26 September 2013

The battle that rages within the Nation

Date : 26 Sep , 2013

Since Independence, the nation has grown up with the knowledge and belief that its armed forces are pillars of strength and symbolize probity and the spirit of sacrifice. This belief is reflected in polls conducted from time to time, and is strengthened when citizens see men and women in uniform risking their lives to save people during natural disasters like the one that struck Uttarakhand in June this year. From this comfort zone to be exposed to the events of the last year culminating in the present must have left them not only disoriented but also hopelessly confused.

…civil-military relations in India, in which the polity has kept the Indian military at more than an arm’s length, preferring to deal with it through the all-powerful bureaucracy, this should have set alarm bells ringing.

To briefly recapitulate, the former army chief, V.K. Singh, completed his tenure at the end of May 2012 on the basis of his age in the record books. His appeal to the defence minister to have the age corrected was turned down. Had it been otherwise, not only would his tenure have been extended, but as claimed by some it would have upset an apparently well-crafted succession plan. The successor reportedly enjoyed high contacts within the civilian leadership and enjoyed its support. In a dubious first in the history of the armed forces, a serving army chief then approached the Supreme Court for relief, but was turned down.

During this unholy phase when a serving army chief and the government were at odds, a few strange happenings came to light. It transpired that Singh had been offered a bribe by a retired officer to facilitate the induction of sub-standard trucks being produced by Bharat Earth Movers Limited, a defence undertaking. In spite of bringing this to the notice of the defence minister, no action was taken. Then, in two successive months, a national daily published reports, one claiming that the chief had set up a Technical Support Division within the military intelligence that was snooping on the communications of defence ministry officials and the defence minister. The ministry of defence is reportedly investigating the matter. The next report — more damaging than the first — claimed that some army units had moved suspiciously towards Delhi on the very day the army chief had gone to court. The hint of coercive tactics without using the dreaded word, coup, was apparent. This was denied by the defence ministry.

Whatever may have been the facts, a perception had been created that here was a serving army chief who was not averse to resorting to unconventional and even unconstitutional means. In the context of civil-military relations in India, in which the polity has kept the Indian military at more than an arm’s length, preferring to deal with it through the all-powerful bureaucracy, this should have set alarm bells ringing.

So grave were these allegations and their impact on the integrity of a serving chief and, consequently, on the morale of the armed forces that it was incumbent on the government to act in haste and get to the bottom of the allegations with the help of a high-level, independent investigation to clean the Augean stables. This would have had the following salutary effects. First, the nation would have been taken into confidence on precisely what the truth was. Next, wrongdoing, wherever applicable, would have been identified and the perpetrators held accountable. Finally, a message would have been sent to the armed forces that favouritism in promotions, high-handedness, or political interference in the functioning of the army would not be tolerated. In short, a sad chapter in the annals of civil-military relations would have been nipped in the bud and the supremacy of civilian leadership over the military enhanced. If it were revealed that the former army chief was guilty, the price would have been worth the revelation. Equally, if it was established that there was no wrongdoing on his part, then he along with the institution deserved an apology.

Diluting nuclear supplier's liability

Last updated on: September 22, 2013

If a public sector company willfully enters into an agreement with a foreign vendor and abdicates its right to recourse which otherwise provides for its benefit, it would not only be violating the provisions of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Act but also section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, notes Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley

A news item appeared in the national newspaper “The Hindu” on September 3, 2013 to the effect that Government of India is planning to permit the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited to enter into arrangement with American nuclear vendors wherein the written contract between the NPCL and the American vendors would contain a clause to the effect that the operator NPCIL has abdicated and waived off the ‘right of recourse’ as provided under section 17 of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act.

The news item stated that this stand was based on the opinion of the Attorney General for India, to the effect that section 17 of the Act expressly provided for a contract in writing and it was the operator to choose an incorporation in such a contract which itself may exclude the ‘right to recourse’. 

The Government of India under pressure from the nuclear vendors wanted to eliminate the ‘right of recourse’. The original Bill as introduced in the Lok Sabha was referred to the Standing Committee contained a provision inr section 17 which made it mandatory for the light of recourse to emanate from a willful act of gross negligence. Section 17(b) as originally drafted made it a pre-requisite for the exercise of the right of recourse that the act of the suppliers must be willful act which resulted in a tort. This provision was referred to the Standing Committee. The Government of India entered into negotiations with the Opposition parties and particularly with the principal Opposition party, the BJP. A series of amendments were suggested by the BJP to the Government. I was a privy to these discussions.

Section 17(b) was re-written and a consensus language arrived at which introduced the principle of strict liability. A willful act or gross negligence of the supplier was not necessary if it could be demonstrated that the equipment supplied by the supplier had a patent or latent defect or that the services rendered were sub-standard.

This altered language which was amongst various alternative suggestions to the Government was much to the discomfort of the vendors. Even though clauses 17(a) and 17(b) of the Bill were independent of each other - one not being dependent on the other -- without any discussion on the subject the word ‘and’ was introduced in the report of the Standing Committee. It was a shabbily done exercise where the word ‘and’ was not in the original draft of the Standing Committee report which was circulated to the members.

Nuclear extravagance in Washington

Published: September 26, 2013 
Suvrat Raju
M. V. Ramana

In rushing to purchase commercially untested reactors from the United States, New Delhi has glossed over concerns about safety and the scope of suppliers’ liability, while failing to assess profitability in the long run

Nuclear commerce is likely to feature prominently in the forthcoming discussion between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama in Washington. The U.S. government is keen to clinch some sales for its nuclear industry. The Prime Minister would like to advance the nuclear deal that has, so far, failed to yield a single contract for reactors. However, as we describe here, India’s plans to buy reactors from the U.S. are deeply problematic: they involve the expenditure of thousands of crores of Indian public money on arbitrarily selected American companies. The reactors on offer are commercially untested, and accompanied by unscientific promises about high levels of safety that are belied by the fierce determination of these companies to absolve themselves of responsibility for any accident.

