Sunday, 27 November 2016

Trump wisely spares Hillary (Pakistan Observer)

November 27, 2016 | 
Geopolitical notes from India | M D Nalapat

PRESIDENT-elect of the United States Donald John Trump has indicated that he would not be appointing a Special Prosecutor to seek the incarceration of Hillary Rodham Clinton, his Democratic Party challenger in the Presidential sweepstakes. This decision will annoy several of his most loyal supporters, most of whom were energized by the prospect of the former First Lady being sent to jail. However, from a pragmatic point of view, Donald Trump has taken the correct call. A prosecutorial investigation and possible indictment of Hillary Clinton would take at least ten months, and is likely to have dominated the news cycle for much of that period.

The resulting hubbub would be a severe distraction from President Trump's own agenda, thereby diluting the possibility of shepherding the basket of policies through the legislature. In particular, because the investigation would develop into a partisan circus which would further poison relations between the White House and the Democratic Party. Although the charges against the former Secretary of State and the Clinton Foundation are serious, the fact remains that donations to the latter were made through cheque and not through envelopes stuffed with cash. Proving a judicially verifiable link between decisions taken by the State Department and foreign donations to the Foundation would be a difficult task. Certainly Foggy Bottom ( as the Department of State is evocatively referred to) pandered to the whims and geopolitical fantasies of states such as Qatar, China and Saudi Arabia.

However, it was usually not an outlier in such policies vis-a-vis the rest of the Obama Administration but part of a pack heading in the same direction. Importantly, almost always other NATO member-states endorsed the same policies, especially in matters relating to the Arab Spring and its aftermath. The Clinton Foundation may have opportunistically sought to cash in on policies already worked out within the bureaucracy, but only in a very few instances was it the initiator of policy, and this often at the level of the individual. Shrewd businessperson that he is, Donald Trump has apparently decided not to continue to invest time and effort on a Clinton prosecution but to direct his attention towards matter of greater concern to the United States as a whole, rather than to the small group of Clinton-phobic individuals who are unhappy at his decision to give Hillary Clinton a pass on the charges made against his defeated challenger.

By doing so, Trump has strengthened his image of pragmatism and created significantly greater distance between himself and a perception of vindictiveness of the kind that led President George W Bush to finish off Saddam Hussein at a crippling cost to the US. For Bush Junior, wrecking both an entire country as well as much of the US economy was an acceptable price to pay for getting rid of an individual who tried to get his beloved Pappy ( George H W Bush) assassinated. What President Trump needs is a cellphone configured to ensure that his tweets flow only to a limited number of intimates, ideally only Melania and Ivanka. Both the incoming First Lady as well as the First Daughter have conducted themselves with style. With her charming accent and expressed dislike of bad behaviour, Melania Trump boosted the voting tally for her husband on November 8.

Unlike Jackie Kennedy, who loved the spotlight while professing to hate the attention, the spouse of a very strong-willed personality clearly has qualities that have enabled her to weather what must on occasion be a stormy life with an individual who is both passionately admired and hated, sometimes by the same audience. Hopefully the new First Lady will use the moral power that will soon be hers to push for policies that assist the poor, especially children. Although the biggest economy in the world, the US is far less caring of its needy citizens than any of its major European partners, or indeed countries such as Kuwait and Taiwan. Despite Obamacare, the Big Pharma lobby in the US has combined with the Doctors Mafia to ensure the most expensive healthcare system in the world, and which despite the money lavished on it, is uncaring of the poor.

Correctly, President-elect Trump has gone public about his intention to preserve some of the features of the Affordable Health Act while tweaking or sometimes removing other sections. This sets him apart from Ted Cruz, who is a fundamentalist in his political beliefs and therefore regards compromise as a weakness. At the same time, Trump refuses to hide his views, even when they may lose him votes. An example is the way he distanced himself from the views of Mike Pence on Russia. The next Vice-President of the US embraces the Beltway at least in his foreign policy outlook, and joined in the baying against Moscow. For this, he was publicly contradicted by Trump, who insisted that he would seek a genuine reset in relations with Moscow rather than follow the Paris-London line of hostility to Vladimir Putin. This sets him apart from Senator Marco Rubio, who follows the Clinton playbook of adopting positions that are popular with the audiences which are being wooed.

Donald Trump has the confidence to remain himself, which is why the surprise within the Washington Beltway at his choices is inexplicable save for the fact that the denizens of this privileged state of mind have dismissed him as an intellectual lightweight without a complete analysis of the man. It is clear that incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is focussing mainly on "unifying" the party. Such a stand neglects the reality that voters opted for change and not continuity. From such a viewpoint, it would be senseless to appoint Mitt Romney as Secretary of State, for the man hates Trump. Far better to send him to the prestigious post of Ambassador to the UK. Choosing an envoy of such eminence would ensure that the globe understand that the special relationship between the US and the UK will be continued by a President Trump.

Given that a war on terror is ongoing, the historical parallel of the 1939-45 war against Germany needs to be remembered. Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent Lord Halifax as envoy to Washington in a gesture towards a crucial relationship. In like fashion, sending Romney to London would be a geopolitical gesture of significance, as would asking Representative Tulsi Gabbard to serve as US envoy to India. The former US Marine Corps member has developed significant traction within the ruling establishment in India, and could play a key role in ensuring a full scope alliance between Washington and Delhi during the Trump presidency. Trump's choice of a brilliant neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, as Housing & Urban Development Secretary, is inspired. Dr Carson can be expected to visualize and to implement cutting edge strategies for ensuring that the deterioration in infrastructure in the US be reversed at a reasonable cost.

As for Trump's family, they will be aware of the fact that while the patriarch of the clan has forgiven Hillary Clinton, the Clinton machine may be expected to keep up the pressure on Trump. Indeed, with Paul Ryan ( who has the same distaste for President-elect Trump as Mitt Romney) remaining the Speaker of the House of Representatives in another Reince Priebus-inspired. gesture of reconciliation between the old Republican establishment and new that is getting formed around Trump, there will be more than a few within the House of Representatives looking for an opportunity to impeach Donald Trump and place Mike Pence inside the White House.

Presidential candidates usually avoid such possible power plays by ensuring that their running mates are far less popular and indeed toxic. However, a confident in himself Trump chose the affable Pence, who has friends across the board in the Washington Beltway swamp who would be delighted were he to take over from the individualistic Trump. Given determination and qualities of next President of the US, it is likely that he will overcome the snares and traps placed in his way and emerge as a transformational leader. In his family, Trump has a group of able and loyal individuals not seeking official positions, and they too seem capable of batting away darts already being aimed their way.

