Opinion

The one who reached out to China
In the evolution of India-China ties, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s contribution was seminal
India-China relations have come a long way from the period of enmity and bitterness that followed the 1962 war. True, they have not returned to the cheery days of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai, but the maturity with which the leaders of both countries handled the Doklam crisis last year shows that the ties between New Delhi and Beijing are now based on a sound realisation that neither can ignore, much less antagonise, the other. Rather, comprehensive mutual cooperation between India and China is increasingly being seen as an imperative for peace, stability and progress in Asia and the world.
Change in attitude
In this evolution of India-China ties, one leader who made a seminal contribution was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. A politician in the non-dogmatic mould, Vajpayee was open to learning the lessons of history and, thus, revising his own views from the standpoint of India’s national interests. As a swayamsevak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vajpayee’s views on Pakistan and China in the 1950s were quite negative. However, by the time he became the Minister of External Affairs in the Morarji Desai government, and particularly when he served as Prime Minister, Vajpayee was a changed man. He had come to firmly believe that for India to emerge as a major global power, it must normalise relations with Pakistan (which meant finding a permanent and amicable solution to the Kashmir dispute) and comprehensively improve relations with China (which meant resolving the vexed border problem in the spirit of mutual compromise).
Vajpayee’s visit to China in February 1979 ended the chill created by the 1962 war. It was the first high-level political contact between the two countries after 17 long years. His ice-breaking meeting with Deng Xiaoping, then China’s paramount leader, started a new chapter in India-China relations that has continued till date. Vajpayee’s visit to China in June 2003, when I had the honour of accompanying him, witnessed a big breakthrough in bilateral relations. The China he saw this time was very different from what he had seen in 1979. Nowhere was this difference more striking than in the Shanghai skyline. Vajpayee and his delegation went on a boat ride along River Huangpu and what we saw on Pudong district, facing the historic Bund on the other side of the river, were glistening skyscrapers.
During this visit, India recognised for the first time that the “Tibet Autonomous Region is an integral part of the People’s Republic of China”. Some foreign policy experts, including some serving diplomats, were not in favour of this recognition. They felt it would prevent India from using the “Tibet Card” against China. But the realist in Vajpayee was convinced that his decision, apart from being in line with the unchangeable situation on the ground, was a helpful step towards improving bilateral relations. On its part, the Chinese side recognised Sikkim as a State of the Indian Union. The visit also saw an important breakthrough in trade relations — bilateral trade started rising rapidly thereafter.
An important upshot of the visit was the decision to fast-track the talks on the border dispute by initiating the framework of Special Representatives of the two Prime Ministers driving the dialogue. Accordingly, Vajpayee’s trusted National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra and China’s State Councillor Dai Bingguo were appointed as the two special representatives. Vajpayee and Premier Wen Jiabao also agreed that the joint work on the clarification of the LAC should continue smoothly, which helped in maintaining peace along the LAC. After Vajpayee’s demise, Wen Jiabao sent a heartfelt condolence, calling Vajpayee an “outstanding politician”. I met Mr. Dai in Beijing last year. He said, “Mr. Vajpayee was a leader with a vision and strategic thinking. He did not want the past to determine the present. He started a new era of cooperation in India-China relations. He had an open mind on the border issue and wanted it to be resolved soon on the basis of give-and-take. I was very hopeful about making progress.” He added: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs to the same party as Mr. Vajpayee. He has an opportunity to become a New Vajpayee.” How true! Sudheendra Kulkarni was a close aide of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Prime Minister’s Office between 1998 and 2004
Much must change in Kerala
After the devastating floods, Kerala society as a whole now needs to reorient its relationship with nature
In a national calamity, people look towards a leader to extend them empathy, a sense of somebody being in charge and a route to a more secure future. By any measure, Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala, has lived up to expectation on the first two aspects and may be expected to play a role in identifying the third after the State has had to face its biggest disaster in a century in the form of floods. He has reflected gravitas, displayed pragmatism and expressed a willingness to take assistance from any source. The last is a necessary corrective at a time when false pride, standing in the way of accepting the hand of friendship extended from the outside, is projected as a desirable nationalism. At the very same time, it is necessary to acknowledge the extraordinary outpouring of humanity and material assistance towards the people of Kerala from the rest of India. It is difficult to recall something on this scale as a response to a calamity in a distant corner of the country in recent times.
