Identity Of Places

Changing a name of place can be an act of power or about the politics of visibility. Changing place names is not unknown in human history. In India, more recently, the renaming of places, cities, states and even streets, has been largely projected as an attempt to redress “past wrongs”. Predictably, these moves have generated a range of reactions from those who dismiss these as expressions of cynical identity politics to those who argue that these are important affirmations of agency. I must confess that, as an adolescent, I experienced a thrill in the renaming of Harrington Street in Kolkata (Calcutta then) as Ho Chi Minh Sarani specially as the street housed the American Consulate. Looking back nearly four decades later, I ask myself whether such a reaction was simply adolescent.
Historically, the naming of places can be understood both an act of environmental literacy as well as an act of power. Norman England saw the erasure of names that had Celtic origins, Spanish and Castillian names were grafted on the Amerindian islands during the voyages of discovery, and closer to our times, in 1930, Constantinople was renamed as Istanbul. The rationale for these was largely informed by considerations of power and administrative usage. The question of identity too, was linked to the acts of renaming — street names for instance had a close relationship with official political ideology.
Against this backdrop, how do we look at the plethora of name changes that India has accommodated since the 1990s? In some cases, the decision was to reverse the colonial legacy, in others, it was meant to be in consonance with the local pronunciation. The jury is still out whether name changes are enough to either reverse the problems that residents/citizens face or whether such acts of legislation sharpen their critical engagement with history. One may well argue that the politics of visibility (public statues or street and state name changes for instance) has the potential to affect a slow mobilisation that need not simply be dismissed as nativism. This is especially true of caste-related violence and discrimination. On the other hand, to correct all historical wrongs is not easy. Who decides what the correct history is of humiliation and who indeed tells us what the right prescription is to grapple with history as it happened, with all its brutality and interludes of peace and productive interaction? Name changes of states or cities cannot be the only answer even if they do perhaps reflect some local actualities. Kolkata is a direct transliteration of the Bengali pronunciation of Calcutta (there are myriad claims for the origin of this word). Mumbai, on the other hand, is connected to an obscure deity quite unconnected with the Portuguese name, Bombay, which probably derives from the Portuguese for ‘good little bay’; the replacement seems to have a hint of a political register.
Curiously Chennai, derived from some ancient land deeds in Telugu, has replaced the Tamil-origin name of Madras. In all cases there has been no doubt a desire to displace the colonial names despite the fact that these three cities owe their development to English trading initiative.
Now to come to the more immediate issue of the demand for changing the name of West Bengal to Bengal. The immediate context for this demand seems to have been the inter-state council meeting where, because of sheer alphabetical misfortune, the state’s chief minister was the last to speak.
As names go, Bengal is not such a bad choice; Banga or Bangla are equally acceptable, coming close to the suba of Bangala of Mughal times. From the Bengal suba to the Bengal Presidency and subsequently to West Bengal after Partition, the state has gone through a complex history of negotiation and transformation. The designation of West Bengal as an administrative division lost its relevance in 1947 when East Bengal became East Pakistan. Bengal can now go back to being Bengal and maybe aspire to set an agenda of thinking today for the rest of India to follow tomorrow.

Are Businesses Ready for the Digital Age?


The digital future has taken the corporate world by storm, but many employees are jumping ship. A new study by MIT Sloan Management Review, in collaboration with Deloitte, finds that only 44% of managers and executives believe their company is adequately prepared for digital disruption. Worse, 50% of employees who believe their company is lagging behind in digital innovation plan on leaving that company within a year.
In the report, MIT Sloan and Deloitte identified a number of key characteristics that define digitally adaptive companies, such as a cohesive corporate culture and an eagerness to take on risk. The report paints a picture of a new kind of company for the digital age, one that values flexibility and talent, one that can pivot and adapt quickly. These will be the successful new corporations. Slower, more unwieldy competitors are being left behind.
In the fall of 2015, MIT Sloan surveyed more than 3,700 executives, managers, and analysts at companies in 131 countries. They asked respondents to rank their company’s digital preparedness on a scale from 1-10, and then divided companies into three groups based on their digital growth: “early” (1-3), “developing” (5-6), and “maturing” (7-10).
Ninety percent of those surveyed believed digital technology would be disruptive to their industry. But only 26% ranked their company’s digital strategy as “maturing,” or digitally savvy. Almost one third said their company was “early” in its digital understanding.
The problems respondents identified with their companies’ digital capabilities are telling. Nineteen percent listed “internal issues” –a lack of corporate agility or inflexible culture – as their company’s number one threat. It was the single most popular response. In other words, managers and executives fear their company’s own rigidity more than the rise of competitors or the costs of digital transformation.
Doug Palmer, the Digital Strategy Leader at Deloitte, stresses the danger of internal inefficiencies. “Companies and executives point out that culture and internal things are what’s holding them back, more than reduced barriers to entry or the fact that startups may come after them,” he says.
A second key problem the report identifies is what Palmer calls the “talent gap.” The companies that need digital talent the most are also the ones with the least opportunity for internal digital advancement, leaving them unattractive to potential employees. On top of that, these same companies also struggle to retain the talent they already have. In companies that offer employees little to no opportunity for digital advancement, 30% of VP-level employees and 36% of sales staff wish to leave in less than one year. With little digital appeal, these companies have trouble attracting the outside talent they need, or keeping current employees around to develop their digital skills.
Internal barriers and a significant failure to develop talent combine to spell major trouble for companies. So what is the solution to digital stagnation? The report suggests that the key is maintaining a company culture that is compatible with a changing, digital world.
The survey asked employees to rank their company on a scale from 1 to 5 on a number of organizational capabilities. Digitally “maturing” companies were most likely to receive high ranks for traits such as collaborative work style, distributed leadership, appetite for risk and decision making that is driven by data. Companies still in the “early” phase of digital adoption, meanwhile, were more likely to be considered slow to act, risk-adverse, and instinctive in their decision-making.
A company whose culture values risk, distributed leadership and teamwork is inherently more adaptable to a digital landscape. Palmer calls this relationship between a company’s culture and its strategy “digital congruence.” Companies must adapt their digital strategy to their corporate culture, and vice versa, to get the most out of employees and their digital resources.
The idea of “digital congruence” is especially important when bringing on employees. Companies must be careful not to put their normal operations at risk in order to facilitate new digital talent, Palmer warns. “You can’t just come in and say ‘we have a digital agenda, here we go,’ because the rest of the organization is still doing its super-important day-to-day thing.”
As a case study for digital congruence, the report points to Salesforce and its emphasis on shared values among its employees. The corporate environment at Salesforce encourages candid feedback and active career advancement. The result is a stable workforce and an innovative digital company.
But Palmer does see an increasing number of larger, more traditional corporations beginning to adopt new strategies. In many cases, this begins with an influx of new talent. “You’re starting to see tech company executives hired and pulled over to other industries and sectors. And that’s giving those companies a leg up,” he notes.
For companies still struggling to adapt in a digital world, Palmer argues, the most important step is organizing the company around a single, unified plan.
“Companies need to have the conversation with their team about how are they going to fuse digital across their organization and across their business.”
In companies around the world, these conversations need to start sooner rather than later. The influence of digital tech on the corporate environment will only become more pronounced in the coming years, and companies that fail to catch the digital wave will only fall further behind.



The Unravelled Mystery of Liaquat Ali Khan’s Murder

The tragedy of Pakistan is the tragedy of coups and killing.  The senseless and wanton murder of on October 16, 1951, Pakistan’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was the first horrible one that was instrumental in Pakistan becoming what is it, despite its culture, natural resources and patriotism of its people. Liaquat Ali was assassinated in Rawalpindi’s Company Bagh (also known as East India Company Garden) during a public meeting of the Muslim City League. He was a close aide to the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and it was during his rule that religious parties began to take foothold in Pakistan.
To thwart their designs, Liaquat Ali Khan had introduced the Objective Resolution in the Constituent Assembly. Apparently it was aimed at checking the influence of religious groups, but Khan’s detractors would say that the resolution, instead of erecting a barrier, provided religious parties with a constitutional base to impose their ideologies on the rest of Pakistan.
The same Objective Resolution was later made part of the country’s Constitution by military ruler General Ziaul Haq to enforce his self-conceived version of Islam.
After Liaquat Ali Khan’s murder, the Company Bagh was renamed as Liaquat Garden. Exactly 55 years later, in this very Liaquat Garden, another prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was to be assassinated.
Liaquat’s ‘Afghan’ assassin
In his book, “The American Role in Pakistan”, M. S. Venkataramani writes that a single bullet from Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassin proved to be the catalyst of change. Pakistani officials quickly declared that the assassin Said Akbar was an Afghan national.
An Afghan government spokesman insisted that Akbar had already been stripped of his Afghan citizenship for his anti-national activities and that the British rulers of pre-partitioned India had given him refuge in the North Western Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Soon it was revealed that the Pakistani government continued to pay Said Akbar his welfare allowance as determined by the English masters of the sub-continent. The New York Times ran an Associated Press story which quoted Pakistani officials as saying that Said Akbar, the Afghan national who had assassinated the prime minister, had been receiving a monthly allowance of Rs450 (USD 155) from the government of Pakistan.
It is an undisputed fact that Liaquat’s assassin Said Akbar was sitting in front of the stage in a row of chairs designated for the Crime Investigation Department (CID) police officers. The place he had positioned himself in allowed him to target Liaquat Ali khan.
How did he get there? It is a question that remains unanswered and a subject of speculation even after 55 years. Akbar was shot dead by police at the same spot, minutes after he had assassinated the prime minister; his death deepened the mystery surrounding this high-profile murder. The New York Times reported that moments after Akbar had fired two shots, people sitting nearby pounced at him and dismembered him; he was also shot at, and at least one bullet was fired by a police officer, who later testified that he was ordered to shoot the assassin by a senior police official.
By killing Said Akbar, instead of arresting him, police officers eliminated a crucial piece of evidence; similarly, when Benzair Bhutto was assassinated in 2007 as she left Liaquat Garden after a public gathering, Rawalpindi’s Fire Department was quick to wash the crime scene, depriving investigators of important evidence. It placed another question mark on the country’s history of unsolved assassination cases.
Recalling Liaquat’s Soviet invitation
Liaquat Ali Khan is often accused of initiating the policy of Pakistan’s tilt towards the United States by preferring Washington DC over Moscow for his first state visit. He is also accused of rejecting the Soviet invitation. Historical evidence, however, suggests that it was Quaid-i-Azam who had decided that Pakistan would join the American — rather than Russian — block. He had made up his mind even before partition. Dennis Kux, a former State Department South Asia specialist, writes on pages 12-13 of his book: “The United States and Pakistan 1997–2000″ that US Diplomat Raymond Hare met Jinnah in May 1947 in New Delhi and asked him about Pakistan’s future foreign policy.
Responding to Hare’s query, writes Kux, Jinnah said that, “Pakistan would be oriented toward Muslim countries of the Middle East. Since they were weak, ‘Muslim countries would stand together against possible Russian aggression and would look to the US for assistance.’ The Muslim League leader said that although he did not personally share the view, most Indian Muslims thought the United States was unfriendly. They had the impression that the US press and many Americans were against Pakistan.”
Jinnah grew more suspicious of the Russians after the Partition; his mistrust of a super power next door would be discussed later, first let’s examine the charge against Liaquat Ali Khan — that he had snubbed the Russian invitation.
Contrary to this popular belief, he was, in fact, never invited by the Russians in the first place; instead, the invitation was extracted by Pakistan with some diplomatic manoeuvres.
In 1949, US President Truman had invited Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on a state visit to Washington DC. It irked the Pakistani prime minister, who was known for his pro-West policies, because instead of inviting a proven ally, Washington had bestowed the honour of state visit on Nehru, who was perceived to be a socialist and communist leader.
To soothe Liaquat Ali Khan’s hurt pride, Raja Ghazanfar Khan, a senior Muslim League leader, came up with an alternative. Raja Ghazanfar was Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran, and enjoyed a warm relationship with a Russian diplomat. He threw a dinner party, where the Russian diplomat Ali Alvi and Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan met.
The prime minister expressed his desire to visit Moscow. On 2nd June 1949, Liaquat Ali Khan received an invitation from the Soviet Union which he duly accepted after five days. Now, he was all set to visit Moscow. But Pakistan’s pro-West bureaucracy was unhappy with the proposition. Americans and British, too, were not pleased. The United States was tolerant enough to not to voice its anger, but the British were unequivocal in their show of displeasure. The British High Commissioner in Karachi, Sir Laurence Grafftey-Smith, warned Pakistani Foreign Minister Sir Zafarullah Khan that the upcoming visit to Moscow would be seen with mistrust by American and British populations. Finally, the visit was cancelled.
The popular belief that Liaquat Ali Khan had received both Soviet and American invitations at the same time, and that he had snubbed the Russians is wrong. Liaquat Ali Khan had extracted the invitation from Moscow, and when the visit was cancelled, it was not solely his decision. Dennis Kux writes on page 33 in his book: “After Pakistan initially suggested that Liaquat arrive in Moscow on August 20, 1949, the Soviets proposed that he get there on August 15. Pakistanis countered that this was physically impossible because the prime minister had to be present on Pakistan’s Independence Day celebration the day before, on August 14.
The Soviets then suggested a two-month delay and eventually agreed to an early November arrival date. They also insisted on having resident envoys in place before the visit, but delayed giving agrément (sic) for the Pakistani ambassador until October 28 and failed to nominate a Soviet envoy to Pakistan. By the end of October 1949, a perplexed foreign secretary Ikramullah confided to British high commissioner Grafftey-Smith that Moscow was dragging its feet on the trip and had even allowed the prime minister’s passport to languish three weeks at the Soviet Embassy in New Dehli.” Kux’s account suggest that Liaquat Ali Khan had a genuine desire to visit the Soviet Union, but Soviet officials had set an arrival date that was impossible to follow for the Pakistani prime minister.
After the Partition, Russians had aligned themselves with India and understood that she would be their nature ally. It is also possible that Indian officials were involved in the delay of the visit, which was eventually cancelled.
Pak-US friendship
Liaquat Ali Khan had inherited a pro-America policy from Jinnah, who never hesitated to reach out to the United States. On 5 October 1947, his personal envoy Laik Ali had presented a communiqué to American officials, requesting a loan for Pakistan. M. S. Venkataramani writes in his book, “The American Role in Pakistan, 1947-1958” that Laik Ali presented two other documents to the US Department of State outlining Pakistan’s needs.
The documents said Pakistan required USD700 million for industrial development, USD700 million for agricultural development, and USD 510 million to boost its defence. In total, a five-year loan of around 2 billion dollars was requested by Pakistan.
It is clear that Liaquat Ali Khan had not laid the foundation stone for the “Pak-US friendship”, and that the process had begun before Partition under Quaid-i-Azam, who speeded it up after independence. In the early months after Pakistan came into being, Liaquat Ali Khan was overshadowed by a very powerful Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who would preside over the cabinet meetings and make most of the decisions.
Liaquat’s political insecurity
Pakistan, under Liaquat Ali Khan, failed to draft its Constitution. The first prime minister also experienced political insecurity. He was fully aware that his contemporaries such as Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy enjoyed popular support. He was extremely careful in the selection of his staff, effectively excluding anyone who had both Indian and Pakistani citizenship, though he himself had migrated from India to Pakistan. In Pakistan Ke Pehle Saat Wuzra-E-Azam (The First Seven Prime Ministers of Pakistan), Naem Ahmed et al. write on pages 39-40:
“The prime minister was extremely careful in the selection of his staff. When the workload increased, he added another member to his staff to work as his deputy private secretary. The officer was selected on the basis of his place of birth. The prime minister was presented with three names, out of which he chose Mian Manzoor Ahmed because he hailed from East Punjab. The other two hailed from UP (in India) and their relatives still lived in UP. The decision did not spring from any regional biases; there was a good justification behind it. Since Pakistan had newly come into being and the prime minister’s office contained classified and important documents, a man with the least possible connection to India was preferred, because officers with relatives in India were deemed as divided Pakistanis, or the ones sailing two boats at the same time. There was a possibility that Indian agents could easily buy their loyalties.”
Liaqaut Ali Khan is accused of favouring Muhajirs (people who migrated from India to Pakistan) but the above example shows that as prime minister of the country, he was not willing to trust anyone whose relatives still lived in India after the Partition.
Bringing religion into politics
As discussed earlier, Liaquat is blamed for introducing religion into politics, but he purged his office from people with links to religious groups. Naem Ahmed et al. have recounted one such episode on pages 19-20 in their book: “In the Prime Minister Branch, a clerk named Rehmat Elahi was tasked with book-keeping. He was a very serious and tacit man. He had worked for a few months, when an intelligence report revealed his affiliation with Jamat-e-Islami. The man was asked to disown his link with Jamat-e-Islami and assured that by doing so he would be able to keep his job. But he was a very brave man. He countered that a similar report had led to his dismissal from the army which he had joined as commissioned officer. ‘I am only a clerk here,’ he said. ‘I can’t tell lies.’ Eventually Rehmat Elahi tendered his resignation. It was the same Rehmat Elahi who is now ranked among the top activists of Jamaat-e-Islami. Under General Ziaul Haq’s military rule, he briefly served as minister for power and water.”
Unsolved assassination
From Liaquat Ali Khan to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan has a history of unsolved assassinations. In Liaquat Ali Khan’s case, the officer investigating his murder and vital documentary evidence met their demise in an air crash. Syed Noor Ahmed in his book, “Martial Law Sey Martial Law Tak (From Martial Law to Martial Law)” details the circumstances of the air crash. He writes on pages 396-7:
“Nawabzada Aitzazuddin, who was travelling to meet Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin having been summoned by him and who was carrying important documents about the investigation of this case, was killed in an air crash. The aeroplane crashed near Jhelum after developing a mechanical fault, which started a fire onboard, and all the passengers, their luggage (including documents on Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination) were burnt. After Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination, when a new cabinet was formed, Nawab Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani, who was minister for Kashmir affairs in the old cabinet, became the country’s new interior minister. When an investigation into the assassination was initiated, Gurmani came under sharp criticism. To ward of the censure, he, after much delay, sought help from the Scotland Yard, hiring an experienced investigator to solve the case. But this was only an attempt to save face. The motives behind Liaquat’s murder would never come to light.”
Then, a strange revelation was made. In February 1958, a defamation suite Gurmani vs Z.A. Suleri was being heard by a Lahore High Court bench. The court wanted to see an investigation file about Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination. The Attorney General, who was present in the courtroom, was asked if it was possible to present the file in the court; he promised to supply all the necessary information by Feb 25. When the Attorney General failed to live up to his promise, the court sent him a letter, to which he replied that the Chief Secretary West Pakistan was holding the file.
The court issued a summon, and on March 1, 1958, an Additional Advocate General testified that the file had gone missing, and that a search was underway. On March 8, a CID officer informed the court that the government was unable to locate the file and, hence, unable to present it in the court.
Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination was met with a somewhat mute response from the country’s other politicians. Ayub Khan, in his autobiography, “Friends Not Masters” writes on page 41:
“When I returned to Pakistan, I met several members of the new Cabinet in Karachi — Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin, Chaudhri Mohammad Ali, Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani and others. Not one of them mentioned Liaquat Ali Khan’s name, nor did I hear a word of sympathy or regret from any one of them. Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad seemed equally unaware of the fact that the country had lost an eminent and capable Prime Minister through the fell act of an assassin. I wondered how callous, cold-blooded, and selfish people could be. It seemed that every one of them had got himself promoted in one way or another. The termination of the Prime Minister’s life had come as the beginning of a new career for them. It was disgusting and revolting. It may be a harsh thing to say, but I got the distinct impression that they were all feeling relieved that the only person who might have kept them under control had disappeared from the scene.”

The Expanded Suez Canal: New Opportunities for Global Shipping Ports

When Egypt unveiled its New Suez Canal, a broader and deeper channel that can handle upwards of 97 ships a day, it did so with the belief that its “gift to the world” would bolster international trade and revive the Egyptian economy. Now, one year after its official unveiling, the new canal is off to a promising start.
Revenues from the New Suez Canal reached US$3.2 billion between January 1 and August 6, 2016, a 4 percent increase from the same period in 2015, the Suez Canal Authority announced during a one-year anniversary celebration.
According to the Suez Canal Authority, Egypt decided to create a new canal parallel to the existing one in order to double the length of the waterway to facilitate traffic in two directions and lessen waiting time. “This will certainly reduce the time needed for the trip from one end of the canal to the other, and will increase the numerical capacity of the waterway, in anticipation of the expected growth in world trade,” the authority says on its website.
Prior to the expansion, the canal’s capacity was 49 vessels per day. By 2023, it will be able to handle up to 97 ships. Considering many ships can shave up to 10 days off their voyage by using the Suez Canal instead of sailing around the southern tip of Africa, the expanded capacity could potentially double the amount of vessels passing through the Suez Canal each day.
Not only can the new canal transport more vessels, it can also allow passage for larger megaships. As container ships continue to grow—the average ship being built today is around three times larger than a decade ago—canals and ports around the world are feeling the pressure to figure out ways to serve the ever-growing vessels.
For the Suez Canal, that meant spending 12 months excavating over 9 billion cubic feet of sediment to deepen the existing canal and create a new parallel, 22-mile route. With the expanded canal comes increased traffic, and according to a recently released CBRE report by Machiel Wolters, CBRE’s head of industrial and logistics research in EMEA, global shipping hubs are taking advantage. “Anticipating growth, many ports in the Mediterranean have decided to upgrade and increase their container terminal capacity, and a striking number of new terminals are under construction or have recently been opened,” Wolters says in the report.
Though Mediterranean ports are looking forward to increased volume in the coming years thanks to the Suez Canal expansion, many ports have already logged significant growth since 2009—led by Piraeus, Greece, with a nearly 424 percent increase in volume; Algeciras, Spain, at 54.5 percent; Genova, Italy, at nearly 54 percent; and La Spezia, Italy, at just over 50 percent. “Typical gateway ports are preferably well-connected to large industrial and population centers.”
For the purposes of the CBRE report, ports are broken down into three types: gateway ports, mixed ports and transshipment hubs. Gateway ports are primarily used to distribute goods inland, while transshipment hubs are predominately used as a place to exchange cargo between transport services. Mixed ports act as both.
Since most cargo that passes through transshipment hubs doesn’t enter the local markets, gateway ports and mixed ports are generally most relevant to the industrial real estate market.
Wolters explains what makes a gateway port primed for growth: “Typical gateway ports are points of entry or exit for continental markets, and they are preferably well-connected to large industrial and population centers. Mediterranean examples include Marseille in France and the northern Italian ports, which can be seen as a cluster of gateways.”
The ports most primed for real estate growth directly serve a large market and are also well located for transshipment. In Spain, that means Barcelona and Valencia. In Egypt, it’s Damietta and Alexandria.
While northern Italy is already an established logistics hub—with Milan, Bologna and Venice all closely clustered together—new investments and construction at Vado Ligure (near Genoa) will serve an even wider distribution base, including the Alpine populations, southern Germany and central Europe.
Less well-established markets, such as Turkey and Egypt, are also seeing increased port investments. In fact, the second leg of the Suez Canal expansion, the Suez Canal Area Development Project, seeks to further develop three major canal cities that are traditionally used for transshipment—Suez, Ismaïlia and Port Said—by building new shops, housing developments, commercial offices and more. Similarly, Turkey is benefitting from a large number of port investment programs, especially along the Sea of Marmara and around Izmir.
As international shipping continues to increase, and shipping vessels continue to grow larger, Mediterranean ports are looking to boost their handling capacity by investing in current ports and creating new terminals. And as ports continue to develop, industrial real estate in the surrounding areas is expected to thrive.

A Different, but Welcome Revolution to Use Food Waste

Wastage of food is criminal, considering the fact that millions go hungry. This wastage is at all levels and needs immediate correction. Can you imagine cooking ten times a week and then slinging the contents straight into the bin? Every year people all over the developed world chuck some seven tonnes of food away. And if that’s not concerning enough, just ponder little over our attitudes toward such squandering. In Canada food worth $ 32 billion is wasted every year.
A recent survey from supermarket giant Sainsbury’s should make us bow our food weary heads in shame. Of the 5,000 adults asked, only 3% felt guilty about throwing food away. Even when it does cost us some £700 per household, per year. Same is the story of Walmart.
When it comes to savings, there’s a merry troupe of us who are happy to turn lights off when leaving a room (74%) or nudge the thermostat down a little (55%). Yet why doesn’t this 3% of us feel any guilt over literally tossing salads and other things away? That’s a town the size of Warrington, compared to the whole population of the UK, who actually feel something about wasting food. Now that should make anyone in their right mind, shudder – imagine that … Warrington! Silicon Valley prides itself on efficiency and innovation, so it’s no wonder the tech industry has started making major changes to the way food is delivered and consumed.
With meal replacement companies like Soylent getting so big they’re spawning their own competitors, and restaurants opening on both coasts that don’t use a single human employee, ambitious startups are already making big changes to the way we eat and drink.
Want to inhale your caffeine instead of drinking it? You can do that. Want to grow two different vegetables on one plant? That’s possible, too.
Below, we’ve compiled some of the most futuristic food and drink trends out there.
Vapshot is vaporized alcohol that you can consume through a straw. Vapshot says its bottles contain 1/60th of the amount of alcohol contained in a liquid shot and is designed to bring out “the true flavor of the liquor.”
Soylent, and similar companies like Ambronite and Ample, create “intelligently designed” meal replacement milkshakes. Soylent says its shakes include “the protein, carbohydrates, lipids and micronutrients that a body needs to thrive.”
The TomTato plant, which was created by plant and seed company Thompson & Morgan, allows gardeners to grow two plants at once: a tomato plant above ground, and a potato plant below ground.
Meat grown in a lab might sound too futuristic, but a startup called Memphis Meats has already accomplished it: The company creates meatballs out of beef cells that are grown in a lab.
Rather than drinking an energy drink or cup of coffee, AeroLife wants you to start taking an “air-based shot of smart energy.” Created by a Harvard professor, the inhaler-like device is said to deliver 100mg of caffeine.
Founded in San Francisco but expanding to New York City, Eatsa is a completely automated restaurant. Diners order and pay on a tablet and the food is delivered in a cubby a few minutes later.
For those that don’t have time to drink a full cup of coffee, Nootrobox has created another option: Chewable coffee. Nootrobox says one of its Go Cubes contains the same amount of caffeine as a half cup of coffee.
It is of little surprise then that a growing cohort of people is welcoming a backlash against food waste. This is mostly served to us by young, food-savvy, millennials. People who care about where their food comes from and how sustainability it’s produced. However, it’s a slow movement; working against the tide of waste we have already bloated landfills with all throughout the eighties and nineties. Now it’s time for a detox.
We’re already seeing supermarkets, albeit tentatively, welcoming ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables into their basic ranges, meaning fewer are rejected over cosmetic reasons. And of course there’s organisations which redirect surplus foods from growers, manufacturers and sellers and passes them on to vulnerable people.
Though what is especially heartening is to see a new breed savvy social entrepreneurs, creating high quality foods in a sustainable way. Some are even creating craft foods quite literally, from rubbish.
An amble through the trendier streets of East London will lead you towards a sustainable food revolution. Today, the area once popular with hawkers and those with interesting social narratives, is now a haven to environmentally switched-on foodies.
Some firms use gluts of apples produced by farmers, which are rejected by supermarkets or would be left to rot in orchards or gardens, to make cider. Combining these apples with high-grade ones means their artisan cider, Hawkes, which is brewed under a Newham’s viaducts, is doing well. In fact, if you bring in 10kg of apples, they will give you a litre of cider in return. A share of their profits is given to community projects such as those replanting trees and tackling waste.
Then there is ToastAle, the brainchild of food activist Tristram Stuart, which uses surplus and discarded bread to brew its beer. In fact bread is the most wasted food in the UK by householders who throw away 350,000 tonnes of the stuff. The Hackney firm donates all of its profits to waste reduction charity, Feedback, and is planning to take things global.
There is another organization that, ‘fights food waste with relish’. Founder, 27-year-old Jenny Dawson said she saw fruit and vegetables being discarded from London markets and decided to use the surplus produce jams and chutneys.
Some people have started using underground as farmsland. In London thirty-three metres under the streets of Clapham land is used to grow food. Here a subterranean food revolution uses a system of hydroponics to grow plants in water using LED technology (which uses 70 %less water than traditional open-field farming) and because it’s underground, it isn’t affected by weather so doesn’t need pesticides. And the firm only delivers within the M25, so cuts down on food miles too.
Meanwhile urban farms grow salads vertically. By growing food in vertically stacked layers in a controlled environment indoors, like Growing Underground, the use for pesticides is negated. Oh, and there’s the added bonus of plenty of natural fertiliser thanks to the fish.
Clever US-import Olio is an app that lets local restaurants, cafes or denizens post what surplus food they have. You just punch in your postcode and it tells you what you can pick up and from where. I managed a hoard of artisan sourdoughs, which would have otherwise ended in the proverbial poubelle.
For those looking to make a future meal of things, there’s insects – adding a new dimension to the concept of ‘grubs up’. There are around 2037 documented edible insect species – and counting.
Overall, a more lasting plan has to be to change our thinking and to back this with better political will, as in Italy and France. Italy has just introduced a bill where businesses that sell food have to donate anything unsold to charities. In France, similar initiatives might involve fines, yet Italy hopes to give businesses a tax break on rubbish collection. With a little effort all round, we could eliminate so much of the food we waste if only more of us would take responsibility for it.

