June 02, 2012

A New Security Order in the Pacific

Written by Khanh Vu Duc  
FRIDAY, 01 JUNE 2012

The Vietnam Navy: Where do they line up?
A new organization must be formed to address the region's present and future concerns
The United States today is not the United States of 1962, financially sound and brimming with potential. Despite its best efforts, Washington will find itself hard pressed to find a manageable solution to the plethora of problems that plague the South China Sea. 

Faced with a debt crisis and stubborn unemployment levels at home, exhausted militarily and economically from campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US must temper its foreign policy objectives in this period of austerity. No longer can the US be expected to provide economic and military support to its traditional allies. 

Despite an expected reduction in force—almost US$500 billion and perhaps more in planned defense spending cuts over the next decade—it is unlikely the US would withdraw completely from its commitments in Asia-Pacific or around the world, but its ability to execute foreign policy will be much diminished.

To reflect the changing geopolitics, there is a need for a new security order in the Pacific. It is clear that the US maintains an interest in Asia-Pacific but can no longer play the same role it was once capable of. Countries in the region must assume responsibility over their security. However, this new security order should not omit the United States by counting it out permanently, but take into account its new role. 

By thrusting the bulk of responsibility onto the shoulders of Asian countries, with the hopes that such an order would provide relevant, regional-specific solutions to regional matters, the new security order would exist as an international forum and security alliance, providing the methods and means to resolve disputes before they could devolve into conflicts. 

Common Interests, Shared Responsibility

The desire for an Asia-Pacific at peace is undoubtedly shared by all regional countries. Regardless of China's assertiveness, not even they would seek conflict when it can be avoided. In this, all parties in this new security order could find common ground: to establish mechanisms that would preserve peace and security, and give way to prosperity.

While the United States' pivot to the Asia-Pacific has included Marines in Australia and increased naval exercises with allies and strategic partners in the region, it cannot be expected that the US Navy will provide an umbrella of protection for all those in need. Ultimately, of the Southeast Asian nations, only the Philippines are assured protection under its Mutual Defense Treaty with the US. As such, other Southeast Asian nations must adapt to a reality in which American assistance is not always assured. Southeast Asian nations must not assume that the US will play an absolute role.

What would a new security order in Asia-Pacific look like? It would have, perhaps, Japan, India, and Australia as perimeter nations, and at its core comprise of the US and Southeast Asian. This alliance—the Pacific Security Organization, or PSO, as it will be referred from here on—would serve as the new security order in Asia-Pacific. The US would continue to play an important role, but leadership of the organization would (and should) be assigned to a member of ASEAN, whose presence and interests are relevant to other ASEAN and regional partners. 

For obvious reasons, Japan, India, and Australia, none of whom are ASEAN states, are unlikely to be leaders of this new order. History has not endeared Japan to the hearts and minds of its neighbors. India is too far removed from Southeast Asia; and Australia, however economically sound, may be excluded for similar reasons as India. 

Indonesia, possessing the largest economy and population in Southeast Asia, is a reasonable contender for a leadership role in the security order. It is sometimes perceived as a natural leader in ASEAN due to its size and strength, and so might be well-received as a leader among future member nations of the PSO. 

If Indonesia should seek a leadership role, it is likely to receive the nod from the US. In his remarks to American Forces Press Service, General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remarked that an Asian-Pacific organization similar to NATO would have value; however, it must be demanded by those nations. There is need for such an organization, but no country has yet taken the initiative to create one. Indonesia is well placed to spearhead the creation of the PSO. 

From its inception, the Pacific Security Organization must not be an American creation. The organization must be, at every level, an organization by Southeast Asian nations for Southeast Asian nations, in order to appropriately address concerns in the region. This would therefore entail member states of the PSO to assume all responsibility for their security and commitment to other party states. Over time, the PSO can evolve to encompass all of Asia-Pacific, but only after it has succeeded in securing peace in Southeast Asia.

The United States, of course, would remain an integral part of the organization, but it should not be looked upon to provide all the answers. In this period of austerity, the US military is in the process reorganizing its priorities and restructuring its forces. If it is to play any role in Asia-Pacific, the US must require its allies and strategic partners to assume some responsibility in securing their respective interests. The establishment of the PSO would allow Southeast Asian nations, formally dependent on US protection, to look to themselves to strengthen and improve their security.

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Undoubtedly there will be many challenges facing the establishment of this new security order; however, all the same, there will equally be many benefits. Challenges are merely opportunities yet discovered; and although the challenges are immediate and benefits distant, if not nebulous, this should in no way discourage any attempt at formalizing a new security order. The greatest opportunity of all is the stabilization the Pacific. If this century should be the "Pacific Century," it would be better that the Pacific be free of conflict. 

A new security order is crucial to delivering and maintaining said peace and prosperity. The most pressing matter at hand is not only assembling the countries to be involved, but also organizing them among common grounds. As stated earlier, although these countries share a common interest, their differences are many; and it may be that these differences prevent the creation of a new security order. 

Overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, for example, could scuttle the PSO before it can take off. Almost all claimant states in the Spratly Island disputes have overlapping claims. Past grievances between countries may also be too much to bear moving forward. Whatever the challenges, however, it must be made clear to potential parties that there is much to be gained by putting aside these differences.

Beyond peace and security in the Pacific, this new, international security forum could strengthen ties between East and West. Much like NATO can be used to address, discuss, and attempt to solve security concerns before they erupt, this Asian-Pacific security organization can do the same. The potential for the South China Sea territorial disputes to devolve into conflict looms in the distance. At present, it seems unlikely that any claimant country will start a war over the disputes; however, would it not be better to resolve this matter now rather than wait and find out later? ASEAN has thus far proved lacking in finding an acceptable solution to this problem. It may be that a new forum with the proper mandate is required to resolve the disputes.

Vietnam's Dilemma

Of the ASEAN countries that might join the new security alliance, Vietnam proves to be the most interesting, equally important and unimportant. Possessing a mid-size economy among Southeast Asian nations, a fairly young and large population, and a modernizing military, its addition to the PSO would certainly be welcomed. 

Vietnam, however, has the unfortunate circumstance of being an historic rival of China; yet, despite this, remains deeply tied to the latter. Vietnam's economy is dependent on China, as is the legitimacy of its government. Both are Communist (in name more than philosophy), but where the rule of China's Communist Party is absolute, Vietnam's is on the precipice. Internal divisions have strained the Vietnamese Communist Party, with some party members perhaps advocating closer ties with the United States, with others demanding the party and country remain close to China. 

Warming up to the US would allow greater access to Western markets, but at the cost of necessary political reforms (human rights remains a sore point between the US and Vietnam, especially with respect to sales of arms) and potential economic retaliation from China. On the other hand, falling in line with China would assure Vietnam that its immediate economic and security concerns would be taken care of; however, the Vietnamese people have yet to openly accept China, viewing their northern neighbor with distrust. 

Moreover, Vietnam and China are presently involved in the Spratly and Paracel Islands disputes, which have been a point of contention greater than Vietnam's reluctance to address its human rights problems. The Vietnamese government has so far been walking a fine line between satisfying China and the US while maintaining Communist rule, but it cannot do so forever.

The United States would like Vietnam to join an organization like the PSO, if only to secure another strategic partner so close to China. Should Vietnam not join the alliance, it would not amount to a catastrophic loss to the US. It would, however, be a grave loss to the PSO. While not possessing the same international clout as Singapore or Indonesia, its relatively young and large labor population would contribute greatly over time, not only to Vietnam, but to Southeast Asian economies. As a member of the PSO, Vietnam would have the ability to develop closer economic ties with its neighbors on a multilateral basis.

