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COVER STORY

19-11-1999

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Briefing

The India factor

AMIT BARUAH cover-story

PAKISTAN'S policy approach vis-a-vis India has been drawn up with the concurrence of the military for a long time now. It used to be done behind the scenes, but after the October 12 coup it will be done up front. In effect, a de facto reality has acquired de jure legality.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf has announced that there will be no change in matters of foreign policy; since Pakistan's foreign policy is largely India-centric, this means that no real surprises are in store for New Delhi.

In his October 17 address, Gen. Musharraf seemed to adopt a "positive approach" towards India; he announced his "unilateral" decision to pull back the additional troops that had been moved close to the international border with India during the Kargil War.

However, Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad stated categorically that the offer of military de-escalation would not be extended to the Line of Control (LoC), where the real problems between India and Pakistan lie.

The "clarification" by the Foreign Secretary exposed Gen. Musharraf's announcement for what it was: an attempt to convince the international community that the new military rulers of Pakistan were not unreasonable.

Gen. Musharraf said: "Pakistan has always been alive to international non-proliferation concerns. Last year, we were compelled to respond to India's nuclear tests in order to restore strategic balance... In the new nuclear environment in South Asia, we believe that both Pakistan and India have to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility... I wish to assure the world community that while preserving its vital security interests, Pakistan will continue to pursue a policy of nuclear and missile restraint and sensitivity to global non-proliferation and disarmament objectives..."

India and Pakistan, he added, "must sincerely work towards resolving their problems, especially the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir... India must honour the U.N. resolutions and its own commitment to the people of Kashmir... Pakistan would welcome unconditional, equitable and result-oriented dialogue with India..."

There is little that is substantively new in his approach; the only new formulation involves the use of the word "equitable". The other phrases have been used over and over again by Ministers and officials.

Interestingly, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan William B. Milam has gone out of his way to spell out his Government's view of who was responsible for the Kargil misadventure. Milam, who addressed a press briefing on October 18, was asked about Musharraf being the "architect" of Kargil.

His response: "I am concerned this has been rooted about, but you know my information - and I am pretty knowledgeable on this - is that Kargil was a collective failure on all parts of Government. Yes, of course, it was an Army operation, so Gen. Musharraf obviously had a part in the decision. But - don't kid yourself - that operation was agreed to by the civilian Government completely. So 'architect of Kargil' is, perhaps, a bit strong... It certainly has a connotation that I think is misleading. Whether the reputation is going to last despite the facts, whether this will get in the way of resumption of the dialogue, I don't know. I hope it doesn't."

In another statement that is seen to be significant, Milam disagreed with the perception that Gen. Musharraf leaned towards extremism or presided over a rogue Army. Stating that the General was the opposite of an extremist, the envoy described him as a "moderate" who had acted out of "patriotic motivations".

The U.S' perception of Gen. Musharraf and the India-Pakistan dialogue is crucial. In the eight rounds of negotiations between Strobe Talbott and Jaswant Singh (on the one hand) and between Talbott and Shamshad Ahmad (on the other), elements of what Washington and Islamabad call a "restraint regime" had been identified. The Lahore summit in February 1999 was intended to expedite discussions on this and related issues.

Since the U.S. is quite prepared to do business with Pakistan, it is clear that Washington will want New Delhi too to engage with Islamabad. Milam said he hoped that the image of Gen. Musharraf as the "architect of Kargil" would not act as a roadblock to this process.

As far as India is concerned, observers feel, it must act in its national interests. It must continue to insist that Pakistan stop training and sending militants across the borders forthwith, and such messages should be delivered loud and clear. Considerable caution must be exercised in the future to prevent "other Kargils".

No pressure should be allowed to come in the way of promoting India's national interest, it is felt. If the U.S. insists on a resumption of the bilateral dialogue, Washington must be asked to ensure that the terrorist-training camps within Pakistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir are wound up, and that official support to numerous groups fighting in Kashmir ends.

Clearly, that is a tall order. However, India can ignore this ground reality only at its own peril. Handshakes, smiles and hugs are doubtless important symbols of entente, but they are no substitutes for an end to Pakistan-backed militancy in Kashmir.

BACK IN BUSINESS

Pakistan is back in the military mould, although 'Chief Executive' Pervez Musharraf talks of the path to democracy. Where does the country go from here?

What is the Constitution? It is a booklet with 10 or 12 pages. I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow we shall live under a different system. Is there anybody to stop me? Today, the people follow wherever I lead. All the politicians, including the once-mighty Mr. (Zulfiqar Ali) Bhutto, will follow me with their tails wagging. But is that good for the country? No, I have no political ambition personally.

- Pakistani dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, quoted in Working with Zia by General (retd) K.M. Arif.

ON October 12, General Pervez Musharraf's troops went about their business in a cool, clinical manner. Not a single shot was fired as the khaki-clad men moved into Islamabad, took over strategic locations, and confined Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his key associates to their houses. As the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft in which Musharraf was returning from Colombo neared Karachi, troops under the command of the X Corps Commander based in Rawalpindi, Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmad, announced by their presence on the streets the "ouster" of the Nawaz Sharif Government. They met with no resistance. The coup was indeed a bloodless one.

However, a mid-air drama unfolded in the skies above Karachi. According to Musharraf, who had gone to Colombo to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Sri Lankan Army, instructions had been given to the Karachi airport authorities to deny permission for the plane carrying him to land in Pakistan and to divert it elsewhere. The aircraft was low on fuel, and the order imperilled the lives of the passengers, he said. According to reports, Musharraf immediately took charge of the situation. Using the in-flight radio transmission facility, he ordered the Karachi control tower to allow the plane to land since it was running short of fuel. Permission was accorded, and the plane eventually touched down at 6.50 p.m. with hardly any fuel left. Musharraf's troops were by then in command of the airport building.

It is apparent from the sequence of events that the X Corps Commander did not await instructions from Musharraf, who had only hours earlier been "retired" by Sharif, before taking over key installations in Islamabad. His motive was to prevent a re-broadcast of the news of Musharraf's dismissal, which had been put out by Pakistan Television at 5 p.m.

In the 6 p.m. English bulletin, only Chechnya and Kashmir were in focus. Suddenly, the programme went off the PTV World channel, but continued on PTV's main terrestrial channel. Shaista Zaid, the newscaster made famous by the fact that it was she who "broke" the news of the coup, read on. This time, the information put out at 5 p.m. - that Gen. Pervez Musharraf had been "retired" with immediate effect and Lt. Gen. Khwaja Ziauddin, chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, appointed the new Army Chief - was not repeated. After the weather report, however, the dramatic announcement was repeated: Gen. Musharraf had been dismissed by Sharif.

All this gave sufficient indication that something was up. As this reporter rushed to the PTV station, scores of people had gathered outside it. Khaki-clad Army personnel were at work inside the station.

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Inside the newsroom, another drama had been played out. PTV Chairman Pervez Rashid reached the station to ensure that the news of Musharraf's dismissal was duly announced. A few Army personnel, led by a Major, entered the newsroom just as Shaista Zaid was reading the bulletin. However, the Prime Minister's Military Secretary, Brig. Javed Malik, disarmed the Major.

Only then, the weather report over, did Shaista Zaid repeat the announcement that a new Army chief had been appointed. Only PTV's main channel carried the news; PTV World had by then passed into the control of troops loyal to Musharraf.

From the PTV station it is only a two-minute drive to the Prime Minister's residence , but access to it had been blocked with trucks. A young Army officer and a few soldiers stood at the end of the access road.

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At this point, it was unclear as to whom the troops were loyal to. Soon enough came the information that the Prime Minister was at home and that no one was allowed to enter or leave the premises. In a few minutes, another piece of reliable information trickled in: the troops had moved in on the orders of the chiefs of the three wings of Pakistan's armed forces.

SHARIF'S plan to divert the plane carrying Musharraf, arrest him using the Sindh police and instal Gen. Ziauddin as the Army chief was doomed to failure. For of the nine corps commanders, Sharif could muster the support of only two: Lt. Gen. Salim Haidar (Mangla) and Lt. Gen. Tariq Pervez (Quetta). Haidar had been shifted to General Head Quarters, Rawalpindi, by Musharraf, and Tariq Pervez retired on October 9 for having had an unauthorised meeting with Sharif.

Sharif was evidently misled by advice from his cronies into thinking that he could carry out the plan to dismiss Musharraf. Sharif perhaps thought that he could repeat what he did in December 1997 to Supreme Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: with the support of other judges, he forced Shah to withdraw from the scene. The Army did nothing when Shah sought its protection. The then Army chief, Gen. Jehangir Karamat, merely marked to the Defence Secretary his letter seeking security.

American scholar Stephen Cohen made a prescient observation in an epilogue to the 1998 edition of his book, The Pakistan Army: "It (Sharif's attack on the judiciary in 1997) may, however, have brought the next civilian-military crisis closer if Nawaz Sharif ever attempts to pack the upper reaches of the Army with his followers as he attempted to pack the Supreme Court with sympathetic judges."

However, Sharif's plan came unstuck this time because seven of the nine Corps Commanders stood solidly behind Musharraf.

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Musharraf had made it clear on September 23 that he would complete his term as Army chief. For the Sharif Government, that obviously set the alarm bells ringing. Sharif, who had extended Musharraf's term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) on September 29, "retired" him on October 12.

Informed sources told Frontline that another reason for Sharif's worries was that Musharraf had replaced the commander of the 111 Brigade some time ago with his "own man", Brigadier Salahuddin. Considering that Sharif sees conspiracies where none exists, this appointment served to heighten his sense of insecurity.

It was, however, Kargil which brought to the fore the differences between Musharraf and Sharif. There are reports that the Kargil operation was planned in October-November 1998 and that the first infiltrators moved in at the time; if so, the operation was planned by Musharraf soon after he took over as Army chief on October 7, 1998. Approval from the Prime Minister was, possibly, obtained in due course.

However, Musharraf was not prepared to take the rap for Kargil. If anything, both he and Sharif are responsible for the misadventure which led to the death of some 1,000 Pakistani and Indian soldiers.

Political analyst Ayaz Amir wrote in the newspaper Dawn on September 17: "Kargil has dealt a blow to the unity of the governing class, driving a wedge between the heavy mandate (of Sharif) and Rawalpindi. While both have had their fingers burnt, both are trying to put the blame for this fiasco on the shoulders of the other... This is the real cat-and-mouse game being played." Amir warned that the mood in Rawalpindi was "dark, even dangerous".

It is clear, therefore, that the strains in the relations between the Army chief and the Prime Minister were no secret.

ON October 12, public uncertainty continued to mount as the PTV channel remained off the air. Finally, transmission resumed at about 11 p.m., with an announcement that the Nawaz Sharif Government had been dismissed and that the JCSC Chairman would address the nation.

Musharraf began the brief addressat 2.50 a.m. on October 13. He said: "... I wish to inform you that the armed forces have moved in as a last resort, to prevent any further destabilisation." He accused the Sharif Government of trying to "politicise the Army, destabilise it" and create "dissension" within its ranks.

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Late on the night of October 15, Musharraf issued an emergency proclamation in "pursuance of deliberations and decisions of Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces and Corps Commanders of Pakistan Army." It said the Constitution was kept in abeyance, the elected Assemblies and the powers of the presiding officers were suspended, the Prime Minister, Federal Ministers and provincial functionaries ceased to hold office and the "whole of Pakistan" came "under the control of the armed forces of Pakistan". The General proclaimed himself "Chief Executive".

Along with the proclamation, Provisional Constitution Order No. 1 of 1999 was issued; it allowed civil courts to function but prohibited courts from issuing any writ against the Chief Executive or persons acting on his directions. The order stated: "The fundamental rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II of the Constitution, not in conflict with the Proclamation of Emergency or any Order made thereunder from time to time, shall continue to be in force."

Unlike Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, who dissolved the elected Assemblies, imposed martial law and suspended the fundamental rights, Musharraf appears to have attempted to "soften the blow". Just as significant, unlike Zia-ul-Haq, Musharraf did not designate himself Chief Martial Law Administrator.

In a policy address on October 17, Musharraf said: "This is not martial law, only another path towards democracy." However, going by the dictionary meaning of martial law - "the exercise of military power by a government, etc. in time of emergency (war, riot, etc.) with the temporary suspension of ordinary administration and policing" - Pakistan is under military rule.

Announcing that a six-member National Security Council (NSC) with himself as its chief would head the new structure of governance, Musharraf said that a think-tank would act as an adjunct to the NSC while a Cabinet of Ministers "will work under the guidance" of the NSC. The NSC is to comprise the Air Force and Navy chiefs and a "specialist each' in law, finance, foreign policy and national affairs.

The Chief Executive laid down six objectives for his regime - rebuilding national confidence and morale; strengthening the Federation, removing inter-provincial disharmony and restoring national cohesion; reviving the economy and restoring investor confidence; ensuring law and order and dispensing speedy justice; de-politicising state institutions; devolving power to the grassroots level and ensuring swift and across-the-board accountability.

Musharraf attempted to give an account of the problems facing Pakistan. "There is despondency and hopelessness surrounding us... the slide has been gradual but has rapidly accelerated in the last many years. Today, we have reached a stage where our economy has crumbled, our credibility is lost, state institutions lie demolished; provincial disharmony has caused cracks in the Federation and people who were once brothers are now at each other's throat."

"In sum," Musharraf said, "we have lost our honour, our dignity, our respect in the comity of nations. Is this the democracy our Quaid-e-Azam envisaged? Is this the way to enter the new millennium?... Quite clearly, what Pakistan has experienced has been merely a label of democracy, not the essence of it... I shall not allow the people to be taken back to the era of sham democracy but to a true one. And I promise you I will, Inshallah."

Clearly, the General has set himself a formidable agenda. So far no Pakistani government - civilian or military - has succeeded much in these areas. Whether Musharraf can reverse this trend remains to be seen.

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IN a sense, Musharraf has to deal with Zia-ul-Haq's legacy. Imtiaz Alam wrote in The News on October 19:

"General Zia-ul-Haq brought us the gifts of communalism, ethnic divisions, religious extremism, institutional decay, corrupt politicians of the local body variety, the Sharif model of governance, Talibanisation, Kalashnikov culture, massive corruption, malaise of narcotics, besides a criminal neglect of physical and social infrastructure and a debt trap...

"One may trust Gen. Musharraf's sincerity and integrity. But that is not a sufficient condition to take the burden of an agenda that requires tremendous effort for decades and essentially by civil society and not the least by the garrison." The shorter the intervention, the greater would be its success, Imitiaz Alam argued.

Alam further said: "If extended, the democratic process and civil society that has never been allowed to flourish in an ideological nation-state will suffer and the citizens will remain without a constitutional status... The central question is: can the armed forces rise above their institutional interests and let the forces of civil society in a fragile Federation respond to overall challenges of political and economic survival? If so, can they play the role of a neutral broker, help evolve a national consensus and leave it to the people to decide a new social contract and their future?"

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Pakistan came under military rule on three previous occassions, under (from left) Gen. Mohammad Ayub Khan, Gen. Yahya Khan and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

Pakistanis await the answer to that question, as they get used to a new military regime, which has so far not placed restrictions on the freedom of the press, a litmus test of tolerence for any regime, military or civilian. So far the overall approach has been correct even though the information flow has been "controlled".

FEW Pakistanis have shed a tear for the Sharif Government, which had undermined every institution, including the press. The arrest and detention of journalists was a frightening pointer to the state of mind of the civilian rulers. Ordinary Pakistanis are doubtless pleased that Sharif and Co., who faced serious charges of corruption, have been deposed. However, having heard and seen enough over the years, they have a disdain for words and promises that do not mean much yet.

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Conversations with people from various walks of life reflected a popular expectation that the Army would now have to deliver on its promises. The recovery of national wealth, in their view, was crucial to restoring the economic health of the country. The people want the Army to deliver - and deliver quickly. However, optimism is tempered by realism. The people are aware that Zia-ul-Haq gave precious little to the people, nor did he put in place any process of accountability. His sole aim was to hold and accumulate power - a legacy he passed on to his civilian "successor" , Nawaz Sharif.

If Pakistan's history holds any lessons, it is that controlled and directed democracy will not work. The Army is a homogeneous institution, but part of the problem in Pakistan is that the Army's political ambitions (and corrupt practices in the past) have led to acts of blatant intervention in electoral politics.

A variety of leaders, including Imran Khan (former captain of Pakistan's cricket team), have argued that the Army should hold power for a two-year period and then hand over power to a civilian government. But if the people of Pakistan do not today have politicians they can trust, what is the guarantee they can produce them in, say, two years?

Not a single member of the Pakistan Musilm League (Nawaz), the erstwhile ruling party or its government moved the Supreme Court seeking restoration of the civilian regime. That, in a sense, said it all: that section's faith in democracy is only skin-deep and fear of the military is deep-seated. After a full week, some members of the former ruling party made a meek demand for the immediate release of the ousted Prime Minister. There was no condemnation of the military for overthrowing a civilian government.

It is not as if the people of Pakistan do not like democracy. The fact is that they have been deprived of democracy and democratic practices by a state that is all-powerful and which controls and watches closely individuals who matter. Note the fact that no Pakistani politician with a military background has ever been given an electoral mandate.

In her book, The State of Martial Rule, Ayesha Jalal, one of Pakistan's finest scholars, wrote about the challenges that lay before Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1988: "The greatest challenge to the largest political party, however, stemmed from the lingering imbalance between elected and non-elected institutions in Pakistan's history..."

Jalal further wrote: "To survive and succeed, an elected Prime Minister in the Pakistani context has almost to play the role of the leader of the Opposition upholding the case of the political process against the pre-existing state structure..."

Benazir Bhutto twice failed to make the grade democratically and rein in super-powerful institutions; her successor, Nawaz Sharif, more than matched her. For its part, the Army intelligence network resisted any extension of true democracy.

Nawaz Sharif, who was once the Army's blue-eyed boy, thought he could consolidate his own personal power by bringing the military to heel. In a country where the Army has either ruled directly or never been far from the levers of power, that proved to be a disastrous miscalculation.

To return to Ayesha Jalal's thesis, can Gen. Musharraf do what four successive civilian governments failed to do since 1988? Can he play the role of the "leader of the Opposition" from within? Or is that too much to expect from a man in uniform?

Correction

Treading slowly

India's cautious approach to the developments across the border and the rush of initiatives from the military rulers does not make for much movement on the bilateral front in the immediate context.

IN the past three years, successive Indian governments had found a degree of comfort in doing business with the civilian government in Pakistan led by Nawaz Sharif. The thaw set in when I.K. Gujral was in charge of Indian foreign policy from 1996 to 1998. Both governments indicated at that time that they were willing to discuss substantive issues, including Kashmir. When the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition came to power in 1998, relations between the two governments were initially frosty. Then the political heat generated by the nuclear explosions in May 1998 took time to dissipate. When Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Sharif met during the summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Colombo, the bad vibes were manifested in the their body language. But matters improved in a few months.

Indian policymakers may not have anticipated a military takeover in Pakistan at this juncture: military coups have become unusual worldwide, and Sharif's party had an overwhelming majority in Parliament. India initially responded to the coup by taking the high moral ground. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said that the events in Pakistan "by themselves are a deadly comment on the situation in that country". He added that India's commitment to democracy had been vividly put across to the international community. "It is ironic that on the eve of the swearing-in of the Vajpayee government, coup leaders took control of Pakistan and the country went under martial law," Jaswant Singh said.

The Indian government then decided to send National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra to Washington to discuss, among other things, the latest developments in Pakistan with U.S. State Department officials. This was not surprising considering the fact that Indian government leaders, from the Prime Minister downwards, had characterised the U.S. as a "natural ally" of India. However, there were surprises in store for them.

Although the world's most powerful democracy was quick to criticise the coup, it made it clear that it would continue to do business with Islamabad. Washington also wanted New Delhi to do likewise. In a telephonic conversation with Vajpayee, President Bill Clinton suggested that India and Pakistan resume talks at the earliest. It is known to discerning observers that successive U.S. administrations have practised double standards in respect of their dealings with military regimes. In the case of countries with which it has had historically close ties - such as Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia - the U.S. connives at overt or covert military interventions. The Clinton administration, as in the case of previous U.S. administrations, reckons that in certain circumstances the military could prove more sensitive to Washington's concerns.

The armed forces in Pakistan, Turkey and Iran were partners in many important Western enterprises during the Cold War. It is therefore no surprise that Washington has concluded that General Pervez Musharraf is "a man you can do business with". Musharraf, for his part, has advertised to the world his admiration for Turkey's "military democracy" and indicated that he would prefer a similar model for Pakistan. In much the same way as the Turkish military, Musharraf has taken a tough stance in respect of Islamic parties. So far only Islamic parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami have dared to protest openly against military rule.

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Senior U.S. officials have now begun to exert pressure on the Indian government to restart the stalled dialogue process. Indian officials have, however, dismissed Musharraf's announcement regarding the withdrawal of Pakistani troops along the international border as a gimmick. India said that for the withdrawal to be meaningful, Pakistan should simultaneously withdraw troops from the Line of Control. Pakistan insists that the situation along the LoC is qualitatively different as it has been volatile with heavy concentration of troops and firepower on both sides of the border.

However, the U.S. claims that Musharraf's gesture is an important confidence-building measure (CBM) and that reciprocal action from New Delhi would help ease tensions. The Indian side, however, insists that no progress is possible in the dialogue process unless Islamabad gives a "commitment" that it will stop cross-border terrorism. The new military regime in Pakistan has regretted India's "negative response" to its offer of unconditional resumption of dialogue.

Indian officials are evidently not as impressed as their U.S. counterparts are by the rush of initiatives from the military rulers. Musharraf reiterated the Pakistani offer of a dialogue on Kashmir and other issues. In recent days, the Indian Foreign Office has toughened its stance on Kashmir, asserting that Kashmir is the key to India's territorial unity and that there can be no compromise on this. In the third week of October, a spokesman for the Indian External Affairs Ministry said on condition of anonymity that it was "imperative" that Islamabad stopped cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India. The official said that there were as yet no signs that Pakistani support for cross-border terrorism had abated. Jaswant Singh said in late October that it was "too early" to consider a resumption of the dialogue with Islamabad. He dismissed concerns expressed by some Western nations about the danger of the recent events triggering a nuclear flare-up in the region.

In Washington, Brajesh Mishra expressed India's concerns about the military takeover. India's initial interpretation was that the coup was intended to negate the Pakistan Prime Minister's efforts to clamp down on terrorists in that country. Musharraf was portrayed as an officer who was influenced by the concepts of militant Islam and it was even alleged that he had close links with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In support of this charge, Indian officials pointed to the transcripts of a telephone conversation between Musharraf and a senior Army officer during the early stages of the Kargil war; intelligence agencies had secured tapes which, they said, "proved" Musharraf's early role in the Kargil intrusion. Copies of the tapes had been handed over to Nawaz Sharif through secret envoys.

Both Sharif and Vajpayee seemed to want to convey the opinion that Musharraf was the "architect" of Kargil. U.S. officials were less than convinced and were willing to give Musharraf the benefit of the doubt. They, however, assured Mishra in Washington that the U.S. was as keen as India was to see civilian government restored in Pakistan and that they would use their influence on Pakistan to address Indian concerns over cross-border terrorism. The Clinton administration also announced that for the present it would not waive the Pressler Amendment, as proposed, which would lead to the resumption of arms supply to Pakistan.

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At the same time, U.S. officials in Washington and those who were recently in New Delhi want India to keep the door open for talks with the new regime in Islamabad. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderfurth said recently that Washington was optimistic of convincing the generals to end state support for cross-border terrorism. Inderfurth said that he would meet Jaswant Singh in early November, and that at the top of the agenda for discussion would be the recent developments in Pakistan and adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Inderfurth told mediapersons in Washington that both the U.S. and India would "closely" watch Musharraf's actions, rather than his words. He conceded that the prospects of "renewing the Lahore process did not look well".

Inderfurth, however, stressed that the U.S. "cannot walk away because Pakistan is important - because stability or the lack thereof in Pakistan will have an impact on Pakistan's neighbours." Bruce Reidel, Senior Director for South Asia in the National Security Council, who was in New Delhi in the fourth week of October, let it be known that Washington viewed Musharraf as a man with "moderate" political views and admitted that Gen. Anthony Zinni, who is in charge of U.S. forces in the Gulf, had a long discussion with Musharraf on security-related issues. New Delhi is not happy at what it feels is only a muted response from Washington to the events in Pakistan.

The Commonwealth, on the other hand, took a tough stance; it suspended Pakistan from the organisation, barely a month before the scheduled Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit in Durban. Members from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group took the decision at a meeting in London, stating that the suspension would be effective "forthwith" and would remain "pending the restoration of democracy in the country". In a statement released after the talks, the Ministers unanimously condemned the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Pakistan.

The European Union set a November 15 deadline for a return to civilian rule. Failure in this regard would invite punitive action. The Indian government, especially a BJP-led one, cannot afford to take such an open stand on an issue that involves the question of democracy. Vociferous support for the restoration of democratic rule could be misconstrued as support for the ousted Sharif government.

Vajpayee will however have an occasion to interact with the new military strongman of Pakistan at the SAARC summit to be held in Kathmandu in late November. That occasion could well provide the opportunity for the resumption of the stalled dialogue process between the two countries.

Changing tack in Washington

The United States is evidently set to continue the game and engage the Generals.

A POLITICIAN as astute as Nawaz Sharif should have known that when it comes to dumping those who have outlived their utility and shedding crocodile tears for them, there is none to beat administrations in Washington. And that the Clinton administration would be no different in this matter. When push came to shove and the men in uniform forcibly entered the political process in Pakistan, Washington was looking for rationales to continue the game and engage the Generals.

It took the Clinton administration a few days to determine, officially and legally, that a coup in Pakistan had indeed taken place.

For Sharif, the only solace was that senior officials in the Clinton administration were ready to hand out commendation certificates; but this was in some ways intended to "protect" the political establishment in Washington - in the unlikely event of the deposed Prime Minister returning to power.

It should come as no surprise that Washington will continue its dialogue with Islamabad. In fact, it would have been naive to assume that the Clinton administration would close all the avenues just because Pervez Musharraf took over the reins of power. It was keen to maintain the dialogue because the bottom line was that there are tangible interests for the U.S. in Pakistan - strategic, political and economic.

But domestic politics in the U.S. being what it is - and what it will always be - the appropriate noises had to be made. And the officialdom at the White House and in the State Department did an excellent job of it; its job, of course, was made a lot easy by the popular reaction within Pakistan to the turn of events.

The U.S. administration subsequently found it easy to list all the shortcomings of the deposed Sharif Government. However, few in Washington are making the point that the Kargil factor - in particular, Sharif's orders (under U.S. pressure) to his troops to pull back from the Indian side of the Line of Control in July - was a principal reason why Sharif lost the power game.

The Clinton administration then began parroting the line that Gen. Musharraf must restore civilian democracy at the earliest, that the U.S. could not do business with Pakistan until then, but that, on the other hand, the U.S. could not "walk away" from Pakistan. This line has been articulated fairly routinely at the State Department, the White House and at congressional hearings.

It is unlikely that the broad contours of this policy line will change in the short term; it will probably be amended suitably over a period of time if the General gets "more comfortable" in his new outfit.

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The coup in Pakistan could not have come at a worse time for Washington: just after Congress had passed legislation authorising comprehensive and permanent waivers of the sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan following the nuclear tests of May 1998. And upon the President signing the Defence Authorisation Bill, the administration would have started reviewing and lifting most, if not all, of the sanctions.

What will happen now is that while sanctions against India will merit immediate attention, President Bill Clinton cannot do anything for Pakistan until an elected government has been restored. And analysts in Washington believe that that could be a long way off. There is talk that about two years will be needed for the situation to stablise and for elections to be held in that country.

One of the key backers of the move to lift the sanctions was Republican Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas; he pointed out that his amendment at this point of time only amounted to a "structural change in the law" that would help the President after a democratically elected government is in place in Pakistan. He also lashed out at the administration for "dumping" Sharif; such an action only sent a "terrible message" to the world, he said.

Brownback was one of the first to argue that no one was giving Pakistan a "pass" on the military coup; he pointed out that the administration had invoked Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act, which mandated blanket sanctions on any country where the duly elected leader was deposed in a coup. There may not be much sympathy for Sharif's way of doing business in his country, but Section 508 does not give the administration much leeway in the matter.

There was another unintended fallout of the coup: the U.S. administration was forced to make its intentions known on the scope of the waivers on the Glenn and Pressler amendments. In response to some close questioning by Congressman Gary Ackerman, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, in the House Asia-Pacific Sub-Committee Hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderfurth said that the administration had neither the plan nor the intention to resume supplying arms to Pakistan.

The Clinton administration has for long been pressing Congress for a "level playing field" in respect of legislation that is perceived as restrictive; it argued that such legislation was preventing the U.S. from fully pursuing its foreign policy goals. When Congress was debating the future of the sanctions on India and Pakistan, the Senate adopted through the Brownback Amendment a permanent waiver but took the Pressler law from the books. The House version spoke of waivers for one year but did not tamper with the Pressler law. The Conferees of the House and Senate went in for comprehensive and permanent waivers; as a result, not only the Glenn Amendment but also the Pressler Amendment were taken off the list.

For all its expressions of "sympathy" and invocation of national security interests, the Clinton administration will have a difficult time explaining to Congress just why certain relaxations would have to be made. For instance, it is fairly common knowledge that Pakistan's economy is in deep trouble. In fact, the conviction in the U.S. is that Pakistan has for quite some time been tottering on the brink. A formal meltdown of the Pakistani economy will have an impact in the immediate neighbourhood and on Washington's policies in the region.

This is the reason why the Clinton administration will not anymore lean heavily on Pakistan. Washington has said, for instance, that Islamabad has problems with the International Monetary Fund and that the disbursement of the third tranche of IMF loans, $280 million out of the total package of $1.6 billion, was in jeopardy much before the Army emerged from the barracks.

The Clinton administration will also look to India to a certain extent to ease things in Pakistan. And it will expect India to respond meaningfully to the olive branch extended by Gen. Musharraf. Senior officials are also aware of the problems from an Indian point of view: aside from a perception of being let down or "cheated" after the Lahore summit, New Delhi has made it plain that it cannot negotiate so long as Islamabad was fully involved in a state-run terror campaign across the border.

But the hope in official and private quarters in Washington is that the Lahore process will be restarted and that India and Pakistan will settle down to talk about contentious issues in a serious manner. If Gen. Musharraf can be taken at face value - given that he is believed to have initiated and presided over the Kargil debacle - something positive could still come of the ominous developments.

Congress(I) dominates in all regions

THE 1999 elections marked a comeback for the Congress(I) in all regions of Karnataka. The party avenged its humiliating defeat in the 1994 Assembly elections, when it was relegated to the third position. Although it recovered some of the ground in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, it finished only second, way behind the Bharatiya Janata Party-Lok Shakti combine. This time the Congress(I) snatched 10 seats from the BJP and the Lok Shakti and two from the Janata Dal, and conceded two of its seats to the BJP and one to the Janata Dal (United). Surprisingly, no pollster anticipated the massive nine-percentage-point swing of votes in favour of the Congress(I). Despite a near-perfect seat adjustment for the Lok Sabha elections, the half-hearted BJP-JD(U) alliance lost more than eight percentage points of the popular vote that had gone to the BJP-Lok Shakti alliance last year. Clearly, the addition of the Janata Dal faction led by J.H. Patel brought nothing but discredit to the alliance. The Janata Dal (Secular), led by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda drew a blank: its leaders faced humiliating defeats. However, with more than 10 per cent of the vote share, it remains a force capable of acting as a spoiler.

