Monday, 11 September 2017

Rohingya crisis in Myanmar: Where is the safe haven? (CGTN)

Chaos in the Rakhine province of Myanmar has caused a large number of casualties and rendered thousands homeless. The Myanmar government has been accused of attempting ethnic cleansing and has been heavily criticized by the onlooking world. Why is Aung San Suu Kyi so quiet on this catastrophe? How can the ethnic Rohingya of Myanmar find a safe haven? And what action must be taken to bring an end the mistrust and violence besetting Rakhine?

Sunday, 10 September 2017

PM Modi, free India from ‘Feardom of Speech’ (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

The control through intimidation of what is said and written is not the monopoly of any particular party, but has infected most of them. 
Gauri Lankesh was a woman of enormous courage and a certain daredevil attitude, and this is probably the trait that aided those who took away her life. A more cautious individual would have sought—and insisted—on being provided protection against the many who daily poured vitriol at her. Not that she was alone in getting such attention. There are dozens of journalists and writers who have received threats as ugly as those directed at Ms Lankesh. In just a single case, the individual concerned began getting telephone calls and SMSs mentioning where his daughter or wife was at the time the particular call was being made, and explicitly being told that their lives would be cut short, were he to continue to write what such callers described as “lying filth”. Needless to say, his writings have become way more anodyne and a lot less padded with sensational facts after that series of calls was made. His understandable explanation is that he has no right to subject his family to the risk of being killed just so that he continues to enjoy the luxury of writing or saying in public what he pleases. Rather than freedom of speech, what he has been experiencing may be described as “feardom of speech”. Such control through intimidation of what is said and written is not the monopoly of any particular party, but has infected most of them. In the immediate aftermath of the killing of Gauri Lankesh, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi held the BJP guilty of the crime. Either Rahul is talking through his Gandhi topi, or he has facts about the case that he is concealing from not only the public but the investigating authorities. The Congress heir apparent’s continuing silence as to the evidence on which he has based his sensation allegation of the BJP’s culpability is being interpreted by the overwhelming majority even of traditional Congress voters as evidence that he has no evidence.
The shooting to death of Gauri Lankesh should not be viewed as an isolated act, but part of the dismaying reality that freedom of speech, although mentioned as a right in the Constitution of India, remains distant in practice. Some of the most smelly colonial-style legislation came about during the decade when Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister. Aided by a BJP Parliamentary Party that seemed during that decade to specialise in spending more time in walkouts over a miscellany of issues, the UPA passed laws that would have pleased Winston Churchill and other racists, who believed that the birthright of the Indian was slavery to the government and not control over his or her own destiny. Assisted by a plenitude of laws, it has become child’s play to fling a citizen into the criminal justice system, a construct where hundreds of thousands remain in jail, sometimes for more than a decade, without a single court having found them guilty of any crime. In other major democracies, people are sent to jail only after being found guilty by a jury of their peers. In those countries where the justice system regards imprisonment as the exception rather than the rule, those convicted are given notice of a month, and sometimes more, to put their house in order before going off to prison. In India, they are taken away a few minutes after the judge pronounces sentence. Very often, those convicted come to court to hear the verdict from the jail they are in as under-trials. The power to reform India’s colonial-era justice system vests with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice Dipak Misra. Should either or both decide to re-format the justice system so that the bar gets raised substantially for taking away the liberty of a citizen, including for issues involving freedom of expression, a significant step forward would have been traversed in the reconfiguration of India into more of a 21st century construct. 
Why is freedom of speech so important, and conversely, why is “feardom of speech” so harmful to the future of our country? Because of the impact of either on the Knowledge Economy, the success of which hinges on a culture permissive of ideas that mainstream opinion may disagree with. Apart from the regulatory system, which is still a mass of weeds choking initiative and activity, another difficulty faced by the knowledge sector in India is that Chidambaram-Sibal creation, the Information Technology Act. Bureaucracy everywhere lusts for power over citizens, and once this is given in the form of measures that make it mandatory to get permissions serially from miscellaneous authorities, dilution of such control systems gets resisted by the civil service. This band remains as convinced as the British were that the natives of India are a collection of potential hooligans, needing constant chastisement and supervision. Before her death, Gauri Lankesh had been harassed multiple times through use of the anachronistic laws of defamation so tenderly preserved in India. Admirers of Narendra Modi anticipate that he will brave the fury of the bureaucracy and take an axe to the jungle of unproductive (save for bribe generation) laws and prohibitions that keep India at the bottom of the international ladder on the ease of doing business. Until “What You Know” becomes more important in the success of a business than “Who You Know”, India will continue to be denied the double digit growth it needs to stave off a future societal catastrophe. At the root of the many ugly manifestations of anger that are shown on television screens are tens of millions of the young who lack work that is productive for the country. It is they whose interests need to be tended, not fund managers based in London, New York, Dubai, Singapore, Zurich and Frankfurt, who collectively promote government policies that cause mass misery, so that they increase their own wealth at the expense of ours.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Clinton-Bush-Russia morass continues (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