Weekend Banter:What my grandmother taught me

About love, life and cutting losses. Despite being an equal opportunity bigot (she had her reservations about almost all of humanity), Dadi was clear that no matter what tradition or religion dictated, human beings were ultimately more important than either Despite being an equal opportunity bigot (she had her reservations about almost all of humanity), Dadi was clear that no matter what tradition or religion dictated, human beings were ultimately more important than either
I never realised how incredibly wise my grandmother was. I knew she was smart, canny, irreverent and funny. I learned some wicked pahadi curses from her and how to enjoy a sweet-and-spicy mango pickle that can waken the dead. But I had no idea that she was teaching me important stuff, stuff that matters. To be able to list down all the things she taught me would be impossible, but here is a sampler of what I learnt:
That fashion, just like Ram Gopal Varma, has an aag, a fire. My grandmother was always impeccably dressed (her cupboards were always arranged to have her elegant saris hanging together with their matching blouses and lace-edged hankies). However, she followed the scientific method in documenting the existence of “fashion ki aag” — by observing people and their sometimes appropriate and sometimes not-so-appropriate clothes over a lifetime. When she saw PYTs in skimpy clothes in winter, for instance, her non-judgemental comment would be: “Fashion ki aag ho toh kya thandi, kya garmi! (Nothing feels too warm or too cold when you have the fire of fashion burning inside you).”
She was right, of course. Fashion does have an aag, a fire. Every time I push my perfectly square feet into high heels, when the cardboard box those heels came in would fit me better and be more comfortable, I know that fashion ki aag is singeing me one crushed toe at a time. Sofia Vergara’s claim that dressing up her impressive bosom leads to bleeding and cuts, because it needs to be corseted to be poured into the clothes she wants to wear? That’s just her engulfed in the flames of her custom-made couture fashion ki aag.
So, one of the most important things I learnt from my grandmother? That being a fashion victim is a universal human condition.And metaphorically speaking, having an elegant sari with a matching lace-edged hanky is always a good Plan B.
That you don’t have to possess anything to give freely. My grandparents were amongst the first to buy a fridge in their neighbourhood. Every single day in the summer, my grandmother would freeze extra trays of ice, which she would send to her friends and family in the neighbourhood. And though it’s hard to imagine something with less material value than a gift of frozen water, even today, decades and decades later, I meet people who remember my grandmother’s thoughtfulness. They remember her when they recall the unexpected bliss of a melting shard of an ice cube in their fridge-less grandmother’s panna or buttermilk or nimbu pani.
Whenever I feel like I have no time or resources for myself, leave alone for anyone else, my grandmother’s gift of ice reaches out and warms my heart and kicks my ass simultaneously.
How to cut others some slack while always being prepared for every eventuality yourself. In my grandmother’s experience, people rarely met their commitments — from the domestic help who never returned from home on time, to the tailor who dilly-dallied around the date of delivery. to the cousin who eternally promised but never actually got around to repaying a long overdue loan. In Dadi’s worldview, the only way to deal with it was to always factor into one’s calculations everyone’s frequent inability to deliver the goods, to always have a Plan B, and to not take it personally. “It’s the same story all over again,” she would say with equanimity. “His bhains (buffalo) must have been bitten by a bichchu (scorpion), what can one do?”
I grew up thinking that the main purpose of livestock was to be bitten by some poisonous creature in order to furnish an excuse for its owner, but I’m smarter now. Holding the universal truth of human existence to be one that states that shit happens and there’s jack you can do about it is a philosophy that combines pragmatism, patience and wild optimism as to the motivations of others. So, the lesson that you’ve got to cut others slack while not letting it ambush your own plans was something I learnt in an agricultural economy metaphor, one that ensures it will never be forgotten. (As an aside, I have always thought that Dadi’s bhains and bichchu fable kicks Aesop’s ass any day — a pity she never found the right publisher.)
That every occasion to eat is an opportunity for joy. Not only was Dadi a wonderful cook, but also an inventive and irreverent one. But more than that, it was the zest she imbued the cooking and the eating with, that is remarkable. From the tastiest nibbles at tea time, to her “fallen” apricot salad, to her wobbly guava jelly that tasted of sunshine and infinite promise, to her collection of flavoured salts to spritz up anything from a pomelo to a bowl of dahi — every morsel of food consumed with her and made by her gave untrammelled joy.
This is a lesson I have embraced in my own life — that food is about exploration and wonder, comfort and familiarity, love and happiness. Thank you for my limitless greed, Dadi, and for my incredibly high standards in how I choose to serve it.
How to move swiftly on. When my grandmother thought a situation or person or relationship was irretrievable, she was clinical in casting it aside. “Murda mare uska (May his corpse die!),” she would say — a genteel way of expressing a more-than-languid desire to double-obliterate the offending person out of her life. It was her clarion call to the universe that she was done, finished with that particular drama. And I swear, she never ever spent a minute thinking about the twice-dead-once-was-alive-to-her-offender ever again.
I confess I haven’t mastered this lesson yet, but with practice and the right intent, I’ll get there one day. Or, to be more accurate, I’ll get annoying people and situations to double deadsville some day.
That people always matter more than piety. Despite being an equal opportunity bigot (she had her reservations about almost all of humanity), Dadi was clear that no matter what tradition or religion dictated, human beings were ultimately more important than either. We grew up hearing her tell us, “Try not to marry a…” (fill in the blank with any section of humanity of your choice — a south Indian, a person from the plains (as opposed to her beloved pahad, an Oriental, a Muslim, someone whose father is a smoker because he may start smoking too, someone too rich because riches breed laziness, someone who is lazy because laziness only increases with age, etc.) tempered with, “Unless, of course, he’s a good human being. Then you can marry whoever you like. Just try, though, to make sure that he isn’t a…” And you know the only part we all heard? The “good human being” part. It’s a priceless gift to be handed in childhood — the knowledge that individuals are always bigger than the categories they happen to be born into, even though the list of proscribed categories extends twice across the landmass of Outer Mongolia and back.
Dadi lived and died in another world, but her words ring true even today. What did she really want her grandkids to do? To eat joyously, to laugh more, to be kind and not judge others and, yes, to always dress cute. Look carefully, there’s a recipe for happiness right there.
And I never thought I would say this, but I think it could do more for humanity than her recipe for golden, wobbly guava jelly could. And that’s saying something.

Cook with Vegetable Oils and Enjoy Toxic Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Dalda – the ubiquitous vegetable oil in India- became a generic name for all sorts of vegetable oils,and my Grandmother used to say that consuming Dalda as a medium of cooking hall make us blind. And now the scientists warn against the dangers of frying food in sunflower oil and corn oil over claims they release toxic chemicals linked to cancer
Cooking with vegetable oils releases toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases, according to leading scientists, who are now recommending food be fried in olive oil, coconut oil, butter or even lard.
The results of a series of experiments threaten to turn on its head official advice that oils rich in polyunsaturated fats – such as corn oil and sunflower oil – are better for the health than the saturated fats in animal products.
Scientists found that heating up vegetable oils led to the release of high concentrations of chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to illnesses including cancer, heart disease and dementia.
Martin Grootveld, a professor of bioanalytical chemistry and chemical pathology, said that his research showed “a typical meal of fish and chips”, fried in vegetable oil, contained as much as 100 to 200 times more toxic aldehydes than the safe daily limit set by the World Health Organisation. “The human brain is changing in a way that is as serious as climate change threatens to be”
In contrast, heating up butter, olive oil and lard in tests produced much lower levels of aldehydes. Coconut oil produced the lowest levels of the harmful chemicals.
Concerns over toxic chemicals in heated oils are backed up by separate research from a University of Oxford professor, who claims that the fatty acids in vegetable oils are contributing to other health problems.
Professor John Stein, Oxford’s emeritus professor of neuroscience, said that partly as a result of corn and sunflower oils, “the human brain is changing in a way that is as serious as climate change threatens to be”.
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Because vegetable oils are rich in omega 6 acids, they are contributing to a reduction in critical omega 3 fatty acids in the brain by replacing them, he believes.
“If you eat too much corn oil or sunflower oil, the brain is absorbing too much omega 6, and that effectively forces out omega 3,” said Prof Stein. “I believe the lack of omega 3 is a powerful contributory factor to such problems as increasing mental health issues and other problems such as dyslexia.” He said sunflower oil and corn oil were now banished from his own kitchen, replaced by olive oil and butter.
NHS advice is to replace “foods high in saturated fat with lower-fat versions” and warns against frying food in butter or lard, recommending instead corn oil, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil. Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.
But Prof Grootveld, of De Montfort University in Leicester, who carried out a series of experiments, said: “For decades, the authorities have been warning us how bad butter and lard was. But we have found butter is very, very good for frying purposes and so is lard.
“People have been telling us how healthy polyunsaturates are in corn oil and sunflower oil. But when you start messing around with them, subjecting them to high amounts of energy in the frying pan or the oven, they undergo a complex series of chemical reactions which results in the accumulation of large amounts of toxic compounds.”
The findings are contained in research papers. Prof Grootveld’s team measured levels of “aldehydic lipid oxidation products” (LOPs), produced when oils were heated to varying temperatures. The tests suggested coconut oil produces the lowest levels of aldehydes, and three times more aldehydes were produced when heating corn oil and sunflower oil than butter.
The team concluded in one paper last year: “The most obvious solution to the generation of LOPs in culinary oils during frying is to avoid consuming foods fried in PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acid]-rich oils as much as possible.”
Prof Grootveld said: “This major problem has received scant or limited attention from the food industry and health researchers.” Evidence of high levels of toxicity from heating oils has been available for many years, he said.
Health concerns linked to the toxic by-products include heart disease; cancer; “malformations” during pregnancy; inflammation; risk of ulcers and a rise in blood pressure.
He said the oils when “completely pure [and] authentic … offer no threats to human health” but that “LOPs arising from the frequent and common use of polyunsaturated fats” for frying “certainly do so”.
Public Health England says saturated fats, including butter and coconut oil “can be eaten occasionally in small amounts as part of a healthy balanced diet”.

Adrift in School

Education is confused with certification. That students survive a joyless system is a tribute to their resilience.Let us not also overlook the reality of the manner in which the examinations are administered.
The silly season of the board examination results is once again upon us. Boards will vie with each other in doling out 90 per cent-plus to their candidates. Social, electronic and print media will overflow with congratulatory (and sometimes self- congratulatory) messages and interviews. Teachers will thump themselves on the back for their “outstanding results”. Schools will go ballistic advertising their “toppers”.
Yet behind the razzmatazz of this marks jamboree, lie some uncomfortable questions that need to be answered. First of all, what of those who did not make it to this elite club? What about those children, who, for reasons well beyond their control, are left struggling on the margins with mediocre or poor results — or even failure? Are they not entitled to a future?
How many of the teachers congratulating themselves would have identified and spent time with students struggling with some learning disability? How many teachers would even recognise the problem of a learning disability?
More fundamentally, how many schools would even admit any student identified as being so disadvantaged?
Let us not even begin to talk about the issue of other disabilities that thousands of our children suffer from. What kind of a culture are we evolving where the disadvantaged are ignored? I remember that when I started an “Assisted Learning Programme” in a boarding school that I headed in the early ’90s to help such students, one of my governors warned me against admitting “mentally retarded” children.
And what do these 90 per cents actually reflect? No one can deny that most students work very hard to achieve these results. The fact that they survive this joyless system is indeed a tribute to their resilience.
The fact, however, remains that the system is so hugely “content driven” that all that the marks reflect are a student’s ability to absorb and spew content, and the teacher’s ability to “teach to the test”. Have schools and teachers taught their students to make connections between what they have learnt in one discipline and what they have learnt in another? Between, say, math and music? Have they taught students to think creatively and critically, to work in teams, to assume leadership, to research and reference, to communicate effectively?
After all, these are the skills required in the real world. Have they excited their students about the business of learning? And I am not even touching upon values such as respect for others, empathy, integrity, gender sensitivity. Teachers, before you get carried away by your “success” please do not forget the steroid of the tuition market without which even that 90 per cent, flawed as it might be, would have remained a distant dream.
Let us not also overlook the reality of the manner in which the examinations are administered. Has anyone, for instance, done an audit of the examiners? After all, the examiners come from the pool of schoolteachers and I dare say that, by and large, that is not a very distinguished catchment area.
The reasons for this are manifold. Teaching, particularly schoolteaching, is not exactly a first choice career option for most. I once asked an assembly of parents in my school how many of them would encourage their son to be a schoolteacher or indeed their daughter to marry one. No marks for the correct answer!
The levels of motivation, not surprisingly, tend to be generally low. To compound the problem, teacher training is something that is largely ignored in our country. Promoters of schools, anxious for quick returns on investment, generally consider spending on teacher training a waste of precious resources.
It is worrisome that we have yet to create an institute with the same brand equity as an IIT or IIM. And ironically, it is the schoolteacher who prepares all the entrants for the IITs and IIMs and indeed for all other professions. It is also well-known that dishonesty is rampant in our examination centres. So how valid are these results?
The sad truth is that school in our country is less about “education” and more about “certification”. Where in any enlightened society is a child virtually “boxed in” as early as grade nine and forced into either “Commerce”, “Science” or god forbid “Humanities”? And never the three shall meet!
A child’s mind should be set free — free to explore and to discover the connections between all the beautiful, and indeed ugly, things he or she learns about this universe. In a very interesting article on the world-famous mathematician Ken Ono, in this paper (‘Prime Obsession’. The Indian Express, May 8) Amruta Lakhe quotes Ono on the relationship between him and his mentor Basil Gordon. “He was the Hardy in my life (a reference to the relationship between Srinivasa Ramanujan and G.H. Hardy). I couldn’t wait to start working on theorems but he didn’t let me anywhere near a math formula for months. We went biking, played the piano, and opened our minds to classical music.”
“Then on one of their expeditions”, Lakhe writes, “Ono was struck by the beauty of a particular sunset and mentioned it to Gordon. Gordon replied that Ono was now ready to do math.”
Unless our school education system, among other things, learns to open up the minds of our children to the fascinating universe they dwell in, it will never really impart an “education”, and will never really prepare them to be “weapons polished and keen” who will help build a new and more equitable and just world order.

The Real Story of Inequality in India

It’s one of the 10 richest countries in the world – and one of the poorest . India is suddenly in the news for all the wrong reasons. It is now hitting the headlines as one of the most unequal countries in the world, whether one measures inequality on the basis of income or wealth.
So how unequal is India? The question is simple, the answer is not. Based on the new India Human Development Survey (IHDS), which provides data on income inequality for the first time, India scores a level of income equality lower than Russia, the United States, China and Brazil, and more egalitarian than only South Africa.
Inequality in numbers
According to a report by the Johannesburg-based company New World Wealth, India is the second-most-unequal country globally, with millionaires controlling 54% of its wealth. With a total individual wealth of $5,600 billion, it’s among the 10 richest countries in the world – and yet the average Indian is relatively poor.
Compare this with Japan, the most equal country in the world, where according to the report millionaires control only 22% of total wealth.
In India, the richest 1% own 53% of the country’s wealth, according to the latest data from Credit Suisse. The richest 5% own 68.6%, while the top 10% have 76.3%. At the other end of the pyramid, the poorer half jostles for a mere 4.1% of national wealth.
What’s more, things are getting better for the rich. The Credit Suisse data shows that India’s richest 1% owned just 36.8% of the country’s wealth in 2000, while the share of the top 10% was 65.9%. Since then they have steadily increased their share of the pie. The share of the top 1% now exceeds 50%.
This is far ahead of the United States, where the richest 1% own 37.3% of total wealth. But India’s finest still have a long way to go before they match Russia, where the top 1% own a stupendous 70.3% of the country’s wealth.
Why does it matter?
This sharp rise in inequality in India – and in many countries around the world – is damaging, and that countries need to make an effort to curb it. Rising inequality will lead to slower poverty reduction, undermine the sustainability of economic growth, compound the inequalities between men and women, and drive inequalities in health, education and life chances.
For the third year running, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2016 has found “severe income disparity” to be one of the top global risks in the coming decade. A growing body of evidence has also demonstrated that economic inequality is associated with a range of health and social problems, such as mental illness and violent crime. This is true across both rich and poor countries. Inequality hurts everyone.
What can India do to reduce inequality?
The continued rise of economic inequality in India – and around the world – is not inevitable. It is the result of policy choices. Governments can start to reduce inequality by rejecting market fundamentalism, opposing the special interests of powerful elites, and changing the rules and systems that have led to where we are today. They need to implement reforms that redistribute money and power and level the playing field.
Specifically, there are two main areas where changes to policy could boost economic equality: taxation and social spending.
1. Progressive taxation, where corporations and the richest individuals pay more to the state in order to redistribute resources across society, is key. The role of taxation in reducing inequality has been clearly documented in OECD and developing countries. Tax can play a progressive role, or a regressive one, depending on the policy choices of the government.
2. Social spending, on public services such as education, health and social protection, is also important. Evidence from more than 150 countries – rich and poor, and spanning over 30 years – shows that overall, investment in public services and social protection can tackle inequality. Oxfam has for many years campaigned for free, universal public services.
Two key indicators are: how much has a government committed to spend on education, health and social protection? And how progressive are the spending levels? This chart shows the money India has spent on public services over the past eight years; the horizontal lines represent expenditure as a percentage of GDP, and vertical bars expenditure in rupees.
India performs relatively poorly on both counts. Its total tax effort, currently at 16.7% of GDP, is low (about 53% of its potential) and the tax structure is not very progressive since direct taxes account for only a third of total taxes. South Africa, by comparison, raises 27.4% of GDP as taxes, 50% of which are direct taxes.
When it comes to the second indicator (levels and progressivity of social-sector spending), India compares less well. Only 3% of GDP goes towards education and only 1.1% towards health. South Africa spends more than twice as much on education (6.1%) and more than three times as much on health (3.7%). While it’s assessed as more unequal than India, South Africa rates much higher than India in its commitment to reducing inequality.
The dream of ending poverty
If India stops inequality from rising further, it could end extreme poverty for 90 million people by 2019. If it goes further and reduces inequality by 36%, it could virtually eliminate extreme poverty.
India – along with all the other countries in the world – has committed to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and to ending extreme poverty by that year. But unless we make an effort to first contain and then reduce the rising levels of extreme inequality, the dream of ending extreme poverty for the 300 million Indians – a quarter of the population – who live below an extremely low poverty line, will remain a pipe dream.

The Pipe Dream of Gender Equality: Gap is Again Increasing

We talk of gender equality, and we find that women are still not deemed fit to receive the same remuneration as men. What is astounding is that so-called third world countries have a much better record of gender parity. Imagine Rwanda comes at number 5, while Canada comes at 31st. And that too, after Justin Trudeau has been crying from the roof-top of the Parliament that he is committed to gender equality. What a shame for the so-called developed nations. The female foeticide in India, the so-called dishonorable murder-called honor killing in India and Pakistan, the sex trade, the exploitation of women, including marital rape show that the gender parity is just a pipe dream.
The world is facing an acute misuse of talent by not acting faster to tackle gender inequality, which could put economic growth at risk and deprive economies of the opportunity to develop, according to the latest WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2016, which was published on 25th Oct. The Global Gender Gap Index ranks 144 countries on the gap between women and men on health, education, economic and political indicators. It aims to understand whether countries are distributing their resources and opportunities equitably between women and men, irrespective of their overall income levels. The report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas:
• Economic participation and opportunity – salaries, participation and leadership
• Education – access to basic and higher levels of education
• Political empowerment – representation in decision-making structures
• Health and survival – life expectancy and sex ratio
Index scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men, and allow countries to compare their current performance relative to their past performance. In addition, the rankings allow for comparisons between countries. Thirteen out of the 14 variables used to create the index are from publicly available hard data indicators from international organizations such as the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization, and one comes a perception survey conducted by the World Economic Forum.
In this year’s report, a key methodological change relates to the cap on the estimated earned income (raised from $40,000 to $75,000) to align with the UNDP’s new methodology and reflecting the change in income levels since the report’s inception in 2006
The report is an annual benchmarking exercise that measures progress towards parity between men and women in four areas: Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, Economic Opportunity and Political Empowerment. In this latest edition, the report finds that progress towards parity in the key economic pillar has slowed dramatically with the gap – which stands at 59% – now larger than at any point since 2008.
Behind this decline are a number of factors. One is salary, with women around the world on average earning just over half of what men earn despite, on average, working longer hours taking paid and unpaid work into account. Another persistent challenge is stagnant labour-force participation, with the global average for women standing at 54%, compared with 81% for men. The number of women in senior positions also remains stubbornly low, with only four countries in the world having equal numbers of male and female legislators, senior officials and managers, despite the fact that 95 countries now have as many – if not more – women educated at university level.
The reversal after reaching the peak in 2013
In 2015, projections based on the Global Gender Gap Report data suggested that the economic gap could be closed within 118 years, or 2133. However, the progress has reversed since then, having peaked in 2013.
Away from economics, the education gender gap has closed 1% over the past year to over 95%, making it one of the two areas where most progress has been made to date. Health and Survival, the other pillar to have closed 96% of its gap, has deteriorated minimally. Two-thirds of the 144 countries measured in this year’s report can now claim to have fully closed their gender gap in sex ratio at birth, while more than one-third have fully closed the gap in terms of healthy life expectancy.
The pillar where the gender gap looms largest, Political Empowerment, is also the one that has seen the greatest amount of progress since the World Economic Forum began measuring the gender gap in 2006. This now stands at over 23%; 1% greater than 2015 and nearly 10% higher than in 2006. However, improvements are starting from a low base: only two countries have reached parity in parliament and only four have reached parity on ministerial roles, according to the latest globally comparable data.
The slow rate of progress towards gender parity, especially in the economic realm, poses a particular risk given the fact that many jobs that employ a majority of women are likely to be hot proportionately hardest by the coming age of technological disruption known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This “hollowing out” of female livelihoods could deprive economies further of women’s talents and increases the urgency for more women to enter high-growth fields such as those demanding STEM skills. “Women and men must be equal partners in managing the challenges our world faces – and in reaping the opportunities. Both voices are critical in ensuring the Fourth Industrial Revolution delivers its promise for society,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.
The world’s most gender-equal countries?
With women on average benefiting form only two-thirds of the access to health, education, economic participation and political representation that men have, a number of nations are emerging to challenge the traditional hegemony of the Nordic nations as the world’s most gender-equal societies. While the leading four nations are Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4) – with Finland overtaking Norway – the next highest placed nation is Rwanda, which moves one place ahead of Ireland to 5th position. Following Ireland, the Philippines remains unchanged at 7th, narrowly ahead of Slovenia (8) and New Zealand (9), which both move up one place. With Switzerland dropping out of the top 10, 10th position is taken up by Nicaragua. Canada (30 )
Elsewhere, the United States (45) loses 17 places since last year, primarily due to a more transparent measure for the estimated earned income. Other major economies in the top 20 include Germany (13), France (17) and the United Kingdom (20). Among the BRICS grouping, the highest-placed nation remains South Africa (15), which moves up four places since last year with improvements across all pillars. The Russian Federation (75) is next, followed by Brazil (79). India (87) gains 21 spots and overtakes China (99) with improvements across Economic Participation and Opportunity and Educational Attainment.
Regional outcomes
Countries from Western Europe – including the three largest economies, France, Germany and the UK – occupy 11 of the top 20 positions in the Index. While some countries have clear room for improvement (Italy drops 8 places to 50; Greece drops 5 to 92), it has now closed 75% of its gender gap, more than any other region. At the current rate, it could expect to close its economic gender gap within 47 years.
After Europe and North America, the region with the third narrowest gender gap is Latin America and the Caribbean. With 70% of its gap now closed, it boasts six countries to have fully filled both their education and gender gaps, more than any other region. It can also be expected at the current rate of improvement to have closed its economic gender gap within six decades. With Nicaragua the only country in the top 20, however, the performance of the largest economies – Argentina (33), Mexico (66), Chile (70) and Brazil (79) – is mixed.
The region with the fourth-smallest gender gap is Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with four countries – Slovenia (8), Latvia (18), Estonia (22) and Lithuania (25) – in the top 25. Slovenia is one of the top 10 climbers in the world since 2006. Like Latin America and the Caribbean, the region has also closed 70% of its overall gender gap; however, it is not expected at today’s rate to have closed its economic gender gap for another 93 years.
East Asia and the Pacific follows next, having closed 68% of its gender gap. This is a region of stark contrast, with a large distance between the most gender-equal societies such as the Philippines and New Zealand and economic heavyweights China (88), Japan (111) and Korea (116). The sluggish pace of change in these larger nations in part explains why current projections suggest the region will not close its economic gap for another 111 years.
Four nations from Sub-Saharan Africa – Rwanda (5), Burundi (12), Namibia (14) and South Africa (15) make it into the top 20; more than any other region except Western Europe. The region has closed nearly 68% of its gender gap; however, data suggest that it will only take 60 years for economic parity to be achieved – far less than other more developed regions of the world. But, high labour force participation for women tends to be in low-skilled roles in the region, a factor that will need to be addressed to ensure that economic parity leads to growth and inclusion.
South Asia, with 67% of its overall gap closed, is home to two of the top 10 climbers of the world since 2006: Nepal (110) and India (87). Nevertheless, progress in closing the economic gap has been negligible and it could take over 1,000 years to close the economic gender gap fully unless efforts are accelerated.
The lowest placed region – having closed 60% of its overall gender gap – is the Middle East and North Africa. With only Israel (49) in the global top 50, the next highest in the region are Qatar (119), Algeria (120), the United Arab Emirates (124). Like South Asia, progress in addressing economic inequalities has been too slow and will not be closed for a further 356 years at today’s rate. Nevertheless, it is home to some of the most improved nations since 2006 on economic participation, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen.
“These forecasts are not foregone conclusions. Instead, they reflect the current state of progress and serve as a call to action to policy-makers and other stakeholders to double down on efforts to accelerate gender equality,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of Employment and Gender Initiatives, and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.

The New Normal!

