January 02, 2010

World's Third Largest Free-Trade Zone Takes Full Effect Between ASEAN and China

31 Dec 09

A free-trade agreement between China and 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will come into force on 1 January 2010, liberalising trade and investment in an economic zone covering 1.9 billion people.

IHS Global Insight Perspective

China and South-East Asian countries will tomorrow establish the world's third largest free-trade area, after the European Union (EU) and the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). Coming into effect, the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) is set to cover 1.9 billion consumers and an estimated trade volume of US$1.2 trillion, with a combined GDP of US$6 trillion.

The FTA is a key milestone for Asian regional integration, heralding a more open market for goods and services in the region. While zero tariffs for 90% of the agreed products, and the removal of 6,682 import duties on Chinese goods, offer great business opportunities for some, not all are enthusiastic. The ACFTA raises economic and political concerns in South-East Asia over China's increasing dominance.

The ACFTA is likely to provide a major boost to regional trade and investment following a year of sharp economic slowdown. Given the similarity of ASEAN and China's industrial structures, competition in domestic markets will increase, however, provoking fears particularly in those less economically developed ASEAN countries. For China, the ACFTA offers great prospects of being able to sate its enormous hunger for natural resources.

New Year's Day 2010 marks the establishment of the world's third largest free-trade area between China and the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Under the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA)—signed in 2002—China, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand will eliminate barriers to investment and enforce zero tariffs for 90% of the agreed products, ranging from textiles to steel and vegetable oils. This will require the average tariff rates charged by ASEAN countries on Chinese products—currently at 12.8%—to be cut to 0.6%, while average tariffs imposed by China on ASEAN goods are set to fall from 9.8% to 0.1%. The late participants to ASEAN—namely, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam—will follow behind gradually reducing tariffs and totally eliminating them by 2015.

The new free-trade zone will have an estimated trade volume of US$1.2 trillion and a combined GDP of US$6 trillion. It will cover 1.9 billion consumers—more than any other regional economic block. Clearly, this marks a huge milestone for Asian regional integration, traditionally less advanced in comparison with Europe and the Americas, as the region has played "catch up" in recent years. Although the realisation of ACFTA brings huge opportunities for both China and ASEAN, it also raises concerns over China's increasing economic and political domination in South-East Asia.

China's Expanding Economy—Driving Force Behind Integration

The rise of China in economic and political terms has been the most important development in pushing Asian integration further. The ACFTA framework agreement was signed in 2002 and was the first stand-alone free-trade agreement signed by China. The agreement followed China's joining of the WTO and its decision to start pursuing a regional trade policy that led to the initiation of negotiations on free trade with the ASEAN bloc. Evidently, from China's point of view, the ACFTA will help in securing access to South-East Asia's abundant natural resources. Despite the economic downturn, China's economy is expanding and it needs resources to satisfy its hunger for energy. Closer trade relations with South-East Asian countries also provide China greater control over the crucial nexus between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. There is also the opportunity to strengthen political ties within a region that has traditionally been under strong Japanese influence.

ASEAN Opportunities and Fears

The ACFTA is set to determine regional co-operation and trade relations in 2010. What ASEAN seeks through the ACFTA is to gain greater market access for exports and the ability to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI). "In 2010 we are sending as a strong signal that ASEAN is open", Sundram Pushpanathan, of ASEAN, told Agence France-Presse yesterday, indicating that the pact is set to offer huge benefits for ASEAN economic growth, too. In particular, as U.S. and European demand for ASEAN exports plummets following the global economic crisis, China's growing economic interaction will generally be very welcome.

Given the huge economic and development disparities within ASEAN, the impact of the free-trade regime will, however, be felt differently across the region. Under the ACFTA Early Harvest programme, China granted ASEAN economies very beneficial terms to export more competitive agricultural products to China, bringing benefits to grassroots-level farmers in South-East Asia. However, as soon as the clock strikes midnight tonight, small- and medium-sized farmers and enterprises throughout ASEAN will face a harsh reality—they will need to compete with more price-competitive imports from China. Rising fears and subsequent social tensions have already been evident in some countries. Earlier this month, the Indonesian government came under mounting pressure from the country's domestic industries to delay full implementation of the ACFTA. A number of business associations proposed a temporary exemption of 11 additional industries from the FTA. The proposed exemption list included textiles, footwear, steel and iron, food and beverages, plastic, transportation, tools, electronics, forestry and plantations, the downstream chemical industry, the creative industries, and machinery. While the government opted not to take an eleventh hour appeal further, it has agreed to seek a delay in eliminating import tariffs on over 300 goods that are deemed too "fragile" to compete with cheaper Chinese imports. Indonesia is still "committed to the [agreement]… but we will ask for a tariff modification on 303 products whose competitiveness we consider has declined because of the global economic crisis", said Edy Putra Irawadi, Deputy Minister for Industry and Trade at the Co-ordinating Ministry for the Economy.

Outlook and Implications

Even though ACFTA's final realisation comes after years of gradual implementation, it is still a landmark event, promising great opportunities for traders and investors and raising the region's status in the international trade arena. No doubt there will be challenges too. What the ACFTA does not mean, however, is that China-ASEAN integration is complete. Instead, it will provide further impetus for deeper economic co-operation between the two entities. Further progress is expected to be made across the board, including laws and regulations on the free-trade area; construction of infrastructure facilities; agriculture and rural co-operation; sustainable development; and cultural and social exchanges.

Although bilateral trade between China and ASEAN has already exploded over the past decade, the most eagerly awaited advancements that the ACFTA is expected to bring are in the fields of greater trade and investment volumes. China and the ASEAN bloc are already each other's fourth largest trading partners, and trade volumes have been growing from US$105.88 billion in 2004, to US$202.5 billion in 2007. This is nevertheless likely to increase significantly now, with ASEAN's secretary expecting exports to China to grow by 48%, while China's exports to ASEAN will increase by 55.1%. Integrated markets and lower market risk and uncertainty are also expected to generate more foreign investment into ASEAN countries, not just from China, but also from U.S., European, and Japanese companies. In addition to this positive impetus, there will be increasing competition which will likely decrease the enthusiasm for integration among the general public in those involve countries, for example particularly in Indonesia. All in all, the realisation of ACFTA represents a turning point in the Asian economic and political sphere, and is another indication of China assuming a leading role in the South-East Asian region, where it looks set to stay.

Many Karzai Afghan Cabinet Choices Are Rejected

January 3, 2010


KABUL, Afghanistan — In a clear signal to President Hamid Karzai that he cannot count on Parliament for support, lawmakers resoundingly rejected most of his nominees for cabinet posts and expressed discontent with the candidates’ competence.

Of Mr. Karzai’s 24 cabinet nominees, 17 were rejected and 7 approved. Of those who received votes of confidence, all but one are currently cabinet ministers.

The president’s office had no comment on Saturday’s vote; the deputy spokesman, Hamid Elmi, said a news conference would be held on Sunday.

After being declared the winner of an election tainted by fraud, Mr. Karzai has been under pressure from Western leaders and Afghan opposition figures to help make things right by choosing cabinet officials not linked to corruption or incompetence. Parliament’s action on Saturday made it clear that they felt he had not met those requirements.

In particular, they said that they were not consulted enough during the nomination process and that many cabinet nominees lacked the professional backgrounds necessary to do their jobs. However, ethnic politics were also in play, raising questions about whether lawmakers were primarily interested in being partisan defenders of their own ethnic constituencies, though many denied that that was a factor.

“The members of the Parliament cast their vote based on merit, not based on tribal or ideology or factional interests,” said Kabir Rangbar, an independent member from Kabul. “This is a reaction against Karzai’s choices.”

The effects of the move were difficult to predict, since it is possible that Mr. Karzai will try to make recess appointments once Parliament leaves for its winter break. But over all, it suggested a deepening divide between the president and Parliament. And it could also leave a number of ministries adrift, under the uncertain leadership of deputy ministers who lack political power.

“The significance of the rejection has to do with politics and Karzai’s failure to build a cabinet that spoke to a wide enough spectrum of people, and also with the weakening of his political machine,” said Alex Thier, the director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan program at the United States Institute of Peace, a Washington-based research group.

Of those confirmed, four were Pashtuns, one Tajik, one Uzbek and one Sadat. The only woman to be nominated was turned down, as were a Turkmen and three Hazara candidates. In all, seven ministers who were nominated for second terms were voted down, including the ministers of public health, telecommunications and counternarcotics.

Five of the most prominent and successful ministers during Mr. Karzai’s first term, the defense, interior, finance, education and agriculture ministers, were endorsed for second terms.
They were also the ministers, with one exception, who had strong American backing, according to people close to the process.

A spokeswoman for the American Embassy issued a noncommittal statement supporting Parliament’s right to vet candidates, but did not make detailed comments on specific candidates.

Shukria Barakzai, a member of Parliament from Kabul, said she observed opposition to nominees who represented political parties. She noted that Ismail Khan, a powerful member of the Jamiat Party and a former commander from the western province of Herat, was rejected, while the former commerce minister Mohammed Sharwani, an Uzbek, who is viewed as an independent, was confirmed as the minister of mines. Similarly, the finance minister, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, who is viewed as independent, was endorsed for a second term.

“Those who came as a representative of a group, they failed,” Ms. Barakzai said. “I hope it will be a good lesson for President Karzai that when the issue of reform comes, he is not alone; the members of Parliament really want reform. It was the moderates and the technocrats who got the vote of confidence.”

Fatima Aziz, a Tajik who represents the northern province of Kunduz, differed from her colleagues in saying that she thought ethnicity had played a part in the votes. She said she was disappointed that several nominees from minorities had not done well.

Of the 246 Parliament members, 232 were present, which meant that each minister had to get at least 117 votes to win approval. The voting was by secret ballot. Notably, none of the ministers received ringing endorsements; not one received even two-thirds of the votes, and some were confirmed by barely a handful of votes.

