Friday, December 31, 2004
That they have squandered this opportunity -- causing a political vacuum where fanaticism has thrived -- is hardly news. Literature Nobelist V S Naipaul has ably chronicled failures of Iran & Pakistan in his classics Among the Believers and Beyond Belief. In the aftermath of 9/11, others have discussed Saudi Arabia and Egypt extensively.
The most interesting of these is Turkey. While the others have (variously) claimed leadership of the Ummah, Turkey has renounced such aspiration. While the others have (overt & covert) imperialistic aspirations, Turkey (the only one with imperial history) has renounced imperium. While the others have clashed with the West, Turkey wants to join the West.
Turkey also, superficially, resembles India. Both nations aspire to modernity marked by secularism, democracy, and global integration. Still, in a puzzling irony, it is the Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf who claims inspiration from Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk!
To understand the nation better, we asked our Turkish friends for guidance. They recommended Stephen Kinzer's Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds as a primer. We were surprised by what we read, and surprised even more that our friends picked this, patronizing and viciously critical, book as our introduction to Turkey. Our own reaction was not condescension (like Mr Kinzer) but fury.
Turkey appears to be a startling place, a frightened people, and a very disappointing nation. Here "modernity" is enforced by primitive means, educated people fear freedom, and the nation turns its back on its own proud civilization -- even worse, all this is in the name of Kemal Ataturk's legacy.
Being Indian, we are baffled. Whatever Turkey's valid concerns are about centrifugal & radical forces (which ostensibly require suppression of political freedoms), the same exist -- and on a much grander scale -- in India. Yet, India has marched to modernity using modern means. We are a free people (even war-torn Kashmir is rated "partly free", the same as Turkey!), and we treasure our civilization. The Turkish construct of the military as the people's guardian wouldn't stand one moment of intellectual scrutiny in India.
It took India decades to build institutions of democracy and freedom. In Turkey, the only institution of note is the military. In India, people have calibrated their freedom and the consequent political power, through trial and error, over decades. In Turkey, freedom and political power are abstractions which its intelligentsia -- naively -- believes will become widely- shared, concrete realities in a mere 15 years of negotiation with the EU! We don't think this is possible.
We don't think, therefore, that Turkey will be ready to join the EU in time. Absent, independent pressures (e.g., from the U.S.), Turkey's EU accession talks are likely to fail. Why? Because the proposed process of Turkish transition to freedom is way too ambitious, lacks adequate preparation of the Turkish people, therefore is, humanly impossible.
No people can be rushed into freedom -- with its attendant privileges & responsibilities -- by decree. They have to free their own minds, at their own pace. Being mortally afraid of freedom unmasking Turkey's inner, non-European identity, Kemalists and the Generals have, for decades, crushed it -- thereby unmasking Turkey's inner, non-European identity! Now, they naively believe they can reverse course, proclaim freedom, and become European. Wow!
The most shameful is the role played by Turkish intelligentsia -- who have abdicated their responsibility to keep the military in check. Ask any of them, or any young, cosmopolitan, highly educated Turk about the military, and they will rationalize why its role is so important. This is so myopic and politically illiterate as to stagger one's imagination. How did a proud and imperial people, with enormous intellectual and civilizational depth, get reduced to rationalizing military dictatorship? This too, alas, is the legacy of Kemal Ataturk.
When Turkey's EU accession fails, the arrogance of Kemal's century-long dictatorial project to become "European" too would have failed. It is only then, when an angry Turkish people demand accountability and freedom from Kemalists and the military, will Turkey finally begin its real march to a liberal and free Turkish identity, at peace with its history and with its neighbors in Europe.
For the sake of our Turkish friends, we can only hope.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
For another complex view of Mr. Rao, read M J Akbar's The lonely masks of Narasimha Rao .
The last reading we recommend is of a very significant new book, Governance -- this is perhaps the most important book on India we've read in a long time. We are not political allies of the author, Arun Shourie, nevertheless consider his book as essential reading for anyone interested in Indian policy and administrative issues.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
For days we haven't known what to say, then we saw a Kovalam fisherman on TV, wailing unconsolably at the loss of his only son -- a brilliant student in whom the bereaved father's dreams were vested.
We were reminded of the heart-rending film The Sweet Hereafter, based on the eponymous Russell Banks novel, that chronicles a small town's coping with the sudden loss of most of its children in a freak accident. Over time, the grief goes away; what linger are guilt and helplessness and anger. These latter emotions are corrosive to the core -- they can reduce powerful men & women to shells of themselves.
Indians will undoubtedly give generously to our compatriots in their time of trial. But beyond material compensation -- which really is no compensation at all -- lies India's greater long-term responsibility to the survivors: their psychological recovery. There is no doubt that overseas Indians will contribute more themselves than the near $100mm the so-called "rich" nations have pledged so far. We hope, however, that this will not be the only contribution we will make -- that we will, in our own ways, find opportunities to engage over the long-term to help in the very painful coping that is to follow.
For Sri Lanka and Maldives, we fear even greater sorrows than India will endure. We hope that India is just as generous with these neighbours as it will be for its own people. We already know it has formed a coalition with US, Japan, and Australia to coordinate the global relief effort -- which should be, and will likely be, the largest in human history.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
His book is hardly great literature, nor even consistently written -- it is a fascinating read nevetheless, because it chronicles the rise of a humble Indian to Prime Ministership. In his world, genuine democrats and idealists jostle with venal politicians and amoral interest groups. We all know the darkness of Indian (& democratic) politics; the book is revelatory in shining a spotlight on how people of character can still survive this morass -- and can do good. It also effectively counters Western historians like Paul Johnson who dismisses Indian democracy in his othewise fascinating book Modern Times.
PVNR did a lot of good. As his book chronicles, he was a socialist -- but with a ground level understanding of agricultural economics and, through scholarship, of global economics. His intellectual struggles with ideology (as a young & crusading land reform Minister) adumberated what he would do as Prime Minister. He opened Indian economy to the world, re-engaged with America, formally recognized Israel, and opened diplomatic avenues to East and South-East Asia.
