Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Challenges of the Decade 2010-2020 in South Asia and Beyond

Making predictions is hazardous business. After all, who would have forecast with any accuracy the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan and the fall of the Berlin wall in late 1980s, or the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, or the near-collapse of the US financial markets in 2008, the kind of events that fundamentally changed the world. This new decade of 2010-2020 could also bring long-lasting but hard to predict events that are described by Nassim Taleb as rare but high-impact Black Swan Events. However, I do think this new decade is likely to be defined by the fundamental issues of access to food and water, in addition to the continuing concerns about terrorism and security. Each of these challenges has the potential to precipitate major events that could bring about fundamental yet unpredictable changes in the world order.

Food:

A combination of population explosion, water scarcity, and climate change are causing serious concerns about access to affordable and reliable food supply in many nations. Climate change in parts of India has resulted in multiple crop failures after seven or eight bad years in a row, putting local people deeper and deeper in debt. An estimated 200,000 Indian farmers have ended their lives since 1997.

There has been a rush by some of the rich but food-poor nations to buy up farmland to grow food in poor nations, raising concerns about the potential for food riots. New ideas and technologies are required to bring about a new "Green Revolution" to feed the growing population of the world.

In June, news agency Reuters reported that the government of Pakistan had offered 404,700 hectares (ha) of farmland for sale or lease to foreign investors. It is the usual suspects of the Gulf states and South Korea who are the likely targets of the government's drive for investment. Oil rich, food poor states from the Middle East and food deficit prone South Korea have been spurred by the high food prices of 2007 and 2008 to increase their food security by investing in agricultural land abroad.

Also in June 2009, Swedish multi-national food company Tetra Pak announced the signing of an memorandum of understanding with local company Engro Foods to create a dairy hub in the Sahiwal district of the Punjab. The hub will serve 15 villages in the district and aims to promote more efficient production and bring smallholders into the formal dairy market chain.

In July, the Pakistani minister for investment said that the country would be happy to provide land for Korean companies to build food and dairy processing facilities, according to Pakistan Agribusiness Report. Also in July, the chief minister of the Punjab said that there was a large amount of interest in investing in the province's agriculture from Qatar.

Water:

The year began with an ominous warning by Sardar Aseff Ali, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, about the potential for a water war between India and Pakistan. Such warnings clearly reinforce the gravity of the water situation, requiring creative solutions.

Water is becoming more scarce, and water wars are likely to erupt in several regions of the world. Among the 25 most populous countries in 2009, South Africa, Egypt and Pakistan are the most water-limited nations. India and China, however, are not far behind with per capita renewable water resources of only 1600 and 2100 cubic meters per person per year. Major European countries have up to twice as much renewable water resources per capita, ranging from 2300 (Germany) to 3000 (France) cubic meters per person per year. The United States of America, on the other hand, has far greater renewable water resources than China, India or major European countries: 9800 cubic meters per person per year. By far the largest renewable water resources are reported from Brazil and the Russian Federation - with 31900 and 42500 cubic meters per person per year.

According to the United Nations' World Water Development Report, the total actual renewable water resources in Pakistan decreased from 2,961 cubic meters per capita in 2000 to 1,420 cubic meters in 2005. A more recent study indicates an available supply of water of little more than 1,000 cubic meters per person, which puts Pakistan in the category of a high stress country. Using data from the Pakistan's federal government's Planning and Development Division, the overall water availability has decreased from 1,299 cubic meters per capita in 1996-97 to 1,101 cubic meters in 2004-05. In view of growing population, urbanization and increased industrialization, the situation is likely to get worse. If the current trends continue, it could go as lows as 550-cubic meters by 2025. Nevertheless, excessive mining of groundwater goes on. Despite a lowering water table, the annual growth rate of electric tubewells has been indicated to 6.7% and for diesel tubewells to about 7.4%. In addition, increasing pollution and saltwater intrusion threaten the country's water resources. About 36% of the groundwater is classified as highly saline.

The solution to the water crisis lies in better management of water resources to conserve water and new technologies to economically recycle or produce fresh water from sea water. For example, about 98% of the water in Pakistan is used in farming through a very inefficient flood irrigation method, leaving only two percent for other consumers and commercial-industrial users. A California study recently found that water use efficiency ranged from 60%-85% for surface irrigation to 70%-90% for sprinkler irrigation and 88%-90% for drip irrigation. Potential savings would be even higher if the technology switch were combined with more precise irrigation scheduling and a partial shift from lower-value, water-intensive crops to higher-value, more water-efficient crops. Rather than flood irrigation used in Pakistani agriculture, there is a need to explore the use of drip or spray irrigation to make better use of nation's scarce water resources before it is too late. As a first step toward improving efficiency, Pakistan government has launched a 1.3 billion U.S. dollar drip irrigation program that could help reduce water waste over the next five years. Early results are encouraging. "We installed a model drip irrigation system here that was used to irrigate cotton and the experiment was highly successful. The cotton yield with drip irrigation ranged 1,520 kg to 1,680 kg per acre compared to 960 kg from the traditional flood irrigation method," according to Wajid Ishaq, a junior scientist at the Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology (NIAB).

Low-Cost Housing:

Housing construction by traditional methods has failed to keep pace with the rising demand, particularly in the developing countries like India and Pakistan experiencing rapid urbanization. New, cheaper and faster construction methods are needed to address the basic shelter needs of the people. There are a number of modular, pre-fabrication and rapid on-site assembly methods are being explored in developing nations.

Mass Literacy:

Literacy has become as fundamental a need as food and water in this day and age. And yet, UNESCO data indicates that 770 million adults around the world remain illiterate, over 35% of them in India. New focus and methods are needed to reach out to the illiterate masses of the world as part of a worldwide mass literacy campaigns.

Low levels of literacy continue to hobble many developing nations, limiting the productivity and economic opportunities for the growing young populations, and causing concerns about social and political instability and growth of international terrorism.

Health Care:

Access to healhcare in South Asia, particularly due to the wide gender gap, presents a huge challenge, and it requires greater focus to ensure improvement in human resources. Though the life expectancy has increased to 66 years in Pakistan and 63 years in India, it is still very low relative to the rest of the world. The infant rate remains stubbornly high, particular in Pakistan, though it has come down down from 76 per 1000 live births in 2003 to 65 in 2009. With 320 mothers dying per 100,000 live births in Pakistan and 450 in India, the maternal mortality rate in South Asia is very high, according to UNICEF.

International Terrorism:

The threat of global terrorism is likely to gain strength and spread with new bases in new geographies. A new and more creative and comprehensive strategy will be necessary to counter this growing threat in the realm of ideas and policies. Any new strategy must take into account the following facts to be effective:

1. Al Qaeda was an organization with central leadership, command and control located in Afghanistan prior to 911. But that is no longer true. According to former State Department official Mathew Hoh who served in Afghanistan, al Qaeda is an elastic, amorphous entity, one based not on geography but ideology. “Al Qaeda is a collection of ideas, of independent, autonomous cells,” Hoh says. “They don’t need a lot of funding. They need an apartment with an Internet connection.”

