Editorial 1 / Tragic dialogue
Editorial 2 / Business minded
When war is ruled out
Fifth Column / How to Keep them flying high
Look who’s talking
Document /Paving the way towards a better future
Letters to the editor

The killing of Abdul Ghani Lone, a veteran leader of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, is a severe blow to the incipient peace process in Jammu and Kashmir. In recent months, Lone had emerged as a voice of moderation and sanity and had demonstrated tremendous personal courage. There was also evidence to suggest that Lone may have been willing to arrive at a political accommodation with New Delhi in the months to come. The biggest challenge now for the government of India is to ensure that the killing of Lone does not silence other similar Kashmir voices, who may have been willing to be part of a peace process in the state and possibly participate in the forthcoming elections to the legislative assembly. Lone’s son, Mr Sajad Lone, has claimed that Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence are responsible for his father’s murder. Indeed, even while security agencies investigate the assassination, it is clear that forces in Pakistan seem determined to subvert any process of reconciliation between New Delhi and Kashmiri separatist leaders. While Lone’s own political trajectory was far from consistent, there is no doubt that at most times he articulated the aspirations and concerns of the ordinary Kashmiri. Lone began his political career in the Congress, at a time when the state was ruled by the Congress chief minister, Mr Ghulam Nabi Sadiq. As a cabinet minister, Lone stood out as an efficient administrator and grass roots leader with a powerful constituency in the Handwara region of Kashmir. When Sheikh Abdullah returned to power in 1977, Lone flirted with the short-lived Janata experiment. Thereafter, Lone seemed to drift politically, until he found his own outfit, the People’s Conference.

During the initial years of the militancy in the early Nineties, the People’s Conference too boasted of its own armed outfit. And when the APHC was set up, the People’s Conference became part of the umbrella separatist alliance and Lone a member of the executive committee. Lone was amongst the first Kashmiri separatist leaders to recognize that the indigenous political movement had been hijacked by Pakistan and that the fate of the Kashmiris was of little concern to Islamabad. During his visit to Pakistan last year, Lone was strident in his condemnation of jihadi forces and foreign militants who, he argued, had brought havoc and devastation to Kashmir. Similarly, Lone was fiercely opposed to giving a religious tinge to the political struggle of the Kashmiri people, and this had brought him in direct opposition to the Jamaat-e-Islami’s hardline leader, Mr Ali Shah Geelani. Last month, at a conference in Dubai, Lone is believed to have told his Pakistani interlocutors that it was time that they stopped interfering in Kashmir and that the gun had no longer any role to play in the politics of Kashmir. For his forthrightness and his moderate views, Lone had become a target of extremist groups and their backers. They may have succeeded in eliminating him but it will be difficult to extinguish his ideas or his message that emphasized the necessity for a dialogue and a process of reconciliation. The challenge for New Delhi and Srinagar is to ensure that this political legacy of Lone translates into a mass movement for peace. That would be a fitting tribute to Lone.


Unusual times create strange bedfellows. That was the general perception when the Confederation of Indian Industry devoted its annual day to Gujarat. Yet when the main speakers explicitly yoked together secularism and business, as bedfellows the terms did not seem so strange after all. Instead, the assertion of the business lobby’s position with regard to the ongoing violence in Gujarat and the reiteration of its commitment to “business life which is modern, liberal, tolerant and caring of people” comprised a refreshing change from the non-committal attitude that Indian business has traditionally taken towards serious disturbances within the country. Businessmen in India have been reputed to stick firmly and uncritically by the government of the day. Their proclaimed support to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency is a case in point. The CII’s effort has to be seen as a departure from this tradition, both in the importance given to the events in Gujarat and in the criticism of the lack of governance by the administration. The Central government reacted sharply, accusing the CII of allegedly turning a platform for business into a “political platform”. What is reassuring, however, is that businessmen have continued to express their involvement in the welfare of Gujarat by publishing their hopes for the state and exhorting people to come to its aid.

