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‘Intolerance is damaging to human spirit, soul’, says director

I would never have started to work on the subject (physics) if I was not a Muslim.

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Abdus Salam docu

The baffling and paradoxical life of Dr. Abdus Salam, the first Pakistani and Muslim to win a Nobel Prize for Physics, is a subject of a compelling documentary by New York-based Indian American filmmaker Anand Kamalakar.

Salam (1926-1996) is a dichotomous figure in the world of science. He once said: “I would never have started to work on the subject (physics) if I was not a Muslim.” Yet, in his lifetime, not only was he shunned by Pakistan, the place of his birth, because he belonged to the outlawed Ahmadiyya sect, but had the misfortune of standing up for science in a country that had no particular interest in it.

He received his Ph.D in quantum electrodynamics at 24 and went on to do pioneering work in physics. It was only because of Pakistan’s strategic interest in developing nuclear weapons, in whose early development Dr. Salam played a crucial role, that he had a brief period of official patronage.

The documentary Salam’ — produced by Omar Vandal, a doctorate in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenes, and Zakir Thaver, a science/education media producer — was screened at the Mumbai International Film Festival on January 29. Kamalakar answered email questions from IANS. Excerpts:

Q: What prompted you to chronicle the life of Dr. Abdus Salam?

A: The producers Zakir and Omar have always been troubled by the fact that Abdus Salam was not given his rightful place in Pakistan’s history because of his religious beliefs. They have been attempting to make a film to shine a light on his illustrious career since their youth. After almost 10 years of collecting archival material they approached me through an acquaintance and I was taken by their commitment and the layered story of Salam.

Q: When did you discover that science, particularly physics, and Islam were not necessarily adversarial in Dr. Salam’s estimation but, in fact, complementary?

A: I discovered this while viewing the archival interviews. This aspect always fascinated me about his story. Salam went through a complicated evolution on this subject. We have tried to reveal the best we can on where he stood on this at various stages in his life. He was contradictory and controversial on this subject at many stages in his life.

Q: I ask specifically because that is at the core of his ironic and even somewhat tragic life. Here was a man who considered himself devout Muslim and precisely for that reason, chose to pursue physics, but his own country and culture, revolving around Islam, rejected him so thoroughly. How did you approach that strange dichotomy?

A: This aspect is what drew me to make this film. How did Salam reconcile working in an area of physics, which essentially attempts to prove the absence of god, and here he is, a devout Muslim who attributes his talents to his belief in Islam and god� In this sense, Salam was a bit ambivalent but found a way to rationalise this approach. We reveal this duality in many instances in the film� But we wanted to respect his position and give it credence as he was able to walk that line and be a man of science and religion at the same time.

Q: Were you surprised to discover that he saw no contradiction between a pure physicist and a devout Muslim?

A: More than surprised I was fascinated. One of the reasons the producers and I found common ground is because we are all rationalists. We subscribe to the logic of science more than anything. So when we found that Salam saw no contradiction but in fact believed that the religious text in fact encouraged science and informed his explorations, and reality did not reflect that, it was an intriguing area to explore, especially in a time when Islam is often viewed as a regressive religion in the mainstream.

Q: Since you were dealing with a very sensitive theme, what kind of challenges did you face in obtaining archival audio-visual material as well as interviews?

A: We really did not face any great difficulty in procuring archival material as such. We did face difficulty though in interviewing people with the extreme point of view on the Ahmadi issue. We ended up using clips from YouTube to show the extremist view. I was denied a visa to visit Lahore. I had to hire a cameraman there and manage the shoot remotely. We never received a clear answer why I was denied a visa, even though I am a US citizen. We concluded probably because this issue is still controversial there and I am of Indian origin.

Q: Have you been able to resolve the extent of Salam’s involvement in Pakistan’s nuclear bomb? Journalist and author Tariq Ali says it is not clear whether Salam was involved in Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. Both sides — the Ahmadiyya and the Pakistan establishment — have their own reasons to deny it.

A: I think this is answered in the film quite succinctly. He definitely was involved in the initial stages but then changed his mind.

Q: In the light of the way Salam was treated how do you think it impacted the future of science in Pakistan?

