The Hindu`: November 17, 2015 00:35 IST
Road from Paris for G-20
The terrorist attacks in Paris have given the world the necessary urgency for a united fight against Islamic State (ISIS). Given their scale and specifics, the global response was bound to be swift( moving very fast तेज ) and collaborative(accomplished by collaboration सहयोगपूर्ण). In the event, the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey became a timely platform to launch this fight. As leaders of the world's biggest economies gathered, it was heartening(give encouragement to प्रशंसा करना) to see the pull-aside meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who set aside(on or to one side एक तरफ़) their differences to speak about a common strategy to target ISIS. Until last week, the two had been pitted(a sizeable hole (usually in the ground गड्ढे बनाना) on opposite sides, with western-backed rebel(break with established customs विद्रोही) groups and Russian-backed Syrian forces engaging in what many feared could spill over(If an activity or situation spills over, it begins to affect another situation or group of people, especially in an unpleasant or unwanted way ) into something much larger. Besides getting the U.S. and Russia on the same page, it will be equally important that G-20 leaders take away from the summit a commitment on stopping all the routes of finance and arms to ISIS. This is important because in the past, ISIS, or Daesh, has benefited from the world's disunity over policies on Syria, which meant that countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey were able to arm, support and supply fighters for anti-Assad rebel groups in Syria, support that eventually found its way to ISIS that has become a dominant force in the area. Europe, especially France and the U.K., as well as the U.S. have been guilty of turning a blind eye(Turning a blind eye is an idiom describing the ignoring of undesirable information.) to this support for several years, in the hope that they would see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad toppled(fall down, as if collapsing पद को खोना). Unless the G-20 agrees to stop all such support, put aside its concerns over Mr. Assad's regime(the organization that is the governing authority of a political unit प्रशासन) and target ISIS in a concerted (involving the joint activity of two or more अनुकूल) manner, all the outrage (a feeling of righteous anger नाराज़ होना) over the attacks on Friday will not produce results.
It is here that India, thus far silent on the Syria question, is now trying to have its voice heard with Prime Minister Modi's intervention(the act of intervening (as to mediate a dispute, etc. हस्तक्षेप) at the G-20, where he proposed a 10-point strategy to "tackle(accept as a challenge सामना करना) terrorism together". These include obvious actions on isolating sponsors of terrorism, monitoring cyberspace and financial activities, and cooperation and intelligence-sharing across the world. It also includes the demand for the UN to finally push through the comprehensive(including all or everything विस्तारपूर्ण) convention(a large formal assembly सम्मेलन) on international terrorism (CCIT), that India proposed in 1996 and has since demanded consistently, especially in the wake of 26/11. Movement on this convention has only been held up because countries remain disunited on their definitions of terrorism. ISIS's actions should clarify that definition. States or groups that carry out attacks on non-combatant civilians must now face the world's unequivocal(clearly defined or formulated स्पष्ट) spotlight, without shadow areas where they may take comfort. The road to the G-20 summit's most pressing obligation (a legal agreement specifying a payment or action and the penalty for failure to comply बन्धन) has come from Paris. It is important that they set the course for action against ISIS in the next few weeks, till world leaders meet again, at the COP21 summit in Paris, and complete the circle.
The Hindu: November 17, 2015 00:28 IST
Narendra Modi & Jawaharlal Nehru
On his visit to England, Prime Minister Narendra's Modi's praise of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, came as a surprise. In much the same way it did when, at the historic India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi, Mr. Modi failed to make any reference to Nehru, who has been described as the architect of India-Africa relations. The praise and the miss displayed the strategic manner in which the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have tactfully(Adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues) used and baited(Deliberately annoy or taunt someone) Nehru. "I will only say that many freedom fighters of India found their calling in the institutions of Britain," Mr. Modi said in London as he addressed British MPs. To emphasise the long-standing relationship between the two nations, he mentioned how his predecessors (A person who held a job or office before the current holder) , from Nehru to Manmohan Singh, have passed through the doors of England. Predictably, many in the Congress party have accused Mr. Modi of selectively praising Nehru on the international stage while pointedly ignoring him at home. In the praise and the miss lie the problem that Nehru poses for the Sangh Parivar. Nehru's idea of India — privileging citizenry, secularism and rationalism — is of course at odds with the Right's ideology, with its cultural nationalism and strident(Loud and harsh; grating) majoritarianism slant. Modern, independent India draws heavily from the ethos(The characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations) that Nehru was devoted(Very loving or loyal) to and one which he consciously(With awareness) fostered(Encourage). But even as the Sangh bristles (rise up as in fear) against Nehru's liberal legacy, the BJP's top leaders seek to place themselves in a chronological line, as democratically elected successors to those who ruled India previously. The office of the Prime Minister of India draws much of its aura from the man who first occupied it. For a latter-day incumbent(Necessary for (someone) as a duty or responsibility ), that matters. Therefore the invocation (the act of appealing for help आवाहन ) of Nehru by Mr. Modi on overseas visits.
