Friday, September 25, 2009

No point in talking

Pakistan wants unconditional talks with India according to Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi. He has also threatened that India's decision not to continue efforts to resolve issues like the Kashmir problem through the composite dialogue would have "consequences".

In the meantime, Pakistani Punjab IGP Tariq Saleem Dogar has said that the mastermind of Mumabi 26/11, Hafiz Saeed has neither been arrested nor put under house arrest, rather the police is providing an extra security cover to the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) founder leader.

When will we learn that there is no point in talking with these people?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Brides of Death

A 12-year-old Yemeni girl, who was forced into marriage, has died during a difficult delivery in which her baby also died, a children's rights organisation said on Sunday, demanding action to stop Yemeni men taking child brides.

Raised in an impoverished family with a father suffering from kidney failure, Fawziya was forced to drop out of school and was married off at the age of 11. Such marriages are widespread on Yemen's Red Sea coast. Since young girls fetch a good bride-price, almost half of all little girls and teenage females are married(sold) off before the age of 15 in rural parts of Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries despite its proximity to oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

Last year, a Yemeni court granted a divorce to ten year old girl whose unemployed father forced her into an arranged marriage with a man 20 years her senior, because of the bride price she fetched, but later saying he feared she might otherwise be kidnapped by the would-be spouse.

Zana Muhsen was a 15-year-old English schoolgirl of Arab-British descent when her Yemeni father sold her in England in 1983 for $3000 to a countryman as a wife for his 14-year-old son. Her sister, Nadia, also 14, was sold for the same purpose and bride price to another Yemeni, whose son was 13.

The two sisters were detained against their will in Yemen for eight years with husbands they did not want, having babies they did not want, before diplomatic pressure and assistance from the international media finally freed Zana. Nadia stayed behind because of her children, who, due to the bride price, always remain with the father in case of a divorce.

In her best-selling book, Sold: A Story of Modern-Day Slavery, Zana outlined the two British sisters’ years of suffering, physical abuse and primitive living and working conditions in Yemen.

This is the 2007 UNICEF photo of the year representing the plight of the millions of girls sold as child brides every year.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Karachi surpasses Mumbai

Mumbai has lost out to Karachi and handed over the crown for hosting Asia's largest slum. Orangi township in Karachi has surpassed Dharavi in Mumbai and now has the dubious honor of being Asia's largest slum.

Perhaps an aspiring film producer striving to be the next Danny Boyle, should now visit Karachi and portray Orangi Township in all its splendor!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

China unilaterally cancels OTC derivative losses

From Jim Sinclair:

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
--Sun Tzu

Reported Chinese actions to unilaterally cancel OTC derivative loss debts held by state corporations whereby they purchased hedge contracts written by major American OTC derivative manufacturers and distributors is legally a unilateral novation. A novation declares an item to be invalid. Invalid means not valid. A contract which is not valid infers a form of a fraudulent contract.

Actions by the Chinese tend to follow and can be understood by learning the tenets of the teachings of Sun Tzu.

Had the West acted exactly this way rather than financing them to pay the winners when the hedge fund, Long-Term Capital, failed on OTC derivatives, there would have been financial problems but this event today would only be a modest recession and not a catastrophic depression.

MOPE has blacked this event out while titanic pressure is being brought on the US to fall into line and pay off the winners in New York.

What happened here will pave the road of the future.

This is the most important economic event since the fall or shove into bankruptcy of Lehman.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The demise of Chandrayaan

No need to be disheartened, India. The premature end of the Chandrayaan mission has come as a huge disappointment to eveyone. But Rome was not built in a day. All major space powers have faced a long series of setbacks before they achieved their successes. What we should focus upon is what has been achieved. The Indian space program has demonstrated its capabilites with this mission not just in launch technology but in many other crucial areas. It is time to build upon what has been learnt and take the next step. Because perhaps space is one of the only last frontiers available for India to explore and benefit from. As a nation of over a billion people, India just cannot ignore its responsibility to build a credible space program to take advantage of The Last Frontier.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

India in Antarctica

One of the really good things that Indira Gandhi did was authorize exploratory expeditions to Antarctica in 1981. Forget about the scientific hoopla surrounding these expeditions. Those are just side benefits. To me, Antarctica is the last unexplored continent with abundant mineral resources.

Mrs. Gandhi did right by laying the foundation for India's claim for a stake in a future scramble for the vast uninhabited continent's riches. This is an investment in the future and it is heartening to see that India is mounting another expedition to the Antarctica. The 230 crores to be spent for this is a good investment for India's future generations.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Identity Crisis

My maternal grandparents hailed from Karachi and my mother and all her siblings were born there. They had to flee Karachi in the wake of the partition in 1947, leaving behind a comfortable existence and had to start a new life, struggling to make ends meet in a new place amongst strangers. My mother was just entering her teenage years during that time and her memories of her childhood and those years is vivid and I have heard a lot of stories about those times from her. My father was working in Karachi at that time as well and he too had to leave Karachi and find his fortunes elsewhere. The tales that my parents have told me over the years have made Karachi hold a special place in my heart.

