Day: August 21, 2007
Gulf between aspirations and achievements
– Inder Malhotra/MALAYALA MANORAMA English edition
As part of a periodic reshuffle of diplomatic postings, the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi has sent some very senior and experienced officers as ambassadors to countries of the Gulf – the latest being Talmiz Ahmad as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – a region of the greatest importance to India. To each the policymakers spoke at length about this country’s “enormous stakes” in the area and directed him to work for evolving a “role” for India there.
Indian stakes and interests in the Gulf region are as obvious as they are immense, but to talk of an Indian role is a tall order. Let the paradox be put in perspective.
Geographically, the Gulf is India’s extended neighbourhood and the only link with the no less vital Central Asia, with Pakistan denying this country transit rights and Afghanistan having sunk into chaos. Historically, a relationship between the subcontinent and the Gulf goes back to ancient, pre-Islamic days. Britain controlled the Gulf littoral tightly because of its overwhelming strategic importance for the defence of India, the brightest jewel in the crown.
Remarkably, however, this control was exercised not from London but from Calcutta (now Kolkata) first and then New Delhi. Even after the end of the British rule in the subcontinent, the Reserve Bank of India was the currency issuing authority in the Gulf; in the mid-1950s this arrangement was terminated at the instance of India, not of the littoral states.
The discovery of oil in the early years of the twentieth century had boosted the Gulf’s strategic and economic importance. Since the first oil shock of 1973, to say nothing of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 and the first Gulf War in 1991, it has swiftly increased and is at a very high pitch today amidst the brisk competition between China, India, Japan and South Korea for securing oil and gas.
Overriding all this, in some respects, is what is sometimes called India’s “manpower bonanza” in the region. Three and a half million Indians live and work in the six states comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council. In some of these countries, the Indian workers form the majority of the population.
At first Indian manpower in the Gulf consisted almost exclusively of unskilled and semi-skilled workers. Now however the proportion of professionals has gone up to 25 percent. The Indian work force in the Gulf remits home a whopping sum of $20 billion a year, which, incidentally, is the vale of the Indo-Gulf trade also.
All this should normally be conducive to an active Indian role in the Gulf, especially because the entire region is within the operating radius of the Indian Navy, and to maintain the safe and smooth flow of oil is a crucial interest of not just India but also all energy-importing nations.
Unfortunately, however, rude ground realities often come in the way of even the most rational scenario. Until 1970, the Persian Gulf was a British lake. Now it is an American lake with the formidable presence of at least two carrier groups in the Gulf waters and the US bogged down in Vietnam-like quagmire in Iraq and apparently hell-bent on taking some kind of military action against Iran. Pakistan-specific issues also play a small but significant part in influencing attitudes in a predominantly Muslim area where the two South Asian neighbours often bicker.
More importantly this factor also affects America’s willingness to let India, its strategic partner, be active in the region, except in a subordinate position to it. It prefers Indo-US maritime cooperation to centre on the Strait of Malacca rather than the Persian Gulf. Only the other day the US secretary of state announced huge military sales and aid to Gulf and West Asian countries. India, itself dependent on imports of the main weapons systems it needs, is a non-player in this arena.
Nor is this all. Until two years ago, the Chinese navy hadn’t crossed the Malacca Strait. Now, there is a considerable presence of the Chinese navy in the Upper Arabian Sea. Moreover, China has acquired a major advantage over India by having the use of the Gwadar port at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz that it has built on the Makran coast of Pakistan, its all-weather friend.
The crowning irony is that even in areas such as economic cooperation between the fast-growing India and the booming countries of the Gulf – in which India can make massive contributions in IT and other sectors and the oil-rich Gulf countries can meet India’s virtually insatiable needs for capital investment – little has been done.
It is not that the leaders on the two sides are lacking in imagination. Grandiose promises have been made during the visits to India of President Khatami of Iran in 2003, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was chief guest at last year’s Republic Day parade, and UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Dubai ruler, who came here recently. But they all became victims of the principal Indian weakness of being long on declarations of intent and woefully short on implementing them.
