Editorial 1 / Last resort
Editorial 2 / Parallel lines
Babri Masjid and after
Fifth Column / Ways to revive and refresh
Why the global economy is limping
Document / This is where the terrorists work
Letters to the editor

India�s diplomatic relations with Pakistan have reached a new nadir after the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament. New Delhi has withdrawn its high commissioner from Islamabad and decided to terminate the Amritsar-Lahore Samjhauta Express as well as the bus service between Delhi and Lahore. The Indian armed forces on the border with Pakistan have been put on full alert, and the government has left open the possibility of further punitive measures. However, while it is important for India to continue to put maximum pressure on Islamabad to clamp down on organizations spreading terror in India, its policies should be carefully calibrated and linked to the response of Pakistan and the international community.

There is no doubt that the international community has become more sensitive to India�s concerns about terrorism in the aftermath of September 11, and particularly after December 13. There is greater awareness that madrassahs in Pakistan are breeding grounds for terrorists who have been creating havoc in India, and are also capable of spreading terror beyond south Asia. The United States of America has not only frozen the assets of at least two of the terrorist organizations sponsored by elements within the Pakistani establishment, but has also demanded that President Pervez Musharraf take action against them. India needs to build on this international concern by emphasizing at least two issues. First, and most important, India must signal to the international community that its patience is not unlimited, and that it will be forced to act more decisively unless Pakistan�s government demonstrates that it is taking concrete steps against the terrorist organizations. Second, New Delhi must also systematically share evidence of Pakistan�s complicity in acts of terrorism with all friendly countries, and persuade them to put pressure on Pakistan.

This is also important because there are some signs that Mr Musharraf may be willing to act against the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish�e-Mohammad, two of the key organizations responsible for sponsoring violence in Jammu and Kashmir and beyond. During his visit to China, he reportedly stated that he would take action if he were shown evidence of their involvement. If the Pakistan president is serious, it would be useful if the US and other countries communicated to him that India had shared evidence proving that the two organizations have been involved in terrorist acts. Meanwhile, New Delhi needs to step up the diplomatic pressure. While it is necessary for Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee to attend the forthcoming Kathmandu summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to further cement its relationship with the smaller countries of south Asia, it is equally vital that there is no truck with Mr Musharraf or members of his delegation. It is essential to realize that much of the diplomatic leverage that India enjoys today could be lost if India undertook a military offensive against Pakistan. Only if the US is unwilling to put pressure on Pakistan even after the war against al Qaida is over should New Delhi think in terms of exercising the military option.


Organizational elections of political parties are usually stage-managed affairs aimed at legitimizing leaders� personal control. Worse still, these create caucuses that run parallel to popularly elected bodies such as the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies and thereby undermine real democracy. Thus, Mr Anil Biswas, the party-elected secretary of the West Bengal unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), would be an extra-constitutional authority in comparison with the popularly elected chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in matters of public policy and governance. In organizing separate elections of the Trinamool Congress, Mr Ajit Panja however had the limited objective of continuing his personal battle against Ms Mamata Banerjee, who commands the loyalty of most of the party�s members in the Lok Sabha and the West Bengal assembly. He also wanted to send a signal to the Election Commission, which curiously makes it mandatory for the parties to hold such elections to give them recognition and their election symbol. It is pointless to sit in judgment on which elections � the Panja faction�s or that of the group loyal to Ms Banerjee � were more �democratic�, though the former offered some spectacles to buttress its claim on this count. It should be of little interest or consequence for the people that one of the factions will be eventually recognized by the Election Commission as the �real� Trinamool Congress.

The real argument that is relevant to the public as well as democracy is whether a political party should have any powers outside its popularly elected bodies. According to votaries of this argument, the popularly elected leader should be the natural leader of the party. The Election Commission could think of amending its laws to make the parties redundant outside their elected entities. There should be some safeguards to ensure that party groups, unelected by � and unaccountable to � the people cannot dominate the elected ones. Mr Panja is himself a member of parliament, but his claim to leadership could be meaningful if he won the support of the party�s MPs and members of the legislative assembly. That some state leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party trust him rather than Ms Banerjee as a partner cannot give legitimacy to his claim.


