Monday, December 29, 2008

Omar Abdullah to be CM

The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference emerged the single-largest party in crucial elections held in the war-torn state. The JKNC won a total of 28 seats, ahead of its biggest rival, the People's Democratic Pary (PDP). Now, JKNC President Omar Abdullah, who will become the new Chief Minister (and one of the youngest Chief Ministers in India), has to sit down with Congress President Sonia Gandhi, whose party won 17 seats. Together, the INC and the JKNC control a simple majority in the 87-seat assembly.

The elections were held this year after the previous PP-INC Coalition led by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad collapsed after the Amarnath Controversy. However, that issue seemed to have played to the BJP's favour, which won an amazing 11 seats, up from just 1 seat last time. 

The elections have been described as a 'vote for democracy' by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Chief Election Commissioner of India described it as the most 'credible election' held in the state. The election saw very few incidents of violence and a high turnout. People seem to have voted for better civic amenities and jobs.

Meanwhile, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti appears to be trying to form an alliance with some parties, but it has become quite clear that the JKNC-INC combine will govern the state.

Federal Elections and elections in the states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh next year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

One Year without Benazir Bhutto

December 27, 2008

One year ago, two-time Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in an election rally. Today, a lot has changed in her country.

The military rule has been lifted and a democratic Government is trying to take over all the affairs of the state.

Her son is still studying in the UK, but is slowly learning the ways of politicians.

Her husband has become the President of the country. He has also been accused of flirting with Sarah Palin.

Pakistan's economy has collapsed, and the country now lives on an IMF lifeline.

The Taliban seems so have taken control of SWAT. They have bombed hundreds of schools imparting education to girls.

Benazir Bhutto's killers have still not been brought to book. 

One year on, her dream for Pakistan seems to have faded even further.

Friday, December 26, 2008

AIEEE Link Activated

The link to check the application status for aspirants of the All Indian Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE)-2009 is now active. You can key in your application number and check your application status. To find this link, go to

The Worry of Oil Bonds

In 2008, the Government of India issued oil bond worth billions of dollars to compensate state-run Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) for the huge losses they incurred in subsidising oil sold in India. This system is dangerous and will have major ramifications in the future.

Bonds are a most ingenious financial instrument: they're counted as debt, but only in the future. Bonds need not be mentioned in the current account deficit or as expenditure. This creates an illusion of a Government that is extremely fiscally responsible. Such an illusion if false.

When the time comes for the Government of the day to redeem these oil bonds, the cat will come flying out of the bag. The Government cannot default on these bonds, it has to find some way to get the money to repay them. Now, one way would be to boost exports and use the earnings to pay them back. But with the ever-widening trade deficit, that seems highly unlikely. The other way is to sell off State-owned assets. While that could happen, there will be huge opposition to it, and it will take a very brave (and numerically strong) government indeed to go ahead with it. If the Left ever comes to power, that can be ruled out entirely.

Then there is the option of raising taxes. That seems to be exactly what the Government will be doing. While we drive our fuel-inefficient cars to work, ignoring public transport and our own two feet, we are being bolstered by cheap fuel, all subsidised. What worries me the most is that this indulgence will hurt future generations. They (we) will have to pay more in taxes, consumption will be dragged down and the economy will follow. That's the dangerous future being gifted to us by the UPA.

The solution however, is complex. There is no question of lifting oil subsidies: both from a political and moral point of view, it is wrong. Political, because it would anger the masses who, sadly, think the Government can simply print money without worrying about it. Moral, because most people in India live below the poverty line and cannot afford the Kerosene required to cook. There is however, a middle path: differential subsidies.

The current policy of the Government is to issue blanket subsidies on oil products: that means everyone from the local farmer to Mukesh Ambani use subsidise fuel. While the poor really need it, those earning several lakhs a year do not. And that's where the political courage comes in: to remove subsidies, wholly or in part, to higher income groups. They can afford it, and if they can't, they can at least afford a bus ticket. If they want the luxury of a car, they must be ready to pay for it; that's a basic tenet of capitalism. However, those making just enough money to survive cannot afford even a bus ticket and need subsidies to stay alive. It would be inhuman to lift subsidies on them.