Cost escalations

Public knowledge of these deals dates back to 2008 when William Burns, a senior U.S. diplomat, told the U.S. Senate that the Indian government had written a “strong Letter of Intent stating India’s intention to set aside at least two reactor sites with a minimum of 10,000 MWe generating capacity for U.S. firms.” It is customary for the government to go through a competitive bidding process, or at least a feasibility study before awarding a large contract. However, this commitment was made without even settling on broad details like the reactor-designs. In subsequent years, the two sites have been narrowed down to Mithi Virdi in Gujarat for Westinghouse, and Kovvada in Andha Pradesh for General Electric (GE).

The reactor proposed for Mithi Virdi is the AP1000 — a pressurised light water reactor. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Westinghouse on an “early works agreement,” which is likely to be finalised during the Prime Minister’s visit.

No AP1000 has entered commercial operation anywhere in the world, although eight are being constructed — four each in China and the U.S. The AP1000 is based on the AP600 — a design that was described by the president of the U.S. Nuclear Energy Institute as one that “will compete in world and U.S. markets and maintain America’s global leadership.” In the event, not a single AP600 was ever constructed, because it could not compete economically.

It is evident that electricity from the AP1000 will also be expensive. In the Vogtle project, where two AP1000 reactors are being constructed in the U.S. state of Georgia, each reactor was initially estimated to cost approximately $7 billion.

Despite strong governmental support, including an offer of a loan guarantee for $8.3 billion, the plant has already been delayed by a year. Costs have increased, contributing to a downgrade of the associated corporations by financial rating agencies. Westinghouse, and the operator, Georgia Power, recently sued each other for nearly a billion dollars, with each blaming the other for delays and cost escalations.

In May, another U.S. utility, Duke Energy, suspended plans to construct AP1000 reactors in North Carolina. Last month, the same company cancelled two AP1000 reactors in Florida after total cost estimates had risen to “between $19 and $24 billion,” before the start of construction.

The reactor design chosen for Kovvada is GE’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). This design has not even been certified in the U.S. and not a single ESBWR is under construction anywhere. A few years ago, when talk of a “nuclear renaissance” was rife, a few companies explored the possibility of the ESBWR; one estimated that each reactor would cost $8.5 billion. All those plans are essentially frozen or cancelled.

The capital costs of both these American designs, per unit of installed capacity, are roughly the same as those of the French EPRs planned for Jaitapur. In a detailed analysis for the Economic and Political Weekly, we estimated that at these prices, first-year tariffs would be around Rs.15 per unit of electricity, even after allowing for substantially lower construction costs in India.

Moreover, several indirect subsidies are built into the government’s revenue model for imported reactors. These include cheap loans at taxpayer risk and an investment pattern where the government injects equity early during the construction process, only to receive an effective rate of return on capital well below that mandated by power sector regulations.

The Chinese Dream is Over: The Seven Perils

Issue Courtesy: Uday India| Date : 25 Sep , 2013

The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at a bilateral meeting with the President of the People’s Republic of China Mr Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Fifth BRICS Summit, at Durban, South Africa

On August 19, an important meeting was held in Beijing during which President Xi Jinping called for a renewal of China’s focus on Marxist ideology.

Xi was addressing a national conference on ideology and propaganda attended by top central and regional party ideology officials, media censors and media regulators.

Since the 18th National Congress in November 2012, reformists have praised the merits of constitutionalism—where power remains in the framework of the laws of the land—versus supreme party authority.

Xi pleaded with officials to present a more cohesive Marxist message to cadres and the public.

This appeal came when the debate over the nation’s future is raging in China; observers believe that a decision may be taken during the Third Plenum, a crucial Party meeting in November.

Since the 18th National Congress in November 2012, reformists have praised the merits of constitutionalism—where power remains in the framework of the laws of the land—versus supreme party authority.

Tim Buckey for the The New York Times reported Xi’s speech: “Communist Party cadres have filled meeting halls around China to hear a somber, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they have been told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through Chinese society.”

An internal Party memo, referred to as Document No. 9 was mentioned; it enumerates the ‘Seven Perils’. Buckey says that it “bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping.”

The first ‘Peril’ is of course ‘Western constitutional democracy’; others included promoting ‘universal values’ of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market ‘neo-liberalism’, and ‘nihilist’ criticisms of the party’s traumatic past.

According to Document No. 9: “Western forces hostile to China and dissidents within the country are still constantly infiltrating the ideological sphere.”

Redrawing frontiers

Stability in the Gulf region is in the interest of India
by G. Parthasarathy

ISRAEL’S armed forces invaded Lebanon in 1982, with the aim of creating a buffer for the security of its northern borders. Within months, the PLO led by Yasser Arafat and his armed cadres were forced to leave Lebanon, the Syrian Air Force was virtually wiped out in air battles with the Israeli Air Force and Syrian forces had to be withdrawn from Lebanon. In the years following the Israeli action, Lebanon was engulfed by ethnic and sectarian conflict. Its first invasion of Lebanon was not without its costs for Israel. The invasion saw the emergence of the Hezbollah as a powerful Iranian backed militia, which has in subsequent conflicts, seriously challenged the might and avowed invincibility of Israel’s armed forces.

Virtually coinciding with the Israeli attack on Lebanon, Oded Yinon, an Israeli Government analyst, came out with a plan for redrawing the boundaries of what the Americans were to later describe as the “Greater Middle East”, extending from Pakistan to Turkey. While advocating a long-term plan to for the annulment of Israel’s Camp David Accord with Egypt and its destabilisation, Yinon envisaged “total dissolution of Lebanon” as a precedent for the dissolution of Syria and Iraq. Syria, he argued, would fall apart into a Shia Alawite-dominated State along its coast, a Sunni State in the Aleppo area, another Sunni State near Damascus, hostile to the Sunni north, and the Druzes with a State in “our Golan”, and in the Hauran and northern Jordan.

