Inder Malhotra


Inder Malhotra

In the time of looney tunes

West Bengal’s dictatorial chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s latest horrific act against a professor who had only forwarded a perfectly harmless cartoon about her has understandably aroused outrage acro

Nuclear threat to Indo-Pak ties

Does anyone remember the time when it used to be argued — convincingly enough, in my opinion — that if Pakistan could overtly go nuclear, its security concerns would be taken care of and the way would

United we fall, divided we stand

Once again the mercurial Mamata Banerjee has prevailed. After a show of defiance — to an event she denounced as a “conspiracy” against her by the Congress, the core of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, of which her Trinamul Congress is a part, technically at least — railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, her own nominee to the Union Cabinet, has quit. However, his removal for having announced a hike in rail fares was only a part of her demand. She also insists that the proposed increase in fares and freight be “rolled back”. On this the usually indecisive Manmohan Singh government’s agony has been aggravated by the notice of the All-India Railwaymen’s Federation that its members would go on a strike if the fare-hike were reversed because without additional funds the railways would go the way of some of the airlines that are on the brink of bankruptcy.

Big money & US polls

As back home, so in the United States big money plays a big role in elections even if the dynamics of the process are different in the world’s largest and most powerful democracies. In the first place, in America there is nothing like the bogus ceiling on a candidate’s election expenses that no one in India respects or can possibly respect. An American candidate can spend as much of his or her money (in the mid-term elections in November 2010, a woman contesting for governor’s office spent $180 million of her own) plus whatever can be collected from other people as donations under the federal laws.

America in the mood for Honourable Xi

Watching the five-day visit to the United States by China’s vice-president Xi Jinping, slated to be his country’s top leader later this year, and America’s reaction to him has been a fascinating experience. At the end of it, Mr Xi — who came through the sojourn with flying colours, delighting both his interlocutors and the people in general with his easygoing and informal manner and familiarity with the host country — declared his journey to be a “full success”. Many, if not most, US commentators, broadly agree with him. Some say, however, that the “great story” of his success is that “there is no story in it”.

The Iranian knot

To nobody’s surprise but rather earlier than expected the danger of a war on Iran that every sensible person wants to avoid has escalated ominously during the last few days.

Obama’s nightmare in US-Iran relations

In Washington D.C., where I have been for over a fortnight, brisk debates are going on in the inner recesses of the White House and the Pentagon among higher policymakers about what to do about Iran and its nuclear programme. For a change, no details of these sensitive discussions are being leaked out. However, the establishment’s silence is nothing compared with the noise made by US President Barack Obama’s numerous critics who are clamouring for an immediate military strike on Iranian nuclear installations.

India’s very own annus horribilis

Some have already dubbed it annus horribilis. Even those who do not wish to go that far are lamenting that 2011 has been a dismal and deeply depressing year. The grim reality is that things today are worse than they were at the end of 2010. To the appalling political mess of the previous year has been added dangerous economic decline. And the Congress-led ruling coalition, no longer united or progressive or even an alliance, seems unable or unwilling to reverse this gloomy state of affairs.

Crabby bedfellows

Who could have thought that a day would come when so prestigious an American think tank as the Council for Foreign Relations would perceive a “greater possibility in 2012 of a conflict between the United States and Pakistan than an encounter between traditional rivals, India and Pakistan”? After all, with the possible exception of the “all-weather friendship” between China and Pakistan, few partnerships between any two nations have been so enduring as the US-Pakistan one.

The grammar of anarchy

The first four working days of the Winter Session of Parliament — out of total of only 21 — have been a woeful waste. Thanks to the apparently irremediable discord between the treasury and Opposition benches — especially between the Congress, the core of the ruling coalition, and the principal Opposition party, the BJP — which inevitably leads to all too frequent disruption of both Houses in a manner so unruly as to border on the rowdy.

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I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.