Life frequently shakes its kaleidoscope and changes the normal patterns. Do you find it tough to settle down to the New Normal?  What was normal yesterday is not normal today, and what is normal today might be deemed abnormal tomorrow. There is always a Paradigm shift.
Some time back on a house-cleaning spree I came across audiocassettes with songs that would give one a peep into my soul; video cassettes with recordings of treasured moments; CDs with classic films that I had lined up for viewing at leisure, and some pen drives with stuff I consider important. A trail of memories and entertaining moments…
“All defunct,” sneered my grandsons, urging me to throw it all away and create precious space in the house. “You have it all on Netflix or YouTube now!” Indeed, the time is gone when you hoarded stuff in the hope you would use it one day. Such a day never dawns, and what you hoard gets outdated.
With technology and with consumer goods and perhaps with life itself, the new normal is to use and throw, and bring in some more! Technology is an ever-expanding colossal giant that keeps shedding off bits as it grows newer bits. It was normal then. It is the new normal now, which too will become obsolete in a while…
Things never remain the same. They change. That’s a truth we have always known. A new normal emerges once the present normal explodes and scatters. Change is seldom painless, and is invariably accompanied by introspection. You need time to adjust to the departure of one world and the creation of another.
The new normal extends to relationships. When one relationship breaks up, someone or something comes by to fill the gap. The heart aches for a while and then by and by, things come back to normal. A new normal is established, which has factored the loss and gain and settled into a new pattern.
A parent cannot fathom how to live without the children once they have flown the nest. And yet they do, and even find new things to do. The new normal. Men dread retirement, which comes at the peak of their faculties. They wonder how they will ever manage a life that is not governed by strict office timings and function. And yet they do, and learn to appreciate things they have spent a lifetime ignoring. The new normal!
People take birth and die. Every birth and death results in changes and shifts in families and relationships — some subtle, others dramatic. In time everyone settles down and life is rebuilt around the new reality. With a birth, people happily shuffle and make place for the new member. With a death, they grieve and try and rebuild lives around the void. Life limps its way towards a normalcy that is unlike any earlier. The new normal…
Life gets shaken up and like a kaleidoscope, in time, settles down into newer colourful mosaics.
In her latest book, The Marble Collector, Cecilia Ahern says, “When a member of the family leaves or dies, it changes the dynamics of a family. People move and shift, take up places they either wanted to and have or are forced into roles they never wanted.”
As we grow older, our bodies too need adjusting. The heart rate and BP readings that were normal in youth change to adjust to an older body and another new normal is established.
Each of us adjusts and settles down to several shades of normal in life. Even countries change and adjust to a new normal, as Britain hopes to now after Brexit. Periods of financial crisis leave mayhem in their trail, after which the world has to adjust to a fresh normal.
How does one ensure a smooth transit from ‘normal’ to the ‘new normal’? The only way is to give yourself some time in stillness, getting used to new patterns. Understand that the only normal is change and each change challenges our potential. Grieving for that which is gone is necessary, but only for a short while. Stay still and assimilate the changes facing you, and then step out with confidence and a generosity of spirit to embrace what awaits you. Till such a time that the new normal too changes to give way to a yet newer normal…

A Newer, Better Multilateralism

The world appears to be engulfed by the politics — and economics — of anger. Much of the ire stems from the ‘fallout’ of globalisation — freer trade and large-scale migration of people — and is concentrated in the advanced economies. Results from a 2014 survey by Pew Research Centre are illustrative. Fifty per cent of respondents in the US believed trade destroys jobs; 59 % of Italians and 49% of the French held the same view, compared with a global median of 19%.
With the world in flux, and the tectonic plates of multilateralism holding the world order in its place since the Second World War shifting so dramatically, one would expect the IMF and World Bank to be spending more intellectual capital on analysing the historic undercurrents. And yet, at the annual meeting(s) of the IMF and World Bank which concluded last week, the emergent threat to the Western-crafted multilateralism put in place since the Second World War only came up as a sub-text to the main theme of how to revive global growth and generate jobs.
While only one session was explicitly devoted to a shifting world order and its associated uncertainties, tucked away on the last day of the programme, the undercurrent of inherent global unease and instability was unmistakable. A near-unipolar world with its constructed global financial, economic and political architecture that has held sway for 72 years, is facing the threat of being deconstructed and replaced with multipolar geopolitical challengers and, potentially, a parallel international economic system.
The global economic system needs reform. Given the changes under way in the global economic system, how relevant are the IMF and World Bank in the emerging scheme of things, and for how long will they continue to remain so? There is little doubt that given the size of their balance sheet, their near-universal shareholding and global buy-in to their mission, and the depth of their collective knowledge and expertise garnered from decades of experience in virtually all parts of the world, it is unlikely that any set of parallel global or regional financial institutions — such as China’s newly created Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, will be able to fully replace the two Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs) in the immediate future.
However, irrespective of the seismic global changes under way in the international economic order, the IMF and the World Bank have, for a long time, been in need of an overhaul and fundamental reform to better deliver on their founding promise: stability in the global financial and monetary system, and a world free of poverty.
Decades of experience of poor developing countries, and through numerous large-scale crises such as the debt crisis in Latin America in the 1980s and the East Asian crisis in the 1990s, have time and again revealed the shortcomings in approach and advice of the IMF and World Bank. The peddling of a rigid neo-liberal orthodoxy, unnecessary and excessive conditionality, undermining national sovereignty of borrowing countries, marginalising the poor, non-engagement with civil society, premature liberalisation of the financial system or capital account etc. are some of the graver charges that have been laid at the door of the two BWIs.
Perhaps the single allegation that has most undermined the credibility of the two institutions is that they have acted, on many occasions in the past, in concert with US foreign policy — in effect, as a veritable instrument or extension of US policy objectives. Evidence for this charge comes from two eminent sources: the Meltzer Commission report of 2000, commissioned by the US Congress, and the IMF Independent Evaluation Office’s first report released in 2001 (which found Pakistan’s programmes to be ‘geo-political’ in nature).
To their credit, both the IMF and the World Bank have responded to these criticisms over a period of time with far-reaching reform. In the wake of the East Asian crisis, the IMF began mandating minimum public expenditure under social safety nets as part of conditionality (largely under Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s leadership). Perhaps most fundamentally, the Fund sought to become more open and representative by aligning its archaic governance structure more closely with the changing share of developing countries in the world economy. Hence, China, India, Brazil and a handful of other large developing economies from the G-20 now have significantly higher voting rights than in the past.
Another welcome change that has been effected over the past few years is a deeper engagement by both the institutions with civil society. At the annual as well as spring meetings, civil society from around the world is represented, both in the form of civil society organisations as well as media and observers. The World Bank conducts a civil society policy forum during the meetings and arranges interface of senior management of both IMF as well as the Bank with representatives from civil society. This interface is usually replicated at the country office or mission level.
Both the institutions have responded, albeit slowly, to ‘newer’ challenges facing the world economy: governance, corruption, and above all, climate change. However welcome these reforms have been, there is much that is being missed and much more that needs to be done. Engagement with civil society needs to be broader and deeper and a more formalised structure to achieve this enacted. The duopoly of the US and Europe on the leadership of the IMF and World Bank needs to be dispensed with, with developing countries getting a shot at the top slots.
More resources need to be devoted to analysing and responding to the ‘non-traditional’ areas of work. Design of Fund programmes needs to improve with a greater emphasis on institutional reform features. IMF programmes need to be underpinned by more rigorous — and mandatory — ‘burden of adjustment’ studies that better model the distributional effects of conditionality, especially on the middle class. Finally, the incentives framework under which staff and management of the two institutions operate, which is currently less than optimally designed, needs to be evaluated and remodelled.

Historical Record of Contentious US Presidential Elections

The sanctimonious have a habit of glossing over facts and then start profiling some person or event. This US Presidential election is no exception. My question to these sanctimonious guys is: Who says the Presidential Election that is making waves in Us and the world over is a dirty and acrimonious one? US elections have always been marred by hypocrisy and deceit- sometimes these attributes are more visible. Historically, the following elections have been as dirty as the present one- the only difference was that the Media was then not as biased as is it now.
1800 – Thomas Jefferson vs. John Adams (R)
The result of the 1800 U.S. elections, which saw Thomas Jefferson win in a rather contentious manner, led to the passage of 12th Amendment of the American constitution. Amendment XII changed the way presidential and vice-presidential offices were chosen under Article II and made it mandatory for electors to vote separately for the nation’s two highest offices, that of the president and the vice-president, instead of voting on the same ballot.
This was the time when each electoral college member had two votes reserved for the post of president, and whoever garnered the maximum number of votes became president, while the runner-up took the office of the vice-president. So, when Jefferson and his chosen vice-presidential pick, Aaron Burr, tied 73-73 for first position, the nations first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, used his influence within the party to shift the tide toward Jefferson, considering him a lesser evil than incumbent president John Adams and Burr. The election took a zanier turn when Burr, while still in the office, killed Hamilton in a duel in 1804
1824 – John Q. Adams (L) vs. Andrew Jackson vs. William Crawford vs. Henry Clay (R)
With the Federalist party being on the cusp of extinction, this election was fought among four Democratic-Republican candidates. 1812 war hero, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote by fewer than 39,000 ballots, and captured 99 electoral votes. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams secured 84, Treasury Secretary William Crawford won 41 and House Speaker Henry Clay had 37.
With the support of Henry Clay and Clay loyalists, John Quincy Adams won the 1824 elections. The most favored candidate, Jackson (pictured) was enraged after Adams chose Clay as his Secretary of State soon after his inauguration, calling it a corrupt bargain. Quitting his Senate seat, Jackson vowed to come back and win the 1828 election as a Washington outsider, and with the support of his new party members, the Democrats, he won as promised.
1860 – Abraham Lincoln vs. Stephen Douglas vs. John Breckinridge vs. John Bell
The 1860 elections were controversial primarily because of the burning issue of the time slavery. While Abraham Lincoln (who was against slavery) from the Republican Party won the election, despite his name not being mentioned in the Southern states ballot, the aftermath caused a great rift across the nation.
Soon after the election, South Carolina voted to secede, followed by six more Southern states. In February 1861, delegates from those states formed the Confederate States of America and selected Jefferson Davis as their president. And in April the same year, the South Carolina militia took over Fort Sumter, and four more states joined the Confederacy.
1876 – Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel Tilden (R)
In one of the most disputed presidential elections in U.S. history, Democratic governor Samuel J. Tilden outdid his Republican counterpart Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote, and had 184 electoral votes to Hayes’ 165, with 20 uncounted votes. These 20 votes were in contention in four states. While in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina each party reported its candidate had won the state, in Oregon, one elector was declared illegal (as an “elected or appointed official”) and replaced
The 20 disputed electoral votes were ultimately awarded to Hayes after a bitter legal and political battle, tilting the verdict in his favor. It is believed that the deal was struck on a compromise consolidating Democratic control of the region, effectively ending Reconstruction
1948 – Harry S. Truman vs. Thomas E. Dewey (R)
This is believed to be the greatest electoral upset in American history. Almost all public opinion polls indicated that Republican nominee Thomas E. Dewey would defeat Harry S. Truman. Truman was a supporter of the Civil Rights movement, which caused in struggle with the opposition in his own conservative Democratic party.
Trumans feisty campaign style energized his base of traditional Democrats and he was woken up by his Secret Service agents at 4 AM, to be told that that he had won. Chicago Tribune made the striking headline Dewey Defeats Truman, while publishing its morning edition hours earlier than usual owing to printers’ strike.
1960 – John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon
Television played a vital role in establishing the presidential stature of Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy pitted against then Vice-President Richard Nixon from the Republican Party. Witnessing the first of the four-presidential debate on TV, citizens were clearly charmed as Kennedy outmatched Nixon on Sept. 26, 1960.
The number of viewers who watched the televised debate has been estimated as high as 74 million. On Nov. 8, 1960, Kennedy edged out Nixon by 119,000 votes. After the 1960 election results, presidential debates on TV were not broadcast again until 1976, primarily because candidates became wary of their influence
2000 – George W. Bush vs. Al Gore
With a razor-thin five-vote majority in the electoral college, Republican candidate George W. Bush won this memorable election despite trailing Democratic Al Gore by more than 500,000 votes in the popular vote. The recounting of votes in Florida took center stage in the election.
Five weeks after the election, the U.S. Supreme Court had the final word, ruling by a narrow majority to stop the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court on the grounds that it violated the constitutional principle that “all votes must be treated equally.”

Canada Infrastructure Bank : The Trillion-dollar question facing Trudeau

When IMF reduces the prospective growth potential, I marvel at the ineptitude of our financial wizards. We have trillions available, yet we cannot effectively use it. Now, the sense seems to be dawning. First the availability of trillions that I referred to:
$16 trillion :Currently invested in negative-yielding bonds worldwide, which could be put to better use.
$1 trillion : Upper estimate of Canada’s infrastructure gap.
$57 trillion Gap by 2030 in global infrastructure needs (what governments can do vs. what is needed).
$5 trillion Assets of Blackrock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager
$250 billion Assets of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the province’s pension fund.
These trillions of dollars are looking for a good place to be invested. Justin Trudeau is trying to establish Canada as a global magnet for top international investors. With the infrastructure taps set to open can Canada take advantage of a unique opportunity?
But if nothing else it is becoming increasingly clear what Trudeau is trying to do: establish Canada as a global magnet for high-value international investors. The effort is taking more and more of his time. He has reorganized the bureaucracy to back him up. His most trusted cabinet ministers are on the case. The scale of the opportunity is vast — orders of magnitude beyond the announcements he’s made so far. And as the Trudeau government moves into its second year, it is preparing a series of announcements designed to take advantage of a rare opportunity for Canada.
One key player in the government’s new economic push is Finance Minister Bill Morneau. “My hope is that when we look back a decade from now and say, ‘What are some of the things that the Trudeau government did that made a long-term difference,’ I think we’ll be able to say we’ve enhanced the long-term growth trajectory of the country,” Morneau said in an interview. The Liberals are working on a bunch of tried-and-true methods for doing that — boosting university research, seeking highly skilled immigrants — but that’s not what Morneau was talking about. The biggest lever available to the government is relatively new: “Finding a way to ensure investors make a big difference in the infrastructure deficit that we have.”
At a mid-October conference in Ottawa organized by the Public Policy Forum think tank, the situation was best described by Michael Sabia, the Mulroney-era civil servant and longtime business executive who is now head of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the province’s $250-billion pension fund.
The Caisse, Sabia told the Ottawa audience, is in a bit of a fix. It has promised to pay out millions of people’s pensions and retirement plans in a few decades. It’s having a hard time finding investment vehicles that can guarantee the long-term growth rates that will make that possible. And it’s not alone.
“When we look at the world today we see a reasonably grey picture,” Sabia said. “Global growth may be in the range of, say, 3 per cent for the foreseeable future. To put that in context, the IMF used to call 3-per-cent global growth a recession; they’ve changed that recently. So we’re in a position of tepid global growth.”
There are all kinds of reasons for that chronically lower growth, Sabia said, from demographics to the tapering off, at least for now, of the productivity gains that came from mass adoption of information technologies.
Whatever the causes, it makes life interesting for someone who wants to make hundreds of billions of dollars grow steadily in value. “You know, the world I live in every day is completely upside down,” Sabia said. Around the world, “There’s $16 trillion today invested in negative-yielding bonds. In other words, there’s $16 trillion hanging around where the investors actually pay the government to take their money.”
That’s a lot of money. A trillion is a thousand times a billion. A billion is a thousand times a million. Sixteen trillion dollars is within spitting distance of the total size of the economy of the United States. That’s the amount of money that is currently being invested in guaranteed losses, because nobody dares to believe in guaranteed gains.
“Now, every morning when I wake up, here’s the problem I face,” Sabia said. “For the last five years, stocks used to yield about 10 per cent. Over the next five, maybe five. Fixed-income bonds, they used to earn five to six, they now earn one to two. So what are you gonna do? Well, you have to, in order to pay people’s pensions, you’ve got to find some returns.”
This is not only the Quebec pension fund’s problem. It’s the world’s. “This is happening on a massive scale around the world. So investors like us are looking for opportunities to invest in things like infrastructure. Why infrastructure? Because it provides pretty steady returns, and there’s very low risk of capital loss.”
So that’s the story of the money looking for a home. In run-down highways, decrepit power grids, teeming populations desperate to get to work, the world offers no end of places the money could go.
“There are huge infrastructure gaps in the world,” Sabia said. “The McKinsey Global Institute said there’s a $57-trillion gap over the next 15 years in global infrastructure needs, between what governments can do and what’s needed. A ridiculously large number.”
Infrastructure deficits are, to some extent, a matter of opinion. The gap between the roads and trains and bridges and power grids we have and the ones we might need could be as small as $200 billion, as large as $1 trillion. Big numbers. That’s got to get addressed,” Sabia said. “And it’s got to get addressed because we need that infrastructure, because it’s so important to how we function as an economy. It is a critical driver of productivity. It makes the economy flow.”
You see where this is heading. On one hand, a vast global capital pool invested at low-growth, no-growth or give-it-back rates of return. On the other, governments that would easily, if they only could, spend far more than they can raise through taxes.
Perhaps this would be a good time to note that Sabia is a member of the Advisory Council on Economic Growth that Morneau appointed in March. The panel’s chairman is Dominic Barton, the global managing director of McKinsey and Co. Its mandate is to figure out how to boost Canada’s economic growth rate so everyone can be richer and, not incidentally, so Trudeau’s government can afford to pay for everything he has promised to do.
Sabia is not the only person on the panel calling for major spending on infrastructure, funded not only by federal tax dollars, but by the world’s largest institutional investors. Mark Wiseman was head of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board when he joined Morneau’s advisory council. He has since become a senior executive at Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, with $5 trillion in assets.
Writing about this stuff, for the first time in a quarter-century in journalism, I’m getting used to typing the world “trillion.”
In what we should by now recognize as a familiar sign, Trudeau met Wiseman’s new boss, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, in January at Davos. Here he was chasing bigger game than in his meetings with the corporate CEOs. For while it is excellent news when GE and Microsoft and Thomson Reuters move hundreds of jobs to Canada — especially when, taken together, their investments build the case for Canada as a magnet for some of the world’s most highly skilled employees — Blackrock is one of the few entities in the world with pockets deeper even than those Michael Sabia manages at the Caisse.
The tempo of activity on this file in Ottawa has accelerated in recent weeks. Trudeau assigned a group of senior civil servants from across the government to figure out how to attract money from the world’s biggest institutional investors and put it to good use. The ginger group is led by Serge Dupont, a former deputy minister of natural resources who returned in March from an overseas posting to become deputy clerk of the Privy Council, the second-ranking job in the entire public service.
Dupont’s assignment is temporary. Morneau, Sohi and staffers in Trudeau’s office, led by his senior policy advisor Mike McNair, working to establish a new public agency whose working title is the “Canada Infrastructure and Investment Bank.” It was originally going to be announced in next year’s federal budget. Now, if it can be ready in time, it has been pencilled in as the main announcement of Morneau’s fall economic update, which should land within a few weeks of Blackrock’s big day in Toronto.
The file is accelerating so audibly in Trudeau’s Ottawa that the Public Policy Forum sped up the publication of a report calling for the creation of an infrastructure bank, for fear that Morneau would announce it before the think tank could demand it.
Michael Sabia, head of Quebec’s $259-billion pension fund, says with all the money lying around looking for a safe home, “the world I live in every day is completely upside down.”
Because Sabia is one of the people who has been pushing this project, we’ll let him describe it. Here he is again from his remarks to the Ottawa growth conference.
“Here in Canada we need to think boldly. Not in typically incremental Canadian, ‘Let’s try and see what happens, and then we’ll check what the Americans are doing’ (fashion). Because that’s a waste of time. We are so far ahead of the Americans in infrastructure, in how we think about it, that it’s a joke. They’re in the rear-view mirror.
“One of the things I’d do is I’d create an infrastructure bank. And I’d have that bank funded in part by government capital. And I’d give it a mandate that involves two or three things. First, to design big infrastructure projects in a way that attract people like us.” Meaning pension funds with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. “So that every dollar of federal commitment triggers, say, four or five dollars from people like us. So you get this tremendous multiplication impact of what can be done.
“Two, I’d give this organization, this new bank, the opportunity to structure and negotiate transactions in a highly expert way, because this is a technically complex area. And finally I’d create inside that bank what I call a national centre of excellence, where you assemble the expertise that’s required to audit our national needs for infrastructure and on that basis develop a national infrastructure plan.”
Morneau is cagey about details, but he sounds like his plans follow Sabia’s recommendations closely. “My hope is that we can invest a dollar of federal money and multiply that five or six times — by having provincial and municipal investments, and also have other investments from institutional investors.” “Institutional investors” is a term of art for pension funds, asset managers, titanic investment portfolios both in Canada and overseas.
On the design of an infrastructure bank, Morneau said: “I think you’ll see that our approach will deal with the political risk that institutional investors see.” The government is looking at ways to set up a “pipeline of projects,” so that instead of a one-time adventure on Canadian soil, investors can make “a long-term commitment.”
What kind of projects are possible? Here again, Sabia is ahead of the game. In 2015 the Quebec government amended the law regulating the Caisse to allow it to set up a subsidiary, CDPQ Infra. The group’s website says it exists “to foster effective execution of major infrastructure projects.” CDPQ Infra wasted approximately zero time twiddling its thumbs: in April it announced plans for a $5.3-billion automated light-rail network around Montreal. The rail system would serve 24 stations, most of them new, around 67 kilometres of track, stretching west and south of Montreal and into the downtown Métro grid. It would be the biggest transit project in Quebec in half a century.
The Caisse is willing to put up $3 billion of its own investors’ money. Sabia hopes the federal and Quebec governments will split the other $2.5 billion. For Sabia, the rail system is “proof of concept.” He hopes to generate and market projects around the world based on the proposed rail system’s mixed funding model, along with its aggressive plan to generate profits through rider fares, paid parking and second-order private investment like commercial development at transit hubs. Already a private developer, Devimco Inc., hopes to build a $1-billion commercial and residential neighbourhood around one of the Caisse transit stops in Brossard, on Montreal’s south shore.
Morneau calls the project “a very good example of the kinds of opportunities that we would see as possible.” Public transit isn’t the only such opportunity, he said. “It could be in transit, it could be in housing, electricity distribution, in anything that we can find a way to appropriately create an opportunity for institutional investors.”
No end of pitfalls will stalk the government as it pursues these opportunities. Trudeau’s government is not the first to notice the community of interest between investors looking to park their money and governments looking to multiply their infrastructure dollars. But it would be the first to succeed on a large scale if it does.
The common ground could collapse if both sides can’t agree on specific projects. Citizens could balk at some of the mechanisms for raising money. Toll highways, to say the least, haven’t been popular.
But in a period of global economic doldrums, when the supply of available money outstrips the demand in quantities that are hard to comprehend, Trudeau is hurrying to find ways to connect the two. As one of his advisers says, “We just don’t know how long this will last.”

How a Canada Infrastructure Bank would work

Details of the Trudeau government’s infrastructure plan are still being worked out at the highest level. But the outline is becoming clearer.
GOVERNMENT FUNDING: Justin Trudeau has promised $120 billion in funding for infrastructure over the next decade. Instead of dribbling that money out slowly and evenly, a very big chunk of it would be used to capitalize the new infrastructure agency.
PRIVATE FUNDING: Large institutional investors, like pension funds, would invest in the bank. They could choose to partner on individual projects, or to buy into a “pipeline of projects” the way individuals invest in mutual funds.
RISK MANAGEMENT: Much of the risk would be assumed by the federal government, which would offer experts to help investors find the right projects for them.
SCALE OF INVESTMENT: Finance Minister Bill Morneau told the Star that investors are usually looking to write “nine-figure cheques,” which means hundreds of millions of dollars.
HOW DO PROJECTS GENERATE RETURN? It depends. On energy and electricity infrastructure, it could be fees for use. On new roads and bridges it could be tolls, plus a chance to build offices, residential developments and paid parking lots along new routes.
WHAT’S THE CATCH? Not everything a government needs to do or build will attract private investors. There have been impressive one-off projects, but systematic use of private investors has so far been more of a dream than a reality around the world.

‘If marriage is indeed so sacred, can rape and violence be a part of it?’

Last year, the government shocked the nation when in response to a question posed by DMK Minister, Kanimozhi, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that criminalising marital rape was not on its agenda. The government effectively subscribed to the archaic ideology that a woman is a man’s property by making a repugnant argument. “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including the level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, and mindset of the society to treat marriage as a sacrament.”
Hindu marriage bill
It’s still an issue which is discussed regularly and it is necessary to understand its nuances.
The current law on marital rape is severely problematic. Marital rape is an offence under Section 376B of the Indian Penal Code when the husband and the wife are living separately, even though married to each other. A man can be accused of rape for having sexual intercourse with his wife if she is below 15 years of age. This contradicts the law that sets both the age of consent for having sex and the legal age for marriage at 18.
As far as the stand of the government is concerned, it believes that lack of education, poverty, myriad social customs and values and religious beliefs exonerate rape. This is certainly out of the ordinary. Is the government trying to suggest that rape is not prevalent in rich, educated and middle-class homes? If yes, a reality check is certainly required. As Colin Gonsalves (2015), puts it, in tiny little Nepal which is so similar to India in terms of poverty, illiteracy, culture, etc, marital rape is a criminal offence. Bhutan, which is even tinier, also criminalises marital rape. The Indian society may consider marriage to be sacrosanct. But if marriage is indeed so sacred, can rape and violence be a part of this institution?
Violence within a matrimonial relationship may include verbal, physical, emotional and mental abuse. But in India, where rape is accompanied by a culture of shame, dishonour and silence, women are conditioned to put up with such torment. They often do not disclose the abuse being perpetrated upon them by their husbands.
Destruction of the fabric of family life and misuse of the law are the unsubstantiated reasons which a criminal lawyer has given for opposing criminalisation of marital rape. The government had expressed fears in relation to Section 498A which was introduced into the Indian Penal Code in 1983 and criminalised violence against married women. Aside from the insensitivity and distaste in these remarks, there is also a lack of common logic. A large number of acquittals do not necessarily point towards registration of false cases. It could also be a case of a poor investigation and pressure on women to withdraw cases. As far as proof is concerned, sexual abuse is seldom carried out in separation. It is almost always accompanied by other forms of physical and verbal abuse which may include forced abortions or forcing the spouse to form an intimate relationship with other men. Evidential complications may arise and therefore, a comprehensive understanding of the law is imperative. However, not having a law at all based on unfounded arguments seems illogical. As Vrinda Grover (2015) puts it, “Whenever there is a movement to increase a woman’s access to justice, people who are afraid of women being empowered start talking about the misuse of law.”
Those who argue that the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is sufficient, miss the fact that although forced sex is a form of domestic violence covered under the Domestic Violence Act; it only provides civil remedy to rape and hence, is not suitable for women who want to press criminal charges against their husbands. Flavia Agnes highlights yet another bitter truth. She says, “Even Supreme Court judges make callous and unsubstantiated comments such as S498A is a ‘terrorist law’ through which women hold their husbands to ransom.”
Rape is one of the means to maintain the social hierarchy of power relationships. It is a weapon wielded to terrorise women in the class, caste and communal conflicts. It is also used in custodial and state-sponsored violence. Therefore, rape is not an act of passion, but of power. Can one be entitled to the use of such a ‘weapon’ in a partnership of equals?
The government fails to understand that a law against marital rape is the key to sexual equality. The wife cannot be a submissive chattel to the husband. “The Constitution of India guarantees equal rights to men and women. But by taking away a woman’s right to say no to forced sexual activity within a marriage you are denying her the most fundamental right of self-determination over her own body,” says Vrinda Grover.
In 2013, post the horrific sexual assault in Delhi, the Justice Verma Committee consisting of Justice J.S. Verma, Justice Leila Sheth and Gopal Subramaniam was set up to recommend laws related to trafficking, sexual assault, police, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse, medical examination of survivors and electoral and educational reforms. The set of rational recommendations backed by nuanced analysis recognised that rape was driven by the need to exert power and not passion. It dissociated rape from the ideas of shame and dishonour and instead viewed it as the violation of a woman’s bodily integrity and dignity. The Committee also redefined the meaning of consent. “Unless a woman gives her consent either by word or gesture, no one must assume that she consented as is commonly assumed when the woman is married to the accused, does not have injury marks on her body or is between 16-18 years of age.” Around 80,000 recommendations poured in from different parts of the country to the Justice Verma Committee including the appeal to criminalise marital rape. The Justice Verma Committee expanded the definition of rape which was simply penile-vaginal to include other penetrative acts such as penile-anus, penile-oral, insertion of objects into the woman’s vagina and fingering a woman.
The Commission made another noteworthy recommendation in relation to the law on marital rape. The Verma Committee had explicitly said that “marriage in modern times is a partnership of equals” and therefore, this exemption should be removed. However, the UPA government, then in power, refused to accept this recommendation stating that it would weaken traditional values. The debates that ensued in the Lok Sabha were marked by sexism, misogyny and misinterpretation of information. As a result, the Parliamentary Standing Committee chose to exclude marital rape from the Criminal Amendment Bill, 2013.
Two years down the line, nothing seems to have changed. Even with the change in the government at the centre. The country is still being led by a conservative and rigid government. Women’s rights activists, human rights activists, eminent lawyers and people from various sections of civil society have strongly criticised the government’s stance.
For most married women, being subjected to abuse by their husbands is no less than a nightmare. But the stigma of a broken marriage appears to override all other concerns. A classic tactic used by abusive husbands is to make their wives totally reliant on them. Separating from their husbands does not seem a valid choice for most women as they are gripped with the fear of becoming destitute and losing the means to provide for their children. The normative acceptance of violence in a marital relationship and their complete dependence on their marital homes for shelter and financial security further leads women to not report the violence.
Time and again, the debate over whether marital rape should be criminalised or not has been characterised by misogynistic thoughts. Even though there have also been progressive and thoughtful opinions formulated by informed sections of civil society.
The government must allot more money to rape crisis centres, more judges, more courts, safe houses for women being violated in their homes and forensic facilities.
Successive governments have made an absolute mockery of democracy by taking a regressive stand on matrimonial relationships. Does a woman’s right to bodily integrity tarnish traditional Indian values? With the UN Population Fund indicating that 75% of women in India are subjected to marital rape, it is high time that our politicians engage in a discourse with women’s rights activists and organisations to frame a progressive law.
Lastly, in the words of Kavita Krishnan, “Let’s get talking India: Marriage cannot be a license to rape!”