You can play around with everything except the economy. If you try to mess with the economy, it will come back to bite you. The danger of creating too much debt and praying to God to make the next generation pay it off is huge. It will take some visionary steps to correct our course. The Congress in 1991 made such bold decisions. Sadly, the UPA is not the Congress of 1991.

Ghajini Sold Out In Hyderabad

Aamir Khan's latest blockbuster, Ghajini, based on the Tamil movie with the same name, has made waves in Hyderabad. Times perfectly to release on Christmas, a public holiday, the movie saw packed theatres in Hyderabad.

Adlabs in Ameerpet was booked within seconds of starting sale of tickets. In PVR (Hyderabad Central, Panjagutta), the line in front of the ticket counter was as long as the mall itself! And of course, the tickets at Prasads were booked a good week before the movie released. In fact, the infamous black market for tickets in Prasads was active. Very active.

The smaller theatres were not entirely booked, but were still quite full. And it wasn't just Ghajini, SRK-starer Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi also saw full theatres, as people looked to make good the holiday. TV channles report that Ghajini made a new record for advance bookings in India!

And oh, the Christmas tree in Prasads was as beautiful as ever. Reaching all the way up to the top of the first floor, the tree was covered in fake snow and lights. The Santa Claus next to the tree was a neat addition.

Another Christmas goes by in Hyderabad, and the country slowly gets back on its feet after 26/11.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thank You for the Cricket

The English Cricket team might have lost the RBS Cup 1-0, but by simply being there to play with India after 26/11 means lot to all Indians. I must admit that I was worried after the siege; worried that all countries would cancel on us like they've done with Pakistan. 

But then the Government showed its powerful security force that would protect the English team ('commando cricket,' as Kevin Petersen put it) and the ECB eventually agreed. And the series has helped Indians stand up again. IT was thrilling to watch Sachin chase such a high target in Chennai, and the English team putting up a strong offence in Mohali. The matches united Indians once again, and a nation could look towards the future.

It seems ironic that our former imperialist rulers have proven to be our greatest friends in time of crisis. But maybe that's the way the ball rolls. 

Again, a warm thank you to the English team. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mathematics Day

BITSAT Applications Open


Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, Dec. 22: The forms for application to the Birla Institutes of Technology and Science Aptitute Test (BITSAT) 2009 are now available on their website

BITSAT is a prestigious exam taken by thousands of students every year for admission into BITS Pilani/Goa/Hyderabad. (OTFS)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Candlelight is Mightier than the Flame

A silly argument put forward recently is that holding candlelight vigils is absolutely pointless and politicians listen only to guns and violence. Many politicians themselves have said that they don't see the point of such vigils.

The truth is that a candlelight vigil is the most humane as well as the most democratic form of protest or expression of solidarity. It integrates public opinion and sends out a strong weapon. To say that such vigils are pointless would be to negate those ideals for which Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., among others, stood for. 

Many people thought that silent protest never works. Such thoughts gave birth to Hitler and Raj Thackeray, to name a few. They are wrong. The wonderful thing about democracy is that a small show of solidarity that captures public interest is enough to make representatives move fast. Public opinion is the key: and a silent protest is the most powerful form of protest there is. That's why candlelight vigils are not pointless, they are essential instruments of human conscience. 

'Tis the Season to be Merry

Opinions 24x7 proudly releases its latest logo for the holiday season. This year, Christmas holds a special place in all our hearts. With a global recession hitting families across the world, this will be a quiet Christmas. But remember, Christmas is not about expensive gifts or lavish dinners. It's about family ties and traditional values.

Suze Orman suggest that this year, our families should vow not to give any gifts to each other. Save for a rainy (rainier?) day. But more importantly, enjoy the spirit of Christmas like it should be enjoyed.

As for the New Year, remain optimistic. Hey, it can't get much worse from here! Hope for a better, more prosperous 2009. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bushism No. 1!


Those are the words that Iraqi journalist  Muthathar al Zaidi shouted at US President George W Bush, before throwing his shoes at him. And what a stir it has created online!