Several lawmakers said that over all, they thought the voting and the rejection represented a new era for Parliament and one in which they were better representing their constituents.

“It’s very essential to bring or to make a balance between the power of the president and the power of the Parliament,” Mr. Rangbar said. “The voice of the people had been widely ignored before, but today Parliament members showed with full confidence they are speaking for their constituents.”

Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting.

Vedic village’s tryst with IT


By Govind Krishnan V
02 Jan 2010 10:28:00 AM IST

Vedic village’s tryst with IT

A quarter century ago, AI magazine carried an article that evoked much curiosity among its readers — regular or casual. The 1985 spring issue of the California-based quarterly featured a write-up by an American called Rick Briggs on artificial intelligence (AI) and Sanskrit. Briggs, who compared its grammar with that of the computer, came to a startling conclusion: Sanskrit, which ceased to be a living tongue millennia ago, had such a logical meaning-structure that it could be a rich mining field for AI.

The following year, Briggs and several academicians flew down to India to pick the brains of India’s Sanskrit pundits who had gathered at Bangalore for a conference inspired by his research.

Had their trip happened today, those experts would have taken Bangalore as nothing more than a stopover. From the Garden City, they would’ve taken a bus and travelled seven hours north to meet the residents of Mattur. In this village, Sanskrit isn’t dead. The language leads an existence — perhaps beleaguered, but tenacious — among its 2,000-odd people. Critically, Briggs and company would have also have witnessed the beginnings of this near-Vedic village’s strange tryst with Hindustan’s nascent IT revolution: the village has produced around 150 software engineers!
It is a link Briggs would have found exciting. Mattur and its twin village Hosanahalli, a few kilometres north of Shimoga town, sandwich a thin strip of the Tungabhadra. Enter Mattur, and your senses are assailed by a host of sights that is eccentric in its fusion of the picturesque and the quixotic. While a set of Smartha Brahmins recite Vedic hymns by the riverside in the morning cold, a couple of young men with tufts zoom past on a black Pulsar — the unstitched folds of their white uparivasthras flapping in the breeze. When I enter the home of Gopal Avadhani, a retired engineer, a boy named Shantarama introduces himself in Sanskrit, “Mama naama Shantarama.”

Sanskrit dominates the life of Mattur, and not just because half the populace speak the language — with varying degrees of fluency. Right about the time Briggs and his crew were discovering the semantic potential of Sanskrit for computer applications, Mattur was rediscovering Sanskrit for itself.

The journey back to its Vedic roots started for the village in 1981 when Sanskrita Bharati, an organisation that promotes the classical language, conducted a Sanskrit workshop in Mattur. It was attended, among others, by the pontiff of the Pejawar Mutt in nearby Udupi.

Inspired by this village where Sanskrit survived as a spoken language, the seer reportedly exclaimed, “A place where individuals speak Sanskrit, where whole houses talk in Sanskrit! What next? A Sanskrit village!” It’s a call Mattur took to heart.
Sanskrit is reputedly a tough nut to crack, but is it that different from picking up any other language? In some rather important ways, it seems it is. When Shantarama leaves for school and says “Aham vidyalayam gachhami” (I am going to school), he will know that gachhami is very much like gamanam — which means movement. Both words come from the root class gam, from which a fluent Sanskrit speaker can dig up words for all kinds of movements and for things that move. Like gau for cows and khagah for birds. But khagah is not merely something that moves. It is that which it moves in khagam (sky). From a few basic classes (root words), Sanskrit creates an endless chain of words — all linked to each other.

“The objects, events and actions are all labelled depending on the root,” says Srivatsa S, who is doing his research in linguistics at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.

Dhruv Kumar, who is scholar Gopal Avadhani’s nephew, is one of Mattur’s success stories. He heads a software development company in Bangalore. The IT professional is a stranger to linguistics concepts, but he is very familiar with the idea that one can link together a vast set of seemingly random things by boiling them down to basic classes that will split the objects between them. He would be doing it every day. In his office at Mahalakshmi Layout when Dhruv works on Java or C ++, he is using Object Oriented Programming (OOP), a programming technique that thinks on lines similar to Panini’s Sanskrit grammar.

OOP allows the programmer to define classes and clump together objects belonging to the same class. Each object within the class can be a further class, and can give more objects, just like one word leads on to another in Sanskrit.

Dhruv, however, is not interested in whether Java shares semantic genes with Sanskrit. His obsession at the moment is Shridam — a rural BPO that set up operations in Mattur three months back. Shridam is Dhruv’s way of giving back to the village that raised him and which he longs to go back to. The BPO, the brainchild of Mattur’s affluent techie migrants, employs 50 villagers at the moment. “It gives us from Rs 3,000 to 5,000 a month,” says Pattabhiraman, an employee. “We might get double that in Bangalore, but the cost of living there makes Shridam much more attractive. Besides we can stay at home.”

The beehive of air-conditioned cubicles that outsource business operations from foreign shores is something we only associate with a city. But Dhruv thinks this has not only limited our business imagination but held our villages back. “If I can service the USA sitting here in Bangalore, why can’t I do the same from Shimoga? From Mattur?” The words of a dreamer? Dhruv does not agree. After all, the line between dreaming and innovation is a thin one. “When I can get better support, better connectivity and better power in Shimoga, why can’t I deliver the same product to my customers at a lower cost?”

Sridham is only the tip of the iceberg for Dhruv and his various associates. For them setting up a rural BPO is merely the first step in stemming the flood of urban migration that is eroding the very fabric of villages like Muttur. They have much bigger plans for their village. The profits from the BPO shall go into a special fund with which they hope to launch much bigger technological projects in Mattur. And these projects will be not only be run but conceived and conceptualised by the youth of Mattur. “We want to educate our young people and take up their ideas,” Dhruv explains. “Let them come up with their own projects and execute them. We will give them the support.”

What kind of projects does he have in mind? “Well, for example, wind and water energy from the Tunga can be harnessed to generate power indigenously. The channels of the Badhra flow into the Tunga and the water force can be a valuable resource for our village,” he says. Other plans of a similar kind are being chalked; the thrust is to make the Muttur a self-sufficient unit.
If Dhruv’s dreams come true, Mattur would be a bizarre candidate for that holy grail of liberal economists — the global village. It would be bizarre not merely because the denizens of this global village will speak Sanskrit and wear unstitched clothes while running software companies and techno-heavy development projects.

How to keep a language alive

If one man can be said to be responsible for Mattur’s Sanskrit revolution, it would be Srinidhi, a stocky, bullet-headed man with an enthusiasm that belies his forties. Srinidhi heads Sanskritha Bhavan, a Sanskrit-teaching institute that has taken upon itself a job that to many would seem quixotic, the task of taking the language out of textbooks and literature and bringing it back to life on the streets of Mattur. Among the many things the institute does, the primary one is the language support it gives to the local school. Sanskrit is the first language in the Sharada Vidyapeeth, a private school managed by the villagers that educates the village’s children at little more than Rs 80 a month. Sanskrita Bharati organises spoken Sanskrit courses every few months to make sure that nothing is learnt by rote and forgotten. These Sanskrita Shibirams (Sanskrit camps), where learners brush up on their speaking skills see all kinds — men, women, Brahmins, Harijans, college students, middle-aged farmers. And the discussions, Srinidhi says, are very lively. The enthusiast, however, admits that the occasional old-timer who grumbles “Sanskrit? At my age?” is not uncommon.

The technological edge
Fifty to sixty software professionals from Mattur are placed in the different IT firms that have made Bangalore the Silicon valley of India. “People from my native place are working for companies such as Wipro, Infosys, HP, IBM and several others in Bangalore,” says Shashank who is the chief technological officer of Samartha, a software development company in Bangalore floated by another Matturite. Samartha which offers IT services to IT giants in India and abroad, and have HP, IBM and Wipro among its clients. The organisation employs 100 software engineers, of whom 25 are from Mattur. Another venture with a Mattur entrepreneur at its helm, combines software development functions with that of a training institute. The company provides training to graduates in languages like Java and PLSQL (Procedural Language/Structured Query Language). Mattur has not just spawned techies. It has made its mark in the scientific community also. “Two scientists from Mattur have won the Bhatnagar award for original research,” said Dhruv Kumar, the owner of Samartha.

© Copyright 2008 ExpressBuzz

India’s Scientific Contribution to Europe and other World Civilizations

India’s Scientific Contribution to Europe and other World Civilizations
Prior to Industrial Revolution

Many eyebrows were raised at the title of this seminar. Deep rooted disbelief that how can earlier civilizations can be contributors to any “Science”, as we understand it today? Science means rational, logical, objective thinking, something which did not exist in the earlier people in adequate quantity. The life of these earlier people was governed by religion i.e. superstition, which is inherently, devoid of “scientific temper” and ‘free will”, the hall mark and pre-requisite of scientific development. Once this premise is accepted without debate, then West as birth place of all Science is the forgone conclusion.

