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വായന
ആർ.എസ്.എസിന്റെ ഭൂതവും വർത്തമാനവും
നവോത്ഥാനമൂല്യങ്ങൾ സ്വാംശീകരിച്ച പത്രപ്രവർത്തകൻ
ഏകകക്ഷിഭരണവും ഇന്ത്യയുടെ ഭാവിയും
മന്ത്രി മഞ്ഞളാംകുഴി അലിക്ക് ഒരു തുറമ്ം കത്ത്
കശ്മീർ: അവകാശനിഷേധങ്ങളുടെ നീണ്ട ചരിത്രം

22 July, 2014

Xi, Modi cosying up to each other

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

China-India relations appear set to enter a new stage, overcoming the mutual distrust left behind by the 1962 border war and presumed rivalry.

Both countries have new helmsmen who are ready to work together. Xi Jinping became president last year, and has a 10-year term under the succession formula the Communist Party of China has lately evolved.

Having secured a comfortable majority in the lower house of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an assured term of five years. Given the demoralised state of the opposition, as of now, he can reasonably look forward to a second term.  

Modi’s electoral victory led to a race by foreign leaders to woo him. Xi had an advantage over US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin since Modi had been to China and was an admirer of its development. Although he made some harsh remarks on China during the election campaign, the Chinese reckoned that economic considerations would temper his hard nationalist line.

The China Daily, which often takes an ultranationalist position, wrote that Modi’s preoccupation with development, which echoes China’s own experiences and development philosophy, had inspired unprecedented optimism in the country over India’s growth potential.

“Western rhetoric about China and India,” it added, “is seldom free from a conception that the two countries are rivals, as if the two were destined to stand against each other. But the fact that Beijing and New Delhi have, by and large, managed their differences well over the decades is proof they do not have to be.”

Modi’s first month in office saw an exchange of high-level visits. Xi sent his Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, to New Delhi with a message in which he spelt out his vision of India-China relations. Noting that the two countries’ dreams of building their strength and improving the condition of their peoples had a lot of commonalities, he said they should make an in-depth convergence of their development strategy, support each other with their respective strengths, build a close development partnership and hold hands to realise peaceful, cooperative and inclusive development.

Pre-scheduled visits to China by India’s Vice-President, Hamid Ansari, and Army chief, Gen Bikram Singh, came in quick succession thereafter.

Xi told Ansari that India, as an important strategic partner, is a priority for Chinese diplomacy. Three agreements negotiated while the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power were signed during Ansari’s visit. One of them envisages setting up industrial parks in India for Chinese investors.

Gen Bikram Singh’s discussions in China covered regional security and other issues of common concern. Although the border dispute which precipitated the 1962 war remains unresolved, the two countries have been holding joint military exercises since 2007. Last week Xi and Modi had their first meeting when they were in Brazil for the BRICS summit. What might have ended up as a meeting on the sidelines of the summit turned into an 80-minute exchange of ideas.

Xi reiterated his perception that, judging by bilateral, regional and global perspectives, China and India are longlasting strategic and cooperative partners rather than rivals. The Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted him as saying: “If the two countries speak in one voice, the whole world will listen attentively. If the two countries join hand in hand, the whole world will watch closely.”

In response, Modi said he was willing to maintain close and good working relations with Xi.

The Xinhua account indicates that Xi repeatedly used the term “strategic” while talking of China-India relations. The term was first used in the joint declaration issued by Prime Ministers Wen Jiabao and Manmohan Singh in 2005. In it they said the incremental improvement in the relations between the two countries had acquired a global and strategic character and they had, therefore, agreed to establish a strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity.

Wen’s successor, Li Keqiang, chose India for his first foreign visit as prime minister last October. He and Manmohan Singh signed an agreement establishing a framework to manage any situation that may emerge in the disputed border region. This has cleared the way for the two countries to proceed confidently with measures to improve bilateral relations.

The benefits to be expected from increased economic cooperation are a major factor that is bringing the two countries closer together. The recent decision to hold a joint anti-terrorism exercise later this year shows they are aware of the need to extend cooperation to other areas as well. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, July 22, 2014

17 July, 2014

Why there is no Indian voice in global media space


B.R.P. Bhaskar

“The world is waiting for a digital-age voice from India – a BBC, a New York Times, or even a Chinese Central Television (CCTV). A voice with global interests, global sources, yet an Indian point of view,” said Robin Jeffrey, who has been studying India and the Indian media for decades, in his convocation address at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, in May.

He listed certain advantages India has in this regard: unrivalled international connections – throughout Asia and Europe, in Africa and North America and even in South America; more English speakers than England itself; a vast film industry and a leading place in information technology.
Several of these advantages were there even in the pre-digital age. Yet no global voice with an Indian point of view emerged.

The reason why no Indian BBC emerged is obvious. Radio and television were under the control of the government which valued compliance more than professionalism. All India Radio and Doordarshan personnel possessed professional expertise but they looked upon themselves as officers of the government, not as media professionals. Let us, therefore, leave them out and find out why India could not produce an international news agency or newspaper.   

When the British government decided to hand over the colonial state apparatus to Indian (and Pakistani) hands, Britain’s international news agency, Reuters, persuaded Indian newspaper owners to form the Press Trust of India and take over its subsidiary, the Associated Press of India. It handed over operations in other Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand also to local outfits. Lacking the resources to maintain global presence at previous levels, Reuters outsourced coverage of virtually all of Asia to PTI. Kasturi Srinivasan of The Hindu, who was Chairman of PTI, was inducted into the board of directors of Reuters. PTI set up a desk in London to select and if necessary re-edit Reuters copy for distribution in India.
The arrangement provided PTI correspondents with the opportunity to gain international experience. It gave the agency the opportunity to develop the confidence to go out into the world on its own. However, it did not last long. PTI scrapped the agreement with Reuters following a virulent campaign by a group of newspaper owners, led by Ramnath Goenka of The Indian Express, who denounced it as collaboration with the former colonial masters. Srinivasan quit as Chairman of PTI and director of Reuters and recalled The Hindu’s G. Parthasarathy who had been deputed to PTI to head its London desk. The flag-waving nationalists did nothing to help PTI become an independent source of world news. It remained a carrier of Reuters and France’s AFP.  

The danger inherent in total reliance on these Western sources for foreign news became evident when Britain, France and Israel jointly attacked Egypt and blocked the Suez Canal in 1956. Identical communiqués issued in London, Paris and Tel Aviv, and circulated worldwide by Reuters and AFP, reached Indian newspapers through PTI. Egypt’s side of the story did not reach them. Relying on the Western version, many newspapers editorially justified the attack on Egypt, which Jawaharlal Nehru called a throwback to barbarism.

A government subsidy enabled PTI to maintain a few correspondents abroad to supplement the Western agencies’ coverage with reports with an Indian perspective. There was no effort to expand the activity to a point where the agency could cater to the needs of a wider Non-aligned or Asian-African readership.

In 1970, I had occasion to spend a pleasant evening with PTI correspondent A. Balu at his fabulous house on the banks of the Nile. The setting appeared to be conducive to productivity. “Why do we get so little material from you?” I asked Balu. He said the agency had instructed him to avoid cables, as they were expensive, and send reports by air mail, which entailed heavy delays.

A few years later PTI announced the setting up of a subsidiary named Press Trust International for global operations and named Balu as its head. The project did not take off.

As satellite technology revolutionized communications, Shashi Kumar, head of PTI’s TV unit, backed by the agency’s General Manager, P. Unnikrishnan, drew up a plan to establish a satellite channel named Asianet. PTI’s board of directors threw it out. Shashi Kumar quit the agency and floated Asianet as the first Malayalam satellite channel. If the Unnikrishnan-Shashi Kumar plan had gone through India might have had a small international presence in the field of satellite television before the birth of Al Jazeera.

When English language newspapers came up in the Gulf States in the wake of large-scale influx of foreign nationals, the Editor of The Khaleej Times of Dubai, an Englishman, sensed that his Indian readers would want more home news than the international agencies could provide. He asked PTI and the United News of India to supply news by telex on a trial basis for two weeks. After assessing their performance during this period, he signed an agreement with UNI for supply of a 1,500-word package of Indian news daily for $2,000 a month. At that time the paper was getting the full Reuters service for just $450. UNI had asked for $2,000 as the monthly telex charges were estimated at $ 1,500.

On visiting the Gulf States to explore the possibility of attracting more subscribers for UNI, I found that $2,000 was enough to hire a Delhi-Dubai teleprinter line, which would make it possible to push the daily wordage beyond 1,500. Also, an additional subscriber in any Gulf country could be serviced at a small extra cost.  The Bahrain-based Gulf News Agency and the Kuwait Radio signed up for the UNI service.

On a subsequent trip, I spoke to Editors of several Arabic newspapers and found that they were ready to buy a South Asian regional news package if it was in their language. As an experimental measure, UNI produced an Arabic package with the help of someone who had worked in AIR’s Arabic language division. The feedback from the editors was that it was in an archaic language which Arabic newspapers no longer used.

