Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nuclear deal and Left's position

If you believe the commentary in most Indian media, both mainstream and blogs, the Left parties' opposition to the nuclear deal with US is motivated either by their traditional anti-Americanism or their love of China. It is certainly not driven by India's national interest. Assumption there is that the deal is in India's national interest, but Left parties don't care for that and hence are trying to scuttle the deal.

How valid is that assumption? Is the deal really in India's national interest? Or can one make an argument to the contrary? Let's see.

First of all, the leftists have made it clear that their opposition is not so much to the deal itself but to India's strategic partnership with US. So rather than looking at the nitty-gritties of the deal, let's see if a broad strategic relationship with US is in India's national interest.

Now, USA's relationship with China is lukewarm at best. So it is reasonable to assume that by entering into a strategic relationship with US, we reduce our chances of having a friendly relationship with China. How good will that be for India? No matter how great a relationship we have with US, fact remains that they will always be half way across the world from us whereas China will always be our neighbour. So it is more important for us to have good relations with China than with US. More so, when you consider that China is a growing economy and could well be the largest economy in the world in another 20 years. So we have to choose between China and US. If we go with China, we can be an equal partner with them and along with Russia, Brazil and Arab countries could form an alliance formidable enough to dominate the world in a couple of decades. Or we can go with US and end up having a troubled relationship with many countries in our neighbourhood (China, Iran, Russia, etc) which is going to hamper our own growth.

One could argue that let's have a relationship with US for the time being and we can always switch to China when we find that they are becoming more powerful than US. But the nature of strategic relationship is such that we won't be able to switch sides so easily. Take the 123 agreement for example. We will be expected to shape our foreign policy on the lines of US policy or we will have to not only return all the nuclear fuel supplied to us but also forgo the billions of dollars of investment that we are going to make in building reactors to make use of that fuel. That is, once we enter into a relationship, there will be cost associated with getting out of it. All that the Left parties seem to be doing is asking us to think carefully before deciding to tie the knot with US.

There is an interview with Edward De Bono in today's (9/18) Economic Times and he makes pretty much the same point I have made above:

Q: How can India become one of top three economic super powers?

De Bono: If India can partner China, they can be a real superpower in a short time. Alternately, if India and China form a coalition bringing other developing countries in their fold, it will beat all other world superpowers.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cause and Effect

There is a railway crossing in Mysore which we go past many times whenever we are in that city as it happens to be on the route from my parents' to in-laws' place. Last weekend as we went past it, my four-year-old daughter asked: "Daddy, why does the train always come only when the gate is closed?".

Thursday, August 02, 2007

This and that

Was in Cairo last week. Quite a nice city. Was surprised to find that the quality of infrastructure is much higher than in Indian cities. No phat-phati autos and hardly any two wheelers for example. Beautiful Nile flows through the city and is remarkably clean. No one washing their clothes or themselves in the river. Instead, you find boat shaped restaurants, some moored and some which actually go on a two-hour cruise and you can have dinner on the deck with dance and music and cool breeze from the river. Not surprisingly, most of the city's elite hang out near these restaurants.

This is not to say that it is on par with first world cities or anything. It is very much a third world city - roadside hawkers, pedestrians crossing roads even as vehicles are moving, reckless driving, honking and so on. But still, it is definitely better than any of Indian cities. The 3 km long al Azhar tunnel bang in the middle of the city linking downtown Cairo with the expressway that goes to airport is something I haven't seen in any Indian city. Or the ultra-posh Grand Hyatt which makes Bangalore's Leela look like a Patel Motel. There is a 10-floor mall, with restaurants, shops and a multiplex, all inside the hotel.

Another pleasant surprise I came across in Cairo, though nothing to do with Cairo or Egypt itself, was Al Jazeera English news channel. For someone jaded with IBN's and NDTV's, Al Jazeera was indeed like a refreshing breeze of professional, balanced and most importantly low-key news reporting. In their nightly 9 o' clock news for example, they only report news! No opinionating, no breaking into a panel discussion on a news item, nothing. Just an anchor and on the spot reporters. We don't have a Rajdeep telling us whether a judgment was harsh or mild, no anchor "hoping" that government takes this or that action, etc. Just report news as it happened. What a novel concept! Even their panel discussion programs are quite muted (and to think it is an Arab channel!), give plenty of time to panelists to air their views and again the moderator doesn't seem to have an opinion of his or her own. Quite a contrast from the Indian news channels where you can easily tell by their tone of questioning which side of the issue they are usually on. Here's a suggestion to Rajdeep and Prannoy: shut down your channels for a month, hole yourselves and your key editorial staff up in a hotel room and watch Al Jazeera non-stop. If that doesn't change your approach to news reporting, nothing will and you might as well look for alternate careers.

Hmm... what else has been happening. Oh, the Test match. BCCI Bozos vs ECB Idiots. One team bowls head-high beamers and the other throws peppermints on pitch. What drama, what emotions! To top it, I heard that ESPN made half an hour program on just one incorrect lbw decision! In that case, I hope Taufel got a cut out of the ad revenues ESPN made from that show.