The Hindu: December 12, 2015 00:25 IST
Headway with David Headley
The ostensible reason for the prosecution agreeing to the grant of judicial pardon to Pakistan-born American operative David Coleman Headley is to strengthen its case against Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, charged with involvement in the conspiracy behind the deadly Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008. The real purpose, however, is that India would like Headley to testify on and establish before a Mumbai court what he has already admitted before a trial court in the United States and to a team of the National Investigation Agency from India in June 2010: the role of state and non-state actors in Pakistan in planning and carrying out the Mumbai terror strikes. Headley is now a prosecution witness. The sessions court in Mumbai trying Abu Jundal has pardoned Headley in return for his promise that he would make a full and true disclosure of all that he knows about the entire conspiracy. Headley had done much of the reconnoitring of targets for the team of assailants who executed the 26/11 plot. Last month, he was formally included as a co-conspirator in the case, and he has now been accepted as an approver. His testimony would be adequate for the court to convict others involved in the plot, as the law on evidence in India is that "an accomplice shall be a competent witness against an accused person". Headley's conduct so far indicates that as a witness during the trial he may speak credibly about the role of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its handlers in the Pakistani intelligence establishment.
It is indeed a positive development that Headley appeared, albeit in a virtual sense, before an Indian court for the first time. He is serving a 35-year prison term in the U.S. after admitting to his role in a conspiracy to murder and maim people in Mumbai. In terms of his plea bargain before a U.S. court, the 55-year-old former U.S. agent cannot be extradited to India or Pakistan, but he is also obliged to testify "in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video conferencing or letters rogatory". However, it is an irony of sorts that the development coincides with the resumption of talks between India and Pakistan, as the earlier 'composite dialogue' had been stopped precisely because of the Mumbai attacks. The question that may arise is whether the move to strengthen the prosecution case, and through that, India's case against Pakistan's role in the 26/11 attacks, will adversely impact the resumed bilateral dialogue. The answer, hopefully, will be in the negative. After all, in their recent joint statement both countries condemned terrorism and affirmed their commitment to eliminating it. Trials relating to the incident have been going on concurrently in both countries, with the proceedings on the Pakistan side moving quite slowly. Expediting the judicial proceedings and taking them to their logical conclusion will not be inconsistent with the resumption of the dialogue
Stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so.
The institution and conducting of legal proceedings against someone in respect of a criminal charge.
A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.
Forgive or excuse (a person, error, or offense).
Make a military observation of (a region).
A person who physically attacks another.
A formal written or spoken statement, especially one given in a court of law.
A person who helps another commit a crime
Hand over (a person accused or convicted of a crime) to the jurisdiction of the foreign state in which the crime was committed.
The action of deposing someone, especially a monarch.
Express complete disapproval of, typically in public; censure.
Overlapping in duration; "concurrently with the conference an exhibition of things associated with Rutherford was held"; "going to school and holding a job at the same time"
The Hindu: December 12, 2015 00:21 IST
Illiberal law, roll it back
Scan Haryana's statistics on key social indicators, and the picture that emerges is dispiriting. For example, in this State of rich farmers and networked urban centres, 41 per cent of Scheduled Caste men have not cleared class 8; and 68 per cent of SC women have not made it to class 5. Roughly 45 per cent of rural households do not have a toilet, and among SC households that figure rises to 55 per cent. Put together, it is a picture of failure of the government to fulfil the part of the essential contract that binds state and citizens: to provide the rule of law and social services. It was, therefore, an odd call to action by the Haryana government earlier this year when it passed the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act to debar exactly these citizens failed by the state from standing for panchayat elections. In a web of disqualifications, the full exclusionary potential of which is still not precisely calculated, the law debars from contesting men who have not completed matriculation, women who have not cleared class 8 (with the corresponding qualifications for SC men being class 8 and for SC women class 5), people who haven't paid arrears for specified agricultural loans or electricity bills, and those who do not have a functional toilet at home. The law was challenged in court, and on Thursday the challenge was set aside by the Supreme Court.
It is unlikely that the government will file a review petition, given that the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power in Haryana and at the Centre. However, the case against the law must be made politically, and emphatically so. For one, what the courts have done is to uphold the power of the State legislatures to enact such laws — it follows that civil society must persuade political parties to rethink such qualifications, and to repeal the amendment in Haryana specifically and desist from introducing such legislation in other States. A liberal democracy must of necessity refrain from certifying who may contest elections to represent the people. It is dangerously illiberal to debar citizens from contesting elections when they are able to fulfil their responsibilities as panchs, or legislators, as the case may be. Indeed, curbs on particular categories of people, instead of individuals in breach of particular laws, from contesting elections carries the imprint of authoritarianism, and such restrictions have predictably been popular with military juntas, from Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan (only college graduates could contest) to present-day Myanmar (the bar on those with foreign nationals as spouses or children is obviously targeted at Aung San Suu Kyi). For yet another State in India to join their ranks, even if it is for panchayat elections, is a setback for the world's largest democracy.