A: We address this is in the film with great emphasis. I think this is the greatest tragedy of his life. The younger generation of Pakistan has suffered the most and science in general has taken a back seat as a result of Salam being exiled. The casualty of any kind of intolerance towards knowledge, intelligence and brilliance are the young. Pakistan has suffered irreparable damage by distancing Salam and his legacy. At its core, this is what the message of our film is. Any kind of intolerance is damaging to the human spirit and soul.

By : Mayank Chhaya

(Mayank Chhaya is a senior journalist of Indian origin. He can be contacted at [email protected])

Analysis

Modi gets real on China: Wuhan summit demonstrated that a weak economy gives India few cards to deal

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Kapil Sibal

The informal summit at Wuhan between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping must be seen in the context of changing global equations. China with its trade volumes and economic clout is seeking to challenge American supremacy.

In recent years, China has undergone a period of tepid growth. The launch of its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative is an attempt not only to fuel growth but also influence our neighbours. It has invested or committed more than $150 billion in the economies of Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. This along with the Chinese project in Pakistan’s Gwadar Port showcases the real intent of the Chinese to symbolically encircle India.

On the other hand, President Donald Trump has struck a blow to globalisation with his ‘America First’ policy. On the trade front, Trump seeks to create tariff barriers to reduce China’s over $200 billion trade surplus.  Trump wants access to Chinese markets and seeks to persuade NATO allies to share defence costs. His sanctions against those who deal with Russia and pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal will have implications for India and global trade.

Illustration: Ajit Ninan

China recognises this. The overbearing presence of the Chinese in our neighbourhood and Trump’s non-sentimental approach both to trade and diplomacy are factors that have led to Wuhan. Modi, after almost 4 years of unchartered, unguided and inconsistent policy towards China, has realised that it is time to have a quiet bilateral dialogue.

Neither the optics lapped up by captive channels when Xi was feted on the Sabarmati’s banks, nor the flexing of muscle in response to Chinese expansion at Doklam has paid dividends. Modi realised it was time to distance himself from the Dalai Lama and seek Chinese collaboration to deal with outstanding issues. Our economy requires investments in key sectors.

China has penetrated the Indian economy in telecom, power, engineering and infrastructure and has shown interest in setting up industrial parks. India’s digital payment company Paytm is 40% owned by Chinese. Chinese firms such as Harbin Electric, Dongfang Electronics, Shanghai Electric and Sifang Automation either supply equipment or manage power distribution networks in 18 cities in India. This move forward with the Chinese has come towards the end of Modi’s five-year term.  Photo ops and expansive statements clearly are no substitute to hard-nosed diplomacy.

In dealing with China, we must accept a few truths.

First, the Chinese will never give up on their all-weather friend Pakistan. The Chinese will not support our candidature at the UN high table, nor will they agree for us to be a part of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. While they have access to our markets, they are loath to reciprocate and open up their markets including in the IT sector. A recent decision by the Chinese to allow some of our pharmaceutical companies to do business and export generic drugs to China is one way to deal with the imbalance of our bilateral trade that is tilted in favour of China.

We must also recognise that we need to collaborate with and not confront China because between us, we host 2.5 billion people and we are the two largest players in this part of the world. On many issues at international fora, we have to take positions consistent with our developmental needs. As a democracy, we have greater political affinity with the US, and in the context of global power equations we need to collaborate both with the US and Japan.  However, our economic interests, given our developmental needs, have greater affinity with China. We must maximise our leverage considering fast-paced developments in global trade.

The Indian and Chinese statements at Wuhan show both a divergence in emphasis and a meeting of minds. While terrorism is an issue addressed elaborately in our statement, the Chinese referred to it only once. They will pay lip service in their response to terrorist activities launched across the border but will not condemn Pakistan. During the Doklam crisis only Japan issued a statement in India’s support; Trump was silent. The other difference is that while the Chinese talked about investments in India, we emphasised the importance of balanced trade.

While India sought mutual trust and ‘predictability and effectiveness in the management of border affairs’ this was missing from the Chinese statement. The Indian statement seeks an environment in which both sides can manage to control tensions and not let them spiral out of control, but the Chinese statement has been more assertive on sovereignty. China has not addressed the issue of its $71.5 billion trade surplus in 2016-17.

