New Delhi needs to think hard about the shifting templates of the Middle East’s geopolitics. All indications are that Russia and China anticipated, months ahead, the inevitable collapse of the U.S.’ containment policy toward Iran. How such wisdom eluded our government, remains a question mark. If the U.S decides now to march towards a constructive engagement of Iran — which seems likely — where does that leave the UPA government? The latter must first unscramble the omelette.
That is to say, it must rapidly deconstruct what it precipitated under American pressure — and then try to rebuild. Not an easy task.
The LNG deal with Tehran negotiated by the National Democratic Alliance government has all but perished following the UPA government’s somersault under American pressure at the International Atomic Energy Agency over the Iran issue. No one talks anymore about our grandiose plans of a “north-south” transportation corridor via Iran. The gas pipeline project languished while the government used one lame excuse after another to drag its feet.
The State Bank of India’s curb on normal trade with Iran is completely illogical. Evidently, Washington pressured us. While doing so, the Bush administration kept us in the dark about the NIE sailing into view. Now, what sort of a “strategic partnership” with the U.S. — and what sort of a “friendly” President in the White House — are we talking about? Washington took our government’s naiveté for granted.
It is plain common sense that India has a congruence of interests with Russia and China in optimally exploring the primacy that Iran places on Asia for its energy exports. That is why the Iran pipeline becomes crucial. That is precisely why Washington wants to stifle the project. The spectre that haunts Washington is the emergence of an Asian energy club involving Russia, Iran, China, and India. The U.S. apprehends that such an Asian grouping — first proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2003 — will disrupt its strategy of global domination. Through its lukewarm attitude towards the Iran pipeline, the UPA government has tacitly collaborated with the U.S. global strategy.
the successful delivery of “multiple end results” ranging from quality customer care, environment protection and fuel conservation to better overall use of available resources, transforming a typically cash-constrained transportation PSU into a viable business entity, thereby becoming a role model for other State PSUs.But PSU''s are not supposed to be viable business entities! Loss-making, draining the public exchequer, yes. Profit-making, no. That's what I was led to believe.
He also said that going abroad was not ‘impure’, but dhanamoha and videshamoha were bad.What does he have to say about rajakiyamoha I wonder. He may not consider it bad, seeing how he does not mind dipping his pure toes in the murky swamp of rajkiya, especially of the right-wing kind. See here and here.
The VHP’s action is a violation of the constitution which recognises the right of every citizen to practise any religion he chooses. It is not for the VHP to decide whether citizens have the right to convert or not. It is a matter of concern that the government has failed to take stern action against the VHP when its activists rape, kill and loot people belonging to other faiths.Of course, the constitution is for suckers.
A very broad pattern was established in which the CIA subcontracted the anti-Soviet jihad to ISI. Pakistani intelligene is a division of the Pakistani army and not organized as a civilian intelligence service. ISI is generally commanded by a two-star general, and its cadres are drawn from the officer corps of the Pakistan army.
They are organized in clandestine regional bureaus. The Afghan Bureau became the instrument of the anti-Soviet jihad. These were often Pashtuns, who had language and local identity and were seconded to the Bureau for long periods of time.
Why did the CIA turn over its political program in the jihad to ISI? Partly the Agency was scarred by its experience in Vietnam, and there was a sense of no more "hearts and minds" for us. We’ll let the Pakistanis figure out who the winners and losers are politically. If they have a complicated regional agenda that is even more Islamist than we would like, so be it. We will focus on the main adversary, the Soviet Union. We won’t try to tell the Pakistanis how to run politics in the region.”
That established a pattern in which the United States and the Saudis together turned over enormous sums of money to ISI and said, “You pick the winners.” ISI chose Hekmatyar as their primary winner, and Hekmatyar, in turn, created a nexus in which al Qaeda thrived by the end of the 1980s.
In order to get through this crisis, Bush must insist that the Pakistani Supreme Court, summarily dismissed and placed under house arrest by Musharraf, be reinstated. The PPP must be allowed to elect a successor to Ms. Bhutto without the interference of the military. Early elections must be held, and the country must return to civilian rule. Pakistan's population is, contrary to the impression of many pundits in the United States, mostly moderate and uninterested in the Taliban form of Islam. But if the United States and "democracy" become associated in their minds with military dictatorship, arbitrary dismissal of judges, and political instability, they may turn to other kinds of politics, far less favorable to the United States. Musharraf may hope that the Pakistani military will stand with him even if the vast majority of people turn against him. It is a forlorn hope, and a dangerous one, as the shah of Iran discovered in 1978-79. 'But will Bush do it?