2. Even the 911 hijackers were not all recruited and trained in any one country. They came from different nations and were educated and trained mostly in the United States and Western Europe. What they shared in common was an ideology rather than a geography.

3. Hundreds of al Qaeda members, including many top leaders, have been captured or killed by Pakistani and US military in the region since 911. And yet, the violence is worse than ever before.

4. There have been multiple reports of al Qaeda popping up in several countries around the world such as Yemen and Somalia, confirming Mathew Hoh's arguments that al Qaeda is not confined to a particular geography in central or south Asia.


Security:

With increasing carnage in several countries, including Pakistan, and growing fears of terrorism, there is an urgent need to develop and use new tools, technologies and methodologies to anticipate and prevent acts of terror resulting in mass casualties.

Counter-insurgency:

There are many insurgencies growing around the world, including South Asia, in response to real or perceived injustices. In addition to the Afghan Taliban insurgency against foreign forces, other examples include Taliban and Baloch insurgencies in Pakistan, and Maoists and Kashmir insurgencies in India.

In addition to the political dialog to understand and address genuine grievances of the insurgents, there is a great need to develop techniques and training for counterinsurgency.

Green Energy:

Clearly, conservation alone will not suffice when it comes to the world's growing energy needs. There will continue to be significant research and development into exploiting energy from water, wind and sun, as well as innovation in safer and greener nuclear technology such as thorium nuclear reactors.

Extreme Affordability:

The incredible success of relatively inexpensive mobile telephones in poor nations, such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, has created the awareness among the big corporations and the entrepreneurs that the poor can be a very lucrative market.

Understanding the need to design for extreme affordability with scarce resources is giving birth to a new generation of entrepreneurs. These are entrepreneurs with a social conscience who are motivated by the desire to do good and do well at the same time. They are finding new ways to empower the poor by satisfying their basic needs, such as water, electricity and telephones.

Conclusion:

Regardless of any forecasts of the future, it is extremely important for all nations of the world, particularly the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Israel, Iran, India, North Korea and Pakistan to learn from the mistakes of the last decade to try and make the new decade a better stretch of ten years for the entire humanity. This will require sincere efforts and creative energies of the people from the aforementioned countries and the help of the rest of the world.

Related Links:

Water Crisis

Pakistan's Farmland Controversy

United Nations Literacy Decade

UNICF Country Data

Facts and Myths of Obama's Afghan Surge

Can Energy from Thorium Save Planet Earth?

Social Entrepreneurs Target India and Pakistan

Housing Construction and Economic Growth

Climate Change Worsens Poverty in India

Pakistan's Decade of 1999-2009

Godfather's Vito Corleone: Metaphor for Uncle Sam Today?

Marching Toward Hell by Michael Scheuer

Pakistan's Choice: Globalization or Talibanization

Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

Karachi Stock Exchange Presentation

30 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting NPR interview of former CIA agent and chief bin Laden hunter in Afghanistan Michael Schueur who says:

1. Double agents today can be deadly. They don't just feed bad intelligence to their CIA handlers, they can literally blow up in your face, as the Jordanian doctor did in Khost at FOB Chapman.

2. Difference between Russian recruits and al Qaeda recruits is that the Russians hated the Soviet communist system and admired the Americans. They thought of the Communist party bosses as just a bunch of gangsters looking out for themselves. The al Qaeda recruits, on the other hand, are very well-educated, wealthy and committed and include doctors, engineers and sons of wealthy individuals like Zawahiri and bin Laden, who gave up their comforts and wealth to fight for their cause.

3. US presidents are not telling the truth about Afghanistan. The Afghans see us as foreign occupiers and infidels in their land. Without the help of the Afghans, the Taliban and al Qaeda could not mount the resistance they do in Afghanistan.

http://www.npr.org/templates/dmg/dmg_wmref_em.php?id=122258540&type=1&date=05-Jan-2010&mtype=WM

Vikram said...

It seems that there will be a surge in the literate population of India in the census of 2011, the growth in newspaper readership, annual surveys of the NGO Pratham and massive government spending seem to indicate this. The quality and length of education remains a serious problem.

The outlook for water and land remains grim, it will really take a long term campaign to make India's growth more sustainable.

Anonymous said...

In the age group of 25 or less, India's literacy is little over 83%. This I read in Imagening India: The idea for a renewed nation written by CEO of Infosys Nandan Nilekani.

Anonymous said...

some good news for india

===============
Next Bill Gates most likely from India or China: US survey

Washington: Four in 10 Americans believe that the next Bill Gates would come from India or China as the US struggles to regain its competitiveness in the face of gains by India , China and Brazil, a new survey shows. When asked where the next Bill Gates will come from, 40% of Americans predicted either India or China, said a national survey.
The survey by Zogby International also predicted that US will struggle to regain competitiveness without innovation . Around 44% pointed to innovation as the most important factor in seeking US competitiveness after the World Economic Forum reported that the US dropped its global competitiveness ranking while India, China and Brazil experience gains. A total of 74% of Americans said it was unlikely the US would regain its status next year, it said. The vast majority of Americans, 96%, believe that innovation is critical to the future success of the US as a world economic leader, but they are concerned that the rising US federal deficit will jeopardize the prosperity of future generations . AGENCIES

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Next Bill Gates most likely from India or China: US survey "

The surveys in US reflect the current pessimism because of the economic slowdown. It's part of mood swings that affect people when they are hit by difficulties.

Survey conducted by Newsweek and Intel shows that while more than 70% of Americans think the U.S. is a technologically innovative country, only 41% think that the United States is staying ahead of China on innovation. Meanwhile, more than 80% of the Chinese think that the U.S. is innovative and is staying ahead of China on innovation. It seems the world has gotten the recession blues--no one believes in themselves anymore.

http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/zachary-wilson/and-how/perk-usa-youve-still-got-your-innovation-mojo

Riaz Haq said...

Indian star cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has joined "save water" campaign to help Mumbai deal with a severe water crisis, according to the BBC:

India's star batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, says he has renounced showers in favour of "bucket baths", as part of a campaign to save water in Mumbai.

A bucket bath is simply a bucket of water and a mug to wash oneself with. It uses much less water than a shower.

The international cricketer has made a short film urging the people of Mumbai to save water.

Mumbai has been facing severe water shortages and cuts of up to 30% have been imposed in most parts of the city.

The cricketer says his entire family has switched to bucket baths in an effort to save water. The 30-second film is expected to be aired in the coming weeks.

Water riots

Officials say that with Sachin Tendulkar starring in the film, its impact will be much greater.

A shower is said to consume more water than any other daily action.

Resorting to bucket baths and stored water is a way of life for residents in many areas, as water is supplied for only a couple of hours each day.

Monsoon rainfall has not been sufficient to resolve the shortage and the water cuts will continue until June or July 2010.

Mumbai has a daily requirement of 4,200m litres of water, and it is falling short by 800m litres.

