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COVER STORY

14-04-2000

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Briefing

CLINTON'S YATRA

President Clinton's passage to India went off as per script, but there is every reason for disquiet over whether in the ardour for a new role in world affairs, the BJP-led government is disarming the country of all the defence mechanisms it has to cope with an uncertain global environment.

PRESIDENT Bill Clinton's South Asian expedition went entirely by the script and then beyond the most optimistic expectations. Aside from all that he may have said, Clinton's manner and tone excited public fancy and invited adulation on a scale that few v isiting heads of state, least of all American ones, have managed in the past. Clinton in India showed one facet of the didactic techniques that the United States is bringing to bear in its new role as the principal arbiter of global affairs - winning inf luence through charm and moral suasion. The nation that today seems to recognise no prospective challenge to its global pre-eminence and seeks to define a new paradigm of international economic relations and political legitimacy has found the perfect amb assador for its cause in the conscientious objector from the days of the Vietnam war.

The immediate prospect for Indian Ministers and officials is a packed schedule of meetings with their American counterparts. The Vision Statement that was jointly signed by Clinton and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee sets out a charter for future pol itical engagement between the two countries. An agreed programme of "institutional dialogue" delineates a multiplicity of areas where bilateral interactions will be both intensified and regularised.

Beyond these matters of detail, Clinton was eloquent and evocative as he addressed an assembly in Parliament. He took in the enchantment of wildlife, the visual splendour of medieval India and the realities of pastoral life. In a gesture of touching empa thy, he met relatives of Rupin Katyal, the sole victim of the Indian Airlines hijack of December 1999. Also granted the benediction of the American President's attention were the high technology industries and the more mundane world of stock market trans actions in Mumbai. Bangalore and Hyderabad put forward their contesting claims as havens of high technology, and Clinton favoured the latter. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is delighted that the claims he has made on behalf of Hyderab ad have won the endorsement of the U.S. President. But Bangalore has found comfort in being ranked with Seattle in Clinton's address in Parliament.

If there were any discordant notes in the whole visit, they arose only from certain Indian media analysts' exaggerated sense of deference towards the visiting dignitary's sensibilities. This is the perilous new spirit animating Indian foreign policy, apt ly expressed in External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh's statement that India is determined to put behind five wasted decades and craft a new idiom in its relations with the U.S. It is as if history is beginning anew with the visit of the U.S. President - that all precedent is to be effaced in the inspiration of a newly discovered concord.

THIS new disposition led to the unseemly spectacle of President K.R. Narayanan being dragged into an imagined spat with the Government over his remarks at the official Rashtrapati Bhavan banquet for Clinton.

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Two of the themes that Narayanan raised allegedly caused offence. First, he made the point that though "global village" as a term had acquired a certain vogue, it was not as if world affairs could entirely be left to the adjudication of a single referee. The governance of the global village, in short, could not be left to a single "village headman". "Globalisation," said Narayanan, "does not mean the end of history and geography and of the lively and exciting diversities of the world." It meant, rather, that global governance should be in harmony with the diversities it was required to contend with. Reaching into India's own experience, Narayanan suggested that the global village in "this age of democracy" would be headed not by a "village headman" but by "the global panchayat". The only such collective body available on the world stage, said the President, was the United Nations, which needed to be "democratised and sustained".

Narayanan's remarks came, whether fortuitously or by design, a mere three days before the U.N. Security Council was scheduled to take up a discussion on the humanitarian situation in Iraq. In opening this sitting, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan began with the assertion that the degree and extent of human suffering in Iraq posed "a serious moral dilemma" for the world body. "The United Nations has always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and has always sought to relieve suffering, yet h ere we are accused of causing suffering to an entire population," Annan remarked in his introductory statement to the Security Council. Kofi Annan went on to confront directly the alibi for inhumanity broadcast by the U.S. and conveyed through its media dominance to all corners of the world: "We are in danger of losing the argument, or the propaganda war, if we haven't already lost it, about who is responsible for the situation - President Saddam Hussein (of Iraq) or the United Nations."

This open admission of U.N. culpability in the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq by one who was considered the U.S' own choice for the top job in the organisation should come as a reminder to Indian enthusiasts of the "new world order". All of Clinton's c harm apart, fantasies of a new deal that brings India into the same camp as the U.S. in the enforcement of global political morality may be rather premature when it is not misconceived.

Aside from his remarks on village governance, Indian champions of the new American millennium found another reason to disparage President Narayanan. Well after the Cold War has passed into history, it was deemed simply inadmissible for the Indian Preside nt to remind his guest that "vestiges of Cold War strategies still return to haunt the world". Still more "discourteous" was his reaffirmation of a "discredited" tenet of Indian foreign policy. Where non-alignment should have disappeared as a principle f ollowing the collapse of the Soviet Union, Narayanan had chosen to resurrect it: "We believe, Mr. President," he told Clinton, "that in the post-Cold War period, the non-aligned concept of a pluralist world order is more relevant than the politics of mil itary blocs and alignments."

By another seeming coincidence, this presidential remark from India came just a few days before the first anniversary of the Western alliance's war of destruction against Yugoslavia. And it coincides with a moment when the Anglo-American media, a willing accomplice in the campaign to bomb Yugoslavia into submission, have begun to grapple with the campaign of disinformation that they eagerly participated in. It is now known, through the British television media, that the Clinton administration set out to create the basis for declaring war against Yugoslavia by actively sponsoring a separatist insurgency on its territory.

It is an index of the bizarre priorities of Indian foreign policy today that the President's effort to speak up for a principle that India and Yugoslavia were instrumental in crafting should attract slanderous insinuations, that he should be accused of e xceeding his constitutional authority.

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Jaswant Singh has never made a secret of his belief that non-alignment has been a historic error of Indian foreign policy. In his 1998 book, Defending India, he said as much as he cast a retrospective eye on the build-up of border tensions with Ch ina in 1959. His attitude was very clear. If the defence of the nation's territory required a military alliance, then it was just as well that non-alignment as a principle was abandoned. This is because no principle could be allowed to enjoy "precedence" over the defence of the nation's territory and, by implication, of its status in the globe.

These locutions are absolutely clear in their purport. Global status lies not in upholding the principle of equidistance between various power blocs, but in an alliance with one or the other of them. And in today's context, with the U.S. claiming global pre-eminence as the sole superpower, there can be no arguments about which power bloc India should opt for.

In terms of concrete outcome, the Vision Statement signed by Clinton and Vajpayee on March 21 is perhaps the substantive part of the visit. This is a document that could lay claim to being the definitive charter for future political association between India and the U.S. And if the nuclear issue was expected to be the dominant motif of the Clinton visit, the Vision Statement inscribes into an agreed text the substance of the disagreements between the two countries.

"India and the United States share a commitment to reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons," says the statement, "but we have not always agreed on how to reach this common goal. The United States believes India should forgo nuclear weapons. I ndia believes that it needs to maintain a credible minimum nuclear deterrent in keeping with its own assessment of its security needs. Nonetheless, India and the U.S. are prepared to work together to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. To this end, we will persist with and build upon the productive bilateral dialogue already under way."

The statement then proceeds to bind both countries to their voluntary commitment "to forgo further nuclear explosive tests", to cooperate with each other and with others "for an early commencement of negotiations on a treaty to end the production of fiss ile materials for nuclear weapons", and to strengthening controls on the export of nuclear materials and technology.

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Overarching these partial agreements on the nuclear issue is a seemingly more solid understanding on global security compulsions: "In the new century, India and the United States will be partners in peace, with a common interest in and complementary resp onsibility for ensuring regional and international security. We will engage in regular consultations on, and work together and with others for, strategic stability in Asia and beyond."

IT is perhaps necessary to place this statement of intentions within current debates over the changing strategic balance in Asia. In particular, the U.S. has been engaged in a re-evaluation of its political engagements in the continent, under the impetus primarily of the right-wing element in domestic politics, which has in recent times shown a deep sense of disquiet over China's growing influence and power. Significantly, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright took time off from the visit to South Asia to make an appearance at the U.N. Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, where she made a strong case for a tough stance against China. If India should go along with the new strategic posture of the U.S. in Asia, it could conceivably endanger a slow but fairly sure-footed process of reconciliation with China. For all the short-term rewards of a new engagement with the U.S., the costs for India in the longer term could be serious.

"Strategic stability" in U.S. national security doctrine only comes from overwhelming superiority in numbers. This includes the maintenance of a nuclear strike capability that is demonstrably greater than any potential rival's. So far, the U.S. has had t o factor in four other nuclear powers into its calculations, of which only two - Russia and China - could be categorised as potentially adversarial. The BJP-led government's insistence that it intends to build up a "minimum credible nuclear deterrent" no w introduces a fresh source of strategic instability into the calculus. Inevitably, since nuclear weaponisation in India would impel Pakistan along the same path, the U.S. would have to take both the South Asian nations on board its new equations.

Much of the future of the new strategic engagement between India and the U.S. would depend upon how the terms of this equation are balanced. How would India harmonise its aspirations for a nuclear weapons capability with the U.S' own compulsions in deter mining a balance of power that is to its best interests? The results, which could include the acceptance of American tutelage in areas of strategic consequence, may not be the most appropriate way of promoting the country's global status.

In an article published in the media the day he arrived in Delhi, Clinton expressed his hope that India and Pakistan would soon sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), "as they have committed to do". But addressing Parliament, he chose prudently n ot to hint at any such commitment, which conceivably could have only been made in the secret confines of Jaswant Singh's long-running "strategic dialogue" with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Rather there was an effort at persuasion to bri ng India around to the view that accession to the CTBT and the forswearing of the nuclear weapons option would have no adverse security implications.

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Political observers are convinced that behind the facade of disagreement, India is working hard to assure the U.S. that accession to the CTBT is only a matter of time. Congress Working Committee member K. Natwar Singh, for instance, puts political partis anship behind when he describes the Clinton visit as the most fruitful bilateral contact ever between the two countries. But he also suggests that more ground has been yielded on the CTBT than is being publicly acknowledged.

The accretion of tactical advantage in relation to Pakistan is read by most political observers as the principal gain of the Clinton visit. The Vision Statement makes a clear affirmation in this respect: "That tensions in South Asia can only be resolved by the nations of South Asia." The American President's address in Parliament went beyond this: "I have certainly not come to South Asia to mediate the dispute over Kashmir. Only India and Pakistan can work out the problems between them. And I will say t he same thing to General Musharraf in Islamabad... In the meantime, I will continue to stress that this should be a time for restraint, for respect for the Line of Control, for renewed lines of communication."

In referring to Vajpayee's trip to Lahore last year as a "courageous" initiative, Clinton seemed tacitly to be urging a return to that agreed framework of dialogue. This, of course, misses the point that the "Lahore Declaration", crafted by Vajpayee and then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was one of the initial sources of tension between the civilian establishment and the military in Pakistan. Evidently, as Gen. Musharraf has put it, the "apologetic" tone of the references to Kashmir in the Lahore Declara tion impelled the Pakistan Army into the Kargil misadventure. The motivations were clearly to emphasise that India continued to be vulnerable on that flank and that the world community had a stake in taking a more active interest in Kashmir.

In the course of his March 21 interview with the U.S. television network programme ABC World News, Clinton showed a clear awareness of the consequences his intervention had brought about: "You know, I spent last July 4th trying to persuade former Prime M inister Sharif to withdraw back behind the Line of Control. He did. I think it weakened him when he did, frankly; but it was the right thing to do."

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This is as close as an American President can get to accepting that the Kashmir issue has ramifications that penetrate into the power structure in Pakistan. With minor changes of context and nuance, Clinton's locutions on Kashmir during his brief halt in Islamabad were broadly similar to what he had said in India. Yet, Musharraf placed on them a construction that seemed to serve all of Pakistan's interests. He pronounced himself "satisfied" with the discussions on Kashmir, disclaimed any responsibility for infiltrations across the LoC, and described the militant camps on Pakistani territory as a popular democratic movement which he could not conceivably throttle.

Clearly, there is a residual ambivalence in the U.S. posture on Kashmir, which stems directly from its commitment to Pakistan as an ally from the days of the Cold War. And while the military remains in control in Islamabad, it would be sheer self-delusio n for India to imagine that there has been a defusing of the potential for confrontation on the border, with all its gruesome possibilities of escalation.

DAYS before he left on an expedition that he had made no secret of his eagerness to undertake, an "independent task force" sponsored by two influential advocacy groups - the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations - addressed an open l etter to Clinton. The purpose was to define the parameters and scope of American political engagement in South Asia.

Composed mainly of liberal foreign policy analysts like Stephen Cohen, Teresita Schaeffer and George Perkovich, the task force urged the President to "resist the temptation to place ambitious nuclear weapons-related goals at the centre of U.S. aims". The need, rather, was to adopt "more modest but still significant goals in the nuclear realm."

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Considering the historical legacy of Kashmir, the task force urged that a "nuanced blend of private and public messages" be delivered. As far as Pakistan was concerned, Clinton was urged to tell the military authorities that the U.S. would "have little o ption but to designate their country as a state sponsor of terrorism (with all that it entails in the way of sanctions under current law) if they do not act more decisively against this threat".

The "private message" that was to be conveyed to India was nowhere near as intimidating. The task force suggested that "India would be wise to adopt measures that would provide the inhabitants of (Kashmir) with greater autonomy and civil rights." Moreove r, Clinton was advised to propose a "peace process involving India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir".

It is apparent that in the nuclear realm, Clinton followed the broad blueprint that had been laid out by the independent task force. Whether he did likewise on the question of Kashmir is yet unclear. But if there have been some private messages conveyed, these need obviously to be debated in the public domain.

OTHER areas of mutual concern that the task force identified for the Indian leg of Clinton's visit are worth taking note of. These include the "basic questions of post-Cold War international relations", such as the future negotiating mandate of the World Trade Organi-sation, the "ground rules for humanitarian intervention", "managing relations with Russia and China", and "the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region".

All these are issues on which India and the U.S. have had divergent perceptions. Where the WTO is concerned, the U.S. has been keen to initiate a new round of global trade negotiations that takes into its scope a wide range of subjects: core labour stand ards, environmental standards, government procurement and electronic commerce. India has been equally insistent that the WTO has enough on its agenda for the moment and should confine itself to a review of agreements arrived at in the last round of negot iations.

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Shortly after the U.S. President left Delhi to take in the sights of Jaipur, Union Minister for Commerce Murasoli Maran sat down for a round of discussions with U.S. Commerce Secretary William Daley. The immediate outcome was an agreement under which Ind ia acquired for itself the freedom to impose higher tariffs than currently enforced on a range of goods. This is vital for large sectors of the economy, since quantitative restrictions on imports that are maintained on these goods will soon be removed as part of a WTO-mandated deal with the U.S.

After the agreements had been signed, Daley also made it known that he would like to see a greater degree of cooperation from India when the U.S. sought to renew WTO trade negotiations on a greatly expanded agenda. There has yet been no formal response f rom the Indian government. But pointers to future sources of friction in the new entente are already evident.

An "institutionalised dialogue" between India and the U.S. with regular interactions at mutually agreed official levels is one of the substantive promises that the Clinton visit holds out. In the realm of trade policy, the Commerce Minister will hold reg ular consultations with the U.S. Trade Representative in order to "enhance cooperation". A working group would be set up, headed by these two high-level functionaries, which would "serve as a locus of consultation on a broad range of trade-related issues , including those pertaining to the WTO".

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Other fields in which the "institutional dialogue" would be taken up at the ministerial level are foreign policy, security and nuclear non-proliferation and the economy. "Foreign Office consultations" would be periodically held between the Foreign Secret ary of India and the Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. "Asian security" would be one of the principal themes to be addressed within this forum. As for the issue of terrorism, a Joint Statement issued by India and the U.S. affirms that a recently constituted "working group" will "continue to meet regularly and become an effective mechanism for the two countries to share information and intensify their cooperation".

TO say that the Clinton visit has yielded a packed agenda for future talks between the two countries would be an obvious understatement. Yet it is impossible to avoid the suspicion that in the flush of mutual rediscovery, both sides may have lost sight o f the legacy of deep-seated conflicts of interest in all these areas. Economic and financial instability are now global phenomena. The tendency for the U.S. to shift its strategic focus rapidly in response to contingent circumstances has also become equa lly common. As India rushes into what it conceives will be a new economic and strategic partnership with the U.S., there are sections that are unable to suppress a deep sense of misgiving. No country can afford an undue dependence upon the fickle moods o f another. And in its ardour for a new role in world affairs, the BJP-led government may well be disarming the country of all the defence mechanisms it has to cope with an increasingly uncertain global environment.

Going by tradition

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VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN

ANTAGONISTIC responses in some sections of the media to President K.R. Narayanan's banquet speech in honour of President Clinton suggested that he had deviated from custom and was discourteous to the visiting head of state. The fallaciousness of this sug gestion becomes evident from an elementary study of speeches made on such occasions by Narayanan's predecessors in office. The Records of the ceremonial receptions accorded to visiting dignitaries show that the tradition set by Indian Presidents is one o f plain-speaking and uncompromising commitment to national interests.

The speeches made by Vice-President M. Hidayatullah and President N. Sanjeeva Reddy during the visits of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter are cases in point. Both visits took place during the height of the Cold War, when the U.S. disapproved of India's foreign policy thrust towards non-alignment. Yet both the Indian Presidents minced no words in affirming the country's adherence to this aspect of its foreign policy.

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Welcoming President Nixon on July 31, 1969, Hidayatullah praised the achievements of the U.S., including the success of its space programme, which was reflected in the voyage to the moon. He also thanked the U.S. for giving "economic aid and cooperation" to "many countries in this region". He added: "We ourselves have received much assistance from your country, for which we are grateful." However, he said forcefully: "Our policy of non-alignment and peaceful co-existence is not a mere slogan but stems f rom our history, traditions and beliefs and from our determination to remain independent and to exist in friendship and peace with others. As Jawaharlal Nehru said, our freedom and independence are but a part of freedom and independence of nations."

He added: "The discontent of a deprived and underprivileged people is a more potent danger than any that the enemy can devise... There are tensions both national and international which arise from basic factors - economic, social and political. They are not amenable to simple explanations of power politics and power vacuum."

Making an indirect reference to the militarist dimensions of the Cold War, Hidayatullah said: "A military solution cannot remove the main causes of weaknesses and tension. The emphasis must, therefore, shift from a military solution to peaceful settlemen t, to economic and social development, so that people may have adequate food and shelter, health and education, employment and leisure, with peace and freedom."

Sanjeeva Reddy was even more forthright when President Carter visited India in January 1978. He made it clear at the very outset of his banquet speech that "notwithstanding the ideals we share, we have varied emphasis in our priorities and in our interna tional preoccupations... Paradoxically, the very adherence to similar political systems has at times exaggerated our misunderstandings and blurred our affinities." He pointed out: "Ideologies are in the process of being domesticated and pluralism amongst nations is seen as a factor of stability rather than a threat to international peace."

Sanjeeva Reddy, like Hidayatullah, underlined India's commitment to non-alignment. He said that "the prospect of a nuclear war has given a new meaning to the search for peace on earth" and that "non-alignment is much less misunderstood". "If there is bi- polarity today, it is between forces seeking stability and cooperation and those which seek to obstruct orderly and progressive solutions to the world problems. The growing chasm between the developing and the developed world may in the future lead to in creasing dangerous tensions. The world of the rich and the poor face a common doom if we cannot act together to protect earth, the air and waters from plunder and pollution." No hue and cry was raised at that time about such friendly and yet stern advice .

The media have construed President Narayanan's reference to the process of globalisation and in that context the observation by an African statesman who said that "the facfact that the world is a global village does not mean it will be run by one village headman" as an adverse comment on the visiting President and a discourteous anti-American statement.

Narayanan was quoting from a speech made in India by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on January 25. Obasanjo was the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations. No section of the media at that time thought Obasanjo's observation was anti-American.

Strange are the ways of servility.

Becoming a junior partner

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The outcome of the Clinton visit marks a turning point: the Vajpayee government has now aligned itself formally with the global strategic interests of the U.S.

PRAKASH KARAT

THE Clinton visit to India illustrates starkly the major shift in the foreign policy and strategic approach of India that has been brought about by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. This major change, which has been developing behind the scenes for nearly two years, has now been presented before the world in the full glare of publicity. In the first visit by an American President in 22 years, Clinton spent barely two days in New Delhi. In that short period, however, the joint statement issued b y the U.S. President and the Indian Prime Minister and the speeches made by them have made it clear just how far the BJP-led government has gone in abandoning a non-aligned foreign policy and how ready it is to accept the status of a junior partner of th e U.S.

The outcome of the Clinton visit marks a turning point in the sense that the Vajpayee government has now aligned itself formally with the global strategic interests of the U.S. This change is evident with respect to all the issues that came under discuss ion during the visit. The issues of nuclear non-proliferation, the U.S. role in South Asia, the content of the economic relations between India and the U.S. and the political-ideological character of bilateral relations have all been framed and articulat ed on the basis of the perceptions of the U.S. This process began when the Vajpayee government decided to enter into a prolonged dialogue with the U.S. in the aftermath of the Pokhran tests. The ten rounds of talks between Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbot t have culminated in the decisions taken during the Clinton visit.

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In its quest for recognition by the U.S. as a nuclear weapons power, the BJP-led government has expressed its readiness to accept the U.S. as a hegemonic power. It is willing to act within the U.S. strategic designs for South Asia and the world. In the j oint statement issued after the Clinton visit there is the explicit recognition of the U.S. role in South Asia in the maintenance of regional security and peace. Kashmir is still a disputed territory for the U.S. and the BJP's policies will continue to a ccord the U.S. a role in the India-Pakistan confrontation over Kashmir.

The BJP's desire to become a strategic ally of the U.S. is not a sudden development. Even in its earlier incarnation as the Jan Sangh, during the days of the Cold War, it had wanted the U.S. to replace Pakistan with India as a strategic ally in the regio n. The only point of friction in the pro-imperialist world-view of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been Pakistan and its enduring links with the U.S.

The BJP has concentrated its efforts on trying to persuade the U.S. that an India ruled by the BJP is a far better strategic partner in South Asia than Pakistan. That explains its pathetic pleas to Clinton not to visit Pakistan. In its turn, the U.S.' st rategy towards India has changed over the last two decades. After the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has identified the containment of "regional powers" - India being one such - as one of its strategic objectives. Thus, until India is brought under the he gemonic umbrella of the U.S., pressure is relentlessly being mounted on India to curb its technological and defence potential.

This combination of circumstances has led to the talk of a strategic partnership between the U.S. and India. The fact that the content of the Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott talks has never been in the public domain indicates that India has made major conce ssions to the U.S. on issues that affect its sovereignty and vital interests.

THE U.S. has gone ahead in achieving some of its major economic goals with respect to India. The decade-long liberalisation process has enabled the U.S. to gain a vantage point from which to exploit the Indian market, penetrate the Indian economy and buy up India's assets cheaply. Two decisions taken on the eve of the Clinton visit highlighted the subservience of India's present rulers. First, in December 1999, the Indian Government signed an agreement with the U.S. administration whereby India will rem ove quantitative restrictions with regard to imports on 1,429 items by April 2001. This includes all agricultural commodities and many items reserved for the small-scale industries sector in India. India is to be flooded with goods that are offered at mu ch lower prices than the agricultural commodities produced by Indian farmers, thus affecting Indian agriculture and threatening our self-sufficiency in food production. Domestic industry, particularly the small-scale sector, will be severely affected.

The second major decision, which was taken by the Union Cabinet on January 31, was to allow foreign capital entry through the automatic route to acquire shares to the extent of 100 per cent of the equity of a company. This is to apply to all sectors of t he economy other than a small number of industries still in the reserved list. Even before this decision was announced, a major demand of the U.S. was conceded when the BJP-led government finally succeeded in pushing through the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, which lays the basis for opening up the insurance sector to foreign capital.

IN 1998, during the early rounds of the Strobe Talbott-Jaswant Singh talks, the Vajpayee government committed India to signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), reversing India's firm stand, taken in 1996, not to sign discriminatory treaties. Bef ore the elections of 1999, this politically inconvenient commitment was sought to be camouflaged by stating that the government would sign the CTBT only after creating a domestic consensus on the issue. After the Vajpayee government came back to office, it has failed to get the support of Opposition parties for this move. The commitment, however, was made: in a widely published article written on the eve of his visit to India, President Clinton reminded India and Pakistan of the commitment they made in this regard. (" India and Pakistan should sign the Treaty, as they have committed to do, for the same reason." See p.1, The Times of India, March 20, 2000.) The Vajpayee government has not contradicted this claim.

The joint statement issued after the talks in Hyderabad House does not state clearly the stand taken on the CTBT. However, the fact that the BJP-led government has agreed to work with the U.S. towards nuclear non-proliferation constitutes an implicit acc eptance of the U.S. agenda.

IN its quest for a strategic alliance with the U.S., the BJP-led government has conceded the major demands of the U.S. in respect of the economy. The acceptance of the World Trade Organisation regime and the talk in the joint statement of "open trade" ar e clear indications that the U.S. demand for unrestricted access to Indian markets has been granted. The agreements signed for scientific and technological cooperation and on environment and clean energy and the high-level dialogue initiated between the two Commerce Ministers constitute ample evidence of the surrender of India's vital interests. None of India's real concerns was dealt with. These include, for example, removing the quota system in the multi-fibre agreement, lifting curbs on the flow of s killed Indian personnel and professionals to the U.S., and lifting the sanctions (which have been in place for three decades now) on the import of dual purpose technology.

The craven attitude of the BJP-led government and Indian big business has emboldened the U.S. to impose its ideological agenda on India. A little-noticed announcement in the joint statement is that India will be a co-sponsor with the U.S. of a conference of "Communities of Democracies" in Poland. The mainstream media have not bothered to find out what this proposal means. From the 1980s, the U.S. ideological offensive has been powered by the twin slogans of "democracy" and free markets. U.S. imperialism has always linked democracy with open markets; this has been a way of advancing its agenda of liberalisation and privatisation. In the 1990s, one of the key initiatives of the Clinton administration was to set up a platform called the "Communities of De mocracies". These are arrangements to bring together its client states and allies in order to advance "democracy" that is hospitable to big business and multinational corporations and to promote the idea that only free enterprise can nurture and sustain democracy.

A "Communities of Americas" was floated to strengthen U.S. hegemony in South and Central America. This was followed by a Communities of Democracy in Europe backed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. An attempt is now being made to float a global C ommunities of Democracies. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has peddled this idea assiduously, and the U.S. has now succeeded in netting India in this ideological enterprise.

The seven countries sponsoring the Poland conference are the U.S., India, Poland, the Czech Republic, Mali, Chile and South Korea. While the five other co-sponsors were won over to the U.S. in earlier years, India is the new "emerging ally". Significantl y, the conference in Poland is being funded by two organisations - the Stefan Batory Foundation of Poland and Freedom House of the U.S. The former was established in 1998 by George Soros, the financial billionaire, to promote "democracy and open markets" . As for Freedom House, it is funded by a host of American big business foundations and the State Department. Interestingly, no one in the Vajpayee government seems to know anything about this major political venture except Jaswant Singh, who, as Externa l Affairs Minister, is scheduled to attend the conference in Poland in June.

Alongside this foray, India has become host to another pet project of the U.S. The National Endowment for Democracy, which is funded by the U.S. State Department, plans to establish an Asian Centre for Democratic Governance, to be located in New Delhi. B y American norms of good governance, democracy has to be partnered with big business, and the Indian partner in this enterprise is to be none other than the Confederation of Indian Industry. The project is important enough for President Clinton to have a nnounced it in his speech after the joint statement was signed.

The portents are disturbing indeed: a government that accepts the economic doctrine of the imperialist superpower has to fall in line with its political and ideological values as well. Democracy in India, already under siege, will be weakened further to suit imperialism and the free market.

THE visit of President Clinton has also been a spectacle that has lowered the self-respect of the country and the self-esteem of its citizens. At no time has servility been so shamefully on display. The swadeshi BJP was not alone in the scraping and bowi ng before the American President; other ruling class politicians competed in the obsequious display in the Central Hall of Parliament. The only honourable exception has been the President of India. His banquet speech was the one redeeming feature in the official display of a neo-colonial mentality. President Narayanan's emphasis on the relevance of non-alignment and his rejection of a sole headman in the global village was far more representative of the true feelings of the Indian people than all the fa wning coverage by the commercial media.

Mercifully, vast sections of the Indian people were appalled by the content and style of the visit. Though dissent was hardly featured in the mainstream media, tens of thousands of people in different parts of the country participated in various forms of protest actions and anti-imperialist manifestations. They represent the true voice of the Indian people.

Prakash Karat is a member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Bilateral thrust

The media hype of a "historic shift" in the U.S. stand on Kashmir appears to be without basis; in fact, there is no evidence of the Clinton Administration having softened its position on any important issue.

