December 07, 2012

Note from Francois Gautier

 Francois Gautier
Just came back to Delhi from France, having tried to convince French decision makers that India is the liberal, democratic, pro-western natural investment alternative to China. 

But on the first day here, cell phone lines are so saturated that they disconnect, roads are more and more jammed and no progress in infrastructures. Train bookings done three months in advance are still wait-listed, Air fares have increased further and are now out of reach of even upper middle class. A visit to the Jorbagh Post office showed nothing had changed, the same unhelpful sour-face clerk asked for a photocopy of my passport and told us to go the market to do it! Another visit to the bank (a foreign that at one: Standard Chartered), again proved how little the customer is trusted in India and how the Govt has done little to relax its draconian rules - it's as if the first assumption is that he or she is here to cheat the bank, whereas banking is just legalized robbery.

In the Imperial hotel where I had a meet, the rich parasites of Delhi gorge on snacks and cakes, served by arrogant waiters, while the poor and talented of this country go sometimes hungry.
The political scene seems too depressingly familiar, with the Congress, which would suffer an humiliating defeat if there was an election now, showing that it is good at one thing: staying in power at all costs.

Yet, one can only hope that the India of tomorrow envisioned by swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, upon which living gurus such as Sri sri Ravi Shankar are working, will one day materialize.

What If?

By Eric Fry

Is America still the undisputed "Numero Uno"? Not according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) "Where to be Born Index." A quarter of a century ago, America topped the list. Today, it is #16.

This quirky EIU Index attempts to measure which country will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead. The index links the results of subjective life- satisfaction surveys — how happy people say they are — to objective determinants of the quality of life across countries. And the idea is to forecast which country would be best to inhabit 18 years out, when a baby born today becomes an adult.

Obviously, the EIU's assessment is not the last word on a nation's quality of life, but it does at least provide food for thought...and it does corroborate a growing body of empirical data that suggest the American quality of life has degraded somewhat.

While playing around with some numbers on the back of a Rancho Santana cocktail napkin, for example, we stumbled upon some shocking contrasts between Nicaragua and the US — shocking to us, at least.

Last year, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — i.e. food stamp program — in the United States spent $7.4 billion more than it did the year before. $7.4 billion happens to be almost identical to the entire GDP of Nicaragua, a nation of 5.9 million inhabitants. SNAP used its incremental $7.4 billion to feed 4.4 million of America's poorest citizens. Meanwhile, all 5.9 million Nicaraguans — rich and poor alike — managed to "live on" $7.4 billion.

Here in Nicaragua, the government is too poor to operate a SNAP program. In fact, the Nicaraguan government is too poor to do much of anything. Not only is it too poor to feed its own poor, but it is also too poor to create a maze of government agencies to hassle its citizenry. The government's entire annual budget is only about $1.6 billion, which is less than 1/50th the size of the SNAP budget.

These comparisons tell us little about how things ought to be, but they tell us a lot about how things are. Specifically, they tell us that the United States spends a spectacular amount of money trying to "manage poverty." And yet, the more the US tries to manage poverty, the more poverty spreads. The ever-expanding budget of the FNS does not beget self-reliance; it begets ever-expanding government reliance.

During the last four years, the number of Americans receiving food stamps has doubled from 23 million to 46 million, while the direct cost of providing that support has skyrocketed from $30 billion annually to $71 billion. (The FNS' total budget topped $100 billion this year).
Number of Americans Receiving Food Stamps vs. Americans With Full-Time Jobs

To continue the comparisons between the rich Americans and the poor Nicaraguans, the US spends 4.7% of its GDP on its military, while Nicaragua spends only 0.7% of its GDP. The US employs 13 times more police per 100,000 citizens than Nicaragua — 233 vs. 18. And yet, very few US cities are 13 times safer than Managua — El Paso, Texas being one of the rare exceptions.
Number of Homicides in Various Areas

These sharp contrasts are exactly what one would expect when comparing the world's wealthiest nation to the Western Hemisphere's second poorest nation (top prize in that category falls to Haiti). Similarly, it should come as no surprise that themedian income in Nicaragua is only 1/10th of what we Americans call the "poverty line."

Net-net, the US is still a very, very rich country and Nicaragua is still a very, very poor country. That said; several gauges of America's economic condition have been deteriorating over recent years, at least relative to similar gauges of Nicaragua's economic trajectory.

As the chart below illustrates, Nicaraguan GDP growth has staged a remarkable rebound from the war-torn decade of the 1980s. Meanwhile, US GDP growth has been downshifting from its robust pace of the '80s and '90s.
US vs. Nicaraguan GDP Growth for the Last Three Decades

More recently, the Nicaraguan economy has been producing rapid employment growth, while the US has been producing rapid unemployment growth.
Change in Employment, US vs. Nicaragua

Regrettably, as the US private sector struggles to grow, the US government's debt burden is soaring. During the last six years, America's federal indebtedness has increased from less than 70% of GDP to more than 100%. During that identical timeframe, Nicaragua's government debt burden has decreased from more than 110% of GDP to nearly 70%.
Government Debt-to-GDP, US vs. Nicaragua

Why look at these trends?

Because the next 25 years will not be like the last 25 years, guaranteed. The world always changes...but not always for the better. What if that portion of the world called "America" is changing for the worse?

Just asking.


Eric Fry
for The Daily Reckoning

NASA releases map of India on Diwali night

Washington, Dec 6, 2012 (PTI)

NASA, the national space agency of the US, today released a black and white satellite imagery of India this Diwali night, cautioning people against the fake image in circulation on the social media.

"On November 12, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime view of southern Asia," NASA said releasing a picture of India on this Diwali night.

"The image is based on data collected by the VIIRS 'day- night band', which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared. The image has been brightened to make the city lights easier to distinguish," it said.

NASA said most of the bright areas in the imagery released by it are cities and towns in India, the country with the world's largest Hindu population. "India is home to more than 1.2 billion people and has 30 cities with populations over 1 million. (For comparison, China has 62 cities with more than 1 million residents and the United States has 9)," it said.

Cities in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan are also visible near the edges of the image. "An image that claims to show the region lit for Diwali has been circulating on social media websites and the Internet in recent years. In fact, it does not show what it claims. That image, based on data from the Operational Linescan System flown on US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites, is a color-composite created in 2003 by NOAA scientist Chris Elvidge to highlight population growth over time," NASA said.

"In that image, white areas show city lights that were visible prior to 1992, while blue, green, and red shades indicate city lights that became visible in 1992, 1998, and 2003 respectively," it said.

"In reality, any extra light produced during Diwali is so subtle that it is likely imperceptible when observed from space," NASA said.