I stumbled onto Karachiwali's blog a couple of days back. Her posts about the Mumbai incident and the comments by her and her fellow bloggers were painful to read. I left a comment for her requesting her to revisit what she had written earlier and to her credit, as of now she has taken down all Mumbai related posts and comments off the blog.

Yesterday I watched Bhowani Junction on the telly which talks about the identity crisis of the Anglo-Indians and realised that the Muslims of our subcontinent are facing a similar identity crisis. Sooner or later they will have to decide who they are and where they belong. Are they expatriate Arabs, Iranis, Turks, Afghans or Mongols, living in a land conquered by their forefathers? Or are they the sons and daughters of the soil of this subcontinent? Do they wish to regain the lost glory of their ancestors and rule over the infidels, or do they want to be citizens of a modern nation having a stake in the stability and prosperity of this area? Most Muslims can trace their ancestry back to a Hindu ancestor even if they tend to hide it and glorify their Arab or Middle Eastern origins. They have to accept their origins and dispose of their victim mentality. Because the Muslims too have a hand in the mess that the subcontinent is in today. Taali kabhi ek haathse nahin bajti.

Edit: I think it is more of an identity confusion than an identity crisis.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Windows 7 - first impressions

According to the official Windows 7 website, Microsoft's newest operating system is due to hit the stores on October 22.

But the release candidate is already available for free download with free product keys, which will remain valid till June 1, 2010. This is a good opportunity for the consumer to test drive the new offering and get used to it. While it provides Microsoft with an opportunity to further fine tune the operating system and take care of any last moment glitches.

I have installed the release candidate on my main desktop a few days back and am really impressed with both the installation and the stability. I did not have to go through driver-searching hell and everything just worked out of the box. And Aero is a breath of fresh air, improving usability not just appearance. My only gripe is about IE 8. I still do not like it. I prefer firefox with my favorite add-ons like ubiquity and adblock plus.

I am sure there will be quite a few changes between now and the release to market. But after the Vista debacle, I think Microsoft has learned from its mistakes and improved this new version.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What's Love Got To Do With It?

It's a second hand emotion, as Tina Turner so rightly crooned.

But really, what's love got to do with it? It is an unduly overrated emotion. We are talking about a lifetime here. A lifetime of commitment, of compassion, of caring for each other and of going through testing times and emerging stronger with the support of your partner by your side. We are talking about raising a family and gracefully growing old together.

The English language is constrained because it has just one word 'love' to go through the entire gamut of relationships and emotions. Context is needed to differentiate among various types of love.

People your age would take love to mean as the 'butterflies in the stomach' or 'love at first sight' feelings. But most of the time it is just a hormone-induced chemical reaction which is mistaken for love. Remember this is nature's way of ensuring that at the right age, evolutionary pressures propel you towards propagating the species.

Stop waiting for love to happen. As a sentient being, it is time for you to take off your romantic glasses and take a practical view regarding marriage. This is a lifelong commitment. Try to define the type of person you would want to spend the rest of your life with and raise your children with. Think of this as a 'Swaymvara' where you get to pick and choose. You have a vast pool of potential suitors to pick from, thanks to this age of the internet. All you need to do is discover your priorities, narrow down your choices and find someone you feel comfortable with. Don't worry about the butterflies, you may or may not get them. After you commit yourself, make an ongoing investment in nurturing that relationship. Because you gotta put in more than what you expect in return.

A few decades down the line, when you look at your partner with fondness and remember all the trials and tribulations that you went through together, you will finally understand what love is all about.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

India and China want IMF to sell all of its gold

The IMF holds a staggering 3200 tonnes of gold in its reserves which is sitting idle while the world's poorest are facing the fallout of the global economic crisis and the IMF itself is facing a liquidity crunch.

A report in the Financial Chronicle says that draft papers have been exchanged between Delhi and Beijing proposing that the IMF sell off its huge gold reserve which is an idle asset with a book value of $9.3 billion. But which would fetch close to $100 billion at current prices. Both countries are proposing that this amount be used to improve IMF's liquidity as well as to help the world's poorest countries tackle poverty. An earlier announcement after the G20 summit in London, by IMF, to sell gold to raise $6 billion, caused gold prices to slump. Now this proposed sale is going to be 16 times bigger than the earlier proposal.

This might seem bearish for the price of gold in the short term, but it is being proposed that the sale be staggered over a two or three year period. And if this sale comes to pass, most of this gold will never enter the retail market. Central banks of China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India will use their dollar reserves to buy it off and increase their gold reserves. This will be a wise step towards a future where the USD will be vacating its seat as the world's reserve currency. One or some or all of the above countries, with some sort of understanding amongst them, may provide an alternative with a partially gold backed currency.

This sale if approved by the member countries of the IMF will improve its short term liquidity and will remove the pressure on both China and India whose economies have grown substantially in the recent past, to finance it.