’ almost exclusively by 20-something young women. The saving grace is they all know rudimentary English. Nevertheless, my grey beard excites a lot of sibilant exclamations.

The Maharani is shopping for handbags and one entire floor is devoted to these as also to gents’ purses, belts and luggage items. There’s intense rivalry to attract customers and my wife’s arms are repeatedly grabbed by rival salesgirls. She admonishes them, ‘Don’t touch me! I will see all your wares.’ As I follow her, they try to get my attention, ‘I give you belt? You want purse?’ I keep shaking my head, ‘No, xie-xie!’ It’s apparently the most useful Chinese phrase I learnt.

Then, taking sharp intakes of breath, a young woman parks herself directly in front of me; lips parted sexily, her face a picture of pure incredulity. She rubs her cheeks with both hands and asks, ‘I give you sweet kiss? I give you sweet kiss?’ A conflict rages between my mind and heart (including male ego). Images of kisses flash through my mind. Would it be a peck on the cheek or a lip-smooch? Have Chinese girls heard of a French kiss? Then, I hear myself say, ‘Xie-xie,’ while vigorously shaking the head in a firm no. The mind has taken over and I side-step her and move on quickly.

However, as we turn to the next row of shops, there she is again. ‘I give you sweet kiss?’ Only, now she’s no longer rubbing her cheeks, but gesturing at her wares – suitcases! The penny drops, crushing the male ego. O! God, she’s saying, ‘I give you su-eet ciss?’

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Not every revolution is victorious
Iranian protests have faded
by Mary Dejevsky

People take part in a protest against the presidential election in Iran in front of Iran's embassy in Brussels July 4, 2009
People take part in a protest against the presidential election in Iran in front of Iran's embassy in Brussels July 4, 2009. — Reuters

THREE weeks have now passed since Iran’s election, and it seems pretty clear that the opposition, defeated at the ballot box by fair means or – more likely – foul, has suffered a second defeat in the mosques and on the streets. The protests have faded to almost nothing; and the foreign media have been sent on their way.

The election has not vanished completely without trace. It has complicated life for President Ahmadinejad at home, and his international wings, such as they were, have been clipped: he has just postponed, without explanation, a planned trip to Libya. It exposed, for a while, a fractious and initially uncertain leadership among the ruling ayatollahs. And it has left in its wake a sullen and unco-operative public – at least the many city-dwellers who believe their votes were traduced.

With the euphoria over, however, and many brave souls in prison or otherwise silenced, it may be scant consolation to acknowledge that efforts to challenge an established order fail at least as often as they succeed.

The victories for anti-communist protesters 20 years ago and, more recently, the joyous popular revolts in Georgia and Ukraine have tended to blot out the revolutionary efforts that came to naught: China’s Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989, and the protests in Tibet, Burma and Moldova. Those that produced more ambiguous outcomes, such as the so-called “Tulip” revolution in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan four years ago, muddy the picture further.

It is a dangerous fallacy to conclude, from the examples of Ukraine and Georgia, say, that making or unmaking a revolution is relatively simple, and that some street protests and a bit of stone-throwing will do the job. Generally rather more than that needs to happen. Few rulers simply fold up their papers, award their staff commemorative pens and transfer the nuclear briefcase to their opposition rival – which is essentially what Mikhail Gorbachev did when he announced the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.

This time last week I was in Budapest at government-sponsored ceremonies to celebrate the 20th annniversary of what Hungary described as the “cutting through” of the iron curtain. And when they say “cutting through the iron curtain”, they mean it not just in the figurative, Churchillian, sense, but literally. In the Cold War years, Hungary’s border with Austria consisted of a series of barbed wire fences, equipped with electronic early warning systems, expressly designed to prevent travel – or escape – to the West.

On 27 June 1989, several months after his government had declared that Hungarian citizens would be allowed to travel freely, the foreign minister of Hungary met his Austrian counterpart at the border and together they hacked through what remained of the barbed wire with a pair of giant metal-cutters. Once the border was open, one thing led to another. Within four months the Berlin Wall was gone; within 18 months communism in Europe was no more.