Whenever December 6 approaches, we have to remind ourselves of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and of the mindset that would justify that barbarism. This year, given September 11 and the American assault on Afghanistan in its aftermath, it becomes all the more necessary to explore revealing parallels in Indian thought processes regarding support, respectively, for the American war on Afghanistan, for India�s acquisition of the nuclear bomb in 1998, and for the demolition in 1992.

There will be those who opposed India�s acquisition of the bomb but support the United States of America�s military assault on Afghanistan. There will also be those who oppose the demolition but support Pokhran II. But who can doubt that those who supported the demolition would in their overwhelming majority have supported Indian nuclearization, and that those who came around to supporting the latter, have in their overwhelming majority, also supported the US war on Afghanistan?

Clearly this agreement across three crucial issues expresses a mindset united by a certain basic continuity of political values and attitudes. What are these? And how are such positions justified? Note: all three events constitute a particular form of terrorism. The demolition was an act of terrorist intimidation and a brutal defiance of the values embodied in the Indian Constitution. Nuclear weapons are not �weapons of peace� as so many �strategists� claim, but by their very nature weapons of terror. The US assault is not a �war on terrorism� but itself a terrorist war of revenge and imperial expansion.

But in all cases, the defenders of these actions must either pretend that these are not forms of terrorism, or seek to justify them despite their terrorist nature. In thus making these justifications, two fundamental and common properties of this mindset stand revealed. The first property is immorality. There is no way that one can support any of the three actions of December 1992, May 1998 and October-November 2001, without resorting to a discourse of moral unconcern, selectivity, deceit, and double standards.

What is the key source of this willingness to abandon principles of moral impartiality and universal application of equal justice for all criminals? Here comes the second property: it is the existence and acceptance by very wide sections of the Indian elite of a form of nationalism that is deeply insensitive, aggressive and belligerent; that would prioritize above all else the pursuit of a particular conception of �national interest�. It is in the name of building a strong nation that December 6, 1992 was justified � one that would be culturally united by recognizing its �Hindu essence� and avenging its supposedly self-abnegating past of deference to �outsiders� influenced by an �external� rather than an �indigenous� religion. It is again in the name of building a strong country that would be more secure and �respected� internationally, that the acquisition of nuclear weapons was justified.

Finally, it is in the name of promoting stronger Indo-US ties for the purposes of enhancing �national security�, and for defending a selective war on terrorism � highlighting the terrorism carried out by opponents like Pakistan, ignoring one�s own terrorism or that of one�s much valued friends (the US) � that the war on Afghanistan is being justified.

This realpolitik approach is not just morally but intellectually and politically barren. Hindutva has created such deep divisions within the country that there is no way an internally strong India can ever emerge unless Hindutva is itself eradicated. Only a democratic and humane nationalism can make India strong and united. But given the character of so much of India�s current elite, we are far away from achieving this. The pursuit of security through nuclear weapons has only worsened the problem of regional and global nuclear insecurity.

Today, we are in a complete nuclear mess. India-Pakistan relations are at a nadir, and US determination to move towards a national missile defence will only create a newer and more dangerous level of nuclear insecurity both globally and in various regions of the world. Yet an ostrich-like Indian obsession with �national interest� will guarantee that far from opposing this insane American drive towards domination of space and towards establishing a unilateral nuclear hegemony, the Indian government is much more likely to endorse American NMD plans in the hope of getting some minor political, technical and economic sops.

If this is not a classic example of the profound shortsightedness of conventional realpolitik thinking, then what is? Global nuclear disarmament becomes more remote, even as lip service will continue to be paid by Indian pro-nuclearists to their desire for a nuclear free world.