Most of the Arab editors I met in the Gulf States were Egyptians or Syrians, and several of them inquired about PTI’s Wilfred Lazarus. They were familiar with Willie Lazarus’s remarkable coverage of the West Asian and Congolese crises. In 1960 Time magazine had written: “Of the two dozen newsmen regularly covering the Congo, none has given his competitors more trouble than affable Wilfred Lazarus, 35, correspondent for the Press Trust of India. In a land where rumours flock like jungle fowl, communications are primitive and authorities both unreliable and distressingly perishable, Willie Lazarus regularly managed to uncover stories so breathtaking as to bring reporters for British and American wire services reproachful 'callbacks' from their home offices.” 

Sadly, in the late 1970s Lazarus was in the doghouse, having served as head of Samachar, created by the Emergency regime through the forced merger of all national agencies. If PTI had sent him to West Asia and Africa a few years earlier and offered a special package it might have been able to establish a firm base on which to build an international agency.

The post-Emergency regime, on deciding to break up Samachar, asked a committee headed by Kuldip Nayar to make recommendations in this regard. The committee proposed the revival of the old agencies. It did not seriously consider the possibility of splitting Samachar into a domestic agency and an international agency.

Following the 1970s debate on international information flow, news agencies of the Non-aligned nations established a pool. It was doomed to fail as most of the agencies were professionally weak and under total governmental control. PTI, which was the Indian member of the pool, was one of the few agencies equipped to draw material from the network and produce a professionally acceptable package which could help reduce reliance on Western sources for information. It did not make use of the opportunity.

The newspapers, who own the news agencies, are unwilling to make the investment needed to develop full-fledged international operations. They want the agencies to remain cheap sources of information and are not interested in their healthy growth. It is not unusual for a newspaper to be a shareholder of an agency and yet not subscribe to its service.

The newspapers’ own interest in the global market is also extremely limited. In the 1950s The Hindu launched a weekly international edition in the tabloid form. It was meant for Indians abroad, not for a global readership. Some other newspapers also started similar editions. The Times of India group drew up a plan to publish an international newsmagazine. The plan envisaged posting 25 correspondents abroad to cover world developments. Nothing came of it.  

India’s abstention from the global and regional market enabled the British colony of Hong Kong to pose as an outpost of freedom and host a few Asian publications. UN agencies eager to assist in the development of Third World media supported a Rome-based agency set up by an Italian journalist who also held Argentine nationality.

One reason why Indian media owners have not ventured into the global market is that they are blessed with a huge domestic market, which is still growing. Another is that international operations are costly and few of them can raise the necessary resources. There is a third reason too: they have no serious problem with the Western voices that dominate the global space and do not feel the need for an Indian voice out there.

The apathetic attitude of the Indian government and media leadership to the development of a global news market is in sharp contrast with the proactive role the US administration and media moghuls played at the end of World War II to break into the markets from which imperial Britain and France had kept Americans out to protect the interests of their own media. Declassified documents show that after the war in Europe ended, while fighting was still raging in the east, the War Department, at the request of the State Department, made available an aircraft for representatives of US news agencies, newspapers, magazines and the film industry to go round the world and plant the flag. The AP board of directors committed $1 million that year to expand its foreign operations. (Media, July 2014)

15 July, 2014

Modi on a business trip

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making his debut on the world stage. The occasion is the annual summit of BRICS, a grouping of five emerging economies from different continents, being held in Brazil today and tomorrow.

Together the five countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — have a GDP of $24 trillion and hold 40 per cent of the world’s population.

This year’s summit assumes special significance as BRICS is expected to announce its plan to set up a Development Bank, which some see it as a potential rival to the World Bank. The creation of a Contingent Reserve Arrangement is another positive outcome expected from it.

This is not Modi’s first trip abroad as prime minister. Although many big countries extended invitations to him when he led his Bharatiya Janata Party to a resounding victory in the elections, he chose the small landlocked Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan for his first official visit.

The BRICS summit gives him an opportunity to interact with not only leaders of India’s partners in that group but also leaders of 11 Latin American countries whom Brazil’s President Dulma Rouseff has invited to meet her guests.  

The Development Bank, conceived as a financial safety net, was mooted by India at the 2012 summit it hosted. China and Russia immediately welcomed it. It is expected to have an initial capital of $50 million, with the five founding nations contributing $10 million each.