THE crowds may have been missing, but from the Vajpayee Government's point of view President Bill Clinton's visit was a roaring success. Both U.S. and Indian officials stuck to the agreed script. No contentious issues were articulated openly. Although th ere were initial objections to Clinton including Pakistan in his tour schedule, it became clear by the end of February that there was no question of Clinton bypassing Islamabad. The U.S. Administration was not amused by India's attempts to dictate the Pr esident's itinerary. The reluctance of the White House to announce the schedule of Clinton's visit to Islamabad was dictated more by personal security considerations than by any reluctance to go to Pakistan. A slight but perceptible U.S. tilt towards New Delhi has been visible since last year, but Washington obviously felt that sidestepping Islamabad would have sent the wrong message.

The Indian government has reasons to be pleased that the U.S. President has chosen to make a high-profile visit to India in less than two years after its nuclear weapon tests. Although the Clinton administration has warmed up to the National Democratic A lliance (NDA) Government, it is discreetly keeping up its pressure on New Delhi on the nuclear proliferation issue. In the Vision Statement signed by Clinton and Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, both countries pledged to forgo further nuclear tests, coopera te on a treaty to end the production of fissile materials, and control the export of nuclear technology. Clinton has invited Vajpayee to visit Washington in September. The Americans have privately expressed the hope that India would have appended its sig nature to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by then.

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During his visit, Clinton gave the impression of treating India as a rising regional military and economic superpower. The nuclear explosions and the Bharatiya Janata Party's communal and xenophobic politics were treated as not being important issues any more. A leading Western newspaper wrote recently that the NDA Government had been friendlier to business and more hostile to Communism than the Congress(I) governments. One of the agreements reached during the Clinton visit was to set up an Asian Centre for Democratic Governance in Delhi. "I know it is difficult to be a democracy bordered by nations which reject democracy," Clinton said in his address to Indian parliamentarians.

India has also accepted an invitation to attend the "Summit of Democracies" to be held in Warsaw in May. The states that are likely to be represented in Warsaw include Hungary, Poland and others that have forsaken socialism, opted for the free market and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The U.S. was never keen about democracies in the 20th century. Its new-found love for democracy is intended to revive yet another Cold War concept in order to isolate countries such as China. Many pe ople in India feel that the Vajpayee Government's hasty acceptance of the invitation goes against the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). But the ideologues of the BJP have from the outset given the impression that NAM has outlived its utility.

Interestingly, when French Foreign Minister Hubart Vedrine was in New Delhi in February, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh waxed eloquent about the urgent need for multi-polarity in international politics. Both the French and the Indian side were c ritical of U.S. unilateralism in world affairs. When Clinton was in Delhi, only President K.R. Narayanan echoed the Nehruvian foreign policy ideals. The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Foreign Office took umbrage at the President's reiteration of t he time-honoured foreign policy position.

THE Vajpayee Govern-ment has shown a marked inclination to be part of the U.S. strategic designs for the region and the world. It refused to condemn the U.S. missile attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan and extended only lukewarm support to the government an d people of Yugoslavia when they were subjected to a three-month-long war by the U.S.-led NATO. The Indian Government has not taken any significant initiative to see that the decade-long sanctions imposed on that country are lifted. The U.S. military act ion in Kosovo has been used to justify the so-called "humanitarian interventions", even without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. Last June, speaking to U.S. forces in Macedonia, Clinton said: "Whether you live in Africa or Central Euro pe or any other place, if somebody comes after innocent civilians and tries to kill them en masse because of their race, their ethnic background, or their religion, and it is within our power to stop it, we will stop it." Today it is Kosovo, tomorrow it could well be Kashmir. Unfortunately, even the main Opposition party, the Congress(I), preferred to play the role of a 'B' team to the NDA Government and had scarcely anything critical to say about the United States' long-term agenda for the region.

It was clear during the course of the Clinton visit that the full-blooded security relations the present Government wants between the two countries would be possible only after India signed the CTBT and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Vajpaye e had said in an interview to an American magazine a week before Clinton arrived that the U.S. did not agree with India's security concerns. There was no evidence to show that the Clinton Administration had softened its position on important issues. In h is address to Indian parliamentarians at the Central Hall of Parliament, Clinton called on India to sign the CTBT and resume its dialogue with Pakistan. He also reminded them of the role U.S. diplomacy played during the war in Kargil. He said that he was not in the subcontinent to "mediate" on Kashmir. However, in his State of the Union address in the U.S., he had said that the "U.S. should be a peacemaker, wherever we can." Political observers are of the view that the U.S. is already playing a role in the Kashmir dispute, as it was arm-twisting of the Pakistani civilian government by the U.S. that hastened the Pakistani troop withdrawal from Kargil. For the first time in the history of Indo-U.S. relations, the U.S. gave up the doctrine of equal culpab ility and rebuked Pakistan publicly for crossing the Line of Control (LoC). The Joint Statement issued by Clinton and former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Washington after the war ended in Kargil contained a commitment by Clinton that he would take a "personal interest" in helping India and Pakistan resolve the Kashmir problem.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright repeatedly told presspersons accompanying Clinton on his trip to South Asia that the U.S' Kashmir policy remained "unchanged". The media hype of a "historic shift" in the U.S. stand on Kashmir appears to be with out any basis. A stray remark by Clinton in a television interview - in which he said that he believed that "there are elements within the Pakistani Government that have supported those who engaged in violence in Kashmir" - is the only evidence provided to support the claim. While in India, Clinton specifically declined to back New Delhi's claim that the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Kashmir was the handiwork of Pakistan-backed militants.

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India has also been trying privately to sell the idea to Washington that the LoC should be converted into a permanent border. Clinton only stuck to the U.S. position that the sanctity of the LoC should be respected. New Delhi has interpreted this positio n as an endorsement of its demand that Pakistan should stop cross-border terrorism. Islamabad, on the other hand, sees this statement as a guarantee that Indian troops will not be allowed to cross the LoC to retaliate against Pakistan-sponsored terrorist activities.

Pakistan has been one of the most reliable allies of the U.S. in the region, and Washington will continue to have strategic ties with Islamabad in the foreseeable future. Joint exercises by U.S. and Pakistani forces have been a regular feature since the 1950s when anti-Communist military alliances such as the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) came into being. The U.S. missiles aimed at Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden's camp in Jalalabad in Afghanistan flew over Pakistani territory with the tacit approv al of the Pakistani Government.

The Vajpayee Government is not averse to close military cooperation with the Americans. Military cooperation between the two countries started in January 1995 during the visit of the then U.S. Secretary of State William Perry, when an Indo-U.S. military cooperation treaty was signed. Joint exercises between the armies and the navies of the two countries started in a big way in the mid-1990s. Since the nuclear tests of 1998, these exercises have been put on hold. But there are signs that the exercises ar e all set to restart. The French Navy was engaged in a high-profile joint exercise with the Indian Navy in February and March.

AS things stand, the U.S. military invites India to participate in 15 to 18 conferences a year. The U.S. President has the authority to waive sanctions if it is in the interests of national security. In this context, the International Military and Educat ion Training (IMET) has been waived and India has been allotted $450,000. Chief of the Army Staff Gen. V.P. Malik visited Washington in October 1999, while Admiral Dennis Blair, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, visited India in January thi s year.

An important agreement on "institutional dialogue" between the two countries was signed during Clinton's visit. According to Indian officials, a "dialogue architecture" will now be in place. The Indian Foreign Minister and the U.S. Secretary of State wil l henceforth meet every year. In Asia, only the Chinese and the Japanese governments have been accorded this "privilege" by the U.S. Government. Both countries will further intensify their cooperation on combating "terrorism" by having regular "dialogues " and "forums".

The Indian Government has already given permission to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to open an office in New Delhi. The first FBI office to be opened abroad was in Hungary in late February: there the FBI has been granted the right to gat her intelligence freely and make arrests. Usually, the FBI has its agents placed as "legal attaches" in its embassies. It is not known whether India will follow the Hungarian precedent. An Indian employee of the U.S. Embassy in Delhi was arrested earlier in the year after being lured into the U.S. in a "sting" operation and sentenced to a long jail term on charges of accepting bribes from Indian visa-seekers. The Indian Government has lodged a very mild complaint with the U.S. authorities. Indo-U.S. coo peration in tackling terrorism and crime seems to have started in earnest.

A lecture to Pakistan

Bill Clinton has done some plain-speaking to the Pakistanis, but India must realise that the United States frames its policy on the basis of its own national interest and not on Indian concerns.

BILL CLINTON did not deviate from his Pakistan agenda. His plain-speaking through a direct television address to the people of Pakistan served as a warning to the country's leadership. He made a call to Pakistan to correct its course on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts. When his public remarks were so direct and pointed, there is little doubt that he was harsher in his private talks with the Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Islamabad had been converted into a garrison town in preparation for the Clinton visit. Army personnel were present everywhere. The U.S. used a "decoy" aircraft to ensure that nothing went wrong at the Chaklala airbase when Clinton's plane touched down t here on March 25. Pakistani newspapers reported that Chaklala looked more like a U.S. airbase; some even claimed that Pakistani military personnel at the airport were unarmed.

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There was no arrival statement, joint statement or departure statement. Press coverage of the Clinton-Musharraf meeting was closely regulated. A picture of the two sitting some 10 feet apart was circulated; the television shots permitted were also of the same league. Clearly, the U.S. did not want anyone to "use" a meeting between its civilian President and a military ruler.

Clinton said that it was up to the people of Pakistan to decide their future. "Of course, no one from the outside can tell Pakistan how it should be governed. That is for you, the people of Pakistan, to decide, and you should be given the opportunity to do so. I hope and believe you want Pakistan to be a country where the rule of law prevails; a country where officials are accountable; a country where people can express their points of view without fear; a country that wisely forsakes revenge for the wo unds of the past, and instead pursues reconciliation for the sake of the future. If you choose this path, your friends in the United States will stand with you."

He went on: "I hope you will be able to meet the difficult challenges we have discussed today. If you do not, there is a danger that Pakistan may grow even more isolated, draining even more resources away from the needs of the people, moving even closer to a conflict no one can win. But if you do meet these challenges, our full economic and political partnership can be restored for the benefit of the people of Pakistan."

What Clinton did was to lay down a classical carrot-and-stick policy framework for an erstwhile ally whose role in bringing down the Soviet Union was duly acknowledged in the television address. If you do this you can gain this, and if you do not then yo u stand to lose a lot.

On the regional front, Clinton did not mince his words. He was far from diplomatic in his assertions though his statements were couched in a manner that few could take direct offence at.

He said:

"Like all key moments in human history, this one poses some hard choices, for this era does not reward those who struggle in vain to redraw borders with blood (Kargil). It belongs to those with the vision to look beyond borders, for partners and commerce and trade...

"I believe it is also in Pakistan's interests to reduce tension with India. When I was in New Delhi, I urged India to seize the opportunity for dialogue. Pakistan also must help create conditions that will allow dialogue to succeed. For India and Pakista n, this must be a time for restraint, for respect for the Line of Control and renewed lines of communication.

"I have listened carefully to General Musharraf and others. I understand your concerns about Kashmir. I share your conviction that human rights of all its people must be respected. But a stark truth must also be faced. There is no military solution to Ka shmir. International sympathy, support and intervention cannot be won by provoking a bigger, bloodier conflict. On the contrary, sympathy and support will be lost. And no matter how great the grievance, it is wrong to support attacks against civilians ac ross the Line of Control... We (the U.S.) want to be a force for peace. But we cannot force peace. We can't impose it. We cannot and will not mediate or resolve the dispute in Kashmir. Only you and India can do that, through dialogue."

President Clinton added that he would do everything possible to restore the Lahore process.

In an indirect reference to the Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, he mentioned the "core" issue of terrorism: "There are obstacles in your progress, including violence and extremism. We Americans have also felt these evils. Surely, we have both suffered en ough to know that no grievance, no cause, no system of beliefs can ever justify deliberate killing of innocents. Those who bomb bus stations, target embassies and kill those who uphold the law are not heroes... Just as we have fought together to defeat t hose who traffic in narcotics, today I ask Pakistan to intensify its efforts to defeat those who inflict terror."

Those Indians who congratulate themselves that "their" point of view has been finally endorsed by the U.S., fail to realise that U.S. concerns about terrorism stem from U.S. interests, not Indian ones. If Pakistan plays ball on the crucial issue of Osama bin Laden and terrorism, India might find that Washington becomes less harsh on Islamabad. American foreign policy is determined by the national interest, and not extraneous considerations. And, as everyone knows, the national interest is an ever-changi ng concept.

The fact remains that Pakistan today faces enormous pressure to restructure its foreign policy. When Clinton points to the danger of it becoming even more isolated, he is talking of what will happen in the days to come if Islamabad does not correct its c ourse.

By all accounts, Musharraf showed no signs of accommodation. He did not state that he was willing to create conditions that are conducive to a dialogue with India or to stop supporting attacks on civilians across the Line of Control. He repeated the oft- repeated Pakistani view that there was no "official support" for militant groups operating in Kashmir.

The General, speaking at a press conference shortly after Clinton left Islamabad, made it clear that he was not about to take any "unilateral steps" to reduce tensions with India. If India stopped its "repression" in Kashmir, then Pakistan would use its influence over the militant groups to moderate their activities, he said.

Clearly such a quid pro quo is simply unacceptable to India. The time has come for Pakistan to shut down the camps that train terrorists - the time has come for Pakistan to realise that 11 years down the line its strategy in Kashmir is leading now here, no matter what the cost to the people of Kashmir and the Indian security establishment.

Having said that, India must keep its channels of communication open with Pakistan: this is not to suggest that New Delhi rush into a substantive dialogue with Islamabad. Clinton's message to both India and Pakistan was that the dialogue must be resumed. "Normal" diplomatic activity between the two countries should commence. One American scholar recently described the state of communication between India and Pakistan as worse than that between Iran and the U.S.

There is a big lesson for India in Clinton's visit to Islamabad. New Delhi, which was dead set against such a visit, must have realised the benefits of Clinton's plain-speaking. Had Clinton not gone to Islamabad, his message could not have been as loud a nd clear as it was.

New Delhi must also realise the benefits of engagement as opposed to the politics of untouchability. Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to Lahore in February 1999 came on the eve of a gruesome massacre of innocent civilians in Kashmir at the hands of "jehadi f orces". Similarly, India at every opportunity must raise the issue of terrorism with Pakistan.

New Delhi must realise that Kargil was not Nawaz Sharif's or Musharraf's baby. It was a Pakistani creation. Upholding the virtues of Sharif and condemning Musharraf (Sharif the "approver" of Kargil and Musharraf the "author") does not make for sound poli cy.

Clinton has come and gone, but the regional situation in South Asia remains much the same - despite his lecture to the Pakistanis and the emerging contours of a new relationship between the U.S. and India. If Clinton was serious about the lecture, then i n the weeks and months ahead one must see concrete evidence of continued engagement between Washington and Islamabad. If that engagement fails, then the pressure will surely begin to mount on the unelected regime.

The red carpet all the way

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In terms of the logistical arrangements made, Clinton's visit was the "mother of all state visits" at least as far as security was concerned.

JOHN CHERIAN

WHEN President Clinton visited Athens earlier in the year, students and workers went on the rampage, targeting American multinationals and paralysing the Greek capital. They were protesting against the United States Government's policies. The U.S-led Nor th Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) bombings of Yugoslavia were still fresh in their memory. Clinton could not have been too pleased with that visit. But he is sure to take back fond memories of his trip to the Asian subcontinent. Crowds were kept out of his sight, and the few people he met were politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen or sections of the glitterati.

It was the "mother of all state visits" at least as far as security was concerned. Parts of Delhi, Dhaka, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Agra and Mumbai were put under a security blanket. Clinton was, after all, visiting the "most dangerous place" in the world. In Delhi some areas were virtually out of bounds for the "natives", and the telephone system in the city was tapped for weeks in advance. Security in many of the five-star hotels and public places was taken over by U.S. security men, marked by dar k glasses and ear phones.

The capital was given a face-lift. The number of beggars in the streets visibly declined. Anti-American slogans and posters put up by Left parties and progressive organisations were removed. Instead the "Stars and Stripes" and the "Tricolour" swayed side by side in New Delhi for three days. The Government and the Indian Chambers of Commerce had put up huge hoardings and banners welcoming Clinton. However, the Delhi administration was not as high-handed as the Chandrababu Naidu Government in Andhra Prade sh, which evicted destitutes from the streets of Hyderabad in preparation for the four-hour visit of the "great white hope".

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The government went out of its way to see that the visit was a success. When Clinton visited the Taj Mahal, overzealous officials wanted the water level in the Yamuna to be raised so that grime and dirt would not be visible to the dignitary. But Harayana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala refused to release any water, which was needed more by the farmers.

Clinton's daughter Chelsea's wish to witness the spring festival of Holi was immediately met: none other than External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh received the First Daughter at Jodhpur, where she witnessed the festival, held appropriately in a palace .

Jaswant Singh had earlier created minor protocol problems by being present at the airport on the day Clinton arrived in New Delhi. As Clinton had not officially begun his visit to India, the task of receiving him was given to Minister of State for Extern al Affairs Ajit Kumar Panja. Panja's claim to fame was snatched by Jaswant Singh, who unexpectedly came to the airport tarmac to receive Clinton. Panja had reportedly to use his influence to get through the security cover and hand over the bouquet of yel low flowers he had personally selected for the visiting President.

Panja's eagerness to come in close contact with the U.S. President was shared by most of his fellow parliamentarians, except those belonging to the Left parties, as was illustrated by the virtual stampede in Parliament as members jostled with one another to greet Clinton after he finished his speech. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had ended his speech by telling the U.S. President that the Indian people would never forget him and that he in turn should not forget the Indian people. Media-savvy obse rvers however felt that by speaking in Hindi Vajpayee missed a great opportunity in explaining India's stand on key issues to the world when major television networks such as CNN and BBC were carrying Clinton's address to the Indian Parliament live. But the world was witness to the thunderous ovation Clinton got from the Indian parliamentarians and the way he was virtually mobbed by them.

Clinton, in his address to the parliamentarians, praised the Government of Kerala for its achievements in the field of women's empowerment. His speech writers had probably not told him that much of the development in the State had taken place under the a uspices of governments dominated by the Left parties. During the last official visit of an Indian Prime Minister to the U.S. Congress, only a few Congressmen and Senators bothered to be present: Congressional staff had to fill the vacant seats when Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao gave his address.

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The official press conference addressed by President Clinton was carefully orchestrated. Only four questions were permitted, and they seemed to have been vetted beforehand. But nobody complained. During his 10-day visit to China in 1998, Clinton subjecte d himself freely to questions from the media and even spent an hour with university students in Beijing, answering questions that touched contentious issues. Top Indian officials were, however, on hand to brief the American media accompanying Clinton. Th e Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Brajesh Mishra, reportedly told foreign journalists that the Government was thinking of placing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) issue before Parliament in the Budget session.

The business team accompanying the U.S. President to China was twice the size of and more high-powered than the one that he took with him during the South Asia trip. But a veteran Asia watcher, who covered President Richard Nixon's historic trip to China , said that Clinton's five-day trip to India would send the right signals to the American business community. He said that the American business houses rushed to invest in China after the Nixon visit. But despite the hype, only $4.4 billion worth of deal s were signed during the Clinton visit to India. Clinton and the American businessmen accompanying him see a big business opportunity in the gas and petroleum sector.

American companies have been keen on a gas pipeline linking Central Asia to India and beyond. A new story that appeared when Clinton was in India said that the Pakistan Government had cleared the proposal for a gas pipeline connecting Iran with India. Th e Americans are more interested in gas coming from Turkmenistan where American companies have a big stake. Clinton's meeting with a leading industrial house was said to be related to the "gas pipeline" politics of the region. Clinton had failed to persua de Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed to export gas to India. Hasina told Clinton that her country wanted to retain for domestic consumption gas reserves equivalent to 50 years' requirement. Her refusal to sell gas to India is more related to the charge by Opposition parties that the Government is selling out to Indian interests. Clinton, however, seems to have got an assurance that Bangladesh will sell gas to India after the next general elections.

A wave of protests

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T.K. RAJALAKSHMI

A NUMBER of political parties and other democratic organisations reacted to the blitz and ballyhoo that surrounded the visit of President Bill Clinton in the language of protest. Going beyond the realm of rhetoric, they questioned the United States' fore ign policy, pegging their dissent on the U.S. role in a unipolar world.

At various forums, leaders of Left parties pointed out instances of military intervention by Washington (in Korea in the 1950s and in Vietnam in the 1960s and the 1970s), its moves to destabilise governments that refused to follow its dictates, and its s upport to coups in Guatemala and Chile. The more recent cases of military aggression they cited included the Gulf war in 1991 and the subsequent military and economic bombardment of Iraq, the economic blockade against Cuba, and the U.S.-led North Atlanti c Treaty Organisation (NATO) bombings in Yugoslavia.

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The organisations demanded that the U.S. withdraw all sanctions against India, stop pressuring India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and lift the restrictions on the legitimate flow of Indian professionals and other personnel to the U.S.

In a unique show of solidarity, all the Left parties staged demonstrations and organised public meetings and conventions to protest against what they called the blatantly imperialist, interventionist, hegemonic and expansionist agenda of the U.S. The tem po of the protests was kept up all through the five-day visit. On March 19, the day Clinton arrived in New Delhi, there were loud expressions of protest not only in New Delhi and in other cities that he was scheduled to visit, but also in other parts of the country; in Kerala, the Left parties supported a strike called by the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Red Flag; in Calcutta, the ruling Left Front and the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) staged demonstrations, which were led in som e places by senior CPI(M) Ministers and other leaders; the CPI(M) held a Statewide protest in Tamil Nadu on March 21; and on March 23, victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy protested in Mumbai against U.S. multinationals. In Varanasi, Forward Bloc activists took out processions and burnt effigies of Clinton. The Left parties staged such demonstrations in Thane. In Jaipur and Agra, cities which Clinton visited, the Left parties and the National Alliance of People's Movements staged protests.

In New Delhi, the Left parties and their mass organisations, under the banner of the Committee Against U.S. Imperialism, staged a demonstration in front of the American Centre, defying a ban on demonstrations. People assembled in their hundreds and shout ed slogans such as "Clinton, go back", and denounced the U.S. as being "an implacable enemy of all national liberation struggles and freedom-loving nations and movements for radical social transformation throughout the 20th century." The demonstrators in cluded Left parliamentarians, and they were arrested after water cannons failed to disperse them.

What was notable was that other progressive organisations joined the Left parties in raising issues such as those relating to unfair trade agreements under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the gross misuse of the United Nations Security Council mec hanism to organise military aggression. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government also came under fire for disregarding the principle of non-alignment while agreeing to join a U.S. ideological enterprise called the Community of Democracies. In a strongly worded statement, the CPI(M) said that this was the first time that the Indian government had become part of a U.S. political enterprise intended to project the latter's version of democracy and free market.

The very first major round of protest against Clinton's visit was held under the aegis of the All India Anti-Imperialist Forum, a group formed in 1995. On March 10, the forum organised an all-India Citizens' Convention Against Imperialism in New Delhi.hi . Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, president of the forum, said that the U.S. President was being a surrogate for American corporate power. Expressing resentment at the red carpet welcome extended to Clinton, the Convention held that the so-called champion of peace, upholder of democracy and votary of human rights was the perpetrator of the worst form of criminal activities in the international political arena. It accused Clinton of having "launched murderous missile attacks on sovereign countries such as Afg hanistan and Sudan on the plea of fighting terrorism, while the U.S. administration itself had been aiding and abetting terrorist groups."

The reticence shown by the BJP and its allies and also the Congress(I) was but inevitable given their capitulation on economic policy issues. What was even more striking was the deafening silence of the right-wing 'swadeshi' groups.

A senior Congress(I) leader, however, showed less restraint. Jitendra Prasada described the decision by five Left parties - the CPI(M), the Communist Party of India, the CPI(M-L), the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party - to boycott Clinto n's address to Parliament as an "irresponsible" act. Groups such as the Azaadi Bachao Andolan, the Bandhua Mukti Morcha and the Loktantrik Samajwadi Party, in solidarity with the Left parties, held a mock parliament criticising U.S. policy.

PROTESTS were witnessed also in Pakistan and Bangladesh, two other countries Clinton visited. The Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP) held a demonstration on March 22 outside the U.S. Consulate in Lahore despite a ban announced by the Gen. Pervez Musharraf go vernment on political rallies and strikes. Members of the LPP carried placards which read "Clinton go back", "Killer Clinton", and "Killer of Iraqi children" and raised slogans against U.S. imperialism. They pointed out that the visit was a conspiracy ag ainst the working class. They appealed to the trade unions and the working class in the subcontinent to protest against Clinton's visit as it was aimed at pushing the imperialist economic agenda in order to exploit the region.

Although the scale of the protests in India was restricted owing to the Central Government's determination to exaggerate the importance of the visit, one thing emerged loud and clear: that the new world order under the leadership of the U.S. was not acce ptable to the Left and democratic forces.

'I see the signs of a post-Cold War era'

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Former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral was in the United States when President Bill Clinton came on his India tour. However, he had detailed discussions with senior U.S. officials including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott prior to Clinton 's visit. In fact, discussions with the former Indian Prime Minister were part of the preparatory exercise undertaken by the U.S. officialdom as part of the presidential visit.

Gujral assessed the visit in a positive light. Before the visit he maintained that the time had come for a white paper on the "strategic discussions" that have been going on between India and U.S. representatives for the last one and a half years. After the visit, he feels that bilateral issues between India and the U.S. have become much more transparent. In an interview given to Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, Gujral said that there is a new orientation in Indo-U.S. relations now and both countries have to build on this. Excerpts:

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How would you assess the overall impact of the U.S. President's visit?

The visit was the culmination of a process started in 1997, when I, as Prime Minister, had met Clinton. At that time I had perceived a growing interest in the U.S. about India. Two things had contributed to this. One, of course, was the growing market in India. The second was the increasing clout of the 'Indian Americans'. In this context, I told President Clinton that the time had come to get away from the influence of the Cold War in our bilateral relations and evolve it in a holistic manner. I pointe d out that the relationship, in the past, had been confined to one issue or a couple of issues, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). I think this beginning was sustained. In fact, the President would have come earlier if the U.S. had not tak en a tough position on the Pokhran nuclear tests.

Before his visit I was in Washington and had detailed discussions with senior U.S. officials. I had also written to the President repeating the need to develop a holistic relationship. I am happy that this approach has been followed up, particularly in t he Vision Statement signed by Clinton and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The Vision Statement examines our relationship holistically in terms of multi-dimensionalism, and it takes care of circumstances and viewpoints prevailing in India.

But does the visit represent a new beginning or a shift in the strategic balance in South Asia?

These are cliches which I do not use. But I do see the advantages or the signs of a post-Cold War era. It benefits and should benefit a new orientation to our bilateral relationship.

Do you think there has been any kind of appreciation of India's position on the CTBT and the minimum nuclear deterrent? Would pressure to accede to the CTBT still persist?

The Vision Statement itself makes it clear that the Indian position is appreciated. On CTBT, even the U.S. is yet to solve its internal problems. The Senate is yet to clear the U.S. Government's position. Nor has the Russian Duma or China done it. Hence, the question is far away. And secondly, India has made the commitment that we are not going to test anymore. I think this serves the purpose of the U.S. to a large extent.

There has been some controversy about President K.R. Narayanan's banquet speech. What is your perception on that?

I don't take a negative view of the President's speech. The propaganda on the Indian subcontinent being the "most dangerous place on earth" is part of a bogeyism that has existed for long. In 1989-90, the bogey was that India and Pakistan are going to ha ve a nuclear war. You would recall David Hurst's article that weapons were even loaded into planes. As Foreign Minister then, I had repeatedly said that this was not right. Yet the bogey was persisted with to an absurd level. Then the book, Critical Mass , advanced this further. This is part of the strategy to raise public sentiment to the level of panic. In fact, the Musharrafism that we see now in Pakistan coincides with this strategy. I am glad that President K.R. Narayanan, with the consent of the go vernment or otherwise, punctured this bogey. This should not be analysed simplistically, as some sections of the Indian media have done, by debating whether these were harsh words or discourteous words. What President Narayanan did simply was to state wh at effect the "dangerous place" statement had and whom it helps. It clearly spelt out one part of the Indian perception of foreign policy. And I do not think that the Americans have taken it amiss.

After the Clinton visit, there are conceptions about possible steps from Pakistan. One projection is that they would curtail artillery cover for infiltrations across the Line of Control and cordon off the terrorist training camps on their territory. Do you think some such actions will be taken in the near future?

Training camps have always been there. Only their operations have been varying in intensity. Now it has acquired more dangerous proportions because Afghanistan has stepped in. Even Musharraf admits that there are camps in Afghanistan. The U.S. is also al ive to this situation now. They have come a long way from the position that there is no conclusive evidence for the training camps. I suppose statements from President Clinton such as the one pointing out that the borders cannot be redrawn with blood, wo uld have a positive effect; though it is too early to say whether Pakistan would take positive action.

What kind of impact do you expect from the agreements on economics, trade, and science and technology?

The Vision Statement and President Clinton's speech in Parliament indicate that cooperation in these areas will improve.

