Palestine Issue Remains Key To Stability, Peace: Top US Official

THE PALESTINE issue might have dropped off the front pages of late, but it remains fundamental to peace in the region, a top US official has said.

Talking to a select group of mediapersons in Muscat yesterday (June 21, 2011), Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, said a two-state solution was not only in the interest of the Middle East, but for the United States as well.

“But we have to overcome a lot of mistrust, a lot of history for that,” he said, while adding that the solution has to be eked out through negotiations only.

“The Israelis need to recognize the Palestinians’ concerns on territory and the Palestinians need to understand the Israelis’ concerns over security.”

In Oman for consultations with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and Omani government officials on issues of mutual interest, Feltman waxed eloquent on the constructive way in which the Sultanate had dealt with the aspirations of its people.

“We recognise that, in Oman, the prospects for continued development and advancement are bright as they are guided by a positive vision.


Against violence

“I had the opportunity to hear the Omani perspective on regional issues, and I look forward to conveying it to my government.

“Oman is an old and important ally in this part of the world, and we seek its values,” he said.

Picking the regional issues, especially in the context of the recent developments, he made clear the US does not condone violence, neither from the protestors, nor from the governments.

While noting his country’s support for the universal principles of freedoms and human rights for people across the world, Feltman stressed Arab Spring was not about the US.

“When people gathered at Tahrir Square, it was not because the US had told them to. They may have been angry with US policies, but that was not the reason why they had assembled there.

“People in this part of the world or elsewhere want to feel that they have a say in the decisions that affect them… their economic future, their political future.”

He, however, agreed there was no one size that fitted all solutions. “Every country has its own uniqueness, its unique history, unique circumstances.”

On Libya, he noted how there had been a healthy debate in the US on exercising the quantum of firepower. “But the Gaddafi forces are getting weaker every day,” he pointed out, while revealing about talk of some countries replacing others for a period of time in the Nato operations.

“In Bosnia, it took two-and-a-half years.

“In Libya, it took 33 days,” he said of the time it took the international community to start operations to stop the massacre of people.

“I was in Benghazi a month ago. The contrast with atmosphere in Tripoli is remarkable. There is fear in Tripoli.”

(This article first appeared on the Front page in the Times of Oman newspaper on June 22, 2011. Click the link to the PDF below to view the page)

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Peacenik Imran Will Bring Peace With India: Book

UNLIKE THE Taleban-friendly image that a section of the media portrays of him, Imran Khan is more of a peacenik, a new biography of the Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician says. The book Imran versus Imran: The Untold Story, published by Falcon & Falcon Books Limited, says while Imran is not vulnerable to war-like emotions, he wants love to conquer the frontiers of war.

Imran learnt the power of ‘Make Love, Not War’ counterculture slogan during his Oxford days, says the book authored by Indian journalist Manoj Kumar, who writes under the pen name of Frank Huzur.

However, what in all probability is likely to raise the ghosts of the past in the context of the Indo-Pakistan relations is his observation on former Indian premier Atal Behari Vajpayee’s historic bus trip to Lahore in 1999. “The Lahore Declaration was doomed to die right from the start,” Imran is quoted saying in the book.

Why? “Only pomp and splendor don’t bring cheers on the ground. Nawaz Sharif acted once more unilaterally. His army Chief of Staff, Musharraf and other service chiefs refused to welcome his decision to go ahead with ‘Bus Diplomacy.’ The Indian Prime Minister had the confidence of the entire nation, whereas Nawaz didn’t have approval from his own army. Musharraf didn’t join him at the Wagah Border,” Huzur quotes Imran as saying in the book, which is basically a ‘political biography’ of the erstwhile dashing cricketer.


It was Sharif’s own decision to roll out the red carpet for the Indian PM, says the book, while adding that Nawaz wanted General Musharraf, Air Chief Marshal Parvez Mehdi and Admiral Fasih Bokhari to be present, clad in full military regalia, to salute Atal Behari Vajpayee and shake hands with him.

“His military chiefs had serious reservations. They were not happy about their Prime Minister compelling them to salute ‘the head of government of an enemy country’ and particularly one belonging to the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

Meanwhile, in an email interview with the Times of Oman, Huzur shed some more light on Imran’s views on India, where he continues to be hugely popular.

“He (Imran) often recommends his party workers to learn from the civilian institutions of India. I often heard him talking about the social empowerment of marginalized people in India.”

Huzur added that while Kashmir may be hanging fire in his eyes, Imran wants dialogue and demilitarization to resolve the disputed issue.

“I believe Imran Khan is not one of the rabble-rousing politicians of Pakistan who often talk ill of India. Even while he has been a close ally of religious parties like Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-Ulema-Islam of Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, his ‘pro-India stand’ has been a moderating influence on these anti-India voices,” said Huzur.
(This article first appeared on the Front page in the Times of Oman newspaper on July 9, 2011. Click the link to the PDF below to view the page)
Al Arabiya News also carried this article 

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There Will Never Be Another Rajesh Khanna

THERE WILL never be another Rajesh Khanna. There never was another like him. Why? For the simple reason that nobody else in the Indian film industry —no other star before or after him— had the kind of charisma to transform something most mundane into the most magical.

Kaka, as he was popularly known as, was simply ‘The Phenomenon’ during those years from the late 60’s to the mid-70’s. That was when he ruled the roost with his silken touch. Those were the times when Kaka’s house in Mumbai reportedly used to figure on the tourist map of the city.