And what can be more distressing than that no Indian Prime Minister has visited any Gulf country since P.V. Narasimha Rao went to Oman in 1993? Under the circumstances, it should be no surprise if there is a yawning gulf between Indian aspirations and achievements in relation to the Gulf.
Inder Malhotra is a veteran commentator on political and strategic affairs. He can be reached at email@example.com
Sixty years of Pakistan
Friday,17 August 2007 10:00 hrs IST/MALAYALA MANORAMA English edition
– Alok Bansal As Pakistan completes 60 years of existence, it is passing through a critical phase. The state’s writ does not run over almost half its territory. Most people consider themselves as Sindhis, Baloch, Pakhtoons, Mohajirs and Punjabis first rather than as Pakistanis. Pakistan as a nation is kept together artificially by the only institution that functions – the army.
Despite belated attempts by the judiciary to assert its independence, the fact is that for most part of Pakistan’s existence the courts have been dysfunctional and came out with the bizarre ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ to justify military coups. Pakistan’s greatest tragedy has been that barring the armed forces or army to be specific, no other credible institution has emerged. The judiciary, legislature and bureaucracy-all have crumbled during Pakistan’s six decades’ journey.
However, it was not always the case when Pakistan came into being in 1947. It was a much stronger nation vis-a-vis India, which most Western scholars of that era believed would crumble under the weight of its own inner contradictions. However, Pakistan suffered from two major flaws right from the beginning-firstly the leadership of the Muslim League came from the provinces that remained part of India and hence the party had no mass support in the region that became Pakistan.
Secondly, the early death of Mohammed Ali Jinnah eliminated the only credible leader who could draw support across Pakistan. And when Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in October 1951, whatever little semblance of leadership remained disappeared.
Not that Jinnah and Liaqat were without flaws. Jinnah had centralised power in his hands and was the Governor General, the party chief and a cabinet minister simultaneously. Liaquat was guilty of not expediting the process of constitution making. But still they were leaders whose appeal was not confined to a part of Pakistan or any particular group.
Pakistan experimented with half a dozen constitutions within the first 25 years of its existence. Frequent coups and military rules ensured that neither the constitution nor the other institutions of governance were allowed to evolve.
The first decade was crucial to shaping Pakistan’s destiny and was marked by drift and chaos. Seven different prime ministers and eight different cabinets took oaths of office during this tumultuous period, resulting in the ascendancy of bureaucracy in the decision making, with the tacit support of the army.
When Ayub Khan took over the administration after the first military coup in 1958, the public, fed up with anarchy, supported him. In the initial years of the regime there was all-round improvement in the administration as well as economy. It was the time visitors from China and South Korea toured Pakistan to study its phenomenal success. But like any authoritarian regime, Ayub’s rule had long-term adverse impact on Pakistan.
Suppression of people’s democratic aspirations under a military regime and attempts to amalgamate ethnic identities by the creation of one unit impacted the Pakistani nation adversely. The 1965 war, often considered the high point of Pakistani nationalism, was the turning point as far as nationalism in the two South Asian countries was concerned.
From then on India consolidated as a nation but Pakistani nationalism began to wither. Bengali nationalism got a fillip during the 1965 war, when they were led to believe that their defence lay in West Pakistan. The reaction to ‘one unit’ created a strong sense of nationalism in Balochistan.
Ayub could not last the aftermath of 1965, when his own foreign minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, rebelled and convinced the masses that the gains of the battlefield had been frittered away at the negotiating table in Tashkent. However, Ayub’s belief in the superiority of the military leadership resulted in General Yahya Khan succeeding him rather than any other civilian dispensation.
Yahya undid the ‘one unit’ and was sincere about return to democracy. He conducted the first and possibly the only credible elections under a military regime in Pakistan. But long years of military rule had irreparably damaged the Pakistani nation. Yahya allowed himself to be hoodwinked by Bhutto, and the result was Pakistan’s break up and creation of Bangladesh.
