Waris Husain Editorial: The Death of Bin Laden: Sentiment and Effect

President Obama’s announcement of U.S.forces having killed Osama Bin Laden was met with jubilation in the streets ofWashington,D.C.with revelers singing national anthems outside the White House. The feeling shared by most Americans is one of relief and elation, as the face of 9/11 was finally killed. However, beyond the calm soothing sense of revenge, there should be a realization that this death will do little to stop the global network of terrorists from continuing to target Americans and innocent civilians abroad. If one looks to the outpouring of grief and anger in Afghanistan and Pakistan at the death of the world’s most notorious man, the U.S.must realize the difficult road ahead to continue its war on terrorism against the thousands who supported Bin Laden.

            A Roman proverb states that “revenge is a confession of pain,” and this was no more apparent than through the reaction of the American people after hearing of the death of Bin Laden. Each generation seems to be defined by the biggest tragedy of its time, and their ability to overcome the trauma of this event is linked to their capability of pursuing retribution for it. In American history classes, the Pearl Harbor attacks by the Japanese are depicted as calamites in U.S.history, which required U.S. retaliation by joining the Allies in World War 2, and eventually using the atomic bomb against them.

In modern times, the trauma of 9/11 has continually plagued the mentality of most Americans, and this is especially true for the youth. Those who have grown up in the aftermath of 9/11 have seen much of their lives altered due to the War on Terror at home and abroad. However, unlike the World War 2 generation who could easily point to its enemy on a map in order to fight against them, the enemies of the 9/11 generation were far more amorphous. As Bin Laden and his organization represented an ideology rather than a state, they were far more difficult to find and bring to justice.

The inability to either kill Bin Laden never allowed the wound of 9/11 to heal, and perhaps now that his death has been announced, the nation will begin to move forward. However, it would be quite dangerous to hold up the “Mission Accomplished” sign if one realizes the difference between what Bin Laden was, and what he represented. Bin Laden was represented in the media and by certain government officials as a boogey man who was behind every terrorist attack in the world. On the other side, groups like the Taliban and Al-Queda created support amongst the public by creating the narrative of Bin Laden as some super-human jihadi leader who couldn’t possibly be killed.

Just as this immortal theory was proven incorrect through his elimination byU.S.forces, the American perception assigning such high significance to Bin Laden will also be proven incorrect. The ability of terrorist networks to carry out attacks on civilians and  U.S.military will continue unaltered for several reasons. First, there has already been a breakdown of leadership structure in Al-Queda and its affiliates, leaving the old guard with little power over the group.  The U.S. operations in Afghanistan greatly limited the ability of the leadership to openly control its forces, many being relegated to hiding in underground networks. Groups like Al-Queda began creating splinter cells that function independently of central leadership, making it difficult for the U.S.to rely merely on eliminating the high level leaders of the group in order to demobilize them.

Secondly, the location of Bin Laden’s hideout signals a complication to the War on Terror instead of its resolution. The fact that the world’s more wanted man was hiding in a mansion 2 hours away from Pakistan’s capital, near an Army training base, will certainly bring about questions of whether Pakistan was providing Bin Laden sanctuary. The nation’s top spy agency, the ISI, has been accused of maintaining relationships with high level terrorists but has continually denied the presence of Bin Laden inPakistan. If this operation were done with ISI and Pakistani military support, it could signal a strengthening of relationships between the two nations. However, if the plan to kill Bin Laden came without the help of Pakistani forces, it could mark a change in U.S.-Pak  relationship, perhaps leading to more U.S.presence on the ground.

Thirdly, the ability of extremist groups to challenge U.S. interests beyond the death of Osama Bin Laden is guaranteed as evidenced through the vows of retribution against theU.S.by extremists inAfghanistan and Pakistan. These threats should not be overvalued, considering these same groups have been attacking civilians and military personnel for nearly a decade, and have done so without the motivation of revenge for Bin Laden’s death. However, Bin Laden’s death will be utilized to fan the flames of anti-Americanism, which may lead to more attacks against the U.S. in the aftermath of the death.

The residual national trauma of 9/11 helped to color the celebrations of Bin Laden’s death, and it certainly marks a time when Americans feel justice has been done. However, this death does not in any way signal an end to global terrorism or the need for U.S.efforts to stop young people from joining extremist groups under the brainwashing of individuals like Bin Laden. These groups have not lost their lethal potency, and will utilize the symbolic death of Bin Laden to find supporters, even though he had become meaningless in the actual business of international jihad. Thus, the reaction to this event must be limited at most to cautious optimism, as the U.S.attempts to address the thousands in the shadows who stood behind Bin Laden and his hateful and violent ideas.