Natural capital and progress
Now that the Chief Minister has affirmed that the “last person has been rescued”, rehabilitation is progressing and plans are afoot to rebuild Kerala, it is hoped that the last will be approached with an open mind. This would be a mindset that recognises that much must change in Kerala’s civil society, which in turn would trigger change at the level of governance. Indeed a paradigm shift, being a profound change in the perception of progress, is needed. The central element in this new perception must be that a continuous decline of a society’s natural capital cannot be seen as compatible with progress. Kerala has justifiably been identified as having carved out a niche, and not just in India but globally, as a society with high human development at a relatively low level of income. While it may be pointed out that globally, many other societies, particularly to the east of India, have achieved the same in terms of some standard social indicators, it must be remembered that, as a part of India, it had also to deal with an ossified social structure in the form of caste and the inequalities it perpetuated. Social stratification was far less in east Asian societies making it easier for them to transform. For Kerala to have overcome this burden through a non-violent political revolution is a considerable achievement.
Altogether, Kerala’s much-acclaimed development trajectory is unsustainable as demonstrated during the recent floods, and needs a change. The needed change is radical and the reality is that its past cannot be a guide to its future. This past has been one of human development, but Kerala society as a whole now needs to reorient its relationship with nature. However inclusive this development may have been — and there is reason to believe that some of the claims made are exaggerated — that by itself does not ensure that the assault on nature will now end. Only the State’s civil society can guarantee its future on this score. Political parties are loathe to speak the language of responsible consumption for fear of losing out on votes.
Mr. Vijayan has been statesmanlike in saying that he will take material assistance from every quarter. He must now extend this approach to listening to independent voices on the rebuilding of Kerala. The obvious place to start would be to institute a public review of the dams in Kerala and how they are operated, focussing in particular on how their operation may have affected the flooding. Such a demand has been made by a section of Kerala’s legislators. Even a conservative body such as the World Bank had instituted an independent review of the Sardar Sarovar Project in the 1990s, and tailored its policy accordingly. Considerations of both transparency and confidence of the people in the functioning of the government machinery demand that such a review be instituted at the earliest. Pulapre Balakrishnan is Professor of Economics of Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana and Senior Fellow of IIM Kozhikode, Kerala
Cause for caution
India’s GDP growth continues to be powered by consumption, not investments
A question being raised about the GDP estimates for the first quarter of this year (April-June) is: How should 8.2% GDP growth be interpreted in, or reconciled with, the overall context of some of the pronounced trends in the economy? These include the depreciating rupee, rising bank bad loans, or non-performing assets (NPAs), a trade deficit that has shot up to a five-year high, and retail fuel prices that are inching up every day. One of the explanations being offered for the missing feel-good sentiment is that the faster growth has come on a low base which has produced a statistical effect, making growth appear faster. This is partly correct. The low base does explain a part of the growth estimated, but not all of it.
The full picture emerges from sectoral estimates, which show that while some parts of the economy grew faster, a few others did not. Agricultural GDP growth quickened as two successive years of good rains improved farm produce. Manufacturing and construction, both industries that were dealt a severe shock by demonetisation, recovered, as the cash shortage moderated. Policy support — such as simplification of the messy Goods and Services Tax collection systems — can strengthen this revival. If nurtured, it can be employment-positive. The estimates for the subsequent quarters of this year will not enjoy the benefit of the low-base effect. First quarter estimates are early indicators and not necessarily representative of the remaining nine months of a year.
To sustain the 8%-plus growth rate beyond the first quarter, through the rest of the year, will require a far more pro-active policy push than appears probable in an election year that is also fraught with global economic challenges and mounting macroeconomic pressures. Ranging from rising international crude prices to the risk of inter-country trade wars, these are likely to keep the current account deficit — and therefore the rupee — under stress. A depreciating rupee will inflate retail fuel prices, unless the Central and State governments cut the taxes on them. But tax cuts will increase the fiscal deficit. The Reserve Bank of India can hike interest rates to arrest the rupee’s depreciation. But that will further increase the cost of borrowing, including the government’s debt. Reforms, by removing bottlenecks, could have promoted growth even in an environment of rising macroeconomic vulnerability. But Mr. Modi’s Independence Day speech has not spelt out any reform measures to be expected in the run-up to the general election. As of now, there are no signs that the full-year growth will beat the forecasts, most of which are about 7.4%.
Puja Mehra is a Delhi-based journalist
The importance of the Bahujan Samaj Party

The Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan may turn on the alliances the party strikes
It is curious that in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where Assembly elections will be held by December, political debates are largely centred on the BJP and the Congress. The role that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) may play is still to be sufficiently addressed.
