Thursday, 7 January 2016

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04 Jan 2015 editorials


04 Jan 2015


The Hindu:

 Stay the course after Pathankot


Within the short space of a month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have gone through the entire cycle of India-Pakistan ties, as they have played for the past two decades ever since the two countries agreed to a composite, structured dialogue between them. There has been talks about talks, talks about terror, a brief moment of euphoria with gestures of renewing ties from the leaders, followed by an attack. While Mr. Modi’s Lahore landing was certainly bold, it has not yet proven to be the game-changer that perhaps he too hoped it would be. Instead, the same kind of terrorist attack that has always accompanied India-Pakistan engagement hit Pathankot in the early hours of Saturday. As with similar attacks in the past, it should not surprise anyone if the terrorists came from Pakistan, and belonged to an anti-India group the Pakistani army has neatly sidestepped in its otherwise fairly successful crackdown on terrorists in the past year. Frustrated by their inability to hurt India, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and others have tried to retain their relevance by instead targeting the India-Pakistan dialogue process time and again. By not calling off talks immediately after the attack, the Modi government seems to have indicated it will not allow these groups the satisfaction of achieving those aims. A sustained dialogue is the only fitting answer to terrorist groups and to their handlers inside the Pakistan establishment who wish to destabilise the peace process. In fact, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Parliament last month that India would not “be provoked by saboteurs who want to stop the dialogue process in one way or another”.
Going forward, the talks process must be further insulated from the ‘veto’ of these forces. First, the foreign secretaries must move quickly to set up a timetable of meetings of all the secretaries in the two countries involved in the comprehensive dialogue. The process will receive momentum if India and Pakistan agree to a resolution on what are often called the “low-hanging fruit” of issues such as visas, confidence building measures on the Line of Control, water issues and the Sir Creek dispute. The more issues they are able to agree on, the greater their chances of addressing the single largest issue that holds back ties today, that of terrorism. On this, it is for Pakistan to show its good intentions, by acting against the JeM and LeT, both in court and on the ground in Punjab where they run extensive militias. India must stay the course it has set in the past month, including during the National Security Adviser talks, where it has delivered its message firmly, but quietly, with no hint of the one-upmanship that can hamper engagement. These actions will pave the road that was opened by the two Prime Ministers on Christmas day, allowing them to slice through the proverbial Gordian knot on India-Pakistan ties, rather than having to disentangle the ends that constantly threaten to strangle peace in the subcontinent.


eu·pho·ri·a
A feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness.

de·sta·bi·lize
Upset the stability of; cause unrest in.

in·su·late
Protect (something) by interposing material that prevents the loss of heat or the intrusion of sound.

mi·li·tia
A military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.

pro·ver·bi·al
(of a word or phrase) referred to in a proverb or idiom.

Paving a path or road means you flatten it and put some kind of usually hard material on it, so that the path becomes easier to travel.
Gordian knot
an extremely difficult or involved problem

dis·en·tan·gle
Free (something or someone) from an entanglement; extricate.

stran·gle
Squeeze or constrict the neck of (a person or animal), especially so as to cause death.

sub·con·ti·nent
A large, distinguishable part of a continent, such as North America or southern Africa

The Hindu:

Bangladesh’s Islamist challenge


The death sentence handed out to two students last week for the murder of a secular blogger in Bangladesh marks the first major verdict in a string of cases related to the killings of writers in the South Asian nation. Ahmed Rajib Haider, 35, was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers in February 2013. The judge at a fast-track court found that the two students and another man were guilty of murder and convicted another five people on lesser charges. Haider’s murder had opened a new phase of violence in Bangladesh’s contemporary history. A number of secular writers have been targeted by Islamists ever since. In 2015 alone, five writers were killed in the country. Bloggers are victims of an ongoing conflict between the country’s secular establishment and Islamist factions. The Awami League government’s decision to open a trial of the war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 liberation war did not go down well with Islamists. The conviction of some of the leaders of the opposition parties such as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami made matters more complicated. Extremist sections are steadfastly opposed to the trial, but they lack the political capital to build a popular resistance against it. Therefore, they turned towards violent protests against the war crimes trial, which created serious law and order problems in the country.
It was against this background that right-wing fringe groups such as the Ansarullah Bangla Team started targeting writers. The bloggers, who consistently campaigned against the war criminals and demanded their executions, invited the wrath of Islamists. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had initially faced criticism for not doing enough to stop violence against writers. Now, with a relatively fast conclusion of the trial of Haider’s murder case and the passing of the highest possible punishment to the convicts, the government appears to be upping the ante against the Islamists. The government’s resolve to bring the attackers to book is timely. But at the same time there are questions over the worsening security situation which allows the extremists to carry out attacks and, more important, the government’s increased reliance on the death penalty to address the Islamist threat. Dhaka’s primary challenge is to prevent any such incidents taking place again. Islamists have apparently issued a “hit list” of bloggers, threatening to kill them all. Given the recent cycle of violence, Thursday’s verdict could trigger more attacks by extremist groups. The government should not lower its guard. As regards the death penalty, it is worth noting that the hanging of war criminals has done littlein weakening Islamist politics in the country. Even in the case of bloggers murders, long prison terms would be ideal which would not only strengthen the government’s moral position in this conflict with Islamist radicals, but will also weaken the latter’s narrative that the state is waging a war against them. Bangladesh needs a comprehensive strategy to fight Islamists, because the latter’s target is not merely writers, but the country’s secular polity itself.

-handed
For or involving a specified number of hands.

ver·dict
A decision on a disputed issue in a civil or criminal case or an inquest.

ma·chet·e
A broad, heavy knife used as an implement or weapon, originating in Central America and the Caribbean.

con·tem·po·rar·y
Living or occurring at the same time.

fac·tion
A small, organized, dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics

steadfastly
Firm: with resolute determination; “we firmly believed it”; “you must stand firm”

wrath
Extreme anger (chiefly used for humorous or rhetorical effect).

up
Do something abruptly or boldly.

rad·i·cal
A person who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims.


INDIAN EXPRESS:
Flowing out

Since May, foreign portfolio investors (FPI) have been net sellers in Indian stock markets practically every month barring two, July and October. During the year just ended, their net investment in equities here was just under $3.2 billion, compared to $16.1 billion for 2014. But the outflows seen over the last eight months or so aren’t comparable to the huge FPI sell-off that happened during June-August 2013, which also saw the rupee slide below Rs 68 to the dollar. The latter had to do with reasons that were India-specific, related to the country’s seemingly intractable current account and fiscal deficit problems, coupled with concerns over the then UPA regime’s policy paralysis and the Vodafone retrospective tax mess. The current FPI selling, by contrast, is not as much about India. True, there are no tangible signs of a growth and investment pick-up yet; nor has the present government delivered on big-ticket reforms. Yet, India’s macroeconomic indicators are better than most emerging market economies’ (EMEs) today and the “twin deficits” no longer pose the worry they did two years ago.

The FPI sell-off happening now is mainly on account of largescale redemptions by sovereign wealth funds (SWF), especially from some of the oil-rich economies. The slump in global oil prices has resulted in diminishing surpluses that these nations were funnelling into EMEs through SWFs. But with their own finances now under pressure, the SWFs are compelled to redeem their investments. That, along with the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates and concerns over a deepening Chinese slowdown, has led to risk aversion among global investors, triggering outflows from all EMEs. India is not being singled out in this case, unlike in 2013, when it was particularly vulnerable to capital outflows following the Fed’s first indications of ending its extraordinary monetary stimulus or quantitative easing programme.

Significantly, the Indian markets haven’t fallen all that much this time, despite all the FPI selling. One reason is the control on inflation, which has driven even local investors to move away from deploying money in gold or real estate to financial savings instruments. This is reflected not just in bank deposits going up, but also a 20 per cent annual increase in assets under the management of domestic mutual funds. That is, of course, a healthy trend providing insulation for the markets against the sell-off by FPIs. But this should not be reason for complacency or blaming the hostile world economic environment for continuing weak growth and investment activity at home. According to global fund managers, India today holds the potential to attract dedicated flows, rather than being lumped together with other EMEs, if only the Modi government is able to push through more decisive reforms. They are not wrong.


bar
Fasten (something, especially a door or window) with a bar or bars.

in·trac·ta·ble
Hard to control or deal with.

ret·ro·spec·tive
Looking back on or dealing with past events or situations.

stim·u·lus
A thing or event that evokes a specific functional reaction in an organ or tissue.

in·su·la·tion
The action of insulating something or someone.

com·pla·cen·cy
A feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.

lump
Put in an indiscriminate mass or group; treat as alike without regard for particulars.