In recent months the shortage has sparked violent demonstrations by Mumbai residents.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a relevant opinion by Soutik Biswas of BBC:

Has India's "Deciding Decade" begun? A study, done by a Delhi-based economic research firm along with a leading newspaper, thinks so. It says that India's GDP can grow at an average annual rate of 9.6% for the next 10 years even if there were no reforms. Incomes will double, the middle class will burgeon and urbanisation will proceed at breakneck speed.

Now the bad news. Even with this scorching growth, more than 250 million people of a total population of 1.3bn will still be "very poor" in 2020, the study says. That's not all: not even 100 million Indians will be graduates or post graduates despite the growth. Clearly, without radical reforms in education and infrastructure taken up with missionary bipartisan zeal, millions of Indians will still be hungry, poor and illiterate. Are India's politicians and bureaucrats up to the task? On present evidence, hardly. But we all live in hope.

The decade has also begun with a rash of good news stories. The government is planning to give out passports within three days of verification, make compulsory baby seats in cars and provide cheaper food for the poor. At least one state is launching madrassas or religious schools where English will be the medium of instruction. The government is also promising to introduce more women-friendly laws, harsher punishment for sexual crimes and fast track courts. All this just proves how much ground India has to cover. And Indian governments are famous for making announcements that take months, sorry, decades to implement. So we will wait and see.

But there is a piece of truly good news that holds out hope for India. Bihar, India's basket case state - poorest, most lawless, underdeveloped - appears to have clocked the fastest rate of growth during 2008-2009. If the Bihar government is to believed, the state's growth rate - 11.4% - is higher than India's industrially developed states. It is being attributed to good governance, buoyant revenues, increased government spending and a swelling unorganised private sector. If this is true then Bihar has all the makings of a miracle economy.

Bihar's remarkable "turnaround" shows the way for India, in a way. It also proves, as political philosopher Pratap Bhanu Mehta says, that "for the first time in modern Indian history, Indians, including the very marginalised, have a sense that change is possible: our destinies are ours to shape".

A sobering thought to keep in mind though. Impressive growth figures are unlikely to stun the poor into mindless optimism about their future. India has long been used to illustrate how extensive poverty coexists with growth. It has a shabby record in pulling people out of poverty - in the last two decades the number of absolutely poor in India has declined by 17 percentage points compared to China, which brought down its absolutely poor by some 45 percentage points. The number of Indian billionaires rose from nine in 2004 to 40 in 2007, says Forbes magazine. That's higher than Japan which had 24, while France and Italy had 14 billionaires each. When one of the world's highest number of billionaires coexist with what one economist calls the world's "largest number of homeless, ill-fed illiterates", something is gravely wrong. This is what rankles many in this happy season of positive thinking.

Riaz Haq said...

One out of every three illiterate adults in the world is an Indian, according to UNESCO.

One out very two hungry persons in the world is an Indian, according to World Food Program.

Almost one out two Indians live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day.

And yet, India spends $30 billion on defense, and just increased the defense budget by 32% this year.

Here are some more recent comparative indicators in South Asia:

Poverty:

Population living under $1.25 a day - India: 41.6% Pakistan: 22.6% Source: UNDP

Underweight Children Under Five (in percent) Pakistan 38% India 46% Source: UNICEF

Life expectancy at birth (years), 2007 India: 63.4 Pakistan: 66.2 Source: HDR2009

Education:


Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000 to 2007, male Pak istan: 80% India 87% Source: UNICEF

Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000 to 2007, female Pak istan 60% India 77% Source: UNICEF

Economics:

GDP per capita (US$), 2008 Pak:$1000-1022 India $1017-1100

Child Protection:

Child marriage under 15-years ; 1998–2007*, total Pak istan - 32% India - 47% Source: UNICEF

Under-5 mortality rate per 1000 live births (2007), Value Pakistan - 90 India 72 Source: UNICEF

Riaz Haq said...

Indian NGO Sathi's Findings as reported by Times of India:

The urban population of the coastal region, which includes the country’s commercial capital Mumbai, has the highest prevalence of calorie deficiency (43%) in Maharashtra.

Analysis also shows that undernutrition is prevalent across all religions.

only 30.7% of the people in Maharashtra are classified as Below Poverty Line (BPL). The official BPL designation excludes over 16 million people who are too poor to afford adequate food.

Calculations made using a per consumer unit calorie norm of 2400 in rural and 2100 in urban areas, reveals that the incidence of calorie-based poverty is 54.1% in rural areas and 39.5% in urban areas.

Going by the NSS norm of 2700 calories per consumer unit, then 68% of households in rural Maharashtra are not receiving adequate calories and should be considered ‘poor’.

According to Ram, Mohanty and Ram’s 2008 analysis, 65.4% of abject deprived households25 in Maharashtra do not have BPL cards.

In contrast to the millions of households in abject poverty that cannot access BPL cards, 12.7% of non-poor households posses BPL cards. Specifically, BPL cards are owned by 15% of families owning more than five acres of agricultural land, 5% who own a television and refrigerator and 7% with a motorized vehicle.

Undernourished children are more susceptible to illnesses such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections and are less likely to survive them. In cases where they do survive, they are further weakened and susceptible to future illness.

Only 12% of schools investigated were providing cooked midday meals. Among the schools distributing food, most only provided cooked rice without any other supplements such as cooked dal and vegetables. This study also found that not a single school was providing the stipulated 300 calories and 8 to 12 grams protein.

ICDS feeding centres (i.e. Anganwadi centres) often do not weigh the children regularly or properly. Other research (both government and independent) suggests that a much larger portion of children are malnourished than that reported by ICDS.

Grade III and IV malnourishment is grossly underreported by the ICDS. Workers often lack the skills and equipment necessarily to accurate weigh and classify children. ICDS employees tend to underreport severe malnutrition in order to mask program failures.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an opinion arguing that India is a failed state:

Inspite of the fact that India has been living on the old crumbs of outsourcing for the last 10 years the situation has hardly improved in the cities and villages of India. The poverty in India is reaching its new hieghts with every passing day. Thousands and thousands of people commit suicide every year just because they either don't have enough to eat or they simply can't feed their children/family. The Socialistic economic system in India has suddenly been changed to capitalistic one but trickle down effect has hardly taken effect. The whole nation is facing terrorism from left right and center. 25% of the country (areawise) has no writ of the state as MAOISTS (Communists) have demolished the capitalistic structure in many districts of India. They have their own laws and their own courts. There are at least 10 insurgency movements in India starting from Kashmir in the east to the whole of North East which has 6 or 7 states. Indian Govt. seems helpless.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an opinion from Forbes India special about India's next ten years:

was considerable hoopla when the Indian economy crossed the trillion dollar mark for the first time three years ago. Over the next 10 to 15 years, it is now almost inevitable that our economy will touch $3 trillion. Last week, I had an interesting chat with K.V. Kamath, ICICI Bank’s non-executive chairman, about the implications of such phenomenal growth. Perhaps with the exception of China, nowhere in the world has one seen such a large mass of people go through a period of unprecedented growth. Even though China’s march began in 1978, the real boom in that economy started in 2000 and lasted for more than 10 years. During this period, per capita incomes have trebled there.