That said, Vietnam as is would not be an ideal partner in the PSO, as its treatment of its citizens leaves much to be desired. Not to restrict this concern to Vietnam only, it should be a requirement for all future member states of the PSO to improve conditions at home, so as not to undermine the integrity of the organization. In the case of Vietnam, it must democratize and address its human rights violations. The PSO should not only promote and secure peace and security in Asia-Pacific, but promote better standards of living. 

(Khanh Vu Duc is a Vietnamese Canadian lawyer in Ottawa, focusing on various areas of law. He researches on International Relations and International Law)


In a personal Blog post titled "BJP: A Hub of Hope", ShriL.K.Advani, former Deputy Prime Minister and senior leader of the BJP, has stated as follows: "I had said at the Core Group meeting that if people are today angry with the U.P.A. Government, they are also disappointed with us. The situation, I said, calls for introspection." (http://blog.lkadvani.in/blog-in-english/bjp-a-hub-of-hope )
2. Even as the analysts were discussing the significance of his Blog post, an article in the latest issue of "Panchajanya", the journal of the RSS, has also expressed openly disquiet over certain recent developments in the BJP focussed on the efforts of some elements supporting the candidature of ShriNarendraModi as the next Prime Minister to force their will  on the RSS and the BJP.
3. The article states that the  BJP has several chief ministers and central leaders who are capable of being its prime ministerial candidate and hence the decision on this matter should be made after the general elections. (http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-why-only-modi-bjp-has-many-pm-candidates-rss/20120602.htm )
4. While ShriAdvani's Blog post talks in general about the public perception of the state of affairs in the party without naming anyone, the "Panchajanya" article makes no secret of the fact that it has been triggered by the pressure tactics adopted by the supporters of NaMo to force the party to accept NaMo as the prime ministerial candidate even before the next elections.
5. While it would be unreasonable to expect the BJP and the RSS to be more specific in their concerns, these have come to the fore in the context of the recent stepped- up efforts of the supporters of NaMo---many of them NRIs based in the US--- to see that NaMo is accepted by the BJP and the RSS as the prime ministerial candidate.
6. Since the beginning of last year, I have been drawing attention to the Nazi Storm Trooper-like methods adopted by many followers of NaMo toimpose their will on their party and then the nation. Anyone aware of the methods used by the Nazi Storm Troopers to force the German people to accept Hitler as their leader would be struck by the similarity of the rhetoric and PSYWAR methods used by these pro-NaMo elements whom I have been referring to as the NaMo Brigade.
7. They  do not call themselves the NaMo Brigade, but they make no secret of the fact that they support NaMo as the next Prime Minister of India. Their worrisome methods, reminiscent of the methods used by the Storm Troopers, consist largely of abuse, vituperation, disinformation, character assassination and psychological pressure. Whereas the Nazi Storm Troopers did not have the benefit of the computer and the Internet, the NaMo Brigade, which has established a dominance over the means of propaganda through the Net in the absence of any opposition to their methods from secular and liberal elements, has been using the social media networks in their PSYWAR.

8. Nobody can object to their campaign in favour of NaMo as the Prime Minister despite his perceived misdeeds of the past. But one has reasons to be concerned over the ways adopted by these elements in an attempt to enforce their will on the nation. If they succeed due to lack of adequate  public knowledge of the sinister implications of their strategy and the inadequate attempts to counter their methods, the nation may have to pay a heavy price.
9. India needs a strong, efficient and effective ruler, but not a Hitler. That ruler has to be chosen by the people through their free will and not imposed on them through stage-managed and orchestrated pressure.

10. It is time to sound a wake-up call about the dangerous implications of the pressure tactics and Storm Trooper methods being  used to force the BJP, the RSS and the Nation to accept NaMo who is being sought to be projected by these elements as God's own choice to rule India at this critical juncture.
11. While it is up to the political parties to draw up their respective strategy to ensure that such methods do not find a place in our political landscape, it is important for others too to educate public opinion on the activities of these elements and the great harm that they can cause to our democracy.
12. The new strategy to be worked out should focus not on the past misdeeds of NaMo, but on the  future misdeeds that are likely to be committed by these elements if their methods succeed. ( 3-6-12)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: seventyone2@gmail.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )



I will be 76 on August 14. On October 24, it will be three years since the metastasised  cancer in my urinary tract was detected and the hormonal therapy ( total androgen blocade) started.

2. The therapy is based on the discovery that any cancer of prostate origin shrinks if it is denied the male sex hormone that acts as a fertiliser for the tumour. I had to undergo an injection once in three months and take a hormonal tablet called Calutide 50 every day. The course of injections was stopped after two years in November last. According to my doctor, if the injections are continued for more than two years, the bones tend to get brittle.

3. This was the least aggressive of the therapies available and I chose it. The other options, that were more aggressive and often more effective, were surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. They cause considerable side-effects and hence I decided not to have them.

4. By the time my cancer, which started in the prostate, was detected, it had spread to the urinary bladder, nearby bones and some lymphnodes.  Surprisingly, my PSA (Total and Free) levels, which give the first indication of the presence of the cancer in the prostate, were normal. The scans showed the cancer in the bladder, but not in the prostate. It was detected only during a diagnostic procedure. The spread of the cancer to some bones and lymphnodes was detected during a scan with radioactive isotopes.

5. It was graded as high grade cancer of prostate origin, but the cancer had no effect on my energy, weight and appetite and I had no pain anywhere in the body. The first external symptom that led to the detection was the presence of heavy blood in the urine.

6. The only two discomforts caused so far by the cancer and therapy are constipation and a slight pain in my right feet since last November. The doctors had cautioned me that the spread of the cancer to some bones could cause heavy back pain and radiating pain in the upper parts of the legs. This has not happened so far.

7. The therapy caused the cancer in the prostate to shrink totally and in the bladder partially. Since I never took a bone scan, I do not know anything about the cancer in the bones or lymphnodes. The doctor has also not insisted on a bone scan. Since I have had no pain, I have presumed that it has not spread.

8. Before the cancer was detected, I used to be a daily drinker of Scotch and Soda---taking two large pegs every day and three on Saturdays. After the detection, on the doctor's advice, I reduced it to three or four days a month, but during my recent visits to Delhi I was drinking almost daily with friends.

9. In July last year, the Government of India sought my assistance in an advisory capacity to enable the Task Force on National Security headed by Shri Naresh Chandra, former Cabinet Secretary, complete its work. My elder brother was strongly against my accepting it since he feared that it might render me weak, but I accepted it. I used to travel to Delhi three times a month spending about 12 to 15 days every month there. In May, I spent 18 days---- 11 of them continuously.

10. During my stay in Delhi, I used to work from 10 AM to midnight---- with an one-hour break for lunch and two hours for dinner. I withstood the strain remarkably well as if I was a 40-year-old healthy person. I was amazed by my energy level despite the two discomforts mentioned above which continued.

11. Normally, human reactions to the detection of cancer vary from individual to individual. Many withdraw into a shell and avoid sharing with friends and others except close relatives the news of their cancer. Some share with relatives, but not with friends. Some share with everybody. I am told the majority of the cancer patients tend to become depressed when the disease is detected.

12.In my case, I have remained cheerful from the beginning. I share freely all details of my cancer and the treatment with whoever is interested on my own without their having to ask me questions. An American friend of mine once jocularly remarked: "Raman is the first cancer patient known to me who brags in public about his cancer as if he has achieved something great by getting cancer."