Waris Husain Editorial: Double-Standard Defense

As the protest movement in Bahrain gains strength, authorities have responded with massive arrests and sentenced four protest leaders to death. This brutal repression has been exercised with the help of mercenary defense contractors fromPakistan’s Fauji Foundation and Bahria. These organizations follow the same model as the much-despised American contracting firms like Blackwater and CACI. And while there is indignation at the thought of these companies operating within Pakistan, the same resentment does not follow when Pakistani contractors are used against peaceful protestors abroad. This reveals the Double-Standard Defense strategy adopted byPakistan, where it lambastes the U.S.military, while adopting some of its strategies.

            During last week’s protests, Bahrani dissidents chanted “The Police are Pakistani,” and there have been several instances of Pakistanis being attacked by mobs, leading to a few deaths. Though some Pakistanis who travel to the Gulf have long-complain about the racist undertones against non-Arabs, these have exploded into an all-out assault on some Pakistani communities. Such behavior is as unacceptable as the discrimination practiced by the al-Khalifa Royal family against Shiites inBahrain, because it is based on an individual’s background instead of their actions.

            However, the Bahraini protestors are angered by Pakistani presence in their nation, as Pakistanis reject the presence of the U.S.in theirs. They both produce similar arguments as well, the first of which is that foreign militaries are engaging in secretive operations to influence the events of the other country. These claims gained credibility in Pakistan after the Raymond Davis incident, where a CIA agent’s identity was revealed after he shot two people. The U.S.government felt the ire of the Pakistani Army and populace for several weeks thereafter, as tensions between the two partners have worsened since the incident.
            Yet,Pakistan’s military fails to find the irony of decrying CIA presence in their country, while training and sending secret agents to subvert the events of another. Allegations have been made that the ISI has stationed agents and trainers inBahrain, as a product of Pakistan’s subservient relationship to the Saudi Arabians. As the Saudis feel they have much to lose if Bahrain’s regime falls, their Pakistani servants are dispatched to arrest and detain protestors. Due to the fear of a domino effect in theGulf States,Saudi Arabia has deployed several thousands of its own security forces toBahrain, many of whom are directly trained by Pakistani military personnel. Though a Raymond Davis-type situation has not revealed the interference of Pakistan’s military against the democratic protests, there is a high likelihood thatPakistan is acting under its alliance to the Saudis in assisting repression in one way or another.

            The second claim of double-standard defense is made by Pakistanis and relates to the existence of private defense contractors around every corner and behind terrorist attack. Companies in theU.S.like Xe, formerly called Blackwater, and CACI have earned billions of dollars from the government by employing a cadre of ex-soldiers.  Due to their lack of affiliation to theU.S.military, these groups often act with in violation of international and local laws, and have been rejected by Afghans and Pakistanis alike.

            Yet,Pakistan’s Fauji Foundation office for Overseas Employment Services has adopted a similar strategy: creating contracts withGulf Statesto provide ex-servicemen who can assume the responsibility of actual soldiers and security officials. This has resulted in claims of terrible brutality by mercenary soldiers; where protestors inManamaclaimed that many of the security officials slaughtering citizens were speaking Urdu. Indeed, this claim can be more easily verified than the claims of direct ISI involvement because the Fauji Foundation printed advertisements in March in Dawn, one of Pakistan’s largest newspapers. These advertisements requested up to 800 ex-servicemen to sign up for deployment as “riot-police and trainers” working under the Bahraini security authorities.

The plan to involve Pakistanis in a brutal repression in a foreign land will carry grave effects due to the economic significance of Bahrainand otherGulf StatesonPakistan. Much of Pakistan’s economy is based on remittances from workers inGulf States. However, if Pakistanis are seen as the face of the regime’s oppression, survival in the country will be far less likely for them. If an exodus of Pakistani foreign workers does occur from the Gulf States due to increased discrimination, this would greatly harmPakistan’s economic future.