Hare & Tortoise Parable: India & China

India has recently deployed 120 tanks in Ladakh, cleared deployment of around 100 supersonic BrahMos missiles in Arunachal Pradesh, and within this year has reactivated and upgraded five advanced landing bases in Arunachal Pradesh. These actions are the culmination of a large scale multi-year arms buildup near the border with China that has included drilling of new bunkers and additional troops and artillery at the edge of the disputed line.
China has during this time not moved new weapons to the border and, at worst from India’s perspective, engaged in upgrading non-military transportation infrastructure in border provinces. India makes this unilateral move despite keen awareness that China has a much larger economy.
As industrial prowess is the most manifest antecedent of national strength, India’s play for a peer to peer contest is rooted most fundamentally in optimism inspired under Prime Minister Narendra Modi of a rapidly ascending Indian economy. But Indian strategic bravado dependent on economic optimism is unsound.
India’s resurrected economic confidence has a tripartite basis. The newest leg is the latest GDP data showing Indian growth exceeding China, making India the fastest growing major economy in the world. The other legs of this foundation are from the Manmohan Singh era, when Indians were confident about overtaking China based on two often cited assumptions woven into the hare vs tortoise story.
Prime Minister Singh – prompted by an American TV interviewer to compare both countries in 2004 – held that India’s democratic decision making although a slow process would lead to more durable results. India’s democratic process in this view is more stable because it runs on broader consensus while China’s rush to get things done has temporarily paved over societal contradictions that will eventually lead to instability and hinder growth, if not lead to collapse, allowing the steady tortoise to bypass the exhausted hare.
The third assumption oversimplifies the starting point of this race. Economic liberalisation in China and India are commonly thought to have started in 1978 and 1991 respectively. Comparisons in India routinely draw attention to the long gap in start dates to show that the hare had a more than decade long head start on the tortoise.
Indians have themselves assailed officially reported GDP figures from the last two years. The financial press, businessmen, bank analysts and even departed central banker Raghuram Rajan have critiqued stated figures of 7-8% growth as erroneous, inflated, and befuddling. Actual Indian growth is believed to be slower than the official Chinese GDP growth of between 6-7%.President Xi Jinping’s reluctance at the BRICS summit in Goa this week to yield either on India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group or its concerns about Pakistan’s support for cross-border terrorism reflects the huge power imbalance that now defines Beijing’s engagement with Delhi. On its part, India must move away from from the idea of parity with China to finding ways to cope with the consequences of the growing gap in material capabilities.
China’s GDP today is nearly five times larger than that of India ($11.4 trillion versus $2.2 trillion). China’s annual defence budget is more than three times that of India ($150 billion to $48 billion). Although India now has a higher annual rate of economic growth than China (7.6 per cent versus 6.9 per cent), it will be a long while before India can close the gap. Meanwhile, the rapid rise of Beijing relative to Delhi has begun to have a powerful impact on India’s regional environment in the Subcontinent and beyond.
One material manifestation was visible last week when Xi stopped over in Dhaka on his way to the BRICS summit at Goa. Xi signed multiple agreements with Bangladesh for investments worth more than $25 billion. That stands in contrast to the $2 billion that Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered Bangladesh during his last visit there. The intangible effects of China’s rise are manifold and express themselves in the size and quality of diplomatic presence, economic influence, political clout, and military engagement. Whether one likes it or not, China’s footprint in the Subcontinent grows at India’s expense.
Huge gap in material indices, however, does not necessarily mean India will have to throw up its hands. There are always options to deal with such imbalance. Consider, for example, Islamabad’s declining position vis a vis Delhi. India’s GDP is now nearly 10 times larger than that of Pakistan which now stands at around $280 billion. That has not stopped Islamabad from challenging India’s influence in the region and beyond.
Since the Partition, Pakistan always sought to balance the larger sibling by aligning with other powers. If the US and the West were preferred partners in the Cold War, China now dominates Pakistan’s calculus. China has even a longer tradition of power balancing. When it faced problems with a superior Soviet Russia on its northern frontiers, China drew close to the United States. Mao told the developing world in the 1970s that “Soviet social imperialism” was a bigger threat than the more familiar “Western imperialism”. If China used ideology to justify its power politics, India has often allowed ideological principles to trump the sensible pursuit of realpolitik. Despite its frequent problems with Beijing, Delhi proclaimed that its China policy will not abandon the special notions of Asian solidarity, Panchsheel and the long-term commitment to building a non-Western global order.
This often resulted in ceding the few strategic leverages that India had with China. When the US was trying to isolate China in the 1950s, India insisted that Beijing should be allowed to take its permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. In the 1990s, Delhi barely bargained with Beijing, as China sought entry into the World Trade Organisation and had to get individual support from all members of the WTO.
As China began to build its own multilateral institutions over the last two decades including the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, New Development Bank under the BRICS forum, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Delhi jumped on the bandwagon with great alacrity.
Having dreamt an expansive multilateral vision with China, Delhi is now forced to stomach the facts that Beijing does not support India’s permanent membership of the UNSC, has actively prevented Delhi’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and blocks the consensus on Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar. On top of it all, Beijing cheerily explains all this away by evoking the “multilateral principles of consensus and consultation”.
The problem is rooted in the fact that ideology has long dominated Delhi’s China policy. Beijing, in contrast, has never stopped seeing India through the prism of power politics. Consider for example China’s approach to Pakistan. While Delhi constantly worries that its friendly ties to America might upset Beijing, China has had no such problem with Pakistan’s enduring military partnership with the United States. Pakistan’s formal membership of CENTO and SEATO in the 1950s or its more recent status as a “major non-NATO ally” of America has not affected Beijing’s “all-weather partnership” with Islamabad. China has never hidden its resentment against India’s claims to South Asian primacy. Its relationship with Pakistan was part of a calculated effort to undermine what it sees as “India’s hegemony” over the Subcontinent.
With far more sweeping capabilities today, Beijing can and will vigorously contest the notion that South Asia and the Indian Ocean are part of Delhi’s natural sphere of influence. Delhi can respond effectively to Beijing’s challenge only by redoing the equation between power and principle. It could begin by learning from China on how to put the principle of power above the presumed power of principle.
Chinese economic data have a poor global reputation too, but in recent years global experts have flagged not China’s official GDP numbers as fabricated but sounded the alarm about a pending banking crisis due to the vast state-directed lending necessary to achieve current GDP. While that points to flaws in China’s growth, the implication is that GDP is growing by the stated figures but driven by a risky credit binge.
There is no questioning Singh’s view that without broad consensus, growth in the present is flimsy in the long term. China knows all too well how absolutism, vesting power in a single leader, dooms a nation. During the Great Leap Forward ordered by ‘Great Helmsman’ Mao Zedong the economy utterly collapsed from 1958 to 1962; approximately 45 million perished in the ensuing famine.
India in contrast has withered under mediocre governance and slow-growth socialist economics, but never in its post-Independence history has it been misgoverned like the catastrophe of Maoism.
China emerged from apocalypse with an unshakable understanding that leadership must be brooked by a process and decisions draw from an aggregate of intraparty stakeholders. At the epochal party meeting in December 1978 Deng Xiaoping was chosen as paramount leader of China – not a god but the head of a system – and began the process of “reform and opening up”, setting China running again at a maintainable pace.
If anything India was blessed with a head start. Since 1947 India has had stability; the People’s Republic of China was born in 1949 and until the fateful meeting in December 1978, fell under extreme mismanagement and all-encompassing political violence. Deng Xiaoping was wary of the contradictions created by breakneck change as understood by Singh. It was not until 1992 that the pent-up Shanghai economy was allowed to liberalise, unleashing the spirits of the Yangtze River Delta.
Around the time of Shanghai’s liberalisation the same sea change occurred in India. Contrary to notions of a head start China was only able to climb back to a GDP per capita equal to India in 1990 and from then excelled ahead to $8,000 versus $1,600 in 2015.
China has sustained growth for over three decades and overcome a crippling modern history as different from India as heaven and hell. While Modinomics has refreshed national confidence, it is unproven that India is growing faster than China and outright wistful thinking to attribute China’s success to advantages India didn’t have or hope for China to soon implode.
As Indian development is held back by the threat of border conflict, high levels of spending diverted to defence, and insufficient infrastructure financing and foreign investment, the latest deployments in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh seek to irrationally exacerbate its problems. It is behaviour befitting an overconfident hare in a premature sprint for glory before exhaustion leaves him in the dust of the steady tortoise.

Taxes Donot Impact Growth

It is commonly presumed that higher taxes impede growth, while lower taxes promote economic activity. This does not seem to really applicable to real life as can be seen from the cases of two US states- Kansas and California. When Kansas cut taxes and California hiked them, every pundits predicted doom for California and held high hopes for Kansas. The facts and subsequent results showed the hollowness of their predictions. I do not deny that taxes do have an impact, but they are only one factor.However, let us have a look at these two states.
In 2012, voters in California approved a measure to raise taxes on millionaires, bringing their top state income tax rate to 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation. Conservative economists predicted calamity, or at least a big slowdown in growth. Also that year, the governor of Kansas signed a series of changes to the state’s tax code, including reducing income and sales tax rates. Conservative economists predicted a boom.
Neither of those predictions came true. Not right away — California grew just fine in the year the tax hikes took effect — and especially not in the medium term, as new economic data showed this week.
Now, correlation does not, as they say, equal causation, and two examples are but a small sample. But the divergent experiences of California and Kansas run counter to a popular view, particularly among conservative economists, that tax cuts tend to supercharge growth and tax increases chill it.
California’s economy grew by 4.1 percent in 2015, according to the new numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, tying it with Oregon for the fastest state growth of the year. That was up from 3.1 percent growth for the Golden State in 2014, which was near the top of the national pack.
The Kansas economy, on the other hand, grew 0.2 percent in 2015. That’s down from 1.2 percent in 2014, and below neighboring states such as Nebraska (2.1 percent) and Missouri (1.2 percent). Kansas ended the year with two consecutive quarters of negative growth — a shrinking economy. By a common definition of the term, the state entered 2016 in recession.
Other effects of the Kansas tax cuts, which were meant to spur entrepreneurship, are well-documented. While state officials anticipated that the reductions would create a shortfall in the state budget, tax revenues have been consistently below even those expectations. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service have signaled that they could reduce Kansas’s credit rating, indicating there is a chance the state cannot pay its bills.
The shortfalls have forced Gov. Sam Brownback (R) and lawmakers to make additional adjustments. The state canceled the initial reduction in sales taxes, then increased them again, while delaying additional scheduled reductions in the income tax.
On the whole, Brownback’s policies modestly increased taxes for the poor and working class, who pay more in sales taxes than income taxes, while reducing taxes drastically for the rich.
The poorest 20 percent of households — those making less than $23,000 a year — are paying about $200 more, on average, according to an analysis by the Institute of Taxation & Economic Policy in Washington. For the middle class, the changes have been a wash, with less-affluent households paying somewhat more and more-affluent households giving up a little less.
Meanwhile, the wealthiest 1 percent of households, those making at least $493,000 a year, are saving an average of $25,000.
Kansas’s gross domestic product is still less than it was at the end of 2011, said Menzie Chinn, an economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has been following Kansas’s economy. Meanwhile, the economy in the rest of the country continues to expand.
“It’s remarkable,” Chinn said.
It is perhaps less remarkable — or surprising — that California has powered along. The recovery nationwide has favored massive metropolitan areas stocked with high-skilled workers, which is to say places such as Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco. The damage from California’s deep housing crash has slowly healed in places such as the Central Valley.
Still, the noncoastal regions of California lag far behind Silicon Valley and Los Angeles in their job and growth recoveries. The state’s median income remains below pre-recession levels after adjustment for inflation, although it still beats the national average.
Few, if any, economists would say today that the recovery has been sufficient for all Californians. But almost no one can say that raising taxes on the rich killed that recovery. Or that given a choice of the two states’ economic performances over the past few years, you’d rather be Kansas.

The Art of Peace for Warring South Asia

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent public references to Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan might have the potential to confirm for many Pakistanis what they have long suspected: that India is employing covert means to destabilise and foment violence in Pakistan. If India is pursuing covert operations to punish Pakistan, it would be a disturbing development in the nearly seventy-year security competition between the two states; but it should not come as a great surprise.
The prospect of covert Indian operations and rhetoric regarding Balochistan and Kashmir widens the front that Pakistani leaders must defend. While alarming to Pakistan, these tactics reflect the Indian leaders’ attempts to find ways to motivate the Pakistani establishment to demonstrably renounce anti-India terrorism and to neutralise actors that threaten to conduct it.
“It’s a Rubik’s cube — dealing with Pakistan,” a former Indian national security adviser told us in late 2014. “You keep fiddling with squares. As you move one set, others are affected or become problems.” Since the terrorist attacks in New Delhi and Jammu in late 2001 and early 2002, in Mumbai in November 2008 and, most recently, on the Pathankot air base, Indians have increasingly concluded that eschewing forceful responses does not work. As one retired senior Indian military officer lamented to us in 2014: “How do you prove deterrence if you don’t use force at any time?” Modi won the 2014 election in part because he displayed his resolve to use force to fight threats against India.
It is notable that no theories in the existing international relations literature, or in other states’ practices, offer guidance as to how India and Pakistan could most effectively proceed here.
Pakistan’s conventional and nuclear forces make Indian conventional military operations against Pakistan exceedingly risky. Indian leaders are trying to find alternatives that could simultaneously satisfy domestic demands to punish Pakistan, deter Pakistan from escalating conflict in reaction to Indian punitive actions, and bring conflict to a close in ways that do not leave India worse off — in terms of casualties, costs and overall power. Pakistani officials and strategists, too, should have a keen interest in understanding these alternatives.
Our focus on possible Indian options for changing Pakistan’s behaviour regarding terrorism does not ignore Pakistan’s legitimate interest in motivating India to redress the grievances of Kashmiri Muslims and create conditions in and around Kashmir that are acceptable to Kashmir, Pakistan and India. The best solution would be for both states to eschew violence against each other and to take reciprocal, verifiable steps to demonstrate to each other that they are doing so. Indeed, Pakistani experts as diverse as Munir Akram and Pervez Hoodbhoy, in recent contributions to the daily Dawn, have sketched non-violent steps that Pakistan and Kashmiris, on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), could take to increase pressure on India to pacify the situation.
Akram urged Pakistan to “launch a major diplomatic offensive in international forums and the world’s capitals to halt India’s massive human rights violations in occupied Kashmir,” and to revitalise “the legitimacy of the Kashmiri struggle” as something distinct from “terrorism”. Hoodbhoy noted that Pakistan could increase international support by highlighting the indigenisation of the Kashmir movement and “cracking down upon Kashmir-oriented militant groups still operating from its soil.” Combined, such developments would strengthen Pakistan’s position in talks with India and with outside powers.
Yet, as long as Pakistan and groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT) do not clearly demonstrate their renunciation of cross-border violence, and India does not demonstrate that it will reciprocate by accommodating the interests of reasonable Kashmiri stakeholders in a peace process, more violence with the potential to escalate the conflict remains all too possible. This is why we have written Not War, Not Peace? — to analyse the implications of possible Indian policies and capabilities to deter and to respond to another major terrorist attack on India. At stake is the potential for war that could escalate to nuclear devastation of Pakistan and India. This would be the most destabilising and catastrophic event in the international system since World War II.
For a problem this profound, it is notable that no theories in the existing international relations literature, or in other states’ practices, offer guidance as to how India and Pakistan could most effectively proceed here. Unlike any other nuclear-armed antagonists, India and Pakistan directly border each other, have unresolved territorial disputes (Kashmir and Sir Creek), and have engaged in armed conflict four times, not to mention multiple other militarised crises in places such as Siachen and across the LoC in Kashmir. Furthermore, terrorism poses a threat that could instigate future conflict. Studies on deterring and defeating terrorism have not addressed situations in which the major antagonists possess nuclear weapons. Theories and case studies of nuclear deterrence and escalation management have not involved cases in which terrorists are the instigators of aggression and may not directly be under the control of state leaders.
India cannot reasonably expect that Pakistani authorities will be willing and able to destroy groups, such as LT, and simultaneously eradicate the numerous militant groups that now threaten the internal security of Pakistan more directly. “They can’t stop everybody,” a senior Indian official acknowledged to us in 2014, “but we need to know they are trying … via signals we can mutually understand.” In other words, the reasonable objective is for Pakistan to make demonstrable, persistent efforts to pacify the tactics Pakistan-based actors use to pursue their political demands towards India, regarding Kashmir and other issues.
The more damage India might inflict on the Pakistani military, the greater the probability that Pakistan would resort to nuclear weapons.
India’s primary coercive options could centre on army incursions, or more limited airborne strikes, or covert operations. India’s development of operational military and intelligence capabilities to support these options aims to deter cross-border terrorism through the threat of future punishment. Depending on which of these options India pursues, nuclear strategy and capabilities would play a reinforcing role. For example, if Indian leaders decided to unleash major ground and air operations – as envisioned in ‘Cold Start’ – they would have to anticipate possible Pakistani nuclear responses and deploy more credible nuclear forces and plans to counter Pakistan than the current Indian doctrine of ‘massive retaliation’ implies. Since these are the options most discussed in India, they require deep analysis.
To optimise the potential of any strategy, Indian policymaking processes and military-diplomatic capabilities need to be improved. Meanwhile, our extensive analysis suggests that none of India’s most likely options – army-centric, air-centric, covert and nuclear – could confidently achieve the desired changes in Pakistani behaviour with acceptable risks to India. This suggests that India could channel more effort into developing capabilities and strategies to exert non-violent pressure on Pakistan to prevent cross-border terrorism.
Army-based operations, that would damage the Pakistani military enough to (theoretically) motivate leaders to curtail terrorist threats against India, would probably also reduce the capabilities of the Pakistani military and intelligence services to combat terrorist groups. This challenge could grow if Indian incursions drove more people to join anti-India militant groups in Pakistan. And the more damage India might inflict on the Pakistani military, the greater the probability that Pakistan would resort to nuclear weapons, leading to escalatory destruction that would cause much greater harm to India than the terrorist attack that instigated the conflict.
More limited, precise air strikes could entail lesser risk of escalation. However, strikes calibrated to mitigate escalation could signal to Pakistani leaders that India lacks resolve to actually force fundamental changes in Pakistani behaviour. Pakistan has the means to defend its airspace and to mobilise ground forces to widen a conflict in response to Indian air attacks. Finding a sufficient mix of destructiveness and restraint would confront India with challenges that, for example, the United States and Israel have not faced when they have used aircraft and missiles to attack their adversaries. This is not to ignore the potential value of air strikes against terrorist-related targets to satisfy Indian political necessities and mobilise international pressure on Pakistan. Still, whether such gains would durably alter Pakistani behaviour is highly uncertain.
As noted above, changes to the nuclear doctrine might provide a more credible buttress to punitive conventional military operations, especially those that involve major army campaigns in Pakistan. However, that alone would be unlikely to motivate Pakistani leaders to meet India’s counterterrorism demands. Moreover, creating capabilities and options for battlefield nuclear war would raise significant concerns about how such a war could be controlled and terminated. There is no history to draw upon here: no states have ever exchanged nuclear attacks.
Finally, covert or special forces operations might actually degrade the capability of terrorist groups to attack India and could harm Pakistani interests enough to motivate Pakistani authorities to do more to prevent cross-border terrorism against India. Of course, covert Indian operations also could invite Pakistani retaliation, which Indian policymakers acknowledge is a significant vulnerability. In any case, covertness necessitates restraint in claiming credit for such operations.
To the extent that if India’s covert activities in Pakistan became apparent to Pakistan and the wider world, India could lose reputation and political leverage over Pakistan, as many Indian commentators have pointed out in the wake of Modi’s Independence Day speech. An exceptionally experienced counsellor to several Indian prime ministers told us, “It is not in our interest to have people think we are little different from the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] … if Pakistanis assert we are just like them … the international community will say ‘they both do it’, and the pressure falls off Pakistan.”
If the Indian government persists in the belief that it can manage Kashmir as an internal matter, without Pakistan’s negotiated cooperation, New Delhi will be unable to build an international coalition.
Contrary to military options, utilising diplomatic, economic and other means of international censure in a strategy of non-violent compellence may be a better way to motivate Pakistan. The punitive benefits of a non-violent strategy may be less direct than military action but it also comes with far lower risks of an escalating military conflict. With a clear comparative advantage over Pakistan in economic clout and soft power, India could utilise these tools to isolate Pakistan internationally in response to another major terrorist attack. However, in order to be successful with this strategy, India would have to develop greater deftness in international coalition-building. The Indian government’s own behaviour in Kashmir, and willingness to address grievances there, would need to be positive enough to make outside powers feel they will not be accused of hypocrisy if they side with India against Pakistan.
Overall, India and Pakistan are approaching rough symmetry at three levels of competition: covert, conventional and nuclear. One of the countries may be more capable in one or more of these domains, but each has now demonstrated enough capability in all three to deny the other confidence that it can win more than it loses at any level of this violent competition. India drove Pakistani forces out of Kargil but Pakistani conventional and nuclear capabilities prevented India from escalating the war. India mobilised its forces massively after the 2001 attack on the parliament and Pakistan took some steps to curtail terrorist groups but the balance of power made neither of them want to fight.
Despite trying to develop the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine, India did not respond militarily to the 2008 attack on Mumbai; but Pakistani authorities have hinted to us and others that damage to Pakistan’s reputation and vulnerability to Indian destabilisation efforts made Pakistan take unspecified steps that have prevented further Mumbai-like attacks since 2008. Pakistan subsequently also tested a short-range nuclear missile with the stated intention to deter Indian army incursions that might follow another cross-border terror incident. This condition of rough balance and deterrence across the spectrum of conflict amounts to an unstable equilibrium. Any number of actions by leaders and non-officials, taken by mistake or on purpose, could destabilise it.
The basic balance in useable force creates an opportunity for leaders to take steps to stabilise and pacify the India-Pakistan competition. Diplomacy and dealmaking cannot shift balances of power and deterrence but they can solidify them through explicit agreements that clarify expectations and standards of behaviour. Two recent examples demonstrate that bargaining can result in stable outcomes that address the core concerns of contending parties. In August 2016, the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a comprehensive peace agreement to end the civil war there. This agreement followed years of secret negotiations and a series of interim steps, including mutual paying of reparations to victims of the conflict and a commitment by FARC to end its relationship with the drug trade on which it had relied for funding. In July 2015, after similarly lengthy talks, the P-5 plus Germany reached a landmark nuclear deal with Iran to address concerns that Tehran was pursuing nuclear weapons.
Such agreements – essentially, negotiated accommodations – raise the costs for any authorities that would subsequently violate them. This is all the more relevant when major outside powers have a stake in the stabilisation that has been achieved. China and the United States both have great interests in stability between Pakistan and India. Both could be expected to press India and Pakistan to uphold any agreements, to contribute to fact-finding if there are disputes over compliance, and to reward both states by increasing investment and urging others to do so, when the security establishments in India and Pakistan demonstrate commitment to stabilisation.
Overall, India and Pakistan are approaching rough symmetry at three levels of competition: covert, conventional and nuclear.
Notwithstanding some intermittent high-level diplomatic engagements with Pakistan, including Modi’s own dramatic visit to Lahore in December 2015, the Indian government has toughened its position on Kashmir. This, too, should not be surprising given the doubts voiced by Indian officials about the intentions of the Pakistani security establishment. Yet, if the Indian government persists in the belief that it can manage Kashmir as an internal matter, without Pakistan’s negotiated cooperation, New Delhi will be unable to build an international coalition that would significantly raise the cost for Pakistan of future major attacks on India.
Indeed, by acting as if there is nothing to negotiate with Pakistan, Indian leaders would encourage proponents of violence in Pakistan and discourage international players who would like to fully embrace India, but are reluctant to do so if India insists that they reject Pakistan at the same time. India has the power, the habits of mind and institutions to sustain a war of attrition with Pakistan. But India cannot achieve its ambitions to be a global power if it remains bogged down in such a war.
The analysis presented in Not War, Not Peace? shows that there are no clear solutions that India can unilaterally pursue to end the threat of violence from Pakistan. Some are more likely to be effective, at greater or lesser risk and cost, for India and Pakistan. But only a combination of Indian coercive and non-violent capabilities, paired with a willingness to bargain, can motivate Pakistan to remove the threat of violence. And just as threat of force alone will not work for India, neither will support or tolerance of anti-India terrorism enable Pakistan to get what it wants from India. Both have to demonstrate willingness to compromise through bargaining, which is only possible if both reassure each other that they are eschewing violence. It is up to Indian and Pakistani leaders and societies, with encouragement from the international community, to find a combination that will work for them.

Sunday Special: Lata, Come and Sing Again!

