Monday, March 31, 2008

Be pragmatic in China dealings

Op-Ed piece by me published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle today (March 31, 2008).

Be pragmatic in China dealings

Talk of a boycott of the Beijing Olympics by President Bush in my opinion is ill-advised. There is much at stake in a long-term Sino-U.S. relationship. A knee-jerk reaction to recent happenings in Tibet is therefore undesirable.

It is time both countries started viewing each other as strategic business partners (which they are) rather than foes/rivals in the traditional Cold War mindset.

Business leaders in corporate America show great acumen in managing their strategic relationships with long-term vendors/partners/financiers. A similar approach should be used in managing the relationship with China. Contentious issues should be dealt with in a businesslike fashion with very little saber rattling in public.

It is presumptuous to assume that China will grant autonomy or freedom to Tibet as a result of a boycott of the Olympics. The Beijing Olympics have been showcased as a matter of national prestige, not only for the government but for the people of China, too. Any incident that causes loss of face at what has been deemed to be a big coming-out party for the New China will lead to lasting rancor. Rather than improvement in the situation in Tibet, it is most likely to lead to a hardening of attitudes, as the Chinese would view the Tibetan leaders and people as a cause of national shame.

I would suggest that:
  • President Bush attend the Olympics and share American concerns about Tibet in discussions with the Chinese leadership. He would also then need to be prepared to hear the Chinese opinion on various United States policies (Iraq, human rights, etc.).
  • The Dalai Lama should continue to exhort his followers to use peaceful means of protest rather than violent confrontations with the Chinese establishment. Younger factions within the Tibetan diaspora are proposing alternate paths, as they have not perceived any concrete results from his approach.
  • Chinese leaders had been pragmatic enough to establish a "One China, two economic systems'' policy when China reintegrated Hong Kong. A similar approach is needed as they deal with Tibet. An out-of-the-box idea: Invite the Dalai Lama as a guest of honor at the Olympics Opening Ceremony. China needs to soften its stance toward the Dalai Lama.

While the Dalai Lama has dropped the demand for independence and is willing to accept an autonomous status like that of Hong Kong within China, he and many others are wary of losing their distinct cultural and spiritual heritage for which special safeguards may be needed.

The United States should continue to pragmatically engage China as a strategic partner — in the boardrooms of the corporate world, in the staterooms of government offices and on the playing fields of the Olympics.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tata buys Jaguar/Land Rover from Ford

Fortune columnist John Elliot headlined this story as "Tata buys into 40 years of trouble"

I would call it a ray of hope for the beleaguered Land Rover/Jaguar brands. They were languishing in the bottom of the heap in the Ford world but would now be the crown jewels in Tata's burgeoning global automotive empire.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

India's image has changed in United States

India's image has changed in United States

op-ed piece by me published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle today.

Buried under the deluge of the media blitz surrounding the Obama-Clinton fracas and Gov. Spitzer's shenanigans was an interesting news item about the results of Gallup's World Affairs Survey 2008. This survey rated the perceptions (favorable vs. unfavorable) about various countries among the American population.
Not surprisingly, of the 22 countries rated in the survey, long time friends Canada, Great Britain, Germany and Japan were at the top of the "favorable" list, winning the favor of at least 80 percent of Americans.
I was pleased to see my own country of origin, India, at the sixth position (69 percent favorable) alongside France and right behind U.S. ally Israel (71 percent favorable).
There are several reasons that can explain the growing positive image of India among Americans:

  • Shared democratic values and commonly cherished ideals of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
  • Efforts by the Indian community to assimilate with the U.S. mainstream. Strong focus on self-help without being a drain on the larger community. No longer are images of poor, starving children the only iconic images from India.
  • The contributions of Indian professionals — doctors, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs.
  • Increasing popularity of Indian traditions in the mainstream socio-cultural milieu — yoga, karma, chai tea, Bollywood and others. What started off as a trickle with Mahesh Yogi, Ravi Shankar and the Beatles in the 1960s is a veritable deluge now.
  • Strong cooperation on the anti-terrorism front with a nuclear cooperation treaty also on the anvil. Many in the United States see India as a strong bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism as well as a counter to China's growing military power.