Religion as anti science is 100% a modern western construct and we need to understand this thoroughly well. Religion in this case is Christian religion and Science means modern Western science. This incompatibility of religion with science in the West automatically gets grafted on non-Western religions and their relation with science. Concept of Religion in West and East differs radically in many respects. In the Western concept of religion, it must have a Prophet and a Book and the followers must abide by the teaching of both. In the eastern religion specially Hinduism, the concept of Dharma , incorporates no single Prophet or book and followers are free to choose , accept or reject philosophy of life, which suits them best. Buddhism and Jainism have their Prophets and books to follow but never restricted their followers to express in Arts and Sciences of their choice. Vatsyayana who wrote Kamasutra in 3rdcentury was never criticized on religious grounds and there are many commentaries written on him till 15th century. Padmasri was a Buddhist monk and wrote a book on erotic and worldly pleasures titled Nagarasarvasva in the 11thcentury. Many Jain monks authored mathematical and other mundane scientific texts without any conflict with their religious belief. Confucius philosophy as well as Buddhism in China never opposed or restricted their followers from writing scientific treatises.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are Abrahamic or Semitic religions having continuity at some stage in its emergence, history, spread and geography, at least in the early stages. In case of Indian civilization same can be said about Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism etc. This cultural mooring of Western and Eastern sciences is very important to understand their contributions to sciences in West and East. Thus contribution and role of Religion in the development of science in the West and East are not the same. As statements like all religions are same may be politically correct but are not true, howsoever we desire so. Insisting universalization of science in early period of human civilization equally distorts truth and introduces blunders in the writing of the history of Science of non Western cultures. It numbs all inquiry of cultural moorings and thus possible epistemological differences in the creation of ideas or sciences in different cultures. No wonder then that we try to analyze or explain Aryabhata’s writings in the Euclidian Hypothesis-Proof model.

Ayurveda, the Indian medical science, which is in practice for at least two thousand years and was the main stream medicine in India till Colonial rule, becomes ‘alternative’ medicine, which actually should be reverse i.e. allopathic medicine is alternative to Ayurvedic medicine. The same is true of how we calculate our time, chronology of events in BC and AD. Many scholars nowadays prefer BP i.e. before present. Archaeologist and Geologist use Bronze, Iron Age etc. However, central point of this calculation also is the beginning of Christianity. This labeling may appear simple or innocent, which it is not. Very tacitly it introduces the hegemony of West over earlier non-west civilizations. This in association with linear, anthropomorphic model chosen to express human development, dubs earlier period as period of infancy, incapable of being logical and rational, which is prerequisite for scientific development.

Nowadays there is a trend of categorizing ideas or sciences of earlier non-western civilizations with ‘ethnic’ label i.e. ethnic medicine, ethnic mathematics, ethno botany, ethno zoology etc. Many scholars have pursued this research enthusiastically and with great success. However, the ‘ethno’ prefix automatically alienates these contributions from main stream science development. ‘Ethno’ prefix carries the baggage of backwardness, tribal, accidental, lacking modern scientific analytical i.e. Newtonian-Cartesian model of inquiry, which has inherited Greek logical, rational, objective methodology to reach any conclusion. Obviously this denies the originality or anteriority of ideas especially when chronology does not favours Western or Greek contributions. The classical example is of invention of Calculus. Madhava, an Indian mathematician of 14th century, in his writings has everything required for the development calculus, which is at least 200 years prior to Newton or Leibniz who is credited for the invention of Calculus. This fact is known to scholars for at least two hundred years now. How it reached Europe can be a matter of further study, but why then Madhava should be denied the credit of his origination? All possible arguments are advanced with great logical and scholarly acrobatic exercise to deny this credit to Madhava. This is a classical example of mind set of most of the past and present history of science scholars and writers, who by ‘training’ believe that birth of great scientific ideas is ‘natural ‘ in Greek and Western tradition and all search is to establish this ‘presumed’ hypothesis. As against this, it is ‘presumed’ that non-Western civilizations lack this ability ‘inherently’ and on this premise then even if proofs are available, they are given secondary status.

Renaissance means going back to roots. West believes to have their roots in the pre-Christian Greek and then Roman culture and philosophy. Plato, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Euclid and many other contemporaries are the architects of this Civilization. Renaissance was a cultural moment encompassing all facets of human creativity be it arts, science, religion or philosophy. It is accepted that renaissance is the turning point in the development of modern science in west. Even arts both fine and performing and for that matter all other branches of human activity tried to align themselves to this change. Renaissance movement in the West is precursor to the Industrial development. Opposition of Christianity to science from Galileo, Bruno to cloning in modern times is well documented.

To appreciate contribution of sciences to Europe and rest of the World by Eastern civilizations, in this case by India, requires one to understand this complex religion-culture-science interdependency and complementarity. Recent archaeological findings including marine archaeology have unearthed many new materials at the ancient and medieval Indian Ocean, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Seaports. India’s contribution in Mathematical astronomy and Algebra is well documented. There is huge research material available now in many other areas. I will try to enumerate few below.

Siddhasara of Ravigupta is one of the early Ayurvedic text composed in the middle of the 7th century (650 AD). Half a century earlier (600 AD) we have Vagbhata and half a century later (700 AD) we have Madhava. Siddhasara‘s translations in Tibetan, Khotanese, Uighur, Turkish, Arabic and Sinhalese are available and well studied. H.W.Bailey published the complete Khotanese text in facsimile in 1938 and in transcription in 1945, which got reprinted in 1969. However, the most extensive study on all Siddhasar manuscripts is done by R.E. Emmerick. After publishing two articles in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1971 and 1974 respectively, he published The Siddhasara of Ravigupta in two volumes in 1980 and 1982. R.E.Emmerick also contributed an article titled ‘Ravigupta’s Siddhasara in Arabic’ in a volume edited jointly by H.R. Roemer and A.Noth published by Brill in 1981. In a obituary written by Mauro Maggi on R.E.Emmeric and published in December 2001 issue of East and West (pp. 408-415) informs us that Emmerick was so much involved in the study of Siddhasara text that he contributed at least forty articles on Indian and Tibetan medicine. His paper ‘Ravigupta’s Place in Indian Medical Tradition’ read in the Second World Sanskrit Conference held at Torino, Italy (9 to 15 June 1975) and published in Indologica Taurinensia ( Vol III-IV, 1975-76, pp. 209-221) provides us valuable information on Ravigupta and also informs us that Madhavanidana is probably mentioned in Firdaws al-Hikma authored by a Arabic scholar, Ali b. Sahl al-Tabari. Very recently Peter Zieme has published an interesting article in 2007 issue of Asian Medicine (Vol. 3, pp.308-322) on Uighur Siddhasarafragments and enriched us with new information on this text.

Siddhasara text had widespread influence on Central Asian, Persian and Arabic medical knowledge. Emmerick informs us that Persian and Arabic scholars held Siddhasara in high esteem. Rhazes, a Persian scholar of 9th/10thcentury wrote a 20 part medical encyclopedia, Kitab al Hawi , which has incorporated many passages from Siddhasaraalong with Greek, Syriac and early Islamic sources. Faraj Ben Salim a Jewish physician translated Kitab al Hawi into Latin in the 13th century, titled Liber Continens. This text becomes so popular in Latin world that it was reprinted five times till 16th century. Influence of Siddhasar on the development of Western medicine awaits scholarly research.

Many Sanskrit medical texts got translated to Persian around 6th century at Gundishpore,Iran and later into Arabic in the 9th/10th century in Baghdad, Iraq. During the same period Astronomical and Mathematical Sanskrit texts were getting translated into Persian first and then into Arabic. One such minor Indian text concerned only with poisons authored by Shanaq got translated to Persian by a physician called Mankah in the 9th century. Abu Hatim translated it from Persian to Arabic during the same time and called it Kitab al-Shanaq. Shanaq’s text on poisons was used extensively by ibn Wahashiya in composing his much acclaimed ‘Book on Poison’. Along with Greek source ibn wahshia also informs us of other Indian authors like Tammashah and Bahlindad whos books he used while composing his book on poisons. Ibn Wahashia wrote many other books but his book on poisons remained as referral work for many centuries. Ibn ai-Nadim author of Fihrist knew Shanaq and he informs us about Shanaq’s works on conduct of life, the management of war and on cultural studies. Another scholar ibn abi Usaibi’a tells us about Shanaq’s works on stars,lapidary and one on veterinary science. Unfortunately we do not have his original Sanskrit or Arabic translations of these works. As far as Shanaq’s text on poisons is concerned, he follows Sushruta. Martin Levey translated ibn Wahshiya’s Book on Poisons and published it in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 56, No. 7, 1966, pp.1-130.

Recent Archaeological findings have forced us to rethink our early assumptions of origin of many material objects like silk, cotton, tick, pottery, spices, perfumery, beads, diamonds and botanical products. Obviously their place in respective cultures, trade and manufacturing technology and skills unfolds a new scenario of cultural history.

China had monopoly on silk till this date. Recent paper titled ‘New evidence for Early Silk in the Indus Civilization’ published in the 2009 issue of Archaeometry , Vol.50., will compel us to change this perception of origin of silk. Earliest export of silk from china dates back to early second century BC during the reign of Han Emperor Wu-ti, though archaeologist in China have found isolated find from the Liangzhou Neolithic site of Qianshanyang dating back to 2570 BC. Archaeologists were puzzled with silk found in sites at Mediterranean, Egypt, Central Asia and also at a late prehistoric Celtc site in Germany dating back to 700 BC, much earlier to Wu-ti trade relationship with the West began. It was taken for granted as export from China without having given thought to the possibility of silk production indigenously or from regions other than China. In India itself A.N.Gulati in 1961 wrote an article ‘A note on the early history of silk in India’ in a publication of Deccan College, Poona titled Technical Reports on archaeological remains,pp.51-59 producing evidence of silk from a bead thread from Nevasa, Maharashtra, dating back to 1500 BC. The new archaeological evidence of Silk from the Indus civilization sites at Harappa and Chanhu-daro pushes back the silk production outside China at least by a millennium earlier. Authors of the paper in Archaeometry have concluded,

“The discoveries described here demonstrate that silk was being used over a wide region of South Asia for more than 2000 years before the introduction of domesticated silk from China. Earlier models that attribute the origins of silk and sericulture exclusively to China need to be re-examined and revised.”(p.8)