From this point of view, Indian business has come of age. If the social responsibility of business is to make a profit, then it must demand conditions in which it can discharge this responsibility. If the government fails to provide these conditions, by being unable to check pogroms and mass destitution, then industry must make its protest heard. Politicians needed businessmen to tell them that strangling the economic life of one community means hurting the economic chain of the whole country. Human rights are as much the concern of the business community as of activists. Like the many segments in a democracy, Dalits, or minorities, or women, business too is a constituency. It is an ill-balanced democracy where the backward segments give voice first and a privileged, allegedly forward-looking, segment follows. That this is happening at last is the sign of health in the polity.


The public is sick of having to listen to the same waffle every time a particularly vile act of cross-border terrorism makes the country throw a fit. Does it have to be told a hundred times that the government has run out of patience or that it is time to act and not talk? None of these stock sentiments dished out as a matter of routine assuages public anger provoked by such events as the attack on the Kashmir assembly which luckily escaped serious damage, the plot by a group of armed jihadis to enter Parliament House in New Delhi and wreak havoc there, which was foiled, thanks to the alertness of a security guard at the gate, or the massacre last week by three Pakistani terrorists of 32 persons, most of them family members of jawans, on the outskirts of Jammu

The alarming facts that emerge from this chain of dreadful events are the ease with which fanatics with a jihadi mindset can penetrate high-profile security zones and the dismally narrow margin of safety in even the most heavily guarded places. There is no explanation except utter laxity for one grave lapse after another on the part of the police or paramilitary forces. It is a great shame that, engaged in a low-intensity and low-cost proxy war, the enemy should often get away with a frontal attack not only on security posts but on regimental headquarters even in Kashmir.

Seen against this grim background, renewed promises of action sound more like expressions of impotent rage. What is lacking is not action but the grit that makes it effective. The proxy war started by Pakistan against this country has been going on for over a decade and there has been much moaning and groaning over the number of innocent people killed in the exchange of fire between the combatants or in the shelling of border villages by enemy artillery. What the people have been looking for in vain is a strategy that produces results by administering to the criminals a heavier dose of the very medicine they dispense to their victims. What all the expense of money, spirit and young lives has yielded so far is an atmosphere reeking of fear, anxiety and despair.

One of the main reasons for the ineffectiveness of the counter-terrorism strategy is the paucity of feedback. Kashmir has indeed been caught in a vicious circle for long. Terrorist intruders disrupt the people’s daily life as well as the local economy. The public in turn blames the resulting distress on the government and gets alienated from it. Out of fear or desperation, most families think their safety lies in keeping mum about the intruders’ hideouts and the inevitable mass searches in a bid to hunt down the terrorists are widely resented. Poor intelligence thus makes for harsher police measures and adds to the discontent of the local population and the handicaps under which the security forces work.

Instead of looking for ways to break this vicious circle, the government, for reasons best known to it, is fixated on the election of a new state assembly in Kashmir. Considering the warlike situation and new political uncertainties, this is a quixotic proposition. It is more likely to damage the cause the government has in view than advance it if the majority of voters keep away from the polling booths as in the past and thus deny the new government the degree of legitimacy and moral authority it needs to make its writ run in the state. Abdul Ghani Lone’s murder is a warning of how determined separatists backed by Pakistan are in silencing all voices of moderation.

It is also a mystery why the Central government is so intent on wooing the separatists who have been for long associated with terrorist groups. Their insistence on Pakistan’s participation in negotiating a final settlement and their claim to be struggling for freedom come ill from persons who have never cared to face up to the grim truth about the raw deal the Sindhis, Baluchis, Mohajirs and other ethnic minorities have received from successive Pakistani regimes, both civil and military.

The only result of courting the separatists will be to make the National Conference press harder for a degree of autonomy which no government in Delhi can concede without raising similar demands from a dozen groups elsewhere. No amount of mushy thinking can wish away the many impediments in the way of reconciling the conflicting demands of Indian nationalism and Kashmiri subnationalism as defined by its most vocal proponents.