13.My cheerfulness and my readiness to share have kept my morale sustained. Sometimes, some of  my Twitter buddies are surprised by the loud-tweeting I do about my cancer and think I must be depressed, but I am never depressed.

14. But I am bothered often by the thought  not of pain starting, but of my developing a dependence on others if the cancer spreads further. I have always been a self-reliant person. Never in my life have I been dependent on others in personal matters. The feeling (not fear) that I might one day become dependent on others bothers me.

15. My calm disposition and my habit of always looking at the brighter side of life have helped me in my fight against the cancer. I felt proud of myself when my Doctors remarked last year that I have driven the cancer out of my body through sheer will power and not through the therapy.

16. All human beings like to be praised. Cancer patients are no exception. The morale of cancer patients goes up when they are told  that they are looking normal and do not look like cancer patients. During my frequent visits to Delhi, my morale used to go up every time I was complimented on my normal  energy level. I was myself amazed by it and I used to feel very happy when others noticed it and remarked on it.

17. Please don't tell a lie to a cancer patient. By doing so, you are not helping him or her. But if you find a cancer patient looking good and doing well, don't hesitate to tell him as sincerely as you can.

18. Cancer patients have their good moments and bad moments. I too though I try not to show my mood changes. If you find us occasionally irritable or nasty, try to understand us. Those are passing phases.

19. There are two things I miss greatly—my daily S & S and my foreign travels. Inside India, I have been travelling as frequently and as vigorously as I used to do before the cancer was detected in October 2009. I used to travel abroad for discussions and seminars seven or eight times a year. I have stopped all my foreign travels since September 2009. My doc has been encouraging me to resume my foreign travels. But I am hesitant due to a fear that if internal bleeding or pain starts during my stay abroad, my hosts might be put to difficulty.

20. As I often say, I have learnt to peacefully co-exist with my cancer. There is a lovely song of Georges Moustaki, the French singer of Greek origin, titled "Ma Solitude". He sings: " I never feel alone because my Solitude always keep me company and sleeps with me in bed."

21. I never feel depressed  because my cancer and I have learnt to live and sleep with each other. My cancer is my live-in companion. ( 2-6-12)



( Written at the request  of the "Times of India" and published by it on June 2,2012

The Government of India has done well to release the text of  the report of the three-member team of Interlocutors headed by Shri Dileep Padgaonkar constituted by it in October 2010 to suggest ways forward  for facilitating the normalisation of the political situation in Jammu & Kashmir.

Any further delay in the initiation of follow-up action  might have created an  impression in the State that the entire exercise was an eyewash to gain time. The perceived past inaction of the Government of India in the face of accumulating grievances contributed to a deep sense of alienation followed by the insurgency. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan exploited the alienation to sponsor a proxy war.

There is an insurgency fatigue in the State, but It would be unwise to misinterpret the growing normalcy in the ground situation as indicating a political fatigue too. The grievances have not withered away. They will not unless  meaningful action is taken  to identify the legitimate ones and act to remove them.

Bringing the insurgency under control was only one aspect of the problem. An equally important aspect is to set in motion a process of dealienation through appropriate political and psychological measures.

The constitution of the Interlocutors' team was indicative of  a recognition by the Government of India that operational normalisation  has to be followed by political normalisation.

The report is  comprehensive  and  deals with all aspects of the problem---political, operational, economic, humanitarian etc. There is a huge humanitarian aspect  due to perceptions of unchecked and unaddressed violations of the human rights of the people by the security forces despite their better control of the ground situation now.

The Interlocutors have come out with ideas and concepts--- the setting-up of the Constitutional Review Committee is one such idea---- which may not be acceptable to all sections of the people of the State and political forces in the rest of India.

Some of these ideas are likely to be opposed by those  who had always argued that the original sin in the State was committed by the founding fathers of independent India who agreed to grant a special constitutional status to the State. They are likely to oppose  any attempt to reverse the process of the dilution  of the special status. There could be other issues relating to Jammu and Ladakh and the return of the Hindu Pandits to their original homeland which might encounter difficulties in implementation.

Fears of likely controversies should not be allowed to inhibit the implementation process. Political compromises in the over-all State and national interests will be necessary. What is important is to create a positive momentum towards implementation.

The Government of India, in consultation with the State, should identify those recommendations that can be implemented quickly through executive orders  without the need for time-consuming political consultations and take time-bound action to implement them. Among such recommendations one could mention those relating to the re-deployment of the security forces, re-evaluation of the need for special powers for the Army and improving the human rights situation.

If this is done, it will restore the confidence of the people in the sincerity of the Government and pave the way for a more non-emotional examination of the controversial recommendations.

Interestingly, the Interlocutors' report has been released a day after the Task Force on National Security headed by Naresh Chandra, former Cabinet Secretary, submitted its report to the Prime Minister. The Task Force has, inter alia, given its assessment of the ground situation in J&K and made a number of well-considered recommendations for political normalisation.

The recommendations of the Interlocutors should be examined in conjunction with those of the Task Force and a process for implementation set in motion. The dealienation of the people of the State would depend on the sincerity of the follow-up drill. The Prime Minister should take over the leadership role for monitoring the follow-up process.

He should nominate a small Group of Ministers to examine jointly the recommendations of the Interlocutors and the Naresh Chandra Task Force, in consultation with the State Government and the political parties in the State and Centre to draw up a plan for the implementation of acceptable recommendations without delay.

The BJP and other right-wing forces should resist the temptation to politicise the follow-up. Nothing can be more short-sighted and counter-productive.

We have a very short window of political opportunity in the State. The thinning down of the NATO forces in Afghanistan is likely to make available to the ISI surplus trained cadres and leaked arms and ammunition from the dumps left by the departing NATO forces for diversion to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir in an attempt to re-kindle the dying insurgency. The implicit Chinese recognition of Gilgit-Baltistan as Pakistani territory and the increasing Chinese interest and presence in the Kashmiri  territory under the illegal occupation of Pakistan are likely to create new geostrategic dimensions of the problem.

National and State interests  demand that this window is intelligently and constructively utilised. If we do not do so, we may find ourselves back in 1989. We have a welcome respite in  J&K. Whether it endures or not would depend on the political initiatives of the Prime Minister.

( The writer was Additional Secretary, Research & Analysis Wing, Cabinet Secretariat)

June 01, 2012

Playing all June: India, US strategic bonhomie

June 01, 2012 14:29 IST
The US has decided to give top priority to its ties with India [ Images ], which is reflected in an unprecedented series of high-level exchange of visits between the two countries this month aimed at taking forward their cooperation in areas like defence, trade and education.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta would spend two days in New Delhi [ Images ] next week as part of a visit aimed at taking the military-to-military relationship between the two countries to the next level.
By June end, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is scheduled to land in India for economic and business talks with his Indian counterpart.
And in between, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [ Images ] has decided to go out of her way to co-chair at least three Cabinet level meetings/summits with Indian ministers, including the third round of Strategic Dialogue in Washington with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna [Images ] on June 13.
The Indian delegation would be represented by four Cabinet Ministers and two Cabinet-level officials. 

In fact, given the number of events that have been scheduled in and around June 13, it is being called as Indian week in Washington.
A day before the India-US Strategic Dialogue, Clinton would co-chair with Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal [ Images ] the Education Dialogue -- which is a follow up to the first meeting held in New Delhi last year -- on June 12. 