For the BJP, Nehru is also code for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. In this context, to put down Nehru is to attack the party's current political opponents, the Congress led by Sonia Gandhi. Therefore the routine personal jibes (An insulting or mocking remark; a taunt), the references to his western demeanour(behavior), his easy camaraderie(the quality of affording easy familiarity and sociability) with women. The exercise of putting down Nehru, for the BJP, is also a way of absorbing into its iconography (The visual images and symbols used in a work of art or the study or interpretation of these) certain freedom fighters who, it claims, had been deliberately(intentionally) undermined(destroy property or hinder normal operations) in a Nehruvian conspiracy(a secret agreement between two or more people to perform an unlawful act). If this claim involves much licence with historical fact, the Congress too makes it far too easy for the BJP. Its recent tributes to leaders like Sardar Patel have been reactive, to counter the BJP's appropriation of them. Indeed, the Congress's relationship with Nehru is deeply problematic too. By constantly drawing a straight line from its current leadership to Nehru, the Congress shrink-wraps(package (an article) by enclosing it in clinging transparent plastic film that shrinks tightly on to it) him as a notable family elder, not the man under whose watch the idea of a liberal, democratic, inclusive India found utterance(the use of uttered sounds for auditory communication बातचीत). In doing so, it straitjackets (anything immaterial that severely hinders or confines विकास में बाधक) his legacy so that it becomes that much more easily attackable.
Caution on solar power
The price of solar power has steadily declined ever since the launch of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Power Mission five years ago. From nearly Rs 18 a unit in 2010, rates have plummeted(drop sharply) to below Rs 5 in the latest bids. The drop is sharp in the past few months. This is attributable partly to aggressive bidding by solar power producers and partly to improved technology and a decline in equipment prices because of intense competition in this field and subsidies elsewhere. However, for a sector which is yet to blossom(develop or come to a promising stage), a steep fall in output prices is not an unmitigated(not diminished or moderated in intensity or severity लगातार) blessing. On the upside, low tariffs impart (transmit (knowledge or skills प्रदान करना) the much-needed grid parity to renewable energy - suggesting solar power may sooner than expected offer serious competition to conventional power produced from gas or even coal. But, on the downside(a negative aspect of something that is generally positive), they make investors nervous about the returns on their investment. They also fear that big players in the power sector, such as the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), which have the capacity to bundle(gather or cause to gather into a cluster) solar power with conventional(following accepted customs and proprieties परम्परागत) energy, may bring average rates down to below even Rs 3.5 per unit, which they may find difficult to match. There is, thus, a danger that prospective investors may turn wary(marked by keen caution and watchful prudence सावधान). This would endanger the ambitious target of 100,000 MW of solar power, including 60,000 MW of grid-connected power.
The solar sector also needs to overcome some other formidable(extremely impressive in strength or excellence भयानक, साहस तोड़ने वाला) challenges to get into a fast-growth trajectory(the path followed by an object moving through space पुच्छलतारे का चक्र). For one, the evacuation(the act of removing the contents of something खाली करना) of power from solar plants to feed it into the grid, an essential prerequisite(something that is required in advance) for ensuring(make certain of) their viability(capable of normal growth and development), would need greater attention and investment. Once the cost incurred on the evacuation infrastructure is built into the tariff, the economics of solar power production may change. The lifting of solar power by the distribution companies is also a question mark because of their poor financial health, and because renewable energy purchase obligations(the social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force बन्धन) may not be effectively enforced(forced or compelled or put in force लागू).
Many investors are asking deeper questions about viability(capable of being done in a practical and useful way). Nearly one square kilometre of land is needed to put up a 40-60 MW solar plant. Such large chunks(a substantial amount) of land are not readily(without much difficulty) available except in isolated areas from which evacuation of power becomes even more difficult. As it is, the track record of capacity addition in this sector in recent years is far from satisfactory. The bulk of the liberal investment commitments - amounting to over $200 billion (approximately Rs 13 lakh crore at the current exchange rate) - made during the global renewable energy conference convened(संचालित) by the government early this year, are yet to fructify (become productive or fruitful उपजाऊ बनाना). The Centre and state governments cannot be lulled (a pause during which things are calm or activities are diminished चुप करना) into complacency (the feeling you have when you are satisfied with yourself संतोष) by low tariffs. Sustaining investor confidence could be an even harder task.