A postcard from India

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AMITAVA KUMAR

INDIAN newspapers lavished a great deal of attention on how much Bill Clinton had loved the mango ice cream he was served during a banquet in New Delhi. I learned this, oddly enough, from The New York Times.

As for me, living in Florida, when Peter Jennings broadcast on the ABC television network the first of his several reports on Clinton's visit to India, I settled down in front of the television set with curry chicken on my plate.

Jennings focussed that night on India's wars with Pakistan over Kashmir. We were shown footage of the conflict in Kargil which had claimed more than a thousand lives last summer. For a few moments, we saw the glaciers of Siachen where the Indian and Paki stani armies routinely exchange fire at freezing altitudes.

As the camera picked out the soldiers trudging in the immense, snowy wastes, it was difficult to know whether they were Indians or Pakistanis.

The slow-moving figures seemed to be dwarfed as much by the Himalayan peaks as by a meaningless cause that had somehow become so much bigger than them.

In his book Countdown, the writer Amitav Ghosh mentions that the military effort in Siachen costs India $20 million every day. The cost for Pakistan, although lower, is also substantial and therefore devastating to its national economy. Ghosh writes: "If the money spent on the glacier were to be divided up and handed out to the people of India and Pakistan, every household in both countries would be able to go out and buy a new cooking stove or a bicycle."

At one point during the ABC broadcast, I saw Indian women at a rally holding a cloth banner whose odd diction caught my eye. It read: "We Proud On Our Nuclear Tests."

I am often called upon to "explain" the Indian reality to my students or colleagues. But, in that misplaced syntax of the banner - a result of the transposition of the rules of Hindi grammar onto the words of English - I saw a way for emblematising the c ondition of contemporary Indian politics. The BJP's ultranationalist ideology has its roots in the non-English-speaking middle class, in India's small towns and its metropolitan petty bourgeois sections. It is in that broad group that the ruling right-wi ng party finds its support.

Consequently, in Indian politics, it is the liberal elites and the downtrodden poor and minorities that are left to give voice to another, alternative ideology. Thus, we get to witness the Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy courting arrest alongsi de the tribal men and women who will be displaced by the building of the mega dam on the Narmada river in central India. This latter group of the aggrieved elite and the terminally tormented was not party to the dialogues with Clinton during his visit. I n fact, party to Clinton's entourage were executives from the Ogden Energy group who signed an agreement with S. Kumars (for the Maheshwar dam in Madhya Pradesh), thereby hurting the campaign against big dams.

It is entirely possible, however, that given the prejudice of my own class and my profession, I might be reading too much into the simple message of the banner about the bomb. But, in such circumstances, it is difficult to know when one is reading too mu ch or too little. The signs of culture often challenge and baffle the critic. For example, in the ethnic Indian press here in the U.S., I recently came across an Indian beer company which in its new advertisement campaign enjoins Indian customers to beco me serious drinkers, with the slogan: "Vices can get you far. Look where it got Clinton."

Vices or not, Clinton certainly got to go as far as India.

The New York Times, among the numerous photographs it printed of the American President in the Indian subcontinent, also carried one which showed Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, posing in front of the beautiful Taj Mahal. On seeing that photogr aph, I was reminded of another, also taken in front of the Taj, which showed Chelsea smiling for the cameras with her mother, Hillary Clinton. That picture had been taken during the pair's visit to Indiadia in 1995.

I was then living in an Arab section of New York City. The Oklahoma City bombing had taken place only a few days before. The U.S. media had raged about Arab terrorists. Then they discovered that the bomber was a white American, Timothy McVeigh, and he lo oked, as a mediawatch analyst described it, more like a midwestern frat-boy than like the Mujahideen.

One morning, I walked into a store near my apartment to buy bread. The Yemeni store-owner had put on the wall behind him the photograph he had cut out of a newspaper. It showed Hillary and Chelsea Clinton seated together in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra . I asked the Yemeni man why he had pasted that picture.

He began to answer me and then anger overwhelmed him. He stopped. He had started by saying, "I wanted to show how proud people feel when they're not Muslim..." Then, his voice choked with emotion and he fell silent.

What was he trying to tell me? I will never know.

Maybe he was saying that the beauty of the Taj Mahal, which could of course be described as an example of Islamic architecture, was here being appreciated by people who, in some indirect way, were responsible for the death of a million Muslims in Iraq.

I cannot say for sure.

But whatever name we give to that emotion, I could see that it was a pain mixed with rage that made the store-owner silent.

Maybe it was the fact that the smiling women in the photograph, sitting in front of a mausoleum and with a mosque on the side, looked so happy? And so very different from that pregnant Arab woman who, hiding alone in her bathroom, suffered a miscarriage because a mob in a midwestern American town surrounded and threw stones at her home. All because someone of her faith had quickly been assumed to be the one who had planted the bomb in Oklahoma City.

That is the memory to which my mind returned when I saw the picture of Clinton standing in the sun in front of the marble Taj.

I want to think of this memory as a postcard that the American President sent me from his vacation in the country of my birth.

Amitava Kumar is the author of

, coming out next month from the University of California Press.

'Clinton has held out for the future'

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Former Ambassador N.N. Jha, who heads the foreign affairs committee in the BJP, shared with Sukumar Muralidharan his perceptions of President Bill Clinton's visit. Excerpts from an interview conducted just before Clinton reached Pakistan at the end of his six-day tour of India and Bangladesh:

What is your broad assessment of the Clinton visit and its outcome?

I have broadly divided this entire exercise into three parts. There is, first of all, the CTBT and the nuclear dimension, where differences still persist. That was to be expected. Anyone who thought that the tremendous differences that exist would be nar rowed down just because the U.S. President came here, was proved wrong. Clinton has a domestic law to contend with and it is not open to him at all to waive sanctions at the stroke of a pen. His posture has been couched in a language which indicates, fir st of all, his own helplessness at the lack of ratification (of the CTBT) within his country. Secondly, he has also said that he appreciates India's security concerns. Further, he has held out for the future that we could have a continuing dialogue. My p ersonal assessment there is that over a period of time, the U.S. can adjust - not accommodate - but adjust to the de facto reality of India being a nuclear weapons power.

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Does this mean being a part of the NPT regime?

We cannot possibly be a part of that regime. But our security concerns have been appreciated much better now. Strobe Talbott's remarks just before the visit began should also be understood in its context. He said that there is not much chance of India ca pping, rolling back or eliminating its nuclear weapons potential. So you must read the whole thing as one integrated whole.

What are the other important aspects of this visit in your assessment?

The second and perhaps more important part is the political and security dimension. A process that was inaugurated when the Kargil war was on, that is of ensuring some form of sanctity for the Line of Control, has now been taken forward at a very high le vel. The habit of equating India with Pakistan is perhaps coming to an end now.

Another thing is, of course, the dimension of terrorism. This again is a process that had already commenced; the first meeting of the Joint Working Group on terrorism took place last February.

You must also take into account a few other factors - one of Clinton's suggestions is the renewal of dialogue. I don't think he is likely to go back on that. Personally, I think he put it very well in his speech in Parliament, in as inoffensive a manner as possible. And then at his press conference he has said that he appreciates it is difficult to commence negotiations when a climate of violence exists and the LoC is being violated. That is as close as anybody can come to our standpoint. It is a kind o f tacit endorsement of a line we have taken all along.

Clinton has said a few other things in his interview to an American network, which, I think, are very significant. He has said words to the effect that Pakistan is very keen to drag the U.S. into a mediatory role, but how can the U.S. do this when India does not want it to?

He has also said that elements in the Pakistan Government are rendering assistance to terrorist activities. What is your view?

That and also (National Security Adviser) Sandy Berger's remarks, if quoted correctly, that Pakistan is going to be in serious trouble if it goes to war with India, constitute a very clear warning. Plus when you are on the subject of mediation, you shoul d note that the Vision Statement itself says somewhere in the first few paragraphs that India and the U.S. realise that tensions in South Asia can best be resolved by the countries of the region themselves. If you take it in their totality, then I would tend to be very optimistic about the future course of our relations.

Would there be some immediate practical consequences? General Pervez Musharraf has said that he can do nothing about violations of the LoC. There are others who say that by silencing the big guns which provide artillery cover to the infiltrators, and cracking down on the terrorist training camps on his territory, he can do much to bring the situation under control. But both these are likely to involve domestic political repercussions for him.

There may be a slight let-up because of what Clinton tells them - a few cosmetic changes here and there. But I personally think we should be prepared for an aggravation of the situation. If Clinton tells them all that he has told us, then the obvious rea ction would be - though not immediately - but in a few weeks, to aggravate it. The President of Pakistan says that his country cannot exist without Kashmir. My answer to that would be: so be it. This is the first time a remark like this has been made. An d the President's remark, we have to take it, has the endorsement of Musharraf.

Apart from these security-related aspects, do you see much coming out of the agreements on energy, environment and science and technology?

A great deal of activity is envisaged on the economic front, with a coordination committee being set up. Then we are going to have different committees on trade and commerce, there is going to be a science forum.

Is there a likelihood of India going along with the U.S. demand that a new round of trade negotiations be started in the WTO? The Americans have been very keen on this. The Indians are not.

The areas where our interests converge in the WTO will be explored first.

But there are substantial divergences - the labour clause, for instance, or investments - though on investment we are closer to the American viewpoint than the European one. Then there are differences on the services side - on the movement of natural per sons for instance.

There was a suggestion by U.S. Commerce Secretary William Daley that India should cooperate in getting the trade talks kickstarted. Is this a quid pro quo or are the security and trade agendas being kept separate?

There is no quid pro quo because even if they were to get us on their side, within the developed countries there are such tremendous differences that an early resumption of talks is unlikely.

A reality check

Bill Clinton's visit has magnified the glaring differences between India and the United States in the strange mix of modern politics and media.

THERE'S hype, and then there's buzz. By this point, it seems nearly every conscious Indian, no matter how much he or she might have wished otherwise, was deluged by the former on the occasion of the U.S. President's visit, escape from which might well pr ove impossible, at least for some weeks to come. Aside from the intrusive tastelessness of it all, though, an important distinction is present between the two terms. Hype is when one party is doing all the talking, and loudly. Buzz, on the other hand, is when one in fact says very little, but every one else is talking about that mysterious, but intriguing, entity, be it a company or a person. This visit has, if anything, magnified the glaring differences between both nations in the strange mix of modern politics and media.

In recent years, successful American politicians, commentators, and companies - particularly those operating at a national level - have mastered the art of buzz. Soap-box orators like Pat Buchanan, though not without their faithful followers of the past, have largely come to be regarded as irritating blowhards. A masterful series of strategic leaks within a record of reserved dialogue, particularly in the Clinton administration, has instead come to dominate the back-and-forth of Washington Beltway media coverage. Within India, however, the tireless self-promoter to this day takes the political limelight. While this still works wonders among Indian voters in drawing lakhs of supporters to stump rallies, the advent of President Clinton and his phenomenal press entourage presents a telling set of contrasts when thrust together with India's government and media.

17070241jpg The Times of India

Indian coverage of the event, as any sentient individual here knows all too well, has been resoundingly about hype. Much of the print media, largely shut out of substantive events, tended to approach the onslaught of its American peers by aping their vis ual counterparts. The Times of India ran a plea on its front page to "catch the Clinton euphoria on indiatimes.com", advertising 24-hour coverage, announcing that "right from his arrival to his departure, indiatimes will keep track of his activiti es and webcast it round the clock." Traffic to the site was indeed so heavy that users attempting to access the "world class webcast" were confronted with white screens and error messages. Inside, one was greeted by a full-page advertisement from the Con federation of Indian Industry reading "Welcome back Chelsea. And thanks for bringing your father." Good luck in finding a single-column parallel in a U.S. newspaper.

The U.S. media, both print and visual, collectively covered a very different angle. "Dark Horizons: India, Pakistan, and the Bomb", ran the title of Peter Jennings' story on ABC televison's World Report programme on the Clinton visit. "India's Unwired Vi llages Mired in the Distant Past," complete with coloured descriptions of an "unlettered field hand in a ragged loin cloth" and "raggedy children... (playing) in the dirt with toys made from twisted wire," was splashed across the front page of the massiv e Sunday edition of The New York Times. USA Today's website featured the telling headline "Poor South Asian country gets first U.S. President visit" as President Clinton made his historic first visit to Bangladesh. While the Indian Prime Mi nister repeatedly called for the trip to be regarded as a meeting of equals, "the most dangerous place" (taking the cover of the London-based The Economist) was perhaps the most mentioned four words in Western-based stories on the visit.

Despite the lopsidedness in end coverage between the foreign and domestic press, the U.S. press was given systematic preference in both access and facilities, even after reaching the various stops along Clinton's itinerary. Notwithstanding the extremely limited total space for the events given the demand, often only one Indian correspondent per newspaper was allowed to fight for a spot amongst the other journalists there. Soma Basu, covering the Agra visit for The Hindu, characterised the U.S. pr ess set-up, on the other hand, as "very cushy". According to rather harried White House Press Office officials, for American journalists, coverage of the Clinton visit was divided up into several tour packages of sorts. Depending upon the destination, be it Jaipur, Agra or Delhi, assorted block options with fixed prices were available. For internal travel, said a senior journalist, $290 bought one chartered flights on Jet Airways. The full-service option included flights along every step of Clinton's jo urney from Washington D.C. onwards, catered meals, workspace, and a friendly face to meet one at the airport, and was available for a cool $15,000, payable by credit card.

Contrasting the CEO-filled delegation in Clinton's trip to China, a member of the elite group of Indian-American professionals to meet Clinton regarding information technology and other business issues was quoted as saying that, as a meeting of two democ racies, the Clinton visit was more about the interaction of companies than official state-to-state deals and statements. With the hype in India surrounding the new Indo-U.S. bilateralism (which necessarily entails concomitant attention in the U.S.) throu gh the IT sector, a look at the media coverage targeting technology and business run out of the U.S. reveals a few interesting things. News.com's massive and widely-hailed website contained but one piece on Rupert Murdoch's forthcoming series of investme nts here, buried among assorted other items. CNNfn and CBS Marketwatch held a similar dearth of stories dealing with India. Wired News (wired.com) turned up one interesting story by Lakshmi Chaudry on IIT incubator funds. But a simple search on "India" y ielded sparse returns of India-related stories, many with a brief mention buried deep within the listed story. And then there is Slashdot, the combination news/forum site so popular and widely used in the U.S. technology world that the so-called "Slashdo t effect" (of sites being shut down from overloading traffic by merely being linked by the page) has been coined from its name. A search revealed that the last story to mention India was a piece on the spread of Linux back in January.

As yet, though, awareness pertaining to business and IT can only go up. A New York-based IT consultant of Indian descent was quoted as saying that Indians were steadily becoming "the new Jews" in the U.S. with their lucrative positions in finance and tec hnology. The consensus remains that it is but a matter of time before commensurate public awareness (and, likely, public backlash) catches up with the status of Indians in the U.S. But it is not quite there yet.

In examining the recent glut of media attention for the Clinton visit, it has been argued that the media will always tend to blow up a story to its own collective interests, regardless of historical period. However, this argument does not stand up to ana lysis. Going through the archives of The Hindu material regarding the visit of each visiting U.S. President - Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, and now Clinton - one thing becomes evident. This is that the sorts of word usage and issues covered were stri kingly similar throughout. Regional violence was an issue when Eisenhower came. "A warm welcome for Carter" reads a 1978 curtain-raiser (the same phrase used recently by the Minister of State for External Affairs regarding the reception for Clinton).

The coverage is unprecedented. Only one other such international excursion, Clinton's nine-day visit to China in the summer of 1998, exceeds it in duration. The length of the trip itself alone shows that it is not a trivial matter, but the overall import ance to India is as yet unclear. The implementation of institutional dialogue arrangements between the two nations in the recently published Indo-U.S. Vision Statement is indeed encouraging, but there remains the question of to what extent (and how quick ly) such declarations will filter down and be implemented in the respective nations' bureaucracies and polities themselves, and in turn, what the net effects will be on the India and United States of tomorrow.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable contrast between the two nations was seen in the televised press conference at Hyderabad House where the Vision Statement was signed. Clinton, despite being in an unfamiliar and indeed largely forbidding setting, seemed at home with the questions presented to him, as few and predictable as they may have been. Prime Minister Vajpayee, on the other hand, appeared visibly ill-at-ease with the press meet, a mainstay of American-style politics, bearing a rictus-like smile and t aking nearly a minute to respond to certain questions, at one point requiring Clinton to prod him, saying "it's your turn."

IN the public mind, Clinton's presidency is essentially over, with American attentions now shifted squarely upon George W. Bush and Al Gore in their run up to the November elections. Furthermore, in matters of foreign policy and related media attention, South Asia currently ranks quite low. What U.S. media coverage there is remains roundly focussed on India-Pakistan antagonisms and tensions and related issues. However, while the Taiwanese elections and Elian Gonzalez dominated media attention, the big s tory in the U.S. was unquestionably that of Pope John Paul II's trip to West Asia. Interestingly, from the BBC to CNN to local broadcast media, live newscasts covering the Pope's visit literally retraced his steps for the day (much like the blow-by-blow coverage omnipresent in India on Clinton's itinerary). In the same reports, Clinton's trip, if at all, was given at the most a minute of coverage. And despite the ubiquitous reports on both India's and Pakistan's failure to sign the Comprehensive Test Ba n Treaty, there was a palpable silence when it came to even brief mentions of President Clinton's stunning defeat in getting the treaty passed in the U.S. itself.

What the trip amounted to domestically was, in the end, that of a PR mission by an outgoing President eager to secure a positive and lasting legacy. After the release of the Kenneth Starr report, few Americans - his admirers included, and even those with the cleanest of minds - can watch the famously telegenic President speak without at least once thinking of him, a cigar, and the now-famous words: "tastes good". In many ways, this trip and the few months ahead amount to his final opportunities to raise his rank in the history books before they are written. And he knows it. The recurring phrase in his past speeches was "building a bridge to the 21st century." Now, the man most at home on television, it seems, must present at least a facade of journeys and initiatives to last beyond the change of channels.

Nevertheless, while the media explosion in India was misleading in its overall effect, a reality check should be tempered with optimism. According to Professor Ashutosh Varshney of Notre Dame University, "the most important thing right now is upgrading o f the Indo-U.S. dialogue on an institutional basis. If this trip can do that, it will be a great success."

Arjun Dirghangi is a U.S. citizen of Indian origin studying in the departments of Neuroscience and Behaviour as well as Political Science at Columbia University in New York City.

The massacre at Chattisinghpora

The March 20 massacre of 35 Sikhs in a Jammu and Kashmir village has the potential to widen the communal divide in the State, a fallout that could further the designs of the Far Right among all denominations.

SMALL patches of earth stained by blood mark the spot where the victims of Jammu and Kashmir's worst communal massacre lost their lives. Impromptu shrines have come up to tell visiting VIPs and ordinary people the story of the March 20 killings. Photogra phs of the 35 men shot that night have been pinned to a board inside the Singh Sabha gurdwara. A blackboard in the adjoining Shankerpora hamlet has the names of the 18 victims executed there scrawled in chalk. The shrines will stay in place until March 3 1, when thousands of Sikhs from around the country are expected to join in the last rites of the victims.

After the last of the visitors leave, Chattisinghpora's real problems will begin. The people of the village, like the rest of the Kashmir Valley's tiny Sikh community, will have to decide whether to leave for Jammu or to stay on and fight to defend their land and homes. That decision, and the political forces set in play by the killings, could be critical to the future of the State.

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There is a shroud of fear over Chattisinghpora. Few people are willing to talk to strangers. Ranjit Singh, the Singh Sabha gurdwara's young priest, acts as the village's official spokesperson, reading out a stilted statement on the killings to visiting m ediapersons. "How could we know who committed the crime?" he asks. "They wore Army uniforms, and spoke Urdu, but we recognised none of them." Karamjit Singh, a local schoolteacher who was among the 17 men who were lined up for execution outside the gurdw ara, is even more scared. He had escaped into the darkness before the firing began, but a single question on what provoked his suspicion is enough to end all further conversation.

But others in the village are more willing to talk, at least after being promised that their identities would not be revealed. Their stories are consistent. About 20 men, clad in olive green combat fatigues, arrived in the village at 7-15 p.m. They told the people that they were soldiers, and ordered the men out to be questioned. When the men were lined up in two groups, a few hundred metres from each other, the firing began. As they started firing, the gunmen shouted 'Jai Mata Di' and 'Jai Hind'. In th eatrical fashion, one of them took swigs from a bottle of rum even as the killing went on. While leaving, one of the men called out to his associates: "Gopal, chalo hamare saath" (Come with us, Gopal).

Twentytwo-year-old Arvind Singh, who was watching television in his home, had not come out when the gunmen arrived. When the firing began, he thought an encounter had broken out. "Terrorists used to come to the village regularly," he says. "The Army used to patrol the village, but had never carried out searches or interrogations. So the terrorists often used to stay here." Just three weeks before the killing, one group of terrorists, also in combat fatigues, had spent an afternoon watching children play cricket. Most villagers in fact feel betrayed. "Our sisters and wives used to serve them food and tea at all hours of the day and night," says Babu Singh, a resident of Shankarpora. "How could they repay us like this?"

Others have not lived to ask the question. Jagir Singh, a retired Subedar-Major, had made his peace with the terrorists in order to survive, and his home was one of those most frequently used for shelter. His appeals for mercy on those grounds did not he lp. He was shot along with his sons Gurdeep Singh (who had married last year) and six-year-old Ajit Pal Singh. There are no men now in the house, and Babu Singh's wife has been sitting in their porch ever since the massacre, too stunned to talk. Families like that of Jagir Singh had bought their peace with the terrorists in the early 1990s, in order to avoid meeting the fate of the Kashmiri Pandit communities around them who were being mercilessly driven out. Now, with almost no Pandits left, it was the ir turn to face the terrorist campaign.

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FEW people in the village believe stories claiming that the assailants were Indian Army soldiers. The reasons are simple. For one, the 7 Rashtriya Rifles, which is in charge of the area, is made up overwhelmingly of Sikh soldiers from the Punjab Regiment . Its troops and officers speak Punjabi, not Urdu. And the villagers, unlike Lashkar-e-Taiba cadre indoctrinated on stories of Hindu and Sikh barbarism, know that soldiers do not wander about on operations with bottles of liquor, shouting religious sloga ns as they fire. The terrorists evidently acted as they thought Indian soldiers would, a caricature that finds repeated mention in Lashkar-e-Taiba literature. The organisation's website even proclaims that Gurkha soldiers eat their dead parents' bodies.

But the people of Chattisinghpora had one crucial piece of evidence which pointed to the killers. Just before the firing began, one of the men lined up had recognised someone among the gunmen. "Chattiya, tu idhar kya kar raha hai?" (What are you d oing here, Chatt?), he asked. The person he spoke to immediately opened fire. Although police investigators are not discussing the point, it is possible that either of the survivors - Karamjit Singh, who escaped unhurt, or Nanak Singh, admitted with mult iple bullet injuries in Srinagar's Bone and Joint Hospital - heard the exchange. Agitated residents pointed the Anantnag Police to every Muslim whom they suspected of a role in the killings. Mohammad Yakub Magray, nicknamed Chatt Guri, was just one of th em.

IT took some of the best interrogators from the ruthlessly efficient Jammu and Kashmir Police Special Operations Group almost 48 hours to break Magray. He was, it turned out, a Hizbul Mujahideen operative active on the organisation's wireless network wit h the code-name Zamrood. On the night of the killings, Magray said, he had travelled with the Lashkar-e-Taiba's Anantnag area commander, a Pakistani national code-named Abu Maaz, to Chattisinghpora. Maaz, six feet tall with a large birthmark on his right cheek, was accompanied by some Lashkar members Magray knew by their code-names: Shahid, Babar, Tipu Khan and Maqsood. Five Kashmiri Hizbul Mujahideen members, led by Saifullah, possibly the code name for local operative Ghulam Rasool Wani, also came alo ng.

Abu Maaz, Magray said, had initiated the action after general instructions were received asking Lashkar-e-Taiba units to launch major attacks during President Clinton's visit to India. The first targets to be considered were military installations, but n o volunteers could be found for a suicide attack. Kashmiri Pandit hamlets were then discussed, but the idea was quickly rejected. The group attempted an assault on Kashmiri Pandits at Telwani, near Anantnag, in February. Three Pandits were killed there, but Army and police pickets in the area responded rapidly, and the Lashkar unit only just managed to escape. Sikh villages were, by contrast, unguarded. A random night patrol had been through Chattisinghpora three days earlier, so it was likely to be at least a week before troops would be there again.

Magray's continuing interrogation seems to be delivering at least some retribution. Dawn raids on March 25 by personnel of the Anantnag Police and 7 Rashtriya Rifles, led by Senior Superintendent of Police Farooq Khan and Colonel Ajay Saxena, led to the elimination of five members of Abu Maaz's unit at Panchal Thal, perched on the Pir Panjal range 9 km from Chattisinghpora. Assault rifles, grenades and two wireless sets were recovered from the killed terrorists. "We expect further success soon," said Kh an. "Magray has given us valuable information on hideouts, and we are developing separate intelligence which should lead us to those involved in the killings."

RETRIBUTION, however, will do little to secure the future of the Kashmir Valley's estimated 60,000 Sikhs, many of whom live in rural areas. Interestingly, the people of Chattisinghpora do not endorse claims made by some Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders that the community was not properly defended. "We never wanted protection here," says Babu Singh, "because we never thought there would be a problem... Our policy was to live, and to do that, we went out of our way to avoid confrontation with anybody." N ow the villagers must decide how they will respond to the state's proposals that they set up village defence committees to guard their future. Few appear enthusiastic about the prospect, however. "What will we do when we have to leave the village?" asks local priest Ranjit Singh.

Yet the fact remains that the people of Chattisinghpora, and Sikhs elsewhere in Jammu and Kashmir, will have to do some hard thinking. Although similar massacres may not be imminent, the fact remains that the campaign of ethnic cleansing launched by the Islamic Right a decade ago has now turned on the community. While some accounts claim that terrorist groups have no anti-Sikh agenda, the truth is less simple. Several Jammu and Kashmir Police officers at the cutting edge of the anti-terrorist operations are Sikh - such as Director-General of Police Gurbachan Jagat, Inspector-General of Police (Operations) P.S Gill and Srinagar Superintendent of Police (Operations) Manohar Singh. This fact has not passed unnoticed, and at least one Srinagar-based Sikh j ournalist has found himself being subjected to hostility on this account in recent months.

"The fact of the matter," says Rashtriya Rifles sector commander Brigadier Deepak Bajaj, "is that we can't protect everyone, everywhere, all the time. People have to learn to protect themselves too." Should the people of Chattisinghpora agree in the comi ng weeks to set up a village defence committee, it would be the first instance in the Kashmir Valley of people's resistance to terrorism. That, in turn, could have enormous knock-on effects, not just among religious minorities but ordinary Muslims, the p rincipal victims of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Sadly, there has been little political effort to bring about a genuine mass coalition against the Islamic Far Right. Few politicians sought to tap the spontaneous outrage the Chattisinghpora killings p rovoked across Jammu and Kashmir, cutting across religious lines.

INDEED, the political fallout from Chattisinghpora could be just what the Lashkar-e-Taiba wants to see happening. The disgraceful attacks on Muslim properties in New Delhi, and the ugly anti-Muslim posturing of Sikh and Hindu chauvinist groups in Jammu, have deepened communal fissures. Hindu right-wingers who spoke of an Islamic conspiracy against Hindus and Sikhs alone ignored the fact that terrorists killed 77 Muslims through Jammu and Kashmir in the first two months of this year, while just 10 of the ir victims were non-Muslim. Last year, 723 Muslims and 98 non-Muslims were killed by terrorists, making it clear that the majority community in the State is paying the price for the violence that is enormously disproportionate to its numbers. Even the me mbers of Magray's immediate family do not appear to share his convictions. One of his brothers is a soldier in the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry and a first cousin is in the Border Security Force's 4 Battalion, both deployed on counter-terrorist opera tions.

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Another problem has been the incorporation of the Chattisinghpora massacre in a larger narrative of Sikh communal politics. Shortly after mainstream politicians like Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Congress(I) leader Manmohan Singh visited the village, right-wing Sikh politicians entered the fray. Former Akal Takht Jathedar Ranjit Singh and former Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee president G.S. Tohra, both sacked by Badal, claimed that the killings were part of an Indian conspiracy to defame a neighbouring country. Ranjit Singh claimed to have developed a friendship in Tihar Jail with Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Maqbool Butt, who was executed for murder. Ranjit Singh, who himself served a life term, said that Butt and other Kashmiri terrorists would never target Sikhs.

Such unsavoury political abuse of massacres has, in the past, contributed not a little to growing communal divisions in Jammu and Kashmir. Hindu and Sikh politicians almost never visit Muslim victims of violence, while Muslim politicians rarely make a su stained effort to campaign for the rights of the minorities. Where there is little political gain to be had from killings, politicians stay away altogether. The line of dignitaries queueing up at Chattisinghpora, for example, stands in stark contrast to the disgraceful treatment of the families of the migrant workers from Bilaspur, Madhya Pradesh, who were massacred at Sandu in the midst of the Kargil war. Individual police officers had on that occasion used funds meant for anti-terrorist intelligence g athering to hire buses for the families to transport their dead home.

