Friday, 25 July 2014

Sania Mirza is an apt ambassador for Telangana

Sania Mirza
In India, political leaders often make baseless allegations to run down opponents. But even by their low standards, Telangana BJP leader K Laxman’s statement that tennis star Sania Mirza cannot be appointed as the new state’s ambassador because she is the “daughter-in-law of Pakistan” is objectionable. Mr Laxman was protesting against the K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) government’s decision to appoint Ms Mirza, who is married to former Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, as the ambassador to promote the state nationally and internationally. The objection is nothing but a desperate attempt to fan jingoistic passions and make political capital out of it. The government is well within its rights to appoint anyone it deems fit to further the name and brand value of the state. A prime example of this is Gujarat, which has appointed actor Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador of Gujarat Tourism though he is not a resident of the state. Similarly, Shah Rukh Khan is the brand ambassador of West Bengal.
The view that Ms Mirza was appointed by the KCR government to appease the minority community in view of the coming elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation shows is stretching things a bit. It also shows the disrespect the politician — hopefully not the state unit of the party he represents — has for a sportsperson of Ms Mirza’s stature. The player received the Arjuna Award in 2004 and the Padma Shri in 2006 and has made India proud on many occasions. Ms Mirza is also the first Indian woman to win two Grand Slams, she won four gold medals at the 2003 Afro-Asian Games, six medals from three Asian Games, and two at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. Her career-best ranking of 27 in singles and five in doubles is the highest for an Indian woman in tennis.
Telangana is a new state and for its progress it not only needs an efficient government but also a responsible opposition. Even though it just has five MLAs in the 119-member assembly, the BJP in Telangana must work towards the development of the state and not create a storm in a teacup.

Lesson for Narendra Modi from Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

The curtain call at Estádio Maracanã on Sunday night put a lid on a month-long football extravaganza. The final, played between arch-rivals Germany and Argentina, was a befitting tribute to a wonderful cup - by many means the best World Cup to be held till date.
Throughout the tournament, media scrutiny along with the weight of expectation hovered over some players like dark monsoon clouds. Brazil's Neymar was one such player. Given that the World Cup was hosted in Brazil, a lot of expectations were riding on him. But an injury and the subsequent (humiliating) defeat to Germany in the semi-finals put an end to what could have been a fairytale ending.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo was also one such player - but given a relatively weak team and the 4-0 loss to Germany in its first game not many expected miracles to happen.
But Argentina and thousands of football fans around the world expected miracles from Lionel Messi. While he didn't find the net as much as expected, he played pivotal roles when it mattered the most-the 118th minute dribble and pass to Di Maria against Switzerland stands out.
However, Sunday night a lone goal from Mario Götze saw the Germans lifting the Cup. A Messi bereft of emotion reflected a million shattered dreams.
Comparisons are often tricky, especially if they are across different spectrums, and preposterous as this may sound there are a lot of similarities between Lionel Messi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Both are leaders of their sides and have won the hearts of their people. They captain their sides and have earned the respect and honour of their teammates.
While Messi has shown that he was born to be a footballer, and an excellent one at it, Modi has shown in Gujarat that he is a politician and an exceptional one at it. Messi's genius at league football and Modi's success story of the much-talked about 'Gujarat model' have soared expectations to such a dizzying height that each time both are expected to not just win but win in a thumping manner.
There are also lessons Modi can learn from the situation Messi found himself during the World Cup. Messi came to Brazil carrying the hopes and wishes of a whole nation and they saw in him a hero after Diego Maradona. Modi has brought the BJP back to power after a decade. In the resounding victory, the party has received lie the hopes of millions of Indians. Many see in Modi a Prime Minister like never before. Part of the victory is because of the poor show of the earlier government but majority of it is on the hope that Modi can spin the fortunes of the nation.
Narendra Modi
Predictably Sunday's defeat has not gone well with many La Albiceleste fans who are blaming Messi's poor form for the defeat. Social media is abuzz with strong views calling Messi 'selfish' and he winning the Golden Ball has not helped his case -'Messi won while Argentina lost'.
A bad monsoon, the crisis in West Asia and a dull global economy are only some of the problems that are beyond Modi's control - but, nevertheless, if he falls short of anything but spectacular the people will feel let down.
The BRICS summit, currently underway in Fortaleza, Brazil, is important on many counts as it is Modi's first international engagement after assuming office. What he takes away from the summit is important to sustain the people's hope in the 'Modi magic'. Messi left Brazil with a heavy heart. It is hoped that Modi does not follow.
It's a difficult spot to find oneself in, but it is triumph in such situations that create legends. Messi and Modi have set the bar too high and now the challenge is to live up to it.
(This article appeared in Hindustan Times on July 14)

Friday, 4 July 2014

Israel's plans for more settlements will not help

                                                                                                    By: Ilia Yefimovich
The West Asia peace process can at best be described as one step forward and two steps backward — and this time it appears to be only steps backward. After the West Asia peace talks, initiated by United States secretary of state John Kerry, failed in April, both Israel and Palestine have been extremely jumpy when it comes to each other. Tensions broke out on June 12 after three Israeli teens were kidnapped. Their bodies were found in Hebron on June 30. Two days later, on Wednesday, a Palestinian teen was kidnapped and a burnt body believed to be of the boy was found later in the day. Clashes broke out between Palestinian protestors and Israeli soldiers in East Jerusalem, which has been held by Israel since the 1967 Mideast War. Following the abduction of the three teens, calls for ‘revenge’, like the one from Israel’s Kfir brigade, have vitiated the atmosphere further.
At a time when much of the Arab world was witnessing unrest — from Syria to Egypt to Iraq — Israel and Palestine were relatively calm. The recent abductions and killings are set to change things for the worse if reasonable reactions and policies do not prevail. With violence growing over the past two days there are fears that it might lead to a third Palestinian intifada. World leaders have criticised the killings. The United Nations and the Obama administration have condemned the killings but it’s highly unlikely that US President Barack Obama will actively step in, as his reluctance to engage in Iraq and Syria show. Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders have accused extremist Jews of the abduction and killing of Mohammed Abu Kheider, the slain Palestinian teen.
As a first step towards easing tensions between the two, Israel must refuse to go down the road of collective punishment as it has done often in the past. The massive Israeli search exercise for the three teens led to hundreds of arrests and the death of five Palestinians. To worsen this volatile climate, earlier this week Israel announced a wave of new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — Israel’s housing minister, Uri Ariel, has called this move a “proper Zionist response” to Palestine’s new unity government. This is not a step in the right direction. This will not help the cause of peace or bring stability to the region. The Palestinian authorities, on their part, must rein in the extremist groups on their side.