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13 nov 2015

The Hindu: November 13, 2015 01:21 IST

Towards peace in the Northeast

 

Bangladesh's decision to hand over ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) general secretary Anup Chetia to India is an important step towards peace in the region. Together with the imminent extradition of Thai arms dealer Wuthikorn Naruenartwanich, alias Willy Naru, it demonstrates the potential of nation-states cooperating to fight non-state actors. Naru, a Thai citizen who had for years been the crucial link between northeastern groups and Chinese arms suppliers, was arrested in August 2013 on India's request. An appeals court in Thailand ordered his extradition earlier this month. During the 18 years that Chetia languished in a Bangladeshi prison, convicted for possession of forged passports, illegal arms and unauthorised foreign currency, ULFA split into two. One faction, led by Arabinda Rajkhowa, has entered into talks with New Delhi for a negotiated settlement. Chetia, who repeatedly sought political asylum in Bangladesh, has since declared his support for the peace talks too. So the return to India of one of the founders of ULFA adds symbolic strength to the pro-talks faction. New Delhi needs to step up the pace of the talks, and show a visible difference on the ground to prove that it is serious about such negotiated settlements. However, negotiations must not mean that Chetia be treated with kid-gloves. All fugitives, be it Chetia or Chhota Rajan, should be considered equal before law — otherwise India would be sending the wrong signal to those who take up arms, for whatever reason.

 

Chetia's return is also a reminder that the most active ULFA militant, Paresh Barua, continues to be a fugitive, freely moving across the Myanmar-China border, and possibly enjoying some amount of support from official agencies on both sides. ULFA-Independent, led by Barua, remains a lethal insurgent group, with camps in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, as well as in Myanmar, and with over 200 armed cadres. Therefore, a three-pronged, cohesive strategy is urgently required to take the peace process forward. One, there needs to be a robust security grid, including a well-trained and well-armed State police force, to respond to insurgent groups and secure innocent lives. Two, India must reach out to neighbouring countries, including China, to ensure that militant groups do not exploit porous borders and find safe havens, only to launch repeated attacks on Indian soil. Robust partnerships with countries such as China and Myanmar are crucial if India is to defeat the many insurgencies in the Northeast. Three, New Delhi must bind its security responses with a democratic outreach. The insurgencies of the Northeast are deeply rooted in the region's history, its many tribal identities, people's grievances, both perceived and real, and the incomplete task of nation-building. New Delhi should deal with the Northeast with a warm heart and fairness, with political accommodation and an eye on the strategic location.

 

·        im·mi·nent

About to happen.

 

·        ex·tra·di·tion

The action of extraditing a person accused or convicted of a crime.

 

·        . languishe

 >become feeble

 

·        a·sy·lum

The protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee.

 

·        le·thal

Sufficient to cause death.

 

·        ro·bust

Strong and healthy; vigorous.

 

·        in·sur·gent

Rising in active revolt.

 

·       
po·rous

(of a rock or other material) having minute spaces or holes through which liquid or air may pass.

 

The Hindu: November 13, 2015 01:21 IST

The Maldives needs democracy

 

While the Maldives government's decision to lift a state of emergency after less than a week is indeed a welcome move, it is yet to convincingly explain why it took the extreme step in the first place. The Abdulla Yameen administration's claim that the emergency was meant to "protect the people" in the wake of security challenges seems to be a convenient excuse, given the political crisis that is brewing in the Indian Ocean nation. The declaration of emergency was not an isolated incident, but the latest in a series of steps the government has taken over the past few months to bolster President Yameen's authority. Recently, the government sacked the Defence Minister and police chiefs. It also arrested the Vice-President, Ahmed Adeeb, in connection with a blast on the presidential boat on September 28. According to the government, the blast was an attempt on the President's life, a claim that international investigators have rejected. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation probed the blast and said it found no evidence that it was caused by a bomb. But the government sticks to its narrative, and says the emergency was lifted after investigators made "important progress" in an inquiry into the blast. And it shows no inclination to stop the purge. One of the immediate decisions the ruling party took was to vote out the Prosecutor General, Muhthaz Muhsin, without explaining why he was sacked.

 

Ever since Mr. Yameen became President through a controversial election in 2013, the country's democracy has faced tough challenges. President Yameen, half-brother of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has adopted a confrontational approach towards the opposition and showed little respect to the right to dissent. The imprisonment of Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected President, after a controversial trial has created fissures in the country's polity which are actually weakening the state. Despite widespread international condemnation and a ruling by a UN panel that Mr. Nasheed's arrest was illegal, the government showed no readiness to ease its stand. But in the case of the emergency, maybe in a sign of weakness, the government bowed to international pressure and domestic resistance. It is worth noting that the decision to lift the emergency came two days before a planned protest by the country's main opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party. President Yameen should use this opportunity to reach out to the opposition. Instead of the confrontationist approach, the government should adopt a consensus-building policy, engage the political opposition and act like a healthy democratic administration. Such a move would only strengthen institutions in the Maldives, putting it in a better position to address the security challenges. Otherwise, the complex mix of a divided society, a fractured polity and an authoritarian state will further destabilise the archipelago nation.