Expanding the menu
Food and finance may make for strange bedfellows(a temporary associate), more so when the effort is to impart(transmit (knowledge or skills)) an exotic (strikingly strange or unusual आकर्षक) flavour to otherwise staid(characterized by dignity and propriety गंभीर) debt instruments. But that's what the Chinese did with "dim sum bonds" denominated in yuan, first issued in Hong Kong in 2007 and then in London in 2012. These bonds became popular with foreigners mainly because of the Chinese renminbi's appreciation, making them a safe investment avenue. Now, it is India's turn. During his recent UK trip, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Indian Railways would issue rupee-denominated "masala bonds" in London to raise cash for its network expansion.
While Modi pointed to history — how the railways' journey in colonial India had originated in London's financial markets — British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne expressed hope that the new bonds would catch on as well as chicken tikka masala, a perfect illustration of an Indian dish adapted to suit English palates. Osborne, of course, won't mind both the Chinese and Indians using London as a centre for fund-raising, especially with the UK banking sector steadily losing market share to rival hubs like New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.
From India's perspective, masala bonds help to expand the issuer's menu of options, beyond simply raising expensive rupee debt at home or borrowing in foreign currency (no less cheap if the cost of hedging(any technique designed to reduce or eliminate financial risk वित्तीय हानि से बचाव हेतु वायदा) against exchange rate risk is taken into account. In this case, rupee-denominated bonds can be issued to overseas(in a foreign country विदेशी) investors, who may be satisfied with a lower return than their Indian counterparts (a person or thing having the same function or characteristics as another) . So long as the rupee does not depreciate(belittle मूल्य कम करना) as fast as its domestic buying power — foreign investors, after all, do not have to buy dal and pyaaz here — the interest rate on masala bonds is likely to be lower than that on debt issued in India. That definitely works to the advantage of companies with good credit ratings. While they will now be able to mobilise(get ready for war तैयार रखना) money at lower rates abroad without worrying about currency risk, it is bad news for banks though, as they would be left with financing less creditworthy borrowers
Nov 17 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
For principled and practical reasons, US should not try to keep out Indian workers
In an election year in the US, the debate has predictably swung between job loss and the productivity gains of employing the most skilled and competitive foreigners. Two bills with conflicting aims, one which aims to restrict visas while the other wants to enhance the numbers, represent the dangers of a lurch (move abruptly झटका) towards protectionism against the opportunities offered by a freer trade regime. India's IT sector and tech workers, who cornered about 70% of H-1B visas last year, are particularly invested in this debate.
Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin have moved a new bill with bipartisan(supported by both sides) support, to tighten the use of the visa. The H-1B, they argue, was meant to fill gaps in specialised areas for which qualified Americans could not be found. Instead, there have been reports of how outsourcing companies (which take up a bulk of the visas) circumvent(avoid or try to avoid fulfilling, answering, or performing (duties, questions, or issues) धोखा देना) federal rules by paying their employees $60,000 a year, or just above that enough to evade(avoid or try to avoid fulfilling बच निकलना) the declaration that no Americans would be displaced, and yet lower than what comparably skilled Americans command in the market. Their bill seeks to ensure that US citizens still have first dibs(Money), and that not more than 50% of a company's workers are on the H-1B.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Innovation bill (I-Squared), championed by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, also with bipartisan support, seeks to triple the number of skilled immigrants under the H-1B visa programme.
H-1B visas are now limited to 85,000 a year. In the 90s, it used to be around 2,00,000, till the programme lapsed(no longer active or practicing) in 2004. Tech companies have been lobbying(a group of people who try actively to influence legislation अपने पक्ष में जनमत तैयार करना) long and hard for more visas to draw international talent. These workers are not scroungers(someone who mooches or cadges (tries to get something free) ठग) as the Nasscom chairman has stressed, they "created 4,50,000 jobs in the US, paid $2 billion as tax and contributed $6 billion as social security".
While the "migrants steal jobs" is an exploitable plank(an endorsed policy in the platform of a political party मुद्दा), labour is not one lump (an awkward stupid person मूर्ख). In a growing and flexible economy , labour market adjusts to increase in supply . The US often reminds the world that protectionism isn't sustainable; it should extend that attitude to free movement of workers. Indeed, America's edge in innovation depended upon its capacity to draw the smartest and most creative workers. Maybe US lawmakers should be reminded of what another Republican aspirant for president Carly Fiorina said in her previous avatar as Hewlett-Packard chairperson: "There is no job that is America's god-given right any more."