Friday, 18 November 2016

NATO is ‘fighting’ Daesh by committee (Pakistan Observer)

November 18, 2016 | Geopolitical notes from India | M D Nalapat

IF the humbling of the European country of Serbia through bombing raids be excluded, NATO has not won a single war since its inception, and has indeed lost every conflict it has entered into, especially since 1999. Of course, perusing books by trans-Atlantic "scholars" or television channels from that and affiliated zones, this fact gets obscured by coverage that is misleading and mendacious. Channels taking their cue from government sources, such as CNN or BBC, lead in giving viewers only what the chancelleries of the countries they are based in want them to see. They have, in effect, become an external publicity cell of the State Department in the US or the Foreign Office in the UK, although the fiction that these countries have a free press is mentioned by them and by their admirers repeatedly when comparing such media to those in the target countries of NATO.

If media in Russia is overwhelmingly on the side of Basher Assad in the Syrian war, to take an example, the media in the US or the UK has been overwhelmingly mobilised in favour of the "moderate fighters" battling Assad, almost all of whom are Wahabi and share that sect's distaste for European civilisation, although for tactical reasons, such an opinion is being kept hidden from view while the flow of assistance from NATO and its regional partners in the Middle East continues. In early 2011, this columnist warned that the fighters challenging Muammar Qaddafi in Libya were Wahabi ultras. This view was based on an analysis of the literature and speeches of some of the leaders of the NATO-backed revolt. Almost entirely, such tracts were filled with bile against Qaddafi but the reasons given for the same were not the absence of democracy in Libya or Qaddafi 's verbal sallies against US and its European allies.

The reasons these "moderate freedom fighters" of Libya gave for their antipathy to Qaddafi was the latter's refusal to convert Libya into a Wahabized State by blocking the education of women and making what they defined as religious law the basis of the jurisprudence of the State, stoning and amputation included. Many of the tracts used violent language to describe not only the regime in Tripoli but the trans-Atlantic partners as well. Clearly, neither the many speeches nor the pamphlets the "moderate freedom fighters" penned were taken seriously by NATO, else it would have been obvious what the future of Libya under the control of Wahabi militia would be. These fighters have defeated NATO by ensuring that the country over which they have near-total control has become an incubator for Daesh and a funnel through which hundreds of thousands seek entry into Europe. After the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1919, the 2011 "Arab Spring" gave NATO the illusion that the alliance could once again establish control over the Arab "street" through its control of social media platforms.

A telephone call to Palo Alto or to Seattle ensures that web filters get redone so as to generate kind of news and (mis)information that NATO regards as helpful to its objectives. There was recently a mock fight between Apple and US authorities about access to a phone belonging to a terrorist. A flood of media reports appeared that claimed that the US corporation was defying even the FBI "in order to protect privacy of owner" of each of handheld phones marketed by that company. Intention behind this imaginary fight was to ensure that buyers of such phones believed that Apple would protect their privacy. The reality is that each transaction on such instruments is open to scrutiny by US authorities, as indeed are transactions on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Hotmail, Yahoo and other platforms based within NATO alliance. Of course, platforms based in China have an even greater transparency to local authorities, as do others based in Russia.

What is noteworthy is that the NATO powers claim that their practices are different, when in reality only their "message spin" is. The Chinese or the Russians do not bother to conceal their access to modern methods of social interface and communications the way NATO does, even while it ensures the exile of an Edward Snowden or a Julian Assange, neither of whom would have become a fugitive had the US and Australia enforced the principle of freedom of speech.

Given the anger within intelligence agencies in the US about the way in which Bill and Hillary Clinton have traded access to decisions for cash, it would not be surprising if it were discovered that Wikileaks indirectly got its evidence against Hillary Clinton from intelligence agencies much closer to home than Russia's Federal Security Bureau. Given the anti-Trump bias of the US media, it was not surprising that much of the media commentary about the episode concerned the origin of the documents rather than the truths they revealed about a campaign fixated on no other ideal than power. Those who were heartened by Donald Trump's following the example of Churchill and Roosevelt in focussing on the prime threat rather than dissipating energies in subsequent conflicts were taken aback when General Flynn, who is billed as his closest national security advisor, made remarks about Turkey that ignore the reality of the situation in that country.

Some of Flynn's paid consultancies influenced this lack of realism about a country where Daesh has been mutating, thereby diverting him from the steely realism of Candidate (now President-elect) Trump. It is a disgrace that Mosul and Raqqa have yet to be captured by NATO forces, a setback explainable only by the way in which that alliance is hitting at Daesh with one arm and nourishing its warriors with the other, of course under a different label. The problem with NATO is that the alliance lacks a single focus but is instead driven by a cluster of agendas, some mutually exclusive.

The consequence is a mishmash of policy, the exact nature of which depends on which faction within the alliance has the advantage over the others at that particular time. They are seeking to fight Daesh by committee, not the best way to wage a war. President Abraham Lincoln prolonged the US civil war by at least a year because of his refusal to replace incompetent commanders in time and to enforce clear priorities rather than seek to mediate between rivals. And it is on the issue on which he was resolute, the Emancipation Proclamation, that he has earned a place of honour in human history. Unfortunately for the war on potentially the most destructive terror force in the world, NATO is showing in its battle with the scourge the same vacillation and misreading of ground realities that it has demonstrated in past conflicts, all of which it has in effect lost.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Sanders should be US Senate Minority leader (Pakistan Observer)

 | M D Nalapat
AS predicted in these columns in July 2015, Donald Trump has defeated Hillary Clinton in the US Presidential elections. But for the manipulations indulged in by the Clinton political machine, it would have been Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who challenged the billionaire for the world's top job. Sanders would have had a much better chance than Clinton to defeat Trump, in that the millions of unemployed and under-employed who voted for the Republican candidate on November 8 would mostly have remained loyal to the Democratic Party ticket.

The Clintons have become too smug and too obviously wealthy to gain the loyalty of those who have seen their lifestyles plummet since the 2008 financial crash caused by Wall Street. And as this column has often pointed out, the Clinton Foundation has become a vehicle for patronage, its primary utility being as a vehicle for the political ambitions of Hillary Clinton and the extravagant lifestyle of Bill Clinton, whose penchant for travel in corporate jets and stays in luxury hotels began while he was Governor of Arkansas a quarter century ago. The tab for a significant share of such travels gets picked up by the Foundation, which markets itself as a saviour of the underprivileged. The Clintons were certainly close to impoverishment for years, but that was before he took office as Governor of Arkansas and later as President of the United States. Since then, both he and his wife are millionaires several times over, while daughter Chelsea is married to one of the richer families of New York.

Those in contact with the Clintons say that it has been Bill's ambition to launch his telegenic and gifted daughter into politics, but that this had to be put on hold because of the hunger for the US Presidency of Hillary Although reliable figures are difficult to come by in view of the secrecy maintained by the Clintons, it is estimated that $ 608 million was spent on the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, which began in 2013, including money spent on securing the nomination. Cash has flowed in from multiple sources, and this must now be seen as a dead investment, in view of the fact that the Democratic Party has lost the White House while remaining a minority in both the US Senate as well as in the House of Representatives.

