Monthly Archives: February 2011

Deal or no deal: Ammunition for debate

Timing is one of the most important things in politics. Getting it right brings in lot of bouquets, misjudge it and the brickbats are all yours.

David Cameron earned the distinction of being the first Western leader to visit the revolution ravaged countries. The timing was just right for a round of applause, but the arm dealers accompanying him on the business mission was a mistimed move that earned the PM criticism.

Is selling arms to dictators/military rulers a right move? The debate got the better of Cameron, a miffed PM retorted his critics were ‘at odds with reality’.

Here he was talking pure and simple economics; though the arms deal don’t contribute much to the nations account books, in crunch time every bit counts. The trade employs one percent of Britain’s workforce, contribute 1.5% to the exports and needs around £5million in subsidies (The Times ).

The PM in his bid is doing what he could to boost the economy which is heading southwards.

What does him in is the fact that over the years occupants of No.10 Downing Street have been preaching peace and democracy to the world at large and also fuelling the non proponents of democracy with ammunition.

As The Times reports in 2009, 16 of the 53 countries invited for the biennial Defence Security and Equipment International, London almost every third country (16 to be precise) was questionable, for either they were involved in a current conflict or as a matter of practise didn’t respect human rights.

It’s been a legacy that Cameron has inherited and is following it unabashedly.

It should have been in news had he overseen the smaller gains for the larger interest of human rights that he advocates again as a proverbial British practise.

It would require a bigger and bolder step by world’s talking heads to get their acts right and walk the talk.

As of now the economic reasons it seems give them a reason to walk the other way, talking the same things.

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Same news, different values

Unrest in Libya grows as each hour passes.

Exclusives, updates, blog posts, first person accounts pour in every hour with media outlets describing the overwhelming unrest dramatically to suit their audiences.

Each update shows situation deteriorating and doesn’t miss out on a chance to market its moves.

The guardian starts its report saying ‘first foreign journalist to reach Benghazi’, while Time magazine flaunts it managed to get a first person account of a medical student.

Reporting of the unrest over the past one month seems has become a media spectacle where in post Tunisia following Egypt every other news has taken a backseat, at least this seems to be the case for British media and to some extent the US media.

While in stark contrast back home in India all these unrests haven’t made it to leading headlines.

This hysteria and ennui to the same event across different regions amuses me.

Does it indicate that there is an audience for these stories in the UK and not in India? Or are the newspapers and broadcasters dishing out what they want despite of indifferent audience tastes in Britain.

A section of media is critical of the coverage Indian media is doing of the uprising and N.Ram of the Hindu on CNN-IBN said, “With the advancement of technologies we are shrinking our international coverage. Earlier there used to be more international news.”

Might be Indian broadcasters and newspapers have their plate full with scams coming out every other day. While on the other hand it seems news except unrest have dried in UK, all major headlines and features are about unrest.

How much is too much and how little is too little as of now remains beyond my understanding

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People power in hands of military

The future of people’s power rests in the hands of military.

As digitization empowers people giving them chance to be heard across boundaries via twitter, facebook and blogs, it’s still gun power that calls the shot.

The difference between successful revolt and valiant attempt depends on which side the trigger is.

Given the present scenario of Middle East and African countries being an army man is the toughest job. To shoot your own people or defy the supreme command, the choice is not easy.

While in Tunisia and Egypt the guns remained silent, people became powerful ensuring that the balance tilted in their favour toppling the repressive regimens.

In Bahrain and Libya, forces marched to the regimens orders and the world witnessed mayhem on the streets of these countries.

War planes besieged parts of the Libyan capital on Monday according to news reports from Tripoli, killing many innocent people demanding their rights.

The question on the intent of armed forces arises on what will their stand be, for these rulers too were sometime men in uniform who were once worshipped. Will the present crop of military chiefs go their predecessor’s way?

Will the guardian of democracy, USA alter its stand and policy in the region? Will it still try to buy out the leadership by aids? These questions will have a significant bearing on the events in the coming years.

If the sentiments of people not only on the streets of Egypt, or Libya but also in states are something to go by, high time the superpower alters its stand.

Couple of days while at a news channel assisting some production work I received a few audience calls from US for a live show and a caller from Dallas said: “For how long will the administration spend my tax money on its fancy policies, we don’t pay taxes for wartime charity.”

High time these views are given a thought for the betterment of not only the revolt affected region but for US itself.

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Middle East uprising, rethink call for the US

Pro democratic movements spreading like forest fire in Middle East throw a strong hint for the US-maybe its time to give its foreign policy some change.

The Egyptian uprising signalled at this change, Hosni Mubark regimen was in good books of the western big brother and was getting USD 2 billion in aid. This was mostly used for military, strengthening Mubarak and his might.

With the people making it clear that no ‘carrot and stick approach’ will work, Mubarak and Obama administration had little option but to respect the popular voice. Remember Obama administration was initially for gradual transfer of power, a stand they quickly and before Mubarak.