On the other hand, India began its charge in 1991. And by 2025, per capita incomes are likely to move up three fold from the current base of about $1,000. Yet Kamath raised a significant question: How much do we really know what happens to a society that goes through such rapid change? China could have offered some clues, but no one is sure whether this transformation has been credibly recorded there. Now, when India steps up for her moment in history, it’ll perhaps offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for researchers and media to chronicle this massive surge.

Set against the backdrop of last week’s Union Budget, that’s exactly what this special edition attempts to do. Associate Editor Dinesh Narayanan and Principal Correspondent Udit Misra lay out the big challenges facing the country over the next decade. Their essay picks up clues from the Budget speech and then focusses our attention on four hot-button issues that will keep our policy-makers awake at night.

We then pick up the four big bets that this government has made — education, homeland security, climate change and roads — and look at how each minister in charge is using a new approach to drive his agenda.

Finally, the concept of inclusive growth suggests that the benefits of development must touch all our states in ample measure. Yet in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the human development indices are almost as bad as that of African countries. So why can’t we learn to replicate the success in one state in another? We’ve picked out two important stories of transformation that offer critical lessons. Associate Editor Malini Goyal’s family quit Bihar more than a decade ago. Quietly but surely, under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Bihar has undergone a huge upheaval for the past four years. Malini returns to her home state to discover why good governance can make a difference even in a seemingly hopeless situation. Make sure you read her personal account on page 68.

The agricultural crisis has tormented the minds of policymakers and farmers alike. Some weeks ago, we found the answers in unexpected quarters: The state of Gujarat. In the last few years, Gujarat’s agrarian sector has grown at three times the national average. Consulting Editor R.N. Bhaskar travels to the hotspot to bring you an amazing story of agricultural revival. It underscores my belief that we don’t need new solutions. All we need is political will and foresight.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Ravi Rikhye, editor of Orbat, criticizing Indian home minister's boast about defeating Maoists in three years:

We told you speaking first thinking later is not just a Pakistani trait but is a subcontinental trait. Now the Indian Home Minister has announced that the Maoists, who are active in one-third of India's districts (counties) will be defeated in three years. What's so sad about this amazingly stupid statement is that the Minister is actually quite a brainy fellow and an effective administrator. The Maoist problem has plagued India for 40 years, and a lot of it tied up with social injustice. Its absurd to think its going to solved in three years when India has not been able to defeat straightforward secessionist insurgencies in its northeast for 40 years.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent BBC report on Indian operation against Maoists in Jharkhand:

"East Singbhum district in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand has been considered the heartland of the Maoist insurgency for more than two decades now.

"Either walk or ride a motorbike," I am advised by Faiyaz who is heading a group of paramilitary troops from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

We are in the forests of Derabasa in Ghatsila sub-district and Faiyaz tells me that the road is littered with landmines.

"Venturing in this terrain on a four-wheeler can be risky," he says.

Recently, a massive anti-Maoist operation was launched in the area by the federal home ministry and the Jharkhand state government.

Battle lines

Thousands of paramilitary troops, including the Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra) - the special force raised to tackle the Maoist insurgency in India - have been deployed in the operation.

Battle lines are drawn as the security forces take position to "liberate the forests" from the armed Maoist guerrillas.

The region has seen several violent incidents, including the killing of a member of parliament, Sunil Mahato of the state's governing Jharkhand Mukti Morcha party.

Last August, the insurgents killed 11 security personnel in the Burudih area in a powerful landmine explosion.

The rebels also blew up railway tracks derailing the prestigious Rajdhani Express train.
---------------------------
However, almost a fortnight into the biggest operation against the Maoists so far, the security forces have not made any significant breakthrough.

No weapons have been recovered, nor any big Maoist leader been caught. And no one knows how long this will go on.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed, waiting for the day when this all ends. We have not been to the forests and there is no other source of income for us. We pray that normal life returns soon," says a villager in Jhatijharna.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent article in Dawn on India-Pak water issues:

Another take on the issue comes from John Briscoe, a South African expert who has spent three decades in South Asia, and has served as a senior advisor on water issues to the World Bank. In an article titled War or Peace on the Indus?, Briscoe places the matter in a political context:

“Living in Delhi and working in both India and Pakistan, I was struck by a paradox. One country was a vigorous democracy, the other a military regime. But whereas important parts of the Pakistani press regularly reported India’s views on the water issue in an objective way, the Indian press never did the same. I never saw a report which gave Indian readers a factual description of the enormous vulnerability of Pakistan, of the way India had socked it to Pakistan when filling Baglihar….

“Equally depressing is my repeated experience — most recently at a major international meeting of strategic security institutions in Delhi — that even the most liberal and enlightened of Indian analysts … seem constitutionally incapable of seeing the great vulnerability and legitimate concern of Pakistan (which is obvious and objective to an outsider)…. This is a very uneven playing field. The regional hegemon is the upper riparian and has all the cards in its hands.”

Briscoe makes the point that even though India was cleared of any technical violation of the treaty in building Baglihar dam by an international panel of experts its timing of the diversion of the river to fill the dam caused great hardship to farmers in Pakistan. He goes on to argue that as the upper riparian, India can and should do much more to reassure Pakistan that it has no intention of violating the letter or spirit of the treaty. Above all, Briscoe puts the onus on Indian opinion makers to do much more to explain the issues fairly to the Indian public.


Media coverage and analysts are very significant in India Pakistan relations. There's a lot of hope hanging on journalists and analysts exchanges as part of Aman Ki Asha.

A hopeful sign I saw recently was Indian anchor Burkha Dutt, known for her extremely hawkish views after Mumbai, visiting and joining Pak journalists and expressing herself in a much more conciliatory tone. This happened as part of Aman Ki Asha programs being aired in both South Asian countries.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on a Maoist female fighter in India:

The guerrilla fighter was tough, experienced, leading a platoon of around 60 insurgents.

"I am from a very poor family," the fighter told me.

"Life was very difficult. I joined the party and now I understand many more things. I think revolution is the only option."

One thing you should know about this hardline Maoist rebel - she is a young woman.

She is one of the growing numbers of poor Indians who have joined a four-decades-old Maoist rebellion, in which thousands have died. Last month the rebels killed 76 members of the security forces in a single attack.

More than 20 of India's 28 states are affected by the insurgency. The remote tribal villages of Jharkhand state, where the fields are still tilled by oxen, are at the centre of it.

The area is home to some of the country's poorest people, mostly members of indigenous tribes. There is little sign of India's economic miracle here.

Local people feel the government has neglected them. So the Maoists, or "the party" as the villagers call them, have got on with running the place.

Parallel government

"The government here has no health programmes… so our party sets up health clinics to help the people," one Maoist fighter told me.

"This area is plagued by illness... Our party gives free medicines in the clinics - and we get help from doctors and nurses. We run them in the rainy season when people are suffering most."

The Maoists have drawn a lot of support from poor villagers like Chachi.

"They are like our sons, our brothers," she says.

"Before, we were not allowed to go into our forests - the authorities used to cut the trees but we weren't even allowed to gather firewood. Now we can.

"The party makes sure there is no tension between rich and poor… that's why we want the party here."