Indian and Greeko- Roman trade contacts are well documented. Writings of travelers and geographers , ranging from 1 /2nd century BC to 3/ 4th Century AD, like Natural History of Pliny, Strabo and Geography of Claudius Ptolemy,Periplus of the erythraean Sea by an anonymous author all have been describing India and Indian products elaborately. Emperor Justinian who reigned around 533 AD had composed a list of about 54 dutiable articles entering Alexandria. This includes many products like hair, drugs and animals from India by name and even eunuchs. Recent archaeological findings also have endorsed contacts with Mesopotamia going back to third millennium BC. India is known to have been exporting spices, diamonds, cotton, silk etc for the last 5000 years now. Indian tick wood was favorite and most suitable for ship building. This has been confirmed by study of wood found in many shipwrecks from Indonesia, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ports. A recent paper titled ‘ A ninth-century AD Arab or Indian shipwreck in Indonesia; first evidence for direct trade with China’ by Michael Flecker published in World Archaeology Vol.32, No.3, Shipwrecks(Feb.2001),pp. 335-354 States,

“ This is the first clear archaeological evidence to support historical records which imply that there was direct trade between the western Indian Ocean and China during the later part of the first millennium AD”(p.335)

Trade is never restricted only to the material exchanges. Along with culture, scientific information also migrates. Indian influence in South East Asian countries is well known. Excellent example of this migration is seen in the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. Measurements of the temple are related to Hindu religious symbolism and mathematical Astronomy. An article in the Science Vol.193, No.4250, 23 July, 1976 titled ‘Astronomy and Cosmology at Angkor Wat’ explains this elaborately,

“ It is not surprising that Angkor Wat integrates astronomy, the calendar, and religion since the priest-architects who constructed the temple conceived of all three as a unity.”(p.281)

In an exhaustive article by Grant Parker titled ‘ Ex Oriente Luxuria: Indian commodities and Roman Experience’ published in the Journal of the economic and Social History of the Orient, 2002, Vol.45, No.1, pp 40-95, has thrown light on many dark corners of this trade. While commenting on meager Indian craft goods found in Roman world, his following observations are interesting,

“A second class of evidence is provided by a number of marble heads now in Rome. These reveal an unmistakable mixture of Indian and Roman styles: these have a cirrus knot on the top, creating the effect of an Indian hairstyle on top of what are otherwise unexceptional marble heads from the Severan age.27 It is tempting to link these hairstyles with the 'Indian hair' (capilli Indici) mentioned by Marcian; the available evidence leaves the matter undecided (Schneider 1986)”(p.54)

In the same paper on p.64 Grand Parker informs us more on documentary and inscriptional evidence found in the West,

“Secondly, there are a number of documentary sources. The so-called Muziris papyrus (P.Vind. G40822 of the mid-second century AD, now in Vienna), was not published till the 1980s (Harrauera nd Sijpesteijn1 985). This presupposes a contract that had been concluded between two parties concerning the transport of goods from Muziris (probably modern Cranganore) to Myos Hormos on the north-eastern coast of the Red Sea (probably Abu Sha'ar), in particular a loan to be paid back on the return voyage: the papyrus itself sets out the consequences of non-repayment. Whereas the Periplus suggests that traders would mix low-cost everyday items within its cargo of predominantly luxury goods, the Muziris papyrus is limited to expensive articles………………. In addition, a number of inscriptions survive testifying to the kind of trade mentioned by Pliny. Annius Plocamus' freedman left two inscriptions at the Wadi Menih on the Berenike-Koptos road, both of them dating to the year AD 6: 'I, Lysas, freedman of Publius Annius Plocamus, came here on July 2nd (July 5th), AD 6.'44 Excavations at Quseir al-Qadim (probably Leukos Limen) beginning in the late 1970s turned up two ostraka inscribed in the southern India's Tamil-Brahmi script. These, which contain the namesKanan and Catan, have been dated to the first century AD. Amidst a find of pottery that can be dated to AD 60-70, the Berenike excavation has also produced two ostraka inscribed in Tamil- Brahmi (Mahadevan 1996).”(Pp.64-65)

Surprisingly we see this ‘legal trade document tradition’ continued till 12th century. A huge collection of documents was unearthed in Egypt from the Cairo Genizah. They catalogue the social, cultural and religious lives of Jews around the Mediterranean basin. They have documents related to Jews from India, involved in the Mediterrian trade. S.D.Goiten worked extensively on these documents and published many articles- ‘ From the Mediterranean to India: Documents on the trade to India, South Arabia, and East Africa from the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries’ published inSpeculam, XXIX(1954),181-197, ‘From Eden to India, specimens of the Correspondance of Indian Traders of the Twelfth Century, published in Journal of the Economic and Social history of the Orient,Vol.23,no1/2(April.,1980),pp 43-66 and ‘Portrait of a Medieval Indian trader: Three Letters from the Cairo Geniza’ published in Bulletin of the school of Oriental and African studies Vol.50, No.3(1987), pp. 449-464. These articles give us valuable information on Indian trade activity in the 11th and 12th century in the Mediterranean Basin.

Nicole Bovin and D.Q.Fuller in their recent paper titled ‘Shell Middens, Ships and seeds: Exploring Coastal Subsistence. Maritime trade and the Dispersal of Domesticates in and Around the Ancient Arabian Peninsula’ published in J World Prehist (2002) 22:113-180 informs us about agriculture, animals of Indian origin and pepper, which is going to confirm earlier observations and pre-date the Indian history of trade with west.

“Around 1200 BC, the first pepper appears in the Egyptian record, positively identified from the dried fruits in the nostrils of the mummy of Ramses II (Plu 1985). This is the first indication of possible contact between Egypt and India, though by what route remains unclear. While its royal association attests to the rarity and high value of this spice at this period, it also can be taken to suggest the possible early beginnings of direct South Asian to Red Sea spice trade.”(pp. 153-154)

“It is in the context of the intensifying trade between Gujarat and Arabia at the start of the second millennium BC that we should probably consider the beginnings of contact between Africa and South Asia. The evidence of African crops, which are unambiguously in Gujarat and Baluchistan in this period, suggests that Gujarat maritime contacts were no longer only with Oman and Dilman but also extended further westwards around Arabia towards Yemen and Africa. At present count, some 33 archaeological sites in South Asia dating from the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000 BC) through the Iron Age (to c. 300 BC) have evidence for crops of African origin for which botanical identity is acceptable (Table 3;data augmented from Fuller 2003a; with Chanchala 2002; Cooke et al. 2005; Saraswat 2004, 2005; Saraswat and Pokharia 2003). In almost all instances, these crops co-occur with native Indian millets and pulses, and can be seen as additions to an existing system of summer monsoon agriculture (Fuller and Madella 2001; Weber 1998, 342–344). Only in the case of Pirak was Sorghum, together with rice (plausibly japonica rice) and Panicum miliaceum (one of the Chinese millets), added to the established Indus repertoire of winter crops.”(Pp.155-159)

“The other domesticate which moved between the Indian subcontinent and Africa, probably via Arabian maritime links, was the South Asia-derived zebu cattle (Bos indicus).That zebu cattle spread from South Asia to Arabia and Africa is not in doubt, and a maritime route is suggested by genetic data. Marshall (1989) speculated that this could have occurred in the second millennium BC as a counter flow to African crops that moved to Asia. Genetic data show a pattern of inter-regional introgression in which eastern and southern Africa, together with the Arabian peninsula near Africa, show a genetic cline, especially in Y-chromosome data, that indicates much higher zebu bull input than is the case for Mesopotamia and more northerly areas (Hanotte et al. 2002; Zeder 2006). Nevertheless, there was also clearly overland movement of zebu cattle from the Indus through Iran towards the Near East (Kumar et al. 2003),” (pp.159)

Usually spices and diamonds are labeled or discussed as exotic products, which is not true. Grant parker in his Ex Oriente Luxuria gives some interesting uses of pepper,

“The earliest Greek works to mention pepper are the gynecological treatises attributed to Hippocrates: at one point the author glosses the spice as an 'Indian drug' (On women's diseases 1.81 indikou pharmakou). Its typical use in these medical texts is for disorders of the eyes, mixed into an ointment. Theophrastus' work On Odours makes it clear that pepper was among the spices known and used in the later 4th/early 3rd centuries. Though he uses the loanword in naming it (peperi), he makes no explicit mention of its Indian origin, in which respect he differs from the Hippocratic text. Theophrastus' treatise is in fact central to any analysis of the social meaning of spices in the ancient world: it makes clear that they were used for perfume-powders (aromata), cosmetics, incense (thumiamata), and antidotes to poison (theriaca). But it is in three very different texts of the first century AD that we have the most extensive evidence for the use of spices. These begin with the army physic\cian Dioscorides, whose Materia medica (c. AD 65), written in Greek, illustrates the pharmacological uses. Secondly, Apicius, who lived under Augustus and Tiberius, composed a series of gourmet recipes, to whose corpus texts continued to be added until late antiquity. Of 478 recipes there contained, almost all require some kind of spicing; so did certain preparations of wine.”(p.43)

However, in India we know that most of the spices are also used in Ayurvedic preparations. Similarly use of diamond as tool in cutting other diamond or hard object and in the technology of engraving is known to Indians since antiquity and is even practiced today in Gujarat. Leonard Gorelick and A.John Gwinnett in their paper titled ‘Diamonds from India to Rome and Beyond’ published in American Journal of archaeology, Vol. 91, No.4 (1988) pp. 547-552 informs us,

