Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Talking points – India and Pakistan

June 29, 2009 2 comments

Following the recently concluded Yekaterinburg Summit where Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveyed a piece of the Indian mind to the Pakistani President Zardari, there have been calls from the international community urging the two nations to resume talks aimed at sorting the many issues that plague either!

More recently, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Talat Masood, a senior defense analyst and a very respectable moderate voice in Pakistan, stated the need for resumption of bilateral talks aimed at settling long disputed issues such as Siachen, Sir Creek, trade and other aspects while keeping aside Kashmir for ‘a later date,’ to be discussed by ‘a more mature generation’, during ‘a more conducive time.’

In his own words, he was echoing the thoughts of President Zardari who in his interactions with Prime Minister Singh at Yekaterinburg said that both India and Pakistan should not hold each other or their actions hostage in the backdrop of the UN security council resolutions on Kashmir!

Indeed, talks are the way forward towards resolution of all long standing deadlocks that continue to exist as thorns in relations between both nations and India should seize the opportunity to reiterate the need for Pakistan to curb assistance to all anti-India operations that originate on its soil, even if that means reigning in the ISI and its many rouge elements that run deep into a system aimed at constantly perpetrating terrorist activities across the border in Indian territory.

Pakistan which has been extensively bogged down by the ongoing conflict with the Taliban desperately needs to engage in some face saving act involving combating terror and reflecting stability else it risks being thoroughly branded as a failed state! Therefore the onus is on Pakistan to prove that it is a committed ally in the war on terror and does not engage itself in proliferation of terror, which has long blemished its image in the international arena. Recognizing this pressure that it is currently going through, India must engage itself in a composite dialogue with Pakistan aimed at eliciting some concrete and tangible steps from the latter which the world at large can witness and take into cognizance.

If India initiates such a process of dialogue, the burden falls on Pakistan to render unfailing cooperation to tackle the issue of terrorism and aide India in combating the same. India can begin by bringing to the table evidence recovered during the events of 26/11 which US intelligence agencies have also verified and concluded to be legitimate (not that India needs an American endorsement). A demand for killing support to ultra-radical an-India elements can be strongly made as a pre-requisite to negotiate on other issues thus making Pakistan face heat and thereby yield to pressure given its current geo-political scenario.

India on the other hand can state that by initiating such a process of dialogue, it has reaffirmed the need for deeper interactions on many fronts aimed at eliciting cooperation and a much needed trust from the embattled nation, purely as a measure of goodwill. Some tough talking from the Indian side is definitely needed to help sort out issues pertaining to terrorism. Indian commitment to the process will be viewed as a mature action at a time when Pakistan is struggling for its survival given the majorly chaotic and fast-changing socio-political situation in the region which needs urgent attention.

All this needs to be done with an open mind and a result oriented focus which should include a measure of careful optimism, and once the case has been strongly made, Kashmir, like Gen Masood believes, can well be discussed at a later time, under a strong guarantee that it will not be made an issue to hijack any agenda such as witnessed in the past!


Can India be slum-free in 5 years?

Yesterday, the Indian President Pratibha Patil announced her government’s ambitious plans of eradicating slums in India by launching special housing schemes for the urban poor and slum-dwellers. This program is aimed to provide housing to over millions of slum dwellers across the country who do not have even the most basic amenities to lead a decent lifestyle.

While the Presidential vision, aided by the current government, may be benevolent and concrete, it is certainly a little far fetched owing to the short time line of 5 years which certainly is not enough to achieve this monolith task!

For starters, with well over a billion people, India is the second most populous nation in the world! As if that was not a shocker enough, UN-HABITAT states that India is home to 63% of all slum dwellers in South Asia. This amounts to a staggering 170 million people, 17% of the world’s slum dwellers. It is believed that approximately 260 million people in India (a group almost equal to the entire population of the United States) still earn $1 or less a day. And according to the United Nations, 70 million people earn less than $2 a day. As India continues to grow in economic stature, there’s much debate over the country’s ability to tackle poverty and urban homelessness.

There are 314,700 children living on the streets of Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Kanpur, Bangalore and Hyderabad, and another 100,000 living in New Delhi. These figures exclude the count of homeless adults in any of the mentioned cities.

The problem of homelessness is associated with a number of factors such as lack of affordable housing, changes in the industrial economy leading to unemployment, inadequate income supports, de-institutionalization of patients with mental health problems and the erosion of family and social support, physical or mental illness, disability, substance abuse, domestic violence and job losses being among the many factors that contribute to miseries in the lives of slum dwellers in India. Concrete measures to address every single one of them need to be undertaken to ensure that rehabilitation of the poor is a result oriented effort and not a futile exercise. It therefore calls for the need for the government to view the problem in a holistic and inclusive manner, one that shall keep in focus the real issue and the factors associated with it.

While several programs, such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and more recently the Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojana, are in place to help the government achieve its mission, the government needs to ensure their effectiveness at the grassroots levels, by channelizing funds and resources in the right direction and making sure that they are not mired in the entangled mess of the infamous bureaucracy. More so, dedicated authorities need to oversee rehabilitation and construction programs with stringent monitoring processes in place to ensure effective utilization of funds. The government may also rope in credible partners from the private sector, while also requesting corporates to contribute to this cause as part of their social responsibility programs.

A careful and systematically planned approach is what is needed to make this ambitious vision a reality, while fully understanding that this is possible only with utmost dedication and commitment. The government should also focus immensely on the urban poor who account for a substantial part of India’s population.

However, it still makes me wonder! 5 years?


The news of Indian students being attacked in Australia comes as a disgusting shocker! At a time when one expects people to focus on technological improvements, adherence to civil culture and peaceful coexistence, such grim incidents are certainly unbecoming and reflect on the mindset of a social system which is unfortunately harbouring a great deal of racially motivated hate in its thoughts and actions.

Least expected are barbarous acts such as the victims’ houses being burgled at a time when the entire community is expected to be offering their condolences and help to the distressed lot. Apparently, this hate and racially motivated mindset is leading to many violent attacks on Indians in this Island continent and the Australian government needs to handle this more seriously and with more maturity.

While fresh incidents of racial attacks on Indians continue to occur, I call upon the Australian people to standby their Indian counterparts in ensuring peace and harmony, and condemn such uncivilized and heinous acts of violence against any community.

Repeated calls for ensuring security of Indian citizens, students in particular, have fallen on deaf ears, as any concrete action remains yet to be taken. It is well past time that the Australian government buckles up and takes some action, while also realizing that an attack on an Indian is an attack on the Indian sovereign!