Numerical strength
One reason for the rising importance of the BSP in these States is the numerical strength of Dalits. In Madhya Pradesh, Dalits are around 15.2% of the population, in Chhattisgarh around 11.6%, and in Rajasthan around 17.2%. Dalits are scattered in different pockets of these States and can influence the election results in many Assembly seats. For instance, in Madhya Pradesh, there are around 60 Assembly seats (in a House of 230+1 nominated) where Dalit votes have the capacity to influence election results. In the 2013 Assembly election in Madhya Pradesh, the BSP got 6.3% of the vote. As there was a difference of around 8% in the votes secured by the victorious BJP and the Congress, many political analysts were of the opinion that if the Congress and the BSP had jointly contested the election, the result may have been different. While it is true that the BSP alone cannot win many seats in these States, by forming an alliance with any dominant political force, it can influence the results, in some places decisively so. In the past, the BSP had not been in favour of forming alliances with other political parties, given its preference to form social alliances of castes and communities directly. But the party has changed its strategy of late. The BSP’s recent experience in Karnataka, where it tied up with the Janata Dal (Secular), and its success in forging an understanding with the Samajwadi Party for the Uttar Pradesh bypolls indicate a change of mind. The BSP is also keen to expand its base in these States. No other axis of mobilisation is likely to challenge the BSP’s influence among Dalits. This gives the BSP great negotiating power in striking deals with other parties in these States.
Change in strategy
In fact, the BSP has been trying to strengthen its organisation, from booth units to the State units. Previously, Kanshi Ram had tried to develop State leaders. But this effort withered away after his illness and death. Now BSP chief Mayawati is pursuing this strategy to nurture various lines of State leaders. This strategy is giving the party visibility. A section of Dalit voters in these three States seems to be annoyed with their BJP-led governments due to various reasons. Cases of atrocities against Dalits, issues of reservation, and the Rohith Vemula case have upset many Dalits, and the BSP has been trying to mobilise its campaign along these lines. The Congress is likely to be politically and electorally compelled to form an alliance with the BSP to get Dalit support in the forthcoming elections and prevent fragmentation of anti-BJP votes. A tie-up with the BSP would also help the Congress in other States in the 2019 parliamentary elections. The BJP, in turn, would like to prevent opposition unity and keep these elections multipolar. It is trying to minimise the impact of the Una atrocities, Rohith Vemula’s suicide, and growing doubts over its intentions regarding reservation by organising various programmes on B.R. Ambedkar and by promoting micro caste-based identity politics to break Dalit unity.
Badri Narayan is Director, G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad
The old and the new
Novak Djokovic asserts greatness at the U.S. Open, Naomi Osaka shows she’s here to stay
There was a time when Pete Sampras’s tally of 14 Grand Slam singles titles — the last of which came at the U.S. Open in 2002 — seemed like the acme of sporting achievement in men’s tennis. Little did anybody expect that in the next 16 years, across 64 Majors, not one or two but three players would stand shoulder to shoulder with the American great. On Sunday, Novak Djokovic became that third man, defeating Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, for his third U.S. Open title at Flushing Meadows. The 31-year-old Serb has never been considered a once-in-a-generation talent, as have Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the ones above him in the trophy count. But nobody represents the modern-day game as well as Djokovic. He is the ultimate practitioner of the attrition-based baseline tennis, and at his best, with his supremely efficient patrolling of the court, is near invincible. Over two weeks in New York he hit this high many times over. In fact, the 95-minute second set in the final was a microcosm of Djokovic’s last two years. It was long and weary as fortunes swung back and forth. But adversity energised him, and he found a level which his opponent couldn’t match. Coming after his triumphant return at Wimbledon in July, the latest success is evidence enough that technically, tactically and physically Djokovic is back to his best.
If it was about the restoration of the old order on the men’s side, it was the continuation of the new in the women’s section. There has been a first-time winner in four of the past six Grand Slam tournaments, and 20-year-old Naomi Osaka added to the eclectic mix by becoming the first Japanese to win a Major. In Serena Williams, the winner of 23 singles Slams, the most by any player in the Open Era, Osaka faced the ultimate challenge. It was also an inter-generational battle like none other. The 16-year age gap between Williams and Osaka was the second biggest in the Open Era for a women’s final, next only to Monica Seles (17) vs. Martina Navratilova (34) at the 1991 U.S. Open. To her immense credit, Osaka wasn’t awed by the stage. While growing up, she had revered Williams. After all, this is someone who chose Williams as her subject for a school essay in third grade. On Saturday she played like she knew the 36-year-old’s game like the back of her hand, absorbing everything the American threw at her, and redirecting them with much more panache. The magnitude of her achievement was nearly drowned out by the chaos in the aftermath of Williams’s tirade against the chair umpire. Yet, the manner in which Osaka, at an impressionable young age, closed out the match with a cold relentlessness showed she is here to stay.
Clemency question
The release of life convicts shouldbe settled on legal principles alone
After failing to get the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case released by exercising its statutory power to remit life sentences, the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu has taken recourse to a possible constitutional remedy. It has decided to invoke the Governor’s clemency power under Article 161 of the Constitution. The earlier attempt in 2014 to remit the sentences under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure was stayed by the Supreme Court, which ultimately held that the Centre had primacy in according remission to life convicts in a case that involves consultation between the Centre and the State. The Centre formally declined to concur with the State’s proposal in April 2018, saying it would “set a very dangerous precedent and lead to international ramifications”. There is no doubt that the sovereign clemency power vested in the President and the Governor is quite wide, but the Supreme Court has in the past cautioned against its use for political considerations. Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit will now have to take a call on the advice of the State’s Council of Ministers and decide whether he is bound by it.
