Friday, April 27, 2012

Will Missile Makers Make Peace?

Launch of Agni-V by India
Just six days after India test-fired a long range missile, Pakistan test-fired a medium-range missile, both capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Pakistan’s military and defence personnel say that Pakistan did not conduct this test in response to India’s. Maybe, they are right. It is, perhaps, just a coincidence that the two tests happened within the same week.

But, what does it mean to the world and to Asia in particular? With nuclear powers China, Pakistan and India, not known to be very amicable with one another, is this neighbourhood getting any friendlier with this arms race?

If Agni-5, India’s long range missile, is capable of travelling distances of over 5000 kms(3100 miles) reaching as far as Beijing and Shanghai, Shaheen 1A, Pakistan’s medium range missile is capable of travelling estimated distances of 2,500 to 3,000km(1,550 to 1,850 miles) easily reaching many major Indian cities.

And soon after these tests, we hear the usual rhetoric and political correctness in the statements of all concerned. They all say the same. They are just preparing for deterrence. These weapons are all just ‘just-in-case weapons’ meant to be used only when attacked. All countries assure us of ‘no-first-use’ policy.

But, if we look at just the last half-century or more, we do not see very peaceful and responsible behaviour in the region.

Launch of Shaheen 1A by Pakistan
Three Indo-Pak wars, and one un-declared war, occurred since 1947. Kashmir was not the main issue in all, but this issue is still unresolved. One Indo-China war occurred in 1962; a war for which India had paid dearly. But the issue of Tibet is still a bone of contention between India and China, along with other factors.

Obviously, China’s capability, especially nuclear, is several times higher than what it was in 1962. And Indo-China relations do not seem promising. India and Pakistan have both become nuclear capable, and have emerged stronger, with greater weapons of mass destruction, than what they had during earlier wars. And Indo-Pak peace talks keep getting stalled for a variety of reasons.

Even treaties made do not last. In 1954, India and China signed a treaty, ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’, known in India as ‘The Panchsheel’. But did they not got to war in 1962? India and Pakistan signed the ‘Tashkent Declaration’ in 1966. But did it stop them from going to war again in 1971?

And can we have faith in our political systems that peace-dialogues between countries will make the situation to improve?

How much focus are these individual countries putting on the acceptance of talks and negotiations, as opposed to their focus on deterrence efforts, of building missiles and warheads?

How much enthusiasm do we see among the governments and opposition parties to sit, make, and approve, peace efforts with neighbours, as opposed to the enthusiasm we see with which positive steps by ruling parties are criticized, as signs of weaknesses, by the opposition?

These are questions that may not have immediate, practical answers. But these are questions that need deliberation. They must be discussed within the same halls of those hallowed parliaments where those seated have just applauded the making of these new missiles.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Did Titanic's passengers eat Oreos?

When she saw the 100th anniversary special OREO biscuit packets, in one of Bahrain’s supermarkets, my ten year daughter exclaimed excitedly, “Wow, the people on the Titanic must have tasted Oreo biscuits”!

She remembered that it was also the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic. And connected the events!

I beamed proudly at her, appreciating her general awareness and her deductive logic, wholly attributable – of course - to her parentage, from father’s side. Even, if her mother disagrees. So, smugly accepting the view of our 10 year old, I assured her that the Titanic’s passengers perhaps did. But, it had got me thinking.

As I now know that Oreo biscuits were made first in 1912, and since I already knew that RMS Titanic sank on the night between 14-15 April 1912, if my daughter’s logic has to be proved correct, the passengers of the ship should have had access to the biscuits before they started their journey.

But, there was a problem. I was not sure of the exact day when Oreo biscuits began selling.   What if Oreo biscuits were produced and sold after April 14 that year? In that case, we will have to definitely conclude that passengers onboard the ship did not taste them before they started the journey.

So, I did some scientific research into this. And, guess what? I discovered the exact date. ‘On March 6, 2012, Oreo turned 100 years young’ boasts the Nabisco website. ‘The first Oreo cookie was sold on March 6, 1912 in Hoboken, New Jersey’ says the Kraft Foods website.

So, it’s official then. Oreos were being made more than a month before the ship set sail.  And I even found out from Wikipedia that the place where they began making Oreos in 1912 was in Nabisco’s Chelsea factory in 'New York City'.

But the ship RMS Titanic which had set sail on 10 April 1912, started from Southampton, UK towards New York City, USA. Not the other way round.

Which means the biscuits should have been ‘exported’ from NY, USA across the Atlantic, to reach UK, within a month, before April 10, so that anyone travelling got a taste. That is highly improbable, given the long travelling time, and the lack of information.

So, elementary my dear friends, the passengers of Titanic could not have tasted Oreos before they started.

But, yes, there is one possibility. We cannot rule out this one thing. 713 passengers are said to have survived. Many of them settled in the USA. So, it is very much possible that some of the surviving passengers may have tasted these biscuits afterwards. 

My daughter’s logic could be right in a way.