Ensure a level playing field
Sir — The president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, made a profound statement when he observed recently that the cost of engineering studies should be brought down (“Kalam for cheaper degrees”, June 20). Unfortunately, the report does not mention which engineering colleges he was referring to and this leaves room for much doubts. This is because most of the reputed engineering colleges in the country, most of which are either government-run or government aided, already have considerably subsidized tuition fees. Kalam must have been talking about the private engineering colleges which have been sprouting by the dozen across the country. These colleges have found a market where students are ready to dish out hefty sums for a degree or a diploma. So there is no reason why such colleges should compromise on the fee. It is all very well that Kalam does not want deserving students to miss out on professional education. But what he should target is to prevent government-run engineering colleges from turning the table on students in the name of fiscal crunch as one in the heart of Calcutta has done already.
Nandini Ghosh, Calcutta
For the worst supporting role
Sir — The United States of America is mounting pressure on India to send its troops to Iraq, and it may well be that the government will relent, sooner or later (“America offers Iraq’s safe slice for troops”, June 17). So far our politicians have played safe and even laid down a number of conditions for the despatch of Indian troops. But India needs to ask itself if it has too many options left.
The US had told the world that it was going to Iraq to “liberate” it from the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein. But much of that has proved a hogwash. Besides, it has to be kept in mind that though still sporadic and disorganized, Iraqi resistance against the occupation forces is building up. The US is also going to great lengths to repress such hindrances to its rule, to the point of torturing civilians. What is really needed under the circumstances is a worldwide peace movement involving the United Nations. It is time to stop capitulating to the imperialist ambitions of the Americans.
Ram Puniyani, Mumbai
Sir — Two points regarding the despatch of Indian troops to Iraq deserve scrutiny. First, is the US competent enough to administer post-war Iraq until an Iraqi government is formed' It has to be kept in mind that the US has always been averse to staying put on foreign soil. The Japanese, the Filipinos, and the Germans, can certify to this. If Japan enjoys some democracy today, it is in no small measure due to the efforts of General Douglas McArthur, the American war hero who came a governor of occupied Japan. The US handed back power to the Filipinos voluntarily after ruling them for just 48 years whereas, earlier, the Philippines was ruled by Spain for several centuries.
Next comes the question of stabilization of the present occupation. It is hard to usher the concepts of democracy in a limited time frame in Iraq, which has been ruled for several years by a despotic ruler like Saddam Hussein. India, as the largest democracy in the world and a long-standing friend of the Iraqi people should join hands with the US in this process, instead of remaining a bystander. Sending troops there as part of the peace efforts is as good a start as any and will be in the interests of both the Iraqi and Indian peoples.
Kangayam R. Rangaswamy,
Sir — It would do India good to remember that it should not get carried away by the goodies that America promises to dole out if it sends its troops to Iraq. The world saw how George W. Bush overrode the United Nations to destroy Iraq. Now he wants Indian troops in Iraq in return for a slice of the reconstruction pie. India is already plagued with problems of cross-border terrorism and has been, recently, threatened with war by Pervez Musharraf. In such a situation, it will not be wise to invite an artificial shortage of jawans and army officers. Who knows what Pakistan has in mind' It might just make the most of the situation.
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore
Sir — The US’s double standards should leave no one in doubt about its divide and rule policy in the subcontinent. Which is why although George Bush might have agreed to meet our home minister, Pervez Musharraf has got preferential treatment in 10, Downing Street and Camp David. L.K. Advani’s fervent plea to the US that it is ignoring the cross-border terrorism problem has not made any dent in the US establishment. Is it not humiliating for India that while all its appeals go unheard, the US should insist that India listen to its dictates and send troops to the occupied territories in Iraq' As a pre-condition to the sending of troops, India should make it plain that its complaints with regard to Pakistan has to be given due importance.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Sir — The deputy prime minister, L.K. Advani, may be blowing hot and cold about the sending of Indian troops to Iraq (“Three queries at Iraq gate”, June 20). But before that happens, one question needs to be answered. What will be the compensation for the lives of soldiers and officers dying in Iraq' This possibility cannot be ruled out entirely, given the nature of the work. Will the dependants of Indian troops then be at the mercy of international charities and non-governmental organizations' Perhaps the firms who stand to gain from the reconstruction contracts that is being offered by the US should be forced to pay a hefty sum that should preferably be kept escrow for such contigencies.
Anand M. Rajadhyaksha,
Sir — Despite being told that it is for peace-keeping, the task Indian troops would be performing in Iraq is to “enforce” peace. Besides, why is the government considering the option at all when it was so resolutely against the war in Iraq' India would have been justified in stationing its troops in Iraq had its services been demanded by the United Nations. India should not deliberately lose its goodwill among Iraqis. If the Bharatiya Janata Party thinks that complying with the US’s whims will be conducive in the long run, it is only deluding itself. The French president, Jacques Chirac, has called for a “multi-polar” world. World powers, including India, has to work towards that end.
Partha Sur, New Jersey
Sir — We shall only be legitmizing an illegal occupation of Iraq by sending our troops there. For how different shall we be from our police forces who took orders from the British prior to our independence' Even if the US promises to allow us to have independent control of a sector, why should we agree to “police oil” for a foreign power'
Mahesh K. Rathi, Calcutta
Sir — The very fact that the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has foregone his weekend holiday to come all the way down to India in order to talk to L.K. Advani, naturally arouses suspicions. The pressure on India to deploy troops was not just limited to his visit, he was soon followed by a team from Pentagon on June 16. If India sends its peace-keeping force, it will give a clearance certificate to US’s imperialism in Iraq.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — The thing that bothers about the US demand on India is that why, despite America’s alliance with Pakistan in their joint war against terrorism, should the US not make the same demands on Pakistan' Pervez Musharraf has a capable military and more reasons to help the US than India. Instead of dragging its feet, India should have flatly refused the US.
T. Banerjee, Calcutta