The NYT reported that US Secretary of State Condi Rice tried to fix Musharraf's subsequent dwindling legitimacy by arranging for Benazir to return to Pakistan to run for prime minister, with Musharraf agreeing to resign from the military and become a civilian president. When the supreme court seemed likely to interfere with his remaining president, he arrested the justices, dismissed them, and replaced them with more pliant jurists. This move threatened to scuttle the Rice Plan, since Benazir now faced the prospect of serving a dictator as his grand vizier, rather than being a proper prime minister.Update: via Atrios
With Benazir's assassination, the Rice Plan is in tatters and Bush administration policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan is tottering.
In terms of policy implications, this is reflective of a massive US foreign policy blunder, in that the Bush administration, in a monumentally stupid move, shoved Bhutto down the throat of Musharraf (and the rest of Pakistan) as a savior, despite her lack of broad popular support and general reputation as corrupt. In making someone who didn't necessarily have the ability to deliver the savior for democracy in Pakistan, we simultaneously set up our own policy to fail and offered Musharraf a return to (or continued) total power in the event that our little power-sharing arrangement didn't work. We also -- though not only us -- painted a big fat target on her back. Really a debacle all the way around.Of course, "When you look into the General's eyes, and he says to you I'll take care of the Taliban and the extremists", you trust him. At least if you are Bush.
Benazir Bhutto was rather more complicit in encouraging and tolerating Pakistan’s many pathologies (Faustian bargains with the Islamists that included tolerating anti-woman laws, state sponsorship of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, and self-enrichment — her husband was widely known within Pakistan as “Mr. 10 per cent” based on what people alleged was his share of any government contracts); while Mr. Sharif tried to curb some of them and made some effort at reconciliation with India.
The fascination with Ms Bhutto by the people and governments of the West remains a mystery. Perhaps it is due to her charisma and Western education. She certainly knows how to press the right buttons when speaking to Western audiences through the mass media. Clichés of female empowerment, democracy, poverty eradication, human rights and war against the terrorists trip readily enough off her tongue. But they are all at odds with the actual record of her rule as Prime Minister, not once but twice.
"By reaching out to India, we have made the bet that the planet's future lies in pluralism, democracy and market economics," said Nicholas Burns, the State Department's No. 3 official, "rather than in intolerance, despotism and state planning," an apparent reference to communist-ruled China.No, Mr Burns, you have made the bet that there is no way China is going to buy any arms from you, and that India, on the other hand, will quite possibly do so. Especially as you have so many levers to manoeuvre us into doing so. Russia at least talks only about friendship when it sells us its wares. No hypocritical statement linking everything to the chimera of democracy.
And look at this:
"A significant Indian defense purchase from the United States ... would be a great leap forward and signal a real commitment to long-term military partnership," he added in the November/December issue of the journal Foreign Affairs.A real commitment won't do, we need to show them some moolah too.
Please not the politics of strong national security - a Bush in the US is more than enough for the world.
It's somewhat heretical to say, but I'm one of those who thinks that too many people go to college, though it may be individually rational for them to do so given the signaling nature of it. That is, going to college doesn't really transform people into better works for a lot of jobs, but employers require a college education because it's how people signal they aren't a "complete loser"* who couldn't even manage to graduate from college.True here also - that lots of things learnt during college don't get used on the job, and there are lots of jobs that don't need a degree. Including IT, as this commenter notes:
*To be clear, I don't think one needs to graduate from college to avoid loserdom. That's my whole point! It's just that in our society it's become an entrance ticket to a lot of careers even when the education you get in college isn't really training for those careers.
i've only got one year as a drama major, and been cto for three companies. odd, isn't it? but i have been passed over for jobs at or below the level i was alredy doing because i lack a degree.But we still need lots more of education in country, rather than less, at this point of time I guess.
“China and India are closely studying South Korea as a trendsetter in Asia,” said Chung Woo-jin, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul. “They are curious whether the same social and economic changes can occur in their countries as fast as they did in South Korea’s relatively small and densely populated society.”Please complete your studies quickly and do something about it. If I remember correctly the ratio in some states is 685 to 1000.
In a 1963 essay for Ms. Rand’s newsletter, Mr. Greenspan dismissed as a “collectivist” myth the idea that businessmen, left to their own devices, “would attempt to sell unsafe food and drugs, fraudulent securities, and shoddy buildings.” On the contrary, he declared, “it is in the self-interest of every businessman to have a reputation for honest dealings and a quality product.”