Thus, even thoughPakistanabhors the actions of theU.S.military and its associated corporations, it adopts these same practices itself.  Pakistani military leaders criticize the CIA for stationing secret agents in the nation and expound upon the threat posed by private mercenary contractors. The same allegations have been made by protestors inBahrainwho say they are facing the bullets of ISI agents and Pakistani mercenaries. Yet, if Pakistan’s leadership  reflects on the damage done to its relationship with theU.S.due to the actions of the CIA and American mercenary contractors, it should realize that a post-Khalifa Bahrain will be an instant and enraged enemy.

Sovereign Of the Week: Anna Hazare (Fasting against corruption)

Hunger striking Indian activist Anna Hazare has called for mass protests by his supporters against corruption. The 72-year-old campaigner is on the fourth day of a fast to push for stringent new anti-corruption laws. He wants his followers to “fill India’s jails” in a mass campaign of non-violent civil disobedience on 13 April.

Thousands of people have joined Mr Hazare’s protest. In recent months India has been rocked by a string of corruption scandals. On Thursday, the government agreed to include civil society members in a new panel which Mr Hazare is demanding be set up to draft tighter anti-corruption legislation. But differences remain over who will lead the panel and whether it will have legal powers.

Mr Hazare has said he wants the “jail bharo” (fill the prison) movement to take place across India. “But you should participate in the agitation keeping in mind Mahatma Gandhi. There should be no violence anywhere,” he told his supporters.

India’s governing Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi has urged Mr Hazare to give up his fast. She said his views would receive the government’s “full attention” in the fight against corruption. Doctors are checking Mr Hazare twice a day to monitor his health. The 72-year-old says he will refuse food until the government accedes to his demands.

There has been widespread support for Mr Hazare with protests and hunger strikes reported across India. Some 2,000 people have joined the activist at the historic Jantar Mantar observatory in Delhi, where he is conducting his fast. Correspondents say Mr Hazare has rallied people across the country disillusioned with the recent spate of scandals – he is highly respected as a social activist with an untarnished reputation.

Some of the recent corruption scandals to have angered Indians include a multi-billion dollar alleged telecoms scam, alleged financial malpractices in connection with the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and allegations that houses for war widows were diverted to civil servants.

Last month the head of the country’s anti-corruption watchdog was forced to resign by the Supreme Court on the grounds that he himself faced corruption charges.

Waris Husain Editorial: The Art of Right-Wing Distraction

Politicians have always employed distractions to confuse the public and avoid scrutiny on substantive issues,  but the right wing of Pakistan and the United States are especially adept at this skill. The issue both countries face stems from the Spring of Arab Democracy, which has inspired dissents around the globe to challenge the interests of the old-guard elite upheld by conservative leaders.  Rather than address the underlying concerns of citizens, these conservatives are able to grapple the national discourse and turn attention away from the issue at hand to focus on an insignificant story of their choosing. While nothing can stop the party machines in both countries from using irrelevant distractions, the people should become more aware of what information they are receiving and why.

            The American Republican Party has always used mudslinging tactics against its dissenters, and the practice continues today as illustrated in Paul Krugman’s article about Professor William Cronon. Professor Cronon wrote an article criticizing the legislation to ban unions in Wisconsin led by the Republican Governor, Scott Walker. Professor Cronon argued that Mr. Walker is violating a long-running respect for unions as well as challenging the ideal that collective bargaining is a key component to an industrialized democracy. Cronon went on to claim that this legislation, and others directed by the Republican Party, are capitulations to corporate interests.

            In response, the Republican Party did not address the points raised by Cronon with regards to corporate control over the right- wing agenda.  Rather, the Republicans have requested that the university, Prof. Cronon teaches at, allow them to search his school e-mail. This is a thinly veiled attempt to look through this scholar’s personal exchanges to find some sort of ‘dirt’ that can be passed onto media outlets like Fox News, and blown out of proportion. The objective is not only to scare any scholars who wish to challenge the Republican Party’s corporate agenda, but also is to permanently discredit this specific scholar publicly.

            That is not to say that the American liberal intelligentsia is somehow silenced by the right-wing, but it seems that when the interests of the Republican Party are seriously challenged by some development, they will create distractions such as these. The reason the Republican Party should fear the words of Professor Cronon is due to the general atmosphere in Wisconsin and around the country vehemently rejecting Scott Walker’s union-busting legislation. There had been weeks of protests, marches, and sit-ins across Wisconsin’s state capital leading up to the legislation with thousands participating.