Sibal would be accompanied by a number of Indian education officials and representatives from Indian universities and educational institutions.
On June 11, Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh [ Images ] would co-chair a meeting with his US counterpart discussing cooperation in the field of science and technology.
The ministerial talks would be preceded by the official-level meetings on science and technology on June 8.
The business community too is pitching in with their contribution.
Clinton and Krishna are scheduled to address the 37th anniversary of "Leadership Summit" of US-India Business Council (USIBC) on June 12, a day before the Strategic Dialogue. 

This event would be preceded by "Economic Summit" being co-hosted by the USIBC and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
On June 14 and 15, Clinton would co-chair with Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad [ Images ] the unique multilateral summit on "Child Survival" that would address issues like child mortality, nutrition and related issues.
Besides, Krishna, Sibal, Deshmukh and Azad; the Indian delegation for the Strategic Dialogue would be represented by Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia [Images ] and Sam Pitroda [ Images ], advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations and chairman of National Innovation Council.
The month begins with the meeting of the India-US Joint Working Group on Counter-terrorism on June 1 and the India-US Joint Working Group on Information and Communications (ICT) on June 7 and 8.

May 31, 2012

A Serial Bomber in Phoenix

May 31, 2012 | 0900 GMT


By Scott Stewart

A small improvised explosive device (IED) detonated at a Salvation Army distribution center in Phoenix, Ariz., on the afternoon of May 24. Two Salvation Army employees discovered the explosive device, which was concealed inside a yellow, hand-held 6-volt flashlight, as they were sorting through a box of donated items. The IED exploded when one of the employees picked up the flashlight and attempted to turn it on. The blast was not very powerful, and the two employees suffered only minor injuries.

This was the third incident in the Greater Phoenix area in recent weeks involving an IED concealed in a flashlight. Two explosive devices very similar to the May 24 IED exploded May 13 and May 14 in Glendale, Ariz., a city in the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Both devices were abandoned in public places. In the May 13 incident, a woman discovered a yellow, hand-held 6-volt flashlight next to a tree outside a Glendale business. When the woman picked up the flashlight and attempted to turn it on, it exploded, causing minor scratches and bruises to her face and hands. It also inflicted minor wounds to a woman beside her. The next day, a man found an identical flashlight in a ditch where he was working in another part of Glendale. He was lightly injured when the flashlight exploded as he attempted to turn it on.

So far, the explosive devices have failed to cause significant injury or death, but they do seem to indicate that there is a serial bombmaker operating in the Phoenix area. While it is not yet clear what the bombmaker's motives are, past cases of serial bombers suggest that the publicity he has received and the fear he has invoked will likely influence him to continue manufacturing explosive devices until he is captured. (Based on earlier cases involving serial bombers, it is also safe to assume that the culprit in the Phoenix area is a man.) The bombmaker's method of concealing his explosive devices may also change after gaining publicity for this wave of attacks. Finally, there is a chance that the destructive effect of the bombmaker's devices will increase as he becomes more proficient at building IEDs.

Serial Bombers

Serial bombmakers vary greatly in skill, motivation and affiliation. Most bombmakers involved with militant groups are, in effect, serial bombers, especially when they are exceptional bombmakers such as those we discussed in the May 17 Security Weekly. These include individuals such as Abu Ibrahim of the Black September Organization, Yahya Ayyash of Hamas or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri. Such individuals typically create hundreds, if not thousands, of innovative explosive devices for their groups' terrorist operations over a span of many years.

However, not all serial bombmakers are associated with a militant group. There is a long history of individuals who have operated as serial bombers. From 1940 to 1956, George Metesky, who was known in the media as "The Mad Bomber," deployed 33 IEDs, 22 of which detonated, and injured 15 people. Metesky was angry after being denied disability pay following an injury he sustained while working for Consolidated Edison, Inc. After planting two explosive devices in 1940, Metesky observed a self-imposed moratorium on bombing attacks during World War II. He deployed the bulk of his devices -- pipe bombs -- from 1951 to 1956. He attacked not only Consolidated Edison, but also theaters, the New York subway system, the New York Public Library, Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central Station and other targets. Metesky was arrested after Consolidated Edison personnel managers identified him based on details he provided in threatening letters.

One of the most famous serial bombers in recent years was Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the "Unabomber." UNABomb was an FBI case name that stood for "University and Airline Bomber" -- Kaczynski's first targets. From May 1978 until April 1995, Kaczynski deployed 16 IEDs that killed a total of three people and injured 23 more. Like the Metesky case, it was Kaczynski's writings that allowed him to be identified, though it was Kaczynski's brother who identified him for authorities. As demonstrated in his manifesto, titled Industrial Society and Its Future (1995), Kaczynski was motivated by a fear of technology. He called for a revolution against modern society's "industrial-technological system."

Eric Rudolph first came onto the scene in July 1996 when a bomb he planted in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park detonated during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Rudolph also conducted IED attacks against abortion clinics in Atlanta in 1997 and in Birmingham, Ala., in 1998 and against a gay bar in Atlanta in 1997. Rudolph's IED attacks killed two and wounded more than 100. Rudolph was motivated by his extreme anti-abortion and anti-homosexual convictions.

Not all serial bombers have intended to kill their targets. From 1994 to 2006, an unidentified bombmaker known by the media as the "Italian Unabomber" planted dozens of small IEDs in various locations in Italy. While many of the IEDs were pipe bombs, the Italian bombmaker also concealed IEDs in cans of tomato paste, cigarette lighters, church votive candles and in items intended to target children, such as bottles of soap bubbles, colored markers and Kinder Eggs. The size of many of these devices suggests that the bombmaker hoped to maim and terrorize his victims but not kill them. A suspect was arrested in the Italian case but was later acquitted, and the case has never been officially solved. Since many serial bombmakers, such as Metesky and Kaczynski, go through periods when they suspend bombmaking activity, it is possible that the Italian bombmaker is still at large and will attack again.

The Learning Curve

Of these historical examples, Rudolph stands out because from the beginning of his campaign he used relatively powerful devices that were constructed with a main charge of commercial dynamite and that contained nails as added shrapnel. From the outset, Rudolph appeared to have been bent on killing. This is different from the case of the Italian Unabomber. Rudolph's explosive devices also functioned as designed, and his first device proved deadly, an accomplishment aided by the fact that he was constructing them from stolen commercial explosive components rather than dealing with homemade bomb components and explosive mixtures.

However, all serial bombmakers must overcome a learning curve. A bombmaker's first explosive devices typically malfunction or only partially detonate until he perfects his craft. For example, the two devices Metesky deployed in 1940 failed to explode, but when he resumed his bombing campaign in 1951, his first device functioned as intended. Still, of the 33 devices Metesky planted, one-third of them did not function as designed. Likewise, Kaczynski's initial explosive devices caused only light injuries. It was not until the 1980s that his bombs began to cause significant injuries to their victims, and he did not kill his first victim until 1985. By the mid-1990s, Kaczynski had become very deadly. His last two bombing attacks, in December 1994 and April 1995, both proved fatal.

A malfunction is not uncommon when a self-taught bombmaker constructs an IED using a new design and does not have the time or the place to test it. Essentially testing the explosive device when he deploys it, the bombmaker applies lessons from one operation to the next to improve his devices. This progression of bombmaking competence has also been displayed in many cases involving militant groups. Based on these cases, we believe it is highly likely that if the Phoenix bombmaker is not identified and arrested, he will continue along the learning curve and eventually construct more powerful -- and thus more deadly -- IEDs.