The resolution of the Kashmir problem depends ultimately on how soon the country puts an end to cross-border terrorism, and both India and Pakistan build up a relationship of mutual trust and amity. One would have thought that the United States of America-led war on international terrorism would help in persuading Pakistan to dismantle the terrorists outfits and bases in its part of Kashmir. But Pervez Musharraf, despite a public disavowal, continues to treat the terrorists trained and armed by his country to operate in Kashmir as freedom fighters.

What is most galling is the way the Bush administration is letting the demands of short-term expediency prevail over long-term interests of the victims of international terrorism like India. It is not that it does not know that organizations like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed banned by it continue to operate freely even without the thin disguise of new labels, that top echelons of the Pakistan army are infected by the jihadi virus and that its commandos are not getting unstinting help in hunting down taliban and al Qaida leaders who are presumed to have set up shop in the wild tribal belt along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Nor is it unaware of the fact that the leader of another dangerous terrorist body called Harkat al-Jehad al-Islami, supposed to have been involved in the recent killing of 11 French engineers in Karachi, has been for long working in cahoots with Mullah Omar and, according to a Pakistani paper, is planning to extend its operations to Kashmir.

Paradoxically, it is precisely because Pakistan is so severely infected by the jihadi virus, that the US has come to regard Pervez Musharraf, for all his past sins as a patron of the taliban and his recent ploys to make a farce of his promise to establish a democratic regime, as its best bet. Has he not sacked some of the jihadi generals at US request despite the help he received from them in his coup? Is he not allowing US commandos to operate in parts of Pakistan territory and US troops to use two of the country’s military bases in the face of widespread anti-American feelings? Since he has already undermined the two mainstream political parties, the US cannot possibly expect Musharraf to take on all the terrorist groups he has nurtured for long and used as tools of his policy in Kashmir, alienating in the process all the powerful religious groups.

All this reasoning may be wonky. Yet, there is nothing novel about it. It is the same kind of logic which made Washington, at the height of the Cold War, include so many Asian, African and Latin American tyrants among the leaders of the free world. New Delhi has to learn to come to terms with the fact that the US administration, rightly or wrongly, will go by its own security perceptions, even in matters concerning south Asia, rather than by India’s, despite its desire for closer relations with New Delhi, some sharing of intelligence and arms sales, and more recent joint military exercises. The Vajpayee government should have no illusions on this score.

Nor is there much room for make-believe on the extent of the space for manoeuvre open to it at the present juncture when US forces are operating in Pakistan and need such cooperation as they can get from Musharraf, however unproductive it may prove in the end, in capturing Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and other most wanted men on their list.

Though the Vajpayee government is assured of full backing by all the parties at home in whatever course it adopts to meet the Pakistani challenge, this does not mean that all options are available to it. It can neither risk a full-scale war nor even launch air or commando raids on selected targets — terrorist training camps or bases, for instance — which can develop into all-out hostilities. For this will impel both the US and other big powers to raise the spectre of a nuclear conflict in the subcontinent, and force the international community to call for an immediate halt to all fighting.

The only option that will work is to make the jihadi operations far more costly for Pakistan in terms of lives lost. This means not only strengthening the home front undermined today by shifty and sleazy politics but also much more exacting training for those who have to bear the brunt of the fight against cross-border terrorism. The Bush administration may give India the equipment it needs, but it is unrealistic to expect it to do what is essentially New Delhi’s job.


The nation had hardly recovered from the shock of the MiG-21 crash over Jalandhar on May 3 when a twin engine Jaguar, used for deep penetration ground attack, crashed in Ambala on May 9, killing the pilot. This was the seventh crash of an Indian air force fighter aircraft in 2002 and the second within a week. The Anglo-French Jaguar, manufactured indigenously under licence by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, is a vital combat asset of the IAF which is capable of carrying 4,750 kilogrammes of armament payload and has a combat radius of 1,400 kilometres.