Nov 17 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
Back to the Future? Not for Punjab
Punjab finds itself at a fork in the road(a saying that has more than one meaning). The events of the last few months -the desecration(blasphemous behavior अपवित्रता) of religious books, the resurgence(bringing again into activity and prominence पुनरुत्थान) of the militant(engaged in war आक्रामक) Sikhs -now force the state's politicians to choose between addressing the widespread(widespread व्यापक) discontent(showing or experiencing dissatisfaction or restless longing असन्तुष्ट) in the state and resorting(move, travel, or proceed toward some place सहायता लेना) to religious sentiment and institutions to derail(run off or leave the rails पटरी से उतारना या उतरना), if not quell(stop), articulation of that discontent. The choices that the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), in alliance with the BJP, and the only other political party of note in the state, the Congress, make will determine whether Punjab is thrown back into turmoil(a violent disturbance हलचल) or moves forward.
The huge public response to the November 10 Sarbat Khalsa called by leaders with known Khalistani or separatist leanings(an inclination to do something) was driven more by disenchantment(freeing from false belief or illusions निराशा) with the SAD government than by sympathies for hardliners(a conservative who is uncompromising कट्टरपंथी). That hardliners, who have consistently been shown their place by the voters, were able to turn the Sikh congregation(a group of people who adhere to a common faith एकत्रीकरण) into a reclamation(rescuing from error and returning to a rightful course) of religious establishment from the control of political masters should serve as a warning: not addressing the issues head on, but attempting to manage public discontent by manipulating Sikh religious institutions, can easily blow up in the face(to get ruined while someone is working on it.). The Congress, for its part, must resist the temptation(something that seduces or has the quality to seduce प्रलोभन) to use the Sikh hardliners to push back against its political opponents. Punjab faces lack of employment opportunities, crop failures and an agrarian(relating to rural matters कृषि संबंधी) crisis, besides an escalating drug problem. But the response to these problems does not lie in playing politics with religious institutions and sentiments.
Punjab's political leaders must show courage to overcome the temptation of using religion to win their political battles.This is their moment to take a stand. Not doing so could well be a return to the days of militancy(a militant aggressiveness आतँकवाद) in the state.
French air strikes
IN the aftermath(The consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event) of last week's atrocity(An extremely wicked or cruel act, typically one involving physical violence or injury) in Paris, it is only natural for France to search for answers. While the country has begun a counterterrorism(Political or military activities designed to prevent or thwart terrorism) sweep(Clean (an area) by brushing away dirt ) within its borders, external action has also been taken.
This has come in the form of air strikes by French jets targeting Raqqa, the 'capital' of the militant Islamic State group in Syria.
This is not the first time Paris has participated in military action against IS; it is part of a US-led coalition that has been bombing the militant group in both Iraq and Syria. However, the most recent strikes are being seen as a symbolic move on part of the French government to hit back at IS, which has taken 'credit' for the Paris outrage, described by the French president as an 'act of war'. The attacks in the French capital were reportedly planned in Raqqa.
While IS is indeed a global threat — as the attacks in recent days, from Paris to Beirut, have shown — the international community needs to review its response to fighting the terrorist entity.
For example, beyond fulfilling the immediate thirst(strong desire for something) for retribution(Punishment inflicted on someone as vengeance for a wrong or criminal act.), what long-term effects will the French military action have on weakening and eliminating IS?
After all, the waters of Syria have already been quite muddied by foreign intervention; as mentioned, the Americans have been leading a coalition bombing IS since September 2014, while the Russians entered the Syrian theatre some months ago on the call of the Damascus regime to also target the self-declared caliphate(the era of Islam's ascendancy from the death of Mohammed until the 13th century खिलाफत).
Will the French effort add to the effectiveness of these actions? Instead of working at cross purposes, major regional and global powers need to combine forces and, more importantly, work with the Syrian and Iraqi governments to uproot(destroy completely जड से उखाड़ डाल) IS.
For example, it has recently been reported that Iraqi intelligence had credible information about the Paris attacks. Considering that Baghdad and Damascus are on the front line in the battle against IS, they must be taken on board by external actors.
Moreover, Western nations need to look internally at what factors are triggering their citizens to partake(have, give, or receive a share of हिस्सा लेना) in acts of terrorism. For example, many of the suspected(believed likely संदिग्ध) perpetrators(someone who perpetrates wrongdoing अपराधी) of the Paris carnage(the savage and excessive killing of many people हत्याकांड) were young French Muslims of immigrant origins.
Rather than making one-dimensional statements about battling terrorism, governments will need to tackle(The equipment required for a task or sport.) this menace (something that is a source of danger हानिकारक )on multiple fronts, including investigating the reasons behind radicalization(Radicalization (or radicalisation) is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that (1) reject or undermine the status quo or (2) reject and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.), and their long-term solutions.