BUSINESS STANDARD:
 Breaking down barriers

The nearly decade-old proposal to create a national agriculture market (NAM) finally seems to be making some headway. It would change how farm commodities are traded in the country. Based on online transactions through a national e-platform, this transparent mode of marketing would help tame agricultural inflation by cutting down on intermediaries and narrowing the price gap between producing (read surplus) and consuming (deficit) areas. Over half a dozen states have already agreed to knock down trade barriers as the first step towards formation of the unified farm market, and many more are expected to come on board soon. A time-bound programme announced by the agriculture ministry for developing NAM envisages linking 250 mandis by September 2016 and all 585 mandis by 2018. The Centre has already approved funds for states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, to cover the cost of the needed software and its customisation in the participating markets. Karnataka is already running a unified market by interconnecting 51 of 155 major market-yards and over 350 sub-yards through an e-platform. This model is to be upscaled to the national level to create the NAM, with the Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) acting as the nodal agency.
If run properly – and this is a formidable “if” given the tendency to fall back on socialist-era recipes to control prices through trade restrictions – the new system can allow farmers to sell their produce wherever they get a good deal. Buyers could source their supplies from wherever they like. There will be a single licence valid for all states and single-point payment of market fees. With an all-India jurisdiction, the electronic platform can facilitate better price discovery. More importantly, it can spur private investment in agricultural marketing, as has happened in Karnataka, and is vitally needed elsewhere as well.
The idea of a unified farm market has been floating around since the early 2000s. It was included in the National Policy for Farmers brought out in 2007. However, since agricultural marketing is a state subject under the Constitution, the states’ role is critical in this venture’s success. This is especially so because the agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs), which operate regulated mandis, have considerable political clout and do not want to forego their hold on marketing of farm produce. The unified e-market has been conceptualised in a way that may not attract much hostility from APMCs. Their interests have not been entirely disregarded. According to the SFAC, a transaction on the e-platform would be deemed to have taken place through the mandi where the seller would normally have brought his produce. Thus, the APMC concerned would continue to earn the mandi fee even if the transaction does not happen in its market yard. With this critical issue having been addressed by the government, it can be hoped that states would have no hesitation to join the NAM for the benefit of both farmers and consumers.
head·way
Move forward or make progress, especially when circumstances make this slow or difficult.

tame
(of an animal) not dangerous or frightened of people; domesticated.

knock-down

>>(of a price) very low
>capable of knocking down or overwhelming someone or something.
“repeated knock-down blows”
BOXING
>an act of knocking an opponent down.

en·vis·age
Contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event

upscaled
(Upscaling) {{multiple issues| A video scaler is a system which converts video signals from one display resolution to another; typically, scalers are used to convert a signal from a lower resolution to a higher resolution, a process known as “upconversion” or “upscaling”. …

for·mi·da·ble
Inspiring fear or respect through being impressively large, powerful, intense, or capable.

spur
A device with a small spike or a spiked wheel that is worn on a rider’s heel and used for urging a horse forward.

clout
A heavy blow with the hand or a hard object.

fore·go
Variant spelling of forgo.

con·cep·tu·al·ize
Form a concept or idea of (something)



