The Hindu: November 14, 2015 03:48 IST BJP's larger stock-taking
The attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party's current leadership by its most senior veterans continues to force a quiet churn, and where it will end is not yet clear. On Wednesday, four BJP elders — L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha — charged that the "principal" reason for the party's defeat in Bihar was the manner in which it had been "emasculated in the last year". Their insistence that responsibility be fixed made it clear that they were targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's team — specifically, BJP president Amit Shah. The BJP's first response was to have a counter-assertion of collective responsibility, by three former party presidents, Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, all members of Mr. Modi's Cabinet. In the days after, sundry party members have joined issue with one of the two groups. But it would be deflecting from the difficult questions posed by the Bihar verdict if the repercussions were to be seen as simply an organisational tussle between the incumbents and the marginalised in the party's power structure. The Bihar vote is a larger challenge for the BJP, one that demands clarity on the principles by which the Central government and the ruling party engage with the citizens of India.
It is not only that Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah ran a highly centralised campaign in Bihar, leading from the front in the absence of a chief ministerial candidate. A defeat as spectacular as this, because of the BJP's slide in Bihar's electoral stakes since the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and the aura of invincibility around Mr. Modi, was bound to have organisational reverberations. But that is where it would have ordinarily remained, no matter how destabilising. However, in Bihar the BJP ran a sectarian campaign that included, on occasion, polarising statements by the Prime Minister and the BJP president. In the event, warnings about a possible BJP defeat being celebrated in Pakistan, with all its Muslim-targeting innuendo, and reservations being protected from encroachment by a particular community, went rebuffed. It's early days, and the defeat may yet draw the BJP brains trust to relative moderation. Irrespective of such recalibration, or the lack of it, the Prime Minister must also acknowledge the anxieties that the campaign caused. His office does not give him the flexibility to play multiple roles. When he goes out to campaign for his party, he does not cease even for a moment to be Prime Minister. When he deploys party rhetoric, he does not speak only to potential voters, but to all Indians. What will happen in the BJP's organisational circles will continue to be of interest, but the Prime Minister needs to level with Indians outside of party fora.
A person who has had long experience in a particular field.
Make (a person, idea, or piece of legislation) weaker or less effective.
A confident and forceful statement of fact or belief.
Cause (something) to change direction by interposing something; turn aside from a straight course.
An unintended consequence occurring some time after an event or action, especially an unwelcome one.
The distinctive atmosphere or quality that seems to surround and be generated by a person, thing, or place.
Indomitability: the property being difficult or impossible to defeat
An allusive or oblique remark or hint, typically a suggestive or disparaging one.
Intrusion on a person's territory, rights, etc.
Reject (someone or something) in an abrupt or ungracious manner.
(recalibrate) To calibrate for a second or subsequent time
Accept or admit the existence or truth of.
Move (troops) into position for military action
A place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.
The Hindu: November 14, 2015 03:36 IST Politicising a divided legacy
Historical figures, especially monarchs, do not fit nicely into contemporary political compartments. Arguments over whether a particular king was 'secular' or 'communal', a benign ruler or a tyrant, must remain academic. Making one's own reading of the complex personality of an 18th century king as the basis for taking on political rivals will only lead to needless conflicts. In Karnataka, the attempt by groups to rally around the twin images of Tipu Sultan as tyrant and freedom fighter has led to communal tension and the unnecessary loss of two lives. An inexplicable decision by the Karnataka government to celebrate the birth anniversary of the erstwhile ruler of Mysore for the first time this year set off protests by right-wing groups, which have been questioning for some time the narrative that Tipu was a great king and warrior. The State government will have to introspect whether kings, whose legacy will inevitably be a mixed bag of ruthless conquests and whimsical benevolence, need to be feted in official functions. A protest at Madikeri in Kodagu district against the government organising Tipu's anniversary celebrations led to violence. An elderly Vishwa Hindu Parishad functionary died, and a 23-year-old Muslim man succumbed to a bullet injury. The police claim the VHP man suffered a fall while fleeing violence, while his supporters say he was hit by a stone. The State government has blamed the BJP and groups allied to it for the violence.
It is fairly clear that the use of history to further political agendas leads to communal divisions. Eminent playwright Girish Karnad's remark that the international airport at Bengaluru, named after the city's 16th-century founder, Kempegowda, could have been named after Tipu Sultan provided fodder to Tipu's detractors as well as to groups looking to assert themselves in Karnataka. Although Mr. Karnad has clarified he was merely making an observation about the suitability of Tipu's name for the airport, as it is situated at the sultan's birthplace, his critics are unlikely to be placated. History shows rulers governed by the order that prevailed in their times, one that involved the persecution of enemies and the plunder of conquered territories. Kings can be judged either by the quality of their administration and the reforms, if any, they brought in, or by their conduct and conquests. Just as such kings will have descendants vouching for their good governance and personalities, there will be descendants of their victims testifying to their ruthlessness and intolerance. It is unacceptable for this divided legacy to be used to divide people.