There are ways to recall that day. There are chronicled press articles, photographs, documentaries. A cloud of gloom, tears in the eyes of PM Nehru. Only you could hold back yours, because you have the gift of expressing better through the only such voice the world has heard. The nation was one, all in tears.
The year was ’62. A bold and bruised India had defended its borders. Just that they were etched with blood—Indian blood. That would ensure that no one shall cross it again. But there was a pall of gloom, as coffins came home. And then the intensity of your god given talent. You gave a vent for catharsis to millions whose hearts were choked. And once again coming to the song! It has the same effect even today. I have to stop after the first line, like shutting a dark chamber of one’s heart you can’t bear anymore. You were not there, but still you were. But that’s not enough. The song plays to the full in one’s mind. The feelings revived never wane.
Wonder whether there was another such moment in history? No. There can’t be another Lata, there is none like India who had thinkers of peace. Who gave birth to the only Mahatma the world knows. The philosophies that grew out of ancient thinkers, Buddhism, Jainism, post war catharsis as of Emperor Ashoka. All talked of peace, happiness, brotherhood. I believe that is closer to god’s plan!
We did not hear a hymn after Kargil, and now after Uri. We as a people have changed. The formalities for the heroes are intact, but the feelings are neither that deep nor that widespread. I believe, a young boy said “why has papa come home dressed in the national flag”, while his mother suppressed her sobs. The close comrades whose lives he had saved, were still guarding the borders, their patriotism welled in their grief. They are no “grief vacations” in the army. Its only when you are maimed, or have made the final sacrifice. I know you feel as deeply each time, our nightingale! but you know there aren’t a miniscule of those committed hearts to imbibe what a loss of each human life for means to each family, and the nation.
There have been other songs about patriotism in countries, but India’s pain is a self- suffering, enacting beyond what the UN would prescribe. Yes, the 2nd of October is now the World Peace Day. Symbolism is still better than nothing.
Songs have been popular, as “Don’t cry for me Argentina”, by Madonna after Eva Peron’ life. The strings it pulls in your heart are undeniable, but the element of fiction, and Weber Lloyd’s music give the feelings. Fine, but is that truly reflective of a tragedy? Doubtful.
The world has changed, so have we? There are conversion rates and compensations for each act of martyrdom. The highest medals are almost always posthumous. The living who suffered, saved so many lives through strategic contribution, have yet to give the final sacrifice.
After a 20 year old Vietnam War, US was in an emotional turmoil. The political drafts were enough to blow away the curtains of the Oval office, if not the papers on the table. There were patriotic songs, though truly, none record the misery of the Vietnamese people. The other change in threshold today, is that with more than 50, 000 young soldiers dead, or deployed in unknown terrain, against unknown enemies, there are no cries of wives, sisters, mothers, friends, when the wreathes reaches home! Humans are disposables in intricate battles over hegemony. Take the compensation, and spray it over thy heart! But for a story of a bereaved mother, protesting outside the fence where Mr Bush was busy cycling with his later disgraced Tour de France Lance Armstrong, not much has been seen publicly. One might as well raise a battalion though surrogate pregnancies, matching the right martial genes, can cut short on attachments. With gene replication, you can have large soldier breeding farms! Let the devil have his “New Eden”, where the forbidden is the norm.
Those that are truly unbiased for the innocent soldiers, are a few. My favourite is Pink Floyd’s , “…Forward he cried from the rear, and the front rank died…”. I concede being partisan to Lata’s immortal song, but those that come close are, “The ragged flag by” by Johnny Cash, “So we raise her up every morning, and down her every night…”, and not to forget Billy Cyrus, “..Some gave all…”. “God save the queen”, “Rule Britannica” are great, but imperialistic. Great for a nation, but a bit short on the irreplaceable theme of humanity.
For that matter, “Home they brought her warrior dead…” (Tennyson) is clear heart piercing material, with undying components.
There is something to Gulzar and A R Rahman’s “Jai Ho”, and “ Maa tujhe salaam..”. That brings me to Walter Scott’s, “Breathes there a man with a soul so dead, who never to himself had said, “this is my own, my motherland”!
The growth of nuclear armoury, so blatantly displayed by each country, in the name of deterrence seems to have lost its purpose. We are dangerously inching towards the doctrine of “negotiated elimination”. With countries that defy “the no first use doctrine”. it was never deterrence. It was meant to be used, beginning as a threat.
I have nothing against the people in the neighbourhood. If have friends because they visited for medical reasons. The liver transplant program invites many. We admire their cricket and classical music, but a regional obsession, a changing political leadership, and martial rule, has not been able to put the act together for a larger and global presence. One cannot rule out the role of the superpowers, and some double faced acts, that are no longer a surprise. One can see through them, but for further negotiations, they are impenetrable.
One has reached a stage, where with some sustained diligence, one can see it all, partly predict, foresee. But that is a personal understanding, a branch-off of analysing a disease, modulation of therapy, even accuracy of predicting the prognosis. A doctor is never an activist. For him it is to treat, that too mostly the consequences of breach of law, and prohibited habits!
I then heard the PM’s speech. Surely, as the head of state, he has to conduct his responsibilities. Having invited Mr Sharif for his installation, and having attended his B’day, he has reserve tools of diplomacy, he may like to use, to de-escalate the hostility, and yet get a fair deal.
When chaos, and hatred reach their zenith, a binding settlement sometimes is pretty close, though, as usual uncomfortable to a few.
“Aye watan, karta kyon nahi doosra baat-cheet, / Ab teri himmat ki charcha gair ki mehfil mein hai”

Patriotic Marketing in South Asia

The best kind of advertising is the one which gives us hope and motivation to do more rather than sit on our laurels. Every idea is a product that needs to be properly marketed. Pakistan and India- the two major countries of South Asia are no exception. Muslims in the Indian Subcontinent wanted independence from Britain, but the idea of it coming in the form of a separate state was presented by leaders of the Muslim League, and ‘marketed’ to the masses by Jinnah using irrefutable religious and economic logic and the sheer charisma of his personality.
Almost all successful companies in the world have, at one time or another, appealed to their home markets, such as when Chrysler Corporation brought out the red-white-and-blue themed ads in the 80s to appeal to the American public to opt for a domestic option in the face of foreign competition.
In Pakistan, patriotism has held a strong place in media and marketing, maybe even more so when compared to other countries. One recent example is the HBL ad featuring mountaineer Samina Baig. It is subtle and tasteful; instead of shoving the greatness of Pakistan down our throats, it makes us see it.
When talking about using national loyalty to lure us into buying certain products, who can forget the old ad for Express Power where a blurred package of Ariel washing powder is given the heave-ho by a housewife who insists that this “bahar ka powder” is inferior to Express in terms of performance? Ironically, Express is made and sold by a multinational.
Patriotism is a big player in India as well. Whole movies (which are multimillion dollar investments) are marketed as patriotic vehicles capitalising on the ideals of ‘shining India’ and glorifying its past. Border is a notorious example; Airlift is another.
However, with Bollywood movies now becoming increasingly international, wholesale jingoism is a tough sell. Therefore, the focus has shifted to celebrating the individuals of the country and not the country at the expense of ‘enemies’. Salman Khan’s blockbuster, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, is a shining example; it manages to celebrate both India and Pakistan and in turn, wins worldwide acclaim and profits.
A plethora of corporate advertisements descend around August, the season of national independence. Most companies prepare lengthy, emotive advertisements with sweeping vistas, generic footage, a swelling musical score, and deep-voiced voiceovers preaching about how the brand is intrinsically linked to Pakistan, to capitalise on the feel-good atmosphere around August 14. Every now and then, though, some masterpieces emerge; one of the earliest (and best known) is Rhythm of Unity sponsored by Morven Gold. Relive the good old days here: Simple and effective, it showcases a stirring musical score by Farrukh Abid with the use of folk instruments. There is no Pakistani flag in sight; instead, the ad is beautifully shot in Shahi Qilla and the performers are easily identified as musicians from different locales and ethnicities of Pakistan.
While watching this, one wonders how the brilliance, ecstasy and skill of this advertisement can be topped. Well, here’s how: MCB’s ad for a national celebration, which has a distinction of becoming a popular anthem in its own right.
While more overt and heavy handed than Rhythm of Unity, the song is sung to perfection by the inimitable Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The song is so integral a part of our culture that no one remembers who sponsored it!
However, it is not to say that it works every time, such as when Lu suddenly decided that Gala, a run of the mill cookie, was emblematic of Pakistan and presented us with this: The “mere des ka biscuit Gala” did not strike a chord for two reasons: first, a biscuit is not a desi item; second, it is styled like an item song from a Bollywood musical. No subtlety and therefore no credibility.
The advent of pop music in Pakistan was accompanied by hope and patriotism in our youth. Who can forget Dil Dil Pakistan? No, I won’t give a link: you can hear it in your heads. The Vital Signs’ anthem kicked off their career and established a de facto rule where every pop album had to have a patriotic song or an ode to the armed forces. This, as a cynical marketing exercise, ensured that the appeal of these groups travelled from teenagers and young adults to official quarters as well as older generations, not to mention lucrative advertising contracts with soft drinks makers eager to jump onto the patriotism bandwagon.
Rhythm of Unity proves beyond a shadow of doubt, that when Indian and Pakistani professionals are engaged and given creative freedom, they can come up with world class work. The message is clear: to sell to the citizens, the ads should be made by the local advertising talent and also star the local talent. Foreign-made campaigns can strike a chord for a limited time due to how well the ad is shot but they will never be gems to which we can wholeheartedly relate.
Also, while these countries have their faults,they are still home to teeming billions. In their respective national songs, everything is painted rosy and utopian, and though everybody knows this not to be the case, one hopes one day to achieve that ideal. Therefore, the best kind of advertising is the one which gives some semblance of hope, motivation and energy to do more rather than sit on the laurels.

Weekend Reading: Himachal Rivers that inspired a Nobel-winning idea

Summer tourists who find Shimla too warm for their liking sometimes go to Narkanda. The snow melts late there and the forest is thicker. Nights are always very cold. The British liked it enough to stock its dak bungalow with expensive Dresden porcelain. They liked it so much, in fact, that they named one of their ships after it in the early-1900s. The SS Narkunda (SS means steamship) was one of the faster and more comfortable ships on the UK-Australia run. It was a rather fancy ship too. The first-class dining saloon rose three decks high, and it had a frieze painted by Professor Gerald Moira, a noted artist of that age. The double-bedded second-class cabins had two ceiling fans each for their occupants to surThe Indian crow might never have reached Australia but for international shipping. The first recorded infiltration happened only 90 years ago. As a steamer on the London-Sydney route docked at Fremantle on Australia’s western coast, two Indian crows were seen to fly ashore from it, Dracula-like.
The names of those corvid pioneers are not known but the ship was called—hold your breath — SS Naldera. Yes, like the SS Narkunda, the Naldera too was named after a favourite British getaway near Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, India. At the time the Narkunda was ordered at Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast, in 1914, its three-chimney design was novel. But work on it didn’t start as World War 1 broke out. In 1917, it was decided to build it as a cargo liner. A year later, the planners wanted it to be an armed merchant cruiser. Construction finally started on April 25, 1918 and the Narkunda was completed at a cost of £1.5 million (£72 million or Rs 630 crore today) in 1920. After trials on March 3, 1920, it embarked on a 22-year-long eventful career.
The 581-foot-long ship with space for 673 passengers had a very respectable speed of 17 knots or 31kmph. It used to travel from the London docks to Sydney in six weeks, via Marseilles, Port Said, Aden, Bombay (now Mumbai), Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide and Melbourne.
On one such journey from London to Sydney, in 1921, the Narkunda was bringing home Indian physicist C V Raman. With time hanging heavy on his hands, the gifted scientist started puzzling over the mystery of the sea’s blue colour. The idea that it was a reflection of the sky’s colour did not convince him, and by the time the ship docked in Bombay, Raman had arrived at a new path-breaking theory. That trip on the Narkunda gifted science the ‘Raman Effect’. Nine years later, Raman was awarded the physics Nobel for his discovery — the only Indian citizen to have received the honour so far.
The Narkunda’s good times ended as WW-II neared. On July 16, 1939, a gas explosion followed by a major fire that took more than four hours to put out, wrought extensive damage to the ship in Colombo. On May 31, 1940, it was fired at near Gibraltar. The British government took over the Narkunda as a troopship in April 1941, and then began the last glorious chapter of its life.
In January 1942, it was used to evacuate British civilians from Singapore just before the island fell to the Japanese, and in August that same year, it was involved in the exchange of Japanese diplomats for British civilians at Maputo (then Lourenco Marques), Mozambique.
The Narkunda’s end was drawing near. On November 14, 1942, German planes bombed it off Bejaia (then Bougie), Algeria, where it had landed troops. The attack killed 31 crew, and the Narkunda went down never to rise again.
If your next-life wish is to be born as a bird in Australia, try not to be an Indian crow. They really hate it Down Under. The continent has its own wild crows but the Indian or house crow is a pest. This is what the government of West Australia has to say about it: “The house crow poses an extreme threat (the highest of four categories) to Australia… could threaten biodiversity… causes severe damage to vegetables and fruit crops… will attack and can kill poultry, newborn calves and kid goats. Adult livestock are harassed and can be injured… causes considerable nuisance to people as it scatters rubbish, damages electrical wiring, blocks drainpipes and interferes with power supplies. Large flocks are very noisy, make a mess with droppings, and pose a bird strike hazard to aircraft… may spread disease to people and it can attack people to steal food and shiny jewellery.”
The steamer named after Naldehra, a favourite of Lords Lytton, Lansdowne and Curzon, was a sister ship of the SS Narkunda, and both were ordered a few days apart, albeit at different shipbuilders. The order for SS Naldera was placed at Caird & Co Ltd, Greenock, on November 3, 1913, but work was not taken up until December 29, 1917, because of the ongoing war.
The 177-metre-long Naldera was completed as a troopship in May 1918, but stood unused as the mandarins repeatedly changed their mind. They wanted it to be an armed merchant cruiser with two low funnels (eventually, it had three, like the Narkunda), a fast cargo liner, troopship, hospital ship, and even a seaplane carrier. The only role they did not imagine her playing was of a submarine’s.
SS Naldera was the first ship with three funnels in The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s fleet, and the last one to go out with coal-burning engines. The Narkunda was converted to burn oil in 1927.
The ship’s salon was tastefully done up in ‘old ivory’ colour but to the eyes of its nouveau riche patrons, it was merely ‘dirty white’ from the time it started its Sydney runs on April 10, 1920. However, it did carry royalty once when the Shah of Persia travelled to Bombay (now Mumbai) by it, in November 1922.
Apart from the Shah and the Indian crows, other notable travellers in SS Naldera’s 18-year life included Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who sailed for Canada from Bombay on March 1, 1929, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
Conan Doyle even had a psychic experience about the ship. He writes in Memories and Adventures that the word ‘Nalderu’ entered his mind in sleep, a month before he heard of the SS Naldera. He woke up, wrote it down on his chequebook and dozed off again.
“I have several times in my life awakened from sleep with some strong impressions of knowledge gained still lingering in my brain. In one case, for example, I got the strange name Nalderu so vividly that I wrote it down between two stretches of insensibility and found it on the outside of my chequebook next morning. A month later (August 13, 1920) I started for Australia in the SS Naldera, of which I had then never heard.”
The Narkunda was sunk by German bombers off Algeria, in 1942 but the Naldera’s end was more prosaic. She was simply sold for scrap on November 9, 1938. However, she nearly played a part in an important episode in the build-up to World War II. She was hired to carry 2,000 British volunteers to Sudetenland for a plebiscite in September 1938. It would have been her last voyage. But Hitler reneged on the deal and the trip was cancelled. Naldera’s lasting contribution to world history, then, remains the Indian crows in Australia

Canada’s Changing Demographis

“The number of Muslims in Canada is expected to nearly triple in the next 20 years, from about 940,000 in 2010 to nearly 2.7 million in 2030. Muslims account for a larger share of the general population in Canada than they do in the United States. By 2030, 6.6% of Canada’s population is projected to be Muslim, up from 2.8% in 2010. Within two decades, Canada is expected to have the second-largest number of Muslims in the Americas.”
— Pew Research Center, The Future of the Global Muslim Population.
With Justin Trudeau securing the Muslim vote for his Liberal Party, it will take only a few decades for more than half of Canada’s population to be Muslim. Perhaps our granddaughters should start getting used to wearing the hijab and other “modest” clothing, even in the middle of summer. Not to mention undergoing genital mutilation, enjoying the blessings of holy matrimony of the polygamous variety, getting an occasional beating with the blessing of Sura 4 of the Koran, and becoming among the 20,000 annual victims of Muslim honor killings (to use Robert Fisk’s estimate). And complaining will accomplish nothing. In the years to come, don’t bother calling the police: the Gulf Muslims in particular are determined that sharia (Muslim religious law) will replace any local laws. Many Western countries have eagerly been taking steps in that direction already. If Canadians despise their own culture, they will make little effort to maintain the ideals that their ancestors fought for.
Canada is close second to Ireland that has the fastest-growing Muslim population. From 2010 to 2030, the general population of Canada is expected to increase by 18%. However, according the Pew Forum survey The Future of the Global Muslim Population, during that same time period the Muslim population of Canada will increase by 183 percent — i.e., 10 times faster than the general population. One focal point is Calgary; it’s the fastest-growing Canadian city, and its Baitunnur Mosque is the largest mosque in North America.
In fact, there has been a huge but mostly silent emigration from Muslim lands into many countries, but especially into Ireland, Canada, Finland, Norway, New Zealand, the US, Sweden, Niger, Italy, Paraguay, Laos, Guatemala, Timor-Leste, and the UK (in rank order).
Why is this movement of population occurring? It may be that Muslims are thinking they should leave their homelands as quickly as possible. That’s particularly the case with those who live in countries around the Persian Gulf — Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. For more than a thousand years, the Gulf Arabs made their living mainly by running the slave trade (see George MacMunn, Slavery Through the Ages), but Westerners finally forced them to abolish that business. Not long ago, the Gulf Arabs switched to collecting money from the oil industry, as the Americans and British were busy drilling wells. Now the oil is starting to dry up, and the chances of making a living at anything else are rather slim, because the Gulf countries are really just sand. As a further result, there’s also almost no agriculture. But, for now, there’s enough money for investments.
The emigration is what Jews would call a diaspora, except that it’s nearly invisible, because there’s very little contact with the host population. A Gulf Arabic man looks almost like someone from southern Europe, and if his wife covers her head, so do lots of European women. The Arabic language, with its strangely velarized consonants, wouldn’t really draw too much attention. (Many Muslims outside the Gulf, though, speak languages other than Arabic.) As for what goes on in the homes — who knows?
Why Canada?
But there’s the question of where Muslims can go. They’re not always welcome in Europe, although that doesn’t stop them from trying. Far better to find a land where people won’t notice what’s happening, where the locals have been brainwashed by Liberal (Cultural Marxist) regimes into thinking that theirs should be “a nation of immigrants”, where people have been convinced that it’s better to be “multicultural” than to take pride in one’s own culture. What’s needed, in fact, is a country that’s basically just vacant land, a nice piece of acreage that’s just waiting to be taken and developed, a place where nobody is now living. What country fits that description best? Canada, of course.
Is “multiculturalism” a description? Or a command? If the latter, to whom does it apply? Multiculturalism eventually means a world of no culture, with everyone waiting to be mentally spoon-fed by the government. Without a culture, there is no reference point, no anchor, no defense against tyranny. Still, tyrants have come a long way over the years, having learned how to get the public to really enjoy waiting for the next executive order.
Getting into Canada isn’t hard. It’s mainly a question of which doors one prefers to use. After getting in, the next task is to bring in all one’s relatives, preferably under the “family class”. Then one can continue the Muslim tradition of avoiding birth control and begin multiplying in the old-fashioned way.
It’s hard to imagine a softer target than Canada. We welcome Muslims into this country, even if we send our young men and women to die in the Middle East fighting those same people. If Canadians protest about anything related to Muslims, they risk being accused of a “hate crime”, a subsection of Orwell’s “thought crime”. In both cases, the conviction is contained within the accusation. Did Justin Trudeau’s father Pierre pick up this curious bit of jurisprudence as a souvenir on a trip to Cuba?
At the moment, there is in Canada no “facts on file”, no centralized data bank, to document the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, or even the 1 million who are now here. Canada is the only industrialized country to lack a right-wing party. And we have no right to deride Americans for giving up their civil liberties without a peep: Pierre Trudeau’s invocation of the War Measures Act predated Bush’s Patriot Act by 31 years. The real “hate”, though, will be that of our descendants, and it is us they will despise, for our unwillingness to speak up for them when we had the chance.
When I write things of this sort and send them out, most people pretend they never received them. Shortly after writing the above paragraphs, however, I saw again the book by Wafa Sultan called A God Who Hates. In the first few pages she tells a fable about a village where everybody is very depressed. A visitor asks what is wrong, and somebody says that there is a terrible ogre that rules the village. The ogre’s name is Fear. The visitor goes looking for the ogre, and finds that it is only a very tiny creature. There’s hope for all of us.

Disruptionist, Thy Name is Donald

Donald Trump came into the political arena, and blowing his own trumpet he created a hurricane that made the others come together and also attracted the multitude like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Here the pipe was transformed by Trump into a trumpet. A disruptionist came and created a new milieu of reality. that Disruption is the in-thing. As I say the reality is that the real creators are disrupters ; and is is this disruption that marks Donald Trump. And that is why despite his outrageous views, Donald Trump represents hope to many Americans. There is much more to the US elections than just Trumpism. The Republican nominee’s unstoppable, brazen statements may have set the media on fire, but the sheer frenzy around the elections has shifted focus from the real issue concerning the economy.
During a two-week trip across US cities and discussions with members of think tanks, bankers and diplomats, America presented a different picture than a decade ago. Creaking infrastructure, significant numbers of homeless people on the streets, the rise of slums in cities like Seattle, and above all, that sinking feeling in people’s mind — the only superpower in the world is experiencing a massive disruption. Donald Trump has lent his face to it.
The most striking feature of the current elections is the rise of protectionism, which is huge for a nation that epitomises capitalism and a free market economy. A large section of society believes the New Economy helped only a few who continue to thrive, irrespective of the regime in Washington DC. Ground reality supports the belief. According to official records, nearly five million American manufacturing jobs disappeared — a third of the entire manufacturing workforce — in the last one and a half decades. In the same period, as many as 60,000 factories, small and big, either shut or shifted operations to China or Mexico. People who’ve found themselves on the wrong side of these policies expect someone to protect them.
“Someone” is naturally the government. Two politicians who promised to bring back protectionism received huge response — Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump. Bernie, a social democrat, struck a chord with his argument that, “This is a rigged economy which works only for the rich and powerful”. His consistent attack on Wall Street echoed in many minds. Sanders’ efforts to bring in legislation to break up “too-big-to-fail” financial institutions made him all the more popular among the middle and lower middle classes. Sanders also refused donations from large corporate houses. But even after winning 23 primaries, Sanders withdrew in favour of Hillary Clinton.
It hasn’t helped Clinton. Many held Big Money responsible for Bernie’s withdrawal and blamed Clinton for “forcing” him to give up the race. His withdrawal caused many Americans to criticise Clinton, whom they think is an “insider”, part of the establishment. For decades, the US has been ruled by Ivy League members and the rich and wealthy connected to Wall Street — Clinton is perceived as one of them, representing the policies of the last 28 years, and so, the status quo.
Globalisation converted the US into a “fly-over” economy. Development in the last few years has been confined to the East and West coasts, leaving mid-lands in the lurch. Formerly known as the Rust Belt, Philadelphia, Ohio, Wisconsin, parts of Illinois, etc., have been witnessing a slow death, thanks to the decline of US coal and steel. US leadership consistently ignored this region and the problems faced by its people. There is a palpable feeling that no one, including the media, is interested in listening to hard-working Americans.
This sets the stage for a character like Trump. More than a person, Trump represents a phenomenon that’s disrupting established political ecosystems world over.
A complete outsider, a la Kejriwal, Trump has no baggage, telling people how the rich are getting richer in the current environment. Trump’s success lies in his ability to tag Hillary to this “rich getting richer” syndrome. The poor view Trump as their weapon to get back at the system that robbed them. He sympathises with the poor and middle class by blaming the establishment for even war deaths.
Even Republicans find it difficult to cope with Trump. He represents the extremist viewpoint that is rising in many democracies across the world. Many, especially from the banking sector, view him as the Nigel Farage — the UK’s anti-Euro politician — of the US. Like Farage, Republican Trump too believes the US should walk out of all international commitments since those are affecting the American economy. Trump feels these international agreements are skewed against US interests. Peeved because of the ongoing economic crisis, many have started believing him.
This explains his vast support base, despite being in the news for all the wrong reasons. Every media expose helps him reach out to more people before whom he successfully portrays the media as “pro-establishment”. This is another interesting facet of the US elections — media is seen as a third player in the race.
It makes the US elections a case of one versus the rest. The situation is unique — there wasn’t an instance where one of the Presidential hopefuls refused to play by the rulebook. Trump has thrown caution to the wind by rattling the entire political establishment. Considering the upper hand Democrats have in the electoral college, it’s highly unlikely that Trump may emerge winner. But even in defeat, the issues raised by him will set the agenda for the winning candidate. He has aroused a large section of the population and pitted it against the establishment. This could well be America’s Brexit moment that marks the end of elitism.
Politics will not be the same again in the US.

Sunflowers Promise Solar Energy

Can you believe that your garden can be a source of harnessing solar energy! This ground breaking news is harbinger of new hope of cheaper renewable non-polluting energy. A team six American scientists working at the top notch University of California has found that it is the selective growth of the stem in one direction that makes the sunflower follow the sun. The team reports that young sunflowers track the sun as it moves from east to west because of daily or a circadian rhythm.
One of the oldest scientific mysteries of the plant world as to what makes the sunflower track the sun has finally been resolved. This finding has major implications for effective tapping of solar energy. The name sunflower invariably invokes a smile, the bright yellow petals with a contrasting black at the center somehow gives the impression of a smiley the universal emoji on social media.
But to scientists the enigma was how do young buds of the plant track the sun and to what benefit. Sun is the ultimate energy bank for earth and recently the first ‘solar tree’, a solar power generation contraption resembling a tree was inaugurated by Science Minister Harsh Vardhan.
This is part of the current government’s target of ramping up solar energy to generate 100 gigawatts in the next 6 years. It has been always known that sunflower heads follow the sun, a phenomenon called heliotropism in the jargon of scientists. But till now how exactly it happens was unresolved. Now a team six American scientists working at the top notch University of California has found that it is the selective growth of the stem in one direction that makes the sunflower follow the sun. The American team studying the plant has published an elegant paper in the SCIENCE journal last week explaining in detail how this unusual plant phenomenon works and what are its evolutionary advantages to the plant.
The team reports that in the morning the head or the flower plant which is the flower will invariably face east and then it tracks the sun and at night the head re-orients itself by growing in the opposite direction so that once again in the morning the flower faces the sun. This daily rhythm is followed only by the new flowers, once they mature and seeds have been set, the flowers lock themselves in a permanent east facing outlook.
The team reports that young sunflowers track the sun as it moves from east to west because of daily or a circadian rhythm. What’s more, mature sunflowers cease this cycle and face eastward because this behaviour offers an evolutionary advantage with pollinators. While the east-to-west behaviour of maturing sunflowers is well known, the exact mechanism underlying it – be it circadian rhythm or changing osmotic pressure – has been a longstanding mystery.
In a statement, Hagop S Atamian from the University of California at Davies and the lead author who studied the common sunflower, whose botanical name is Helianthus annuus, disrupting its exposure to both sunlight and LED lights. For example, when moved to a growth chamber with constant overhead lighting, the plants maintained their directional rhythms for several days before the pattern deteriorated, suggesting that the plants were relying on a schedule dictated by circadian rhythm.
In maturing sunflowers, the researchers found that cessation of the east-to-west sun-tracking behaviour directly correlated with stem cell growth; in the same way, mutant plants with impaired growth hormones also demonstrated impaired sun-tracking behaviour. In studies, sunflower seedlings were found to respond more strongly to unilateral light in the morning than in the afternoon; the authors suggest that this sensitivity to sunlight from the east causes the plants to eventually shift to face east permanently.
The researchers also grew sunflowers in pots and rotated half of the plants to face west just as the sun was rising. The east-facing half of the potted plants was found to have warmer temperatures than its west-facing counterparts, and was also more likely to attract pollinators. When west-facing sunflowers were warmed with portable heaters, they were more likely to attract pollinators than west-facing sunflowers without artificial warming.
The results show how temperature contributes to the differential attractiveness of east- and west-facing sunflowers to pollinators, the authors report. There are many learnings from this simple piece of research, it cost the authors almost nothing since most of the work was of an observational nature, simply designed experiments has led to resolving a long standing mystery. It is amazing that none of the Indian scientists thought on these lines to conduct experiments that needed only very minimum resources but lead to a big understanding.
By tracking the sun, the sunflower some studies suggest is able to produce 10 per cent more oil simply, similarly the ‘solar tree’ installed at Vardhan’s house is able to tap more sunlight to generate more electricity even though the solar panel are stationary in the current model. The ‘solar power tree’ developed by the science ministry harnesses solar energy for producing electricity with an innovative vertical arrangement of solar cells.
Almost akin to the architecture of a tree, with central trunk and solar panels acting like large leaves. It thus reduces the requirement of land as compared to conventional solar photovoltaic layout, on one hand, while keeping the land character intact on the other. Even the cultivable land can be utilised for solar energy harnessing along with farming at the same time. The innovation finds its viability both in rural and urban areas.
Vardhan noted that in order to produce one megawatt of solar power, it requires about 1.4 hectares of land in the conventional sequential layout of solar panels. Thus, to generate copious quantities of green energy, there will be requirement of thousands of hectares of land. Acquisition of land is a major issue in itself, he added.
Girish Sahni, Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), says as a future prospect, the ‘solar power tree’ would be developed in a rotatable module, which would have a motorised mechanism to align itself with the movement of the sun during the day. Hence, it would be possible to harness more power over and above the current capacity.
Some learnings it seems from the natural world. This is where the Indian scientists seem to have learnt a lesson from the sunflower plant by applying the knowledge to harvest more solar energy. The sunflower is able to produce upwards of 10 per cent more oil thanks to tracking the sun on the same lines the ‘solar tree’ is able to harvest between 10-15 per cent more electricity.
Vardhan hopes there would soon be plantations of the ‘solar tree’ all over India. In future, the sun facing smiley of the sunflower could help brighten India’s energy prospects

Decisions that Make Nobel Prize Award Look Bad

Now is the season of Nobel Prizes. The most revered awards have sometimes generated skepticism, and also doubts about the recipient’s worthiness for the award. Nobel Prizes cannot be revoked, so the judges must put a lot of thought into their selections for the six awards. A discovery might seem groundbreaking today, but will it stand the test of time? Prize founder Alfred Nobel wanted to honour those whose discoveries created “the greatest benefit to mankind.”
Here are five Nobel Prize decisions that, in hindsight, seem questionable:
When a German who organized poison gas attacks won the chemistry prize
Fritz Haber was awarded the 1918 chemistry award for discovering how to create ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen gases. His method was used to manufacture fertilizers and delivered a major boost to agriculture worldwide. But the Nobel committee completely overlooked Haber’s role in chemical warfare during World War I. Enthusiastically supporting the German war effort, he supervised the first major chlorine gas attack at Ypres, Belgium, in 1915, which killed thousands of Allied troops.
When the medicine committee awarded a cancer discovery that wasn’t
Danish scientist Johannes Fibiger won the 1926 medicine award for discovering that a roundworm caused cancer in rats. There was only one problem: the roundworm didn’t cause cancer in rats. Fibiger insisted his research showed that rats ingesting worm larvae by eating cockroaches developed cancer. At the time when he won the prize, the Nobel judges thought that made perfect sense. It later turned out the rats developed cancer from a lack of vitamin A.
When the chemistry prize honoured man who found use for DDT, which was later banned
The 1948 medicine prize to Swiss scientist Paul Mueller honoured a discovery that ended up doing both good and bad. Mueller didn’t invent dichlorodiphenyltricloroethane, or DDT, but he discovered that it was a powerful pesticide that could kill lots of flies, mosquitoes and beetles in a short time. The compound proved very effective in protecting agricultural crops and fighting insect-borne diseases like Typhus and Malaria. DDT saved hundreds of thousands of lives and helped eradicate malaria from southern Europe. But in the 1960s environmentalists found that DDT was poisoning wildlife and the environment. The U.S. banned DDT in 1972 and in 2001 it was banned by an international treaty, though exemptions are allowed for some countries fighting malaria.
When the man who invented lobotomy won the medicine prize
Carving up people’s brains may have seemed like a good idea at the time. But in hindsight, rewarding Portuguese scientist Antonio Egas Moniz in 1949 for inventing lobotomy to treat mental illness wasn’t the Nobel Prizes’ finest hour. The method became very popular in the 1940s, and at the award ceremony it was praised as “one of the most important discoveries ever made in psychiatric therapy.”But it had serious side effects: some patients died and others were left severely brain damaged. Even operations that were considered successful left patients unresponsive and emotionally numb.The method declined quickly in the 1950s as drugs to treat mental illness became widespread and it’s used very seldom today.
When Peace Prize was given to first black US Presidnt
When it awarded Nobel Peace Prize to Prsident Obama, in 2008. His only contribution was that he was the first black US President and later events showed his partisan ship with Islamists and unwarrented interventions in Libya and Syria and promotion of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and alienation of Israel.