When Rajiv Gandhi was felled, we were a young student at Columbia University. At a crisis meeting organized by the Department of South Asian Studies, the mood of learned academics and most Indians in the audience was gloomy -- they felt India would now surely fall apart absent a towering personality holding it together. PVNR, hardly a towering figure in his life, made fools of all those pessimists. When India emerges as a great power, the world will look to the early 90s under PVNR's leadership as a fundamental reason why. This will be his towering legacy. Rest in Peace, Narasimha Rao ji.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
If this is so, and there appears to be video and other circumstantial evidence verifying this, then this matter is no longer about the pogrom, Best Bakery, or Zaheera Sheikh. This is now about India's smarmy political process directly challenging India's legal system -- afterall, it was a Supreme Court intervention, in light of Gujarat's inability to provide justice in this case, to transfer the case out-of -state to Mumbai so that Ms. Sheikh could testify without fear of reprisals. Because threats now became untenable, the ideological allies of the alleged killers have apparently taken to bribes.
Now, the court's credibility is at stake. Unless truth is fully revealed here, and all people who have attempted to tamper with the judicial process brought under the severest possible sanction, India's people will understand that even their courts (with all their best intentions) cannot give them justice -- because they are weaker than the smarmy politicians. This would be a singular tragedy -- and the end of our faith in this Indian republic.
We hope that all Indians -- regardless of political affiliation -- will see this matter now as seriously as we have. We are all in trouble if this brazen travesty of justice is allowed to continue.
Monday, December 20, 2004
While no e-commerce service provider can possibly police all transactions on its website -- rather, it can undertake to stop any illegal activity brought to its attention -- it can, and should be made to, monitor and disallow activities that exceed pre-defined red lines.
For example, if stolen goods are being peddled via Bazee.com, an after the fact curb on the activity (i.e. after some transactions have occured) still suffices because the perpetrators can be traced, and victims can be recompensed. In other instances that clearly transgress all possible redlines -- e.g. peddling of child pornography or solictation of murder -- after the fact curbs are insufficient -- because the victims can never be recompensed. Here, the only available approach is to curb the activity before any transaction is listed, or completed.
There is no reason to believe that technology does not exist to achieve this. If e-commerce service providers still offer lame excuses against even this basic requirement, then it's clear they place their profit needs ahead of even the most compelling of State and Societal interests. This is unacceptable.
Firstly, lets all agree that child pornography is an inexcusable crime. The perpetrators deserve the toughest punishment they can get.
In this posting, we will concern ourselves solely with whether a service provider, like Bazee.com, can be held responsible for the violations of its users. Since the early days of the Internet, service providers have often been sued for the illegal actions of their users, in particular, copyright infringement, defamation and pornography. The US legal system has probably spent the most time studying the issues and parsing out the many nuances. While we do not argue that US laws apply to India, we do not throw out good ideas simply because they’re “not invented here”. Assuming the US laws and precedents would apply in India, Bazee.com would not be held liable for the actions of its users, unlike Napster.
There are two key issues governing this area of the law:
1. “Service Providers” have statutory immunity for violations of their users, if they follow certain conditions.
2. To hold them liable, service providers must be found have “knowledge and material contribution” to the violations.
To facilitate healthy development of Internet-based communication and commerce Congress passed two laws: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Thereafter, the US courts have fleshed out the laws in many precedent-setting cases.
Some key points:
· "The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) carves out a safe harbor for internet service providers who can meet certain criteria regarding material stored and displayed on the provider's website. The service provider must lack actual or constructive knowledge of the infringement. The service provider must not receive a direct financial benefit from the infringement, and must not have the right to control that activity. Finally, the service provider must act promptly to remove the infringing material when it is properly notified."(Ebay Case)
· Ebay meets the requirements of a “service provider” (Hendrickson vs. Ebay)
· "In the eBay case, the online auctioneer argued that it could not be held responsible for copyright infringement as a result of sales of the "Manson" documentary because Hendrickson had not notified eBay properly according to the terms of the DMCA. The court agreed. "(Gigalaw - Ebay)
· No ISP "shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." (NOLO.com)
· "Another user, offended by the child pornography solicitations, sued AOL, claiming that the ISP had a duty to make sure that the service did not facilitate the distribution of child pornography. A court ruled that AOL was exempt from the claim under the CDA." (NOLO.com)
· Libraries found similar protection too. "There is a crucial distinction between providing minors with harmful matter on the one hand, and maintaining computers where minors may obtain such matter, however easily, on the other," (Gigalaw - Library)
So, why was Napster held liable for the copyright infringement of its users, and how is that different from other similar cases?
· Napster "knowingly encourages and assists its users to infringe the record companies’ copyrights and Napster materially contributes to the infringing activity"... and "has a direct financial interest in its users’ infringing activity and retains the ability to police its system for infringing activity.” (Napster - summary)
· But a similar service, Grokster, was held to be non-infringing. “If some of the uses infringe, but many of the uses do not, it would not be proper to enjoin the sale of the photocopiers completely. Such an injunction would deprive the public of the benefits of a useful invention.” Examples are the VCR and the photocopier. ( Napster, Grokster )
· “...the standard for a defendant to be found liable for contributory infringement is as follows: (1) knowledge of and (2) material contribution to the direct infringement.”
· Meets the requirements of a “service provider” (like ISPs, Phone companies)
· Has “substantial non-infringing uses” (like VCR, Photocopier)
· Was not a material contributor to the infringement (unlike Napster)
Without new laws, who else could the Indian police go after: the data center that hosts Bazee.com or the ISP that provides internet access, or the fiber owners that wire up the country? Could we possibly even see, say, Mr. Ambani in jail? And what tech entrepreneur would want to develop solutions in a country where the powers-that-be would jump on you simply because some idiot out there inadvertently (or even worse, maliciously) abuses your service?
The Indian communications industry must lobby the Parliament to pass laws to protect service providers, albeit with appropriate provisions and requirements that protect the public interest. A high bar must be established to avoid frivolous persecution of service providers. And free Mr. Bajaj right away, with due apologies.
Anything short of it will cause irreparable harm to a country that aims to hitch its wagon to the IT star.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Mr. Bajaj is an Indian-born American with links to ebay -- needless to say, his arrest has provoked even Ms. Condoleezza Rice to intervene, seeking his safety while in judicial custody.