The Congress(I) showed its dominance in all the regions including the coastal districts, which had emerged as BJP strongholds in the 1990s. In the Bombay-Karnatak region in the north, where Lingayats were expected to support the BJP-led alliance, the Congress(I) got the same share of votes and seats as its main rival. While Sonia Gandhi's candidature may not have changed the verdict in the entire State, it seems to have had some effect in Hyderabad-Karnatak. The voter turnout jumped by nearly seven percentage points and the Congress(I) registered a 12.7 per cent swing in its favour. The Congress(I) won the majority of the Assembly seats in all the districts except Bidar, where communal polarisation may have worked against it. As in its heyday, the Congress(I) has its vote spread more or less evenly across the State, while the BJP-JD(U) combine has weakened in Hyderabad-Karnatak and Old Mysore. It is in the largest southern region of Old Mysore that the BJP alliance suffered its worst loss - four seats and 15 percentage points of its vote share. Despite a spectacular entry into the electoral arena in 1991, the BJP remains a marginal political force, with the rural constituencies continuing to elude it.

The Assembly elections confirmed the dominance of the Congress(I) in all the regions. The most spectacular are the party's gains in the Old Mysore region, where its position improved from 10 seats in 1994 to 61 seats, mostly at the cost of the undivided Janata Dal. Overall, the Congress(I) snatched 69 seats from the undivided Janata Dal and 17 from the BJP. While the BJP made marginal gains elsewhere, it lost seven seats in the coastal region, where it first established its base in the State. It retained only 22 of the seats it won in 1994. The two Janata Dal factors have very little to show except losses. The JD(U) can take delight in the fact that it got more seats than the JD(S) even in Old Mysore.

The flow of votes as revealed by the CSDS survey shows that this turnabout happened in three ways: the Congress(I) retained much more of the 1998 vote share than the BJP-JD(U) combine; it snatched more votes from its rivals than they took from it; and the JD(U) failed to fetch for the BJP-JD (U) alliance more than half the 1998 vote share of the Janata Dal. JD(S) and the Congress(I) each succeeded in taking away one quarter of its 1998 vote, and thus sealed the fate of the BJP-JD(U) combine.

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Voting simultaneously for different parties in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections is not a new phenomenon in Karnataka. Evidently, such voting did not take place on a large scale this time, but it was high compared to Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Once again, the BJP-JD(U) alliance suffered. The two parties fought against each other in a number of Assembly constituencies and could not transfer nearly a quarter of its Assembly-level vote share to their Lok Sabha candidates. Although the alliance picked up one-third of the JD(S) vote share in the Assembly elections, that was not enough. The Congress(I) fared a little better in this regard.

The key to the Congress(I)'s success was its ability to reconstruct the classic rainbow coalition as in the days of D. Devaraj Urs. It trailed the BJP-JD(U) among Lingayats and other upper castes and the numerically insignificant Scheduled Tribes. But that was more than made up by an impressive showing among the lower castes and classes. It not only took away a handsome slice of the Janata Dal's Vokkaliga vote, but enjoyed strong support among the lower sections of the Other Backward Classes, the Scheduled Castes and Muslims.

The Congress(I) also regained some of its traditional support base. The poorer the voter, the greater the odds of a vote in favour of the Congress(I). Conversely, the BJP and its allies performed better among the richer sections. The contrast is particularly striking at the two ends of the class divide. The BJP and its allies have enjoyed a lead of 21 percentage points over the Congress(I) among the rich and the super-rich, while the Congress(I) has a whopping 47-point lead among the poorest.

A profile of the voter based on the factor of education shows that access to education accentuates the class effect. The same pattern is repeated in the gender and rural-urban divides. The edge that the Congress(I) enjoys among women and rural voters is much higher in Karnataka than in the rest of the country. The higher urban vote reported for the JD(S) appears odd; the high figure is perhaps due to a greater degree of sampling error for smaller formations. All is not well with the Congress(I), though. The age profile of voters reveals that the Congress(I) is more popular among older voters while the BJP and its allies enjoy an edge among younger voters.

ASTUDY associated with the CSDS survey and carried out by researchers at the Department of Political Science, Bangalore University, reported that the most popular choice for Chief Minister was S.M. Krishna of the Congress(I), with the support of 28 per cent of the respondents. B.S. Yediyurappa of the BJP was the choice of 26 per cent; J.H. Patel of the JD(U) was favoured by 10 per cent.

At least 54 per cent of the respondents were dissatisfied with the Janata Dal government. Also, 56 per cent felt that northern Karnataka had been neglected. Among the respondents from northern Karnataka, 84 per cent felt that the region had been neglected.

The essence of the lessons from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka is that governance matters. The anti-incumbency factor is not a knee-jerk action, nor a foregone conclusion, but a response to the performance of people who have been handed the reins of power.

A triumph of alliance arithmetic

IT is easy to read too much into the victory of the Telugu Desam Party led by N. Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh. After all, Chandarababu Naidu can claim to be one of the few undisputed winners of the 1999 elections. As compared to the 1998 elections, his party has increased its vote share and seats tally; to that extent, his visibility and political clout have increased. The TDP under him may not have swept the Assembly elections as it did under N.T. Rama Rao in 1994, but Chandrababu Naidu is one of the few Chief Ministers in recent years to have withstood and triumphed over the tide of anti-incumbency that the media have made much of. The TDP's tally of 29 Lok Sabha seats made it not only the biggest of the BJP's allies, but also the fourth largest party in the Lok Sabha.

Yet the TDP's victory is rather less dramatic when seen in terms of vote share. The vote share of the TDP-BJP combine was only seven percentage points more than the Congress(I)'s vote share in the entire State. The Congress(I)'s vote share in fact went up by over four percentage points as compared to the 1998 parliamentary elections, in which it fared rather well. However, the State witnessed straight contests this time and the spread of votes was relatively even for both the parties; in such a situation, even a small margin translated into an overwhelming victory for the TDP-BJP combine in terms of seats.

This is what made the alliance with the BJP a key factor in the TDP's success. The BJP's vote share of 9 per cent this year perhaps understates its role, for it was forced by Chandrababu Naidu, a hard bargainer, to settle for a meagre share of seats. In the 1991 parliamentary elections, the BJP made a big entry in Andhra Pradesh by securing nearly 10 per cent of the popular vote. Its fortunes declined marginally in 1996. It performed well in 1998: it won four parliamentary seats and secured 18 per cent of the popular vote. The TDP's alliance with the BJP enabled it to more than make up for the losses from the severing of its ties with the Left parties; it also gave the TDP an edge over the Congress(I). The TDP-BJP combine's vote share (nearly 50 per cent) matches the combined vote share of the TDP and the BJP in 1998. If the BJP had not contested as an ally of the TDP and had fared even half as well as it did in 1998, the TDP might well have faced defeat.

The TDP-BJP combine won comprehensively in all the three regions. Even in Rayalaseema, the last remaining bastion of the Congress(I), the TDP-BJP combine took four seats from the Congress(I) and improved on its vote share over 1998. In Telengana, considered the region where the BJP is the strongest, the TDP-BJP's combined vote share fell by three percentage points since 1998, but it managed to finish well ahead of the Congress(I). This is the region where the Left parties secured a reasonably good share of the popular vote. This is also the first election since 1984 that the Left parties did not contest as part of a broader alliance, and their performance this time has not been good. In the coastal region, the TDP-BJP combine won all but two seats.

An analysis of the Assembly election results shows that the TDP dominates in almost all the regions. Although the decision to break with the Left parties and team up with the BJP cost the TDP 20 seats in the Telengana region, it retained its hold over coastal Andhra and fared better than the Congress(I) in Rayalaseema. The Left parties suffered the most significant losses this time. The Congress(I) made marginal gains in Telengana and elsewhere, as compared to 1994, when it drew a blank. In all, the TDP retained 141 of the seats it had won in 1994, passed on eight seats to the BJP, and won back 15 from the Left parties, its former allies. The Congress(I) retained only 10 of the 26 seats it had won in 1994, but took 65 from the TDP and 15 from the Left parties.

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A carefully crafted alliance and a successful transfer of votes was thus crucial to the TDP's victory. The CSDS survey data show just how successful the vote transfer from the BJP and the TDP to the new combine was, notwithstanding the dissatisfaction in the State unit of the BJP over the terms of the alliance. In the matter of holding on to its own share of votes in the 1998 elections, the Congress(I)'s performance was the best. It also took away a significant slice of the votes of the BJP and the TDP. The TDP, which retained 85 per cent of its 1998 votes, could not win over many votes from the Congress(I) but it managed to offset its losses by adding 82 per cent of the BJP votes of 1998 to the combine's votes. It also captured the majority of the votes secured in 1998 by the CPI and the CPI(M), its allies at that time. As in the case of Bihar, excessive dependence on alliances rendered the Left parties vulnerable.

In the Assembly elections, both the TDP-BJP combine and the Congress(I) retained more than 90 per cent of the votes that they secured in the Lok Sabha elections.

Underlying the TDP-BJP's successful coalition was the forging of a new social coalition of the upper and the middle castes. The addition of BJP votes strengthened the TDP's position among the upper castes and the peasant OBCs, besides consolidating its traditional Kamma votes. These gains more than compensated for the loss of the votes of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes owing to the break with the Left parties, and of Muslims, who shifted their allegiance to the Congress(I). Even so, the TDP-BJP combine enjoyed more support than the Congress(I) did among adivasis; the TDP's share of votes of Muslims is one of the highest for any ally of the BJP.

The class profile of the TDP-BJP combine shows an uneasy coming together of the upper classes (who predominantly support the BJP) and the lower classes (who support the TDP). The Congress(I) fared well among the middle class but was squeezed from the upper end by the BJP and the lower end by the TDP. Unlike in Karnataka, the Congress(I) could not reconstruct its base among the poorest sections.

During the campaign, TDP leaders repeatedly claimed that the party enjoyed the overwhelming support of women and young voters. The survey findings do not support this claim. Young voters were equally divided between the TDP and the Congress(I). If anything, the TDP does best among the middle-aged, who perhaps acquired their right to vote about the time the TDP first came to power in dramatic circumstances, in 1983. Similarly, the TDP, which earlier drew a larger share of its support from women than from men, now enjoys about the same proportion of votes across the gender divide. The rural-urban divide does not explain much of the difference, for the TDP enjoys the same lead in both areas. The Left parties have their traditional source of support in the villages.

The survey reveals that as compared to voters in many other parts of the country, voters in Andhra Pradesh are more politicised, more confident, and more attuned to regional politics. At the same time, 75 per cent of TDP voters expressed a preference for A.B. Vajpayee as Prime Minister. About 47 per cent of the voters claimed that they had finalised their voting choice much before the campaign began.

The India factor

AMIT BARUAH cover-story

PAKISTAN'S policy approach vis-a-vis India has been drawn up with the concurrence of the military for a long time now. It used to be done behind the scenes, but after the October 12 coup it will be done up front. In effect, a de facto reality has acquired de jure legality.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf has announced that there will be no change in matters of foreign policy; since Pakistan's foreign policy is largely India-centric, this means that no real surprises are in store for New Delhi.

In his October 17 address, Gen. Musharraf seemed to adopt a "positive approach" towards India; he announced his "unilateral" decision to pull back the additional troops that had been moved close to the international border with India during the Kargil War.

However, Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad stated categorically that the offer of military de-escalation would not be extended to the Line of Control (LoC), where the real problems between India and Pakistan lie.

The "clarification" by the Foreign Secretary exposed Gen. Musharraf's announcement for what it was: an attempt to convince the international community that the new military rulers of Pakistan were not unreasonable.

Gen. Musharraf said: "Pakistan has always been alive to international non-proliferation concerns. Last year, we were compelled to respond to India's nuclear tests in order to restore strategic balance... In the new nuclear environment in South Asia, we believe that both Pakistan and India have to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility... I wish to assure the world community that while preserving its vital security interests, Pakistan will continue to pursue a policy of nuclear and missile restraint and sensitivity to global non-proliferation and disarmament objectives..."

India and Pakistan, he added, "must sincerely work towards resolving their problems, especially the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir... India must honour the U.N. resolutions and its own commitment to the people of Kashmir... Pakistan would welcome unconditional, equitable and result-oriented dialogue with India..."

There is little that is substantively new in his approach; the only new formulation involves the use of the word "equitable". The other phrases have been used over and over again by Ministers and officials.

Interestingly, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan William B. Milam has gone out of his way to spell out his Government's view of who was responsible for the Kargil misadventure. Milam, who addressed a press briefing on October 18, was asked about Musharraf being the "architect" of Kargil.

His response: "I am concerned this has been rooted about, but you know my information - and I am pretty knowledgeable on this - is that Kargil was a collective failure on all parts of Government. Yes, of course, it was an Army operation, so Gen. Musharraf obviously had a part in the decision. But - don't kid yourself - that operation was agreed to by the civilian Government completely. So 'architect of Kargil' is, perhaps, a bit strong... It certainly has a connotation that I think is misleading. Whether the reputation is going to last despite the facts, whether this will get in the way of resumption of the dialogue, I don't know. I hope it doesn't."

In another statement that is seen to be significant, Milam disagreed with the perception that Gen. Musharraf leaned towards extremism or presided over a rogue Army. Stating that the General was the opposite of an extremist, the envoy described him as a "moderate" who had acted out of "patriotic motivations".

The U.S' perception of Gen. Musharraf and the India-Pakistan dialogue is crucial. In the eight rounds of negotiations between Strobe Talbott and Jaswant Singh (on the one hand) and between Talbott and Shamshad Ahmad (on the other), elements of what Washington and Islamabad call a "restraint regime" had been identified. The Lahore summit in February 1999 was intended to expedite discussions on this and related issues.

Since the U.S. is quite prepared to do business with Pakistan, it is clear that Washington will want New Delhi too to engage with Islamabad. Milam said he hoped that the image of Gen. Musharraf as the "architect of Kargil" would not act as a roadblock to this process.

As far as India is concerned, observers feel, it must act in its national interests. It must continue to insist that Pakistan stop training and sending militants across the borders forthwith, and such messages should be delivered loud and clear. Considerable caution must be exercised in the future to prevent "other Kargils".

No pressure should be allowed to come in the way of promoting India's national interest, it is felt. If the U.S. insists on a resumption of the bilateral dialogue, Washington must be asked to ensure that the terrorist-training camps within Pakistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir are wound up, and that official support to numerous groups fighting in Kashmir ends.

Clearly, that is a tall order. However, India can ignore this ground reality only at its own peril. Handshakes, smiles and hugs are doubtless important symbols of entente, but they are no substitutes for an end to Pakistan-backed militancy in Kashmir.

BACK IN BUSINESS

Pakistan is back in the military mould, although 'Chief Executive' Pervez Musharraf talks of the path to democracy. Where does the country go from here?

What is the Constitution? It is a booklet with 10 or 12 pages. I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow we shall live under a different system. Is there anybody to stop me? Today, the people follow wherever I lead. All the politicians, including the once-mighty Mr. (Zulfiqar Ali) Bhutto, will follow me with their tails wagging. But is that good for the country? No, I have no political ambition personally.

- Pakistani dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, quoted in Working with Zia by General (retd) K.M. Arif.

ON October 12, General Pervez Musharraf's troops went about their business in a cool, clinical manner. Not a single shot was fired as the khaki-clad men moved into Islamabad, took over strategic locations, and confined Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his key associates to their houses. As the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft in which Musharraf was returning from Colombo neared Karachi, troops under the command of the X Corps Commander based in Rawalpindi, Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmad, announced by their presence on the streets the "ouster" of the Nawaz Sharif Government. They met with no resistance. The coup was indeed a bloodless one.

However, a mid-air drama unfolded in the skies above Karachi. According to Musharraf, who had gone to Colombo to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Sri Lankan Army, instructions had been given to the Karachi airport authorities to deny permission for the plane carrying him to land in Pakistan and to divert it elsewhere. The aircraft was low on fuel, and the order imperilled the lives of the passengers, he said. According to reports, Musharraf immediately took charge of the situation. Using the in-flight radio transmission facility, he ordered the Karachi control tower to allow the plane to land since it was running short of fuel. Permission was accorded, and the plane eventually touched down at 6.50 p.m. with hardly any fuel left. Musharraf's troops were by then in command of the airport building.

It is apparent from the sequence of events that the X Corps Commander did not await instructions from Musharraf, who had only hours earlier been "retired" by Sharif, before taking over key installations in Islamabad. His motive was to prevent a re-broadcast of the news of Musharraf's dismissal, which had been put out by Pakistan Television at 5 p.m.

In the 6 p.m. English bulletin, only Chechnya and Kashmir were in focus. Suddenly, the programme went off the PTV World channel, but continued on PTV's main terrestrial channel. Shaista Zaid, the newscaster made famous by the fact that it was she who "broke" the news of the coup, read on. This time, the information put out at 5 p.m. - that Gen. Pervez Musharraf had been "retired" with immediate effect and Lt. Gen. Khwaja Ziauddin, chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, appointed the new Army Chief - was not repeated. After the weather report, however, the dramatic announcement was repeated: Gen. Musharraf had been dismissed by Sharif.

All this gave sufficient indication that something was up. As this reporter rushed to the PTV station, scores of people had gathered outside it. Khaki-clad Army personnel were at work inside the station.

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Inside the newsroom, another drama had been played out. PTV Chairman Pervez Rashid reached the station to ensure that the news of Musharraf's dismissal was duly announced. A few Army personnel, led by a Major, entered the newsroom just as Shaista Zaid was reading the bulletin. However, the Prime Minister's Military Secretary, Brig. Javed Malik, disarmed the Major.

Only then, the weather report over, did Shaista Zaid repeat the announcement that a new Army chief had been appointed. Only PTV's main channel carried the news; PTV World had by then passed into the control of troops loyal to Musharraf.

From the PTV station it is only a two-minute drive to the Prime Minister's residence , but access to it had been blocked with trucks. A young Army officer and a few soldiers stood at the end of the access road.

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At this point, it was unclear as to whom the troops were loyal to. Soon enough came the information that the Prime Minister was at home and that no one was allowed to enter or leave the premises. In a few minutes, another piece of reliable information trickled in: the troops had moved in on the orders of the chiefs of the three wings of Pakistan's armed forces.

SHARIF'S plan to divert the plane carrying Musharraf, arrest him using the Sindh police and instal Gen. Ziauddin as the Army chief was doomed to failure. For of the nine corps commanders, Sharif could muster the support of only two: Lt. Gen. Salim Haidar (Mangla) and Lt. Gen. Tariq Pervez (Quetta). Haidar had been shifted to General Head Quarters, Rawalpindi, by Musharraf, and Tariq Pervez retired on October 9 for having had an unauthorised meeting with Sharif.

Sharif was evidently misled by advice from his cronies into thinking that he could carry out the plan to dismiss Musharraf. Sharif perhaps thought that he could repeat what he did in December 1997 to Supreme Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: with the support of other judges, he forced Shah to withdraw from the scene. The Army did nothing when Shah sought its protection. The then Army chief, Gen. Jehangir Karamat, merely marked to the Defence Secretary his letter seeking security.

American scholar Stephen Cohen made a prescient observation in an epilogue to the 1998 edition of his book, The Pakistan Army: "It (Sharif's attack on the judiciary in 1997) may, however, have brought the next civilian-military crisis closer if Nawaz Sharif ever attempts to pack the upper reaches of the Army with his followers as he attempted to pack the Supreme Court with sympathetic judges."

However, Sharif's plan came unstuck this time because seven of the nine Corps Commanders stood solidly behind Musharraf.

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Musharraf had made it clear on September 23 that he would complete his term as Army chief. For the Sharif Government, that obviously set the alarm bells ringing. Sharif, who had extended Musharraf's term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) on September 29, "retired" him on October 12.

Informed sources told Frontline that another reason for Sharif's worries was that Musharraf had replaced the commander of the 111 Brigade some time ago with his "own man", Brigadier Salahuddin. Considering that Sharif sees conspiracies where none exists, this appointment served to heighten his sense of insecurity.

It was, however, Kargil which brought to the fore the differences between Musharraf and Sharif. There are reports that the Kargil operation was planned in October-November 1998 and that the first infiltrators moved in at the time; if so, the operation was planned by Musharraf soon after he took over as Army chief on October 7, 1998. Approval from the Prime Minister was, possibly, obtained in due course.

However, Musharraf was not prepared to take the rap for Kargil. If anything, both he and Sharif are responsible for the misadventure which led to the death of some 1,000 Pakistani and Indian soldiers.

Political analyst Ayaz Amir wrote in the newspaper Dawn on September 17: "Kargil has dealt a blow to the unity of the governing class, driving a wedge between the heavy mandate (of Sharif) and Rawalpindi. While both have had their fingers burnt, both are trying to put the blame for this fiasco on the shoulders of the other... This is the real cat-and-mouse game being played." Amir warned that the mood in Rawalpindi was "dark, even dangerous".

It is clear, therefore, that the strains in the relations between the Army chief and the Prime Minister were no secret.

ON October 12, public uncertainty continued to mount as the PTV channel remained off the air. Finally, transmission resumed at about 11 p.m., with an announcement that the Nawaz Sharif Government had been dismissed and that the JCSC Chairman would address the nation.

Musharraf began the brief addressat 2.50 a.m. on October 13. He said: "... I wish to inform you that the armed forces have moved in as a last resort, to prevent any further destabilisation." He accused the Sharif Government of trying to "politicise the Army, destabilise it" and create "dissension" within its ranks.

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Late on the night of October 15, Musharraf issued an emergency proclamation in "pursuance of deliberations and decisions of Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces and Corps Commanders of Pakistan Army." It said the Constitution was kept in abeyance, the elected Assemblies and the powers of the presiding officers were suspended, the Prime Minister, Federal Ministers and provincial functionaries ceased to hold office and the "whole of Pakistan" came "under the control of the armed forces of Pakistan". The General proclaimed himself "Chief Executive".

Along with the proclamation, Provisional Constitution Order No. 1 of 1999 was issued; it allowed civil courts to function but prohibited courts from issuing any writ against the Chief Executive or persons acting on his directions. The order stated: "The fundamental rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II of the Constitution, not in conflict with the Proclamation of Emergency or any Order made thereunder from time to time, shall continue to be in force."

Unlike Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, who dissolved the elected Assemblies, imposed martial law and suspended the fundamental rights, Musharraf appears to have attempted to "soften the blow". Just as significant, unlike Zia-ul-Haq, Musharraf did not designate himself Chief Martial Law Administrator.

In a policy address on October 17, Musharraf said: "This is not martial law, only another path towards democracy." However, going by the dictionary meaning of martial law - "the exercise of military power by a government, etc. in time of emergency (war, riot, etc.) with the temporary suspension of ordinary administration and policing" - Pakistan is under military rule.

Announcing that a six-member National Security Council (NSC) with himself as its chief would head the new structure of governance, Musharraf said that a think-tank would act as an adjunct to the NSC while a Cabinet of Ministers "will work under the guidance" of the NSC. The NSC is to comprise the Air Force and Navy chiefs and a "specialist each' in law, finance, foreign policy and national affairs.

The Chief Executive laid down six objectives for his regime - rebuilding national confidence and morale; strengthening the Federation, removing inter-provincial disharmony and restoring national cohesion; reviving the economy and restoring investor confidence; ensuring law and order and dispensing speedy justice; de-politicising state institutions; devolving power to the grassroots level and ensuring swift and across-the-board accountability.

Musharraf attempted to give an account of the problems facing Pakistan. "There is despondency and hopelessness surrounding us... the slide has been gradual but has rapidly accelerated in the last many years. Today, we have reached a stage where our economy has crumbled, our credibility is lost, state institutions lie demolished; provincial disharmony has caused cracks in the Federation and people who were once brothers are now at each other's throat."

"In sum," Musharraf said, "we have lost our honour, our dignity, our respect in the comity of nations. Is this the democracy our Quaid-e-Azam envisaged? Is this the way to enter the new millennium?... Quite clearly, what Pakistan has experienced has been merely a label of democracy, not the essence of it... I shall not allow the people to be taken back to the era of sham democracy but to a true one. And I promise you I will, Inshallah."

Clearly, the General has set himself a formidable agenda. So far no Pakistani government - civilian or military - has succeeded much in these areas. Whether Musharraf can reverse this trend remains to be seen.

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IN a sense, Musharraf has to deal with Zia-ul-Haq's legacy. Imtiaz Alam wrote in The News on October 19:

"General Zia-ul-Haq brought us the gifts of communalism, ethnic divisions, religious extremism, institutional decay, corrupt politicians of the local body variety, the Sharif model of governance, Talibanisation, Kalashnikov culture, massive corruption, malaise of narcotics, besides a criminal neglect of physical and social infrastructure and a debt trap...

"One may trust Gen. Musharraf's sincerity and integrity. But that is not a sufficient condition to take the burden of an agenda that requires tremendous effort for decades and essentially by civil society and not the least by the garrison." The shorter the intervention, the greater would be its success, Imitiaz Alam argued.

Alam further said: "If extended, the democratic process and civil society that has never been allowed to flourish in an ideological nation-state will suffer and the citizens will remain without a constitutional status... The central question is: can the armed forces rise above their institutional interests and let the forces of civil society in a fragile Federation respond to overall challenges of political and economic survival? If so, can they play the role of a neutral broker, help evolve a national consensus and leave it to the people to decide a new social contract and their future?"

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Pakistan came under military rule on three previous occassions, under (from left) Gen. Mohammad Ayub Khan, Gen. Yahya Khan and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

Pakistanis await the answer to that question, as they get used to a new military regime, which has so far not placed restrictions on the freedom of the press, a litmus test of tolerence for any regime, military or civilian. So far the overall approach has been correct even though the information flow has been "controlled".

FEW Pakistanis have shed a tear for the Sharif Government, which had undermined every institution, including the press. The arrest and detention of journalists was a frightening pointer to the state of mind of the civilian rulers. Ordinary Pakistanis are doubtless pleased that Sharif and Co., who faced serious charges of corruption, have been deposed. However, having heard and seen enough over the years, they have a disdain for words and promises that do not mean much yet.

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Conversations with people from various walks of life reflected a popular expectation that the Army would now have to deliver on its promises. The recovery of national wealth, in their view, was crucial to restoring the economic health of the country. The people want the Army to deliver - and deliver quickly. However, optimism is tempered by realism. The people are aware that Zia-ul-Haq gave precious little to the people, nor did he put in place any process of accountability. His sole aim was to hold and accumulate power - a legacy he passed on to his civilian "successor" , Nawaz Sharif.

If Pakistan's history holds any lessons, it is that controlled and directed democracy will not work. The Army is a homogeneous institution, but part of the problem in Pakistan is that the Army's political ambitions (and corrupt practices in the past) have led to acts of blatant intervention in electoral politics.

A variety of leaders, including Imran Khan (former captain of Pakistan's cricket team), have argued that the Army should hold power for a two-year period and then hand over power to a civilian government. But if the people of Pakistan do not today have politicians they can trust, what is the guarantee they can produce them in, say, two years?

Not a single member of the Pakistan Musilm League (Nawaz), the erstwhile ruling party or its government moved the Supreme Court seeking restoration of the civilian regime. That, in a sense, said it all: that section's faith in democracy is only skin-deep and fear of the military is deep-seated. After a full week, some members of the former ruling party made a meek demand for the immediate release of the ousted Prime Minister. There was no condemnation of the military for overthrowing a civilian government.

It is not as if the people of Pakistan do not like democracy. The fact is that they have been deprived of democracy and democratic practices by a state that is all-powerful and which controls and watches closely individuals who matter. Note the fact that no Pakistani politician with a military background has ever been given an electoral mandate.

In her book, The State of Martial Rule, Ayesha Jalal, one of Pakistan's finest scholars, wrote about the challenges that lay before Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1988: "The greatest challenge to the largest political party, however, stemmed from the lingering imbalance between elected and non-elected institutions in Pakistan's history..."

Jalal further wrote: "To survive and succeed, an elected Prime Minister in the Pakistani context has almost to play the role of the leader of the Opposition upholding the case of the political process against the pre-existing state structure..."

Benazir Bhutto twice failed to make the grade democratically and rein in super-powerful institutions; her successor, Nawaz Sharif, more than matched her. For its part, the Army intelligence network resisted any extension of true democracy.

Nawaz Sharif, who was once the Army's blue-eyed boy, thought he could consolidate his own personal power by bringing the military to heel. In a country where the Army has either ruled directly or never been far from the levers of power, that proved to be a disastrous miscalculation.

To return to Ayesha Jalal's thesis, can Gen. Musharraf do what four successive civilian governments failed to do since 1988? Can he play the role of the "leader of the Opposition" from within? Or is that too much to expect from a man in uniform?

Correction

Treading slowly

India's cautious approach to the developments across the border and the rush of initiatives from the military rulers does not make for much movement on the bilateral front in the immediate context.

IN the past three years, successive Indian governments had found a degree of comfort in doing business with the civilian government in Pakistan led by Nawaz Sharif. The thaw set in when I.K. Gujral was in charge of Indian foreign policy from 1996 to 1998. Both governments indicated at that time that they were willing to discuss substantive issues, including Kashmir. When the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition came to power in 1998, relations between the two governments were initially frosty. Then the political heat generated by the nuclear explosions in May 1998 took time to dissipate. When Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Sharif met during the summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Colombo, the bad vibes were manifested in the their body language. But matters improved in a few months.

Indian policymakers may not have anticipated a military takeover in Pakistan at this juncture: military coups have become unusual worldwide, and Sharif's party had an overwhelming majority in Parliament. India initially responded to the coup by taking the high moral ground. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said that the events in Pakistan "by themselves are a deadly comment on the situation in that country". He added that India's commitment to democracy had been vividly put across to the international community. "It is ironic that on the eve of the swearing-in of the Vajpayee government, coup leaders took control of Pakistan and the country went under martial law," Jaswant Singh said.

The Indian government then decided to send National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra to Washington to discuss, among other things, the latest developments in Pakistan with U.S. State Department officials. This was not surprising considering the fact that Indian government leaders, from the Prime Minister downwards, had characterised the U.S. as a "natural ally" of India. However, there were surprises in store for them.

Although the world's most powerful democracy was quick to criticise the coup, it made it clear that it would continue to do business with Islamabad. Washington also wanted New Delhi to do likewise. In a telephonic conversation with Vajpayee, President Bill Clinton suggested that India and Pakistan resume talks at the earliest. It is known to discerning observers that successive U.S. administrations have practised double standards in respect of their dealings with military regimes. In the case of countries with which it has had historically close ties - such as Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia - the U.S. connives at overt or covert military interventions. The Clinton administration, as in the case of previous U.S. administrations, reckons that in certain circumstances the military could prove more sensitive to Washington's concerns.

The armed forces in Pakistan, Turkey and Iran were partners in many important Western enterprises during the Cold War. It is therefore no surprise that Washington has concluded that General Pervez Musharraf is "a man you can do business with". Musharraf, for his part, has advertised to the world his admiration for Turkey's "military democracy" and indicated that he would prefer a similar model for Pakistan. In much the same way as the Turkish military, Musharraf has taken a tough stance in respect of Islamic parties. So far only Islamic parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami have dared to protest openly against military rule.

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Senior U.S. officials have now begun to exert pressure on the Indian government to restart the stalled dialogue process. Indian officials have, however, dismissed Musharraf's announcement regarding the withdrawal of Pakistani troops along the international border as a gimmick. India said that for the withdrawal to be meaningful, Pakistan should simultaneously withdraw troops from the Line of Control. Pakistan insists that the situation along the LoC is qualitatively different as it has been volatile with heavy concentration of troops and firepower on both sides of the border.

However, the U.S. claims that Musharraf's gesture is an important confidence-building measure (CBM) and that reciprocal action from New Delhi would help ease tensions. The Indian side, however, insists that no progress is possible in the dialogue process unless Islamabad gives a "commitment" that it will stop cross-border terrorism. The new military regime in Pakistan has regretted India's "negative response" to its offer of unconditional resumption of dialogue.