An omnibus order of release clearly will not address the particularities in each case, or evaluate the gravity of their role in the crime and the effect on society of releasing them. In principle, the idea that convicts who have suffered prolonged incarceration require compassion cannot be faulted. The idea of locking away a person for life, without so much as a sliver of hope of freedom, is not in keeping with the ideals of a truly modern society. However, it is impossible to ignore the impact of such a decision on capital punishment. When lifelong imprisonment is regarded as a humane alternative to capital punishment, releasing life convicts may only strengthen the demand for the imposition of the death penalty — which would be retrograde. Although there are many political considerations behind the move to release the convicts, this case must be decided on the basis of legal principles alone.
Understanding Serena
Serena Williams’s judgment at the U.S. Open final was poor, but it helps to look at the situation from her perspective
Once the raging emotions surrounding one of the most controversial Grand Slam finals in recent history settle down, it is worth examining the events that transpired between Serena Williams and the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, at the 2018 U.S. Open.
It began when Williams was given a code violation for in-match coaching, which her coach Patrick Mouratoglou admitted to later. According to the Grand Slam rulebook, “players shall not receive coaching during a match. Communications of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach may be construed as coaching.” Since there exists no mechanism to penalise the coach, the burden falls on the player. Williams then smashed her racquet in frustration after losing serve. According to the rulebook, racquet abuse is a code violation. Her second code violation of the match resulted in a point penalty. She went on to call the chair umpire a “thief” and “liar”, statements that were considered verbal abuse. Williams was ultimately awarded a game penalty at the most crucial juncture of the match and went on to lose the championship to Naomi Osaka.
Maybe Williams was clouded by just how important the match was — winning it may have been the culmination of her career, of what it represents. As an African-American woman from Compton playing in a sport whose roots are affluent and white, she has been at the receiving end of unfair treatment on several occasions: from her “unfeminine physique” being assessed as an advantage, to being drug-tested more than many players. She may have thought that yet again, here was someone who wanted to stop her for no fault of hers. It was poor judgment on her part, but it helps to look at it from her perspective as well. Williams’s importance as a tennis icon, woman, and working mother is far too great. She faces expectations that we can barely imagine, and she lives up to them. But may be not always.
The writer covers tennis for The Hindu
How gamblers can save science
A suggestion to segregate good science from bad science
Scientific journals are often considered to be the voice of experts in many fields of science today. But just how reliable are the studies published in the world’s top scientific journals? A major crisis in the scientific world is that the results of most academic studies, including the peer-reviewed ones, do not replicate properly. This is popularly known as the replication, or reproducibility, crisis. The failure of scientific results to replicate suggests that these studies are quite unreliable even though they have the stamp of approval from academic experts. Many critics of the scientific establishment have even blamed the nature of academia, which they liken to a medieval guild dominated by a small group of elites calling the shots, for this crisis.
Camerer et al tried to replicate the findings of 21 studies published in the world’s top two scientific journals — Nature and Science . They found that 13 out of the 21 studies, or 62% of the results, could be replicated.
At the same time, they allowed 206 volunteers to bet on the chances of replicability of the same group of studies. If they were right about their predictions, these volunteers were set to gain money from their bets. To their surprise, the researchers found that this group of volunteers looking to make money also predicted that the results of 63% of the studies would be replicable.
So, according to these findings, getting people to put their money where their mouth is could turn out to be a pretty good way to save science.
The Food Situation. (From an Editorial)
Although comparative quiet prevails in the City and additional Police precautions are reported to have been taken, the sense of insecurity which the recent disorder aroused among all classes of the population are still widely prevalent. Rumours of fresh impending troubles are current and are believed in and the amount of actual suffering on the part of the poorer classes is very great. May we ask what steps the Government are taking to infuse confidence in the people and alleviate their distress? Have they made any arrangements to come down to the plains in order to take the situation well in hand, or have they deputed any official or officials to do whatever the critical situation may need? Four days have gone by after the very serious and what appears to be organised looting, brought on by the prevalence of high prices, which has exasperated the people, and yet the public are yet to be told as to the remedial measures which have been or are proposed to be taken to bring succour to the people. People are in doubt as to who the authority is that is responsible for the civil administration of the City, and, in the absence of any indications of zeal or activity in regard to the present situation, they may well do so; but the continuance of this state of irresponsibility cannot be tolerated and will seriously detract from the prestige of the Government. If we are to believe in reports current about the doings of a certain body in the City charged with the supervision of mercantile transactions with a view to steady and regulate prices, we may well doubt if it realises the gravity of the situation and is endowed with sufficient insight and sympathy.
Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion

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