It’s no wonder, then, that he brushed off warnings about deceptive lending practices, including those of Edward M. Gramlich, a member of the Federal Reserve board. In Mr. Greenspan’s world, predatory lending — like attempts to sell consumers poison toys and tainted seafood — just doesn’t happen.
Of course, now that it has all gone bad, people with ties to the financial industry are rethinking their belief in the perfection of free markets. Mr. Greenspan has come out in favor of, yes, a government bailout. “Cash is available,” he says — meaning taxpayer money — “and we should use that in larger amounts, as is necessary, to solve the problems of the stress of this.”
At the market square in Rajkot in Saurashtra, a Leuva Patel shopkeeper compared the Congress to the laggard who opened his mouth to yawn only to find someone had slipped a laddoo into it.Nice imagery. Read the whole thing - build up the suspense for the day.
“Education is an area of special focus in the 11th Plan. Education is our best hope for achieving inclusiveness and for spreading development to backward regions and marginalised groups,” Dr Singh said.Dr Singh can say that again.
Food for thought:
Asserting that public education was indispensable, he said the deficiencies in basic education could not be met by the expansion of private schools, which “have not been able to play that role anywhere else in the history of the world.”Of course, no self-respecting private school would go to even the least remote village.
Ramesh Ramanathan in Mint (no link, this came in with the email).
THE CASE OF THE AMERICAN BANK, THE ABU DHABI LIFELINE AND THE INDIAN CEO
It's a potent recipe - take a household name in global financial markets, grill over the heat of a mortgage meltdown, marinate in the mystery sauce of middle-eastern money, and garnish with the spice of an Indian CEO. Each of these ingredients by itself would be sufficient for heated dinner-table debates among the cognoscenti, but taken collectively, this dish is hot.
For the uninitiated in the cuisine of the financial markets: the bank – Citibank. The middle-eastern bailer-outer – the $ 850 billion Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) which took a $7.5 billion stake.The Indian CEO – Vikram Pandit.
The situation begs so many questions that I've clubbed them into four categories.
About the CEO
- Why did Vikram Pandit take the job? What's the motivation for someone already worth a few hundred million dollars to step into a near-impossible situation?
- What are the odds that he will succeed? (See the next question on mega-banks)
- Is a global full-service bank with businesses in investment banking, brokerage and consumer products spread across hundreds of countries, actually possible to run as a single entity, with sustainable value accretion to shareholders?
- What's the role of governing boards? AIDA's investment does not give it a seat on Citibank's board, but so what. There is an interesting story in the Wall Street Journal about Robert Morgenthau, a US public prosecutor who - in the 90s - pursued the scandal around the collapse of BCIC, a Middle- Eastern bank funded by the Abu Dhabi Emir. The report states, "Sheik Zayed called to inform the State Department that, if Mr. Morgenthau indicted anyone in the royal family over the scandal, he would pull his billions out of the U.S." Can Citi's board of directors actually call the shots?
- Even if independence of the board were possible, is this how we want capitalism to work, that key investors are separated from governance? How does this jell with the argument for private equity funds who use their stakes to drive organisational change?
About national interests
- Does the Federal Reserve Bank have one more reason to feel nervous? Just a few weeks ago, Chairman Ben Bernanke told the US Congress that he supports a code-of-conduct f or Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) to promote transparency and accountability. Very little is known about ADIA - its website (www.adia.ae) is an electronic fortknox. Will the Fed demand more disclosure, given that Citibank is a "too big to fail" institution linked to systemic financial stability?
- What's the likely political backlash, especially in an election year? The Dubai Port Trust investment in several US ports was shot down by the US Congress, after criticism that national interests were being sold out. Can this issue also mushroom into a political one? How will an Indian CEO answer these?
- What are national interests anyway? Is Citibank really a US bank any more? How would we measure this – origin of deposits, domicile of shareholders, source of revenues?
About global markets and governments
- What does the growth of SWFs mean for global financial governance? National regulators are increasingly finding themselves hobbled by transnational flows, like using mosquito nets to protect against the flu. The voices for a global regulatory regime are getting louder. But can this really work, given that political power – and hence true decision - making leverage - is created and harnessed only within national boundaries?
- What is happening to the relationship between market economies and democracy? Over the past two decades, the trend seemed inevitable – or at least was projected as such that one would drive the other, and the sum of the two was good for things like liberty and freedom. Francis Fukuyama wrote in "The end of history" of the "universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of government." This hypothesis may come under fire. The UAE falls far short of acceptable global standards in democracy - it doesn't even have adult franchise for its citizens. And yet it runs an investment fund that gives it access to the crown jewels of the capitalist system, at the heart of the mature democracies of the world. Are we seeing a new order emerge?