But Hungary’s anniversary celebrations, joyful as they were, incorporated reminders of something else: the failed uprising of 1956, which left 2,500 Hungarians dead and sent 200,000 into exile. Both 20 years ago, and still more strongly now, the destruction of the “iron curtain” is seen in Hungary not as an isolated victory, but as the reversal of the 1956 defeat – and as history’s vindication for the attempt.

Something similar could be said of East Germany’s failed uprising in 1953 in the light of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the doomed Prague Spring of 1968 in the light of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, and Poland’s first, thwarted, moves to set up a free trade union.

Solidarity’s election victory of 1989 seemed utterly impossible back in 1981, when its burgeoning popularity had precipitated the declaration of martial law. There is a pattern here: all these separate challenges to repressive regimes were crushed, before individually and collectively they won through.

Successful revolutions have something else in common. What emerges from the considered reminiscences that have been published over the years, and are still being coaxed from reluctant witnesses, is how many small details have to come together to bring about a change of power in countries where elections – being unfree – are not enough. The opening of Hungary’s western border 20 years ago had the momentous effect of allowing East Germans to reach the West and so rendered the Berlin Wall redundant. But it was no isolated event. At state level, Hungarian, (West) German and Austrian politicians and diplomats had long been working behind the scenes.

Much tactical thinking, for instance, lay behind the Budapest government’s decision to sign up to the Geneva conventions and accord diplomatic recognition to the European Union. In both cases, Hungary assumed international obligations that conflicted with those it owed to Moscow; in the end, its new, Western-orientated obligations prevailed.

Hungarians were also, as their then leaders now tell it, united in their refusal to send East German refugees back – a legacy perhaps of their compatriots’ experience of German and Austrian hospitality in 1956. Individuals on the front line played their part, too. When hundreds of East Germans appeared at the border, on foot and in their ancient cars, border guards and police essentially disobeyed standing instructions and let them through.

Many now claim they acted according to their moral lights. But there was surely another dimension, too: at this moment officials’ fear of the people outweighed their fear of established authority: the centre of power had tipped.

Iran’s opposition cannot but be demoralised by its defeat. Whatever the real result of the election, though, the protests, like the vigorous campaigning, demonstrated that Iran has such a thing as civil society. From today’s perspective, the uprising of June 2009 was a failure. But if and when Iran’s theocracy is toppled, it will be seen as a crucial landmark along the way.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Today’s friends, tomorrow’s enemies
by Anita Inder Singh

THE killing of soldiers by Taliban suicide bombers in Pakistani Kashmir on June 26 is filled with grim irony. To Pakistanis, militancy and Kashmir have long been synonymous. Islamabad has pledged ‘moral, political and diplomatic support’ to what it claims are ‘freedom fighters’ in Indian Kashmir (and what neighbouring India deems to be Pakistani-sponsored extremists).

The Pakistani state has come under attack in an area where Islamabad has long joined forces with Islamic militants — against India.

The bombers were supporters of Baitullah Mehsud, who was hailed as a patriot by General Pasha, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, less than a year ago, but for whose capture Islamabad is now offering a reward of more than $600,000.

The terrorist assault on Pakistani Kashmir signals that Islamabad’s project of exporting extremism to destabilise neighbouring India and Afghanistan has gone awry.

The news of this — and other bombings — will disturb New Delhi and Washington; both have been concerned about Islamabad’s ambivalence in dealing with extremists. It was only under American pressure since last January and only when Pakistan’s establishment ran out of excuses, according to General David Petraeus, that Pakistan’s army threw extremists out of the towns in the north-western province of Swat. It is now preparing to strike at the Taliban in Waziristan, where they are deeply entrenched.

The army has some popular support for its anti-extremist operations in Swat and Waziristan, not least because the Taliban have alienated many ordinary Pakistanis by being stupid enough to bomb a mosque during the Friday prayers, infuriating people into beating them up.

But the apparent ease with which the Taliban have carried out a series of bombings, almost every day, in some part of Pakistan over the last few weeks implies the existence of a countrywide extremist network and throws a question mark over the time, effort and resolve it would take to defeat them.