Indian officials are evidently not as impressed as their U.S. counterparts are by the rush of initiatives from the military rulers. Musharraf reiterated the Pakistani offer of a dialogue on Kashmir and other issues. In recent days, the Indian Foreign Office has toughened its stance on Kashmir, asserting that Kashmir is the key to India's territorial unity and that there can be no compromise on this. In the third week of October, a spokesman for the Indian External Affairs Ministry said on condition of anonymity that it was "imperative" that Islamabad stopped cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India. The official said that there were as yet no signs that Pakistani support for cross-border terrorism had abated. Jaswant Singh said in late October that it was "too early" to consider a resumption of the dialogue with Islamabad. He dismissed concerns expressed by some Western nations about the danger of the recent events triggering a nuclear flare-up in the region.

In Washington, Brajesh Mishra expressed India's concerns about the military takeover. India's initial interpretation was that the coup was intended to negate the Pakistan Prime Minister's efforts to clamp down on terrorists in that country. Musharraf was portrayed as an officer who was influenced by the concepts of militant Islam and it was even alleged that he had close links with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In support of this charge, Indian officials pointed to the transcripts of a telephone conversation between Musharraf and a senior Army officer during the early stages of the Kargil war; intelligence agencies had secured tapes which, they said, "proved" Musharraf's early role in the Kargil intrusion. Copies of the tapes had been handed over to Nawaz Sharif through secret envoys.

Both Sharif and Vajpayee seemed to want to convey the opinion that Musharraf was the "architect" of Kargil. U.S. officials were less than convinced and were willing to give Musharraf the benefit of the doubt. They, however, assured Mishra in Washington that the U.S. was as keen as India was to see civilian government restored in Pakistan and that they would use their influence on Pakistan to address Indian concerns over cross-border terrorism. The Clinton administration also announced that for the present it would not waive the Pressler Amendment, as proposed, which would lead to the resumption of arms supply to Pakistan.

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At the same time, U.S. officials in Washington and those who were recently in New Delhi want India to keep the door open for talks with the new regime in Islamabad. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderfurth said recently that Washington was optimistic of convincing the generals to end state support for cross-border terrorism. Inderfurth said that he would meet Jaswant Singh in early November, and that at the top of the agenda for discussion would be the recent developments in Pakistan and adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Inderfurth told mediapersons in Washington that both the U.S. and India would "closely" watch Musharraf's actions, rather than his words. He conceded that the prospects of "renewing the Lahore process did not look well".

Inderfurth, however, stressed that the U.S. "cannot walk away because Pakistan is important - because stability or the lack thereof in Pakistan will have an impact on Pakistan's neighbours." Bruce Reidel, Senior Director for South Asia in the National Security Council, who was in New Delhi in the fourth week of October, let it be known that Washington viewed Musharraf as a man with "moderate" political views and admitted that Gen. Anthony Zinni, who is in charge of U.S. forces in the Gulf, had a long discussion with Musharraf on security-related issues. New Delhi is not happy at what it feels is only a muted response from Washington to the events in Pakistan.

The Commonwealth, on the other hand, took a tough stance; it suspended Pakistan from the organisation, barely a month before the scheduled Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit in Durban. Members from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group took the decision at a meeting in London, stating that the suspension would be effective "forthwith" and would remain "pending the restoration of democracy in the country". In a statement released after the talks, the Ministers unanimously condemned the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Pakistan.

The European Union set a November 15 deadline for a return to civilian rule. Failure in this regard would invite punitive action. The Indian government, especially a BJP-led one, cannot afford to take such an open stand on an issue that involves the question of democracy. Vociferous support for the restoration of democratic rule could be misconstrued as support for the ousted Sharif government.

Vajpayee will however have an occasion to interact with the new military strongman of Pakistan at the SAARC summit to be held in Kathmandu in late November. That occasion could well provide the opportunity for the resumption of the stalled dialogue process between the two countries.

Changing tack in Washington

The United States is evidently set to continue the game and engage the Generals.

A POLITICIAN as astute as Nawaz Sharif should have known that when it comes to dumping those who have outlived their utility and shedding crocodile tears for them, there is none to beat administrations in Washington. And that the Clinton administration would be no different in this matter. When push came to shove and the men in uniform forcibly entered the political process in Pakistan, Washington was looking for rationales to continue the game and engage the Generals.

It took the Clinton administration a few days to determine, officially and legally, that a coup in Pakistan had indeed taken place.

For Sharif, the only solace was that senior officials in the Clinton administration were ready to hand out commendation certificates; but this was in some ways intended to "protect" the political establishment in Washington - in the unlikely event of the deposed Prime Minister returning to power.

It should come as no surprise that Washington will continue its dialogue with Islamabad. In fact, it would have been naive to assume that the Clinton administration would close all the avenues just because Pervez Musharraf took over the reins of power. It was keen to maintain the dialogue because the bottom line was that there are tangible interests for the U.S. in Pakistan - strategic, political and economic.

But domestic politics in the U.S. being what it is - and what it will always be - the appropriate noises had to be made. And the officialdom at the White House and in the State Department did an excellent job of it; its job, of course, was made a lot easy by the popular reaction within Pakistan to the turn of events.

The U.S. administration subsequently found it easy to list all the shortcomings of the deposed Sharif Government. However, few in Washington are making the point that the Kargil factor - in particular, Sharif's orders (under U.S. pressure) to his troops to pull back from the Indian side of the Line of Control in July - was a principal reason why Sharif lost the power game.

The Clinton administration then began parroting the line that Gen. Musharraf must restore civilian democracy at the earliest, that the U.S. could not do business with Pakistan until then, but that, on the other hand, the U.S. could not "walk away" from Pakistan. This line has been articulated fairly routinely at the State Department, the White House and at congressional hearings.

It is unlikely that the broad contours of this policy line will change in the short term; it will probably be amended suitably over a period of time if the General gets "more comfortable" in his new outfit.

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The coup in Pakistan could not have come at a worse time for Washington: just after Congress had passed legislation authorising comprehensive and permanent waivers of the sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan following the nuclear tests of May 1998. And upon the President signing the Defence Authorisation Bill, the administration would have started reviewing and lifting most, if not all, of the sanctions.

What will happen now is that while sanctions against India will merit immediate attention, President Bill Clinton cannot do anything for Pakistan until an elected government has been restored. And analysts in Washington believe that that could be a long way off. There is talk that about two years will be needed for the situation to stablise and for elections to be held in that country.

One of the key backers of the move to lift the sanctions was Republican Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas; he pointed out that his amendment at this point of time only amounted to a "structural change in the law" that would help the President after a democratically elected government is in place in Pakistan. He also lashed out at the administration for "dumping" Sharif; such an action only sent a "terrible message" to the world, he said.

Brownback was one of the first to argue that no one was giving Pakistan a "pass" on the military coup; he pointed out that the administration had invoked Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act, which mandated blanket sanctions on any country where the duly elected leader was deposed in a coup. There may not be much sympathy for Sharif's way of doing business in his country, but Section 508 does not give the administration much leeway in the matter.

There was another unintended fallout of the coup: the U.S. administration was forced to make its intentions known on the scope of the waivers on the Glenn and Pressler amendments. In response to some close questioning by Congressman Gary Ackerman, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, in the House Asia-Pacific Sub-Committee Hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderfurth said that the administration had neither the plan nor the intention to resume supplying arms to Pakistan.

The Clinton administration has for long been pressing Congress for a "level playing field" in respect of legislation that is perceived as restrictive; it argued that such legislation was preventing the U.S. from fully pursuing its foreign policy goals. When Congress was debating the future of the sanctions on India and Pakistan, the Senate adopted through the Brownback Amendment a permanent waiver but took the Pressler law from the books. The House version spoke of waivers for one year but did not tamper with the Pressler law. The Conferees of the House and Senate went in for comprehensive and permanent waivers; as a result, not only the Glenn Amendment but also the Pressler Amendment were taken off the list.

For all its expressions of "sympathy" and invocation of national security interests, the Clinton administration will have a difficult time explaining to Congress just why certain relaxations would have to be made. For instance, it is fairly common knowledge that Pakistan's economy is in deep trouble. In fact, the conviction in the U.S. is that Pakistan has for quite some time been tottering on the brink. A formal meltdown of the Pakistani economy will have an impact in the immediate neighbourhood and on Washington's policies in the region.

This is the reason why the Clinton administration will not anymore lean heavily on Pakistan. Washington has said, for instance, that Islamabad has problems with the International Monetary Fund and that the disbursement of the third tranche of IMF loans, $280 million out of the total package of $1.6 billion, was in jeopardy much before the Army emerged from the barracks.

The Clinton administration will also look to India to a certain extent to ease things in Pakistan. And it will expect India to respond meaningfully to the olive branch extended by Gen. Musharraf. Senior officials are also aware of the problems from an Indian point of view: aside from a perception of being let down or "cheated" after the Lahore summit, New Delhi has made it plain that it cannot negotiate so long as Islamabad was fully involved in a state-run terror campaign across the border.

But the hope in official and private quarters in Washington is that the Lahore process will be restarted and that India and Pakistan will settle down to talk about contentious issues in a serious manner. If Gen. Musharraf can be taken at face value - given that he is believed to have initiated and presided over the Kargil debacle - something positive could still come of the ominous developments.

The coup and the Indian nuclear theology

T. JAYARAMAN cover-story

Who controlled the nuclear button in Pakistan as the coup was under way? An assessment of the implications of the coup vis-a-vis nuclear weaponisation.

THE interest that the international media have evinced in the coup in Pakistan is undoubtedly in part owing to the fact that it involved the spectacle of a military takeover in an era when such political transitions have become somewhat passe. In the post-Cold War years, the ruling classes in most other nations have discovered far more effective and superficially democratic means to contain dissent or manage internal crises. But the other major reason for the interest undoubtedly stem from the serious concern that is generated by political instability in any state which has nuclear-weapons capability. Who controls the nuclear button at a time when the normal chain of political and military authority of a state is actively disrupted is a question of more than passing interest to most governments and international public opinion.

But, curiously, in India the question of the nuclear dimensions of the coup in Pakistan has not yet triggered a debate on the dangers posed by nuclear weaponisation when there is endemic political instability in at least one of the nuclear-armed states of South Asia. The Indian media have been flooded with self-congratulatory commentary on the swearing-in of a democratically elected government in India at the same time that the coup got under way in Pakistan; little attention has been paid to the coup's implications for the nuclear issue and the evolution of an Indian nuclear doctrine.

The fact that India's leading nuclear theologians have maintained a studied silence on this issue should, however, be entirely unsurprising to those who have read the recently released draft Indian Nuclear Doctrine (dIND). The crux of the matter is that events such as the coup in Pakistan deal a body blow to some of the fundamental assumptions of the nuclear doctrine enunciated by the high priests of Indian nuclear weaponisation.

As is evident from even a cursory analysis of the dIND, India's nuclear weaponisation programme is Pakistan- and China-specific. In this context, a key assumption of the dIND is that peace and security in South Asia can be ensured by the possession of nuclear weapons that act as a deterrent. In other words, it is the balance of terror between India and Pakistan, when both nations are nuclear-weaponised, that will guarantee peace and stability. The dIND says as much, with its entirely unoriginal invocation of the basic principles of deterrence theory. To be sure, the document does not refer to Pakistan directly but the implications vis-a-vis that nation are obvious. The question that is important for any objective analysis is whether the assumptions of deterrence theory will hold when there is deep political instability in one of the states that is a player in the game.

The Achilles heel of deterrence theory, the hyperrationality of which often makes it beguilingly acceptable to many, is the fact that it presupposes that one's opponent will read one's actions and events in the realm of nuclear weapons in the manner that one intends the opponent to. The second problem is that the actual operationalisation of deterrence, when nuclear weapons are really deployed, leads inevitably to situations where the command and control of nuclear weapons is compromised and the dangers of accidental or unauthorised launch become very high. Deterrence theory presupposes perfect command and control since its stated aim is to prevent a nuclear exchange. But the danger of deterrence is that such a level of command and control is never achieved in practice - as the experience of even the most advanced nuclear weapons powers has always shown.

WHO controlled the nuclear button in Pakistan while the coup was under way? Who had the authority to launch nuclear weapons when Nawaz Sharif was attempting to prevent Gen. Pervez Musharraf from returning to Pakistan? Would it have been the orders of the Prime Minister or the orders of the Chief of the Army Staff that would have prevailed with the individuals who physically controlled the arming, the launching and the delivery of nuclear weapons? What are the political inclinations of these individuals, and would they have been susceptible to the enticements of fringe extremist political elements in a short period of extreme instability during a forced political transition? Obviously, India's nuclear hawks have no clear answers to these questions. But in a nuclear-armed environment, the security - indeed, the very lives - of millions of Indians hangs on precise answers to these questions, now and in the future.

Undoubtedly, the nuclear theologians will attempt to dismiss these questions as unduly alarmist in the current context. It certainly appears that currently in Pakistan it is the Army that has physical control of the weapons. But according to reports in the Pakistani media, quoted by The Times of India (August 22, 1999) for instance, the political authority to launch nuclear weapons was to rest with the Prime Minister, while the Chief of the Army Staff was to be the strategic commander. In the event of a conflict between the political authority and the military, whose will would prevail and how would that affect the control of nuclear weapons? Did Pakistan have a mechanism in place whereby the strategic commander could not override the political authority or vice versa? Hardly likely, considering the technical difficulties involved in Pakistan acquiring such a capability and given the internal political constraints. It is also true that the armed forces were solidly behind Gen. Musharraf in the current coup and were hardly disposed to listen to Nawaz Sharif. Gen. Musharraf also moved rather rapidly to assure the world that his regime would exercise nuclear restraint. But is it guaranteed that such a situation would always obtain even in the future?

It is obvious that command and control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons will always be a chancy affair. The compromising of command and control will always be a possibility that cannot be excluded. Indeed, in more extreme crises, a split in the Army would render the situation even more dangerous. If, as was the case with even the current coup, part of the internal conflict was precisely on the question of how to deal with Pakistan's disputes with India, who controls the weapons becomes a matter of great concern. Can an endemically politically unstable state, as Pakistan has been for the last few decades, endure the pressures of a crisis of the proportions of the Cuban missile crisis, scaled down no doubt to subcontinental dimensions, without its command and control giving way? The inescapable conclusion is that the lives of millions of Indians are only as secure as the weakest link in the Pakistani chain of command for its nuclear weapons. Only in the fevered imagination of India's Strangeloves, dedicated to the pursuit of nuclear weapons, could this be construed as security.

THE oft-repeated claim that India's command and control will be more secure because of the civilian control of nuclear weapons cannot also be taken at face value, even if it soothes various representatives of Track II diplomacy from the United States. Apart from being an insult to India's armed forces, this argument suppresses the fact that the most vociferous and hawkish pressures in favour of India's nuclear weaponisation have always come from its civilian sector. The blithe disregard of strategic realities in South Asia by the pro-weaponisation lobby, whether in government or outside, is undoubtedly partly due to the virtual exclusion of the Indian armed forces from both the final decision-making loop as well as the long internal debate that led to the nuclear tests and the handling of the aftermath. And even if ultimate political authority rests with the Prime Minister, it makes command and control no more secure if the physical control of nuclear weapons lay with men in civilian clothing rather than those in the varied uniforms of the defence forces.

But even more disturbing considerations emerge if one tries to analyse more carefully the business-as-usual attitude of the nuclear hawks in India towards the implications of the coup in Pakistan. This attitude in fact has its genesis in the manner in which the Kargil conflict, a classic case of the damage done to India's security by Pokhran-II, was ultimately brought to an end. In Kargil, India's chestnuts were pulled out of the fire partly by the intervention of the U.S. As Pakistan, hoping for international intervention, prolonged the conflict beyond the time period that intelligent political and strategic considerations would have indicated, it was the pressure brought to bear by the U.S. that eventually led to a Pakistani withdrawal. This happened at a time when clearly the Indian government foresaw a long-drawn-out conflict, with high losses in terms of men and material, to regain final control of the territory occupied by the Pakistani intruders. Clearly it was also international pressure that prevented Pakistan from explicitly bringing the nuclear factor into play even though threatening noises did emerge from some quarters.

It is the self-deluding and mistaken reading of these events as a triumph of Indian diplomacy and strategy, in utilising the U.S. to contain Pakistan in the Kargil conflict and force its withdrawal, that has partly emboldened the nuclear hawks in India to produce the aggressive dIND, unmindful of its destabilising effects in the subcontinent. One of the key underlying assumptions of the doctrine is that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P-5) would automatically intervene if Pakistan attempts to raise the nuclear threat in the subcontinent. The gamble is that deterrence will work partly because the international community will not countenance any destabilisation of deterrence by Pakistan. And this is also the reason why the nuclear hawks view the coup with relative unconcern, depending on the U.S. to intervene to ensure that Pakistan continued to exercise nuclear restraint. What if the intervention of the P-5 does not work or that they are unable to intervene decisively on some occasion in the future. These are, of course, questions that only 'naive' anti-nuclear weapons campaigners would ask.

It is clearly this view that finds its echo in an editorial in The Times of India (October 21) calling upon the "international community, and particularly the U.S.", to "emphasise to the Pakistani military what the consequences of any nuclear adventurism are likely to be." The editorial smugly concludes: "It is to cover contingencies of this type that the Indian nuclear doctrine authored by the National Security Advisory Board talks of 'punitive unacceptable retaliation' in case of a nuclear first strike on India." Undoubtedly P-5 intervention against the offender and an Indian second strike would bring considerable cheer to the ghosts of those Indians who would have been vapourised by a first strike.

The fact that this strategy, even in the short term, would require the offering of substantial quid pro quo measures to the U.S., or that it opens the door to worrisome possibilities such as international intervention on the Kashmir question, has been lost sight of in the blind pursuit of nuclear weaponisation. That this attitude is at least partly official is evident from the alacrity with which the newly-elected government has resumed its dialogue with the U.S. on a broad range of issues that have been left somewhat unspecified but appear definitely to include India-Pakistan relations. Indeed, it is National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra who is the first representative to visit Washington.

It certainly appears unlikely that the serious problems that beset India-Pakistan relations can be settled in the short term. There is a huge gap that divides the two nations that it seems will be difficult to bridge without considerable patience and intense and prolonged effort. And undoubtedly the continued instability of democracy in Pakistan complicates the picture. But introducing nuclear weapons into the subcontinent or the production of aggressive nuclear doctrines based on the false assumptions of nuclear deterrence theory seems hardly the way to go about securing peace. The correct first Indian response to its troubled neighbour, post-Pokhran and post-Chagai, remains the acceptance of Pakistan's oft-repeated offer to consider the non-deployment of nuclear weapons in the subcontinent.

Return of the Generals

AZIZ SIDDIQUI cover-story

The takeover of a country by military leadership in the face of failures by civilian governments only leaves the country in a worse state than before. Pakistan's is a case in point.

IMPOSITION of military rule for the fourth time in the country's brief history is bad enough. What makes it gloomier is that the action is by all accounts, widely popular. It has not only been welcomed by a wide swathe of common citizenry, it also seems to enjoy an embarrassing measure of acclaim among the intelligentsia. Even long-time democrats and human rights activists are averse to sounding a note of dissent. "Do you want us to go back to Nawaz Sharif?" they ask testily.

That is at the core of the current dilemma. If it is not one it has to be the other. If it is not to be an extra-constitutional public-spirited benevolence, as presumed, it can only be a constitutional self-serving despotism, as experienced. The historical factors that have created this stark choice, the experiences of the past, and the fact that weighing the alternatives on the basis of the accepted norms may still be the best course for the longer term, is lost sight of in this initial euphoria.

There is, of course, no question about the gargantuan failures of the Nawaz Sharif Government. What official publicists are busy reeling out on the official media is, for once, largely true. During his 32-month stint, Nawaz Sharif not only failed to catch the popular imagination - despite his Z.A. Bhutto-like bids to win the personal support of the masses in the interior of Sindh, Punjab and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) - he also came to be regarded as a bit of a disaster by the educated elite in the cities. His intellectual limitations had become the stuff of popular jokes. Z.A. Bhutto's brilliance was barely a mitigation of his offensive waderaism. But Nawaz Sharif was bereft even of that.

People find it hard to dispute Pervez Musharraf's contention that what he rolled back was not democracy, it was a sham. Nawaz Sharif had made sure that every potential check on his freedom to do his will was effectively gotten out of the way - extra-constitutionally if necessary, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Nawaz Sharif first thought up a series of constitutional amendments to fortify himself against possible challenges to his rule and to invest himself with powers few constitutional rulers ever enjoyed. The first of his amendments dispensed with the President's power to dismiss a government and dissolve Parliament in a situation he thought was one of constitutional breakdown. That power had been written into the Constitution by President Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, who had wished to retain with himself the ultimate leverage over the Prime Minister. The provision went on to cause the downfall of four elected governments and Parliaments in eight years, the first of those at Gen. Zia's own hands. This power, therefore came to be regarded as a destabilising and undemocratic weapon in the hands of a head of state meant to be only a figurehead. For that reason, its repeal by Nawaz Sharif was generally welcomed. But there was more to come.

Nawaz Sharif's next amendment bonded parliamentary parties to the will of their party leader. It required every member to vote strictly in accordance with his or her party's (which meant the party leader's) decision. Even abstention, let alone dissent, would cause the member to forfeit his or her seat. That had the effect of completely neutering the National Assembly. The Opposition, being minuscule in the House turned into a pen of sheep. There was rarely a Parliament as dull as this one.

The ultimate in constitutional despotism, however, came with Mian Nawaz Sharif's third amendment, meant as a measure to enforce Islam in the country. The original draft placed before the National Assembly gave the government (read the Prime Minister) total power to decide what was prescribed and what was prohibited in Islam, and to go ahead and enforce it regardless of what the Constitution or the courts said. He could, for instance, decide that Islam did not permit leadership by a woman or a multi-party system of government, and nothing could stop him from making that into a law. Any functionary of the state (including obviously an officer of the courts or the armed forces) who was considered tardy in the implementation of such a decree was liable to severe penalisation. An even more remarkable provision was that any future constitutional amendment considered necessary for the purpose would need only a simple majority to be passed - simple majority not even of the total membership but of just those present at the time and voting! In other words, an amendment could sail through even without the Opposition participating, and even in the face of opposition by the smaller three of the country's four provinces. Clearly, it took a sinister mind to think up the whole design.

The proposal was so plainly outrageous that a few members even of the ruling party gathered courage to demur against it in a party meeting (they came to know of the Bill only after it was presented in the National Assembly). The objectors were immediately asked to resign, which they did, whereupon they were conceded a part of the ground. In the second draft, the last two elements were removed. The Bill, not the less offensive for the revision, got more than the needed two-thirds of the votes in the Lower House. However, since the Muslim League did not have that kind of majority in the Upper House and the others had joined in opposing it, it was kept pending on the calculation that with threats of divine wrath from the mullahs and the re-election to half the Senate seats due in March 2000 the requisite numbers would become available.

NAWAZ SHARIF and his men were active outside of the Constitution as well. The so-called Accountability Cell had throughout his tenure, concentrated on just the Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and her imprisoned husband Asif Ali Zardari. That pretty much took care of the principal Opposition. The other party occupying considerable political space that the Muslim League coveted was the MQM, Mottahida (formerly Mohajir) Qaomi Mohaz, which had begun as, and still largely remains, the party of the first- and second-generation migrants from India settled mainly in Karachi. At first, the Muslim League joined up with it to form the government in Sindh and keep out the PPP, the single largest party in the province. However, after it had a national Emergency declared following the nuclear tests, and had that measure endorsed by the supreme court, the Muslim League thought that it no longer needed the MQM - it could impose Governor's rule in the province and rule from Islamabad without giving anyone a share in power. Not believing in half-measures, it did not just ditch its former coalition partner, it also cracked down heavily on it in the name of fighting terrorism.

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The bid to tame the judiciary also started early. It succeeded so well that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (and the then President) were made to resign, following a raid by party goons on the Supreme Court building while the court was in session. Official criticisms against the judiciary continued after that on the supposed grounds of its dilatoriness and its not awarding sentences that were prompt and stiff enough. This was seen as a bid to warn the judges against assuming too much independence. On the eve of Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to Lahore, the world media that was on hand to witness the occasion huddled around the available television sets when it was announced that Nawaz Sharif was to address the nation. The expectation was that the speech would be about the event that was on the minds of most people - the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan in close to 40 years. However, as it happened, there was not a word about that. The address was a tirade against the judiciary and the judicial system.

The list of the ousted government's bids to undermine the democratic and federal principles, institutions and sentiments is long despite the relatively brief spell in power. It includes a series of actions against the media and mediapersons, a campaign of vilification against independent-minded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) by name and drawing up a law to limit the freedom of the NGOs and enhance the official say in their affairs, moves that made the predominance of Punjab increasingly felt in the three smaller provinces, and the extravagant sallies into populist economism at a time of virtual bankruptcy.

THE bill of indictment against the Nawaz Sharif Government can go on and on, but that still does not prove that one wrong can be made good by another. Pakistan has had prolonged experience with military rule. Nearly half of its 50 years has been spent thus, with each bout coming in the midst of similar public euphoria and a sense of good riddance for the ousted order. But each such spell left the country, when it was made to leave it, in an even worse mess than it found it in.

The rule of gen. Ayub Khan, among a number of other things, started the process of alienation in East Pakistan, which Gen. Yahya Khan after him carried to completion. Between them they saw half the country break away, the only occurrence of its kind in current history.

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Zia-ul-Haq's gifts were similarly manifold and far-reaching. He put the country on the map of drug traffic. Drug addiction spread widely within the country too: from being negligible at the start of the 1980s, the numbers shot to upwards of three million at the close of the decade. The country also became the site of the busiest cross-border arms trail since the Vietnam war, with parts of the weaponry meant for Afghanistan trickling sideways, deep into the country, and creating the phenomenon of arms proliferation in private hands. This in turn led to the birth and spread of terrorism within, with gruesome incidents rocking the country. Zia-ul-Haq also acted as a midwife in the process of introducing religious fundamentalism into the body politic. It has since made deep inroads into the corpus of laws and the administration of justice. The pressure has continued to mount. There is an unrelenting bid to enhance its influence and its embrace.

Perhaps the most baneful of the long-term effects of the earlier spells of military rule was that they robbed constitutionalism of much of its sanctity. The Constitution was either abrogated or suspended, replaced or overhauled at the convenience of the dictator of the time. With all that happening - and happening unfortunately with the endorsement of the country's judiciary - the way was opened for political governments too to press against constitutional constraints. A country that was already a bit difficult to rule was thus made even more ungovernable.

The length and nature of past military rules had yet another effect: they made the military's presence loom large even when it was not in power. The political governments that have come in between have felt obliged to keep looking over their shoulders - or, like Mian Nawaz Sharif, to try and create personal loyalties in that camp.

There is little evidence so far that Gen. Musharraf's tenure in power will be very different from those of his predecessors. The objectives he has spelt out for himself make a full enough agenda. The approach is soft for the present. The term martial law has been strictly avoided this time, as a nod no doubt to world opinion. Fundamental rights are also promised to be generally respected. But on past evidence it is hard to be optimistic even about small mercies. As the regime exhausts its ingenuity and innovativeness and public euphoria begins to dissipate, it may find even a relatively free press, independent judiciary and active elements of civil society a bit of a spoilsport.

The Chief Executive has already given himself the authority to act outside of the suspended Constitution in pursuit of the aims he has set out. He may have to make structural changes in such areas as devolution of powers to the grassroots and strengthening the federal bonds, in case he takes those objectives seriously enough. The proposed National Security Council headed by himself and including the two other service chiefs seems particularly likely to become an organic feature as the supreme governing body. The armed forces had long favoured a constitutional role for themselves in governing the country. Now that they have the opportunity to give it to themselves it is unlikely that they will not make sure it stays for all forseeable future.

When asked about his new responsibilities, Gen. Musharraf remarked that it was "nice to be in charge". This candour was amusing. It can also be ominous.

A former Editor of The Frontier Post and The Pakistan Times, Aziz Siddiqui is currently Joint Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Into Act Five

The Central Bureau of Investigation files its first charge-sheet in the Bofors howitzer deal case, which is now set for trial.

IT has fallen to the lot of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to debunk one of India's most sacred political icons, whose residual aura provides all the legitimacy that the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha today possesses. The sensitivities connected to the Bofors pay-offs scandal being so acute, any decisive movement forward in the official investigation would inevitably be construed as politically motivated, irrespective of its specific content and purpose. Prudence demanded that the CBI should, for this reason, go through a rather prolonged period of cooling off before the first charge-sheet in the case was filed. The work of preparing the first set of indictments had begun immediately after sanction to prosecute the public servants implicated in the scandal was received from appropriate quarters in April. But the intervening general elections compelled the CBI to wait, since any action taken during an intensely fought political campaign could have easily been interpreted as being partisan in its motivations.

The charge-sheet that was filed before Ajit Bharihoke, Special Judge for CBI cases, on October 22 is closely modelled in its essence on the report that the agency had submitted to its administrative Ministry in May 1997. The then CBI Director, Joginder Singh, had insisted in February that year - as he took delivery of the first set of secret bank documents released through the Swiss judicial system - that his investigations would be completed by the end of April. He missed the self-imposed deadline by a few days, but that can hardly be considered a serious deficiency in an investigative process that has often been dragged out for the most unsavoury of reasons. CBI officials intimately connected to the investigation today acknowledge the debt they owe to the brief period of autonomy the agency enjoyed under Joginder Singh, during the tenure of Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

For no evident reason, the mandatory sanction required for the prosecution of public servants was delayed till April this year and finally granted only selectively. Sanction was sought for the indictment of three individuals who had been public servants when the putative offences were committed - S.K. Bhatnagar, Defence Secretary in the Rajiv Gandhi Government, G.K. Arora, Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office during the same period, and Madhavsinh Solanki, Minister for External Affairs in the P.V. Narasimha Rao Government. In the case of Bhatnagar and Solanki, sanction was granted in April by the appropriate authorities. The case of Arora remains indeterminate, according to CBI sources - neither has sanction been granted, nor has it been explicitly denied.

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In the professional assessment of CBI investigators, Arora's indictment is not really essential to ensuring the integrity of their case. And Solanki's alleged offence, though serious, is of a different nature. He stepped into the fray when the judicial process in Switzerland was already well advanced and sought rather maladroitly to divert it off course by passing an anonymous note to his counterpart in that country. This makes him a party to the criminal conspiracy in its later phases. It is learnt that his indictment is imminent. He does not feature in the charge-sheet now filed, since this pertains to the earlier phases of the scandal.

PERCEPTIVE observers and chroniclers of the howitzer deal have analytically sought to interpret it in terms of four stages, each characterised by a specific mode of action. The first relates to the decision-making process on the choice of howitzer guns for the Indian Army. The second comprises the arrangements made for the receipt of illicit pay-offs from the Swedish arms vendor. The third is the official cover-up and crisis management effort by a small group in the Prime Minister's Office. The fourth is the journalistic expose and the CBI's criminal investigations, which were assisted by the Swiss Federal Police and the judiciary in both India and Switzerland.

In terms of this conceptualisation, Arora and Bhatnagar were deeply implicated in the first three phases of the scandal, though their specific roles would be simply incomprehensible if the guiding hand of Rajiv Gandhi were not reckoned with. It is not ill-will or political partisanship that impels the CBI to name Rajiv Gandhi as one of the accused in the charge-sheet, but the undeniable requirement of logical and legal completeness. As Joginder Singh aptly put it shortly after his investigation report was completed in May 1997, Bofors without Rajiv Gandhi would be like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.

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The other accused in the case are (from left): Former Bofors agent Win Chadha; Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi; former Defence Secretary S.K. Bhatnagar; former Bofors President Martin Ardbo.

Expectedly, the Congress(I) has responded with unconcealed fury to the charge-sheet. There was no evidence implicating Rajiv Gandhi in the scandal, claimed Congress(I) spokesman Kapil Sibal, shortly after briefing the party's highest executive body, the Congress Working Committee, on the legal background and implications of the CBI's move. Even the supposed proximity between the Rajiv Gandhi family and Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian businessman who was for long resident in India, is far from being an established fact, he claimed. More ominously, a statement issued by the Congress(I) headquarters denounced the charge-sheet as an effort at "vilifying and maligning the late Rajiv Gandhi" - an action that would not be tolerated by "millions of Congressmen and women".

