Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Saturday, 7 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 07 Aug 2010

The lesson from WikiLeaks Never depend on Pak for fighting terrorism by
 T.V. Rajeswar  The WikiLeaks disclosures have burst upon the world scene like a thunder and the impact will be seen during the coming months. The 91,000 documents, which an American serviceman with access to all these sensitive papers has provided, cover a period of six years, from 2004 onwards. These leaks have been described as more damaging to the defence establishment of the US than the Pentagon papers, which were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971. Daniel Ellsberg wanted to expose the futility of the long-drawn-out war in Vietnam and the impact of what he did at that time was devastating.  The most important aspect of the WikiLeaks documents is that they have clearly exposed the collusion between Pakistan’s ISI and the Taliban. Pakistan, which was receiving billions of dollars in aid from the United States, was cynically abetting and indeed actively helping the attacks on the Americans as well as the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. While these have come as a revelation to the public at large, the US itself was fully aware of what was happening, as the WikiLeaks disclosures have so clearly demonstrated.  Julian Paul Assange, who is behind the WikiLeaks website, considers himself a master whistleblower and a crusader. He believes that such leaks are an integral part of the information warfare and calls himself a media insurgent. He has announced that apart from the 91,000 documents in his possession, there are 15,000 more documents which are yet to be analysed and released on the web. To go back into the history of the war in Afghanistan, it started with the Russian invasion in 1979. The US and Pakistan pooled their resources – the US with financial help and weapons, and Pakistan with proxy manpower, and after 10 long years, that too after a regime change in the Soviet Union, the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan.  The Pakistan-backed fighters, the Taliban, were subsequently enabled to take control of Afghanistan. Probably no one would have bothered to disturb the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and its close links with Pakistan but for the dramatic attack carried out on the World Trade Towers in Manhattan, New York, on September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda, having taken shelter in Afghanistan, were considered as the biggest threat to the US, which led to the entry of American forces in Afghanistan. The US worked out a coalition of forces for which several countries contributed their troops.  With this deep involvement, it was a shocking revelation when the intelligence taps were indicating the Pakistani collusion with the Taliban in mounting attacks on American forces as well as the US-led coalition forces.  Pakistan’s double game was known to the US all along but it had to necessarily work with Islamabad in dealing with the militarily difficult Af-Pak region and the Taliban in Afghanistan. President Obama had announced that, effective from July 2011, there would be a phased pullout of US troops from Afghanistan. There had been clarifications, however, that this would depend upon the situation on the ground. However, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda believe that this is the beginning of the end of the presence of the American troops in Afghanistan.  Undoubtedly, this has led to a power struggle between the various factions in Afghanistan. Pakistan would like to position itself in a manner that it would be recognised as the most dominant military factor in the country. Towards this end, which Pakistan apparently considers as a matter of time, it is collaborating with the Taliban. Even conceding that Pakistan’s double game was in pursuance of this reasoning, how would any observer explain the perfidy of Pakistan almost since 2004?  While the WikiLeaks should come as a shock and eye-opener to the Americans, they are unfortunately in no position to take a harsh line towards Islamabad since the US has to depend on Pakistan a great deal for sustaining the war in Afghanistan. The military supplies go through the Af-Pak territory. The Americans have reportedly given almost $18 billion by way of aid in various forms to Pakistan ever since 2001. There is also a commitment for an infusion of $2.5 billion per annum for a period of five years commencing next year. Commenting on the WikiLeaks, the US National Security Adviser, Gen James Jones, said that such “irresponsible leaks” would have no impact on the US commitments to its partnership with Afghanistan-Pakistan, and this only exposes the helplessness of the US. As for India, the leaks show the unrelenting hostility of Pakistan on India’s role in Afghanistan.  The ISI had actively promoted the attack by the jihadi elements affiliated to the Haqqani faction of the Taliban on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, not only in July 2008 but also last year, when the attempt had failed. It also promoted attacks against the Indian labourers engaged in development activities in Kabul. If Pakistan could play a dangerous double game against its own benefactor, the US, would it not be futile to expect it to fulfil any of its commitments to India?  The most important factor that emerges from the WikiLeaks is that Pakistan cannot be expected to ensure that terrorist attacks against India are stopped, much less stringent action taken against those who launched those strikes against India in November 2008. There is also no guarantee that the attacks like those unleashed in Mumbai in November 2008 would not happen again in India. The WikiLeaks disclosures have administered a big dose of realism to India.