·        brew

Make (beer) by soaking, boiling, and fermentation.

 

·        sack

Dismiss from employment.

 

·        bol·ster

A long, thick pillow that is placed under other pillows for support.

 

·        purge

Rid (someone) of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition, typically giving a sense of cathartic release.

 

·       
fis·sure

A long, narrow opening or line of breakage made by cracking or splitting, especially in rock or earth.

 

·        ar·chi·pel·a·go

A group of islands.

 

Business Standard

Hope and foreboding

 

The customary one-hour "Muhurat" trading on the stock exchanges at Diwali pushed the Sensex 123.7 points higher this year - a 0.5 per cent rise - as traders were buoyed by the government's announcement that foreign direct investment norms would be relaxed. However, Samvat 2072 started on a mixed note, with sombre undertones as well. An Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (Assocham) survey claims that festive spending may drop by 43 per cent, with both companies and families cutting Diwali budgets. Survey respondents said they were worried about rising food prices, sluggish economic growth and high unemployment. The Sensex is down about four per cent since last Diwali, and real estate has lost ground. So, there is no "wealth effect".

 

The downbeat sentiment is in sharp contrast to the surge of hope and optimism that had lit up last Diwali. In October 2014, a new government, led by a charismatic prime minister, was expected to deliver on large promises. There were expectations of substantive reform and swift economic revival. The stock market was up, with the Nifty logging gains of 30 per cent year-on-year. But that optimism has evaporated. Reform-enabling legislation looks tough, given the Opposition's uncooperative stand and its numbers in the Rajya Sabha. In particular, the fate of the key goods and services tax is uncertain. Employment generation - central to sustainable consumer demand - has been minimal 18 months into Mr Modi's term. Multiple infrastructure projects remain stalled, though there has been some positive movements in railways and roads in the last couple of months and the power sector has seen steps to give a financial leg-up to the state-controlled distribution companies. The banking sector is struggling to cope with a mountain of bad debt. Private sector investments have not taken off yet, with bank credit growth at 10-year lows. Exports have crashed. Corporate earnings have shrunk in many cases. The high-decibel, communally-tinged campaign for the Bihar Assembly elections has alarmed overseas investors.

 

There are bright spots, too. The fiscal and current account deficits are at comfortable levels, mainly due to low crude oil and gas prices. Inflation has also dipped, despite worries on the pulses front. The Reserve Bank of India has cut the policy rate four times in 2015. And there are some signs of a demand revival: tax collection is up, and rate hikes are only part of the reason. The automobile industry has seen unit sales growing 12 months in a row. Purchasing manager indices are up, and so is the Index of Industrial Production. The government has made some useful policy changes, and India has climbed four spots on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business index.

 

The problem is that, even though the economy is gradually recovering, there is also a growing sense of policy drift. The biggest issue is undoubtedly employment - central to sustainable demand. Approximately a million youngsters enter India's workforce every month. The BJP won its 2014 mandate after making a promise of ushering in faster growth that would create more jobs. So far, those promises have not been fulfilled. Last Diwali, the promised "acche din" - good times - looked to be just around the corner. Unfortunately, they are not yet visible. A large and increasing number of young, unemployed men (mostly men, due to skewed gender ratios) are waiting for that day with growing impatience. If their aspirations go unfulfilled, the socio-political temperature is likely to rise dangerously. It is to be hoped that Samvat 2072 will end better than it has started.

·        fore·bod·ing

Fearful apprehension; a feeling that something bad will happen.

 

·        bu·oy

Keep (someone or something) afloat.

 

·        som·ber

Dark or dull in color or tone; gloomy.

 

·        slug·gish

Slow-moving or inactive.

 

·        surge

A sudden powerful forward or upward movement, especially by a crowd or by a natural force such as the waves or tide

 

·        e·vap·o·rate

Turn from liquid into vapor.

 

·        stall

(of a motor vehicle or its engine) stop running, typically because of an overload on the engine.

 

·        ting

Emit a sharp, clear, ringing sound.