While there has been considerable discussion over the MiG-21 crashes, accidents of other types of aircraft have not received adequate attention. In March this year, Parliament’s public accounts committee had focussed on the need to phase out the MiG-21 in view of its high accident rate, no matter how high the replacement costs. The PAC observed that 100 of the 221 IAF aircraft destroyed in accidents in 1991-2000 were MiG fighters. Interestingly, the PAC report also noted that “the rate of accidents in MiG-21 was lesser than the rates of accidents in MiG-23 and MiG-27 aircraft.”

Accident prone

Jaguars were first inducted in the IAF in 1979. Around two dozens are still waiting in HAL for a phased delivery to the IAF within the next few years. The machines which are capable of delivering tactical nuclear weapons are also due for mid-life upgradation. But since their induction into squadron service about 25 of them have been written off in accidents. Incidentally, unlike MiG-21, Jaguars are not dogged by technical problems. Moreover, its two engines which power this versatile machine add to its safety aspect and its airworthiness. The obvious question is: if the various types of fighter planes in the IAF’s combat fleet are really airworthy, why do they get destroyed in accidents so often? Is it due to poor ground maintenance, inadequate training of pilots or the use of sub-standard spare parts?

The ministry of defence is sorting out the problem of spare parts and components for MiG-21s. The need for doing so has not been felt in the case of Jaguars. The Russians have now offered to transfer their MiG-21 component manufacturing line to India.

The suspect in the Jalandhar MiG-21 crash was the aircraft’s Russian R-25 engine, which is reported to have “flamed out” or ceased functioning all of a sudden. Since it was the second incident of engine failure within a short time, the IAF was left with no alternative but to ground its entire fleet of “Type 75s” for carrying out a thorough check of the R-25 engines. Intensive technical investigations are underway and reports suggest that the faultlines causing frequent engine “flame outs” have been located.

Damage control

Unlike the case of the MiG-21, the causes of the Jaguar crash will be determined by the court of inquiry instituted by the air force authorities. Investigations however suggest that human factors, pilot error being the most common, lead to more than 50 per cent of the accidents. Blatant disregard of prescribed maintenance norms is another cause. Aircraft technicians bear the responsibility for this. Among environmental factors, the risk of a bird hit is particularly high for fighter aircraft with single engines as it damages the compressors, disrupting airflow and resulting in mishap. The rapid growth of civilian population around the airfields has resulted in increased generation of garbage which attracts the big birds.

Till now, the IAF has maintained that its accident rate was not alarming when compared to other forces of similar size. The immediate acquisition of advanced jet trainers will enable the IAF to impart an efficient intermediate flying training to prospective fighter pilots graduating onto MiG, Jaguar or Mirage aircraft.

The problems of poor maintenance, inadequate pilot training, shortage of spares and bird hits therefore need to be addressed immediately. The rise in accidents is a matter of grave concern. Air force commanders at various levels should seize this as their chance to show their ingenuity and resourcefulness and bring down the accident rate to acceptable levels.


In Jharkhand, the tussle between the executive and the judiciary has gone on for a pretty long time now and shows no sign of abating. The latest addition to this unfolding saga has been the chief justice of the Jharkhand high court commenting on the “non- performance” of the incumbent government, or in other words, the chief minister himself. The remark has sparked off an unseemly row between the executive and the judiciary of the newborn state.

But certain trends become clear from the judiciary’s recent comments about the non-performance of the Babulal Marandi government. First, the common masses are highly supportive of the “judicial activism” that has unfolded in the state. They perceive the state’s first government, now in its 18th month, to have failed to live up to its promises and popular expectations. The ever-increasing number of public interest litigations in the Jharkhand high court points to this.

Second, the Marandi dispensation has been at a loss in defending its inability to provide good governance. This clearly hints at the poor accountability of the executive — the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

Third, the government’s performance has left scope for much criti- cism. Had everything been all right, the judges would not have criticized the government. They would have been busy disposing other, more mundane matters.

The judiciary has on various occasions commented, reprimanded and even indicted the executive for its inability to deliver. Although the Jharkhand high court’s remarks against ministers and officials have been on the basis of specific cases, these indicate that there are acute systemic flaws in the way the executive has worked. Thus the judiciary has emerged as the guarantor of the common man’s interests. Its reproach of the government has naturally made things uncomfortable for those who call the shots in the state.