After the ceremonies of March 31, Chattisinghpora will most likely disappear from the public consciousness, displaced by the next round of killings elsewhere. Official India has been busy attacking Pakistan for the killings. The terrorists trained in tha t country with official sponsorship are indeed responsible for the carnage. But for the communal hatred and bitterness that the killings have left behind, politicians of the religious Right have no one to blame but themselves.

A divisive agenda

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Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's recent conclave with United States-based secessionist leader Farooq Kathwari is seen as part of a larger U.S.-sponsored covert dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir, in which the Vajpayee Government is complicit.

PRAVEEN SWAMI

JOIN the dots on the graph charting the future of Jammu and Kashmir, and it is hard to miss the shape staring back from the page. On March 8, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and a group of his top Cabinet colleagues held a closed-door secret meeting with Farooq Kathwari, a U.S.-based secessionist leader. The meeting, held at the Secretariat in Jammu, appears to be just part of a larger U.S.-sponsored covert dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir. Indeed, there is growing evidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party-l ed coalition government in New Delhi is complicit in this dialogue, which could lead to a violent communal sundering of the State.

Kathwari heads the Kashmir Study Group (KSG), an influential New York-based think tank which has been advocating the creation of an independent state carved out of the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu and Kashmir. The owner of Ethan Allen, an upmarket furn iture concern which includes the White House among its clients, Kathwari's associates in the KSG have included influential Indian establishment figures, notably former Foreign Secretary S.K. Singh and retired Vice-Admiral N.K. Nair. Kathwari was blacklis ted by successive Indian governments and on one occasion was even denied permission to visit the country to meet a seriously ill relative. Shortly after the BJP-led coalition took power in 1998, however, he was granted a visa.

It is still unclear at whose initiative the visa was granted. But Kathwari arrived in New Delhi in March 1999, carrying a series of proposals for the creation of an independent Kashmiri state. Called Kashmir: A Way Forward, the proposals were the outcome of the KSG's deliberations. On this first visit, he met what one senior intelligence official describes as a "who's who of the BJP establishment". Kathwari also appears to have visited Jammu and Srinagar, staying at the home of a top National Con ference politician. Frontline has so far been unable to establish whether he met Abdullah on that occasion.

Public disclosure of Kathwari's proposals provoked a minor storm. Both S.K. Singh and N.K. Nair disassociated themselves from its recommendations. Nonetheless, Kathwari seemed encouraged enough to push ahead with a new version of Kashmir: A Way Forwar d. Last September, a fresh version of the document was finalised after, its preface records, receiving reactions from "government officials in India and Pakistan". The new document was even more disturbing than the first. At least one KSG member, the University of South Carolina's Robert Wirsing, refused even to participate in the discussions. But the BJP, it now appears, was not wholly unhappy with the direction Kathwari was proceeding in.

Kashmir: A Way Forward outlines five proposals for the creation of either one or two new states, which would together constitute what is described in somewhat opaque fashion as a "sovereign entity but one without an international personality". "Th e new entity," the KSG report says, "would have its own secular, democratic constitution, as well as its own citizenship, flag and a legislature which would legislate on all matters other than defence and foreign affairs... India and Pakistan would be re sponsible for the defence of the Kashmiri entity, which would itself maintain police and gendarme forces for internal law and order purposes. India and Pakistan would be expected to work out financial arrangements for the Kashmiri entity, which could inc lude a currency of its own."

Four of five possible Kashmiri entities the KSG discusses involve two separate states on either side of the Line of Control (LoC), and territorial exchanges between India and Pakistan. But the fifth Kashmiri entity outlined in Kashmir: A Way Forward - of a single state on the Indian side of the LoC - is the most interesting of the KSG proposals. Premised on the assumption that Pakistan would be unwilling to allow the creation of a new entity on its side of the LoC - although there is no discussio n of what will happen if India were to be similarly disinclined - the new state would come into being after a series of tehsil-level referendums. All the districts of the Kashmir Valley, the districts of Kargil and Doda, three northern tehsils of Rajouri and one tehsil of Udhampur, the KSG believes, would opt to join the new Kashmiri state.

Kashmir: A Way Forward attempts, somewhat desperately, to prove that its assumptions are not based on communal grounds. "All these areas," it argues, "are imbued with Kashmiriyat, the cultural traditions of the Vale of Kashmir, and/or interact ext ensively with Kashmiri-speaking people." But this assumption is patently spurious, for several of these areas also interact similarly with peoples who do not speak Kashmiri. There is no explanation, for example, as to why the linguistic, cultural and tra de links between the three northern Muslim-majority tehsils of Rajouri district and the three southern Hindu-majority tehsils are of any less significance than those they have with the Kashmir region.

Nor is it made clear what linguistic affiliation the tehsils of Karnah and Uri in Kashmir, where just 3.2 per cent and 3.1 per cent of the population were recorded as Kashmiri-speakers in the 1981 Census, the last carried out in Jammu and Kashmir, might have with the Valley. Indeed, these tehsils have recorded some of the highest voter turnouts in successive elections from 1996, suggesting that their residents have little sympathy for Kashmir Valley-centred secessionist politics. Similarly, while Ramban and Bhaderwah tehsils in Doda are not Kashmiri-speaking and principally trade with Jammu, the KSG proposals make the a priori assumption that they would vote to join the new state.

OFFICIALS in Jammu and Kashmir seemed uncertain of just what Kathwari and Abdullah discussed during their meeting. State Chief Secretary Ashok Jaitley told Frontline that the meeting had indeed been held, but said that he was unaware of just what was discussed. "What I can tell you is that the initiative for the meeting was not ours," he said, "and that the highest quarters were consulted before it was held." Others said Kathwari had requested the meeting to discuss a potential timber business in the State. Neither the Jammu and Kashmir Directorate of Public Relations, which handles media interaction with the Chief Minister, nor Abdullah's personal staff, responded to queries from Frontline.

Even leaving aside the minor point that following Supreme Court orders, felling forests is illegal in Jammu and Kashmir it seems implausible that the content of Kathwari's dialogue with Abdullah centred on raw material for Ethan Allen. The National Confe rence's proposals for Jammu and Kashmir's future have striking similarities with those that the KSG is touting. The controversial report of the Regional Autonomy Committee (RAC), which was tabled in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly last year (Frontline , July 30, 1999) and is in the process of being implemented, bears similarities with the KSG proposals. Muslim-majority Rajouri and Poonch are scheduled to be cut away from the Jammu region and recast as a new Pir Panjal province. The single districts of Buddhist-majority Leh and Muslim-majority Kargil too will be sundered from each other and become new provinces.

In some cases, the RAC Report and the KSG proposals mirror each other down to the smallest detail. For example, Kashmir: A Way Forward refers to the inclusion of a Gool-Gulabgarh tehsil in the new state. There is, in fact, no such tehsil. Gool and Gulabgarh were parts of the tehsil of Mahore, the sole Muslim-majority tehsil of Udhampur district, until 1999. Gool subsequently became a separate tehsil. But the proposal for Mahore's sundering from Udhampur and inclusion in the Chenab province was fi rst made in the RAC Report. According to the RAC plan, as in the KSG proposals, Mahore would form part of the Chenab province, while Udhampur would be incorporated in the Hindu-majority Jammu province.

Significantly, Abdullah's plans for the future of Jammu and Kashmir's relationship with India match the KSG's formulation of a quasi-sovereign state. The report of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC), which was released in March 1999 and is now under cons ideration by the Centre, would leave New Delhi with no powers other than the management of defence, external affairs and communications. Fundamental rights mentioned in the Constitution, for example, would no longer apply to Jammu and Kashmir if the SAC has its way. They will have to be substituted by a separate chapter on fundamental rights in the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, which now contains only Directive Principles. The Supreme Court's jurisdiction over Jammu and Kashmir will end and the State Election Commission will conduct polls in the State, not the Election Commission of India.

While the National Conference's demands for greater autonomy are in themselves not disturbing, the context in which they have been made and their character are. For one, the SAC proposals were pushed through without debate in the Assembly and a nation-wi de political debate on the issue, promised by Abdullah, never took place. Meaningful autonomy seems to be the last of the SAC's concerns. The report does not contain even one sentence about financial autonomy, essential to prevent the interference from New Delhi that the SAC set out to end. Even more intriguing is the fact that no BJP leader outside Jammu, despite the party's long opposition to State autonomy, has criticised the SAC report. Abdullah made clear at a press conference in Jammu that the in itiative for the report to be submitted to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs came from New Delhi, not the State.

JUST what, then, is going on in those corridors of power where policy on Jammu and Kashmir is framed? It is evident that many of the proposals floated by the KSG, and which have permeated the RAC and SAC reports, have some form of U.S. backing. Shortly a fter Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif met in Lahore, Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz called for a district-wise referendum in Jammu and Kashmir. It was a sharp departure from his country's historic position. Journalist Talat Hu ssain, writing in the Pakistani newspaper The Nation, reported that Niaz Naik and R.K. Mishra, the back-channel negotiators during the Kargil war, had discussed what was described as the 'Chenab Plan', a sundering of the State between the Muslim-m ajority areas to the north of the river and the Hindu-majority areas to its south.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has also been talking about what appears to be a U.S.-approved formula for "deliberate, incremental advances" towards a final settlement in Jammu and Kashmir. Bhutto advocated that "the two sections of Kashmi r should have open and porous borders" - a proposition remarkably similar to that advocated by the KSG. This should happen prior to a final period when "the parties commence discussion on a formal and final resolution to the Kashmir problem, based on the wishes of its people and the security concerns of both India and Pakistan". "Both sections," she wrote during the Kargil war, "would be demilitarised and patrolled by either an international peace-keeping force or a joint Indian-Pakistani peace-keeping force. Both legislative councils would continue to meet separately and on occasion jointly."

Political analysts in Jammu and Kashmir not taken in by the rhetoric of a new relationship between India and the U.S., and they are sadly few, have little doubt about the deal that is being brokered. "You only have to read Shyama Prasad Mukherjee to unde rstand that Hindu fundamentalists never wanted the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu and Kashmir to be part of Hindu India," says academic Balraj Puri. A deal where the Muslim-majority areas of the State get broad autonomy in return for the National Confere nce agreeing to greater integration for its Buddhist and Hindu-majority, he suggests, will allow both the National Conference and the BJP to proclaim victory to their respective chauvinist constituencies. Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA Mohammad Y usuf Tarigami told Frontline that top BJP ideologue K.R. Malkani had, at a conference in February, told him that a division of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh was, in the long term, inevitable - an idea many on the Hindu right have endorsed in the past.

Speaking to Frontline after news of the meeting of the two Farooqs appeared in The Hindu-Business Line, one top official described the event as "trivial", and Kathwari as "an irrelevant busybody". Its hard to believe that Abdullah, who has consistently opposed dialogue with the secessionist All Parties Hurriyat Conference or the leadership of terrorist groups, finds it acceptable to hold closed-door meetings with "irrelevant" secessionists unless they have the right connections. Some obser vers believe that U.S. President Bill Clinton's India visit could lead, in months to come, to the appointment of an official to oversee dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir. The official could be packaged as a facilitator of dialogue rather than a mediator. Wha t is clear is that dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir with the BJP as a participant is under way - and it is time the rest of the country was told about the contours of the communal deal that is being engineered.

The killing of Hamid Gada

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PRAVEEN SWAMI

THE elimination of Hamid Bhatt, alias Hamid Gada, alias Bambar Khan, perhaps Jammu and Kashmir's most important terrorist leader, is perhaps less important than what his life and death tell us about violence in that State today.

Gada was deeply influenced by the Jamaat-e-Islami's far-right brand of Islam, and it was this ideology of hate that drove his rise to the top rungs of the Hizbul Mujahideen. But his father, Khaliq Bhatt, has worked for decades looking after the Kheer Bha wani temple at Tulmulla, one of the most revered shrines for Kashmiri Hindus. Fayyaz Bhatt, Hamid Gada's brother, is a Special Police Officer (SPO) who works with an anti-terrorist unit of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. And the source who brought about Ga da's death was not a paid informer, but a Kashmiri Muslim constable who risked his life to end the Hizbul commander's reign of terror.

No one is entirely sure about the circumstances which led Gada to the Hizbul. He joined the organisation eight years ago, at the height of its power. The Hizbul was then engaged in a war not only against the Indian state but also organisations which supp orted independence for Kashmir. Some people claim that Gada was coerced by local Hizbul cadre into joining, after they threatened to execute his father for the supposed crime of working at the Tulmulla shrine. There is no evidence, however, to support th is story. Whatever the truth, Gada proved an enthusiastic recruit, distinguishing himself with a series of ruthless actions.

Some of Gada's targets were police and military personnel. But the murders that brought him notoriety were flagrantly communal ones. Early in his career he killed two Kashmiri Pandits at Waskoora in Ganderbal, part of the Hizbul campaign to drive out eve n the remnants of that community from the State. Sumbal resident Janaki Nath followed soon after. The worst of the Gada faction's killings was the massacre of 26 Pandits at the hamlet of Wandhama, nine of them women and four young children. The January 1 998 massacre was timed to coincide with the Shab-e-Qadar, the holiest night of the month of Ramzan, when believers stay awake until dawn.

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Khaliq Bhatt, taking care of the shrine the Pandits of Wandhama would have visited regularly, never commented publicly on his son's actions. He did not, however, leave the temple job, an eloquent comment on what he thought of Gada's politics. Bhatt could easily have chosen a life of luxury. His son had put his power to work for profit, extorting money from Ganderbal businesses. Part of this money was used to acquire something of a Robin Hood image in the area, one of the reasons why Gada survived so man y years longer than others who joined the Hizbul along with him.

In retrospect, the Wandhama massacre paved the way for the end of Gada's life. While some politicians jumped to his defence at the time, with then Minister of State for Home Ali Mohammed Sagar insinuating that the massacre was carried out by the Army, mo st ordinary Kashmiris were disgusted by the action. Its sheer brutality, and the inflammatory nature of the pamphlets left at the site, showed that Gada's group had been hijacked by cadre from Pakistan, who are more rabidly communal than most Kashmiri te rrorists. Gada moved to contain the damage, breaking links with much of the Hizbul foreign cadre and operating independently of the organisation's hierarchy in Jammu and Kashmir.

But the damage had been done. For two years after Wandhama Gada enjoyed an almost mystical luck, with units of the Jammu and Kashmir Police Special Operations Group (SOG) missing him by minutes on over a dozen occasions. But on March 13, a local police c onstable walked into the SOG's Ganderbal office, with precise information on Gada's location. The constable, whose name is being withheld by Frontline in the interests of his security, reported that Gada along with his fellow Tulmulla resident Mohammad A bdullah, code-named Marshall, and Mohammad Maqbool Sheikh, again from the Ganderbal area, were holed up in the basement of a home in Sheikhpora.

Superintendent of Police (Operations) Jagtar Singh's prompt action probably ensured that Gada had no chance of escaping. He cordoned off the home with just 15 men, a risky tactic. But the element of surprise paid off, and the SOG unit succeeded in blocki ng Gada's escape until it was reinforced by Rashtriya Rifles troops. Security personnel and the three terrorists, whose basement hideout had been heavily reinforced, exchanged fire for almost five hours. Finally, the basement was blown up, using explosiv es. Seven assault rifles, a gun equipped to throw grenades, a night-vision device and 60 kg of RDX were discovered in the basement.

That he was one of the last major Kashmiri figures involved in terrorism in the State is not the only reason why Gada's killing is a significant development. His life illustrates that for every Jamaat-e-Islami-affiliated bigot in Jammu and Kashmir, there are any number of ordinary Muslims who have opposed such chauvinism, and fought to end it at the risk of their own lives. Their battles give the lie to the venomous anti-Muslim propaganda unleashed in the wake of the massacre at Chattisinghpora.

A split verdict in Haryana

politics

These articles on the electoral verdicts in Haryana, Orissa and Manipur, among the four States where Assembly elections were held recently, follow from the first two instalments of the feature, which were published in the March 17 and March 31 issues of Frontline. The articles on Haryana and Orissa draw on the findings of a post-election survey conducted by the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). The survey was sponsored by New Delhi Television (NDTV), and the results were broadcast on the Star News Channel.

The survey was conducted in 15 randomly selected constituencies in each of the two States. The total number of respondents was 1,336 in Orissa and 1,182 in Haryana. The respondents were selected randomly from the voters' lists of four polling booths in e ach of the constituencies sampled. The interviews were carried out in the days (or the day) after polling and before the counting of votes began on February 25.

The survey was coordinated by S.N. Misra in Orissa, and Jitendra Prasad and Sudhir Hilsayan in Haryana.

YOGENDRA YADAV OLIVER HEATH

IN India's electoral history, it is difficult to recall a parallel to the seemingly carefully crafted split verdict witnessed in the Haryana Assembly elections. There have been few instances of two allied parties contesting virtually as equals, and one o f them scoring a resounding victory while the other is soundly defeated. Given that the National Democratic Alliance won all 10 parliamentary seats in the State in the general elections of September-October 1999 (and established leads in all but five Ass embly segments), it was a foregone conclusion that the Indian National Lok Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine would secure an overwhelming majority in the Assembly elections. The only question was: would the INLD secure a majority on its own and thus ren der the alliance arrangement redundant? In the end, the alliance did not do as well as it was expected to, yet the INLD led by Om Prakash Chautala secured a clear majority. The NDA won 53 of the 90 seats and secured 38.1 per cent of the popular vote, but that bit of statistics is of little consequence, given the relative performance of the INLD and the BJP.

The performance of the two allies offers a study in contrasts. This election belonged to Om Prakash Chautala, whose party won 47 seats and 29.2 per cent of the popular vote; in effect, the INLD secured, on an average, 43.8 per cent of the votes in the 61 constituencies that it contested. Despite the fact that he has been out of power for the past eight years (barring a few months prior to the elections) and has changed his party label in almost every successive Assembly election in the past 15 years, Ch autala demonstrated that his support base is intact. Although he could not whip up a wave as his father Devi Lal did in 1987, his party improved on the erstwhile Lok Dal's seat tally and vote share of 1996 in all the four divisions of Haryana.

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As expected, the INLD made its biggest gains in the Jat heartland consisting of Rohtak and Hissar divisions, where its seat share increased by four and 11 respectively and its vote share went up by 9.9 and 11.5 percentage points respectively. It also man aged to win a majority of the seats that fall within Ambala division in the north and make a dent in Gurgaon division in the south, traditionally a Congress(I) stronghold. The INLD retained all but two of the 24 seats that the Lok Dal had won in 1996, an d almost singlehandedly wiped out the Haryana Vikas Party of Bansi Lal, taking 17 of its 33 seats. In all, 53 of the 90 seats changed hands.

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The election doubtless marks Chautala's arrival as a leader in his own right, but it may be incorrect to attribute the INLD's victory entirely to him. The CSDS-NDTV survey found that his six- month-old regime enjoys a fair degree of popularity among the electorate, but not in so great a measure as to explain the INLD's victory. More than Chautala's popularity, it is the remembrance of Devi Lal's government that seems to have won support for the INLD. When the voters were asked to pick the best from amon g the regimes of the three Lals of Haryana, Devi Lal's government was the choice of 49 per cent of those polled. Of these, 63 per cent voted for the INLD.

ON the other hand, the INLD's alliance partner, the BJP, suffered a humiliating defeat, winning just six seats (of the 29 it contested) and 8.9 per cent of the popular vote. This meant a loss of five seats since 1996, although it contested four seats mor e than it did then as an alliance partner of the HVP. The BJP's average vote share in the seats it contested was 26.7 per cent, which was 17 percentage points less than that of the INLD.

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The party's biggest losses were in southern Haryana. State BJP president Ram Vilas Sharma lost both the seats he contested. State BJP leaders have accused Chautala of sabotaging their party's chances, and there appears to be some truth in this charge. Ab out half a dozen INLD 'rebels' contested against the official BJP nominees, allegedly with Chautala's support. Some of them won, and a few others ensured the BJP's defeat. The CSDS-NDTV survey confirms that there was negligible transfer of votes from the INLD to the BJP. While 89 per cent of the potential INLD supporters voted for the INLD where that party's candidates represented the alliance, in constituencies where the alliance had put up a BJP candidate, only 22 per cent of the potential INLD suppor ters voted for the official candidate.

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All this, however, offers at best a partial explanation for the result. Chautala's keenness to teach the BJP a lesson was a result of its insistence that it be allotted more seats than the ground realities warranted. When the CSDS-NDTV survey sought to p ersuade the INLD-BJP voters to choose between the two parties, more than three-fourths of those who made that choice opted for the INLD. Further, the BJP could secure the votes of only a low proportion of its own potential supporters. Perhaps the voters of Haryana have not forgotten that the BJP was a partner in the now-discredited HVP-led government. The BJP leadership evidently has much soul-searching to do, an exercise that its leaders seem reluctant to undertake.

FOR the other parties in the fray, it was largely a story of failures. The HVP, which fared well in 1996, has all but faded away, with its seats tally dropping from 33 to two. Except for some areas in and around Bhiwani, Bansi Lal's former stronghold, th e party appears headed for extinction. The Bahujan Samaj Party won one seat, but did not quite make the kind of breakthrough that the party was looking for. Two pockets, one around Ambala and the other around Rewari, offer it some hope, but much of its v ote in Rewari is not its own. Among the winners were 13 independents and others (the lone winner from the Republican Party of India is virtually an independent), but that number is not high by Haryana standards.

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The Congress(I) was a big loser in this election, although it too can draw some consolation from the statistics of the results. Compared to 1996, when it finished fourth in the State, the Congress(I) has something to feel good about: it has more than dou bled its tally, benefited from a swing of over 10 percentage points in its favour and emerged as the principal Opposition party in the State. It has re-emerged as a key contender in Rohtak and Hissar divisions and recovered some of the ground it had lost in the southern parts of the State.

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But the fact remains that an electorate disillusioned with the HVP-BJP regime opted for the INLD rather than the Congress(I). After Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Haryana is the third State in northern India where the Congress(I) has lost two successive Assemb ly elections. The party's decline can be traced to its inability to retain its traditional support base. Among the sample surveyed, of those who said that they had sometimes voted Congress(I) in the last decade, only 30 per cent did so this time. Even am ong those who had always voted Congress(I), only 61 per cent voted for it this time. That nearly half the independent MLAs are Congress(I) rebels speaks volumes about the party's choice of candidates. Faction feuds came out into the open at the time of c hoosing the Congress(I) Legislature Party leader.

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THE CSDS-NDTV survey findings also facilitate an analysis of the social pattern of the vote. It shows that in Haryana, where caste sentiments traditionally run high, there is actually greater consolidation of votes of the "low castes" as compared to Biha r and Uttar Pradesh. The INLD secured 53 per cent of the Jat votes, and although this is a substantial chunk, it does not substantiate the widely held belief that the INLD is essentially a party of Jats. The consolidation of Jat votes in the INLD's favou r is far less than, say, the consolidation of Yadav votes in favour of the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar or the Samajwadi Party in U.P. The INLD won not merely on the strength of its support among Jats, but with the support of a cross-section of the elec torate. Predictably, it does not enjoy much support among the backward classes and Dalits. The BJP's support is largely among upper-caste voters, and principally in the urban areas.

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The Congress(I) fares best among Dalits: 49 per cent of Dalits voted for it. It is also the most popular party among the backward classes, although its ability to consolidate the votes among these sections is less pronounced than in the past. The BSP's s ocial profile is similar to that of the Congress(I). Its support base is the strongest among Dalits (at 16 per cent), but it also picks up votes from Muslims and backward classes. Not too much should be read into the high number of Muslims voting INLD an d the low level of support for the Congress(I). Muslims in Haryana are clustered, and it is likely that the survey sample happened to pick a pocket of INLD voters. The figures may not be representative of how the community as a whole voted.

The supporters of the INLD and the BJP have different educational profiles. Whereas the INLD is the strongest among the uneducated and the weakest among graduates, the reverse is true for the BJP. Indeed, in this respect the BJP's profile has far more in common with that of the HVP.

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Somewhat uncharacteristically, the class profile shows a very different picture. The main reason for this is that in Haryana the farming community is affluent but uneducated, and this section is largely voting INLD.

The Congress(I) and the BSP score best in the same sections and secure more votes among the poor than they do among the rich. If the Congress(I) wishes to improve its standing, it would perhaps benefit by entering into an alliance with the BSP and formin g a consolidated bloc among the poor and "lower caste" sections of society.

An unequal alliance in Orissa

politics
OLIVER HEATH

IN a largely one-sided affair, the Biju Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine romped home to a comfortable majority by winning 106 of the 147 seats in the Orissa Legislative Assembly. The alliance's combined vote share is 47.7 per cent. The Congress (I), which was in government, dropped 5.3 percentage points in its vote share, which translated to a net loss of 54 seats. This left it with a total of just 26. The BJD and the BJP retained 45 of the 55 seats that the Janata Dal and the BJP had won in 19 95. In addition they picked up 54 seats from the Congress (I) and seven from others.

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However, in many ways it is surprising that the BJD-BJP alliance did not do better than it did. The timing of the elections was perfect for a landslide victory for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The good showing of the BJD-BJP combine in the Lok Sabha elections, the incumbency factor that worked against the Congress(I), and the devastation that the December cyclone wreaked all meant that a haul of 140 seats or so was not an unrealistic possibility. In this light, then, the Congress(I) was proba bly lucky to escape a more severe punishment.

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Between the two NDA partners in the State, the victory of the BJD was more emphatic than that of the BJP. Out of the 84 seats that the BJD contested, it won 68, giving it a 'strike rate' of 81. The BJP won just 38 out of 62, which means a much lower stri ke rate of 61. Similarly, the BJD's vote share in the constituencies that it contested was 51.2 per cent, compared to the BJP's 40 per cent.

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The disparity between the performances of the two parties has much to do with how successfully votes were transferred from one party to the other within the alliance. On the whole, NDA voters preferred the BJD to the BJP. When asked which party they woul d prefer to form the government, 29 per cent preferred the BJP and 38 per cent the BJD. This trend seems to have given the BJD an advantage within the alliance. As was the case in Haryana, BJP supporters were more willing to vote for their alliance partn er than the other way round. BJP supporters gave BJD candidates just three percentage point fewer votes than they gave BJP candidates. The disparity was much greater in the case of BJD supporters, who gave the BJP 23 percentage point fewer votes than BJD . In the light of this, BJD leader Naveen Patnaik must surely regret not striking a harder bargain at the seat-sharing talks. The sharing arrangement in Orissa is unusual in the sense that the proportion of seats that was contested by each party in the N DA was exactly the same in the Assembly elections as it had been in the Lok Sabha elections. The BJD is the only regional ally of the BJP which did not improve its proportion of seats contested for the Assembly.

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The Congress(I) was probably on a losing wicket before the cyclone hit the State, as was evident from the drubbing it received in the Lok Sabha elections, and it is unlikely that its handling of the disaster relief won it new votes. Overall, only 17 per cent of the respondents were very satisfied with the work that the Orissa Government did in the aftermath of the cyclone, and 25 per cent were not at all satisfied. This approval rating is much lower than that for the Central Government, with which 35 pe r cent were very satisfied.

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When the respondents were asked to name which government or agency had done the best relief work, the Orissa Government came off in an even worse light. Only 5 per cent of those polled thought that it had done the best relief work. Both non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Central Government got higher scores, with 6 per cent and 19 per cent respectively, but the surprise leader was the Andhra Pradesh Government, which 29 per cent said did the best job.

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The community profile of BJD voters is quite unusual for a Janata formation: it is dominated by the upper castes. This is probably a legacy from the State Janata Dal unit led by Biju Patnaik, which was the only Janata Dal unit in the country to oppose th e Mandal Commission report. This gives the BJD a profile very similar to that of the BJP. Overall, they are both strong in the same sections of society, drawing many more votes from the upper castes than from the Scheduled Castes and Muslims. The high pr oportion of Scheduled Tribes voting for the BJP compared to the BJD is largely explained by the fact that the tribal people are mainly located in the areas where the BJP contested. If their voting behaviour is examined according to which party contested , then they actually give more or less the same degree of support to the BJP and the BJD.

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The profile of the Congress (I) vote base is the opposite of that of the BJD-BJP; it is stronger among the lower castes and Muslims than it is among the upper castes.

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In terms of class, the BJP does best among the rich whereas the BJD is the strongest among the middle class. There is not much deviation among Congress(I) voters, although the party is noticeably weak among the highest class. Education also shows a patte rn similar to that of class. The Congress(I) support base is bottom-heavy, BJD voters are concentrated in the middle class, and the BJP is the strongest at the top. Interestingly, the BJP is also relatively strong among the very low classes and the unedu cated people. These people are mainly small-scale agriculturists, such as cultivators or tenant farmers.