EVEN before he was sworn in on January 20,2017 as the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump was advised by those close to him to go easy on Hillary Clinton. The expectation was that such a show of goodwill would ensure that the formidable Clinton machine would stop or at least significantly reduce their campaign against her Republican opponent in the 2016 presidential contest. While it was correct for Trump himself to stop his campaign rhetoric against Clinton, what was unexpected was the complete cessation of what little investigation there was on the Clinton Foundation and other activities during the Obama period. This freed Hillary Clinton to go into full combat mode, and it must be admitted that she has done a superb job of ensuring that President Trump remain within the policy matrix of the Clinton-Bush years rather than evolve his own path towards ensuring security and prosperity for the US.
This is particularly evident in the matter of policy towards Moscow, whether it be to deal with North Korea or with global terrorism,or in gaining extra leverage with the other superpower (China), a strong US-Russia relationship would have been helpful. However,such a move is anathema to the Atlanticists, who wish to keep the focus on Moscow as Enemy Number One. Donald Trump’s intimate circle is of the view that any move from the admittedly toxic policies of the Clinton-Bush years would increase the chances for the 45th US President to be impeached. Hence their adherence to the failed Russia (and other) policies of past US administrations. A historic opportunity to reset ties was lost during 1992-97 thanks to the Europeanist mindset of the Clinton security team.
The USSR had collapsed by the time Bill Clinton took over as the 42nd US President, but instead of working out a long-term close relationship with Moscow, the Clinton administration sought to do what Henry Morgenthau had wanted for Germany after the 1939-45 war, which was to seek to pastoralize the country and drain it of technology and industry. Boris Yeltsin gave away several miles of concessions to the US and the EU without gaining an inch in return, at least so far as Russia was concerned. Of course,the gangster industrialists patronised by him prospered,and many still serve as a reliable Fifth Column within Russia for NATO. The globe’s largest country in area was serially humiliated, including by the humiliation administered to a once-proud Slavic nation, Serbia. President Clinton began the process of expanding rather than downsizing and re-converting NATO into a different kind of fighting machine, more suited to the wars of the future rather than those fought between Hitler and his victims.
The expansion of NATO was conducted in a manner that made it obvious that the main target of the alliance was still Moscow. This despite the shameless manner in which President Boris Yeltsin had unilaterally surrendered Russia’s strategic advantages in an act of self-abegnation that was reminiscent of Jawaharlal Nehru’s similar 1950s generosity at the expense of Indian interests. Unfortunately for Russia, Yeltsin followed another leader who was comfortable with giving away Moscow’s advantages in exchange for favourable newspaper headlines in US and EU media. This was Mikhail Gorbachev, who brought down a USSR already weakened by the refusal of Leonid Brezhnev to use the military assets available with the USSR to ensure victory rather than defeat and stalemate in military and quasi-military operations in Asia, Europe and elsewhere.
North Korea is well on the way to gaining immunity from attack through the development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems capable of targeting the continental US. The window of opportunity for ensuring that such an outcome gets avoided is unlikely to be even as long as two years, given the rate of progress of the WMD program supervised by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. Because of the persistence of the one-sided and indeed humiliating Clinton-Bush policies towards Moscow ( a course of action that was faithfully followed by Barack Obama), an essential ally in dealing with Pyongyang has been lost. Vladimir Putin is a patriotic individual very unlike Gorbachev and Yeltsin. The new President of Russia has clearly had enough of the efforts by the US and its allies to cage Moscow and render it unable to reach anywhere close to its previous status of global superpower.
On North Korea, it is likely that both China as well as Russia will veto any further sanctions on Pyongyang. Should the US carry out its own threat of enforcing punitive measures against any entity that deals with North Korea, it would run into friction on an unprecedented scale, especially with China. The options for the US have become narrower and more dangerous because of the frictions with Moscow caused by the successful efforts of the Clinton-Bush Atlanticists to prevent Donald Trump from attempting a genuine reset of relations between Washington and Moscow. The hype and hysteria about Russia that has been swirling around Washington since January 20 brings back memories of the years when Senator Eugene McCarthy terrified large parts of the US establishment by falsely labelling them as agents of Moscow.
A decade later, the ill effects of that manifested itself with a vengeance during the Vietnam war, in which hundreds of thousands of US personnel ( and over a million Vietnamese) were killed in a war that could have been ended during the tenure of John Fitzgerald Kennedy itself rather than dragged on by the two US Presidents who succeeded him. There will be a heavy bill that the US will be paying for the way it is dealing with Russia these days, and a large part of that will be in the North Korean muddle. The rift between Moscow and Washington, a chasm encouraged by Germany and France, will assist Kim Jong Un in becoming (in effect) the most potent threat ever to the US.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Modi, Xi ensure peace between India and China (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