With the bloody Iran-Iraq conflict triggered by Saddam Hussein encouraged by the Reagan Administration then gathering momentum, Yinon held: “In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria, in Ottoman times, is possible. So, three or more States will exist around the three major cities of Basra, Mosul and Baghdad. Shia areas in the South will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish North. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarisation. The entire Arabian peninsula is a natural candidate for dissolution due to internal and external pressures”. In the years that have followed the Yinon analysis, the Greater Middle East has witnessed traumatic and bloody conflicts and internal turmoil, as civilizational, religious and sectarian rivalries have torn societies and nations apart.

Iraq’s Saddam Hussein brought misery and suffering to his own people after his ill-advised invasion of Kuwait, which followed the war he imposed on Iran with American support. After fellow Arabs, notably Syria and Egypt, joined the Americans to pulverise his armed forces and impose crippling economic sanctions in 1991, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was torn apart in a second American-led invasion. This invasion in 2003 ended the minority Sunni domination of Iraq and its replacement by a Shia-dominated government. As many as 1,33,000 Iraqis perished in this second invasion. The new Shia-dominated dispensation is, however, not only facing de facto Kurdish separation in the north, but also confronts a bloody insurgency by its Sunni minority, duly backed by its Gulf Arab neighbours. Libya was thereafter invaded by NATO forces from France and the UK, backed by the Americans, for regime change, getting the erratic, but secular Gadaffi replaced by Islamist oriented leaders. Libya has not only become a focal point for Al Qaeda activity, but also appears headed towards being administered virtually as two separate entities —Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.

A soldier’s worth

Sep 23, 2013

The government continues to deny both serving and retired soldiers their rightful pay and perks and has quietly buried a Fifth Pay Commission study which found that they had a much lower life expectancy than their civilian counterparts. By PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI in New Delhi

EVEN as the country watched soldiers of the Indian Army putting their lives on the line during the arduous rescue operations in flood-hit Uttarakhand in June, a couple of elderly defence veterans were making the rounds of the Army Headquarters and the offices of the Defence Ministry in New Delhi, hoping to meet either the Defence Minister or the Chief of the Army Staff. They hoped to draw the attention of the authorities to the fact that the pay and perks of serving soldiers (all ranks, including officers and sepoys) and the post-retirement benefits of ex-servicemen were pitiable.

The two men were Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh, acting chairman of the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement (IESM), and Maj Gen (retd) Surjit Singh. They had a committee report to back their claim that soldiers were given a raw deal. The committee, headed by Maj Gen Surjit Singh, was formed by the Army’s Pay Commission cell to deduce the life expectancy of soldiers for finalising their pay, perks and age of superannuation for the Fifth Central Pay Commission. The committee’s report was prepared in consultation with the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR). The report, which was confidential, never got acted upon despite the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s assurance that it would be given due consideration. While the Fifth Pay Commission was benevolent to Central government employees, defence personnel got a raw deal. This led to a lot of heartburning among defence personnel. Internally, they continued to try and push the government to remedy the situation, but it proved futile. “Now we have decided to make this report public and highlight the unfair treatment meted out to soldiers by successive governments,” said Satbir Singh.

Dying earlier 

The findings of the report, titled “A critique of the military pension”, are indeed startling. Taking a big enough sample size of various categories of veterans from pension disbursing banks, zila sainik boards and EME records, the Army cell came to the conclusion that the life expectancy was 72.5 years for officers, 67 for junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and between 59.6 and 64 years for other ranks. The study found that among personnel of other ranks, soldiers possessing saleable skills tended to live longer. The overall conclusion was that on an average a soldier lived only 15 to 20 years after retirement, irrespective of his age at the time of retirement.

In contrast, the IAMR study found that the life expectancy of civil servants was 77 years and that of Railway employees was 78 years. In view of these findings, the Fifth Central Pay Commission recommended an increase in the age of superannuation for Central government civil servants from 58 to 60 years. A number of States such as West Bengal, Meghalaya and Mizoram, and the Union Territory of Puducherry followed suit and raised the age of superannuation for their civil servants. The Commission gave the personnel of the central police organisations three years’ additional service, the benefits for members of the armed forces were left to be decided by the Central government.

“In a society where civilian authority is supreme, we were left with no choice but to raise the issue at the right forums internally and kept hoping that the government would do something about it. But, unfortunately, nothing happened. Once the matter was raised in the Rajya Sabha and the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the House that he would look into it, but many years have since passed and nothing has been done, which is a matter of great concern for all of us,” said Surjit Singh, who claimed that since retirement he had now found his “freedom of speech back” and that he intended to make full use of it to get the soldiers their due.

A long road to America

Sep 25, 2013 

Officials briefing media, at a US think-tank in New Delhi, explained that India-US relations appear stalled as high-speed cruising makes movement imperceptible. There are no new big takeaways as trophies.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in Washing-ton on September 27 on a day’s working visit before heading to New York for the 68th session of the UN General Assembly. It would be his sixth bilateral summit with a US President, starting with George W. Bush in 2005, and his last address to the UNGA in his current incarnation. 

This visit is under such changed circumstances, domestic and international, that infusing life into India-US relations is a challenge. In New York, he will gauge the extent of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s intent and ability to follow a mutually agreed path, besides assessing why UN Security Council reform has stalled. He must also make India’s voice audible on issues of contemporary relevance, i.e. Syria, terrorism, which in Nairobi took two Indian and many foreign/Kenyan lives, and decipher the mood in multiple groupings like Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Non-Aligned Movement, Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogam) etc.

There are two subjects that Dr Singh has invested most in: the US and Pakistan. This article explores the former.

Officials briefing media and the national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, at a US think-tank in New Delhi, explained that India-US relations appear stalled as high-speed cruising makes movement imperceptible. There are no new big takeaways as trophies of diplomatic success. Recent visitors to Washington, however, have got different vibes. Officials of a distracted US administration and a beleaguered President have been lending their ears to the rising chorus against Indian protectionism that inhibits market access of US companies. The US Congress is also bandying a new immigration law that will affect Indian software companies in the US. The July visit of US vice-president Joe Biden, preceded by US secretary of state John Kerry, were attempts to sensitise each side to the other’s expectations.