Many are outraged by this arrest, calling it a witchhunt. They argue that Bazee.com was not party to these illegal transactions, and that it removed the offending content from its site as soon as it was made aware of it. While the latter may be true, we beg to strongly disagree that this is a witchhunt.
First, this is about child pornography -- not about offensive, if otherwise legal,.content. The State has a compelling interest is ensuring that such grievous offences against its citizens are not allowed to go on. All investigation pursuant to this interest are entirely legitimate.
Second, Bazee.com argues that it is merely a communication channel -- much like the telephone -- where third parties conduct business. These third parties are made aware of a code of conduct which specifically bars trade of illegal content. Any legal culpability, therefore, falls on these third parties -- not on Bazee.com.
In light of the compelling Napster rulings in the US, this argument is prima facie absurd. In Napster, it was ruled that the service, which enabled illegal copying of intellectual property on its servers, was itself liable -- even though it wasn't itself copying such material. Napster was subsequently shut down.
The Bazee.com case is much like Napster -- and not like, say, when China or France tries to blame Yahoo! for "objectionable" expression. Free speech is legal, at least, in India and the US, and one could make a political defense of it even in China and France. What possible defense can be made for child pornography?
Because this case appears to us more like Napster than Yahoo, we strongly feel Bazee.com is, at least, party to the case -- and cannot claim immunity merely because it was neither the buyer nor seller of the pornography.
We are also amused by the parallel's made by Bazee.com to the telephone or the mail system. We personally know something about internet businesses and marketplaces -- the central value proposition there has always been that these "new new things" are "game changing" in nature. Sceptics have been told that they don't "get it". Well, if so, and we agree this is so, then to fall back on lame comparison to telephone and mail does not befit the "new new crowd".
Finally, Avnish Bajaj is in judicial custody. Whether or not he would have sought "buzz" this way (likely not, but who knows -- this is what's being investigated), his portal has nevetheless derived enormous publicity from this kerfuffle -- and likely spikes in website traffic. All this "gain" would have come, even if inadvertently, on the back of an exploitative video clip of children -- of which Bazee.com has become an unlikely beneficiary. If Mr. Bajaj is to be detained for a few days so that India can do its job of ferreting out the truth, is it really so damaging? If we were him, we would be more concerned about devising ways to prevent future similar episodes through better monitoring of what transpires on his website, than trying to bring pressure from the US Government to safeguard his well-being. Let law take its own course -- we have argued this for Shankaracharya and we do again for Mr. Bajaj.
And while we are at it, we suggest that the US Government tread very carefully -- this is not a routine issue, afterall US has long shown profound concern about the global menace of child pornograhy, and here too that is the more central issue, not the few days of inconvenience for Mr. Bajaj. If US were to prefer Mr. Bajaj's well-being over the children damaged by this episode, its credibility on the issue will stand badly damaged.
Note: We don't know Mr. Bajaj, but read that he is a fellow IITan. At a personal level, we hope the investigation will reveal that he has done everything above board, that he is an honorable man horrified by how his website has been misused, and that he is committed to preventing similar horrors from ever being transacted on his website.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Is it that we live in a more political time than before -- or more egotistic -- or are these things the same, or that the impulse has always been with us, only it is much easier now to find a soapbox?
In Kundera's astonishing The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is the following discussion that has our attention. We have abbreviated and lightly edited it without (hopefully) losing its essence.
Kundera runs into a Paris taxi driver who tells him he is writing a book.
Why? Is it for your children? A family chronicle?
My kids don't give a damn, he responds. No, I think I can do a lot of people a lot of good.
From this Kundera derives a profound insight about a writer's concerns. They write because their kids don't give a damn. They turn to an anonymous world because their spouses stop up their ears when they talk to them.
Then Kundera defines a Graphomaniac. A woman who writes four love letters a day is not one. A man who xeroxes his, so he can publish them someday, is. Graphomania is not the desire to write for oneself or one's near and dear one's; rather it is the desire to write books or have a public of unknown readers. In this sense, Kundera writes, Goethe and the Parisian taxi driver share the same passion. What distinguishes them is the result of their passion, not the passion itself.
Graphomania becomes a public epidemic when:
1. a high degree of general well-being exists that people can turn to useless activity
2. a high degree of social atomization exists, leading to a general feeling of isolation in individuals
3. a radical absence of significant social change in the internal development of a nation exists (on this he cites the statistic that in France, where nothing really happens, the percentage of writers is 21 times higher than in Israel !!)
It is the absence of content, a void, that impels writers to write -- the effect causing a flashback to the cause. If general isolation produces Graphomania, then Graphomania in turn reinforces and aggrevates general isolation. The invention of printing initially enhanced mutual understanding. In the era of Graphomania, writing has the opposite effect: everyone surrounds themselves with their own writing as with a wall of mirrors cutting out all voices from without.
If Kundera is right, why then do people blog? What explains the popularity of this impulse? Hmmm.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Anyways, we have just completed reading Steve Coll's terific book called
Ghost Wars . He is Managing Editor of Washington Post and a past South Asia correspondent -- so his views on the Afghan matters are highly credible.
He writes here of CIA's secret wars through the 80s and 90s all the way upto September 10, 2001. The players in the story are shown struggling with complex and even, nuanced, politico-legal realities as they wage war on a Saudi renegade in South Asia -- what was long to America, a dusty backwater of world politics.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia come out terribly. India has a marginal role here but Mr. Coll laments why a democratic India with similar concerns about Al Qaeda was sidelined in the favor of a widely distrusted Pakistan. The reason is the same why Ahmed Shah Massod was basically ignored in Washington -- except by some in CIA's Operational Directorate. Cold War ties and suspicions have long shadows that shape America policymaker perceptions to this day.
If only this wasn't the case.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
We have friends in NRI America who share Ms. Singh's views. To them, the real scandal is less that fellow Indians were burnt alive in Gujarat -- rather they are offended by, what they perceive, hysterical anti-India screeds by liberal journalists and academics. This loss of perspective is obviously preposterous. Even if their criticisms of these journalists are right, are these not merely sideshows to the real tragedy of Gujarat?
