Attack on Iraq

Print edition : January 16, 1999

Imperialism bends the rules to suit its needs (January 15). The United States and the United Kingdom did not have the United Nations' approval to bomb Iraq. What they are trying to establish is a dangerous trend. Today it is Iraq, tomorrow it may be another country which does not toe their line. Pursuing the objective of eliminating Saddam Hussein is a blatant interference in the internal affairs of a country.

The unimaginable suffering that the people of Iraq are put to must come to an end. The U.N. should lift the sanctions. World opinion should be mobilised against the "sanction raj" of the imperialists.

A. Jacob Sahayam Vellore, Tamil Nadu * * *

The feature gave a complete picture of the devastation of Iraq. Why did the U.S. and U.K. not approach the Security Council before deciding to bomb Iraq?

Despite the tremendous loss inflicted on Iraq, Saddam Hussein is firmly in the saddle and has declared that he will never allow the UNSCOM to re-enter Iraq. Then what will the U.S. gain if it launches another attack, as it has threatened to?

Mani Nataraajan Chennai Israel and Palestine

This has reference to the letter of Ms. Yael Ronen, Spokeswoman, Embassy of Israel (January 15), commenting on John Cherian's article ("Israel starts pullout", December 18). Yael Ronen has attempted to prove that it is possible to fool all the people all the time. But the undisputed fact, which John Cherian has established and which has received worldwide recognition, is that the Government of Israel, particularly that under Benjamin Netanyahu, is responsible for all the setbacks that the peace process has suffered.

The recent political turmoil in Israel is evidence for Israel's unsettled agenda with regard to making peace with Palestinians and Arabs. Netanyahu is often accused by world governments and the world media of placing obstacles to the sincere and honest implementation of the agreements that have been signed. He is well-known for inventing conditions that are contrary to the letter and spirit of the agreements. Even the United States, the strategic ally of Israel, has on several occasions expressed reservations about such behaviour. Netanyahu is often accused by his own people and political allies of political camouflage and lies. On January 6, Shabak, the former chief of Israel's Army, described him as being "dangerous to Israel".

Israel's record in fulfilling its obligations under the Wye River Memorandum is further proof of its policy of evasion and procrastination. Substantial portions of the agreement remain to be implemented by Israel but the time-frame of the peace process ends in four months from now. In fact, Israel has fulfilled less than 10 per cent of its obligations so far. There are scores of important issues remaining unattended: redeployment from 90 per cent of the West Bank area (according to the Protocol on Hebron), safe passage, sea port, negotiations on final status, unilateral actions in Jerusalem, building of settlements, and so on.

The fate of the Wye Memorandum was decided by Netanyahu even before the ink could dry on it. Unfortunately this agreement, the fifth so far, faces the same fate as the earlier ones. Let me remind Yael Ronen that the PLO did not go to Wye to negotiate the release of criminals and civil convicts. Pointing to isolated acts of violence by a few Palestinian extremists while ignoring the daily acts of violence and organised terrorism against innocent, unarmed Palestinian civilians by Israel's Army and armed settlers, does not contribute to revealing truth and facts.

The PLO and the Palestinian National Authority have fulfilled their part of the agreements sincerely to the extent of being accused of violating human rights. U.S. observers have repeatedly acknowledged our honest commitment to the agreements.

What peace in West Asia requires today is a sincere commitment and an honest approach rather than rhetoric of false accusations.

Khaled Haidabi Information Secretary Embassy of The State of Palestine New Delhi

Sonia's reluctance

Apropos the article "Reluctant to strike" (January 1), Sonia Gandhi is reluctant to destabilise the BJP-led Government not only because she does not want to lead a Congress(I) Government that is dependent on coalition partners for survival but also because her leadership would be challenged by her own partymen under such an arrangement. Leaders such as Sharad Pawar and K. Karunakaran, who have their regional support bases, will pose a threat to her leadership sooner or later if she were to lead a coalition government.

Jaya Prasad Patna Sri Lanka

Amidst media interviews that are aimed at creating one controversy or the other, N. Ram's interview with Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumara-tunga is an exception (January 1). It can serve as the basis for solving the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

Arakkal Abdulkadar Koratti, Kerala Attack on Christians

It was disturbing to read about the planned programme of attack on Christians by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal ("Targeting Christians", January 1). The Central Government under A.B. Vajpayee should not remain a mute spectator and allow things to get out of hand. This Government came to power mainly on the plan of security and stability. It is not advisable to create a situation of insecurity.

C. Suresh Pai Madurai * * *

The past few months have witnessed an intensification of attacks on Christians by the Sangh Parivar, particularly in Gujarat. As a justification for their undemocratic acts, the organisations of the Parivar have raised the bogeys of conversion through inducement, a plot to evangelise India, and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) funding of Christian missionaries. In the past few decades the Sangh Parivar's aggression has been directed against Muslims. Recently it turned its attention to the Sufi shrine on Baba Budan Giri in Karnataka, a symbol of India's syncretic culture.

After the BJP-led coalition assumed office at the Centre, the RSS and its affiliates have stepped up their anti-constitutional activities in Gujarat. While the BJP Government in Gujarat seems to be tacitly supporting this blatant violation of the democratic rights of the Christian minority, the BJP-led Government at the Centre has turned a blind eye to the atrocities. These dastardly acts are carefully planned by the Sangh Parivar in pursuance of its goal of establishing a Hindu Rashtra. It questions the rights of citizens to choose their own way of life.