What is remarkable is that there is hardly any department of the government or any body run by it which has not been touched by the judicial condemnation. By questioning the legality of the actions taken, or not taken, by the executive, the judiciary has abided by the “letter” of good governance and tried to uphold its spirit. The high court has emerged as the conscience of the government by trying to impress upon the executive that performance is its primary duty.

The theory that seeks to explain the rise of judicial activism in the country — that there is a “vacuum” in governance — is applicable to Jharkhand, too, with a few variations. The legislature, exalted as the first pillar of parliamentary democracy, has also tried to make the executive see reason. The Jharkhand state assembly has experimented with novel procedures and rules to ensure the executive’s accountability, at least with regard to the promises it had made on the floor of the house. But here too, the government’s report card is dismal.

One glaring instance of this is the fact that the action-taken report tabled during the budget session of the assembly overwhelmingly suggests that the government has not been doing anything at all. The state legislature, despite its best efforts, has not been able to be protect the peoples’ interests. Perhaps a part of the problem is that the people’s representatives meet for the deliberations after enormous intervals.

Another affirmation of the “vacuum theory” in Jharkhand comes from the constitutional office of the governor. Those in the government would like to claim that if the state had a full-time occupant in the Raj Bhavan, the governor would have acted as a moral force prodding ministers and their officers to perform.

The Raj Bhavan’s positive intervention in the field of higher education in Jharkhand had earlier proved that the governor could play an important role in putting things back on track. The state has not had a full-time governor for more than three months now. And the NDA is still at a loss about who would be the best person to sit in this hotseat of power.

In the context of the recent face-off between the judiciary and the executive, the recent remarks of the former governor, Prabhat Kumar, become pertinent. The governor is supposed to have said that the government’s performance has been “disappointing”. The remark, which sprung from the governor’s disappointment at not being regularly informed about the functioning of the government, supplements the judiciary’s observations.

Kumar’s remarks are important also because it was he who had made fantastic promises on behalf of the government both inside and outside the assembly. It was, of course, a constitutional obligation that all governors are called upon to fulfil. But one assumes that the subsequent criticism by Kumar followed an investigation into the status of the promises that he had made during his months in office.

The executive is a part of the political set-up. Its managers must attend to all matters, keeping in mind the fluctuating political equations. It is only natural that the opposition parties will criticize the government of the day. But when no one seems to have a good word for the government, it surely means that there is something seriously wrong with the executive. This, if nothing else, should give the state government a reason to pull up its socks.

Another dimension of this story is how the media has interpreted the workings of the executive, especially in the light of what the judges have had to say about it. The media has a simple duty to perform: report what has been going on in the state. And it has only done that, maybe somewhat ruthlessly. Obviously, if the government is being attacked on multiple fronts, the media cannot be expected to paint a rosy picture of the state of affairs.

The judiciary has not delved into the malaise that afflicts the Jharkhand government. Perhaps that is beyond the scope of the judiciary which is already overburdened with workload. Some ministers in the Marandi government often blame the “bad legacy” of Bihar which has been passed on to the fledgling state. They argue that the new government does not have a magic wand and that people will have to be patient.

Even if we assume that the “legacy” theory is true, it can be extended only to Jharkhand’s legislators and a part of its bureaucracy. The legislators, because they were originally elected to the Bihar legislature and became representatives of Jharkhand after the bifurcation of the state. And the officials because, for a major part of their careers, they served the government of Bihar. Yet, they can be only partly responsible for the mess Jharkhand is in today.

The Marandi government, soon after assuming office, had made ambitious noises about ushering in a new “work culture” in the state. It is time now for those at the helm of affairs in the state to look back at those lofty promises. More so, if they believe that the judiciary has been unfair in its criticism of the executive’s performance.


