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Kuldip Nayar says Lal Bahadur Shastri was sure of Indo-Pak peace

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New Delhi: Kuldip Nayar, senior journalist and a close associate of India’s second Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, said that the former PM was confident of the peace in the subcontinent and he inked the Tashkent Accord with Pakistan on January 10 to facilitate stability in the region. Nayar stated that the reason behind the collapse of the accord was Shastri’s death next day.

“Shastri was very sagacious. He firmly believed India could make peace with Pakistan but not with China,” said Nayar in an interview, adding that it was the Prime Minister, who got the then Pakistani President Field Marshal Ayub Khan to pencil in the words “without resorting to arms” in the first draft of the Tashkent Agreement.

Under the agreement, the two countries agreed that their armies would return to the positions they held on August 5, 1965, the day they went to war for the second time after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

“Ayub Khan was inclined but (Pakistani foreign minister Zulfikar Ali) Bhutto stormed out of the negotiations, saying he would denounce the President (back) home. After Shastri died (in circumstances that are still suspect), and thanks to Bhutto, whatever had been achieved at Tashkent collapsed in Rawalpindi (then the Pakistani capital), Nayar, still sharp as a razor in spite of his 93 years and possibly the only survivor of Tashkent, noted.

Reinforcing this view, Nayar recalled Ayub Khan saying on the morning of Shastri’s death: “Here lies the man who could have brought Pakistan and India close.”

Ayub Khan, in fact, was one of the two front pall-bearers (on the left) who carried Shastri’s coffin to the aircraft that transported it to New Delhi.

Elaborating on Shastri’s sagacity, Nayar pointed to a letter, then Shah of Iran, Mohammad Raza Pahlavi, wrote to Ayub Khan in the wake of the Chinese invasion of India in 1962, asking him to send Pakistani troops to beat back the invaders.

“A copy was marked to (India’s first prime minister) Jawaharlal Nehru, who sought (home minister) Shastri’s comments. Don’t accept it, Shastri said because if tomorrow Pakistan asks for Kashmir (still a sticking point between the two nations on which they have fought four wars), we’ll be in a difficult situation,” Nayar contended.

Shastri had assumed office after soon after India’s first Prime Minister died on May 24, 1964, in spite of the fact that it was widely felt that Nehru wanted his daughter, Indira Gandhi to succeed him.

So how did Tashkent, now the capital of Uzbekistan but at that time part of the undivided Soviet Union, come to be chosen as the venue of the peace negotiations?

“The Americans stepped in (after the 1965 war ended) but Shastri said ‘No. They have given them (Pakistan) arms. We can’t trust them. The Soviets stepped in; they said, come to Tashkent, known for its kababs and good food. Shastri was a strict vegetarian, but he said, let’s go.”

Though, military cooperation between India and the Soviet Union had begun soon after the 1962 war with China, this took a quantum leap soon after the Tashkent Accord and today, India imports almost 70 percent of its armaments from Russia, the successor state after the collapse of the Cold War superpower.

Nayar also said there was much bonhomie between the Indian and Pakistani delegations, as also between the journalists of the two countries who were reporting on the talks.

“We (the journalists) were staying in the same hotel. Bahut milna julna tha. Saath khate peete the (There was much camadaraderia. We used to eat and drink together. After Shastri’s death, all of them came to sympathize with us). The next morning, even people on the street came to sympathize with us,” Nayar recalled.

As for the circumstances of Shastri’s death hours after the Tashkent Accord was signed, Nayar said: “There is a general perception that he was poisoned, there should be an enquiry, even though a long time has elapsed.

The government says there are certain papers whatever papers there are make them public.”

Speaking about the future of India-Pakistan ties, Nayar saw great hope. “There are fringe elements (as evidenced in the attack on the Pathankot IAF air base soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dramatic visit to Lahore via Kaul after a state visit to Moscow), but everyone realises that peace must prevail,” he said.

“Had people like Lal Bahadur Shastri been around, all this would not have happened,” Nayar concluded.(Vishnu Makhijani, IANS)(Image:eastcoastdaily.in)

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

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Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)