In the name of stability they have shielded the autocratic regimens of the oil rich regions for quite a long time. The champions of democracy elsewhere have for long turned a blind eye to the agony people in the region suffered at the hands of the oppressive regimens.

While Egypt was a wake up call after Tunisian jolt, which took the west by surprise, the subsequent series of protests in Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen protests signal at change of American stance.

Case in point is Bahrain, the small island nation in the Persian gulf where the king Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa has been warned of a revolution as per reports. With people demanding reforms the King is reported to have planned of giving each family something in the range of USD 2700 to appease the situation.

What brings US in is the fact that Bahrain plays hosts to its Naval fleet to counter the Iranian effect in the region and is important for the US, much like Egypt.

As kings, rulers and dictators feel the heat of rebel, its time US rethinks its stand and avoid a gaffe like Egypt where it is snubbed by the ruler and people alike.

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Freedom Friday for Egypt

People power prevailed in Egypt.

Peaceful protest of 18 days was enough to topple the three decade old rule of Hosni Mubarak.

The defiant Mubarak could not hold fort for 24 hours after turning down the popular demand of protestors to step down as president.

From delivering what he called a ‘father to child’ speech to making a back door exit to somewhere in the Red Sea, probably Sharamal-e-Seikh Mubarak stepped into history.

What makes this revolution unique is the fact that it was a leader less struggle to topple the regimen; it showcased what people power can do in a matter of days without taking up violence.

Triggered by a facebook call, Egyptians rallied behind each other. Together they stood at Tahrir square, braved violence first by riot police and than by thugs, were thrown out of Tahrir square only to return stronger.

They weren’t intimidated by the threatening air force show which gained them support, not lured by state pay hike of 15% for state employees. It was the language of liberation through which they communicated as the Mubarak regimen cut of the mobile and internet services.

The message by masses to the world is clear that it would be naïve to discount people’s power and the leaders of regimens in Arab vicinity will surely be having sleepless nights.

Once the euphoria at Tahrir square settles, its time for a new Egypt to wake up to a new challenge. The future course will be difficult, but if people stand by each other as they did over the last 18 days it won’t be daunting.

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Army holds the Key in Egypt as Mubarak defies stepping down

Hosni Mubarak defies Egyptian hopes and speculations by refusing to step down.

The Egyptian president addressing an angered nation awaiting his exit and celebrating before his address was let down by the president after three decades in power said: “Every regimen makes mistakes and that there is always time to put things in place.”

His speech wasn’t in sync with ground realities, he was talking as if nothing big has happened and tried desperately to rally those against him, to come behind him.

Though news sites and twitter feeds were abuzz with speculations that Thursday would be last night for Mubarak as president and that he would pave way, but nothing of this sort happened.

Mubarak asserted that he will stay in power and will not leave the country he loves, but agreed to delegate some power to vice president Omar Sulieman.

Sulieman on his part followed the president’s speech with another damp squib address urging the heroes not to give into the impulse of the moment and not be misguided by the western media.

The regime sent a strong statement to the West, USA in particular that it will do things its own way and will not bear any ‘outside’ interference.

Strong defiance to the country that has been granting Egypt $2 billions every year in aids for over 30 years and reducing it to being a ‘laughing stock‘ as described by US billionaire Donald Trump.

It will be interesting to watch the situation in Egypt over the next 24-48 hours.

The outcome depends mostly on which way the Army will go, whom they will safeguard. If they go with the people, its end of road for Mubark else a steep task for the people who have stood their ground braving attempts to thwart them.

As Nobel laureate and peace advocate Mohamed ElBaradei tweeted: ‘Egypt Will Explode. Army Must Save The Country’

Whatever the outcome be, it’s for sure the uprising has sent a strong signal to dictators outside Egypt.

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Cameron talks tough on Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism in Britain evokes strong views by the prime minister.

Speaking at a security conference in Munich, David Cameron took a path many politicians shy from – take the minorities head on.

Cameron in his approach was straight forward and to my understanding right when he said that owing to laxity in the approach by Britain, it was considered to be ‘heaven for terror suspects’.

To his credit he pointed out the reality; the youth in these minority groups are disillusioned- they can’t identify with practises which are preached at the same time they fail to keep in pace with the cosmopolitan set up of Britain.

Minding his words Cameron made his point clear, he said Multiculturalism has failed.

Tactfully he mentioned “We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing.” (BBC). But in the same vein was prompt to point out how activities of those living in segregated communities can prove to be harmful for the state.

The example he gave of how as society they would condemn a white person if he/she committed a something that could be termed was racial. “But we would not do the same if the person was non-white, we would be fearful,” said Cameron.

He was very true, in a matter of minutes his speech as a head of state who was defending his country and admitting that they have failed to provide a vision for the state where people could identify with their beliefs, he was attacked by communities and politicians alike.

For me he was well within his right to point out the failure and unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel didn’t say Multiculturalism is dead.

There is a sea of difference in failing and being dead.

Failure can convert into passing with the due course of time, but it is almost impossible to revive the dead.

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