  Sloth, corruption dog civil services 
The civil services are in a mess. Though IAS officers enjoy lot of power and clout, they also draw flak for lethargy, incompetence and corruption. And this has not only corroded the steel frame but also affected good governance. The Indian polity needs to replicate the Indonesian model to stem the rot in the system, says Shailaja Chandra  There was a time when joining the civil services was a matter of prestige. Increasingly now the public looks upon the entire gamut of civil services as self-seeking, greedy and corrupt. Some perceptions and realities need to be juxtaposed sequentially and re-stated because they impact hugely upon the quality of governance.  The civil service is not an island floating on its own, but a reflection of the ethics and mores that exist in society. When the arena of politics is so highly contaminated, it is too much to expect that civil servants alone would be distilled purity. Particularly when instant protection is given by the law makers to inveterate lawbreakers on grounds of caste, community, religion, and money power, there is really little hope that the civil services alone will rise and miraculously provide good governance.  But first a little reverie about the times when things were different. As the seven-year-old daughter of a woman officer recruited to the Central Secretariat Service post independence, I spent my childhood in the fifties playing with children of my mother’s colleagues in the Ministry of Home Affairs. A picnic at Surajkund, a family movie and an occasional dinner party were the highest points of the evening life of the officer class, otherwise spent in the corridors of New Delhi’s Khan Market where they bought everything from groceries to the first gas burner.  Looking back, the most distinguishing feature was the complete absence of anyone outside the civil services in this select group and their modest-even spartan lifestyles. (Notwithstanding that ICS households baked a caramel custard pudding instead of the pedestrian sooji halwa.)  In the late sixties, after I cleared the IAS, I was trained in turn by three stalwarts — T.N. Seshan and later B.N. Tandon and Gopi K. Arora. All of them (at least then) maintained unpretentious lifestyles both in the office and at home. A game of bridge or an evening of classical music helped tie a familial knot that has lasted more than 40 years.  Conversations always carried a sense of admiration for honesty and hard work and an abhorrence and intolerance for wheeling-dealing. The minimalism of their homes, the simplicity of their families and their self-made children was what I observed.  But elsewhere something else was happening. The children of once deprived families had grown older, entered the civil services yearning to announce their arrival. There was also a need to look after the biradari which had nurtured them through a disadvantaged childhood. Some longed to flaunt their new-found status and a realisation came that proximity to power could help to leapfrog into positions of even greater influence out of turn.  Postings with the power of patronage and great visibility could actually be manipulated quite effortlessly just by using the right connections. One powerful connection led to the next. The colours and contours of the civil service began to change, making this the preferred route for an increasing number of officers as the years passed. Products of the old school were not eliminated altogether because all governments need honest, hardworking officers to have credibility and substance. But they had to be really exceptional to reach the top.  For the greater part, garnering and wielding visible authority became heady business. To take a rather extreme example of encounter killings criminals were regularly liquidated in stage-managed episodes all in the name of saving the public. A former Chief Secretary of Maharashtra said emphatically: “Many policemen hang out with criminals and are often engaged by rival gangster groups to eliminate their rivals. Sometimes politicians promote these killings. Sometimes it is a purely police enterprise.” But he added, “How else can extortion by the underworld be stopped? Ultimately, a society gains; does it not?”  In direct contrast stands another phenomenon which has demoralised the service ethos incalculably. In every state, there is a section of officers (and they come from rural, small town backgrounds or could be the products of elite backgrounds and institutions,) who spurn the politician-businessman nexus. They neither hanker for powerful jobs while in service nor crave Governorships, constitutional posts, or government perks after retirement.  Regardless of what bosses wish to hear, such officers can be infuriatingly straightforward and brutally frank. The political executive and a pliable senior bureaucracy complain about their pig-headedness but use them like kitchen devices — indispensable, but easily replaceable. Over the years, their marginalisation has destroyed idealism and initiative; also given a mistaken message to young officers: the future does not lie in following the rulebook. Honesty and uprightness can actually flush you out.  Instead, amassing and displaying wealth and wielding visible authority are seen as the true signs of success. When the bureaucrat-politician-businessman links are strong and interdependent, no Civil Service Authority or Public Service Law (we hear of) can alter the picture significantly. Only a Lokpal (Ombudsman) can investigate alliances in high places founded on dishonesty.  