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Thursday, 23 June 2011

From Today's Papers - 23 Jun 2011





Why India needs to keep talking to Pakistan

Pakistan’s new generation wants it to break free from the vicious cycle of violence — India should help  In Groundhog Day, a Hollywood blockbuster released in 1993, a weatherman finds himself getting up to the same day over and over again. He discovers that he is condemned to going over the same routine till eternity.  Comparisons with the movie and the talks that are being held today in Islamabad between Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir, the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan respectively, may seem odious. After all the Mohali spirit, that saw the Prime Ministers of the two countries have a cordial meeting on the sidelines of the World Cup cricket match in March, did bring the promise of a new beginning.  Those who have travelled on the roller-coaster ride that describes the relationship between the two countries may regard it as déjà vu. “There is a ‘have seen it, been there, done that’ feeling. An incident here or there and we could be back to square one again,” Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, director general, Pakistan’s Institute of Strategic Studies, told me when I met him in Islamabad in April.  Qazi should know. He was Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India during the outbreak of the Kargil war, the attack on India’s Parliament and the tensions that followed. “We could either condemn ourselves to the past or India and Pakistan can be the story of the century as part of the developing or transforming world. So in our talks we need to be hardnosed but imaginative and methodically work towards desired outcomes,” is his advice.  So what are the possibilities of these talks proving fruitful? I know it’s safe to be cynical. There is little concrete that has been achieved in the talks between the secretaries of defence, commerce and water resources of the two countries that preceded the one being held today.  The elimination of Al-Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden in a daring raid of his hideout in May at Abbotabad by US Special Forces saw Pakistan’s Big Lie being exposed. No more could the Pakistan government maintain that the state was unaware or not involved in fostering dangerous networks including the group that conducted the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008.  Yet in my recent travels across Pakistan the one thing that I noticed was that much of civil society and even the Establishment was no more in a state of denial. It was not because of what India or the world was saying. But the series of deadly terror attacks in recent years had convinced many in Pakistan that state itself was in grave danger of being overwhelmed by the very militants that they had fostered or backed. The feeling of insecurity and unease was palpable. I felt that Pakistanis were desperately looking for a way out of the quagmire.  I sensed that burning need when I visited the University of the Punjab and interacted with the faculty and students. Started in Lahore in 1882 (just a year after The Tribune was established in the same city) it is now among the oldest in the sub-continent and boasts of 70 departments, a 700-strong faculty and 586 colleges affiliated to it. It now has over 30,000 students and in a sign of the changing times the ratio between male and students is now almost equal - 52:48.  Yet as even as the University does the country proud, Professor Dr Mujahid Kamran, its Vice-Chancellor, points out there are barely 2 million Pakistanis pursuing higher education or just two per cent of the population of 200 million. “If Pakistan has to develop like India or China then the only way is to have a vast educated workforce that can drive the economy,” he says. Most academics and students are keen to visit India and even study in our Universities but as Kamran says, “We are just not able to get visas even for seminars what to talk of pursuing education in India.”  Exchange of academics and students is something that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should tell India’s foreign secretary to push for when Rao meets her counterpart later today. Manmohan Singh, who was born in a village that is now in Pakistan, has consistently batted for good relations with Islamabad despite grave misgivings within his own party and in the Opposition.  I will stick my neck out and roundly endorse the Indian Prime Minister’s decision to resume the structured dialogue between the two countries, which had broken off formal talks after the Mumbai attacks. Despite the apparent lack of atmospherics, it is important that we engage Pakistan in talks. Even just talking to Pakistan gives us a first hand account of the internal churning that the country is experiencing and helps India calibrate its initiative.  There is a discernible strand among civil society in Pakistan especially the younger generation that wants their country to break free from the vicious cycle of violence, anger and despair. I sensed that when I visited Atchison College and was taken on a tour of its campus by Fakir Syed Aijazuddin, its suave and erudite principal. Among the oldest schools in the region it has maintained its character over the years and grooms its students for leadership roles in the country.  When I spoke to a gathering of senior school students one of them, Humza Yusuf, asked me, “How was India able to achieve such a fantastic economic growth and how can Pakistan do the same?” It was an excellent question, one that many in Pakistan asked me when I was there. India’s economic growth is looked upon by them with much admiration and envy.  I told him that I believed that Pakistan was somewhat in the same position as India was 20 years ago. India’s economy was in a shambles, there was internal strife and lack of national unity on almost everything. The then government had no other option but to go in for a radical economic reform process that essentially ended the Licence Raj and freed Indian entrepreneurship and investment.  A constellation of circumstances has now put Pakistan in a similar predicament. The choice was for it to make. India could help by engaging it in a dialogue. “We do need to take a leaf out of India’s book and that of China’s too if Pakistan wants to achieve transformational economic growth. We would like to be part of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) grouping as among the fastest growing economies in the world,” says Qazi. Then with his characteristic humour he added, “If we did that we may have to start the acronym with P!”  Pakistan is beginning to realise that for that kind of economic growth it needs to seek a stable and self-respecting relationship with India. It is in India’s vital interest to help Pakistan do so.