December 06, 2012

Babri Masjid Demolition: A Look Back from Ankara

by K. Gajendra Singh
While posted at Turkey's capital Ankara, I was playing a few hands of bridge with friends at the Indian embassy residence, a few days after the 6 December, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, India. The friends were; head of Turkey's Foreign policy think tank, Seyfi Tashan and his wife and Prof Okyar and his wife. Prof Okyar's father Fethi Okyar was close friend and early mentor of Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk. Quite often, diplomats relax playing bridge or golf as in East Asia, where serious business is often transacted. During the 1991 US led coalition war on neighboring Iraq, while posted at Amman, Jordan's capital, the British Ambassador or someone else would come over for a spot of bridge. Just to take our minds off the tensions. 

But in Ankara, after a few hands, I went over to the next room to take up a telephone call. It took me some time to return to the bridge table. I tried to look as normal as possible and continued playing and sipping whiskey, but my friends sensed something was amiss. So I told them that a small bomb placed under the car of my second secretary had exploded. But there were no injuries. The car was parked in front of the block of flats where he resided. I made sure all necessary action had been taken like calls to the police station, the ministry of Foreign affairs and no one was to go near the car. My friends apologized and left expressing their sympathies.

On 6 December itself, as per routine I had switched on CNN and BBC before lunch and felt somewhat uneasy at the huge crowd which had been allowed to collect around the Babri Masjid perimeter in Ayodhya. A few hours later when I switched on the TV again, I was stunned at the news and graphic scenes of the demolition with kersewaks (voluntary workers) having climbed up the mosque, dismantling it brick by brick. And then that empty feeling after the demolition. The TV channels also showed Indian Prime Minister Narsimha Rao, as if he was fiddling and did little to stop the demolition.

The demolition was bound to have repercussions, especially in Muslim countries, although in Turkey being a secular state, Muslim extremists were kept under control. In fact the violence and killings in Turkey were being carried out since 1984, in a rebellion by Abdullah Ocalan led Marxist PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) for autonomy for Kurds in South and East of Turkey, where they are concentrated. The bloody rebellion and counter measures had already cost over 35,000 lives, mostly Kurds but over 5000 soldiers too. Thousands of Kurdish villages had been bombed, destroyed, abandoned or relocated and millions of Kurds were moved or migrated to shanty towns in South, East and West wards. 

One-third of Turkish army was tied up in South East, the cost of countering the insurgency amounted to $6 to $8 billion per year. It had shattered the economy of the region and brought charges of police and military brutality and human rights violations in the West to which Turkey is linked through NATO, OECD and associate EU membership. But most of the violence was confined to South and East of Turkey, and sometimes in Istanbul, which because of the migration had a very sizable Kurdish population, next only to the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.

Majority of Kurds in Turkey would be satisfied with cultural autonomy but their aspirations were dashed time and again. Till 1986 even to claim to be Kurd was a crime and their language could not be used. Since 2002 some progress has been made. Kurdish is quite different from Turkish and belongs to the Iranian language family. The Kurdish nation totaling over 25 million straddles the mountainous regions of Turkey (14 in 70 million), Iran (8 out of 70 million), Iraq (4 out of 20 million) and with more than half million each in Syria and another half million in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. But Kurds have been abused by the neighbors and exploited by big powers throughout history. Somewhat like the Kashmiris now. Despite everything Kurds remain most well integrated in Turkey and have occupied the highest official positions. Salahaddin remains their greatest medieval hero.

Kurds are an Iranian Aryan people caught up in ethnic upheavals and intermingling of Aryan, Turkic and Semitic races going on since 2nd millennia BC from the Eurasian steppes to the Mediterranean, the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. But the Kurds have lived in the region since they shifted from the steppes in 2nd millennia and were mentioned as the Kurduchoi who had harassed Xenephon and his Ten Thousand retreating towards the Black Sea from Babylon in 401 BC. 

It was difficult to organize serious terror attacks in well policed Ankara. My own assessment was that some extremist Muslim elements had organized the explosion as an expression of anger and a warning. To the best of my knowledge the perpetrators of the bombing were never traced or captured. The government of India did not compensate the officer for the loss of his damaged car. Obviously he had not anticipated any such contingency while insuring his car. This is typical of Indian establishment. Legitimate grievances are not met but crooks get compensation, even pensions as freedom fighters to fraudsters. The concept of rule of law, which evolved in Europe after centuries of warfare and bloodshed, is alien to Brahmanical perspective. 

Naturally I went to the Turkish foreign office and we briefed media explaining that the demolition was the work of extremists and cranks and not approved by the majority of India's population. I also traveled to Istanbul, Turkey's commercial, cultural and media centre to explain the unfortunate events specially to right wing religious media, which Pakistan exploited. This was the only time in my four years tenure when security forces shadowed me in the city. One morning there was a security flap when without informing the security I went for my morning walk and even dropped at friend nearby for a cup of coffee. 

Unlike many Muslim countries after Turkey's revolution in 1920s and modernization and westernization most educated Turks wear European trousers and jackets. Islamist party leaders and commercial and media supporters are highly educated like President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan and others. They are computer savvy.

Ataturk had closed all Sufi and other Tarikas /schools (whirling dervishes now mostly delight tourists), declared Aya Sofia as museum, which was converted from a magnificent Basilica into a mosque when Sultan Fethi the Conqueror took over Constantinople, naming it Istanbul. 

Prophet Mohammad's hair, footprints and other relics, swords of first four Caliphs etc can now be seen in Topkapi (palace) museum in Istanbul. In spite of electoral hints and promises that the Islamist government, which has now ruled Turkey since 2002, would convert back Aya Sofia and some other old churches into mosques, no such attempt has been made in a country which is 99% Muslim. 

There is a lesson in it for India specially Hindus. 

The matter of the Ayodhya mosque and the Ram Janambhumi temple is now sub-judice. Any way this has at least stopped some in the lunatic fringe of Hindu hardliner family like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to soft pedal demands for handing over the Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura and the Gyan Vapi Masjid in Varanasi so that temples could be built on these sites. 

That the demolition was not condoned by a majority of Indians was proved when elections were called in four states ruled by Hindu hardliner Bhartiya Janata party (BJP) including in Uttar Pradesh (UP), where Ayodhya is located after their governments were dismissed for the party's unconstitutional actions. Except for Rajasthan, where, in now accepted dynastic syndrome, too many near relatives of the Congress party chieftains were given tickets, the electorate defeated the BJP in other three states including UP. But the state leaders declined to have Prime Minister Narsimha Rao, for electoral campaigning, his reputation having been tarnished by allowing the demolition under his watch. According to a poll at that time, majority of Hindus expressed unhappiness at the demolition of the mosque.

The demolition was allowed to take place by the BJP Chief Minister of UP Kalyan Singh, after he had given an assurance to the government in Delhi and also to the Supreme Court of India that no harm would be done to the Masjid and the surrounding structure under dispute. BJP leaders like LK Advani, whose chariot rides across India polarized Hindus and Muslims, created communal disharmony and inspired and encouraged the demolition were present and appeared to acquiesce and even actively encourage the demolition. Clearly it was well planned and the leaders were in the know of the conspiracy.