He then logically asks us:
If journalistic shenanigans are merely a sideshow, then why are you wasting "blog-inches" on what is a sideshow in a sideshow (journalists on journalist ethics in relation to the Gujarat riots) ? ... Is it not an implicit admission that the characterization of what happened in Gujarat is as important as what actually happened ?
We dare not minimize the importance of journalists' characterization of explosive situations like Gujarat -- and where they err, deliberately or otherwise, they should be called out. But journalist bias (which is sadly legion in India) cannot be turned into a useful crutch to divert attention from the undeniable core fact that our fellow Indians were charred to death in Gujarat.
We have contempt for jihadists and their liberal enablers when they talk up "root causes" for terrorism because these are mere distractions from the acts of violence perpetrated in their name. Does our rejection of the "root cause" argument negate the issues surrounding these causes? Certainly not -- but we are unprepared to cut terrorists any slack on account of them. Further, unless the "root cause" communities abjure violence fully, their cause fades to black.
It's the same here. As long as the monsters of Gujarat are able to evade justice, how can we give credence to things like Atal ji astonishing "root cause" question in Parliament:
But who set the fire first? (referring to the train lynching in Godhara)
and Tavleen Singh's "shoot the messenger" question in Indian Express:
What it is about is the number of magazines and NGOs that have thrived on maligning India for being a country as fundamentalist as our Islamic neighbors. Is it not time to ask where their funds come from?
Our blog-inches in this matter reflect our rage that India continues to fail the victims of Gujarat while the best among us are wasting time arguing about secondary issues.
Friday, December 03, 2004
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Dec. 3 on a visit to India, while Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is making a stopover in Washington to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush. Moscow's moves to counter the possible loss of Ukraine to U.S. influence could affect the situation in southwest Asia and the Indo-Pakistani region. The Cold War chessboard could be resurrected if the United States and Russia seek to engage in a geopolitical game, and the regional actors will have a chance to advance their national interests.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
As our readers know, we have little regard for radical Islamists. We support the ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We oppose any concessions in Kashmir to Pakistan or to its jihadist allies.
We are also firmly of the political right -- thus, hardly co-travelers of Arundhati Roy style left-wing nonsense.
BUT, we are not bigots. This means we recognize that the Gujarat horror is a blot on India -- and cannot be swept aside so that we can all pretend all's well in India. The greatness of India is not that she doesn't err -- it is that she makes amends, always. For this, we need to know the truth without caring for hurt feelings of people like Ms. Tavleen Singh. Facing up to ugly truth is not maligning our nation -- it is the necessary first step to prevent future infamy.
We have friends in NRI America who share Ms. Singh's views. To them, the real scandal is less that fellow Indians were burnt alive in Gujarat -- rather they are offended by, what they percieve, hysterical anti-India screeds by liberal journalists and academics. This loss of perspective is obviously preposterous. Even if their criticisms of these journalists are right, are these not merely sideshows to the real tragedy of Gujarat?
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Clearly India-China relations are on an upswing -- this is to be applauded. Still, lets keep things in perspective, shall we. While Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister of China, is an important man, he is not Hu Jintao. Mr. Hu, a cursory Google search reveals, travels to countries like US, Russia, France, and even Kazakhstan while India appears relegated to trips by Mr. Wen.
Perhaps we are wrong on this but shouldn't we hold off on our breathless applause? Just asking.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
It is worthwhile asking at this stage what purpose the UN really serves. Being long-time cynics about the role of the UN, we have been struck by the fawning for the UN in Indian media.
Two Indian Express opinion-essays buck this trend. This is why they are important.
Does the UN matter?
How to deal with the gang in New York
Update: After reviewing the blue-ribbon proposals, The Statesman concludes India shortchanged in UN overhaul report
This should neither come as a surprise nor does it matter very much in the real world.
Monday, November 29, 2004
Brazil's government received approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency to produce enriched uranium. President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva insists the country's revived nuclear development programs will be used for only peaceful purposes, with substantial technological assistance from strategic partners such as Russia, China and India. However, within a decade Brazil likely will try to build a nuclear weapon.
Counter-terrorism may be the flavor of the day, but great-power rivalries remain the principal drivers of long-term geopolitics. These battles are always best fought far from home -- in this case in America's back yard. Our neighborhood-rival Pakistan is not oblivious to this. Not surprisigly Musharraf meets Brazil president today.
"The leadership vacuum created by the sad demise of (Palestinian) President (Yasser) Arafat can only be filled by Osama Bin Laden and (Taliban leader) Mullah (Mohammad) Omar, the real leaders that are the only dedicated individuals with the mass support of the Muslim world."
How can India even contemplate a peace process with a nation where the likes of General Gul are legion? See our previous thinking on this subject here: Kashmir
Also, Ashish is hosting this week's Carnival of the Vanities . Please nominate interesting posts that merit inclusion there.
Sounds intriguing. Indian defence planners have apparently even indicated interest in procuring the Patriot Missiles.
In this context, we are reminded of this February 2004 story on CBS' 60 Minutes (The Patriot Flawed?), which questioned the effectiveness of Patriot Missiles. We hope the issues raised here will be fully investigated before India agrees to purchase this missile system. We strongly favor Indo-US defence cooperation, but not a blind purchase of possibly ineffective military systems.
Relevant excerpts follow:
(Former Congressional investigator) Joseph Cirincione says the Army has known the Patriot had serious problems since at least 1991, when Congress appointed him to lead an investigation of the Patriot's performance in the first Gulf War, a performance that had looked spectacular on network news programs.
But it turns out, that wasn’t true. Almost none of the Patriots had worked. Some of them had failed to hit the incoming Scuds. Some had shot at missiles that didn't even exist. But most of them still exploded in the sky, leading everyone to believe they'd scored a kill, when in fact they hadn’t. “The best evidence that we found supports between two and four intercepts out of 44,” says Cirincione. “About a 10 percent success rate.” Cirincione said the Army responded angrily to his findings: “The Army insisted that they knew they had some problems with the Patriot, but it didn't serve any purpose to make these public. We would just be aiding the enemy. And that they would take care of it in the course of normal product improvement.”