The emotive appeal fails to carry credibility since the legal evidence that has been marshalled by the CBI is unambiguous. Quattrocchi is known to have elbowed his way into the howitzer contract in November 1985, in the guise of a shadowy company called A.E. Services. To all appearances, this company had no previous existence, far less any knowledge of the armaments business. But for a concern with such obvious limitations, it was willing to take on onerous responsibilities. Its agreement with Bofors promised to deliver the howitzer contract signed and sealed to the Swedish firm before April 1, 1986. Failing this, its entitlement to an agreed percentage of the contract value would be rendered void.

A.E. Services' sense of self-assurance was obviously underwritten by high-level connections in the Indian government. Between November 1985 and March 1986, the Indian Army was prevailed upon to revise its preference ordering of howitzer guns that were on offer. The Bofors weapon, which featured as the second preference to a French product until November, was catapulted to the premier position. And a contract in favour of the Swedish manufacturer was signed on March 24, 1986.

In March last year, Quattrocchi had in his quest for legal exculpation played his last card. Pleading that the CBI's arrest warrant and the Interpol red-corner alert issued against him amounted to a gross infringement of his right to free movement, Quattrocchi petitioned the Delhi High Court for remedies. The CBI's counter-affidavit, based in essence on the May 1997 investigation report, frontally took on this plea, recording in graphic detail all the available evidence on the Italian businessman's culpability.

Crucial in this regard has been the deposition before an examining magistrate in Geneva by Myles T. Stott, Director of A.E. Services, whose essential function was to act as a fiduciary agent in the operation of the company's Swiss accounts. According to Stott, the "initial approach" for the Bofors-A.E. Services agreement "came from Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi", who he surmised had "a consultancy role". A.E. Services, in turn, in Stott's understanding, was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Quattrocchi's firm CAV, and acted in the Bofors matter purely as a "trustee".

This reading is corroborated by the Swiss bank documents in the CBI's possession, which show a remittance of just over 50 million Swedish kroner (then equivalent to over $7.3 million) into A.E. Services' newly opened account at Nordfinanz Bank in Zurich on September 3, 1986. A few days later, the bulk of these funds was again transferred to an account maintained by Colbar Investments Ltd - a company registered in Panama - at the Union Bank of Switzerland in Geneva. Colbar was then controlled by Quattrocchi and his wife Maria - both of whom were in Switzerland at the time the account documents were signed. In July 1987, the funds in the Colbar account were moved to the credit of Wetelsen Overseas at the Union Bank of Switzerland. After a further transit through Guernsey in the British Channel Islands, the monies were lodged in Switzerland and Austria.

Quattrocchi's entry into the deal and his subsequent exertions in shifting vast sums of money through a tortuous course of secret bank accounts would be incomprehensible if cognisance were not taken of his proximity to the Rajiv Gandhi family. The CBI's averments in the Delhi High Court record that "the families of the then Prime Minister of India and Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi were on very intimate terms and they used to meet frequently." Certain family photographs collected during the investigation, the CBI further claimed, bore testimony to this proximity.

THE first hearing of the Bofors case is scheduled for November 3, when the court will be requested to take cognisance of the charges and issue summons to all the accused. It is learnt that the CBI has secured assurances of cooperation from Myles Stott, an Englishman who often takes up fiduciary management responsibilities on the basis of the impeccable reputation he enjoys. The CBI could also consider summoning a senior Delhi-based lawyer, who was instrumental in recruiting Stott's services for the Bofors deal. The diary of Martin Ardbo, president of the Swedish armaments manufacturer all through that stormy period, bears a few enigmatic references to a certain "Gandhi Truste lawyer" he was sporadically in touch with during the crisis management phase. It seems a reasonable surmise from the CBI's point of view that this could be the same lawyer who brought Stott into the deal as trustee for the A.E. Services funds.

Of the five accused in the October 22 charge-sheet, three are in relatively safe havens overseas. Quattrocchi fled the country and has been resident in Malaysia since he was identified in July 1993 as one among seven individuals who had filed appeals in the Swiss Federal Court against a lower judicial order transferring key bank documents to the CBI. W.N. ("Win") Chadha took flight in 1988, even before Rajiv Gandhi was ousted from power. As a long-serving agent for Bofors in India, Chadha had reason to feel done out of a fair share of the pickings from the deal on account of Quattrocchi's late entry. His early retreat from the arena was a recognition that he was badly exposed both by virtue of his long association with the arms manufacturer and his relative remoteness from the centres of political power. From his sanctuary in Dubai, he has repeatedly indicated his willingness to submit to CBI interrogation. But the Indian investigators have been equally insistent that they will not conduct any part of their inquiries on foreign soil.

Martin Ardbo remains a resident of Sweden and could benefit from the legal immunity conferred by the statute of limitations. CBI officials are not very clear about the pertinent legal provisions and are working on the premise that they will deal with any such encumbrance when it crops up.

Among the witnesses who could be summoned in the hearings is Arun Singh, who was Minister of State for Defence in the Rajiv Gandhi regime and a close confidant of the then Prime Minister. He and General K. Sundarji, then Chief of the Army Staff, are known to have repeatedly affirmed that the threat of cancelling the Bofors deal would quickly bring the recalcitrant arms manufacturer around to naming the beneficiaries of the illicit pay-offs. On every occasion, this seemingly reasonable position was thwarted by Defence Secretary Bhatnagar, obviously on the instructions of Rajiv Gandhi.

Viewing the matter from the other side, B.M. Oza, who was India's Ambassador to Sweden during that stormy period, has recorded how he had gone out of his way to issue visas for a group of Bofors officials to visit India early in 1987, to depose before an inquiry into bribery allegations. Again, the effort at uncovering the truth behind the burgeoning scandal was scuttled by a direct intervention from the office of the Prime Minister. Oza too figures as an important witness in the case.

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Frontline Editor N. Ram is another witness listed by the CBI; the series of articles that he ran in The Hindu between 1988 and 1989, laid open the sordid inner workings of the nexus between international arms merchants and politics. Ram has been closely tracking the official investigation since it was launched by the CBI under the directorship of Rajendra Shekhar in 1990. His inputs and expertise were extensively utilised by the agency when Joginder Singh was its Director.

OCTOBER 22 could be justifiably viewed as the inauguration of Act Five in the Bofors drama. A relatively minor theme - perhaps Scene Two in Act Five - will commence when the indictment is served on Madhavsinh Solanki for his effort to defeat the process of the law through an anonymous note of dubious provenance. But another major Act could commence when the Swiss judiciary finally disposes of a batch of appeals pending before it, relating to another set of bank accounts where the Bofors pay-offs were lodged.

It is known that the appellants in this case are the Hinduja brothers - Gopichand and Srichand - enormously influential businessmen of Indian origin, settled in London. They were identified as interested parties in the Bofors scandal as far back as July 1993, when the Swiss Ministry of Justice released the names of the individuals who were contesting the order transferring the Bofors documents to the CBI. But unlike Quattrocchi who seemingly had exhausted all his legal options by then, the Hindujas managed to take the matter further up in appeal. From the examining Magistrate's Court, they took it up to the Cantonal Court. Losing the case there, they appealed to the Federal Court. Again having suffered a mortifying defeat, they are learnt to have taken their plea to the Federal Councillor - a higher judicial official whose jurisdiction is invoked only in the rarest of cases. The CBI is confident that the Hindujas will win no sustenance from this quarter. But being unsure of the time-frame involved, it has decided to proceed with one round of indictments and file additional charge-sheets when further evidence becomes available.

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Indian politics may have plumbed fresh depths since Bofors exploded on the scene as a powerful metaphor for corruption in public life. But the Swedish arms manufacturer's name - since effaced on account of a series of corporate takeovers and supplanted by the relatively untainted appellation of Celsius - continues to evoke deep resonances. Above all, Bofors is about the democratic principle of accountability. It is about a democratically elected leader squandering an enormous fund of public goodwill through sheer arrogance of power, trampling upon every process of accountability and subverting institutions in his effort to evade responsibility.

L'affaire Bofors still remains far from its final consummation. But the mere fact that it has been committed to trial represents a much needed affirmation of the resilience of the rule of law in India.

No major shift in popular mood

IF Tamil Nadu threatened to be a psephologist's nightmare this time, the exit poll disaster of 1998 was not the only reason. The basic alliance arithmetic of the State was written afresh between the elections of 1998 and 1999. So much so that it is difficult to fix a benchmark from where gains and losses can be calculated. In 1998, the alliance led by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which included the Bharatiya Janata Party, swept the polls: it won 30 of the 39 seats on the basis of a lead of merely five percentage points over the rival front, which comprised, among others, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC). The Congress(I) fought independently and ended up empty handed, with just 4.8 per cent of the vote.

By the time 1999 elections were held, political merry-go-round had turned full cycle. If the new alliances were to be judged by the performances of their individual components in the 1998 elections, the starting point for the AIADMK-Congress(I) combine was 33.8 per cent of the vote, while the new DMK-BJP front started with an advantage, at 39.3 per cent of the vote. The TMC-led third front could be assumed to have been left with 21.9 per cent.

The final results show a much higher vote share for both the AIADMK-Congress(I) and DMK-BJP fronts, gained at the expense of the TMC. However, the final figure of a 5.5 percentage-point gap between the vote shares of the two fronts was exactly what it was at the starting point. In other words, the final verdict seems to have had more to do with better alliance-making by the BJP than any major shift in the popular mood.

The gap between the vote shares of the two major fronts was to the tune of 8 per cent in the northern region, the largest in the State. The DMK and its allies won 19 of the 23 seats here. Six of the seats they won were wrested from the rival fronts. The AIADMK-led alliance could have ended up in a much worse situation if it were not lucky enough to save seven seats in the southern region despite trailing behind the DMK-led front in the matter of vote share by around two percentage points in each case. In the western region, the gap narrowed down to less than one percentage point, and the two fronts shared the honours.

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In all only 17 out of the 39 seats changed hands in what appears to be a complete turnabout. The AIADMK was of course the biggest net loser: it conceded 10 of its 18 seats to the DMK-led front and could win back only two. The DMK retained all the five seats it had and added seven seats and three percentage points in terms of votes. The TMC lost all its three seats, two to the Congress(I) and one to the BJP. At 9.3 per cent of the popular vote share, the TMC-led front is nowhere in terms of seats, but retains enough clout to act as a spoiler.

AS seats changed hands, so did votes. The 1999 elections in Tamil Nadu represented an unusual phenomenon of voters changing their voting preferences as the alliances got forged afresh. The Congress(I) carried most of its meagre vote share to its new alliance. So did the DMK, except that its share was not meagre and was not entirely its own. The TMC is virtually born anew, shedding most of the votes it won in 1998. The 1998 vote of the AIADMK front appears to have got split between the alliances led by the DMK and the AIADMK this time. But this is more apparent than real, for the voters only continued to vote for the same party which had changed sides. Significantly, the direct shift of votes between the two traditional rivals, the DMK and the AIADMK, was negligible. Much of the flow took place via the allies, such as the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), which changed sides between the two elections. The viability and success of this vote transfer make coalition politics in Tamil Nadu function in a much less arbitrary fashion than elsewhere. It is not surprising that at 34 per cent, Tamil Nadu has a much higher acceptance for coalitions than the national average of 21.

AS the internal composition of the three main fronts changed substantially between the previous two elections, their respective social bases also went through major transitions. Between 1998 and 1999 members of the upper castes and of the Thevar community united behind the DMK-BJP front while the Vanniyars too shifted their loyalty to this front. The formation of the AIADMK-Congress(I) alliance facilitated a consolidation of the Muslim vote. However, it could not lead to a consolidation of the Scheduled Caste vote, as the TMC's alliance with Puthiya Thamizhagam (P.T.) took away the support of the majority of Arundhatiyars and Chakkiliyars. The Congress(I), which fought on its own in 1998, had fairly uniform support in terms of different communities, barring Christians. It did not, therefore, carry with it any exclusive vote bank when it joined the AIADMK-led front.

INTERESTINGLY, the major parties carry their class profile to the alliance they join. Last year the AIADMK-BJP front had a stronger base among the lower classes and the DMK-TMC combine was supported more by the upper classes. This time the AIADMK-Congress(I) alliance inherited the lower-class profile while the DMK-BJP combine showed an upper class profile. The only change is the entry of the TMC combine, which took away some of the poorest from the AIADMK. Clearly, the national parties in Tamil Nadu take over the basic cleavages of Dravidian politics depending on which ally they team up with. Voting by the levels of education shows the same pattern as in class, for education is largely a function of class. Again, the highly educated mostly support the DMK-BJP, while the AIADMK front and the TMC-P.T. both compete with each other for the votes of the least educated.

There is a clear gender divide in terms of support for the two main fronts. The DMK-BJP front is more popular with men than it is with women, and the reverse is true for the AIADMK-Congress(I) front. But the six-point gap is not as big as one would expect from a front that was jointly led by two women, Jayalalitha and Sonia Gandhi.

THE preferred choice for Prime Minister reveals that the voters of either of the main fronts are firmly behind their national allies' prime ministerial candidate. More than four-fifths of the AIADMK front's voters named Sonia Gandhi while nearly 90 per cent of the DMK alliance mentioned Vajpayee - surprisingly high figures given the secondary role of the Congress(I) and the BJP in their respective alliances in Tamil Nadu. The large percentage of TMC voters who nominated Sonia Gandhi as their choice for the top spot indicates that the party continues to occupy some of the Congress(I) space.

The distinctiveness of Tamil politics has not been eroded by the presence of national political parties in the State. Nationally, 50 per cent of the voters believe that they should be loyal to their own region first, and then to India. However, in Tamil Nadu 78 per cent put their own region first. One must therefore read the gains that the BJP made in the State with caution.

A race between traditional rivals

THE outcome of the Lok Sabha elections in Kerala reflects continuity rather than change. Notwithstanding media speculation about a possible shock to the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) owing to organisational problems, the overall tally of seats was the same as in 1998 - 11-9 in favour of the United Democratic Front (UDF). Last year's results had shown that the LDF was in a rather precarious position: a mere three percentage-point swing from the LDF to the UDF would deprive it of all its seats. This time the UDF's vote share did go up by about one percentage point and the LDF's vote share declined by about the same measure. However, this did not translate into any net loss of seats for the LDF. The swing was more pronounced in the central region of the State, where the LDF lost one seat. However, it gained one seat in the north where the decline in the BJP's vote share upset the balance.

Once again, the BJP failed to win a single seat in the State. In fact its vote share declined by four percentage points, a net decline even if one includes the vote share of its ally, the Janata Dal (United). It seems that for some time to come Kerala will remain the only major State where the BJP or its allies do not matter in the electoral race.

In this round of elections, four seats changed hands. Kollam, where the Republican Socialist Party won in 1998, went to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The Cong-ress(I) wrested two seats - Thrissur and Adoor - from the CPI, which left the latter unrepresented from Kerala. The Kerala Congress (Joseph) and the CPI(M) wrested one seat each from the Congress(I). All but one of the LDF's nine seats are now held by the CPI(M).

A look at the flow of votes between 1998 and 1999 shows that voter loyalty has remained stable since the 1998 elections. There is, of course, nothing new about it. Party loyalties are far stronger in Kerala than in many other States. The extent to which the main parties were able to retain their support base is staggering: 94 per cent for the UDF, 92 per cent for the LDF and 89 per cent for the BJP. Even before the campaign started, about 51 per cent of the voters had made up their minds about whom they would vote for. This was nearly 20 percentage points higher than the national average.

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Party loyalty is not, however, to be taken for granted. The two main fronts canvassed hard, reaching out (in the CSDS sample) to 95 per cent of the electorate. A small percentage of voters shifted from the LDF to the UDF and vice- versa. There was, however, a bigger shift from the BJP to the LDF.

One of the features of the party system in Kerala is that a stable social alliance underlies both the dominant fronts. The extent of voter polarisation on caste-community lines is higher than in most other States. This round of elections saw no major change in the pattern. The UDF, of which the Indian Union Muslim League and the Kerala Congress (Mani) are constituents, enjoys greater support among Muslims and Christians. This time, about three-fourths of these sections of the minorities appear to have supported the UDF. The LDF's support base is made up largely of the backward classes and the Scheduled Castes. It secured the support of the majority of voters from the Ezhava community and three-quarters of voters of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. As expected, the BJP picked up most of its votes from the upper rungs of the Hindu social hierarchy, in particular, from the upper-caste Nair community.

Yet political alignment in Kerala is not just caste- or religion-based. There is an equally sharp alignment on class lines; this cuts across community-based divisions and is more pronounced at the two extremes. The LDF vote is concentrated among the lower classes. It is twice as popular among the poorest as it is among the well-to-do. The profiles of the UDF and the BJP are radically different; these two formations draw support from those who belong to the upper classes. There is, however, one exception to this: the UDF does better among those sections that are just one rung above the lowest.

Unlike elsewhere in India, the class pattern is not directly reflected in the educational profile and the voting pattern. Both the major fronts get similar support across the education divide. The LDF draws less of its support from among the well educated, while the BJP gets most of its votes from this group.

The gender disparities in respect of support for the UDF are striking. Across the country the Congress(I) is traditionally supported by more women than men; in Kerala the difference on this count between the genders is 13 percentage points. Both the LDF and the BJP thus do better with male voters.

The age profile of supporters of the various parties is illustrative. The UDF enjoys greater support among the elderly; the LDF secures much of its votes from among the middle-aged. Both of them fare rather less well with young voters than with voters in other age groups. The BJP, on the other hand, appears to have the most significant appeal among the youngest among voters. If this trend continues for some years, both the major fronts will have something to worry about.

The survey reveals that Kerala is the only State where Vajpayee figures third in the ranking in respect of voters' preference for Prime Minister. Sonia Gandhi was preferred by 41 per cent of those surveyed, Jyoti Basu by 20 per cent and Vajpayee by 19 per cent. The support that Jyoti Basu enjoys also indicates that the LDF voters' preference is governed by political consideration rather than regional considerations.

In Kerala the competition is principally between the LDF and the UDF, with the BJP nowhere in the picture. There is a high level of dissatisfaction with the Central government. Fifty per cent of the respondents said they were not at all satisfied with its performance, compared to the national average of 25 per cent. The BJP also faces the most strident opposition in Kerala, with 11 per cent of the electorate stating that it would never consider voting for it - significantly higher than the 'negative vote' secured by any other party, either regionally or nationally. There is a high level of opposition to many of the BJP's favourite issues, from Kargil and Pokhran to building a temple at Ayodhya.

Another America

VIJAY PRASHAD world-affairs

Islands of poverty floating in a sea of abundance represent a less talked about aspect of life in the United States, the haven of capital.

"Poverty is terrorism. Poverty is a terminal disease. Poverty paralyses. Poverty is the ultimate censor. Poverty, a hell, is war."

Selma Waldman, "A Poor Haiku", Real Change, the newspaper of the homeless in Seattle, United States.

"In America you are not required to offer food to the hungry, or shelter to the homeless, or to visit the lonely - in fact, one of the nicest things about living in America is that you really don't have to do anything for anybody."

- Anonymous poet, Real Change.

IN 1995, Pete Du Pont, heir to the vast Du Pont family fortune, wrote that "the minimum wage turns out to be one of our leading killers - a killer of economic growth and opportunity among the young, the poor, and the minority community. It's time to stop it before it kills again." This fulmination came just as the U.S. government raised the minimum wage for the first time in over two decades, a rise in pay that was marginal and has not gone near enough to overcome the inequities that tear the nation apart.

From President Bill Clinton (Democrat) to Texas Governor George W. Bush (Republican), there seems to be a consensus that things have never been better in the U.S., and that the brief recession (during the presidency of George Bush) is now over. For almost a third of the population who live under or near the poverty line, this provides little solace. The previously unemployed may now be at work, but few ask them about their conditions at 'work', about the number of part-time jobs they must hold to maintain a household, or else about their lack of medical insurance. "Economic segregation in this country is so rigid that we literally don't know one another anymore,'' columnist Molly Ivins complained. If we did, perhaps the hoopla about the return to prosperity would not be made so cavalierly.

For those who watch the U.S. from afar (or during brief, well-orchestrated holidays), it is hard to imagine the poverty within this haven of capital. Sated by Hollywood movies and by the smooth talk of U.S. politicians, the world imagines that each citizen must bear some title to the wealth of the nation. Within the U.S., however, there are few who have illusions about the nature of the economic miracle, of the Second Gilded Age whose Rockefellers and Carnegies are named Gates and Cosses.

From 1983 to 1998, the U.S. stock market grew a cumulative 1,336 per cent. In the 1990s itself, corporate profits rose by 108 per cent, whilst the Standard and Poor's (stock) Index rose by 224 per cent. Someone seems to be doing quite well, as indeed the pay of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) rose during this period by 481 per cent. Furthermore, the richest 1 per cent of the U.S. now enjoys 40 per cent of the nation's household wealth (1997), more than that held by the entire bottom 95 per cent of the population.

If Du Pont worried about the lack of incentive to the working people, he did not have to worry about the ample incentives provided to the CEOs and the 1 per cent from which they hail. This 1 per cent works hard to lobby with the U.S. government, which passes laws to their tune and not to the democratic sirens that occasionally emanate from the 95 per cent. In 1996, Clinton ended social welfare and let those without work find their own way in the thicket of the market. The Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Alan Greenspan held interest rates down to control inflation (as he argued), but also to keep the dollar strong (a net detriment to the working poor). In addition, the government's tax codes and licence to speculation allowed the 1 per cent to reap more benefits from their wealth, whereas the 95 per cent found themselves at a loss. In the midst of this, the U.S. population seems incensed with the buying up of Washington D.C. by what are called 'special interests'. A lazy population has not squandered democracy (just as poverty is not created by personal laziness). Democracy was assassinated by the plutocracy's assignation with wealth.

The second gilded age

In the three decades before 1900, U.S. 'robber barons' created the Gilded Age in which a few families (Rockefellers, Carnegies, Morgans and Vanderbilts) made massive fortunes and enjoyed an age of 'conspicuous consumption' (as Thorstein Veblen put it). Most of this wealth was built by the rapacious use of resources, and by the withdrawal of the state from the affairs of the wealthy (with the termination of the inheritance tax in 1870, the cession of the income tax in 1872 and the defeat of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890). If Edith Wharton worried about the 'monstrous vulgarity' of the rich, the 1892 Populist Party complained that "the fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind, and the possessor of these, in turn, despise the Republic and endanger liberty." The close relationship between money and government was tempered by the rise of organised labour and the socialists, and by the creation of a civic consciousness by an activist media (led by Ida Tarbells, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens).

Ronald Reagan inaugurated the Second Gilded Age with his 1981 tax cut, which prompted a rise in unemployment and a polarisation of wealth (when challenged on the figures in 1982, Reagan explained that "the statisticians in Washington have funny ways of counting"). Reagan conducted what Trinity College Professor of Women's Studies Lisa Armstrong calls, "the opening salvo in the U.S. state's structural adjustment policy against itself."

If 35 per cent of U.S. workers in 1954 formed unions, by the end of Reagan's tenure only 14 per cent did. As Reaganism pulled the rug from under the U.S. worker, the strategy of business unionism followed by U.S. unions meant that they offered immense concessions to corporations in the 1980s rather than act in antagonism to them. From Reagan to the present, the bottom 60 per cent of the U.S. population saw their income drop, while only the top 1 per cent (the same 1 per cent), saw their income explode over 80 per cent. In 1965, the wage gap ratio between the highest and the lowest paid workers was 44 to 1, but by this year it stands at over 200 to 1. In 1999, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, and ex-Microsoft executive Paul Allen enjoy a combined wealth of $156 billion, an amount more than the GNP of the poorest 43 nations. The wealth of the world's 475 billionaires ($1.7 trillion) is well above the gross wealth of the poorest half of humanity. In the Second Gilded Age, wealth trickles upwards as the rest of humanity takes its chances at the lottery, the casino, or else the stock-exchange.

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Wall Street (and its clones across the globe) advertise their power to democratise ownership without revolution and forced redistribution. In this climate, George Soros, Ross Perot and Donald Trump sell themselves as men of the people, simple businessmen who are not so very different from those small merchants who toil under the yoke of interventionist states. However, a close analysis of Wall Street reveals that most stocks (84 per cent) and bonds (90 per cent) are held by not more than 10 per cent of the U.S. population (about 10 million households). Assets of the richest 10 per cent rose by 22 per cent (in the early 1990s) - and it is these people who partly benefited from the meteoric rise in stock prices. The poor gained in one statistic, debt, which rose for the bottom 90 per cent by over 11 per cent while it fell for the richest 1 per cent by 19 per cent. This debt went toward the maintenance of some modicum of the American Dream among households long mortgaged to the will of the banks.

A state of business

The U.S. concocted a welfare state in the 1930s when turbulence in the world of finance left the bulk of the population without waged work and with depleted bank accounts. As a safety net, the U.S. government provided welfare legislation that took care of unemployed single women with children (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and unemployed hungry people (Food Stamps). Welfare expenditure did not exceed 5 per cent of the Federal Budget, and even this amount was grossly exaggerated by escalating medical costs since the 1980s (for the Medicare programme that provides subsidised care). According to the U.S. Congress, Federal assistance in the early 1990s was lower than that provided in 1970. Yet, in 1995, the U.S. government withdrew the safety net with the argument that welfare denudes the culture of work. The "workfare" programme of the U.S. government, however, cannot deliver quality jobs, a colossal failure best represented by the increase in petty crime (and in the prison population). "The real issue," wrote Peter Edelman who resigned from the Clinton administration in 1996, "isn't welfare. It's poverty." Should the state bear any responsibility for its citizens or should it simply act as the caretaker of business interests?

In his new book, The Global Gamble (London: Verso, 1999), Peter Gowan shows how the Dollar-Wall Street regime emerged in the 1970s to maintain the power of U.S. wealth as well as to engineer the world economy to the advantage of mainly U.S.-based transnational corporations. The U.S. worker was not to be spared the harshness of structural adjustment. In the 1980s, the top tax rate was 68 per cent, but revised tax law decreased this to 28 per cent in 1988. While corporations in the early 1950s paid 33 cents of every dollar toward tax, today they pay less than 10 cents. Monies that might have been taxed for socially useful work were used in a speculation binge that, in real estate for example, raised rents to render homes unaffordable to much of the population. The speculation fever increased activity in the stock markets and allowed the 1 per cent to gradually claim the saved income of the many into their coffers.

On October 1, The Wall Street Journal reported a modest gain in incomes in the U.S., but it was forced to acknowledge the words of Rose Woolery, a working mother: "This country is still for those who have money. For the people who don't have it, you're not going to get it."

Those who 'have it', 'get it' from U.S. State's corporate welfare programme: $85 billion annually to private business, $200 billion to collapsed banks, over $30 billion to agriculture, and $440 billion on tax breaks to the wealthy. Such funds are not forthcoming to alleviate poverty. Furthermore, the U.S. economy enjoys an inflow of capital (a $2 trillion debt, $1.3 trillion since 1992) from its creditors who are pledged to uphold the dollar (in which they preserve their own wealth). In May 1999, Alan Greenspan noted that "the arithmetic of foreign debt accumulation and compounding interest costs does indicate somewhere in the future that, unless reversed, our growing international imbalances are apt to create significant problems for our economy."

From a distance, the paper tiger of the U.S. economy appears ferocious. The U.S., however, is less powerful as a national economy and far more powerful as the chosen vehicle for the maintenance of the economic power of the global wealthy. The structural adjustment of the world, including the U.S., occurs to ensure the hegemony of the Dollar-Wall Street regime. The international image of America, however, is far grander than this mundane view. Fraught with misery, many hope to find some kind of utopia within the U.S. Nevertheless, Father Gene Boyle, a priest who works along with the strawberry workers in California, warns us: "We live in a time when people are working too hard and are still in poverty. And communities and neighbourhoods are crumbling because of it. We have to bring this into the daylight." If John Locke in the late 17th century wrote: "In the beginning, all the world was America", there are many who hope that "in the end, all shall be America." The question we might ask is which America?

Vijay Prashad is an Assistant Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.

With roots in India

A convention in New York of People of Indian Origin discusses issues that matter to the Indian diaspora worldwide.

A CAB-DRIVER in Southall in London, the President of a Caribbean republic, and a computer engineer in Seattle, United States: three persons, who, given their lifestyles and stations in life, might well be from different planets. Yet they are bound by a curious emotional cord to a shared geographical space that they consider their "real home", or watan. All three are persons of Indian origin, members of the Indian diaspora, spread worldwide.

A representative group of the People of Indian Origin - though the number of representatives was far too low, considering the size of the PIO community - gathered recently in New York for the Indian Global Convention, organised by the Global Organisation of Indian People (GOPIO), a pan-global organisation that seeks to bring together more than 18 million people of Indian origin worldwide. GOPIO aims, among other things, to address the concerns of the PIO in their countries of settlement and to utilise the expertise of Indian expatriates for the benefit of people in India and the countries where the PIO are settled.

Deliberations at the convention were given over to making follow-up suggestions on the Indian government's programme of issuing identity cards to People of Indian Origin. The PIO cards are intended to give their holders certain privileges - for instance, in the repatriation of income. Persons whose ancestors up to the third generation were persons of Indian origin are eligible to apply for the card by paying a fee of $1,000. The convention adopted resolutions urging the Indian government to consider extending the eligibility for PIO cards to those who are sixth-generation PIOs and lowering the fee to $250.

The presence of Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo, 35, a person of Indian origin, in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly session, gave the convention a high profile. Jagdeo and his political mentor Cheddi Jagan have inspired two generations of Caribbean Indians, and the former is a role model for a generation of PIO who exemplify the theme of the convention, People of Indian Origin: Forging a global alliance. Jagdeo's presence also drew a large contingent of Guyanese Indians from the Queens area in New York.

One of the resolutions passed at the convention called on the Guyanese government to institute an independent inquiry into the alleged atrocities against Indians in that country and to ensure that the ethnic balance was preserved in appointments to the government and the armed services. Indians make up more than half the population but are not adequately represented in the police and the army; this is significant when one considers that the Caribbean country has witnessed many ethnic riots.

SOME of the speakers at the convention seemed keen to impose a Hindi-Hindu worldview on the gathering although the move met with a degree of resistance from a section. The attempts at seeking to emphasise the divisive aspects of a culturally heterogeneous diaspora raised more than a few questions. For instance, one of the resolutions called for the adoption of a "first language" by GOPIO members and delegates. Although it was not explicitly stated, the reference was to Hindi. (The resolution said that given India's linguistic diversity, English had served as an effective link language and served as a door to the world for many Indians.) When a section of the gathering questioned the purpose of this resolution, the chairperson said that its aim was to keep alive in expatriate Indian communities "traditions and religious and spiritual identities".

Similar sentiments found resonance at a session on "Secularism, religion and the national ethos". Speaking on "Focus on Indian culture in the diaspora", Reshmi Ramdhony, senior lecturer and head of Hindi Studies at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Mauritius, proposed that GOPIO undertake an "intra-diasporic compilation ... of all the cultural symbols that still thrive." Such an approach, Ramdhony said, "would not only serve to revitalise and syncretise Hindu faith and Indianness in plural societies but would also help PIOs to address the needs posed by their living far, far away from the Indian mainstream."

Another speaker, Parasram S. Thakur of Community College, Rhode Island, said that Hinduism had been grossly "misunderstood and misinterpreted". Thakur said: "The idea of polytheism, paganism and heathenism, attributed to Hinduism..., is derived from the ignorance of Western Euro-centric scholars, and the exclusivity of Christian dogmatic intolerance for external ideas."