THE GUARDIAN

view on the Saudi execution: unjust, and an unwise provocation


Bitter rivals for predominance in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging proxy wars against each other in Syria and Yemen, but have so far avoided direct conflict. Yet they have been playing with fire for years, so it is no surprise that their latest clash has quite literally sparked a conflagration in one of their capitals. It remains unlikely that there will be any head-on military confrontation between the two. Yet Saudi Arabia’s execution at the weekend of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a leading Shia cleric, and the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran which was the response to it, must worsen what is already a toxic relationship. It could also weaken pragmatists and inflame internal differences in both countries at a time when efforts to bring about settlements in Syria and Yemen need all the help they can get.
The parallels between the Saudi kingdom and the Islamic republic are in some ways very close. Both are influenced by a sense of Islamic mission, a sense which has encouraged them in ambitions well beyond their means. Both are quick to violence, abroad and at home, where there is little to choose between them, for instance, in the high rate of public executions. Both have coasted economically and politically for years on the income from their oil resources, but are now approaching a day of reckoning. As oil prices fall, their populations rise and the aspirations of their peoples increase, the strains are beginning to show.
In Saudi Arabia there are fissures between the religious and the monarchical establishments which go back to the beginning of the state, another between most Sunnis and jihadists such as al-Qaida, and a further divide between central Arabia and the western region, where there are memories of an independent past under the Hashemites. Then there is the Shia community, which makes up between 10 and 15% of the population, suffers discrimination in state employment and education, and is regarded as apostate and potentially disloyal by a significant number of Saudis. When the Arab spring reached Saudi Arabia in 2011, Shia discontent came into the open. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, already known for his views on the unfair distribution of wealth in Saudi Arabia (most of the oil is in areas populated by Shia), emerged as a leader of the protest movement in the eastern, Shia area. The Saudis reacted harshly and the sheikh was among those arrested and charged with terrorist offences, although he had always publicly abjured violence. His trial in 2014 was a farce. Under a previous government, a discreet way of avoiding his execution might have been found. King Abdullah, cautiously inclined to reform, had made conciliatory gestures toward the Shia community. But his successor, King Salman, and his inexperienced son, deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, have made a virtue out of being tough and aggressive both at home and abroad. As protests and demonstrations threaten to spread in Shia areas, there will be a price to be paid for that now, in the shape of the further alienation of the Shia community.
Iran has its own Sunni minority and has executed Sunnis on dubious grounds. But its more important internal divisions are to do with the balance between relative moderates, like President Hassan Rouhani, conservatives and hardliners, reflected in its competing and overlapping institutions. It is in the world’s interests, and in those of the Iranian people, that the moderate camp at least keeps its end up, but the execution of the sheikh could conceivably affect that balance.
The attack on the embassy does not seem to have been officially sanctioned. Indeed, Mr Rouhani, although strongly criticising the Saudi government,condemned the perpetrators. The implication must be that hardliners, who were against the nuclear deal with the international community, want to roll back modest liberalisation at home and are inflexible on Syria, may have tried to seize the opportunity, as they see it, to box their government in to more aggressive policies.
Much depends now on events in Saudi Arabia. If protests there grow, and if they are then suppressed by force, followed by more arrests and, potentially, more executions, the situation could slip out of the control of governments in both Tehran and Riyadh. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are wasting their resources on aggressive foreign policies which have little chance of ultimate success. Both are taking large risks. As they pull back from this crisis it is to be hoped both will exhibit more sense in the future.

pre·dom·i·nance
The state or condition of being greater in number or amount.

PLAYING WITH THE FIRE:
There is a common saying using the same imagery: If you play with fire, you get burned. If you do something dangerous, you will get hurt.

clash
A violent confrontation.


spark
Emit sparks of fire or electricity.

con·fla·gra·tion
An extensive fire that destroys a great deal of land or property.


con·fron·ta·tion
A hostile or argumentative meeting or situation between opposing parties.

pragmatists
(pragmatism) (philosophy) the doctrine that practical consequences are the criteria of knowledge and meaning and value


coast
(of a person or vehicle) move easily without using power.

strain
Force (a part of one’s body or oneself) to make a strenuous or unusually great effort.

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

a·pos·tate
A person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.

dis·con·tent
Lack of contentment; dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances.

ab·jure
Solemnly renounce (a belief, cause, or claim).

dis·creet
Careful and circumspect in one’s speech or actions, especially in order to avoid causing offense or to gain an advantage

in·cline
Feel willing or favorably disposed toward (an action, belief, or attitude).

con·cil·i·a·to·ry
Intended or likely to placate or pacify.

vir·tue
Behavior showing high moral standards.

al·ien·a·tion
The state or experience of being isolated from a group or an activity to which one should belong or in which one should be involved.

du·bi·ous
Hesitating or doubting.

ex·e·cute
Carry out or put into effect (a plan, order, or course of action).

o·ver·lap
Extend over so as to cover partly.

sup·press
Forcibly put an end to.


All the best!



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