China, the most affluent of the five countries, wants BRICS to evolve into a strategic cooperative mechanism. It is ready to put into more money the Development Bank but the others have reservations arising from the experience of the World Bank which the US controls by virtue of its large contribution to its capital.

Until now BRICS has functioned without a headquarters. There is a proposal to set up one, and several countries have come forward to host the headquarters and the development bank. A formula for smooth resolution of these issues was already in sight when Modi took off from New Delhi.

BRICS’ importance as an economic forum will increase if Russia’s proposal to establish an association to guarantee energy security to its members and undertake integrated research and analysis of global markets goes through. But, then, a multilateral forum must necessarily confront political issues too, and Modi’s interactions with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President are important in this context.

The only ministerial colleague Modi has taken with him is Nirmala Sitharaman, who is in charge of Commerce and Industry. Her presence indicates that he sees this trip primarily as a business opportunity, although the Ukraine and Palestine developments and restructuring of the UN Security Council and international financial institutions are expected to figure in the discussions.

The officials accompanying Modi include National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. A former Intelligence officer, he is now playing a key role in foreign policy issues.

The planned bilateral meetings with some Latin American leaders give Modi an opportunity to explore possibilities of expanding trade with the region, which has a combined population of 600 million and GDP of $4.9 trillion. Last year trade with the region was $42 billion. Officials believe it can be pushed up to $100 billion.

This is not Modi’s first business trip abroad. When the United States and Europe were unwilling to let him in on account of the riots that occurred in Gujarat while he was Chief Minister, he had visited China four times and secured several investment offers.

A post which appeared on his website after the 2011 visit said, “Chinese, being diligent to the core, having seen all round development and spectacular growth of Gujarat, and the leadership provided by Narendra Modi, wants to build a strong and enduring relationship with Gujarat.”

Since becoming the prime minister, he has talked of making India a global manufacturing centre like China. In Brazil, he may, in a sense, be in competition with President Xi, who also has business on his mind and has scheduled state visits to Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba after the summit. However, both leaders are of the view that there is enough room for both countries to grow.

Xi and Modi, who are both at the beginning of their tenure, are expected to exchange visits within a year. Their ability to work together will have a bearing on the course of events in this region and beyond in the immediate future.-- Gulf Today, July 15, 2014

10 July, 2014

C.V. Nair is no more

 
With deep regret I record the death of C.V. Nair, former Executive Director of the Reserve Bank of India, at Thiruvananthapuram. He was 87

The brief note which has appeared on the obituary pages of Malayalam newspapers today does not do justice to his life and work.

C. Vijayan Nair was a young Lecturer in the Economics department of Mahatma Gandhi College, Thiruvananthapuram, when I joined there as a Final Year B. Sc Mathematics student after completing the First Year at the tempestuous campus of the Sree Narayana College, Kollam. Since I didn’t study Economics, I was not his student. But I had occasion to develop a long and abiding friendship with him.

He was among the small band of teachers who used to gather at the Statue Junction almost every evening, after classes. Along with a couple of other students I used to join them.  

Students organized a Mock Assembly in the college. The Treasury Benches and Opposition Benches were occupied by students but we picked C. Vijayan Nair for the Speaker’s chair. The Mock Assembly was a roaring success and there was demand for a Mock Parliament.  This time we got M. Prabha, a rising Advocate, to act as Speaker and two teachers, Vijayan Nair and Lawrence Lopez, led the  ruling party and the opposition.

C.V. Nair had to leave the job as the management disapproved of his action in organizing the first Private College Teachers Association. He found a berth at the Cooperative College but that also did not last long, and he moved out of Kerala. 

He worked for a while at an Institute of Economics in Hyderabad. When I visited him there, he told me that though he did not have a doctorate he was a guide to Ph.D. students there.

Later he joined the Reserve Bank of India as Rural Credit Officer and rose to be one of its Executive Directors. He was an expert on rural credit and the cooperative movement. He was active in the Reserve Bank Officers Association, too. He represented it in the negotiations with the management.

The RBI lent his services to the government at one stage to help set up the Rural Electrification Corporation in New Delhi. He served as its first Secretary.

Babu Vijayanath, son of Desabhimani T.K. Madhavan, who was instrumental in drawing Gandhi’s attention to caste-based discrimination in Travancore, has written in his memoirs about a night trip he undertook to Chidambaram railway station while studying at Annamalai University. Gandhi was travelling by a train which was to pass through the station and he wanted to meet him. C.V. Nair, who was also a student there at the time, was with him, he says.  

On retirement from the RBI, Vijayan Nair returned to Thiruvananthapuram and led a quiet life.