A group on Facebook has declared Mr. Zaidi a hero, and asked for Bush to be tried for war crimes! Most people feel the journalist was fully justified in throwing his shoes, in fact, they regretted Bush's reflexes were still so good! People have started to wonder whether they could bid for the shoes and keep it as a memento. The current offer is $25 mn, but it could go up!

Of course, all that is just the nice stuff. A lot of foul language was used, and polls were conducted on what object should have been used (currently, people are voting for his chair). Some rumours have begun to spread that an Egyptian man offered his daughter's hand to the journalist. And of course, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who famously described Bush as 'the devil,' called Mr. Zaidi 'brave.'

Also, a little joke is running in Pakistan that the Pentagon has traced the shoe-thrower to the LeT in Pakistan. According to joke, the man was inspired by a fiery speech and spent two months training in the art of shoe-throwing. The shoes he threw were specially made from the hide of a goat sacrificed during Id ul Adha by the founder of the LeT!

Oh, and i you want to join in on the action, play one of the many 'Bush shoe-throwing' games available online!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Hate You

I also think that you are disgusting.

A No Brainer

The Ministry of External Affairs' decision not to allow the BCCI to send players for the 2009 India-Pakistan Cricket Series is wise and well-timed. The very idea of a 'business as usual' atmosphere between Pakistan and India after 26/11 is disgusting and reprehensible.

I do not doubt President Asif Zardari's sincerity. He seems like a hard-working person who wants a safer Pakistan and South Asia. But the continued flip-slip from Pakistan - sending the ISI Chief, Amir Ajmal's nationality, airspace violations etc. - indicate that he does not call all the shots. The military is involved here, no doubt.

From my point of view, the military is in total control of Indo-Pak policies. While the civilian government is left to control the (crumbling) economy, they are out to alleviate American pressure in the NWFP and FATA. This is an existential danger for Pakistan, and a major security threat to India.

India is not the first country to cancel a cricket tour to Pakistan this year, and it certainly won't be the last. But unless the Government 'settles down' (it seems to be taking forever to do that) and crushes the political side of the military, cricket tours will be the last thing Pakistan will have to worry about.

I think Pakistan's GEO TV deserves special praise for its coverage. GEO has come to signify Pakistan's new democracy abroad. Good job!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Great Load of Bollox

In a recent interview to recent to Geo TV, Pakistani lawyer C M Farooque asserted that the terrorist nabbed during the 26/11 siege in Mumbai, Amir Ajmal 'Kasab,' was apprehended by Nepali police in 2006 and handed over to Indian authorities to 'defame Pakistan!' 

He also claimed that he had filed an appeal in Nepal's Supreme Court, but fumbled several times when asked specifics such as the date on which he had filed the appeal. He also claimed that Ajmal and others went to Nepal on a 'business trip,' although multiple media reports have confirmed that he hailed from an impoverished family in Punjab (Pakistan), which would make it highly unlikely that he could afford any 'business trips.'

Now, a senior judge of the Nepal Supreme Court has said that he has no knowledge of any such case. He also said that Nepal had not handed over anybody to Indian authorities. 

A spokesperson for the Nepal Home Ministry categorically denied any such detention and said that the government had never detained or handed over any Pakistani travellers. Just last week, Ajmal's father cried out before a TV channel in Pakistan that Ajmal was his son and media reports showed that Pakistani intelligence officials were trying to cover his tracks.

The assertion by the lawyer seems to be of part of what the Indian Air Force described as 'a massive disinformation campaign being launched in Pakistan.' I fail to understand what India would gain by spending thousands of dollars to bomb its own hotels and kill its own citizens, just to 'defame' Pakistan. If India needed to 'defame' Pakistan, it would be as simple as bringing up the issue of young girls in the North West being buried alive in International fora. Remember that some Pakistani Senators had actually justified the act!

This stupid assertion by the lawyer seems to be a desperate move to avoid more International pressure on Pakistan, by creating more false stories. It will not work. British PM Gordon Brown certainly made that clear.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Morals vs. Professionalism

A very interesting debate is on in legal circles as to what lawyers should do with the case of Ajmal Amir 'Kasab,' the lone terrorist apprehended during the Mumbai 26/11 attack.