A sovereign head of state, especially a king, queen, or emperor.
Living or occurring at the same time.
A cruel and oppressive ruler.
Unable to be explained or accounted for.
Examine one's own thoughts or feelings.
As is certain to happen; unavoidably.
Having or showing no pity or compassion for others.
The subjugation and assumption of control of a place or people by use of military force.
Playfully quaint or fanciful, especially in an appealing and amusing way.
Disposition to do good
Honor or entertain (someone) lavishly.
Fail to resist (pressure, temptation, or some other negative force).
(of a person) famous and respected within a particular sphere or profession.
A person who disparages someone or something.
Make (someone) less angry or hostile.
Hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs.
Steal goods from (a place or person), typically using force and in a time of war or civil disorder.
A person, plant, or animal that is descended from a particular ancestor.
Assert or confirm as a result of one's own experience that something is true or accurately so described.
Give evidence as a witness in a law court.
Reassurance on reforms
If the government had to give a Diwali gift to investors, it couldn't have done much better than the new measures on foreign direct investment that it announced on Tuesday. A significant consequence of the Bihar election results is the uncertainty and nervousness that they induce about both the government's ability and its willingness to move down the structural reform path. Legislative reforms will now look even further out of reach, but the key question is whether the setback would make the government more hesitant on executive action as well. The announcements on foreign direct investment or FDI are presumably intended as a signal that at least this route to reform remains open. To that extent, the announcement is to be welcomed and, importantly, in order to reinforce the message, should be followed up by other steps that similarly leverage executive autonomy.
In terms of the specific measures announced, to the extent that they all increase the opportunity and flexibility for foreigners to invest into India, they should have a significant impact on resource inflows. At the level of approvals, the limits that the Foreign Investment Promotion Board worked within have been raised, potentially speeding up the process for a larger number of projects. At the sectoral level, many industries will now have much greater freedom to bring in more funds. Single-brand retailers will now be able to fully own their stores, while also being able to carry out e-commerce. Financial institutions will now have the benefit of "fungibility", which was denied to them in an earlier announcement. In effect, there will now be a 74 per cent limit on aggregate foreign investment, but there will be no sub-limits on portfolio or strategic investors. This should provide an enhanced channel for capital mobilisation for the more successful smaller banks, non-bank finance companies and, over the next few years, the newly licensed payments and small finance banks. The same kind of flexibility is being offered to businesses in the defence equipment sector as well. Construction also benefits from enhanced limits, with an emphasis on investments into affordable housing. All in all, the measures are both broad and substantive.
That having been said, there is little question that higher FDI limits are not going to solve the basic problem of sluggish investment that the economy is dealing with. Even at its peak, FDI, as important as it might have been, was never a very significant percentage of aggregate investment. Ultimately, an investment revival is going to be driven predominantly by domestic businesses. Until this group signals its confidence in business prospects by stepping up investment, it is unlikely that foreign investors will venture into India in significant volumes. A broad-based investment recovery in India will depend on two factors. The first, beyond India's control, is the global excess capacity situation in many industries. The government can only look for ways to provide some safeguards to domestic producers. The second, though, is entirely within India's control. Speeding up infrastructure projects and quickly addressing the ease of doing business parameters are the critical components of this. The FDI announcements, while welcome, are only a first step down this road.
The action of removing someone's doubts or fears.
Succeed in persuading or influencing (someone) to do something.
A reversal or check in progress.
Exchangeability: the quality of being capable of exchange or interchange
Having an ample distance from side to side; wide.
Having a firm basis in reality and therefore important, meaningful, or considerable
Slow-moving or inactive.
The OROP quicksand
The ex-servicemen agitating for one rank one pension (OROP) have rejected the government notification and ratcheted up their protests by returning their medals. Some ex-servicemen even tried to set fire to their medals, but were prevented from doing so by their colleagues. Emotions have been frayed and tempers rising over the OROP issue for a few years now. During the tenure of the UPA 2, too, ex-servicemen had returned their medals while making the same demand. The current upping of the ante follows five months of protest at Jantar Mantar, including an episode of mishandling by the police before Independence Day and fasts by some veterans, an announcement by the defence minister before the Bihar elections, and the issuance of a government notification before Diwali. Both sides have made mistakes.