At this point it is unclear what is motivating the serial bombmaker in Phoenix. Young men sometimes construct small IEDs for their own amusement -- and not necessarily for use in an attack -- but in such cases they usually want to watch their devices detonate, oftentimes even recording the detonations to post them online. They will sometimes use such devices in pranks, such as to blow up mailboxes, but again, they usually like to observe the results.

Abandoning IEDs in booby-trapped items for people to find and activate suggests a different motive. Reports suggest that there were ceramic shards and BBs added to the Phoenix devices. This indicates that the devices were intended to harm people rather than just scare them. There are reports that a pair of dice was found at the scene of one of the Glendale explosions, which has led some to speculate that the dice were left by the bomber as a calling card. Similarly, the box containing the booby-trapped flashlight in the Salvation Army attack also held books that were predominately concerned with murders and serial killers; this may also prove to be some sort of calling card.

A Bombmaker's Signature

Forensic science has come a long way since the days of Metesky. Urged along by international terrorism cases and cases like the Unabomber investigation, bomb investigators, chemists and forensic technicians are far more advanced in their craft than they were a few years ago.

In a bombing, the evidence is not completely vaporized as many people believe. Certainly, the explosive charge may be mostly or completely detonated, but it will still leave behind traces of chemical residue that allow the explosive to be identified. In addition, portions of the main charge often times will not be detonated, especially with homemade explosive mixtures. Although they are frequently shattered and scattered, significant portions of the device's firing chain often can be recovered in a careful bomb crime scene investigation. It is not unusual to find batteries, wires, switches or pieces of clock or circuit board during a post-blast investigation. Sometimes pieces of the aluminum body of a blasting cap can be found.

In the case of the Phoenix bombings, the fact that the flashlights did not explode with much force will likely assist the police in their post-blast investigation, since device components were probably not thrown very far or even that badly damaged. It is also possible that an identifiable fingerprint or trace DNA evidence can be recovered from the explosive device. If used in the construction of the device, electrical tape is often an excellent place to recover such evidence.

Like other craftsmen, bombmakers tend to do things a certain way and to repeat it from project to project. They also favor certain components and tend to string these components together in much the same way. They will often connect the wires together in the same manner, use the same type of solder, connectors or tape, and in many cases they will even use the same tools to cut wires or other items, leaving tool marks that can be compared microscopically. All these unique factors combine to form what is referred to as a bombmaker's "signature." In many cases this signature is as unique and personalized as an actual written signature.

According to reports, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) laboratory is working on the Phoenix case. The ATF lab has many decades of working post-blast investigations and, along with the FBI, has been heavily involved in maintaining something called the U.S. Bomb Data Center, which is a repository of data pertaining to bombing investigations that can be cross-referenced to uncover ties to past cases. The ATF lab, like the FBI lab's explosives section, also maintains an extensive database of bomb components and other signature items.

However, unless there is a bomb signature item, fingerprint or trace DNA evidence that can be readily connected to a suspect, or unless authorities are able to trace one of the components (such as the flashlight) back to the place of purchase, it is likely that the bombmaker will attack again -- serial bombers usually do. The next time, the devices may be disguised in a different manner and may be more powerful.

Read more: A Serial Bomber in Phoenix | Stratfor 

May 30, 2012

Gujarat: Punsari a Urban Village

What if a village has all the facilities, what if a village has no electricity, water or any other woes. It is obvious that if a village consist all this aspect nobody would think of moving to Urban area from rural area. Gujarat state do have a village like this. Punsari village of Sabarkantha is one of the most developed and gradually developing village. Villagers give all credits to their Sarpanch.Punsari village in Talod Taluka of Sabarkantha district has won State Government's best village Panchayat award. With the amenities the village possess no one could have deserved the award except Punsari. It has Pucca road,good transporation facilities and many more Urban amenities

Megha Ghosh | Mon May 21, 2012

Sometimes just a vision for change can create an ocean of a difference. When Himanshu Patel was elected Sarpanch of Punsari, a quaint little village in Sabarkanth district Gujarat,  in 2006 there was no sewerage connection, no street lights, no pucca roads and, of course, no source of income for the gram panchayat except the grants and funding from various state and Union government schemes.

Six years later, the urban village flaunts a wi-fi and optical fiber broadband network, classrooms with CCTV cameras, its own mini-bus transport system and 25-odd CCTVs located on important junctions to spot litterbugs. There is an RO water treatment plant that supplies 20-litre cans to houses for a token cost of Rs 4. You also have a school bus to ferry your wards, and that too on clean RCC roads.

The gram panchayat also provides facilities of loud speaker covering entire village, gutter project, clean primary health care center, 8 kinder garden schools, banking facility, toll free complain receiving phone service, among others.

Villagers can buy ticket of Re 1 to use the mini bus service. For female students, bus service is completely free. Women come to deposit milk to milk bank couple of times during a day through this bus.  Cost of running the service is managed through ticket sales.

Punsri has 120 loud-speakers covering each corner of the village. Villagers listen to prabhatiya in the morning and bhajan and bhakti songs in the evening. Also important announcements like telephone bill, power bill, results of 10th and 12th are made through these speakers. Unique feature is that the village sarpanch can pass on any announcement from his mobile phone. To set up this system Rs 4 lakh were spent from corpus.

"The turn-around happened when we sold part of our grazing land as plotted schemes to various communities. The money is deposited in government coffers," says the 28 year old  Sarpanch. Some funds were also received through various government schemes.The village received rewards from the central government and the state governments recently.

You can watch a video of the village here.

Kenya keen to replicate Punsari model

TNN May 24, 2012, 03.49AM IST


AHMEDABAD/VADODARA: A 14-member Kenyan delegation led by chairman of Nairobi-based Gulf African Bank Suleiman Shahbal visited Punsari village near Himmatnagar.

The delegates took a round of the village, which boasts of mini-bus transport system, reverse osmosis plant 25-odd CCTVs to spot litterbugs and wi-fi connectivity. They were impressed with the development works carried out in this village. The delegation is a on a week-long visit to Gujarat.


Shahbal told mediapersons there that he had not seen such development in any village in the countries that he has visited so far. "I want to replicate Punsari model in Kenyan villages, most of which are still underdeveloped," he said.

They also interacted with nearly 200 members of sakhi mandals in the village. The delegation left villagers impressed too by singing national anthem Jana Gana Mana.

Shahbal also extended an invitation to the village sarpanch Himanshu Patel to share his experience of making Punsari a model village.

They also savoured the traditional Gujarati food that included sweets like kaju katri and shrikhand, chappatis, buttermilk, dal, rice and two subjis. The villagers then presented them with a Gandhiji's charkha and idols of the Mahatma. tnn

Ajab desh ki gajab kahani


1. We live in a nation where Rice is Rs.40/- per kg and Sim Card is free.

2. Pizza reaches home faster than Ambulance and Police.

3. Car loan @ 5% but education loan @ 12%.

4. Students with 45% get in elite institutions thru quota system and those with 90% get out because of merit.

5. Where a millionaire can buy a cricket team instead of donating the money to any charity. 2 IPL teams are auctioned at 3300 crores and we are still a poor country where people starve for 2 square meals per day.

6. Where the footwear, we wear, are sold in AC showrooms, but vegetables, that we eat, are sold on the footpath.

7. Where everybody wants to be famous but nobody wants to follow the path to be famous.

8. Assembly complex buildings are getting ready within one year while public transport bridges alone take several years to be completed.