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Overall, there is a fair amount of overlap between the support bases for the BJD and the BJP. However, there is also a hidden danger. Because they both vie for the support of the same sort of people there is a distinct possibility that one party will eve ntually displace the other. Although the BJD is dominant at the moment, given time there is a possibility that the BJP could swallow it up, as it did in the case of its allies in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

A fractured verdict in Manipur

politics
CSDS Team

THE results in Manipur showed all the attributes that have characterised electoral politics in the State since it attained statehood in 1972: high turnout, political fragmentation, and hung Assem-blies. Since 1972, no party has secured an absolute majori ty in the State. This year the parties took this into consideration and formed big, unwieldy, alliances. The Congress(I) formed the Secular Democratic Front with the Manipur People's Party (MPP), one of its rivals in northeastern India, and the Communist Party of India (CPI). The ruling Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP), a three-year-old breakaway group of the Congress(I) and currently an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre, formed the United Front (U.F.) with the Federal Party of Manipur (FPM). The BJP failed to arrive at an understanding with the MSCP and formed the Manipur Democratic Alliance (MDA) in combination with the Janata Dal (United). P.A. Sangma's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) decided to go it alone.

No party or alliance secured a clear majority. The U.F. came close but fell short. The small Assembly has members of at least 11 parties, providing ample scope for political permutations and combinations.

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The MSCP established that it was the authentic heir to the Congress legacy. It fared well in the valley and also picked up five hill seats, to establish itself as an all-Manipur party.

The Congress(I) and its allies suffered a setback. The Congress(I) tally came down from 22 to 10. The party suffered major reverses in the valley. The MPP's tally came down from 18 to four seats. For the first time the CPI will not have any presence in t he Assembly. The SDF was a loose front and it seems unlikely that it will survive such a disastrous show.

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If there is another winner in Manipur besides the MSCP, it is the BJP. Its tally of six seats in an Assembly of 60 is its best ever performance in the hill States of northeastern India. Five of these seats came from the Meiti-dominated areas in the valle y, which have historical connections with Vaishnavaite Hinduism; the remaining seat came from the tribal-dominated hills. Being in power at the Centre has definite advantages in the local politics of the small States in northeastern India.

Farmers' rights in peril

the-nation

India has taken the consistent stand that the UPOV Convention is unsuitable for the country's needs, yet it has adopted the UPOV model in large measure in formulating the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Bill that is before Parl iament. A critique of aspects of the Bill.

PHILIPPE CULLET

THE introduction of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Bill in Parliament was a direct consequence of India's ratification of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which requires its signatorie s to introduce mechanisms to ensure plant varieties protection through either patents or an alternative system. TRIPS basically invites member-states to conform with existing practices in the developed countries, which introduced plant varieties protecti on before 1994 in the form of either patents or plant breeders' rights. Both patents and plant breeders' rights are monopoly rights that seek to give the private sector incentives to enter the seed business. The main difference between the two is that th e latter provides rights which are less extensive than the former. In effect, plant breeders' rights reflect a compromise between the demand for plant varieties protection coming from the private sector and the traditional practice of free exchange of in formation in agricultural management. Plant breeders' rights do not constitute an alternative to patents but only provide a lower level of protection to commercial breeders.

In India, the protection of plant varieties through intellectual property rights has historically been denied as is reflected in the Patents Act of 1970. The twin rationales for this denial were that food security is a basic need whose fulfilment should not be governed by private commercial interests and that information in agricultural management has always been shared freely among farmers and farming communities. The introduction of plant varieties protection thus constitutes a significant departure f rom the existing regime.

As specified in the TRIPS Agreement, India and other developing countries which had not introduced mechanisms for plant varieties protection before 1995 must protect plant varieties but have the liberty to choose whether they want to introduce patents or provide an alternative form of protection. TRIPS does not give any indications concerning the kind of alternative system that member-states may want to set up. India is thus free to choose its own protection system.

Even though TRIPS does not bind states to adopting any given system, a number of states have decided to fulfil their obligations regarding plant varieties protection by ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention). This convention is the main international agreement defining plant breeders' rights. As noted, plant breeders' rights and patents are conceptually similar and the European countries signed the UPOV in 1961 with the specific aim of prov iding incentives to the private sector to enter the seed business. It is significant that the UPOV Convention was developed specifically to suit the conditions and needs of European agriculture, which differ markedly from those of a majority of the devel oping countries where agriculture constitutes the central economic activity. The convention has been revised twice, in 1978 and 1991. On both occasions, the revision aimed at strengthening the rights of commercial breeders and conversely reduced the righ ts and privileges of farmers.

The UPOV Convention constitutes an alternative to patents insofar as plant breeders' rights provide slightly weaker rights to commercial breeders. However, it does not recognise farmers as breeders, does not provide for rights of farmers over their varie ties, implies that plant varieties are developed in laboratories and assumes that the development of plant varieties is only undertaken for commercial gain. It thus provides a partial framework which is inherently incapable of granting rights to farmer-b reeders despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of seeds planted in India are farm-saved seeds. Since TRIPS leaves member-states to choose their own system of plant varieties protection, it is evident that countries such as India where agriculture provides employment to at least two-thirds of the working population should adopt a system adapted to their own needs and requirements, something that UPOV cannot achieve.

India has for the time being refrained from joining UPOV. Further, the government has indicated that it wanted to devise its own legislation for the protection of plant varieties and that it did not think the model provided by UPOV was suitable for the c onditions prevailing in this country. The Bill needs to be analysed against this background.

The draft Bill mainly purports to introduce plant breeders' rights which are meant to provide protection to formal breeders' plant varieties. It is significant that the Bill does not attempt to provide an indigenous definition of these rights but derives its provisions nearly word for word from the UPOV Convention. Despite the government's stand that UPOV is not suitable for this country, the Bill goes even further and takes some of its most central provisions from the latest version of the convention w hich broadens the scope of breeders' rights and conversely reduces the rights and privileges of farmers. The criteria for registration of a plant variety are, for instance, taken directly from UPOV 1991.

The title of the Bill leads one to believe that it provides in equal measure for farmers' and plant breeders' rights. In reality, the Bill devotes a single short provision to the definition of farmers' rights while it defines plant breeders' rights at le ngth. Further, the rights provided are so weak that their complete absence from the text would possibly be more appropriate. Indeed, the Bill does no more than protect the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange, share or sell their produce of a protect ed variety. In other words, the Bill only seeks to grant farmers rights over the crops they have grown. This right is so basic that there should be no need to restate it. Also, it sidelines seeds which should be central in this piece of legislation.

It will be useful to compare the section of the Bill with the current draft article on farmers' rights of the revised International Under-taking on Plant Genetic Resources currently being negotiated in the Commission on Gene-tic Resources for Food and Ag riculture of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The rights recognised in this provision include the protection of traditional knowledge, the right to participate in sharing the benefits arising from the use of plant varieties and the right to p articipate in making decisions concerning their management. This article also recognises that no limits should be imposed on the rights that farmers have to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed/propagating material. It is significant that the Bil l uses the same formulation but in a much more restrictive manner since farmers do not get these rights concerning their seeds but only their crops.

While the basic framework of the Bill does not go anywhere near devising an indigenous system that recognises the importance of farmers in the management of plant varieties, the non-commercial motives that may exist for bringing about improvements in pl ant varieties or the need to protect local actors from multinational companies in order to secure food security at the local and national levels, the Bill includes a number of provisions which do not arise out of the UPOV model. The Bill provides for ben efit-sharing and provision for compensation. Benefit-sharing is meant to provide individuals or groups the possibility of receiving financial compensation when their genetic material has been used in the development of a protected variety.

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority to be set up under the Bill is to be entrusted with operationalising this provision. Once a variety is registered, it must first invite claims and decide whether benefit-sharing is due and f ix the quantum of financial compensation to be given. Another provision allows communities to file claims for the contribution they have made to the development of a protected variety. In this case again, the Authority will have the discretion to dispose of the claim.

In themselves, the provisions for benefit-sharing and compensation are significant since they imply a recognition of the fact that protected varieties are often developed on the basis of other existing varieties developed by farmers over time. Both are h owever subject to significant criticism since they replace property rights by a form of financial compensation whose allocation is to be decided unilaterally and freely by the Authority. Further, in the case of benefit-sharing, the claimants can neither stop the registration of the variety nor claim property rights on their own varieties. Indeed, compensation is only offered for material contributed and not for knowledge and there is thus no recognition in the Bill of any intellectual contribution to th e development of a variety by farmer-breeders. More generally, the problem is that there is no provision in the Bill for obtaining the prior informed consent of farmer-breeders. Claims can only be made after a variety is registered. There is no participa tion before that stage and no right to intervene at the point at which a commercial breeder is making an application for registration.

Finally, the Bill puts the burden of the claim on the claimants. This is problematic because it is far from certain whether information concerning the registration of a given variety will easily reach the people and communities which may have a claim for compensation or benefit-sharing.

Some of the other interesting features of the Bill include a specific ban on the registration of any variety containing technologies such as the 'terminator technology' which are injurious to the life or health of human beings, animals or plants. The Bil l, however, lacks a broader provision on the need for an impact assessment of all varieties whose registration is sought.

Overall, it is clear that the Bill should be given a new direction if it is to benefit, besides big commercial breeders, all actors involved in plant varieties management, including farmers and farming communities. Plant breeders' rights like patents ten d to reward only innovations which are the most advanced technologically and grant all the benefits to a single actor. They also participate directly in the process, leading to the privatisation of common and state resources and will thus have a dramatic impact on food security for crores of farmers. At a minimum, a new framework recognising both plant breeders' rights and farmers' rights as equivalent and concurrent rights should be adopted, as already proposed in the context of the FAO a decade ago.

It is clear that plant varieties management is not the only area where India's interests are at stake following the ratification of the TRIPS Agreement. However, it is one of the few areas where TRIPS gives countries some margin of appreciation in decidi ng how to implement their obligations. In the case of pharmaceuticals, for instance, all countries have to introduce product and process patents and no country is given the option of evolving a different scheme. The possibility offered by TRIPS specifica lly to allow countries which did not have a mechanism of plant varieties protection in place before 1995 to devise a system fitted to their needs should be fully utilised. Adopting the UPOV model cannot be an appropriate response to the needs of this cou ntry. Further, the widespread adoption of UPOV by developing countries would only contribute further to the standardisation of norms adopted in the developed countries, something that India tends to reject in international forums.

The Protection of the Plant Varieties Bill was introduced in December ostensibly to allow India to comply with its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement by the January 1, 2000 deadline. Following the breakdown of the talks in Seattle, it is agreed that t he deadlines previously adopted do not currently apply. There is currently no pressure now from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to rush into adopting this Bill. Apart from the need for further work to devise a system of protection adapted to local con ditions, it is imperative that both the Protection of Plant Varieties Bill and the proposed Biodiversity Bill should be considered simultaneously and harmonised. Indeed, the Biodiversity Bill proposed by the Law Commission would apply to all life forms a nd a number of provisions of the current text are definitely at variance with the regime proposed for plant varieties.

Cancer care and cure

the-nation

The Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, which offers world standards in the treatment of cancer, is implementing a programme of further modernisation.

T.S. SUBRAMANIAN recently in Mumbai

THE room is spacious, the curtains drawn, the lighting soft. Several bright-eyed children are engrossed in his or her own activity. One child is busy using yellow building blocks to erect a tower. Another hugs fluffy dolls. A third child is furiously ped alling his tricycle. It is indeed difficult to believe that these children are suffering from cancer.

This is the children's ward in the Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), Mumbai, a premier institution devoted to prevention, diagnosis, treatment of and research in various types of cancer. It is a teaching hospital, all set to become a deemed university. A maj or programme of renovation of the hospital and modernisation of the facilities is now under way in the TMH.

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TMH is the largest cancer hospital in the country in terms of number of patients registered. Last year, about 28,000 patients registered and 18,000 were found to have contracted cancer. About 60 per cent of these 18,000 were treated at TMH.

According to doctors and researchers in the TMH, a "revolution" has taken place in the treatment of childhood cancers. The patients go through the treatment regime "enthusiastically" and 75 per cent of them are cured completely. The revolution is not con fined to the treatment of children but of adults too. This has been accomplished by multi-modal treatment involving surgery, chemotherapy (treatment with drugs) and radiotherapy (treatment by radiation). Radical surgery has given way to minimal surgery. In a majority of cases, the organs affected are no longer removed. In 70 per cent of breast cancer cases, the breast is retained. In throat cancer, the sound box is not removed, and the patient retains the faculty of speech.

But doctors are worried about the rising incidence of cancer in men owing to the use of tobacco, and the high rate of cervical cancer in women. These cancer types are not only entirely preventable but curable if diagnosed early. Most of the cancers are l ifestyle related: among men because of addiction to tobacco; cervical cancer among women due to early marriage, malnutrition, repeated pregnancies, chronic infection and poor hygiene; and breast cancer among women who married late, had fewer children and did not breast-feed their infants.

Dr. Ketayun A. Dinshaw, Director, Tata Memorial Centre, and Professor and Head, Department of Radiation Oncology, TMH, said, "The scourge of the century is the use of tobacco. A majority of cancers that occur among men in our country are in the head and the neck: in the oral cavity, the larynx, the pharynx and the oesophagus. All these are entirely due to tobacco. We are fighting a major battle against the tobacco companies, against the ethos of propagating tobacco in various forms." She said that the c oming decade will see a spurt in tobacco-related cancer types.

According to Dr. A.N. Bhisey, Director, Cancer Research Institute (CRI), located in TMH, research done by the CRI at the instance of the Government of India revealed that even plain paan masala that had no tobacco could cause tumours.

THE biggest advance in the field was the multi-modal approach. Dr. S.H. Advani, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, said: "In the treatment of childhood cancers, we have done wonders. The treatment of adults has undergone a tremendous change... Today w e are doing minimal surgery. We just remove the tumour and give chemotherapy."

Dr. Advani, who exudes optimism, said: "Medical oncology (which did not exist in India until 26 years ago) has had a major impact in converting many incurable forms of cancer into curable ones." Before the advent of oncology, all children afflicted with cancer died. Today, 75 per cent of them are cured. "The survival rate for leukaemia, zero earlier, is now 70 per cent. We feel we have achieved something," Dr. Advani said.

According to Dr. Dinshaw, the Indian Council of Medical Research cancer registry data had predicted that by 2000 there would be one million new cancer cases annually in India, and at any given time there would be two to three million cancer cases (Fro ntline, August 22, 1997). This is where the pioneering role of the TMH comes. Its genesis is interesting. In 1938, Lady Meherbai Tata was diagnosed with leukaemia for which there was no treatment in India. She was taken to the Memorial Sloan Ketterin g Cancer Centre, New York, but she died. The House of Tatas then decided to set up a multi-disciplinary cancer treatment centre. The Tata Memorial Hospital was founded in 1941. Lady Meherbai Tata's husband Dorabji Tata was instrumental in starting it. Th ere were only three or four hospitals in the world then which employed a multi-disciplinary approach but the TMH started off with that. This involved prevention, early diagnosis, treatment, investigative and support services, rehabilitation and terminal care.

Dr. Dinshaw is optimistic that current research will unravel the molecular basis of cancer and lead to a "revolution" in combating it. Rapid progress had already been made in the treatment of cancer with improved technology, evaluation and methods of tre atment. But she is appalled by the ignorance in the country on the causes of cancer.

Dr. Dinshaw, who was appointed Director, TMH, in November 1995 and Director, Tata Memorial Centre, in March 1997, told Frontline: "Today, we are in the era of biological medicine. In the next 25 years, medicine for the treatment of cancer will tot ally change. Molecular biology is going to be the answer. Besides, there is gene therapy. It is not something we are dreaming about or predicting. They are very much there in more and more areas."

IN 1952, the Indian Cancer Research Centre (ICRC) was established with stalwarts like Dr. V.R. Khanolkar at the helm. In 1957, the Tatas handed over the hospital to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In 1962, in order to give a bigger thrus t to the TMH's programmes, with radiation playing a major role, the administrative control of the TMH was transferred to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), when Dr. Homi J. Bhabha was Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. The TMH is now fully sup ported and governed by the DAE.

By 1965-66, the ICRC, later renamed the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), merged with the TMH to become the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC). This meant that basic research was added to clinical research, service, education and training. The TMC is the overarch ing institution under which come the TMH and the CRI.

Dr. Dinshaw said that from 1962, the TMH had made remarkable strides and had reached levels of excellence that were acknowledged locally, regionally and internationally. In the last two years, the TMH had embarked on a programme of total upgradation of a ll facilities. Wards had been renovated to make them more patient-friendly.

On February 25, Dr. Anil K. Kakodkar, Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, inaugurated several new facilities in the Departments of Radiodiagnosis, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Physics. Dr. S.P. Sukhatme, Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, said the TMH was testimony to the level of excellence possible in this country.

Dr. Luis Jose De Souza, Head, Department of Surgery, and chief, gastro-intestinal service, said the TMH had eight operation theatres, and five of them were being "completely modernised". In 1999, it performed 4,430 surgical procedures, 1,629 minor surgic al procedures and 2,892 endoscopies. The outpatient department dealt with 20,000 new cases every year. Dr. De Souza said the Department of Surgery had become a super speciality this year, and M.Ch. would be awarded in surgical oncology. The TMH produced 35 to 40 Ph.Ds a year.

Dr. Advani said children constituted ten per cent of the patients in his Department of Medical Oncology. They get chemotherapy. Leukaemia is the most common disease among children and it is the most curable form. Out of every 100 cases, about 70 are cure d. "Every week we do one bone marrow transplant. With that our cure rate has gone up remarkably," he added.

Dr. Advani said that 20 years ago acute lymphoblastic leukaemia was 100 per cent fatal. "Today we can confidently say that 75 per cent of the children will be totally cured."

While leukaemia was treated with chemotherapy, tumours in the breasts, lungs, head and neck, stomach, and ovaries required the multi-disciplinary approach: surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Although chemotherapy had side-effects, most of them could be prevented by drugs.

New biological treatments had been developed. One involved the use of monochlonal antibodies which targeted only tumour cells, and normal cells were not killed. Enzyme inhibitors was an area of tremendous interest. Although the cause of most of the cance rs was not known, the process of the development of the cancerous cells was clearly understood, which facilitated newer forms of treatment. In future, treatment would attack/treat the cancerous/defective cells which had gone out of control. The treatment would not last months because the defect in the genes would be repaired. Dr. Advani said, "I am hopeful of another revolution in ten years."

According to Dr. Ashok Mohan, Advisor to the Director and Projects Coordinator, TMC, what was unique about the TMH was that it not only treated patients but gave them total care. Seventy per cent of the patients were treated free of cost. Since a patient would have to stay for weeks, accommodation was needed for his relatives. So homes had been set up at Ghatkopar, Dadar, Parel and Bandra where the relatives could stay free of cost or at minimal charges. There was a tie-up with BEST for running buses fr om Ghatkopar to TMH. When the patients returned for check-ups, they could stay in these homes.

Dr. I. Mittra, Chief of Breast Services and Professor of Surgery, calls himself "a three-way schizophrenic": he is a practising surgeon; he is a Ph.D. (in cancer biology) doing research in the laboratory; and he does public health research work in the co mmunity.

Dr. Mittra said, "New treatment modalities have been evolved now in the preservation of the breast, eliminating the trauma caused by removal. You don't remove the breast now but only the tumour/lump." This was achieved by "the combined expertise" of the surgeon, a pathologist, a radiologist and a medical oncologist. "I may remove the tumour. But its margins should be such that tumourous cells are not left behind. Even if tumourous cells are seen, we have developed criteria to decide how much can be left behind. If the margins are grossly positive, we will re-excise the area. If they are minimally positive, we can leave the area as such," Dr. Mittra said. Sixty per cent of the patients with breast cancer at the TMH now received breast conserving surgery . In the early 1980s, it was about five per cent.

Dr. Mittra said, "The incidence of breast cancer is rising rapidly. It is related to economic and industrial development. The reason behind the rise is that women are getting empowered and they are getting emancipated. This is a contradiction." The incid ence was four to five times higher in the West than in India.

Since prevention was better than cure, the TMH had embarked upon a major programme of early detection of breast and cervical cancer. The programme covered 1.5 lakh women from poor economic backgrounds in 10 areas of Mumbai, with funding from the National Institutes of Health, United States. This was a large randomised trial in which one group did clinical examination of the breast and another visual examination of the cervix. The survey would be done every 18 months over six years. According to Dr. Mitt ra, it is one of the largest community-based trials ever conducted.

Dr. De Souza said, "Our aim is to conserve the organs wherever possible." His personal interest was in palliative care which came in when the disease could not be treated any more. At that stage, pain relief was important so that the patient could pass away peacefully.

NUCLEAR medicine deals with the use of radiopharmaceuticals and radiation for the investigation, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. If nuclear medicine using radio isotopes has made big advances in India, the credit should go to a team of pioneers incl uding Dr. V.K. Iya, 72, who retired as Director of the Isotope Group, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay.

According to Dr. Iya, the three strong elements of the nuclear medicine programme in India are the availability of radiopharmaceuticals; the availability of advanced electronic systems to measure radio isotopes; and clinical expertise. Dr. Iya said: "Som e of our nuclear medicine centres are on a par with those anywhere in the world. In the entire field of radiation medicine which includes nuclear medicine and radiation oncology, the TMH is one of the finest institutions."

Of tobacco and cancer

the-nation
T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

DR. A.N. BHISEY, Director of the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), Tata Memorial Centre, is a keen student of cancer, especially cancer caused by tobacco use. The CRI has done significant work in major areas of cancer research, including on how the use of tobacco leads to cancer of the head and the neck (cheeks, tongue and throat) and to what extent workers in the tobacco industry face the risk of contracting cancer.

Dr. Bhisey, who has a Ph.D. in cell biology from Mumbai University, said: "We work on problems relevant to India. Our major thrust area is research on cancer of the head and the neck, which is the number one type of cancer in India." Thus, according to h im, research at the CRI is directed towards oral and throat cancer, which are caused by the chewing of tobacco, smoking and using tobacco in the form of snuff. He said: "We have done a lot of epidemiological studies on this. A major problem is that peopl e stuff tobacco in their mouths and this leads to cancer in the cheeks. This type of cancer is prevalent only in India. However, cancer of the tongue is prevalent in other countries as well."

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In the case of people who chew tobacco, first a white patch appears on the inside of the cheek. In some people it might lead to cancer. Dr. Bhisey said: "Our inquiry is into the changes that take place when the white patch occurs. The question is, what a re the changes that progressively occur in the cheeks when they come into contact with tobacco? Why do they develop tumours? So we analyse the chemistry of tobacco also."

There are two groups of genes, called oncogenes and suppressor genes. Oncogenes are part of normal genes. In the case of human cancer, several oncogenes get altered in a sequence. The proteins that the genes make get altered. Besides, tobacco-induced can cers, although initially localised, invade the surrounding parts subsequently. This means that cancerous cells become more aggressive. Dr. Bhisey said: "We study the cells that get altered in the pre-cancerous, white-patch stage, and also the progressive stages that lead to the formation of a tumour."

The second group of genes consist of suppressor genes, which maintain tight control on the cell. If their function is impeded, malignancy occurs. The CRI Director said that if one knew the protein that altered the structure of the genes, it would help in understanding cancer. So it was important to understand the changes that occurred in the genes. He added: "Once you see the stages (of changes) and their progress, you can use them to predict whether they will develop into cancer or stay put. All this i nformation can be used to devise strategies for treatment. The information can be used to design drugs that will specifically react with the altered proteins." Dr. Bhisey said that an "interesting" study by CRI scientists had revealed that people who swa llowed tobacco juice faced a high probability of developing stomach cancer.

Five years ago the Government of India asked the CRI to find out whether the use of paan masala which did not have tobacco as an ingredient led to cancer. Dr. Bhisey said: "We did various types of experiments using mice of different strains. The importan t finding of these is that chewing paan masala that does not contain tobacco is also dangerous and those who used it ran the risk of getting cancer. It caused different types of tumours."

In the human body, there are different types of blood cells called lymphocytes. They are involved in killing cancer cells. At the CRI, studies were conducted on how to make this process of killing more efficient. These experiments could not be done on pa tients; the patients' lymphocytes were added to cultured tumourous cells and then it was studied whether the killing of the cancer cells by lymphocytes could be made more efficient. Besides, these tumours were grown in nude mice, which have a very defici ent immune system, and a variety of experiments were carried out.

The CRI analysed tobacco grown in different States, such as Assam, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, to find out whether there were 'safer' varieties of tobacco. Tobacco samples were analysed to find out their harmful constituents. The CRI also monitored worke rs in tobacco-related industries for any effect of tobacco on them. Excessively high levels of tobacco dust were found on the factory premises. Chronic inhalation of tobacco dust was found to be associated with increased chromosomal damage in the workers . According to Dr. Bhisey, the study shows that the workers face a greater risk of developing tobacco-related cancers.

Another area studied was whether genetic factors played a role in the susceptibility to tobacco-related cancers. Dr. Bhisey predicted that as the secrets of the human genome unfolded, new medicines would emerge. He said that by looking at individuals' ge netic makeup it might be possible to predict the relative risk to a host of disorders, including cancer. Molecular genetics will, therefore, dominate the scene, according to him. "With this in mind, considerable emphasis is placed at the Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC, in Navi Mumbai, where the CRI will shift soon) on developing recombinant DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) technology, molecular and cellular immunology, molecular genetics and molecular epidemiology," t he CRI Director said.

AT the CRI, important research on gene therapy is under way. It is the first institute in India to have initiated moves to set up a gene therapy laboratory. The technology was acquired with the help of scientists from the Salk Institute, San Diego, Unite d States, and the Human Gene Therapy Research Institute, Iowa, U.S. Dr. Bhisey said: "We were the first laboratory in India to initiate pre-clinical studies for gene therapy in cancer using the 'suicide' gene strategy." The work on gene therapy is funded by the Union Government's Department of Biotechnology.

Conventional therapies for cancer are radiotherapy (using X-rays, cobalt, and so on) and chemotherapy (drugs). Gene therapy is in the trial stage. Dr. Bhisey said that after pre-clinical trials, the CRI would start clinical trials. There were protocols i nvolved in this. Permission from statutory authorities had to be obtained before the trials began, he said.

The CRI is now located on the premises of the Tata Memorial Hospital at Parel in Mumbai. The ACTREC, of which the CRI will form a part, has spacious premises. The ACTREC will provide modern facilities for cancer research. While the CRI now occupies only 3,400 square metres, the ACTREC will have 11,448 sq m at its disposal. The entire premises occupy an area of 24 hectares. In the first phase, the CRI at ACTREC will have a main block, an animal house with modern facilities, and sections for cell biology, biological chemistry, immunology, carcinogenesis, chemotherapy, neuro-oncology, cell and developmental pathology and epidemiology.

A lecture to Pakistan

Bill Clinton has done some plain-speaking to the Pakistanis, but India must realise that the United States frames its policy on the basis of its own national interest and not on Indian concerns.

BILL CLINTON did not deviate from his Pakistan agenda. His plain-speaking through a direct television address to the people of Pakistan served as a warning to the country's leadership. He made a call to Pakistan to correct its course on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts. When his public remarks were so direct and pointed, there is little doubt that he was harsher in his private talks with the Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Islamabad had been converted into a garrison town in preparation for the Clinton visit. Army personnel were present everywhere. The U.S. used a "decoy" aircraft to ensure that nothing went wrong at the Chaklala airbase when Clinton's plane touched down t here on March 25. Pakistani newspapers reported that Chaklala looked more like a U.S. airbase; some even claimed that Pakistani military personnel at the airport were unarmed.

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There was no arrival statement, joint statement or departure statement. Press coverage of the Clinton-Musharraf meeting was closely regulated. A picture of the two sitting some 10 feet apart was circulated; the television shots permitted were also of the same league. Clearly, the U.S. did not want anyone to "use" a meeting between its civilian President and a military ruler.

Clinton said that it was up to the people of Pakistan to decide their future. "Of course, no one from the outside can tell Pakistan how it should be governed. That is for you, the people of Pakistan, to decide, and you should be given the opportunity to do so. I hope and believe you want Pakistan to be a country where the rule of law prevails; a country where officials are accountable; a country where people can express their points of view without fear; a country that wisely forsakes revenge for the wo unds of the past, and instead pursues reconciliation for the sake of the future. If you choose this path, your friends in the United States will stand with you."

He went on: "I hope you will be able to meet the difficult challenges we have discussed today. If you do not, there is a danger that Pakistan may grow even more isolated, draining even more resources away from the needs of the people, moving even closer to a conflict no one can win. But if you do meet these challenges, our full economic and political partnership can be restored for the benefit of the people of Pakistan."

What Clinton did was to lay down a classical carrot-and-stick policy framework for an erstwhile ally whose role in bringing down the Soviet Union was duly acknowledged in the television address. If you do this you can gain this, and if you do not then yo u stand to lose a lot.

On the regional front, Clinton did not mince his words. He was far from diplomatic in his assertions though his statements were couched in a manner that few could take direct offence at.