To Hillary's credit, even though such a step may have been politically advantageous in a close election, she refused to oblige Both Hillary and Bill Clinton are certain to remain the most powerful couple within the Democratic Party, even more so than Michelle and Barack Obama. The current President and First Lady of the United States lost a considerable amount of respect and goodwill in the final weeks of the campaign, when it seemed as though they were at Hillary's beck and call. Seemingly to the neglect of his awesome official responsibilities, Barack Obama criss-crossed the nation begging people to vote for Hillary Clinton. Whether by accident or design, the Clinton campaign showcased the couple with an African-American context, believing that the Obama would be able to generate a firewall of black votes in crucial states that were expected to win the contest for Hillary Clinton.

The reality is that President Obama has run the government in a neutral way and not as a representative of the African-American community, although that is the ethnicity to which he belongs. As it happened, although citizens of every colour – brown, yellow, white and black – flocked to listen to one of the most charismatic individuals on the planet, a much fewer number were enthused about Hillary Clinton, whose husband as US President introduced changes in the justice system which resulted in several hundred thousand African-Americans going to jail, often for long periods of time. At the same time, others were put off by the spectacle of their popular President and the First Lady (who has the elegance of a fashion model and the looks of a filmstar) serving almost as hired hands of Clintons, going from place to place at their bidding.

During the campaign, Obama lowered the dignity of his office by indulging in partisan politics on a scale never before seen in US elections, and that too, making the most personal and derogatory remarks about an individual who was on the road to being his successor Apart from Barack Obama, another individual tarnished by the campaign is Bernie Sanders. Although he had repeatedly pledged to take the battle for the nomination up to the Nominating Convention floor, he retreated and emerged instead as an admirer of Hillary Clinton. Together with the Obama, the Clinton political machine sent Sanders across the country to seek votes for Hillary, but the extravagant way in which he praised a candidate whom he knew to be close to Wall Street turned off several followers.

The same fate befell Senator Elizabeth Warren, who acted as a Clinton surrogate despite her idealism and the knowledge that Hillary Clinton was in league with interests that Senator Warren had courageously and consistently opposed. Now that Hillary has been defeated, both Sanders and Warren are left with very little leverage to fulfil their wishes in the matter of public welfare, unless Bernie Sanders bids for the post of Minority Leader of the US Senate. Should he take over this position, the New Yorker who has spent a lifetime in the service of the underprivileged may be able to have a potent influence on policy, or at least be able to challenge decisions of the Trump White House much more strongly than as a lone voice.

Hillary Clinton may not approve, but the reality is that Bernie Sanders is the fittest candidate to serve as Senate Minority Leader. Should a Sanders associate become the House of Representatives Minority Leader as well, the pair would be a formidable force in Washington. Senator Sanders has walked away from a fight before, that with Hillary Clinton over the Democratic Party nomination, and that retreat had disastrous consequences for his party. Will he have the will to wrest the leadership of the Senate and House for himself and an associate? Should he do so, the Sanders revolution will endure in the ashes of the Clinton Presidential flameout.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Hillary’s ‘Russia card’ fails to convince (Pakistan Observer)

SPEAKER of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan seems from his recent actions to be among the overwhelming majority of politicians who have a single objective : their own progress in politics and in other fields. At a time when his own Republican Party nominee Donald John Trump was closing in on Hillary Clinton in the polls, Ryan sought to fatally weaken the Trump campaign by declaring that he was opposed to the party’s Presidential nominee. Had he whispered this change of mind to his wife in private, and used the anonymity of voting to cast his vote for Hillary Clinton, many within the Republican Party may have even sympathised with Ryan.
The front line of Hillary Clinton’s party is united in working for her, so much so that the Democratic Party candidate is able to order President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama to visit those states where her campaign staff believe that reinforcement is needed. Their visits are given huge dollops of publicity by the media simply because of the posts they hold for the next two months. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent by the Clinton campaign to portray Donald Trump as unsuitable for the most important job in the world, even more so than the second most consequential post, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The Clinton campaign has been given significant traction by a friendly media, with CNN, ABS, NBC as well as key newspapers acting as cheerleaders for the Democratic Party candidate and competing with each other to pour abuse on Donald Trump.
It must be admitted that the Clinton spin is rendered more effective by the clumsy response of the Trump campaign to them. Not once has Donald Trump pointed out, for instance, that it would be a simple matter for Huma Abedin to release her own emails rather than demand that the FBI do so, while being fully aware that this will not happen before the elections take place. The most ludicrous allegation is that Donald Trump is in some way beholden to Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Republic. Apart from those already opposed to the Republican nominee, few will believe such a nonsensical charge. Had Donald Trump been a foreign agent, the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security would have stepped in to brief the voting public in the US about this. They would certainly not have kept silent about a “foreign agent” being in competition to lead government of their country.
Certainly some within the Trump camp – or who were there in the past – have been involved in business dealings with Russian entities, but so has John Podesta (the Clinton campaign chairman) and Bill Clinton himself, who has accepted speaking fees from entities linked to Moscow, as indeed he has from others linked to numerous countries, including some in the subcontinent. The effort to link Trump to Putin has thus far had little impact, in large part because today’s Russia is far from the USSR before Mikhail Gorbachev took over and began the Gorbachev-Yeltsin era of Moscow acting as a poodle of Washington, a status that got briefly (albeit in a diluted manner) revived when Dmitry Medvedev was elected President because of the backing of Vladimir Putin. However, the former KGB operative is a nationalist through and through, and has been following a Russia First policy during much of the time that he has been Head of State, especially during his second innings in the job.
Of course, it is becoming more apparent that Hillary Clinton (or her advisors) are setting course for a limited conflict with Russia. This, they calculate, will achieve two goals (a) weaken Russia’s global standing, especially in the Mideast and (b) serve as a lesson to the more powerful rival of NATO, China, as to the consequences of going against its diktat the Way Xi Jinping has in the nearly four years that he has thus far led the Peoples Republic of China. The likely theatres for such a conflict include the East and South China seas and Middle East, with Taiwan straits figuring behind these two in extent of probability of a conflict involving air and sea power but not land forces, in view of NATO’s repeated missteps in ground warfare. Such a “Clinton’s War” would be a hugely disruptive exercise on global economy, and is likely to have consequences beyond those that have been calculated by its protagonists.
In the 1939-45 war, Adolf Hitler was assured by the foreign policy experts that he consulted that it was safe to go to war against Poland in 1939, as neither the UK or France were likely to take the step of declaring war on Germany as a consequence. However, within days of the brutal invasion of that country by Hitler, both London and Paris declared war on Berlin, although subsequently doing little to contain the German war machine until the next year, when it invaded and occupied France and much of West Europe. The next year, Hitler made one of the three mistakes which cost him the war, which was to invade USSR.
The other two mistakes were to go slow on the development of the atomic bomb and its delivery systems until 1943, and to commit genocide against the Jewish community, which had the highest per capita brainpower in Germany and which had played a significant part in ensuring with complete (if somewhat misplaced) patriotism that Germany lasted nearly five years against its powerful foes during 1914-19 before surrendering. For the Clintons as for Trump, winning is everything. For the Democratic Party candidate, even implicitly accusing the security services of the US of conniving with Moscow against her is worthwhile in the cause of the couple winning the White House for a third time. Soon, the ballot box will reveal whether the smear has worked or has failed to stop Donald Trump in his march towards the Oval Office.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Supreme Court is right on bank NPAs (Sunday Guardian)

Banks in India have historically kept details of loans secret from the public. This has been justified on numerous grounds, including that of “privacy”. While such considerations may be understandable in a social situation involving private individuals above the age of consent, they are not so in cases where those who borrow hundreds and thousands of crores.

Not only has secrecy over loan details been ineffective in curbing the volume of loans gone bad, the covering up of such data has actually contributed to mammoth leaps in the quantum of irrecoverable bank debt. Indira Gandhi took over the biggest private banks in India in order to ensure that the poor were given access to bank finance. Presumably, a definition of “poverty” covering those with wealth in excess of tens and even hundreds of crores of rupees, for it is these who have most benefited from such banks. And why should we be surprised, when it is known that in the recent past, several at the top of these ill-run behemoths were chosen only after making a visit to Chennai to be interviewed by an individual whose parent enjoyed a position of significant responsibility within the then government?

The list of bureaucrats who danced the bhangra at the bidding of this individual and his parent is long, but helping hands ensured that they have not had their subsequent careers blighted. Were banks to reveal the names of directors who during the past ten years orally or in writing recommended the giving of loans to select individuals, such interested pleadings may become less endemic than they have been within the banking system. Any oral recommendation of a loan by a bank director ought to be recorded in writing by the officer to whom the request was made, and this should be made public on an RTI request. Only those involved in assisting the dodgy or speaking up for defaulters would oppose banking transparency. Sadly, the Reserve Bank of India has thus far condoned such practices, despite their being responsible for a flood of loans given to those who from the start were determined not to repay such moneys. Such defaulters need to be separated from those who have landed into repayment difficulties because of business conditions. Which is why there is significance in the Supreme Court’s query as to why the names are still kept secret of those owing more than Rs 500 crore each to banks in India. Especially when, according to Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, restructured loans alone amount to a million crore rupees, a sum which clearly shows the toxic consequences of banking secrecy as practised in India.

Especially in institutions controlled by the state, there ought to be transparency as to the repayment status of big loans given. In view of the fact that giving any sort of information to the public is anathema to the colonial system of government inherited from this country’s pre-1947 past, a halfway measure would be to disclose loans that are over Rs 100 crore and which are more than three years overdue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is a believer in transparency and accountability, needs to ensure that such a change in banking procedure get carried out at the earliest, as doing so may dampen some of the lobbying and bribery that are prevalent in the banking sector so as to secure loans to the undeserving.

The Supreme Court may perhaps consider setting an example in this regard, by ordering that proceedings in courts be recorded on video and audio and made accessible to those filing a valid application in public interest under RTI. Ideally, every court proceeding should be live streamed via the internet, so that proceedings within these abodes of justice become available to members of the public. The development of technology would in the next few years anyway make such transparency inevitable, as it would enable the video and audio recording of court proceedings through cellphones by those present. Trust in that noblest of institutions, the judiciary, will only increase once proceedings in every court be made accessible to the public, save a few exceptional cases where special circumstances such as grave threats to national security or protection of minors may be in play. The arguments used against such openness in courtrooms are the same as were deployed when the demand for telecasting sittings of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were made. There has been no observable calamity since such a measure was carried out, and there will be none should a similar trust in the maturity of the public get extended to the legal system. In the effort to ensure 21st century rather than 19th century standards for India, the Supreme Court and the High Courts need to play a key role, and ensuring full transparency in proceedings would be a welcome component of such a process. In the case of the banks, hopefully the government will not wait for the Supreme Court to order the release of information about big borrowers, but will go ahead with such steps itself. The ever present cloak of secrecy that officialdom in India delights in wearing to mask its actions and processes has resulted in India having an administrative system so dysfunctional that honest and capable citizens of India do well everywhere in the world except in their own country.

Justifications for opacity have been discredited by the level of fraud in the banking system, especially as shown in the quantum of “non-performing assets”. Not only within the banking system, but equally in the matter of taxes paid, there needs to be visibility to the public, as is the rule in Norway, where all tax returns are shown online. Certainly there are negatives in every measure, but when these get overwhelmed by the positives, they need to be enforced. The limited extent of negatives in transparency is far below the positive effects of such exposure. It is time for RBI Governor Urjit Patel to mandate the end of the colonial-era regime of banking secrecy at least where bad loans are concerned.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Will US voters ensure ‘Clinton’s War’? (Pakistan Observer)

AN overpowering desire for revenge often leads to catastrophe for the individual seeking retribution. Judging by the almost frantic manner in which he sought to launch a war against Saddam Hussein, it was obvious that President George W Bush was eager to show that he was, after all, a loyal son to “Pappy” George H W Bush. The dictator of Iraq had sought to assassinate Bush Senior, and needed to be taught a lesson, in the style of both the Pashtuns as well as Texans, neither of whom evidently forget a slight. It has been said of many politicians that they forget in a few seconds any favour done to them, while remembering a slight for decades.
George W Bush is clearly such an individual, and past experience indicates that both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald John Trump share this trait with the US President who began a war in Iraq in 2003 which continues to drain his country’s finances and stain its reputation to this day. The difference is that Trump is open about his peeves, whereas Hillary Clinton conceals her anger, at least in public. Presidential debates in the US are intended to give voters a close look at the main candidates, but in the case of the Democratic Party nominee, it was clear that she was sticking to a well rehearsed script, with even her sallies (such as the “Russian puppet” charge against Trump seemingly coming out of a playbook scripted by her formidable team, which includes a hyper efficient Indo-Pakistani of established personal loyalty and grace under pressure, Huma Abedin.
Turning to the Republican nominee, Donald Trump was clearly ad libbing during the three debates, coming across as himself to his cost against a poised Clinton, who seems on course to win the race on November 8, if most polls are accurate and Wikileaks does not release data so damming that voters will get repelled from an individual who has been in public life for more than three decades. Although the US and the UK ceaselessly lecture poorer countries on the importance of democratic traditions and practices ( a view with which this columnist fully agrees), the manner in which Ecuador has been arm twisted to deprive Julian Assange of access to the internet is a disgrace. That a country whose people gave themselves the Magna Carta a millennium ago has been silent about such a deprivation of the human rights of Assange indicates once again the selectivity apparent in homilies on human rights and freedoms of Washington and London.
Clearly, the Obama administration does not want to see any more email clusters get released, and is hoping for silence or at the least incoherence from Wikileaks now that its “brain” has been separated from the “body” through denial of internet access till the US elections conclude. Should Hillary Clinton get elected, it is likely that Ecuador will get “persuaded” to expel Assange from the premises of its embassy in London, thereafter giving an opportunity to deport him to Sweden to face trial brought about by two women who each seem to have been physically powerless to give the physically unimpressive Wikileaks founder the beating he deserved, were their charge of assault against him correct. Somehow their story seems as difficult to believe as that of some of Donald Trump’s accusers, who came out with their versions exactly when he was doing well in the campaign. Many of these accusers have paraded “oral witnesses” to whom they claim they told their story at the time such activity occurred.
The fact is that such “witnesses” can be tutored as completely as the “victims”, unless there be emails and other evidence showing that such a transmission of information actually took place during the times mentioned. Of course, even emails can be created that are fake, or (as has happened in the case of Hillary Clinton) disappear. This columnist has been correct in every political forecast since 1984, and if Donald Trump loses in the polls, this perfect record will get smudged. However, more than such professional pride in a record of forecasting outcomes, what is worrisome is the fact that Hillary Clinton seems to be moving in lockstep with Ankara, Doha,Riyadh, London and Paris on what needs to be done in Syria. This country is no Libya, and any effort to effect such measures as a No Fly zone will result in an immediate confrontation with Moscow, for whom the Baathist regime in Syria is non-negotiable. US,UK and French aircraft will not have the easy time that they did in Iraq and Libya, but will instead meet with resistance that would include the routine downing of aircraft, thereby creating a ladder of escalation which could have a spillover impact on Europe.
During the past year, the Obama administration seems to have returned to the sway of the Clintons insofar as several of its policies have been concerned, and in recent weeks, large tranches of weapons have gone to groups “vetted” by regional intelligence agencies that are riddled with sympathisers of Daesh. That organisation has been given a lifeline by the hatred of Washington, London, Ankara and some other capitals towards Bashar Assad, who in practice is seen as much more of a potent threat than Abubakr al Baghdadi despite being secular and running a government in which nearly 80% of the top functionaries are Sunni, as indeed is his loyal wife, who declined to listen to NATO and run away, leaving her husband to the same sort of wolves as enabled Hillary Clinton to exult “he died” on news of killing of Muammar Kaddafi. Clinton is cocooned within a foreign policy establishment that is nervous about scale of its past errors being exposed, and is consequently doubling down on very policies that are resulting in slow collapse of US global primacy at hands of China and its partner, Russia.
In contrast, Donald Trump has zero baggage from the past, and is much more likely to make the fresh start that Washington needs if it is to continue to be the most consequential power on the globe. The people of the US may not know it, but they be voting on November 8 for “Clinton’s War” on Syria, a conflict likely to be even more incendiary of geopolitical stability as George W Bush’s 2003 war on Iraq.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Don’t rescue ISIS in Mosul and Aleppo, Mr Kerry (Sunday Guardian)

John Kerry seems to have come to life only when ISIS came under attack.
In the case of the major NATO powers, the "definitive" account of the conflicts they have been involved in have almost all been written by themselves. Small wonder that defeats get obscured and the blame for setbacks almost invariably gets placed on others. Afghanistan in 2001 is an example. Although 86% of the "assistance" given to the Afghan authorities gets spent on the salary and logistics of "support staff" sourced from within the military alliance, while the bulk of decisions get taken by them, blame for the chaos and maladministration in Kabul is placed at the door of the Afghan government. During the 1990s, Bill Clinton sought to emasculate rather than arm the Northern Alliance, yet soon after the post 9/11 war started, opeds and books appeared in profusion, detailing imaginary "US assistance to the Northern Alliance to fight the Taliban", which incidentally was a militia that was nurtured under the supervision of the Clinton administration. Subsequently, once the Northern Alliance had won the ground war (with decisive help from US and allied air power), its formations were constantly downgraded and replaced by cohorts composed of Pashtun irregulars recommended by the Pakistan army, who, not surprisingly, later turned out to be elements of the Taliban wearing a different label. In Kunduz and elsewhere, the US facilitated the escape of leadership elements of Al Qaeda, while in subsequent years, money and weapons were lavished on "moderate warlords", most of whom reverted back to their Taliban avatar by 2006.
The Taliban was and remains a loathsome band of thugs, a fact which makes it all the more reprehensible that Washington, London, Berlin and Paris have, over the past decade, expended so much effort in seeking to integrate it within the Afghan government. Should Ashraf Ghani succumb to such demands, his country would lurch even deeper into hell. The only objective of the Taliban within the Government of Afghanistan would be to sabotage and subvert it, besides seeking to impose laws and lifestyles alien to those other than the perverted. It was expected that after 9/11, the folly of relying on GHQ Rawalpindi to battle terrorists would have been obvious to the White House. Clearly not for George W. Bush, who went back to the Pakistan army in his bungled battle against the Taliban, a battle that has been lost despite the expenditure of $700 billion on its prosecution, substantially because of Dick Cheney's fetish that—unlike in Vietnam—even the toothpaste and soap used by the US military would be sourced from the US, never mind the added cost.

However, the Taliban is merely a regional threat, while ISIS is a global problem, which is why it is worrying that the current postures and moves of the US and its partners are designed to allow ISIS to escape and fight another day, just as the Taliban were systematically enabled to do during 2001-05. Few western analysts ask why the Turkish military faces almost no resistance from ISIS as it preens before Jarabulus and Dabiq, in contrast to the resistance of the terror group against the Iraqi army and its allies. The reason is that the Turkish army is rescuing rather than destroying ISIS cadres, by giving them an escape route through a change in label. At an appropriate time, the fighters preserved by Turkey will be let loose by the commanders of ISIS on targets that include the credulous allies of Ankara. It is clear why Erdogan wants his troops to march into Mosul. It is to protect the extremist fighters there so that someday, they could be set loose against the Shia, Christian and Kurdish militias that are his actual target. Under the guise of protecting Turkish democracy from another coup, Erdogan is ridding the military of its secular elements.

There was scarcely any protest when ISIS reigned almost unchallenged by the US and its surrogates in Aleppo and in Mosul. In the Syrian city, the organisation systematically killed Shia, Druze, Christians, Alawites and moderate Sunnis, and enslaved their women. There was nary a peep from the cacophonous crowd of "human rights warriors" who are now so alarmed that the surviving fathers, brothers and sons of these women may wreak vengeance on the monsters who killed and abused at will in Aleppo and in Mosul. The governments of Iraq, Syria and Russia are being badgered into ensuring safe passage for such depredators and their families, for these are about the only individuals that have been allowed by ISIS to flee from locations still controlled by that organisation, so that they can fight another day. In fact, the only reason why the US has suddenly become more active in Mosul and other locations after more than a year of relative inactivity is the worry that Baghdad was about to pivot to Moscow for military assistance because of disgust at the tardiness of Washington. The manner in which the Obama administration has allowed regional powers such as Turkey and Qatar to indirectly assist ISIS represents a policy misstep on the scale of those made by Bush-Cheney in Afghanistan.

John Kerry seems to have come to life only when ISIS came under attack in Aleppo and Mosul. In Dabiq, he has ignored the fact that ISIS elements apparently switched sides to morph into the Turkish-protected "moderate opposition", which is why that country's military got almost zero opposition from the terror organisation in its mock advances. Donald Trump is correct when he warns that the forces actually fighting the terror organisation need to work together, exactly as took place against Adolf Hitler during the 1939-45 war. If the hysteria being witnessed within NATO at the impending loss of ISIS-held Mosul and Aleppo to anti-Daesh fighters had been replicated in a NATO assault on that scourge in previous years, by now ISIS would have been a memory rather than a threat that may last a generation to finally eliminate because of errors made since 2012 by Kerry's team.

Friday, 21 October 2016

OBOR’s own ‘software’ for better ties (Pakistan Observer)

FROM the start, this columnist has predicted that President of the Peoples Republic of China and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Xi Jinping will emerge the winner against his domestic detractors. The odds are high that Xi will be given a Standing Committee and a Central Committee of his choice exactly a year later, when the CCP meets to decide on such matters, and from then onwards, he will be able to spend the remainder of his two 5-year terms fulfilling his goals for China, which is to make the country overtake US not only as an economic but as a technological superpower.

Hopefully, this will be done the way that has been traditional in Chinese statecraft, as a series of "Win-Win" solutions rather than as a chain of "Zero Sum" outcomes of the kind favoured by European colonialists in previous centuries. The latter certainly enriched themselves, but at the expense of all the lands they occupied and the people indigenous to those territories. By the close of the 19th century, the Eurasian landmass had been unified as a consequence of the colonial policies of European powers, with almost the whole of Asia coming under the control of states in Europe. Had the latter adopted a "Win Win" policy rather than seek subjugation and exploration the way they did, the colonial powers of Europe would themselves have been better off.

Britain, for example, throttled to death much of industry in the Indian subcontinent, replacing such manufactures with produce from the UK. Indeed, given its huge population and rates of economic growth, China is positioned to become the new centre of gravity of the Eurasian landmass, and this is sought to be achieved by the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, which is the most ambitious plan seen in China since the Great Wall was built two thousand years ago. Xi Jinping intends to link Europe and Asia together through a network of roads and railway lines that would shorten spaces and allow seamless transfer of commodities across the frontiers of vast Eurasian landmass.

Once OBOR gets completed, the resting construct would represent a paradigm shift in global geopolitics, pulling the global centre of gravity away from Washington to Beijing, in line with expectations of growth trajectories. The centrifugal pull of OBOR will increase as more of the project gets implemented, thereby leaving those countries not participating on the side. In South Asia, it is certain that most SAARC countries will sign on to OBOR because of the perceived benefits that the project will bring, thereby putting pressure on holdouts It would be a boost for OBOR were India to come aboard, because of the country's huge reserves of manpower and its economic and technological potential. However, such a situation would occur only after relations between India and China move from the low level trajectory that they have been circling in for several decades.

A breakthrough was possible towards the close of the 1980s because of the rapport established between Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping of China and Prime Minister Rajiv Ratan Birjees Gandhi of India. However, the initial momentum was not followed up ad quickly got dissipated. The better personal chemistry between Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping gives promise of a rising of the trajectory of the relationship, although as yet the signs are few of this happening. However, should the relationship improve, it is likely that India would enter into the OBOR project, including possibly through a China India Economic Corridor that would cut through both countries and terminate at Kochi. Such a construct would cut through what is termed the "Red Corridor", the locations were there still exist clusters of ultra-left guerrillas, and such development within the affected regions would sharply reduce the intensity of such manifestations there.

It would be among the ironies of history that a project conceived by a successor to Mao Zedong would have a dampening effect on the activities of groups that largely style themselves as "Maoist" (or as members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). Through India, OBOR would pass through Myanmar into Malaysia and Singapore, besides tributaries reaching into Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Overall, the scheme would boost connectivity significantly and make the transport of many items easier and cheaper, thereby expanding markets and consumer demand across a region which in coming decades will overtake Europe in economic prowess To the west of India, OBOR would traverse parts of Pakistan, Central Asia, Russia and hereafter enter Europe. Eventually, the network would also serve to improve the quality of human flows across frontiers.

In the "Zero Sum" days of European colonialism, there were no visas to block movement across boundaries. It is expected that such anachronisms would cease when the Win-Win period of mutual cooperation characterised by OBOR becomes a reality across two continents that would get unified by this project initiated by Xi Jinping. However, roads and railways are not enough. There needs to be seamless movement across boundaries for those who are productive, and for this to take place, relations between different states needs to be cordial. Both Canada as well as Mexico have contributed greatly to US development and vice versa.

However, such synergy would have been lost had the relationship between Ottawa and Washington or between Mexico City and the capital of the US been troubled. For OBOR to reach its desired potential, the countries participating in it need to ensure that their differences be dealt with in a manner that avoids conflict. Mutual behaviour needs to be respectful of each other's security concerns. That is the challenge posed by the grand vision of OBOR : linking states together into a friendly and collaborative association that would ensure smooth development across the Eurasian landmass. OBOR is the "hardware". The "software" of close ties needs to be created along with the roads and railways of Xi Jinping's hyper-project.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Xi must open OBOR to BRICS (Sunday Guardian)

India needs to be at the core of the creation of One Belt One Road (OBOR).
India's community of strategic analysts is dominated by those nurtured in think-tanks and universities in the US and the UK. Unsurprisingly, although often dressed up differently from presentations made "back home", the policy conclusions they reach are similar to those urged on India by external think-tanks. Across the decades, those who form part of "Lutyens Delhi" have woven close links with institutions in the US and the UK. Small wonder that in committees, placements and commissions, those with a trans-Atlantic patina get preferred over homegrown products, although far fewer in number than those who have spent their working lives in the colonial governance system of India. An example of such inbreeding is the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), which got freshly constituted a few weeks ago. Rather than have within the NSAB those who could be expected to have views different from those already ensconced in the national security silos of the government, the new NSAB follows the Lutyens' format of being headed by a former official, and this time around, having even less representation from those who have not had the privilege of drawing a government salary throughout their working lives than was the case with previous incarnations. A Brahma Chellaney, a Bharat Karnad or Ajai Shukla may not facilitate cosy exchanges of largely similar views, and certainly they lack the diplomatic skills of a Raja Mohan or a Raja Menon, but precisely for that reason, such contrarians need to be represented in bodies involved in policy formulation, so that these do not become echo chambers reflecting back the very voices (and views) of those they are presumed to advise by giving alternative policy prescriptions. As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, over the course of his first term, ensured a paradigm shift in the way governance was carried out in Gujarat, and it is hoped by his admirers that a similar transformation will take place at the Central level before the close of Modi's Prime Ministerial term in 2019.
Among those within our strategic community who are into "home-grown" solutions, there are several who believe that India must follow the dictum of Rabindranath Tagore's "Ekla Chalo Re", by walking alone. Others seek a closer alignment with either the US or China, and some with Russia. The reality is that India is big enough and its needs complex enough to justify a close embrace of all three of these present and future superpowers. Hence, the need for the docking of one set of interests with the US as well as others with China. Stability in the Indo-Pacific will get enhanced with increasing military collaboration between Washington and New Delhi. Of course, while having the same core objectives (such as preventing terror groups based on religious extremism to proliferate, or allowing a single power to dominate the Eurasian landmass), it will become necessary for India to adopt methods and form partnerships that are sometimes very different from those favoured by the US. In Syria, for example, rather than link with a "moderate opposition" that in reality comprises entirely of either Al Qaeda or Kurdish fighters, the only effective fighting machine against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria is the military led by Bashar Assad, who (being an Alawite) is being sought to be replaced by regional powers that have within them deep and sometimes decisive pockets of Wahhabi influence masquerading as Sunni opinion. The US strategic establishment cannot bring itself to admit that it has been wrong for decades, and hence continues to pursue failed policies. The strategic ends of the US and India may converge, but the means used to achieve them need to diverge, sometimes substantially.

And what of China? Those who argue for a Cold War between Delhi and Beijing are in danger of missing out on opportunity in a manner similar to what took place in many of the decades of the previous century, when strategic relations between Delhi and Washington were in many particulars frosty in a context where better ties with the US were essential for economic health. This was understood by the then Chinese leadership, who cast aside dogma to embrace Washington, thereby beginning the spurt in growth that has made 2016 China five times the economic size of India. In the present, good economic and commercial relations with Beijing are vital to ensure double digit growth of the Indian economy. If we leave aside the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is unviable both commercially as well as from a security perspective, the rest of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative proposed by Xi Jinping is as visionary now as the Roman canals or the Great Wall of China were in their time. OBOR has the potential to link Europe and Asia together in a manner less one-sided than what took place during the centuries of European colonialisation of Asia. Rather than stand aloof from it, India needs to be at the core of its creation. If China has $24 billion of investment opportunity in Bangladesh, then there is at least $124 billion of even better investment opportunities in India, and this is what both Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi need to actualise. A way of doing that would be to open OBOR to BRICS, thereby giving commercial entities within other BRICS countries privileged access to the gargantuan project. 

India in particular has several firms that could play an effective and relatively inexpensive (as compared to entities in developed countries) role in ensuring that OBOR becomes a success. Indeed, there ought to be an India China Economic Corridor (ICEC), a construct that would make much more geopolitical and financial sense than the CPEC, which seems to have been decided upon by the Chinese out of sentiment rather than logic. Ultimately, the terror of unemployment and the pain of poverty are worse than any dart thrown at civilised people by forces such as ISIS. Both unemployment and poverty can be reduced significantly, were Xi Jinping to ensure that his history-altering project be flung open for privileged participation by China's other BRICS partners. 

ISIS leaders look to Pakistan for refuge (Sunday Guardian)

Several serving and retired Pakistan army officers are in West Asia, training the fighters of ISIS and other like-minded organisations.
More than 300 serving officers of the Pakistan army and over 2,000 retired officers have in the past been, or are in, West Asia, "training fighters of ISIS and other like-minded organisations" in their war against the governments of Iraq and Syria, claim analysts working exclusively on tracking that particular complex of terror organisations. They say that "elements (of the Pakistan army) are taking leave and going under assumed identities to Iraq and Syria to conduct such training". In the past, such activities also took place in Jordan, Turkey and Qatar, but over the past year, Amman, Doha and Ankara have become wary of groups of fighters, who, for long, were using their territories for training and recuperation. Training is given "in the handling of communications equipment, interception of signals and the handling of explosives". The analysts spoken to claim that "more than money, it is ideological fervour that is motivating such Pakistani volunteers" and that assistance to ISIS is taking place "despite opposition from a few senior officers in the military", who, however, have so far declined to punish the volunteers (training ISIS, Al Nusra and other such groups) "for fear of sparking a revolt in their ranks, where hundreds of officers and tens of thousands of other ranks are sympathetic to ISIS". Hence, it has not been a surprise that almost all recent attacks by ISIS-affiliated "lone wolves" have had a Pakistan connection. An example is the recent terror attack in New York and New Jersey during the week after the anniversary of 9/11. Oddly, the United Nations Security Council has yet to take up and get implemented India's two decades-old proposal for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, although it is hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi will be able to get the UN leadership to agree to ratify this essential legal move in the battle against terror. 

Despite efforts by the Barack Obama administration and its regional allies to slow down the Syria-Iran-Russia advance against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the takeover of Aleppo by the troika is calculated to take place by mid-November. Alarmed at the advance of the Iraqi army and the irregulars backing its thrust into Mosul, President Recip Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is "seeking a Jarabalus" in Mosul. In that Syrian town, ISIS fighters switched their label to become "moderate opposition fighters" and are now protected by the Turkish army. In that garb, they expect to recuperate from recent losses and get back into the battlefield against the US and its European allies, the way the Taliban did in Afghanistan just two years after getting rescued by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) wing of the Pakistan army in Kunduz and other locations in 2001. Over the past five months, and now in his final days in office, President Obama has once again handed over the keys of foreign policy to Hillary Clinton, who through Secretary of State John Kerry is following a policy of seeing the Damascus-Moscow-Tehran combination as a bigger immediate threat to US than ISIS and other jihadi groups operating in the region. This is despite the spread of these organisations into Europe and North America. Preparatory to a US military challenge to Moscow and Tehran in Syria, following an expected victory by the Democratic Party nominee in the 8 November 2016 Presidential elections, a demonisation of Russia and of Vladimir Putin has begun through the media. The expectation is that as President, Hillary Clinton will be able to get even a Republican-controlled House of Representatives as well as the US Senate on her side, should there be actual combat on a limited scale between the US and Russian militaries in a regional theatre that has witnessed bloodshed on a scale not seen since the Vietnam War. Such a conflict between Russia and the US could escalate in such a manner as to provide an escape hatch for elements of the ISIS leadership, which is facing the loss of territorial outposts in Iraq and Syria because of Iran, Syria, Iraq and Russia together with a strong and largely separate showing by the Kurds, despite the relative lack of assistance given to these fighters by the Obama administration, which is very respectful of the views of Doha, Riyadh and Ankara in such matters. 

However, those tracking the activities of ISIS in Iraq and Syria say that the organisation is still nervous of a "November Upset" in the US elections that would bring Donald J. Trump into the White House. The Republican Party nominee has publicly endorsed a strategy of going along with Iran and Syria to battle ISIS. Taking a view from history, those such as John Kerry who see the troika fighting ISIS as the primary foe, may be compared to British and French leaders in the 1930s who saw Adolf Hitler as a lesser evil than Joseph Stalin, while Trump may be compared to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who from the start of his tenure in office saw Hitler as the main foe and was willing to ally with (and assist) Moscow in its battle against Nazified Berlin. Contrary to the views expressed in US media, it is Trump and not Clinton that ISIS and Al Nusra fear, given the Republican nominee's persistence in placing ISIS at the core of US security threats, rather than Moscow and Tehran, the way the Clinton team does. Trump has also distanced himself from the soft line of both the Bush and Obama administrations on Pakistan, with "action" thus far against that country's terror factories being largely limited to words designed to soothe policymakers in Delhi and excite the media in India into reporting that Washington has finally "gone against" Islamabad.

Washington's longstanding softness towards Pakistan is despite the fact that numerous terror groups are based in Pakistan and have the protection of the Pakistan army. These include Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Tehreek-e-Jafferia, Al Qaeda, Siphah-e-Sahaba, Al Badr, Harkat-ul-Ansar, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and the Jamaat Al Fuqra. National Security Advisor of Pakistan, Sartaz Aziz has himself admitted that terrorists (mainly from Afghanistan) "by 2007-08 had covered most of the tribal areas. They killed the tribal leaders, then they started establishing their communications networks, IED factories, suicide training centres." According to Aziz, during the past 15 years, Pakistan has lost more than $100 billion as well as the lives of over 10,000 security personnel. However, the fact is that not just the civilian leadership of Pakistan but the military as well, which is unable to act against such activities in an all out manner, because of the fact that since 1979, "mujahids" were openly trained in Pakistan for the Afghanistan and later the India theatre. From 1989 onwards, the cadre which later became known as the Taliban, began to get trained by the ISI in camps in Pakistan, mainly in the North West Frontier Province as well as in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Given the toxicity associated with ISIS, in a (for that organisation) worst case scenario for it, such as the wresting from it of Mosul, Aleppo and afterwards Raqa, it is likely that a "Turkish solution" will be found for its dilemma, in that much of its cadre would, for the record, switch their allegiance to the so-called "moderate fighting forces" that in reality are (besides the Kurds) little other than ISIS and Al Nusra elements in disguise. Analysts warn than elements in the Pakistan army, who subscribe to the ideology of ISIS, are "busy locating places in Pakistan that can be used to shelter leadership elements of ISIS", the way Osama bin Laden was protected by the military in Pakistan since his escape from Afghanistan after 9/11 and his execution by US SEALS in 2011. "Already about 26 leadership elements of ISIS have been identified and steps are under way to get them to Pakistan through the Afghan border", an analyst revealed, warning that India needs to "prepare for this new threat, as it is certain that the Pakistan military will make operations against India the condition for sheltering elements of the ISIS leadership" in Pakistan.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Paul Ryan pivots towards Hillary (Pakistan Observer)

THAT the 2016 Presidential elections in the US will have immense consequences for that country is clear. Although Democratic Party nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton is close to Wall Street and to such lobbies as the Big Pharma industry, her hold over the rank and file is too shaky to permit her to replicate Bill Clinton's open embrace of Wall Street (for example, by repealing Glass-Steagal and by converting US embassies abroad into Chambers of Commerce lobbying units). For what is most precious to her, political survival, she will have to often tack leftwards if elected President on November 8, including in the matter of appointments.

Winning control of the White House through the success of the chosen Republican Party nominee (Donald John Trump) ought to be a priority for the party leadership in particular. Hence it was a surprise when a heavy blow was dealt to Republican nominee Donald John Trump by the senior most political official of his own party, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. The Speaker publicly washed his hands off Trump, in effect conceding the election to Hillary Clinton. This embrace of a Clinton White House by Ryan replaced mention of Bill Clinton's indiscretions and email exchanges from Team Hillary that showed the nominee to in effect be a Republican in Democratic Party garb. The Ryan defection from the Trump camp to what is effectively the Clinton camp will have at least a 3% impact in voting behaviour, thereby making the task of securing victory much more difficult for Trump. Speaker Ryan was being disingenuous when he asked his party cadres to pivot from the Presidential to lower rung campaigns, such as those for US Senate and House of Representatives. The politician is experienced enough to know that the public separation of House Speaker from his own party nominee would lead to confusion across entire list of Republican Party candidates, and yet he went ahead.

Of course, earlier the entire George H W Bush family, including former President George W Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, publicly opposed Trump and walked across to the Clinton tent. Numerous other Republican office-holders did the same in a carefully choreographed way designed to show that Donald Trump was being abandoned by his own party Conversations with leadership elements within the United States Republican Party (GOP) show a consensus that "Establishment Republicans" close to the financial, oil and pharma industries secured and leaked the videotape of Donald John Trump making racy comments about women to a co-passenger on a bus in 2005. Their expectation was that the release would so shame Trump that he would quit from the Presidential race, thereby leaving the path clear for the candidate they secretly back, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who herself is close to Wall Street as well as to the pharma industry, although not as much so to the oil industry, whose Patron Saint in US politics still George H W Bush and his family. It was a disaster for oilmen in Houston that Jeb Bush failed to qualify in the Republican Party primaries despite hundreds of millions of dollars getting spent promoting his candidacy. Just as in India, where there is growing public anger at the cosy club of political leaders cutting across party lines who enrich and protect each other, within the US, "establishment" politicians are loathed in a manner more profound than at any time since the 18th century. It was just such a public mood that fuelled the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, although the Vermont Senator deflated himself by refusing to "take the fight to the Convention" the way he had sworn to his supporters. Far from such a challenge, Sanders very soon became another of the several dozen Clinton surrogates, singing his erstwhile rival's praises with such verve that his supporters were left cringing and ashamed.

However, there is method in the Sanders "surrender", for should Hillary Clinton get elected, the Vermont Senator is likely to push her hard towards policies other than those that have made the Clintons multi-millionaires despite having come from humble roots. The sincerity of Sanders towards his socialist ideology cannot be doubted. However, more and more emails are being released that show that Hillary Clinton is not at all sincere about implementing the policies she claims to support on the stump. The emails also show that only the gargantuan Clinton machine ensured that Hillary Clinton got anointed as her party's nominee despite low levels of grassroots support The power of Wall Street can be gauged by the fawning manner in which much of the "free" US media have backed Hillary Clinton.

CNN, for example, has run days of programming on the Trump "groping" tape, with its anchors letting go of horrified exclamations every few minutes. If the moral outrage of the channel's anchors and correspondents at what were standard locker room boasts by Trump is real, it is clear that CNN is recruiting its staff from nunneries, as anchor after anchor swore on camera that he or she had never come across any of the admittedly tawdry epithets mouthed in private by Donald Trump in 2005. The channel also went to extreme lengths to concoct alibis for Hillary Clinton by pointing to technicalities and ignoring substantive points in the several tranches of leaked emails, which included references to mutual consultations between the Clinton campaign and the US Justice Department. This columnist was probably the first (in third week of May 2015,before Trump announced his candidacy, followed by a July 2015 column on the subject in this newspaper) to predict a Trump win, a forecast that he still stands by.

Hillary Clinton has been in politics too long to offer change, which is why Barack Hussein Obama defeated her in the Democratic Party primaries in 2008 and why Donald Trump (who is clearly neither a politician or a diplomat) is likely to prevail over her next month, despite the numerous darts that the Clinton machine has aimed at the construction magnate, including from within his own party. The months ahead will show that Paul Ryan's meteoric career has been damaged beyond repair by his pivot towards Hillary Clinton. Whether he wins or loses, most of the Republican Party base will not forgive Ryan his "betrayal" of the candidate who was chosen over his rivals by the grassroots base of the party during the past year.