As for the US�s war on Afghanistan, it may be worth detailing what are now the likely developments in the wake of the overthrow of taliban rule. Osama bin Laden is very unlikely to be caught alive. While the Afghanistan cells of al Qaida may be destroyed, most of its network is outside the country. And the US cannot in the long run control either the Northern Alliance or Afghanistan. The rivalries, ethnic and factional, within the country are simply too profound, and the conflicting influences and ambitions of neighbouring countries too strong.

Since the US assault on Afghanistan has, in the short-term military sense, proved so successful (with hardly any American lives lost), and its brutal campaign has enjoyed such massive domestic backing, the US government will very likely seek to cash in on this situation by taking its �war on terrorism� to other quarters. Attacks on Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon in the near future cannot be ruled out. However, the bitternesses created by the continuation of American foreign policy injustices in west Asia, even without the added horrors of what it has done in Afghanistan, are a guarantee that the wellsprings of hatred towards the US that generate future terrorist acts against it will not dry out.

Washington is aware of this but believes that a world made even more subservient to its dictates is the best way to secure itself from such dangers. In that sense, as should be obvious to even the realpolitik analyst in India most desperate to align with the US, the events of September 11 have made the US more determined than ever to establish its unilateral dominance on a world scale.

Therefore, it would be a grievous mistake to think that post-Afghanistan, the US is going to move towards anything but a deeply unjust Bantustan-type �resolution� of the Palestinian issue when the regional and global relationship of forces has shifted even further in favour of the US, reinforcing its strategically crucial control at the apex of the tripod of client countries � Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Indeed, one of the major reasons why Washington has to try and destroy al Qaida is that it is a major support-base for resistance to the corrupt and debased regimes existing in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

What we are witnessing then is the further consolidation of a Pax Americana justified by the ever louder claim that what is good for the US is good for the world. People worldwide will be increasingly divided between those who are appalled by this and will oppose it, and those who will advocate acceptance and support. No prizes for guessing which way the bulk of the Indian elite will turn.

The author has recently co-authored the book, South Asia on a Short Fuse: Politics and the Future of Global Disarmament


India�s exports have hit the trough following the terrorist attacks on the United States of America and the subsequent war in Afghanistan. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, exports have fallen by 8.5 per cent in September this year, against a growth of 21.5 per cent a year ago. In fact, if one takes into account the current global slowdown, it is not surprising that the World Trade Organization has estimated a growth rate of just 2 per cent for 2001 as compared to a 12 per cent growth achieved in the previous year.

A closer look at the CMIE data will reveal that India�s exports fell by 2 per cent between April to September 2001, as against a 21.5 per cent increase in the corresponding period in 2000. Imports, however, registered a 2 per cent growth during the same period. As a result, India�s trade deficit expanded to $5 billion during the first half of 2001-02.

Significant among this year�s policy initiatives was the removal of quantitative restrictions on 715 items and the adoption of new measures that would give some impetus to the agricultural sector. For the first time since independence, India has entered uncharted territory: a restriction-free import regime. India�s foreign exchange reserves, currently pegged at $42.2 billion, have improved dramatically since 1990. Also, according to the WTO, India�s balance of payments situation no longer warrants restrictions on imports.

Exim measures

The new exim policy, however, is not without checks and balances. To ensure that domestic industries do not suffer, the Centre has created a �war room� group which would closely monitor import trends for 300 sensitive goods, analyze the impact of the imports on the domestic market and take appropriate measures to reduce or enlarge the list.

There are other contingency safeguard weapons in the Central government�s arsenal, which include the imposition of anti-dumping duties if necessary. Moreover, if imports hit domestic small-scale or even large-scale industries, duties can be raised to the extent of 300 per cent. The government can also legislate measures that would temporarily curb import flows. Such measures would also fall within the legal framework of the WTO.

The goal of the exim policy is to accelerate export growth to about 1 per cent of the $7.5 trillion worth global trade by 2004-05. The current estimated level for Indian exports is around $43 billion. The dismantling of trade barriers will now be followed up by the promotion of agricultural exports through agri-economic zones and special policy measures. Export incentives will be given to producers of agricultural products. India is already the third largest global producer of food and can now take advantage of the proposed liberalization of world agricultural trade to become a major player in this area.