“The technological history of diamonds as tools in the ancient world is even more obscure than their use as gem-stones. Our experimental evidence for the use of diamonds in Arikamedu in southeast India, ca. 250 B.C.- A.D. 300, is the earliest thus far reported. Wheeler found a bead workshop in Arikamedu, as well as strong evidence for trade with Rome. The Romans are very likely to have learned to use diamond splinters as drills in Arikamedu. Pliny states that diamond splinters "are much sought after by engravers of gems" (HN 37.15.61). Further literary evidence, both Sanskrit and Roman, adds weight to our finding. Additional references, although meager, help trace the continued use of diamonds as en-graving tools after the fall of Rome through the Sassanian and Islamic periods. Evidence is lacking for the European Middle Ages, but documentation for Europe re-emerges in Europe in the 15th century A.C. Diamonds are still used in the modern industrial world, in modern crafts, as well as in the remote bead making village of Cambay, India. Here a diamond-hafted bow drill is still currently in use for drilling beads. Beads from Cambay, in fact, provided the initial clues in interpreting our sub-sequent experimental evidence. “(p.547)

Excavations in the last quarter of twentieth century at Quseir al-Qadim (preliminary reports published by American Research Center in Egypt, Cairo in 1979) and at Egypt’s Red Sea port Berenike (preliminary report started appearing since 1995, published by Leiden:Research School CNWS) has revealed many new objects, confirming our early findings of Indian trade with Greco-Roman world. Using textile products of Indian origin and Indian teak found in the Excavation at Berenike, Grant Parker wrote another very interesting article titled ‘ Topographies of Test: Indian Textile and Mediterranean Contexts in Ars Orientalis, Vol. 34, 2004, pp. 19-37 ( almost all articles in this volume are on Indian Ocean trade). His findings not only confirm the observations of earlier writers but also inform us the high degree of technology reached in Indian subcontinent in cultivating and manufacturing these goods for local consumption as well as for export. Parker writes in the article,

“The desirability and novelty value of this product are immediately apparent. This cotton or "tree wool" also featured among the accounts of the historians and scholars accompanying Alexander on his campaign to the east in 327-325B .C. For example, the naval commander Nearchusi s quoted in Strabo's Geography ( 15.1.20 C6g3) on the use of cotton in garments; Strabo mentions silk in the same breath. Finally, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a ship captain's manual from the mid-first century A.D. written in Greek, makes several references to the transport of cot-ton on the monsoon route. Both cloth (chapters 48, 49, 5i) and garments (chapters 48, 51, 59) occur among goods brought into Egypt, whereas exports from Egypt to Arabia, India, and the East African coast include various kinds of garments (e.g., chapters 6, 24, 56).11 At a port called "Ganges" i n the Ganga delta it was possible to acquire high-quality cotton, in the form of garments: "On [the Ganges] there is a port of trade [emporion] sharing the same name as the river, Ganges, through which malabathron, Gangetic nard, pearls, and cotton garments of the very fin-est quality, the so-called Gangetic, are transported" (chapter 63). It is typical of the Periplus that various objects are linked in the context of a particular port. The designation of quality, diaphorotatai, has connotations of distinctiveness as well as value.”(pp.20-21)

Hindu mathematical and other scientific manuals started migrating to Iran and Iraq from 6th to 10th century. Hundreds of them got translated to Persian and Arabic languages. The process of Latin translation of these Arabic and Persian texts started from 11th century onwards. Indian mathematics and other sciences reached Europe through this translation industry. Trade played a vital role in this migration. However, it is least studied and its contribution is totally neglected. In the same volume of Ars Orientalis (Vol. 34, 2004) Carol Bier wrote an article titled ‘ Patterns in Time and Space: Technologies of Transfer and the Cultural Transmission of Mathematical Knowledge across the Indian Ocean.’ And in his own words,

“This article explores the potential role of textiles in the transfer of mathematical knowledge from the Indian subcontinent to the central Islamic lands and west-ward to an emerging modern Europe through an inquiry into prospective technologies of textile manufacture and pattern-making. Ikat textiles of the ninth and tenth centuries, found in Egypt but presumed to be from Yemen, serve as a means to explore possibilities of numeration and treatment of the spatial dimension. An initial attempt is made to separate patterning from the technology of textile production in an effort to treat the mathematical possibilities that patterning offers for the application of mathematical knowledge. This article proposes an ontology of pattern, distinct from the category of a textile itself, which raises significant questions pertaining to the transmission of mathematical knowledge in relation to expanded trade routes in the eighth through tenth centuries, coincident with Islamic developments in the understanding of two-dimensional space”(p.173)

Agriculture and Horticulture are other important activities in any culture or civilization. Newer techniques of Archaeobotany are giving us new tools in dating. Mehergarh, Baluchistan excavations have placed barley and wheat cultivations in Indian subcontinent around 7000 to 5500 BC. Recent findings of the Archaeobotanical samples collected from Neolithic site Jhusi, at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna rivers in Allahabad U.P. are presented jointly by Anil K. Pokharia, J.N.Pal and Alka Srivastava in an article titled ‘ Plant macro-remains from Neolithic Jhusi in Ganga Plain: evidence for grain-based agriculture’, in the Vol.97,No. 4, 25 august 2009 issue of Current Science. We already have the dates of cultivated rice from Kunal, Hariyana in the range of 3000 to 2500 BC. Rice grains collected at Jhusi have given us dates in the range of 7100 to 5932 BC. These are probably the earliest dates of rise grains in at least Indian subcontinent. Their findings of viticulture or horticulture are more revealing,

“Remains of grape-vine have provided unequivocal evidence of viticulture from pre-Harappan and Harappan times 23,36,37,40. Before the factual evidences from archaeological sites, information on the grape and its cultivation was based on the literary and ancient sculptures. Grapes were known through the accounts of Charak and Susruta in their early medical treaties (5th century BC), and there was almost no information of their cultivation, prior to the Muslim conquest of the country 41.The evidence of grape-vine on Indian sculptures has come from Sanchi and Bharhut stupas in Madhya Pradesh, datable to 2nd–3rd century AD 42. Smith 43 and Marshall et al.44, however, regarded the vine as a characteristic motif of Hellenistic art. According to Watt 45, viticulture in India never at any period was regarded to have attained the proportions it assumed in the Greek and Roman ages of Europe. Now, in view of the factually evidenced viticulture since the Neolithic and Harappan times, all these opinions stand untenable.”(p.569)

Sugarcane cultivation is indigenous to India. We have extensive literary evidence for this. We have testimony of Greeks in this regard. They described sugarcane as ‘reeds that make honey without the agency of bees’ Megasthenes goes a step forward and even tries to explain why sugarcane is sweet? Surprisingly there is no trace of sugarcane in any archaeological excavations in the subcontinent. Lallanji Gopal has written an excellent paper titled ‘Sugar-making in Ancient India’ published in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient Vol. 7, No. 1, 1964, pp. 57-72. He gives us literary evidence of highly advanced stage of cultivation it had reached,

“Advanced knowledge of sugarcane cultivation is clear from the classification of the plants into several types, differing according to their qualities 2). Caraka 3) mentions two varieties paundraka and vamsaka. The Amarakosa 4), though by name mentioning only the pundra and kantara types, implies many others also in the word adayah. Ksirasvamin, the commentator, names some of these. But Susruta gives by far the most elaborate list. He mentions twelve varieties: paundraka 5) , bhiruka, vamsaka, sataporaka, tapaseksu, kasteksu, sucipatraka, naipala, dirghapatra, nilapora and kosakrt 6).”(p.59)

Panchatantra and the game of Chess are Indian contributions which reached East and West, as early as 3rd to 6thcentury AD. I have dealt with Panchatantra in my paper ‘History of migration of Panchatantra and what it can teach us’ presented last year in the conference titled Subhashita, Panchatantra andGnomic Literature in Ancient and Medieval India held at Thane under the auspices of Institute for Oriental Study, Thane on Saturday, 27 Dec. 2008 at Thane http://orientalthane.com/speeches/speech2008.htm

Similarly there is large research material available on Chess. The White collection in the Cleveland public library is the largest library in the world dedicated to Chess.

Dominance and universalization of modern science gives a hegemonic status to West. Colonization of rest of the world by Western countries since 16th century added to this hegemony. ‘Orientalism’ is the final outcome of this process. Study of Indian civilization i.e. Indology is no exception to this ‘academic exercise’. Poor financial recourses and inadequate research training facilities in the non West world in the post Colonial period, enhances this dependency on West. No civilization or culture for that matter can claim exclusivity. However, though Indian trade with West was always bilateral, when it comes to influence or anteriority of ideas, pointer is unidirectional, always in the direction of Mesopotamia or Greece.

Transmission of Indian sciences to Europe prior to Industrial revolution is not easy to understand. Trade, as seen by us earlier, has played a major role in this transmission. Extensive literary and archaeological material is available now for this study. However, Indian trade was not restricted to the West only. Buddhism had reached China and Central Asia few centuries prior to the beginning of Christian era. Indian trade and culture had also reached South East Asian countries since the beginning of Christian era. Hundreds of philosophical, religious and scientific text from Sanskrit got translated to Chinese, Khotanese, Uighur, Tibetan and South Eastern languages. Trade route of West to China passed through Central Asia. We have seen that many Chinese and Central Asian texts original and translated both, reached Western civilizations through this trade route. As a matter of fact Sanskrit-Persian/Arabic –Latin transmission started much later than Sanskrit-Chinese-Central Asian-Greek/Latin transmission. Last route of transmission is after 16th century through missionary and Colonial administrators’ writings. A collective and comprehensive study of all these inter disciplinary sciences including paleo and archaeobotany, archaeozoology and genomic studies will help us reach conclusions with least bias.

Vijay Bedekar


Institute for Oriental Study, Thane

Saturday, 26 December 2009, Thane.

The annual seminar of the Institute on the topic India's Scientific Contribution to Europe and other worldCivilizations prior to Industrialcivilization was conducted on Saturday,26 Dec.2009. About 10 scholars presented papers in the conference. This was the 27thconference conducted under the auspices of the Institute for Oriental Study,Thane since 1982. The book of abstract of present seminar will be uploaded on the web site http://www.orientalthane.com



An as yet unnamed (by the Danish Police) 28-year-old Somali, resident in Denmark, was arrested by the Danish Police on New Year's Day after they had promptly intervened and thwarted an attempt made by him to trespass into the house of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in the city of Aarhus with an alleged intent to kill him with an axe and a knife. He allegedly tried to attack the intervenig police party before he was overpowered. He thus faces two charges of attempting to kill the cartoonist and attacking the police.