The decision to build the road at the trijunction had been taken by PLA officers of four-star rank. They did not understand the sensitivity of what they were attempting to do.
Nearly nine weeks ago in India, and about four weeks back in China, key decisions concerning the Doklam standoff between two of the world’s four largest armies began to be handled at the top of each government. In other words, by consultations on the subject with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. From that time onwards, despite the swear-words and jostling by troops, it was a given that the issue would get settled without recourse to force. Indeed, the very fact that the Ladakh encounter (which went viral on the internet) between Indian and Chinese troops saw both well-equipped armies literally relying only on Stone Age weapons against each other, indicated the tight control that both Xi and Modi have exercised over their men in the field. The cause of the Doklam standoff, which was the PLA’s decision to build the road at the India-Bhutan-China trijunction, objected to by India, had been taken by officers of four-star rank. They did not understand the sensitivity of what they were attempting to do, and hence initially failed to refer the issue back to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. The PLA decision-makers had assumed that the Indian side would do little beyond verbally protest the building of a road, the only utility of which to the Chinese side would be to serve as a jumping-off point for an attack on the “Chicken’s Neck” linking the Northeast with the rest of India. Building such a capacity was significant in the background of credible reports by multiple agencies both at home and abroad that GHQ Rawalpindi was working to secure a NATO-style agreement with the PLA. This would oblige the latter to come to the armed defence of the former, should the Pakistan army find itself in a war with India caused by its own misdeeds. Reports from agencies located in different capitals had indicated that more than a few senior officers of the PLA were leaning in favour of such a partnership with the Pakistan army. In other words, they were apparently willing to transfer the decision as to when China would go to war, in the hands of the generals at Rawalpindi. However, those tracking the Chinese Communist Party say that such a view was clearly not acceptable to the CCP leadership, which under President Xi has understood the importance of India as a potential global partner in economics and geopolitics.