But not everyone agrees. The Maoists have blown up schools because the security forces use them as barracks.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times recent story about Dr. Umar Kundi who was alleged to be involved in Lahore attacks on Pakistan's ISI and Sri Lankan cricket teams:

Umar Kundi was his parents’ pride, an ambitious young man from a small town who made it to medical school in the big city. It seemed like a story of working-class success, living proof in this unequal society that a telephone operator’s son could become a doctor.

But things went wrong along the way. On campus Mr. Kundi fell in with a hard-line Islamic group. His degree did not get him a job, and he drifted in the urban crush of young people looking for work. His early radicalization helped channel his ambitions in a grander, more sinister way.

Instead of healing the sick, Mr. Kundi went on to become one of Pakistan’s most accomplished militants. Working under a handler from Al Qaeda, he was part of a network that carried out some of the boldest attacks against the Pakistani state and its people last year, the police here say. Months of hunting him ended on Feb. 19, when he was killed in a shootout with the police at the age of 29.

Mr. Kundi and members of his circle — educated strivers who come from the lower middle class — are part of a new generation that has made militant networks in Pakistan more sophisticated and deadly. Al Qaeda has harnessed their aimless ambition and anger at Pakistan’s alliance with the United States, their generation’s most electrifying enemy.

“These are guys who use Google Maps to plan their attacks,” said a senior Punjab Province police official. “Their training is better than our national police academy.”

Like Mr. Kundi, many came of age in the 1990s, when jihad was state policy — aimed at challenging Indian control in Kashmir — and jihadi groups recruited openly in universities. Under the influence of Al Qaeda, their energies have been redirected and turned inward, against Pakistan’s own government and people.

That shift has fractured long-established militant networks, which were once supported by the state, producing a patchwork of new associations that are fluid and defy easy categorization.

“The situation now is quite confusing,” said Tariq Parvez, director of the National Counterterrorism Authority in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. “We can no longer talk in terms of organizations. Now it’s a question of like-minded militants.”

The result has been deadly. In 2009, militant attacks killed 3,021 Pakistanis, three times as many as in 2006.

The issue is urgent. Pakistan is in the midst of a youth bulge, with more than a million people a year pouring into the job market, and the economy — at its current rate — is not growing fast enough to absorb them. Only a tiny fraction choose militancy, but acute joblessness exacerbates the risk.

Riaz Haq said...

Moderated by Saad Khan, a partner at CMEA Capital, there was a social entrepreneurs panel at Open Forum 2010 that featured Salman Khan of Khan Academy, Leila Janah of Samasource, Tabreez Verjee of Kiva, and Misbah Naqvi of Acumen Fund.

The panelists described what they do as social entrepreneurs and what led them to it. Salman Khan started at a hedge fund before he was inspired by a cousin and her friends to create Khan Academy for tutoring math and science via his Youtube channel.

Leila Janah of Samasource went to work for the World Bank in Washington to fight poverty, but she was soon soured by the bank bureaucracy whose focus was on self-interest rather than the interest of the world's poor which it is supposed to serve. Her first day at the World Bank was spent at a seminar advising bank employees on financing a second home. She quit her job to found Samasource, which is a non-profit service that seeks contracts from companies in the West, and slices large contracts into microwork tasks like data entry, software testing, transcription and research outsourced to the poor, but educated, workers abroad.

Tabreez Verjee serves on the board of Kiva, a Silicon valley startup that combines microfinance with the Internet to create a global community of people connected through lending. The company allows lenders to lend amounts as small as $25 and choose who to lend to via the Internet. The funds are disbursed to small entrepreneurs and loans repaid using existing microfiance companies operating in different parts of the world. Kiva is working with Asasah microfinance in Pakistan.

Misabah Naqvi is the business development manager of Acumen fund which invests in social enterprises. She was originally a banker in Pakistan before joining the Acumen Fund. The fund is a business rather than a charity, and puts all of its returns back into the fund to support more social efforts based on sustainability, scale and social impact. In addition to investing in microfinance, the Acumen fund has invested in Saiban which is building low-cost housing in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a blog post by Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant US Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, on U.S. and Pakistan collaborating on Science and Technology:

As part of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue initiated in March by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi, I recently led the U.S. delegation to the Science and Technology Working Group in Islamabad, June 8-9. The two-day meetings discussed three areas where our two governments could increase collaboration: enhanced science and technology cooperation, enabling the science and technology enterprise, and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.

It was encouraging to hear the Working Group specifically agree on building upon ongoing joint research and ways to highlight new knowledge that can improve social conditions and enhance economic opportunities. Working Group members also agreed to explore building the capacity of academic institutions and transferring technology from the lab to the private sector, while emphasizing the need to share successful models of innovation and entrepreneurship.

One of the most memorable experiences during my visit was attending an exhibition featuring 38 Science and Technology research projects funded through the Pakistan-U.S. Science and Technology Cooperation Program. I also had the privilege of visiting Pakistan's National University of Science and Technology, where I met with researchers who are conducting studies on climate change, finding innovative ways to use telemedicine to improve disease surveillance networks, and designing improved search engines.

The Science and Technology Working Group meeting was the first of the 13 Strategic Dialogue Working Group sessions taking place this month in Pakistan. Other Working Group topics include: law enforcement, energy, water, economics and finance, market access, defense, health, women's issues, and agriculture. I am inspired and encouraged by our Science and Technology discussions as they are addressing some of the most pressing environment, science, technology, and health issues facing Pakistan today, and building strong partnerships between our Science and Technology communities. The U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue represents the shared commitment of both nations to strengthening the bilateral relationship and building an even broader partnership based on mutual respect and mutual trust.

Riaz Haq said...

"America’s economy is set to shift away from consumption and debt and towards exports and saving", says a story in the Economist magazine. Here are some excerpts:

STEVE HILTON remembers months of despair after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Customers rushed to the sales offices of Meritage Homes, the property firm Mr Hilton runs, not to buy houses but to cancel contracts they had already signed. “I thought for a moment the world was coming to an end,” he recalls.

In the following months Mr Hilton stepped up efforts to save his company. He gave up options to buy thousands of lots that the firm had snapped up across Arizona, Florida, Nevada and California during the boom, taking massive losses. He eventually laid off three-quarters of its 2,300 employees. He also had its houses completely redesigned to cut construction cost almost in half: simpler roofs, standardised window sizes, fewer options. Gone were the 12-foot ceilings, sweeping staircases and granite countertops everyone wanted when money was free. Meritage is now catering to the only customers able to get credit: first-time buyers with federally guaranteed loans. It is clawing its way back to health as a leaner, humbler company.

The same could be said for America. Virtually every industry has shed jobs in the past two years, but those that cater mostly to consumers have suffered most. Employment in residential construction and carmaking is down by almost a third, in retailing and banking by 8%. As the economy recovers, some of those jobs will come back, but many of them will not, because this was no ordinary recession. The bubbly asset prices, ever easier credit and cheap oil that fuelled America’s age of consumerism are not about to return.

