Monday, March 14, 2011

China’s enhanced defence budget: Time to keep a closer watch

China’s foreign policy is generally believed to be motivated by its approach towards the United States, Pakistan to an extent and of course, India. Therefore, when it announced enhancing its defence budget, the eyebrows were raised across the globe obviously.

China announced last week that its defence budget would be raised to 601 billion Yuan equaling 91.5 billion US dollars recording a sharp increase of 12.7 per cent over 2010. The quantum leap in the defence budget represents about 6 per cent of the country's total budget.

Significantly, China’s return to double-digit spending in defence after quite sometime have predictably stirred off the regional unease.
The development coincides with much assertive diplomatic tone undertaken by Beijing in last two years and its continuous rows with Japan, the United States and also India in the region.
So the apprehension of a more aggressive posturing from China – equipped with higher defence allocation - is only natural. Strategic observers in the region already say that China's actual spending on its estimated 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army (PLA) is far higher than what the Chinese government reports.
So the obvious question is, what has provoked China to make such a high investment at a time when it is trying to give the impression of a key global player, especially in league with economies like India and Brazil, in fora like BRICS.
There are a few things which require closer scrutiny.
One understanding is that China is trying to give a clear signal to the United States that it should not try to impose its might over China.
Well, the Chinese one-upmanship is not merely confined to the American context. Its eye-catching moves in recent past, hyper active moves along Indian borders and in high sea against several countries have sparked off strong apprehensions from a host of countries like Japan, Philippines and Taiwan.
Therefore, the enhanced budget for defence spending by China has prompted greater suspicion from neighbors and also global powers.
But this posturing is one part of Chinese diplomatic approach. In the recent times, China has befriended countries like India, Russia and Brazil and has tried to give a tremendous momentum to the BRIC conglomeration.
This was given a further boost by incorporating South Africa as a new member.
But these are easier said than executed diplomatically.
China’s great motivation factor in choosing its diplomatic and strategic roadmap is decided by its strategic considerations and hardly ideological.
This makes all its co-partners’ job to handle China a difficult proposition.
China's warships are now even being deployed as far as Gulf of Aden.

Often the bi-lateral factors cloud Chinese frame of mind so much that regional grouping and even something like BRIC can be compromised.
However, in the Indian context, it has to be admitted that to China’s credit, Beijing has made it clear nevertheless that it is sincere for boundary talks with New Delhi.
A top Chinese official catering to the foreign affairs has said that Beijing is keen to “advance the negotiation process” with India on a settlement framework.
“At present, there are friendly and stable relations between China and India. This has created a good atmosphere for the two sides to resolve the boundary question through consultations,” quote unquote, he said.
The Indian government too has been stressing on the importance of a dialogue with the External Affairs minister S M Krishna telling time and again that despite the differences, New Delhi is keen to resolve the pending issues through dialogue.
Notably, the two countries have already had 14 rounds of talks.
The setting up of the Special Representatives mechanism in 2003 and the agreement on political parameters in 2005 had helped to give further momentum to the dialogues.
The Indian External Affairs minister S M Krishna has time and again maintained that New Delhi is also too keen to pursue the talks.
Reiterating New Delhi’s commitment to track a relationship of "cooperative partnership" with China, the External Affairs Minister has always asserted that India is "not a soft state", as is often made out to be.
Its true, the history of 60 years relations between the two countries cannot be simply brushed aside while at the same time, India has to remain vigilant on the borders.
A more cautious advise would suggest that India should keep in mind that China has in the past did not show its inclination as India's natural ally.
To be cautious is never a bad prescription in the running of foreign policy.

(ends)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lok Sabha debates Women Quota

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the Lok Sabha today dedicated considerable time of the day to discuss on women related issues and on the much talked about Women’s Reservation Bill.
Just when the House assembled for the day, the Speaker Ms Meira Kumar read out a brief message befitting the occasion.
The House took up over an hour discussion after the Question Hour to talk on women related matters.
Initiating the discussion, the Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj said India takes pride in telling the world that top four positions in the country are held by women. She said the President, Lok Sabha Speaker, UPA chairperson and the Leader of the Opposition are all women; but lamented at the same breadth that only the women membership in the House was only 10 per cent. This discrimination can be achieved only by reservations, she said adding in many BJP and NDA ruled states even the women quota for local bodies and panchayats have been raised to 50 per cent.
She appealed to all members saying there is a need for consensus to ensure that the long pending Women Reservation Bill seeking to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state legislature is passed by the Lok Sabha.
She requested the Speaker to convene an all party meeting after the ensuing elections in the five states.
The Finance Minister and Leader of the House, Pranab Mukherjee said he entirely agreed with the Opposition leader and opined that she should also take some initiative to ensure consensus on the same.
“Let us commit ourselves that we shall find a solution to the issue,” he said.