2.The cartoonist had incurred the wrath of some sections of the Muslim Ummah in 2005 for drawing a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad sporting a bomb in his hair. Since then, the cartoonist has been under high protection by the Danish Police and Intelligence. He escaped the attempt on January 1,2010, thanks to his alertness in noticing the intending assailant and calling the police through a pre-arranged drill. The credit for the failure of the attempt should go to the cartoonist himself as well as to the Police. Both acted as per the drill for physical security laid down by the police after he started receiving threats in 2005.

3. It goes to the credit of the police and the Danish intelligence that they had not allowed the absence of any attack since 2005 to make them self-complacent. Moreover, the Danish Police and intelligence were doubly alert after the arrest of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) by the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in October,2009.

4. The pre-arrest electronic surveillance of these two LET operatives----- both of Pakistani origin, with Headley holding the US nationality and Rana the Canadian nationality--- and their post-arrest interrogation brought out that the 313 Brigade of Pakistan headed by Ilyas Kashmiri and the LET were planning to use Headley for another major terrorist strike in India and for an attack on the Danish paper, which had published the cartoons in 2005. The LET was keen on the Indian attack and the 313 Brigade on the Danish attack, which had been code-named Operation Micky Mouse.

5. At the instance of Ilyas Kashmiri, Headley had visited Denmark twice to collect operational information to facilitate the attack. He was arrested by the FBI on October 3,2009, before he could leave Chicago for Pakistan along with the operational details collected by him. A perusal of the affidavits filed by the FBI before a Chicago court showed that while Ilyas Kashmiri was interested in a spectacular strike in Copenhagen similar to Mumbai 26/11, Headley himself preferred an assassination of the journalists responsible which, he felt, would be more feasible.

6. What Ilyas and Headley failed to achieve due to the alertness of the FBI, the Somali, not yet named by the Danish police, sought to achieve on New Year's Day. The thwarted attempt of the Somali illustrates once again the homing pigeon tactics of Al Qaeda, which keeps persisting in its jihadi trajectory despite failures and set-backs. The timely arrest of Headley did not lead to its giving up its objective of taking revenge against the cartoonist.

7. The following details of the arrested Somali are presently available:

(a), He has been residing in Denmark for some time with a legal permit, but one does not know when he moved to Denmark and from where.

(b).The media has quoted Jakob Scharf, who heads the Danish intelligence service PET, as saying that the attack was "terror related" and that the assailant had close contacts with Al Shabaab. He had been under surveillance for activities unrelated to Westergaard. Al Shabaab is considered the Somali wing of Al Qaeda. Scharf added : "The incident once again confirms the terrorist threat that is directed against Denmark and against cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, in particular".

8.At a news conference in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, who has been described by the media as a spokesman of Al Shabaab, reportedly said, "We are very happy with the Somali national who attacked the house of the Danish cartoonist who previously insulted our prophet Mohammed. This is an honor for the Somali people. We are telling that we are glad that anyone who insults Islam should be attacked wherever they are." Thus, the organisation has expressed its approval of the attempted attack without claiming responsibility for it.

9. The Danish Police and Intelligence will now be investigating the background and links of the arrested Somali. A question, which should be of interest to investigators in Denmark, the US and India is: Did he have any contacts with Headley? Did Headley meet him during his two visits to Denmark?

10. This may be read in continuation of my earlier article of December 4,2009, titled "The Somali Front of the Global Jihad" at
http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers36/paper3534.html , which is annexed for easy reference (3-1-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )


The Somali Front of the Global Jihad -- International Terrorism Monitor --- Paper No.584 ( December 4,2009)

By B. Raman

Al Qaeda looks upon its continuing jihad against the so-called Crusaders --- thereby meaning essentially the US, Israel and their supporters--- as a global intifada waged on many fronts and through many means. In this global jihad, Afghanistan, Somalia and Algeria are seen as battle fronts, which will determine the ultimate outcome. Afghanistan is seen as the core of the battle, Somalia as its southern front and Algeria as the Western front.

2. In a message disseminated on December 20, 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda, said: “Brothers in Islam and Jihad in Somalia: know that you are on the southern garrison of Islam, so don’t allow Islam to be attacked from your flank, and know that we are with you, and that the entire Muslim Ummah is with you. So don’t lose heart, or fall into despair, for you must dominate if you are true in faith. And know that you are fending off the same Crusade which is fighting your brothers in Islam in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. So be resolute, be patient and be optimistic, for by Allah beside whom there is no other God, even if your enemies possess thousands of tons of iron and explosives, in their chests lie the hearts of mice. So be severe against them like Muhammad was. "

3. To keep the jihad going in Somalia is one of its important objectives. For this purpose, it uses not only recruits from the impoverished local population, but also from the Somali diaspora in the West----including the US--- as well as jihad-hardened cadres sent from the battle fronts in the Af-Pak region. The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan has had a long history of contacts with the Muslim population in Somalia and East African countries just as it has with the Muslim population of Chechnya and Dagestan. Though the TJ itself does not indulge in acts of terrorism, it plays an important role in facilitating the ideological motivation of the population on behalf of Al Qaeda.

4. In September 2009, Al Shabaab, meaning “The Lads”, an organization of Somali youths, was reported to have disseminated through Islamic web sites usually identified with Al Qaeda a 48-minute video documentary in which it proclaimed its allegiance to Osama bin Laden. It derives its name “The Lads” from the fact that it used to be the youth wing of a fundamentalist organization called the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had established control over some parts of Somalia and was ultimately crushed by invading Ethiopian troops in 2006. While the elders of the UIC disappeared after being defeated by the better trained and better armed Ethiopian troops allegedly inspired and aided by the US, the Al Shabaab replaced the UIC as a born-again jihadi organization, which was determined to continue the jihad against the troops of the African Union, which had replaced the Ethiopian troops, and of the UN-backed local Government, which it viewed as apostate.

5. Though Somalis had participated in acts of suicide terrorism on behalf of Al Qaeda in other countries, suicide terrorism was unknown in Somalia itself till Al Shabaab made its appearance in 2006. Even though it proclaimed its loyalty to bin Laden only in September, 2009, it had carried out a number of acts of suicide terrorism against local Government targets as well as the peace-keeping troops of the African Union ever since the AU troops took over their peace-keeping responsibility in Somalia. Al Shabaab has been waging a two-front jihad---- against the AU troops and the local Government being protected by the AU troops. The first act of suicide terrorism took place on September 18, 2006. Since then, there have been 13 suicide attacks--- two in 2006, four in 2007, two in 2008 and five this year.

6. The Al Shabaab cadres, many of whom had allegedly served with the Afghan Mujahideen, the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region, look upon their jihad as similar to the jihad waged by the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet troops and those of the Government of the then President Najibullah in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

7. In a serious attack of suicide terrorism, a male suicide bomber dressed as a woman managed to find his way into a graduation ceremony of medical students in a Mogadishu hotel on December 3, 2009, and blew himself up killing 19 persons, including three Ministers of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke of the UN-backed Government. Even though no organization has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, Al Shabaab is strongly suspected by the local authorities.

8. Though there is so far no evidence of any nexus between Al Shabaab and the Somali pirates, the dangers of money earned from piracy going to the coffers of Al Qaeda and the availability in Somalia of sea-faring people who could be used by Al Qaeda for future acts of maritime terrorism cannot be ignored.

9. A Reuters report carried on December 4, 2009, by the “Daily Times” of Lahore has quoted Bethuel Kiplagat, who used to be Kenya’s special envoy to the Somalia peace process from 2003 to 2005, as saying as follows: “Suicide bombings are a worrying trend not only for Somalia but also the region. There has been a rise in fundamentalism in Somalia coming from the Middle East and Pakistan. There’s a worry Al Qaeda may be looking at Somalia as a new sanctuary.”

10. On March 16, 2009, Mohamed Mohamed of the BBC’s Somali section, reported as follows: “As well as alleged links to al-Qaeda it is said to have Arabs, Asians, other Africans and - America's FBI believes - Westerners among its ranks. These foreigners are said to be involved in training Al Sabaab recruits in various aspects of guerrilla warfare, including suicide bombings and booby traps.”

11. On February 29, 2008, the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice designated Al Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

How To Destabalize Countries - John Perkins

Author of The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption.

"...there's no question in my mind that both Jaime Roldos and Omar Torrijos were assassinated by CIA-sponsored jackals. When we economic hit men failed to bring these people around, to corrupt these presidents, we knew that standing in the shadows were the jackals. And they either overthrew governments or assassinated leaders. And so, although it was deeply, deeply disturbing to me, I was not terribly surprised when this happened.

I liked both of these men tremendously. I knew Torrijos especially well and was a great admirer of his. And I was caught in this very, very difficult situation, because my job was to corrupt him, and I really respected the fact that he wouldn't be corrupted. It gave me great hope. In fact, it changed my life. It got me out of being an economic hit man. On the other hand, I knew that if I wasn't able to corrupt him, something dire was likely to happen."

Change Blindness Plus (YouTube via Schneier)

Source: Sources and methods

Change Blindness Plus (YouTube via Schneier)

The Schneier On Security blog points today to an interesting video (embedded below) that demonstrates and discusses the phenomena of Change Blindness:There are several good videos and resources on this effect and you can find them all here.
Posted by Kristan J. Wheaton at 9:16 AM 0 comments Links to this post

India Nod to US gun purchase minus bids



New Delhi, Jan. 1: The government has authorised an outright purchase of 145 ultra-light howitzers from the US, a highly-placed defence ministry source said today.
The ultra-light howitzers are for the mountain artillery divisions of the Indian Army to be used in high-altitude frontiers opposite Pakistan and China. They can be transported slung from some helicopters.