America’s economy will undergo one of its biggest transformations in decades. This macroeconomic shift from debt and consumption to saving and exports will bring microeconomic changes too: different lifestyles, and different jobs in different places. This special report will describe that transformation, and explain why it will be tricky.

The crisis and then the recession put an abrupt end to the old economic model. Despite a small rebound recently, house prices have fallen by 29% and share prices by a similar amount since their peak. Households’ wealth has shrunk by $12 trillion, or 18%, since 2007. As a share of disposable income it is back to its level in 1995. And if consumers feel less rich, they are less inclined to spend. Banks are also less willing to lend: they have tightened loan standards, with a push from regulators who now wish they had taken a dimmer view of exotic mortgages and lax lending during the boom.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an OpEd piece by Shoma Chaudhry in Tehelka.com:

FAKERY HAS always been a key instrument of power. But last week, as the President and Pr ime Minister of India made their Independence Day speeches, cocooned symbolically in towers of glass, the scale of that fakery shot skyward. Both leaders augustly urged the Maoists, yet again, to “abjure violence” and come for talks. Few among the millions of Indians who heard them would have caught the cynicism.

Swami Agnivesh certainly would have. It’s just over a month since the State shot down a man called Azad. There’s been some fitful noise over it. Civil society has protested valiantly; Mamta Banerjee has asked for a judicial inquiry. But for the most part, Indians have gone about their business, registering little and understanding even less. (I tried sharing some of its indignant shock with a public icon from Mumbai. He replied: “So what if they shot one guy?” The chasm was so wide, I subsided into silence.)

But the hard truth is the killing of Azad is a desperate new low in Indian public life. Azad was not just a key leader of the CPI(Maoist) — a mans whose death would be a face-saving notch on the carbines of competitive violence, one big fish to even the score for 76 jawans. He was a man mid-stream in a peace process initiated by the government itself. How could the State just ignore his death, then stand coldly on the ramparts of the Red Fort urging a new round of talks? Where are the certitudes that make the foundation of a civilised society?

Much of the events leading up to Azad’s death has been reported earlier in TEHELKA (The Maoist and the Undelivered Missive, 17 July, 2010), but it bears a quick retelling. Some months ago, as pressure mounted on him to defuse the civil war in the heartland, Home Minister P Chidambaram called Swami Agnivesh and asked him to bear a letter for the Maoists, urging them to come for talks. Agnivesh acted in good faith and sent the word out. It was a hopeful time. Significantly, Chidambaram’s letter did not merely make flamboyant demands asking the Maoists to give him “72 hours” to set the world right.

Instead, it asked them to announce a date for talks so the government could plan its response. It also promised that if the Maoists would lay down arms, “it goes without saying” the security forces would also suspend operations for the duration of the talks. The Maoists — mandating Azad to be their point person — responded positively. A mutual cessation of hostilities suddenly seemed possible. Apparently, a fixed date was imminent.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a post by Soutik Biswas of BBC.com about the current situation next door:

Ms Gandhi's re-election comes at a time when the government led by her party - now in it's second term - appears to be worryingly adrift. Kashmir is again spinning out of control with an indigenous popular uprising against India, Maoist violence is on the rise in vast swathes of the country, and the movement for a separate Telangana state is still boiling. The government earned the rebuke of the Supreme Court recently for allowing food grains to rot in storage. (Why does it keep purchasing more food from farmers than it can store and distribute to the poor?) Delhi's Commonwealth Games fiasco has done little good to the government's image. Runaway and brazen corruption is threatening to stymie India's progress, but Ms Gandhi's party and government do not appear to be bothered too much.

There is also a growing impression that the government and the party are not on the same page. Ministers and Congress party leaders openly differ on policies and snipe at each other - there is a sharp divergence of views on how to tackle Maoism, separatism and even building key infrastructure.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2010/09/sonia_gandhis_challenge.html

Riaz Haq said...

To get a peek into the Indian psyche, read the following advice offered by Financial Times to David Cameron prior to his recent India trip:

The first is 'Kashmir', he says. Recalling controversial utterances by previous British foreign secretaries like Robin Cook and David Miliband, Barker tells Cameron: "The quickest way to turn a charm offensive into a diplomatic fiasco. The basic rule: British ministers should say nothing. Don't dare criticise, offer to help, or link bringing peace to tackling terrorism. Stray words have consequences."

The second is 'Poverty'. "More poor people than anywhere on earth. But not worth mentioning too loudly. Talk about the New India instead. Mention the aid review. A patronising tone is fatal."

The third, 'Coming over too fresh'. Barker says: "The young, dynamic, no-nonsense version of Cameron should probably be left behind. It's time to learn some manners. Indian politicians are, as a rule, double his age and four times as grand. If the meetings are stuffy, formal, overbearingly polite, that's a good thing."

The fourth is the 'Immigration cap'. The columnist writes: "A big issue for the Indian elite. Anand Sharma, the commerce minister, raised his 'concerns' earlier this month with Cameron himself. A heavily bureaucratic and stingy visa regime will not encourage Indians to work or study in Britain."



Read more: Don't mention Kashmir, poverty in India, UK PM advised - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/Dont-mention-Kashmir-poverty-in-India-UK-PM-advised/articleshow/6226174.cms#ixzz0zjt5WfSg

Riaz Haq said...

You often hear rhetoric about India-Pakistan friendship. But friendship is a two-way street.

Musharraf was very serious about making friends with India on his watch from 2000 to 2007. He offered significant concessions and tried very hard to reach an agreement with Delhi on Kashmir, but to no avail.

Instead of of responding positively, India stepped its hostility by opening a new front in starting a covert war in Pakistan via Afghanistan.

Here is how South Asia expert Stephen Cohen described India's ambivalent attitude toward Pakistan recently:

Indians do not know whether they want to play cricket and trade with Pakistan, or whether they want to destroy it. There is still no consensus on talking with Pakistan: sometimes the government and its spokesman claim that they do not want to deal with the generals, but when the generals are out of the limelight, they complain that the civilians are too weak to conclude a deal.

In addition to Kashmir, the other key and potentially more explosive issue between India and Pakistan is that Indus water.

A South African water expert and Harvard professor John Briscoe recently argued that Pakistan was woefully vulnerable to Indian manipulation of the timing of water flows of the Jhelum and Chenab; that the Indian press—unlike the Pakistani media—never noted the other country’s views on the issue, and was instructed on what to say by the Ministry of External Affairs; and that India lacked the leadership of a regional power, as Brazil had been magnanimous in similar disputes with Bolivia and Paraguay.

Here is the exact quote from Briscoe's piece published in April 2010:

Living in Delhi and working in both India and Pakistan, I was struck by a paradox. One country was a vigorous democracy, the other a military regime. But whereas an important part of the Pakistani press regularly reported India's views on the water issue in an objective way, the Indian press never did the same. I never saw a report which gave Indian readers a factual description of the enormous vulnerability of Pakistan, of the way in which India had socked it to Pakistan when filling Baglihar. How could this be, I asked? Because, a journalist colleague in Delhi told me, "when it comes to Kashmir – and the Indus Treaty is considered an integral part of Kashmir -- the ministry of external affairs instructs newspapers on what they can and cannot say, and often tells them explicitly what it is they are to say."

http://www.countercurrents.org/briscoe050410.htm

Riaz Haq said...