The demolition and the consequent violence in India created a small problem. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and supposed end of the Cold War, I was keen to establish military to military relations between India and Turkey, since Turkish armed forces are protector of secularism. Having met with the Turkish Chief of General Staff a few times at receptions, I wrote to External Affairs ministry to look after him during the technical halt in Bombay on his way to Kuala Lumpur in January 1993. The Turks are fascinated by Bombay's coastline and glitter as it reminds them of the Bosporus in Istanbul separating Asia from Europe. On his return the General told me laughingly that he could not go to the city as people were throwing stones at each other, an euphemism for the communal carnage following the demolition. (However I did succeed in sending to India his successor Gen Ismail Haqqi Karadai, 3 years later, the first ever visit of a Turkish Chief, who came back impressed and thus began military to military relationship between India and Turkey)

After the demolition, a one man Commission of Enquiry was set up under Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan to submit a report on the events leading to the demolition of the Masjid. However he took 17 years, was given over 40 extensions at a cost of Rs 8 crore (80 Million) and finally produced a 1,029 page report.
Verdicts and inquiry commission reports are lengthy, obscure and very boring. Such commissions are generally a ploy to evade decision making or avoid accountability. They are often granted extensions from a combination of political expediency and pliant judges eager to prolong their sinecures of privilege in retirement. It makes justice convoluted, time-consuming and expensive.
Justice Liberhan was asked to inquire with respect to the following matters:
The sequence of events leading to, and all the facts and circumstances relating to, the occurrences in the Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid complex at Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 involving the destruction of the Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid structure;
The role played by the Chief Minister, Members of the Council of Ministers, officials of the Government of Uttar Pradesh and by the individuals, concerned organizations and agencies in, or in connection with, the destruction of the Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid structure;
The deficiencies in security measures and other arrangements as prescribed or operated in practice by Government of Uttar Pradesh which might have contributed to the events that took place in the Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid complex, Ayodhya town and Faizabad on 6 December, 1992;
The sequence of events leading to, and all the facts and circumstances relating to, the assault on media persons at Ayodhya on 6 December, 1992; and
Any other matters related to the subject of Inquiry.
Justice Liberhan's conclusion is unsurprising but unequivocal and bold: the demolition was part of a well-thought out plan — a "joint common enterprise" — hatched by the top leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the last organization correctly described as a "front organization" of the RSS.

Wrote Sidharath Vardrajan in 'Hindu' that "Unfortunately, the recommendations which emerge out of his daring excavations are so mousy that they bear no resemblance whatsoever to the forthright conclusions which precede them. After having indicted 68 individuals for bringing the country to the brink of communal disaster, Justice Liberhan doesn't call for the filing of charges against those that have escaped being arraigned so far in the demolition case, nor does he speak of expedited criminal proceedings. This is surprising given his repeated use of the phrase "joint common enterprise" to describe the conspiracy. 

Ever since the 1999 Tadic judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, international criminal law has developed the notion of ascribing liability for mass crimes to those who might not have been direct participants but who willingly facilitated the commission of criminal acts through the positions they occupied in the hierarchy of the organization involved. 

"Had Justice Liberhan developed the concept in his recommendations and pushed for an end to the pervasive impunity enjoyed by politicians, police officers and bureaucrats, he would have earned the gratitude of the nation. But he has done nothing of the sort. Other than calling for the separation of religion and politics and making some other tepid suggestions, the report steers clear of recommending either short-term steps to ensure justice in the demolition case or long-term measures to protect the country from a repeat of the tragedy."

The leakage of the report in the Indian media on November 23, 2009 opened a Pandora's box with News channels and media carrying on endlessly discussions and talks, with scoring of debating points but without much clarity or accountability.  One thing is clear; the rule of law in India appears to be outside the comprehension of Brahmanical ordained understanding of law.

Poet AK Ramanujam said that Indians don't seem to have a sense of absolute. They place everything in some context or another. And, depending on the context, what the rest of the world would regard as being wrong in absolute sense becomes quite all right in India. 

Thus Indians in general have no sense of rule of law. Show me the man and I will show you the law. All this is even supported by our epics; Ramayana and Mahabharata. Trickery by Lord Rama in killing Bali or the apostle of truth Yudhishter proclaiming the death of Aswathama (elephant) for military gain are lauded, accepted and readily employed in daily life.

Rule of Law or equality of all before the law is a European evolution, alongwith the concept of a modern state and nation, which emerged after centuries of wars between the emperors and kings and the Pope and other religious leaders, barons and common people fighting for equality and rule of law. Kings were guillotined, hanged or killed or expelled in France, Russia, Turkey, China and other countries, before the concept of nation and equality before law emerged and took hold. India has not gone through such a metamorphosis as yet.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. 

More by :  K. Gajendra Singh

December 05, 2012

Seven distinct youth segments exist


QUOTE OF THE DAY: Education-to-Employment

Think of the education-to-employment  system as a highway, where three drivers—educators, employers, and young people—all want to get to the same destination. There are three critical intersections—when young people enroll in postsecondary education, when they build skills, and when they seek work. At every point, each driver needs to take account of the others to keep moving safely and efficiently. Our research, however, shows that doesn't usually happen. Instead, drivers don't take one another into account, proceeding obliviously in their own lanes, or they collide, leaving everyone worse off than when they started.

Education to employment: Designing a system that works

Some 75 million young people around the world are unemployed, yet most employers say they cannot find enough qualified candidates for entry-level jobs. What skills will help young people find work, and what is the most effective way of delivering them?

A new McKinsey report finds that employers, education providers, and young people live in parallel universes with dramatically different perspectives and little engagement. Drawing on a survey of some 8,500 stakeholders in 9 countries, as well as an analysis of more than 100 education-to-employment approaches across 35 countries, the research also finds that three junctures are critical for taking action to address the crisis: enrolling in postsecondary education, developing skills, and seeking employment.

To explore the issue of youth unemployment and to read case studies of successful programs, visit the McKinsey on Society Web site.

Register for a live Web event on Monday, December 10, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. (EST), where we'll bring together academics and government and business experts to discuss the findings of the report.