Girija Vyas, Congress, urged upon the male members in the House to appreciate that women want to walk along side by side with men and requested that the Women Quota Bill should not be obstructed.
Basudeb Acharia, CPI-M said the passing of the bill and giving 33 per cent reservation to women can only help resolve various problems confronting women.
Trinamool Congress MP, Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar in a spirited speech said mere political reservation is not enough to ensure uplift of women. Quoting legendary poet, Nazrul Islam, she said, what ever beautiful in this world is half done by women and the rest by men.
She pointed out that the social menaces like honour killing and women trafficking and wondered how 75 per cent of Indian women were suffering from anemia.
Amid repeated moments of laughter, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party is against the bill, said we are not against women reservation, but we are not in favour of the Bill in its present form. He said during NDA regime too in presence of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he had suggested for the political parties to allot the quota to the women candidates. It can be 15 or 20 per cent, I had said this earlier, Yadav said.
Another senior member who is known for opposing the bill, Sharad Yadv, of JD-U stressed that there should be general consensus on the Bill. He said the present intent of the bill only to promote the interest of the creamy layer women is erroneous.
NCP member Supriya Sule recalled that Maharashtra was the first state to give women reservation in local bodies and zilla parishads way back in 1993.
She said the reservation is not aimed at helping women like her or BJP leader Sushma Swaraj but it should be for the bottom of the pyramid.
Tatagatha Satpathy of Biju Janata Dal said the issue of women emancipation should not be confined merely to reservation in parliament and state legislature. He wondered whether women need such concessions or mercy from the men folk. This is the only country which has respected Matri Shakti for ages and maintained that with such commitment the country can really forge ahead.
Anandrao Adsul, Shiv Sena said his party has always supported the bill. Similar sentiments were expressed by Prabodh Panda (CPI), Nama Nageshwar TDP and S Sammelai AIADMK.
Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, RJD, which is also opposed to the bill in the present form, maintained that mere reservation is no panacea to all the ailments that confront women.
BSP member Baliram said from ages the women in India have faced neglect and disrespect. He underlined that there should be a concern how poor and neglected women should come up in the social graph.
The Speaker Ms Meira Kumar read out few lines from one of her self-penned poems.
“Pankh bhi hae, khula akash bhi hae
Phir na uur pane ki majbori kaise”, she read out and argued that there is need for reservation and announced that an all-party meeting will be convened after the ensuing state assembly elections in the five states.
During the Question Hour too, virtually coinciding with the International Women’s Day today, a considerable time was dedicated to the serious issue of various kinds of crime against women. Replying to a query from BJP member Kabindra Purkayastha, the Home Minister P Chidambaram said the crime against women in Delhi is a “serious issue”. However, he hastened to add that in the recent months there has been a decline in the crime rate against women in the national capital.
Meena Singh, JD (U) wanted to know whether the Centre is repeatedly washing off its own hands by simply sending advisories to the states.
The Home Minister responded to her by stating that while he is not undermining the role of the centre on the matter, at the same time it cannot be denied that the states have primary responsibility on these issues. He also said lately the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been very active and taking up the cases. NHRC has also disbursed financial compensation, he said.
During the Zero hour, Yogi Adityanath, BJP and Narayan Singh Amlabe (Congress) raised issues concerning their respective constituencies.
Rama Devi, BJP raised the issue of long pending railway projects in Motihari area of Bihar. She wondered while several projects were neglected in Bihar, the railway ministry’s focus in recent months has been only directed towards West Bengal.
Rajaiah Siricila, Congress member demanded change in agricultural strategy to exploit the full potentials. He also suggested that there should be introduction of dedicated Indian Agriculture Service cadre in the civil service to give a push to the agricultural initiatives.

The House later took up general discussion on the budget. Initiating the debate, senior BJP member Murli Manohar Joshi lashed out at the budget proposals for fiscal 2011-12 presented by the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee last month.
He said the budget should not be a mere game of statistics and figures.
Wondering whether this budget is really aimed to help Aam Admi, farmers, unemployed or only for the rich, he charged that the Finance Minister’s proposals to grant customs duty relaxation in items like gold and diamond was only aimed to helping the rich and corporate.
He said in bringing down the fiscal deficit from 5.5 to 5.1 percent also, the Finance Minister should not take credit for

It is rather due to exaggeratingly high profit revenue garnered by the government due to sale of 3G spectrum.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lok Sabha debates Women's Quota: Quotes

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Lok Sabha today dedicated considerable time of the day to discuss on women related issues and on the much talked about International Women’s Day.
Important quotes:
'Pankh bhi hae, khula akash bhi hae, Phir na uur pane ki majbori kaise' mujhe lagta hae, arakshan ki Zarororat hae - LS Speaker Meira Kumar


"It is not women like me or Sushmaji or Ambika Soni who need reservation. It is for the bottom of the pyramid --- NCP MP Supriya Sule

Why talks of numbers and reservation, Does women need 'daya' (mercy) to survive… or they have a right --- says BJD MP Tathagatha Satpathy
We feel proud that 4 top positions in India held by women -President, LS Speaker, UPA chairperson and leader of opposition - Sushma Swaraj

Whatever beautiful in this world is half done by women, & rest by men – Trinamul MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said quoting poet Nazrul Islam

From tradition women in India have not become Goddess Durga or attain such high pedestal. Then Indian women condition would not have become like this. - Baliram, BSP

If the present women bill is passed, 90 per cent of the House will be dominated by women. - Mulayam Singh Yadav

Thursday, March 3, 2011

CVC judgement: Comedy Circus by Congress!