The US seeks, as Mr Menon conceded, Indian macro-economic reform, i.e. full market access for US companies. Close to Lok Sabha election no sweeping second-generation reforms are possible. Thus, the government is focusing on a few deliverables. First is the civil nuclear field where the US finds Indian nuclear liability law unnecessarily onerous, making suppliers liable alongside the operator and at variance with international practice. Section 17 of the Indian Nuclear Liability Act provides the operators’ right to recourse. Attorney general has opined that Section 17(a), which talks of such a right being “expressly provided for in a contract in writing”, overrides sections (b) and (c), which make an operator or any other person causing the event liable. The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, in a newspaper argues that the three subsections are distinct and provide for separate contexts for recourse. He warns that making Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd sign an agreement with Westinghouse does not absolve the latter of its liability under the Section 17(b). This argument carries legal weight and any company entering India would structure it into a higher price quote for the product, passed then onto the Indian public as higher power tariff.

Anatomy of a riot

Sep 25, 2013 

The Gujarat riots have been singled out by the secular brigade for obvious political reasons... But Gujarat has been the only state in India in which no communal riot has occurred after 2002.

There were no communal riots in India during the medieval period. Also very rare in the 19th century, they became common in the 20th century. In the previous centuries, communal atrocities were committed by rulers or invaders but there were no communal riots as such. 

The Hindus were weak and submissive to their all-powerful Muslim rulers. The people were resigned to their fate and toiled on their land etching out their living. Islam in India developed a liberal ideology under Sufi influence. Rulers like Sher Shah Suri, Akbar and a few others had a liberal outlook and treated their non-Muslim subjects fairly, although there were several rulers who were religious bigots. The uprising of the Marathas, the Sikhs or the Jats had no communal overtones. Shivaji showed respect to the Holy Quran and supported Muslim religious institutions. So did Ranjit Singh. The foundation stone of the Golden Temple was laid by Mian Mir, a Muslim saint.

The All-India Muslim League at its first convention in Dacca demanded a separate Bange-Islam comprising East Bengal and Assam. Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy, partitioned Bengal presidency, ostensibly because it was administratively unwieldy. The real motive was to divide and rule. There was widespread agitation, and the government had to annul this partition in 1911. In the 20th century, frequent communal riots occurred in urban areas, though this was rare in rural areas. There were exceptions, like the large-scale Bakrid riots of 1917 in Bihar and the Mopla rebellion of 1920. Communal riots were generally localised affairs. They erupted on account of issues like animal slaughter, land dispute, molestation or abduction of women and so on. Politics was not factored into these riots.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah launched Direct Action Day laws in Calcutta on August 16, 1946. Bengal was the only province in the country with a Muslim League government. Chief minister Suhrawardy organised the Great Calcutta Killings in which some 4,000 people were slaughtered. The police was held back and did not intervene. This state-started communal riot spun out of control leading to a series of retaliatory communal violence that took place all over the country. A communal tornado swept the country during the Partition in which millions were killed.

For the first decade or so after Independence, we had political stalwarts who were genuine secularists. We also had an effective administration. Communal harmony was maintained. With sham secularist leaders chasing votebanks and a totally corroded administration, communal violence became frequent thereafter. In some cases, casualties ran into four digits, like Mumbai in 1980, Assam in 1983, Delhi in 1984, Bhagalpur in 1989 and Gujarat in 2002. The Gujarat riots have been singled out by the secular brigade which is obliging the media to constantly demonise Narendra Modi for obvious political reasons. His record of development and good administration is conveniently downplayed. Gujarat has been the only state in the country in which no communal riot has occurred after 2002. Despite the attack on Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar in 2003 in which Hindu priests and pilgrims were killed, communal conflagration was not allowed to take place and peace was maintained.

The End of Poverty, Soon

By JEFFREY D. SACHS
Published: September 24, 2013

Appealing for peace 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy told the Irish Parliament, “The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask, why not?”

Today, more and more people are dreaming of a world free of poverty.

In April, the Development Committee of the World Bank set the goal of ending extreme poverty by the year 2030. More recently, the United Nations General Assembly working group on global goals concluded that “eradicating poverty in a generation is an ambitious but feasible goal.” As one who wrote in 2005 that ours was the generation that could end extreme poverty, I am pleased to see this idea take hold at the highest levels.

Are these errant dreams as the world barrels toward more confusion, conflict and climate change, or is there something substantial in the recent wave of high-level interest in the idea? The evidence is on the side of the optimists. And the evidence also supports both those who favor more markets and those who favor more public-private strategies. It’s all a matter of context.

The global picture will surprise doomsayers. According to the World Bank’s scorecard, the proportion of households in developing countries below the extreme-poverty line (now measured as $1.25 per person per day at international prices) has declined sharply, from 52 percent in 1980, to 43 percent in 1990, 34 percent in 1999, and 21 percent in 2010. Even sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the most recalcitrant poverty, is finally experiencing a notable decline, from 58 percent in 1999 to 49 percent in 2010.

The gains are more marked in health. According to the latest Unicef study this month, the mortality rate of children under 5 in Africa declined from 177 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990, to 155 per 1,000 births in 2000, to 98 per 1,000 in 2012. This is still too high, but the rate of progress is rapid and accelerating.

While the recent gains are undoubted, the question is how to ensure that progress on incomes, health and other dimensions of poverty eradication (including access to schooling, safe water, electricity, sewerage) continues until extreme poverty is vanquished. Debates rage on this question and often shed more heat than light.

Here are the basics: economic growth, and hence a market economy, is vital. Africa’s poverty is declining in part because its growth rate picked up from 2.3 percent per year during the lackluster years of 1990-2000 to 5.7 percent during 2000-10. Without economic growth, there cannot be sustained gains in income, health and other areas. Continued progress depends on heavy investments in major infrastructure — water, electricity, waste management — and these in turn depend on large-scale private financing, hence a suitable market framework.