GOPIO-India president Harish Mahajan used the platform he was provided to make undisguised communal statements. In his paper, "Wisdom of religious conversions", Mahajan criticised "Christian pundits" for not responding to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's call for a national debate on religious conversions, following the attack on Christian places of worship in Gujarat last year. Conversions, he said, were proceeding "unabated" without any concern for the "likely implications", including the possibility that "serious reactions" might recur. Mahajan's case was that Christian missionaries were "on the prowl" and were proselytising people "in the garb of service to and upliftment of the deprived ignorants of India." Conversions, he added, were causing "serious emotional hurt" to the majority community in India - which numerically exceeded the combined populations of the United States, Canada and Europe.

GOPIO may not have acquired the saffron hue of the Overseas Friends of BJP, a powerful pressure group that is active in the U.S., but the dangers of its providing a platform for hate campaigns are self-evident. It was left to secular-minded scholars such as Sebastian Devasia, Rajiv Gandhi Professor for World Order Studies, New Delhi, to challenge Mahajan's chauvinistic ramblings. GOPIO secretary-general Dr. Jagat Motwani, who chaired the session, put the issue to rest by stating that the subject was too controversial to be discussed.

THE most telling remarks on the problems and issues affecting the Indian diasporic communities came from noted West Indian historian Dr. Brinsley Samaroo, who called for solidarity among Indians the world over in order to prevent any further abuse or discrimination in their adopted lands.

Samaroo wanted Indians to come together to "offer that continuing spiritual guidance to the wider world which so desperately needs the sustaining spiritual force, such as that which Mahatmaji unleashed in his epic struggle against the British empire with its enormous technological power."

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On the opening day of the Indian Global Convention, organised by the Global Organisation of Indian People in New York. The convention made several follow-up suggestions on the Indian Government's programme of issuing identity cards to People of Indian Origin.

Speaking on "Sharing the inheritance", Samaroo said: "Indians, wherever they are and in whatever circumstances they find themselves, must cease to be apologetic and defensive about their culture and their civilisation." He wanted the Indian diasporic communities to follow the "African diaspora" in facilitating cultural fusion in each "diasporic settlement", instead of being "too preoccupied with small disputes and internecine warfare whilst the large picture eludes our focus."

Dr. Chandrasekhar Bhat of the Study for the Indian Diaspora, Hyderabad, echoed the same sentiments in his paper on "Contexts of intra and inter ethnic conflict among the Indian diaspora communities", and offered examples of identity clashes between what he calls the Older Diaspora and the New Diaspora. He feels that "a major domain of intra-ethnic conflict today among the Indian diaspora is religion". He notes that Operation Bluestar "left its scars" on the Hindu and Sikh communities in Britain.

Bhat said that caste too played a role in the power structure of particular communities. In this context, he pointed out that there were two associations representing Telugu people in the U.S. - the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), made up largely of people belonging to the Kamma caste, and the American Telugu Association (ATA), comprising Reddys.

ON the eve of the convention, Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics and Political Science at Columbia University, told a local newspaper that immigration from India was no longer considered brain drain but rather a phenomenon "serving almost an overseas arm of Indian culture and prosperity."

He said: "In that sense, an institution like GOPIO is useful. Indians are playing a major role here but I think we need to cast our net wide and see what is happening around the world to our community and people who are descended from India."

Dr. Thomas Abraham, GOPIO president, recalled that since it was founded in 1989 in New York, the organisation had come some way but its operations were hampered by a financial crunch. Going by the number of participants at the convention, it appears that GOPIO has not reached out to many persons of Indian origin even in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Abraham had earlier served as president of the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) and the National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA).

The first Global Convention of People of Indian Origin was held in New York in 1989 and was attended by an estimated 3,000 delegates. Four years later, a second convention was held in New Delhi; it was inaugurated by then Guyanese President Cheddi Jagan and presided over by Dr. Karan Singh. Dr. Najma Heptullah and Atal Behari Vajpayee delivered the keynote speeches. A constitution was formally adopted and office-bearers were elected. Abraham was elected president. An international secretariat was set up in New York in 1994. (It operates from the residence of a PIO and is run on a voluntary basis.)

In the ten years of its existence, GOPIO has taken up with the U.N. the issue of human rights violations in Fiji and Sri Lanka. In 1994, it came up with the idea of the PIO card, sensing that the Indian government was reluctant to consider dual-citizenship.

Like many other associations in the U.S. that claim to represent the Indian diaspora, GOPIO has grand visions of bringing PIOs under one global banner. However, given its current pattern of membership, its plans appear to be overly ambitious. It has no more than 150 life members, and its ordinary members number about 100. Much of the organisational work is carried on with personal contributions from office-bearers.

The constitution of GOPIO envisages a three-tier body with a global convention, an executive council, and an executive committee. There is to be a human rights commission, an international advisory council and a credentials committee.

The international secretariat is operational, but this is not the case with the regional structures. There are no organised structures even in countries such as Canada. Given GOPIO's current plight, it may be a long while before it sets out to achieve its stated objectives.

Northern magic

Samiland has no borders or boundaries, wars or armies, and it does not appear on the map - it is a place for those who love nature untouched and clean.

FROZEN deep in the Arctic Circle and along the same latitude as Alaska and Siberia lies Samiland - an imaginary country that has no borders or boundaries, no wars or armies. It is imaginary because it appears on no map, and yet the Lapps - or the Sami people, as they prefer to call themselves - have lived here from time immemorial and traces of their presence here go back more than 8,000 years. Even today, they jet across parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and northern Russia on their shiny skidoos, largely oblivious to the outside world.

Samiland is a mighty land, rich in lakes, rivers, small streams and, not the least, grandiose mountains and boundless hills, which in some places reach as far as the Atlantic coast. In winter the wind occasionally blows across the wide Finnmarkvidda (plateau) in northern Norway and Finland, and the temperature plummets to minus 50 degrees Celsius. It affords the sort of adventure you might expect to experience in the vast plateaux of Tibet or in Antarctica.

Finnmarkvidda lies in Samiland and visitors to Norway now come here to see its scenery, which is spectacular. It is the vastness of the inhabited areas that make the greatest impression here: ranges of mountains and fjells stretch away to the horizon, seemingly without end, silent and awe-inspiring - a place for those who love nature untouched and clean.

As night descends, the snowy mountains and the frozen lake are still coruscating bright white, the sky a deep Tibetan turquoise blue, the air crisp and pure like a swig of fine dry champagne. I strap myself to a harness, attached to my pulk carrying one month's supplies complete with food and fuel. My skis - a new set of Norwegian backcountry 'Madshus' - are lighter than those I used while traversing the Himalayas in 1995. My body is acclimatised and tuned after a month's initial training in Hardangervidda, Europe's largest mountain plateau southeast of Bergen.

Agnar Berg, a veteran explorer who, with four others, achieved the first crossing of Greenland, wearing clothing and equipment as used by the Norwegian hero Fridtjof Nansen, skis alongside me. He is there to encourage me, to express his happiness at witnessing the beginning of an adventure or to wish me luck, or all three. It is a Norwegian send-off by one explorer of another.

At Jotka, Agnar turns back. Ahead, there is silent white: bushes laden with frosted snow look stunted in the distance; the sky beyond is now deep violet. The surface is all scarred and fractured ice. This is Lake Jotka on Finnmarkvidda. It seems so unreal, it is easy to believe it could be home to extraterrestrial life. For me it is a training ground.

It is to this idyllic setting that I have come to practise for my long-held ambition to traverse Antarctica. The route - starting from the Chilean end of the continent and climbing steadily over treacherous crevasses to the South Pole, rising up to 3,350 metres in the Trans-Antarctic mountains and across to McMurdo Sound - is almost 3,000 km long. It is a hundred-day journey with a payload of 200 kg and if one is going to attempt it alone, then one needs to practise, practise and practise.

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Two months earlier, I reached London, courtesy Air-India, and then Oslo where I trained at Hardangervidda for one month. I then flew from Oslo to Alta, the second biggest town in the north and possibly the oldest in Norway with a population of 14,000. Remains of a stone-age settlement - 10,000-14,000 years old - are said to have been discovered here in the Komsa Mountains.

Agnar drove me to his home, where I was able to see a different aspect of the people of the north. Fifteen or so howling hounds met us on our arrival, and Agnar took a few minutes to frolic around their enclosure with them. Four years ago he led a journey through the Northwest Passage with dog sleds, while his wife, Irena, followed him along a safer route with their two-year old son in her lap. He has been across Greenland and the Northwest Passage, but he is basically a dog-man, one of a tribe of old adventurers.

Earlier in the day, he drove me to the Finnmarkvidda, from where I am now beginning my journey. At the edge of Jotka Lake, half a dozen skidoos stand and I can hear conversation inside the single hut. I enter and find six people gathered around three empty wine bottles and plates with well-polished reindeer bones. It is warm inside, they smile, we make conversation and I move out into the cold again. It is almost midnight. Two Samis cross on their skidoos. The wind begins to gain strength and my GPS (global positioning system) equipment begins to malfunction. I move away from the skidoo track and dig in. As I begin to camp, the world's biggest light show, the Aurora Borealis, begins.

The Northern Lights can resemble a psychedelic experience. The sky is filled with pink swirls, which, in a split second, change to sharp green zigzags, then fold in on themselves to become high-speed silver rain. The oddest thing is that all this happens in the dense Arctic silence - Ravi Shankar's sitar or Zakir Hussain's tabla would suit this celestial disco.

I wake to find myself on an awesomely flat ground, across which I can see almost 40 km, maybe more. A Sami man and two women pass me on their skis. Some distance ahead I catch up with them while they rest and soon I realise that they represent three generations. The eldest of the three, the man's grandmother, is nearing 70 and still fit. The wind is strong, but from the northeast, the direction in which I am travelling, it is a head wind and I cannot use my ski-sail, the very reason I have come here from so far away. If the wind were right, I could zip along at breathtaking speed, like the skidoos.

Jiesjavrre (lake), which runs north to south and is about 50 km long, is the biggest of the 177,000 lakes in Finnmark. Molisjok, at the southeastern end of this lake, is a strange oasis in this wilderness. A generator, making a "tuk-tuk" noise, powers the single house and the long aerial that helps locals and travelling executives from Stockholm, Tokyo and London to keep in contact with the outside world through their mobiles.

'Mobile' could be a Sami's middle name. They are on the move all the time, usually tugging around behind them some kind of temporary home. Apart from the deafening noise of their skidoos, the only sound in Finnmark is what you can make yourself.

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Yet it is the kind of place where every Norwegian would like to be. For Scandinavians, sunshine is synonymous with life - something to be cherished, pursued and exploited. In winter they seek their sun god (Baldur, as he was known to their pagan ancestors) on the shores of the Mediterranean, the Canaries and the Azores. And in summer, as soon as the sun gathers strength, they take every conceivable opportunity to get out of doors and luxuriate in its warmth.

"Look, he is almost brown," say Kristine and Kirsten, awed at what they take to be my tan. They have themselves driven here from Hammerfest, the northernmost city in the world, in the hope of becoming as brown as I am. Now, after a week's skiing on the plateau and drinking in large doses of sunlight, they only feel invigorated. "I am ready to join the world again now," says Kirsten. "I am beginning to unfurl, in my thoughts, like a fern when its leaves unfurl. I feel like a new human being."

And so they look. They have come straight out of the sauna at Ravnastua, my day's destination. I catch a whiff of their perfume as they wish me luck. As they pass by, I notice their light blue eyes twinkle and their blonde hair framing their tanned, glowing skin.

I continue my journey past Ravnastua, where a courting couple sit, having driven there on their skidoos. Not far beyond, I sit in the wide wilderness, take out my steel thermos from the pulk and drink coffee. I drop my chocolate bar in the mug for it to melt rather than risk my teeth. The cold is intense.

A convoy of about two dozen skidoos passes by, some of the drivers casting amazed looks, while others give a customary navy salute. I smile and raise my thumb. Later, I ski past elk and reindeer, marvelling at the thousands of stunted silver birches (more hardy than pine and fir) and lolloping arctic hares. The reindeer is the most important animal here and the basis of the Sami household. It is the Sami's staple and his future.

There are very few truly nomadic Sami people left. Most now have a permanent home, even though the herders from the interior still move with their herds to the high grounds in the summer. During late summer and in autumn the reindeer are driven down to the woods near the foot of the mountains where the lichen pasture is rich. There they stay during winter, roaming freely until the spring, when it is time once more to move up the mountains to the high slopes where the vegetation is now juicy, succulent and nourishing.

Remarkably enough, though they constitute a minority, the Sami people have been very successful in conserving their rich cultural heritage and many unique traditions. They have fought for political control over their own affairs and now have their own Sometinget (Parliament) in Karasjok.

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As the plateau drops down in the Karasjok valley, the gradient becomes steep. The pulk pushes from behind, threatening to cause an awful accident. The route comes out at Assebakte on the Kautokeino-Karasjok road. I find an emergency shelter in which to camp. The scene from the window is beautiful, and I watch it for a long time as the full moon rises in the sky. It is never really dark these days. There is always a glow, like an unending evening.

The next day, the route along the Jies Jokka (river) is sprinkled with Wild West-style villages until I reach Karasjok. Karasjok is the Sami centre, where the ancient and modern houses blend into each other. A new Sometinget is under construction, its design reflecting modern architectural influences. So does the new church in the new part of town while the old still stands in the ancient centre.

What is interesting about the community is how the Sami, the townspeople and the newer arrivals all get on so well, drawn together by a frontier mentality and fierce independence. Local Finns and Swedes herd elk and reindeer alongside the Sami. Women dressed in beautiful braided clothes visit the Rimi and Mega shopping plazas. We stop and admire each other.

In the uptown handicrafts emporium, you can buy reindeer leatherwork and traditional silver jewellery, exquisitely handcrafted into chains and elegant pendants. Silver was discovered in the frozen mountains by the Europeans, who arrived here in the 16th century. In the 1880s an iron-ore mine was excavated at Kiruna in Sweden, and a coalmine at Gullivare, and Lapland became a northern frontier with bars and boxcars, gambling parlours and moonshine brews.

I continue my journey along the Tana River, known for its salmon. Across the river is Finland but these borders are meaningless for a Sami, who moves at will across the northern territories. This is a Mecca not only for skiers but also for anglers: in one recent year, 28,000 day passes were issued and about 50,000 kg of salmon was caught with fishing poles.

"The Finns have two distinct passions," a Finnish priest said. "These are angling and sauna." Every village has a forest, a lake and a little group of huts that can be hired to provide the authentic sauna experience. In fact, "sauna" is a Finnish word. Everyone is equal in the sauna culture. The Finnish Cabinet used to meet in the sauna every evening in what came to be known as the "evening school". "It was there that the major decisions were taken, but not any more," said the priest, shaking his head. "Not since they decided to appoint a woman as Minister."

Birch fires have been burning all day to heat the gargantuan sauna room. I undress, tip a couple of barrels of water over myself, then hang out in the cosily dark sauna and pass out. I awake to a light beating on my back with bunches of birch twigs from (don't ask), who, like me, were travelling to Lavajok.

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Rasti-gaissa, at 1,067 m, is the highest mountain in the eastern part of the plateau. "So high, it may be closer to heaven," reads a signboard at the beginning of the track at Lavajok. My progress, although late in the day, is obstructed by Ole, who emerges, as if magically, from behind the clouds. We walk to his hytte, inside which two women are playing dice. They don't speak English, but they have beautiful smiles.

I sleep in the outhouse and slip out, as pre-arranged, at 3 o'clock in the morning. By 8 o'clock I am still struggling with my pulk and half way up when Ole overtakes me on his skidoo. His two women are safely tucked behind on a sled under layers of reindeer skins. At noon, when I reach Levva javrre (lake), Ole has already set up a tent, with oil burner, light and a VHF (very high frequency) telephone.

We spend the day fishing in the lake through a hole about 15-20 cm in diameter made by a drill. As dusk falls, the peaks throw shadows across the ice; a bonfire is lit on the frozen lake to ward off the chill and we cook fresh arctic char, a tasty deep-water fish. It is their kind of a weekend.

The next day the wind is strong, but I travel anyway, copiously using my GPS and compass. I cross over the mountain range between Suodine and Ucca gaissa to Suodine javrre, from where I pick up another skidoo trail that runs northwest. From lake to lake and mountain to mountain, I travel alone on the frozen Martian landscape with no one to talk to or see. I cannot even remember if this is the world I live in. The Seven Wonders of the World don't even come close to this. This is far more beautiful, far more exotic, far more seemingly unreal.

At day's end I notice a hytte, the only one since my start from Lavajok and the only one I may find till I reach Skoganvarre. Its location in the wide wilderness impresses me and I begin to wonder how people will react on seeing a stranger. And what if the stranger is profusely tanned, with a shaggy white beard, and smells less like a human and more like a reindeer?

Knock, knock! I can hear voices but no footsteps. I peep through the glass in the door and catch sight of a woman. She stares, drops her jaw and turns. Another woman opens the door, drops her jaw and retreats. I look on. A man strides up from behind, winks and motions me to come in.

Randi, the tall woman, laughs at herself for mistaking me for someone else, as she pours wine into my glass and fills hers. Yes, wine! Mari, the other woman, sits alongside and we make conversation. She uses a mix of Sami and English, at the end of which she nods and says, "Oh, you understand." I nod back, saying, "Yes, I do." Actually, I have understood nothing. Bjarne, the man, looks on, rising occasionally to pour wine or kiss one of his ladies. The wine-women-and-wilderness cocktail is heady.

For supper we have a Sami staple - reindeer meat. I am served chops and reindeer tongue with clear soup, a delicacy. My stomach growls as I look at the tongue unappetisingly stretched out on my plate. In the end I realise I have finished three helpings and many cups of soup. It was delicious.

The three are half-Sami and reflect the strong Sami culture for protecting animal species. A discussion ensues on the effects of technology on nature. From the window, as far as I can see, it is pristine nature. This is the route I take the next day.

All day I have nothing but wild beauty in front of me. Wilderness is irresistible but after a time you develop a hunger to share it with another person. Mari called it "Magi, magi" last night. Now I understand what she meant. It is magic, magic!

As I begin to descend, I notice the mosses and lichens giving a gentle splash of colour to the rocky hillsides and the edges of the bog. Perhaps these colours have been a source of inspiration for the Sami costume that is now worn only on special occasions. During Easter, particularly in Kautokeino, there are no bounds to this richness and colour, which make a magnificent sight.

At Skoganvarre I am in the lowlands where pine, blue fir and spruce grow and the reindeer dutifully troop south to their winter pasture. The road between Karasjok and Lakselv cuts through the plateau and runs further to North Cape. I look for skidoo tracks crossing the road that I can follow to climb up the western plateau again. Soon I come to a farmstead. A dog barks, a window opens, a sun-baked head pops out and I am asked who I am. I answer and am told that I don't have permission to go any further before I have had a cup of coffee with him. I have two.

I am now on my fourth and final lap. The journey from Skoganvarre will bring me back to Jotka, a circuit of almost 400 km on the Finnsmark plateau. The day's journey is dominated by Vuorje, which at 1,024m looms large, majestically overlooking the wide, flat terrain and sheltering Laevnjas javrre at its foot - one of the prime fishing locations. As I approach, I see a couple zip past on their skidoo. The wind starts blowing; I draw out my ski-sail but realise it is again a head wind as it has been throughout my journey. I camp as soon as I reach the end of the lake. The scene from my tent is exotic and I find it hard to relate it to anything I know. Imagine the red planet Mars with water, emerging out of the Ice Age. It is the closest I can get.

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The next day I meet three young men who are travelling from Norway's southern tip to North Cape - an adventure that many young Norwegians like to undertake after they graduate. I wish that many young Indians would show a similar spirit and go Trans-Himalaya.

Adventure, I suppose, cannot be taught in schools. It is caught from one generation by another. Fridtjof Nan-sen, Roald Amundsen, the Arctic explorers, and Thor Heyerdahl of the Kon Tiki and Ra expeditions, still are a great inspiration for Norw-egian youth. And the number of modern explorers such as Borge Ousland, Sjur Modre and Agnar Berg is on the rise.

Despite the inhospitable nature of the region and the ferocity of the winter, the people of Finnmark are greatly attached to their part of Norway. Outside an old unused telephone hut at Dollajuolgge, two boys sit on their skidoos and watch the wind blow the snow. I ask if they are coming or going. The answer is, neither. They are there just to be outdoors.

It is May, and the night is light. It is this pale, translucent light of what the Norwegians call a sommernetter (summer night) that is so much more remarkable than normal light. Instead of dipping, the sun begins to rise, rise and rise again. In this magical, diffused golden light, all normal rules of life seem suspended and anything at all is possible.

Just then, the wind tugs me from behind. I am thrilled. It is a back wind and could be perfect for sailing. Although it is late at night, I clip on my ski sail and I am ski-borne. The plateau ahead is wide, open and flat. On it are my sail, my pulk and myself travelling at great speed, without fear, moving as wildly as a skidoo. Travelling at this speed, I am more exhausted with excitement than by the pull of the sail in front and the pulk behind. I am in a trance, where only my sail and I exist. The only sound is of the wind and my skis zipping on the snow. This is ecstasy. I feel heady, drunk on life. I begin to understand why the Norwegians call their summer night the "time of life".

This day comes as a present from nature and I cherish it as the most beautiful in my life. It is a day I will live for again. It is a place I will come to again and again. And when I retire, I want to live here, die here. Is nature giving me a portent of success, by showing me that the wind can be harnessed and that I have been tried and tested? The wind took me south but will it take me to the South Pole?

Harish Kohli is an adventurer and explorer and founder of the Asian Geographic Trust for the promotion of adventure (www.asiangeographic.com). He is based in London where he works as a travel consultant and freelance travel writer. He is currently planning a solo Trans-Antarctic expedition and can be contacted on hckohli@asiangeographic.com

The new masters of the universe

SUSAN RAM other

The Media Monopoly by Ben H. Bagdikian, fifth edition, paperback, Beacon Press, 1997; pages 289, $16.

IN 1983, Ben Bagdikian, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, documented and exposed what he saw as the central paradox in the development of the United States' media during the twentieth century. The very period that had witnessed exponential growth in the scope and reach of the media, diversification of media forms and modes of delivery and technological advances beyond the imaginings of our ancestors a hundred years ago had also seen an accelerating, seemingly immutable process of narrowing: the step-by-step shrinkage of the media's ownership base. In 1983, argued Bagdikian, the U.S. media, commanding awesome power to influence events and perceptions at home and across the planet, were dominated by as few as 50 private corporations. In his study, he set out to explore the implications - for journalism, for society, for democratic politics, for people's perceptions of the reality unfolding about them - of the inexorable trend towards monopoly ownership and control.

Back in 1983, there were critics who dismissed Bagdikian's analysis as 'alarmist'. Their caveats and ostrich-style complacency doubtless continue to surface, and to win the plaudits of corporate America. But for a reader with a modicum of objectivity, what is striking about Bagdikian's book is not only the brilliance and persuasiveness of the case it argues but also its ability to read the future. For by 1997, when the book was republished in its fifth edition, the number of corporations controlling most of America's daily newspapers, magazines, television, radio, books and films had dropped from 50 to just 10. Today, the U.S. media is in the grip of a new communications cartel with a power to penetrate and shape the social and political landscape that is unmatched in human history.

For this latest edition, Bagdikian prefaces the research which proved such a landmark back in 1983 with a 25-page update on developments since the appearance of the fourth edition in 1992. The scale of the change over that five-year period is such that even this gifted and resourceful writer is left groping for words; there is a schematic quality to this update which points to the need for a qualitatively fresh research engagement. But the case which Bagdikian put forward 16 years ago emerges as unassailable and uncontested in its essence by intervening developments.

Bagdikian's contribution in part derives from his dual identity: on the one hand, a working journalist who knows his profession from within, and on the other, a scholar capable of sustained research under conditions of academic rigour. His teaching and research at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley (where he is currently Dean Emeritus) have helped shape his perspective on the nature, goals and responsibilities of journalism, irrespective of the medium by which it is articulated and disseminated.

Journalists, argues the author, carry out for society a number of crucial functions. Through their work, they establish and enforce the principle of accountability, vital to the working and integrity of democratic societies. They sound alarm bells, signalling system weaknesses or failures that would otherwise go undetected. And they also help people contextualise events in such a way that their understanding of what is happening about them is enriched and endowed with meaning. Bagdikian endorses the view of James Britton in his 1970 study, Learning and Language, that, given the kaleidoscopic character of experience, humans need to group events on the basis of similarity; without this, nothing can be made of the present moment nor can expectations or predictions be entertained.

Concentration of media ownership, in tandem with the growing clout of mass advertising and the prioritising of commercial values, argues Bagdikian, undermines each of these journalistic functions and responsibilities. Journalists whose newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations are part of vast, interlocking corporate empires are tremendously weakened in their ability to call to account those in positions of power and authority. Moreover, with their editorial independence now fatally compromised, they may no longer see it as part of their remit to exercise their accountability function. Alarm bells that should be sounded remain silent. And consumers of the media, far from being helped to gain a rounded, well-informed perspective on reality, are fed a diet of pap: news presented in discrete morsels; the heavily loaded messages of mass advertising; generous helpings of tittle-tattle, trivia, sex and violence.

Bagdikian documents his argument with a series of case stories which buttress his position and enhance the accessibility of his study. For readers inclined to doubt the baneful impact of corporate ownership on editorial freedom, he tells how, back in the 1970s, a book by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman was effectively killed by Warner Communications, an awesome conglomerate that had begun life as a firm 'specialising in funeral parlours and parking lots'. He pursues the dismal story of mainstream American journalism's repeated failure to question the powers-that-be, from the McCarthy years in the early 1950s to the Vietnam War and beyond.

In a section that carries particular resonance today, as the U.S. tobacco giants stand indicted before the world for their culpable hawking of their deadly products, Bagdikian tracks what he calls 'a strictly media disease, a strange paralysis'. This, he shows, so afflicted the U.S. media that it could not alert readers and viewers to a basic truth, established beyond doubt as long ago as 1954: that smoking causes cancer. Tobacco, it should be noted, was until recently the most heavily advertised product in America.

The U.S. media's interaction with the tobacco industry also serves to illustrate the limitations of the 'doctrine of objectivity', an article of faith within mainstream American journalism. This holds that, in the interests of 'balance', one point of view articulated in the course of reporting should be matched by an opposing one. In practice, as Bagdikian documents, adherence to this doctrine has prioritised the views of the authorities and the officialdom, resulting in bland reportage from which all elements deemed dissenting or 'extremist' have been purged. Notions of balance have been taken to absurd degrees: Bagdikian shows how, in the case of the tobacco industry, scientific testimony and the views of doctors were routinely required to be countered by industry spokespersons in the interests of 'objectivity'. Small wonder that large sections of the American public remained confused and misinformed about tobacco over so many decades - and to such deadly effect.

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Such notions of 'objectivity', Bagdikian argues, originate in the world of mass advertising. Here, blandness is favoured, confrontation is eschewed, and energy is focussed on creating and sustaining a 'buying mood'. In the case of American television, which has evolved as a commercial activity supported almost entirely by advertising, corporate interests can be seen to promote a 'buying mood' via a range of strategies, among which the doctrine of objectivity emerges as one of the more subtle and subliminal. Bagdikian cites numerous examples of corporations intervening directly to restrain, censor or otherwise influence the content of programming.

As Bagdikian's book has passed through a succession of editions, the basic processes at work within the U.S. media have strengthened and accelerated, perhaps beyond his own worst case scenario. Concentration of media ownership has grown inexorably, with all that that implies for journalistic freedom and integrity, while mass advertising has tightened its grip on media content and the purposes to which the media are directed. But from the early 1990s, Bagdikian suggests in the preface to this fifth edition, the name of the game has changed - in qualitative as well as quantitative terms. Not only has the ownership base of the U.S. media shrunk still further; there is something qualitatively new in the character of the corporations that constitute the cartel in command.

THE ten corporations that now dominate the U.S. media are identified as: Time Warner; Disney; Viacom; News Corporation Limited (Rupert Murdoch's empire); Sony; Tele-Communications, Inc.; Seagram; Westinghouse; Gannett; and General Electric. The resources they command inspire, in equal measure, awe and fear; the $340-million media merger between Gannett and Combined Communications Corporation - the biggest media merger in history at the time Bagdikian's book first appeared - shrinks in significance beside the $19-billion deal that, in 1996, brought together Disney with ABC/Cap Cities. This latter union, Bagdikian points out, created a conglomerate commanding great power over every mass medium: newspapers, magazines, books, radio, broadcast television, cable systems and programming, movies, recordings, video cassettes - and, through alliances and joint ventures, telephone and cable.

The name of the new game is 'synergy'. Whereas it was once possible to identify specific corporations dominant in one communications medium, with only a few of those corporations similarly dominant in a second medium, the new media conglomerates aggressively pursue a far more comprehensive agenda. As Bagdikian notes, they aim to acquire "dominant positions across every medium of any current or expected future consequence." The process by which one company subsidiary is used to complement and promote another has helped produce what the author identifies as a "quantum leap" in the power exercised by the media cartel over news, information and popular culture.

In the 25 pages of his new preface, Bagdikian provides fascinating glimpses into the world of the new media masters of the universe. There is some active demythologising here. For media consumers in America and around the world, the Disney empire is shown to extend far beyond its benign film-and-theme-park packaging:

The Disney empire includes - in addition to non-media interests in oil and insurance - interests in interactive TV and the America Online computer network, Buena Vista home video, Hyperion and Chilton book publishing, four movie and TV production studios and a national distribution system for them, four magazine publishing groups...., 429 retail stores selling Disney products, television and cable networks, a major league baseball team and a National Hockey League team, three record companies, eleven newspapers..., and nine theme parks in the United States and other countries. (p. xxv)

Bagdikian also draws attention to the growing involvement in the media of industrial conglomerates, including such major defence industry players as General Electric and Westinghouse. One wishes for a more extended engagement with the implications of this trend.

Indeed, the one substantive criticism that can be levelled at this new edition of what is rightly ranked a classic among studies of the U.S. media is the brevity and schematic quality of its preface. The 25 pages establish the character of change during the first half of the 1990s, but offer little more than tantalising hints as to the implications and results. A case in point is Bagdikian's engagement with the digital revolution, the Internet and the World Wide Web; while casting doubt on casual assumptions that these will stand as guarantors of individual freedom against the predations of the mass media cartel, he offers only a sketchy outline of why this should be so.

What seems beyond dispute is that Bagdikian's classic study will continue to illuminate and excite general readers and students of journalism for years to come. As the global reach of the U.S. mass media strengthens and the impact of American news presentation and popular culture is felt in every corner of our planet, his analysis - and his warnings - deserve the widest possible dissemination. And one looks forward to what he doubtless has in mind: not a sixth edition, but a new book for a new, even more challenging media age.

Auschwitz, Pokhran and beyond

The claim of the amorality of science is a clever way of escaping responsibility for the horrors that have sprung or can spring from science.

A WORLD energy assessment meeting in Cracow, Poland, in September 1999 brought me to within 50 km and an hour's bus ride from Auschwitz and Birkenau, where the concentration camps are now preserved as museums. I decided to go with my energy analysis co-authors on a half-day visit to the camps. Brought from all over Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War, about 1.5 million innocent victims, overwhelmingly Jews, went either directly to the gas chambers and the crematoria at Auschwitz and Birkenau, or indirectly via the camps where they were held prisoners until they were too weak to labour.

The tour of the camps left me with a completely unexpected feeling. The scale of human extermination was so enormous that I had to remind myself - particularly because the camps have been unpopulated since 1944 - that there used to be human beings there. Human belongings - toothbrushes, shoes and suitcases - were piled from floor to ceiling in huge rooms, a separate room for each item, but the aggregate was more reminiscent of factory inputs. Even the human hair that filled a room looked like raw material for an industry - in the case of Auschwitz, the manufacture of tailor's lining cloth.

