Wednesday, February 15

The Little Prince: Book Review

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Little Prince is a marvelous story. Short and sweet like a children's book should be. And yet it gives you a lot to think about as an adult. I did read this book before, a long time ago, but now revisiting it after having my own kids makes me look at it in a totally different light. The way kids see things, with endless imagination, is an art we lose as adults; but the author has captured it beautifully in this book.
When I first read this book it appealed to me for the simplicity of its language, and the fairy tale like construction. I had just left behind seeing with my heart and began thinking in numbers, and profits, and losses. The beauty of a thing lies in what is invisible - that made little sense back then. But now when my kids' eyes light up at the thought of an invisible, the maturity of the thought comes home and makes me want to experience that genuine excitement once again. While we may forget to appreciate it, the fact remains that it is the Invisible, the mysterious that really fascinates us to follow a dream as we grow up. (The mature thing to do is say that you know all about it and what you are getting into, but there is an element of mystery, of how things will turn out that is really fascinating.)
I hope I can learn to see the elephant inside the boa constrictor once again. Maybe my kids will teach me this time.

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Tuesday, November 9

Reflecting on Obama's visit to India

I have a new post at the FPA about Obama's recent visit to India.

"The announcement was at best a shrewd high impact low risk diplomatic gesture, an opportunity to surpass Bush’s Nuclear Deal moment and ensure reciprocal support from India on issues such as human rights in Myanmar or tougher sanctions on Iran. Obama’s support was followed by a call to India to take up more responsibility and reprimand for not speaking out against and condemning human right abuses."

Read more here.

Friday, October 22

About aid to Pakistan

My new post at the FPA India blog where I argue for putting up a fight against unhindered aid to Pakistan from the US.

"But neither the U.S, nor Pakistan can be really blamed for looking out for their own interests. Playing the victim and savior, and asking for money for being both at the same time, is what Pakistan does best. I think its leadership; its political and military institutions should be commended for efficiently training consecutive generations to fool the world with the same spiel! Other countries could learn a thing or two from Pakistan about consistent foreign policy."

Read more here.

Monday, August 30

Time to take charge

My post about the need for India and China to take up a more responsible role in the region, particularly in times of crisis such as the Pakistan floods.

"Being a regional/global power is not just about economic growth rates and size of the economies, it is also about understanding one’s regional/global responsibilities and fulfilling them efficiently. It is about being emphatic and generous to the enemy in need, while taking control of the situation; understanding one’s humanitarian responsibilities without losing sight of the opportunities that the situation presents. It is high time for regional powers to take charge and not expect the US to be the never-depleting relief bank."

Read the rest of the piece here.

Tuesday, August 17

Too soon to approach the WTO

Last week the US Congress passed a border security bill that plans to generate funds by hiking H1-B and L-1 visa fee by $2000 per application per person. This would help fund the $600 million emergency fund for securing the US border, particular with Mexico.

Though it is not explicitly directed towards Indian IT companies, they would be one of the worst affected by the provision. Losses could run into millions of dollars for the bigger companies such as Infosys and TCS.The Indian side has retaliated by threatening to go to the WTO in protest against the protectionist move by the US. I, have a problem with that.

I sincerely believe that it is too soon for the move. The Indian side should first talk to the US and exhaust all bilateral avenues before going the WTO route. The proper way to go about it would be to sit down, analyze and draw up a plan of action in conjunction with the Indian companies that would be affected by the move. It is their business and their money that will be lost, and they are one of the most important stakeholders in the issue. The government is more of a facilitator. The effects on other aspects of bilateral trade and bilateral relations with the US should be carefully analyzed before taking any aggressive measures. The Indian side should have a serious conversation with the US and persuade it to change the provision. If talks fail, then taking the US to the WTO would be an option.

An important question that the Indian side needs to ask itself is, "Can the WTO really change things?" Organizations such as these are good for pressuring smaller countries with lesser clout. But would it really matter to the US if it was taken to the WTO for being protectionist? Even if the WTO were to ask the US to change its provision, would the US do it?

Another thing that puzzles me is the motive behind this desire to go to the WTO. Is it serious indignation and protest, or simply symbolism that the Indian government is interested in? As mentioned earlier, taking the US to the WTO cannot be expected to produce any significant effect. So then is the Indian government trying to show the world that it is not afraid to stand up against the US? Or is it putting up the show for its domestic US-hating/doubting allies?

