Letters – February 2018

Green goals

Good for China. Once considered an ecological wilderness, it has taken the green message to heart with its planned construction of 285 eco-cities (even if Humphrey Hawksley’s review of Austin Williams’ book on the subject reveals tinges of scepticism about the project – ‘China’s green challenge’,  Asian Affairs, Jan. 2018 ).

It is high time India followed suit. Air pollution in both India’s mega- and smaller cities is assuming epidemic proportions that need immediate and drastic remedies, which should not include schools being ordered to cut down open air activities, or doctors advising people to simply stay indoors. There is much that can be done, if we are prepared to listen to our scientists. In particular, our politicians should heed the scientists’ expertise and act on their advice.

Humphrey Hawksley regrets the omission in Williams’ book of comparisons between China’s eco-city vision and any that India might have,which leads to questions surroundingthe implementing such visions, in light of India’s democratic system of government, as opposed to China’s more autocratic one.

The driving force behind such projects may be different for India than for China, but, as countries such as France and Sweden are currently proving, ecology and democracy can and do go hand in hand.

Prem Kumar

New Delhi 

Thailand’s general consensus

I read Duncan Bartlett’s piece on Thailand in your January issue (‘The laws of diminishing democracy’)with sympathy for that country’s people, subject to military rule under premier General Prayut Chan-o-cha with no apparent end in sight, as the promised November 2018 elections look ever more likely to be delayed until the government completes enacting all the ‘organic laws’ related to the elections.

Now a rock star has taken upon himself one of the tasks that should surely fall to the state: Artiwara Kongmalai, lead singer of rock band Bodyslam, has raised 1 billion baht for underfunded hospitals by running the length of Thailand and has topped recent popularity polls in the process – a position the premier himself once enjoyed in 2016. No one is comparing the demanding and often thankless world of politics with the music business, but General Prayut Chan-o-cha would do well to note the shift in his fortunes with the Thai people. Even military dictators must watch their step as they come close to exhausting the patience of those they oppress.

Jennifer Lovell


Better late than never

Dear Sir

I am an avid reader of your magazine. Since the New Year issue contained not one but three incisive articles on Pakistan, I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the suspension of the US government’s financial assistance to Pakistan.

The fact that Pakistan is a terror-harbouring state is no secret to the world. The country faced harsh criticism from US President Donald Trump in his first tweet of 2018.  Honestly, I consider this move by the US government to be great – it should have been done long ago, but better late than never!

As Professor Thomas Johnson of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey – a speaker at a recent seminar on which your magazine reported – so succinctly puts it: ‘While other countries have an army, the Pakistani army has a country’. The army is a major factor in the nation’s downfall, with rising extremism and an inability to combat terrorism all being core problems.

In his article ‘Caving in to extremists’, Irfan Hussain has rightly pointed out the army’s role in rising extremism and how the spineless government has been kowtowing to these dangerous groups.

I hope that the withdrawal of financial assistance will lead Pakistan to realise that it has to sort out its internal issues rather than blaming its neighbours and the US for problems which they themselves have created.


Latif Ahmed




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