We strongly condemn the VHP and the Bajrang Dal for the attacks on Christians. We lodge our strong protest against the BJP for conniving with these organisations in persecuting the minorities. We urge upon fellow citizens to reject the Sangh Parivar's goal of Hindu Rashtra and to uphold the democratic values of liberty, equality and fraternity enshrined in our Constitution.

P.R. Ram Secretary, EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity) Mumbai

Tourism in Nepal

Nepal is truly a trekker's paradise ("Nepal beckons", January 1). Some of the favourite trekking routes are in the Khumbu Valley and around the Annapurna sanctuary. There is an awareness in Nepal about the need to protect the fragile Himalayan environment. For instance, on some trails the use of firewood is banned; only kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas are allowed. The disposal of solid waste is a problem. "Solar toilets" are under trial and expeditions have been launched to remove garbage from mountains frequented by climbers.

Some of the trails are in a poor state, and frequent landslips pose hazards not only to the residents of the villages but also to trekkers. Efforts are being made to build new bridges and to improve roads, but this is a slow process. Medical facilities are inadequate in the remote villages. Children have to trek miles to reach schools. However, my personal experience is that there has been a marginal improvement in the living standards of villagers because of tourism-related development.

Throwing open India's hilly regions to trekkers without providing adequate infrastructure will be a mistake. In Nepal each hut is a potential lodge; however, Indian villagers are wary of strangers. Log cabins and huts will have to be built en route since every trekker will not be able to carry tents. Eco-trekking in small groups should be encouraged; big expeditions are a burden on the environment, as is evident in Nepal.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore Fighting for a cause

Some of your readers have accused you of being biased against the BJP, but the BJP deserves to be exposed for trying to divide Indians on ethnic and religious lines. It is a party dominated by high-caste Hindu capitalists. Although the BJP claims to be a disciplined and principled party, how does it retain power in Uttar Pradesh? When the United Front was at the helm, the BJP attacked it for leading a coalition of 14 parties. But does the BJP not lead a larger coalition, with some of its partners diametrically opposed to one another?

One reader asks: "Whose battles are you fighting?" To me, you are fighting for the weaker sections of society - that is, women, agricultural workers, peasants, the working class, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, who have been subjected to indignities for centuries.

In a society it is the duty of the intelligentsia to champion the cause of the oppressed.

K.S. Wickramatilake Chilaw, Sri Lanka A house divided

Apropos of "A house divided" (January 1), the general strike on December 11 by 56 trade unions, supported not only by Opposition parties but also by a few coalition partners of the BJP, was a rebuff to the BJP-led Government which acts quite contrary to the BJP's publicised views when it was in the Opposition.

The framing of national economic policies is not the sole prerogative of the powers-that-be. Trade union members are also citizens and voters of India. Economic policies that do not benefit the lower rungs of society are harmful to the nation. Releasing market forces without simultaneously expanding opportunities for the poor can lead to lopsided development and social unrest. The economic reforms have failed to carry conviction with the poor.

Jawaharlal Nehru's prescription of a mixed economy, where the public sector and the private sector complement each other, is the best suited for India. Laissez-faire, the policy of non-intervention by the state in the economic life of the country, which is the essence of the new economic policy, will benefit only the rich. The present economic reforms will be disastrous for India.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, Kerala Insurance sector

The Insurance Regulatory Authority Bill introduced by the BJP-led Government is an attempt to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The BJP, when it was in the Opposition, vociferously opposed the opening up of the insurance sector by allowing 20 per cent equity to foreign companies. Today the very same party is ready to throw open the profit-earning sector to foreign investors by permitting them an equity of up to 40 per cent. Such double standards are unacceptable and that is why even the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the trade union wing of the BJP, opposes the move.

Insurance companies even in the United States have not been doing well and many of them have gone bankrupt. How wise is it to allow these foreign investors to enter the Indian insurance sector? Foreign banks in India have been involved in massive frauds such as the securities scam. What is the guarantee that foreign insurance companies will not do likewise if allowed entry? The BJP mistakenly thinks that with such liberalisation moves it can regain its popular support. Unless the Government's economic reforms help the poor, the BJP's goal will not be fulfilled.

Kalyani Srirangam Best of the Nehruvians

With reference to the article "The last of the Nehruvians" by Praful Bidwai (January 1), I join the writer in paying tribute to the late P.N. Haksar who embodied the best of the Nehruvian tradition. I, however, do not agree with his opinion that Haksar's world was far from cheerful in the evening of his life.

I had the privilege of interacting with Haksar during the last couple of years when he addressed the closing sessions of a series of annual lectures on international relations organised by the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He stuck to his firm belief, and kept re-asserting in his forceful words while answering questions from the audience, that life demanded constant renewal and our country was crying for renewal in political, economic, cultural and spiritual fields. The 'renewal' process is on but it is a pity that it is for the 'worse' and not for the 'better' of the country.

We need men of the calibre of Haksar, people with vision, who can bring about the right kind of 'renewal' wherein our basic moral values and cultural ethos remain intact. Now there is an acute dearth of such men. Hence the chaos.

Onkar Chopra New Delhi

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