Much of foreign policy is dependent on a country’s economic situation. Diplomatic options are enhanced when an economy has the potential to grow at a fast pace. Any country which seeks to add muscle to its foreign policy must have the economic leverage to do so. In this context, it is difficult to match China.

Even in our bilateral relationship with the US, Americans have kept their economic interests paramount. Reduction of H1-B visas and the insistence by Trump on economic justice to Americans makes us suspect the US may not be the steadfast partner we can wholly rely upon. We need a calibrated and institutionalised policy response to China and other countries; not a personalised policy where institutional memory and positions are sidelined.

I hope Modi has realised that and the Wuhan meeting is a step in that direction.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.
Courtesy: This article is published in TimesOfIndia on 21st May 2018
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Conflict between Western Europe and US over Russian pipeline

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Angela Merkel

There is a greater likelihood of an economic conflict breaking out between Europe and US over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia. Fearing that the project would result in increase Russia’s influence in Europe, the Trump administration has threatened Germany of harsh economic sanctions if Berlin proceeds ahead with the Nord Stream 2.

United States main aim is to counter Russia and China that have flooded the global markets with cheap products and for this President Donald Trump has turned on tariffs plan as a part of his economic agenda but in the process, it is hurting American allies.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is projected to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas annually from newly tapped reserves in Siberia across the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed US criticism of the pipeline project due to the transit route through Ukraine with President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, on Friday.

Merkel said, “The question of what sort of guarantees can be offered to Ukraine in the industrial project of Nord Stream 2.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the White House, has been opposing Russia’s gas export monopoly Gazprom PJSC from completing the Nord Stream 2 link under the Baltic Sea and is in favour of imposing sanctions on Germany to prevent it.

Sandra Oudkirk, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy, said in Berlin that Washington is concerned about Nord Stream 2 that could increase Russia’s “malign influence” in Europe. “There are security issues linked as Russia could install undersea surveillance equipment in the Baltic Sea, a sensitive military region.”

The United States is opposing the project as it seeks to export its own LNG to Europe.

Germany is switching off coal and all nuclear plants by 2022 and making gas the only fuel to be used to fulfill the country’s pledge to sharply reduce carbon emissions and it also promises much-needed jobs in Berlin.

Some of the most vocal critics have been the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whose foreign ministers traveled to Washington last week to meet Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 — prompting EU sanctions in response.

The Trump administration has announced that it is giving Europe 30 days to strike a deal with the US that would limit the amount of steel and aluminum it exports to the US. If no deal is struck, the US will initiate a 10 percent tariff on Europe’s aluminum exports and a 25 percent tariff on its steel exports to the US.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker threatened to put tariffs on goods like blue jeans, bourbon, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles in response to Trump’s move. That could decrease demand for those products and lead to US workers losing their jobs.

Acknowledging that America  is facing the re-emergence of great power competition among the US, Russia and China, the US Department of Defence considers the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR’s) analysis and recommendations are grounded in a realistic assessment of today’s strategic environment.

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said the U.S. military must be prepared for a high-end fight as these evolving challenges reflect the changing character of war. “We are entering an era where our forces will be under constant observation, disrupted communications – if not nonexistent communications,” he said.

The 2018 review takes all the challenges under consideration and maintains the traditional deterrence strategy to shape potential adversaries calculations, with some tweaks to ensure there is no miscalculation of America’s intent.

By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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Karnataka: Modi  stands exposed, Congress gains

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narendra modi

This time, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have failed to foist a BJP government in Karnataka and the high drama surrounding forcible installation of BJP government showed that Modi could resort to anything to grab power.

The entire sequence of events after the Karnataka elections verdict from BS Yeddurappa taking oath and then resigning just ahead of the floor test and culminating to the announcement of formation of Congress-JD(S) coalition government revealed how it has become difficult for a party to protect their legislatures from being poached by the BJP.

BJP again indulged in using money and muscle power to lure MLAs of other parties to reach the half mark as the Saffron party emerged as the single largest party with 104 members but short of majority while Congress with 78 seats immediately after the verdict sent Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot to form an alliance with JD(S) having 37 MLAs .