Forward push

During the period between 1993-94 to 1996-97, which had been marked by high growth in overall exports, exports of agricultural and allied products had grown by 23 per cent every year. But in the second half of the Nineties, exports of agricultural products had declined owing to the economic problems in southeast Asia and Japan and lower exports to Bangladesh.

In its exim policy this year, the government has decided to reorganize agro-exports by focusing on specific products and geographical areas. For example, on apples from Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir and Alphonso mangoes from the Konkan region of Maharashtra.

The �internationalization� of agriculture will have far-reaching effects on the economy. The terms of trade, which have long been in favour of industry, can now shift its favours to agriculture. According to economists, every 1 per cent switch will divert nearly Rs 8,500 crore to the farm sector and in the next few years it would mean over $20 billion being transferred to the agricultural sector from the non-farm sector. This additional rural purchasing power is expected to create a phenomenal effective demand. The face of the Indian economy will be transformed as a result of all this.


Seldom do the three major economic areas in the world experience recession (meaning close to zero or negative growth) at the same time. Japan has been in recession for more than a decade. Its problems started with the collapse of stock markets, real estate prices and the consequent banking crisis. Japanese banks, following rapid liberalization of the financial sector, faced intense competition. This, along with the absence of a strong regulatory authority, led to high-risk lending by banks. A large share of loans flowed to real estate companies on the basis of landed property as collateral. When real estate prices collapsed, banks were left with insufficient assets to cover their past loans.

Japanese banks often formed part of major industrial houses involved in manufacturing activities. So, the impact of financial crisis quickly spread to the other sectors. The economy went into a downturn. All conventional remedies have been tried. No one really knows what to do next to lift Japan up. Often in such a situation an economy tries to come out of its problems by exporting more. But who is going to buy?

For a long time, the economy of the United States of America was booming on the strength of the information technology revolution. Start-up dotcom companies were mushrooming. They were selling products below cost, sometimes even free, on the internet. Their aim was to increase marketshare, not immediate profits. But the problem was that any new idea was quickly imitated by others. Most of the new products were not that novel. Almost anyone could sell the same thing. It resulted in intense competition and finally losses for everybody.

The people who were willing to pour money (the so-called venture capitalists) in the start-up companies vanished. The stocks of many dotcoms crashed. Previously, they were booming on the expectation of future profits. The market realized the hollowness of the promises. Budding millionaires became paupers overnight. Layoffs became commonplace, first in IT companies. Then, as stock prices collapsed, people became poorer. The prospect of losing jobs began to haunt even established companies. Not only the jobless but others, too, began to cut consumption spending to plan for rainy days. Demand fell further and over-capacity developed everywhere, specially in computers, cars and other consumer durables. Business cut investment spending as there was no need to add to capacity. Successive interest rate cuts could not change the basic picture. Recession starting in the IT sector has now spread throughout the US economy.

The industrial slowdown in Europe, though milder than in Japan and the US, is nonetheless real. The Euro economies are expected to grow only at around 2 per cent this year. The European companies are trying hard to improve their competitive position in the world marketplace by being bigger through mergers and acquisitions. The southeast Asian economies that depend on exports to Japan and the US for their continuing prosperity are hit hard.

Is there any silver lining? According to optimists, business recession serves one useful purpose. Almost everybody makes money in a booming economy, irrespective of efficiency. But that cannot last for ever. Recession brings about the needed shakeout. In a recession badly managed companies go out of business or are bought over by better managed ones. Resources move out of overbuilt industries (such as airlines) and into the new promising industries (such as bio-tech). This resource reallocation is good for the long term health of the economy. The hype that took IT share prices to dizzy heights had to stabilize at realistic levels. Only the companies with solid products (which many others are not in a position to supply) will survive. The mad rush from all disciplines (like physics, mathematics) to computers had to end for everybody�s good.