While one section believes that it is morally wrong to defend a terrorist in a court of law, another believes that a lawyer is not defending a terrorist but simply allowing the law to take its own course. The faster he gets a lawyer, the faster he will be punished!

But the Siva Sena today ransacked the office of a lawyer who publicly agreed to take Ajmal Amir's case. This is a dangerous precedent: lawyers should not be told what to do by political parties, unless we want to convert India into a banana republic! Then again, a bar association in Mumbai said that none of its members would defend him.

The issue over whether a lawyer should stick to his professional ideals or listen to his heart is a complex one. Eventually however, Ajmal will need some representation in court. Not even a hundred lawyers can save him, but just one lawyer is needed to punish him. Now, what are they going to do about that?

New Key Model


Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, Dec. 15: The colege has adopted a new model for setting the key to all exams for all sections. In the original model, taking from a standard template for EAMCET, the paper-setter would prepare a key beforehand, an it would be circulated to students after the exam.

However, a number of flaws emerged in that mode. In particular, the observation that paper-setters were misusing their powers by changing the key so as to ensure that their students bagged higher ranks. Furthermore, the fact that hostel students distributed the key to their day-scholar friends, who write the exam one day later.

The new model eliminated both problems. Now, a free-float key model will force lecturers to solve the question papers and report their key, after discussing it with their students. A final key would be decided after a conference. Although longer, the system will be a major step forward. (OTFS)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Attack on Democracy

Ms India declared Runner-up at MW

Miss India Parvathy Omanakuttan of the State of Kerala has been crowned runner-up in the Miss World 2008 pageant, just concluded in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her graceful walk, stunning looks and wise answer to similarities between South Africa and India, including the legacies of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, won her the prize.

Indian Navy Arrests Pirates

In yet another major success, the Indian Navy arrested 23 pirates - Somali and Yemeni - who had boarded a vessel in the Gulf of Aden. The vessel was flying an Ethiopian flag.

Pirates, using speedboats, has started firing at the ship, MV Gibe, which then called out for help to the nearest ship, the INS Mysore. The Naval Warship sent a helicopter immediately and rescues the ship, which was later escorted to safety.

The Naval Commandos boarded a pirate ship and found a cache of weapons, including AK-47's and several rounds of ammunition. 12 of the pirates are Somali and 11 Yemeni.

Now, a doubt remains over what to do with the pirates. They will most likely be tried by courts in neighbouring countries. Their capture represents a rare victory in the Battle against piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Can't Snap Cultural Ties

On CNN-IBN's Face the Nation, an interesting question was posed to the audience and panelists: Should India snap cultural ties with Pakistan to put pressure on the Government there?

I believe that it is impossible to snap Indo-Pak cultural ties. We have to remember that the two countries have existed as (hostile) neighbours for sixty years: prior to that, it was just one gigantic subcontinent, with its countless kingdoms. A common culture stemmed from this land, the culture of civilisation. To suddenly end millenniums for culture would be both impossible and foolhardy in attempt.

On the programme, singer Abhijeet made a somewhat valid point: the economics of it. While cultural ties such as clothing and food can never be severed, professional acting, singing, dancing and theatre can - and maybe even should? Abhijeet pointed out that while millions of talented professionals in our small cities struggle to find a footing, Pakistani professional cross the border (sans work permit, according to Abhijeet) and make their millions, and pay income tax to the Pakistani Government. The reverse process is strictly banned by Pakistan. How can we allow this one-way trade? Isn't it wrong to put our own people at a disadvantage?

I have no answer to this question posed by Abhijeet. Perhaps he is right: the Indian Industry, one of the largest in the world, should be a platform for Indians, otherwise it would become unjust. Or perhaps the argument that art knows no boundaries should apply.

Whatever be the argument, one thing is for sure: India and Pakistan started the human race in the subcontinent together. Governments can erect boundaries but they cannot erase history.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Congress Wins with 2/3 Majority

It was a clean sweep for the Congress in the tiny North-Eastern state of Mizoram. This state is quite unique among the others whose results were declared today: the BJP didn't win anything. Not surprising: Mizoram was never a BJP state.

