Thursday, February 23, 2006

MQM seeks a sweet gesture from PM

A political party in Pakistan has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to help alleviate the sugar crisis in Islamabad.

"Any gesture of generosity from India in alleviating the current sugar crisis in Pakistan would be a very sweet gesture and go a long way in boosting the morale of the people of Pakistan," founder of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain said in a letter to Manmohan on Wednesday.

Pakistan is currently beset with a major crisis on account of an acute shortage of sugar in the country. Climatic conditions have adversely affected the sugarcane crop, resulting in major shortfalls in sugar production.

Sugar, which was earlier being sold for Rs 18 per kg in the wholesale market, is now reportedly selling for Rs 41 per kg in the wholesale market and about Rs 42-44 per kg in the retail market.

The average sugar consumption by 150 million Pakistanis is assessed to be 0.3 million tonnes a month.

"India has been instrumental in alleviating the past sugar crises of Pakistan. India was generous and magnanimous in coming to the aid of citizens of Pakistan hit hard by soaring sugar prices. Such an occasion, unfortunately, is once again with us, to the dismay of poor consumers of Pakistan," the self-exiled leader said.

The Islamabad government, meanwhile, has allowed the import of sugar from India after low production and a subsequent strike by mill owners.

Sugar used to come in through the Wagah border before imports from India were banned in 2001 after complaints that cheap Indian sugar was hurting Pakistani cane growers and processors.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Why the K word?

Looks like any proclamation by President Pervez Musharraf is incomplete without the K-word.

As he very aptly puts it: "Kashmir runs in my blood and I promise you we will make efforts to find a durable solution (to it)".

Even before US President George Bush's visit to the subcontinent next month, Musharraf has already said that the Big Brother should mediate in Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir.

And in a recent meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the President amply made it clear that South Asia remains a perilous region due to "the persistence of the Kashmir issue".

In an attempt to find a "durable solution" to the Kashmir issue, the General had asked its nuclear-armed neighbour to pull out troops from three districts of Kashmir and had also suggested self-governance.

The proposals didn't even raise eyebrows in New Delhi.

"If they reject (proposals), they should give new ideas. If they do not give ideas, we will approach the international community," Musharraf remarked on Kashmir Day on Feb 5.

"We are at present going through the bilateral route to resolve Kashmir issue but if it fails we will take the multilateral route," he added.

Musharraf's iron resolve is supported by a section of media in Pakistan, which feels that India is "neither sincere nor serious in peace process in the region".

"Pakistan has scrupulously and perseveringly striven to seek resolution of the issue in keeping with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, but India has regrettably scuttled all her efforts due to its belligerence and obduracy," says an editorial in Pakistan Observer.

The Manmohan Singh government had recently announced that peace in South Asia is India's top foreign policy priority.

The paper outrightly blames India for depriving the region of its pie in the world economy.

"India is seemingly least interested in resolving this issue because it's neither sincere nor serious in peace process in the region. India is thus squarely responsible for keeping the South Asian region backward and depriving it of its rightful share in world economy."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Indo-US N-dilemma

Even before President George W Bush's visit to India, the agenda for discussion has already been set - the much discussed Indo-US nuclear deal.

While reports here have already said that it may take a while before the deal is sealed, media in Pakistan too feels that the much touted deal is unlikely to be finalised during Bush's visit.

"As things stand, India is at crossroads on the nuclear deal…it is not an easy decision. The deal has already entered choppy waters in the US Congress and it is unlikely to be finalised during Mr Bush's India visit," says a Daily Times editorial.

Among other technicalities, both sides still have to brainstorm over the critical issue of separating civilian and military nuclear facilities.

According to Daily Times, the talks over the issue remain deadlocked, as India has secretly developed a weapons capability.

"The boundary between the civilian and military sides of the Indian nuclear establishment is hazy. This is expected because India has developed a weapons capability clandestinely.

The Indians have been reluctant to clearly demarcate the two sides of the nuclear establishment because they feel that some of the stipulations of an accord (July 18, 2005) could constrain India's development of its nuclear capabilities, particularly its weapon development programme," the paper explains.

India has a total of 15 nuclear reactors that are functioning at present and eight of them are under construction.

Lessons for Pakistan

Pakistan, some time back had asked US for a similar nuclear deal, which the US had declined.

"The lesson for Pakistan, which has been trying to get the US to cut a similar deal with it, is to see how the situation pans out for India and what quid pro quo the US expects to extract from New Delhi," says the Daily Times.

US had told Islamabad that the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal was only India specific and such co-operation with Pakistan was unlikely because of its track record.

"It does not make much sense for us to try to get everything that India wants. As the old cliché goes: All that glitters is not gold," concludes the paper.

(As Published in the Hindustan Times)