There are seven points of disagreement between the ex-servicemen and the government. They include revision of pensions on a yearly basis while the government has notified a five-yearly revision, and the fixation of pension at the maximum of current retirees while the government has notified an average of the maximum and minimum. Another issue involves the exclusion of soldiers who seek premature retirement from the ambit of OROP. While the government has agreed to grant OROP to those who have already sought premature retirement, it will deny the provision to those who seek premature retirement from now on. This has understandably caused a lot of heartburn among serving military personnel. The defence forces are steeply hierarchical and nearly 70 per cent of pensioners are premature retirees who chose to move to civilian life once they miss out on promotions. There is good reason for the government to relook at this clause.
But OROP is a demand no government can afford to completely fulfil because of the open-ended financial burden it imposes on the economy. Having partially met the demands of the ex-servicemen and announced a one-member judicial commission, the government would have expected the veterans to call off their protests. Because the veterans feel betrayed by a government that came to power promising full OROP — and the top political leadership has not taken them into confidence during decision-making — their position has hardened. The veterans risk losing public support because of their extreme stance. But the political leadership also needs to reach out to the veterans. With the broad parameters fixed, an agreement over the details can be reached, bringing this unsavory episode to a close.
Loose wet sand that yields easily to pressure and sucks in anything resting on or falling into it.
Make (someone) troubled or nervous.
ratchet sth up/down
› to increase/reduce something over a period of time:
The debate should ratchet up awareness of the problem among members of the general public.
(of a fabric, rope, or cord) unraveled or worn at the edge.
Do something abruptly or boldly
A stake put up by a player in poker and similar games before receiving cards.
Issue: the act of providing an item for general use or for official purposes (usually in quantity); "a new issue of stamps"; "the last issue of penicillin was over a month ago"
Expose (one's country, a group, or a person) to danger by treacherously giving information to an enemy.
Crafting a narrative
IT did not take long for the extreme right to sense an opportunity to claw back some space. At an event held on Thursday at the Darul Uloom Haqqania, clerics excoriated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for describing this country as "liberal" and called upon the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of his statement. According to the Haqqania madressah's head Maulana Samiul Haq, the term "liberal Pakistan" was a violation of the nation's ideology and he called upon religious leaders to put pressure on the government to implement an Islamic system in the country. Among the participants were several other 'leading lights' that occupy the ultraconservative niche on the ideological spectrum. These included Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil and Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, founders of the banned organisations Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, respectively.
It would perhaps be academic to point out that the prime minister had made use of the word "liberal" at an investment conference in the context of the country's economy, not to describe Pakistani society. Right-wing ideologues such as Maulana Samiul Haq — also known as the father of the Afghan Taliban — and others are chafing under what they perceive as curtailment of the clergy's influence compared to the carte blanche they enjoyed before the military action against terrorist sanctuaries located in the north. In the months leading up to the operation, they had positioned themselves as no less than brokers of peace between the Pakistani Taliban and the government. The attack on Karachi airport put an end to that farcical exercise; and the massacre at APS Peshawar on Dec 16 brought home, in the most horrific way possible, the consequences of the decades-long policy of co-opting religious extremists as a tool of statecraft. The National Action Plan approved in the aftermath of that tragedy includes measures that the right wing is loath to concede to, such as the regulation of madressahs; and raids on some of these institutions have caused much resentment. The religious lobby is hitting back in the only way it can — by creating a false equivalence between liberality and moral depravity, between secularism and a repudiation of faith. It is the classic ploy to stoke the fears of a naturally conservative society.
However, while the right wing has fashioned its narrative to suit the circumstances, the government is falling short. There is confusion all around, not least because some of the state's own actions demonstrate a reluctance to completely discard its old ways. Instead, 'assets' that toe the line continue to remain untouched, at liberty to undermine democracy and democratic values, and subvert the tentative counter-narrative that is beginning to emerge. We stand at an important crossroads, where prevarication is no answer. The government must take up the gauntlet and define once and for all, in clear, unambiguous terms, the future — and dare we hope, liberal — course for this nation.
A curved pointed horny nail on each digit of the foot in birds, lizards, and some mammals.
Censure or criticize severely.
A shallow recess, especially one in a wall to display a statue or other ornament
(of something restrictive or too tight) make (a part of the body) sore by rubbing against it.
Menu: a list of dishes available at a restaurant; "the menu was in French"
Blanche is an American alternative country band from Detroit, Michigan. Their music is based in Americana, early country, and folk blues, with a touch of haunting Southern Gothic stylings and garage rock mentality. Blanche is known for wearing vintage fashion of the early to mid-20th century
Of or resembling a farce, especially because of absurd or ridiculous aspects.
The consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event
Bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.
Moral corruption; wickedness.
Rejection of a proposal or idea.
A cunning plan or action designed to turn a situation to one's own advantage.
Undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution).