Are there any signs that the world will come out of recession soon? Opinions sharply differ on likely scenarios. Since September 21, stock prices in the US have gone up by 20 per cent and in a virtual straight line (V-type recovery). This is quite uncommon � usually recovery takes place in a zig-zag fashion. So some experts are sceptical about this indicating the beginning of recovery. Moreover, though many dotcom companies have been wiped out, the needed shakeout in the overbuilt industries like airlines and insurance have not taken place mainly as a result of government bailout. The V-type recovery has happened principally through the rise in IT stocks again. This may mean the market has not learnt its lessons and has remained as irrational as before.

But then no one can be certain here about how low the price has to fall when it becomes rational again for people to buy and the �technical correction� has been completed. Finally, the tax cut announced by the Bush administration, according to many economists, is not going to help recovery. Tax cuts would mainly benefit the relatively rich and the business class who are less likely to spend tax bonanzas on consumption or investment. If instead the government had given more unemployment benefits, that would have surely been spent and created more demand in the market.

The mainstream prediction among experts is that the US economy would come out of recession around the second quarter of March-April, 2002, mainly as a result of diminished inventories (production has been cut in so many industries), and expansionary monetary- fiscal policy. Past historical trends indicate that in the post World War II period, on an average, the industrial recession has lasted for about 11 months, which strengthens the March 2002 projection.

In contrast to the Great Depression of the Thirties, no major country would now try beggar-thy-neighbour policy of competitive devaluation and drastic import restriction which would make all countries lose eventually. There is a better understanding of depression economics and also a better coordination of economic policies among the major industrial nations. The Afghan war related military expenditure in the US may also help the process of recovery. In the past, the US economy has often been pulled out of recession by some war efforts such as the Korean war, the Vietnam war and the Kuwait war.

But, alongside there are some nightmarish scenarios too. One such possibility is that the royal family in Saudi Arabia may quickly lose its legitimacy, specially if the US tries to assuage the feelings of the Islamic populace in its search for the root causes behind the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Remember, Osama bin Laden�s number one grouse against the Saudi rulers and the Americans is that the US is dictating the policies of Saudi Arabia, the home of Mecca.

Any major upheaval in Saudi Arabia may push up the price of oil, raise the cost of production all around and may worsen the �stagflation� (combination of inflation and recession). So far, the softening of oil prices have kept inflation low and has helped the governments adopt expansionary monetary and fiscal policy without the fear of inflation. But all this may change.

Another worst case scenario is the Japanese financial meltdown. So far, despite the continuing bad health of the Japanese financial system (including banks, insurance companies and retail trade), Japanese people have maintained their high rate of savings. After burning their fingers in the stock market, they are investing their money in government securities as the last resort. But Japanese public debt is larger in absolute magnitude than that in Europe or the US, though these two economies have larger gross dometic product. If the Japanese public loses faith in the ability of the government to service the mounting debt, it may take its money abroad which would send the yen crashing. With the fall in currency following capital flight and the loss of confidence in the yen, Japan may go the same way as the east Asian financial meltdown in the mid-Nineties. Japan�s economic collapse, given its size and prominence in the world economy, may start a global recession on an unprecedented scale.

However, most observers feel that the probability of occurrence of these doomsday scenarios is pretty low. But, then, low probability events like air attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon do sometimes occur.


�Infrastructure facility� means any publicly or privately owned facility providing or distributing services for the benefit of the public, such as water, sewerage, energy, fuel or communications, and banking services, telecommunications and information networks. �Place of public use� means those parts of any building, land, street, waterway or other location that are accessible or open to members of the public, whether continuously, periodically or occasionally, and encompasses any commercial, business, cultural, historical, educational, religious, governmental, entertainment, recreational or similar place that is so accessible or open to the public. �Public transportation systems� means all facilities, conveyances and instrumentalities, whether publicly or privately owned, that are used in or for publicly available services for transportation of persons or cargo.

