This week, you should have been in America

Yesterday, I was on train from Delhi to Roorkee. Roorkee is a campus town in northern India, and is my hometown.

Next to me on the train was a retired military officer sitting, now a consultant.

He asked, "Why are you here in India this week? You should have been in US, where there is a historic moment being created."

I smiled, "I will be glued to TV next few days - watching Obama's inauguration on CNN, and BBC".

Benazir Bhutto - Through the eyes of India

December 28, 2007 Diary

Benazir Bhutto – Through the eyes of India

Since the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto, I have been glued to the TV in India – listening to different channels, some Indian (NDTV, etc.), and some multinational (BBC, CNN, CNBC).  Right now, I have been watching her funeral live in Lakrana.

India and Pakistan has have had long torturous history, with a common past, common mistrust, and also common culture. Somehow, I have found information content regarding Benazir Bhutto in Indian TV channels more nuanced including her own sense of entitlement, corruption charges, mass support among poorer people in Pakistan but also evoking equal mistrust, and Pakistan as a whole currently in a quite a precarious position spiraling into anarchy as a part of complete discussion.  It is because Indian media shares with Pakistan a common language, culture, and also easy access to informed Pakistani viewpoints, especially as Urdu speakers than their western media counterparts.

Two things stuck me listening to Indian TV channels that were palatable – a) genuine feeling of loss by the assassination of her by India as a whole, b) and sense of panic that it is not out of realm of possibility that the Talibanization of Pakistan could spill over to India at some point, if left unchecked.

Benazair’s baptization to international affairs happened in India, when as a Radcliffe-Harvard coed, she accompanied her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during the Simla accord in 1972. Even though, as a Prime Minister of Pakistan, India and Pakistan had an acrimonious record with respect to mutual relationship, and she continued making various monsters, like the future Taliban, and AQ Khan. I remember her going on anti-India tirade at her extremely well spoken talk at Cornell in early 90s.

She was in last few years a regular visitor to India who talked to Indian media very often for her future vision of Pakistan, and hinting at also creating a new paradigm for relationship between India and Pakistan, if she came back to the power again. Well, they all will be pipe dreams. Or, out of power politican's unrealistic talk with no serious thought behind. Or, perhaps, she had new ideas with respect to India.

Indian subcontinent has seen a number of political assassinations in 60 years, and so there is a sense of empathy across the continent. More importantly, Indian leaders rightfully know that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto emboldens the Islamist extremists in the subcontinent and beyond, and this is not good news for everyone – Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and even rest of the world. No doubt, Pakistan has lost a popular mass leader, had a streak of a liberal politician (or perhaps a promise of being one, one day), and a very brave woman.

Maybe, as Imran Khan puts it, Pakistan should immediately form a national consensus government formed from different mainstream political thought.

Why does history repeat?

From the classic movie "The Battle of Algiers"

Few fictional films look more like documentary than Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers, and very few indeed which have this kind of socio-political structure and recount old, half-forgotten conflicts have achieved such lasting fame. Pontecorvo never managed to repeat the trick, though Queimada!, for which he hired Marlon Brando to play a British agent sent to the Caribbean to stir up rebellion against the Portuguese, was at least a partial success three years later.

 

The Battle of Algiers, however, remains the basis of Pontecorvo's fame - a model of how, without prejudice or compromise, a film-maker can illuminate history and tell us how we repeat the same mistakes. In fact, this study of the Algerian guerrilla struggle against the French colonialists in the 50s ought to be looked at not just as pure cinema but as a warning to those who seek by force to crush independence movements

 

Also, do not forget Vietnamization.

Post in honor of "Gillo Pontecorvo, the Italian filmmaker who explored terrorism and torture in colonial Algeria in the powerful and influential 1965 classic, “The Battle of Algiers,” died here on Thursday. He was 86. [Link]"

 

Courage

_40980348_screen203.jpgMukhtar Mai was once an anonymous Pakistani villager - but that was before she was gang-raped, apparently on the orders of local elders in a neighbouring village.

From then onwards she has been determined to bring them to justice, and her fight made her an international figure.