Citibank was often ahead of the pack in the banking industry. This time around, its actions are unleashing a torrent of questions that go well beyond the sector. It's too early to be talking of answers. Seems like this dish is going to be on the menu for some time to come.
Shimla: Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani on Monday admitted that the party’s “India Shining” slogan during the 2004 Lok Sabha election was a “mistake.”Of course, regular readers of this blog will be aware that our editorial stand on this topic is that the latter slogan is also quite a washout.
“India Shining slogan was a mistake. The better slogan would have been India Rising,” Mr. Advani, who was the Deputy Prime Minister during the NDA rule when the slogan was coined, said here.
Chennai: Infosys mentor N R Narayana Murthy on Saturday flayed politicians for taking “ego-centric” stand on several critical issues, including Indo-US nuclear deal, without properly studying the facts. “Most of our politicians do not have the details of the Indo-US nuclear deal. However, they are taking a stand”, he said speaking at a management seminar organised by the Great Lakes Institute of Management here on Saturday.No one denies the merits of fact-based decision-making. And one respects NR Narayana Murthy immensely for doing what he has done with Infosys and for his 'High thinking and simple living', but there are some issues with the above formulation with respect to the nuclear deal.
“When I ask them have you read the 123 agreement, please tell me what areas which you see are bad, very few of them are in a position to give facts. However, they have already taken a position,”
...Advising the students, he said, “please avoid taking decisions based on ego, based on perceptions and go for an analysis based on data and facts. In the end, everybody is happy.”
1. The other party involved in this deal is not fact-based. It's record on Iraq, Iran, Kyoto/global warming, Pakistan - and all this in the very recent past that I remember - speak of a singular contempt for fact and a love of self-interest above everything else. Do we want to deal with such an entity without closing all loopholes in the agreement?
2. There are some salient facts quite apart from the text of the 123 agreement itself which should make one reject the deal.
- The record of the UPA government in being pressurised by the US on account of the deal, into acting quite differently from how it would have normally is quite poor. The Iran vote, the IPI gas pipeline, removing explicitly pro-pipeline Mani Shankar Aiyer from the Petroleum Ministry, cooling off of relations with Russia - all these are examples.
- The Hyde Act which everyone agrees is quite disagreeable, and the fact that there is no explicit clause which prevents the US from taking recourse to its domestic laws (e.g., the Hyde Act) to pull out of the 123 agreement - though such a clause is explicitly mentioned in the 123 agreement with China.
4. Forget politics, even some corporate policies are based on some vague thoughts without any basis in facts. Take for example, the matter of clothes in some IT based companies. Some of them require formal clothing on almost all days. This includes wearing of ties on certain days, which meets with lots of natural chaffing at the bit given the day-time temperatures in many Indian cities. Some companies going to the extent of advising their female employees not to forget to use dupattas! What are the possible reasons for such a policy?
- Productivity? Google among other highly productive companies don't have formal clothing rules. In fact, I believe Googlers/googlies are allowed to bring their pets to the office!
- Making favourable impressions on visiting clients? Has any fact-based study been made on whether clients give more weightage to clothes that their vendors' employees wear compared to the quality of deliverables. I've not heard of any such study.
- Getting employees used to wearing formals and getting the tie-knot just right? But a training session (or sessions) before the employee flies to the land of formality would probably be just as effective - have any facts been gathered on the efficacy of the two methods?
5. Sometime ago, NR Narayana Murthy called for a road on piles to Electronics City in Bangalore to reduce commute times. The government jumped to it promptly and the road is coming up. I have not come across any facts about the cost of the road, what its benefits are compared to the costs, what alternatives were considered, how exactly it would help when the rest of the city is still jamming away like Jimi Hendrix, etc. What does one say about that?
Of course, one would also love to know how many of the deal's supporters have read the 123 agreement in full.
"Each prisoner has in his cell a carpet measuring 1.2 m by 2.5 m. And they spend 23 hours a day sat on it, in silence. If they speak, they are chained to the ceiling for 20 minutes and black visors are put on them so they can't see and protectors are put on their ears so they can't hear. They are taken down to the basement once a week, in groups of five or six, to shower them. It's done to drive them crazy. I almost went crazy", recalls Corsetti. Apart from those normal cells, in the basement of the prison there are six isolation cells, plus two rooms for who the former soldier describes as "special guests".