December 04, 2012

The US is waiting for India to mess things up with the Maldives


- The US is waiting for India to mess things up with the Maldives
Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar

Salman Khurshid has discovered within a month in his new job that some things have not changed in India's external affairs in nearly twenty years. When P.V. Narasimha Rao promoted Khurshid within a few days of the latter's 40th birthday in 1993 from deputy minister for commerce to minister of state for external affairs, one of his first tasks was to read out the Riot Act to the Maldives. Last month, he found himself engaged in the same brief almost two decades after his first such encounter.
Rao's government was tipped off then that the Maldivians were secretly cosying up to Pakistan. India's neighbourhood was already unfriendly: not far from the Maldives, the wily Ranasinghe Premadasa, who ruled Colombo, was deeply distrustful of India so soon after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, and, to both India's east and west, the demolition of the Babri Masjid a few months earlier had made the environment tense and unpredictable.
The president of the Maldives for three decades, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, had cultivated the reputation that he was a friend of India, but he was steadily allowing an undercurrent of Islamization to take root in his island nation of atolls with money from Arab Gulf states flowing in for building mosques vastly out of proportion with his country's small population and for other religious activities.
India summoned Gayoom's foreign minister, Fathulla Jameel, to New Delhi where he was handed over to Khurshid one evening. Jameel was then Asia's longest serving foreign minister (he stayed in that office eventually for 27 years), and South Block knew he could read the writing on a South Asian wall. Getting India's junior foreign minister to speak to him was itself a message to the Maldives when protocol required Khurshid's boss, Dinesh Singh, the external affairs minister to engage his counterpart from Male.
The entire operation was somewhat cloak and dagger. There was no public announcement of Jameel's arrival and his visit was handled in South Block largely by its Pakistan division and not the one handling the Maldives. The young Khurshid acquitted himself well and Male did not cross the proverbial lakshman rekha with Islamabad as subsequent events testified.
But unlike two decades ago, there is no certainty that India can now force the Maldives to fall in line on the latest irritant in their bilateral relations over the problem of the Male airport contract. No amount of spin can save India's face if that happens and New Delhi loses Male forever because of bad judgement in South Block on the current stand-off.
For one thing, the Rao government's unpublicized, but clinically targeted, confrontation with Male was over an issue of national interest and security. India's latest fight with the Maldives is over a deal with a private contractor, however much New Delhi might whitewash it as a matter of supreme national concern. In fact, the grapevine in New Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram is full of innuendoes that Arvind Kejriwal has enough material on the 'East-India-Company-type approach' by some Indian businesses in the Maldives that will produce another of his bombshells, even if it may occur only closer to the next Lok Sabha elections for maximum effect.
In any case, having sullied its hands in the till on a succession of corruption-tainted corporate deals in recent years, the United Progressive Alliance government has no credibility left when it speaks for Indian businesses abroad. In part, that explains the attitude in Male to New Delhi's demands on behalf of the GMR Group, whose airport contract has been cancelled. But there is also a larger dimension to the episode that points to a colossal foreign policy failure within the UPA government that is largely self- inflicted. It is a drift, which, if unchecked — and it may already be too late — can have ramifications that South Block cannot afford either in the country's neighbourhood or on any larger geographic scale.
In recent times, there has been a steady stream of instances when the ministry of external affairs forgot a golden rule in diplomacy that reaction to any development overseas has to be measured, proportionate and calculated to produce the maximum impact.
Earlier this year, the ministry had egg on its face when it disproportionately became engaged in a Calcutta couple's child custody dispute in Norway that turned out to be a case of marital discord combined with health problems of one of the parents. It is no one's suggestion that such consular issues should be neglected. But, for the minister for external affairs of a country that aspires to be a global power to personally get involved in such matters instead of leaving them to his joint secretary dealing with the country concerned or to the chief passport officer is to waste New Delhi's considerable diplomatic capital abroad.
The worst case of this kind was perhaps in April this year when the United States of America's deputy chief of mission in New Delhi was summoned to South Block over a mere 75-minute delay in clearing the actor, Shah Rukh Khan, at White Plains airport in New York. The summons was preceded by the unedifying spectacle of a procession of members of the UPA's council of ministers going on record protesting against what is a normal delay that millions of Indian citizens like Khan regularly face at airports the world over in the course of their travels.
A plethora of such examples of diplomatic excess pale into insignificance before the bad judgment that South Block is now displaying on the airport row with the Maldives. The defence minister A.K. Antony is a man who does not speak out of turn before TV cameras and, instead, does what he has to do in private. So, it is not yet clear to those outside the government if Antony has brought to the attention of the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues the risks involved in an undesirable government intervention in a private business dispute with Male at this stage, and the stakes in such ill-advised action for India's defence and national security.
Those in New Delhi who are threatening to cut off aid to the Maldives — a pittance of $25 million — could not be unaware that Antony made a highly sensitive visit to the Maldives in August 2009. Typical of the defence minister's style, the visit was low profile, but the composition of his team was a dead giveaway. India's defence minister would not spend as many as three full working days in a tiny country like the Maldives, that too accompanied, among others, by his defence secretary, the director-general of the coast guard, at least one vice admiral and the deputy chief of naval staff unless there is very important business to be transacted with his hosts.
With that visit put together by the ministry of defence, the navy had begun a strategic initiative to establish a bridgehead in the once-critical World War II royal air force base of Gan, which the British vacated and handed over to the Maldives in 1976. In addition to a presence in Gan, Antony and his team unveiled, during that visit, the road-map for an Indian naval and air force presence permanently in Male and in the Maldivian atoll of Haa Dhalu. This has been one of the navy's biggest initiatives since it began a rapid expansion a few years ago.
Those in the UPA government who are demanding punishment of a sovereign state for cancelling an airport contract are ignoring the reality that today the Maldives is being wooed by big powers because of its strategic location. It is a failure of recent Indian diplomacy that the Maldivians are now willing to be wooed. That would have been unthinkable in the years of Indira Gandhi, her son Rajiv or their successor, Rao.
The man of the moment in Male is the US assistant secretary of state for South Asia, Robert Blake, who knows the atolls well from the time he lived in Colombo as the American ambassador. Blake is now waiting for India to mess up its relations with the Maldives and walk away with Gan, giving the Pentagon its biggest gift in the region since Diego Garcia military base in 1971.

US agrees to provide defence equipment to Pak

December 04, 2012 23:46 IST

The United States on Tuesday agreed to step up efforts to provide defence equipment needed by Pakistan to maintain security along its border with war-torn Afghanistan and to continue discussions on the provision of military aid to Islamabad [ Images ].