The creation of Bangladesh removed whatever semblance of religious pluralism existed in Pakistan; and the absence of pluralism created fissures within Islam, which was supposed to bind Pakistan together. Bhutto, who succeeded Yahya Khan, moved Ahmediyas beyond the pale of Islam.
The fissures between various sects and schools within the same sect were accentuated under the Zia ul Haq regime, which brought religion on the centre stage of state policy.
Bhutto gave Pakistan its first workable constitution but his authoritarian streak led to the dismissal of opposition-led provincial governments, resulting in a violent uprising in Balochistan. Despite being the favourite to win the 1977 elections, Bhutto rigged them. Subsequent anti-government protests followed by government repression brought military once again on the centre stage.
Zia’s era was the darkest in Pakistan’s history. His Islamization drive, suppression of press and involvement in the Afghan conflict eroded the state structure considerably. Islamic militancy and sectarianism were the by-products of his policies, which finally led to the creation of Taliban.
Subsequent civilian interlude was not really a return to civilian rule. The army was not only looking from the sidelines, but decision making in certain key areas of state policy were kept beyond the ambit of civilian leadership. Marring this period was bickering between the two main political parties, led by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
The period also saw the disenchantment of Mohajirs (the refugees from India) who were in the forefront of the Pakistan movement, leading to long bouts of violence in Karachi. The Pakistani economy slid and its foreign debt rose. An economic collapse of Pakistan looked likely.
Economic consolidation required a cut in bourgeoning military expenditure, which the army would not allow. In 1999, when Nawaz Sharif tried to break free from the army, the army decided to move in and remove the civilian façade. Like in all previous occasions, the military rule led to initial economic recovery, but it had long-term adverse impact on Pakistan.
Sub-nationalism emerged as a serious threat to the Pakistani state. Islamic fundamentalists challenge the writ of the government across the length and breadth of Pakistan. Islamabad’s frequent flip-flops on the foreign policy front and frequent incursions by American armed forces within Pakistani territory have compromised its sovereignty in the eyes of its citizens.
The author is a Research Fellow at New Delhi’s Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.
Develop intuitive powers, tells top Tata executive
Tuesday,21 August 2007 18:15 hrs IST /MALAYALA MANORAMA English edition
New Delhi: Intuition, along with traditional tools like logic and analyses, plays an equal role in the management of today’s corporations that are increasingly becoming global in outlook, a top Tata Sons executive said Tuesday.
“Logic and analysis are very important to leadership not making mistakes,” R. Gopalakrishnan, executive director of Tata Sons, who played a key role in the mega acquisitions of the group, said in a lecture here.
“But they have limitations. Intuition is a powerful outlay, after the powers of logic have been exhausted,” he said in the lecture on “The Manager’s Dilemma: Analysis vs Intuition” at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).
Gopalakrishnan, who has also authored a book on corporate management titled “The Case of the Bonsai Manager”, also emphasised that it is intuition that will play a key role in the success of smaller firms in a world ruled by conglomerates.
Stating that his book deals with a key leadership issue – on what the balance between logic and intuition is – Gopalakrishnan said, “The world of business is a world of practicality.”
He said that in today’s world, sticking to only analysis before taking any strategic decision would not lessen chances of mistakes on the part of the leader.
“Continuous analysis can lead to paralysis. It is here that intuition plays an important part.”
He, however, added, “Intuition is not a substitute to analysis. It is a companion to analysis.”
Elaborating, he said, “Knowledge is ‘what you know you know’. Intuition is ‘what you don’t know you know’. A combination of both is wisdom.”
So, how can a person be intuitive?
“If we cannot hear beyond our hearing range, see beyond our visual range or feel beyond our immediate environment, we cannot be intuitive,” said Gopalakrishnan.
In a lighter vein, he said that analysis and intuition are as opposite to each other as corporate governance and sex.
“Everybody practises sex but does not talk about it. Everybody talks about corporate governance but nobody practises it.”
Stating that analysis can lead one into thinking only on a linear path, he said, “It is intuition, that sudden ‘aha’ moment of life, that will help a manager reduce mistakes.”