The fact that the Doklam heavy duty road was fast becoming a reality in mid-June, caused concern at Army HQ in Delhi. The robust Indian response to the road was scripted by Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat, who took care to keep National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in the loop. Both felt confident in their refusal to follow the longstanding Indian precedent of feeble responses to such action by the other side. The reason was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had conveyed by the middle of last year itself to the armed forces that they were free to take any action deemed vital to the protection of national security interests. During the UPA period, all such actions had to be, in effect, cleared by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which almost always meant that any recommended military response to provocative acts on the border got vetoed on the civilian side. Since last year, however, the Army has been in a revved up mode against both internal as well as external (Pakistani) provocations, and these had been replied to with robust kinetic force. These received tacit support from the Prime Minister, who communicated through the Defence Minister his willingness to countenance determined counter-measures by the military. It was within the parameters of the policy of robust response cleared by the Prime Minister that the Army took unprecedented steps to ensure a stoppage to the road construction being carried out in the vicinity of Doklam by the other side, a program that had caused anxiety in Thimpu, which had promptly communicated its misgivings to Delhi. It was in that context that the decision of General Rawat to resort to force was taken. To the disappointment of the Pakistani side, the PLA refused to adopt the recommended GHQ tactic of using firepower to clear away the Indian contingent, confining itself to the bulletless feints and jabs that have characterised Line of Actual Control (LoAC) encounters between China and India for years. The troops on the Indian side were similarly disciplined, refusing to use weapons other than their fists (and in the case of another incursion in a separate sector, a few stones). The mutual forbearance of the two powerful militaries indicated the effect on the field of the high value placed by Prime Minister Modi and President Xi on improving relations between India and China, a sentiment not shared by all of those at lower levels in both administrations.


Since mid-2015, GHQ Rawalpindi had put onto the fast track a plan of converting the existing loosely structured understanding with the Chinese military into a formal alliance that would include the condition that either side immediately get involved in any attack by a third country against the other. Simultaneously, GHQ Rawalpindi had spread scare stories to the PLA of illusory Indian plans to open a “Himalayan Front” against China, should that country find itself in battle with the US-led alliance in the Korea, China Sea or the Taiwan sector. GHQ had concocted reports that road building and other logistical works that were being undertaken in some parts of the LoAC were “in preparation for Operation Himalayan Front”, when in fact these were entirely defensive in intent. The relative lack of contact between the Chinese and Indian militaries made it easy for GHQ Rawalpindi to plant seeds of suspicion and distrust within some officers of the PLA about the intentions of the Indian Army, thereby ensuring the sanctioning by the PLA brass of moves that would be provocative to the Indian side, such as the road sought to be built in the vicinity of Doklam. A road that was the cause of the 73-day standoff that got resolved only because of the involvement of the highest levels of the Chinese and Indian states.
Once a NATO-style agreement got put into operation between China and Pakistan, the latter was intending to substantially ramp up its provocative actions, thereby triggering an inevitable response by India’s armed forces. Under the proposed NATO-style treaty with China, this would almost immediately involve the PLA on the eastern front. GHQ Rawalpindi would simultaneously activate sleeper and active cells throughout India to conduct acts of sabotage against rail and road traffic, besides instigating a rash of suicide attacks in key cities. The Modi government would therefore have to fight what Chief of Army Staff Rawat termed a “two-and-a-half front war”.
The generals in Islamabad calculated that the India-US alliance had yet not reached the “NATO stage” of immediate involvement of the US in any attack on India. This meant that, in their reckoning, the US would not get directly involved in the India-Pakistan-China war in which they were planning for India to find itself. They, however, calculated that by a second Modi term, such an alliance between Washington and Delhi would become a reality, hence (in their calculus) the need to ensure that a conflict erupt before such an elevated defence understanding between the US and India took place. In the meantime, they would goad their proxies and hangers-on in both the US and India to join with others in opposing moves for closer security cooperation with the US, by constantly bringing up the refrain that doing so “would abandon non-alignment” and “dilute sovereignty”, rather than assist in the defence of India against potent threats.