Any person commits an offence within the meaning of this convention if that person, by any means, unlawfully and intentionally, does an act intended to cause;

Death or serious bodily injury to any person; or serious damage to a state or government facility, a public transportation system, communication system or infrastructure facility with the intent to cause extensive destruction of such a place, facility or system, or where such destruction results, or is likely to result, in major economic loss;

When the purpose of such act, by its nature or contacts, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.

Any person also commits an offence if that person attempts to commit an offence or participate as an accomplice in an offence as set forth in paragraph 1. Any person also commits an offence if that person; organizes, directs or instigates others to commit an offence as set forth in paragraphs 1 or 2; or aids, abets, facilitates or counsels the commission of such an offense; or

In any other way contributes to the commission of one or more offences referred in paragraphs 1, 2 or 3 (a) by a group of persons acting with a common purpose; such contribution shall be intentional and either be met with the aim of furthering the general criminal activity or purpose of the group or be met in the knowledge of the intention of the group to commit the offence or offences concerned.

This convention shall not apply where the offence is committed within a single state, the alleged offender is a national of that state and is present in the territory of that state and no other state has a basis... to exercise jurisdiction except that the provision of articles 10 to 22 shall, as appropriate, apply in those cases.

Each state party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary; to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law. The offences set forth in article 2;

To make those offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account the grave nature of those offences.

Each state party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary, including, where appropriate, domestic legislation, to ensure that criminal acts within the scope of this convention are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature.

Each state party shall take such measure as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 2 in the following cases:

When the offence is committed in the territory in that state or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that state;

When the alleged offender is a national of that state or is a person who has his or her habitual residence in its territory;

When the offence is committed wholly or partially outside its territory, if the effect of the conduct or intended effects constitute or result, within its territory in the commission of an offence referred to in article 2.

A state may also establish its jurisdiction over any such offence when it is committed;

By a stateless person who is habitual in that state; or with respect to a national of that state; or

Against a state or government facility of that state abroad, including an embassy or other diplomatic or consular premises of that state or

In an attempt to compel that state to do or abstain from doing any act; or on board a ship or aircraft which is operated by the government of that state.

Each state party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 2 in cases where the alleged offender is present in its territory and where it does not extradite such person to any of these states parties that have established their jurisdiction in accordance with paragraphs 1 or 2

When more than one state party claims jurisdiction over the offences set forth in article 2, the relevant state parties shall strive to coordinate their actions appropriately, in particular concerning the conditions for prosecution and the modalities for mutual legal assistance.

This convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with national law.

To Be Concluded



Journey into the past

Sir � The refusal of the Israeli government to allow Yasser Arafat to travel to Bethlehem has opened up Christmas celebrations to political manipulations (�Battle lines in Bethlehem�, Dec 24). Arafat has always enjoyed the symbolism of attending service on Christmas Eve. The economic and diplomatic channels between the United States of America and Israel are temporarily forgotten. Here is a Muslim nation hosting the most important event for the Western Christian world. Under enormous pressure at the moment from the US-Israeli axis, Arafat has declared he will make it to Bethlehem even if he has to walk. But in hiking between his headquarters in Ramallah and Bethlehem, the 72-year old will be drawing on equally potent iconography: in following the last leg of Moses� flight from Egypt, he will be reinvesting himself with the imagery of a venerable leader of his people. Hopefully this will break the Israeli stranglehold on religious self-justification.

Yours faithfully,
Kabita Sanyal, Calcutta

Overstepping limits

Sir � Gwynne Dyer in �Hubris and its classic follow up� (Dec 17) has again made some good points about the United States of America�s action in Afghanistan. Airpower may have defeated Osama bin Laden, but it is also making the Bush administration more adventurous after the easy victory. How many more such wars? It is difficult to go after each mosquito with a shotgun, its more logical to clear the pond where they breed. Injustice and poverty are the parents of crime. Unless these issues are tackled at the root, terrorism, religious or otherwise, will not end.