So anti-market sentiment is no friend of poverty reduction. But neither is free-market fundamentalism. Economic growth and poverty reduction can’t be achieved by free markets alone. Disease control, public education, the promotion of new science and technology, and protection of the natural environment are public functions that must align with private market forces.

Consider two keys to Africa’s recent poverty reduction. The first is the introduction of cellphones, which have revolutionized communication and much else in both remote African villages and the streets of Manhattan. Smartphones are poised to transform education, health care, finance and agricultural value chains. Malaria control, made possible by new technologies, including long-lasting bed nets, rapid diagnostic tests and a new generation of medicines, has also played a vital role in reducing poverty in Africa.

In both cases, the private sector has been essential, not only in developing breakthrough technologies but also enabling them to spread in a short time. Hundreds of millions of cellphones and hundreds of millions of bed nets have helped slash rural poverty in the past few years.

Yet the public sector is also critical. Public funds finance crucial scientific and technological breakthroughs. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, an agency backed by international public funds, has financed the mass distribution of the bed nets. Malaria is down by at least 30 percent as a result. Smartphone applications for community health workers are now similarly being hugely scaled up with increased public as well as private backing.

One can say that the fight to end poverty is helping to forge a new kind of mixed capitalism. Old debates of public versus private are being superseded by new strategies that involve both the public and private sectors. The need for both will become more urgent asclimate change and water scarcity intensify. Also, the idea of bold global goals’ driving bold actions is proving the cynics wrong. A global commitment to ending extreme poverty will spur creativity and action.

As Kennedy also declared a half-century ago, “By defining our goal more clearly — by making it seem more manageable and less remote — we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.”

Jeffrey D. Sachs is special adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on the Millennium Development Goals and director of the Earth Institute.


White Lama & ‘Tibet Land’

The American involvement in Tibet and the British role in achieving it. 
By ATUL BHARDWAJ
http://www.frontline.in/world-affairs/white-lama-tibet-land/article5038185.ece

IN 1947, ARTHUR HOPKINSON WAS INDIA’S POLITICAL officer in Sikkim. He was a pious man. Hopkinson chose the path of priesthood after his retirement in 1948. Paradoxically, his professional life in India involved dealing with, among other things, opium, arms and wars.

Hopkinson joined the Indian Civil Service in 1920. As part of the Foreign and Political Department, he was the Assistant Commissioner of Ajmer-Merawa, one of the biggest opium production centres in India. Later in his career, Hopkinson was directly involved in creating turmoil in Tibet.

On November 18, 1947, barely three months after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Tryst with destiny” speech, Hopkinson floated a file for the procurement of “12 carbines for presentation to high personages in Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Highness the Regent”. While the proposal for “American carbines” had been set in motion within the External Affairs Department, Hopkinson also wrote a demi-official (D.O.) letter to Brigadier (later Lt General) S.P.P. Thorat, asking him to use his office to expedite the procurement.

Unlike the Political Officer, Brig. Thorat was cautious. He did help expedite the packing of carbines. However, when it came to replying to Hopkinson’s D.O. letter, Thorat’s staff officer wrote that the job had been done but the Brigadier could not reply directly because he was indisposed.

By February 17, 1948, 12 Carbines Machine Sten 9mm Mk.2 (not American carbines) were dispatched to Lhasa. The guns were transported through Kishenganj because it was considered unsafe to make them pass through Pakistani territory.

Hopkinson’s insistence on “American carbines” was symptomatic of the rise of the United States and the fall of the British Empire.

The British were keen to leverage Tibet as a strategy to put pressure on China. However, America was nuanced in its stance and cited Chinese constitutional claims of suzerainty over Tibet. In May 1943, expressing this worry, Calf Carce, External Affairs Secretary to the Government of India, wrote, “I should not like to think that we were now placing any dependence on American interest in Tibet’s independence, autonomy or whatever one likes to call it, as I do not think there is any evidence that such an interest yet exists.” The British knew that American help was a must to hold on to the remnants of the Empire.

Even as late as 1946, the Americans could not afford to annoy Chiang Kai-shek by challenging the status of Tibet. Dean Acheson, the then acting U.S. Secretary of State, while approving the proposal of George R. Merrell, U.S. Charge d’Affaires in India, to send an American delegation to Tibet, had advised him to keep such visits “unobtrusive and unofficial”.

American entry 

Unlike the British who had lured the lamas with trade and guns, the Americans were more subtle in making their entry into Tibet; American mountaineers and students first made inroads into Lhasa. In the early 1940s, the American Alpine Club (ACC), linked to the U.S. Army’s elite 10th Mountain Division, started taking an interest in the mountains surrounding Tibet and Sikkim.

In 1937, Theos Bernard, a student of philosophy at California University, set foot on Tibetan soil. He travelled to India and Tibet to understand Indian mysticism and tantric powers. On his return from Tibet, Bernard set up a yoga centre in his university, and the media portrayed him as a leading religious figure in America.

In the National Archives of India, New Delhi, there is an interesting intelligence file on Bernard. British Intelligence discovered an article in Sunday Dispatch of July 14, 1946, relating to the divorce proceedings in a court in Santa Barbara, California, of a 53-year-old Madame Ganna Walska and her 38-year-old husband Dr Theos Bernard.

Ganna Walska, originally from Russia, was a celebrity opera singer of her time. Her performances in Paris and New York saw her popularity surge across the transatlantic divide. According to Sunday Dispatch, in 1942, Ganna Walska had met her sixth husband in a yogi temple in New York. She married the young man to help him “complete his mission to mankind”. Ganna Walska’s man identified himself as the “White Lama”.

Open Access vs academic power


Only the Open Access Movement can address the adverse impact of Western domination of the world of knowlege.