The decisions were made during the two-day meeting of the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group, which concluded in the Defence Ministry in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.
This was the first meeting of the DCG since May 2011, when ties between the two sides were hit by the unilateral American military raid that killed Osama bin Laden [ Images ] in Abbottabad.
A joint statement issued after the talks said: "Recognising the enduring security requirements on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the two delegations agreed to cooperate on a prioritised set of Pakistan's defence requirements which will inform follow-on consultations on security assistance."
Pakistan has projected a requirement for military hardware needed for ongoing anti-terrorism operations along the Afghan border.
Another meeting of officials from both sides is expected to be held early next year in the US to discuss the supply of the equipment, official sources told PTI.
The joint statement further said: "The US and Pakistan also discussed the importance of the Coalition Support Fund and Security Assistance Programs, and agreed to continued consultations on the way forward."
The US had held up military aid to Pakistan, including payments from the Coalition Support Fund to reimburse Islamabad for its expenses on the war against terror, after bilateral ties plunged to an all-time low last year.
The Pakistani delegation at the meeting of the DCG was led by Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Asif Yasin Malik while the US side was headed by Under Secretary of Defence for Policy James N Miller.
"Both delegations welcomed the resumption of bilateral security cooperation and agreed that relations between the two countries should be based on the principles of strategic desirability, political sustainability, trust, and mutual respect," the joint statement said.
The two sides further "acknowledged that bilateral counterterrorism cooperation has been critical to weakening violent extremists and underscores the importance of continuing cooperation to complete the defeat of Al Qaeda [ Images ] and its affiliates in the region".
They also "affirmed their mutual commitment to a strong defence relationship which they stressed should focus on achieving common objectives".
The DCG is the main forum between Pakistan and the US for coordinating defence policy to strengthening cooperation to support each country's security interests.
During the plenary session the participants shared their respective assessments of the bilateral relationship, discussed each side's strategic priorities, and agreed on areas for future defence cooperation.
The Pakistani side "provided an update on its military campaign along its western border" with Afghanistan and the US side made a briefing on the International Security Assistance Force's activities in Afghanistan, including efforts to give a leading role in security matters to Afghan forces.
In light of the cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011, both sides appreciated the efforts by their militaries to improve operational coordination.
They two sides also reviewed the "numerous challenges facing regional security".
The two countries said they are committed to continue working together to implement a "framework for defence cooperation based on areas of convergence" to promote peace and stability in the region.

The Untold Story: How Kennedy came to India's aid in 1962

Last updated on: December 04, 2012 23:29 IST

The story of the 1962 war with China has all the elements of a dramatic historical event.

Nehru's handling of the crisis and panic reactions were in marked contrast to the cool and confident Kennedy.
The generous and prompt response by JFK made him an icon in India [ Images ]. But the US State Department, under pressure from Pakistan and with British support, scuttled the chances of a more lasting India-US alliance, say Colonel Anil Athale (retd).
For most Indians, the dominant memory of India-United States relations continues to be the presence of the USS Enterprise in the Bay of Bengal during the 1971 Bangladesh war.
During the 1962 border conflict, it was the US that came to India's rescue and there were plans to send the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier to the Bay of Bengal to support India against a possible Chinese invasion.
Many of my generation remember vividly how then American President John F Kennedy [ Images ] had become one of the most popular figures in India -- so much so that most paan shops, (the true barometer of public opinion in India) routinely had Kennedy's photograph alongside the familiar one of Jawaharlal Nehru [ Images ] and Mahatma Gandhi [ Images ].
The Sino-Indian border conflict coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisis and was largely ignored in the world media. Yet today, in retrospect, this remains a major issue in the politics of Asia while the Cuban Missile Crisis is of academic value after the demise of the Soviet Union.
The future world will bear a heavy impact of this military clash between the two Asian giants. The Sino-Indian clash sounded a virtual death knell for the Communist movement in India, till then the best organised political party after the Indian National Congress.
If Communism was to triumph in India, the history of the Cold War era may well have ended very differently.
In November 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated, he was genuinely mourned by millions of Indians. He was seen by many Indians as the great big hope for the future of mankind. Aside from his obvious personal charisma, the influence Kennedy wielded in India had much to do with the policies his administration followed vis a vis India.
It was one period in the history of otherwise difficult India-US relations; when the Indians regarded the US as their friend. The prompt and generous American response to Indian needs at the time of military reverses against the Chinese in October/November 1962, had a deep impact on the Indian psyche.
President Kennedy was preoccupied in dealing with the Cuban crisis and he left it to then US ambassador Professor John Kenneth Galbraith to handle the situation, supporting him to the hilt.
When the Indian situation became particularly desperate, US Air Force [ Images ] squadrons in the Philippines were alerted; through its contacts in Warsaw, the US conveyed its resolve to the Chinese to come to India's assistance.
C-130 Hercules aircraft carried out drops of arms and ammunition supplies as well as essential clothing to Indian soldiers on the battlefront.
Indian national morale had hit rock bottom on November 18, 1962 when news of further reverses reached New Delhi [ Images ]. The Indians felt isolated, vulnerable and betrayed, when even the 'friends' of India took ambivalent positions.
On October 25, 1962, when war with the United States was potentially imminent, the Soviet newspaper Pravda published a front-page article that put the entire blame for the 1962 war with China on India.
The article called the McMahon line, which New Delhi accepted, 'notorious', 'the result of British imperialism', and legally invalid.
Pravda also accused India of being incited by imperialists and being the main ringleaders of the conflict. The Soviet Union's hostile attitude contrasted with President Kennedy's generous help to India in its hour of need. This made a deep impression on the Indians.
Professor Galbraith, speaking to me in 2003, recalled the sea change that had occurred in Indian attitude towards the Americans. American aircraft regularly landed in Delhi and carried out photo missions over the Indo-Tibet border.
These aerial photographs were of great value since India had no maps of the areas of conflict. Then US assistant secretary of state Roger Hilsman, himself a veteran of the Burma campaign in World War II, personally coordinated the aid effort.

The Chinese declared a 'unilateral cease-fire' on November 21, 1962 and announced that it would withdraw from captured territory of Arunachal Pradesh. It is true the Chinese had over extended their lines of communication and would have found it difficult to maintain themselves on the Himalayan foothills.
But it is equally possible that the threat of USAF intervention as well as the threat to China conveyed in Warsaw played a major role in the Chinese decision.

The India-US honeymoon barely lasted a year or so. According to Galbraith, old imperialists warhorses like Duncan Syndys and Louis Mountbatten played a major role in making India drift away from the West.

No sooner had the fighting ended, Pakistan, with tacit British support, demanded that India 'solve' the Kashmir [ Images ] issue.

There was talk of 'joint' control over the Kashmir valley. It seemed that India was prepared to concede some ground in Kashmir, but Pakistan insisted on not just the valley, but also the Doda-Kishtwar districts as essential to control the water sources of major rivers.

Once Nehru became aware of these designs, the Indians hardened their position on Kashmir. Free from the immediate threat of the Cuban crisis, the Soviet Union also modified its position. It was almost back to square one, as far as India-US relations were concerned.

But there were some enduring legacies of this brief honeymoon. Under Biju Patnaik's stewardship, Indian intelligence established close relations with the Central Intelligence Agency for support of Tibetan resistance.

The second and more troubling inheritance is that India deliberately did not develop alternative land routes (via Manali and the Rohatang pass) to Ladakh as its claim over the Kashmir valley was based on the need to keep the Srinagar-Leh route open.

Sadly, this mindset and sheer inertia in the establishment continued even after 1972 when the Sino-US equations changed.