He said:

"Like all key moments in human history, this one poses some hard choices, for this era does not reward those who struggle in vain to redraw borders with blood (Kargil). It belongs to those with the vision to look beyond borders, for partners and commerce and trade...

"I believe it is also in Pakistan's interests to reduce tension with India. When I was in New Delhi, I urged India to seize the opportunity for dialogue. Pakistan also must help create conditions that will allow dialogue to succeed. For India and Pakista n, this must be a time for restraint, for respect for the Line of Control and renewed lines of communication.

"I have listened carefully to General Musharraf and others. I understand your concerns about Kashmir. I share your conviction that human rights of all its people must be respected. But a stark truth must also be faced. There is no military solution to Ka shmir. International sympathy, support and intervention cannot be won by provoking a bigger, bloodier conflict. On the contrary, sympathy and support will be lost. And no matter how great the grievance, it is wrong to support attacks against civilians ac ross the Line of Control... We (the U.S.) want to be a force for peace. But we cannot force peace. We can't impose it. We cannot and will not mediate or resolve the dispute in Kashmir. Only you and India can do that, through dialogue."

President Clinton added that he would do everything possible to restore the Lahore process.

In an indirect reference to the Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, he mentioned the "core" issue of terrorism: "There are obstacles in your progress, including violence and extremism. We Americans have also felt these evils. Surely, we have both suffered en ough to know that no grievance, no cause, no system of beliefs can ever justify deliberate killing of innocents. Those who bomb bus stations, target embassies and kill those who uphold the law are not heroes... Just as we have fought together to defeat t hose who traffic in narcotics, today I ask Pakistan to intensify its efforts to defeat those who inflict terror."

Those Indians who congratulate themselves that "their" point of view has been finally endorsed by the U.S., fail to realise that U.S. concerns about terrorism stem from U.S. interests, not Indian ones. If Pakistan plays ball on the crucial issue of Osama bin Laden and terrorism, India might find that Washington becomes less harsh on Islamabad. American foreign policy is determined by the national interest, and not extraneous considerations. And, as everyone knows, the national interest is an ever-changi ng concept.

The fact remains that Pakistan today faces enormous pressure to restructure its foreign policy. When Clinton points to the danger of it becoming even more isolated, he is talking of what will happen in the days to come if Islamabad does not correct its c ourse.

By all accounts, Musharraf showed no signs of accommodation. He did not state that he was willing to create conditions that are conducive to a dialogue with India or to stop supporting attacks on civilians across the Line of Control. He repeated the oft- repeated Pakistani view that there was no "official support" for militant groups operating in Kashmir.

The General, speaking at a press conference shortly after Clinton left Islamabad, made it clear that he was not about to take any "unilateral steps" to reduce tensions with India. If India stopped its "repression" in Kashmir, then Pakistan would use its influence over the militant groups to moderate their activities, he said.

Clearly such a quid pro quo is simply unacceptable to India. The time has come for Pakistan to shut down the camps that train terrorists - the time has come for Pakistan to realise that 11 years down the line its strategy in Kashmir is leading now here, no matter what the cost to the people of Kashmir and the Indian security establishment.

Having said that, India must keep its channels of communication open with Pakistan: this is not to suggest that New Delhi rush into a substantive dialogue with Islamabad. Clinton's message to both India and Pakistan was that the dialogue must be resumed. "Normal" diplomatic activity between the two countries should commence. One American scholar recently described the state of communication between India and Pakistan as worse than that between Iran and the U.S.

There is a big lesson for India in Clinton's visit to Islamabad. New Delhi, which was dead set against such a visit, must have realised the benefits of Clinton's plain-speaking. Had Clinton not gone to Islamabad, his message could not have been as loud a nd clear as it was.

New Delhi must also realise the benefits of engagement as opposed to the politics of untouchability. Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to Lahore in February 1999 came on the eve of a gruesome massacre of innocent civilians in Kashmir at the hands of "jehadi f orces". Similarly, India at every opportunity must raise the issue of terrorism with Pakistan.

New Delhi must realise that Kargil was not Nawaz Sharif's or Musharraf's baby. It was a Pakistani creation. Upholding the virtues of Sharif and condemning Musharraf (Sharif the "approver" of Kargil and Musharraf the "author") does not make for sound poli cy.

Clinton has come and gone, but the regional situation in South Asia remains much the same - despite his lecture to the Pakistanis and the emerging contours of a new relationship between the U.S. and India. If Clinton was serious about the lecture, then i n the weeks and months ahead one must see concrete evidence of continued engagement between Washington and Islamabad. If that engagement fails, then the pressure will surely begin to mount on the unelected regime.

The red carpet all the way

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In terms of the logistical arrangements made, Clinton's visit was the "mother of all state visits" at least as far as security was concerned.

JOHN CHERIAN

WHEN President Clinton visited Athens earlier in the year, students and workers went on the rampage, targeting American multinationals and paralysing the Greek capital. They were protesting against the United States Government's policies. The U.S-led Nor th Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) bombings of Yugoslavia were still fresh in their memory. Clinton could not have been too pleased with that visit. But he is sure to take back fond memories of his trip to the Asian subcontinent. Crowds were kept out of his sight, and the few people he met were politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen or sections of the glitterati.

It was the "mother of all state visits" at least as far as security was concerned. Parts of Delhi, Dhaka, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Agra and Mumbai were put under a security blanket. Clinton was, after all, visiting the "most dangerous place" in the world. In Delhi some areas were virtually out of bounds for the "natives", and the telephone system in the city was tapped for weeks in advance. Security in many of the five-star hotels and public places was taken over by U.S. security men, marked by dar k glasses and ear phones.

The capital was given a face-lift. The number of beggars in the streets visibly declined. Anti-American slogans and posters put up by Left parties and progressive organisations were removed. Instead the "Stars and Stripes" and the "Tricolour" swayed side by side in New Delhi for three days. The Government and the Indian Chambers of Commerce had put up huge hoardings and banners welcoming Clinton. However, the Delhi administration was not as high-handed as the Chandrababu Naidu Government in Andhra Prade sh, which evicted destitutes from the streets of Hyderabad in preparation for the four-hour visit of the "great white hope".

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The government went out of its way to see that the visit was a success. When Clinton visited the Taj Mahal, overzealous officials wanted the water level in the Yamuna to be raised so that grime and dirt would not be visible to the dignitary. But Harayana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala refused to release any water, which was needed more by the farmers.

Clinton's daughter Chelsea's wish to witness the spring festival of Holi was immediately met: none other than External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh received the First Daughter at Jodhpur, where she witnessed the festival, held appropriately in a palace .

Jaswant Singh had earlier created minor protocol problems by being present at the airport on the day Clinton arrived in New Delhi. As Clinton had not officially begun his visit to India, the task of receiving him was given to Minister of State for Extern al Affairs Ajit Kumar Panja. Panja's claim to fame was snatched by Jaswant Singh, who unexpectedly came to the airport tarmac to receive Clinton. Panja had reportedly to use his influence to get through the security cover and hand over the bouquet of yel low flowers he had personally selected for the visiting President.

Panja's eagerness to come in close contact with the U.S. President was shared by most of his fellow parliamentarians, except those belonging to the Left parties, as was illustrated by the virtual stampede in Parliament as members jostled with one another to greet Clinton after he finished his speech. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had ended his speech by telling the U.S. President that the Indian people would never forget him and that he in turn should not forget the Indian people. Media-savvy obse rvers however felt that by speaking in Hindi Vajpayee missed a great opportunity in explaining India's stand on key issues to the world when major television networks such as CNN and BBC were carrying Clinton's address to the Indian Parliament live. But the world was witness to the thunderous ovation Clinton got from the Indian parliamentarians and the way he was virtually mobbed by them.

Clinton, in his address to the parliamentarians, praised the Government of Kerala for its achievements in the field of women's empowerment. His speech writers had probably not told him that much of the development in the State had taken place under the a uspices of governments dominated by the Left parties. During the last official visit of an Indian Prime Minister to the U.S. Congress, only a few Congressmen and Senators bothered to be present: Congressional staff had to fill the vacant seats when Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao gave his address.

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The official press conference addressed by President Clinton was carefully orchestrated. Only four questions were permitted, and they seemed to have been vetted beforehand. But nobody complained. During his 10-day visit to China in 1998, Clinton subjecte d himself freely to questions from the media and even spent an hour with university students in Beijing, answering questions that touched contentious issues. Top Indian officials were, however, on hand to brief the American media accompanying Clinton. Th e Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Brajesh Mishra, reportedly told foreign journalists that the Government was thinking of placing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) issue before Parliament in the Budget session.

The business team accompanying the U.S. President to China was twice the size of and more high-powered than the one that he took with him during the South Asia trip. But a veteran Asia watcher, who covered President Richard Nixon's historic trip to China , said that Clinton's five-day trip to India would send the right signals to the American business community. He said that the American business houses rushed to invest in China after the Nixon visit. But despite the hype, only $4.4 billion worth of deal s were signed during the Clinton visit to India. Clinton and the American businessmen accompanying him see a big business opportunity in the gas and petroleum sector.

American companies have been keen on a gas pipeline linking Central Asia to India and beyond. A new story that appeared when Clinton was in India said that the Pakistan Government had cleared the proposal for a gas pipeline connecting Iran with India. Th e Americans are more interested in gas coming from Turkmenistan where American companies have a big stake. Clinton's meeting with a leading industrial house was said to be related to the "gas pipeline" politics of the region. Clinton had failed to persua de Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed to export gas to India. Hasina told Clinton that her country wanted to retain for domestic consumption gas reserves equivalent to 50 years' requirement. Her refusal to sell gas to India is more related to the charge by Opposition parties that the Government is selling out to Indian interests. Clinton, however, seems to have got an assurance that Bangladesh will sell gas to India after the next general elections.

A wave of protests

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T.K. RAJALAKSHMI

A NUMBER of political parties and other democratic organisations reacted to the blitz and ballyhoo that surrounded the visit of President Bill Clinton in the language of protest. Going beyond the realm of rhetoric, they questioned the United States' fore ign policy, pegging their dissent on the U.S. role in a unipolar world.

At various forums, leaders of Left parties pointed out instances of military intervention by Washington (in Korea in the 1950s and in Vietnam in the 1960s and the 1970s), its moves to destabilise governments that refused to follow its dictates, and its s upport to coups in Guatemala and Chile. The more recent cases of military aggression they cited included the Gulf war in 1991 and the subsequent military and economic bombardment of Iraq, the economic blockade against Cuba, and the U.S.-led North Atlanti c Treaty Organisation (NATO) bombings in Yugoslavia.

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The organisations demanded that the U.S. withdraw all sanctions against India, stop pressuring India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and lift the restrictions on the legitimate flow of Indian professionals and other personnel to the U.S.

In a unique show of solidarity, all the Left parties staged demonstrations and organised public meetings and conventions to protest against what they called the blatantly imperialist, interventionist, hegemonic and expansionist agenda of the U.S. The tem po of the protests was kept up all through the five-day visit. On March 19, the day Clinton arrived in New Delhi, there were loud expressions of protest not only in New Delhi and in other cities that he was scheduled to visit, but also in other parts of the country; in Kerala, the Left parties supported a strike called by the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Red Flag; in Calcutta, the ruling Left Front and the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) staged demonstrations, which were led in som e places by senior CPI(M) Ministers and other leaders; the CPI(M) held a Statewide protest in Tamil Nadu on March 21; and on March 23, victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy protested in Mumbai against U.S. multinationals. In Varanasi, Forward Bloc activists took out processions and burnt effigies of Clinton. The Left parties staged such demonstrations in Thane. In Jaipur and Agra, cities which Clinton visited, the Left parties and the National Alliance of People's Movements staged protests.

In New Delhi, the Left parties and their mass organisations, under the banner of the Committee Against U.S. Imperialism, staged a demonstration in front of the American Centre, defying a ban on demonstrations. People assembled in their hundreds and shout ed slogans such as "Clinton, go back", and denounced the U.S. as being "an implacable enemy of all national liberation struggles and freedom-loving nations and movements for radical social transformation throughout the 20th century." The demonstrators in cluded Left parliamentarians, and they were arrested after water cannons failed to disperse them.

What was notable was that other progressive organisations joined the Left parties in raising issues such as those relating to unfair trade agreements under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the gross misuse of the United Nations Security Council mec hanism to organise military aggression. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government also came under fire for disregarding the principle of non-alignment while agreeing to join a U.S. ideological enterprise called the Community of Democracies. In a strongly worded statement, the CPI(M) said that this was the first time that the Indian government had become part of a U.S. political enterprise intended to project the latter's version of democracy and free market.

The very first major round of protest against Clinton's visit was held under the aegis of the All India Anti-Imperialist Forum, a group formed in 1995. On March 10, the forum organised an all-India Citizens' Convention Against Imperialism in New Delhi.hi . Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, president of the forum, said that the U.S. President was being a surrogate for American corporate power. Expressing resentment at the red carpet welcome extended to Clinton, the Convention held that the so-called champion of peace, upholder of democracy and votary of human rights was the perpetrator of the worst form of criminal activities in the international political arena. It accused Clinton of having "launched murderous missile attacks on sovereign countries such as Afg hanistan and Sudan on the plea of fighting terrorism, while the U.S. administration itself had been aiding and abetting terrorist groups."

The reticence shown by the BJP and its allies and also the Congress(I) was but inevitable given their capitulation on economic policy issues. What was even more striking was the deafening silence of the right-wing 'swadeshi' groups.

A senior Congress(I) leader, however, showed less restraint. Jitendra Prasada described the decision by five Left parties - the CPI(M), the Communist Party of India, the CPI(M-L), the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party - to boycott Clinto n's address to Parliament as an "irresponsible" act. Groups such as the Azaadi Bachao Andolan, the Bandhua Mukti Morcha and the Loktantrik Samajwadi Party, in solidarity with the Left parties, held a mock parliament criticising U.S. policy.

PROTESTS were witnessed also in Pakistan and Bangladesh, two other countries Clinton visited. The Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP) held a demonstration on March 22 outside the U.S. Consulate in Lahore despite a ban announced by the Gen. Pervez Musharraf go vernment on political rallies and strikes. Members of the LPP carried placards which read "Clinton go back", "Killer Clinton", and "Killer of Iraqi children" and raised slogans against U.S. imperialism. They pointed out that the visit was a conspiracy ag ainst the working class. They appealed to the trade unions and the working class in the subcontinent to protest against Clinton's visit as it was aimed at pushing the imperialist economic agenda in order to exploit the region.

Although the scale of the protests in India was restricted owing to the Central Government's determination to exaggerate the importance of the visit, one thing emerged loud and clear: that the new world order under the leadership of the U.S. was not acce ptable to the Left and democratic forces.

'I see the signs of a post-Cold War era'

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Former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral was in the United States when President Bill Clinton came on his India tour. However, he had detailed discussions with senior U.S. officials including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott prior to Clinton 's visit. In fact, discussions with the former Indian Prime Minister were part of the preparatory exercise undertaken by the U.S. officialdom as part of the presidential visit.

Gujral assessed the visit in a positive light. Before the visit he maintained that the time had come for a white paper on the "strategic discussions" that have been going on between India and U.S. representatives for the last one and a half years. After the visit, he feels that bilateral issues between India and the U.S. have become much more transparent. In an interview given to Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, Gujral said that there is a new orientation in Indo-U.S. relations now and both countries have to build on this. Excerpts:

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How would you assess the overall impact of the U.S. President's visit?

The visit was the culmination of a process started in 1997, when I, as Prime Minister, had met Clinton. At that time I had perceived a growing interest in the U.S. about India. Two things had contributed to this. One, of course, was the growing market in India. The second was the increasing clout of the 'Indian Americans'. In this context, I told President Clinton that the time had come to get away from the influence of the Cold War in our bilateral relations and evolve it in a holistic manner. I pointe d out that the relationship, in the past, had been confined to one issue or a couple of issues, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). I think this beginning was sustained. In fact, the President would have come earlier if the U.S. had not tak en a tough position on the Pokhran nuclear tests.

Before his visit I was in Washington and had detailed discussions with senior U.S. officials. I had also written to the President repeating the need to develop a holistic relationship. I am happy that this approach has been followed up, particularly in t he Vision Statement signed by Clinton and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The Vision Statement examines our relationship holistically in terms of multi-dimensionalism, and it takes care of circumstances and viewpoints prevailing in India.

But does the visit represent a new beginning or a shift in the strategic balance in South Asia?

These are cliches which I do not use. But I do see the advantages or the signs of a post-Cold War era. It benefits and should benefit a new orientation to our bilateral relationship.

Do you think there has been any kind of appreciation of India's position on the CTBT and the minimum nuclear deterrent? Would pressure to accede to the CTBT still persist?

The Vision Statement itself makes it clear that the Indian position is appreciated. On CTBT, even the U.S. is yet to solve its internal problems. The Senate is yet to clear the U.S. Government's position. Nor has the Russian Duma or China done it. Hence, the question is far away. And secondly, India has made the commitment that we are not going to test anymore. I think this serves the purpose of the U.S. to a large extent.

There has been some controversy about President K.R. Narayanan's banquet speech. What is your perception on that?

I don't take a negative view of the President's speech. The propaganda on the Indian subcontinent being the "most dangerous place on earth" is part of a bogeyism that has existed for long. In 1989-90, the bogey was that India and Pakistan are going to ha ve a nuclear war. You would recall David Hurst's article that weapons were even loaded into planes. As Foreign Minister then, I had repeatedly said that this was not right. Yet the bogey was persisted with to an absurd level. Then the book, Critical Mass , advanced this further. This is part of the strategy to raise public sentiment to the level of panic. In fact, the Musharrafism that we see now in Pakistan coincides with this strategy. I am glad that President K.R. Narayanan, with the consent of the go vernment or otherwise, punctured this bogey. This should not be analysed simplistically, as some sections of the Indian media have done, by debating whether these were harsh words or discourteous words. What President Narayanan did simply was to state wh at effect the "dangerous place" statement had and whom it helps. It clearly spelt out one part of the Indian perception of foreign policy. And I do not think that the Americans have taken it amiss.

After the Clinton visit, there are conceptions about possible steps from Pakistan. One projection is that they would curtail artillery cover for infiltrations across the Line of Control and cordon off the terrorist training camps on their territory. Do you think some such actions will be taken in the near future?

Training camps have always been there. Only their operations have been varying in intensity. Now it has acquired more dangerous proportions because Afghanistan has stepped in. Even Musharraf admits that there are camps in Afghanistan. The U.S. is also al ive to this situation now. They have come a long way from the position that there is no conclusive evidence for the training camps. I suppose statements from President Clinton such as the one pointing out that the borders cannot be redrawn with blood, wo uld have a positive effect; though it is too early to say whether Pakistan would take positive action.

What kind of impact do you expect from the agreements on economics, trade, and science and technology?

The Vision Statement and President Clinton's speech in Parliament indicate that cooperation in these areas will improve.

A postcard from India

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AMITAVA KUMAR

INDIAN newspapers lavished a great deal of attention on how much Bill Clinton had loved the mango ice cream he was served during a banquet in New Delhi. I learned this, oddly enough, from The New York Times.

As for me, living in Florida, when Peter Jennings broadcast on the ABC television network the first of his several reports on Clinton's visit to India, I settled down in front of the television set with curry chicken on my plate.

Jennings focussed that night on India's wars with Pakistan over Kashmir. We were shown footage of the conflict in Kargil which had claimed more than a thousand lives last summer. For a few moments, we saw the glaciers of Siachen where the Indian and Paki stani armies routinely exchange fire at freezing altitudes.

As the camera picked out the soldiers trudging in the immense, snowy wastes, it was difficult to know whether they were Indians or Pakistanis.

The slow-moving figures seemed to be dwarfed as much by the Himalayan peaks as by a meaningless cause that had somehow become so much bigger than them.

In his book Countdown, the writer Amitav Ghosh mentions that the military effort in Siachen costs India $20 million every day. The cost for Pakistan, although lower, is also substantial and therefore devastating to its national economy. Ghosh writes: "If the money spent on the glacier were to be divided up and handed out to the people of India and Pakistan, every household in both countries would be able to go out and buy a new cooking stove or a bicycle."

At one point during the ABC broadcast, I saw Indian women at a rally holding a cloth banner whose odd diction caught my eye. It read: "We Proud On Our Nuclear Tests."

I am often called upon to "explain" the Indian reality to my students or colleagues. But, in that misplaced syntax of the banner - a result of the transposition of the rules of Hindi grammar onto the words of English - I saw a way for emblematising the c ondition of contemporary Indian politics. The BJP's ultranationalist ideology has its roots in the non-English-speaking middle class, in India's small towns and its metropolitan petty bourgeois sections. It is in that broad group that the ruling right-wi ng party finds its support.

Consequently, in Indian politics, it is the liberal elites and the downtrodden poor and minorities that are left to give voice to another, alternative ideology. Thus, we get to witness the Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy courting arrest alongsi de the tribal men and women who will be displaced by the building of the mega dam on the Narmada river in central India. This latter group of the aggrieved elite and the terminally tormented was not party to the dialogues with Clinton during his visit. I n fact, party to Clinton's entourage were executives from the Ogden Energy group who signed an agreement with S. Kumars (for the Maheshwar dam in Madhya Pradesh), thereby hurting the campaign against big dams.

It is entirely possible, however, that given the prejudice of my own class and my profession, I might be reading too much into the simple message of the banner about the bomb. But, in such circumstances, it is difficult to know when one is reading too mu ch or too little. The signs of culture often challenge and baffle the critic. For example, in the ethnic Indian press here in the U.S., I recently came across an Indian beer company which in its new advertisement campaign enjoins Indian customers to beco me serious drinkers, with the slogan: "Vices can get you far. Look where it got Clinton."

Vices or not, Clinton certainly got to go as far as India.

The New York Times, among the numerous photographs it printed of the American President in the Indian subcontinent, also carried one which showed Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, posing in front of the beautiful Taj Mahal. On seeing that photogr aph, I was reminded of another, also taken in front of the Taj, which showed Chelsea smiling for the cameras with her mother, Hillary Clinton. That picture had been taken during the pair's visit to Indiadia in 1995.

I was then living in an Arab section of New York City. The Oklahoma City bombing had taken place only a few days before. The U.S. media had raged about Arab terrorists. Then they discovered that the bomber was a white American, Timothy McVeigh, and he lo oked, as a mediawatch analyst described it, more like a midwestern frat-boy than like the Mujahideen.

One morning, I walked into a store near my apartment to buy bread. The Yemeni store-owner had put on the wall behind him the photograph he had cut out of a newspaper. It showed Hillary and Chelsea Clinton seated together in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra . I asked the Yemeni man why he had pasted that picture.

He began to answer me and then anger overwhelmed him. He stopped. He had started by saying, "I wanted to show how proud people feel when they're not Muslim..." Then, his voice choked with emotion and he fell silent.

What was he trying to tell me? I will never know.

Maybe he was saying that the beauty of the Taj Mahal, which could of course be described as an example of Islamic architecture, was here being appreciated by people who, in some indirect way, were responsible for the death of a million Muslims in Iraq.

I cannot say for sure.

But whatever name we give to that emotion, I could see that it was a pain mixed with rage that made the store-owner silent.

Maybe it was the fact that the smiling women in the photograph, sitting in front of a mausoleum and with a mosque on the side, looked so happy? And so very different from that pregnant Arab woman who, hiding alone in her bathroom, suffered a miscarriage because a mob in a midwestern American town surrounded and threw stones at her home. All because someone of her faith had quickly been assumed to be the one who had planted the bomb in Oklahoma City.

That is the memory to which my mind returned when I saw the picture of Clinton standing in the sun in front of the marble Taj.

I want to think of this memory as a postcard that the American President sent me from his vacation in the country of my birth.

Amitava Kumar is the author of

, coming out next month from the University of California Press.

'Clinton has held out for the future'

cover-story

Former Ambassador N.N. Jha, who heads the foreign affairs committee in the BJP, shared with Sukumar Muralidharan his perceptions of President Bill Clinton's visit. Excerpts from an interview conducted just before Clinton reached Pakistan at the end of his six-day tour of India and Bangladesh:

What is your broad assessment of the Clinton visit and its outcome?

I have broadly divided this entire exercise into three parts. There is, first of all, the CTBT and the nuclear dimension, where differences still persist. That was to be expected. Anyone who thought that the tremendous differences that exist would be nar rowed down just because the U.S. President came here, was proved wrong. Clinton has a domestic law to contend with and it is not open to him at all to waive sanctions at the stroke of a pen. His posture has been couched in a language which indicates, fir st of all, his own helplessness at the lack of ratification (of the CTBT) within his country. Secondly, he has also said that he appreciates India's security concerns. Further, he has held out for the future that we could have a continuing dialogue. My p ersonal assessment there is that over a period of time, the U.S. can adjust - not accommodate - but adjust to the de facto reality of India being a nuclear weapons power.

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Does this mean being a part of the NPT regime?

We cannot possibly be a part of that regime. But our security concerns have been appreciated much better now. Strobe Talbott's remarks just before the visit began should also be understood in its context. He said that there is not much chance of India ca pping, rolling back or eliminating its nuclear weapons potential. So you must read the whole thing as one integrated whole.

What are the other important aspects of this visit in your assessment?

The second and perhaps more important part is the political and security dimension. A process that was inaugurated when the Kargil war was on, that is of ensuring some form of sanctity for the Line of Control, has now been taken forward at a very high le vel. The habit of equating India with Pakistan is perhaps coming to an end now.

Another thing is, of course, the dimension of terrorism. This again is a process that had already commenced; the first meeting of the Joint Working Group on terrorism took place last February.

You must also take into account a few other factors - one of Clinton's suggestions is the renewal of dialogue. I don't think he is likely to go back on that. Personally, I think he put it very well in his speech in Parliament, in as inoffensive a manner as possible. And then at his press conference he has said that he appreciates it is difficult to commence negotiations when a climate of violence exists and the LoC is being violated. That is as close as anybody can come to our standpoint. It is a kind o f tacit endorsement of a line we have taken all along.

Clinton has said a few other things in his interview to an American network, which, I think, are very significant. He has said words to the effect that Pakistan is very keen to drag the U.S. into a mediatory role, but how can the U.S. do this when India does not want it to?

He has also said that elements in the Pakistan Government are rendering assistance to terrorist activities. What is your view?

That and also (National Security Adviser) Sandy Berger's remarks, if quoted correctly, that Pakistan is going to be in serious trouble if it goes to war with India, constitute a very clear warning. Plus when you are on the subject of mediation, you shoul d note that the Vision Statement itself says somewhere in the first few paragraphs that India and the U.S. realise that tensions in South Asia can best be resolved by the countries of the region themselves. If you take it in their totality, then I would tend to be very optimistic about the future course of our relations.

Would there be some immediate practical consequences? General Pervez Musharraf has said that he can do nothing about violations of the LoC. There are others who say that by silencing the big guns which provide artillery cover to the infiltrators, and cracking down on the terrorist training camps on his territory, he can do much to bring the situation under control. But both these are likely to involve domestic political repercussions for him.

There may be a slight let-up because of what Clinton tells them - a few cosmetic changes here and there. But I personally think we should be prepared for an aggravation of the situation. If Clinton tells them all that he has told us, then the obvious rea ction would be - though not immediately - but in a few weeks, to aggravate it. The President of Pakistan says that his country cannot exist without Kashmir. My answer to that would be: so be it. This is the first time a remark like this has been made. An d the President's remark, we have to take it, has the endorsement of Musharraf.

Apart from these security-related aspects, do you see much coming out of the agreements on energy, environment and science and technology?

A great deal of activity is envisaged on the economic front, with a coordination committee being set up. Then we are going to have different committees on trade and commerce, there is going to be a science forum.

Is there a likelihood of India going along with the U.S. demand that a new round of trade negotiations be started in the WTO? The Americans have been very keen on this. The Indians are not.

The areas where our interests converge in the WTO will be explored first.

But there are substantial divergences - the labour clause, for instance, or investments - though on investment we are closer to the American viewpoint than the European one. Then there are differences on the services side - on the movement of natural per sons for instance.

There was a suggestion by U.S. Commerce Secretary William Daley that India should cooperate in getting the trade talks kickstarted. Is this a quid pro quo or are the security and trade agendas being kept separate?

There is no quid pro quo because even if they were to get us on their side, within the developed countries there are such tremendous differences that an early resumption of talks is unlikely.

A reality check

Bill Clinton's visit has magnified the glaring differences between India and the United States in the strange mix of modern politics and media.

THERE'S hype, and then there's buzz. By this point, it seems nearly every conscious Indian, no matter how much he or she might have wished otherwise, was deluged by the former on the occasion of the U.S. President's visit, escape from which might well pr ove impossible, at least for some weeks to come. Aside from the intrusive tastelessness of it all, though, an important distinction is present between the two terms. Hype is when one party is doing all the talking, and loudly. Buzz, on the other hand, is when one in fact says very little, but every one else is talking about that mysterious, but intriguing, entity, be it a company or a person. This visit has, if anything, magnified the glaring differences between both nations in the strange mix of modern politics and media.