Sino-Indian tensions over the Doklam road caused champagne corks to pop across the ranks of the senior officers at GHQ Rawalpindi, as they anticipated a Pakistan army-style reaction from both sides, of shooting first and asking questions later. Unfortunately for them, the control exercised by Xi and Modi over their respective militaries ensured that not a single shot was actually fired during any of the more than two months that the standoff commenced, although some harsh words were exchanged, much of which in the form of media commentary screaming for war by “studio and print warriors” in Beijing and Delhi, who would run away in fear at the mere sight of even a revolver actually getting fired.
Only those in China completely in the grip of the false logic purveyed by GHQ Rawalpindi would consider (in exchange for the completion of the Doklam road) as justifiable the sacrifice of a potential $100 billion dollar trade between India and China. Or the two former victims of colonialism bickering with each other in international fora, to the delight of those wishing either or both ill. Now that the “Pause” button has been activated, the Chinese side is expected to conduct an exhaustive review of the trade-offs of the proposed road, before mulling over when and if to resume construction. This hiatus has removed India’s cause of action for sending troops into the Doklam area. Hence, both sides have achieved a win through the decision taken by the leaders of both countries that Sino-Indian cooperation had a much greater priority than succumbing to the siren calls of third countries eager to witness another military conflict between India and China. In matters such as China’s decision to oppose India at the NSG, and India’s decision to oppose the entire $2 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), rather than just that segment passing through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, which has been misnamed as a “China-Pakistan” corridor, the two leaders had signed off on the recommendations of their subordinates. However, once the ice once again melts between Xi and Modi at Xiamen, as expected during the 3-5 September BRICS Summit, it is expected that the two leaders will continue the Doklam precedent of direct supervision of the details of the all-important geopolitical relationship between China and India, and will propel it forward in the manner desired by Modi and Xi, when they had so cordially met each other in 2014 in Gandhinagar and Xian.
Rather than champagne bottles, the generals at GHQ may need to reach for a stiff single malt in order to dull the pain they must feel on seeing Xi’s China and Modi’s India escape from the trap of conflict that had been so carefully laid for them by the generals in Rawalpindi.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Ensure PM Modi be given accurate assessments (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Only a bureaucracy still impervious to the modernism of the Prime Minister could have brought down the rate of growth to a level almost as low as 5%. 
At least a tenth, if not a third, of those inhabiting the Lutyens Zone claim to know Prime Minister Narendra Modi well. Let it be admitted that this columnist neither lives in the Lutyens Zone, nor knows Narendra Damodardas Modi at all well. However, the very limited contact he has had with the architect of the BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha triumph, reveals an open-minded individual, who welcomes honest appraisals of any situation. During his 13 years as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi built around him a team of individuals who avoided publicity or show, but who worked very hard at helping him ensure that the state broke several international records in governance. However, finding those of a similar temperament within the Lutyens Zone may be more of a challenge, and this has most recently been illustrated by the reaction in some official nooks to the news that almost the entire volume of cash that had been rendered worthless on 8 November 2016 was returned to the banking system. During the initial weeks of turbulence caused by the manner in which the Reserve Bank of India and others responsible for the rollout of demonetisation handled the fallout, they had numerous times claimed that a huge amount of the cash withdrawn from circulation would, in effect, be burnt or buried, and that this would not only serve to punish holders of cash, but enrich the RBI and therefore the exchequer. It is therefore disconcerting to hear from the same individuals who had made such a claim that in fact, the return of practically all the old currency was a major plus for the scheme. Growth during the last quarter has fallen to below 6% (or half of what is needed to prevent the widespread social unrest that is raising its head in several parts of the country in the form of caste, community, diet and lifestyle protests). Presumably, this reduction in growth represents a still bigger success of those who have been given charge of the economy by the Prime Minister precisely to ensure double digit growth. Not just the public, but it is the duty of those in authority to ensure that the information they present to the Prime Minister is accurate, rather than representative of fantasy.
