TONY BLAIR may have tried to present himself as a peacemaker on his recent trip to India and Pakistan. But two forthcoming official events in the region, supported by Blair's government, will fuel the conflict.
From 19 to 23 February the British High Commission in Delhi is hosting a jamboree of arms manufacturers from the Defence Manufacturers' Association. They are trying to sell weapons at the Defexpo arms fair. And from 18 to 22 February the British High Commission is also playing host to another group of arms traders-the Society of British Aerospace Companies. The brochure for Defexpo boasts that on sale will be 'anti-aircraft guns, armour/anti-armour, artillery, howitzers and components, infantry combat vehicles, missiles and missile systems, ordnance, pyrotechnics, small arms, ammunition and tanks'.
The organisers are as pleased as punch with the business opportunities the conflicts over Kashmir and in Afghanistan have opened up. They happily report 'a substantial increase in annual defence outlay across the region.
'In view of such developments, the introduction of an event like Defexpo India, which, timed perfectly with the prevailing circumstances, only further acknowledged this fact.' Ministry of Defence agency the Defence Export Sales Organisation, set up to sell British-made weapons abroad, has also targeted India and Pakistan. Both are on its list of 22 countries which 'have been identified as highly valuable priority markets'.
Arms exports to India were booming even before these events. BAe was confident this week of selling £1 billion of Hawk jets to India following lobbying by British officials during Tony Blair's trip.
...for they'll receive a gong
BLAIR CLAIMED his New Year's Honours list mainly honoured ordinary people. You decide-the list included:
- Major General Alan Sharman, who runs arms manufacturers' lobby group the Defence Manufacturers' Association, CBE.
- Peter McLoughlin, government affairs director of British Aerospace-the firm behind the recent bid to sell a military air traffic system to Tanzania, OBE.
- BAe arms salesman Brian Tucker, OBE.
- Richard Case from Westland, MBE.
- Alex Dorrian, in charge of British relations for French arms firm Thales, CBE.
- Keith Fullager, technical director at Rolls-Royce's military business, OBE.
- Derek Turnball, a top manager at Vickers, OBE.
- Lionel Steel, international sales manager for armoured car makers Alvis, MBE.
- Valerie Gooding, chief executive of private health firm BUPA, CBE.
- Alan Craig, executive director of leading PFI firm Babtie, OBE.
- Bob Eagle, the man who is in charge of the hated voucher system and dispersal system for asylum seekers, CBE.
- Tony Depledge, the development director of Arriva, the company rail workers in the north of England have been fighting against. It was recently fined £2 million by the Strategic Rail Authority after cutting hundreds of train services. He got an OBE for 'services to public transport'.
Cash for no questions
A LABOUR MP revealed last week how far the government will go to dodge criticism. Norwich North MP Ian Gibson was preparing to challenge Tony Blair in parliament about the dire beds crisis at his local hospital, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
It is one of the government's flagship PFI schemes. The hospital has been open for 26 weeks, but several wards have still not been finished.
The government promised an extra £200,000 for the hospital just hours before he was due to ask the question. The money was dependent on the MP not asking the question.
Flame grilled morale boost
HAS YOUR boss ever tried to get you and your workmates to go on a 'bonding' course? Management may present such outings as a 'fluffy' exercise designed to improve staff relations.
A dozen workers from Burger King's marketing department were sent on such a course in Florida recently. The workers were forced to walk over white hot coals as part of the bonding session.
One woman had to be taken to hospital with her injuries, and Burger King had to bring in a doctor to treat the other workers whose feet were blistered.
HOW many ways can you think of to tell the difference between a grain of salt and a grain of sugar?
Stumped? Well, you would be in danger of failing a job interview in the US. Bosses there have come up with what they call 'the stupid question' to try to humiliate job applicants at a time of rising unemployment. Peter Ross, a salesman in Boston, says he was asked the salt and sugar question in an attempt to throw him off balance.
The 'stupid question' technique was pioneered by computer software giant Microsoft.
Things they say
'THE Taliban used to hang the victim's body in public for four days. We will only hang the body for a short time, say 15 minutes, after a public execution.'
JUDGE AHAMAT ULLHA ZARIF explains justice in Afghanistan under the new government
'COMPANIES come and go. It's part of the genius of capitalism.'
US Treasury secretary PAUL O'NEILL on the collapse of Enron
'IF the RMT continue to treat people like cattle, they should expect a kick.'
Sir KEN JACKSON, head of the AMICUS union (formerly AEEU and MSF), attacking the rail strikes on South West Trains
'Somalia comes up as a possible candidate for Al Qaida people to flee to because the government is weak or non-existent.'
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, US deputy defence secretary
'PLANS TO topple Saddam Hussein by the US are a Bay of Goats.'
ANTONY ZINNI, retired general and Bush's envoy to the Middle East
'THIS president cannot afford to do anything in Iraq unless there's a 100 percent guarantee of success. If he goes in and fails he would destroy his own legacy, and that of his father.'
JUDITH KIPPER, expert on Iraq
'Safety was sacrificed for the dominant demands of management to keep trains running at all costs and thus to support the profitability of the system.'
JUDGE JOHN SAMUELS on London Underground health and safety breaches
'LABOUR has cemented a good relationship with business. It has done little, however, to curb irresponsible business activity or corporate profiteering.'
ANTHONY GIDDENS, theorist of the 'Third Way'