If Auschwitz was unbelievable, Birkenau, 3 km away, beggared the imagination. Birkenau was spread over 175 hectares with 300 buildings, each capable of housing 1,000 inmates. As my friend Bob Williams pointed out, it was a scale-up from the pilot plant demo at Auschwitz with a peak of 20,000 prisoners to full-scale commercialisation of mass-murder technology at Birkenau with 100,000 prisoners in August 1944. The powerful impression that persisted was of detailed engineering resulting in "... the immense technological complex created... for the purpose of killing human beings" (Auschwitz - How many perished, page 11, Ved Vashem Studies, volume xxi, Jerusalem, 1991). The meticulous organisation and rigorous management were characteristic of mega-industries, "gigantic and horrific factories of death". The main gate of Auschwitz displayed the inscription Arbeit macht frei ("Work brings freedom"). Perhaps a more apt announcement would have been "Technology completely decoupled from values". Also, one could not help reflecting on the frailty of the social institutions that sanctioned these horrors and the failure of legal safeguards to prevent them.

As the scale of killing increases, the technology often (but not always) becomes more and more sophisticated - from knives to guns to machine guns to bombs to gas chambers and crematoria to atomic bombs. Also, with the scale increasing, not only does the distance from victims become greater but also the complexion becomes more and more technical. Burial is sufficient for one body, but for hundreds or thousands of bodies, one thinks in terms of "throughput", "air/fuel ratios" and "burning capacity".

In Auschwitz, it is obvious that nothing happened spontaneously. Everything was designed and planned. One of Germany's top chemical industries, IG Farben, produced the poison Cyclon B for exterminating people in the gas chambers. Careful experiments were done to determine the time it would take for a person to be poisoned. An engineering firm designed the crematoria furnaces to process 350 bodies a day in Auschwitz I. So, there must have been engineers preoccupied with the technical problems. Perhaps, like Oppenheimer talking about the atomic bomb, some even thought that the problem was "technically sweet". Or, like the Department of Atomic Energy scientist at the Bangalore Kaiga debate in 1989 who said: "Hiroshima provided us with a fortunate opportunity to study radiation effects"!)

Once the problem was defined as eliminating hundreds and thousands of people a day, the Auschwitz solution was inevitable. But, who defined the problem and promulgated the order? By and large, it is political decision-makers who define the problem. There was a conference at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, on January 20, 1942, at which the Nazi leadership decided in less than two hours before lunch on the "final solution" - to exterminate the Jews. Ethnic superiority, racial/religious hatreds and fundamentalist views are well-known bases for decisions with far-reaching destructive impact on human beings.

WHY was this definition of the problem so widely accepted? There could be several reasons. There was the silencing of the informed and articulate dissidents who became the first inputs to the camps. The media were not allowed to reveal the truth. As a result, many citizens genuinely claimed ignorance as an excuse. The most serious problem is the plea of duty and the obligation to carry out orders. Recall the movie Judgment at Nuremberg with Spencer Tracy as the judge trying the Nazi judges for having furthered the extermination of Jews. These judges defended themselves by submitting that they were just carrying out orders. The judgment at Nuremberg was that a human being has to take full responsibility for the consequences of his/her actions and that the excuse of obeying orders is inadmissible.

Apart from the above factors that operate in the case of officials and technical personnel, there is the additional device of taking a top-down macro view (for instance, national security, geopolitical compulsions and so on). In such a macro view, numbers and statistics displace human beings. New proxy words dominate the discussions - "burning capacity" replaces "the number of corpses burnt", "kilotonnes yield" replaces "kilodeaths", and so on.

Functionaries, however, cannot avoid contact with the prisoners and victims in order to keep the system going. What is overwhelming in Auschwitz and Birkenau (as my friend Thomas Johansson also noted) is the unbelievable cold-bloodedness of the operation. It appears that the guards treated the inmates inhumanly because they believed that the victims were sub-human and "things" rather than people. Once this belief is propagated and accepted, anything goes - as in the growing number of examples of ethnic cleansing and genocide (native Americans, Partition, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor).

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The tour of Auschwitz ends at the gas chamber and the crematorium. But just before that, near the main gate, is the gallows where Rudolf Hess, the bestial camp commander, was hanged after a trial.

Just when I felt that this was fair retribution, a doubt arose: are only the vanquished tried as war criminals, while the victors go scot-free?

Reeling under the impact of what we had seen, I began to wonder how the development of the atomic bombs at Los Alamos, the test at Alamogordo and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki differed from the Nazi concentration camps. Of course the Allies in the Second World War were not driven by the racism of the Nazis, and they were not pursuing a final solution of extermination of any particular religious group. But with regard to the scale of killing, the recruitment of capable minds, the harnessing of science and technology (some people perhaps hoping that the weapons would never be used and others even opposing the use of the weapons after they were developed), the extent of organisation, the resort to effective management, and the choice of targets to maximise the annihilation of Japanese civilians, the Manhattan project was like the concentration camps, in fact, even more horrendous in its impact.

BUT, for me it was not merely the standard school question "Compare and contrast X and Y". I was leaving the same evening for India and I was agonising over what all this meant for India. Over the past year and a half, the country had witnessed the scientist-politician nexus underlying the nuclear tests at Pokhran, the use of security arguments to advance party agendas, the jingoism of the scientists, the virtual absence of dissent, the silence of its media with a few notable exceptions and the obfuscation of reality. After an initial silence on the subject (as if it never happened), the journal Current Science publicised the official/government version of the "kilotonnes yield" of the test bombs but rejected/suppressed M.V. Ramana's estimates of the hundreds of thousands of innocent non-combatants who would be killed if even a primitive atomic bomb were exploded on Mumbai or Karachi.

Other questions bothered me. Are the institutions on the Indian sub-continent necessarily more robust and moral than those in the Germany of the 1930s and 1940s? Are Indian politicians and parties less prone to exploiting religious animosities? Are Indian scientists and engineers less eager to get political support for their next ego trip or power play (for instance, neutron bombs because they kill but do not destroy). Once the nuclear-tipped missiles are deployed, are there guarantees against "some crazy guy doing some crazy thing"? Are we sure that Pokhran will not lead as inevitably to Lahore and/or Chagai to Mumbai as Alamogordo led to Hiroshima?

The claim of the amorality of science is a clever way of escaping responsibility for the horrors that have sprung or can spring from science. For example, the well-known statement of a missile developer that he is "only an engineer" and that his "missile can also be used for delivering flowers". The relationship between the scientist (the subject) and the object of scientific study must be such that initial separation (and distance) ends in subsequent unification (and embrace). The suppression of emotion during analysis must give way to emotion after analysis. The functioning of scientists as individuals, groups and institutions must be constrained and limited by moral strictures and taboos. Otherwise, the isolation of the subject from the object, the removal or absence of emotions and feelings, and the perception of people as "things", all lead inevitably to science becoming the instrument of violence, oppression and evil. Science, therefore, is not neutral, but it can be - and must be - encoded with life-affirming values, as Shiv Viswanathan demands. The link between science and morality must be re-established.

A crucial safeguard is to insist that, quite apart from the top-down macro view of security, yields, kill-ratios and so on, there must be a bottom-up micro view based on human beings. We must see beyond the numbers and the statistics, we must see children and parents and grandparents, lovers and married couples, siblings, friends and comrades. We must never forget the Gandhi talisman:"Recall the face of the poorest and most helpless person... and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he be able to gain anything from it? Will it restore to him control over his life and destiny?"

Amulya K.N. Reddy retired as a Professor of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He is currently president of the International Energy Initiative.

Changing tack in Washington

The United States is evidently set to continue the game and engage the Generals.

A POLITICIAN as astute as Nawaz Sharif should have known that when it comes to dumping those who have outlived their utility and shedding crocodile tears for them, there is none to beat administrations in Washington. And that the Clinton administration would be no different in this matter. When push came to shove and the men in uniform forcibly entered the political process in Pakistan, Washington was looking for rationales to continue the game and engage the Generals.

It took the Clinton administration a few days to determine, officially and legally, that a coup in Pakistan had indeed taken place.

For Sharif, the only solace was that senior officials in the Clinton administration were ready to hand out commendation certificates; but this was in some ways intended to "protect" the political establishment in Washington - in the unlikely event of the deposed Prime Minister returning to power.

It should come as no surprise that Washington will continue its dialogue with Islamabad. In fact, it would have been naive to assume that the Clinton administration would close all the avenues just because Pervez Musharraf took over the reins of power. It was keen to maintain the dialogue because the bottom line was that there are tangible interests for the U.S. in Pakistan - strategic, political and economic.

But domestic politics in the U.S. being what it is - and what it will always be - the appropriate noises had to be made. And the officialdom at the White House and in the State Department did an excellent job of it; its job, of course, was made a lot easy by the popular reaction within Pakistan to the turn of events.

The U.S. administration subsequently found it easy to list all the shortcomings of the deposed Sharif Government. However, few in Washington are making the point that the Kargil factor - in particular, Sharif's orders (under U.S. pressure) to his troops to pull back from the Indian side of the Line of Control in July - was a principal reason why Sharif lost the power game.

The Clinton administration then began parroting the line that Gen. Musharraf must restore civilian democracy at the earliest, that the U.S. could not do business with Pakistan until then, but that, on the other hand, the U.S. could not "walk away" from Pakistan. This line has been articulated fairly routinely at the State Department, the White House and at congressional hearings.

It is unlikely that the broad contours of this policy line will change in the short term; it will probably be amended suitably over a period of time if the General gets "more comfortable" in his new outfit.

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The coup in Pakistan could not have come at a worse time for Washington: just after Congress had passed legislation authorising comprehensive and permanent waivers of the sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan following the nuclear tests of May 1998. And upon the President signing the Defence Authorisation Bill, the administration would have started reviewing and lifting most, if not all, of the sanctions.

What will happen now is that while sanctions against India will merit immediate attention, President Bill Clinton cannot do anything for Pakistan until an elected government has been restored. And analysts in Washington believe that that could be a long way off. There is talk that about two years will be needed for the situation to stablise and for elections to be held in that country.

One of the key backers of the move to lift the sanctions was Republican Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas; he pointed out that his amendment at this point of time only amounted to a "structural change in the law" that would help the President after a democratically elected government is in place in Pakistan. He also lashed out at the administration for "dumping" Sharif; such an action only sent a "terrible message" to the world, he said.

Brownback was one of the first to argue that no one was giving Pakistan a "pass" on the military coup; he pointed out that the administration had invoked Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act, which mandated blanket sanctions on any country where the duly elected leader was deposed in a coup. There may not be much sympathy for Sharif's way of doing business in his country, but Section 508 does not give the administration much leeway in the matter.

There was another unintended fallout of the coup: the U.S. administration was forced to make its intentions known on the scope of the waivers on the Glenn and Pressler amendments. In response to some close questioning by Congressman Gary Ackerman, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, in the House Asia-Pacific Sub-Committee Hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderfurth said that the administration had neither the plan nor the intention to resume supplying arms to Pakistan.

The Clinton administration has for long been pressing Congress for a "level playing field" in respect of legislation that is perceived as restrictive; it argued that such legislation was preventing the U.S. from fully pursuing its foreign policy goals. When Congress was debating the future of the sanctions on India and Pakistan, the Senate adopted through the Brownback Amendment a permanent waiver but took the Pressler law from the books. The House version spoke of waivers for one year but did not tamper with the Pressler law. The Conferees of the House and Senate went in for comprehensive and permanent waivers; as a result, not only the Glenn Amendment but also the Pressler Amendment were taken off the list.

For all its expressions of "sympathy" and invocation of national security interests, the Clinton administration will have a difficult time explaining to Congress just why certain relaxations would have to be made. For instance, it is fairly common knowledge that Pakistan's economy is in deep trouble. In fact, the conviction in the U.S. is that Pakistan has for quite some time been tottering on the brink. A formal meltdown of the Pakistani economy will have an impact in the immediate neighbourhood and on Washington's policies in the region.

This is the reason why the Clinton administration will not anymore lean heavily on Pakistan. Washington has said, for instance, that Islamabad has problems with the International Monetary Fund and that the disbursement of the third tranche of IMF loans, $280 million out of the total package of $1.6 billion, was in jeopardy much before the Army emerged from the barracks.

The Clinton administration will also look to India to a certain extent to ease things in Pakistan. And it will expect India to respond meaningfully to the olive branch extended by Gen. Musharraf. Senior officials are also aware of the problems from an Indian point of view: aside from a perception of being let down or "cheated" after the Lahore summit, New Delhi has made it plain that it cannot negotiate so long as Islamabad was fully involved in a state-run terror campaign across the border.

But the hope in official and private quarters in Washington is that the Lahore process will be restarted and that India and Pakistan will settle down to talk about contentious issues in a serious manner. If Gen. Musharraf can be taken at face value - given that he is believed to have initiated and presided over the Kargil debacle - something positive could still come of the ominous developments.

The coup and the Indian nuclear theology

T. JAYARAMAN cover-story

Who controlled the nuclear button in Pakistan as the coup was under way? An assessment of the implications of the coup vis-a-vis nuclear weaponisation.

THE interest that the international media have evinced in the coup in Pakistan is undoubtedly in part owing to the fact that it involved the spectacle of a military takeover in an era when such political transitions have become somewhat passe. In the post-Cold War years, the ruling classes in most other nations have discovered far more effective and superficially democratic means to contain dissent or manage internal crises. But the other major reason for the interest undoubtedly stem from the serious concern that is generated by political instability in any state which has nuclear-weapons capability. Who controls the nuclear button at a time when the normal chain of political and military authority of a state is actively disrupted is a question of more than passing interest to most governments and international public opinion.

But, curiously, in India the question of the nuclear dimensions of the coup in Pakistan has not yet triggered a debate on the dangers posed by nuclear weaponisation when there is endemic political instability in at least one of the nuclear-armed states of South Asia. The Indian media have been flooded with self-congratulatory commentary on the swearing-in of a democratically elected government in India at the same time that the coup got under way in Pakistan; little attention has been paid to the coup's implications for the nuclear issue and the evolution of an Indian nuclear doctrine.

The fact that India's leading nuclear theologians have maintained a studied silence on this issue should, however, be entirely unsurprising to those who have read the recently released draft Indian Nuclear Doctrine (dIND). The crux of the matter is that events such as the coup in Pakistan deal a body blow to some of the fundamental assumptions of the nuclear doctrine enunciated by the high priests of Indian nuclear weaponisation.

As is evident from even a cursory analysis of the dIND, India's nuclear weaponisation programme is Pakistan- and China-specific. In this context, a key assumption of the dIND is that peace and security in South Asia can be ensured by the possession of nuclear weapons that act as a deterrent. In other words, it is the balance of terror between India and Pakistan, when both nations are nuclear-weaponised, that will guarantee peace and stability. The dIND says as much, with its entirely unoriginal invocation of the basic principles of deterrence theory. To be sure, the document does not refer to Pakistan directly but the implications vis-a-vis that nation are obvious. The question that is important for any objective analysis is whether the assumptions of deterrence theory will hold when there is deep political instability in one of the states that is a player in the game.

The Achilles heel of deterrence theory, the hyperrationality of which often makes it beguilingly acceptable to many, is the fact that it presupposes that one's opponent will read one's actions and events in the realm of nuclear weapons in the manner that one intends the opponent to. The second problem is that the actual operationalisation of deterrence, when nuclear weapons are really deployed, leads inevitably to situations where the command and control of nuclear weapons is compromised and the dangers of accidental or unauthorised launch become very high. Deterrence theory presupposes perfect command and control since its stated aim is to prevent a nuclear exchange. But the danger of deterrence is that such a level of command and control is never achieved in practice - as the experience of even the most advanced nuclear weapons powers has always shown.

WHO controlled the nuclear button in Pakistan while the coup was under way? Who had the authority to launch nuclear weapons when Nawaz Sharif was attempting to prevent Gen. Pervez Musharraf from returning to Pakistan? Would it have been the orders of the Prime Minister or the orders of the Chief of the Army Staff that would have prevailed with the individuals who physically controlled the arming, the launching and the delivery of nuclear weapons? What are the political inclinations of these individuals, and would they have been susceptible to the enticements of fringe extremist political elements in a short period of extreme instability during a forced political transition? Obviously, India's nuclear hawks have no clear answers to these questions. But in a nuclear-armed environment, the security - indeed, the very lives - of millions of Indians hangs on precise answers to these questions, now and in the future.

Undoubtedly, the nuclear theologians will attempt to dismiss these questions as unduly alarmist in the current context. It certainly appears that currently in Pakistan it is the Army that has physical control of the weapons. But according to reports in the Pakistani media, quoted by The Times of India (August 22, 1999) for instance, the political authority to launch nuclear weapons was to rest with the Prime Minister, while the Chief of the Army Staff was to be the strategic commander. In the event of a conflict between the political authority and the military, whose will would prevail and how would that affect the control of nuclear weapons? Did Pakistan have a mechanism in place whereby the strategic commander could not override the political authority or vice versa? Hardly likely, considering the technical difficulties involved in Pakistan acquiring such a capability and given the internal political constraints. It is also true that the armed forces were solidly behind Gen. Musharraf in the current coup and were hardly disposed to listen to Nawaz Sharif. Gen. Musharraf also moved rather rapidly to assure the world that his regime would exercise nuclear restraint. But is it guaranteed that such a situation would always obtain even in the future?

It is obvious that command and control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons will always be a chancy affair. The compromising of command and control will always be a possibility that cannot be excluded. Indeed, in more extreme crises, a split in the Army would render the situation even more dangerous. If, as was the case with even the current coup, part of the internal conflict was precisely on the question of how to deal with Pakistan's disputes with India, who controls the weapons becomes a matter of great concern. Can an endemically politically unstable state, as Pakistan has been for the last few decades, endure the pressures of a crisis of the proportions of the Cuban missile crisis, scaled down no doubt to subcontinental dimensions, without its command and control giving way? The inescapable conclusion is that the lives of millions of Indians are only as secure as the weakest link in the Pakistani chain of command for its nuclear weapons. Only in the fevered imagination of India's Strangeloves, dedicated to the pursuit of nuclear weapons, could this be construed as security.

THE oft-repeated claim that India's command and control will be more secure because of the civilian control of nuclear weapons cannot also be taken at face value, even if it soothes various representatives of Track II diplomacy from the United States. Apart from being an insult to India's armed forces, this argument suppresses the fact that the most vociferous and hawkish pressures in favour of India's nuclear weaponisation have always come from its civilian sector. The blithe disregard of strategic realities in South Asia by the pro-weaponisation lobby, whether in government or outside, is undoubtedly partly due to the virtual exclusion of the Indian armed forces from both the final decision-making loop as well as the long internal debate that led to the nuclear tests and the handling of the aftermath. And even if ultimate political authority rests with the Prime Minister, it makes command and control no more secure if the physical control of nuclear weapons lay with men in civilian clothing rather than those in the varied uniforms of the defence forces.

But even more disturbing considerations emerge if one tries to analyse more carefully the business-as-usual attitude of the nuclear hawks in India towards the implications of the coup in Pakistan. This attitude in fact has its genesis in the manner in which the Kargil conflict, a classic case of the damage done to India's security by Pokhran-II, was ultimately brought to an end. In Kargil, India's chestnuts were pulled out of the fire partly by the intervention of the U.S. As Pakistan, hoping for international intervention, prolonged the conflict beyond the time period that intelligent political and strategic considerations would have indicated, it was the pressure brought to bear by the U.S. that eventually led to a Pakistani withdrawal. This happened at a time when clearly the Indian government foresaw a long-drawn-out conflict, with high losses in terms of men and material, to regain final control of the territory occupied by the Pakistani intruders. Clearly it was also international pressure that prevented Pakistan from explicitly bringing the nuclear factor into play even though threatening noises did emerge from some quarters.

It is the self-deluding and mistaken reading of these events as a triumph of Indian diplomacy and strategy, in utilising the U.S. to contain Pakistan in the Kargil conflict and force its withdrawal, that has partly emboldened the nuclear hawks in India to produce the aggressive dIND, unmindful of its destabilising effects in the subcontinent. One of the key underlying assumptions of the doctrine is that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P-5) would automatically intervene if Pakistan attempts to raise the nuclear threat in the subcontinent. The gamble is that deterrence will work partly because the international community will not countenance any destabilisation of deterrence by Pakistan. And this is also the reason why the nuclear hawks view the coup with relative unconcern, depending on the U.S. to intervene to ensure that Pakistan continued to exercise nuclear restraint. What if the intervention of the P-5 does not work or that they are unable to intervene decisively on some occasion in the future. These are, of course, questions that only 'naive' anti-nuclear weapons campaigners would ask.

It is clearly this view that finds its echo in an editorial in The Times of India (October 21) calling upon the "international community, and particularly the U.S.", to "emphasise to the Pakistani military what the consequences of any nuclear adventurism are likely to be." The editorial smugly concludes: "It is to cover contingencies of this type that the Indian nuclear doctrine authored by the National Security Advisory Board talks of 'punitive unacceptable retaliation' in case of a nuclear first strike on India." Undoubtedly P-5 intervention against the offender and an Indian second strike would bring considerable cheer to the ghosts of those Indians who would have been vapourised by a first strike.

The fact that this strategy, even in the short term, would require the offering of substantial quid pro quo measures to the U.S., or that it opens the door to worrisome possibilities such as international intervention on the Kashmir question, has been lost sight of in the blind pursuit of nuclear weaponisation. That this attitude is at least partly official is evident from the alacrity with which the newly-elected government has resumed its dialogue with the U.S. on a broad range of issues that have been left somewhat unspecified but appear definitely to include India-Pakistan relations. Indeed, it is National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra who is the first representative to visit Washington.

It certainly appears unlikely that the serious problems that beset India-Pakistan relations can be settled in the short term. There is a huge gap that divides the two nations that it seems will be difficult to bridge without considerable patience and intense and prolonged effort. And undoubtedly the continued instability of democracy in Pakistan complicates the picture. But introducing nuclear weapons into the subcontinent or the production of aggressive nuclear doctrines based on the false assumptions of nuclear deterrence theory seems hardly the way to go about securing peace. The correct first Indian response to its troubled neighbour, post-Pokhran and post-Chagai, remains the acceptance of Pakistan's oft-repeated offer to consider the non-deployment of nuclear weapons in the subcontinent.

Return of the Generals

AZIZ SIDDIQUI cover-story

The takeover of a country by military leadership in the face of failures by civilian governments only leaves the country in a worse state than before. Pakistan's is a case in point.

IMPOSITION of military rule for the fourth time in the country's brief history is bad enough. What makes it gloomier is that the action is by all accounts, widely popular. It has not only been welcomed by a wide swathe of common citizenry, it also seems to enjoy an embarrassing measure of acclaim among the intelligentsia. Even long-time democrats and human rights activists are averse to sounding a note of dissent. "Do you want us to go back to Nawaz Sharif?" they ask testily.

That is at the core of the current dilemma. If it is not one it has to be the other. If it is not to be an extra-constitutional public-spirited benevolence, as presumed, it can only be a constitutional self-serving despotism, as experienced. The historical factors that have created this stark choice, the experiences of the past, and the fact that weighing the alternatives on the basis of the accepted norms may still be the best course for the longer term, is lost sight of in this initial euphoria.

There is, of course, no question about the gargantuan failures of the Nawaz Sharif Government. What official publicists are busy reeling out on the official media is, for once, largely true. During his 32-month stint, Nawaz Sharif not only failed to catch the popular imagination - despite his Z.A. Bhutto-like bids to win the personal support of the masses in the interior of Sindh, Punjab and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) - he also came to be regarded as a bit of a disaster by the educated elite in the cities. His intellectual limitations had become the stuff of popular jokes. Z.A. Bhutto's brilliance was barely a mitigation of his offensive waderaism. But Nawaz Sharif was bereft even of that.

People find it hard to dispute Pervez Musharraf's contention that what he rolled back was not democracy, it was a sham. Nawaz Sharif had made sure that every potential check on his freedom to do his will was effectively gotten out of the way - extra-constitutionally if necessary, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Nawaz Sharif first thought up a series of constitutional amendments to fortify himself against possible challenges to his rule and to invest himself with powers few constitutional rulers ever enjoyed. The first of his amendments dispensed with the President's power to dismiss a government and dissolve Parliament in a situation he thought was one of constitutional breakdown. That power had been written into the Constitution by President Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, who had wished to retain with himself the ultimate leverage over the Prime Minister. The provision went on to cause the downfall of four elected governments and Parliaments in eight years, the first of those at Gen. Zia's own hands. This power, therefore came to be regarded as a destabilising and undemocratic weapon in the hands of a head of state meant to be only a figurehead. For that reason, its repeal by Nawaz Sharif was generally welcomed. But there was more to come.

Nawaz Sharif's next amendment bonded parliamentary parties to the will of their party leader. It required every member to vote strictly in accordance with his or her party's (which meant the party leader's) decision. Even abstention, let alone dissent, would cause the member to forfeit his or her seat. That had the effect of completely neutering the National Assembly. The Opposition, being minuscule in the House turned into a pen of sheep. There was rarely a Parliament as dull as this one.

The ultimate in constitutional despotism, however, came with Mian Nawaz Sharif's third amendment, meant as a measure to enforce Islam in the country. The original draft placed before the National Assembly gave the government (read the Prime Minister) total power to decide what was prescribed and what was prohibited in Islam, and to go ahead and enforce it regardless of what the Constitution or the courts said. He could, for instance, decide that Islam did not permit leadership by a woman or a multi-party system of government, and nothing could stop him from making that into a law. Any functionary of the state (including obviously an officer of the courts or the armed forces) who was considered tardy in the implementation of such a decree was liable to severe penalisation. An even more remarkable provision was that any future constitutional amendment considered necessary for the purpose would need only a simple majority to be passed - simple majority not even of the total membership but of just those present at the time and voting! In other words, an amendment could sail through even without the Opposition participating, and even in the face of opposition by the smaller three of the country's four provinces. Clearly, it took a sinister mind to think up the whole design.

The proposal was so plainly outrageous that a few members even of the ruling party gathered courage to demur against it in a party meeting (they came to know of the Bill only after it was presented in the National Assembly). The objectors were immediately asked to resign, which they did, whereupon they were conceded a part of the ground. In the second draft, the last two elements were removed. The Bill, not the less offensive for the revision, got more than the needed two-thirds of the votes in the Lower House. However, since the Muslim League did not have that kind of majority in the Upper House and the others had joined in opposing it, it was kept pending on the calculation that with threats of divine wrath from the mullahs and the re-election to half the Senate seats due in March 2000 the requisite numbers would become available.

NAWAZ SHARIF and his men were active outside of the Constitution as well. The so-called Accountability Cell had throughout his tenure, concentrated on just the Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and her imprisoned husband Asif Ali Zardari. That pretty much took care of the principal Opposition. The other party occupying considerable political space that the Muslim League coveted was the MQM, Mottahida (formerly Mohajir) Qaomi Mohaz, which had begun as, and still largely remains, the party of the first- and second-generation migrants from India settled mainly in Karachi. At first, the Muslim League joined up with it to form the government in Sindh and keep out the PPP, the single largest party in the province. However, after it had a national Emergency declared following the nuclear tests, and had that measure endorsed by the supreme court, the Muslim League thought that it no longer needed the MQM - it could impose Governor's rule in the province and rule from Islamabad without giving anyone a share in power. Not believing in half-measures, it did not just ditch its former coalition partner, it also cracked down heavily on it in the name of fighting terrorism.

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The bid to tame the judiciary also started early. It succeeded so well that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (and the then President) were made to resign, following a raid by party goons on the Supreme Court building while the court was in session. Official criticisms against the judiciary continued after that on the supposed grounds of its dilatoriness and its not awarding sentences that were prompt and stiff enough. This was seen as a bid to warn the judges against assuming too much independence. On the eve of Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to Lahore, the world media that was on hand to witness the occasion huddled around the available television sets when it was announced that Nawaz Sharif was to address the nation. The expectation was that the speech would be about the event that was on the minds of most people - the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan in close to 40 years. However, as it happened, there was not a word about that. The address was a tirade against the judiciary and the judicial system.

The list of the ousted government's bids to undermine the democratic and federal principles, institutions and sentiments is long despite the relatively brief spell in power. It includes a series of actions against the media and mediapersons, a campaign of vilification against independent-minded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) by name and drawing up a law to limit the freedom of the NGOs and enhance the official say in their affairs, moves that made the predominance of Punjab increasingly felt in the three smaller provinces, and the extravagant sallies into populist economism at a time of virtual bankruptcy.

THE bill of indictment against the Nawaz Sharif Government can go on and on, but that still does not prove that one wrong can be made good by another. Pakistan has had prolonged experience with military rule. Nearly half of its 50 years has been spent thus, with each bout coming in the midst of similar public euphoria and a sense of good riddance for the ousted order. But each such spell left the country, when it was made to leave it, in an even worse mess than it found it in.

The rule of gen. Ayub Khan, among a number of other things, started the process of alienation in East Pakistan, which Gen. Yahya Khan after him carried to completion. Between them they saw half the country break away, the only occurrence of its kind in current history.

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Zia-ul-Haq's gifts were similarly manifold and far-reaching. He put the country on the map of drug traffic. Drug addiction spread widely within the country too: from being negligible at the start of the 1980s, the numbers shot to upwards of three million at the close of the decade. The country also became the site of the busiest cross-border arms trail since the Vietnam war, with parts of the weaponry meant for Afghanistan trickling sideways, deep into the country, and creating the phenomenon of arms proliferation in private hands. This in turn led to the birth and spread of terrorism within, with gruesome incidents rocking the country. Zia-ul-Haq also acted as a midwife in the process of introducing religious fundamentalism into the body politic. It has since made deep inroads into the corpus of laws and the administration of justice. The pressure has continued to mount. There is an unrelenting bid to enhance its influence and its embrace.

Perhaps the most baneful of the long-term effects of the earlier spells of military rule was that they robbed constitutionalism of much of its sanctity. The Constitution was either abrogated or suspended, replaced or overhauled at the convenience of the dictator of the time. With all that happening - and happening unfortunately with the endorsement of the country's judiciary - the way was opened for political governments too to press against constitutional constraints. A country that was already a bit difficult to rule was thus made even more ungovernable.

The length and nature of past military rules had yet another effect: they made the military's presence loom large even when it was not in power. The political governments that have come in between have felt obliged to keep looking over their shoulders - or, like Mian Nawaz Sharif, to try and create personal loyalties in that camp.

There is little evidence so far that Gen. Musharraf's tenure in power will be very different from those of his predecessors. The objectives he has spelt out for himself make a full enough agenda. The approach is soft for the present. The term martial law has been strictly avoided this time, as a nod no doubt to world opinion. Fundamental rights are also promised to be generally respected. But on past evidence it is hard to be optimistic even about small mercies. As the regime exhausts its ingenuity and innovativeness and public euphoria begins to dissipate, it may find even a relatively free press, independent judiciary and active elements of civil society a bit of a spoilsport.

The Chief Executive has already given himself the authority to act outside of the suspended Constitution in pursuit of the aims he has set out. He may have to make structural changes in such areas as devolution of powers to the grassroots and strengthening the federal bonds, in case he takes those objectives seriously enough. The proposed National Security Council headed by himself and including the two other service chiefs seems particularly likely to become an organic feature as the supreme governing body. The armed forces had long favoured a constitutional role for themselves in governing the country. Now that they have the opportunity to give it to themselves it is unlikely that they will not make sure it stays for all forseeable future.

When asked about his new responsibilities, Gen. Musharraf remarked that it was "nice to be in charge". This candour was amusing. It can also be ominous.

A former Editor of The Frontier Post and The Pakistan Times, Aziz Siddiqui is currently Joint Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

About the survey

politics

THE findings reported in this article and the State-wise analyses that follow are based on a post-election survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi and co-sponsored by Frontline. The survey formed part of the National Election Study series conducted by the CSDS, a unique nationwide survey based on a strict selection of sample from the electoral rolls.