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Top cops knew ex-Cong MP Ehsan Jafri was burning, his friend had sent out SOS
To us the issue goes beyond the horrific crimes outlined above. This is fundamentally about the nature of Indian citizenship and that of Indian institutions. If a citizen -- an ex-Member of Parliament at that -- can be lynched so brazenly, apparently with the knowledge of the police, how does any other citizen know he/she is safe?
Some may take comfort in the fact that the victims were minorities, and that, mercifully, they aren't. This would be a cynical and profoundly incorrect interpretation of the issue. First, regardless of their minority status, India's Muslims were born here, their parents and grandparents were born here, and their ancestors lived, died and are buried in India's earth. This alone gives them an equal citizenship -- and a right to equal protections -- as any other Indian. Second, we are all minorities in one way or the other -- some based on caste, others on language, and the rest in countless other ways.
Can we be lynched tomorrow for being, say, Brahmins, or Oriya speakers, or NRIs? Would Indians not sharing our specific minority attribute be morally justified in looking away? Can our police ignore SOS calls from us because they speak Tamil and we Bengali? Or because we have lived in New York and they all their life in New Delhi? Where does this madness stop?
Friday, November 26, 2004
In this discussion, he quotes from a August 25th, 1952 letter from Pt. Nehru to Sheikh Abdullah:
We are superior to Pakistan in military and industrial power. But that superiority is not so great as to produce results quickly in war or by fear of war. Therefore, our national interest demands that we should adopt a peaceful policy towards Pakistan and, at the same time, add to our strength. Strength ultimately comes not from defence forces, but the industrial and economic background behind them. As we grow in strength, and we are likely to do so, Pakistan will feel less and less inclined to threaten or harass us, and a time will come when, through sheer force of circumstances, it will be in a mood to accept a settlement which we consider fair, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere.
His sentiments are obviously widely shared -- today, 52 years later.
In our view, India is not merely superior to Pakistan in military and industrial power, it is also superior as a political system. While the former allow us to dictate a solution, it is the latter that gives us the moral basis to do so.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Pfizer Inc. said Tuesday that it planned to vigorously defend its best-selling Lipitor drug against claims by an Indian generic-drug manufacturer that it can market its own version of the cholesterol-lowering medication.
Pfizer will square off against Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. next Tuesday in federal district court in Delaware, where Ranbaxy's attorneys will challenge Pfizer's patents on Lipitor, the world's top-selling drug, which generated sales of more than $9 billion this past year.
Pfizer had filed legal briefs seeking to dismiss the suit but was denied. The case is a significant one for Pfizer because of the huge success of Lipitor, the drug of choice among many of the world's physicians to lower cholesterol.
The Wall Street Journal said in a story in Tuesday's edition that analysts have called the Pfizer challenge by the generic drugmaker a long shot, but that if it prevailed it would send shock waves throughout the pharmaceutical industry.
The story is here: http://www.nationalreview.com/issue/editors200411240800.asp
A UN-insider friend of this blog describes some of what's been happening under Mr. Annan's watch as real nasty creepy stuff. That's the understatement of the year.
See Michelle Malkin's blog for more details.
The sooner Mr. Annan goes, the better.
'Sustainable development is nonsense'
Here, Leon Louw, an African libertarian says the following to Sauvik Chakraverti:
What is your view on 'sustainable development'?
It is nonsense. The world 'sustainable' has no intelligible meaning. Sustainable for how long and for whom, we are never told. Development is sustainable. What is not is the absence of development. Without development, people will, in fact, starve and the environment will be destroyed. The most developed countries are the ones with the cleanest air, the cleanest rivers, the least human suffering, the best conservation of nature, and the least endangered species.
We could not agree more. The conventional wisdom of leftist environmental activists needs to be directly challenged and defeated.
Two points need to be made here. First, India's principal "soft power" export appears to be C-grade cinema -- this is hardly the makings of a great power. Second, to the extent our cinema represents our culture overseas, what does it say about us if it is driving people to kill themselves?
Vaclav Havel is this year's winner of the Gandhi Peace Prize.
We have long endorsed the idea of Bill Clinton for Secretary General for his political skills and pragmatism. We are, however, intrigued by the idea of Mr. Havel for this position.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Among the major economic problems confronting China, two are particularly difficult.
The problem that has lately received most attention and concern is actually the less difficult of the two. The second is not only more difficult, but also has been largely ignored in public discussion.
The easier problem is the so-called "overheated" Chinese economy, and the worry that the "bubble" may burst with serious consequences for Asia and the world economy.
The problem that is more difficult to resolve springs from a dilemma presented by two economic objectives both of which are of crucial importance for China's future: sustaining a high rate of economic growth and also generating ample job opportunities for large numbers of unemployed and underemployed workers. For political and social as well as economic reasons achieving a high rate of job creation is no less important than is sustaining a high rate of GDP growth.
Although the two objectives are usually viewed as compatible and even mutually reinforcing, there is a fundamental tension between them. This tension arises because of the two-sided effects of rising labor productivity ...
.. while China's economy was growing at the highest annual growth rate, 7.8%, of any of the world's principal economies, its increase in employment was only 1% annually.
The mix of Hindi and English is the language of the street and the college campus, and its sound sets many parents' teeth on edge. It's a bridge between two cultures that has become an island of its own, a distinct hybrid culture for people who aspire to make it rich abroad without sacrificing the sassiness of the mother tongue. And it may soon claim more native speakers worldwide than English.
Indeed, David Crystal, a British linguist at the University of Wales, recently projected that at about 350 million, the world's Hinglish speakers may soon outnumber native English speakers.
Stratfor analyzes this action thus:
The U.S. Embassy in India issued a statement saying the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai would be closed Nov. 23 after threats of possible attacks. The warning lacked specifics, and considering that most militant activity in India has been away from centers of U.S. interests, the closure and warning are likely a precautionary, proactive measure.
This is likely related to the arrival of Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Delhi -- a "good" time to draw attention from a terrorist point of view.
These politicians and police officers were apparently in close, and frequent, contact with mob leaders -- even as the mobs they led were torching entire communities. They have blood on their hands.
In its lead editorial today, Indian Express asks why is it that Gujarat police has not undertaken the exercise the newspaper has?
