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Sunday, 22 August 2010

Recently from M.J.Akbar

No short cuts in governance
M.J. Akbar
Governments never seem to understand a basic fact of the democratic dialectic: no Opposition wants its demands met. It prefers a Government to be stubborn, so that it can string out the accusation long enough for it to sink so deep into the public consciousness that it cannot be extricated by delayed redressal. There is not much political value to an accusation unless it becomes an intrinsic part of campaign rhetoric. In theory, the Opposition turns a day in Parliament into a verbal festival over the Commonwealth Games because it wants accountability for corruption. In practice, Opposition parties need to maximise the advantage by being able to go to town and village with the message that the Government has not only stolen the peoples money, but is so thick-skinned that it will do nothing about the thieves. The obduracy of authority is the ultimate gift to Opposition.
In real terms, it hardly matters whether Suresh Kalmadi goes now or after the Games. His role as the sports czar of India is effectively over. It is only a question of whether he gets a nice gift at the farewell party which, of course would be the closing ceremony of the Games or he is sent towards the sunset in lonely isolation. As far as the people are concerned the difference between grace and disgrace has evaporated. It could hardly be otherwise given the scale and sheer audacity of the corruption. It is possible that the bunch in charge of this lucrative extravaganza thought they had squared all sides. There were junkets aplenty, across the political divide. The BJPs Vijay Goel went to Beijing for technical studies as did the Congress Jagdish Tytler: neither had anything to with CWG but must be worthy of technical doctorates by now. Perhaps they were being given early training for the Asian Games. Delhis Congress legislators Haroon Yusuf and A.S. Lovely went to Melbourne to find how they run city transport, which of course is why Delhis traffic has already become better than Australias. Naturally they travelled first class. This is nothing but big-budget back-scratching between pals, an insurance policy against exposure: if everyone is guilty then no one is guilty. The officials have piled up enough flying miles to look after family holidays for a couple of years. They might all have got away if they had not all been so confident about the spread of the swill. But there are always a few who refuse to be co-opted. They keep our democracy democratic.
Time turns corruption into a milch cow. If A. Raja had been dropped from the Cabinet after the telecom storm burst, the collateral electoral damage would be limited. Now that he is being retained, he will become the perfect, mobile target for Jayalalithaa during next years Assembly election: mobile is the perfect metaphor, of course, since Raja will be wandering around the state. A good cartoonist could do wonders with Raja posters, if Jayalalithaa has one and has the will to leaven her anger with a bit of wit.
Governments do understand a second fact of our political debate: the issues that agitate Parliament and media are seasonal. Their expectation is that they will seem less important to the voter once the initial froth has subsided. If the big tent does finally manage to produce a circus, the memory of the gravy train that brought it will dissipate in the merriment. Who will bother to hold anyone accountable after the Games are over? It is not in the Governments vested interest to do so. It is not within the Oppositions capability to do so.
The tendency to elide through crises with token gestures can become a self-defeating habit. This was the initial approach to the building anger in Kashmir, and now the people do not take even a well-meaning gesture seriously. Omar Abdullah was literally driven away, and had to be bundled out to his waiting helicopter by a frantic security posse when he visited a hospital. He cannot travel a few kilometres through his capital in a car; he needs a helicopter. He reached the flood-distressed region of Leh with far more alacrity than he had shown in the city from which he rules, because, for the moment at least, he has become Chief Minister of Jammu and Leh rather than the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Perhaps he, and Delhi, believes that Ramzan, the month of fasting that begins this week, will bring calm. It could. Surface calm however is not peace. There are no short cuts in governance.
Does Government need to worry about Opposition fulminations if there is no election visible? That is the only accountable moment that the ruling system takes seriously. Since we do not have the law of recall, Governments tend to dismiss street anger as an emotion that can be assuaged nearer an election. Lack of popular support, however, saps the energy of authority.
A weak government weakens the nation.

The columnist is editor of The Sunday Guardian, published from Delhi, and India on Sunday, published from London

Friday, 6 August 2010

Joint Statement by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister David Cameron 6 August 2010

They didn't give a joint press conference, instead this statement was issued to us by the Foreign and Commonwealth office

The President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan HE Mr. Asif Ali Zardari and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP met at Chequers on 6th August 2010.

The President of Pakistan complimented Prime Minister Cameron on his election as the Prime Minister of the UK.

Pakistan and the UK have longstanding relations which are based on shared interests and mutual respect. Both leaders affirmed their commitment to further strengthen strategic and co-operative ties between the two countries by intensifying the UK-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue and confirming a yearly Summit. This Dialogue will deepen consultation on global and regional issues of peace and stability, will include people to people links, enhanced business investment and trade, collaboration in the education sector, and cultural and parliamentary links.

The two leaders welcomed the forthcoming launch of the British-Pakistan Foundation as an initiative to promote connections between our peoples.

Both leaders agreed that a strong, stable, secure and economically prosperous Pakistan is vital to global and regional peace and stability. In recognition of this, both leaders agreed to pursue closer development, economic and trade co-operation as part of the intensified Strategic Dialogue.

President Zardari underscored that Pakistan needs trade even more than aid. The Prime Minister said that the UK will continue to be Pakistan’s strongest ally in pursuing greater trade access to the EU for Pakistan.

Prime Minister Cameron expressed the UK’s support for Pakistan’s democratic government and expressed the UK’s solidarity and support for Pakistan coping with the damage caused by recent floods. He also expressed his condolences at the loss of precious lives and sympathy for the bereaved families. President Zardari expressed thanks for the UK’s pledge of £10 million of immediate relief for flood victims and for accelerating an already agreed £10 million bridge reconstruction programme.

Among the common challenges facing the UK and Pakistan is the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Both leaders agreed that terrorism and extremism are global issues and needed to be combated by intensifying cooperation at the global and regional levels.

Both leaders discussed the role being played by the democratic government in fighting against terrorism. The Prime Minister recognised the sacrifices made by Pakistan’s military, civil law enforcement agencies and people in fighting violent extremism and militancy and appreciated the efforts of the democratic government. Both leaders appreciated the close co-operation that already exists between respective police forces and other security agencies.

The two leaders agreed that such co-operation needs to and will intensify. In this regard the British Home Secretary would visit Pakistan in the Autumn. They asked the Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism to make proposals for enhancing practical co-operation ahead of the visit.

Pakistan and the UK will intensify their strategic engagement and pursue comprehensive Ministerially-led co-operation under the framework of a summit level strategic dialogue process. This will be taken forward through annual contact between the British Prime Minister and the President/Prime Minister of Pakistan.

These Summit meetings will be reinforced through regular national security discussions. The two leaders looked forward to the meeting between Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi and British Foreign Minister William Hague under the revitalised Dialogue in October.

The President invited the Prime Minister to make an early visit to Pakistan. The Prime Minister was pleased to accept.

6th August 2010