SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

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DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
O P I N I O N S

Guest Column
On foreign policy, Sharif on right track
Peace with India and Afghanistan remains critical to Sharifís vision of foreign and security policy. With India, despite the flare-up at the LoC, he remains committed to normalising ties.
Nasim Zehra
Having overseen the first-ever democratic and constitutional transition in Pakistanís history, three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is on a rough power ride on the domestic governance front while leading the initiative on key foreign policy fronts.

on record
ĎIndian cinema not known for qualityí
The award-winning filmmaker feels Hindi cinema is changing for the better, but the process is slow and confined to city-based themes.
Nonika Singh talks to Buddhadeb Dasgupta Poet and filmmaker
Candid to the point of being blunt, well-known poet and renowned filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta doesnít look at the world with rose-tinted glasses. Yet, when he makes films, itís not hard-hitting reality that engages him.


SUNDAY SPECIALS

OPINIONS
PERSPECTIVE
PRIME CONCERN
SPECIAL REPORT

GROUND ZERO


EARLIER STORIES

Victims twice over
December 28, 2013
Unsafe in South Sudan
December 27, 2013
The meeting of DGMOs
December 26, 2013
Back to quota politics
December 25, 2013
Deliver now
December 24, 2013
Burial or action?
December 23, 2013
Through fog, itís better late than never
December 22, 2013
Statesí turn
December 21, 2013
Immunity & entitlement
December 20, 2013
Lokpal, finally
December 19, 2013


GROUND ZERO
2014 to bring new dawn on Indo-Pak relations?
With leadership transition in the major power centres in Pakistan going smoothly, Nawaz after being 200 days in power has finally begun to look like he is in control. For India this is welcome news, and may provide a glimmer of hope in the New Year.
Raj ChengappaRaj Chengappa
The joke doing the rounds is that Nawaz Sharif is formally taking over as Prime Minister of Pakistan on January 1, 2014. Thatís because ever since he was elected Prime Minister in June this year, he has had to work towards taking control and consolidating his hold over the various centres of power and has only now succeeded in demonstrating that he is firmly in the saddle.





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Guest Column
On foreign policy, Sharif on right track 
Peace with India and Afghanistan remains critical to Sharifís vision of foreign and security policy. With India, despite the flare-up at the LoC, he remains committed to normalising ties.
Nasim Zehra

Nasim ZehraHaving overseen the first-ever democratic and constitutional transition in Pakistanís history, three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is on a rough power ride on the domestic governance front while leading the initiative on key foreign policy fronts. His primary agenda, as Nawaz told the Turkish press this week, is to be friends with India and Afghanistan. Pakistanís national security team is also focused on ironing out problems with the US over the critical drones and militants issue.

Why Sharif believes he can push ahead with this agenda is because he has institutions and individuals who will support his objectives. He set up in August the Defence Committee on Foreign Policy and National Security, an important framework needed to evolve consensus policies with input from all constitutional stakeholders on security and foreign policy.

He has on key posts men he has confidence in ó Senator Sartaj Aziz and ambassador Tariq Fatimi as adviser and special assistant managing the implementation of foreign policy objectives. Sharif himself holds the minister of foreign affairs portfolio, and to his confidante Khawaja Asif, he has handed the defence ministry. He has hand-picked Gen Raheel Sharif as the army chief. The ISI is led by the man Sharif has now worked with for six months.

India, Pakistan DGMOs met last week
India, Pakistan DGMOs met last week. ó PTI

Peace with India and Afghanistan remains critical to the Prime Ministerís vision of foreign and security policy. With India, despite the flare-up at the LoC, Sharif remains committed to normalising ties. He insisted on strengthening border mechanisms to ensure that ceasefire is maintained. In September, he was able to convince his Indian counterpart on the necessity to strengthen the mechanisms.

Sharifís brother, the Chief Minister of Punjab, met the Indian Prime Minister recently and extended him an invitation to visit Pakistan. He ensured that DGMOs of both countries met on December 24 to discuss the ceasefire. The meeting was successful, with the DGMOs agreeing to strengthen ceasefire mechanisms.

With Afghanistan, too, Sharif has led the confidence-building process. Rejecting Islamabadís past policy of working with favourites, the Sharif government, like its predecessor PPP government, is focusing on improving ties with Afghanistan. After Afghan Presidentís visit to Islamabad in August, Pakistan agreed to release Taliban prisoners. Kabul and Islamabad have agreed to strengthen border mechanisms.

Limited action in North Waziristan has begun. The army retaliated to a suicide attack on its convoy by militants. Counter-terrorism remains a challenge, and the government is working out a viable strategy.

Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly resolution against drone attacks is a positive move. Yet, this moral victory will not force immediate change in US policy on the use of drones in Pakistan.

Sharifís team recognises that interrelated issues of drones, terrorism, nexus between Pakistan and Afghan Taliban, political transition in Afghanistan and ties with the US have to be tackled simultaneously. Adviser on national security and foreign policy, Sartaj Aziz, made it clear that its business as usual with the US.

Nato supplies, he informed the Senators, was continuing through the Balochistan route, hence supplies via Pakistan had not been halted completely. The Pakistan-US strategic dialogue at the Secretary level is scheduled to restart in February after a break of almost two years.