Opposed to liberal principles; restricting freedom of thought or behavior.
Causing someone to lose enthusiasm and hope; disheartening.
Exclude or prohibit (someone) officially from doing something.
Money that is owed and should have been paid earlier.
In a forceful way.
Confirm or support (something that has been questioned).
Cause (someone) to do something through reasoning or argument.
Stop oneself from doing something.
A stone or concrete edging to a street or path.
A husband or wife, considered in relation to their partner.
A reversal or check in progress.
Defence equipment parameters should be realistic
It has been reported that the secretary to the Department of Defence Production complained, in a lecture earlier this week at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, that the military frames such ambitious specifications for equipment being procured that Indian companies get left out of the procurement process - because they simply cannot fulfil those requirements. In doing so, he only voiced in public what many others have murmured in private. What the officer could also have said is that those requirements often baffle the world's most technologically advanced defence companies too. This results in tenders being frequently cancelled and years lost as acquisitions begin anew. Only now has the government begun questioning inflated specifications - termed "staff qualitative requirements", or SQRs. An example of this has been Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's insistence that the Air Force buy 100 or so Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, overruling the protests of air marshals that the fighter was not good enough and did not meet their SQRs.
The framing of SQRs has been criticised by many - but most trenchantly by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a 2007 report that audited 37 separate defence acquisitions between 2003 and 2006. After scrutinising 11 SQRs, the CAG found that four had spelt out requirements that were unavailable anywhere in the world. In four more cases, the requirements did not meet the military's stated operational needs. And in seven cases, there was no way of testing whether or not the equipment even met the SQRs. Many suggest that a key reason behind unrealistic SQRs is the military's desire to get the "best of the best". Officers framing SQRs combine the best qualities of several different equipment types into one, disregarding the well-known fact that weapons design involves trade-offs between different parameters. For example, a tank designer has to balance mobility, firepower and protection. The more armour is slapped on for additional protection, the less mobile that tank will be. For that reason, a tank cannot simultaneously be the world's best protected, most heavily armed, and also the most mobile. Similarly, in framing SQRs for a fighter, the more weaponry one wants the aircraft to carry, the less space there will be for fuel, reducing its range. An SQR cannot demand high weapons load as well as long range. Yet, by combining top-of-the-range parameters, officers have often arrived at SQRs that simply cannot be met.
A successful "Make in India" policy requires a deliberate and well-considered review of specifications, so that weaponry being bought is within the design capability of an industry still at an early stage of the learning curve. It is natural for soldiers, sailors and airmen to demand the world's best weaponry when putting their lives on the line. Imports are not the only solution; the answer will often lie in relatively simple equipment that costs less, can be procured in larger numbers, easily handled by those members of the armed forces who are relatively less educated, and built and maintained by Indian defence companies. These will inevitably improve incrementally as indigenous scientific and technological skills develop and mature
A numerical or other measurable factor forming one of a set that defines a system or sets the conditions of its operation.
Say something in a low, soft, or indistinct voice.
Totally bewilder or perplex
In a vigorous and effective manner; "he defended his client's civil rights trenchantly"
The metal coverings formerly worn by soldiers or warriors to protect the body in battle.
As is certain to happen; unavoidably.
Originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native.
Chavismo winds down
The opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance's overwhelming victory in Venezuela's legislative elections is not, technically, the end of the "Bolivarian Revolution". But, for all practical purposes, President Nicolas Maduro's United Socialist Party (PSUV) is staring at the end of Chavismo after 16 years of absolute dominance. The opposition has won a "supermajority", with 109 out of 167 seats. The MUD can now make constitutional amendments and even initiate the process for Maduro's recall election, which, nevertheless, can't happen before April 2016, when he reaches the midpoint of his term. Although governing power rests in the executive presidency, it may get difficult for Maduro to pass legislation. And the MUD's own laws can be held up by PSUV members who staff all state institutions.
The late Hugo Chavez brought in a socialist paradigm and then perpetuated it through the ballot, using Venezuela's oil revenue to offer the poor subsidies and freebies. That eased the existential struggle in the barrios but, as often happens with largescale redistribution, it ruined the economy. When oil prices crashed from $140 to $40, the Bolivarian revolution was doomed. Chavez's handpicked successor was not his match in capability and charisma. As essential goods disappeared because of price caps and Venezuelan stores became synonymous with mile-long queues, as inflation soared past 100 per cent and the economy shrank by 10 per cent, many voted for the opposition just to put an end to their daily struggle for food.
