This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
NEW DELHI l WEDNESDAY l JULY 11 l 2012
The Indian EXPRESS
BECAUSE THE TRUTH INVOLVES US ALL
Salman Khurshid breaks silence, acknowledges Congress problem. Now party must join debate
power-sharing arrangement at the top. There was a division of labour and an imperative of coordination, with Sonia Gandhi heading the party and giving political direction, and Manmohan Singh taking charge of policy and government. In UPA 2, however, the arrangement, routinised with a fair degree of success in UPA 1, appears unsettled. This is visible in crucial matters of economic reform. On FDI in retail, for instance, it is not just that the government’s moves are not backed by the party, they are also undermined by its irresolute and contradictory signals. This confusion and lack of sync is framed even more sharply at a time when both party and government must also contend with the fallout from a series of corruption scandals. Coalition mismanagement has also shown that the impasse at the heart of the Congress is taking a spreading toll. In Khurshid’s telling, the solution lies with Rahul Gandhi. He must make up his mind, broaden his political engagement beyond interventions made at moments of his own choosing, take charge of his waiting party, re-energise government. But as Congressmen and women mull over Khurshid’s prescription, they would also do well to consider if the costs of waiting are wreaking an irreversible political and electoral toll.
Costs of waiting
HE Congress is a party in which leaders look over their shoulder, measure out their distance from the high command, and then do not speak. In a party like this, Salman Khurshid’s candour is remarkable. It makes a welcome dent in the silence that begins at the top and travels all the way down. The admission of drift by the senior leader and Union law minister — on the political backfoot ever since the Congress debacle in Uttar Pradesh — is also heartening. Part of the problem that engulfs the Congress, and the Congressled UPA, is that it is in denial when it is not trying to shift the blame elsewhere — to the global economic slowdown, for instance — or seeking comfort in the BJP’s deshabille. Khurshid does well to put his finger on the disarray and disability in a party that appears to be holding its breath, and all decisions and reforms, as it waits for “ideological direction” from the next leader. A leader, moreover, who wears the crown but not quite. Khurshid’s comments should trigger a larger debate on the Congress predicament at a time when it ought to be coming up with solutions to address the prevailing standstill in policy and governance but cannot — because it has slid into what he describes as “a period of waiting”. When UPA 1 came to power in 2004, it had an unconventional
Sania’s mother in Olympic team? AITA is only following tradition of choosing unprofessionally
The syndrome starts at the top. India was the last nation to name its chef de mission for the London Games. Reason: factional squabbling among officials. So India went unrepresented at important pre-Games meetings, missed briefings and a chance to list the needs of its athletes. Now showing in IOA corridors is the battle for the post of press attache for the July-August event. Once again, the house is divided on the issue. These loose ends have routinely resulted in embarrassment for the country on the world stage. In the past, officials outnumbered athletes at the opening ceremony march-past. Missing formal wear or ill-fitting sports wear is a common complaint heard from the Indian contingent at big events. Players have often moaned about officials being busy shopping for their children back home when they were needed at the sporting arena. Maybe with mothers as officials, that won’t happen.
T’S reassuring to know that Sania Mirza will have her mother around in the Games Village. With London expected to be chilly and competition at the Games heated, a dose of “sleep well, eat well” motherly diktat will be healthy for the tennis star. But can Naseema Mirza also give vital inputs during strategy meetings or spot a rival’s weakness at play? Well, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) can’t be expected to cater to all the needs of the players even though it has been so excessively accommodating of their specific and separate needs of late. In fact, it has bent over backwards so far that it has invoked suspicions of a lost spine. Besides, in AITA’s defence, by including Sania’s mother in the contingent for London, it was merely following an age-old tradition where the selection criteria for officials despatched on plump tours have more to do with patronage and only rarely with professionalism.