1. The movement's core values are freedom and equality -- neo-conservatives seek an equilibrium where both values co-exist without diminishing the other
- Freedom to suppress equality (e.g. Afghanistan under Taliban) is unacceptable
- Equality that curtails freedom (e.g. Cambodia under Khmer Rouge) is unacceptable
2. The movement aspires to shape the world around its values
- These values have moral roots and universal meaning
- Political and social systems that do not share these values are a threat
3. The movement advocates assertive diplomacy where possible, and force where necessary, for shaping the world around its values
- Soviet Union was brought down principally through assertive diplomacy
- Baathist Iraq was brought down through force
Monday, November 22, 2004
One paragraph caught our eye:
Some experts hold out the hope that Iran, if it became a nuclear power, could yet evolve in somewhat the same way India has- from a one-time international agitator to a nuclear power taking its position seriously and demonstrating stronger interests in regional stability.
Meanwhile, Israeli website Debkafile discusses how, if at all, US or Israel might try to destroy Iran's capabilities.
We hope Iran keeps its capabilities recessed -- if not, a nuclear Tehran would give Pakistan one more rationale to maintain/augment its nuclear capability. This cannot be good for India -- or the world.
We think the UN is an unwieldy and amoral anachronism that's best disbanded. Short of that, radical reform is the only way to salvage what little credibility it has left.
Resources for the Future, a credible American Think Tank, has now published a book spelling out similar policy options on energy and environment.
The book is reviewed by Gregg Easterbrook in The New Republic.
First, here is a Mr. Easterbrook briefly describing the Think Tank and why it is credible:
The think tank was founded in 1952 by the Ford Foundation, which charged it with warning the world about the coming exhaustion of petroleum and other primary resources. Instead Resources for the Future researchers concluded there was plenty of everything, and swam against the 1960s doomsday-chic tide by saying so.
Then the organization got interested in improved environmental protection using market-based ideas. Its triumph was the 1991 Clean Air Act revisions that created an allowance-trading program for acid rain reduction. Since 1991 acid rain has declined spectacularly--that's why you never hear about it anymore--and the trading system designed by Resources for the Future is the reason.
With this history, here are their key recommendations:
1. Higher taxes on gasoline or on any carbon-containing (fossil) fuel
2. Tradable higher federal miles-per-gallon standards on vehicles
3. A carbon-allowance trading system modeled on the acid-rain trading system
In my library I have a guide to the Kabul museum dating from the 1970s ... richly illustrated with pictures of Afghan art and artifacts dating back thousands of years.
These works of art had been preserved for centuries, but the 20th century, as was its wont, put an end to them. They disappeared around the time the Red Army arrived, presumably looted in the chaos of those times, or in the years following the withdrawal when the country was wracked with factional fighting.
Yet, recently something remarkable happened. The Afghan artifacts reappeared.
The story of the survival of the artifacts begins with the Afghan tradition of the talwildar, the key-holder, a person who assumes responsibility to safeguard valuables ... Many of the original key-holders and witnesses died or disappeared, but their relatives assumed the responsibility. Any box of these art treasures would have brought a fortune if smuggled out to the west; yet through war, poverty, chaos and oppression the key-holders and their successors discharged their duties to their country and their honor, waiting for a time when they felt it was safe enough for the boxes to reemerge.
Under the circumstances they had to live through, it is astonishing. One wonders how American society would fare given the same test.
Person 1: In what way is the VHP politicising the issue? Is not the arrest itself a political act? Has anyone asked the DMK how they have the gumption to ask for the arrest of the Shankaracharya but sit with murderers and other criminals in the cabinet in Delhi? By not asking this simple question, has not the media itself allowed itself to be part of the politicisation of the whole event?
Person 2: True, the timing and the manner in which the Seer was arrested leaves us baffled about the political intent, but nobody is ready to take a mileage of this episode yet, even the DMK is very cautious to take advantage of this. Only the VHP and BJP are all out to invent a new issue on which they could capture the Indian mind. BJP is gambling big on this for its own existence. If their interpretation of the arrest of the Seer as a politically motivated challenge against Hinduism has been established, some of them involved in the Babri Masjid case will use this immensely for their legal and political battle ...
... The issue whether the arrest should be interpreted as a slap on Hinduism, and whether the Shankaracharya represents Hindu mind is diabolic. It is a slap on the autocratic style of Mutt Management, which has come under serious criticism from Hindu liberal
... This case will throw a lots of issues in the public which may lead to the reforming of religious institutions: be it Hindu, Muslim and Christian. This is the need of the hour and I will look it from the institutional perspective rather than religious perspective. Like the Harshad Mehta episode, which has initiated the Stock market reforms in India, this issue will greatly support the reformation of religious institutional management in India.
Person 3: I would like to take this opportunity to refer to the murder of the CEO of Banco Ambrosiano in Italy in the 1980s where his wife alleged high level Vatican complicity in that murder. A high ranking Buddhist prelate organized the murder of Bandaranaike, the father of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, in 1959. A monk carried out the actual assassination. These incidents cause pain in the minds of the faithful and devout. The Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram is no exception. I liked him for his social activist agenda and his concern for the downtrodden. His possible involvement in a murder case saddened me.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
What is a "root cause" anyway? What's its nature?
Typically, the "root cause" is political. In Kashmir, for example, the "root cause" is about map making. In response to not getting their way politically , the jihadis have taken to terrorism.
Setting aside the immorality of a violent response to a non-violent disagreement, lets oblige our moderate Muslim friends and examine Kashmir's "root cause" via a thought experiment.
Lets assume that there was no jihadi violence -- and no Indian military response to it. Lets also assume that Pakistan was not involved in fomenting violence in Kashmir.
Would India then be morally obliged to grant Kashmiris their right to "self-determination"? This is the real heart of the matter. The debate over terrorism is distraction from this -- a useful distraction some might argue, but nothing more.
India's answer to this question must not rely on technical issues like the Maharaja's accession letter or Pt. Nehru's Security Council commitments. The answer lies in India's concern for its security, and its responsibility to the world.