The defence acquisitions committee has decided to take the foreign military sales route. Foreign military sales is a US programme of government-to-government sales of military hardware bypassing a lengthy system of competitive bidding. But bidders who lose out to foreign military sales orders allege that the system lacks transparency.
“We will also look at other options,” defence secretary Pradeep Kumar said.
The Indian Air Force has taken the foreign military sales route to contract six Lockheed Martin-made Hercules C130J air lifters and the army did the same to buy artillery fire-finding radars.

Two brands of ultra-light howitzers were initially in contention for the Indian Army’s estimated $2.5-billion artillery modernisation programme — ST Kinetics’ Pegasus and BAE Land Systems’ M777 made in the US.

BAE Land Systems has bought over the erstwhile Swedish firm Bofors that sold 410 155mm howitzers to India in 1986. The army has not bought a single big gun since the last of the Bofors howitzer was delivered in 1987, 22 years back.

ST Kinetics was blacklisted this year after the company figured in investigations into the deals struck by the former director general of the Ordnance Factory Board in Calcutta. The government has lifted the bar on trials in multiple-vendor situations.

If the government takes the foreign military sales route, the order is likely to go to BAE Land Systems. The source said the defence acquisitions council authorised the foreign military sales route before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US last month.

The army wants to buy 145 ultra-light howitzers, 158 towed and wheeled, 100 tracked, and 180 wheeled and armoured guns in the first phase as part of its field artillery rationalisation plan, the programme to upgrade its artillery divisions.
Defence secretary Pradeep Kumar said the government has speeded up the buying of military hardware. Between 2007 and 2009, a total of 465 contracts have been signed. These are worth more than Rs 1,35,000 crore.

He said in 10 years, the defence ministry had doubled the capital expenditure for new acquisitions. The acquisitions were worth Rs 62,272 crore between 1999 and 2004. They total Rs 1,37,496 crore between 2004 and 2009. In the current year (2009-2010), Rs 41,000 crore was being spent on direct capital acquisitions.

The acquisitions have included Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems, Sukhoi 30MKI fighter aircraft, aircraft for VIPs, missiles of different types and tanks.

Balochistan: Ground Zero

—Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Figures prove that Balochistan has perpetually suffered from neglect and wilful attempts to keep it in a state of deprivation. Blaming Sardars for obstructing development cuts no ice because the areas under the government’s writ haven’t prospered either

Balochistan is virtually ‘Ground Zero’ because the political, social, economic and military policies there since partition have created an effect more akin to devastation by nuclear bombs and presents a picture of utter desolation and desperation, whereby the people have lost hope and resorted to use of means other than political. The ever-simmering insurgency is the direct consequence of the level of economic deprivation and the oppressive conditions obtaining today in Balochistan. Economic exploitation, unbridled use of force in frequent military operations and the ever-increasing number of missing persons have resulted in unparalleled misery for the people.

A word of caution for this piece: loads of data tend to obscure human suffering. Engrossed with figures, readers lose track of the primary object. To avoid this pitfall, it is essential to keep one’s blessings and others’ deprivation in perspective all the time. To present the grim reality of economic deprivation and poverty, I quote credible experts and reports. Syed Fazl-e-Haider, a respected developmental analyst, says, “Poverty is a multi-dimensional concept rather than simple income (consumption) deprivation. Any single measure of poverty, such as head-count ratio based on specific ‘poverty line’ does not fully capture all its dimensions and does not reflect the real causes of wider human sufferings. ‘Poverty of opportunity’ index, a composite of deprivation in three vital dimensions — health, education and income — is quite useful in this regard. In case of Balochistan, any single measure indicates that it is the poorest province.”

Further highlighting the neglect he says, “Balochistan remains almost voiceless, having no say in the decision-making process at the centre. Over 50 percent of its population subsists below the poverty line. Income-based inequities in human development need to be addressed. During fiscal year (FY) 2000-2001, only 9.2 percent of the total Khushhal Pakistan programme budget had been allocated to the province compared to 16.2 percent for the NWFP, 19.7 percent for Sindh, and 48.9 percent for Punjab. During the first year of the programme, utilisation as a percentage of the budgeted amount was the lowest for the province at 2.8 percent compared to 7.7 percent in NWFP, 8.2 percent in Sindh, and 19 percent in Punjab.

“In the FY 2004, the federal contribution to the provincial development programmes was 56 percent for NWFP, 28 percent for Punjab, 19 percent for Sindh and only eight percent for Balochistan. The share allocated in foreign project assistance (FPA) to Punjab was 53 percent, NWFP 29 percent, Sindh 12 percent and again only six percent for Balochistan.”

The table of ‘Districts Showing Decline in Index of Multiple Deprivation of More than 10 Points’ in Research Report No.72 by Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) for comparing1998 to 2005 tells that there was not a single district from Balochistan showing decline while there were three from Punjab, five from Sindh and seven from the NWFP.

Moreover, in the table ‘The Ten Highest Deprived Districts of Pakistan’, nine were from Balochistan and it emerges as the most deprived province with over 91 percent of population residing in high-deprived districts during 2005. It shows that in 1998 the percentage of population living in a high degree of deprivation was 25 percent in Punjab, 23 percent in urban Sindh, 49 percent in rural Sindh, 51 percent in NWFP, and 88 percent in Balochistan. In 2005, the figures were: Punjab 28, Sindh 35, NWFP 35 and Balochistan 91, showing that Balochistan is in a consistent nose-dive. The report adds, per annum declining rate of deprivation is the lowest in Balochistan; it has the weakest long-term growth performance. From 1972-73 to 2004-05, the economy expanded 2.7 times in Balochistan, 3.6 times in NWFP and Sindh, and 4.0 times in Punjab. The growth divergence has widened historic income differences and Balochistan’s per capita income level of $400 in 2004 was only two-thirds of Pakistan’s national level. Perhaps, with the sole exception of the area in and around Quetta, social deprivation is widespread in all districts of Balochistan. As expected, in terms of level of deprivation during 2005, Punjab possesses the lowest, while Balochistan has the highest magnitude of Index of Multiple Deprivation. A horrific picture emerges if one surveys the maternal mortality rate, which is 650 per 100,000 births in Balochistan while it is 281in Karachi. This is double the national average. Infant mortality in Balochistan is 158 deaths per 1,000 live births. Even Democratic Republic of Congo’s average of 126 is lower while Pakistan’s national average of 70 is less than half.

Similarly, Balochistan accounted for seven out of the nine districts with the lowest full immunisation rate, including the four districts with the worst record. Balochistan’s performance would look even worse without the exclusion of Dera Bugti and Kohlu in the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) sample due to security reasons. Only 20 percent of its people have an access to safe drinking water compared to 86 percent in the rest of Pakistan. Village electrification is only 25 percent compared to 75 percent in the rest of the country. The education sector figures are depressing too. Access to education is also far below the ratio of other provinces. Over three-fourths of women and two-thirds of the population above ten are illiterate. The conditions in the insurgency-affected Marri-Bugti areas and among the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are much worse. With regard to net primary enrolment, 11 out of the 16 districts, including the four districts with the worst record, in 2004-05 belonged to Balochistan. These figures prove that Balochistan has perpetually suffered from neglect and wilful attempts to keep it in a state of deprivation. Blaming Sardars for obstructing development cuts no ice because the areas under the government’s writ haven’t prospered either. Take the example of Bugti area. Though gas was discovered in Sui in 1951, meets approximately 45 percent of Pakistan’s total needs and is worth Rs 85 billion annually, yet what Dera Bugti receives in return for the wealth it generates is evident from the UNDP Human Development Report 2003, which ranked Dera Bugti last among the 91 districts on the Human Development Index.

Matters haven’t improved with the emergence of the democratic set-up. There has been, however, a glut of promises and packages, which cannot and have not healed the wounds caused by decades of brutality and neglect. The missing are still missing, even those who went missing recently like Murad Khan Marri, picked up in Hub, and Abdul Rahim Qalandarani Marri from Quetta.

Balochistan is in fact a lot poorer than the statistics show. Little wonder, then, that there is intense and sustained resentment and bitterness which simply refuses to die down in the face of the make-shift and half-baked palliative measures that are announced now and then to defuse the prevailing insurgency and the increasing calls for independence.

The problem is not just an economic one but in fact essentially a political one, which cannot be resolved either by force or by mega-projects. It should be understood that the nationalists do not just demand their rights over resources but, more importantly, demand the absolute right to decide their fate regarding their political and economic matters.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com


Online Activism Can Work


Kristina Loring on December 22, 2009 at 10:00 am PST

Despite what some say, getting involved on the internet can lead to meaningful change.

design mind on GOOD is a series exploring the power of design by the editors of design mind magazine. New posts every Tuesday and Thursday.

"Without community, there is no liberation."

—Audre Lorde

A lot of activists cringe at the idea of moving their efforts online. They fear the insulting label of “slacktivist”; one who joins a cause online and fades away. I get it. I’ve asked the same skeptical questions: Are we walking through the doors of a factory each time we sign into another "network"? Are we fragmenting our collective identity and yielding to the desire for empathetic unification with strangers who have never heard how heavy we breathe after protesting against the oppressive 'isms that silence us? Is my avatar really creating a change?

Well, I think it’s time to raise a virtual fist. Online activism is not only meaningful; it’s essential, and it extends far beyond simple digital philanthropy or a virtual commitment to join a cause with the click of a “thumbs up.”

The interconnected network of media outlets and online spaces actually resembles the systems and political battlegrounds that have always been the focus of movements of resistance. And if we are to change these online spaces, as those before us have tried to change physical world, then like them, we have to work within the system we are striving so desperately to change.

