Letters To The Magazine

A Goliath of Indian Industry Awesome! Your cover story on the goliath of Indian industry, Mukesh Ambani, has served to inspire all progressive Indians with a newfound sense of capability and empowerment ("India's Mister Big," July 17). With a role model like him, we believe that if he can, why not us? Ambani has shifted the spotlight to the individual and has reversed the role of government. He has shown that planning is not just for government but individuals too. Indeed, he has made the government his partner. His company, Reliance Industries, has seized the opportunity and delivered the goods. He has dared to dream big dreams, while others saw only nightmares. Detractors, critics and pessimists harp on the pitfalls but, at the end of the day, who has employed more people, provided more opportunity and, in a fiercely competitive world, helped India not only to awake but to succeed?

George Fonseca

Mumbai, India

In Mukesh Ambani, India's burgeoning billion people, most of them farmers, are seeing hope of lasting prosperity. Ambani has emerged credibly successful because he has focused on the core areas that need betterment so badly in India. His emphasis on farming is appreciated in a country where agriculture is the occupation of the majority.

K. Chidanand Kumar

Bangalore, India

Mukesh Ambani may be right in assuming, from the business point of view, that his proposed endeavors in rural areas would give a fillip to agriculture and generate rural employment. However, given the current imbalances in India's agriculture planning, it would not be prudent to expect a dramatic change in the plight of the Indian farmer any time soon. Some years back, cash crops caught the fancy of Indian farmers and they invested in them on a very large scale. Then drought in some parts of the country and excessive rains in other parts, coupled with high debts, soured the dream. Many tragic and alarming cases of suicide have come to light now. With no proper government policy in place, Indian agriculture is in a perpetual state of decline. In such a situation, the odds seem to be stacked against the success of any big business ventures based on nothing other than agricultural inputs.

R. K. Sudan

Jammu, India

In reference to your cover story about Mukesh Ambani, I found your statement "about half of Indian homes do not have electricity" to be very amusing indeed. When will the Western media give up these outrageous stereotypes about India? We are neither an exotic country of snake charmers nor a backward country without electricity.

G. Balaji

via internet

I am not defending the alleged killings in Haditha, but, sadly, I think I can understand them ("Probing a Bloodbath," June 12). After all, Iraqis do far worse to their own countrymen every day, carrying their outrages to ever-newer heights of savagery. Students going to exams are marched off buses and murdered in cold blood for belonging to the wrong sect; mosques, markets and restaurants are bombed; people are tortured. We have a few soldiers who, allegedly, lost it after their buddies and other soldiers were killed. For those who have forgotten or never knew their history, the Allies killed more than 30,000 in the firebombing of Dresden in WWII, and for no direct military reason. Abuses and violations of the laws of war have occurred in every armed conflict in human history, regardless of how well led or disciplined the troops involved were. Indeed, by the standards of past conflicts, U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have behaved in exemplary fashion, using force in combat with unprecedented precision, minimizing collateral damage and civilian deaths.

A. Fine

San Francisco, California

It was chilling to read the victims' accounts of what happened at Haditha. For the sake of the Marines allegedly involved and our country's reputation, I hope it all proves to be untrue. However, I was disturbed to learn that this was the third tour of duty in Iraq for this particular unit. One tour of duty can result in such severe posttraumatic stress disorder that an individual may need to be sent home. It is hard to imagine the mental trauma the Marines on their third tour must be experiencing and how it affects their sanity. I believe a draft is necessary to lessen the burden of our troops. True or not, events like those at Haditha would be less common if more Americans helped shoulder the weight.

William W. Bruzzo

Orange, California

In "What's Wrong With Russia " (July 17), you say, "What a change from a decade ago," charging Putin's Russia with backsliding on the advances made in the 1990s. This premise ignores the fact that Boris Yeltsin's Russia was a time of chaos and corruption, led by criminal oligarchs who seized power and riches. In many ways, rolling back from the Yeltsin years should be seen as a positive development. As someone who has made more than 100 trips to Russia in the past 15 years, I can testify that this country has made breathtaking progress on the way to freedom and prosperity. This opinion is shared by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who recently commented that Russian leadership today rules "sensibly and [is] ever more forward-thinking." Under Putin, personal incomes have realized average increases of more than 12 percent, and 7 million fewer Russians live in poverty today than in 2003. Perhaps people aren't "interested in climbing up on barricades anymore" because their lives are more comfortable and safe. There are some troubling trends, and everyone should push Russia to ensure greater democracy and transparency. But by ignoring the progress that has taken place, you leave readers with an unfair, distorted view of Russia today.

Edward Lozansky,

President

American University in Moscow

Moscow, Russia

As a two-decade subscriber to NEWSWEEK, I could hardly believe my eyes while reading "What's Wrong With Russia." I have never seen more narrow-minded, biased journalism. Besides using pictures of shantytowns to represent St. Petersburg--one of the most beautiful cities in the world--the authors repeatedly come to the wrong conclusion that the real issue at the recent G8 summit was what Russia might be: democracy, kleptocracy or something in between. Yes, there are many reasons to worry about democracy in Russia, but there are also other issues that should have been addressed when the G8 summit was discussed. Russia is not a debt-afflicted state anymore. Its federal reserves are more than $300 billion today. Russia owns the world's largest gas reserves, and its oil reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia's. When it comes to skyrocketing oil prices and the predictable shortcomings in the world's energy supply in the near future, Russia will become a major player on the global stage.