The decade-long control of the Mizo National Front (MNF and allies) ended on the back of string anti-incumbency and an aggressive campaign by the Congress. Lalthanhawla is all set to form a Government there, with a powerful majority in the Assembly. He says that his main focus will be development. The outgoing Chief Minister accepted defeat.

Mizoram was the site of powerful campaigning, with Congress leaders such as Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh campaiging there. Clearly, the Congress threw the kitchen sink at the MNF, and it paid off. 

So with Mizoram, the Congress ended an eventful day, keeping Delhi and winning Rajasthan and Mizoram. The race for the Lok Sabha in 2009 just got a lot more interesting!

'Mr. Clean' Does the Trick

The BJP's Chief Minister in Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, is often called 'Mr. Clean,' mainly because of his transparent conduct and sincere work. That image of his is probably what gave the BJP the magic number to retain the central state. Raman Singh's welfare measures, particularly his rice distribution scheme, proved a hit with voters.

In contrast, the Congress is riddled with factionalism in the state. The PCC has admitted defeat, and says it will introspect.

BJP Wins India's Heart

Simplicity wins the day: and the votes! That's the mantra which saw the BJP rise to retain Madhya Pradesh. CM-designate Shivraj Singh Chouhan has a humble style: he is easily accessible and believes that development and development alone is what people should be concerned about.

In a massive upheavel, former BJP iron-woman Uma Bharti lost her seat in her home turf. Before the elections, she said that she did not want to form a Government, just defeat the BJP. She went on to add that if the BJP won, she would retire from politics. Only time will tell if she remembers her words.

In the meantime, the BJP can take pride in having won this state, although its performance for the day was poor.

Royal Defeat

The Rajasthan verdict proves one thing: God can't win you elections. Particularly not if your CM-candidate thinks she's God. That's the biggest mistake Vasundhara Raje made: she tried to become larger than the party, distancing herself from grassroots workers and more senior members at the same time.

And the verdict was clear. The BJP lost a huge share of seats, and the Congress needs just a few Independents to form the next government. Even more shocking is the fact that a dozen Ministers in Raje's cabinet lost their seats.

The Gujjar-incidents clearly had a role. The BJP won just one seat in the Meena-dominated areas. Meenas are the group that were against reservations for the Gujjars. Sadly for the BJP, the Gujjars just about split their votes between the BJP and the Congress.

The walk to the Governor's residence to submit her resignation will be a long one for Raje: she should think about the importance of being a member of the party and not superseding it (although some people like Narendra Modi can afford to do so). As for the Congress, the Ghelot-led Government has a lot of work ahead.

Sheila Dikshit makes History

Sheila Dikshit is old: let's face it. But that's only by age! According to Delhi's voters, she's young at heart. That would explain how she managed to win over young voters when Delhi voted.

In a major setback for the BJP, the Congress won 42 seats in the 69-member assembly, just short os a two-thirds majority. Moreover, this gives Dikshit a third term, taking her into the ranks of Narendra Modi and NT Rama Rao. So what gave her the win? Well, her media-savvy image definitely helped her to connect with voters (the BJP's VK Malhotra was the diametric opposite). And more importantly, she has genuinely contributed to Delhi's development over the past decade.

More roads, better public transport and better infrastructure: she did it all, and more. Now, that's a winning formula if I've ever seen one.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Greatest Crime of All

Genos, Greek for race, and cide, Latin for killing. The two words were put together to form a word to describe Nazism: genocide, the mass murder of an entire race of people.

Scream Bloody Murder, an aptly-titled presentation on CNN, looked into the history of genocide, and how successive governments around the world refused to do anything about it. The show was presented by Christiane Amanpour, CNN Chief International Correspondent.

Starting with the genocide of Christian Armenians in Turkey, the programme explored the Holocaust and spoke to survivors. It then moved on to other genocides: in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, in Rwanda, in Iraq by Saddam Hussain (this included a short description of the Gulf Wars), in Bosnia and finally, in Darfur. 

Each story was different, more gruesome than the last. But there was always something common: a person, or a group, who would not take it sitting down. They would stand up and scream, 'Bloody Murder!' And each time, powerful governments failed to listen, until it was too late.

Amanpour finished off the show with a sign of hope: the Internet, and its mass reach. She expressed hope that a mass movement of all people of the world would end the genocide in Darfur, the first of the 21st Century. Maybe then we could really say, never again.