Sadly, however, the Lokpal concept has been shelved repeatedly for 44 years. The Benami Transaction Act (1988) is bereft of rules for 22 years because notifying the rules will immediately render all benami transactions at the risk of forfeiture. Despite the Second Administrative Reforms Commission prodding the government to move promptly on both these fronts, there is no tangible progress. So we continue to rely on the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation who have given ample evidence of being inept, partisan and inefficient for too long.  Alternatives have been tried elsewhere. Indonesia established a Corruption Eradication Commission — born out of public reaction to the brazen corruption during 30 years of President Suharto’s rule. So irrepressible was the public outcry in 1998 that the incoming government was forced to create a powerful anti-corruption agency — Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi — as an Act of Parliament. KPK’s resounding success (at least until early 2010) — carries some lessons for India.  The KPK has reportedly prosecuted and jailed over 100 high-ranking officials in five years. It has won every case before the corruption court and had all verdicts upheld by the Supreme Court. Indonesia says her ranking in the International Corruption Perception Index has improved thereby, giving the country a more ethical reputation worldwide.  Among others, the KPK has jailed a Minister, Members of Parliament, heads and key officials of the Central Bank, the Election Commission, the Competition Commission, Governors and Mayors, as well as senior officers from the police and the Attorney General’s office. It has also jailed businessmen, heads of private companies and notably the father-in-law of the President’s son. Because KPK is headed by a five-member Commission which operates as a collegium, the manipulation of the entire body becomes very hard. KPK Commissioners are identified by a special selection team appointed by the President from among known leaders in society and representatives from the prosecution and the police. Names of prospective candidates are placed on a website for public scrutiny. Ten candidates are recommended by a selection committee to the President, who then sends the names to Parliament which makes the ultimate choice of five Commissioners.  The Indian polity badly needs a similar system to stem the rot. Meanwhile, there is a lot members of the civil services can do by refusing to join the world of corruption-ridden interdependencies. Also by refusing to keep mum. When a few in every service still have a sense of ethics left and feel disturbed and angry when they see trade-offs taking place, they need to rally together and tell colleagues that following the rulebook may not bring immediate results but will ultimately give peace of mind — more precious than anything money or power can buy once retirement comes.

 IAS: Shake it out of stupor
Rajan Kashyap  The Indian Administrative Service plays a pivotal role in governance at the Centre and in the states. On account of their perceived status in Indian society, they are treated with awe and respect by the common public. At the same time, many consider the IAS an elite group of self-seekers, who wield arbitrary and undeserved power. Some sections of the intelligentsia hold the IAS in disdain and even contempt.  The strengths of the IAS as an institution for development and regulation include tested and demonstrated intelligence and capacity, a high level of self-confidence, a rich and varied experience, especially at the cutting edge of public service, comparative personal integrity and honesty, ability for crisis management, adaptability to change, an image of impartiality and a high motivation to perform.  Equally, its weaknesses as an instrument for governance are well documented. These are eroding levels of sincerity, integrity, dedication and application, and a declining work ethic that earlier defined the service. Furthermore, an inevitable proximity to power — in the person of political leaders as well as business houses — tempts an increasing number of IAS officers to collude with vested interests for securing personal and career benefits, such as powerful posts and assignments.  Good governance demands transparency, accountability, honesty and efficiency in delivery of public services for all. The government should create conditions where enterprise and individual initiative are rewarded, and oppressive discretionary controls of junior officials removed. Red tape is seen to breed corruption. The World Bank (2008) ranks India at 120 among 178 countries in the ease of doing business index. Successive surveys confirm the view that corruption in India is widespread and permeates all branches and levels of government.  The IAS officers may plead that they are unable to perform to potential as they do not enjoy security of tenure as they move from post to post, at the pleasure of their superiors, the political leaders. The personnel policy subjects them to frequent arbitrary changes in assignment. Quite often, they fail to acquire specialised skills for want of in-service training. Of late, several middle-rung IAS officers have opted to leave government service altogether, to accept more lucrative, and perhaps more satisfying jobs in the private, corporate sector. That the concerned business houses engage such young IAS officers suggests that, per se, the system has generated high-grade human resource. Why then does the same human material fail to deliver adequately on the governance front? Has the IAS become a soft service, afflicted by inertia? Can the service be redeemed through reform measures? Or would the IAS need to be discarded altogether to make way for a new order?  