9. Where we make lemon juices with artificial flavors and dish wash liquids with real lemon.

Think about it!
If you cross the The North Korean border illegally, you get ..... 12 years hard labour in an isolated prison ..... 
If you cross the Iranian border illegally, you get ..... detained indefinitely ..... 
If you cross the Afghan border illegally, you get ..... shot ...... 
If you cross the Saudi Arabian border illegally, you get ...... jailed ...... 
If you cross the Chinese border illegally, you get ..... kidnapped and may be never heard of - again .... 
If you cross the Venezuelan border illegally, you get ..... branded as a spy and your fate sealed ...... 
If you cross the Cuban border illegally, you get ..... thrown into a political prison to rot ..... 
If you cross the British border illegally, you get ..... arrested, prosecuted, sent to prison and be deported after serving your sentence ..... 
Now .... 
if you were to cross the Indian border illegally, you get ..... 
1. A ration card 
2. A passport ( even more than one - if you please ! ) 
3. A driver's license 
4. A voter identity card 
5. Credit cards 
6. Job reservation 
7. Special privileges for minorities 
8. Government housing on subsidized rent 
9. Loan to buy a house 
10. Free education 
11. Free health care 
12. A lobbyist in New Delhi , with a bunch of media morons and a bigger bunch of human rights activists promoting your cause 
13. The right to talk about secularism, which you have not heard about in your own country ! 14. And of-course ..... voting rights to elect corrupt politicians who will promote your community for their selfish interest in securing your votes !!! 
15. and right to fight election for MLA or MP Hats off ..... to the ...... 
A. Corrupt and communal Indian politicians 
B. The inefficient and corrupt Indian police force 
C. The silly pseudo-secularists in India , who promote traitors staying here 
D. The amazingly lenient Indian courts and legal system. That's why people like Afzal Guru are still alive, same will happen with Kasab. 
E. We self centered Indian citizens, who are not bothered about the dangers to our own country. 
F. The illogically brainless human-rights activists, who think that terrorists deserve to be dealt with by archaic laws meant for an era, when human beings were human beings.



May 29, 2012

US to firm up strategic ties further

Rajeev Sharma
NEW DELHI: Two major back-to-back India-US bilateral engagements are set to take place next month: first the India visit by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on June 6 and the Indo-US strategic dialogue in Washington a week after that. The upcoming engagements come close on the heels of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to India ten days ago.
Sources said Panetta, who will be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and hold official talks with his Indian counterpart Defence Minister AK Antony, will be coming to India with the most important mission objective (from the American point of view) to seal the $ 1.4 billion deal for sale of 22 Apache attack helicopters to India that the Americans have been lobbying for last two years. Panetta and Antony will also be discussing ways to further strengthen the Indo-US long term military cooperation.
However, on the flip side, India may well disappoint the Americans again by sticking to their oft-repeated opposition to sign military pacts like the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) which Panetta is expected to pitch for.  India has consistently opposed signing these agreements saying these are not conducive to its national interests.
Af-Pak region and terrorism are expected to be other topics that are high on Panetta's agenda of talks with his Indian interlocutors. Panetta, a former CIA chief, is a hands-on expert on security issues and is expected to share with his Indian interlocutors the latest measures that the US has implemented in its war against terror in the Af-Pak region.
Panetta is also expected to brief the Indians about the upcoming international conference on Afghanistan in Chicago. The Americans' plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 2014 and India's role in the post-withdrawal scenario are also likely to come up in the discussions between Antony and Panetta. China will be another important point of discussion during these talks, sources said.

US Unemployment and the Ubiquitous “Zombie Job” Market

US Unemployment and the Ubiquitous "Zombie Job" Market
Bill Bonner
Bill Bonner
Reckoning today from Baltimore, Maryland...

Yesterday was Memorial Day. We said a prayer for all the brave men and women who died in war...after all, we have a heart!

But the brain never quite gets in sync. When it looks at what those soldiers were doing, it wishes they had never left home. America's wars were almost all 'wars of choice,' says a friend. "They were fought to expand the power of the empire. The Mexican-American war was a bald-faced grab for Mexican land. The 'Civil War' was a battle to bring the South into submission. The US took Puerto Rico and the Philippines in the Spanish American war. President Wilson took the US into WWI simply to throw our weight around in Europe; we had no dog in that fight. He botched up the peace so badly that the Europeans went to war again 20 years later to sort it out. That was a war — WWII in Europe — that the US didn't have to get involved in either. 

"And then there was Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan...and hundreds of sleazy assassinations, tawdry meddles and rank ops. They all increased the reach and power of the military-led empire...but the price was paid by the Old Republic, which is now almost extinct."

Mr. Obama can start a war with whomever he pleases...no vote of the people's elected representatives needed (as if that would make any difference).

Frankly, we never much cared for the empire. We liked the Old Republic, as it was meant to be. So, we didn't festoon our house with red, white and blue, celebrating the success of the US empire, this Memorial Day. Instead, we hung black crepe...and mourned the loss of America.

And what's this...? A headline that caught our eye:

100 Million Americans Without Jobs...

Business Insider reports:
The national unemployment rate gets lots of attention, and lately more attention has been paid to the workforce participation rate since more Americans have given up looking for a job, but we can also see that an astounding 100 million Americans don't have jobs... According to the April jobs report, the number of jobless American stood at 100.9 million.
Let's see...that's about one in three Americans actually working. And how many of them have productive jobs? It depends on what you mean.

Do you mean jobs that actually increase the supply of goods and services that make up our real wealth? If so, you have to take out all the people who are doing zombie jobs...

You may be thinking of people working for the government...paper pushers whose contribution to national prosperity is marginal, or even negative. What about all the TSA agents who are feeling up nuns and radiating grandmothers? And what about people who work for the zombie industries — like "Government Motors"...funded by the feds...or Solyndra, which got a $535 million loan, guaranteed by the feds...or the Bank of America, kept in business by Fed bailouts...or any one of dozens of companies whose revenues come almost entirely from the feds? Do any of them add to the nation's wealth? Net? Probably not.

So, out of a population of 311,000,000 how many are carrying the load? 

Maybe 50 million. One in 6. The rest are zombies. Or retired. In school. Disabled. Or just goofing off.

Land of the free? RIP. More, below...



There were two incidents of attempted self-immolation by young Tibetan monks in their early 20s in Lhasa in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) on May 27,2012. One of the incidents was fatal, while in the other the police managed to put out the fire. The protester suffered burns, but survived.

2.The dead man was identified as TobgyeTseten, from the Tibetan-populated Gansu province which was separated from Tibet by the Chinese authorities after occupying Tibet.The injured, Dargye, is from the Kirti monastery area of the Sichuan province where the wave of self-immolations in protest against the continued Chinese occupation of Tibet started last year.

3. Since the protests through self-immolation started in the Kirti monastery area of Sichuan in the beginning of last year, there have been 37 attempted self-immolations---- 34 of them outside the TAR and three in the TAR. The majority of the self-immolation attempts have been reported from the Sichuan Province.

4. From the TAR, only one incident was reported last year as against 34 from the Tibetan areas outside the TAR  (Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai ). No satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming as to whythe TAR, which saw widespread Tibetan protests against the Han occupation  before the Beijing Olympics in 2008, has remained the least affected.

5.Even in the two incidents of May 27, which took place outside the sacred Jokhang Temple, the protesters had come from outside the TAR and were not local residents. This would indicate that while the Tibetans outside the TAR continue to defy the Chinese authorities, the Tibetans of the TAR, who were subjected to brutal suppression after the violent incidents of 2008, have continued to remain subdued. There have been no copy-cat self-immolations in the TAR by local Tibetan residents.