To emphasise his point, he referred to the examples of Archimedes and his bathtub moment and the apple falling on Isaac Newton’s head.
Giving a powerpoint presentation, he said that intuition can be developed by immersion and contemplation. This should be followed by filling what he called the ‘brain’s remote implicit memory’ or BRIM with emotion-rich stories.
“Your first day in school, your first job or the day your girlfriend rejected you. It can be anything – positive or negative. But it should be emotion-rich,” he said.
And then sensing at the edge of the spectrum is the final stage of the process of developing intuitive powers.
“Management schools teach you not to be emotional. I say, ‘Be emotional’,” the Tata Sons executive director said.
Earlier, welcoming the gathering, Ficci vice-president Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that Gopalakrishnan’s views are significant in today’s world of conglomerates.
“Big conglomerates are very risk averse. This throws up huge opportunities for new entrepreneurs. But these opportunities can be successfully exploited only when approached with a good gut feeling after being properly analysed,” he said.
UAE revises up 2006 GDP growth to 9.4pc
(Reuters)/21 August 2007
DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates revised up its 2006 economic growth rate to 9.4 per cent on faster expansion in the oil and gas sector, the economy ministry said.
The second-largest Arab economy expanded to Dh391.16 billion ($106.5 billion) last year, from Dh357.59 billion in 2005, according to the latest data published on the Ministry of Economy web site.
The ministry said in March real gross domestic product grew 8.9 per cent last year.
The ministry revised the growth rate to account for higher growth in the oil and gas output, which accounts for 25.9 per cent of GDP.
The value of petroleum sector output grew 6.5 per cent to Dh101.31 billion, the ministry said, compared with the Dh99.9 billion figure released in March.
“You’re not going to see a growth rate that fast in the oil sector this year,” said Giyas Gokkent, head of economic research at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) agreed at two meetings late last year to cut production by a total of 1.7 million barrels per day or roughly six per cent of group output, in response to a sharp drop in oil prices. The UAE’s production was rolled back to 2.5 million barrels a day from around 2.6 million barrels as part of the cuts, Gokkent said.
Economic growth in 2005 was 10.5 per cent, ministry data showed based on revised 2004 growth data. In 2003, the economy grew at 11.9 per cent.
Higher education strategy takes new turn By Abdullah Al Shaiba, Staff Writer/GULF NEWS Published: August 19, 2007, 00:22
Needs of the labour market have to be included while devising higher education programmes, writes Abdullah Al Shaiba
It has become important for nations which seek prosperity and stability to establish, and maintain clear, transparent and achievable strategies for its development programmes.
The UAE has decided to follow that path under the new leadership of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Recently, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHE) announced its strategic plan for higher education programmes and scientific research activities in the country.
The strategic plan is an essential part of the comprehensive national strategy announced a few months ago by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The strategy was based upon the key roles the MHE performs which are:
The MHE is responsible for the general planning of higher education and scientific research in the country;
It will continue its mission as a coordinator between universities and colleges nationwide;
It supervises the issues and affairs of private universities and colleges;
It supervises international scholarships for UAE nationals;
The MHE organises the activities of scientific research.
Achieving a balance
The major goal of the strategic plan issued by the MHE is to establish, maintain, and broaden the prospective balance between the local labour market and the outcomes of higher education institutions.
The plan should complete the overall goals of the UAE strategy which has been established by the current cabinet and approved by Shaikh Khalifa.
Partnership with labour market
The strategy of the MHE focuses on improving the entire higher education system in the UAE to be one of the best systems worldwide according to international standards and practices adopted in accordance with the local identity and circumstances.
The MHE also aims to play an important role in creating the new knowledge-based economy in the UAE through establishing a new strategic partnership between higher education institutions and the labour market in order to participate in the comprehensive national development programmes.
Therefore, the participation of both the private market and business community is fundamental in the area of providing the necessary sponsorship for the students via internal or external scholarships programmes.