And the cries, the smells, the sounds, they are with me all the time. It is something I can't take in. The cries of the prisoners calling for their relatives, their mother. I remember one who called for God, for Allah, all the time. I have those cries here, inside my head".
An important subject was that of psychological torture, administered by psychiatrists. "They tell them they are going to kill their children, rape their wives. And you see on their faces, in their eyes, the terror that that causes them. Because, of course, we know all about those people. We know the names of their children, where they live - we show them satellite photos of their houses. It is worse than any torture. That is not morally acceptable under any circumstances. Not even with the worst terrorist in the world"
Sheriff's Office narcotics detectives reported raiding three houses where hundreds of marijuana plants were being grown.And why is the country which has ganja as its biggest cash crop (via CR) so keen on Afghans destroying their opium? Talk about pot calling the kettle black.
The investigation, which started 18 months ago, has led to a total of six raids at five addresses -- including the houses searched Thursday -- Carney said. Detectives have confiscated almost 2,000 plants, worth $2.4 million to $3.6 million on the street. The other houses are in South County and one has been busted twice by drug officers, Carney said.
The same group of people bought all the houses in 2005 and allegedly set up the grows, according to detectives. Investigators think the owners were using the marijuana grows to pay the mortgages on the homes.
There may have been no overt violence in the last five years and both communities may repeatedly express a desire to look beyond 2002 and “get on with their lives”. But beneath the surface calm, the communal divide in Gujarati society has become much deeper; the polarisation of differing worldviews almost complete.
For the average Gujarati Hindu, the Muslim remains a figure of fear and loathing and will be tolerated only “if they behave themselves”.
Padma Desai (name changed), an educated and articulate Vadodara schoolteacher, is all praise for the “development” under Modi. But when we finally broach the subject of the Godhra aftermath, she says: “We all feel really bad about it. But frankly, something like that was needed to show the Muslims their place.”
It is a common sentiment. Taxi drivers in Ahmedabad will routinely tell you that it was impossible to enter Muslim areas before and no girl could walk safely on the streets at night for fear of the marauding Musalman. All that has changed because Modi “taught them a lesson”.
And that, more than the violence and the abysmal condition in the relief camps, is what hurts the ordinary Muslim most. “We can forget what happened after Godhra, but the BJP has convinced every Hindu that all Muslims are terrorists, goondas, pro-Pakistan. They have made Hindus view us with suspicion. Tell me madam, if there is an Indo-Pak war, do you think their bombs will spare us?” asks Abdul Qadir.
What is it with these people - politicians, cricket stars, movie stars? Does popularity, fame and wealth addle the brain? Or do they become so insecure?
Scary thought.I have now received three (3) student papers that discuss Iraq’s attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. All three papers mention it as an aside to another point. I’ve had two papers on the virtue of forgiveness that argue that if we had just forgiven Iraq for the 9/11 attacks, we wouldn’t be at war right now. I just read a paper on the problem of evil which asked why God allowed “the Iraq’s” to attack us on 9/11. The thing that upsets me most here is that the the students don’t just believe that that Iraq was behind 9/11. This is a big fact in their minds, that leaps out at them, whenever they think about the state of the world.
The latest NIE opens a path for the UPA government to once again step on the gas — by all accounts, negotiations on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project have reached the stage where a deal is fully within grasp, provided Dr. Singh is willing to invest the kind of political capital with the Iranians that he so readily deploys with the U.S. Two years ago, India scored a politically costly own goal to appease the Bush administration’s drive to sanction and isolate Iran. It is now time to repair the damage.But will Dr Singh take off his blinkers and take it?
"My first thoughts were these: What happens if this happened to my daughter? How would I react? And I would have been ... I would have been very emotional, of course.
"I'd have been angry at those who committed the crime. And I would be angry at a state that didn't support the victim.
Now we know why he didn't get emotional about, say, Abu Ghraib - he doesn't have any sons.
It was vintage Modi in his campaign speech at Mangrol: "Sonia Gandhi spoke of terrorism. But she has no right to talk of this. Till today, those who attacked Parliament haven't been sent to the gallows. Congress in Gujarat is raising its voice on the Sohrabuddin issue. But, it should explain to the people what should be done to a man who stored illegal arms and ammunition. You tell me, what should have been done to Sohrabuddin?"
The rally echoed with shouts of "Kill him, kill him." Modi responded with: "Well, that is it. Do I have to take Sonia Gandhi's permission to do this?"