His death, in Mumbai yesterday (July 18, 2012), indeed marks the end of an era.

Just a few days ago, as Khanna was admitted back to hospital in Mumbai, a Facebook friend of mine posted on his wall, “It took an Amitabh to get past him…”

Yes, true! Kaka was indeed overtaken by the then emerging ‘Angry Young Man’ Bachchan.

But then those times too suited Amitabh. The age of innocence was passe. India was coming to terms with the aftermath of the Emergency. There was growing frustration among masses. There was anger on the streets. So, Amitabh had an edifice that was more or less tailor-made to let loose his angry man histrionics onto — to be lapped up by a new, more impatient, and transformed audience.

This is not to take anything away from Amitabh, the other great, but Khanna, as sociologists would note, was not exactly a product of the times. He created his own genre. Those mannerisms, that unique way of dialogue delivery, the crinkling of his eyes, the head tilt, a bit of tilt here and

a bit there — all his very own. But lo and behold, the hysteria that he would create among his fans, especially women, all swooning; he was indeed the real Superstar, aside from being anointed one for the first time ever in Bollywood.

Before, him there were stars, no superstar.

There was something about Rajesh Khanna that the common man identified deeply with. Despite evoking a suave and urbane feel about him, there was this boy-next-door appeal to his persona. To think of an all buttoned-up kurta as an overwhelming male statement would be considered blasphemous by most style gurus in any other age. A simple kurta? And, lo, with lungi and sandals! Well, only a Rajesh Khanna could have catapulted such a mundane piece of wardrobe to a national style statement. And remember, there was no Internet back then, and no mobile phones too!


Unique charisma

It was quite simply that unique charisma of his that made the man with the boy-next-door looks out-do the likes of oh-so-handsome-and-debonair Dev Anand.

When he was at his peak, all other stars, including the big ones, were simply swept away in the Tsunami of Rajesh mania.

Sixteen solo hits between 1969 and 1972 testify what it meant to be Rajesh Khanna!

However, as the saying goes, anything that goes up has to come down. In the mid-70’s, his movies began to fizzle out at the box office.

But he kept doing meaningful films. He resisted the temptation of moving with the times.

The question is, could he have done it any other way?

He was Rajesh Khanna, one who in his glory days would pray to God that at least one of his films flops; such was his phenomenal run at the box office.

Kaka has gone. But the departure too had its share of ironical twist, just like some of his yesteryear potboilers. He had been discharged from hospital just a day before and people expected him to recover. But, as Kaka’s terminally ill character in the 1971 super-hit film, Anand, says, “…ham sab is rang manch ki kathputli hain (we are mere puppets in the game of life and death.”
Rest in peace Kaka.
(This article first appeared in the Times of Oman newspaper on July 19, 2012. Click the link to the PDF below to view the page)

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(Here’s another story on the Superstar: His friendship with RD Burman. This was published in the Times of Oman newspaper)

Rajesh Khanna with RD Burman

The Guide Who Inspired A Billion Smiles

IT’S NOT just an era that has ended. Curtains have come down on many an era with the demise of Bollywood’s evergreen romantic hero and fashion icon Dev Anand, who has breathed his last in a London hospital. For, Dharam Dev Anand or Dev

Saab, was still very much in the thick of it – the filmmaking business – when he finally “hung his boot” at age 88.

In a recent interview by an Indian news channel, Dev Saab was asked to comment on “his era’s” filmmakers. He fumed. And then thundered: “Look here, today’s filmmakers are my contemporaries. I am still in the business…”

That, arguably, was the quintessential Dev. Bubbling with life with an almost infectious energy. Style guru. Suave to a fault. A romantic to the core. A never-say-die diehard.

That, probably, is the reason why we are all finding it a tad difficult to come to terms with his demise and we are all humming that memorable tune from one of his blockbusters… abhi na jao chhor kar (don’t go away leaving me right now).

Unapologetic Optimist

From his debut in Hum Ek Hain (We Are One) in 1946, to Chargesheet this year (2011), it was a journey sans break for him. His last recognised hit Des Pardes (Home and Away) may have come more than three decades back (1978), prompting many to ponder what made him tick thus far, but Dev Saab had his rationale: “I cannot live without my films, my cinema and my work.”

This writer remembers having written an article on the legendary actor some eight years ago for a weekly broadsheet and the editors being logged in a logjam over a ‘suitable’ headline. After a lot of sweat, one (headline) was suggested and all agreed: ‘Life begins at 80’.Dev Anand

There was something about Dev that few among his peers — both contemporary and those that came later — could lay claim on. Hope. That’s it.

Dev would inspire an almost unapologetic hope among his fans, for decades. Even now it’s routine for many to count on some of the tunes from his classics to resuscitate their energies, or to regroup after a brush with some slippery mud: Har fikr to dhuen me udata chala haya… (I kept on blowing away all my worries with the puff).


Living life on his own terms

A self-made man, Dev had lived life on his own terms. He was one of the last ‘originals’ of Bollywood.

Alas, we shall see no more that trademark tilted nod of the head. That quick burst of words. That wanton walk. That unassuming, but markedly disarming, smile.

We feel like humming it all over again…those very lines: abhi na jao

(This article first appeared in the Times of Oman newspaper on December 5, 2011. Click the link to the PDF below to view the page)

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