It's a stunning post-mortem by UPA on CVC judgement by the Supreme Court. "The system has failed ..." says Law Minister V Moily. It will leave most vociferous campiagners of Congress at a loss.
The corruption bug is catching it yet again in many forms. Over a decade back, when Harshad Mehta scam broke, the illustrious Dr Manmohan Singh, who was then the Finance Minister under P V Narasimha Rao, had also made a similar statement and attributed the scandal to system's failure.
The rest is history.
This also prompts me to refer from my latest book,
'Ayodhya: Battle for Peace' (Har-Anand publication).
"The Congress leadership is in selective amnesia that these vices had brought it down in late eighties and nineties. In 1980 and 1984-85, the election results themselves did herald an era of one-party and more particularly one-leader dominance across the country. That complete sway had vanished in nineties when regional parties and regional satraps within Congress sought to challenge the monopolistic polity of the Congress party. It was also the time, regional parties grew and so did BJP banking on their plank of providing credible and viable governance. But Congress is yet again back to the same syndrome in several ways."
The 2G scam has hit its credibility worst. There can be no saving grace that A Raja has been jailed. Now, the bug would catch up with Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi, who has been time and again taking the plea that he should not be singled out in the entire l... exercise!


The CAG report on the issue tabled in Parliament said, 85 of 122 applicants licences were ineligible but still were given by A Raja. The CAG also pegged the loss at Rs 1,76,000 crore.
On November 16, 2010 itself, the Supreme Court posed a question for the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh why he delayed in giving sanction for prosecuting Raja for his alleged involvement in Rs 1,70,000 crore 2G Spectrum scam. "For good governance, there must be some time-limit for granting sanctions, if not three months. But 11 months is too long," said the Supreme Court.
Now, Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi has said the Supreme Court ruling on CVC is no embarrassment for the Prime Minister. "We will judge the judgement," he said tongue-in-cheek.
Well, Chaturvedi would be in microspic minority in this country on this day, March the third of circa 2011. So is illsurtious and learned Kapil Sibal, who says 2G scam had not resulted in any loss of revenue for the government.
We hardly need, Comedy Circus in television channels.
(Look for more masala in book Ayodhya: Battle for Peace -- http://www.flipkart.com/ayodhya-nirendra-dev-battle-peace-book-812411594x

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Whither Future Trading

The Futures Trading issue would again come back into agri-sector
debate.
The Working Group on Consumer Affairs headed by the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in its report to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has recommended among other things ban on Future trading of essential
commodities and also setting up of a Price Stabilization Fund.
It is worth recalling that the Forward Markets Commission, the official
regulator for future trading, made a veiled attack on the government and "political class" for banning futures trade in sugar earlier.

"This (ban) was a horrendous decision ..... we were not for it. But we took
the decision ultimately because we knew what was to come. If the sugar
price had doubled the manner in which it has without ban on futures
trade everyone would have blamed us," FMC chairman B C Khatua had said
last year addressing a conference on 'Future of Commodity Futures Market' in New Delhi.
In fact, the issue of speculative trading has assumed greater dimension with a large number of political parties, MPs and even
parliamentary panels recommending ban on the same saying the mechanism
has largely contributed in high price rise.
Members participating in the debate in parliament also from time to
time had demanded that essential food items like potato, onion and tomato be barred from speculative trading.
However, experts and even the Forward Markets Commission, the official
regulator for future trading, had made veiled attacks on the
government and "political class" for such contentions.
It goes without saying that there is overwhelming "ignorance" revolving around futures trade. "Some times policy decisions are taken in isolation and without assessing impacts," Khatua had said.
The pro-future trading think tank rather wax eloquent that contrary to the "misconception", the futures trading in commodities in fact is helping farmers as they would know of the stock situation and demand factors relating to specific commodities.
Well, even the government, especially the agriculture and consumer affairs ministry top brass has said time and again that futures trading is "not responsible" for price rise.

Not long ago, a top bureaucrat had admitted that certain decisions are taken by the government because of many other stake holders. The reference iis obviously to the political class, mainly those thriving on left and centre of left ideologies.
At present in many commodities, the farmers are getting only 20-30
percent of the prices of what the consumers are ultimately
paying. This relates to the problem of the intermediatories getting
away with the big chunk of the pie.
A study report brought out by ASSOCHAM last year also observed that "banning of agro-commodities all of a sudden .... such as ban on
sugar creates a very strong negative vibes in the overall
agro-business segment".
It recommended among other things making FMC an autonomous body and said
opening the markets to domestic institutional players such as banks,
mutual funds, financial institutions would lead to increased
participation from professional players ensuring further development and growth on domestic commodities exchange".

Liberalizing agro sector still remains a far cry.