Lie: a statement that deviates from or perverts the truth
Go through an intimidating or dangerous crowd, place, or experience in order to reach a goal.
The Newyork times
Europe Mislabels Israel
THIS week the European Commission announced guidelines suggesting that Israeli products from areas that came under its control in 1967 be labeled "Israeli Settlement" products and not "Made in Israel" as they have been until now. The policy carves out a special legal rule for Israel, not only contradicting the European Union's own official positions on these issues, but also going against rulings of European national courts, and violating basic tenets of the World Trade Organization.
Faced with criticism from both the right and the left in Israel and the United States, the European Union claims its action is merely "technical," rather than politically motivated or punitive. Yet this is belied by the fact that the measure comes in response to explicitly political demands for labeling by some member states' foreign ministers, as well as anti-Israel NGOs.
In fact, the labeling controversy must be viewed as just one step in a broader, purposeful and gradual escalation of anti-Israel measures by the European Union. Two years ago, the commission promulgated a regulation that barred spending money on Israeli academic, scientific or cultural projects in the West Bank or Golan Heights. Then the union began refusing to allow imports of certain Israeli agricultural products. Last year, 15 European states issued warnings, alerting people to unspecified legal dangers of interacting with Israeli settlements. These steps, while supposedly motivated by what the European Union sees as Israel's occupation of territory, have been applied only to Israel, and not to other countries regarded as occupiers in international law, such as Morocco or Turkey.
Having warned about settlement products, the European Union is now labeling them. Diplomats in Brussels and NGOs have made clear that more coercive measures will follow. In this context, labeling is important not in its immediate economic effects but as a highly visible step in a conscious process of building a legal ghetto around Israel, within which a special set of rules applies.
What has largely escaped notice is that the labeling policy violates the European Union's own express policy on such issues. The commission primarily justifies labeling as a necessary tool to provide consumers with the information that it does not regard the territories "as part of Israel." However, European Union and national authorities that have addressed the issue have clearly ruled that special labeling is not required in such situations — neither for consumer protection nor to reflect the European Union's view of the underlying sovereign status of territories.
Thus the European Union allows Morocco — which has extensive trade ties with Europe, but has occupied Western Sahara since 1975, and populated it heavily with settlers — to export products from its occupied territory labeled "Made in Morocco." When challenged, the commission formally declared that labeling such goods as "made in" Morocco is not misleading, and is consistent with European trade agreements.
Also, European courts have considered the consumer protection rationale specifically in the context of Israeli products, and rejected it. Just last year, the British Supreme Court ruled, in a case involving Ahava beauty products produced in the West Bank, that "there was no basis for saying that the average consumer would be misled" by a "Made in Israel" label. The court held that such labeling was not deceptive as a matter of both British and European Union law.
The problem is not that the European Union fails to live up to its standards in some cases, like that of Morocco. Rather, in these other cases the union explicitly denies the existence of these standards. Such inconsistency is not just hypocrisy. It is a legal violation in its own right. The European Union's foundational treaties require regulatory "consistency." And discrimination against trading partners represents a core violation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and other treaties of the World Trade Organization, as the law professor Avi Bell and I have shown in detail in a recent paper. The union's labeling guidelines are manifestly discriminatory, as they apply only to Israel.
The World Trade Organization treaties establish the legal framework for international commerce. Under the W.T.O.'s nondiscrimination requirement, it is impermissible to apply trade rules and restrictions to some member countries and not to others. And the W.T.O.'s protections apply not just to a country's sovereign territory, but also to areas of its "international responsibility," such as occupied territories. The United States, with international approval, received the benefit of its international trade treaties even in territories it occupied in World War II, as well as in the Panama Canal Zone, where it made no claim of sovereignty. There is nothing novel about a country's receiving full trade rights for nonsovereign areas under its administration.
The United States has a great deal riding on the integrity of the international trading system. But the European Union labeling threatens to establish a precedent that would allow politicization of the system, undermining United States economic interests in broad and unpredictable ways. Thus it is not surprising that earlier this year, the United States passed a law opposing such European Union measures against Israel.
Making special rules for Israel has the undesired effect of reducing Israel's incentives to take international law seriously: If the goal posts can be moved, there is less reason to play the game. As a putative role model for international law, the European Union's greatest weapon is its probity and consistency. By damaging that, it harms its ability to set the global agenda.
Cut (a hard material) in order to produce an aesthetically pleasing object or design.
Inflicting or intended as punishment.
(of an appearance) fail to give a true notion or impression of (something); disguise or contradict.
Promote or make widely known (an idea or cause).
Relating to or using force or threats.
A part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups.
Stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt.
Too bad to be allowed.
Generally considered or reputed to be.