On the bottom end of the scale, Iran, North Korea, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Cuba are viewed more negatively than positively by a greater than 2-to-1 margin. China is in the company of Pakistan and Russia as the only countries to see their favorable scores decline significantly over the past year.

Gallup found some significant partisan gaps in favorability toward some countries. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq are all viewed more favorably by Republicans than by Democrats. France, Mexico, China, Venezuela and Cuba are all viewed more favorably by Democrats than by Republicans.

Interesting findings indeed. One will see them ebb and rise as relationships with the United States evolve in a complex geopolitical scenario. The focus should be on how people from other countries can be "goodwill ambassadors" for their own countries as they continue to assimilate here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My advice for New NY Gov. Paterson

Published in the Rochester D&C (03/13)

Build bridges, eliminate gridlock

Be a "builder", not a "steamroller":

  • Tone down the rhetoric in Albany and focus on specific action plans.
  • Build bridges with all members of the polity to eliminate gridlock.
  • Ensure adherence to high standards of moral and fiscal probity.
  • Within the next 100 days, transform proposals on upstate economic development, education, inner-city crime reduction and health care into executable action plans with clear delivery timelines.
  • Cut the influence of lobbyists and vested interests on Albany decision-making.
  • Launch an initiative to enhance the state's global competitiveness.
  • Visit at least one inner-city school every week to interact with kids and establish a culture of achievement.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Equip every pupil with a laptop

In my blogpiece Thoughts for the New Rochester School Chief and Rochester D&C article dtd Dec 2, 2007 (Equip every pupil with a laptop) I had suggested equipping every child with a laptop (of the kind being developed by One Laptop Per Child Foundation in the USD100-200 range for the developing world).

Seems like Birmingham, Alabama is doing exactly that : U.S. city might buy ‘Third World’ laptops.

Would be interesting to see how the program shapes up. It would be great if they could do so without additional burden on taxpayers.

I was pleased to see that my idea is not "pie in the sky" as some detractors in Rochester hd claimed it to be.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Who is a Hindu : Shashi Tharoor's perspective

Most people in the US have very little knowledge about Hinduism and other Eastern religions which are part of the Hindu tradition : Jainism, Buddhism & Sikhism. An excerpt from Shashi Tharoor's book shares an interesting perspective :

From Shashi Tharoor (former UN Under Seceretary General) author - India: From Midnight to Millennium, pg 55-56

I grew up in a Hindu household. Our home (and my father moved a dozen times in his working life) always had a prayer room, where paintings and portraits of assorted divinities jostled for shelf and wall space with fading photographs of departed ancestors, all stained by ash scattered from the incense burned daily by my devout parents. Every morning, after his bath, my father would stand in front of the prayer room wrapped in his towel, his wet hair still uncombed, and chant his Sanskrit mantras. But he never obliged me to join him; he exemplified the Hindu idea that religion is an intensely personal matter, that prayer is between you and whatever image of your maker you choose to worship. In the Indian way, I was to find my own truth.

Like most Hindus, I think I have. I am a believer, despite a brief period of schoolboy atheism (of the kind that comes with the discovery of rationality and goes with an acknowledgment of its limitations – and with the realization that the world offers too many mysteries for which science has no answers). And I am happy to describe myself as a believing Hindu, not just because it is the faith into which I was born, but for a string of other reasons, though faith requires no reason. One is cultural: as a Hindu I belong to a faith that expresses the ancient genius of my own people. Another is, for lack of a better phrase, its intellectual "fit": I am more comfortable with the belief structures of Hinduism than I would be with those of other faiths of which I know. As a Hindu, I claim adherence to a religion without an established papacy, a religion whose rituals and customs I am free to reject, a religion that does not oblige me to demonstrate my faith by any visible sign, by subsuming my identity in any collectivity, not even by a specific day or time or frequency of worship. As a Hindu, I subscribe to a creed that is free of restrictive dogmas of holy writ, that refuses to be shackled to the limitations of a single holy book.