It is important to indicate that the MHE has already implemented some parts of its strategy with the Ministry of Education; particularly in the project of Future Schools, which aims to improve UAE national students’ educational levels during the general education stages in order to decrease the need for “foundation programmes or foundation years” in public higher education institutions.
The MHE will also develop the scientific research activities in the UAE in order to create a knowledge society.
The ministry will continue developing its system in both higher education and scientific research in order to support the decision-making process and to link the higher education and scientific research with the actual needs of the society.
The national strategy in general, and the strategy of the MHE in particular, no doubt, establishes a new era in the contemporary history of the UAE.
However, it is important to keep the strategy steady even when people who are responsible for its implementation have changed.
The general aspects of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHE) strategy are:
Develop the quality performance of the ministry with full coordination with the relevant federal and local institutions.
Offer the appropriate alternatives to replace the current academic programmes that aim to improve the students’ competencies in universities and colleges. This the MHE will coordinate with the Ministry of Education.
Develop the potential of private universities and colleges in coordination with the local education councils.
Coordinate with the Ministry of Education to face the challenge of the increase in the drop-out rates among male students in general education and to raise their participation in higher education institutions.
Coordinate with Ministry of Labour in the area of improving the mission of higher education in order to meet the requirements of the society.
Coordinate with the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Society Development in spreading awareness of the national identity and heritage of the UAE.
Establish the appropriate initiatives to prepare and qualify UAE national manpower in order to increase their recruitment opportunities in the private market.
Develop and support the efforts of the Commission of Academic Accreditation (CAA) which supervises the private higher education institutions.
The writer is a UAE-based academic and thinker
Abu Dhabi: Shoppers can soon confidently pick up quality products from the market thanks to a standardisation scheme introduced by a federal agency.
Manufacturers or producers can attain an ‘Emirates Quality Mark’ for their products which ensures UAE or regional and international standards, said Muammar Mustafa, Director of the Conformity Assessment Department of Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (ESMA) in Dubai.
The Emirates Conformity Mark Scheme to “mark” imported and locally produced products, has received a good response from the industry, he said.
ESMA is a national standards body and a legally authorised agency at the federal level entrusted with activities related to standards and quality in all the emirates.
It ensures safety, health, economical and environmental protection. The scheme which came into existence last month is not mandatory but voluntary and encourages the participation of manufacturers.
It is a comprehensive standardisation scheme which assesses not only the quality of products but also their safety.
To grant the “mark” coded “Al Alama” to a product, the standards of the manufacturing or producing units will also be assessed, apart from the quality of the products, said Mustafa.
If it so requires, the officials of the agency will visit a foreign country to assess the standard of the manufacturing unit and the process, said the director.
He said so far about 15 manufacturers have submitted applications to get the “mark” for their products since the scheme was introduced on July 19.
The applicants include three multinational companies and local manufacturers in the steel, food and lubricant industries. The evaluation may take about six weeks and the first quality mark from ESMA will be presented soon, said the director.
He said ESMA’s aim is to raise awareness among the consumers to insist on a high quality of products so that a self-regulatory mechanism will be put in place.
If consumers insist on the products with the “mark” sellers will be compelled to give preference to such products.
The director made it clear the system will work in accordance with WTO’s TBT guidelines (Technical Barriers to Trade) which insists that export and import of countries must not be hindered by regulations which are against international law.
Many consumers who had a bitter experience with substandard products in the market welcomed the new move.
Yazer Essam, an Egyptian said he was shocked to get a plastic piece in a soft drink bottle purchased from a shop. Such an experience may not be repeated if there is a ‘quality mark’ on products.
Retailers also welcomed the move. Kamal Vachani, director of Al Maya group said the standardisation will attract more customers to the UAE as an internationally reputed market.
“It is the biggest market in the Middle East so most of the products are launched here. Customers confidence in the mark will be improved with the new scheme.”
Nine categories to get certified
Although ESMA encourages manufacturers to get all types of products certified, it proactively takes up the following nine categories initially in the scope of the quality mark:
– Electrical household products
– Food products
– Construction materials (cement)
– Wires and cables