Friday, November 18, 2011

Manmohan's strange obsession with Pakistan

Public memory in this wondrous land of ours being remarkably short, we rarely, if ever, remember commitments made by our leaders. That makes it easy for them to go back on their word without anybody realising they are doing so. “You can’t fool all the people all the time,” an aphorism attributed to Abraham Lincoln, is made to stand on its head by the sophistry of those who rule India.

And so it is that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has gone ahead and done exactly what he had promised the people of this country he would not do. Making a statement in Parliament on July 29, 2009, he had said that “Pakistan has to act and act effectively on terrorism before there can be a comprehensive dialogue covering all areas of disagreement or concerns of the two countries”. That was eight months after the horrific attack on multiple high profile targets in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists that left at least 164 people dead and more than 300 injured.

Unmindful of the fact that on November 26 India will observe the third anniversary of that horrendous blood-letting and disdainful of grieving parents, widows and orphans who are yet to reconcile themselves to their terrible loss, Singh has chosen this moment to declare Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani a “man of peace” who is “willing to work with us” and indicated his desire to visit the country that continues to torment India.

There is more. Without going into details, he said, “I did discuss with Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani whether Pakistan’s armed forces were on board. The feeling I got was that after a long time, Pakistan’s armed forces are on board.” In other words, both Islamabad and Rawalpindi are now keen to talk peace with New Delhi.
In April this year, The Times (London) carried an interesting story which said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had opened “secret talks” with the Pakistani Army chief 10 months ago “to build on the cricket-inspired diplomatic thaw” between the two countries. The newspaper claimed Singh had “appointed an unofficial envoy to make contact with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's chief of the army staff who exercises de facto control over foreign policy.” The PMO had swiftly denied the report.

The Prime Minister’s sudden mention of the Pakistani Army being “on board” brings that report to mind. It is unimaginable that Gilani would have talked Kayani, who misses no opportunity to make it abundantly clear that India remains Enemy Number One of the Pakistani Army and treats his Prime Minister with unhidden contempt, into getting ‘on board’ the peace train.

That apart, it would be in order to raise three points to underscore the hollowness of Singh’s claim that Gilani realises the folly of persisting with cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy and, to signal Pakistan’s rupture with past practice, is keen to bring the masterminds behind 26/11 to justice.

First, between November 26, 2008, and now, nothing has changed vis-à-vis Pakistan nurturing terrorist organisations as ‘strategic assets’. Recent Congressional testimonies by senior US officials, including the topmost military commander Mike Mullen, have reconfirmed what we have known all along. The ISI, working in tandem with the Pakistani Army, continues to use terrorist organisations to further Pakistan’s ‘strategic objectives’. The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, which masterminded and executed 26/11, did so with the assistance of the ISI.

Second, in the past three years, absolutely no sincerity has been shown by Gilani and his Government to prosecute LeT chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed and his deputy Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi despite overwhelming evidence of their involvement in 26/11 provided by India and the intelligence agencies of other countries. The prosecution case is laughably weak. Dossier after dossier sent by India has been spurned as no more than ‘fiction’. Saeed continues to preach hatred against India.

Third, days before Gilani was anointed a “man of peace”, he ordered that Jamaat-ud-Dawa’h, as the LeT has refashioned itself to beat sanctions, be removed from Pakistan’s list of banned organisations. That decision was in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, especially Resolution 1822, which are binding on all member-states. It also rudely mocks at India’s assertion that the LeT / JuD is responsible for the continued loss of Indian lives.

In Havana, Singh had inexplicably accorded Pakistan the status of victim, as opposed to perpetrator, of terrorism. In Sharm el-Sheikh, he had meekly agreed to de-link terrorism and talks. In Maldives, he has timidly offered peace at any cost. On each occasion, he chose to ignore India’s national interest, although that is supposed to be his primary concern.

This can’t be just about going down in history as a peace-maker, which takes me back to where I began.

(This appeared as a comment in DNA on November 17, 2011.)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Law alone can't end corruption

On Sunday, November 6, I spoke on 'Law alone cannot end corruption' at the Shala organised by Takshashila in Chennai.

You can watch the video here.

'Tigers' extinct in Sri Lanka, but not in Europe

Two years after Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed, along with his lieutenants and cadre, and the LTTE obliterated by the Sri Lankan Army, the ruthless man who terrorised Sinhalese and brutalised Tamils alike is very much alive in the imagination of Germany’s — as well as Europe’s — Tamil diaspora.

In life, Prabhakaran tested the loyalty of his ‘Tigers’, many of whom were in their early teens, by asking them to turn themselves into human bombs. Any ‘Tamil Tiger’ taken alive by security forces was under instruction to swallow a cyanide pill; nobody is known to have violated that order.

Over the quarter century that he led a horrific campaign of terror for a Tamil Eelam, Prabhakaran set standards for terrorists around the world. The final battle against the LTTE was no doubt vicious and exacted terrible collateral damage, but in the end the evil that Prabhakaran and his organisation had come to symboli were destroyed root and branch.