If the traditional activist groups whose history is rooted in Angela Davis's radical movement of the 1960s or Emma Goldman's demands at the turn of the century do not embrace the internet as a tool that is meant to be utilized, then we surrender a vital channel to those who favor privatization and strive to isolate voices of individuality, equality, and protest. Or as the computer scientist and visual artist Jonathan Harris puts it, "Instead of fleeing to the forest, we must find the humanity in the machine and learn to love it. If we decide humanity does not yet exist there in the ways we expect, then we must create it.”

Ideally, internet-led social movements would form a symbiotic relationship with their “on-the-ground” counterparts. Using social media outlets to propel a social cause cannot merely be a two-way dialogue—online and offline activism should not exist as diametrically opposed efforts. Think of online and offline activism efforts working towards the same goal as a meta-coalition, bringing solidarity and strength to a movement by providing consciousness, protection, connection, and documentation.

Creating an awareness and consciousness around an issue is the first step in building and articulating a movement's demands and priorities. Blogging and micro-blogging serve as digital fliers or zines, while the social networks provide both a virtual printing press and a soapbox upon which activists can stand, free of the sponsorship and ratings constraints shackling the mainstream media.

The most prominent example of an online network supplying such crucial information is when media giant CNN failed to provide coverage of the protests in Tehran after the recent Iranian presidential election. Because of the mainstream media's failure, the Twittersphere quickly became a media watchdog. This online protest of mainstream media, marked with tweets and the hashtag #CNNFail, drew more attention towards the protests on the ground in Iran, as bloggers, tweeters, and members of Facebook groups worked to fill the void left by CNN.

In fact, online communities sprang up determined to stream the voices, videos, and other content that was being censored on the internet. One website of hackers that is still growing is Haystack, which provides “a computer program that allows full, uncensored access to the Internet even in areas with heavy Internet filtering.” The program allows users of heavily censored networks in countries like Iran to use normal web browsers and network applications.

Their effort spawned the Censorship Research Center, a nonprofit group that ”helps [to] secure and safeguard [the] human right to free communication, especially with regard to emergent 21st-century communication technologies like the Internet.” These efforts not only promote offline action by providing a platform to convey resistance in digital mediums, but they also protect it. An extension of this effort is the group's newly formed Committee to Protect Bloggers that helps spotlight on-the-ground political protests. Without such online systems in place, these efforts could easily go undocumented, and even more frightening, uncommunicated to a greater audience of potential activists and supporters.

In addition to raising awareness and action around an issue, digital activism can facilitate the creation of alliances. I am certainly not equating a Facebook friendship or following someone on Twitter with actual cultivated relationships, but if you’re building a movement, sometimes the growing base of followers, fans, and pageviews adds up to more than clicking a button. In the fall of 2008, during the “No on 8” campaign for marriage equality in California, the group’s online networks and website were only brought into full force six weeks before the election. Prior to the website's redesign and launch of these social networks, the “No on 8” campaign raised only about $1 million in online contributions. In the final six weeks, the campaign raised approximately $22 million. The internet can provide an incredible avenue for fund raising and philanthropy. While those dollars were crucial to the campaign's longevity and exposure (a group can literally raise money in the morning so a commercial can air on television that afternoon), I was more intrigued by the support and morale those social networks provided than I was by their return on investment.

Finally, amid the websites, blogs, tweets, Facebook updates, photo/video/audio-sharing tools and the sometimes overwhelming frenzy of content, we must see this digital space as a constantly revised and edited library for archiving the instantly documented forms of protest collected in empowered clusters in the streets. An understanding of a movement's construction, tactics, and devices lead to an informed understanding on how to mobilize moving forward.

So in this time of organization-less organizing and blurred boundaries between our virtual and “actual” lives, it is important to consider emerging forums or tools for proactive social change, rather than think of these modalities as competing with one another. From hitting the streets to hitting the keyboard to embedding your digital and spoken conversations with political dissidence, the building of a social movement needs collective action on all avenues, including the internet.

Kristina Loring is a writer and activist living in San Francisco.

Afghan-Pakistan border: new centre of the ‘war on terror’

Source: Le Monde Diplomatiq

January 01, 2010

US secures drones market

Source: Le Monde diplomatique

by Edouard Pflimlin

The global market for drones was worth around £4.4bn in 2009, the lion’s share of which (70%) went to US companies such as Northrop Grumman and General Atomics. Northrop Grumman is the manufacturer of the Global Hawk, a long-endurance drone capable of 36-hour surveillance flights. General Atomics makes the Predator.

European companies in this market, such as Thales, EADS, Dassault, Finmeccanica, Sagem and BAE Systems, are tiny by comparison: together they account for only 4%. Israeli firms make up a further 2%, though in reality they are bigger players than this suggests as they collaborate closely with the Europeans. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), for example, produced the Hunter (of which France has bought four) and the Heron (and its derivative the Eagle) as part of the SIDM Harfang programme used by the French air force. The other Israeli company, Elbit Systems, manufactures Hermes drones, used by the British.

The remaining 24% of the market is shared between other companies in Russia, India, Iran and China, which together account for less than 5%, leaving almost 20% in the form of contracts which remain secret for reasons of military security.

The US is very well placed to profit from the exponential growth in the market for drones, the most dynamic sector of the world aerospace industry, which, it is estimated, will total $62bn over the next 10 years. According to a study by aerospace consultants, the Teal Group, the market for drones will go from $4.4bn per annum to $8.7bn in the next decade, bringing an additional 25,000 drone aircraft of all types into service. In 2010, according to analysts, one-third of the $4-5bn total expenditure will be spent outside the US (1).

The US entirely dominates the market for very large HALE (high-altitude, long-endurance) drones with the Global Hawk, which will in the future also be used by Nato. It’s not a market the Europeans can hope to penetrate. But the future battle in the MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) market is going to be fierce – here there are two main contenders: EADS with the advanced UAV and Dassault aviation-Thales and Indra in Spain with the SDM. There’s a budget of $4.2bn to play for: $1.5bn for development and $2.7bn to provide 15 systems, each with three aircraft.

And then there are the UCAVs – Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles or combat drones. But the Dassault-led Neuron project suffers from the absence of two key players, the British and the Germans.

Indian Education System - It Needs More Students Like The "3 Idiots"


In our first article* on the differences between the Indian Education System and American Education System, we discussed the cultural importance of education in Indian families & society. This is one of the most important driving forces behind the success of India's middle class in education.

But the laser-like focus has its dark side as well. Since education is the critical key to financial success and social status in Indian society, children are placed in what has become a system of educational silos. Each of these silos leads to a upwardly mobile profession like Engineering, Medicine or Law. These silos get narrower as you get higher in the silos. At each step in the silo, students have to pass rigorous exams and get high scores for admission to the best schools, colleges and universities. The scores are becoming so important that what one learns is getting less and less relevant.

Every year, there is a new class of eager students waiting to climb the same silo. So if you want to get out of the silo and take some time off to find your true passion in life, you don't because you might lose the one chance you have for success. There are countless talented young people who are trapped in this system of education silos, students whose passion is being throttled in the race for the few places in narrowing silos.

Students that try to break free are often derided as idiots by their families, colleagues and society. If you want to see 3 such idiots, go to your neighborhood theater and watch the film "3 Idiots".

This film made us realize again why we are proud to call ourselves Cinema Rasik (aficionado plus aspiring connoisseur) on this Blog. Cinema is an incredible medium. Great Directors and great Actors can bring life to a subject and tell a story in a way that ordinary writers simply cannot. Look at the way Francis Ford Coppola changed our way of looking at the Mafia. Danny Boyle changed the way the world looks at urban slums. Aamir Khan changed the way we look at Autistic children with his groundbreaking film "Taare Zameen Par".

Well, Aamir Khan is back and this time with the brilliant Vidhu Vinod Chopra. It was Mr. Chopra that gave us the terrific "MunnaBhai" series and the exquisite remake of the old classic "Parineeta". This incredible duo has brought us "3 idiots", a terrific film about 3 students that are pushed into an elite Engineering School and break away from it to pursue their own dreams.

When we watched this film, we thought of some of our friends who had to put away their own passions and dreams to pursue a career in a traditional Indian silo. Two of these friends had the talent and the passion to play professional Cricket for Mumbai and India. But their parents said no. Cricket did not pay for a decent livelihood at that time. Trying to achieve their dreams might have meant giving up any chance of financial success.

A few of our friends were bright, beautiful women with the talent and passion to be writers, actors or fashion models. At that time, these careers did not provide either financial rewards or social status. So these women went to Medical school and became Doctors.

Today, the economic system has changed. Young boys vie to be cricket players because the game now offers big money and social status. Young girls want to follow the several Indian Miss World or Miss Universe winners into a career of fashion, media and arts. But these professions are still more risky than the traditional engineering or medical professions.

Despite the explosive growth of these new career opportunities, the attitude of most middle class or upper middle class parents has not changed. In some cases, the people we described above, the people who gave up their own dreams 20-25 years ago, find themselves unable to see the dreams, the passion of their own children.

To them we say, watch "3 idiots" first without your children and then again with your children. Then have a real conversation with your children about what they want to do with their lives. If you think they are being rash or foolish, by all means express your views. But respect their passion, their dreams and above all, respect the profession they wish to pursue even if that profession may not have the same respect in today's society that your profession has.

In contrast, the American education system excels in the freedom that the film "3 idiots" preaches. This is one reason why most bright students in India want to come to graduate school in an America just as much as our group did a couple of decades ago. This freedom is a part of the American ethos and a result of the strength & depth of the American economy.

We hope the success of "3 idiots" is a sign of new freedom for Indian students and a harbinger of change in the Indian Education System.