 

 

Indian Express

The cheating drug

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's order of a probe into the allegations made by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is evidence that Moscow has been compelled to recognise the seriousness of the report's implications for Russia. Submitted on Monday, it alleges that Russian athletes have been part of a systematic, state-sponsored doping programme that led to changes in the results of international competitions, including the London Olympics of 2012. It also recommends that the athletes be suspended from the Rio Olympics, while seeking a lifetime ban on five athletes and coaches. The report is believed to have uncovered a scale of corruption bigger than the ongoing Fifa scandal.

Only the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) can punish athletes and their national governing bodies. But the report's allegations compromise the IAAF itself. Former IAAF president Lamine Diack is under investigation by French prosecutors for corruption and money laundering, having allegedly helped cover up positive doping tests by Russian athletes. Wada's allegations range from extortion and the destruction of 1,400-odd samples by a Moscow laboratory to the involvement of the Russian security service, the FSB. Putin's emphasis on "professional cooperation" with anti-doping bodies and the need to fix responsibility is perhaps meant to signal a course correction from the Russian sports ministry's antagonistic posture, but Moscow and the IAAF face a challenging task.

At stake is trust in sport and sportspersons. As the disgrace of cyclist Lance Armstrong or the Fifa scandal have shown, doping and corruption scandals hurt clean sportspersons and fans the most. If people are not to lose faith in a human endeavour that's supposed to bring communities and nations together, the international governance of popular sports needs an overhaul.

·        com·pel

Force or oblige (someone) to do something.

 

·        an·tag·o·nis·tic

Showing or feeling active opposition or hostility toward someone or something.

 

·        dis·grace

Loss of reputation or respect, especially as the result of a dishonorable action.

 

·        o·ver·haul

Take apart (a piece of machinery or equipment) in order to examine it and repair it if necessary.

 

The Dawn

Shout at the dollar

 

THE State Bank has blamed "recent newspaper articles" for sparking speculative sentiments in the money markets that have driven down the value of the rupee in the kerb market.

 

In a press release, it claims that a few articles have fuelled unease in the markets by questioning the quality of the reserves and the rising external borrowing.

 

The release aims to set the record straight by pointing out that the country's foreign exchange reserves sit at record highs, and debt sustainability ratios have actually improved since 2010.

 

Also read: SBP Act amended

 

The central bank has been concerned with the recent falls the rupee has seen in the open market, where its value against the dollar has been sliding sharply in the last few days.

 

Putting the blame on articles appearing in newspapers for this slide is surprising. If the situation in the money markets is so fragile that a few articles in the press can trigger negative sentiment, then clearly the fundamentals are not as sound as the central bank would like us to believe.

 

Movements of this sort in the exchange rate are rarely caused by retail consumers of foreign exchange, the ones most likely to be influenced by newspaper articles.

 

They are almost always the result of changes in the thinking of bulk suppliers, such as exchange companies, banks and traders. This segment is not likely to be influenced by what they read in the newspapers.

 

It is entirely probable that the surge in the dollar's value on the open market is the result of speculative activities and not connected to any sudden change in the underlying fundamentals.

 

The central bank ought to be looking for the reason behind the surge instead of blaming it on articles in the press. Such sharp swings are not new to the country's money markets, and may result from serious weaknesses in the structure of the market rather than critical commentary being aired by the media.

 

The State Bank should get its focus right when addressing this volatility of the exchange rate.

 

·        spec·u·la·tive

Engaged in, expressing, or based on conjecture rather than knowledge.

 

·        un·ease

Anxiety or discontent.

 

·        frag·ile

(of an object) easily broken or damaged.

 

·        surge

A sudden powerful forward or upward movement, especially by a crowd or by a natural force such as the waves or tide.

 

·        volatility

The property of changing readily from a solid or liquid to a vapor

 

The Guardian

view on the generals and Jeremy Corbyn: if he is elected, he calls the shots

 

he rule is clear, simple and fundamental. And it's not a rule to be messed with, either. In liberal democracies the elected civil authorities must prevail over the military forces of the state. The people with the votes give the orders to the people with the guns – not the other way round. As a force based on discipline, the military mostly understand this very clearly, and observe it too. There has not been a military coup, and barely a military mutiny of any consequence, in this country's modern democratic history.

 

That is why the remarks about Jeremy Corbyn by the chief of the defence staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, must be a cause of concern. As the country's most senior soldier, the general should know and observe the rules better than anyone. Yet on Sunday, he said he would "worry" if the Labour leader were to become prime minister and if Mr Corbyn persisted in his view that he would never fire nuclear weapons to protect Britain.

 

By saying this, General Houghton crossed a line he should not have crossed, particularly at a time when Mr Corbyn is under such scrutiny over the way he conducted himself on Remembrance Day (perfectly well, as it turned out). Suggestions that the general may be a plain blunt soldier who does not understand the ways of politics do not wash. It is not too late for ministers to tell him not to cross the line again. And he should withdraw his remark.