THAT the United States and its European allies dominate the world of knowledge is unquestionable. This is reflected in indicators of academic “output”. According to the National Science Foundation of the United States, the U.S. accounted for 26 per cent of the world’s total science & engineering (S&E) articles published in 2009 and the European Union for 32 per cent. In 2010, the U.S. share in total citations of S&E articles stood at 36 per cent and the E.U.’s share was 33 per cent, whereas Japan’s and China’s remained at 6 per cent each.

This domination comes from two, among other, sources. First, leadership in spending. Despite the growing importance of Asia (especially China), the U.S. remained the largest single R&D-performing country in 2009, accounting for about 31 per cent of the global total. The E.U. accounted for 23 per cent. Second, the ability to attract the world’s best talent. The foreign-born share of U.S. S&E doctorate holders in U.S. academia increased from 12 per cent in 1973 to nearly 25 per cent in 2008, and nearly half (46 per cent) of postdoctoral positions in 2008 were held by foreign-born U.S. S&E doctorate holders. A dominant share of these came from China and India. A similar trend holds in the social sciences, though exact data are not available.

There are a number of collateral consequences of these trends. One is what Jean-Claude Guedon calls the “structuring of power” in science, with the most powerful institutions and journals being based in the U.S. and Europe and having international reach. These institutions set the agenda and the standards for science. As a corollary, publishing in those journals with their high impact factor is becoming a marker of academic standing even in less developed countries of the periphery. For younger scholars, obtaining a PhD from abroad and publishing in international journals has become a prerequisite for obtaining jobs in the best universities even in developing countries.

There are a number of adverse consequences that this can have. In the sciences, for example, one consequence is that the research pursued in leading institutions in developing countries tails that in the developed world. As a result, there emerges a disjunction between science and production in these countries because, while science seeks to keep pace with the developed countries, production does not, since much of the economy remains “informal”. Or, as happens in the pharmaceuticals industry, there is a lack of correspondence between the drugs being researched and developed (under international influence over priorities) and the disease pattern that prevails in these countries.

In the social sciences, the problem can be more severe. North Atlantic domination often destroys plurality. In economics, for example, the resulting domination of neoliberal theory with its rhetoric of market fundamentalism, in which the market or ostensibly “free economic exchange” is presented as the most efficient mechanism to work the economic system, paves the way for policy that permits the increasingly unfettered functioning of private capital, both domestic and foreign. Markets are not benign, and the extent, nature and consequences of growth tend to be adverse. Such policies are pursued even when in the developed countries the state intervenes to restrain markets and supplement them. In practice, this amounts to recommending that developing countries should do as developed country governments say, and not as those governments actually do.

The Rabha-Garo Conundrum

Date: 25/09/2013

India’s Northeastern region has seen many episodes of armed conflict and generalised violence since India’s independence. These conflicts and violence have had different causes ranging from rebel groups fighting for outright independence for their ethnic group and violence against people they regard as ‘outsiders’. Inter-ethnic violence between indigenous groups has also taken place. Ethnic unrest in the Northeast is nearly always followed by large-scale violence leading to loss of lives and property and displacement. In the political idiom of contemporary India, the term “Northeast” has almost come to denote a region characterised by ethno-political movements.

The ethnic clashes in Northeast India is considered to be worse than any of the bloody clashes in the rest of the country in terms of brutality, heavy toll on innocent human lives, properties, and span of conflict.In December 2010, violent clashes broke out between ethnic group belonging to the Rabha and Garo community in Goalpara District of Assam and East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya. The Rabhas of Assam, a group that has very close cultural affinity with the Garos, both being of Tibeto-Burman origin, have been restive. However, in the recent past, the Rabhas have resorted to bandhs and road blockades to press for the demand of Rabha Hasong, a political framework which would bring them under the ambit of the Sixth Schedule.

The emergence of identity assertion movement of the Rabhas has had a significant implication in Assam and areas bordering East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya. The identity assertion movement of the Rabhas has also given rise to inter-ethnic conflict between the Rabhas and Non-Rabhas within Rabha Hasong area. These developments have been found to generate some significant ethnic conflicts such as a violent clash among the Rabhas and Garos in Assam-Meghalaya border areas of December 2010 and January 2011.

The problem started when the Rabha Hasong included 416 villages inhabited by Garo people, which also formed a part of the demand by the Garo National Council who had demanded for a separate Garo Autonomous Council in Assam.The conflict between Rabhas and Garos were taken by surprise by some observers of the region.

The background to the conflict between Rabhas andGaros is that the Rabhas are recognised as Scheduled Caste in Goalpara district of Assam but not in the contiguous East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya. The East Garo Hills district has its own Autonomous District Council under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution. But because the Rabhas are not a Scheduled Tribe community in Meghalaya, they never had their representation in the elected district council.

For quite some time, the Rabhas had been agitating in the Garo Hills for gaining Scheduled Tribe status. But the Garos are opposed to it for which the Rabhas had been declaring bands to press their demand. Meanwhile, the Garos resented such demands of the Rabhas and the methods used by them to press the administration to cede their demand. The Garos instead got increasingly agitated with the frequent bandhs and road blockades all the more because the road link between the two parts of Meghalaya – the Garo Hills and Khasi Hills – lies through Assam. If one has to travel from Tura, the headquarters of Garo Hills to Shillong, capital of Meghalaya situated in Kashi Hills, one has to go through Assam via Goalpara and Guwahati. Any bandh and the subsequent road blockade, cuts off all road communication between two parts of Meghalaya.

To the Garos, the ongoing agitation by the Rabhasis nothing but an economic blockade of their district. Subsequently, in retaliation, the Garo National Council of Assam also started declaring bandhs in Goalpara district of Assam, which ultimately led to inter-tribal clashes between the Rabhas and the Garos.

The return of Russia


Sanjaya Baru
Sep 26 2013

The Syria crisis has brought Russia back to global centrestage. 

In hosting this month’s G-20 summit, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would not have imagined in his sweetest dreams that he would be able to recover for Moscow the “G-2” kind of status it had once enjoyed in a bygone bipolar world at this new global high table. After all the G-20’s pecking order is defined by a country’s economic status more than its political or military status. In the world of geo-economics, G-2 refers to the United States and China. So, quite understandably, Putin stuck to the knitting when he defined the goals for the St Petersburg summit in terms that could hardly have offered Russia the centrestage that it secured thanks to the geopolitics of Syria. 