In August 2000, use of environment-friendly fuel like compressed natural gas, LPG, fuel cell etc for automotive purposes has been legislated. Relevant rules are under formulation in respect of LPG. In case of CNG, there are existing guidelines.

In addition, ministry of petroleum as well as department of explosives are also amending their respective regulation in this regard.

Decision-making: strategies, policies and plans — a task force has been set up in the planning commission for the development of an integrated transport policy. The policy would focus on the integrated development of the transport sector, interconnectivity of various modes of transport, financing plans of all modes of transport and other issues.

To address the diverse issues facing the transport sector the need for a comprehensive policy package has been recognized. The government has drawn a plan to strengthen the Indian railway system in its reach and capacity so that it effectively links distant parts of the country, helps develop the economic potential of the remote areas and carries the bulk of the nation’s long or medium haul traffic. Similarly, the road network is being expanded and strengthened to improve accessibility of the hinterland, especially the rural areas and to facilitate the integration of the isolated parts of the country.

The length and breadth and the quality of the highways have improved greatly as part of a national grid to provide for speedy, efficient and economical carriage of goods and people.

The government is making efforts to regulate road transport for better energy efficiency and pollution control, and to make the mass transport network viable through a rational tariff policy and a refurbishment of the fleet. The capacity of the ports in terms of their berths and cargo handling equipment is being improved to cater to the growing requirements of the overseas trade. The shipping industry needs to be enabled to carry higher shares of the sea-borne trade in indigenous bottoms. The civil aviation sector is being expanded to increase its carrying capacity for passengers and cargo, improve the ground-handling facilities and provide connectivity to areas like the Northeast.

Conditions need to be created to ensure full utilization of the capacities created in the public sector with large investments made in the past.

In the metropolitan areas, on the one hand, the provision of mass public transport is being increased through a mix of environment-friendly modes — specially designed buses, light rail and metro and on the other, demand management is being ensured through price-based as well as non-price-based measures so as to minimize the dependence on personalized transport.

Similarly, non-mechanized transport should be accorded its rightful niche in a well-conceived transport network. To bring about this sea change in the transport scene, many policy initiatives will be needed, each backed by adequate investment and complemented by suitable policy changes in other sectors. A task force on infrastructure has been constituted with the aim of attract- ing investments to specific projects.

A task force on infrastructure was constituted under the chairmanship of the deputy chairman, planning commission comprising both government and industry representatives with the aim of attracting investment to specific projects of national and regional importance, and ensuring their timely completion.

Initially, the task force will deal with the following projects focusing on innovative methods for financing them. Six lane expressway of 7,000 km length, having north-south and east-west corridors, four-laning of national highways, and five international airports.

The terms of reference of the task force include: determining the routes for expressways and national highways, and establishing technical parameters thereof; identifying and recommending locations for the airports; establishing benchmarks and criteria for the airports; recommending financing options for expressways, highways and airports; recommending criteria for competitive bidding and selection of contractors; recommending measures as are necessary for timely completion of projects including governmental clearances; and overseeing and monitoring timely implementation of the projects. The task force will also formulate an integrated national transport policy to strengthen the transport infrastructure in the country. It would also recommend steps that can significantly improve and foster reforms in those key segments of the economy.




Chip off the old block

Tightening the noose Sir — The chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, seems to have become the new pin-up boy of the Indian media (“Highs and lows of Buddha’s first year at helm”, May 18). This despite the fact that his first year in office has hardly been out of the ordinary. Despite his efforts to effect a much-needed image makeover for the state and convince investors that West Bengal is the desired destination for business houses, Bhattacharjee has been forced to backtrack on almost every important issue from madrasahs to private tuitions to his pet anti-terror law. His vacillation has however only served to undermine his credibility as chief minister and has conveyed the impression that he is no different from his predecessor, Jyoti Basu. Had Bhattacharjee displayed a little bit of tact and some foresight, he would have been able to spare himself the embarrassment of having to give in to the wishes of the apparatchiki of Alimuddin Street.