In this series, the same group of electors, comprising a national representative sample, were approached after each of the last three general elections and face-to-face interviews conducted to find out their voting behaviour and political opinions and attitudes. Retaining the same sample, after making minor adjustments to accommodate new voters and factors such as migration, makes it possible to study change over time by comparing the results.

The survey was carried out in 105 parliamentary constituencies - it covered 419 polling stations in 210 Assembly segments in 20 States and Union Territories. A total of 9,111 electors were interviewed in their homes in the week after each phase of polling. The last round of the survey was completed on October 5, the day before the counting began. The constituency-wise results of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections have been taken from the Web site of the Election Commission and recomputed by the CSDS data unit.

In order to promote greater transparency in survey reporting, the CSDS and Frontline would like to share with readers some background information about the survey.

The social composition of the respondents in this survey is as follows: 49.3 per cent women, 18.3 per cent Dalits, 7.9 per cent Adivasis, 10.3 per cent Muslims, 77.8 per cent rural voters, 41 per cent uneducated voters and 6.7 per cent graduates. There is thus an over-representation of rural voters and an under-representation of Muslim voters. In terms of reported voting, the sample percentages (actual results in brackets) are: the BJP and its allies 38.8 (40.8), the Congress(I) and its allies 36.7 (33.8), the Left 7.6 (8.0) and the Bahujan Samaj Party 3.1 (4.2). The sample size for each State and significant discrepancies, if any, have been mentioned in the analysis for each State.

The survey was designed and coordinated at the national level by Prof. V.B. Singh (Principal Coordinator), Sanjay Kumar (National Coordinator) and Yogendra Yadav, all from the CSDS. A network of scholars worked with the CSDS in designing and executing the survey in different parts of the country: Dr. K.C. Suri (Andhra Pradesh), Prof A.K. Baruah and Dr. Sandhya Goswami (Assam and other Northeastern States), Rajendra Ravi (Bihar), Prof. Peter deSouza (Goa), Dr. P.M. Patel (Gujarat), Dr. Jitendra Prasad (Haryana), Prof. T.R. Sharma (Himachal Pradesh and Punjab), Dr. Sandeep Shastri (Karnataka), Prof. G. Gopa Kumar (Kerala), Dr. Ram Shankar (Madhya Pradesh), Prof. Suhas Palshikar (Maharashtra), Dr. S. N. Misra (Orissa), Dr. Sanjay Lodha (Rajasthan), Prof. G. Koteshwar Prasad (Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry), Dr. Pradeep Kumar, V.K. Rai and Dr. A.K. Verma (Uttar Pradesh) and Prof. A.K. Chaudhuri (West Bengal). The members of the central team at the CSDS are: Himanshu Bhattacharya, Mona Gupta, Oliver Heath, Sudhir Hilsayan, K.A.Q.A. Hilal, Bhaskar Jha, Angad Kumar, Kanchan Malhotra, Anindya Saha and Chitrali Singh.

The BJP's new social bloc

politics

An analysis by CSDS based on the electoral outcome and the findings of a nation-wide post-election survey.

YOGENDRA YADAV with SANJAY KUMAR and OLIVER HEATH

THE results of the 13th Lok Sabha elections mark the completion of a process that has brought about the Bharatiya Janata Party's rise to power, a process that began with the 10th Lok Sabha elections in 1989 and has continued uninterrupted since.

As was argued in the first part of this analysis (Frontline, November 5), the results of the recent elections do not point to a clear victory for the BJP, or for that matter for any other national party. Yet in more than one sense the BJP has completed one leg of a remarkable political journey. Its performance in Goa, Assam and a few other States at the geographical periphery symbolises the geographical expansion that the BJP has gone through; at the end of this round of elections, there are very few States - Kerala, for instance - where the BJP or at least one of its allies is not one of the main competitors in the electoral arena. Its alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu completed the process of its political expansion from a party that was once considered a political "untouchable" to one that is acceptable to everyone across the ideological spectrum, except the Congress(I) and the Left parties.

In this series, the same group of electors, comprising a national representative sample, were approached after each of the last three general elections and face-to-face interviews conducted to find out their voting behaviour and political opinions and attitudes. Retaining the same sample, after making minor adjustments to accommodate new voters and factors such as migration, makes it possible to study change over time by comparing the results.

The survey was carried out in 105 parliamentary constituencies - it covered 419 polling stations in 210 Assembly segments in 20 States and Union Territories. A total of 9,111 electors were interviewed in their homes in the week after each phase of polling. The last round of the survey was completed on October 5, the day before the counting began. The constituency-wise results of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections have been taken from the Web site of the Election Commission and recomputed by the CSDS data unit.

In order to promote greater transparency in survey reporting, the CSDS and Frontline would like to share with readers some background information about the survey.

The social composition of the respondents in this survey is as follows: 49.3 per cent women, 18.3 per cent Dalits, 7.9 per cent Adivasis, 10.3 per cent Muslims, 77.8 per cent rural voters, 41 per cent uneducated voters and 6.7 per cent graduates. There is thus an over-representation of rural voters and an under-representation of Muslim voters. In terms of reported voting, the sample percentages (actual results in brackets) are: the BJP and its allies 38.8 (40.8), the Congress(I) and its allies 36.7 (33.8), the Left 7.6 (8.0) and the Bahujan Samaj Party 3.1 (4.2). The sample size for each State and significant discrepancies, if any, have been mentioned in the analysis for each State.

The survey was designed and coordinated at the national level by Prof. V.B. Singh (Principal Coordinator), Sanjay Kumar (National Coordinator) and Yogendra Yadav, all from the CSDS. A network of scholars worked with the CSDS in designing and executing the survey in different parts of the country: Dr. K.C. Suri (Andhra Pradesh), Prof A.K. Baruah and Dr. Sandhya Goswami (Assam and other Northeastern States), Rajendra Ravi (Bihar), Prof. Peter deSouza (Goa), Dr. P.M. Patel (Gujarat), Dr. Jitendra Prasad (Haryana), Prof. T.R. Sharma (Himachal Pradesh and Punjab), Dr. Sandeep Shastri (Karnataka), Prof. G. Gopa Kumar (Kerala), Dr. Ram Shankar (Madhya Pradesh), Prof. Suhas Palshikar (Maharashtra), Dr. S. N. Misra (Orissa), Dr. Sanjay Lodha (Rajasthan), Prof. G. Koteshwar Prasad (Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry), Dr. Pradeep Kumar, V.K. Rai and Dr. A.K. Verma (Uttar Pradesh) and Prof. A.K. Chaudhuri (West Bengal). The members of the central team at the CSDS are: Himanshu Bhattacharya, Mona Gupta, Oliver Heath, Sudhir Hilsayan, K.A.Q.A. Hilal, Bhaskar Jha, Angad Kumar, Kanchan Malhotra, Anindya Saha and Chitrali Singh.

Both these expansions were preconditions for the third process of social expansion: the BJP's changeover from being seen as a party of the urbanised and of the Bania-Brahmin to becoming a party with a wider social base. The journey was not without its share of problems and retreats: its uneven performance in this election testifies to that fact. More important, the BJP did not carry out this journey on its own terms. Quite early on, it realised that it was on a new turf. It was forced to come to terms and negotiate with a regionalised polity and the democratic upsurge of the "shudras". That negotiation process is far from over and its outcome is still an open question. But the BJP's arrival as a party that today heads a coalition that is seen to be less fragile than at least four previous governments perhaps occasions stock-taking to get a long-term view of what this journey has meant for India's democratic polity.

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The BJP's rise to power is related to a fundamental process of change that goes beyond routine electoral victories and defeats and the mechanics of government formation and alteration. In its multi-pronged attempts to win an electoral majority and create for itself a somewhat stable support base, the BJP has created a new social bloc, a new coalition of various social groups, that now lays claims to political power. The BJP's attempt to become the 'natural party of governance' has resulted in a new kind of majoritarianism, which is deeper and subtler than what both its spokespersons and its critics would allow for. It is not a simple Hindu majoritarianism. Although religious symbolism has been a trademark of the BJP's mobilisational strategy, and religious exclusions continue to mark the boundaries of the new social constituency, religion is not one of the principal faultlines in the creation of this new social bloc. The new social bloc is formed by the convergence of traditional caste-community differences and class distinctions. It may be an exaggeration to say that the BJP represents the rebellion of the elite, but it is nevertheless true that its rise to political power has been accompanied by the emergence of a new social group that is defined by an overlap of social and economic privileges.

It is important to interpret the signals of the 1999 verdict in the light of this process. For an obsession with the game of numbers or the business of alleged vote banks can draw attention away from the larger picture. Since the official data on the elections are not very helpful in learning about the social basis of the voters' choices - of who voted for whom - we shall mainly use here the post-poll survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and co-sponsored by Frontline. This survey is part of a longer series of National Election Studies conducted by the CSDS and is one of the few sources of reliable data with a social science perspective and which allows one to see the current picture in a historical perspective.

BEFORE one looks at the precise shape and nature of the new social bloc, let us first take a look at the overall picture of flow of votes between the 1998 elections and the latest round. In the 1990s, elections in India have witnessed a high level of churning of votes. While the overall vote shares of the major parties do not undergo any dramatic change, a very large number of voters change their voting preferences from one election to another. In this respect, however, Elections '99 have proved very different from the previous two elections. All the major parties have been able to retain the support of a large chunk of those who voted for them in 1998.

But one must not read too much into these figures. These are provisional 'recall'-based figures that are liable to being scaled down after checking out carefully. Also, the recent round of elections were held within 20 months of the previous elections and without any major change in the pattern of electoral alignments at the all-India level. Yet the figures do indicate a greater crystallisation of voter preferences. It is not clear if this phenomenon will endure and lead to a deeper institutionalisation of the party system in the face of the social churning that is taking place. But it does suggest that the process of creation of a social bloc may have reached a certain stage of completion.

A closer look at how votes changed hands between 1998 and 1999 does not support the suggestion made by some commentators that voters are drifting towards a bipolar choice. Most of the gains made by the BJP-led front came from the erstwhile United Front and the allies of the Congress(I). But these votes did not flow directly to the BJP: they accrued to its allies. If anything, in a direct exchange of votes, the Congress(I) gained from the BJP more than it lost to it (11 percentage points gained, 6 percentage points lost). The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Left parties retained the support of a very high percentage of their voters, but largely because their base is not expanding to a considerable extent. The U.F's votes were fragmented and went either to the BJP's allies, the Congress(I) or to several regional parties. This fragmentation prepared the ground for the creation of the new social bloc by the BJP.

A look at the division of votes along caste and community lines gives one an idea of the shape of this new social bloc. The ten-fold classification used here is not the most refined one, and certainly does not do justice to State-level configurations, but it does give a more elaborate description of the community basis of voting than is usually available.

The first point to note is the difference between the support base of the BJP and that of its allies. Together, the BJP and its allies secure the support of 60 per cent of upper-caste Hindus and 52 per cent of the dominant Hindu peasant castes (which are not classified as Other Backward Classes) such as Jats, Marathas, Patidars, Reddys and Kammas. But between the BJP and its allies, the relative share of the allies goes up as one moves down the social hierarchy from the upper castes to the lower OBCs. This is a new pattern, as compared to 1998 and earlier elections. Since the 1998 elections, the BJP-led alliance's share of votes from among the second, third and the fourth categories has gone up by nearly 10 percentage points each. And the BJP's own share among these "middle castes", as compared to those of its allies, has declined from about two-thirds to one-half or even less. The lower the category, the lower the BJP's contribution to the vote share of the alliance. It is not that voters have shifted from the BJP to its allies in the 1999 elections. It is just that regional and political expansion has brought in new middle-caste parties such as the DMK, the Janata Dal (United) and the Telugu Desam Party and clarified the tendency inherent in the BJP's rise to power.

The vote share of the BJP-led alliance drops among Adivasis and Dalits. Although both these figures are higher this time as compared to the 1998 elections, it is clear that these groups are not the primary constituents of the new social bloc. The figures go down even further when one turns to the minorities. The BJP has maintained a fair share of the votes of Sikhs ever since the community became disillusioned with the Congress(I) following the anti-Sikh riots in 1984; but the BJP inspires little confidence among Muslims and Christians.

One needs to look at subtle changes here. Throughout this decade, the vote share of the BJP-led alliance among Muslims has grown, even if only slowly; in the 1999 elections, the share reached a two-digit figure. At the same time, the BJP's own share of votes of Muslims has declined compared to 1998, and is concentrated among Ashrafs. The increase in the alliance's vote share among Muslims is entirely owing to allies such as the TDP, the Trinamul Congress and the DMK. Similarly, in the BJP-led front, the allies account for more than half of the votes of Christians.

The Congress(I), on the other hand, improves its vote share as one moves down the social hierarchy. It has the support of only 21 per cent of upper-caste Hindus, but its vote share among the dominant peasant castes is about 31 per cent. Its vote share declines among the OBCs, but its allies' support base among these sections makes up for it. Compared to 1998, the Congress(I) has lost support among the dominant peasant groups such as Jats and Marathas, but has gained greater support among both the categories of OBCs. The Congress(I) gets the biggest share of the votes of Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and Christians. Compared to 1998, the Congress(I)'s vote share among Adivasis has declined by four percentage points; there appears to have been a decline in its vote share among Dalits as well, but its allies make up for this.

Among the two sections of Muslims (upper biradari and lower biradari), the vote share of the Congress(I) and its allies has gone up by about 10 percentage points; the Congress(I)'s gains are principally among the upper biradari Muslims, while much of the gains from among lower biradari Muslims came from allies, mainly the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). This indicates a general return of the minorities' faith in the Congress(I); this is confirmed by the fact that the party's vote share among Christians and Sikhs has increased by about eight percentage points. A small but significant section of the Sikh community has returned to the Congress(I) after a long time.

However, the Congress(I) has not been able to consolidate the support of the lower sections (except in the case of Muslims and Christians) the way the BJP and its allies have consolidated the support of the upper castes. The Left parties and the BSP challenge the Dalit vote of the Congress(I), while a host of regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Tamil Maanila Congress challenge the OBC and Muslim vote of the Congress(I).

While religion is a marker of social community, especially for the minorities, political loyalties in India are not defined by religious practice. This stands in sharp contrast to several European democracies where church-attendance or otherwise explains political and ideological cleavages. A classification of Hindus in these surveys by their religious practice or otherwise does not give very firm clues to their voting pattern. The vote for both the BJP and the Congress(I) shows a mild and positive relationship to the regularity of worshipping, while it is the other way round for the Left parties and the BSP. But then that is also because there is a relationship between belonging to the upper and middle castes and worshipping regularly. Interestingly, 41 per cent of the Hindus who vote the Left worship regularly. The same figure is substantially lower for the BSP.

From caste-based and community-based cleavages, we can now turn to the economic dimension of the emerging social bloc, its class structure. The table shows how clearly the BJP's vote is related to class. The poorer the voter, the lesser are the chances of voting for the BJP. The BJP vote share among the poorest of the population is about one-third of what it gets among the upper classes. The BJP's allies do not share this profile, for they tend to do better among the middle category. In that respect there is no significant difference in the BJP's support base as compared to 1998.

If the Congress(I) and its allies are taken together, it appears that their profile is the opposite of that of the BJP. But when the allies are seen separately, it is clear that two of them, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the RJD, have a pronounced lower class support base, while the Congress(I) support to them does not make for any clear pattern. This absence of any pattern is owing to the fact that the class patterns of Congress(I) voting in different States go in different directions and eventually cancel each other out at the national level. As is to be expected, the Left parties and the BSP enjoy greater support among the poorest voters.

Till now we have seen the caste effect and the class effect independent of each other. But as every student of Indian society knows, there is a considerable convergence of the two systems of stratification at the top and the bottom. In other words, the upper caste people tend to be mainly upper class and people belonging to the lowest caste in the Hindu social order tend to be among the poorest. Yet it cannot be said that there is complete overlap here. Class and caste cleavages represent two independent yet overlapping principal cleavages of the Indian social order. We have seen that the BJP tends to attract the voters from the upper segment of both these divisions.

The data also shows that the caste hierarchy and the class hierarchy reinforce each other in contributing to support for the BJP. Among the upper castes or the dominant peasant castes, for example, the vote share for the BJP goes down as we move from the upper classes to the lower classes. The same is true for different classes among Adivasis and Dalits. The pattern for the OBCs is not very neat at the lower ends but supports the basic reading offered here. Conversely, if we focus on the lower classes and move from Dalits to upper caste, the vote share for the BJP tends to go up. Accordingly, the highest chances of voting for the BJP obtain in the group that is both upper class and upper caste, and the lowest among the lowest class Dalits.

This convergence of class and caste in voting for the BJP can be understood more clearly by drawing a diagonal line across the caste-class divide. The line separating those who vote BJP in greater numbers than average and those who do not is also roughly the line separating the socially and economically privileged from the underprivileged. Those included in the "upper strata" of this caste-class divide include all the upper caste Hindus irrespective of their class. As we come down the social ladder, we exclude the lowest class and then the lower classes as well from the "upper strata" thus defined. Among the Adivasis, only those who belong to the two upper classes qualify for the "upper" caste-class strata, and among Dalits, only the highest quality thus. This line excludes all the minorities irrespective of their class. If we divide the entire electorate along these lines of "upper" and "lower" caste-class strata, we can see a composite picture of the new social bloc.

The table presents the proportion of each party's voters from the two strata, rather than the vote share for different parties as in all other tables. In all, 45 per cent of our electors fall in the "upper strata" and 55 per cent in the "lower strata". The BJP, however, draws as much as 69 per cent of its votes from these 45 per cent voters. Its allies are a little less lop-sided, but they also draw more than a proportionate share of votes from this privileged group. All the remaining parties depend more on the lower strata for their votes. This is, of course, more true of the Left parties and the BSP than of the Congress(I) .

This social bloc formed by the two principal cleavages of caste and class is reinforced by several auxiliary divisions that more or less overlap with the caste-class divisions. A look at the educational background of the voters shows that the education effect works in the same direction and to a similar degree as class. As one goes up the educational ladder, the odds of voting for the BJP go up very sharply. The votes for the BJP's allies are fairly evenly distributed while there is a clustering in the middle for the Left parties. This pattern had already been established before the last elections and has remained more or less unchanged. While a good deal of the education effect is accounted for by the social class factor, for education is largely a function of the class someone is born in, there seems to be a milder and independent education effect after controlling for caste-class. In both the upper and the lower strata, the Congress(I) vote falls and the BJP vote rises with increase in levels of education.

The effect of reading newspapers, listening to the radio and watching television is very closely related both to education and to class. No wonder, the BJP does better among those who are more exposed to the media. In this case the BJP's allies too seem to be gaining significantly from media exposure. As in the case of education, the media exposure effect is not entirely explained by caste-class background. Within the upper stratum, differences in media exposure produce significant differences in voting for the BJP and its allies. Clearly, greater education and greater media exposure by themselves seem to be drawing voters away from the Congress(I). The same is not true of the Left parties, the BSP and other regional parties, who also get more than the average level of vote among the under-privileged.

Right from its inception, first the Jan Sangh and then the BJP has drawn greater support from the urban areas. The same pattern continues, although the gap has kept changing from four percentage points in 1991 to 12 points in 1996, before plateauing to six points in 1998 and seven this year. This gap does not indicate, however, that the BJP has no rural base. On the contrary, of every hundred votes it gets, as many as 73 come from the villages, only slightly below what the Congress(I) draws from the villages. Earlier, the Congress(I) used to get a higher level of votes in rural areas. In this decade, however, Congress(I) has also done marginally better in rural areas. The main political base of the Left parties is in the rural areas. But over the years, the gap between their rural and urban votes has increased because of their shrinking urban appeal in West Bengal. Urbanity by itself does not seem to introduce a new dimension to political preference. Within the upper and lower strata, the vote for BJP does not vary much.

Unlike in Western democracies, age or generation identity has not been a significant factor in Indian elections. The sudden rise of the BJP in the early 1990s had opened for the first time a noticeable generational divide. Among the youngest of voters, the BJP secured four percentage points more votes than among the oldest. The Congress(I) showed a contrary pattern. By 1996 the gap had narrowed to 2.5 percentage points and this time it virtually disappeared. It seems the gap was more a result of the BJP's newness in many parts of the country than any generational divide. The BJP does marginally better among the youngest and the Congress(I) among the middle aged. The Left has consistently done a little worse among young voters as compared to the middle aged.

Traditionally, the Congress(I) used to witness a fairly big gender gap, with support for it among women being five to six percentage points more than among men. The sudden decline of the Congress(I) and the rise of the BJP had reduced that gap considerably by the beginning of this decade. The gap started increasing again in 1996 when the Congress(I) enjoyed a 1.2 percentage point lead. By last year the gap had doubled to 2.7 points in favour of the Congress(I) and 4.7 points against the BJP. While in the case of the BJP the gap has decreased a little, the gender gap for the Congress(I) and its allies stands at five percentage points, as high as during the good old days of Congress(I) dominance. In the case of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the BSP, the gender profile has not undergone any change all these years.

It is not clear how the revival of the gender gap should be interpreted. It is all too easy to read it as conclusive evidence of a revival of the Congress(I) or to dismiss it as yet another sign that the Congress(I) gets the votes of the uninformed and the less politicised. At the same time, it may be too premature to link it to women's attitudes to the policies of the Congress(I) or the BJP. It calls for more careful research, especially because this is happening at a time when women's political participation is growing. At this stage we can only view it as another independent dimension of social hierarchy, where the privileged section supports the BJP.

To sum up, the 1999 electoral verdict points to a fundamental reworking of the social basis of party politics in India. The first four decades of the Congress(I) system in one form or the other were characterised by political mobilisation that cut across fundamental social cleavages. In its various incarnations and local variants, the rainbow social coalition of the Congress(I) did not include all the sections quite equally. But it did not follow any one faultline of society. The decline of the Congress(I) and the rise of the BJP to power created the possibility of a new kind of cleavage-based politics, one that draws on the overlap of cleavages based on caste and class. It is not caste-based or class-based in any simple sense: it is woven around the ideology of nationalism and involves a reworking of Jati and sectional divisions. Nonetheless, it is built around a "master cleavage" of caste-class privileges. Its end-product is a new social bloc, one with soft edges and blurred boundaries. Verdict '99 marks the arrival of this new social bloc.

To be sure, the arrival does not guarantee its durability or even survival, let alone its continued electoral success. The new social bloc is still quite fragile and yet to jell. In many ways it is a very artificial product, more a result of a highly skillful working of the logic of our electoral system and caste-community configurations in their regional setting by the BJP leadership than a harmonious coming together of various groups. As noted above, there is a definite tension among the social profiles of the BJP and its allies. But at present it helps the BJP bring groups to its new social bloc that would not have otherwise come its way. It is not clear how well the BJP will be able to manage this tension. It is also not clear if the party will succeed in mobilising enough numbers from outside this group so as to ensure the creation of an electoral majority out of a numerical minority.

This analysis naturally begs the question: if the privileged can form a bloc, why not the underprivileged? Do the recent elections and political indicators point in that direction? In a sense the decline of the "catch-all" Congress umbrella opened up the possibility of the political consolidation of the underprivileged as it did for the privileged. This decade has enriched that possibility, for we have witnessed a participatory upsurge of the lower orders of society. One needs to take note of the extraordinary fact that India is perhaps the only contemporary democracy where the poor and the socially underprivileged participate in politics more than the elite.

At the same time, various factors have worked against the realisation of this potential and resulted in the fragmentation of what could have become a counter-bloc. First, it is always more difficult to consolidate the underprivileged, for their access to information and action is limited. Second, the regionalised nature of our polity works against the coming together of these sections on a national political platform, leaving it open for the BJP to incorporate a group like the Pattali Makkal Katchi through localised negotiation. Finally, the absence of an organised party-political nucleus that would initiate such a consolidation prevents the potential from turning into a reality.

Can the Congress(I) perform that role? On the face of it, the findings presented above might suggest that the Congress(I) is already well on its way to creating a counter-bloc. It is after all the party that gets the largest support from among the underprivileged. At the same time we need to remember that the Congress(I) does not draw the lower strata of caste-class as fully as the BJP does for the upper class-caste. The national level figures for the Congress(I) hide various contrary trends at the State level. The Congress(I) draws the underprivileged towards it in Karnataka, has an unclear profile in Andhra Pradesh and represents the better-off in Kerala. Besides, when the Congress(I) gets the votes of the lower strata it comes more by default than by design.

There is a residual quality to the Congress(I) vote. The social support it gets is more often than not merely the mirror image of the social profile of its opponent. The creation of a counter-bloc of the underprivileged would need more than a happy coincidence. It would require a painstaking building of social alliances and political coalitions, within or without the party. It would also require forging a new vision and overhauling the organisation to allow it to act as the vehicle of this historical process. For the existing Congress(I) party, it is a very tall order indeed.

A paradoxical verdict

CSDS Team politics

THE verdict in Uttar Pradesh surprised the pollsters and political analysts, and it continues to surprise the psephologists even after the final figures are in. There is a paradox in the verdict: the BJP and its allies have secured 31.2 per cent of the votes, some nine percentage points down from last year but only a fraction below what they secured in the 1991 and 1996 parliamentary elections. Yet the BJP won only 29 seats (32, if the allies' seats are added) compared to between 50 and 60 seats it has secured in the past. For the Samajwadi Party, the result is even more paradoxical: it lost nearly five percentage points in terms of its vote share since the 1998 elections, but its seats tally has gone up from 20 to 26. The BSP recorded only a marginal increase in its vote share, from 20.9 to 22.1 per cent, but its seats tally rose from four to 14. The surprising element about the Congress(I) is that normally under the Indian electoral system one would not expect a party securing 17.3 per cent of the votes (including its allies) to win any seats. However, the Congress(I) romped home with 12 seats (including the tally of its ally, the Rashtriya Lok Dal). The first-past-the-post system that normally rewards the biggest party and punishes the rest does not seem to have worked that way in U.P. The party with the highest vote share, the BJP, won only 30 seats; the second and third highest-vote-share parties, the S.P. and the BSP, made major gains in terms of seats. In fact, even the fourth and lowest seat-share-party, the Congress(I), won a significant number of seats.

Conventionally, such a paradox would be explained by the Index of Opposition Unity (IOU). It was assumed that an increase in the IOU against the BJP would explain the sharp decline in its seats tally. But nothing of that sort took place in U.P. this time. There were no Opposition alliances, barring a minor seat adjustment between the Congress(I) and the RLD. In fact, the State-wide IOU came down from 53 per cent to 49 per cent between the 1998 and 1999 elections. It is not true to say that the BJP won big victories but lost narrowly. Its average margin of victory is smaller than its average margin of defeat. It is also not the case that the BJP accidentally lost a large number of seats by a very small margin. If anything, luck favoured the BJP: it won 12 seats by less than 10 per cent of the votes, while the S.P. and the BSP won only six seats each in this category. That is why U.P. remains a puzzle even after the verdict is fully known.

Part of the answer to this puzzle lies in the two other figures given in the table showing the vore share. This time two things worked against the BJP. In the past the BJP won over 50 seats with a fairly low vote share because its gap vis-a-vis the next most popular party, the Janata Dal or the S.P., used to be more than 10 percentage points. This time, like in 1996, the gap narrowed to only 7 percentage points. But unlike in the 1996 election, there was much greater resort to tactical voting at the constituency level. We find that this time the extent of constituency-level consolidation of votes against the BJP has been at its highest, more than 8 percentage points higher than last time. To sum up: the BJP's votes fell, and even though its main opponent also lost votes, the gap between the two narrowed; the gap was much lower at the constituency level where it actually matters, thanks to a higher level of polarisation of votes against the BJP at that level.

The other part of the answer lies in the region-wise break-up of the verdict. What looks like a difference of seven percentage points between the BJP and its main rival at the State level translated into a very different picture at the regional level. In the two small regions of Uttarakhand and Bundelkhand it trailed behind the Congress(I) and the BSP respectively in the matter of vote share. It lost all the four seats in Bundelkhand, while it won three out of four seats in Uttarakhand with narrow margins. In western U.P. the BJP's vote share was barely two percentage points over that of the Congress(I)-RLD combine, which won four seats there. In Poorvanchal, the area bordering Bihar, it trailed behind the S.P. by two percentage points. The BJP's vote share fell most sharply in this region while it could contain its seat loss to only four. It was ahead of the S.P. in Central and the Central East, but only by 1.5 and 2.5 percentage points respectively. Despite this slender lead the BJP lost as many as nine seats in the Central region where Sakshi Maharaj worked to defeat it.

As a result of all these factors, U.P. witnessed much closer triangular and quadrangular fights at the constituency level than the State-wise averages might indicate. Take for example the Ghatampur result: the BSP won this seat by securing 1,56,582 votes followed by the S.P. with 1,56,477 and then the BJP with 1,55,987 votes. In all, the results in 22 seats hinged on less than 10 per cent of the votes. As many as 50 seats changed hands in this election. Of the BJP's victories, 10 were in constituencies it had lost last time. Despite its overall gains, the S.P. lost 10 of the 20 seats it had won last time.

AN interesting thought experiment: what would have happened if the Assembly elections in U.P. were held simultaneously? This time the Election Commission has made Assembly segment-wise results available in record time and we can actually answer this question. The BJP would have performed much worse than in the Lok Sabha polls. It led in only 117 segments, and needed its allies' strength to surpass the S.P.'s figure of 128. The BSP would have improved its position and so would have the Congress(I). But the Congress(I) still has a lot of ground to cover before it can convert its extraordinary feat of making an 11 percentage point gain in the vote share into an increase in the number of seats. Unless the political alignments change, trends point to a hung Assembly in U.P. where every party is way off the majority mark.

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Between the 1998 and 1999 elections most parties managed to retain about 80 per cent of their votes, with the notable exception of the S.P., which lost as much as 22 per cent of its votes to the Congress(I).

IN Uttar Pradesh, 49 per cent of the respondents agreed with the statement that one should vote the same way as the rest of the members of one's community do, which figure is a remarkable 14 percentage points higher than the national average. With the exception of the Congress(I), each party enjoyed almost unrivalled support from a particular Jati. The BJP collected 77 per cent of the Brahmin vote and 68 per cent of the Rajput vote. However, as it was also particularly popular with the other upper castes, these figures should not be treated as anomalous Jati occurrences but as part of a wider caste-based support base. However, in the cases of the BSP and the S.P. specific Jatis show voting behaviour markedly different from the other castes in their "set". Close to 80 per cent of the Yadavas voted for the S.P., which was over 50 percentage points more than the level of support that the remaining OBCs gave the party. Similarly, 74 per cent of the Jatavas voted for the BSP, compared to just 39 per cent of the other Scheduled Castes.

The Congress(I)'s expansion seems to have come from the lower castes. In 1998, its only major segment of support came from among non-Jatav S.Cs, of whom 42 per cent voted for it. Although the Congress(I) managed to retain support among the non-Jatav S.Cs even in 1999, its support increased noticeably also among the Jatavas and the other OBCs (non-Yadav), by 8 and 13 percentage points respectively. The Muslim vote is evenly split between the Congress(I) and the S.P., but the CSDS survey does not show any significant support for the BSP among Muslims.

The percentage of people who had made up their minds on whom to vote for a few days before the election was higher in U.P. at 44 per cent than the nationwide average of 36 per cent. The proportion of people who made up their minds before the campaign started was also significantly lower here, by 15 percentage points, than nationally. Dalits, Muslims and non-Yadav OBCs were by far the most likely groups to make up their mind late. This finding supports the hypothesis that these groups played the most important role in resorting to tactical voting against the BJP.

THE tables relating to class and education both serve to reinforce the fact that the BJP is very much the party of the elite. The very rich are more than three times as likely to vote the BJP than the very poor, and graduates and above are more than twice as likely to vote for the party than illiterates. However, the lower sections of society are far more evenly dispersed between the different parties.