Some experts, notably Inder Sud of Emerging Markets Forum, a US-based think tank of international economists prescribe that, for transforming public officials to public servants, the IAS as a national service should be abolished, fresh recruitment be made separately for the central and state levels of government, and professionals with experience and skills inducted from within or outside government.  This model proposes that with each government level having its own civil service, the present system of transfers and postings should end, specialists being placed in specialist position for fixed terms. Class III and Class IV services are proposed to be cut to a minimum so that the officers are compelled to stand on their own feet.  Such drastic overhaul would bring Indian bureaucracy closer to the systems prevailing in many developed countries. In so far as models like Sud’s commend the dissolution of the IAS as an institution, they are flawed. However imperfect the service might be, it has developed as a product of the national milieu. It has established itself as an instrument of governance. There is no guarantee that any alternative civil service will not acquire the deficiencies besetting the IAS today.  Perhaps a surer, softer reform remedy could be to remould the IAS as a human resource and remove impediments to its efficient functioning. The service can be strengthened by lateral induction of professionals at various levels from other sectors of the economy. Important senior appointments should be on contract and open to the IAS as well as others. To prevent arbitrariness, an empowered, autonomous board should determine postings and transfers at the Centre and in the states.  As a rule, officers must be assured of a minimum tenure in any assignment. Scientific monitoring of performance should determine reward and punishment. For this it may be necessary to amend Article 311 of the Constitution which gives vast protection to civil servants from removal from service. To shake the IAS out of stupor, some desperate appliances are called for. Now is the time to act.

33 jawans missing in Leh flash floods
 Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, August 6 It will be tough days ahead for the Indian Army to open up routes to Leh and other forward posts following last night’s cloudburst.  Some 150-km of the crucial national highway on either side of Leh is badly damaged. At least seven bridges have been washed away, blocking road access to the remote Himalayan region for the next few months. As many as 35 Army jawans are feared dead.  Better news is that the IAF’s advanced landing grounds close to the Chinese territory and paved runaways in Leh, Kargil and Thiose are intact. The Army wasn’t that lucky -- several of its bunkers, positions and handheld weapons have been washed away along with the jawans of the 15 Bihar Regiment stationed along the Turtuk ridge in Eastern Ladakh near the Syhok River.  The affected areas stretch from the Pang village on the Rohtang-Leh Highway upto Nimmu on the Leh-Srinagar Highway. Over 3,500 Army personnel and IAF choppers have been pressed into service for reconnaissance and for airlifting casualties.

India remains at risk of fresh terror attacks: US
 Press Trust of India / Washington August 06, 2010, 17:41 IST  India remains at risk of fresh terror attacks, a US State Department report has warned, saying that New Delhi was receiving volumes of such credible intelligence.  Labelling India as one of the most terrorism afflicted nations because of "persistent and significant" threats from Pakistan-based groups like LeT and JeM, the report cautioned that New Delhi's moves to counter them were floundering due to its "outdated" legal system and law enforcement.  Though there was no major terrorist attack like 26/11, India remained at risk on the basis of volumes of credible threats, the government continued to receive, the report said.  "India continued to face persistent and significant external threats from groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Harakat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami-Bangladesh," said the State Department's annual Congressionally mandated Country Reports on Terrorism for the year 2009, released yesterday.  The American report warned that New Delhi's efforts to counter these threats are "hampered due to its outdated legal system and law enforcement," at the same time, saying that the Indian government remain committed to combat the menace.  "Although clearly committed to combating terrorism, the Indian government's counter-terrorism efforts remained hampered by its outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems."  "In the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008, India's Parliament has introduced bills to restructure its counter-terrorism laws and established a National Investigative Agency (NIA) to create a national-level capability to investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism," it noted.  The State Department said India remained one of the countries most afflicted by terrorism with over 1,000 deaths attributed to terrorist attacks in 2009, primarily in Kashmir and other parts of India.  The State Department said Jammu and Kashmir, historically victim to the largest number of foreign terrorist attacks, saw casualties decline significantly from previous years.  "The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reported that 71 civilians and 52 members of the security forces were killed in terrorist-related violence in the state through November," it said.  The Congress mandated report said Home Minister P. Chidambaram "reported to Parliament in December that 700 foreign insurgents were active in the state, down from 800 earlier in the year".

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal