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* The Swiss-based middleman in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, Guido Haschke, has reportedly confessed to Italian authorities that he had met the then air force chief, S.P. Tyagi, a number of times, discussed with him the technical specifications for the contract and passed on part of his "commission" to Tyagi's cousins in Delhi ('Key middleman's confession: Met ex-IAF Chief S P Tyagi 6-7 times', IE, February 14). Tyagi, for his part, seems keen to pass the buck, saying the NDA government had changed vital technical requirements, which helped pass the helicopter deal ('Tech benchmark changed during NDA rule: Tyagi,' IE, February 14). While it is necessary to find out the truth and let the law take its course, it is also important to let the military authorities have their say in the decision-making process in order to avoid such controversies.
* THIS refers to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray's comment that migrants from other states should have their hands cut off if found guilty of crimes ('Raj Thackeray only provides free entertainment, should take up mimicry: Congress, NCP', IE, February 13). It raises questions about the limits to freedom of speech in a democracy like ours. If people like Thackeray, Akbaruddin Owaisi and Praveen Togadia have the licence to make such inflammatory comments, it could be deeply damaging to our democracy. In the past, Maharashtra has had great leaders who brought much progress to the state. But the tirades of the Shiv Sena and the MNS have robbed the state of some of its sheen.
Eye on Kabul
* APROPOS the editorial 'Vacating Afghanistan' ( IE, February 14), Barack Obama's state of the union address reflects his eagerness to balance the demands of political opinion within the country with troop requirements in Afghanistan. US withdrawal from Afghanistan is necessary if the country's government is to be self-sustaining. The presence of American forces in Afghanistan has infused stability in the region and provided the manpower to combat the al-Qaeda. Now, Obama's plans to train the Afghan forces augur well for the security of the common man in that country. A rapid US withdrawal could have an adverse impact, especially given the presence of militancy in the eastern part of the country.