The Unspoken History of Triple Talaq in India

In recent decades, the idea of uniformity and individual rights has been captured by Hindu nationalist groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the RSS; the defence of personal law and group rights has been heralded by Muslim conservatives consolidated under the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. The monopolisation of these positions by predominantly male-dominated socially conservative organisations is precisely the reason why the binary opposition between individual and group rights become insufficient tools for analyses of family law. An acknowledgement of the controversial history of Article 44 will reveal that while people endorse a firm position on either uniform civil code or the preservation of religious personal laws, the remedy lies somewhere in between.
In the 1930s, the codification of Anglo-Mohammedan law – the Shariat Application Act of 1937 and Dissolution of Muslims Marriages Act of 1939 – had preceded the initiatives for Hindu law reform. Post-independence, however, the period between the codification of Hindu law in 1950s and the Muslim Women’s Act of 1986 is commonly looked at as a hiatus that lay between the reform of Hindu and Muslim personal law. Such a narrative overlooks the history of social movements and legislative attempts towards personal law reform which reveal how the AIMPLB became the self-appointed “representative” and foremost decision-making body of the Muslim community. It reveals further that what the Board defends is, in fact, the inviolability of the Anglo-Mohammedan codes of 1930s, rather than the tenets of Islam.
Immediately after the Hindu law was amended, Nehru had attempted a similar feat for the Muslim and Christian Personal laws through the Second Law Commission (1958-1961), which produced reports on Christian Marriage laws and Laws on rights of spouses in case one of the partners converted from one religion to another during a marriage. The latter triggered further the formation of a Committee on Muslim Personal Law in 1961. The correspondence between Nehru and a renowned jurist and activist AAA Fyzee reveals that the duo had pre-empted many of the controversies that emerged later in the 1980s. The failure of this Committee, owing to a last-minute intervention by the then Vice President Zakir Hussain, served to provoke many more civil society initiatives on the subject of personal law reform. The Muslim Satyashodhak Samaj and the Indian Secular Society operating from Bombay kept the agenda in public eye through the 1970s. It was these agitations together with the introduction of the Adoption Bill that hastened the formation of the AIMPLB in late 1972, as the Board argued for exemption of Muslims from the Adoption Bill.
Then again, during the revision of the CrPC in 1973, the Board requested exemption from Section 125 relating to maintenance of wives, parents and children to suggest that for Muslims, this should not include divorced wives. However, in the early 1980s, the courts refused to accept such as exemption. Thus, while the Shah Bano case and the subsequent Muslim Women’s Act 1986 are cited as landmark judgements, a similar tone had been taken in a number of preceding judgements which offered a wider interpretation of personal law itself instead of recommending a uniform code. The courts had historically been clandestinely (as in Bai Tahira and Fazlunbi Biwi cases) or overtly (as in Danial Latifi case) attaining uniformity through judgements. After 1986, the Muslim Women’s Protection of Rights on Divorce Act has also been applied and interpreted by many courts in line with the “protection” that the Act promised. However, even these protections offered in sporadic judgements have proved to be insufficient. The Board’s position was further consolidated as the issue of the Babri mosque was re-launched in the 1986-87, thereby making the expression of any differences within the Muslim community appear unwise and ill-timed.
The new women’s movements of the late 1990s and early 2000s therefore began inching towards universal principles of equality and justice in interpretation of “religion” rather than hoping legislative changes or relief from courts alone. Founding members of BMMA, Noorjahan Safia Niaz and Zakia Soman declared that most of the practices propagated as “Islamic law” were divorced from the Holy Quran, and the movement positioned itself against triple-talaq and polygamy on purely religious grounds. This was echoed by other civil society initiatives such as Bebaak Collective and Awaaz-e-Niswan.
These movements however have also received criticism as the Indian left began to assume a position of ‘status-quo’ on Muslim personal law or even offer a defence for bigamy, a position that had historically been endorsed by the Hindu Mahasabha and now the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. The key difference in stance on bigamy, however, was that the women’s groups hoped to defend the rights of the “second wife” who the courts and community continued to view as dishonourable – a “concubine”, “keep” or a “mistress” (D Velusamy v. D Patchaiammal), while the latter offer patronising arguments such as “better divorced than murdered”, or “better in a bigamous household than destitute”. There remain contentions within the women’s movement but the twenty-first century has highlighted both the uncertainty of uniformity and yet a strong desire for change. Such a dialogue has, in fact, produced a model of legal pluralism which has the potential of becoming instructive to rest of the world, if cultural rights and personal laws could indeed be reconciled with fundamental rights and freedoms.
By 2004, with the significant intervention of instituting the Sachar Committee for reviewing the status of Muslims in India, the fear of a wholesale abolition of personal laws was somewhat allayed. This was visible in the breaking of the AIMPLB consensus as in 2005, the Board split into Shia and Sunni groups; the All India Women’s Personal Law Board was also founded in the same year. Thus, the last few years have witnessed a demand for codification and legal protections from within communities. These demands have not only served to fracture the monolithic idea of a “community” but also challenged who the nation has historically accepted as “representatives” of a community.
In 2016, Shayara Bano alleged that her husband subjected her to much cruelty including taunts for inadequate dowry, forced abortions, and eventually an arbitrary unilateral divorce. Although the press poetically reported about the case as “From Shah Bano to Shayara Bano”, the facts of the case share more with the lesser known Parveen Akhtar case of 1992, where the petitioner does not merely question “maintenance upon divorce” but rather what the “true” Islamic position on such type of divorce is. Talaq-e-bidat by its definition (bidat) indicates a “customary” or an “irregular” practice. The case argued that misinterpretation of Islamic laws deprived women of their right to “freedom of religion”. Thus, revision or reform became more favourable options rather than a wholesale replacement of personal laws.
In 2015, while the BJP spoke of revision of personal laws through a uniform civil code, and in August 2016, an activist-turned-politician of the Congress Party, Husain Dalwai introduced a private members bill in Parliament specifically challenging triple-talaq. Thus, whether we are advocates of uniformity, equality or plurality, there appears to be an undeniable desire for change among all political parties and most social movements. A uniform civil code or a review of personal law will therefore serve a similar end through two distinct routes. The issue is now under consideration by the Law Commission of India which has, in its consultations thus far, shown remarkable sensitivity towards cultural diversity endeavouring to ensure that the cultural practices of no one community sets the template for family law reform.
It is important therefore to bear in mind the longer history of Article 44 to arrive at a nuanced, realistic, and a democratic template of a common code that targets patriarchy rather than plurality. Once that agenda is established, codification or unification become merely matters of “method”. Further, a consensus on acceptance of plurality, one can only hope, would encourage further dialogue about protecting inter-community marriages and rights of sexual minorities in the years to come.

Trudeau’s One Year of Governance: An Appraisal

One year is over since the much-heralded change was promised. A year after the Liberals promised ‘real change now,’ how much has changed? The last 12 months have not unfolded exactly as they would have had Stephen Harper been prime minister for another year. And not merely the incidents of public shirtlessness and that Vogue photo spread.
Of course, change was said to be precisely the point of what happened on Oct. 19, 2015. “Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight,” Justin Trudeau told a Montreal ballroom of delighted Liberals that night, a screen behind him projecting the words “Real Change Now.” It’s time for a change in this country, my friends, a real change.
Twelve months later, some might complain that change has been insufficient or too slow, but it can’t be said that things aren’t different.
A year of differences
The long-form census has been reinstated. Plans to raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and implement income-splitting for families have been cancelled. The bombing campaign against the Islamic State has ceased. The children’s fitness and arts tax credits are being phased out, and funding has been committed to reinstate the court challenges program. Federal funding to provide health care for refugee claimants has been restored.
The Kitsilano coast guard base has been reopened. Doctors can once again apply for special access to pharmaceutical-grade heroin to treat severe cases of addiction. The previous government’s attempt to ban the niqab during the citizenship oath was abandoned and the prospect of a barbaric cultural practices hotline was avoided entirely.
And those are just the things undone and not done. Canadians earnings more than $200,000 per year are being taxed at a higher rate, the child benefit system has been redesigned and enriched, an agreement is in place to expand the Canada Pension Plan, the federal government has committed to a national price on carbon and 32,437 Syrian refugees have been resettled.
Canada has committed 600 personnel to the United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts, the Senate is being filled with unaligned senators, and the House of Commons has voted to change the wording of the national anthem. And almost nothing happens in Ottawa now without the public being consulted.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper never marched in Pride parades, didn’t call himself a feminist, seldom met with the premiers and rarely took questions from members of the press gallery. Nor would he appear shirtless. All the while, the prime minister has been doing different things from his predecessor: Smiling, hugging people, wearing colourful socks, marching in Pride parades, calling himself a feminist, periodically meeting with the premiers, regularly taking questions from members of the press gallery.
Arriving amid the rise of Trump and the distress of Brexit has made Trudeau, and the country, a source of international fascination as a bastion of good-looking liberalism. But if you prefer simple numbers: To the federal expenses that the last Conservative budget projected for the next four fiscal years, the first Liberal budget added $66.3 billion. So what does all that amount to?
Some things haven’t changed. There are likely durable changes here. Liberals can fairly believe that CPP expansion and the Canada Child Benefit won’t be easily undone. A price on carbon might eventually make that list. A significant number of Syrians are now part of our national life. It might be difficult for any future prime minister to skip the Toronto Pride parade.
It is not all novelty and new ground though. The prime minister might be cheerier and the words might have changed, but he is still a tightly disciplined public speaker. Liberals might have brought a more genteel spirit to question period (no more applauding each other), but anyone listening is still now familiar with the talking points.
Between the courts ruling against chunks of the previous government’s “tough-on-crime” agenda and the Liberals rewriting federal policy, the Harper legacy begins to look rather limited. But then, Trudeau hasn’t moved to restore those two points his predecessor took off the GST (or the seven points that Harper’s government took off the corporate tax rate).
New Democrats will howl that the federal health transfer to the provinces and Canada’s greenhouse gas targets for 2030 haven’t changed either. For all the talk of how the Liberals ran to the left of the NDP in 2015, it was still a campaign focused on cutting taxes for the middle class. Nine years after Paul Martin and Stephen Harper debated whether it was better to set up a national child care program or direct more money to parents, Trudeau’s Liberals ran on the latter.
The Conservative party, meanwhile, still manages to raise more money than the current governing party, an impressive feat even if the Trudeau Liberals now have proved to have a higher ceiling of public support than the Harper Conservatives ever did.
What new course is Trudeau setting? Michael Ignatieff used to argue that Stephen Harper wanted to take the centre of Canadian politics and move it ten degrees to the right. Whether the median Canadian voter moved in that direction is debatable.
But Harper spent most of his decade in office articulating a basically conservative view of the world — on taxes, crime, social policy, the role of the federal government, and Canada’s role in the world. In his wildest dreams, Harper might imagine that the centre has shifted a point more to the right than when he took office.
A year after Oct. 19, Trudeau seems to be moving the centre, or at least the focus, back towards the left. Regardless of the precise degree, Trudeau’s legacy of change will be what new direction he takes the national conversation — on resource development, climate change, Indigenous reconciliation, economic policy, the health of our politics and all the other unresolved issues of the Harper era — and whether his successors have to accept those terms.
When it comes to keeping promises, Canadians know full well that politicians are not at all like Horton, the Dr. Seuss character who “meant what I said and I said what I meant: an elephant’s faithful, 100 per cent.”
They make many promises to win elections, but often find it impossible to deliver on them once they take office.
Justin Trudeau is no exception.
He made more than 200 promises in last fall’s election campaign. After one year as prime minister, he’s kept more than he’s broken — but most are still in progress or yet to come. Some are open to interpretation, while still others have been recalibrated. Here’s a look at the main ones:
— A cabinet with as many women as men.
— A 20.5 per cent income tax rate for Canadians earning between $45,282 and $90,563, down from 22 per cent.
— A new 33 per cent tax bracket for those earning more than $200,000.
— Create a new, more generous child benefit.
— Restore mandatory long form census.
— Unmuzzle scientists.
— Create an arm’s length advisory board to recommend merit-based, non-partisan nominees for the Senate.
— Ensure process of appointing Supreme Court justices is more transparent, inclusive and accountable to Canadians. Trudeau’s only pick for the top court thus far, Malcolm Rowe, was one of five recommended by a new independent, non-partisan advisory board. The board’s chair, one-time prime minister Kim Campbell, and Rowe are to appear separately to answer questions about the appointment from a Commons committee.
— Withdraw Canadian fighter jets from Syria and Iraq, beef up humanitarian aid and military support to train Iraqi ground forces.
— Launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
— Create a parliamentary oversight committee on national security operations.
— The first phase ($11.9 billion over two years) of an additional $60 billion over 10 years in infrastructure spending.
— Scrap income splitting for couples with children.
— Roll back to $5,500 the $10,000 annual limit on tax-free savings account contributions.
— Restore the age of eligibility for old age security and guaranteed income supplement to 65 from 67.
— Work with the provinces to enhance the Canada Pension Plan.
— Provide a refundable tax benefit of up to $150 to teachers who spend their own money on school supplies.
— Invest $2.6 billion over four years for First Nations education, although it is now over five years.
— Restore funding cut by the Conservatives for the CBC.
— Expand the youth summer jobs program.
— Reopen nine Veterans Affairs offices closed by the Conservatives.
— Increase financial benefits for veterans whose careers are impacted by injury.
— Welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada, although it took several months longer than promised and only about 15,000 were government-assisted refugees; the rest were privately sponsored.
— Increase funding for student grants by 50 per cent.
— Create the prime minister’s youth council.
— Reform employment insurance to reduce the wait time before claiming EI, cut the number of hours an individual must have worked to receive benefits.
— Repeal Conservative legislation that allowed the government to revoke the citizenship of dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.
— Run deficits of less than $10 billion in each of the first three years of the mandate, still reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio each year and balancing the books in the final year. The Liberals’ inaugural budget projects deficits for at least five years, totalling $113 billion, including almost $30 billion this year alone. The government hopes to lower the debt-to-GDP ratio over the course of the mandate.
— The tax break for middle-income earners was to be “revenue neutral,” paid for by hiking taxes on the wealthiest one per cent. In fact, it will cost the federal treasury $1.2 billion a year.
— Reduce the small business tax rate to nine per cent from 11 per cent.
— Maintain funding level for the Canadian Armed Forces. Government pushed back $3.7 billion for new equipment to 2020.
— Immediately scrap the planned $44-billion purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets, launch open and transparent competition to replace the current CF-18 fighter jets and reallocate the savings to the navy.
— Immediately invest $3 billion over four years to improve home care. This promise is now tied to negotiations with the provinces and territories on a new health accord which the government hopes to have in place next year.
— Cap how much can be claimed through the stock option deduction on annual gains higher than $100,000.
— Trudeau’s verbal promise to “restore” door-to-door home mail delivery. The government is committed only to stopping any further reduction in home delivery while it conducts a review of Canada Post’s operations.
— Replace Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system by the next federal election. An all-party committee is to report by Dec. 1 on the best alternative but a consensus may yet prove impossible to find.
— Legalize marijuana. A task force is to report by Nov. 30 and the government is promising legislation next spring.
— Overhaul the Access to Information Act to make government open “by default.”
— Amend controversial anti-terrorism legislation passed by the previous Conservative government. The government has launched consultations and is in the process of creating a parliamentary oversight committee on national security.
— Renew commitment to peacekeeping. The government has announced it will commit up to 600 troops and 150 police officers to UN peacekeeping missions but has yet to decide where to deploy them.
— Review of criminal justice reforms undertaken by the previous Conservative government.
— Ban partisan government advertising, appoint an advertising commissioner to police the ban. An advertising commissioner has not been appointed but, as an interim measure, the government has asked Advertising Standards Canada to conduct independent and public reviews of government ads and has asked the auditor general to evaluate the effectiveness of that mechanism. It is promising to eventually entrench in legislation third-party oversight of government ads.
— Reform election laws: repeal controversial elements of the Fair Elections Act, restore the independence of elections watchdogs, create an independent commission to organize leaders’ debates during campaigns, limit party spending between elections.
— Implement all 94 recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the lingering effects of residential schools on indigenous peoples.
— Re-establish lifelong disability pensions for veterans.
— Cover the cost of four years of post-secondary education for every vet.
— Reform the operation of Parliament, including empowering backbenchers with more free votes, a weekly prime minister’s question period, more open board of internal economy meetings and an end to omnibus bills.
— Create an office of counter-radicalization to deal with the phenomenon of home-grown extremists.
— Adhere to the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that no law or project can proceed without the “free, prior and informed consent” of indigenous people impacted by them. Some aboriginal leaders believe that confers a veto over natural resource projects. The government, which recently approved the Site C hydro dam and Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal in B.C. over aboriginal objections, says it doesn’t.
— Collaborate with premiers. Trudeau has met twice with first ministers to craft a national strategy on climate change and is scheduled to do so again before the end of the year. But he’s also infuriated some premiers by unilaterally announcing that the federal government will impose a floor price on carbon pollution — $10 per tonne starting in 2018 rising to $50 per tonne by 2022 — on provinces and territories that don’t do it on their own.
He’s further angered them by sticking with the previous Conservative government’s unilateral decision to limit annual increases in health transfer payments to the provinces to no more than three per cent, ending the six per cent escalator that’s been in place since 2004.
— Restore public trust in environmental assessments of resource-based projects. While it develops new rules, the government has established an interim process imposing more stringent environmental hurdles and consultations with indigenous peoples. But the National Energy Board’s review of the controversial Energy East pipeline proposal has been stalled due to complaints about NEB members meeting privately with proponents of the project.
— Lift the two-per-cent cap on annual First Nations program funding. Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett insists the cap was lifted in the government’s inaugural budget, which included a “historic” investment of $8.4 billion over five years for aboriginal education, water systems, family and child services and other programs. But some First Nations chiefs are suspicious that the cap won’t actually be lifted for another year.

Can Going shirtless undo Site-C, Middle-East Betrayals: Question for Trudeau?

The Emperor has no shirt, but that’s OK, people apparently like that. And they love Justin Trudeau. But popularity, even of the feverish variety, is like glacier water. There is only so much of it and then it is gone. The lesson? Use this precious commodity wisely. Like credibility, it is a non-renewable resource.
Rather than authenticating his popularity with promises kept, the new Liberal government is beginning to draw too heavily on Trudeau’s charisma as the antidote to the first signs of uneasiness that’s building out there.
Are Canadians really headed to Camelot or back to Bullshit City?
Selfies, canoe sorties, sunrise rituals and tattoos all have their place in post-substance politics. But they do not replace credible legislative action in the long run.
And then there is the character issue. On several fronts, Trudeau’s cabinet has behaved with an all-too-familiar sense of entitlement. After two years of torture for Sen. Mike Duffy on his public spending, there shouldn’t be any confusion in the mind of any federal cabinet minister, or their staff, on the expenses issue. But there has been.
Big bills for limo rides (Health minister Jane Philpott), billing their departments for expenses related to partisan events (Justice minister Judy Wilson-Raybould), and $6,600 for photographs (Environment minister Catherine McKenna). There has even been a resignation from cabinet, the details of which were covered up with a furtiveness worthy of the Harper thought police.
Trudeau may have appointed a former regional chief, Jody Wilson-Raybould, justice minister of Canada, but that won’t trick First Nations peoples into believing he has their interests at heart. Buckskin jacket and all, Trudeau is beginning to make them wonder.
Instead of acknowledging aboriginal rights, Trudeau has allied himself on the infamous Site C dam project with one of the most unpopular politicians in the land, B.C. premier Christy Clark. He granted federal permits to allow BC Hydro to flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River Valley, a highly controversial project opposed by Treaty 8 Indian bands, farmland advocates, and Amnesty International.
Worse, Trudeau has done this while Indigenous Peoples are arguing against Site C in the courts. Until the courts decide whether the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations gave their “free, prior, and informed consent” to the project, no one knows if this decision by two levels of government is even constitutional.
With his decision, Trudeau is replicating the Harper approach — damn the courts, aboriginal rights, and full speed ahead. That could be why, as reported by the Georgia Straight, the president of the Royal Society of Canada wrote to Trudeau with a blunt message: “Work on the Site C project should be discontinued for this reason alone.”
And of course there is another reason: Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It could be why the Assembly of First Nations, once headed in BC by Trudeau’s current justice minister, now stands shoulder-to-shoulder against Site C with Treaty 8 Chiefs. And it is undoubtedly why Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette stood up against his own government to oppose its Cite C policy.
Next to Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, Canadian veterans own the best B.S. meters in the land. Having won their support by promising honourable and different treatment, Trudeau has set them off with a combination of what could be charitably called tardy promise-keeping – those still not fully reopened veterans affairs centres closed by Harper, and a flat out broken promise from the recent election – the pledge to restore pensions. Or as Trudeau himself put it while campaigning “we will put make right what they [the Conservatives] got so very, very wrong.”
Instead of restoring those pensions for wounded veterans, Trudeau has ordered federal lawyers back into court against them, using the same arguments (and even the original lawyer) employed by the former Harper government. That has led the lawyer representing the Vets to declare, “It’s a betrayal.” Oddly enough, that is exactly what Trudeau accused the Harper government of while on the campaign trail – “betraying” Vets.
As if that weren’t enough, the Trudeau government has also drawn the ire of advocates for the estimated 2,950 vets who use homeless shelters in this country. Like the Conservatives, the Liberals promised swift action. But as homeless advocate Dave Gordon put it, “The minister has told us that things are going to move quick. Guess what? They’re not.”
And then there is the country’s foreign policy, which was supposed to announce to the world that Canada was back. It really looks like Stephen Harper never left.
The Trudeau government has denounced any Canadian who agrees with the Boycott, Divest and Sanction strategy proposed by many people around the world to force Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and return to the negotiating table.
Global Affairs minister Stephane Dion has mimicked the foreign policy of the previous government in Ukraine, where the main thrust seems to be to provoke the Russians.
Most disturbing of all, the Trudeau government proceeded with the Harper government’s immoral arms sales to Saudi Arabia, granting export licenses to make the delivery of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to that country possible.
Never mind that Saudi Arabia is a massive human rights abuser, including the systematic oppression of women. And never mind that the Kingdom is leading a genocidal war against Yemen, in which one in three Saudi air strikes is against civilian targets. It seems more important to the current government to honour commercial arrangements than to uphold basic human rights.
And the policy is working if you are into selling weapons into the world’s powder-keg: according to Janes Defence Weekly, Canada is now the second leading arms salesman to the Middle East after the Americans. What progress, we used to be sixth. And with Stephane Dion asleep at the switch, the RCMP are even having to investigate Canadian-owned firms over illegal military exports to Sudan and Libya, the result of a UN investigation.
Trudeau has so far been unscathed by these matters for one reason and one reason only. He is as likeable as Harper was repugnant to anyone honest enough to look at his record, which excuses most of the MSM when Harper was in power. It is also a very good thing for the Liberals that the Conservatives are still lost in Bohemian Grove following the doomed policies of their former leader rather than truly renewing their party.
But Trudeau’s moment of truth begins with this new session of parliament. He can change house-leaders and make best-dressed lists till the cows come home, but he has some real governing to do.
What pipelines, if any? What will electoral reform look like and how will it be advanced? When will Bill C-51 be amended and what will it look like? Will there be a new health accord with the provinces and will it guarantee a national Medicare system for all? And will these measures be truly debated in the House of Commons, or jammed through using the same dictatorial process trotted out so often during the Harper years?
Trudeau was not elected to join the “military-industrial high command” or “the global dominance group”, interesting descriptors of the cabal Harper visited in Bohemian Grove.
Trudeau was elected to dump a dictatorship, rescue the democracy, and bring “real change.” It’s time he antes up.

Friendless India?

It was the winter of India’s discontent. Boris Yeltsin was in power in Russia. In his rare sober moments, he used to rail against India. In his drunk ones, even more. India had lost an old friend.
A new generation of babus and military officers were in power in Delhi. Many of their kids had gone for higher studies to the US. And stuck around there. There then was a natural inclination towards the land of milk and honey. Trips there only fortified the bond. Ah, if India could have the US as a friend. But the Yanks were not the  least bit interested. They had just pushed the Soviets out of Afghanistan and now wanted to forget the backwater that was South Asia.
Pakistan has always seen India as an existential threat. It may be a failed state but it is not a dumb state. It evolved a pincer move to counter India. Control Afghanistan. That land also gave it strategic depth in case of an Indian attack. And befriend China. China doesn’t treat its Muslims, the Uighurs, well. A predominantly Sunni Pakistan could shed blood, sweat and tears for a predominantly Shia Kashmir, but as far as the Uighurs were concerned, well it would “manage” them for China.
Historically India has never seen an existential threat from anybody. Hindu kings of yore never expected invaders to come streaming through the Khyber Pass. Indira Gandhi felt threatened by China and the once-upon-a-time bigger, badder Pakistan, so she got into bed with the Soviets. The affair came in handy in 1971. India imported most, if not all, of its military equipment from the Reds. We signed a treaty to protect each other.
Even though India faces an existential threat from Pakistan and China, our leaders, like the Hindu kings of old, act quite blase about it. Our military constantly talks of winning a two-front war, but can it? If India attacks Pakistan, Pakistan might nuke us, in which case it will invite a massive retaliatory strike. If the recent surgical strikes are true, then Pakistan has done a deft two-step. Were it to hold itself to its own word, it should have attacked India. But it has chosen to altogether deny the strikes.
Second, China could come to Pakistan’s aid, either immediately or when Pakistan’s back starts getting broken, inevitably. Most of India’s forces are concentrated against Pakistan, so if China were to pounce on us, we would stand exposed. Now we might think that we would nuke the Chinese in this case. But using nukes is not such an easy decision. Witness the haircut from North Korea. He keeps shooting missiles near Japan, but far enough so as not to cause panic. If even one plate of sushi in a Japanese restaurant was fried by him, the Japanese would fry all of him. Personally, I like my sushi raw.
The US has lost war after war after war. In the meantime, the Chinese have colonized half of Africa, are trying to do the same in Asia with their one-belt initiative, which includes the multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, and scare their neighbors but only just enough to remind them who is the new big daddy in town. The US has a treaty arrangement to provide security to both Japan and South Korea, but both countries are skeptical that it has the will to put its money where its mouth is.
We claim to be natural allies and/or strategic partners of the US. The US says that it is pivoting to Asia and will build India as a counterweight to China. Really? Our friendship reminds one of a couple on a park bench. One sidles up to the other to kiss her, but she keeps sidling away. Even Bollywood allows kissing now. But there is no smooching between India and the US, forget about consummation. And if the US is so weary that it cannot protect allies it has already consummated, do you think it will come to India’s aid if push comes to shove.In the days when America was the superior military power or the sole superpower after the collapse of the USSR, many people argued that the world needed a multi-polar order. Now we have got it. Under Obama, America has steadily withdrawn from its previous activist stance. Hillary Clinton, if she wins, will not change that. It is hard to say what Donald Trump might do. He talks tough but may not be effective if Congress refuses to grant him what he asks as President.
The world is much more unsafe than was the case during the Cold War. India will have to figure out who will come to fight beside it if and when serious conflict breaks out in the Himalayas. The alliance that Manmohan Singh forged with the USA may not be as valuable as seemed to be the case 10 years ago. Be prepared.
The Russians still make top-class Sukhois, Migs, tanks and what-not. But our policy makers wanted to diversify away from them. France, the UK, Germany. Sure, the French supported us after the 1998 nuclear blasts, but the others have been chiding us forever. But they are so beautiful to visit. And I just love frog’s legs. Yeah, Russia is beautiful, and there is enough white meat (strictly, only to observe) there but it doesn’t speak English, so it’s all rather inconvenient. And then there is so much Russian white meat in Delhi itself. And it speaks English, somewhat.
The Russkies are mighty mad at us. They have started conducting military drills with Pakistan, a first for either country. India yelps, as usual. But who kicked the Russians away. And now you are crying that Pakistan is bagging them. So our prime minister digs deep into “Russian in the Immortal Words of Tolstoy”, translated into Gujarati, and comes up with the immortal quotation, “An old friend is better than two new ones”, which he uses on whom western media describes as the man with no soul, Vladimir Putin. Do you think Putin is going to fall for this one, especially now that he is dictating the world on Syria and ISIS.
Indian policy makers would do well to remember that everybody’s friend is nobody’s friend.