6. The Chinese authorities seem more confident of their ability to keep the TAR under control than the Tibetan areas of the other three provinces. The Tibetans of the TAR maintain regular interactions with Tibetan refugees in Nepal, India and the West and the radical Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), with its leadership based in the US, was in the forefront of the revolt of 2008 in the TAR.

7. One would have expected that the Tibetans of the TAR would have been in the forefront of the current wave of protests and non-violent satyagraha, but this has not been so. What one has been seeing since the beginning of last year has been a spontaneous movement with no central organisation behind it. It is the anger of the young monks in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai, outraged over the virtual Chinese occupation of the Kirti monastery of Sichuan last year and the arrest and forcible detention of many of the monks in a PLA detention centre, that has kept the protest movement sustained. The effect of this anger and outrage is still to be felt in the TAR. ( 30-5-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )




US Corporates Control Lawmaking & Copycat Indian Model

US Corporates Control Lawmaking & Copycat Indian Model
In the evolutionary ladder of governance, societies have moved up from the tribal model when the warrior chief, sometimes the head priest too, was the ruler. Security of the tribe and wars was their major preoccupation.
As the human beings and societies evolved further, it had to be organized to create surplus and some sort of money and scribes to maintain accounts. This can be seen in the many Mesopotamian civilizations and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
During mediaeval periods of history, the military rulers encouraged the scribes or accountants and the money handling Baniya community, a role played by Jews in Europe and elsewhere. In India i.e. in Rajasthan and Gujarat for example , the trading community was invited by the rulers , since money for running the state came from taxes and levies in exchange for personal protection and security and also of the trade routes ( as by Mongol and Turkish rulers in Eurasia of Silk routes).
If we look at the Brahmanical system of division of labour in the society into four castes, the role of Brahman who ruled directly or indirectly through Kings and Rajputs and other warrior castes has remained constant .The rise of communism, which has now been set aside for the time being, in which the deprived, the have-nots, the peasantry and the workers expropriated the wealth of the rulers and ruling classes could in Hindu terminology be described as the rule of the Dalits.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S.-led West and the Straussian philosophy and ideology of neo-liberal capitalism has taken over most of the space in the world. Its excesses however are leading to its decline and to its fall sooner or later.
At the end is an article, on how in US, financiers ,bankers and corporate interests control the lawmakers and in fact tell them if not dictate how and what laws to legislate which will suit them .The result is there to see in Occupy Wall Street in hundreds of places in USA .
In India too, the ruling classes have also been imitating a similar model with very unsatisfactory and perhaps very disastrous results. The over whelming role of corporate interests and their agents and lobbyists was partly uncovered by the Radiia tapes.
 Somebody should file a PIL that the Supreme Court must appoint amicus curiae to look at the tapes, take out strictly personal/private conversations but release the rest which will expose the truth of the unholy nexus between political class, corporate interests and bureaucracy and even media whores.  

In India, the society is divided on caste basis and hence inequality is embedded in the DNA. The various caste leaders have become the neo- Brahmins of their castes. In Hindu mind there is no concept of absolute truth and everything is relative. Punishment varies from caste to caste. There is no conception of equality before law and worse, neither of conflict of interest or perjury. Asatyemev jayate has become our national logo. 

Below is an article from Outlook exposing how rich industrialists, traders and other business people have become members of Parliament, even ministers ( mostly by money power including purchase of voters ,even of assembly members ) and influence policies and decisions of the government of India. No wonder the artificial prosperity based on steep valuation in the price of land and property and increasing equity from incoming investment i.e. from stimulus funds in USA amounting to more than $ 3 trillion, which have nothing to back them and exist only on computer screens, have made stock exchanges over the world like casinos. Without increased industrial growth and progress in agriculture the economic growth story will remain ephemeral and shaky. 

Mera Bharat Mahan .
K. Gajendra Singh 29 May, 2012, Mayur Vihar, Delhi.

  Conflict of interest ?


Su Casa Es Mi Casa OUTLOOK

Businessmen-turned-MPs and public policy.



 Insider Trading?

P.B. Kore of the BJP, M.A.M. Ramaswamy of the JD(S), D.R. Meghe, Cong: standing committee on health though they are in the management of medical colleges 

Venture capitalist Rajeev Chandrasekhar, industrialist Vijay Darda: finance committees 

Vijay Mallya, owner of Kingfisher airlines: civil aviation committee


It's an intriguing time for a private member's bill to come on 'conflict of interest'. Congress MP from Tamil Nadu Sudarsana Natchiappan moved one such, titled Prevention and Management of Conflict of Interest Bill, on April 27. About the same time, another Congressman from Tamil Nadu, Union home minister P. Chidambaram, was being attacked by the Opposition for allegedly protecting son Karthi Chidambaram's business interests in a telecom deal when he was finance minister. 

Besides the immediate uproar, this is a serious issue that's been eating into the "integrity quotient" of Parliament. Two years ago, the then Union urban development minister S. Jaipal Reddy had cautioned that nearly one-fourth of all Lok Sabha members could potentially have conflicts of interest with the business of the House. He was quoting a study conducted by the National Social Watch Coalition, which claimed 128 out of the 543 members of the 15th Lok Sabha belonged to the business class, which potentially may have conflicts of interest while participating in parliamentary deliberations on public policy.

Navin Jindal, Industrialist Navin Jindal, Congress MP, was on the PAC till last year

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Venture capitalist from Karnataka one of few MPs on finance panel

Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher head on the standing committee on civil aviation

Rahul Bajaj, Bajaj Auto boss asks queries on auto industry. CPI (M) MPs object.

"When rich people come into Parliament, can you avoid a conflict of interest?" was the minister's candid reaction to the study. It is in this background that this bill acquires significance. First a caveat: several thousand private member's bills are said to be pending for introduction. The few which are introduced depend on a draw of lots. And what's more, the introduction itself may not mean much as members may have to wait before the bill comes up for discussion. The system allows very few such bills to secure the approval of both houses and become law. Which is why, Natchiappan, a lawyer by training, is realistic. "At least, the bill was introduced," he quips (see interview).




An NSWC study says 128 of the 543 members of the 15th LS come from the business class. Will this colour public policy?



Indeed, it would be fortuitous if the bill ever comes up for discussion. Shortly after the bill was introduced, the Opposition stalled proceedings in Parliament seeking facts on the Chidambaram matter. (On Thursday, May 10, PC made a statement in the House saying none of his family members had a stake in the involved telecom firms, but the Opposition clamour continued.) Conflicts of interest are not confined to just MPs and ministers but include virtually everyone active in the public domain. Other countries have taken the lead, and it's time India too initiates legislation to control such conflicts, says Natchiappan.


The bill seeks to bring all public servants, ministers, consultants in public bodies and consultative committees within its ambit. "It goes beyond the Lokpal Bill. While that bill seeks to address corruption, the conflict of interest bill looks at the very root of that corruption," says the MP.

For the MP, the bill began as an investigation into the possibility of mnc baby food manufacturers influencing public policies on malnutrition, which later became a full-fledged exercise in framing a legislation to tackle conflict of interest in the public sphere.

Says Arun Gupta, convenor of the Alliance Against Conflict of Interest, an umbrella of organisations and individuals, "The representation of corporate interests in committees which decide on drug policy, food and other essential items is a matter of serious concern. Public disclosures must be made on this."

 The alliance has pointed out instances where there were serious conflicts of interest: a former cabinet secretary, now in charge of a micronutrient organisation, pushing for a policy change in tackling malnutrition. Or the case of a former solicitor-general of India representing a multinational drug company, which has implications for the drugs patent regime. A 2010 report brought out by National Social Watch (see box) lists the potential of conflict that arises when MPs and industrialists are members of parliamentary standing committees.