India ranks 67, far worse than Pakistan's ranking of 52 on the world hunger index 2010 report published recently, according to a Times of India report.

China is ranked well ahead of India and Pakistan at the ninth place, while Pakistan is at the 52nd place on the 2010 Global Hunger Index, released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in association with a German group Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.

In India, the high Index scores are driven by high levels of child underweight resulting from the low nutritional and social status of women in the country, the report pointed out, adding that India alone accounts for a large share of the world's undernourished children, the IFPRI report said.

India is home to 42% of the world's underweight children, while Pakistan has just 5%, it added.

Among other neighbouring countries, Sri Lanka was at the 39th position and Nepal ranked 56 by index. Bangladesh listed at the 68th position.

"The economic performance and hunger levels are inversely correlated. In South and Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Timor-Leste are among countries with hunger levels considerably higher than their gross national income (GNI) per capita," the IFPRI report said.

"Undernutrition in the first two years of life threatens a child's life and can jeopardise physical, motor and cognitive development. It is therefore of particular importance that we take concerted action to combat hunger, especially among young children," the report stressed.

It further said that the global food security is under stress. Although the world's leaders, through the first Millennium Development Goal, adopted a goal of halving the proportion of hungry people between 1990 and 2015, "we are nowhere near meeting that target."

"The 2010 world Global Hunger Index (GHI) shows some improvement over the 1990 world GHI, falling from 19.8 points to 15.1 or by almost one-quarter. The index for hunger in the world, however, remains serious," it noted.

In recent years, however, the number of hungry people has actually been increasing. In 2009, on the heels of a global food price crisis and in the midst of worldwide recession, the number of undernourished peopled surpassed one billion, although recent estimates by the UN body Food and Agriculture Organisation suggest that the number will have dropped to 925 million in 2010, it added.

Read more: India ranks below China, Pak in global hunger index - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-ranks-below-China-Pak-in-global-hunger-index/articleshow/6728259.cms#ixzz12CoXFD6s

Riaz Haq said...

About 60% of India's workforce is engaged in agriculture, contributing about 16% of GDP, according to published data. Textile manufacturing claims the second largest employment and comprises 26% of manufacturing output. It accounts for a fifth of India’s exports, and employs almost 10 percent of India’s workforce, or some 35 million people, and has the potential to add another 12 million new jobs --dwarfing the 1-2 million jobs created by the much-heralded IT and BPO sector, according to a World Bank report. Even the most optimistic estimates by NASSCOM put the total direct and indirect employment in IT and ITES sectors at 10 million jobs.

Agriculture in Pakistan accounts for 19.4% of GDP and 42% of labor force, followed by services providing 53.4% of GDP and 38% employment, with the remainder 27.2% of GDP and 20% workers in manufacturing sector. Over half of Pakistan's manufacturing jobs are in the textile sector, making it the second biggest employer after agriculture.

Here is a quick comparison of different sectors of the economy in India and Pakistan in terms of employment and GDP contribution:

Country....Agri(emp/GDP)..Textiles..Other Mfg..Service(incl IT)

India........60%/16% ...........10%/4%.....7%/25%...........23%/55%

Pakistan......42%/20%...........12%/8%......8%/18%...........38%/54%

Riaz Haq said...

Here's part 1 of a recent report titled "India: Economic Power House or Poor House?" by reporter The Star's Mary Albino that talks about how deceptive "India's Miracle" is:

India’s economic miracle is a perfect example of how appearances can be deceiving.

The dominant narrative on the country goes like this: as the fourth largest economy in the world, with a steady annual growth rate of close to 9 per cent, India is a rising economic superstar. Bangalore is the new Silicon Valley. Magazines such as Forbes and Vogue have launched Indian editions. The Mumbai skyline is decorated with posh hotels and international banks.

There are numbers to back up this narrative. The average Indian takes home $1,017 (U.S.) a year. Not much, but that’s nearly double the average five years ago and triple the annual income at independence, in 1947. The business and technology sector has grown tenfold in the past decade. Manufacturing and agriculture are expanding, and trade levels are way up.

India is also on the up and up in terms of human well-being. Life expectancy and literacy are steadily rising, while child mortality continues to decline. The poverty rate is down to 42 per cent from 60 per cent in 1981. While 42 per cent still leaves a long way to go, India’s situation seems rosy compared with that of, say, Malawi and Tanzania, which have poverty rates of 74 per cent and 88 per cent, respectively.

If we examine these statistics in real numbers, however, a different narrative emerges, one the Indian government likes less.

With a population as big as India’s, 42 per cent means there are some 475 million Indians living on less than $1.25 per day. That’s 10 times as many facing dire poverty as Malawi and Tanzania combined.

It means India is home to more poor people than any other country in the world.

To put it another way, one of every three people in the world living without basic necessities is an Indian national.

The real number is probably even larger. The recently launched Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a more comprehensive measure of deprivation than the current “poverty line” of $1.25 per day, uses 10 markers of well-being, including education, health and standard of living. The MPI, developed by the Poverty & Human Development Initiative at Oxford University, puts the Indian poverty rate at 55 per cent. That’s 645 million people — double the population of the United States and nearly 20 times the population of Canada.

By this measure, India’s eight poorest states have more people living in poverty than Africa’s 26 poorest nations.

A 10-year-old living in the slums of Calcutta, raising her 5-year-old brother on garbage and scraps, and dealing with tapeworms and the threat of cholera, suffers neither more nor less than a 10-year-old living in the same conditions in the slums of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. But because the Indian girl lives in an “emerging economy,” slated to battle it out with China for the position of global economic superpower, and her counterpart in Lilongwe lives in a country with few resources and a bleak future, the Indian child's predicament is perceived with relatively less urgency.

One is “poor” while the other represents a “declining poverty rate.”

What’s more, in India there are huge discrepancies in poverty from one state to the next. Madhya Pradesh, for example, is comparable in population and incidence of poverty to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. But the misery of the DRC is much better known than the misery of Madhya Pradesh, because sub-national regions do not appear on “poorest country” lists. If Madhya Pradesh were to seek independence from India, its dire situation would become more visible immediately.

As India demonstrates, having the largest number of poor people is not the same as being the poorest country. That’s unfortunate, because being the poorest country has advantages.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's part 2 of a recent report titled "India: Economic Power House or Poor House?" by reporter The Star's Mary Albino that talks about how deceptive "India's Miracle" is:

By this measure, India’s eight poorest states have more people living in poverty than Africa’s 26 poorest nations.

A 10-year-old living in the slums of Calcutta, raising her 5-year-old brother on garbage and scraps, and dealing with tapeworms and the threat of cholera, suffers neither more nor less than a 10-year-old living in the same conditions in the slums of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. But because the Indian girl lives in an “emerging economy,” slated to battle it out with China for the position of global economic superpower, and her counterpart in Lilongwe lives in a country with few resources and a bleak future, the Indian child's predicament is perceived with relatively less urgency.