The desire of adding Karnataka to the list of 19 states where it is in power has been dashed and the disgraceful exit of BS Yeddyurappa two days after assuming the office of the Chief Minister of Karnataka was triggered after the Supreme Court had directed BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa 24 hours to prove majority in the Karnataka assembly due to the fractured mandate in Karnataka assembly elections earlier this week.

The governor, constitutionally, should invite the party or alliance that could ensure a stable government but Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala called the BJP to form the government.He erred as he acted in an unconstitutional manner that could encourage horse-trading consequently JD (S) alongwith Congress were shifted to Hyderabad to guard against poaching of their legislatures.

Governor Vajubhai was a minister in BJP government in Gujarat from 1997 to 2012 and is a vetran Sangh memeber since 1971.

In Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, the Congress won the largest number of seats and also staked claim before the respective governor to form government but the BJP manipulated and resorted to horse-trading to grab power .But the entire drama in Karnataka has exposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi who claims to be non corrupt and respect  the peoples mandate as audio clips were heard in which even Yeddyurappa appeared to be luring MLAs of Congress to join the BJP .

Congress has even released an explosive audio clip alleging horse-trading by the BJP. The party in a press meeting in Bengaluru on Friday evening released a 2 minute 41 second audio clip, and alleged that it had the voice of mining baron and former BJP minister Janardhana Reddy, who can be heard speaking to Congress Raichur Rural MLA-elect Basavanagouda Daddal.

The Congress has alleged that Janardhana Reddy has sanction from top BJP leadership, as he mentions ‘National President’ in the conversation.

The whole exercise has proved that the aura of clean image of Narendra Modi has suddenly vanished.

Hours before BS Yeddyurappa resigned as chief minister in the Karnataka assembly, two Congress lawmakers had gone MIA this morning. But they were both back with the Congress just in time for the floor test that never happened. The Congress alleged that they had been held captive inside a hotel in Bengaluru by the BJP.

Anand Singh and Pratap Gowda Patil reached the assembly, the Vidhana Soudha, about an hour before the trust vote was scheduled. Pratap Gowda Patil was seen pushing away BJP lawmakers and rushing to join his Congress colleagues.

“Pratap Gowda won’t betray us,” Congress leader DK Shivkumar said, who has been in charge of guarding his party’s lawmakers and organizing their “protection”.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has termed the resignation of B S Yeddyurappa as Karnataka Chief Minister a “victory of democracy”and said “this is not an ordinary victory. Entire people of the country will be happy. It is a proud day for all of us.”

 

Congress moved Supreme Court On May 16 late evening against the governor’s invitation to the BJP.The Apex court opened its doors at midnight for an urgent hearing.Hearing began at 2.11 am on May 17 and concluded at 5.28 am in which SC refused to stay oath-taking ceremony of Yeddyurappa.Yeddyurappa was sworn in as Chief Minister at 9 am. on May 17. On May 18 , Supreme Court ordered floor test at 4 pm on May 19.Janata Dal Secular leader HD Kumaraswamy said he will take oath as the chief minister of Karnataka on Monday, hours after the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa conceded defeat and resigned from the top post without facing a floor test when it saw that it had fallen
short of the target of 112 in the 224-member House.

BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said “In a democracy, everyone has a right to form an alliance but an alliance without ideology won’t work,People don’t accept alliances which are not formed on ideological similarities.”

It is pertinent to mention that in Jammu and Kashmir BJP cemented alliance with PDP which has diametrically opposite stand on most key issues and ideological difference between Mehbooba’s Valley-centric Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its ally, the Jammu-centric Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has resulted into crisis in Kashmir with renewed surge in militancy,situation in the Valley remains volatile and unstabile and ceasefire in tatters.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi has given two direct messages to the entire Opposition that Congress is ready to ally with any regional party to defeat Narendra Modi’s attempt to grab power .But there is one important factor that Congress and the parties in alliance will have to guard against the poaching of their MLAs by the BJP as they will make an attempt to break the Congress led coalition government.
On the contrary, Rahul Gandhi has displayed leadership by benefitting both the parties and not by manipulating results in any states as done by BJP.

Blog: By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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