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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 42, October 3, 2009

At Pittsburgh and New York


Monday 5 October 2009, by SC


The G-20 summit at Pittsburgh has no doubt succeeded in taking on the role and mantle of the G-8 as per its declaration but what has it achieved in concrete terms? By announcing that there will be no premature withdrawal of the stimulus package it, of course, underscored the importance that the summiteers attached to the short-term recovery from the global financial and economic disaster; but in the absence of a decisive move towards financial sector reforms any breakthrough eluded the Pittsburgh meet. Nevertheless, some real progress was made at the summit by the G-20 reaching an agreement for a five per cent shift in the quota share in favour of the developing economies, a vital demand of the BRIC member-states as well.

At the same time the notes of caution one finds in The Hindu’s analysis of the summit cannot possibly be brushed aside under any pretext.

Unfortunately, not all countries and players have a shared interest in the implementation of the Pittsburgh line... If national governments do not implement the... recommendations made by the G-20 on bankers’ pay, transparent accounting procedures and prudential banking norms, financial markets will once again start indulging in risky behaviour... the IMF has also been asked to help the G-20 conduct a regular ‘peer review’ of the macroeconomic and regulatory policies of individual countries, a mechanism that, theoretically, will allow the world to get an early warning of the negative practices, especially in the Anglo-Saxon financial universe. But if this oversight task is performed perfunctorily, or not at all, all the fine words at Pittsburgh will get negated.

Meanwhile the S.M. Krishna-Shah Mahmood Qureshi talks at New York did not yield anything substantive (nor were they expected to do so). The External Affairs Minister continued to focus on the progress in investigations into the Mumbai terror attack; while pointing out that Pakistan had taken some steps against several of those accused of being responsible for the 26/11 terror strikes in that city, he insisted that “these processes must gather momentum”. Predictably Krishna shot down his Pakistani counterpart’s suggestion for back-channel dialogue by asking: “When the front channel is open, what’s the use of the back channel?”

Significantly, after the volley of protests in India on whatever concessions he made at Sharm el-Sheikh, PM Manmohan Singh appeared quite blunt in his opinion of Pakistan; he observed from Pittsburgh that Islamabad had not given up its “old attitude of using terror as an instrument of state policy”. Strong words, indeed. But why don’t our leaders do some plainspeaking in their interactions with the US leaders? After all, the US Senate only recently tripled its non-military aid to Pakistan which has time and again used such assistance to reinforce its military position against India—a fact well known to those running the Administration in Washington.

Be that as it may, the very fact that the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan met at New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and held “useful, candid and constructive” discussions is in itself a positive development that needs to be carried forward in the days ahead.

In two days we will observe the one hundred and fortieth birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation. Can we ever forget the strenuous efforts he made at the fag end of his life to foster friendship and amity between the peoples of India and Pakistan braving the heaviest of odds? It is time we follow his footsteps in right earnest to unfold a new chapter in Indo-Pak relations despite all the adversities and impediments that block our path towards that goal.

September 30 S.C.

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