S THE simmering tension between the United States and China envelops the annual gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, this week, India has a problem. Like Goldilocks, who does not like her porridge too hot or too cold, India is wary when the US and China get too close to each other and rather anxious when Washington and Beijing confront each other. A potential “condominium” — this archaic term from 19th century international relations now has a new label, the G-2 — over Asia by the US and China is Delhi’s nightmare scenario. But a prolonged rivalry between Washington and Beijing, which now seems a little more likely, could be a lot worse from Delhi’s perspective. Unlike Goldilocks, who could pick up the third bowl of porridge that was neither too hot nor too cold, India has no option but to deal with the rapid twists and turns in the US-China relationship. Consider the huge shift in America’s mood towards China in the last three and a half years. In 2009, India was deeply concerned that US President Barack Obama was bending over backwards to accommodate China’s rise. During his visit to Beijing in November 2009, Obama offered a new framework for bilateral cooperation with China on regional and global issues. India reacted furiously to the joint declaration in Beijing that suggested Sino-US cooperation for the stabilisation of South Asia. Beijing, however, refused to accept the US terms for a strategic duopoly, betting as it did on a rapid shift in the balance of power in China’s favour. Within a year, the US moved to challenge the assertion of Chinese power in Asia and affirmed its intention to maintain its long-standing primacy in Asia. Sections of the Indian estab-
Look East and West
As US and China circle each other, Delhi cannot afford to be passive or paranoid
C. RAJA MOHAN
lishment are now concerned that Obama’s strategy for Asia might draw Delhi into a potential crossfire between Washington and Beijing. India’s problem with the shifting sands of US-China relations is not unique. Much of Asia is indeed uncomfortable with either a condominium or a rivalry between the US and China. The difference is that as a large country and a potential major power, India is in a position to make a difference to the changing balance of power between the US and China. Doing nothing, the default inclination of UPA 2, is the issue on its merit, rather than worry about what Beijing or Washington might think about Delhi’s cooperation with the other. India can’t afford to forget that China and the US, despite their many differences, are locked in profound economic interdependence and have a bilateral engagement much thicker than that between either Delhi and Washington or Delhi and Beijing. Even if a Cold War between America and China becomes inevitable, today’s rising Asia has greater freedom of manoeuvre than Europe had in 1945. Exhausted by two World Wars, the old continent had no option but to
LETTER OF THE WEEK AWARD
To encourage quality reader intervention The Indian Express offers the Letter of the Week Award. The letter adjudged the best for the week is published every Saturday. Letters may be e-mailed to editpage @expressindia.com or sent to The Indian Express, 9&10, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi -110002. Letter writers should mention their postal address and phone number. The winner receives books worth Rs 1,000.
Delhi’s economic and political drift over the last three years, however, is now leading to widespread disappointment in Asia. The hopes about India’s role as a second engine of regional economic growth have dissipated.
worst option for Delhi at this historic juncture in Asia. As Washington and Beijing circle each other in Asia, Delhi needs to step up engagement with both. The question is not about picking sides, but about relentlessly pursuing India’s own interests. If India wants to keep the sea lines of communication in Asia’s waters open, Delhi has every reason to support the US in emphasising the importance of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. If Delhi recognises the urgency of promoting regional economic integration between the subcontinent and East Asia, it must go all out to deepen cooperation with Beijing. India needs to judge each put itself at the mercy of the US and the Soviet Union. Asia has a number of large nations like Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar that will not readily submit to a new Cold War in Asia. All of them would want to strengthen their economic links with Beijing, while insuring against the possible non-peaceful rise of China by stronger defence cooperation with the US. Many US treaty allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia have strong stakes in an economic integration with China. The new complexity of Asia’s geopolitics is complemented by its vibrant regional institutions, built around the Asean. Two decades ago, when the