In recent years, successful American politicians, commentators, and companies - particularly those operating at a national level - have mastered the art of buzz. Soap-box orators like Pat Buchanan, though not without their faithful followers of the past, have largely come to be regarded as irritating blowhards. A masterful series of strategic leaks within a record of reserved dialogue, particularly in the Clinton administration, has instead come to dominate the back-and-forth of Washington Beltway media coverage. Within India, however, the tireless self-promoter to this day takes the political limelight. While this still works wonders among Indian voters in drawing lakhs of supporters to stump rallies, the advent of President Clinton and his phenomenal press entourage presents a telling set of contrasts when thrust together with India's government and media.

17070241jpg The Times of India

Indian coverage of the event, as any sentient individual here knows all too well, has been resoundingly about hype. Much of the print media, largely shut out of substantive events, tended to approach the onslaught of its American peers by aping their vis ual counterparts. The Times of India ran a plea on its front page to "catch the Clinton euphoria on indiatimes.com", advertising 24-hour coverage, announcing that "right from his arrival to his departure, indiatimes will keep track of his activiti es and webcast it round the clock." Traffic to the site was indeed so heavy that users attempting to access the "world class webcast" were confronted with white screens and error messages. Inside, one was greeted by a full-page advertisement from the Con federation of Indian Industry reading "Welcome back Chelsea. And thanks for bringing your father." Good luck in finding a single-column parallel in a U.S. newspaper.

The U.S. media, both print and visual, collectively covered a very different angle. "Dark Horizons: India, Pakistan, and the Bomb", ran the title of Peter Jennings' story on ABC televison's World Report programme on the Clinton visit. "India's Unwired Vi llages Mired in the Distant Past," complete with coloured descriptions of an "unlettered field hand in a ragged loin cloth" and "raggedy children... (playing) in the dirt with toys made from twisted wire," was splashed across the front page of the massiv e Sunday edition of The New York Times. USA Today's website featured the telling headline "Poor South Asian country gets first U.S. President visit" as President Clinton made his historic first visit to Bangladesh. While the Indian Prime Mi nister repeatedly called for the trip to be regarded as a meeting of equals, "the most dangerous place" (taking the cover of the London-based The Economist) was perhaps the most mentioned four words in Western-based stories on the visit.

Despite the lopsidedness in end coverage between the foreign and domestic press, the U.S. press was given systematic preference in both access and facilities, even after reaching the various stops along Clinton's itinerary. Notwithstanding the extremely limited total space for the events given the demand, often only one Indian correspondent per newspaper was allowed to fight for a spot amongst the other journalists there. Soma Basu, covering the Agra visit for The Hindu, characterised the U.S. pr ess set-up, on the other hand, as "very cushy". According to rather harried White House Press Office officials, for American journalists, coverage of the Clinton visit was divided up into several tour packages of sorts. Depending upon the destination, be it Jaipur, Agra or Delhi, assorted block options with fixed prices were available. For internal travel, said a senior journalist, $290 bought one chartered flights on Jet Airways. The full-service option included flights along every step of Clinton's jo urney from Washington D.C. onwards, catered meals, workspace, and a friendly face to meet one at the airport, and was available for a cool $15,000, payable by credit card.

Contrasting the CEO-filled delegation in Clinton's trip to China, a member of the elite group of Indian-American professionals to meet Clinton regarding information technology and other business issues was quoted as saying that, as a meeting of two democ racies, the Clinton visit was more about the interaction of companies than official state-to-state deals and statements. With the hype in India surrounding the new Indo-U.S. bilateralism (which necessarily entails concomitant attention in the U.S.) throu gh the IT sector, a look at the media coverage targeting technology and business run out of the U.S. reveals a few interesting things. News.com's massive and widely-hailed website contained but one piece on Rupert Murdoch's forthcoming series of investme nts here, buried among assorted other items. CNNfn and CBS Marketwatch held a similar dearth of stories dealing with India. Wired News (wired.com) turned up one interesting story by Lakshmi Chaudry on IIT incubator funds. But a simple search on "India" y ielded sparse returns of India-related stories, many with a brief mention buried deep within the listed story. And then there is Slashdot, the combination news/forum site so popular and widely used in the U.S. technology world that the so-called "Slashdo t effect" (of sites being shut down from overloading traffic by merely being linked by the page) has been coined from its name. A search revealed that the last story to mention India was a piece on the spread of Linux back in January.

As yet, though, awareness pertaining to business and IT can only go up. A New York-based IT consultant of Indian descent was quoted as saying that Indians were steadily becoming "the new Jews" in the U.S. with their lucrative positions in finance and tec hnology. The consensus remains that it is but a matter of time before commensurate public awareness (and, likely, public backlash) catches up with the status of Indians in the U.S. But it is not quite there yet.

In examining the recent glut of media attention for the Clinton visit, it has been argued that the media will always tend to blow up a story to its own collective interests, regardless of historical period. However, this argument does not stand up to ana lysis. Going through the archives of The Hindu material regarding the visit of each visiting U.S. President - Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, and now Clinton - one thing becomes evident. This is that the sorts of word usage and issues covered were stri kingly similar throughout. Regional violence was an issue when Eisenhower came. "A warm welcome for Carter" reads a 1978 curtain-raiser (the same phrase used recently by the Minister of State for External Affairs regarding the reception for Clinton).

The coverage is unprecedented. Only one other such international excursion, Clinton's nine-day visit to China in the summer of 1998, exceeds it in duration. The length of the trip itself alone shows that it is not a trivial matter, but the overall import ance to India is as yet unclear. The implementation of institutional dialogue arrangements between the two nations in the recently published Indo-U.S. Vision Statement is indeed encouraging, but there remains the question of to what extent (and how quick ly) such declarations will filter down and be implemented in the respective nations' bureaucracies and polities themselves, and in turn, what the net effects will be on the India and United States of tomorrow.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable contrast between the two nations was seen in the televised press conference at Hyderabad House where the Vision Statement was signed. Clinton, despite being in an unfamiliar and indeed largely forbidding setting, seemed at home with the questions presented to him, as few and predictable as they may have been. Prime Minister Vajpayee, on the other hand, appeared visibly ill-at-ease with the press meet, a mainstay of American-style politics, bearing a rictus-like smile and t aking nearly a minute to respond to certain questions, at one point requiring Clinton to prod him, saying "it's your turn."

IN the public mind, Clinton's presidency is essentially over, with American attentions now shifted squarely upon George W. Bush and Al Gore in their run up to the November elections. Furthermore, in matters of foreign policy and related media attention, South Asia currently ranks quite low. What U.S. media coverage there is remains roundly focussed on India-Pakistan antagonisms and tensions and related issues. However, while the Taiwanese elections and Elian Gonzalez dominated media attention, the big s tory in the U.S. was unquestionably that of Pope John Paul II's trip to West Asia. Interestingly, from the BBC to CNN to local broadcast media, live newscasts covering the Pope's visit literally retraced his steps for the day (much like the blow-by-blow coverage omnipresent in India on Clinton's itinerary). In the same reports, Clinton's trip, if at all, was given at the most a minute of coverage. And despite the ubiquitous reports on both India's and Pakistan's failure to sign the Comprehensive Test Ba n Treaty, there was a palpable silence when it came to even brief mentions of President Clinton's stunning defeat in getting the treaty passed in the U.S. itself.

What the trip amounted to domestically was, in the end, that of a PR mission by an outgoing President eager to secure a positive and lasting legacy. After the release of the Kenneth Starr report, few Americans - his admirers included, and even those with the cleanest of minds - can watch the famously telegenic President speak without at least once thinking of him, a cigar, and the now-famous words: "tastes good". In many ways, this trip and the few months ahead amount to his final opportunities to raise his rank in the history books before they are written. And he knows it. The recurring phrase in his past speeches was "building a bridge to the 21st century." Now, the man most at home on television, it seems, must present at least a facade of journeys and initiatives to last beyond the change of channels.

Nevertheless, while the media explosion in India was misleading in its overall effect, a reality check should be tempered with optimism. According to Professor Ashutosh Varshney of Notre Dame University, "the most important thing right now is upgrading o f the Indo-U.S. dialogue on an institutional basis. If this trip can do that, it will be a great success."

Arjun Dirghangi is a U.S. citizen of Indian origin studying in the departments of Neuroscience and Behaviour as well as Political Science at Columbia University in New York City.

On the S&T front

cover-story

India and the U.S. sign two agreements on science and technology to put collaboration arrangements terminated after Pokhran-II back on track. Foreign policy considerations seem to have dictated the signing of the agreements.

R. RAMACHANDRAN

FOREIGN policy considerations rather than any real perceived need would seem to have dictated the agreements that were signed in the areas of science and technology (S&T), energy and environment between India and the U.S. during the visit of President Cl inton. It would appear that, in a bid to demonstrate that Indo-U.S. relations are back on track after the setback that followed Pokhran-II, political imperatives required that some agreements be signed and the areas of S&T and energy and environment beca me more amenable to the manipulations of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) than others.

Indo-U.S. collaboration in S&T, under the Indo-U.S. Subcommission programmes - from 1974 till date - as well as under the (Indira) Gandhi-Reagan Science Technology Initiative (STI) - from 1982 to 1991 - had come to a virtual standstill in the late 1980s and the 1990s after the U.S. began to insist on an inter-governmental agreement on intellectual property rights (IPRs) to govern collaborative research programmes. Given the absence of patents in the area of agriculture, drugs and chemicals - there was a major agricultural component in the Subcommission programmes - such an agreement, which was at variance with the Indian Patents Act of 1970, was unacceptable to India.

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In 1987, amidst a controversy, the Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action Programme (VAP) was signed to support vaccine and diagnostics development against high-priority diseases in India, among the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the Indian Council of Medical Rese arch (ICMR) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the U.S. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for collaboration for five years was signed. It has now been extended until 2002. Funded by the DBT (about Rs.14 crores), the NIH (a matching grant) a nd the Starr Foundation ($4 million), a private entity which took the place of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) since 1997, the VAP too ran into problems on the IPRs issues. However, the issue was resolved in 1992 and the pr ogramme was put back on course after a Joint Working Group (JWG) set up to examine the issue made its recommendations on the modalities to be followed on the IPRs front. So far two projects have yielded products for which Indian scientists have filed for joint patents in the U.S. and the arrangement is that the accruing royalties would be shared equally between the Indian and the U.S. institutions. However, royalties from these products are yet to flow in, according to the DBT.

The bulk of the collaborative programmes under the Subcommission and the STI were funded through U.S.-owned PL480 funds in rupees. In February 1974, the U.S. Government gave more than half of the accumulated PL480 funds to India and agreed to use the rem aining funds jointly to collaborate in S&T, education and culture and agriculture. In February 1987, the two governments signed an agreement that established the U.S. India Fund (USIF) with the remaining PL480 money (which at that point of time stood at Rs.127 crores). With interest, this provided over Rs.260 crores to fund collaborative research in S&T, including in the areas of agriculture and health sciences, over a 11-year period (until January 1998). Under the joint agreement, all funding for this programme was obligated in January 1997 and no new projects have been funded under it.

After the termination of the STI, an Indo-U.S. S&T Agreement that was being negotiated since November 1993, has been put in cold storage owing to differing perceptions on the IPRs front. The U.S. proposed that an agreement on the sharing of IPRs should f orm an integral part of the agreement. Such sharing, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) argued, had to be in accordance with domestic law. However, the U.S. wanted the agreement to be in line with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (G ATT)/ Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The DST proposed that the pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors be kept out of it, since these were the only areas where the IPR laws of the two countries differed, but this was not a cceptable to the U.S. As a result, the proposed agreement was relegated to the background with the tacit understanding that it will not be taken up until 2005 when India's laws will change to be in tune with TRIPS as per the World Trade Organisation (WTO ) Agreement.

In 1997, in an effort to find a suitable mechanism to continue S&T cooperation beyond the USIF programme which was coming to a close, U.S. ambassador Frank Wisner mooted the idea of creating an Indo-U.S. S&T Forum. He wrote to Minister of State for S&T Y .K. Alagh. Based on the feedback from the MEA and Indian scientific agencies, the idea of a forum was perceived to be a useful mechanism to pursue S&T cooperation which would allow the contentious IPRs issues to be set aside. A letter of intent to form t he forum was signed between India and the U.S. on December 29, 1997, and it was proposed that the residual funds and interest from the USIF (about Rs.30 crores) would be used to fund its activities. As the proposal was being given final shape in 1998, th e Pokhran tests intervened and it was suspended. So, when the two governments desired that something in S&T needed to be signed during Clinton's visit, this dormant proposal revived. V.S. Ramamurthy, Secretary, DST, agreed that the forum would not have b ecome a reality had the U.S. President not visited India. Ramamurthy clarified that the idea itself is not something hastily conceived to suit foreign policy ends.

Interestingly, however, the U.S. Government raised the spectre of IPRs once again as the idea of the forum was being revived. At the eleventh hour, it produced a piece of paper outlining the understanding on IPRs issues that should underpin the forum arr angement. But, according to Ramamurthy, the DST stood firm and stated that either the creation of the forum should not be conditional to an arrangement on IPRs or, if it is not to the liking of the U.S., the idea of the forum itself be scrapped. It is ev ident that the U.S. relented because the final agreement, which was signed by Union Minister for S&T Murli Manohar Joshi, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, made no reference to IPRs and specifically stated: "Nothing in this agreement shall require the Parties to act contrary to their national laws or regulations... The Forum shall neither sponsor, nor permit under its auspices, any activity that would be proscribed by either Party's national laws or regulations." The Agreement was signed o n March 21, the first day of Clinton's visit.

The purpose of the forum, as per the Agreement, is "To facilitate and promote interaction, in the U.S. and India, of the government, academia and industry in S&T and other areas addressed by the earlier USIF... (It) shall promote R&D (Research and Develo pment), transfer of technology, the creation of a comprehensive electronic reference source for Indo-U.S. S&T cooperation and the electronic exchange and dissemination of information on Indo-U.S. S&T cooperation." The forum will be registered as a non-pr ofit society under the Indian Societies Act. In this sense, much like the already well-functioning Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research (IFCPAR), the forum will have an autonomous character without governmental intervention in its fu nctioning, Ramamurthy said. A governing body, comprising seven members each from the two countries, will oversee and monitor the forum's activities. Of the seven members from India, four will be from the Government (with the DST Secretary as the permanen t formal member) and the remaining from academia, industry and private organisations. The operations of the forum will be funded through the interest accruing from the Rs.30-crore corpus to which the DST will add a matching fund every year. In effect, th e forum will have an annual funding of about Rs.6 crores.

Keeping IPRs out of the agreement is being regarded as a victory by the DST, and Ramamurthy said that the forum marked a step forward in Indo-U.S. S&T cooperation. However, it is understood that if any project does mature to generating IPRs, it will be r eferred to the governing body which shall take a decision on a case-by-case basis. According to the DST, the issue can be best handled along the IPR guidelines followed by the IFCPAR which have apparently proved successful. Of course, IPR issues are not as contentious with France as they are with the U.S. Ramamurthy is of the opinion that the governing body will ensure that national interests are not jeopardised. The forum, he says, should not be viewed as an alternative to the currently dormant Indo-U. S. Subcommission but as a complementary platform to facilitate direct contacts between the scientific agencies of the two countries. The DST is of the view that the S&T Subcommission also needs to be revived.

At a brainstorming session held in Hyderabad on March 24, senior scientists, scientific bureaucrats and government officials from both the countries agreed that any kind of barrier is not conducive to healthy S&T cooperation. The reference was evidently to the denial of visas to Indian scientists and the termination of ongoing collaborative research programmes in the wake of Pokhran-II. Ramamurthy feels that the forum can function as an intermediary body to raise such issues at the level of the respecti ve governments. He expects the Society to be formed within six months after the necessary Cabinet clearance, following which the governing body will be constituted, rules and regulations framed and an MoU signed to begin its activities.

The meeting in Hyderabad basically called for renewed focus in the area of basic sciences and identified, to start with, areas of biotechnology, new materials, astronomy and astrophysics, mathematics, energy-efficient technologies, fuel cells and renewab le energy sources. It recommended access to national facilities in both the countries, exploring the possibility of setting up of joint facilities and cooperation in higher science education such as reviving the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) exper iment in some different form, perhaps with a focus on information technology (IT). Notably, despite all the hype around IT during the visit, the forum emphasised that preoccupation with IT alone will be detrimental in the long run and that the fundamenta l sciences needed equal focus. The meeting noted that the agreement being not strictly an inter-governmental one, the forum has the freedom to access funds from international financial institutions as well if well-packaged proposals could be made towards a developmental objective. But the forum has drawn some criticism for not involving young scientists in the discussions.

THE other major initiative that was signed during the visit was the U.S.-India Joint Statement on Energy and Environment. This was signed in Agra, during Clinton's visit there, between Minister of External Affairs Jaswant Singh and Madeleine Albright. Th e intent towards this was already laid during Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's visit on October 26, 1999, when a Joint Statement on Cooperation in Energy and Related Environmental Aspects was signed. The current agreement is more specific, and in fact there are apprehensions that India has bartered away its national interests in its negotiating position in the ongoing negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change by unilaterally committing itself to certain greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions witho ut securing similar commitments from the U.S.

While the agreement seeks to promote cooperation in the area of clean energy technologies through funding programmes of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Exim Bank and USAID (see preceding story), organis ations such as the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) have expressed concern that the agreement provides a vehicle for emissions trading by the U.S., an aspect of the Kyoto Protocol that India, as part of the G-77 position, has resisted. For this reason, India is yet to ratify the Protocol. Now, with The Hague Conference of the Parties due in November, it is felt that India's position with respect to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) component of t he protocol stands weakened, the country having entered into an agreement that is tantamount to permitting carbon credits trading by the U.S.

The Joint Statement carries a commitment by India that it will achieve a 10 per cent share for renewable energy in the capacity-additions nationwide by 2012 and that it will set up a Bureau of Energy Efficiency which will achieve about 15 per cent improv ement in energy efficiency by 2007-8. "These voluntary commitments are being made without any study as to how these are to be achieved, what kind of fundings are required and what kind of technologies are required and such commitments will be used as the basis for emissions trading by the U.S.," R.K. Pachauri, director, TERI, said. According to him, how GHG reductions were to be measured and monitored and how carbon credits were to be calculated are issues that were still under discussion under the Kyot o Protocol. Indeed, the U.S. Senate has rejected the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol owing to political pressure that militates, on the one hand, against GHG emission reductions, although it is the largest emitter of GHGs, and, on the other, against n ot making developing countries such as India, Brazil and China commit themselves to specific reductions in their emissions. To commit, in this context, under a Joint Statement to reduce fossil-fuel-based energy production, without extracting a similar co mmitment from the U.S., is a gross mistake, Pachauri said.

More than the S&T agreement, this Joint Statement seems to have been pushed through for expedient reasons of foreign policy considerations without paying sufficient attention to domestic developmental considerations. Appa-rently, faced with criticisms, Jaswant Singh has promised to do the necessary groundwork on the outstanding issues of climate change and clean energy production before any concrete project under the Joint Statement is taken up. However, such a step will only amount to "locking the bar n after the horse has bolted," Pachauri said.

Tipu, Haidar and history

other
PARVATHI MENON

Confronting Colonialism: Resistance and Modernisation under Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan Ed. Irfan Habib, Tulika, 1999, pages 205, Rs. 220.

THE most resolute opponent of Colonialism in the second half of the 18th century, the Mysorean ruler Tipu Sultan, died in his island capital Srirangapatnam on May 4, 1799 following a final military engagement with the British forces. In Karnataka, a Stat e where his memory is specially cherished, and where he continues to remain a folk hero, the bicentennial year of Tipu's death was commemorated both officially and at the popular level. "The Dreams of Tipu Sultan", a play by Girish Karnad, was staged on May 4, 1999 amidst the ruins of Srirangapatnam. Notwithstanding unsuccessful attempts by members of the Bajrang Dal to disrupt the programmes, the occasion saw a number of initiatives at spreading what in the popular imagination is yet held as the histor ical legacy of Tipu, namely, religious and cultural integration, and a firm resistance to oppression (Frontline, June 4, 1999). Tipu's personal fight may have been against the British, but in modern times his legacy is often extended and interpret ed in popular representation as resistance to more immediate forms of social and economic oppression.

In contrast to the tribute that Tipu's home State paid to his memory, there was little recognition of the day and its significance elsewhere in the country. The Indian History Congress (IHC), however, resolved at its Kozhikode session in December 1999 to commemorate his bicentennial with a special symposium on 18th century Mysore under the rule of Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan. As part of its commemoration, the IHC has published a volume of articles on various aspects of the history of Haidar and Tipu by a n early generation of Indian historians.

While there exists an abundance of academic, and even popular, historical writing on the life and times of Haidar and Tipu, this volume is specially planned to add a valuable segment of Tipu- and Haidar-centred historical research to the existing corpus. These are the numerous articles in the volume that have been presented by historians at the IHC over the years, in addition to those culled out from publications that are now out of print (this includes an excerpt from the accounts of Francis Buchanan w ho was commissioned by the East India Company to survey its southern domains in 1800-1801, just a year after the death of Tipu).

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With an introductory essay by the noted historian of medieval India, Irfan Habib, that presents a historical analysis of 18th century Mysore under Haidar and Tipu, the volume is a significant compendium of well-researched articles by leading historians o f the day from as early as 1935. Though the articles deal with issues that range from a description of ship-building technology to the question of whether Haidar turned defeatist in his final days, there is a running thread through the volumes. Habib not es in his Introduction: "Whether what these writers say is right or wrong can be judged on the basis of the evidence they present in the papers. But the writers' attitude is also evidence of an anxiety to defend the memory of the two rulers, which in tur n tells us much about the sentiments that had swayed a bygone generation." Indeed almost all the articles in this volume take as their premise Tipu's positive role in standing up to early colonialism. Within that framework they then seek to understand th e complexities and contradictions of his ideas and actions.

In his Introduction Habib says that the ascent of Haidar Ali, a recruit of the Mysore state who later rose to faujdar or commandant of Dindigal and then to the throne of Mysore, was the result of the acquisition of a vastly superior military prowe ss - "a brilliant combination of the mobile cavalry organised on the Mughal pattern with his increasingly disciplined musket-using infantry". The adoption of the Mughal system of military organisation was extended to the internal arrangements of his poli ty. Haidar's rule, argues Habib, saw an increasing tendency towards centralisation of revenue administration. He began eliminating intermediaries and levying land tax directly from the peasantry, a system which became the basis for Munro's ryotwari syste m later. The increased revenue helped maintain the large standing army that the new methods of warfare necessitated. According to Habib, Haidar's successes against the British were of a short-term nature because of his failure to focus on the development of technology and commerce, and because he concentrated solely on military modernisation. This in turn led to a heavy dependence on the presence of Europeans, notably the French.

Under Tipu's reign statecraft took on several new dimensions. While the centralisation of the administration proceeded apace, Tipu carved a political identity for himself quite independent of the Mughal system. His relationship with Islam was different f rom that of his father. Tipu used Islam, Habib argues, as an ideological prop and a rallying force against the British. And while there are indefensible incidents of how he justified forced conversions, there is also a large and definitive body of eviden ce of the extremes to which Tipu went in supporting and even nurturing Hindu religious establishments and individuals. Articles by A. Subbaraya Chetty and B.A. Saletore discuss Tipu's relations with Hindu establishments, notably the Sriranga Math. There was a keen correspondence between Tipu and the Swami of the Srirangam Math, and when Tipu received letters regarding the pillage of the math by the Marathas, he rushed state aid in the form of money, grain and goods for the relief of the math.

THE articles in the volumes fall under the broad categories of anti-British wars and campaigns, diplomacy, Tipu's policy towards other religions, his efforts to modernise industry and agriculture, his attempts to build a viable naval force, and even a di scussion by art historian S.P. Verma on the artistic representation of the forts of Mysore by Thomas and William Daniells, British artists who travelled through his domains in the 1790s. The contributors include Jadunath Sarkar and C.S. Krishnaswami, bot h eminent historians of their time, as also Mohibbul Hasan, the author of the standard biography of Tipu, Mahmud Husain who has publicised a translation of "The Dreams of Tipu Sultan", B. Sheikh Ali, Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi who has written extensively on the medieval period and who became one of Pakistan's distinguished historians, George M. Moraes who was Professor of History at Bombay University, and Barun De, the well-known historian of 18th and 19th century India, amongst others.

Of particular interest is the set of articles on Tipu's diplomacy. Irshad Husain Baqai in his contribution discusses a first-person account by Brigadier-General Macleod, the representative from the Bombay government, of his meeting with Tipu after the 17 94 Treaty of Mangalore between the British and Tipu which led to a temporary cessation of hostilities. Macleod, who confesses that it "would make me proud to see the warlike prince I once had the honour of fighting", records the very frank exchange of vi ews between himself and Tipu. Here Tipu is eager for an honourable agreement between the two countries, and even promises to release British prisoners of war if such an agreement is reached.

A detailed article by A.P. Ibrahim Kunju, written in 1960, provides the background to Tipu's invasion of Travancore in 1790. Commenting on an event that has resulted in much hatred for Tipu in modern times, Kunju writes: "If we look closely into the reco rds of the period, it will be clear that the activities of the king of Travancore were so provocative that it is a wonder that the Mysorean rulers actually invaded Travancore only as late as 1790."

Tipu extended the process of centralisation to building a state monopoly in trade, commerce and industry. There are contributions in the volume on his ambitious plans to build a modern navy. Habib argues that although Tipu was interested in scientific in struments, he did not see as significant the understanding of the great advances Europe had made in science theory. "Tipu's intellectual horizons thus remained restricted to the old inherited learning," writes Habib. Tipu and his Mysore thus remained ".. .far away from a real opening to modern civilisation, despite his own bold and restless endeavours".

The Constitution and the course of politics

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A.G. NOORANI

Working a Democratic Constitution: The Indian Experience by Granville Austin, Oxford University Press; pages 771, Rs.995.

GRANVILLE AUSTIN'S work could not have appeared at a more opportune moment; nor could its writer have been present in India, as he was these last three months, at a time when his wise counsel would have been more relevant and timely. His first book Th e Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation, also published by Oxford University Press in 1966, took the world of scholarship by storm. Delving into the archives, the author described how the Constitution of India came to be drafted. This volume, written after a decade's study, records how it has worked in actual practice since it came into force on January 26, 1950 till the end of 1984.

Here, Austin goes back beyond 1950 to provide perspective and reaches farther than 1984 to cover events such as the controversy over the Mandal Report (1990), the Supreme Court's ruling on the appointment and transfer of Judges, "and the failure in 1992 to use Central Government forces to protect the Babri mosque at Ayodhya" (he is too honest to refer to it as "the disputed structure"). One unfortunate omission is the court's historic ruling in the Bommai case on the limitations on the power to i mpose President's Rule in the States. Another is the neglect of the erosion of Article 370 on Kashmir's special status in the Indian Union. To be fair to the author, it would have necessitated a detour from the main road. He is uniquely qualified to writ e a definitive monograph on the subject.

Uniquely, because very few can match his industry and integrity and a talent for delivering candid censure in measured words. His empathy for India and its democracy have won him and his wife, Nancy, the affection of all who have known them.

A Constitution can do no more than set up the skeletal framework of the polity. Politics provide the flesh and blood. Once one of the "experts" on the Constitution, and member of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government's Constitution Review Committee, angrily asked a flamboyant lawyer, also a member of the committee, whether the Constitution had helped banish poverty. His illiteracy has not debarred him from performing on television or the membership of this star-crossed body. Its Chairman, Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah, when asked what was the main challenge it faced, replied - checking the population explosion. The committee's exertions in this noble endeavour will be watched with keen interest.

In this context, Granville Austin's remarks in recent speeches and press interviews were pointed. "The Constitution has been accused of failures and weaknesses - in recent articles and discussions - that cannot reasonably be attributed to it. It would be absurd, as some individuals have suggested, to amend the Constitution in an attempt to meet the needs of those below the poverty line or to outline the obligations of foreign investors... Governments will become stable not through constitutional amendme nt, but when factionalism - and its causes - declines."

Austin raised some "critical questions". Would amending the Constitution take India closer to its aims? "What are citizens' reactions to the very idea of a review of the Constitution, for the Constitution belongs to them? Who has the moral and political authority to initiate a review - as opposed to an amendment - and to establish the modalities for conducting one, including deciding who are to be the reviewers?" (India Today, January 31, 2000).

Would the quality of India's politics improve if its Constitution were amended? On the BJP's self-serving idea, he said: "If you had a Parliament with a fixed term, you could be re-enacting the Emergency." As he put it pithily in a telling phrase: "Const itutions do not work; they are worked by citizens and governments" (The Hindu, February 2 and 3, 2000).

This book records in meticulous detail precisely how it has been worked by our politicians, judges and lawyers. "Constitutional law ... is not at all a science, but applied politics, using the word in its noble sense," Justice Felix Frankfurter aptly sai d. The stark reality is that India has failed to evolve a viable party system. The Left and the Right have, despite ups and downs, stood their respective grounds. But centrist parties have been a pathetic mess. Granville Austin's study is as much abou t the course of India's political development as it is about the working of its Constitution, a point missed in the deservedly laudatory notices of the book.