Prime Minister Modi has worked with zeal since 26 May 2014 to ensure honesty in administration. While in the past, about a quarter of those in the middle and higher rungs of the government clearly lived way beyond their recorded income, this seems to have been reduced to about a tenth, and hopefully will diminish still further. Hence, it ought to have been obvious to those tasked with implementing the 2016 demonetisation that centuries of oppressive and overbearing governance in India have ensured that the population of this country have acquired the skills of Houdini in escaping the regulatory snares placed in their way by bureaucrats looking for bribes. Unfortunately, the colonial system of administration in India that has been carefully preserved and added on to by Jawaharlal Nehru and almost all his successors, has resulted in the more crooked having an advantage over the honest citizens in avoiding getting caught in the hundreds of thousands of rules and prohibitions that are the norm in what is considered to be a democracy. While the Income-Tax Department may send notice upon notice, the net increase in collections as a consequence of such exertions is likely to be small. Although in theory demonetisation should have hit the holders of vast sums of undeclared currency the hardest, in practice the blow fell hardest on the sector that has ensured that the country has thus far avoided bouts of violence of the level witnessed in the past, including during Partition—the “informal” sector. To say that this is a rogue sector is to be unaware of the fact that most of the employment in the economy is from this sector, as well as the market for the output of the manufacturing sector, apart from the fact that substantial sums get paid as “informal” taxes, i.e. bribes. The RBI and other agencies ought to have made continuing liquidity in this sector a priority, rather than ignoring the effect of withdrawal of 86% of cash on output, income and employment in this all-important segment of the economy. Had liquidity in the form of new currency been pumped into the economy on a scale sufficient to fill the gap caused by the 8 November 2016 withdrawal of old currency, the economy would have been boosted by the bold measure. It is clear that Prime Minister Modi approved the move to demonetise only because he was confident that the agencies tasked with implementation would perform properly rather than poorly. In practice, the way in which banking regulations, for example, were changed almost by the hour has made at least the Reserve Bank of India an object of global ridicule.
It remains to be seen how many of the new taxpayers who have come into the system after demonetisation will continue in the tax net. What is certain is that much more gentle methods of compliance (such as low rates and amnesties) would have ensured several tens of millions more taxpayers, all of whom would have been willing, rather than forced. A colonial-minded bureaucracy looks only at its own interests and convenience while designing and implementing measures that may affect millions, and the way demonetisation was rolled out is an example of this. Only a bureaucracy still impervious to the modernism of the Prime Minister could have brought down the rate of growth to a level almost as low as 5%. “Naya soch” is needed, and this includes analysing problems objectively rather than through the distortion of PR machines. To ensure double digit growth, Prime Minister Modi needs objective assessments from his team, especially post-mortems of programs that are being implemented. This is what those chosen by Modi for responsible positions need to ensure during the remainder of his term, so that by 2019, the country’s rate of growth gets back at least to 8% in preparation for the double digit growth mandatory over the next five years to avoid unbearable social turmoil.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Xiamen BRICS Summit a game-changer (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