Asean embraced Delhi, there was much scepticism about India’s contribution to regional peace and prosperity. As India’s growth rates soared and its foreign policy showed some purposefulness in the last decade, Asia’s expectations about Delhi’s regional role significantly increased. Delhi’s economic and political drift over the last three years, however, is now leading to widespread disappointment in Asia. The hopes about India’s role as a second engine of regional economic growth have dissipated. The expectation that India would play a definitive role in stabilising the Asian balance of power has been tempered by the inability of Delhi’s defence establishment to rise to the occasion. India is good at drafting declarations on strategic partnership with key regional countries, but rather poor at implementing them. India’s voice in Asian regional institutions has been relatively muted. India has taken few political initiatives and the one that has been thrust upon it — the Nalanda University — remains halfcooked. While Delhi might pat itself on the back for the presumed success of its Look East policy, Asia sees India’s engagement with the region as underwhelming. Bridging the gap between Asian expectations and India’s strategic performance is the main task for External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna as he prepares the ground this week for celebrations of the 20th anniversary of India’s outreach to the Asean, taking place later this year. Navigating the turbulent waters of Sino-US relations will become a lot easier for India, if Delhi can inject new political energy into Asian multilateralism and strengthen its key bilateral partnerships in the region. The writer is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
■ THIS refers to ‘Federer
Letters to the
moments’ (IE, July 10). We do not call Roger Federer a true champion for nothing. In spite of setbacks, and at the age of 30, he emerged as the Wimbledon winner this year. He has proved to the world that he is not a spent force yet. Some of his detractors may say that the exit of Rafael Nadal from the tournament paved the way for Federer’s win. However, Federer also defeated the then top-ranking player, Novak Djokovic, on his way to the Wimbledon finals. He is now on par with Pete Sampras — both have seven Wimbledon titles under their belt. Hopefully, he will win the one major trophy that remains out of his grasp — the Olympic gold for singles. Whether or not he wins it, Federer will remain a great sportsman and probably one of the best tennis players of all time. — Bal Govind Noida
HE research employed as a defence for the actions of the Thorat Committee, which reviewed the NCERT political science textbooks, seems inadequate for the judgment given. The report sites three studies — Taher Bahrani’s “The pedagogical value of cartoons”, Khauan Wai Bing and Chua Hong Tam’s “A fresh look at cartoons as a media of instruction in teaching mathematics and sciences in Malayasian schools”, and Sine Lex and Per Mouritsen’s “Approaches to cultural diversity in the Danish education system”. Why did the committee pick these three studies from the available literature on the use of cartoons in pedagogy? While these, in their own right, are helpful in understanding that a sensitive approach is useful in selecting cartoons, it is derisory to leverage research this way alone. Research on the use of political cartoons has a long history and can help clarify the pedagogical implications of specific cartoons. For example, Klaus Dodds of the University of London and Paul Armstrong of Leeds University have argued that for a nation keen on developing civic knowledge, engagement and certain attitudes as educational goals, there must be pedagogical tools like political cartoons that can unsettle accepted knowledge. Others have pointed out that if the educational goal is to help children understand the codes of the adult world, there should be visual analogies,
Thorat panel cherry-picked studies in its argument against cartoons
multimodal texts and true representations of lived history. Otherwise, the students’ opportunities to learn will be limited. If the educational goal is skill development, then political cartoons have been shown to aid children in developing critical thinking skills, writing skills, verbal questioning skills and in reading multimodal texts. These are some of the ways in which research on political cartoons can be leveraged to improve our understanding of what the cartoons under scrutiny have to offer. We can and should ask: in what ways and to what extent do these particular cartoons seek to unsettle accepted knowledge? potential to make children callous, put them in a rut and promote in them a careless attitude. Only a well-specified inquiry, girded by rigorous research, can help determine if any of these cartoons poses a threat to the educative value of textbooks. A possible way to reexamine the textbooks could be borrowed from a study by the Thomas Fordham Institute, a think-tank in Washington DC. Its “A Consumer’s Guide to High School History Textbooks” evaluated the 12 most widely used textbooks on American history and world history in the US. Education historian Diane Ravitch to say, “The writing and editing are done with one eye on the marketplace, the other on sundry interest groups.” It seems that the effort here in India, which resulted in creative, thought-provoking and well-written textbooks and which has gained the favour of teachers and students alike, is destined to be undone. In their place, it seems, a Niagara of unimportant, uninteresting and uncontroversial textbooks are set to flood schools. A way out of this fatalistic path might be to actually assess these textbooks for their pedagogical value. The criteria used by Ravitch and her committee of pedagogical and historical experts can be helpful in considering the educational value of the textbooks under scrutiny today. The NCERT faculty too must have developed a host of criteria. Whatever be the criteria, there should be some rigorous, research-based method to guide the decision-making process, as opposed to rejecting cartoons on the anaemic grounds of “political sensitivity” and “ambiguity”. Then the discussion can turn away from narrow considerations of personal interests and sensitivities, and towards a rational debate that can serve as a vivid example of politics at its best. The writer, with the Regional Institute of Education, Mysore, works on educational reform and teacher education practices
Whose line is it anyway?