Zsolt Szeremy

Tata, Hungary

How could NEWSWEEK run a story on Russia today without reflecting on American "democracy"? A comparison would offer striking similarities. Vladimir Putin's dictatorial practices are being exposed when a federal court tells George W. Bush that he is using power unlawfully in the name of fighting terror. The Kremlin appoints trusted men in key industrial positions; in America, big business largely determines the presidential election--and its favors are returned by lucrative contracts. Russia stopped selling energy to Ukraine at favorable prices after the latter decided to move into the Western camp. America makes use of information on all financial transactions by banks around the world, and threatens to boycott these institutions if they become involved in financial transfers to the democratically elected Palestinian government. There is one striking difference: Russia is trying to put its house in order; America wants to dominate the world. Where does the European Union figure in this picture? There aren't many differences, except that we're more like a satellite of the American administration. We need to put our house in order, too, and stick to independent stances on issues of justice and human rights before we get caught up in more American-created turmoil with Israel in the Middle East.

Leopold Vansina

Korbeek-lo, Belgium

Your article "What's wrong with Russia" gives a negative, one-sided view of Vladimir Putin's rule. This correlates alarmingly well with George W. Bush's lashing out at Putin at the G8 summit about Russia's not being democrat-ic enough--as if Bush would dare to address this topic after his military-dictated version of "democracy" in Iraq. At the core of the article's negativity, through clever manipulation of visual images and sources of information, lie the same concerns of the Bush administration: oil resources and who controls what, this time in Russia. Under Putin's rule, Russian oil, banks and industries are mainly under Russian control. It must be frustrating to Bush that the chances of an American monopoly in Russia are thus very slim.

Deborah Barnard

Stellenbosch, South Africa

The article "What's Wrong with Russia" is misleading. It is not true that "drink-and-cigarette kiosks have been bulldozed, without compensation for the owners." They were dismantled because they were selling illegal booze and people were getting sick from it. To quote rights activist Daniil Kotsubinsky as saying "Now [St. Petersburg is] one of the most corrupt, criminal and fascist cities in Europe" is to state a personal opinion with no concrete evidence, similar to my opinion that Bush is an idiot. It is true that "authorities are turning a blind eye to a nasty rise in hate crimes." St. Petersburg has had several incidences of such crimes. However, these are isolated events. In general, people are good and friendly. Many of my American (as well as Arab and Ethiopian) friends have visited St. Petersburg. They were impressed with this city.

Alexandre Chakhnovski

St. Petersburg, Russia

In an interesting and well-balanced article, Anatol Lieven and Rajan Menon present "A Plan for Afghanistan" (July 31). However, they make both a factual and analytic mistake in their introductory paragraph, where they misreport President Hamid Karzai as saying that Afghanistan will keep asking for more and more U.S. troops to face the Taliban threat. During a recent visit by the U.S. secretary of Defense to Kabul, President Karzai and the secretary attended a joint press conference where the president was asked whether Afghanistan would want the United States to help more. He replied: "If the question is whether we still need American assistance, very, very much; whether we still need the American assurance, very, very much; whether we still need American participation, very strongly." And he added: "Yes, much more, and we will keep asking for more, and we will never stop asking." I wish to clarify that President Karzai, when asking for continued help, was addressing U.S. assistance in the wider sense, not just an American military presence in our country. Today Afghanistan is facing many challenges, and the security issue is but one of them. Terrorist violence in Afghanistan emanates from a wide range of factors including external influences, weakness of our security institutions, drug-related interests and economic underdevelopment, particularly in the southern provinces. To address this threat comprehensively we would depend on continued American assistance on all these fronts, not just the military front.

Jawed Ludin, Chief of Staff

Office of the President

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan

As a regular reader of NEWSWEEK, I found "Islam in Office" (July 3/July 10) especially interesting and informative. According to your coverage, in recent years some 500 Islamic banks have emerged in the gulf states alone, and Gordon Brown, the British chancellor of the Exchequer, wants to make London the global center for Islamic finance. I would add that Muslims are suffering enormously at the hands of others, including some of their own zealots. Yet if the current trends continue, Muslims could eventually owe a special title of distinction to George W. Bush for his unparalleled services rendered to Islam.

Asif H. Kazi

Lahore, Pakistan

Stephen Glain writes, "Ten Arab countries (Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait and Pakistan) ... " But Morocco, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan have nothing in common with Arab countries except religion. If Glain does not make even this distinction, how can the reader be sure that the rest of the article is accurate?

Kaya Günday

Berlin, Germany

While I agree with everything Glain has written, he does himself a disservice by billing non-Arab countries as Arab. Having Turkish and Pakistani heritage, I can confidently declare that these two countries are neither Arab nor Arabic-speaking. Had you called them Muslim or Muslim-majority countries, you would have been accurate. Additionally, Iranians may not take kindly to being called Arab. It is equivalent to calling an American a Canadian. Otherwise, a good job on an interesting piece. Such articles show the practical nature of the religion along with the accomplishments of some of its greatest thinkers, even if we have to contrast these with the caliphate-obsessed agenda of the über -right-wingers of many Muslim countries.

Kamal T. Pirzada

chicago, illinois

Your claim that Jewish scripture does not address commerce is inaccurate. The Torah does discuss business practices, and the Talmud discusses commerce in painstaking detail.

Adam Singer

Via internet

In "Bound to the Tracks" (July 17), we said Golmud was the capital of China's Qinghai province. In fact, the capital is Xining.

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