Three out of four Pakistanis are wary of India: PEW Survey

ACCORDING TO a new study, every three Pakistani out of four are afraid of Indians. The study, whose results were announced on Tuesday shows that arch rivals have grown wary of Indians in the few past years.   The research, which was done by the Pew Research Center found out interesting facts about the research. When asked about the biggest threat to their country and given a choice between India, the Taliban, or Al-Qaeda, 57 per cent of the people answered it to be India.   A similar kind of research was done five years back where around 50 per cent of the people were wary of Indians. Now, since every three out of four people are not comfortable with the Indians the percentage goes up much more than the 50 per cent.   This is one side of the story, the other side being that inspite of people being anti India there are citizens on both the side of the borders who want the India-Pak relations to improve. the best examples are that we have seen various friendly cricket matches and reality shows hosted by both the countries to smooth matters with their neighbour. It is strange and inconceivable that both these separate countries were once a whole country and that a single political decision can change situations and matters so much.   The first survey, regarding the same was conducted between April 10 to 26 among between April 10 to 26. The second one of the survey was done exclusively between May 8 to 15, among 1,251 Pakistanis after the Taliban leader Osama Bin Laden was killed.









Lt Col. rank for Dhoni

Ranchi, June 22: Dhoni could soon get a legitimate reason to wear fatigues, something he loves to sport whenever he is not in cricketing gear.  When the defence ministry clears chief minister Arjun Munda’s letter of recommendation to make the Team India skipper an honorary lieutenant colonel in the Territorial Army, Mahi could join the likes of teammate Sachin Tendulkar, who has already been named honorary group captain in the Indian Air Force.  “It will send a message that a player can also be a jawan of the country. Besides, it will help us in the process of nation building,” Munda, who returned to Ranchi from Delhi today after a visit to the US, told The Telegraph.  It was for the first time that the chief minister was making recommendation for awarding honourary degree to a person from Jharkhand. It comes after Dhoni led Team India to a spectacular victory in the World Cup.  After the historic win, Dhoni had met Army Chief of Staff Gen. V.K. Singh, who had offered him a commissioned rank in the Territorial Army.  Explaining the concept of the Territorial Army, an officer of the armed forces said it was a part of the army and its present role was to relieve regular personnel from static duties and assist the civil administration whenever required.  An officer of the Territorial Army has to sign up for a six-month training at the Indian Military Academy on physical endurance and tactics.  As a lieutenant colonel, Dhoni will be given the Ashok Emblem and one star for rank. He would be entitled to every other facility available to any military officer. Not only will he have access to officers’ mess and army canteens, he will also be entitled for medical assistance at military hospitals. Top









Govt sets up task force to review national security

NEW DELHI: The government has constituted a task force to carry out a holistic review of national security and the country's preparedness to face the myriad challenges. The task force headed by former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra comes a decade after the Kargil Review Committee carried out a similar assessment in the wake of the Indo-Pak conflict of 1999.  "The security challenges have changed. India has moved on, our security challenges have evolved. It is time to look at the national security situation in the light of challenges ranging from cyber security to energy security," official sources explained.  The task force headed by Chandra, who had been the Indian ambassador to the US and defence secretary, has several experts from various fields including the military, intelligence, nuclear and media. According to officials, the task force has been given six months to submit it report.  The task force comes almost a decade after Atal Behari Vajpayee government appointed the Kargil Review Committee headed by strategic affairs analyst, the late K Subrahmanyam. It recommended sweeping changes in several areas of security, from military to intelligence, border management to defence budgeting. Many of its recommendations were implemented, but some were left out. Some others were not implemented properly, such as the modernization of infantry, border management etc.  The government's decision to appoint a new task force comes at a time when there are widespread concerns about failures in defence integration, lack of a cohesive response to the rise of China, emergence of cyber threats, and the widening realities of India's national security. There are also concerns about protecting energy sources. The country's economic growth would significantly depend on protecting the cyber assets as much as the physical border.  Members of the task force include former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash, former Air chief Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, former chief of the Department of Atomic Energy Anil Kakodkar, former chief of RAW KC Verma, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan G Parthasarathy and former home secretary VK Duggal.  Sources said the task force would start work after Chandra, who is presently out of India, returns.




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