The issue here is not whether Mr Corbyn is right about UK nuclear weapons. There is plenty of room for public debate about that. Many in Britain agree with his anti-Trident views, while others do not. Nor is this to imply that service chiefs have no right to fight their corner in Whitehall or in debates about policy. On the contrary. Those who work in defence, like those who work in the health service or the police, are entitled to stand up for their services in the public arena.

 

What the military are not entitled to do is to challenge the very legitimacy of the elected government itself. Junior doctors don't do that, however angry they are about their contracts. Nor do chief constables, even when they are faced with 25% budget cuts. But the occasional top soldier seems to feel entitled to do so – and soldiers have guns.

 

It is possible that General Houghton didn't mean to say what he said, though it didn't sound like that. It is arguable that his words are a reminder of the continuing post-feudal confusion of authority at the heart of the British state – where loyalty is to the crown and not, as in full democracies, to the people or the constitution. Be that as it may, he is playing with political fire.

The issue here is about a fundamental axiom of democratic order. Whether you support Mr Corbyn or not, if he wins the next election he will legitimately be prime minister. He will inherit the authority to act in defence of the state that David Cameron, whose defence policies do not command universal respect either, now has. Mr Corbyn will get some things right and others wrong, like many prime ministers. But in the end the military must obey his government's defence policy with the same unconditional professionalism as it obeys any other.

 

The only alternative would be for the military to pick and choose which orders to obey. That would be disastrous. Parts of the military have occasionally chosen that course, as in the Curragh mutiny in Ireland before the first world war, or flirted with it, as the former Nato commander Sir Walter Walker openly did in the 1970s, suggesting that the country might choose "rule by the gun in preference to anarchy". Such events feed speculation that the "establishment" would always launch a Spanish-style pronunciamento to prevent a leftwing government from carrying out its mandate. Whether they intended it or not, General Houghton and the unnamed general who recently threatened mutiny if Labour tried to "downgrade the military"fan those flames again. They should mount an orderly withdrawal and douse those flames now.

·        mess

Make untidy or dirty.

 

·        scru·ti·ny

Critical observation or examination

 

·        .tri·dent

A three-pronged spear, especially as an attribute of Poseidon (Neptune) or Britannia.

 

·        a·re·na

A level area surrounded by seats for spectators, in which sports, entertainments, and other public events are held.

 

·        man·date

An official order or commission to do something.

 

·        douse

Pour a liquid over; drench.

 

·        mount

Climb up (stairs, a hill, or other rising surface).

 

the Newyork times

A Milestone for Myanmar's Democracy

 

Democracy may finally be taking hold in Myanmar. The evidence lies in a crushing electoral victory by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party last Sunday in the country's first free election in a quarter century — a verdict so decisive that the military, which refused to accept similar results in 1990 and placed Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 years, has indicated that this time it will not interfere. Though the vote count is not complete, preliminary data suggests that her National League for Democracy won the most seats in the upper house of Parliament and leads in the regional assemblies.

 

But the elections are just a beginning. Myanmar is still at the start of what will be a difficult transition from an isolated military dictatorship to a more open society. Whether that can be accomplished peacefully will be a challenge for both the generals who have run the country for decades as well as Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

One hurdle is that while her party is likely to dominate Parliament and the executive branch, three large and powerful ministries — interior, defense and border security — will remain under the military. The generals, who came to power in 1962 after overthrowing a civilian government, made sure when they wrote a new Constitution in 2008 to maintain a grip on these three levers

The 2008 Constitution also bars Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, from becoming president, because her children are foreign nationals. Nobody doubts that this twisted provision was aimed at excluding her from the nation's top job. Even so, dismissing the Constitution as "very silly," she has asserted defiantly that she will be "making all the decisions" behind the scenes.

 

That is very bold language. It is also troubling and not particularly shrewd. The implication is that the next president will be a compliant member of her party and the Constitution can be ignored. But the success of Myanmar's democratic evolution will depend on Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi working with the military, which under the Constitution is guaranteed 25 percent of the seats in Parliament. Bringing about changes in the Constitution that would put the security ministries under civilian control, and allow her to run for president, will require the support of 75 percent of Parliament. Simple arithmetic says that her ambitions depend on getting along with the generals.

 

Sunday's election created a new reality in Myanmar; to maximize it, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi needs all the help she can get.

·        lev·er

A rigid bar resting on a pivot, used to help move a heavy or firmly fixed load with one end when pressure is applied to the other.

 

·        ev·o·lu·tion

The process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.

 

 

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