Stateless Zones?

The assertion by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari that the perpetrators behind Mumbai's 26/11 Attack were "stateless actors" leaves a lot to be questioned.

One such significant question was brought up in an editorial in The Hindu (dated Dec. 6, 2008). It questioned whether the idea of "stateless actors" could be extended to "stateless zones," where the civilian government has no control. 

In case of existence of such zones, would it be valid for a foreign military establishment to attack those zones, since they are stateless? If such stateless zones were responsible for inhuman acts around the world, would the world be justified in attacking them, since they were, after all, "stateless"?

These are hard questions which Mr. Zardari will have to ponder over. I doubt he can more than ponder: by no means will the Army allow him to touch the free-for-all-death-to-all terrorist camps in PoK. 

In Mr. Zardari wishes to absolve his country, his Government and himself of the 10 terrorists (at least one of whom is a Pakistani citizen from Punjab) who bruised Mumbai, then he must be ready to pay the price. As US SoS Rice said, if Pakistan cannot act, then the US (and in extension, other countries) will. 

The End of the World

It's December 6, 2008. A little under a year ago, I was writing about how the new year would be challenging, the most difficult year ever for me. Indeed, it seems to have lived up to its expectations, even going beyond. 

2008 has been the worst year of my life. I have bartered two years for something I have never wanted, I have lost two years of my teenage life to a fruit that tastes like water to me. 

And now, it's almost over. After being reduced to taking Vitamin-B pills just to stay awake and gulping down chyavanprash to avoid overpowering fevers, my life is almost set to go back to normal. Even though I know, in my heart, that my life has changed forever. 

Undoubtedly, I will be reading the Bhagvad Gita after all this is over. I feel a spiritual void, an emptiness. I feel shame and pride, both at the same time. I fear looking into the mirror, because I would see the ravages of the present and recent past. Countless times I have wanted to end it all in one stroke, in the most inhuman way possible. 

And each time, I was saved. And I will be saved again, and again. April 12, April 26. And peace be upon us all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Armyman Trained Terrorists

The New York Times, quoting unnamed officials from The Pentagon, has claimed that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 26/11 were trained in pakistan by a retired officer of the Pakistani Army. The report also claimed that Pakistan's powerful spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-services Intelligence, or the ISI, had a direct role in the attack. 

However, the report said that no links had been established between the Pakistani Government and the terrorists. 

The report comes amidst other reports that American and Indian Inetligence have pinned a Pakistani role in the attack. 

The Global Government









The UPA Government's busiest Ministry has undoubtedly been that of External Affairs. From a landmark Civilian Nuclear Agreement with America to the Nepal Crisis, the MoEA has been at the helm of affairs. Of course, it has come with some controversy: Natwar Singh, the original Minister, was thrown out following the Volcker Report. PM Manmohan Singh took charge for a brief period, but eventually the workload became too much and protocols too strict. Eventually, ace-troubleshooter for the Congress, Pranab Mukherjee, took over.


We discuss, in brief, the Government's performance in various regions.


South Asia

In South Asia, the Ministry has done a good job in creating democracy in Nepal. The talks between Nepali Leaders and Maoists in New Delhi led to the end of a bloody civil war and the establishment of a secular democracy. The same is with Bhutan: the Government stood with the tiny neighbour as it became a democratic nation with a constitutional monarchy. In Afghanistan, the entire Government has done a lot for the war-torn nation's reconstruction efforts.


However, the Ministry has not looked properly into human rights violations in Sri Lanka. According to the South Asian Human Rights Commission, Sri Lanka is the worst performer in the region as far as human rights go. However, keeping the ban on the LTTE in place is a good thing.


Lastly, Pakistan. The Indo-Pak relationship has grown well under the UPA, although it is marked by periods of tensions. The newly-elected democratic regime in Pakistan has embraced the Indian Government, and a better future can be expected.