Putin’s goals for the G-20 summit, defined earlier this year, were: the reform of the international currency and financial system, strengthening international financial institutions and financial market regulation, completing the Doha Development Round of multilateral trade negotiations, taking forward the discussions on energy security and climate change, global trade and development assistance. Even after achieving all of these geo-economic goals, Russia would not recover its old geopolitical status of the Cold War era, given China’s economic weight. 

Judged on the basis of Putin’s declared agenda for the summit, St Petersburg did not leave much of an imprint on the G-20. The summit made little progress on the reform and restructuring of the international currency and financial system, though it took note of the concerns among emerging economies about the monetary policy of developed countries. There was no palpable movement forward on issues pertaining to energy security and climate change, and none at all on the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Development Round, barring the fact that the G-20 did express a clear view on the future of multilateral trade talks. On development assistance, there was hardly a murmur. 

For months, G-20 observers had anticipated that Russia would use the summit to offer a bridge between the G-8, the old club of the 20th century’s most powerful economies, and the BRICS, the new club of the 21st century’s rising powers. Russia was uniquely placed to act, given that it is the only member of both clubs. Would Russia act as an honest broker between the economies of the West (including Japan) and the economies of the South? 

Putin may well have recognised that this would be a difficult act to perform. On many key global economic issues, Russia’s loyalty is divided between the West and the South. As an energy exporter, it stands opposite energy importing China and India. As a commodity trader resisting the influx of cheap Chinese manufactures, its interests in the WTO clash with those of many of the developing economies. In its very first year as a member of the WTO, Russia has been at the receiving end of a number of trade policy complaints. On climate change, Russia’s interests are aligned with the West rather than the South. Finally, even as Russia enjoys membership of the BRICS and a friendship with emerging economies, its elite aspires to be part of the European Union. This West-South dilemma has haunted Russian diplomacy from the days of Boris Yeltsin. 

The other militancy


Christophe Jaffrelot
Sep 26 2013

In Pakistan, the Shia-Sunni conflict is causing a vertical split in society. 

The jailbreak that took place in Dera Ismail Khan this summer was disturbing not only because the Taliban could liberate 248 fellow militants, but also because they took the time to single out and kill Shia prisoners. Sectarianism has indeed become a pervasive phenomenon in Pakistan — and a very violent one, as evident from the record number of casualties registered so far in 2013. This toll is due to the targeted killings of political leaders of the “other” community. But not only them, since both groups have diversified their targets. The Shias — doctors, civil servants and even army officers — have been the main victims. Both groups have also resorted to less discriminating methods, tipping over into mass crimes that aim not only to decapitate rival organisations, but terrorise the Other: blasts occur outside a mosque after the Friday prayer, suicide bombers decimate a procession or a family celebration, each time killing dozens of innocent people. 

This escalation reflects a political strategy. For decades, sectarianism was not an issue in Pakistan. The founding father of the country, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was an Ismaili and several of its top leaders — Iskander Mirza and Yahya Khan, for instance — were Shias without people even knowing it. Z.A. Bhutto, who was married to an Iranian woman, like Mirza, has been suspected of being one. And inter-sect marriages were commonplace. But political entrepreneurs and outsiders have created this “ism”, like communalism in India. Zia-ul-Haq implemented a form of “Sunnisation” in the name of an Islamisation policy that was intended to give him legitimacy after his 1977 coup. As a result, the Shias objected that the taxation policy the Pakistani state was implementing under the garb of officialising zakat was not in tune with their traditions, and they mobilised in large numbers against it in 1980. 

But they were then galvanised by the 1979 Iranian Revolution that Imam Khomeini was trying to export to Pakistan. This external factor resulted in another foreign intervention, since Saudi Arabia reacted immediately by supporting Sunni militant groups — while already financing the mujahideens involved in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan — and a proxy war between these two contenders for the leadership of the Muslim world crystallised in Pakistan. 

From the late-1970s till the mid-1980s, this conflict found its translation in political organisations. The Tehreek Nafaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafariya (TNJF, a movement for the implementation of Shia jurisprudence) was created in April 1979 in reaction to Zia’s policy, but flourished because of Iranian support. And Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP, the Army of the Companions of the Prophets) was formed in 1985. The latter grew out of the Deobandi-oriented Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and enjoyed support from the state, as well as from Saudi Arabia. Ten years later, these political parties were better known for the militias they had been the crucible of. An extremist faction of the SSP founded the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (the Army of Jhangvi, named for one of the SSP’s co-founders) in 1996, and the radical wing of the former TNJF established the Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP, the Army of Muhammad) in the early 1990s. 

These groups have been responsible for targeted killings and blind blasts. In this civil war in the making, Sunni militants had two kinds of advantages: numbers (Shias are not more than 20 per cent of society in Pakistan), and the safe haven that the Afghan Taliban offered to the LeJ from 1996 onwards. By that time, Afghanistan itself had become the theatre of acute sectarianism, as evident from the massacre of Shias in Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998. After 2001, the fall of Kabul forced the LeJ militants to come back to Pakistan, where the police and the army eliminated most of the leaders. But they have gradually recuperated. First, they have found refuge in the FATA, where they have become associated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). One of the Pakistani Taliban, Qari Hussain Mehsud, who was in charge of the suicide cell of the movement by the late-2000s, helped the Sunni militants. And his cousin, Hakimullah Mehsud, gave to the TTP an explicitly sectarian overtone when he became the commander for the regions of Khyber and Orakzai, where the percentage of Shias is above the average. He has taken over from Baitullah Mehsud at the helm of the TTP in 2009, and the distinction between jihadi activists and sectarian militants has largely lost relevance in the region since. 