Aziz also underscored the governmentís effort to increase economic ties with the US. For now, a critically cash-strapped Pakistan waited for a multi-billion dollar reimbursement from the Coalition Support Fund. As Pakistan seeks support, especially from the International Monetary Fund, it needs Washingtonís nod. For keeping its ties on track with the US, the government, other than PTI and JI, enjoys support of most parties.

On the security front, Pakistan and the US continue to cooperate on counter-terrorism and setting up cross-border mechanisms along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistan remains a key partner for Washington as 2014 draws closer, and no less, because the Afghan President has been less pliable with the US over the security partnership agreement that Washington is keen to sign with Afghanistan.

So far so good. This effort begs two questions. On policy, the governmentís commitment to going ahead with the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project is embroiled in contradictory positions taken by his ministers. Equally, why has the PM not approached the Saudis on sectarian killings in Pakistan? Whereas Pakistan should be promoting Saudi-Iran detente, its position is unclear.

On policy implementation, the latest fiasco on promotions and transfers in the foreign office points to the need for better personnel management.

In the coming days as Sharif remains anxious to achieve breakthroughs in ties with Pakistanís neighbours, the political transition marked by elections in both India and Afghanistan may slow down their process of engaging with Pakistan.

ó The writer is a Pakistan-based TV anchor and columnist.

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on record
ĎIndian cinema not known for qualityí
The award-winning filmmaker feels Hindi cinema is changing for the better, but the process is slow and confined to city-based themes.
Nonika Singh talks to Buddhadeb Dasgupta Poet and filmmaker

Buddhadeb Dasgupta Poet and filmmakerCandid to the point of being blunt, well-known poet and renowned filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta doesnít look at the world with rose-tinted glasses. Yet, when he makes films, itís not hard-hitting reality that engages him. While his frames speak in the language of poetry and beauty, another discerning thread of his films is magic realism. In his 37-year-long career, international audiences and juries have lapped up his films. Closer home, his films like Bagh Bahadur, Charachar, Lal Darja, Mondo Meyer Upakhyan and Kaalpurush have won National Awards. Recently, his film Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa premiered at the London Film Festival. A retrospective of his films was held at the International Film Festival of India at Goa. Honours such as Lifetime achievement award at the Spain International Film Festival in Madrid and Golden Athena Award at the Athens International Film Festival sit lightly on his shoulders. The only feather he carries with pride is his ability to call the shots while making films he believes in. Excerpts:

What has been the urge to return to Hindi cinema, with which your affair has been tenuous?

Hindi is not a foreign language to me. I have made short films in Hindi as well. For my latest film Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa, I felt the subject was more suitable to Hindi.

Has Hindi cinema changed for the better?

With new stories, styles and genres, it is getting there but the process is slow and confined only to city-based themes.

Bengali cinema has produced many stalwarts. Is Bengalís cultural milieu conducive to cinema?

Not right now. It has been seized by mediocrity and there are no new names worth reckoning.

Were you influenced by Satyajit Ray?

Not at all. I admired him. However, we have different ways of looking at cinema. When I arrive on the sets I just have the script in hand and there is no premeditated plan in my mind. I let my instincts dictate the frame.

Your films are often called visual poetry on screen. Is that an offshoot of you being a poet?

Indeed. I am indebted to poetry, not just my own. Besides, I believe there is an image in music, paintings, and of course poetry anyway is replete with imagery.

Magic realism is the leitmotif of many of your films. Why?

Reality by itself is boring and predictable. Magic is important, not just in films, but in real life too. Where magic ends and reality begins or vice versa no one knows. The two are part of the same continuum.

Journey is an important part of your films. Are internal and external journeys one and the same?

I am not referring to the literal journey but to the one within. Itís through journey alone that one discovers and confronts the real self.

What is your take on film festivals?

Film festivals are important. However, if someone thinks that festivals are the mecca of filmmaking process, he or she is living in a foolís paradise. At the end of the day a film is a film and has to be commercially viable. Besides, there is nothing like a festival film and there is no formula to it.

How would you compare Indian film festivals with those abroad?

I rate these highly, especially the International Film Festival of India at Goa and Trivandurum. These are on a par with international film festivals.

Do you really think audiences in other countries are interested in Indian cinema?

Yes, they are keen. For instance, my films are better accepted by foreign audiences and mainly sell abroad. Indian films do well if these talk about subjects foreign audiences relate to. If these are about specific subjects entrenched in our social system alien to their sensibilities, they are unlikely to accept it.

You once said Indian cinema has not become a brand. Arenít brands more open to manipulation and subject to market whims?

I didnít mean it as a commercial commodity. Unlike Japanese or Iranian cinema that has a stamp of quality, Indian cinema is known by a few filmmakers rather than quality. So we might be one of the most prolific filmmaking countries, but lag on qualitative standards.

You have often been disdainful of awards.

Awards are significant but the moment I start feeling elated, I would be finished.

You have been on the selection committee of various festivals. What do you look for in a film?

A good film is the one that lingers on, comes back to you in your moments of loneliness, haunts you. Itís not easy to find such films. Often after declaring winners, I am nagged by doubts and regret ó where are these kind of films?

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