One is “poor” while the other represents a “declining poverty rate.”

What’s more, in India there are huge discrepancies in poverty from one state to the next. Madhya Pradesh, for example, is comparable in population and incidence of poverty to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. But the misery of the DRC is much better known than the misery of Madhya Pradesh, because sub-national regions do not appear on “poorest country” lists. If Madhya Pradesh were to seek independence from India, its dire situation would become more visible immediately.

As India demonstrates, having the largest number of poor people is not the same as being the poorest country. That’s unfortunate, because being the poorest country has advantages. In the same way a tsunami or earthquake garners an intense outpouring of aid and support, being labelled “worst off” or “most poor” tends to draw a bigger share of international attention — and dollars.

When Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971, it was the poorest country in the world, so poor most economists were skeptical it would ever succeed on its own. But being labelled “dead last” worked in its favour: billions of dollars in aid money flooded in, and NGO and charity groups arrived in droves. The dominant narrative of Bangladesh at the time was of a war-ravaged, cyclone-battered and fledgling country on the brink of famine. That seemed to help rally the troops.

No doubt India’s government wants the world to perceive the nation in terms of its potential and not its shortcomings. But because it’s home to 1.1 billion people, India is more able than most to conceal the bad news behind the good, making its impressive growth rates the lead story rather than the fact that it is home to more of the world’s poor than any other country.

Still, at least part of the blame should be placed on the way poverty is presented on the international stage. If the unit of deprivation is a human being, then the prevalence of poverty should be presented in numbers of lives. If we know precisely how many billionaires India has — 49 in 2010, double last year’s number — than we should also know precisely how many people live without basic necessities.

Riaz Haq said...

A blogger calling himself "Israel's Financial Expert" makes a number of forecasts "11 Big Surprises" for 2010-2020 decade. These range from the collapse of Euro to overthrow of government in Beijing to Pakistan's economic collpase. Here is what it says about Pakistan:

4. Pakistan Collapses- The nuclear state fell victim of various terrorist groups who eventually succeeded in overthrowing the regime. The country falled into a bloody civil war. The U.S military, in a planned operation which was planned during the Bush years took control of the military facilities and dismantled them. The civil war affected India, which increasingly suffered from terrorist attacks throughout the decade. The collapse of Pakistan symbolized a new phase in the global "War on Terror" with the pro- American Gulf States becoming the main target.

Riaz Haq said...

Chandran Nair argues in his book "Consumptionomics" that the Asians need to rethink the whole idea of western-style consumer-driven capitalism to ensure a better, more sustainable future for their massive population.

Here are some excepts from Financial Times review of the book "Consumptionomics: Asia’s Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet":

, -- Life might not be as much fun in his world as it is for the lucky ones who become wealthy under liberal capitalism. “Golf and car racing might be out but badminton and social dancing are more popular,” he suggests in his vision of leisure time in a Nairian society. But the benefits of development would be spread more widely, damage to the earth’s resources would be controlled and people would probably spend less time working.

Nair’s starting point is that the world simply cannot survive the consequences of the growth of highly populous Asian economies to levels of development reached by industrialised countries if that is to be achieved on the same resource-guzzling terms as western development.
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Throughout the book, Nair evinces an angry disdain for western-style capitalism, which he regards as setting the world on a path to destruction by its devotion to the ideology of markets and its voracious appetite for finite resources. He’s none too complimentary either about its media cheerleaders, including this newspaper.

“The biggest lie of all is that consumption-driven capitalism can deliver wealth to all,” he writes. “In Asia it can only deliver short-term wealth to a minority; in the long term, it can only deliver misery to all. This is the intellectual dishonesty at the heart of the model the west has peddled to Asia.”

Nair points to the familiar issue of energy use, saying that if Asia’s population was to use as much energy per person as Europeans do today (relatively modest compared to Americans), then it would use eight to nine times as much energy as the US currently consumes. Perhaps more startling is an estimate he uses for poultry consumption. Americans will eat 9bn birds this year, apparently. If by 2050 Asians ate the same amount per person, they would swallow more than 120bn. That’s a lot of battery chickens.

Nor is Nair impressed by arguments that technology will ultimately solve issues such as energy shortages and climate change, allowing economic growth and consumption to go on expanding. He dismisses the notion that Asia should concentrate on growth and then, when it is rich, clean up afterwards. What he demands is a radical change in the prevailing global economic model and its governance.
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But the shape of a Nairian Asia does emerge. It would be made up of strong nation-state governments willing to take unilateral action on issues such as controlling natural resource exploitation and domestic agriculture and industry. Governments would get bigger and spend more with an emphasis on sustainable infrastructure such as public transport. Carbon, natural resources and financial transactions would be taxed – possibly allowing for a reduction or elimination of payroll taxes. Agriculture would be deindustrialised, with a drive to return to labour-intensive farming to ensure sufficient output and stop mass migration to cities.

What would life be like for the individual? They would be expected to forgo owning a car, would pay high prices for meat and restaurant portions would be restricted. But income differentials would be minimised and access to the benefits of technology widely shared.

He doesn’t say it but Nair is describing a kind of Asian Norway, with the benefits of natural resources controlled and socialised to a high degree, rural communities subsidised to keep people on the land, fisheries protected, a high commitment to energy efficiency and high taxation to support high levels of social welfare.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian report on glaciers in Karakoram range in Pakistan:

The glaciers flowing between the towering peaks of the Karakoram range on the Pakistan-China border have grown in size in the last decade, according to new research.

The impact of climate change on the ice in the greater Himalaya range has been controversial because of an unfounded claim by the United Nations' climate science panel over the rate of melting in the region. However the melting of vast volumes of ice into the sea in most other parts of the world has been clearly demonstrated. In March, scientists showed that far less ice was being lost across the Himalayas than had been estimated from sparse ground surveys on the remote slopes.

The new study shows that glaciers in one important part of the mountain range are growing. "We provide a detailed glacier-scale evaluation of mass changes in the central Karakoram," said Julie Gardelle, at CNRS-Université Grenoble, who led the research published in Nature Geoscience on Sunday. "In our warming world, there are regions of the Earth where, for a few years or decades, the atmosphere is not warming or is even cooling. So it is not really a big surprise that there are some regions where the temperature is not rising and the Karakoram may be one of those."

The scientists used 3D altitude maps obtained from satellites in 2000 and 2008 to track the changes in the glaciers. Prof Graham Cogley, of Trent University in Canada, who was not part of the research team, called the approach a "ground-breaking" advance.
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Prof Jonathan Bamber, at the University of Bristol, said Gardelle's research was consistent with global gravity work. But he cautioned: "Nine years is a very short period to draw strong conclusions about trends in glaciers. If you are looking for a climate effect - as opposed to a weather effect - you usually take a 30-year period as a minimum, on the assumption that this averages out the interannual variability."

Cogley emphasised that, despite the relatively ice small growth seen the Karakoram, global glacier and ice cap melting is continuing and contributing to rising sea levels. "The world exhibits enormous variety, but that doesn't mean we cannot make valuable generalisations about how it is changing," he said.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/15/karakoram-glaciers-grown-research