On May 18, 2009, Prabhakaran was killed while trying to escape the military blockade of Mullaitivu. He met a violent end, as did the entire top leadership of the LTTE.

But as Dutch prosecutor Prosecutor Ward Ferdinandusse says, “Although the Tigers have been defeated in Sri Lanka, here in Europe they are very much alive.” The EU’s police coordination organisation, Europol, in its ‘Terrorism Situation and Trend Report’ for 2011, said ‘Tamil Tigers’ in Europe continue with their extortion and “are actively involved in drugs and human trafficking, the facilitation of illegal immigration, credit card skimming, money laundering, and fraud for the purpose of funding terrorist (support) operations”.

Read my take on how Europe keeps LTTE alive.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Narendra Modi Report on Food Price Control

Following the publication of my Sunday column, Coffee Break, headlined 'NaMo proposes, PM disposes', readers wanted further details of the report submitted by the Working Committee headed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi which was set up at a Chief Ministers' Conference, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to come up with recommendations for the Union Government to hold the price line for essential commodities. The remit of the Modi Committee was to propose actionable short-term and medium-term measures to control food inflation. Hence, the committee's report is not about long-term reforms in the agricultural sector. The two are entirely separate issues.I have with me the executive summary of the Modi Report on how to fight food inflation, which is reproduced below:

Modi Report gives 20 recommendations with 64 actionable points and emphasizing;

• Ban on Future trading of Essential Commodities
• Set up Price Stabilization Fund by Government of India
• set up a Ministerial level Coordination mechanism at the National
and the Regional level for coordinated policy making
• Priority sector lending to Agri-marketing activities
• Speedy Reform of APMC Act across the Country and Liberalization of
• Time bound development of Agri-marketing infrastructure including
storage capacities in food deficit regions, cold chain,
agro-processing etc.
• Unbundling of FCI operations of procurement, storage and distribution
• Increase competition by promoting retailing by organized sector and

Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, Chairman of the Working
Group on Consumer Affairs, submitted the Report of Working Group to
the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh in the
presence of Union Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Professor K.
V. Thomas, Minister of State (Independent charge) for Food, Public
Distribution and Consumer Affairs, Minister of State in PMO Shri V.
Narayanasamy, at Prime Minister's residence.

The Working Group on Consumer Affairs was constituted on 8th April,
2010, finalized its Report earlier in January 2011 by the Committee
led by Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Gujarat with other member
Chief Ministers of States of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil

Unlike the usual practice of voluminous reports often bordering along
academic approach, the Modi Committee Report is a precise document
which gives 20 recommendations with 64 detailed actionable points that
will facilitate expeditious implementation of the Report.

With regard to the Future Markets and considering lack of strong
linkages between spot and future markets at present, the Modi
Committee Report has suggested that for the time being, essential
commodities should be kept out of the Future Market.

The Modi Committee Report has suggested setting up of a Price
Stabilization Fund by Govt. of India to help State Government for
procurement and distribution of essential commodities in short supply.

Some of the major recommendations made in the Modi Committee Report
include liberalization of Agriculture Markets for improving the
efficiency of distribution channel from farms to consumer, increasing
participation of organized sector/ cooperatives in retailing
including farmers’ markets, agro- processing, storage and cold
chains for wastage control and reduction, proactive monetary
policy etc.

For evolving single National agriculture market, the Modi Committee
Report has recommended to set up a Ministerial level Coordination
mechanism at the National and the Regional level for coordinated
policy making.

In addition, the Modi Committee Report has recommended enlarging the
scope of priority sector lending such that the Agriculture Marketing
activities are also be made eligible and the ratio of priority sector
lending to the agriculture sector should also be raised further from
the current level of 18%.

To minimize information asymmetry in the Agriculture Market, the Modi
Committee Report also calls for establishing a mechanism, if necessary
by creating a dedicated agency, to collect and widely disseminate
information to all stakeholders on production, import, stocks and
overall availability of essential commodities besides extensive use of
the Information Technology.

Since, the FCI plays a major role in procurement and distribution
system of essential commodities, a suggestion has been made to explore
unbundling of FCI operation in terms of procurement, storage and
distribution functions.

Further, the Modi Committee Report has also emphasized preparation of
a 10-year Perspective Plan for improving Agri-infrastructure of
backward and forward linkages for Agriculture Production and

The Modi Committee Report has also recommended that offences under
Section 10-A under the Essential Commodities Act should be made
non-bailable and Special Courts should be set up for speedy trial of
offences under the E.C. Act.

In addition, the Modi Committee Report also recommends that the period
of preventive detention under the PBM Act (Black Marketing Act in
common parlance) should be increased from six months to one year.

The report was submitted on March 4, 2011. Since then it has been gathering dust in the PMO.