We woke up to the alternative route for Ladakh only after the 1999 Kargil [ Images ] adventure by Pakistan. This is in spite of the historical fact that in August/September 1948 the bulk of reinforcements to Leh traveled there by the Manali route.

On October 16, 1964, China carried out a nuclear test. The US was then keen that India should follow suit. The seeds of the Indian nuclear weapons programme were sown then with the Americans not averse to the Indian efforts.

Another hardly acknowledged policy change was the Indian attitude to the then ongoing conflict in South East Asia (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). Indian criticism of American actions became muted. India also provided logistical help to the Americans.

As far as China was concerned, from 1962 onwards, India was no longer following 'non alignment'. But such is the veil of secrecy that these issues are seldom discussed openly even though 50 years have gone by.

The story of 1962 has all the elements of a dramatic historical event. There is the fact of intriguing coincidence of major events of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Chinese actions.
Nehru's handling of the crisis and panic reactions were in marked contrast to the cool and confident Kennedy. The generous and prompt response by JFK made him an icon in India. But the US State Department, under pressure from Pakistan and with British support, scuttled the chances of an India-US alliance.

The story of six rounds of talks over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, held in 1963, tell a story that keeps getting repeated even in the 21st century. The American flip-flop over Af-Pak, its double standards on terrorism and the familiar British mollycoddling of Pakistan, are themes that reoccur in the present.
Colonel Anil Athale (retd) is co-author of the official history of the India-China War was a fellow at the Kennedy Centre in 2003.

Egypt and the Strategic Balance

December 4, 2012 | 1001 GMT


By George Friedman
Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Immediately following the declaration of a cease-fire in Gaza, Egypt was plunged into a massive domestic crisis. Mohammed Morsi, elected in the first presidential election after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, passed a decree that would essentially neuter the independent judiciary by placing his executive powers above the high court and proposed changes to the constitution that would institutionalize the Muslim Brotherhood's power. Following the decree, Morsi's political opponents launched massive demonstrations that threw Egypt into domestic instability and uncertainty.

In the case of most countries, this would not be a matter of international note. But Egypt is not just another country. It is the largest Arab country and one that has been the traditional center of the Arab world. Equally important, if Egypt's domestic changes translate into shifts in its foreign policy, it could affect the regional balance of power for decades to come.

Morsi's Challenge to the Nasserite Model

The Arab Spring was seen by some observers to be a largely secular movement aimed at establishing constitutional democracy. The problem with this theory was that while the demonstrators might have had the strength to force an election, it was not certain that the secular constitutionalists would win it. They didn't. Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and while there were numerous claims that he was a moderate member, it was simply not understood that he was a man of conviction and honor and that his membership in the Brotherhood was not casual or frivolous. His intention was to strengthen the role of Islam in Egypt and the control of the Muslim Brotherhood over the various arms of state. His rhetoric, speed and degree of Islamism might have been less extreme than others, but his intent was clear.

The move on the judiciary signaled his intent to begin consolidating power. It galvanized opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, which included secular constitutionalists, Copts and other groups who formed a coalition that was prepared to take to the streets to oppose his move. What it did not include, or at least did not visibly include through this point, was the Egyptian military, which refused to be drawn in on either side.

The Egyptian military, led by a young army officer named Gamal Abdel Nasser, founded the modern Egyptian state when it overthrew the British-supported monarchy in the 1950s. It created a state that was then secular, authoritarian and socialist. It aligned Egypt with the Soviet Union and against the United States through the 1970s. After the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who was later assassinated by Islamists, shifted Egypt into an alliance with the United States and signed a peace treaty with Israel.

This treaty was the foundation of the regional balance of power until now. The decision to end the state of war with Israel and use Sinai as a demilitarized buffer between the two countries eliminated the threat of nation-to-nation war between Arabs and Israel. Egypt was the most powerful Arab country and its hostility to Israel represented Israel's greatest threat. By withdrawing from confrontation, the threat to Israel declined dramatically. Jordan, Syria and Lebanon did not represent a significant threat to Israel and could not launch a war that threatened Israel's survival.

Egypt's decision to align with the United States and make peace with Israel shaped the regional balance of power in other ways. Syria could no longer depend on Egypt, and ultimately turned to Iran for support. The Arab monarchies that had been under political and at times military pressure from Egypt were relieved of the threat, and the Soviets lost the Egyptian bases that had given them a foothold in the Mediterranean. 

The fundamental question in Egypt is whether the election of Morsi represented the end of the regime founded by Nasser or was simply a passing event, with power still in the hands of the military. Morsi has made a move designed to demonstrate his power and to change the way the Egyptian judiciary works. The uprising against this move, while significant, did not seem to have the weight needed either to force Morsi to do more than modify his tactics a bit or to threaten his government. Therefore, it all hangs on whether the military is capable of or interested in intervening. 

It is ironic that the demands of the liberals in Egypt should depend on military intervention, and it is unlikely that they will get what they want from the military if it does intervene. But what is clear is that the Muslim Brotherhood is the dominant force in Egypt, that Morsi is very much a member of the Brotherhood and while his tactics might be more deliberate and circumspect than more radical members might want, it is still headed in the same direction.

For the moment, the protesters in the streets do not appear able to force Morsi's hand, and the military doesn't seem likely to intervene. If that is true, then Egypt has entered a new domestic era with a range of open foreign policy issues. The first is the future of the treaty with Israel. The issue is not the treaty per se, but the maintenance of Sinai as a buffer. One of the consequences of Mubarak's ouster has been the partial remilitarization of Sinai by Egypt, with Israel's uneasy support. Sinai has become a zone in which Islamist radicals are active and launch operations against Israel. The Egyptian military has moved into Sinai to suppress them, which Israel obviously supports. But the Egyptians have also established the principle that while Sinai may be a notional buffer zone, in practice the Egyptian military can be present in and responsible for it. The intent might be one that Israel supports but the outcome could be a Sinai remilitarized by the Egyptians.

A remilitarized Sinai would change the strategic balance, but it would only be the beginning. The Egyptian army uses American equipment and depends on the United States for spare parts, maintenance and training. Its equipment is relatively old and it has not been tested in combat for nearly 40 years. Even if the Egyptian military was in Sinai, it would not pose a significant conventional military threat to Israel in its current form. These things can change, however. The transformation of the Egyptian army between 1967 and 1973 was impressive. The difference is that Egypt had a patron in the Soviet Union then that was prepared to underwrite the cost of the transformation. Today, there is no global power, except the United States, that would be capable of dramatically and systematically upgrading the Egyptian military and financially supporting the country overall. Still, if the Morsi government succeeds in institutionalizing its power and uses that power to change the dynamic of the Sinai buffer, Israel will lose several layers of security.

A New Regional Alignment?