Much of these demonstrations were directly inspired by the events taking place in Arab nations, and it seemed that people from both sides of the planet were rejecting the interest of old-guard elites, whether political or financial. With the Republican Party constantly in bed with these elites, any challenge to this illicit relationship will be perceived as a threat. Thus, we see the Republican Party erratically attempting to create alternative narratives that silence the growing global dissent movement, and hide their illusive and illegal practices behind closed doors.

Pakistan’s right wing has similarly been confronted with a direct challenge through the Arab revolutions. Parties like Jamaat-I-Islami have rejected liberal secularism as a foreign concept to Muslim Nations, and have stated that if any revolution would come to Pakistan it would have to take the shape of an Islamic revolution. These presumptions have been disproved by the Nike-and- jeans wearing revolutionaries in nations facing democratic uprisings, be it Syria or Yemen.

The exclusively secular and tolerant face taken by the young generation of revolutionary leaders flies in the face of what parties like JI have said was impossible in Muslim nations. While no one can predict whether the regimes formed out of these revolutions will follow suit, it is clear that strong-man dictators across the region were removed not with Islamic chants, but with chants proclaiming the power of the people and democracy. Thus, young people in the Middle East offer hope to the young Pakistanis who see their society turning increasingly intolerant under the leadership of groups like JI. Nothing could challenge the rhetoric of parties like JI more than youth from across the Muslim world standing up together to call for democracy and freedom, not Shariyah and Gairat.

The way in which Jamaat-I- Islami has reacted to this challenging development is to raise the insignificant issue of the American pastor, Terry Jones, who burned the Koran last week. Prior to this public outcry was the Raymond Davis case, and both stories enjoyed a considerable amount of attention and focus by right wingers and their media affiliates.  Indeed, such a myopic focus on attempting to find any American to blame for the nations problems does not address the very real changes occurring in the mindset of people in neighboring Middle East. Such developments indicate a threat to the Wahabi politicized Islam sold by Pakistani conservative party leaders to distract the people from their lack of freedoms and access to resources.

Such a game of distractions can wind up burning the player, as Maulana Fazul Rahman has learned this week with two attempts on his life by extremists. Mr. Rahman has habitually stirred up anti-American sentiment amongst the people and extremists. Yet when WikiLeaks revealed that Rahman attempted to make deals with the American government, his life was at risk by the same people he helped indoctrinate, for the same anti-American motivations he engrained in their brains. Thus, there are very real consequences from attempting to divert the public’s eye from issues and spreading ignorance amongst the people.

Nations will all deal with the Arab Spring of Democracies in different ways, all attempting to pacify their public and de-motivate them from engaging in protests, however, the conservatives have long-perfected a strategy of distraction. Protestors from Wisconsin to Tahrir Square have shared the hope of eradicating the dominance of old elite interests, which is why the Republican Party is attempting to smear the name of its detractors now more than ever. Pakistan’s right wing is similarly fixated on a Florida pastor, rather than addressing the fact that their brand of revolutionary Islam has been attacked and some would say defeated by the secular uprisings of the Middle East.

The Guardian: Census reveals that 17 % of World’s Population is Indian

The first results from India‘s latest census – the second biggest in the world – were released on Thursday,revealing that the country has added 181 million new citizens in the last decade, making it home to 17% of the world’s population. China remains the most populous country on the planet, with 1.34 billion, but India is closing the gap with 1.21 billion.

The additional Indians found by the census are roughly equivalent to the population of Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world. One Indian state alone – Uttar Pradesh – now has a population of 199,500,000 people, just under that of Britain, France and Germany combined.  However C Chandramouli, the census commissioner, told reporters in Delhi that the new count showed population growth in India had slowed. The 17.6% increase was down from 21.5% recorded in 2001.

Though Indian economists and politicians talk frequently of the “demographic dividend” from the hundreds of millions of young people in their country, there is fear that overpopulation is placing a huge strain on poor social services and infrastructure.

The first modern census in India was conducted under British rule in 1872. Since then, Indian census officials have gone forth more or less every decade and counted how their countrymen have multiplied. The most recent exercise involved 2.3 million “enumerators” travelling to more than 630,000 villages and more than 5,000 cities, logging how many people live in any one place, establishing identities and ages, and noting details such as whether a household has air conditioning, a car, a computer, phones and internet access, as well as basics such as water and power.