If Kashmir were to become independent, or autonomous, it would likely evolve into a dysfunctional State, much like Pakistan and Bangladesh. This India cannot accept, and the world cannot afford. There can never be a new religion-motivated State in India's sphere of influence, nor an Islamic State within the Secular Indian State. If self-determination is to be sacrificed to prevent these outcomes, then so be it.
Not all political ideas are equal. India, for example, is a superior political idea than Pakistan. Kashmiris cannot be given the right to choose a worse political system than one they have as constituents of India. Since the "root cause" of terrorism is the desire of some Kashmiris to mimic Pakistan, there is no favorable resolution to this. Even if 100% of Kashmiris were to choose to become like Pakistan (a scenario we know is absurd), such a wish cannot be granted.
No people have the freedom to choose chaos for themselves. This is the hard reality and should end the "root cause" discussion.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Unfortunately, the religious-right has decided to make this a political issue. The VHP now alleges that Mrs. Gandhi (being Christian) is part of a conspiracy against the Hindu seer.
Mr. Advani has even launched a three-day protest against the seer's arrest. His BJP calls this arrest an assault on religion.
When will the VHP and BJP realize that most Hindus couldn't care less about their divisive politics? The more hysterical the religious-right gets, the farther away it drives the very constituency it claims to champion.
New York Times' Nicholas Kristof writes today of an interesting Chilean experiment where large contributions (> $500) are channeled via blind trusts. This creates a situation where:
If officials don't know who their major contributors are, they can't invite them to ... (for example) write tax loopholes. A donor might boast about having made a contribution, but special interests will realize they can save money by telling politicians that they have donated when they haven't, and then politicians will doubt these boasts.
Ordinarily, we favor transparency, but this concept has us intrigued.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Stratfor, a private and terrific intelligence shop, has this to say today:
Unrest appears to be on the rise in China (or the media is finally paying more attention). Beijing has been unable to contain or control the economy, the banking system remains seriously flawed and bubbles are growing throughout the economy. What is the breaking point for Beijing? Will the country's economic collapse follow the Japanese model of slow burn? Does China have the underlying social stability to withstand a long, drawn out economic decline?
This is a situation worth keeping an eye on. The implications for India are obvious.
This idea is correct. Given the absence of real democracy all around India, it is worth pondering if it shouldn't be India's objective as well to persuade and, if necessary force, our neighbors into political modernity.
Atal ji once said that nations cannot choose neighbors -- this was his rationale for "peace" with the Pakistani establishment. Could he have been more wrong? Why should strong nations have to accept their environment as a given? This is a reactive worldview.
Instead, strong nations should pro-actively enforce their democratic political standards on their neighbors. This is the only path to lasting peace.
The summary follows:
India, a rare democracy in the third world, is widely perceived to be a political success, despite its economic failures. India's poor choice of economic policies, however, has a political motivation. Getting elected has required targeting tangible spoils to an increasingly well-organized, but fractured, electorate. Political patronage was the stimulus for interventionist economic management, eventually producing massive fiscal deficits. When the danger of defaulting on foreign debt became a reality in 1991, the country's leadership began to reevaluate the flawed economic policies without considering the flawed system of governance that accompanied and sustained the policy matrix. Patronage politics spawned corruption; money, muscle, or influence propelled public services and government, making the system of public administration as incompatible with liberalism as the system of economic regulation. Political and administrative imperatives impelled the country to economic policies that failed. Economic reform will not be complete until the underlying administrative imperatives are transformed by accountable governance.
The secular right view is long overdue in Indian public dialogue. We don't need the false choices offered by the hard left and the hard right. Why can't politicians live without a conflict between the head and the heart, just like the rest of us?
Our enemies understand the long-term strategic efforts of the United States far better than do our own dissidents. They know that oil is not under U.S. control but priced at all-time highs, and that America is not propping up despotism anymore, but is now the general foe of both theocracies and dictatorships — and the thorn in the side of "moderate" autocracies. An America that is a force for democratic change is a very dangerous foe indeed. Most despots long for the old days of Jimmy Carter's pious homilies, appeasement of awful dictatorships gussied up as "concern" for "human rights," and the lure of a Noble Prize to ensure nights in the Lincoln bedroom or hours waiting on a dictator's tarmac.
Our sentiments exactly.
In "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" Milan Kundera famously asked "Muss es sein" (must it be so?) and answered "Es muss sein" (it must be so). This logic applies here as well.
Ahead of the election, we thought that the Bush revolution (re-ordering the world) is highly favorable to India -- but that because it likely was already irreversible, Mr. Kerry might well be the right man to bring the world together in a new (pro-India) configuration. We were wrong as we now realize.
The Bush revolution cannot be complete unless it has changed not only the world outside America, but also the world within. The status quo, of which Washington's bureaucracy is the keeper, has to be fully shattered -- absent which, like lilies in a pond, the old order has a chance to grow back and crowd out new possibilities.
Even as the White House (Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley, and most important President Bush) have moved to radically change how US views the world (and India), the State Department has stood in their way. Why? Because it is the custodian of fossillized tradition, and (for example) views India principally as a non-proliferation problem (something that our friends in Indian Foreign Service much lament). This view can now change after the purge. It must be so, and we erred in not recognizing this before.
What should Indians in America do now? We think our central task is to re-educate ourselves. Too many of us are status-quoist in our thinking. We are uncomfortable with American assertiveness in the world (even though this serendipitously helps India). We call for "stability" in Iraq, when India benefits from the deliberate destabilization of status-quo dictators and religious witch-doctors all over the middle east. We plead for multipolarity and multilateralism -- not recognizing that the first is presently impossible, and second is a code for putting the (pro-India) Bush revolution back in a box.
This is not to say Indians don't like the results of the revolution. India was one of only two countries worldwide where Pew found more people pro-Bush than pro-Kerry. Last Sunday, CNN reported that India was the only Asian country where more people welcomed Bush re-election than lamented it. Indians like the omelet but are uncomfortable with the egg-breaking that makes the omelet possible. This confusion must be cleared.
The real focus for us (as activists) is to help Indians understand the Bush revolution, and help Americans understand why India's national interests are well-aligned with the said revolution. All else will follow naturally.
Much like us.