The 1999 result in U.P. thus does not portend any early end to the political churning process; further volatility seems likely before any clear alignments can emerge. If anything, the revival of the Congress(I) and the unforeseen rise in the fortunes of the S.P. makes for a nearly unique situation of four-party system in U.P., a result that sharply diverges from the general trend in most other States towards a bipolar pattern.

'Split factor' decides the outcome

A SIMPLE arithmetical calculation shows that if a split had not taken place in the Congress(I) and the various parties had got the same vote share they did in this election, the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party, would have won just nine Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra, and the Congress(I) alliance's tally would have been 39, instead of the final figures of 28 and 11 respectively. This alone would have changed the majority equation in Parliament, with the national verdict looking much different from what it does today. This demonstrates once again how an electoral verdict is as much an artifact of party managers and the first-past-the-post system as it is a product of the changing mood of the electorate.

The results did not come as a surprise. Both the Congress(I) and the breakaway Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) knew that the split could prove to be suicidal. Yet, each of them hoped that it would be able to claim a sufficiently large chunk of votes to defeat the Shiv Sena-BJP combine. However, as it turned out, there was no hidden hand to save them from the consequences of the split. The Congress(I) and the NCP together cornered 58 per cent of the popular vote: 33.3 per cent for the Congress(I) and its allies, and 25.1 per cent for Sharad Pawar's NCP and its allies. The split of votes between the two brought the Index of Opposition Unity (IOU) in the State to 63, down from 88 in last year's elections. This drop of 25 percentage points in the IOU is enough to explain the verdict. Maharashtra's is a classic case of the "split factor" rather than the "swing factor" deciding the outcome of the elections.

Indeed, it is surprising that the Shiv Sena-BJP combine did not gain more than it did from this huge split. After having consolidated the gains made in its surprise victory in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine fared poorly in the elections last year, losing in terms of both votes and seats. It lost another 4 percentage points of votes this year - less than it was expected to lose - but added 18 seats to its kitty. It could have gained more, but for the fact that the split worked unevenly in different parts of the State. The split hurt the Congress(I) the most in Vidarbha, where it had won all the 11 seats last time. Although the NCP took only 15 per cent of the votes here and the IOU was 67, it was enough for the Shiv Sena-BJP combine to take six seats. In Mumbai and Konkan, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine retained its supremacy with a little help from the split in the Congress(I). In the north and in Marathwada - the two regions that recorded the highest increases in turnout - the NCP effectively demolished the Congress(I) by making it lose 4 seats in each region, without being able to pick up any seats for itself. It was only in Sharad Pawar's stronghold of western Maharashtra that the NCP was able to translate its vote share into seats. The Congress(I) was the spoiler here. But since the Shiv Sena-BJP combine finished a poor third, the split did not seem to have hurt the NCP very much.

Some analysts had hoped that voters may succeed where the leaders failed, that many voters would resort to tactical voting by choosing the stronger of the candidates from among the Congress(I) and the NCP in order to defeat the candidates of the ruling alliance. The Lok Sabha results show that while the electorate certainly did not favour the combine, its voting choice was not based solely on that consideration. The rivalry between the Congress(I) and the NCP was as fierce as the competition between the Shiv Sena-BJP and non-Shiv Sena-BJP political forces.

This was not the first time that Pawar contested in Maharashtra as a non-Congress(I) candidate. Between 1980 and 1985 he was out of the Congress(I) fold. In the 1980 and 1984 Lok Sabha elections he managed to get for his party 11.8 and 12.1 per cent of the votes and one and two seats respectively. In the 1980 and 1985 Assembly elections his Congress(S) managed to get 20.5 and 17.8 per cent votes and 47 and 54 seats respectively. It is indeed creditable that Pawar has managed to retain his base. He obviously needs to do better to support his national ambitions.

At the Assembly level, the overall verdict appears to be a near repeat of the 1995 verdict, with the BJP and the Shiv Sena losing a few seats each. A closer look reveals that a good deal of churning has taken place. Of the 288 seats, only 133 have been retained by the same party that won in 1995. The figure goes up to 166 if one includes the 33 seats the Congress(I) has now lost to the NCP. The Congress(I) could retain only 28 of the 80 seats it won in 1995. The BJP and the Shiv Sena did a little better and retained 41 and 52 of their seats respectively.

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The regional patterns also show a subtle change. The Congress(I) has improved its position significantly in Mumbai and Vidarbha. Its performance in Mumbai is noteworthy since it differs from the trend of the Lok Sabha results. The NCP won a majority of its seats from western Maharashtra at the cost of the Congress(I) and independents who were backed by Pawar in 1995. The number of independents fell from 45 to 12.

Although there was a lot of speculation about how much of the Congress(I)'s vote Sharad Pawar would take away, the CSDS survey shows that the most likely quantum is somewhere around one-third. Sharad Pawar was thus unable to do what Mamata Banerjee succeeded in doing in West Bengal - split the Congress(I) evenly down the middle. On the other hand, despite an undistinguished term in government, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine was able to hold on to a considerable percentage of those who had voted for it in 1998.

Thee Shiv Sena-BJP combine did not do as well in being able to make those who voted for it in the Lok Sabha elections to do so in the Assembly elections. Whereas 88 per cent and 93 per cent of the people who voted for the BJP and the Shiv Sena respectively in the Assembly elections also voted for the combine in the Lok Sabha elections, the retention rate is not nearly as high when looked at from the other direction. From among those who voted for the combine in the Lok Sabha elections, only 74 per cent voted for it in the Assembly elections. The BJP voters were bigger 'ticket splitters' than the Shiv Sena voters.

Maharashtra's voters are not as polarised along caste lines as those in many other States - except at the lower end of the caste hierarchy. Instead of different groups aligning with different alliances, each caste group seems to be getting divided among the three coalitions. The Maratha and Kunbi vote, which was firmly behind the Congress(I) last time, was fragmented among the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, the Congress(I) and the NCP this time. Since 1990, the Shiv Sena and the BJP have been trying to attract the traditional Congress(I) votes, and to some extent they seem to have succeeded in this. Thanks partly to the Shiv Sena and partly to the split in the Congress(I), they now occupy the space in the middle, and fare well among the Kunbis and other OBCs. They continue to fare badly among the Dalits and Adivasis, and particularly with Muslims, virtually none of whom voted for them. Interestingly, the BJP and the Shiv Sena have rather different social profiles.

During the campaign, the NCP was criticised for trying to unite the four Ms: Marathas, Malis, Mahars and Muslims. It succeeded in this partly, but an analysis of its voter composition shows that the NCP bears an indelible Maratha mark. The Muslim vote was split almost evenly between the Congress(I) and the NCP: 46 per cent for the Congress(I) and 40 per cent for the NCP. As usual, the composition of Congress(I) voters was pretty balanced. However, since its support base spans across all social groups, the Congress(I) lacks a specific social identity. This is fine when a party is on the upswing, but problematic when it is on the decline.

Despite the much-vaunted claims by the Shiv Sena that it has received the support of the lower sections of society, the combine is very much a party of the elite. It fared well among the upper classes and the educated. The reverse was true for the NCP and the Congress(I). However, the index for media exposure shows an effect over and above the pattern for class and education. Whereas the lowest classes and the least educated were pretty much equally divided between the Congress(I) and the NCP, the Congress(I) showed a clear lead among the least informed members of society, receiving 41 per cent of the vote from those who have no media exposure.

The usual story of more women than men voting for the Congress(I) and vice versa for the BJP is as true for Maharashtra as it is elsewhere in the country. The NCP, however, scored pretty much equally among both the sexes.

The Congress(I) lost to the NCP particularly badly in the rural areas. The rural verdict was split almost evenly among the three main players. The Shiv Sena-BJP combine did substantially better in the urban areas, which comes as no surprise.

Despite Sharad Pawar's vehement stance against Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, her standing in the popularity stakes as the choice for Prime Minister did not suffer too badly. Overall, 26 per cent of the respondents named her as being their choice for Prime Minister, which was more or less on a par with the national average. However, 19 per cent of the sample felt that she was an unsuitable candidate because of her foreign origin. This figure was higher among the Shiv Sena-BJP combine voters at 31 per cent, than it was with NCP voters at 22 per cent.

The elections have thrown up a complex picture of emerging political loyalties which defies the easy bifurcation of the State polity into two rival political camps. This fragmentation removes the possibility of a formation of the weaker and deprived social groups into an electoral bloc. Just as there are no winners and losers in the elections from Maharashtra, there appear to be no progressives and reactionaries in State politics anymore.

Software for safety

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Interview with Dr. Venkat Venkatasubramanian.

When a safety alarm goes off in an oil refinery, control-room personnel must make crucial decisions in a matter of minutes. Should the process be shut down? Which unit should be stopped? Should the other units continue to run? For how long? Every minute counts, for some poisonous, carcinogenic or inflammable substance that can kill people and destroy property could be escaping into the air.

A case in point is the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, in which more than 3,000 people died and thousands were affected, when a pesticide plant run by the Union Carbide Corporation accidentally released a toxic gas. Had the leak been detected before the safety alarm went off, the disaster could probably have been contained, if not averted. But is such detection possible?

Yes, asserts Dr. Venkat Venkatasubramanian, Professor of Chemical Engineering, who leads a research group in the Intelligent Process Systems Laboratory at Purdue University, United States. After working on the problem for 16 years, he and his team have come up with an online, real-time computer program that could quickly determine the cause of process abnormality and recommend appropriate action. Called DKit, or Diagnostic ToolKit, it can serve a variety of industries, including chemical plants.

While DKit works backwards from the symptom to the cause, another program, HAZOPExpert, also developed by the team, works forward, from the causes to the hazard and helps design safer plants.

Troubled by the Bhopal tragedy, Venkatasubramanian, who had just completed his Ph.D in chemical engineering from Cornell University, U.S., decided to explore methods to prevent such industrial accidents. After a stint as Research Associate, Artificial Intelligence, in the Department of Computer Science at Carnegie-Mellon and Columbia universities, Venkatasubramanian joined Purdue University' s Chemical Engineering Department.

Venkatasubramanian has published more than 100 research papers, which cover areas of process fault diagnosis and supervisory control, hazard and safety analysis, operating procedures synthesis and product design using knowledge-based systems, neural networks, genetic algorithms, artificial intelligence, mathematical programming and statistical approaches.

DKit and HAZOPExpert systems combine Venkatasubramanian' s expertise in various specialities. His experience as a consultant to global corporations and institutions such as Exxon, Honeywell, DowElanco, Lubrizol, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, the United Nations Development Programme, the Indian Oil Corporation, Imperial Chemical Industries, American Cynamid, Amoco, Arthur D.Little and G.D. Searle, has helped him understand the needs of various industries.

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Recipient of several awards and honours, Venkatasubramanian serves on the editorial board of the Process Safety Progress journal published by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He was recently selected by Industry Week magazine as one of the 50 stars in the U.S. whose achievements are shaping the future of our industrial culture and America' s technology''.

Recently in Chennai to establish links with academic institutions and industries in order to test DKit and HAZOPExpert, Venkatasubramanian spoke to Asha Krishnakumar on his research work. Excerpts from the interview:

What motivated you to work on the problem of industrial accidents?

The 1984 Bhopal incident. Several things went wrong there. Incidents like that do happen when you design complex systems. There are risks involved and we try to minimise them to absolutely low levels. We cannot, however, eliminate them. The role of the plant manager is crucial. He is concerned about how to run the plant not only safely but optimally and economically. In this case I was interested in designing systems which could monitor chemical plants in real time, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, and recognise abnormal situations. Typically, the alarm system in a plant goes off when the problem has progressed to a considerable extent, but just short of the danger level.

The way alarms are set, it may not be too late before they go off. But when several things conspire to happen at the same time and when people do not know how to react, it may be too late. Most often there is a panic reaction to abnormal situations as it is difficult to reason through all possibilities within a few minutes.

I was interested in designing a system that could detect the problem and warn people of the abnormal situation much before the alarms went off and tell operators what had gone wrong and why, and suggest solutions. An alarm does not tell you why something has gone wrong.

The control systems in chemical plants do not do this. For example, if a system has to control a plant at a certain temperature, it takes periodic temperature readings and compares them with what is required. If the reading is higher or lower than normal, it will open or close the valve appropriately. The problem is that the sensors that take the readings may fail, or the valve that has to open or close may fail or something else might fail. This is when you need human help. But, then, it may be difficult for humans to diagnose what went wrong and how to rectify it quickly. So, I was interested in designing the next generation control systems.

What represents next generation control systems?

Systems that are capable of sophisticated reasoning. So, in some sense I was, and still am, interested in designing computers that can reason like humans but much faster, covering a lot more ground. This is where artificial intelligence comes in - designing systems to think and reason like people. With this knowledge-base we developed DKit, the first part of our research work, and HAZOPExpert systems, the second part.

What is DKit?

It is an intelligent control system that can help figure out what is going wrong in a plant and what should be done. That is, abnormal situation management (ASM) wherein you reason from symptoms to causes.

What kind of research work is involved in DKit?

We began laying the foundation for DKit in 1984-85, soon after the Bhopal incident. We looked at the different approaches to ASM. Reasoning backward was not easy. To understand ASM we worked on neural networks, trend monitoring, causal and analytical modelling, artificial intelligence and statistical techniques. Each had its own strengths and weaknesses. No single approach addressed all the complexities of industrial diagnostic problems. So, we combined all the five approaches in DKit.

DKit is equipped with a moderator or a scheduler, which pools recommendations from different approaches, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each, applies conflict-resolution algorithms and comes to a conclusion. If DKit does not offer one answer, it narrows the possible causes of an abnormal situation for the plant operator' s consideration.

What is HAZOPExpert?

In order to have a safe plant, it is best to design one to begin with. This is called process hazards analysis (PHA). When you design a new plant or take an existing plant and make changes to it, retro-fitting, you analyse all the implied hazards. That is, you build into the system all that can possibly go wrong with the various parts of the plant, their causes, consequences and ways to protect the system. All these things have to be worked out by a detailed, systematic analysis, involving an enormous number of man-years.

Since we had already developed some techniques for going back, I figured that I must be able to develop techniques to go forward as well using a computer. So, we designed a whole series of systems, called the HAZOPExpert. In PHA, the well-known approach is hazard and operability analysis, or Hazop. So we developed two systems, HAZOPExpert for continuous process plants such as refineries and Batch HazopExpert for batch processing plants such as those used by pharmaceutical and speciality chemicals companies.

For this we developed algorithms using which, sitting in front of the computer screen and looking at every single unit of the process drawing, you can identify thousands of things that can go wrong in a plant, identify the causes and consequences, and provide the results in a summarised form, as a table.

When people do PHA, they look at two scenarios. First, the routine functioning that is common to all plants. You ask the same kind of questions and go through the same kind of logic. These are the routine hazards. Some situations are unique to particular plants. We have focussed on routine situations, as 80 per cent of the effort is expended on solving routine problems.

So Hazop models hazards that may arise routinely in a plant are common to all plants. So, the Hazop system can take care of 80 per cent of the problems quickly.

For a large chemical plant it is almost impossible to analyse and build into the system all possible system failures. A typical chemical plant has hundreds of units, each responsible for 10 different activities. And there may be thousands of such combinations. It is humanly impossible even to identify all possible hazards. But that is how it is done now. This takes enormous amounts of time, effort and money. In the U.S., industries spend $ 2-3 billion a year on PHA.

For long, people did it because it was the right thing to do. But after the Bhopal incident, U.S. companies became concerned; they carried out a number of investigations. PHA was always being done by good chemical companies because that was the right thing to do. But in 1992, when Hazop was made mandatory, all U.S. plants became interested in our work at Purdue.

We are in the process of commercialising all our software. Batch HAZOPExpert is being tested in G.D. Searle and Company in Chicago.

Ideally, we would like to have one comprehensive system that is both diagnostic, like DKit, and predictive, like HAZOPExpert. As they are both related and part of the same problem, our team is now working on combining the two programs.

Are you thinking of marketing your product?

One of the techniques we developed was recently licensed to Honeywell Inc. to make it into a product. It is the first of its kind - a technique licensed from a university for control purposes - anywhere in the world. It is called the qualitative trend analysis (QTA) technique.

Have you had a trial run of the process safety software in industries?

I have been working on this technique for over 10 years, and in the last year and a half it has been on real-time trial in a major chemical plant, Exxon, in the U.S. and the results have been spectacular. It detected problems in the plant long before the alarms went off and advised the operator about what went wrong and what to do.

After the Bhopal tragedy there has been a lot of research work to understand the problem. How is your work different from the rest?

There is nothing like this (HAZOPExpert). We are acknowledged as the leaders in process safety, both on-line and off-line design. It is something of a pioneering effort.

How long did it take to complete the program?

Since we had to start from scratch, we took longer than would have been the case otherwise. QTA and the diagnosis work took us 15 years, roughly about 50 man-years of work. HAZOPExpert and Batch HAZOPExpert took nearly half of that.

How relevant are the products for India?

They are especially relevant for developing countries, such as India. After all, the worst accident in the history of chemical plants happened in India. Also, a number of chemical plants are being built in India. Many plants are also shifting base from developed countries to countries like India because of the advantages of cheap labour, environmental considerations and so on.

Have you patented your work?

We have licensed part of our work to Honeywell. The intellectual property rights are with Purdue. When we set up the company and market the products, we will acquire the rights. Purdue encourages the faculty to start companies to disseminate knowledge as it sees its role not only as one which creates knowledge but also one that transfers the knowledge to society. The two ways of transfering knowledge are through licensing and by setting up companies. Purdue does both.

LETTERS

Verdict '99

"Managing to lose" (November 5) analyses the reasons for the worst ever performance of the Congress(I) in Lok Sabha elections. Blaming it on Sonia Gandhi, the party's star campaigner, is too simplistic. A combination of factors put paid to the party's dream of returning to power. Organisational weakness still plagues the party. Although large crowds attended the election meetings addressed by Sonia Gandhi, the lack of follow-up action resulted in the party winning fewer seats than last time. Three Chief Ministers campaigned for the party in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh but the majority of people in these States voted for the BJP. The Kargil factor and Sonia's inexperience in politics may have weighed with the voters, who chose to play it safe by preferring an experienced leader like Vajpayee.

* * *

The results are seen as a major setback for the Congress(I), and Sonia Gandhi's "immature leadership" is blamed for it. The ground reality is totally different. The Congress(I) has come back to power in Karnataka and Maharashtra. Earlier, under Sonia's leadership, it wrested Rajasthan and Delhi from the BJP. The best course for the Congress(I) now is to work as a responsible Opposition in Parliament, reposing faith in Sonia.

Pawan Malhotra Jammu Reservations

This has reference to the article, "Standing up for a right" (November 5).

It is undeniable that the Supreme Court rulings (August and September 1999) and the office memorandums of the Department of Personnel and Training amount to social discrimination in a refined form to deprive the Scheduled Castes and Tribes of their constitutional right to reservation in educational institutions and government jobs. In the long term, such actions will perpetuate and reinforce social inequality which is at the root of political, economic and other inequities.

The higher judiciary and administration are manned by people from privileged castes and classes. These sections have always felt that it was because of reservations that their youth do not get jobs. They also feel that their hold over the higher echelons of the power structure is under threat. Hence the attempt to dilute the benefits of reservation and block the rise of the S.C.s and S.T.s in institutions of science, technology and medicine.

Over the years the entire issue of reservations has been raised and debated in public and in courts. It has been recognised that social groups that have suffered atrocities, indignities, injustices and exploitation over the centuries need the support of the government and society as a whole. Even today the problems of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy are widespread among S.C.s and S.T.s. They continue to be exploited and discriminated against and deprived of even their political right to vote ("Targeting Dalit voters", October 8).

In this situation it is necessary for the S.C.s and S.T.s, as also non-governmental organisations, to come together and launch a campaign to protect the right to reservation.

It is the duty of the Ministry of Law and Justice to ensure that this constitutional right is not hijacked. The media should also highlight these problems.

Sanjai Kumar Hazaribagh, Bihar China

It is appropriate that Frontline covered the 50th anniversary of the formation of the People's Republic of China as a Cover Story ("People's China at 50," October 22).

The world is keenly watching the experiment conducted by Chinese society in its march towards egalitarianism. Some people say that the reforms undertaken by the country mark a clear break from its traditional path of socialism. But, as Prabhat Patnaik argues, the economic development that has taken place in China in the past 20 years has its foundation in the policies pursued prior to the reform period. I also share the opinion of Utsa Patnaik that during the transition to market socialism China has lost some of the gains it made in the first three decades after the Revolution. It is to be hoped that the Chinese leaders will take steps to counter this trend.

S. Vijayan Baroda * * *

In the past, China has struggled a lot but today it is emerging as the only power that is capable of challenging U.S. hegemony. China has realised that a strong economy is the foundation of a powerful nation.

India has two lessons to learn from China. First, China employs market economy but it is not controlled by the market. Secondly, it has adopted a prudent economic policy with regard to foreign investments and government expenditure.

For decades India has adopted a negative attitude towards China. It should take a pragmatic approach. China is not an expansionist dragon but a loving and friendly one. Thanks to some of the pronouncements of the Vajpayee government, the relations between India and China are at a new low. While hostilities and a proxy war continue on the western border of India, there is peace and tranquillity on the eastern side. If only Vajpayee had directed his bus towards Beijing instead of Lahore, India would have benefited a lot.

Pravin Chaubey Raipur Opinion polls

In 1995, it was Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan. In 1999, it is the Election Commission itself.

The judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court upholding publication/telecast of opinion and exit poll results during the election process has dealt a major blow to the Election Commission, which has been working tirelessly to provide a 'level playing field' to political parties and thus achieve the goal of free and fair elections ("Polls and opinions," October 8). The Election Commission has rightly observed that the Indian electorate, being largely poor and uneducated, is likely to be influenced by these surveys. They also provide an opportunity to political parties to influence media organisations and have survey results that are in their favour published. The spirit behind the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression should not be misused.

The Election Commission does not have the power to enact laws, but as a watchdog it surely can exercise the option to bark if not bite. As suggested by the Chief Election Commissioner, such sensitive issues should be debated at the national level before they are legislated upon.

S. Balakrishnan Jamshedpur The nuclear question

The Indian voter, who would vote out a government when the price of onions rises and then vote against the newly elected government if he finds his water tap dry, cares little for the danger posed by nuclear weapons. He worries little about the prospect of his children and grandchildren being turned into ashes instantaneously or left alive with radiation-induced cancer.

Now that the Vajpayee Government is relatively stable, it can afford to unwind itself of its aggressively populist posture on the nuclear issue. The first step is to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India's decision on signing the treaty should be linked only with that of Pakistan, for which that country is agreeable. It will be unwise to think that all nuclear weapon powers are our potential enemies and that we should have arms to deter all of them. No one can dispute that our technical capability is above that of Pakistan and by stopping tests at this stage we shall be able to maintain our superiority. Pakistan may be more backward than India, but if India begins testing for the purpose of achieving weapons sophistication, Pakistan will do the same. This will result in a disastrous nuclear arms race in the subcontinent.

N. Kunju Delhi Minorities and the BJP

The students of Vidyajyoti Jesuit College of Theology, New Delhi, have written that the killing of Fr. Arul Doss and Sheikh Rehman took place in Orissa "on the eve of the general elections" ("Letters," October 22). I am not a supporter of the BJP, nor do I sympathise with fundamentalists, whether they are Hindus, Muslims or Christians. But is it not ironical that a party branded as the Saffron Brigade and a Hindu party would mastermind such a heinous crime on the eve of the elections? While all political parties try to improve their image prior to elections, how could a national party like the BJP have committed such a mistake?

If at all there is any political support given to the killers of Fr. Arul Doss and Sheikh Rehman, it is by the so- called secular forces. This is done with the intention of arousing the religious sentiments of people, for obvious reasons.

Mukesh Mohan Sinha Patna Water policy

It is a great misfortune of our country that when one part of it is submerged in floods another is in the grip of drought ("The Kosi untamed", September 25).

In a country where 75 per cent of the population depends on agriculture for livelihood, provision of water should get priority. Owing to the absence of a proper water policy, we are not able to take advantage of the 4,000 trillion litres of rain water the country is estimated to get every year. Priority should be give to the transfer of water from water-surplus areas to other parts of the country.

Alok Sharma Gwalior An appeal

For nearly 50 years, I have shed tears for the young, bright persons who became vegetables after suffering brain injury in accidents involving two-wheelers. Young widows with children evoke our sympathy, but it is more distressful to see young women struggling to support brain-damaged husbands and young children. Similar is the plight of elderly parents who are left with a son or a daughter who has suffered brain injury in a two-wheeler accident.

I invite the members of the public to visit with me the hospital wards in Tamil Nadu to see parents and young wives weeping for their sons and husbands. This will convince them not to worry about minor inconveniences caused by the wearing of helmets. People avoid wearing helmets on the ground that their hair style would be disturbed. But only if there is a head can there be hair or a hairstyle. If hair really falls off owing to the use of helmets, most of the bike-riders in the West, Japan and South-East Asia and even New Delhi would be bald by now.

Some people say that it is difficult to wear helmets in hot weather. This is true but people in Delhi, West Asia and many places in South-East Asia, which are hotter than Chennai, for instance, wear helmets for safety. The headache that a helmet causes is temporary and certainly less intense than the pain resulting from fractures of the skull or brain injury.

Nobody denies that carrying a helmet and keeping it safe are inconveniences. But if you had shed one thousandth of the tears I have shed for my patients and their wives and parents, you will immediately demand that wearing crash helmets be made compulsory for two-wheeler riders.

Dr. B. Ramamurthi Neurosurgeon Chennai Correction: Of development and deprivation

The emotional outburst of H.M. Desarda in the debate "Of Development and deprivation" (Frontline, October 8) makes interesting reading. One can hardly disagree with him when he says that the dominant ideology of the past 50 years has been: "growth, unlimited". He specifically points out to the pursuit of growth in terms of mega irrigation and power projects and perhaps industries. Unfortunately, what he has forgotten to point is that we have also vigorously pursued growth in another field: India's population has increased from 350 million at the time of Independence to a billion now. It is strange that those who crusade against the so-called unsustainable development of natural resources have nothing to say about the unsustainable growth of population, which has proved to be the biggest cause of pollution and over-exploitation of scarce resources. All the problems these well-meaning activists have been highlighting and also anticipating stem from the population explosion and the resultant additional demand for basic necessities.

If it is "erroneous to equate waters and energy with mega-projects", it is equally erroneous to equate them with "age-old" and "time-tested sources of energy and methods of tapping them". The age-old practices - the burning of fuel-wood, agricultural refuse and cow-dung cakes, and the use of biogas, wind mills and so on - were evolved by the rural people for their local needs. With the increase in the population and the division of families, local sources were no longer adequate to meet their needs. The result was migration and concentration of population in urban centres, requiring concentration of water and energy needs. One fails to understand how these "age-old" practices would be able to run trains, buses or planes, operate tractors, produce fertilizers or supply pure tap water. Perhaps we must revert to the age-old practices of travelling in bullock-carts, using animal-driven ploughs, vegetable-oil lamps, cow-dung manures and manually drawn well water. It would be interesting to know how Desarda hopes to meet the present-day energy and water needs of both rural and urban population through age-old methods. Large-scale urbanisation has become a reality which one cannot wish away.

Statements such as "Plans and projects involving thousands of millions of rupees have not helped the toiling millions. On the contrary, the so-called development projects have affected them adversely and accentuated their daily suffering" are too sweeping to be believed. The fact is that through planned effort the country increased foodgrain production from 50 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 203 million tonnes in 1998-99. Otherwise millions would have starved, as was the case at the time of Independence when sustenance was provided by imported wheat.

Figures relating to the displacement of people by large dams are also blown out of proportion. It has now been proved by Surjit Bhalla and many others that the total number of people displaced by large dams in India could be only 5 to 8 million and not 40 million as estimated by Arundhati Roy. It is nobody's case that these 5 to 8 million people should not be given the best rehabilitation package and should not be placed in conditions much better than those in which they lived earlier. But to say that there should be no displacement at all is to deny survival to some potential beneficiaries of the project, who live in conditions much worse than those of people facing displacement.

Even China, opposed to the western model of development, has 21,600 of the world's 40,000 large dams. It is at present building one of the world's largest dam projects, the Three Gorges Dam, to produce 18,200 MW of power (India's total existing hydroelectric capacity does not add up to this), which involves the displacement of some two million people.

It is surprising that such a hue and cry is being raised about mega-hydropower projects as if hydropower is India's main energy source. In fact, even 20 per cent of the country's total hydropower potential of 85,000 MW has not been tapped because of resistance to submergence caused by reservoirs. The opponents of large dams prefer the use of coal (one has only to see the plight of coal miners, who live in worse conditions than dam-affected people) and also imported oil which involves the spending of thousands of crores of rupees in foreign exchange. The fact that hydropower is renewable, clean, cheap and eminently suitable for peaking does not appear to appeal to them.

Desarda makes yet another sweeping statement when he says that Indian as well as global experiences amply proves that mega-projects for irrigation and power generation are antithetical to the interests of the common people. He, however, does not cite examples. Dams such as Bhakra, Nagarjunasagar, Hirakud, Hoover, Tennessee Valley, Aswan, Itapu, Ataturk and hundreds of others prove this wrong. These dams have boosted the economy of the countries in which they are situated.

After visiting the High Aswan Dam (HAD) in 1990, J. Cotillon, the then Secretary-General of the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), said: "My first surprise was to learn that HAD had saved Egypt from famine in 1972-73 and between 1979 and 1987, when there were nine consecutive years of drought, and that the main objective of the dam was fulfilled in the early years of service..."

In the concluding part of his report, Cotillon says: "Back in Paris, I met a journalist writing an article on the misdeeds of the world's large dams. I mentioned the famine averted by Aswan, Nothing more. She was so amazed that she changed the title of her article to "Large Dams: A necessary evil:They feed the Third World and give it electricity"."

The main objection to Sardar Sarovar is that it affects some 40,000 families in the reservoir area. The exact number of people who will be affected is 1,27,446 of whom only 63,223 are tribal people. In 82 of the 193 villages that will be affected in Madhya Pradesh, less than 10 per cent of their land will be submerged.

In another 32 villages, only 11 to 25 per cent of the land will be submerged. In 21 villages, only the dwellings will be affected, and that too only temporarily, owing to the reservoir backwater effect during floods. In another nine villages, only government wasteland will get submerged. Only in 18 villages will more than 5 per cent of the land get submerged. In the three States, only 11,279 hectares of cultivable land will go under the reservoir. The area of forest land (which is degraded land) that will be submerged is only about 13,385 ha.

All the affected families (even an adult son is considered as constituting a separate family) need not necessarily be displaced. In fact, of the 33,014 affected families in Madhya Pradesh, 18,890 have opted to stay on as they will only be temporarily affected by flood backwaters. They only need to shift to nearby higher ground temporarily when such floods occur. Thus the displacement issue is blown out of portion by critics. They, like Desarda, make a vague claim that a vast number of villages will be submerged if the height of the dam is raised even by 5 metres. The Grievance Redressal Committee headed by a former Chief Justice of a high court has already certified that those who run the risk of being affected if the dam height is raised by 5 m have been shifted. Many people fail to appreciate the fact that during high floods, many overbank areas get inundated even if there is no dam. Was the city of Bharuch flooded this September by the backwaters of a dam? Any flooding on the Narmada's banks should not be attributed to the Sardar Sarovar project. When the critics cannot find fault with the Sardar Sarovar project, they conveniently use the phrase "Narmada Valley" and assemble people affected by other dams.

The State has tried to provide amenities to the displaced people to an extent that is not available to the majority of its rural population. Gujarat has enough land to rehabilitate all the affected people who want to settle in the State.

The author is welcome to ensure that these people get the most reasonable treatment in Gujarat so that they can forget their miserable past. But I request him not obstruct the Sardar Sarovar Project, because if it is stalled some 20 million people of Gujarat's semi-arid and desert areas will be doomed, without water.

M.U. Purohit Consulting Engineer Sardar Sarovar Project

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Oct 9,2020