THE BRICS Group brings together five large countries, of which three are from the Eurasian landmass. These are Russia, China and India, two of which are neighbours to China. During the 1960s,friction developed between the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), in large part because Moscow expected Beijing to behave towards to the way the USSR’s East European allies did. In other words, accept both the leadership and the superior position of Moscow over Beijing in global affairs. This was anathema to Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Chairman Mao Zedong, who saw his country as being on the way towards once again taking over the leadership of the global community.
In 2017, the roles have been reversed, and it is China that is now the superpower rather than Russia. Of course, the Chinese leadership has shown much more tact than had been the norm while Nikita Sergeyvich Khruschev was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. As a consequence, the alliance between Russia and China has been treated in Beijing as a partnership of equals, with Russia given high honour and respect. Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has moved up the geopolitical tables and is now no longer a peripheral but a major player.
In the Middle East and in Europe, the influence of Moscow is strong and growing. Should Putin be able to fashion an economic policy that harnesses the dynamism of the genuine Russian entrepreneur rather than the robber barons and business mafia patronised by Boris Yeltsin ( his predecessor), it would not be long before Russia entered a period of growth at the same rate as China and India. It is an inevitability that Russia will once again emerge as a superpower, given not only its landmass but its immense human resources. Russian brainpower overcame their German rivals during the 1941-45 war, and even during the Yeltsin years (when President Clinton had made it a priority to destroy Russian R&D with the help of collaborators in Moscow) the output of science and technology centres was phenomenal. Russia has for hundreds of years been a great intellectual power, and this gift is likely to witness the country’s emergence among the Big Four in the years to come,the others being China, the US and India.
Three of the four are meeting at Xiamen during May 3-5. This is an attractive coastal city in China that vies with Lhasa to be the cleanest city in the Peoples Republic of China. It is also well known to President Xi Jinping of China, who headed the city administration for many years in the past. Indications are that the 9th BRICS Summit will be among the most consequential since the group was formed ten years ago, with several initiatives planned that would bring the five countries ( India, South Africa, Brazil, Russia and China) close together in a manner that they have not been in the past
Thus far, the leaders congregating during BRICS sessions have been hesitant to go in for Big Bang changes, preferring to concentrate on incremental changes. What is needed is for a bold vision for the future, combined with the determination to carry them out. Of the BRICS nations, Russia, India and China have strong leaders in Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping. As for Zuma and Temer of South Africa and Brazil, their political careers would get a boost from the returns possible through closer cooperation between the five powers. The time has arrived for ensuring automatic access to each of the five countries from any of them. Doing away with traditional visa procedures would increase tourism between the five. As an example of unutilised potential, less than 60,000 Chinese tourists came to India during the previous year, while 103 million Chinese tourists travelled across globe, many to rich countries but several to countries outside Europe and US.
There is a flourishing Buddhist tradition in China that has resonance in India, the land from where Gautama Buddha came from, and already there are circuits for pilgrims from Japan and Thailand who come to those great sites of the Buddhist faith as are located in India. A Chinese circuit would be a welcome addition. Wherever Indians and Chinese congregate and live together, as in Singapore or in California, the two communities get along very well. As for Russia, that country has been a traditional and reliable friend of India since the 1950s. In the case of Soyth Africa, it was India who first unconditionally backed the African National Congress and its leader Nelson Mandela, much before the rest of the world did. Brazil has become a major partner of India since the time Lula de Silva was in charge of the administration of that immense country, and the potential for closer ties is immense.
Overall, the Xiamen BRICS meeting could be a game changer for the alliance. The leaders need to aim high rather than low, look at the big picture rather than only at bits and pieces of potential cooperation. Amity and collaboration between the BRICS powers would be a major factor promoting global stability and economic progress. Prime Minister Modi is expected in Xiamen in days, and can be expected to unveil a plan for BRICS to become a truly effective grouping that promotes both economic as well as people to people contacts. The host nation, China, is led by a strong leader, Xi jinxing, who is pursuing the Chinese Dream and in the process, building the Asian Century.