Some of the men she said attacked her were convicted, but then the appeal court in Lahore overturned their convictions, amid an outcry from human rights groups.

Now Mukhtar Mai, who is in her mid-30s, is writing her own internet diary, or blog, about her life and her concerns, as a woman from a remote village in southern Punjab.

 

Read her words on her English and Urdu blog hosted by BBC. Via Sepia Mutiny News Tab.

A Mumbaikar's Pain

r675003645.jpgA Mumbaikar's puts it very poignantly:

Whom were you trying to target? The working class men who struggle for an inch of space in local trains? The working women who knit and cut vegetables in trains on their way home? Young, dreamy students discussing exams and love? The babies accompanying their mothers, smiling back at the women around them?

Darkness is fast falling. Its raining like it will not stop. Will the rains wash away the blood? Will tomorrow be a new day. Here's to lost lifes and broken dreams.

 

Explosions kill innocents in Mumbai 

 

Has India started to move into another league?

In light of President Bush's visit to India a few days ago and the new nuclear deal inked, lets highlight some far-reaching consequences that could play out. From International Herald TribuneAndy Mukherjee's article:

If India can use the accord to overcome its energy crisis, there is a lot that its fast-growing economy can buy from the rest of the world. That will be the ultimate economic prize for the global economy if it accepts India as a de facto nuclear-weapons state. 

Whether the prize is worth the risk of "tempting" states without nuclear weapons to give up their "self-restraint," as Talbott puts it, is for Congress to decide.
 
The same concerns being raised in Washington about doing a deal with India were debated in 1985 about the wisdom of sharing fissile technology and equipment with China.
 
Although it took 13 years to complete the U.S.-China nuclear cooperation agreement - it had been submitted to Congress when Ronald Reagan was president and it was implemented in 1998, under Bill Clinton - the deal went through. Reservations in the United States about China assisting the nuclear-weapons programs of Pakistan and Iran did not scuttle the agreement.
 
With no skeletons in India's nuclear closet, the United States may find it a lot easier to end the Indian blackout.

Has India started to move into another league, slowly and tentatively? Perhaps, yes.  I do not think the nuclear agreement deal itself is the silver bullet but could be chain reaction to important developments in Asia. More importantly, change in perception.

Let's keep our fingers crossed - Earthquake risk

From The Telegraph of India:

Quake code

New Delhi, Feb. 3 (PTI): The Centre today informed the Supreme Court that it is planning to implement a national building code to ensure safety of structures from earthquakes in urban areas. [Link]

Let's keep our fingers crossed. Keep an eye on those corrupt contractors and enforcement officials. It puts the every kid of South Asia in peril. Keep the pressure on. Link the Telegraph article wherever you can. If you live in Pakistan and Nepal, ask your government to enforce building codes for earthquake risk.

Millions of South Asians (in India, Nepal, and Pakistan) live under the constant threat of Himalayan blunder - another major earthquake. The Himalayas has not released the pent-up strain and major earthquakes are overdue.

Act now !!! Inquire whether your kid's school in northern South Asia (Himalayas and Himalayan foreland - for example, Lahore, Delhi, Kathmandu, Lucknow) has been retrofitted for earthquake risk. At least blogging should be worth something - make noise. Rules without enforcement mean jack. Afghanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalis - everyone.

Schools are an excellent place to start.

Note: Visit my Science Archives for more earthquake and tsunami related discussions.  Also, human aspect of recent disasters under South Asia Archives here @ my blog. Please read and act. Cross-posted @ Desicritics.org

Priates of the Middle East - The Curse of the Black Gold

From Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Gold

Jack Sparrow: Worry about your own fortunes gentlemen. The deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers.
[pirate grabs Jack's throat to reveal a skeleton arm]
Jack Sparrow: So, there is a curse? That's interesting.
Koehler: You know nothing of hell.
Jack Sparrow: That's VERY interesting

The deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers. - that is the politics of oil and natural gas.

Fact 1: But do we know the hell of oil intrigue. President Bush promises US to wean-off of Middle East by 2025. Let's see what FACTCHECK.org has to say:

The President voiced a "goal" of replacing more than three-quarters "of our oil imports from the Middle East" by the year 2025. He did not mention that the US has grown more dependent on imported oil and petroleum products since he took office.

According to most recent figures from the Energy Information Administration, the US imported 60 percent of its oil and petroleum products during the first 11 months of last year, up from just under 53 percent in President Clinton's last year in office. Last year, of all the oil and petroleum products consumed in the US, 11.2 percent came from Persian Gulf countries, according to the EIA. That is actually down somewhat from Clinton's last year, when the Persian Gulf countries supplied 12.6 percent.

Whether imports from the Middle East can ever be "a thing of the past" is open to question. It is true that the US currently imports nearly as much oil from nearby Canada (2.1 million barrels per day last year) as it does from all Persian Gulf countries combined (2.3 million barrels per day), but that's still a lot of oil to do without.

Fact 2: On the other hand, it seems Middle East's role in energy equation will become more significant with time. Using EIA, Department of Energy analysis:

It is generally agreed that the location of proven world crude oil reserves is far more concentrated in OPEC countries than current world oil production. Note that estimates of reserves vary; EIA does not assess oil reserves, but does list several independent estimates here. According to one independent estimate (Oil and Gas Journal), of the world's 1.28 trillion barrels of proven reserves, 885 billion barrels (69 percent) are held by OPEC, as of January 2005. The non-OPEC reserves include Canadian non-conventional reserves. Not including Canada, according to this estimate the world's proven oil reserves are about 1.1 trillion barrels, of which OPEC holds 84 percent. In the future, the inclusion of non-conventional oil reserves for other countries may also significantly impact OPEC member Venezuela, as well as non-OPEC countries such as Australia. Non-conventional reserves are generally more expensive to produce than conventional crude oil reserves and may require special facilities and technologies. Because non-OPEC countries' smaller reserves are being depleted more rapidly than OPEC reserves, their overall reserves-to-production ratio -- an indicator of how long proven reserves would last at current production rates -- is much lower (about 26 years for non-OPEC and 83 years for OPEC, based on 2004 crude oil production rates). This implies increased OPEC production as a proportion of world production over the long term.

Oh!, Iran.

Fact 3: In the mix, India and China are the new players in the game of energy cloak and dagger with some added complication. From IHT article, you get the picture:

According to Worldwatch Institute, a research group based in Washington, if every Chinese and Indian consumer in 2030 were to use the resources that each Japanese consumer uses today, the two countries would need the entire planet for themselves. Since 1990, carbon emissions by India have risen 88 percent and by China 67 percent, compared with a 19 percent rise in the United States. China has 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities. Time for sustainable development?

Getting along: In the end, China and India need each another, despite their rivalries. This month they signed on to a joint approach to securing energy supplies, which could create a hefty rival to U.S. energy diplomacy. A road link could be next.

So, there is a curse? That's interesting. 

India and China - traditional rivals or friends or betrayers. Should they even listen to USA on energy issues?

My Question to you is:
Are American politicians being candid enough ?
Also, do Indian and Chinese leaders have long-term picture in mind or are just running around with a shot-gun approach.
Or as Jack Sparrow would say, That's VERY interesting.

Cross-posted @ Desicritics.org 

There have been few men...

ali_liston_knockout.jpgThere have been very few men who stood for something again and again, took heavy beating but....

Malik Bowens: Muhammad Ali, he was like a sleeping elephant. You can do whatever you want around a sleeping elephant; whatever you want. But when he wakes up, he tramples everything. [Quote from When we were Kings]

Happy Belated Birthday (January, 17). There have been very few people in the world in 20th century who every kid on all the continents have always admired and men respected - Muhammed Ali and Bruce Lee are in that rare company. Explore his center.

The Magnificent Seven - This time 100s of women

Nicholas D. Kristof  from New York Times regarding a story of an Indian woman and her fellow sisters who stood for the honor of her people:

 I don't want to condone a lynching. But in a land where police are utterly corrupt, and where so much misery arises from people passively accepting their lot, I'm proud to know Usha Narayane. She is a reminder of the difference that education makes, and I hope that she is a vision of the new Indian woman. [Link]

I agree 100%. Please read the story about a woman named Usha saying "enough" to mob in the slums. Some excerpts for those who do not have New York Times Select subscription (Please be aware that text in italics is from Kristof's article and I am only presenting a preview to his story).

The Beginning
For more than 15 years, the mud alleys of the slum were ruled by a local thug named Akku Yadav. A higher-caste man, he killed, raped and robbed in this community of Dalits - those at the bottom of the caste ladder - and the police paid no attention. One woman, according to people here, went to the police station to report that she had been gang-raped by Akku Yadav and his goons, and the police raped her.

The Confrontation
A daughter, Usha Narayane, now 27, studied hotel management and seemed destined to become a hotel manager. But one day in 2004 while she was on vacation back in the slum, Akku Yadav attacked the next-door neighbors. The gang warned Usha not to go to the police - and that's when she went to the police.

The End-A New Beginning
Other women pulled out chili powder from their clothes and threw it in the faces of Akku Yadav and the police. As the police fled, scores of women pulled out knives and apparently took turns stabbing Akku Yadav and cutting off his penis. He ended up as mincemeat, and the courtroom walls are still spattered with blood.

The police arrested a handful of women, including Usha, for the murder, but she conveniently could prove that she was not at the courtroom that day. And then the hundreds of women in the slum jointly declared that they had all joined in the killing, on the theory that if they all claimed responsibility, no single person could be punished.

It may tell you about the state of change India is in today - people finding their voice which they may have not in past. Sometimes, in such times, seven samurai, the magnificent seven, 100s of women stand up for their rights. 

Open minds, A step in the right direction

I have very strongly advocated that scientific community all over the world, especially for countries like India and Pakistan should "think afresh" in start sharing the data in real time for natural disasters or for that matter most of the endeavors. Only, then there will be progress toward mitigation strategies and realistic first-responder approaches that will save millions of lives over the years. I have written about it in past too. I am encouraged to see that India is opening up for sharing data - it is not fully open yet but a step in the right direction. Excerpts from Nature, December 22 2005, India makes waves over tsunami warning system:

India has agreed to share seismic data from four of its monitoring stations as part of a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean. But its offer has left many unimpressed.

The warning system will use a maze of deep ocean sensors and tide gauges surrounding the fault that ruptured on 26 December 2004. This earthquake triggered a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 11 countries. But crucial to the network will be real-time seismic data from stations in the region.

India has been averse to sharing its seismic data in order to keep information about its underground nuclear tests a secret. "The only station that is available to the global seismic network has a delay of about three weeks before data are disseminated," says Walter Mooney of the US Geological Survey, headquartered in Reston, Virginia.


India's offer, announced at the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG) in Hyderabad last week, is limited to data on earthquakes with a magnitude of six and above, along the coast of Indonesia and Pakistan. Signals from nuclear tests would be much weaker than this. "For the purpose of tsunami warning we think our offer should be quite satisfactory," India's science secretary Valangiman Ramamurthy told Nature.

 ..............................................

[Link]

A step in the right direction - let us not stop - let us keep moving. 

Thoughts of the Day-3

12AM.jpg.jpgJuror #8: It's very hard to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And no matter where you run into it, prejudice obscures the truth. Well, I don't think any real damage has been done here. Because I don't really know what the truth is. No one ever will, I suppose. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we're just gambling on probabilities. We may be wrong. We may be trying to return a guilty man to the community. No one can really know. But we have a reasonable doubt, and this is a safeguard which has enormous value to our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it's SURE. We nine can't understand how you three are still so sure. Maybe you can tell us.

The above quote is from a classic movie "12 Angry Men". Quite often, I put "Thoughts of the Day" - they maybe a profound idea, a political comment, or pure humor -on something that connects to me at that moment. Older thoughts of the day are here, and here. These are my thoughts or me presenting someone else's in a creative journey - no preaching.