India's relationship with Oman and Qatar grew tremendously under the UPA. So have our ties with Central Asia, Kazakhstan in particular. With Japan, India has signed a rare military treaty, while Australia and India have come closer to stronger ties, minus nuclear cooperation. These represent a number of successes of the UPA. However, the distancing of Russia from India in the face of our new ally, the US, has been disturbing. Even Russian media acknowledged that Indo-Russia ties were growing weak. Still, Russia remains India's top provider of military hardware. India's quiet diplomacy with Myanmar and its handling of the Asian Tsunami were exemplary.


The relationship with China has been one of deep concern. On multiple occasions, authorities on both sides made statements regarding Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian Government's steadfast stand that ArP is an integral part of India, and its strength in now cowing down to China, represent a great success. However, the stronger ties between China and India, the two emerging giants, has led to the creation of a new world order: BRIC.


The Middle East and North Africa

Indo-Israel ties grew further under the UPA, with more Israelis visiting India. India's participation in the US-sponsored Middle East peace talk was also an encouraging sign. Furthermore, the visit of the Syrian President to India in 2008 strengthened ties between Syria and India. Sadly, Indo-Iran ties took a colossal beating under the UPA, which voted against Iran twice at the IAEA, apparently under American pressure. Our cooperation in protecting democracy in Iraq has been next to nil.


Indo-Egypt ties have been redefined under the UPA, and Egypt remains India's top ally in the region. However, India has not done enough to encourage Egypt to provide humanitarian aid to those locked up in the Gaza Strip by Israel.



India utter negligence of the Darfur genocide has been the UPA's greatest failure. India's relationship with South Africa has grown well, and South Africa went on to support the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement and India's UNSC bid. India's recent Naval deployment, with the help of Oman, to battle pirates off Somalia was a masterstroke, ensuring safer passage for Indian traders. However, India's virtual indifference towards Zimbabwe and Mugabe's banana democracy deserves sharp criticism.


Overall, with a landmark Indo-Africa Summit held in New Delhi, India's cooperation with Africa has been the best in the world, second only to perhaps America.


The Americas

Indo-US ties grew like never before under the UPA, so much so that it was compared to Sino-US ties many decades ago. The historic 123 Agreement and expansion of Indian Businesses into America began to signal the rise of a new Asian giant. India and the US are now poised to show the world the path to democracy.


India's failure to stop pro-Khalistan demonstrations in Canada is just about its only failure in the Region. Indo-Brazil ties grew strongly, with India and Brazil jointly fighting for a UNSC seat. India's FTA with Chile marked the first such agreement India had with the region, and more are expected to follow. Lastly, the UPA's determination to engage Venezuela and Cuba for future trade deserves praise.



India and Europe, particularly Britain, have had some rough times before. Engaging former colonial masters was never easy. But the UPA did exceptionally well, with Manmohan Singh earning praise from top leaders, including Gordon Brown, Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. India's support to the EU, its desire to engage the region for fostering peace and its ability to create a better future in the face of a dark history: these are hallmarks of a successful European policy.


But even with smaller countries, India worked closely, if not successfully. The failure to convince the Scandinavian countries to support the 123 Agreement without US intervention is a key pitfall, while the Ministry's decision not to recognise Kosovo was well-timed and wise.



India's membership into important International associations and strengthening of SAARC were strategic successes for the Ministry. Today, India is a member of a number of groupings, including the all-important APEC and ASEAN, where India has an observer statues. India's status as an outreach nation in the G8 and the BRIC Arrangement signaled the beginning of a new world order, and the UPA Government has the rare distinction of leading India to the forefront of it. Lastly, the UPA's desire to foster greater trade among SAARC countries, and provide more assistance to Bangladesh, were achievements for India.


Overall, Pranab Mukherjee has proved to be a worthy Minister, politician and statesman. The image of him shaking hands with Condoleezza Rice while signing the 123 Agreement will be one of the defining pictures of the UPA.


The Ministry of External Affairs

General Performance: Very Good

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The NSG does not kill hostages!

I was sad and shocked to read that a representative of Israeli Humanitarian Aid group ZAKA had told the Jerusalem Post that he suspected India's NSG of killing some of the hostages in the Chabad Centre, Nariman House, in Mumbai during the 26/11 Attack.