As Natchiappan observes, he is appealing to the conscience of his fellow MPs when they raise questions or represent committees. The bill not only defines conflict of interest but also provides provision for a conflict commission and penalty in case of violation. Both imprisonment and imposition of fines have been provided for in the bill.

Across the political spectrum, there is some agreement that a certain rot has set in as parties have failed to prevent MPs from sitting on committees that oversee the very businesses they run. Yet no one acts on this, with the exception of the Left parties. The opening up of the economy has led to a host of pro-industry voices operating within Parliament, the same that is supposed to protect citizen's interests, not promote those of corporates. It's blatant, brazen and deeply worrying. So it was not without reason that former environment minister Jairam Ramesh bitterly complained to the speaker about MPs openly lobbying with him for their businesses. Call it CSR, maybe?

Paid laws, American style

Powerful U.S. corporations have been writing bills themselves and giving them to state assemblies to rubber-stamp
The scandal of paid news in India, whereby politicians, private businesses, and perhaps others, buy space in newspapers to publish material which appears to have been written by the papers, has rightly attracted much critical comment, but the United States appears to be well ahead of India, with nothing less than a form of paid law. Powerful U.S. corporations have been writing bills themselves and giving them to state legislators — whose election campaigns they often fund as well — to rubber-stamp and pass on to governors for signature into law.
Main lobbying body
The main lobbying body behind this is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has existed for over 40 years. It numbers about 300 corporations, including oil majors Exxon Mobil and Shell Oil, the Koch energy conglomerate, IT firms Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, carmakers General Motors, pharmaceuticals producers Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer, the cigarette firm Philip Morris, the drinks giant Diageo, and the mammoth retailer Wal-Mart. Nearly 2,000 state legislators are also members.
ALEC now tracks all legislation in all 50 states; Mike McIntire, writing in the New York Times, adds that over 1,000 state bills a year are based on its models, and that about 17 per cent of these become law. ALEC itself says its mission is to "promote free markets, limited government, and federalism throughout the states", but the evidence reveals much more than that.
As Ari Berman points out in Rolling Stone, ALEC's agenda is highly systematic and covers several key areas, starting with an orchestrated campaign to 'disrupt voting rights'; in 2011, no fewer than 38 states introduced ALEC-inspired legislation which will impede voting. The restrictions include the need to prove citizenship before registering to vote, obstacles for campaigning groups which help people register, the abolition of election-day registration, reductions in early voting, the disenfranchisement of convicts who have served their sentence, and the requirement for government-issued identification at the polling booth. More than 10 per cent of U.S. citizens have no such ID, but the figures rise to 25 per cent among African-Americans and 18 per cent among young voters respectively; university students will also be excluded by residence conditions such as those in new Wisconsin law. African-Americans and younger voters tend to vote Democrat. Claims that the restrictive measures prevent voter fraud are absurdly exaggerated; U.S. voter fraud is almost zero, and strenuous Republican attempts to prove that it is widespread have all failed.
A second front is the attack on renewable energy sources, or renewable portfolio standards (RPS). ALEC claims that these, like curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions, harm the economy and have no environmental benefits, but Maria Gallucci of Inside Climate News notes (in an article reproduced by the online journal Truthout) that the $48.1 billion invested in clean energy technologies in 2011 constitutes a 40 per cent increase on the previous year. In addition, claims that RPS drives electricity prices up are countered by published evidence that RPS policies slowed the rate of price rises in 12 states; the introduction of the new technology has also helped create jobs.
Environmental issues
Needless to say, environmental issues pose ALEC some of its toughest challenges. Exxon Mobil has helped design state laws that enable energy companies not to name chemicals used in fracking for access to oil, claiming that the chemicals are trade secrets; keeping such secrets, however, makes a nonsense of ALEC's own ideology, which is that consumers are free to make their own informed decisions in a market system.
This evasion of accountability extends to shielding firms which receive substantial public monies despite overwhelming evidence of failure. Zaid Jilani and David Halperin, writing separately in Republic Report, detail how the for-profit education company Kaplan International, which is owned by the Washington Post Company and was an ALEC member for a year until August 2011, has a 68 per cent dropout rate — the worst among the top 10 recipients of post 9/11 education funding for military veterans — but its former CEO received a golden handshake worth $76 million when he left. Bridgepoint Education spent $2000 per student on recruitment in 2009 but only $700 on instruction and Corinthian College has the worst default rate, 36 per cent within three years, on student loans.
Such private colleges can get 90 per cent of their money, totaling over $30 billion a year, from federal funds, and also charge students very high fees. Only 11 per cent of eligible students attend such institutions, but they account for 44 per cent of all student loan defaults; the colleges concerned have also been exposed for deceptive and predatory recruiting practices, but have used expensive lobbyists and consultants to escape being called to account. Even the Chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, Brian Moran, lobbies for them.
ALEC, for its part, has also tried a form of indirect intimidation against analysts like Professor William Cronin, but the body has been severely embarrassed by other revelations. In particular, its then Criminal Justice Task Force, which Wal-Mart co-chaired at that time, was behind the so-called Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to attack others if they believe they themselves are in danger; under this law they do not have to retreat. The measure, enthusiastically championed by ALEC, has been passed by 24 states and has led to a 300 per cent increase in "justifiable homicide" verdicts since 2005, when Florida, overriding law enforcers' doubts, became the first state to adopt it. ALEC's involvement hit the headlines when George Zimmerman, a Florida resident, admitted shooting dead an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, on February 26, and police seemed initially to interpret the law as allowing them not to arrest Zimmerman (who has since been charged with second-degree murder). In the ensuing controversy, ALEC disbanded the committee concerned.
It is highly significant that the revelation of ALEC's involvement did not occur by itself. A whistleblower passed on details of 800 model bills, including some explicitly intended to restrict trade union rights, to the Center for Media and Democracy, a campaigning group which then put the bills on a dedicated website and has published its own investigations into ALEC. This level of public exposure quickly caused a dozen corporations to leave ALEC; among them are Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Procter & Gamble, McDonald's, PepsiCo, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mark Engler notes in Dissent that other departures include Blue Cross Blue Shield and Yum! Brands, which also owns Pizza Hut and KFC. By May 21, 2012, 51 state legislators, mainly Democrats, had also cancelled their memberships; earlier, ALEC had removed the model bills from its main website.
Those companies which have jumped overboard may confirm the truth of the head of Monsanto's remark to the then President Bill Clinton that corporates fear consumer backlash more than anything else, but the rapid departures raise questions about why ALEC has not defended its conduct more robustly. ALEC will of course find other ways to ensure that legislators draft the kinds of law it wants, particularly over regulatory matters and corporate taxation, but it could well face yet more problems, because its charitable status prohibits it from lobbying — which it has apparently been doing since its inception.
Wider issues
Wider issues also arise here, which are highly pertinent in view of the collapse of neoliberalism and the increasingly public global scepticism about austerity policies. For example, ALEC's recent problems show the kinds of tensions which are inherent in the relation between the mainly economic-liberal corporates and the political and moral conservatives who favor the free market but whose social agenda in the U.S. has been documented as aiming to restrict, for example, minority voting rights and women's rights, and as seeking to promote measures like the Stand Your Ground legislation. Nevertheless, the fact remains that with the recent exposure of ALEC's activities, U.S. citizens could well have to face the possibility that their country looks not like the mixed-economy system the political scientists called a corporate state in the 1950s and 1960s, but more like a like a corporate-puppet state.