From peace to carnage

By Knox Thames 
September 24, 2013

The two suicide bombers struck just as worshippers were leaving the morning service at All Saints Church in Peshawar on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Instantly, a scene of peace became one of carnage, with more than 80 people killed and 130 injured, though the death toll will likely climb as hospitals are unable to save the wounded. 

All Saints is one of the oldest churches in Pakistan, but before Sunday, many outside observers probably were unaware that any church, let alone one holding 600 congregants, existed just miles from the Afghan border near Pakistan's tribal region. Built in 1883 during the British colonial period, its architecture resembles a mosque more than a European cathedral. Now it shows pocket marks and other scars from the ball bearings used in the attack. After years of successfully navigating the challenging political and religious terrain, the church is now the site of arguably the largest attack on the Christian community in Pakistan.

However, this was not the first act of violence against Christians in Pakistan. And unless the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif takes resolute action, it will not be the last. 

For instance, the Pakistan Religious Violence Project of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) documented attacks between January 2012 and June 2013 against all religious communities in the country. Based on publicly available information, the project recorded 37 attacks against Christians, resulting in 11 deaths and 36 injuries, as well as five women who were reportedly targeted for rape. On Sunday, this body count jumped almost tenfold.

Earlier this year near Lahore, an entire Christian village named Joseph Colony was burned to the ground after an allegation of blasphemy. Instead of trying to stop the attack, police ordered the residents to flee. While the Punjabi government is rebuilding the destroyed homes and other buildings, no one has been held accountable. The incident was eerily similar to the 2009 burning of the village of Gojra, where seven Christians were burned alive. Past being prologue, all of the Gojra cases were dropped and no one was found guilty.

Other high profile instances of violence include the 2011 murder of Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the previous government's cabinet. He was killed by the Pakistani Taliban for his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law. The Zardari government did not seriously investigate his death, and the unsolved crime sent a chilling signal to the Christian community that not even their leaders will be protected. There was a recent break in the casewhen two Pakistani Taliban members arrested for their involvement in other crimes confessed to killing Bhatti. However, this was due to dumb luck, not a tireless investigation. Whether they will be prosecuted remains to be seen.

In addition, Pakistan's notorious blasphemy law is repeatedly used against religious minorities. Most recently, a 29-year-old Christian named Sajjad Masih was found guilty in July of denigrating the Prophet Mohammed and sentenced to life in prison, despite the accuser recanting. Reports indicate that mobs pressured the judge into the conviction and sentence. With Masih's imprisonment, almost 40 individuals are serving life sentences or sitting on death row for blasphemy - a statistic unmatched by any other country in the world - the majority of which are believed to be Christians. This includes Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, who continues to languish in jail.

The battle for Karachi

By Kathryn Alexeeff
September 19, 2013

As the insurgencies and drone strikes continue along Pakistan's northern border with Afghanistan, a different kind of operation has begun in the country's south: the pacification of Karachi, one of Pakistan's most important cities.

In early September, after admitting the failure of the police to control the violence, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif empowered a paramilitary group, the Sindh Rangers, to conduct targeted operations within Karachi. These ongoing operations aim to restore peace in the city, but some of the arrests have led to widespread business closures and even more violence. While Sharif has already expressed his satisfaction on the progress of these operations, it is highly unlikely that they will produce any real long-term changes for Karachi, as there are too many militant factions to be quashed in a single campaign and too many groups, including political parties, criminals, and terrorist organizations, with vested interests in the current system to be swept away. 

Though there has certainly been an uptick in violence recently, Karachi has been a center of conflict for years. It was widely considered the most dangerous megacity in the world in 2012, with approximately 2,500 violent deaths that year alone. Indian megacity New Delhi, by comparison, had only 521. Extortion and kidnappings have also become commonplace. But these crimes are not solely the work of ethnic-based mafias or terrorist groups, though groups like theTehreek-i Taliban Pakistan are known to operate out of Karachi. Many are committed by groups linked to political parties, particularly the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which is a dominant political force in the city.

This fact speaks to a much deeper and systemic issue in Karachi: any and all interest groups, both within and outside of the system, likely have some ties to militants. Politics by the barrel of a gun is nothing new to a country as prone to military coups as Pakistan, but if most vested interests in the city can be presumed to have some violent elements, then the only way for the police and military to regain control is by reining in all those groups, not just a few of the most obvious offenders. This is especially true as previous attempts to quell the violence in Karachi by targeting only some of the offenders have failed.

The Rangers, for example, were called into the city in 2011 in an attempt to end the gang-based violence that was then paralyzing Karachi. These operations were limited to addressing only one facet of the violence, the criminal gangs. Two years later, it is obvious that those operations were unsuccessful as the violence continues unabated. While the current operations have included the arrests of political party members, the operations remain too narrow in scope to address all the violent factions plaguing Karachi.

The use of the Rangers, a paramilitary organization under civilian control, rather than the Pakistani army highlights the government's continued fear of the military establishment. This, too, has a precedent.

During the 2011 operations in Karachi, the then ruling Pakistan People's Party decided against using the military amid fears that it would destabilize the civilian government. Sharif may share these fears, or wish to consolidate power in his own hands, or both. While neither is a positive omen for the improvement of civil-military relations in Pakistan, this made end up being a blessing in disguise for the army as their resources are badly needed to fight counterterrorism operations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Pacifying Karachi might have stretched the army's resources too thin for effective operations in either arena.

Despite Sharif's satisfaction with the Rangers' operations, one cannot expect a single series of operations to end the violence that plagues Karachi. Sending the Rangers into the city can be viewed as a stopgap measure at best. Without a more permanent security and institutional solution, violence and extortion will simply resume after these targeted operations have been completed. What Karachi, and indeed all of Pakistan, needs is a long-term, sustained security and political effort that targets all guilty parties, including the corrupt and militant branches of the political parties. Unfortunately, at the moment, it appears that the current government has neither the resources nor the will for such an undertaking. Coupled with that is the danger that any long-term force in Karachi, be it paramilitary or political, will end up as another well-armed faction pursuing its own interests, thus exacerbating the problem.