There is a category of individuals who see the West in general as the source of all evil, the reasons being: poverty, injustice and the foreign policy of the rich nations. �Poverty� is a result of the economic hegemony and aggressive marketing tactics of Western nations. �Injustice� refers to the West�s overt support for puppet monarchies in west Asia and in particular a myopic US �foreign policy� in respect to Zionism. Neutralizing bin Laden may end his particular brand of terrorism but another generation of children is growing up in west Asia, watching democratic movements being stamped out in their homelands, and an already homeless people losing whatever land they have left to illegal settlers.

Unless Western foreign policy corrects itself with regard to the Islamic world, there will be more war. The US, whose mottoes are �Freedom� and �Justice� contradicts itself whenever it upholds undemocratic governments. What is necessary is to first find the origins of the mess that is terrorism, and then wipe it clean from the roots.

Yours faithfully,
Indrani Bhattacharya, Howrah

Sir � I would like to comment on the position adopted by Gwynne Dyer in �Hubris and its classic follow up�. The US has not only been engaging in a �war on terrorism� to catch Osama bin Laden, or talking of extending the campaign to Iraq and Somalia to eradicate the al-Qaida network. Its economy was on the of brink of recession before September 11: now there is talk of a spring recovery. Would this have been possible if the US did not reacted so forcefully? Dyer suggests that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour made the US a full time player of the �alliance game�, cautious not to overstretch itself. By the end of World War II, however, the US had emerged with the strongest economy in the world after the recessions of the Thirties. The US has learnt another lessons from history: that the economy depends on military might.

Yours faithfully,
Rohit Verma, Chandigarh

Unneighbourly dealings

Sir � We live in a country where politics, like any other human interaction, has been converted into a commodity. The problem of Hindu refugees, as suggested by your coverage, was essentially a humanitarian one which called for a strong political will to address it (�Administration torn apart by influx�, Nov 3). The reasons why neither the ruling party in West Bengal nor the saviours of Hindutva at the Centre bothered to take up the issue instantly with Bangladesh�s government is known only to themselves.

India needed to explore the diplomatic channel for dealing with such a sensitive issue without wasting a moment. But the Communist Party of India (Marxist), as well as the Bharat-iya Janata Party, lost no time in sensitizing the issue without adopting any practical measure to reduce the plight of the unfortunate Hindu families.

The BJP tried to project it as a communal issue to reap political benefit from it. And the CPI (M) organizational bosses tried to sell the outmoded idea of secularism, Marxist-brand. Perhaps they have forgotten that Bangladeshi Hindus can never be compared with the poor Mexicans entering the US. It is an international problem, which should have been addressed diplomatically, preferably before an international court of justice. The last thing that should have been done was to project Bangladesh as Muslim, and India as Hindu. This is the kind of rhetoric which led to Partition in the first place.

Yours faithfully,
Shyamalendu Majumdar, Calcutta

Sir � Sunita Gupta�s argument on your letters page (Dec 19) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad�s brainwave that the Chittagong hill tract of Bangladesh be annexed to India as it has a sizeable Hindu population smell of the two-nation theory. It is a dangerous proposition which can be applied to Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan. Communalists, of whichever faith, should think about their theories before they propound them.

Yours faithfully,
M. Akhtar, Secunderabad

Parting shot

Sir � It has been wrongly mentioned in the report, �Headcount: Taxwoman on tiger trail� (Dec 1), that Chandana Mitra is the first woman selected to participate in the tiger census in the Sunderbans. Mita Sinha, from a Sunderban-based non-governmental organization, SEEDS, has participated in the last couple of counts. Women are now equal partners of men in all walks of life: joining the armed forces and forest departments, climbing the mountain peaks and participating in other adventures with the same capacity and tenacity as men. A number of women scientists and research students are working in the Sunderban region. Hence, it is not unusual for a woman to participate in the tiger census.

Yours faithfully,
S.R. Banerjee,Calcutta

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