Indian Surgical Strikes Needed

The terrorist killing of sleeping soldiers at Uri on September 18 revolted me. It reminded me of Ashvatthama’s night-time massacre of the sleeping Pandava armies, which turned the mood of the Mahabharata from heroic triumphalism to dark, stoic resignation. Soldiers are ready to give their lives in battle but they don’t expect to die while asleep in peacetime. For ten days I felt uneasy and angry. On September 29, India retaliated with surgical strikes against terrorist camps across the border in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. With that I calmed down, feeling somehow that justice had been done and the nation’s honour had been restored. I am now convinced that India’s national interest was also furthered by the surgical strikes.
As I think back to my feelings during those intervening ten days, I realize that I was wrong in being guided by emotions of revenge, honour, and ‘justice’. Revenge is a sort of wild justice that runs in the human heart. If a good person suffers, then the bad one must suffer even more — this idea is embedded in our psyche. Consciously one denies it, proclaiming, ‘I’m not that sort of person.’ Yet unconsciously one applauds when a villain gets his due. We love happy endings in movies and novels for this reason. Revenge fulfils a legitimate human need, bringing profound moral equilibrium to our hearts.
But nations cannot afford to act like flawed human beings. Hence, political thinkers, beginning with Machiavelli, and strategists like Metternich in the 19th century, formulated theories of national interest. They argued that if nations were to act according to cold-blooded calculations of their own interest, adversaries could predict their reactions, and this would lead to a more stable, peaceful world. I learned this lesson as an undergraduate in college from Henry Kissinger, the keenest modern proponent of national interest theory.
Prime Minister Modi appears to act instinctively like a pupil of Machiavelli and Metternich. In an inspiring speech at Kozhikode, he presented a fine formulation of India’s national interest. He said that India’s interest lay in creating jobs, wiping out poverty and illiteracy. He told the people of Pakistan, “Let’s see who wins…who is able to defeat poverty and illiteracy first, Pakistan or India.” He offered a vision of the subcontinent as a developed, prosperous society. Considerations of national honour and izzat, he suggested, were against the national interest of both nations.
India responded to 26/11 by merely cancelling talks, emboldening Pak to launch more terror attacks. Post-Uri surgical strikes sent a different signal. The September 29 surgical strikes have, indeed, furthered India’s national interest. They have smashed the conventional wisdom that crossing the line of control (LoC) would inevitably escalate into war, eventually a nuclear war. Pakistan has promoted this myth. India has bought it wholesale; hence, it becomes paralysed after each terrorist attack. Even after the terrible Mumbai attack in 2008, India responded only by cancelling talks, and this emboldened Pakistan to carry out more terror attacks. The surgical strikes across the LoC have given a different signal — there will be heavy costs to future terrorism.
By denying the surgical strikes, Pakistan, in effect, behaved rationally and de-escalated the conflict. If it had retaliated it would have led to a war.
India helped it by not making the videos public, letting the Pakistani public believe its government’s version, and reducing pressure on its leadership to escalate. This has broken a second myth — of an irrational Pakistani leadership itching for war. Modi’s other moves, prior to the surgical strikes — a rethink on the use of Indus waters, Most Favoured Nation trading status, and a Saarc without Pakistan — have all added to a sense of unease in a complacent Pakistan leadership. It has reinforced in Pakistani minds that they are dealing with a different India, which may not succumb to nuclear blackmail in the future.
This is not to say that Pakistan will not respond. It will and soon. But its response will be calibrated and rational — not mad escalation, as we once believed. Pakistan is a military state whose narrative of humiliation and hatred fuels its identity. It will always be tempted by bloodlust, revenge and national honour. India, however, must never stoop to its level. It must always choose national interest over national honour. This will not be easy because revenge and honour fulfil a legitimate human need, bringing profound moral equilibrium to our hearts. But India has no choice because it needs peace to fulfil its manifest destiny

Before Balochistan

India has supported some human rights causes and ignored others. On Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that his government would speak up against human rights violations by the Pakistan government in Balochistan. The sudden interest in the human rights situation in that restive province of Pakistan has fired the imagination of many who believe this “muscular” approach is the silver bullet to India’s problems in Jammu & Kashmir.
Aside from the exhaustively dissected merits of the PM’s statement, a look at some other human rights causes that New Delhi has supported can be instructive on the cherry-picking that India has done in the name of oppressed people around the world, why and how it has chosen some, and abandoned or ignored others.
Perhaps the most principled human rights position that India took was the one against apartheid, cutting off all links with South Africa for over 40 years after the racist National Party government enacted laws to segregate black people. Nehru led the movement against apartheid from the front. New Delhi re-established diplomatic ties with Johannesburg only in 1993, in the run-up to South Africa’s first democratic election.
India’s support for the Palestinian people in their struggle to prove that they were the original inhabitants of the land that has been known as Israel since 1948 was also born of principles. India voted against the Partition Plan for Palestine at the UN in 1947 and opposed Israel’s entry to the UN. India was among the few countries in the non-Arab, non-Islamic world to permit the Palestinians to set up an office in New Delhi. It was not called an embassy but functioned like one. India has recognised Palestinian statehood since its declaration in 1988. But since the 1990s, New Delhi has walked a fine balance between expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause and improving ties with Israel. India and Israel have broad and deep cooperation in varied sectors, including in the purchase of military hardware, science and technology, and agriculture.
India voted in favour of accepting Palestine as a full member of UNESCO, and for making it a non-state member of the UN General Assembly. In 2015, India abstained from voting against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council, over a UNHRC report that found evidence of war crimes by both Israel and Hamas in Gaza in 2014 when 2,300 Palestinian civilians were killed in Israeli airstrikes.
Twelve years after Indian independence, Nehru opened India’s doors to the Dalai Lama, sealing China’s decade-long suspicions of New Delhi’s intentions in Tibet, amid a boundary row. Three years later, India and China fought a war in which India was mauled, a humiliation that still haunts the Indian psyche and determines our responses to Beijing to date. Meanwhile, what of the Tibetans? The Dalai Lama continues to stay in India, and so do a large number of Tibetans who have settlements in various parts of the country. During visits by high-ranking Chinese dignitaries, police clamp down on protests in order to not embarrass the visiting dignitary. India has never shifted from its one-China policy after recognising the People’s Republic of China in 1950.
Cut to 1971. India sided with the Bengali population in what was then East Pakistan as the Pakistan Army began its brutal Operation Searchlight in March that year. Millions of East Pakistanis poured across the border into India. In Parliament, the atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army were described as “genocide” and “medieval butchery”. The Indian government imparted military training to thousands of Mukti Bahini cadre. Over nine months, India prepared to liberate East Pakistan. The effort climaxed in December in a war with Pakistan. Two weeks later, Bangladesh was born. By dismembering Pakistan, India had scored a huge existential point over its twin, one that continues to haunt Pakistan and shape its responses to us. All this, as it fought for the oppressed East Pakistanis. It was described as Indira Gandhi’s, the Indian Army’s and the Indian intelligence agencies’ “finest hour”. Contrary to what anyone might have expected, India’s relations with the new country were never a honeymoon. Bilateral ties have had their highs and lows.
The next decade saw India take up the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka. India had been troubled by the growing US presence in Sri Lanka. After the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom, amidst the outpouring of political support and sympathy for the Sri Lankan Tamils in Tamil Nadu and a flow of refugees across the Palk Strait, the Indian government trained Tamil militant groups in camps in Tamil Nadu and in the Garhwal Himalayas. India bet on Velupillai Prabhakaran and the LTTE, turning a blind eye to its killing spree against rival Tamil groups. Just when the Tamil people were fully convinced that India was about “to do a Bangladesh” in Sri Lanka, India made a deal with Colombo which provided federal powers to the Tamil-dominated north and east. The Indian Army sent the IPKF to ensure that the LTTE behaved. The LTTE turned against the IPKF, which found itself fighting a war in which its adversary continued to get secret supplies from India. As it turned out, the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government made a deal to turf out India. As many as 1,200 soldiers were killed and 3,000 injured, before the IPKF pulled out in March 1990. The costs, in terms of India’s prestige and that of its army, were as high as the human losses.
A year later, an LTTE suicide bomber assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, under whose leadership the India-Sri Lanka Accord was signed. For the next 18 years, India left the Tamils pretty much to their fate, including at the time of the Sri Lankan Army’s final assault on the LTTE in May 2009. Conservative estimates place the number of civilians killed in those last few days at 40,000. Only under pressure from Tamil Nadu politicians, and to snub president Mahinda Rajapaksa — whose proximity to Beijing was a finger in India’s eye — did New Delhi vote against Sri Lanka at two sessions of the UNHRC.
The Islamic Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region have been waging a long struggle against Beijing. Earlier this year, the Modi government gave a visa to Dolkun Isa, a US-based Uighyur leader, in apparent retaliation for China blocking the Security Council designation of the Pakistan-based Jaish chief Masood Azhar. But a tight rap across the knuckles from Beijing was all it took to cancel the visa.
New Delhi abandoned Aung San Suu Kyi for the nearly two decades she was kept under house arrest by the Myanmar junta. Ditching her was the price that New Delhi paid to cosy up to the generals, as it persuaded them to end safe havens for insurgent groups from the north-east, and competed with China for economic and strategic influence. On Suu Kyi’s visit to China last week, she was accorded a welcome reserved for heads of state. On her return, Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj rushed off to Naypyidaw. Now, Myanmar is sending its army chief to New Delhi. He’s powerful, but he’s not DASSK, as she is known. Meanwhile, the stateless Rohingyas cut no ice with Delhi.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should be clear to the oppressed Oromos of Ethiopia that the Indian PM is not going to be speaking up for them, despite the Oromo athlete’s protest at the Olympics to highlight the plight of his people. Fair enough, after all, in an international community that is brimming with hypocrites. What that means though is that when New Delhi rakes up Balochistan, it should be prepared for the world’s gaze on its own record in Kashmir, on Muslims, on Dalits, on freedom of speech and religion. And in this game, booking Amnesty for sedition over an event on Kashmir, on the same day as Modi spoke for Baloch rights, doesn’t get you far.

An Unclean Slate

To find the way forward, India and Pakistan must first recognise the pull of history. The origins of this Kashmir conflict rest in British policy. They withdrew from the subcontinent without a clear understanding of the consequences. Their strategic naiveté was mirrored in another dispute, the Middle East, where they left plenty of material for future UN sessions. They believed they could entrust the Northwest frontier to Pakistan, and, crossing their fingers, assumed there would be no other quarrel. Some leaders of the British Indian army, including Claude Auchinleck, thought otherwise, but did not reckon on Pakistan turning to a faulty Kashmir accession as a way out.
The rest has been history. In Pakistan, the British general who took command deliberately constrained his forces until he was replaced by General Ayub Khan, who launched the 1965 war. The Indian decisions were made by a man — Jawaharlal Nehru — who did not believe in the use of force except in extreme urgency. He forgot that he had given Pakistan a critical issue, one that would toxically combine with the truth; he (but not Mahatma Gandhi) wanted to politely starve the Pakistanis into submission.
In the Cold War, the military came to influence and power in Pakistan. Trying to free himself from the army’s grip, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto understood that the army had to be hedged, and used a narrow victory to drive the point home. In the process, he entangled Pakistan in Afghanistan, beginning the long process of Islamising both states. Benazir caught the virus, and made intemperate speeches at the beginning of the internet era, but she also understood that her position was driven by politics.
The Uri event was by itself inconsequential. It could have been started by Pakistani “minders” of the trouble-makers, or it could have begun on its own. The issue is not Kashmir, but the army’s peculiar attachment to it, highlighted by the rapture with which it is held. However, Pakistani officers now get the full shock of contact with the Pakistan Taliban.
Certainly, most Pakistanis don’t want the achievement of a separate Kashmir, but they relish the idea of a troublesome state, controlled by India. The brief hiatus in Pakistani policy under General Pervez Musharraf collapsed quickly. In the end, they don’t have a clear vision for re-uniting Kashmir, but the distant hope is better than managing increasingly angry crowds. Even Nawaz Sharif may have gone along with this venture, as he could use the Jammu and Kashmir seats for his parliamentary struggle to maintain a dominant position.
We are beginning to learn about the new decision-making process. It works at these levels, but raises some questions.
First, the US model of using force to break up Iraqi forces when Saddam Hussein died was calamitous, and no one agrees with that policy today. India is not close to stripping the Pakistan army, unless it can neutralise the Pakistan bomb. This could be a US role in the future (as was suggested by the late K. Subrahmanyam). America is now neutral regarding India and Pakistan, although tilting towards India, but there is always the hope that it might change its policy. But hope is not a ground for a new policy, Pakistan is important enough to keep the relationship with the US as more than an alliance, but less than close.
Second, India has a Pakistan problem. The people in charge have little to do with electoral politics. There will be a new army chief, but will General Raheel Sharif accept popular opinion, and continue in office, or will he gracefully retire? There is enough ambiguity to raise concern in several capitals. This could be the starting point for more war, and could also be the starting point for a serious dialogue, but these will be sabotaged by the military in Pakistan. General Sharif will go, perhaps, but will his successor be tougher and more resistant than Raheel?
Third, the language used in the case of the deployment has to be reconsidered. India and Pakistan rest in the zone of uncertainty, their terminology makes war difficult but not impossible, risky but not calamitous. If both sides are cautious, they can please the crowds while meeting vital economic goals. Here is one round for improvement. The military terminology needs to be bilaterally redrawn. Not “surgical” strikes or “launch pads”, these are nuclear-related terms. The countries need to get a shared vocabulary, but this will not happen in an era of mass communications. Both sides are constrained by using old Cold War terms to describe a situation of mutual disadvantage.
Fourth, India needs to go back to real interests. Dialogues have failed, but there is still room for reasoned discussion. India needs an international approach to Kashmir, albeit without international meddling. Pakistan must feel that the fate of Kashmiris is not yet determined, but must go to other issues. US policy has been recently neglectful, backing India vis a vis the silly doctrine of dehyphenation. The US needs an objective examination of Kashmir, and of Pakistan’s role.
Does this inaugurate a dynamic that can spin out of Indian and Pakistani control? Maybe it does, but probably not. That will be the judgment in Washington, unless there are unknown processes that will impact choices. One factor that does not push the two nations into a state of open war — possibly nuclear — is that the economies are moving forward in India, and getting off to a good start in Pakistan.
This is not a new pattern and phase of the India-Pakistan relationship, it is exactly like the previous crises with the addition of a nuclear stand-off. That seems to be decisive, until India (or Pakistan) decides to move to the next level.
What is the larger frame and context in which to view this? We need to get an understanding of the pull of history, and put this oldest conflict in its proper terms. India needs at least 10 years of uninterrupted peace to move ahead, Pakistan may need more. Will this happen? Yes, in a perfect world, but probably not in the world we live. The best we can look forward to is a dozen years of mixed progress. The worst would be that the next crisis could get out of hand.

Putin, Xi, Modi are Important, not BRICS Summit

What happens when the glue that binds a set of nations comes unstuck? That is when the contradictions within the members of the set begin to loom larger than the force that brought them together in the first place. That is the current strategic condition of the BRICS forum involving Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa whose leaders are gathering in Goa this weekend. It is the quest for a multipolar world that brought these geographically disparate states under one umbrella after the Cold War. But when the multipolar world is already upon us, can the BRICS hang together?
The example of NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance, is instructive. The US and West European states came together in 1949 to counter what they saw as an assertive Soviet Union after World War II. Keeping NATO afloat as a coherent alliance after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has not been easy.
The differences within NATO broke out barely a decade later when the US decided to invade Iraq in 2003. Turkey, a member of NATO, refused to back the intervention. France and Germany stepped back. Britain joined the fight, but has regretted it ever since. Unlike in Iraq, the fight in Afghanistan seemed a “good war” for most members of NATO. But as the Taliban, nurtured back to life by the Pakistan army, began to destabilise Afghanistan since the mid 2000s, the alliance members are finding it hard to sustain their national military commitments to Kabul.
BRICS, too, may have passed the moment of peak solidarity. The challenge now is to manage the growing differences among them. The political origin of BRICS lay in the concept of a “strategic triangle” that was articulated by the Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in the early 1990s. Primakov wanted Russia, China and India to blunt the edge of American power in the post-Cold War world. Brazil and South Africa joined the forum a little later and lent it greater credibility as the voice of the emerging powers. Although Brazil and South Africa are important partners, it is the shifting dynamic among the three Eurasian powers — Russia, China and India — and their relationship with the US that will shape the future of BRICS leaders meet in Goa for their eighth summit, India’s foreign policy establishment needs to think hard about just what it hopes for from this most unusual of global alliances. The case for BRICS is a simple one. Born, in 2001, from the imagination of Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill, the acronym reflected his understanding that Brazil, Russia, India and China — to which South Africa was later added — would grow faster than the developed countries.
This, they have done. Brazil, Russia and India have caught up with the smallest G-7 economy, Italy, while China has become the second largest economy in the world. Yet, Europe and the United States are over-represented in global institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. BRICS economies played a key role in hauling the world out of the global financial crisis. They also have some solid achievements to their credit, like founding the New Development Bank.
Having said this, it is far from clear the BRICS countries are — or even can — speak with one voice on issues of significance. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s speech to his BRICS counterparts on the need for joint global action against terrorism underlined one issue on which there are real divisions among the ranks: China will not abandon key ally Pakistan, while Russia is profoundly distrustful of the United States’ intentions. There are other, deeper, fissures. Brazil, South Africa and India want expansion of the United Nations Security Council; China does not. China wants an expansion of free trade amongst the BRICS states; the three smaller economies do not. Even on relatively minor issues, like breaking with tradition and finding a non-European to lead the International Monetary Fund, BRICS states were unable forge a consensus.
Further problems lie ahead, for China’s economic growth will, almost certainly, tend to reduce BRICS to a Beijing-led club. China’s nominal GDP is now larger than that of the other club members combined. The New Development Bank has come into existence precisely because it fits into China’s grand “One Belt, One Road” vision, helping to finance the welter of road and rail links that Beijing hopes will link its industries to markets in Central Asia and beyond. NDB lending will also provide a counterweight to Latin American and African states now pressured by the IMF and World Bank, but it is China that is best positioned to capitalise on that. In Goa, BRICS leaders will talk as equals — but there’s little doubt the grouping can only move forward with China as its engine. Is this something that in fact serves India’s interests, and, if so, what benefits does New Delhi seek to extract in return, is the question.
That brings us to the current double bind faced by BRICS. One is the decline of America and the other is the rapid rise of China. If the fear of unrestrained American power dominated the global strategic discourse in the early 1990s, the discussion today is about American retrenchment, if not decline. If China had its head down in the 1990s, Beijing is now convinced that its moment is at hand.
Thanks to President Barack Obama’s refusal to take America into another war in the Middle East, it is Russia that is shaping the regional dynamic. America, much dreaded in the 1990s as a “hyper power”, has become a virtual bystander in the Eurasian theatres. In Europe, Russia is running rings around NATO. In the South China Sea, America warily watches China’s assertion of expansive territorial claims. Worse still, Washington has the mortification of seeing one of its oldest military allies — the Philippines — toyed with by Beijing.
That has put Delhi in a triple bind. One, in the 1990s, India joined Russia and China as part of its hedge against American power in a unipolar world. It was a decade when Washington was trying to roll back India’s nuclear weapons programme, raising questions about Kashmir’s accession to India and threatening to mediate Delhi’s disputes with Islamabad. Today, it is China’s power that India rubs against all the time — whether it is the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group or getting the UN to act against Pakistan’s support for cross-border terrorism.
Two, although Delhi continues to argue with the terms of US-led globalisation, India’s bigger problems are with China. Delhi has a tidy trade surplus with the US — about $23 billion in 2015 and $16 billion in the first eight months of 2016. India’s trade deficit with China swelled to $52 billion in 2015-16. While China may be India’s growth opportunity over the longer term, Delhi is struggling to come to terms with the rise of Chinese capitalism and its impact on regional and global economic systems in the near term.
Three, China’s rise has also begun to constrict India’s room for manoeuvre in the neighbourhood. In the past, India worried about America’s sweeping political influence in the neighbouring states. Today, India’s regional challenges are complicated by China’s expanding political, economic and military influence in all South Asian capitals.
Some in India argue that it is India’s recent “tilt” towards America that is creating problems with China and Russia. The fact, however, is that both Russia and China are looking for their own deals with America. President Vladimir Putin has not embarked on an ideological crusade against Washington. He wants a better geopolitical accommodation than what America gave Russia in 1991. China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping too wants to build a “new type of great power relationship” with the US. Translated, it means Washington should accept China’s primacy in Asia and share responsibilities with Beijing in managing the global order.
For Putin and Xi, BRICS is part of a geopolitical play to advance their national interests amidst a tectonic shift in global power distribution. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to realpolitik is probably no less. Delhi’s public discourse may continue to pretend that it is Indian foreign policy’s “dharma” to lead the construction of a non-Western global order; Modi, however, knows that Delhi’s enduring “karma” is to work for a balance of power system that favours India’s rise. To figure out the meaning of the Goa summit, ignore the collective BRICS rhetoric and focus on what Putin, Xi and Modi might say and do separately.

Pen is Still Mightier Than the Mouse

In my Friday Live comments, I had suggested that one should write with the help of pen or pencil as it connects the body, the brain and paper and vibrations are transmitted- that is not possible by tapping the keys ( While it is true that I wish to do most of my writing by hand, this does not mean that I will use any pencil or pen that comes to hand. For me the fountain pen is a formidable form of technology, designed with the express purpose of tormenting me. Being one of the clumsiest humans on earth, I am unable to fill or refill or empty a fountain pen of its ink without getting the said ink, black, blue or blue-black, all over my hands or onto my coat-sleeves or shirt front. I will then ruin a good handkerchief trying to wipe myself clean. On one account, unable to locate a handkerchief, I reached for the nearest piece of cloth, only to realise (too late) that it was a lady’s dupatta. That’s one way of how to lose friends and fail to influence people.
No, the good old ball-point is the pen for me. It doesn’t make a mess and it can be thrown away when its usefulness is over. There is no bottle of ink waiting to be typed over on to my writing pad.
Back in my early schooldays, we were equipped with pen-holders into which nibs had to be inserted. Each student was also given a small ink-well which fitted into a hole in his desk. You had to dip your pen into this little pot of black ink, and then scratch away for a line or two before making another foray into the ink-well. This was a laborious process and often a messy one; but this was how Dickens and Kipling and Tagore and Prem Chand wrote their novels — dip and scratch, dip and scratch, for days and weeks and months on end. It also meant that you had to take some care of your handwriting, so that the compositor (in the case of an author) or a teacher (in the case of a student) could make out what had been written.
My father used to say that you could judge a man by his handwriting. Mahatma Gandhi had a good clear hand; so did Abraham Lincoln. Hitler’s handwriting deteriorated as time went by, denoting a similar deterioration in his thought process. But a neat handwriting did not necessarily mean you were a good person. Wainwright, the notorious serial poisoner, had an elegant handwriting; but then, he was also a neat poisoner.
My father wrote a clear, fluent, open script, and he always enjoined on me the importance of good handwriting. Use large letters, he always told me; write with a bold hand; don’t skimp on paper; don’t try to squeeze a lot of words into a small space. An open handwriting denotes an open and uncluttered mind. And I think he was right.
Over the years, over these many, many years, I have done most of my writing by hand, only occasionally resorting to a typewriter. As a boy I went to the trouble of taking shorthand and typing lessons; but soon shorthand became obsolete, and now typewriters are obsolete. My great grandson’s laptop looks as though it may also be obsolete very shortly. Fortunately my writing hand is in good shape, and I can still put down a thousand words before breakfast without any difficulty. If my hand is still in good shape it is probably because it has been wielding a pen or pencil all these years.
When asked how one became a writer, William Saroyan said ‘Paper and pencil will do’. It was of course a simplification, but there is something about putting pen to paper that is physically as well as mentally satisfying. There is a certain sensuous intimacy about this connection, an intimacy that is absent from any other form of writing. Maybe it’s the texture and touch of the paper, the flow of ink, the movement of the pen, the connection of all three with the human hand and the hand’s connection with the mind of the writer. It all amounts to the power of the pen, not forgetting the paper.
Mark Twain tried an experiment to see if he could convey his thoughts to someone simply by putting them down on paper — and leaving them there.
He wrote a long letter to a friend but instead of posting it he crumpled it up and dropped it in his waste-paper basket. A week later he met his friend who told him that he had been constantly thinking of the writer and that he had been aware of Mark Twain’s own thoughts and feelings, almost as though they had been communicated through some intangible means.
Mark Twain then wrote a letter to one of his publishers, complaining of a delay in royalty payments. He did not post the letter. But a few days later he received his royalties!

Why is Twitter Gasping?

I have been recently reading a spate of articles about the imminent demise of Twitter. It began with stories about how Twitter is unable to monetise its business at the pace its investors expect it to. Then came stories about how Google, Salesforce and Walt Disney were all scrambling to buy out Twitter and revive it from its current coma. When these suitors backed off, particularly when Alphabet (which owns Google) refused to make an offer after consulting its bankers the rumours of Twitter’s demise swiftly multiplied. In fact, on Monday Twitter stocks plunged another 15%.
In today’s dog eat dog world, this could mean one of three things. Either someone is trying to pull down Twitter’s price so that they can buy into it cheap or possibly take it over, salvage it. Or, more interesting, Twitter itself could be scorching the earth, an old strategy to put off hostile bidders they disapprove of. This is not unlikely since the board of Twitter is reportedly split down the middle. CEO Jack Dorsey is opposed to the idea of selling Twitter while co-founder Ev Williams wants to. The Board hired Goldman Sachs and Allen & Co last September to try and see if a sale is possible. But with the founders not seeing eye to eye on the issue, both sides could be working at cross purposes.
The other reason may be simpler, much simpler, as it usually is in such matters. Twitter has been around for a while and though it is still very popular, it is certainly not growing at a pace comparable to that of its new challengers. Or, for that matter, its contemporaries. Facebook at 1.5 billion users has a population bigger than China. Twitter limps behind at 300 million. Even Instagram has left it way behind. And the newer, younger sites are grabbing more users than Twitter which has, more or less, stayed exactly where it was. I think people are actually tired of Twitter now and are migrating to more adventurous new places. There’s Snapchat. There’s Instagram. And of course there’s good old Facebook, that incredible revenue juggernaut growing at 44%.
Such migrations are not new. Remember how Orkut, once the darling of the internet, suddenly woke up one morning and found all its users gone? In one decade. And no, it was not short of money. It was backed by Google almighty which finally shut it down in 2014. (Rumours are that its Turkish founder, Orkut Buyukkokten, now 41, is about to launch a new service called Hello out of India.)
Another reason, one I think is closest to the truth, is that people are finding the world of today’s Twitter so very different from what they had originally signed up for that they are switching out. Look at what Twitter is today. The abusive trolls. The hyper-nationalistic hyperventilation. The paid-for trends, some of them absolutely ridiculous. Like MSG, every time his movie appears. And I dare say the steep fall in the level of discourse must be annoying to many of the original Twitter buffs who came on board to discover a fresh new world bustling with new ideas and the possibility of exciting new engagements with fun people, some of whom were largely unapproachable till then. I was one such buff, a tiny blip, and I spent quite a while on Twitter, talking to unknown people, sharing thoughts, ideas, beliefs and, as I still do, my writings. Most of those who I conversed with were delightful people: funny, charming, clever and well informed, often much better informed than me, and as I interacted with them I wondered how easy it is to make friends in an alternative world far removed from the real world in which we live.
That Twitter no longer exists. Like all great success stories, it has been taken. The politicians have grabbed Twitter and tried to make it their own playground. And the Government has gone a step further and cleverly used it to replace the I&B Ministry. Twitter today delivers press releases faster than Doordarshan ever can. And if truth be told, like all things global, it is far more credible. The political voice of the lone citizen is slowly getting drowned out by the loudspeakers of the Government. And God forbid, you say anything that can be interpreted as anti Government, which is quite easy since those who trawl Twitter on behalf of the Government are barely literate, you will be mauled in full public view.
But worse than what the politicians have done to Twitter is what business has done. Sponsored trends and paid-for tweets are the biggest turn-off on today’s Twitter. What was once the world’s most charming flea market has now been hijacked by big business. With Trump loudly trumpeting his views to his 12 million followers, how can you hear the voice of The Dalai Lama who, in any case, speaks in hushed whispers?
This brings me to my last question: Have we lost the ability to build and sustain new Utopias? The virtual worlds we build are eventually becoming an exact replica of our own dystopian society. In the fall of Twitter lies that tragic realisation.
Of what use is then trying to revolutionise space travel and find new worlds in outer space (as Elon Musk and others are doing) if, at the end of it all, we will be only replicating this flawed world of ours.
What we need is alternative realities, more humane societies. Not more of the same.