Here is a terrific essay on ne0-conservatism on Hoover Institution's excellent website:
A notable section is excerpted here:
Because we favor freedom and equality, and as a consequence of our general support for efforts to extend freedom and equality, we must also oppose such demands for equality that impinge excessively on freedom and oppose such demands for freedom that impinge on equality.
Whether one wishes to call this position “neoconservative” or something else, it is both “neo” and “conservative” in the sense that what is being conserved is our liberalism — its extension in time and space. The distinction between this “neoconservative” position and a “progressive” position amounts to the weight one attaches to two sets of claims. One set, the “progressive,” manifests itself as the demand for expanded freedom or the demand for greater substantive equality in the particular case at hand (that is, in the object of a political dispute). The other set, “neoconservative,” concerns itself with whether a demand for greater freedom might impinge excessively on substantive equality or whether a demand for greater substantive equality might impinge on freedom.
If neoconservatism has a claim for the superiority of its outlook, it is that the desire for freedom and the desire for equality are always present in liberal societies and liberal politics (indeed, they are the raw material of liberal society), whereas the striking of an acceptable balance between the two is not a given but a matter to be worked out by politics — a politics that can go badly wrong when the balance is wrongly struck, potentially with disastrously illiberal consequences.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? W.B. Yeats
Time magazine recently reported a leaked proposal for a territory-for-peace swap with Pakistan. India might consider “adjusting” the line of control (LOC) by “a matter of miles eastward” in return for a cessation of Pakistani terrorism.
How did our idealistic fight for secular identity become a real estate transaction? Doesn’t this imply India blinking again versus jihadi terrorism? Our last blinking – in 1999, in Kandahar – presaged 9/11. This time, do we even dare imagine what rough beast would have slouched towards Srinagar to be born?
Even if Pakistan has somehow lost its will to fight – how can India ever be sure of this – and the proposed LOC adjustment is political cover for Islamabad, this idea makes little sense.
It is critical that Indians appreciate the underlying fundament driving this idea. India is increasingly integrating in the global economy. India’s elite envy China’s explosive prosperity and wish the same for themselves. They also seek the trappings of being a great power.
To them, India is far too “obsessed” with its neighbors – it must now unshackle itself from stagnant “South Asia” and play on the world stage instead. A territory-for-peace swap with Pakistan would be a good first step in this direction. They also believe that the ensuing peace dividend would easily buy-off all domestic opposition.
They will thus happily swap a few Himalayan miles for economic and geo-political prosperity. It is therefore necessary to confront their dogma that a “settlement” with Pakistan will yield prosperity and power.
India’s people are understandably tired of war in Kashmir. They yearn for peace and the consequent prosperity. But peace and prosperity through terrorist appeasement are surely illusions. How soon before the Pakistan comes back for a mile, having taken an inch? What if terrorism is resumed? What will India do then? Cry foul and wave around the settlement signed by the untrustworthy General Musharraf?
India’s elite hopes its statesmanship on Kashmir will lead it into bodies like the Security Council and G8, therefore to power and riches. But since when are seats at high tables available for purchase in the currency of weakness? Besides, power and riches are prerequisites to joining these clubs – these clubs are not avenues to power and riches.
Security Council and G8 members matter not because of their membership in these bodies. In fact, it is the Council that derives influence from its permanent members whose own power comes from having humbled their adversaries. Likewise, the G8 derives influence from its members who are prosperous in their own right.
Where does this leave India? With an appeased terror state as peace partner who, past experience suggests, is hardly trustworthy and, if a miracle happens, ersatz membership in global bodies that neither provides power nor riches. Some prize this is.
Domestically, this idea is a sharp stick in the eye of secular Indians – whose identity stands and falls on Kashmir. For what have we fought communal pogroms in India if we are now to accept victory for jihadi terror in Kashmir? That our secular polity would float this blasphemous trial balloon is bitterly ironic, and unacceptable.
This idea will also revitalize our dispirited communalists – whose identity feeds off the perceived weak timber of secular India. They will contrast their “strength” in Ayodhya to secularist “weakness” in Kashmir. While highly cynical, this contrast will alas resonate with many – political dynamite like this can then hardly be put back in a bottle.
Swapping territory for “peace” will satisfy neither India’s restive people nor its myopic elite. It will, instead, catalyze new fissures in our socio-political order. In the worst case, we would have swapped an uncivil war in Kashmir for a civil war in the rest of India. On the world stage, we would have reinforced thankfully fading notions of India being a “soft state” and opened ourselves for future blackmail.
Our erudite Prime Minister frequently quotes Victor Hugo on the power of an idea whose time has come. Given the damaging consequences outlined above, surely the time for this idea has not yet come. Why is it then being whispered in Time magazine’s ears?
We are rain-makers and opinion shapers. We are tech-savvy and globally mobile.
We are nationalists and hawks. We believe in a strong military.
We are fiscal conservatives. We believe in a small but effective government.
We are socially liberal. We abhor religious and social bigotry.
We are not of the secular-left, neither of the religious-right. Our politics are secular-right.
This is our blog.
- ► 2011 (14)
- ► 2006 (194)
- ► 2005 (581)
- Three Readings
- The Christmas Tsunami
- R.I.P. Narasimha Rao
- (Black) Gold digger
- The Tehelka Disclosure
- Bazee.com Once Again
- Bazee.com Scandal - Arrested Development
- The Bazee.com Scandal
- Ghost Wars
- Blogging from India
- The Matter of Teesta S. and Tavleen S.
- A New Cold War?
- Pogrom in Gujarat
- Carnival of the Vanities
- United Nations
- Brazil's Bomb -- with Indian help?
- Pakistan's Hamid Gul
- Bharateeya Blog Mela
- Patriot Missiles
- Pogrom in Gujarat
- Global Commerce
- United Nations
- United Nations
- Hip Hinglish
- India Terror Warning
- Pogrom in Gujarat
- The Shia Bomb
- United Nations
- Energy and Environment
- Custodians of Culture
- Murder in Kanchi
- Murder in Kanchi
- Head and Heart
- The Bush Revolution
- United Nations
- United Nations
- Indo-US relationship
- Whose blog is this?
- ▼ December (18)