A look at the rest of the region shows that Egypt is by no means the only country of concern for Israel. Syria, for example, has an uprising that, in simple terms, largely consists of Sunnis, many of which are Islamists. That in itself represents a threat to Israel, particularly if the relationship between Syria and Egypt were revived. There is an ideological kinship, and just as Nasserism had an evangelical dimension, wanting to spread pan-Arab ideology throughout the region, the Muslim Brotherhood has one too. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is also the most organized and coherent opposition group in Syria. As Morsi consolidates his power in Egypt, his willingness to engage in foreign adventures, or at least covert support, for like-minded insurgents and regimes could very well increase. At a minimum Israel would have to take this seriously. Similarly, where Gaza was contained not only by Israel but also by pre-Morsi Egypt, Morsi might choose to dramatically change Egypt's Gaza policy.

Morsi's rise opens other possibilities as well. Turkey's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party is also engaged in a careful process of reintroducing Islam into a state that was militantly secular. There are fundamental differences between Egypt and Turkey, but there is also much in common. Turkey and Egypt are now engaged in parallel processes designed to create modern countries that recognize their Islamic roots. A Turkish-Egyptian relationship would both undergird the Egyptian regime and create a regional force that could shape the Eastern Mediterranean. 

This would, of course, affect American strategy, which as we have said in the past, is now rapidly moving away from excessive involvement in the Middle East. It is not clear how far Morsi would go in breaking with the United States or whether the military would or could draw a line at that point. Egypt is barely skirting economic disaster at the moment because it is receiving a broad range of financial aid from the West. Moving away from the United States would presumably go well beyond military aid and affect these other types of economic assistance.

The fact is that as Egypt gradually evolves, its relationship with the United States might also change. The United States' relationship with Turkey has changed but has not broken since the Justice and Development Party came to power, with Turkey following a more independent direction. If a similar process occurred in Egypt, the United States would find itself in a very different position in the Eastern Mediterranean, one in which its only ally was Israel, and its relationship with Israel might alienate the critical Turkey-Egypt bloc.

Prior to 1967, the United States was careful not be become overly involved in protecting Israel, leaving that to France. Assuming that this speculation about a shift in Egypt's strategic posture came to pass, Israel would not be in serious military danger for quite a while, and the United States could view its support to Israel as flexible. The United States could conceivably choose to distance itself from Israel in order to maintain its relationships with Egypt and Turkey. A strategy of selective disengagement and redefined engagement, which appears to be under way in the United States now, could alter relations with Israel.

From an Israeli point of view -- it should be remembered that Israel is the dominant power in the region -- a shift in Egypt would create significant uncertainty on its frontier. It would now face uncertainty in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, and while unlikely, the possibility of uncertainty in Jordan. Where previously it faced hostile powers with substantial military capabilities, it would now face weaker powers that are less predictable. However, in an age when Israel's primary concern is with terrorist actions and uprisings in Gaza and the West Bank, this band of uncertainty would be an incubator of such actions.

The worst-case scenario is the re-emergence of confrontational states on its border, armed with conventional weapons and capable of challenging the Israeli military. That is not an inconceivable evolution but it is not a threat in the near term. The next-worst-case scenario would be the creation of multiple states on Israel's border prepared to sponsor or at least tolerate Islamist attacks on Israel from their territory and to underwrite uprisings among the Palestinians. The effect would be an extended, wearying test of Israel's ability to deal with unremitting low-intensity threats from multiple directions.

Conventional war is hard to imagine. It is less difficult to imagine a shift in Egyptian policy that creates a sustained low-intensity conflict not only south of Israel, but also along the entire Israeli periphery as Egypt's influence is felt. It is fairly clear that Israel has not absorbed the significance of this change or how it will respond. It may well not have a response. But if that were the case, then Israel's conventional dominance would no longer define the balance of power. And the United States is entering a period of unpredictability in its foreign policy. The entire region becomes unpredictable.

It is not clear that any of this will come to pass. Morsi might not be able to impose his will in the country. He may not survive politically. The Egyptian military might intervene directly or indirectly. There are several hurdles for Morsi to overcome before he controls the country, and his timeline might be extended for implementing changes. But for the moment, Morsi appears in charge, he seems to be weathering the challenges and the army has not moved. Therefore, considering the strategic consequences is appropriate, and those strategic consequences appear substantial.

Read more: Egypt and the Strategic Balance | Stratfor 

December 03, 2012

Pakistani Hindus protest destruction of temple

Members of Pakistani Hindu community...

By Associated Press

Sunday, December 2, 2012 - Added 10 hours ago

KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani Hindus Sunday protested the destruction of a Hindu temple in the southern port city of Karachi. The temple was razed, along with some nearby homes, by a builder.

Minority Hindus have complained of increasing harassment and discrimination in Muslim-dominated Pakistan in recent years, including the destruction or desecration of their places of worship.

Residents and members of the Hindu community said Sunday a builder with a police escort razed the small temple in one of the older neighborhoods of Karachi, along with some surrounding buildings.

The outer walls and roof of the temple were demolished, and rubble was strewn about the area. Local residents told an AP reporter on the scene that authorities took statues and artifacts out of the building before it was destroyed.

One of the longtime residents, 75-year-old Kali Das, said he was born in the area and remembers when the temple, called Sri Rama Peer Naval, was built. He said more than a hundred families lived nearby and prayed at the temple.

Residents protested at the Karachi Press Club on Sunday, demanding compensation as well as the return of religious materials they said were taken during the incident.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani from the Pakistan Hindu Council said there is a long-running legal dispute between the builder and residents over the land, but it belongs to the Hindu residents.

Zeenat Ahmad, who runs the department in charge of military land, said a court order allowed some of the buildings to be razed. A Pakistani police officer, Parvez Iqbal, denied anything was taken.

The military owns vast tracts of land in Karachi and other parts of the country.

Vankwani said the incident was another example of the problems Hindus are facing in Pakistan. Hindus complain that girls are forcibly converted to Islam, there is no legal recognition for Hindu marriages, and Hindus are discriminated against when it comes to access to government jobs or schooling.

"Every month there is an incident, like taking property of Hindu people or forced conversion of Hindu girls," he said.

During partition in 1947, the violent separation of Pakistan and India into separate countries, hundreds of thousands of Hindus decided to migrate to India, where Hinduism is the dominant religion. Those who remained and their descendants now make up a tiny fraction of Pakistan's estimated 190 million citizens. Most live in Sindh province in the southern part of the country.

December 02, 2012

US Ambassador rues quality of education in India

PTI | Nov 29, 2012, 06.13 PM IST

US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell today said that the quality of education in India remains a "concern and major challenge" while underlining the need to address the gap in reading levels to prepare children for the future in a better way.

NEW DELHI: US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell today said that the quality of education in India remains a "concern and major challenge" while underlining the need to address the gap in reading levels to prepare children for the future in a better way.