I am all for standing up against the protectionist attitude of the US. But not at the cost of damaging diplomatic relations and goodwill. National interest comes first, and business, the kind that Indian IT companies generate, is a big part of it. But any protest registered against the US should be carefully planned for maximum effect and minimum damage to Indian interest. It should be remembered that the US, even with its economic recession, can afford to ignore Indian protests and wallow in its own arrogance. India can hope to affect US decisions by wielding the bilateral business/trade card, but the mutual dependence factor with a comparatively weaker Indian side should not be overlooked.

The US decision to hike H1-B visa fees is protectionist, punishes the wrong people for generating profitable business, and will most likely do more damage to US jobs and move them out of the country than the outsourcing haters would like to believe. Yet, it is still not the right time to approach the WTO against the US.

Tuesday, July 27

Engaging Burma

The Burmese leader Than Shwe is on a five day visit to India. My take on it at the FPA.

"The Indian Prime Minister should take this opportunity to extend support and guidance in conducting free and fair elections in Burma. As the largest and successful democracy in the region, India has the necessary experience and standing to do so. India could offer direct assistance/guidance in voter registration, ensuring security at voting booths, use of electronic voting machines, etc. It could also offer to be an external observer during the election process to oversee that the elections are held in a democratic, free and fair manner. It would help Burma’s image if it allows external observers into the process. Such constructive contribution by India to the democratic process would be of greater value than merely opposing the Burmese junta on principals."

Read the rest of the post here.

Thursday, July 15

The Indian Rupee gets a new symbol

The Indian Rupee now has its unique symbol - a confluence of the Roman ‘R’ and Indian (Devanagari script) ‘Ra’. The symbol was finalized yesterday by an Union Cabinet Committee.

Uday Kumar, the designer of the symbol explains the symbol, “My design is based on the Tricolour with two lines at the top and white space in between. I wanted the symbol for the Rupee to represent the Indian flag. It is a perfect blend of Indian and Roman letters: a capital ‘R’, and Devnagari ‘Ra’, which represent rupiya, to appeal to international and Indian audiences. After working onthe design for few months, I shortlisted eight to 10 designs and then refined them further till I got this one.”

My latest post on the Indian Rupee symbol at FPA India blog here.

Friday, July 9

A mindset change to stop honor killings

"As India tries to fly high with its nuclear deals, claims to an UNSC permanent seat, ~8% growth rate, a sense of moral uprightness in dealing with Pakistan, condemning human rights abuses across the globe etc. such disgraceful events will only deal a blow to its international image. ‘Honor killings’ are murders, human right abuses, atrocities against women, denial of individual’s freedom of choice, and a display of the failure of the law and order situation in the country. India cannot claim to be a democracy, one of the biggest at that, if it cannot guarantee its citizen their fundamental rights to live on their own terms..."

My latest post on honor killings at the FPA India blog.

Monday, March 29

My op-ed at the

The Berlin based recently published one of my opinion pieces - 'Improving India's nuclear standing.' In the piece I argue how next month’s Nuclear Security Summit is "a chance for India to show its commitment to non-proliferation and to be a leader of setting up mechanisms for securing nuclear materials." You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 3

Free parking available! Really?

The Pune traffic police have for once come up with a sensible solution to ease the parking problems in the city. They propose that malls and multiplexes should either stop charging for parking, or refund the parking fees when the person shows receipt of purchase. They also propose that parking on city roads should be made expensive to ease the congestion.

It could be argued that the malls and multiplexes have a business to run and cannot be expected to give up a big source of their income. And I am sure their will be a strong opposition and lobbying by these businesses against this proposal. But I think that as a customer I would prefer this proposal as it gives me a good safe space to park, and therefore makes the mall/multiplex more attractive. I think the businesses would definitely attract more customers if parking on premises is cheap or free. And with economies of scale at play they should be able to recover operating costs and potentially make money too. (Anyways I believe that the malls/multiplexes have already recovered and made profit on their investment in parking spaces by charging exorbitant prices until now.)

Traffic reform in Pune has never been easy and this proposal might not see the light of day. But the proposal is sensible, customer/voter friendly and would definitely come handy during election time.