critics wrong when she won the coveted women’s title at Wimbledon. When her sister, Venus Williams, was ousted from the tournament, fans might have thought that neither of the sisters would make it to the finals. However, Serena overcame a lifethreatening illness and considerable odds to make a forceful comeback, beating opponent Agnieszka Radwanska in a three-set thriller. But for a brief lapse when she lost the second set, Serena was confidence personified. The win comes little more than a year after she was hospitalised for pulmonary embolism, and is a tribute to her strength and determination. — Calicut Ramani Mumbai
■ THE veteran tennis player, Serena Williams, delivered a convincing win and went home with her fifth Wimbledon title. She outplayed her rival, Agnieszka Radwanska, to make her way back to the top again. Serena seemed to be brimming with joy and vigour as she fought her way to the title. This is welcome news for the game. —Subhajit Chandra Delhi
■ SERENA WILLIAMS proved
The question of ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ in an educational context can and should only mean one thing: whether it is educative or ‘mis-educative’.
Are they helping children understand the codes of the adult world? Are there skills that students are developing as a result of these particular cartoons? If the answer is that they are ineffectual, then the removal is justifiable, because they are then, in fact, “inappropriate”. The question of “appropriate” or “inappropriate” in an educational context can and should only mean one thing: whether it is educative or “mis-educative”. “Mis-educative”, a term the American educational philosopher John Dewey used almost 80 years ago, is helpful even today. A mis-educative learning tool arrests or distorts growth. It has the brought together a panel of experts to develop a dozen criteria to help appraise each textbook. The criteria focus on a book’s historical accuracy, coherence, balance and writing quality. The reviewers found that most textbooks were abysmal. The best ones were merely adequate. It was not that the reviewers found grave errors or controversial issues. Rather, the textbooks, on the whole, included a great deal of information that was unimportant, uninteresting and uncontroversial. In the report, Ravitch wrote, “Despite their glitzy graphics and vivid pictures, they all suffer from dull prose and the absence of a ‘story’.” She goes on
T’S BEEN less than nine months since the final downfall of Muammar Gaddafi, the dictator who ruled Libya for 42 years and who left it with no recognisable political institutions, no rule of law and no established political parties. Given that history, and the predictions that NATO’s support for last year’s rebellion against the Gaddafi regime would produce Somalia-like chaos in the oil-producing state, Saturday’s general election was a remarkable achievement. Election authorities said 1.8 million voters — a turnout of 65 per cent — cast ballots for an interim National Assembly in which 3,700 candidates competed for 200 seats. There were, of course, some irregularities and scattered episodes of violence, but more than 90 per cent of election stations opened, and the
Given Libya’s history, the general election was a remarkable achievement
chief of a European Union assessment team said that “nearly all Libyans cast their ballot free from fear and intimidation.” The initial results, drawn from exit polls and unofficial counts, were also encouraging. A centrist alliance led by former interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril appeared to have won a plurality, besting Libya’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and other explicitly Islamist factions. Jibril, who earned a doctorate in political science from the University of Pittsburgh, is regarded as a pro-Western moderate. Though he rejects the labels “liberal” and “secular,” he appears committed to democratic principles. From a leader in ‘The Washington Post’
Nine months after Gaddafi
Gowda out, Shettar in’ (IE, July 8). It was inevitable that the BJP central leadership would eventually yield to former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. A Lingayat leader, Yeddyurappa seems to divide the state along caste lines, alienating the Vokkaliga electorate. The BJP central leadership might want to distance itself from caste politics, but it has chosen to turn a blind eye to what is happening in Karnataka. However, swearing in three chief ministers in the course of one term does not augur well for the party’s prospects in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The party has lost its credibility in the state and the agenda that the BJP came to power with four years ago has not been fulfilled. — Deepak Chikramane Mumbai
■ THIS refers to ‘BJP latest:
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.