Above all, as a Hindu I belong to the only major religion in the world that does not claim to be the only true religion. I find it immensely congenial to be able to face my fellow human beings of other faiths without being burdened by the conviction that I am embarked upon a "true path" that they have missed. This dogma lies at the core of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism -- "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father [God], but by me" (John 14:6), says the Bible; "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet." declares the Koran – denying unbelievers all possibility of redemption, let alone salvation or paradise. Hinduism, however, asserts that all ways of belief are equally valid, and Hindus readily venerate the saints, and the sacred objects, of other faiths.

Friday, March 7, 2008

English : Quo Vadis?

Which one do you think is correct "I am thinking it's going to rain" or "I think it's going to rain" ?

Well, as per one of the world's foremost experts and author of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, Professor David Crystal, the future might see more prevalence of the 'I am thinking, I am feeling, I am seeing' construct rather than 'I think, I feel, I see'...

The reason being the evolution of a new kind of Standard English with pronounced Indian characteristics. Indians tend to use the present continuous where Americans/Britons would use the present simple.

"In language, numbers count. There are more people speaking English in India than in the rest of the native English-speaking world. As the Indian economy grows, so might the influence of Indian English," he explained.

Interesting article :Indian English will conquer globe: Expert

Having lived in all 3 countries- UK, India and the US I am yet to figure out which category my English falls under. I do know that I spell "color" and not "colour" but I do end up saying "zed" instead of "zee" for "z" as my kids gleefully point out.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ending inner city youth violence in Rochester

The Rochester D&C today carried an op-ed piece by me on the issue :

Take these steps to help cure violence
Deepak SethGuest essayist
Post Comment
(March 3, 2008) — The blood on the sidewalk will soon be gone, but the hurt in the victims' families and the community will stay forever.Are we doing enough to break the vicious trend of using violence as the only means of conflict resolution?

The recent performance of the New York Symphony Orchestra in Pyongyang, North Korea, indicates that we as a nation are willing to use culture and diplomacy to deal with conflicts. It is high time similar trends start manifesting themselves on our city streets. Some suggestions:

  • Absence of positive role models is a reason for young people making wrong choices in life. However, today there seems to be no lack of African-American role models. Choose any line of human endeavor — sports, business, music, politics, movies and you will find a multitude of highly talented African Americans at the pinnacle. It seems that many inner-city youths are ignoring these role models and are instead looking up to gang members and drug dealers, and are too readily influenced by the guns, flashy jewelry and shiny cars of these people.
  • The City School District should encourage positive role models closer to home — local minority business people, company executives, newspaper editors, sports people, elected officials, police and fire personnel, artists and down-to-earth successful people from everyday life. Food service workers, construction workers and auto mechanics could visit schools and share their life experiences with kids. No sermonizing but heart-to-heart conversations about how they were able to overcome the tribulations of their own youth to achieve success. If such programs already exist, they should be strengthened.
  • Most parents incentivize (some may call it "bribe'') their kids for achieving the desired school performance. This may not always be possible for economically disadvantaged parents. Getting food on the table will always get priority over buying a reward for the kid for getting good grades. Local businesses could get together with the City School District to institute a well-publicized award program to reward kids exhibiting exemplary performance.
  • Parents and caregivers should monitor and keep tabs on who their kids associate with and the activities they engage in during and after school hours. If a good kid being at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people can result in him/her getting killed, then it is the duty of the parents/relatives to ensure that their kid does not end up in such a situation. It is better to deliver a reprimand to a kid and face sulking behavior than to deliver a eulogy.

There are no easy solutions. But we as a community need to keep looking for answers.

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