American and Indian fears have not been assuaged by reports that Osama bin Laden is still in Pakistan, and that Islamabad has not labelled al-Qaeda as a terrorist organisation, although the UN Security Council condemned its terrorist activities and called for sanctions against it seven years ago.

Moreover, Mullar Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, enjoying Pakistani hospitality in Quetta, are preparing for a new extremist ‘surge’ against Nato in Afghanistan, and Pakistan has rejected Washington’s demands to take action against them. And other extremist leaders have escaped from Pakistan to safer havens in Somalia and Yemen.

At another level, Washington and New Delhi were troubled by the Lahore High Court’s recent decision to release Hafiz Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-i-Dawa, an extremist organisation, which masterminded 26/11 and which was blacklisted by the UN Security Council in December 2008. This was largely because Islamabad did not present all the evidence at its disposal to the court, and New Delhi thinks this omission was deliberate.

New Delhi wants Islamabad to put an end to all terrorist outfits, including anti-India groups. After all, terrorists have bombed Lahore, which is quite near India’s border with Pakistan, thrice this year. And the bombing in Pakistani Kashmir will not allay Indian or American suspicions about the army’s ability and resolve to quash the Taliban.

Several extremists have been killed in American drone attacks, but extremist leaders remain at large in Pakistan.

To crown it all, President Zardari and the army reportedly disagree whether India or the Taliban are the main threat to Pakistan’s security. The Pakistani army continues to ally with anti-India extremists while fighting the Taliban, who are trying to subvert the Pakistani state.

The army has also enlisted some north-western tribes against the Taliban, and some of Mehsud’s rivals within the labyrinthine extremist complex. But the tribes now supporting the army were only until the other day allies of the Taliban.

Islamabad must realise that it cannot defeat one set of extremists and ally with others if only because, as the bombing in Pakistani Kashmir shows, the army’s erstwhile or present extremist friends could be its enemies tomorrow.

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

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Delhi Durbar
Liberhan: A little more pain for BJP

HAS the Liberhan Commission report come at an appropriate time for the BJP? If one goes by Murli Manohar Joshi’s reasoning, whose role was also scrutinised by the commission, this was not the correct time, for he wondered before TV cameras: “Why now?”`

But then there are others who have taken it all in their stride. A senior BJP leader related a little Punjabi folk tale to justify the timing of the presentation of the Liberhan report to the government.

It goes thus: A little girl fell from a terrace, suffering serious injuries in different parts of her body. The ‘vaid’ prescribed one medicine, the ‘hakim’ another, the local ‘mohalla’ mendicant suggested some other balm to soothe her pain.

The ‘mohalla’ elder came to enquire after her health and, seeing her writhing in pain, suggested to her parents that this was the right time to pierce the girl child’s ears and nose as well, implying that this pain, would go unnoticed .

This leader in his elements implicitly conceded that the BJP was currently undergoing such pain and suffering that a little more pain inflicted through Liberhan’s report will not make much difference to its agony.

Hum, Lalu Prasad

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav was definitely not his usual self when Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee entered the Lok Sabha to present her third budget.

Much before the iron lady from Bengal walked into the House, Lalu made public his dislike of being called a Yadav. So when Speaker Meira Kumar called out his name as “Lalu Prasad Yadav ji” during the proceedings, allowing him to make a point, the former Railway Minister corrected the Speaker. “Hum Lalu Prasad hain…”.

Meira obviously didn’t know how to react. The fact is this socialist, unlike his other colleagues like Sharad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, is very touchy about his name. He doesn’t quite relish being called a Yadav and is known to write his name as “Lalu Prasad” only.

Print media-shy?

Strange are the ways in which mandarins at the Foreign Office are functioning. The first formal press conference of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna last week proved to be a damp squib.

Only journalists from news agencies and the audio visual media were invited for the press meet at the South Block.

When journalists from the print media inquired if there was any press conference by the minister, they were told that he indeed was meeting the press but not those from the print media.

One reporter belonging to an English newspaper from the South, with a considerable clout in the Foreign Office, however, did manage to sneak in. But others were not that lucky.

The next day newspapers in the capital largely ignored Krishna’s press conference and rightly so.

Contributed by Faraz Ahmad, Aditi Tandon and Ashok Tuteja

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