"The subject deserves a multi-volume history of record to include every scrap of evidence and the relevant documents from several government ministries. But presently, even the files on constitutional amendments kept in the Law Ministry are hidden by a c onspiracy of silence. I have included what I consider the maximum tolerable amount of evidence to support the narrative."

Austin has had perforce to rely on books, pamphlets, newspapers and extensive interviews. So extensive have they been that we have authoritative "insides" on very many of our constitutional crises. They were all triggered, not because of any defect in th e Constitution, but by the short-sighted policies and inordinate ambitions of politicians in power, especially Indira Gandhi.

There are certain areas which merit closer attention. Successive British monarchs in the last century, to go no further, have been served by advisers of the calibre of Sir Arthur Knollys, Lord Stamfordham, Sir Clive Wigram and Sir Alan Lascelles; each de signated Private Secretary and appointed at the discretion of the Crown to offer independent advice. Lascelles' letter to The Times (May 2, 1950) on the dissolution of the House of Commons, written under the pseudonym "Senex", is quoted by every work on constitutional law as an accurate statement of the law on the topic. Successive Presidents of India, in contrast, have been served by men drawn from the Indian Administrative Service or other public services, whose future lies with t he government. In August 1950, President Rajendra Prasad wrote to the Home Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, expressing the desire for the services of a senior staff person to inform him "if there is any matter in which I should have discussions with m inisters."

If the history of constitutional development through political crises is a major feature of the work, another is its record of the manner in which some vital parts of the Constitution were applied; most notably, the fundamental rights and Article 356 on President's Rule in the States. One finds it hard to believe but it is true that in power as Law Minister, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar told Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that while "reasonable restrictions could be placed on speech relating to libel, slander, an d undermining the security of the state, laws placing such restrictions, he added, ought to be exempted from court intrusion." This was recorded in a memorandum of March 14, 1951 cited in the book (page 44). He did favour adding the word "reasonab le" to qualify the "restrictions" on the right to free speech in Article 19(2) of the Constitution. That was done by the First Amendment (1951).

Nehru set some bad examples early in the day. In 1951 he advised the imposition of President's Rule in Punjab. "President Prasad was unhappy with the situation. 'I intensely dislike suspending the normal working of the Constitution in the Punjab and assu ming to myself the functions of the State government,' he wrote to Nehru. No emergency had arisen in the State and the Chief Minister said he had resigned 'in obedience to a directive of the Congress Parliamentary Board' (CPB), not because he had lost th e confidence of the legislature. 'I consider it wholly wrong,' Prasad continued, to permit a non-constitutional body (the CPB) to interfere with the normal working of the Constitution by producing an artificial emergency. 'My feeling is that we have crea ted a very bad and a very wrong precedent... (and) acted against the spirit of the Constitution, although the action may be justified as being in strict accordance with its letter.'"

Indira Gandhi inherited bad precedents and made matters worse. Bar the Janata Party interlude (1977-79), most of the book is about her two tenures in office as Prime Minister (1966-77 and 1980-84). The author's interviews reveal how close we had come to a repressive Press Bill in 1971. Its professed aim was to make the press "more responsive to the aspirations of the people". Its supporters were Information Minister Nandini Satpathy, Secretary in the Ministry R.C. Dutt, Minister of State for Company Aff airs Raghunath Reddy, and Secretary to the Prime Minister P.N. Haksar, the most ardent of them all.

Austin's summing up of that fateful period deserves to be quoted in extenso: "Although politically secure from 1971 onwards as she never had been, Mrs. Gandhi moved away from constitutionalism toward absolutism. Aware of her people's adoration, sh e came to believe that she had the 'divine right of support'. Suspicious of the courtiers in the party and government who surrounded her, her attitude was 'if you oppose me, you are an enemy'. As a result, Ministers, Chief Ministers, and party officials did not assert themselves. Opposition parties and leaders were not political opponents, but anti-national forces... In combination, these factors led to the virtually one-person rule of 1971-77, during which her government first challenged and then subve rted constitutional democracy. Owing their elections to her, Chief Ministers depended on her continuing favour. And she appeared to be 'deliberately manipulating Congress factionalism to prevent a healthy consolidation of power in the States'. Her domina tion of Congress members in Parliament, most of whom also owned their seats to her... evolved to the point described by Sir Ivor Jennings: 'The flexibility of the cabinet system allows the Prime Minister to take upon himself a power not inferior to that of a dictator, provided always that the House of Commons will stand by him.' The Lok Sabha barely objected to her aggrandisement of power, and with her Ministers subdued, constitutional power migrated from the voter to his legislator to the Council of Mi nisters and then to the Prime Minister. Mrs. Gandhi had gone from vulnerability to the political system to mastery of it."

One wonders, in retrospect, how much of its traces linger in our polity. The Congress(I) persists in nominating Chief Ministers. Is the BJP much different?

The Supreme Court's response was disastrous. The Golak Nath ruling 1967, on the exemption of the fundamental rights from Parliament's power to amend the Constitution, was "a political decision, not based on the true interpretation of the Constitution," w rote Motilal C. Setalvad, India's first and most distinguished Attorney-General, in his memoirs My Life (page 581). Few noticed his prophecy in 1970 which came so true: "It may well be that Chief Justice Subha Rao and his majority colleagues in tr ying to preserve unabridged the rights (fundamental) in Part III for all time by a political judgment, have paved the way for political moves which may result in packing the Supreme Court, so as to alter its complexion."

The court's ruling in the bank nationalisation case (1970), which this writer then praised in grave error, and in the Privy Purses Case 1970, of dubious correctness, tempted Indira Gandhi to accept S. Mohan Kumaramangalam and others to supersede the thre e most senior Judges in the appointment of the Chief Justice of India in April 1973.

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The Indian judiciary is yet fully to recover from that blow. The author's "insides" on that episode and others will be of immense help to historians. The judiciary would not have suffered the fate it did but for defects in character of not a few of its p ersonnel. "The imbalance of constitutional institutions exceeded the expectations of the architects of the supersession of judges. After becoming Chief Justice, A.N. Ray more than shared the government's economic viewpoint - he developed an adulatory att itude toward the Prime Minister which was remarked upon by many observers and associates. He made himself amenable to her influence by telephoning her frequently, using the 'RAX' telephone system directly connecting the most senior officials of governmen t. He would also ask her personal secretary's advice on simple matters, conveying the impression that the Prime Minister's views might be heard concerning an ongoing case."

It is public response which demonstrated the strength of our democracy. "The anti-democratic actions of a few aroused the constitutional sensibilities of the many." The same was true of the Emergency. Austin's interviews shed a flood of light on many of its dark corners. The Emergency truly aroused the nation. "In retrospect, the ugly experience may have been the saving of democracy in ways not thought of by the Prime Minister when she told Parliament that the Emergency was not to destroy the Constituti on but 'to preserve and safeguard our democracy'. It taught Indians about the dangers to democracy that lurk anywhere; of demagoguery, of leaders uncaring of liberty, of hero-worship and placing power in the hands of a few, of the dangers from citizens' abdication of responsibility. Like the 'McCarthy period' in the United States, it taught that vigilance would be the price of its not happening again."

It is interesting to recall that Indira Gandhi herself voted in the Lok Sabha in 1978 for the repeal of her 42nd Amendment to the Constitution which sought to institutionalise the Emergency. Here, again it was the flawed character of the men in power whi ch paved the way for her return to power - the ambitions of Home Minister Charan Singh and the intrigues of President N. Sanjeeva Reddy.

Once in power, Indira Gandhi behaved as if history had taken a holiday in the interregnum. She had learnt nothing from her brief days in the wilderness. "By the mid-Eighties, the politician fabled for astute political manoeuvring among allies and opponen ts and skilled at associating herself with the people's longings for a better life seemed to have lost touch with reality. If for a decade and a half you are surrounded by courtiers who tell you that India is you and you are India; if you are brilliantly victorious in politics and in war (as in 1971); if you then succeed in making Parliament your creature; if you manipulate your own council of ministers and the nation by imposing a state of emergency, ostensibly to protect national unity and advance soc ial reform, but actually to retain your office, and if after ruling autocratically, you can return to office, acclaimed by the very voters who had rejected you, then your hubris can be understood. If you then plan for your sons, one of them devotedly con temptuous of civil liberty to follow you as Prime Minister, then your hubris is confirmed."

Those traits ruined Rajiv Gandhi too, while the personality flaws revealed in the Janata phase led to V.P. Singh's ouster from office and those of H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral as well. The first two were betrayed by their own colleagues; Gujral, by So nia.

The book will serve as a work of reference for its careful record of the events. The author's reflections in the last Chapter (31) deserve particular notice. "The Constitution, above all, has been the source of the country's political stability and its o pen society. Stability in India should not be defined as a decorum in legislatures, or factionless political parties, or as the absence of turmoil in State governments and caste-class violence in rural areas. These exist and predictably will continue to do so, for the latter are democratic, social revolutionary stirrings. Stability consists of continuity and a reasonable degree of predictability. It and the status quo cannot be equated, for the status quo is incompatible with reform. The s tability deriving directly from the Constitution has been evident in the overall orderly conduct of the nation's business, in the stability of the system, even when governments have not been stable... The country's citizens will need patience and determination to preserve the gains they have made and the Constitution that made their attainment possible."

The political situation has changed markedly with the BJP in power. Now, more than ever before, the nation must protect its Constitution against the enemies of the open society.

The little master

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A 19-year-old Chennai youngster, Krishnan Sasikiran, becomes the fifth Indian to win the title of Grandmaster.

S. DINAKAR

THERE was a phase in his junior days when Krishnan Sasikiran suffered a string of defeats at the hands of Daniel Saldhana on the chessboard. Yet the Chennai boy would not get disheartened; he would focus instead on what he had learnt from the matches. Sa sikiran later broke his jinx when it came to Daniel. And he has since gone on to much bigger things. Just 19 years of age, he is already India's fifth Grandmaster.

The ability to imbibe things all the time, irrespective of the results, is Sasikiran's greatest strength. As his father S. Krishnan, a chess player himself, says: "We want him to search for fresh aspects. Even when he is low he finds something interestin g. He has developed some healthy chess qualities and is unbiased in assessing positions."

Krishnan had presented Sasikiran with a book written by Bertrand Russell on children's ability to acquire knowledge, and it has served the youngster well. At the heart of Sasikiran's progress as a champion is the role played by his father.

Krishnan would play chess with friends in the evening and Sasikiran, not yet 10, would quietly watch the moves. It was around the time that Sasikiran's cricket playing mates, all older boys, had left for new destinations, and he was feeling pretty lonely in the evenings. Krishnan wanted his son to be occupied during his spare time, and chess was the medium he chose. That indeed was the genesis of Sasikiran's journey into the fascinating world of Kings and Queens, Knights and Rooks.

From a hobby, chess soon became an all-consuming passion, and the first sign of a new star on the horizon came in 1994, when Sasikiran won the bronze medal in the Asian under-16 championship held in Doha. "It was then we realised that he could take up ch ess more seriously," says Krishnan. In the initial stages it was not easy to find sponsors, but Krishnan remained undaunted.

With chess cutting into his time, it soon became impossible for Sasikiran to continue going to school and he had to make a hard choice. "Yes, I do miss my school environment, my friends there. In fact, I have lost touch with them." That was perhaps the p rice he had to pay to become a Grandmaster. However, Sasikiran does plan to complete his education through correspondence.

Right now his sights are firmly set on becoming a Super Grandmaster (above 2600 Elo rating), like Viswanathan Anand. As Sasikiran says, Anand has always had kind words for him, instilling confidence and providing useful tips.

Endless hours in front of the computer at home, a voracious appetite for reading books on the game and sustained practice with capable partners have made Sasikiran's fundamentals strong.

It is too early to make comparisons with Anand, but Manuel Aaron, India's first International Master, said that being the kind of person he is, Sasikiran may not suffer from the mental block that Anand seems to have when it comes to certain players. But he quickly added that if solidity and the ability to execute plans were Sasikiran's biggest virtues, he perhaps lacked Anand's brilliance and his speed.

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What was behind Sasikiran's triumph in the 1999 Nationals 'A' in Nagpur, another big step forward in his career, was his impeccable homework. He had studied his opponents and worked out a plan with regard to each one of them, trying different variations. The victory over Praveen Thipsay was a particularly thrilling one for Sasikiran, as everything fell in place. Sasikiran also went through a set routine off-the-board during the tournament and it paid off.

The series of practice matches with Dibyendu Barua had proved extremely beneficial. Sasikiran went to Calcutta for this purpose on his own initiative and this reaffirms his quest for perfection, however elusive and distant it might be.

Manuel Aaron, who has followed the fortunes of a whole generation of players, said: "His biggest advantage is that he is totally devoted to the game. He is extremely hard-working and always looks ahead. When he was an International Master, he was already thinking about the Grandmaster title. Now he is aiming to become a Super Grandmaster. He has not stagnated like some others."

So engrossed in chess is Sasikiran that Krishnan, an extrovert himself, wants his son to open up a little more, be more communicative. "We are working on that now. And he too is beginning to realise the importance. I even want him to argue with me as we discuss the moves. But he doesn't do that." Since he is not really the 'outdoor type', music is Sasikiran's principal mode of relaxation, and he loves listening to A.R. Rahman's compositions. Yanni is another favourite.

Sasikiran considers 'the middle game' his strongpoint. He has been studying the works of that 'eccentric genius' Bobby Fischer, but his idol is the star of the 1920s and 1930s - Alekhine. An attacking but not an impulsive player, Alekhine has written som e fine books on chess, which have been lapped up by Sasikiran.

For the young Grandmaster, one of the most cherished victories was over Levitt Jonathan, who is no mean player himself. "I sacrificed a lot in the game, a knight and a rook, but I won," says Sasikiran. He is not averse to taking risks but is selective ab out them.

Coming to the Grandmaster title, Sasikiran's first norm came at the British Championship at Torquay in 1998. He won the Asian junior title in Vung Tau (Vietnam) for his second norm and came closer with yet another one at the Goodricke International tourn ament, held in mid-February in Calcutta this year. The youngster finally clinched the title at the Sangli International Open, where he emerged joint winner along with Maxim Sorokin (Argentina), Evgeny Vladimirov (Kyrgyztan) and Alexander Fominih (Russia) . Along the way he had missed norms narrowly at Elista and Udaipur, but did not allow that to affect him. As Krishnan says, "He stays positive all the time." And he is also modest.

Even as he was accorded a warm welcome at the Chennai Central railway station on his return from Sangli, Sasikiran seemed remarkably cool and composed. His statement - "The game means more to me than personal achievements" - may appear artificial on the surface, but a closer look at Sasikiran's work ethic and his total dedication suggest otherwise.

Manuel Aaron has noted another important trait in Sasikiran. "When he travels he always insists on a single room, unlike some other players. Most of the great champions were loners and he is a loner. He does not realise it now, but this quality could tak e him far."

SASIKIRAN becoming a Grandmaster is yet another proof of the chess boom in the country. With Anand providing the spark, Dibyendu Barua, Praveen Thipsay, Abhijit Kunte, and now Sasikiran have become Grandmasters. The 14-year-old P. Harikrishna is already India's youngest International Master, Aarthi Ramaswamy is the world under-18 champion, and Koneru Humpy is all set to graduate to the senior level after conquering the junior ranks. (Humpy was recently chosen by the United Nations Children's Fund as one of the 'Millennium Dreamers'.)

Manuel Aaron, who was a pioneer in several respects, becoming India's first International Master in 1961 - it took 18 years for another Indian to emulate Aaron - said the development of computers, the availability of more reading material and the increas e in the number of tournaments have been instrumental in changing the chess scene in the country.

He still has fond memories of the early 1970s when chess first caught the imagination of large sections of the Indian public. There was a "Fischer wave" in 1972 and there were many who were fascinated by the game. In Chennai, the Tal Chess Club, a place of learning for several future stars, was soon formed.

Remembering his days as a chess player, Manuel Aaron said that since the opportunities to travel abroad were limited then, it was much more difficult for players to take wing. Now there are more avenues and the aspirants are also making sincere efforts.

Indeed, as Sasikiran remarked, the Grandmasters from the country are going to get younger. The future beckons.

Defamation case quashed

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YET another episode relating to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) spy drama came to an end in the Kerala High Court on March 23 when the court quashed a defamation case filed against Frontline's Editor N. Ram, Printer and Publisher S. Rangarajan and Special Correspondent T.S. Subramanian for a critical article published in the magazine in 1996, on the handling of the ISRO espionage case by the Kerala Police, the Intelligence Bureau and the local media, especially as it was described l ater in the Central Bureau of Investigation's conclusive inquiry report.

The article titled "A witch hunt ends" was published in Frontline in May 1996, soon after the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Ernakulam had ordered the discharge of all the accused in the ISRO spy case. This followed the CBI's 'refer/closure report' filed before the CJM stating that the allegations of espionage against the accused were "baseless and untrue".

Following the publication of the article, Sibi Mathew, a senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who headed the Kerala Police's Special Investigation Team (which conducted the controversial initial inquiry in the spy case), filed a complaint before th e Judicial First Class Magistrate, Thiruvananthapuram, stating that it contained "scandalous imputations which harmed the reputation of the Kerala Police before the eye of the public", "lowered its dignity" and affected its "morale" and therefore sought remedy for defamation.

On March 23, while quashing this complaint, based on petitions filed subsequently by Ram, Rangarajan and Subramanian, Justice S. Marimuthu of the Kerala High Court said that the words or the passages found in the article would not constitute offences pun ishable under Sections 500 (punishment for defamation), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and 502 (sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter) read with Section 34 (criminal act done by several persons in f urtherance of a common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The petitioners had argued that the words found in the article were "not at all defamatory or scandalous", that they would "never injure the nobleness and the image of the Kerala police force or any individual member of it" and that it was in fact "the v erbatim reproduction of the conclusions of the CBI found in their report." They had also said that the article made only "fair comment and criticism" and that "they have been made in good faith and in the interest of the public".

The court said that it had come to the conclusion that "there is no case against the petitioners under the above Sections of the IPC to be proceeded further", after comparing the statements found in the report of the CBI and the words in the Frontline article which Sibi Mathew had alleged were defamatory in nature, and from the order of the CJM, Ernakulam, discharging the accused in the spy case and his discussion thereon, read along with the principles laid down by various courts while interpret ing the laws regarding defamation and power of quashing a criminal proceeding.

"The complaint on the face of it does not make out a prima facie case against the petitioners and therefore I am of the view that this is a fit case wherein this court can exercise its authority under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr .P.C.) for quashing the complaint," the judge said in conclusion.

Significantly, the ISRO spy case did not end with the CJM's (Ernakulam) order. It came to a conclusion only two years later, on April 29, 1998, with the Supreme Court vindicating the six accused and other suspects, and reprimanding the Kerala Government for ordering yet another investigation by the State Police, even after the CBI inquiry had found the allegations of espionage false and the CJM court had ordered the release of all the accused. In fact, Kerala Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar later said that there could be mistakes in decisions taken in good faith (as he described the one to conduct a further investigation) and the courts had every right to correct such mistakes. Yet, the defamation case against Frontline dragged on for two more year s.

Senior advocate M. Ratna Singh appeared for the petitioners, and advocates T.G. Rajendran and Anil Thomas appeared along with him.

R. Krishnakumar

LETTERS

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Budget 2000

Your editorial "A hail of neoliberal bullets" (March 31) shattered many myths about the Union Budget for 2000-01. The concluding remark that the nation and the people will be the losers is absolutely true. The increase in defence expenditure exceeds the food subsidy cuts. Instead of providing food to the poor the Government seems to be keen on giving arms to the soldiers.

The Finance Minister's announcement that the government's stakes in nationalised banks would be brought down to 33 per cent and that the public sector character of the banks would be maintained is self-contradictory. Reducing the government's stake to 33 per cent is as good as privatising the banks.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, Kerala Geeta Mukherjee

With the demise of Geeta Mukherjee the country has lost a dedicated leader of the poor ("A committed fighter", March 31).

She devoted her life to the uplift of the weaker sections of society. She has left a void in the Communist Party of India and in the progressive movement in general.

T. Jyothi Kozhikode, Kerala Constitution review

The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, led by M.N. Venkatachaliah, must be cautious, for its every move might affect the country's future ("An exercise to watch", March 17). Although it is clarified that the basic structure of the Constitution will not come under review, the exercise itself must be carried out independently, without the influence of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and keeping in view the President's words of caution.

Farooque Sayeed Nasser Bhagalpur, Bihar * * *

Even if we ignore the sceptics, it is difficult to understand what the Government means by a "review". The Constitution has not failed us but we certainly have failed the Constitution. There are some institutional loopholes in our system which our experi enced politicians never fail to exploit. Criminals contest and win elections from inside jails. Who is responsible for this - political parties that give them the ticket, the people who vote for them, or the Constitution which grants them the freedom to contest elections?

The United Kingdom does not have a written Constitution but it is doing very well. The question here is one of will: political and social. We hope that the Commission will suggest concrete steps to plug the loopholes in the system and rid the country of corruption and instability.

Ravinder Saini Hisar, Haryana RSS agenda

Praful Bidwai deserves praise for his article "Politics and culture as blood sport" (March 17). The Sangh Parivar is pressuring the Government to saffronise the country and the Government has started implementing the "hidden agenda" with the "Constitutio n review" as the first step. K.S. Sudarshan, the new sarsanghchalak of the RSS, has gone one step ahead and demanded that the Constitution be scrapped.

The Sangh Parivar believes that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has the ability to brainwash his alliance partners. This explains why George Fernandes, who deserted Charan Singh in 1979 over the dual membership issue, is silent on the RSS issue now.

Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee Faridabad Gandhi and the RSS

Newspapers have reported (on March 20) that the new RSS chief, K.S. Sudarshan, while addressing a rally in Calcutta, indicated that his organisation would take legal action against those who continue to link it with Mahatma Gandhi's assassination. I thin k he will have to start with Sardar Patel, the first Home Minister of independent India. In a letter dated September 11, 1948 to M.S. Golwalkar, the then chief of the RSS, Patel wrote, referring to the RSS' role in the assassination: "As a final result o f the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or the people, no more remained for the RSS. In fact, opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS m en expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji's death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS."

Neelima Sharma Delhi Gandhi

In his article "The missing laureate" (March 3), Oyvind Tonneson writes that "the Nobel Peace Prize had never been awarded for that sort of struggle." The struggle in question was the Partition and Gandhi's role in it. Prior to making this statement he q uotes The Times of August 15, 1947: if "the gigantic surgical operation constituted by the partition of India has not led to bloodshed of much larger dimensions, Gandhi's teachings, the efforts of his followers and his own presence, should get a s ubstantial part of the credit." So Gandhi's candidature was certainly worthy of consideration.

Why then was Gandhi not actively considered and awarded the prize? To state that "the Nobel Peace Prize had never been awarded for that sort of struggle" is at variance with facts.

Consider this. In 1936, Carlos S. Lamas, Foreign Minister of Argentina, the first person outside the "North" to receive the Peace Prize, received the prize for "ending an earlier war between Paraguay and Bolivia", writes Homer A. Jack ("Why Did Gandhi No t receive the Nobel Peace Prize?" Gandhi Marg, 13, July 1, 1991; p.192.)

The war in question is the Chaco War (1932-35) between Bolivia and Paraguay, a bloody struggle that ended the prolonged period of civilian rule in Bolivia. "The war unleashed a number of social forces and generated a period of intense questioning that cu lminated in revolutionary upheaval in 1952" (The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World, ed. Joel Krieger, p. 83). The key questions are: what precisely was Lamas' role in bringing the war to an end and why did the Norwegian Committee award him the Peace Prize? That there certainly was precedent in awarding the prize to someone who actively played a role, supposedly diplomatic, and stopped hostilities between belligerents is clear.

About the prize being awarded posthumously, Tonneson tells us that: "... under certain circumstances (the prize) could be awarded posthumously. Thus it was possible to give Gandhi the prize." He then writes: "However, Gandhi did not belong to an organisa tion, he left no property behind and no will: who should receive the Prize money?"

As far as not giving the award posthumously, Prof. Irwin Abrams comments in his book The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates (Boston: G.K.Hall, 1988): "Whereas in 1948 the Committee had finally decided not to give posthumous awards to Gandhi and P rince Bernadotte, this time the members had no hesitation in granting (Dag) Hammarskjold (the U.N. Secretary-General who died in then Northern Rhodesia in 1961 during a peacekeeping mission) the award." (ibid. p. 181, quoted in Jack, Gandhi Marg, p. 194).

Gandhi certainly did not belong to any organisation, though he started a few remarkable ones which most certainly could have been considered, given their exemplary work in the country. The question is why does someone like Tonneson, a responsible and inf ormed journalist, with access to the archival records of the Nobel Foundation, not tell us about the politics of being and not being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? Here I shall not go into the question of how other Nobel Prize awards from Sweden are awar ded.

I hope I have raised enough doubts to question the veracity of Tonneson's statement: "Thus it seems that the hypothesis that the Committee's omission of Gandhi was due to its members' not wanting to provoke British authorities, may be rejected.''

Prof. Vivek Pinto Tokyo Museums

Thank you for highlighting various aspects of the international seminar on museums ("For museums with life", March 31). I would like to add some more facts. The International Seminar on Museums, Culture and Development was jointly organised by the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) and the Regional Museum of Natural History (RMNH) for the International Council of Museum's (ICOM) Asia Pacific Organisation (ASPAC).

As a member of the International Board of the Committee for Education and Cultural Action (CECA) of the ICOM, I was one of the coordinators of the seminar. A pre-seminar workshop for young museologists and students of museology was organised at the RMNH, which was attended by most of the delegates. As far as the museum movement in South Asia is concerned, this was a landmark event.

The importance of museums as centres of learning for community education, which is emerging as an important activity for museums, was discussed at the special interest session on museum education organised at the RMNH. The major stakeholders (schoolteach ers) for museums in India interacted with the delegates of the seminar. A major recommendation of the seminar was that a National Commission on Museums be set up in India.

Dr. B.Venugopal Co-coordinator of the South Asia Seminar on Museums, Regional Museum of Natural History (Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India) Bhopal

Population policy

This refers to the well-researched article "A new population policy" (March 17).

It is rightly pointed out by the authors that the population problem can be diagnosed only by looking at the real needs of the people. Family planning should be considered one of the real needs.

The upward trend of population is posing a threat to the well-being of the country. India's population has almost more than doubled after Independence and may grow four-fold if the birth rate is not checked. The Government's strategy should concentrate o n rural areas where the majority of the population lives. More family planning centres should be opened in villages. Medical graduates should be compelled to work at least for a year in a village family planning centre before they are given their final d egree. They should be given more facilities to work in villages.

Any action to check the growing population will be meaningless without attacking the problem of illiteracy.

Vinod C. Dixit Ahmedabad The Kargil report

The K. Subrahmanyam Committee report on the Kargil War is a clear whitewash of the dereliction of duty on the part of the high-ups ("Blaming it on intelligence", March 17). Citing intelligence failure is a safe way out because for the common people, inte lligence is an abstract entity, which cannot be identified, let alone condemned. The guilty are thus hidden from the public eye.

The intelligence agencies seem to be too busy with their mutual rivalries to notice Pakistani intrusion. It is the primary role of the Army to protect the country from external aggression. But the Subrahmanyam Committee could not have blamed the Army whe n it is known that young officers and jawans fought heroic battles to drive the enemy out. The chief of the Intelligence Bureau had written to the Prime Minister about the Kargil intrusion, and the latter took no action. But can the committee blame the P rime Minister?

No unmanned aircraft or observation satellite is needed to see vast areas being occupied by the Pakistani troops. If shepherds could find troop movements, Army patrols too could have done it. And if the weather was too inclement for patrol, the air obser vation helicopter units of the Army could have been deployed.

N. Kunju Delhi Big dams

"The cost of living'' (February 18) by Arundhati Roy made me think about the real costs of big dams. We must always stand by people who are fighting against big dams such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Arundhati Roy has rightly said that "big dams are monume nts to corruption".

I want to draw the attention of concerned people to two projects being undertaken by the North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation. The 405 MW Ranganadi Dam in Arunachal Pradesh was originally conceived in 1976 and its foundation stone was laid by Prime M inister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. The initial cost of the dam was estimated at Rs.360.12 crores in February 1986. But it was revised to Rs.774.12 crores in February 1993. This almost doubled to Rs.1,479.63 crores in July 1999. The dam is likely to be commiss ioned in 2001. I do not know the actual number of people to be displaced.

Work on the 1,500 MW Barak dam at Tipai Muk in Manipur is likely to begin in 2002. The cost of the dam is likely to be about Rs.6,000 crores. The height of the dam will be 162 metres and there is a provision to increase the height by 2.5 metres.

Debabrata Deb Karimganj, Assam - Editor, Frontline

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