Yours faithfully,
Naina Gupta, Calcutta

On a tight leash

Sir — Christina Rocca, the American assistant secretary of state, is the last in a series of high-ranking officials who have been despatched by Washington to ask India to exercise restraint in its dealings with Pakistan (“Delhi junks Rocca restraint sermon”, May 15). The United States of America’s post-September 11 rhetoric on the “war on terrorism” is so full of double-standards, it has become banal. How much “restraint” did the US exercise after the World Trade Center attacks? Over the decades, innumerable Indians have died in attacks by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. India has repeatedly provided the international community with evidence of Pakistan’s complicity in terrorist attacks on Indian soil.

Why must India heed the US’s advice on how to deal with terrorism, especially when the US itself does not practise what it preaches? Perhaps, the Indian leadership is afraid of losing billions of dollars in US aid. But shouldn’t the Indian leadership hold the lives of citizens dearer than whatever greenbacks the US may dole out? Also, it should realize that just as we need US aid, the US too needs access to the big Indian market.

If Indian leaders think that George W. Bush will be able to force Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism, they are mistaken. Traditionally, Republican governments in the US have been pro-Pakistan. India should launch military strikes against Pakistan immediately to liquidate the terrorist camps there. That India has won three wars against Pakistan is testimony to its military superiority.

Yours faithfully,
Dave Banerjee, Calcutta

Sir — Even though the fidayeen attacks by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, have increased, the Indian government has not taken appropriate action against Pakistan because it does not want to annoy “big brother” US. But all the US has done is plead with Pervez Musharraf to rein in the extremist elements in his country and ask India to exercise “restraint”. The US is very obviously being duplicitous. But statements from Indian politicians condemning the US’s stand will not be of much use. Under the circumstances, it is the media which must remind the US that its interest in Pakistan can at best be temporary — mopping up the remainders of al Qaida. While with India, the US can have a long and enduring friendship. The US government cannot afford to seem “anti-India” for two reasons. One, India is a huge market for US goods and two, the powerful Indian diaspora in the US.

Yours faithfully,
Kamesh Tenneti, Pennsylvania

Sir — Christina Rocca’s advice to New Delhi to exercise restraint and the fulsome praise of the World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, for Pervez Musharraf’s military regime show that the West continues to favour Pakistan, despite its role in sponsoring cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir (“World Bank applauds Pak reforms,” May 17). It is now evident that the US prefers military-ruled Pakistan over democratic India. Look at how successive US administrations have toed the Pakistan line by saying that the core of the problems in the subcontinent is Kashmir. Instead of wasting time on diplomacy, the Indian government should take a cue from the US action in Afghanistan and explore the option of limited military strikes.

Yours faithfully,
Phani Bhusan Saha, Balurghat

Sir — It is unlikely the Pakistani leadership will ever be serious enough to solve the Kashmir impasse. Successive governments in Pakistan have either resorted to military adventurism or needlessly maligned India, in order to deviate attention from domestic issues. The US’s war on terrorism has given Pervez Musharraf the perfect opportunity to legitimize his reign. Unfortunately, the “war on terrorism” has reinforced Pakistan’s strategic importance for the US and negated India’s efforts to isolate the country through diplomacy.

Since both countries possess nuclear capabilities, war is not a viable option for either. It will only upset the new-found bonhomie between India and the US. India’s salvation lies in a strong and stable Afghanistan which will undermine Pakistan’s geo-political importance in southeast Asia. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government should continue with the diplomatic offensive against Pakistan and work in tandem with the international community to rebuild Afghanistan.

Yours faithfully,
Subhabrata Bhattacharya, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — Political events, however insig-nificant, always make front page news. No wonder, the report, “Disabled wakeup call to Centre” (May 6), was tucked away in the inside pages of The Telegraph, instead of being on the front page. Evidently, the media does not care much for the disabled. Of course, the hunger strike by the convenor of the Disabled Rights Group, Javed Abidi, is not likely to change things much. But Indian politicians should visit other third world countries to see for themselves the facilities provided to disabled persons there.

Yours faithfully,
Dibendu Dutta, Calcutta

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