Coming close on the heels of Argentina's presidential election, the MUD's victory has added to the slide in the left's fortunes in Latin America. Instead of locking horns from day one, the MUD and Maduro will need to work together on the economy. With the situation predicted to worsen next year, the MUD will find it politically difficult to withdraw populist policies, but Maduro may have to learn the necessity of economic reform.
A typical example or pattern of something; a model.
Make (something, typically an undesirable situation or an unfounded belief) continue indefinitely.
Very great in amount.
A process of voting, in writing and typically in secret.
view on David Cameron's Europe policies: slick, but not smart
David Cameron is better at tactics than strategy. One of his greatest skills is extricating himself at the last minute from scrapes he might have avoided had he paid more attention earlier.
Nowhere is this pattern more evident than in his handling of Britain's relationship with the European Union. Mr Cameron has consistently subordinated national interest to the parochial requirements of internal Conservative party management. It is an achievement to have averted all-out civil war within the party for so long but the price has been a policy that is proving unworkable in practice: a renegotiation of British membership terms that can be completed quickly but is also substantial enough to persuade Tory sceptics to support a campaign to remain in the EU.
The past week has exposed the contradiction. On Monday, Mr Cameron received a reply from Donald Tusk, European council president, to his earlier missive outlining British expectations for reformed membership. Mr Tusk warned the process would be difficult, with special emphasis on the lack of consensus around proposals to limit migrant workers' access to benefits. On Wednesday and Thursday, Mr Cameron encountered that obstacle at close quarters on a trip to Romania and Poland. The usual protocols could not conceal the unhelpful message from Bucharest and Warsaw: Britain is asking too much. Beata Szydło, the Polish prime minister, told reporters she and Mr Cameron did not "see eye-to-eye".
The practical impediment is that Mr Cameron's plan would amount to discrimination between citizens from different EU member states within the same labour pool, which is not allowed under existing treaties. And there is no appetite for a full treaty renegotiation elsewhere on the continent. It would open a bidding war of competing national demands and then trigger a round of referendums in countries where popular ratification of European treaties is a constitutional obligation.
Mr Cameron has been told often enough that major treaty change is not an option. But he knows that without it his renegotiation will be ridiculed by hardline Eurosceptics as a patina on the status quo. He has already retreated once from a more substantial reconfiguration of the EU's free labour movement arrangements when German chancellor Angela Merkel signalled her implacable objection. Yet Downing Street felt it needed something – anything – that could feasibly look like a response to public concerns about immigration. A denial of benefit entitlement appeared to fit the bill and was duly included in the Conservative election manifesto.
Mr Cameron may well have seen this as a disposable pledge, anticipating a renewal of coalition with the Liberal Democrats in which each party's manifesto would be watered down. Now he is having to water it down without the pretext of placating Nick Clegg – a device that often came in handy during the last parliament.
Mr Cameron has believed all along that undecided British voters, and a large proportion of Tory MPs, can be persuaded to support EU membership so long as the terms are different to those presently in operation – that the detail is secondary because, once the negotiations were out of the way, the broader and more compelling case based on trade, employment and investment can take centre stage. This may be true but the gamble looks riskier if it appears he has been fobbed off with trifling concessions by his continental peers. A modest deal can be sold to voters, but the task is harder if Mr Cameron's authority is compromised by the modesty.
It is often said that the prime minister performs best under exam conditions – his quick intellect enables him to cram at the last minute and pull off unexpected victories. But international diplomacy does not work that way. It is a matter of constant application, with success reliant more on coursework than final tests. It is not too late for Mr Cameron to win allies in Europe but to do so he must signal clearly that he is interested in the success of the EU project as a whole, not just in extracting what he can to appease a domestic audience.
If the referendum is to be won for the remain camp, the prime minister will have to win an argument about Britain's long-term interests being best served by partnership with continental neighbours. Increasingly, his credibility in making that case depends on his ability to show not just British voters but other European leaders that he really means it.
Free (someone or something) from a constraint or difficulty.
Of or relating to a church parish.
Turn away (one's eyes or thoughts).
A person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions.
Keep from sight; hide.
A hindrance or obstruction in doing something.
Making something valid by formally ratifying or confirming it; "the ratification of the treaty"; "confirmation of the appointment"
A public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.
(of an article) intended to be used once, or until no longer useful, and then thrown away.
Make (someone) less angry or hostile.
Deceitfully attempt to satisfy someone by making excuses or giving them something inferior.