Such insensitive words are quite shocking from a country which itself has faced the heat of Islamic terrorism for many years. Of course, this is not the Israeli Government (or the caretaker government) that has said this. Indeed, foreign minister Tzipi Livni seemed far more clear in her thought.

Random accusations of collateral damage does not do well. The Indian Establishment might as well have let the terrorists kill all the Jews living there. But Indians are not like that: we don't have blind hatred towards Jews. India has welcomed all cultures and civilisations, and Jews, like other groups, are free to obtain education and jobs in India and also practise and propagate their faith.

I don't think the slain Rabbi and his wife would have been very happy had they known such allegations were being made against India's bravest warriors. They preached love and peace, and I respect Jews for that.

Obama: India has right to chase terrorists

CNN reports that US President-Elect Barack Obama has pledged to support India in its war on terror and said that his heart reached out to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attack and their families. The attack has killed 173 lives, not including those of nine terrorists.

In an even greater statement, replying to a question on whether the US would let India attack militant camps in Pakistan without Islamabad's permission, the President-elect said that India, like all sovereign nations, had the right to defend its citizens. This reflects changing equations between the US and South Asia, with India emerging as the new American friend and ally.

Obama also said that South Asia would be his administration's top priority, particularly the war in Afghanistan and hunting down Osama bin Laden. Recently, Margret Albright described Pakistan as 'the perfect recipe for an International migraine.'

Obama made the comments during a ceremony in which he introduced his National Security Team, headed by Secretary of State-nominee Hillary Clinton.

Language Classes Soon?


Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, Dec. 2: Sources have told OTFS that the language lecturers have officially sent a request for language classes to be restarted for a few days so that the syllabus can be completed before the Pongal Holidays in January.

The language classes for S1/ISB were discontinued from August 1 in order to create more time fo an extra track in Chemistry, thanks to which S1 today is the only class to have completed the entire chemistry syllabus.

OTFS has also learned that Mr. Venkatesh, Sanskrit lecturer, has asked for 15 days, so that he could get at least 10. English lecturer Mrs. Latika requires even less than that. Whether the administartion agrees to the request or not is yet to be seen. S1. has not written any language tests since Aug. either.

JP Test
Students interested in writing the JP Mock BITSAT Examination can register themselves by paying Rs. 50 to the college. For those interested in BITSAT, it is a recommended exam. Furthermore, students should hand over their IITJEE forms by this week for mailing. (OTFS)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Clinton nominated Secretary of State

Mr. 'Minor Incident' Quits

Maharashtra Deputy CM RR Patil described the Mumbai 26/11 attack as a 'minor incident.' That set off a wave of anger against him, with online communities wondering how a man who was protected by bodyguards round the clock could be callous enough to say such a thing.

After tremendous pressure and the fear of political death, RR Patil has resigned today, handing over his resignation to NCP President Sharad Pawar. His resignation must now be forwarded to the Governor of Maharashtra.

Next on the dismissal line in the Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who has long been blamed for incompetence. However, public opinion against him is so strong right now that failure to resign might lead to a resounding defeat for the Congress in next year's Federal Elections and also state elections.

Yesterday, Federal Home Minister Shivraj Patil resigned, followed immense pressure from the public and his own allies. Finance Minister P Chidambaram will be taking his place, while Prime Minsuter-economist Manmohan Singh will take up additional charge of the Finance Ministry. Federal elections are just six months away, and failure to act now could be political suicide for the Congress.

Rice to Visit India

US President George W Bush has asked his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cut short her visit to European capitals and visit New Delhi in the wake of the Mumbai Terror attack, the worst in history since 9/11.

Over the weekend, Rice called up Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and virtually ordered him to do cooperate with Indian investigators, so that they could follow the trail 'to wherever it led.'

Preliminary investigations show that the terrorists were from Pakistan and trained by the LeT, an al Qaeda affiliate that has been blamed for several attacks across Kashmir and the rest of India. There also seems to be a Bangladeshi link to the whole matter.

President-elect Barack Obama also spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and said that he wanted to cooperate with India in the investigations. A team from Scotland Yard also arrived in India.

India and the US are stepping up the ante against Pakistan, where some of the world's most advanced anti-West, anti-India and anti-Israel Islamist groups continue to train militants.