Demise of Indian Software

The first hint that the end was near came when TCS announced a virtual stalling of its business in the September quarter. Infosys followed up by slashing its full-year revenue guidance for the second time in three months.
in September quarter while Infosys has cut revenue guidance twice in 3 months
Seventeen years ago an Indian man from New Delhi mesmerized the technology departments of global corporations with a doomsday story many times more puffed up than the luxuriant crop of hair he sported.
The latter was a wig, and the former was just bad science fiction packaged by consultants as a $600 billion hair-raiser. But Dewang Mehta, the chief lobbyist for India’s fledgling software services industry, carried off both with aplomb, convincing businesses that at the stroke of midnight of the new millennium, their computer systems would crash because old programs measured years in two digits instead of four. The solution, he persuaded them, was to let a horde of techies from Bangalore and Hyderabad go through each line of code and fix the Y2K bug.
That was the birth of India’s massively successful software services industry, which died Friday after a short battle with newer digital technologies. At the time of its demise, the business was worth $110 billion in annual export revenue.
The first hint that the end was near came on Thursday when Tata Consultancy Services, the biggest Indian software vendor by market value, announced a virtual stalling of its business in the September quarter from the previous three months. After Infosys followed up by slashing its full-year revenue guidance for the second time in three months, it was time to turn off the ventilator.
A coroner’s inquiry unearthed three signs of decay, the first of which shows how Indian companies’ cheap-talent-fueled growth ran out of breath. In the four quarters before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Infosys saw revenue increase an average 29 percent in constant-currency terms. Back then, Dublin-based Accenture’s growth was just half as high. But there’s nothing exceptional about Indian companies’ expansion anymore. All that investors have heard from managements this year is gloomy commentary on how challenging it’s become to get clients to open their wallets. When the companies do make news nowadays, it’s more often for dodgy business practices, regulatory slaps on the wrist, and senior-level exits.
A slowdown alone wouldn’t have stopped the Indian industry if it had been able to embrace “smac,” or social, mobile, analytics and cloud-based technologies. But the vendors wasted so much time defending their legacy business of writing code for and maintaining purpose-built enterprise applications that they failed to make a mark in the new digital world.
As this analysis from India’s Livemint online newspaper shows, the dominant trio of Tata Consultancy, Infosys and Wipro between them had 1.5 times more workers doing digital stuff last year than Accenture. But the revenue they garnered was 40 percent less than what the latter chalked up from newer technologies. That makes the typical digital-tech employee of an Indian vendor 25 percent as efficient as his counterpart at the global consultant. This gap sets the clock back on Indian companies, which have taken years to narrow the productivity differential:
Maybe it’s just banking clients and their inability to pay like they once did. Or perhaps it’s a combination of weak global growth, Brexit, protectionism and Donald Trump’s vacillating stance on U.S. visas for Indian technology workers. Hoping that turbulence is temporary, investors are still paying a hefty premium for future growth. They may get lucky for a while. Still, a dead-cat bounce from delayed orders coming through would hardly count as proof of life.
The millennium scare got Indian software a foot in the door at global corporations. But now the shoe is on the other foot. Robotics and artificial intelligence are putting the vendors’ labor-intensive business at risk of obsolescence. Even if the concern is as puffed up as Y2K, with plenty of growth candidates in the Indian start-up world, at least for some investors it may be time to back new horses rather than flog dead ones.

Bob Dylan Bringing it All Back Home

I have always been fascinated by great literature. The classics, I mean. I recognize the magnificence of Shakespeare, the truth is I found him expressing my everyday world of loss, loneliness and defiance. It was the same with Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray. And our own Nobel Prize winner, Tagore too attracted me by his nobility and elevating poetry. That is why I love the real poets.
I love poets whose words can reach out and touch you, change your life. They may not be the poets you are expected to read in your literature classes. They may not be the poets who win the awards. They are certainly not the poets who are honoured by the State or get invited to read at investiture ceremonies. And no, they are seldom politically correct. But they are the poets who have kept poetry and our conscience alive down the ages. And today, they are the only true voices you can hear above all the cacophony, the din; the only voices you want to hear.
Some of my favourite poets, in fact, would not even be considered poets by those who take poetry too seriously. And in fact heading that list would be Bob Dylan, considered by most to be just another long-forgotten songwriter.Once more, perennial punters’ favourite Haruki Murakami has not won the Nobel Prize for Literature. This should not surprise anyone, not even the punters. But to general amazement and some disquiet, the Prize has gone to Bob Dylan, broadening the idea of literature to an expansive, inclusive ambit.
But while purists are unsettled by the idea of literature being brought suddenly to street level, Dylan was one of the pioneers of a generation which made it normal for music to be political. The young man who sang of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ was also one of the voices of George Harrison and Ravi Shankar’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.
Most unusually, the schedule for the announcement of the literature prize was left open until the Nobel season was well under way and three winners had been announced. And then, instead of the usual time of 11 am Central European Time, it was set to “1 pm at the earliest”. Of course the Prize Committee needed elbow room. They were probably thrashing out a fundamental question of human culture: what exactly is literature?
The Literature Prize has always posed an intellectual challenge. In his will of 1895, Alfred Nobel had mandated the Swedish Academy to seek out “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. This delightfully vague brief is the reason why the principal source of coverage of the Prize is the web site of the British bookie Ladbrokes. They always have excellent odds on Haruki Murakami, Adonis and Philip Roth, as surely as the pub next door has Green Man, Speckled Hen and Guinness on tap. None of these excellent writers ever wins, and the punters drown their sorrows in the pub.
For 121 years, the Swedish Academy has been trying to approximate the meaning of Nobel’s “ideal direction”. In the first decade of the 20th century, it was taken literally, to mean noble idealism. At the time, that meant solid conservatism, so they gave the Prize to Rudyard Kipling but denied Henrik Ibsen, Emile Zola and Leo Tolstoy, who were distressingly radical. Next, the Great War encouraged neutrality, and strategically insignificant nations began to bag prizes at the expense of the great powers. Rabindranath Tagore was not a beneficiary of this swing, it should be pointed out. He got his Nobel in 1913, a year before hostilities broke out, aided by the intervention of W B Yeats.
Between the wars, the perplexing “ideal direction” took on humanistic significance, and literary figures who had been passed over, like George Bernard Shaw with his “chocolate cream soldier” (persona non grata when men were being gassed in the trenches), became Laureates. Its ambit was broadened by the Committee to signify work of “universal interest”, and literary arch-anarchs like Samuel Beckett began to get their due. The field had begun to widen.
And then, in 1978, the Prize embarked on a voyage of exploration. There were many Tagores to be discovered in literatures insufficiently or indifferently translated into the European languages, which had dominated the Prize thus far (see box right). And in the Eighties, the Prize consciously widened its catchment area to cover world literature. From Wole Soyinka to Mo Yan and Svetlana Alexievich, the Nobel Prize has been projecting local voices globally.
The recognition of Bob Dylan, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, widens the ambit of “ideal direction” yet again. It is a counter to the American perception that the Nobel is anti-American. And it says that literature does not have to be literary in some elevated and canonical manner. It opens the door to song, to the Leonard Cohens and Bonos out there, and their lesser known peers exploring the interface between sounds and words in many languages.
Which, actually, is not as radically progressive as it appears at first glance, though it has shocked the purists. Tagore’s Gitanjali was a song book, and it won a Nobel in 1913.
But therein lies the mistake. Dylan is a decoy, just like John Lennon was. He pretends to be just another singer, a songwriter. Actually, he is a man all set to change the world, constantly looking to subvert whatever there is, and constantly talking about what must be. He is the voice of a generation that actually believed poetry had the power to change everything. Politics. History. Literature. Life. Your conscience and mine.
I know. I grew up listening to him. I grew up on poetry that sought to, fought to change the world.
That’s why it seems so funny that Dylan should today suddenly be clobbered with the Nobel Prize for Literature. It’s like dressing Alexander the Great in a Tom Ford suit. Why would you even do that?
Bob Dylan is the quintessential voice of protest. Every word he has written, every song he has sung has questioned the verities of our time, the promises that were never kept. His strength comes from the fact that he takes nothing for granted. Love. Truth. Politics. America’s Holy wars. He makes you stand up and question it all.
He is the ultimate guerrilla of hope.
Poets like Bob Dylan have taught us that the words we write today will take history down new roads tomorrow, that the songs we sing for justice reverberate across centuries. There is a timeless quality to man’s search for truth, peace, justice just as there is a timeless quality to hope. That is what all great poetry is about. The infinite beauty of hope, and passion. That is why the greatest poets protest so loudly against prejudice and injustice.
And whether that protest can actually bring change or not, it can certainly awaken a generation to its role. As it has indeed done in so many parts of the world. And I have been privileged to have lived through those times.
Dylan knows that he speaks for a generation. John Lennon knew that too and died for that. So did Jim Morrison. And Leonard Cohen still voices that, in his own strange way.
Nearer home, there’s Gaddar too. Will anyone give him an award? I seriously doubt it.
But he too, like Dylan, sings of our sorrows, our failures. He, too, sings of the change we must keep fighting for. Relentlessly.
Oh, the leaves began to fallin’
And the seas began to part,
And the people that confronted him were many,
And he was told but these few words,
Which opened up his heart,
‘If ye cannot bring good news, then don’t bring any’
Dylan dedicates his poems to “the rough riders, ghost poets, low-down rounders, sweet lovers, desperate characters, sad-eyed drifters and rainbow angels, those high on life from all ends of the wild blue yonder”. It is a generation he speaks of and speaks to that sought answers from its wild-haired, lost soul heroes.
Not the type of heroes that fly in the sky today. But those who fought the toughest battles with mighty states armed only with the power of words and songs and pictures. And their faith in the power of compassion. And some love.
That is why, decades later, when the world has changed so much, and so has music and literature, I am amazed that the Nobel Prize committee has turned it all around for a troubadour from the past, well past his sell by date, who taught us how to keep protesting till the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

Peace Agreements Not Enough for Sustainable Peace

Wednesday, September 21 marked the International Day of Peace, and as such, it’s worth asking what we should do when the ink of a peace agreement dries up. Is peacemaking only the domain of a few elite personalities and is all well after they put pen to paper?
Take the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty as an example. Signed in 1979, it is the longest-standing peace agreement in the Middle East, lasting now for almost four decades. In his memoirs, Jimmy Carter, who brought together Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, the leaders of Egypt and Israel, at Camp David, recalls showing Begin photographs of his grandchildren. Carter had signed each photograph with the children’s names, but insinuated to Begin that these mementos would mean little if they couldn’t reach a peace agreement: “we talked quietly for a few minutes about grandchildren and about war”. As the popular success story goes, the tactic worked, and Begin agreed to sign the Camp David Accords.
Skillful diplomacy and unshakable commitment also seem to be instrumental in other modern groundbreaking peace agreements. Consider the work of Richard Holbrooke, President Clinton’s special envoy for Bosnia, in diplomatic negotiations between the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia in the 1990s, or even the 37 visits to Northern Ireland that Tony Blair made in preparation of the Good Friday Agreement to end the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
However, when the ink of the elite’s signature on the peace agreement dries, a conflict is not automatically ended nor is the structural violence ended or have the scars of war healed.
The period after the signing of these agreements is the most important period for a possible peace to flourish. It is then that trust building with the aim of renewing a dialogue amongst the different factions and especially between local people affected by the conflict should begin. It sounds so easy, but as we all know from personal experience, building trust is not the same as building water wells; it goes deeper than the depth of the well and trust takes more time to surface.
In the case of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland for instance, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams knew that “The people who have to be the brokers are the people who live in the areas of conflict” and “implementing it is going to be the difficult bit”.
Keeping the peace and allowing it to transform from a ‘mere’ absence of direct violence in a society into a positive form of peace, which creates a society that becomes resilient to internal and external shocks, is a whole other challenge that, in the best possible scenario, takes decades.
So who are the actors that can speak with and for the principal part of the people in conflict- affected countries and who can help generate this resilience? In short, civil society is at the heart of the peacemaking process, before, during and after the signing of a peace agreement. Although it is worrisome to observe that in many societies across the world the space for civil society is shrinking, I believe it is here where the most sustainable progress can be made, as most civil society organizations are firmly embedded within the local populous and really have local ownership.
They are the central actors in what is known as Track II diplomacy, which gives NGOs, churche,s and academia a real say in peace processes, which ideally are multi-track diplomacy processes. I stated back in 2014 that everything in South Sudan “short of inclusive peace talks only stops violence momentarily and serves as a palliative”. Unfortunately, my prediction was proven right, and I think the same applies to Syria and many other conflicts today. In our experience we also find that most people trained in South Sudan on peace negotiations do not even know what the Peace Agreement is all about. Despite the best intentions of (I)NGO’s, civil society was side-tracked too often at crucial points in the South Sudan process for the agreement to become a foundation for peace.
There’s also a key role for civil society in the long-term, not just resolving conflicts, but preventing them in the first place. Envisioning this role requires a new focus on the key characteristics of peaceful countries, rather than merely the absence of violence.
One example of this is the Positive Peace research done by the Institute for Economics and Peace, which defines eight ‘pillars of positive peace’, ranging from equitable distribution of resources and well-functioning government, to low levels of corruption and high levels of human capital.
However, civil society cannot do this by itself. The task is simply too big. The reality is, despite all the rhetoric of the different players, in a complex situation like a conflict setting, no single actor can solve all issues by themselves. Not the military, not diplomats and not even civil society. There is no silver bullet or one single approach. Coordination and cooperation amongst all actors that strive for inclusivity is the key. And this in itself is a complex and major task.
To start this process we can begin by bridging the disconnect between the (donor)elites and local populations/civil society. For this we need bridge-builders. People who are able to speak the different policy languages and are realistic enough about the fact that there are those who sign a peace agreement, but implementing it is a different proposition. Turning signed paper into active peace requires an inclusive and multi-layered approach in which all relevant stakeholders play their role.
As such, from our side, we need to connect more with the people in the conflicts themselves. Talk more with them instead of talking about them at high level meetings, be committed for the long-term, and back this up with appropriate funding and a huge dose of realism on what can be expected in a short period of time.
There is no better time to attempt more creative civil initiatives that combine training, research and on–the-ground work, because there is a clear and widening ‘global democratic deficit’, or in other words, an erosion of the ‘ability of every individual to be able to influence or participate in the decisions that affect their lives’. This deficit is fuelling the growing public frustration not only with sovereign governments, but also with global governance institutions like the U.N. or the E.U. A new approach is urgently needed, because traditional, grand diplomatic treaties are increasingly hard to pull off in the context of globalized political or ideological movements and the interests of non-state actors.
Peacemaking is everyone’s responsibility, and we can reduce that global democratic deficit by ensuring that we participate in different ways in the events that shape our livelihoods.
Sometimes -as one of my teachers said- we should go slow to go fast, and I think we should acknowledge that peace needs time and commit ourselves once again to moving forward past the dried ink towards a sustainable form of peace, at a steady pace and as realistic idealists.

The Most Effective US Presidential Debates

The Presidential debates in US evoke great interest all over the globe. The debate gives an insight into the policies that would be followed by the prospective President and that would affect the economy,trade, security not only of US, but of the whole world.
Ever since the very first televised presidential debates in 1960, these live candidate face-offs have served as some of the most pivotal inflection points of the nation’s elections. While they weren’t repeated again until 1976, they’ve been a staple ever since and most Americans are familiar with the big moments the debates have provided over the past decades — from the striking youthful vitality of John Kennedy to Ronald Reagan’s one-liners and Al Gore’s exaggerated sighs.
There’s a reason why we place such importance on debates, even when the substance of what the candidates say can be easily overshadowed by superficial blunders or theatrical, scripted lines. “They show us things about candidates that other venues do not, but they also sometimes overwhelm everything else we know about a candidate,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss told NBC News.
Think 2008. Do most voters recall anything specific that then-Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain discussed regarding policy? Probably not. But do they might well recall the unfortunate moment when McCain appeared to repeatedly wander in front of the camera, especially since the episode was etched into their consciousness by a subsequent “Saturday Night Live” sketch and on other late night comedy shows.
Still, there are numerous examples of debates having a major impact on either the final results of a presidential race — or the public’s enduring perception of a candidate — sometimes both.
Here are the 10 most memorable examples:
1960 — Kennedy v. Nixon
The first televised presidential debate in U.S. history may also be the most consequential, since it is widely viewed as playing a crucial role in Democrat John F. Kennedy’s victory over Republican Vice President Richard Nixon in that year’s general election.
Political mythology holds that Americans who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon came off better but that Kennedy’s cool, attractive demeanor on television provided a winning contrast to Nixon’s sweaty discomfort. While there were no insta-polls to discern any differing reactions between radio and TV audiences, the visual differences between the two candidates were clear enough.
Few people now recall that, rhetorically, Kennedy ran to Nixon’s right on foreign policy, or that the vice president’s infamously pallid appearance was due to the fact that he initially refused make-up and was on the mend from a hospital stay. The narrative of their debates has become part of American political legend and a cautionary tale for presidential contenders ever since.
1976 — Carter v. Ford
After a 16-year period where there were no televised debates, they made a return for good in 1976. And while the face-offs between Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican President Gerald Ford, weren’t altogether memorable, they did produce a moment which may have significantly impacted the final result.
After maintaining a sizable lead throughout much of the general election, Ford began to close in on Carter in the final weeks of the race. But the president may have squandered some of that momentum by stumbling over a question during their second debate regarding Poland, which he insisted was not under “Soviet domination.” It was, and Ford had to retract his statement, feeding into a perception that he was in over his head. He would narrowly lose to Carter that November.
1980 — Reagan v. Carter
The 1980 election is now probably best remembered for Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory which is credited with spawning a conservative revolution in this country. But the polls were tight and fluctuating as he and President Jimmy Carter entered into their first and only televised debate late in the election. Although there was widespread dissatisfaction with Carter, there were also deep concerns about Reagan’s experience and temperament.
However, not only did Reagan sufficiently convince the American voters that he was up for the job, he devastated the less dynamic Carter with a single one liner (“There you go again”) and a FDR-inspired closing statement (“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”) which the embattled Democratic president never mustered a memorable retort to. Four years later, Reagan would once again demonstrate why it would be a mistake to underestimate “The Gipper.”
1984 — Reagan v. Mondale
Although Reagan had long been the favorite to win re-election in November, his meandering and malapropism-heavy performance in the first televised debate opposite Walter Mondale, briefly gave the Minnesota Democrat and former vice president a boost in the polls. The president’s performance brought renewed focus on his advanced age (Reagan was 73 at the time) and raised questions about how engaged he was in the business of the White House. However, in this pre-24 hour cable news atmosphere, Reagan was able to diffuse the entire controversy with a simple joke: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience
The line was so good, even Mondale couldn’t help but laugh, though he would later concede that he was dying inside because “I knew he had gotten me there.” Reagan would have more gaffes — in the second debate he would accidentally reveal the location of a CIA facility in Central America and giving a closing statement so rambling it needed to be prematurely cut off — but his momentum in the campaign never stalled, and he won in another huge landslide that fall.
1988 — Bush v. Dukakis
The beginning of the end of Michael Dukakis’ once-promising presidential run could be traced back in part to his performance in televised debates opposite then-Vice President George H. W. Bush. His wonky, dispassionate delivery turned off a lot of voters, especially when he was asked an arguably “gotcha” question about whether he would stand by his anti-death penalty position even if his wife were “raped and murdered.”
In the years since, Shaw has stood by his provocative line of questioning and for his part, Dukakis has defended his somewhat robotic response. “I have to tell you, and maybe I’m just still missing it … I didn’t think it was that bad,” he told PBS 16 years later.
1988 — Quayle v. Benson
For Democrats in ’88, perhaps the only real highlight of the election cycle came in the usually uneventful vice presidential debate — where veteran Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen faced off against the youthful (and many argued inexperienced) Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle.
During the debate, Quayle tried to link himself to the legacy of former President John F. Kennedy, and the comparison did not sit well with Bentsen.
“I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy,” said Bentsen, sparking spontaneous raucous applause. While a wounded-looking Quayle pushed back, and a few pundits then and now believed the retort was over the line, voters detected an element of truth in the statement.
And although Quayle would be on the winning ticket in November, his tenure as vice president was sullied by the impression that he was a gaffe-prone upstart — a image which was cemented in on the debate stage. Meanwhile, Bentsen proved so popular that one “faithless” West Virginia elector pledged her support to him in the general election tally, not Dukakis who won the state and technically all its delegates.
1992 — Bush v. Clinton v. Perot
The unusual inclusion of a third party candidate and an eccentric one at that — businessman Ross Perot — insured an even greater level of interest in the 1992 presidential debates. They were also the first to introduce the so-called “town hall” format, which has become a staple of the modern debate series. This format was perceived as especially favorable to then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who had become known for his intense eye contact and physical comfort with voters on the campaign trail.
President George H. W. Bush was on the other hand, much more awkward in these kinds of encounters, as evidenced by his seemingly testy reaction to a question about how the national debt and recession had impacted his life or the lives of anyone close to him.
Perhaps even more damning was a moment came as that very question was being asked, when the president was caught on camera looking at his wristwatch, which only exacerbated the perception that he was indifferent and detached from the concerns of average Americans.
2000 — Gore v. Bush
Although pundits may have argued that Vice President Gore topped then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush on substance, he faltered in terms of style. First, his sighing during Bush’s answers was deemed smug and disrespectful. Then, his aggressiveness — particularly when he appeared to be ready to pounce on Bush physically — was held against him. Bush was able to play the affable foil to the stiff and wonkish Gore.
This year also proved that the expectations game can be just as crucial as debate prep and performance. Prior to their face-to-face meetings. Gore had built up a reputation as a strong and steady debater (having dispatched with Dan Quayle, Jack Kemp and during a highly-rated broadcast of “Larry King Live”, Ross Perot).
Bush, on the other hand, was contending with the image of being an intellectual lightweight, with many experts predicting he would crash and burn. By defying expectations, Bush won, and ever since both major parties have done their best to downplay how their nominee will perform.
2008 — Palin v. Biden
There may be no vice presidential debate before or since that generated more buzz, predominately because of Sarah Palin, the polarizing Alaska governor, who was entering the stage following a series of embarrassing headlines and poorly received interviews, which had raised real questions in voters’ minds about whether she was fit for office. Sen. Joe Biden, himself so stranger to poorly received off-the-cuff remarks, had to also walk a delicate balance, since there was already a heightened sensitivity to sexism in the campaign.
The debate ended up proceeding without major incident — Palin made more than a few factual errors and largely pursued her own talking points instead of answering the moderator’s — but it didn’t undermine the Democrats’ momentum or restore trust in the GOP ticket.
2012 — Obama v. Romney
After a lackluster first debate, President Obama saw his re-election chances in real peril as he headed into his second prime-time sparring match with Republican Mitt Romney. During a back-and-forth over the recent embassy attack in Benghazi, Romney tried to take Obama to task for allegedly not called it a terrorist a tack.
A confident Obama urged moderator Candy Crowley to “get the transcript,” she eventually interjected and confirmed that the president had called the incident an “act of terror.” While some viewers would later accuse Crowley of being in the tank for Obama, the moment exposed the vacuousness of Romney’s attack and played into the Democrats’ narrative that he was dishonest.
A more sure-footed Obama would coast through the third and final debate, winning handily in November.

UNMOGIP: Another Useless Creation of Useless UN

The latest spat between these two one-armed wrestlers (their other hands are on the nuclear button) is another round in a tournament that — if common sense had prevailed — should have ended decades ago. One can think of no two countries since the end of the Second World War in 1945 that have maintained such a state of contest, such a war of words spewing from “the brazen throats of war”.
Two generations on either side of the fractious border have seen 14 Indian prime ministers and 17 elected ones in Pakistan (not counting the interregnums of military opportunists). And yet, both neighbours today stand as far apart as they were on August 1947, when history created what geography deplored.
During all this time, the only link between them that has endured has not been the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, nor the Vajpayee peace initiatives following his bus yatra in 1999, nor the furtive back channels, but UNMOGIP, a cumbersome acronym for the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. Had that body, established in January 1949, been a human, it would have qualified for old-age pension. Instead, it sees itself as a benign, avuncular presence with (like some Pahari raja) a summer home in Srinagar and a winter one in the plains of Islamabad.
Had the been a human it would have qualified for pension.Secondment to UNMOGIP must rank as one of the most comfortable sinecures in the UN. It is certainly the safest. Since its creation, UNMOGIP has suffered only 11 casualties — nine through accidents, two from illness. Its mandate is “to observe and report, investigate complaints of ceasefire violations and submit its finding to each party and to the secretary general”. Such oversight is not cheap. UNMOGIP’s budget for 2016-17 is $21 million.
The recent exchange of fire across the Line of Control roused UNMOGIP from its hibernation. A spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon disclosed that UNMOGIP, despite the Indian government’s claims of surgical strikes in Pakistan, “has not directly observed any firing across the LoC related to the latest incident”.
That is intriguing. If surgical strikes did take place, then why could UNMOGIP find no trace of them? Or was it relying, like the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee searching the skies for the Eid moon, for “directly observed” evidence?
A week ago, war seemed inevitable; today, it is receding into improbability. War, of course, can never be ruled out as an option, for as Georges Clemenceau observed and A.B. Vajpayee demonstrated, “it is easier to make war than peace.”
Perhaps it is not accidental that the prime minister who received Mr Vajpayee in 1999 was the man who is the current prime minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif. Even his detractors will concede that he has reacted to Mr Modi’s provocations with mature restraint. He could have retaliated with equally bombastic rhetoric, but he chose not to. He has been prime minister thrice already. Unlike Mr Modi, he does not need to court re-election. He knows Pakistan’s nuclear capability. He was the man who authorised the first test at Chagai.
Even naïve political pundits must have recognised the palpable difference between political attitudes in India and in Pakistan. In India, all the parties (particularly the Congress) sank their differences and pledged their support to the BJP government. In Pakistan, Mr Imran Khan again reiterated his determination to sink Mr Nawaz Sharif.
Even at the multiparty meeting convened on Oct 3 by the prime minister in a call for national unity, Imran Khan sent Shah Mehmood Qureshi to field for the PTI. Mr Qureshi’s declaration would have been more convincing had Mr Khan not himself decamped for a quick holiday to Nathiagali, and certainly more plausible had Ms Shireen Mazari (the PTI’s feisty spokesperson) not diluted Mr Qureshi’s “faint praise” for Mr Sharif with a damning modification.
What does the future hold for India and Pakistan? One cannot speak for the Indians. It is clear they regard their prime minister as a Pandava — not Arjuna (who avoided unjust acts), or his elder brother Yudhishthira (steadfast even in war), but Bhima, the most aggressive of the five.
One can, however, speak for Pakistan. The Indians must realise that we are not overripe for decimation. Balochistan is not East Pakistan. We are not a troupe of musicians and artistes who can be expelled on a whim. We are a sovereign nation of 200m, capable of more than simple arm-wrestling.