Quoting reports that have pointed out that basic reading levels have shown a marked decline, she observed that it was critical to provide children with the right kind of environment to make them learn.

Addressing a gathering after handing over All Children Reading Grand Challenge Awards to five innovators, Powell heaped praises on the Government of India for taking "several positive steps" for providing basic education to every child through the Right to Education Act.

"According to the latest reports, today over 96.6 per cent of children in India ages 6 to 14 years old are enrolled in school. However, quality of education remains a concern and a major challenge across the entire education system," she said.

Citing recent international assessments and national surveys that have concluded that learning levels in India are very low at the primary level, the Ambassador said if the gap in reading ability is not addressed they would continue to lag behind in all subjects as they move through the system.

"The future economic potential of millions of children depends on their ability to learn to read, and read effectively, during their primary school years," she said.

The 2011 Annual Status of Education Report in India revealed that basic reading skills have shown a marked decline in many states across North India.

Powell said USAID fundamentally transformed its approach to education to help address this crisis in quality and that it was not going to measure its success by the number of children in school but by the effectiveness they demonstrate in the classroom as measured by child outcomes.

As part of the new education strategy, she said, USAID has developed early grade reading assessments designed to help teachers understand the specific needs of their students and their classrooms.

These tools are already making a difference on the ground, changing the way entire nations approach education. By focusing on literacy and measuring impact, USAID's new strategy will help improve the reading skills of 100 million children by 2015, she said.

Five of the 32 awardees of this competition are implementing activities in India.

US asks India to consult IAEA on nuclear liability law

Washington, Dec 1, 2012 (PTI)

To enter the international mainstream civil nuclear commerce, a top US official has said India should consult International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on its nuclear liability law as a means to ensure the objective.

"While we understand that India's law is currently being examined by the courts, we believe that consultations with the IAEA would be useful as a means to ensure that the liability law accomplishes our shared objective of moving India into the international mainstream of civil nuclear commerce," Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Geoffrey Pyatt has said.

In his remarks to the Pillsbury NEI Nuclear Export Controls Seminar in Washington, Pyatt identified the nuclear liability law as a major challenge in implementing the historic India-US civilian nuclear deal. A copy of his remarks was released by the State Department yesterday.

"India's nuclear liability law is not in line with the international nuclear liability principles reflected in the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage," he said.

"Current liability law and regulations impose the risk of a heavy financial burden on equipment suppliers seeking to enter the Indian market and expose such companies to the risk of significant financial penalty in the event of a nuclear accident, neither of which is consistent with international standards," Pyatt observed.

"Without a law consistent with this Convention in place, companies from the United States as well as other nations will find it difficult to participate in India's nuclear power expansion plans," he said. 

Pyatt said the US wants to ensure equal opportunities for American companies to conduct nuclear commerce in India and preserve safety standards. The cooperation between India and the US in the civilian nuclear energy field, he noted, is not only about powering factories and schools or computers and cell phones.

"It is about transforming the strategic relationship between our two countries by working together to forge the "indispensable partnership" that President Obama reaffirmed during his watershed visit to India in November 2010," he said.

"The vision for civil-nuclear cooperation was founded not only on the desire to move our strategic partnership to a new level, but on the premise that India largely shares our nonproliferation goals and requires nuclear power to sustain its growing economy in a safe, clean, and cost-effective manner," he said. "Given its plans to expand nuclear power production, we want to partner with India to build and safely maintain modern, efficient and, let me underscore the point, American reactors and infrastructure," Pyatt said.

"Nuclear power is essential to meeting India's extensive energy requirements and alleviating its heavy dependence on imported energy inputs. The enduring commitment of our two countries to the use of nuclear energy to power our cities and our economies makes us natural partners for commercial and scientific cooperation," he said.

Mengal seeks international intervention for settlement of Balochistan issue

WASHINGTON DC: Dr. Wahid Baloch, President of Baloch Society of North America (BSO-NA), have welcomed BNP head Sardar Akhtar Mengal's statement to seek international intervention in order to solve Balochistan's problem.

Mengal seeks international intervention for settlement of Balochistan issue

South Asian News Agency (SANA)
QUETTA, (SANA): Chief of Balochistan National Party (BNP) and ex-chief minister Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal has said that only the international powers can bring normalcy in Balochistan because ruling powers of Pakistan are not serious to solve the worst issue.

Talking to "SANA" exclusively from Dubai Baloch leader said that Balochistan is in stat of war, so transparent elections are impossible in the province, adding that there can be selection not election.

He said that markets, hospitals and educational institutions have been locked and common citizen feels insecure while rulers are silent on the issue.

Mengal responding to a question said that although Supreme Court has not given final decision however court in its interim order has identified the forces behind the missing persons and mutilated dead bodies recovered from Balochistan.

He said that establishment and ruling powers are challenging the court rulings instead of implementation, adding that such efforts would not let the situation coming toward betterment in the province. He said that in current circumstances without interference of international powers law and order situation could not be settled.

Mengal further said that it is admitted fact that where ever law and order becomes worsen the UN and other world powers intervene to maintain law and order.

Responding to a quarry Mangal stated that neither they have approached to UN nor any international institution has contacted us, adding that the voices are being arisen from various areas of the world against genocide of Baloch citizens in Balochistan. He said that the world soon would be helpless but to interfere in the matter of Balochistan.

On a question, he said that in current law and order situation BNP would not participate in elections, adding that if the normalcy returns in province than central executive committee of BNP would decide to participate in elections. 

Sunita Williams's message to India: Get involved

December 02, 2012 19:30 IST

 "Get involved, try to be a part of it" is the message of record-breaking Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams [ Images ] to millions of Indians students and space enthusiasts.

Stressing that India [ Images ] has a great resource of people and talent, Williams, who is just back from her 127 days mission to the International Space Mission, said she can't imagine India taking a backseat in space programmes.

"You know, I hope so. I am short of had my head down for last mission for the last couple of years. So I haven't really been in the know about all the Indian space program and what it has been doing, but gosh we really hope so," Williams, 47, said when asked if India stands a chance in front of US and Russia [ Images ] to emerge as a leader in space research.

"India has a great resource of people and talent out there that I can't imagine, Indian taking a back seat. So, I am really hoping they will jump out there and be part of the space programme and be flying people in space before too long," Williams told PTI in an interview.

Asked why would her message to fans in India, she said, "I think the message that I would like to give to folks in India about the International Space Station [ Images ] is get involved".
She added, "We have experiments up there from all over the world, not only the international partners that participated in building the space station, but all over the world... universities, schools, we talk to kids all over the place.

"Get involved, try to be part of it, open up new doors and new opportunities".
Williams has spent a total of 322 days in space during her two long-duration missions.
That makes her the second most experienced female astronaut in history, behind NASA's [ Images ] Peggy Whitson (who spent 377 days in space during two station flights).