The controversial question of caste, the ancient hierarchy rooted in the Hindu religion which permeates all parts of Indian society, has been left to a separate census.  Care was taken to include the homeless, with enumerators, who are often schoolteachers, scouring streets and railway stations to arrive at an accurate count.  The Indian media made much of the inclusion of even Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani national who is the only surviving member of the group of terrorists who launched the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, and who is on death row.

Though there is good news – a rise in literacy of nine points to 74% for Indians aged seven and older – there is also bad news. The figures indicate a continuing preference for male children over females in a country where female infanticide is still common and the government has been forced to ban doctors from revealing the sex of unborn children.

This is particularly marked in the north, even in more prosperous states such as Haryana. Some experts attribute this to the availability of new, cheap ultrasound scans which allow parents to easily determine the gender of child, others to families deciding to have fewer children and wanting to ensure a son.

The breakdown showed 914 girls being born or surviving for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, compared with 927 for every 1,000 in the last census. “This is a matter of grave concern,” said Chandramouli. Efforts to stop female infanticide and foeticide have largely failed. “Whatever measures that have been put in over the last 40 years has not had any impact on child sex ratio and therefore that requires a complete review,” G.K. Pillai, India’s Home Secretary, told reporters.

The overall gender ratio showed a marginal improvement, with 940 women counted for every 1,000 men, compared with 933 in the last census. The southern state of Kerala, which has long enjoyed high literacy rates for men and women, had the healthiest sex ratio in the country, the census has found.

One of the most difficult facts to establish has been age of Indians, officials involved with the count told the Guardian. Few among the poor know their date of birth, which nonetheless has to be established so that they can all be issued with the biometric identity card which is a key part of new government programmes to broaden and improve access to India’s vast but inefficient welfare schemes. To help find ages, the enumerators were given a “local event calendar” listing significant dates which respondents would remember.

The calendar in use around Delhi – every region has its own – starts in 1905 and includes India’s independence in 1947, the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Mother Teresa’s death in 1997. There is also the Indian victory over the West Indies to win the 1983 cricket World Cup.

Waris Husain Editorial: The Freedom to Offend


This week, the provincial assemblies of Pakistan and its President have expressed anger at the United States for allowing the burning of a Koran by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida. I have previously written about the common immoral perspective shared by Mr. Jones and Muslim extremists across the world, both irresponsibly seething hate and intolerance to the public. And while I condemn the Pastor, the U.S. Constitution defends his right to burn this sacred Islamic text without punishment from the state. The right wing in Pakistan has traditionally prosecuted and attacked those exercising free speech challenging their beliefs, and ask for the U.S. to do the same with Terry Jones. However, the U.S. system has been able to protect freedom and advance intellectually only by allowing an individual the right to offend others just as others have a right to offend him or her without government intrusion.

The development of America’s near-absolute protection of freedom of speech came from a presumption about human nature: that people would not value tolerance of others if it was handed down to them by the government. Rather, by prohibiting any government intrusion on peoples’ right to speak, the founders wished to create a marketplace of ideas where the public could pick and chose which ideas it adhered to. This meant that the government would not be in the business of indoctrinating the public by selecting which speech was permitted, but that the people themselves would determine the range and topic of their rhetoric and discussions

This concept is at the heart of American free speech and applies to Terry Jones in several ways. First, one should note that no major American news networks have given any coverage to this incident, and certainly none would risk losing their advertisement dollars by airing the disgusting images of Jones burning the Koran. This is not due to some ban by the U.S. government or courts, but is rather a choice made individually by each news corporation not to cover the story. Indeed, the right to free speech also carries with it the right to not speak, or to not give a hateful extremist any time on one’s private broadcast to offend viewers. It is more likely that if the U.S. government had tried to take legal action to stop Pastor Jones, the story would have been more heavily discussed in the media- but without such action, not many heard that the Pastor did such a hateful act.

Secondly, it is important to remember that Terry Jones is an outlier in the American society and not the average citizen, and his one voice of hate can be drowned out by the millions who disagree with his message and have the right to speak openly. Muslims have an equal legal right to protest Pastor Jones and even to burn the Bible (although such an act would violate the tenants of Islam and would be completely immoral).

Such a back and forth would certainly not produce any positive outcome, but is part of the open process that eventually strengthens a society and the citizens themselves. The society is buttressed by the simple fact that while you have the right to offend others, you have no right to use violence against them if they disagree. Criminal statutes apply regardless of the situation that led up to a violent action, therefore citizens grow by engaging in conversations with their opponents and learning from the experience rather than reverting to violence. This creates a marketplace of ideas where the best idea is the one that gains most support in the public, rather “might being right.”

