Saturday, March 12, 2011



Our hearts go out to the people of Japan at this hour of their national tragedy which is a global tragedy.It has deeply affected all of us.The world has seen massive tragedies of a traumatic nature in the past, but what the Japanese have suffered is a series of multiple tragedies---quake, tsunami and dangers of nuclear contamination following an explosion in a building housing a reactor of a nuclear power station at Fukushima.

2 To quote from a BBC report on the subject: "An estimated 170,000 people have been evacuated from the area around a quake-damaged nuclear power station in north-east Japan that was hit by an explosion, the UN atomic watchdog says. A building housing a reactor was destroyed in Saturday's blast at the Fukushima No.1 plant. The authorities said the reactor itself was intact inside its steel container. The Japanese government has sought to play down fears of a meltdown at Fukushima No.1, saying that radiation levels around the stricken plant have now fallen."

3. In a separate commentary, the BBC's Environment correspondent has said: "'The term "meltdown" raises associations with two nuclear accidents in living memory: Three Mile Island in the US in 1979, and Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986. In both, excess heat in the reactor caused fuel to melt - and in the first, wider melting of the core. The question is whether the same thing has happened in Fukushima. It appears that the reactor was shut down well before any melting occurred, which should reduce considerably the risk of radioactive materials entering the environment. However, the detection of caesium isotopes outside the power station buildings could imply that the core has been exposed to the air. Although Japan has a long and largely successful nuclear power programme, officials have been less than honest about some incidents in the past, meaning that official reassurances are unlikely to convince everyone this time round. "

4. France and Japan have high reliance on nuclear power. The design and construction of nuclear power stations in Japan have always taken into account likely dangers from quakes and tremors. People, who raised questions of safety, had always been assured by the Japanese experts that there would be no dangers of an explosion or radio active leakage in case of natural disasters.

5. Their confidence in the safety of their nuclear power stations is likely to be shaken as a result of this explosion. Public opposition to the reliance on nuclear power stations could increase as a result of the explosion----particularly in Japan itself, China and even India.

6. Our conventional wisdom and assumptions regarding nuclear safety during natural and man-made disasters need to be reviewed urgently in the wake of the Japanese explosion. We can no longer be complacent thinking that everything that needs to be done to assure nuclear safety has been done and that there is nothing to worry about.

7. The Fukushima blast should not be exploited to undermine our confidence in the importance of nuclear power. At the same time, it is important to question our confidence in the adequacy of the safety measures taken till now.

8. Fukushima was the result of a natural disaster. How about the dangers of a man-caused disaster---such as some suicide terrorists forcing their way into a nuclear power station and trying to blow it up. I had in the past raised this issue in many seminars and at meetings of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and the Special Task Force for the Revamping of the Intelligence Apparatus, when I was a member of both in 2000-02. The stock answer I used to get was that our nuclear experts were aware of this danger and had taken necessary precautions. I could understand their reluctance to spell out these precautions, but it is important to revisit them urgently.

9. The Fukushima explosion should be of great concern to the whole world----not just to the Japanese people. Over-confidence in our security measures will be suicidal for the world. (13-3-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )



While wishing and hoping for a long life for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one has to mentally prepare onself to the eventuality of his being no more with us one day and think of how to keep the Tibetan cause alive after him. To talk of likely scenarios after he leaves this world should not be misinterpreted as disrespect to him.

2. One thing is certain. After the death of His Holiness, he legitimacy of his spiritual successor is going to be questioned----whether who is his re-incarnation is decided by Tibetan elders respected by their community or by surrogates of the Communist Party of China (CPC). As has happened in the case of the institution of the Panchen Lama---one has to expect a long period of contention between two Dalai Lamas, one chosen by Tibetan elders in accordance with Tibetan traditions and the selection of the other manipulated by the CPC.

3. There is bound to be a long period of vacuum in the exercise of the spiritual authority of His Holiness till the question of the legitimacy of the succession is decided and the person chosen by the Tibetan elders has completed his spiritual education and is in a position to exercise his spiritual authority.

4. During this period, the wise men of the Tibetan-Government-in Exile will have to carefully guide the Tibetan people, maintain and strengthen traditions and ensure that the Tibetan cause is not suffocated to death by the CPC by taking advantage of any confusion caused in the Tibetan community inside China as well as abroad by the death of His Holiness and the subsequent controversy that might be engineered by the CPC on the question of his succession.

5. To be able to guide the Tibetan people on the right lines and to defeat the machinations of the CPC, it is important that a political leader enjoying the confidence of His Holiness when he is still alive and commanding the respect of the people is already in position when His Holiness quits this world. It will be unwise to postpone the selection of such person till after the death of His Holiness.

6. His Holiness wears two hats----as the political and administrative head of the Tibetan people and as their spiritual head. The spiritual authority has to be exercised by His Holiness so long as he is alive. It cannot be delegated by him to anybody else.

7. But, his political and administrative authority can be delegated to someone enjoying the confidence of His Holiness and the Tibetan people even when His Holiness is alive. His Holiness will be in a position to ensure that the selection of his political and administrative successor is done in a smooth manner without causing any differences among his followers in Tibet as well as abroad.

8. This process of selecting a separate political and administrative authority by the appropriate institutions of the Tibetan community has to start now without further delay. In this context, the suggestion made by His Holiness on the 52nd anniversary of the “Tibetan Uprising Day”, which was observed by the Tibetan people all over the world on March 10,2011, that the time has come for him to hand over political authority to a freely elected leader is very wise and needs to be seriously considered by his followers. They should avoid reacting to it emotionally and rejecting it when the suggestion comes up for approval before the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.

9. They should give it serious consideration and approve it and facilitate the election of a suitable political leader enjoying the blessings of His Holiness. ( 12-3-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )