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.
BLAIR CLAIMED his New Year’s Honours list mainly honoured ordinary people. You decide-the list included:
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.
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.
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JUDGE AHAMAT ULLHA ZARIF explains justice in Afghanistan under the new government
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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
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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
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ANTHONY GIDDENS, theorist of the ‘Third Way’
The US defence department announced last week that a satellite positioning device had been found in an Afghan cave. They said the equipment was lost in Somalia in 1993. The discovery, they proclaimed, was concrete evidence at last that Bin Laden's Al Qaida network was behind the deaths of 18 US soldiers in the disastrous raid on Mogadishu.