The “might is right” doctrine applies in places like Pakistan especially through the hateful actions and rhetoric of right-wing political parties. The same parties that are petitioning the United States to prosecute Terry Jones supported not only a blasphemy law limiting free speech but advocated for the illegal murder of those who challenged the law like Salman Tasseer. The right wing doesn’t just advocate for violence, but continually instigates prosecutions against politicians, artists, and minorities for expressing their views. Thus, by creating an aura of fear and intimidation, the right wing parties of Pakistan and their terrorist allies hijacked the public discourse from the people, which has created a deficit in discussions and debates that can address Pakistan’s real issues.

As such, liberals have all but been silenced in the nation as they face death sentences against from political rivals if they merely engage in a debate with them. This is certainly a good sign for the religious right wingers but is an ominous sign indicating a breakdown in Pakistan’s “marketplace of ideas.” Thus, before Pakistan’s right wing advises the U.S. to follow its example and prohibit certain speech, they should understand the long-term benefits of protecting the freedom of speech with regards to creating innovative ideas that move the nation forward.

While such government inaction could leave a great deal in the hands of the majority, it also trains the majority to express their own opinions rather than relying on the government to learn about tolerance or interfaith harmony. Thus, rather than focusing on government censorship to quiet trouble-makers like Pastor Jones, the founders of the U.S. believed that people themselves should utilize their freedom of speech to challenge the intolerant opinion of Jones. This does not mean that one can use force against their rivals, but means that the louder majority can drown out hateful speech of Jones, with their own messages of harmony, tolerance, and love.

BBC: Wikileaks reveals that India’s Congress Party ‘bought votes’

India’s ruling Congress party bribed MPs to survive a crucial vote of confidence in 2008, a diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks suggests. It describes how a senior Congress aide showed a US embassy official “chests of cash” to pay off MPs ahead of a vote over a controversial nuclear deal.

The ruling party has denied the allegations. The leak heaps further pressure on embattled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after a string of corruption scandals. The leaked cable, reported in The Hindu newspaper, has caused uproar in the Indian parliament with the main opposition parties saying that Congress had “brought shame to the nation” and calling on the prime minister to resign.

‘Chests of cash’

The cable by US official Steven White said that the embassy employee had met Nachiketa Kapur, an aide of senior Congress leader Satish Sharma. It says that Mr Kapur told the embassy employee that “money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government”.

The embassy employee said he was shown “two chests containing cash and said that around $25m (£15.5m) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs”.  Nachiketa Kapur denied the report, saying: “I vehemently deny these malicious allegations. There was no cash to point out to.”

Satish Sharma told a news channel that he did not even have an aide called Nachiketa Kapur. “I never had and still don’t have a political aide,” he said. Mr Sharma is described as a “close associate of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi [and] considered to be a very close family friend of [Congress party chief] Sonia Gandhi”.

The cable said that Mr Kapur also claimed that MPs belonging to regional party Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) had been paid 100 million rupees ($2.5m; £1.5m) each to ensure they voted for the “right way”.  RLD leader Ajit Singh has denied the charge and said that he was “opposed to the nuclear deal” and his party MPs “voted against the government”.

These exchanges are alleged to have happened at the time of a controversial deal between India and the US which paved the way for India to massively expand its nuclear power capability. The government’s left-wing allies withdrew their support over the deal but the Congress party narrowly survived the vote despite substantial opposition. If the government had lost the vote, India could have faced early elections. A defeat would have also put the nuclear deal in doubt.

Accusations of vote-buying were also made at the time: opposition MPs waved wads of money in parliament alleging they were offered bribes to abstain. Widespread corruption in India costs billions of dollars and threatens to derail the country’s growth, a recent report by consultancy firm KPMG says.

The report says corruption is no longer just about petty bribes but about the major scandals where billions of dollars are allegedly siphoned off by government and industry. India’s Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja is under arrest on suspicion of underselling billions of dollars worth of mobile phone licenceshe denies the allegations.

The government was also forced by the courts to quash the appointment of its anti-corruption commissioner, on the grounds that he himself faces corruption charges. Congress was recently forced by the opposition to set up a cross-party investigation into corruption