Desh Deshantar : Vice President emphasises on meaningful debate in Parliament (Rajya Sabha TV)

Guests: PDT Achary, Constitutional Expert / Former Sect.General,Lok Sabha; Nirmal Pathak, Editor, Bhasha PT; Prof. Madhav Nalapat, Political Analyst 

Anchor: Qurban Ali

Monday, 28 August 2017

Who wins after diplomatic breakthrough in Donglang? (CGTN)

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Monday the withdrawal of Indian troops from Donglang area after a two-month-long standoff between Chinese and Indian troops. Is this the end of the game or just the end of a beginning, as a nationalistic BJP under Prime Minister Modi hardly conceals its anger with China's Belt and Road Initiative and Beijing's refusal to support India's bid to join the Nuclear Supply Group? Will the two biggest emerging markets lead the world economy and help stabilize Asia, the world's fastest growing region? Can the two countries settle their disputes through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and bring an end to the tough geopolitical competition since 1962? To discuss these issues and more, CGTN’s Dialogue invited Professor M.D. Nalapat of Manipal University and Rong Ying, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, to find out.

Spotlight: India, China end tension on Doklam border (NewsX)

After two and a half months of tension on the Doklam border, India and China end their border standoff on Monday. As both sides mutually decide to disengage, the development is a clear vindication of Prime Minister Modi’s diplomacy. And a huge diplomatic win for the Modi government as it ignored repeated baiting and aggressive Chinese rhetoric to resolve the impasse through diplomatic channels. The reduced tensions also paves the way for PM Modi to attend the ninth BRICS summit on 3rd September which is also expected to see presence of several non BRICS neighbouring nations. However, there are still some concerns that we are raising on Spotlight. While truce was reached by diplomatic talks, the Chinese foreign media say it is only Indian troops that have withdrawn. Also there is no clarity on the status of the road construction by the Chinese on Bhutanese territory that started the entire skirmish on June 16.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

A new ‘Panchsheel’ needed for BRICS (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
A consensus needs to get built that the five member-states of BRICS will renounce the use of force against each other. 
That Europe as a continent gained mastery over the rest of the globe for close to six centuries is because of the confidence within its population that little was impossible. They obeyed the ancient Indian dictum to “aim for the stars even if you miss”, rather than setting their sights low and then being satisfied with coming close to what at best would be a miserable result, the mindset of several elites in Asia. But times have changed, although India’s colonial-style bureaucracy has survived the British Raj in order to enmesh the population in Red Tape Raj. Despite the diversity of the country, the effort of those entrusted with governance has been a constant effort at funnelling the different needs and systems in India through a single spout, on the way rubbing off individuality and excellence and creating an undifferentiated outcome distinguished only for its mediocrity. This has especially been the case in education, whether it be medical, the humanities or science. All-India examinations, all-India syllabi, all of these and more work towards creating mass-produced brainpower far from the cutting edge. Any sparks of excellence get driven out through neglect, if not outright condemnation for such effrontery. Whenever the colonial collection of policy straitjackets got loosened even by a smidgen, such as what took place in the Industries Ministry when it was handled by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in the early1990s, the performance of domestic players improved disproportionately. Early on, vested interests that thrive on the stifling controls over individual initiative that are a dominant facet of the colonial construct (another being the squeezing out of revenue no matter what the health of the contributing sector) rallied against Narasimha Rao. They midwifed the efforts of 1994, which resulted soon after in splitting the Congress Party, leading to the emergence as a national alternative of the BJP. After what happened to Rao, succeeding Prime Ministers have been hesitant in enacting fundamental reform of economic policy, out of fear that only a Robin Hood stance (of taking from the rich and giving to the poor) would ensure victory during the elections. The problem is that it is the (relatively) rich that give employment to the poor, and while it is essential to stamp out abuse and illegality, the conduct of business and the accumulation of wealth should not be slowed down by 1950s-1970s-style measures that are confiscatory and obstructionist. Even such solemn covenants as that signed between the Princely States and the Union of India were torn up without a tremor, on the principle that wealth is evil in itself. While Deng Xiaoping sought to make every Chinese (or as many as possible) rich, in India, the effort of Nehruvian (colonial-era) policy was to make poor as many honest but prosperous individuals as possible. Small wonder that the average income of India remains among the lowest in the world, far below that of the other billion-plus country, China. 
Just as millions voted for Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 on the promise of change, voters in 2014 chose the BJP led by Narendra Modi in the belief that he would ensure the substantive and systemic changes in governance and policy that had been elusive for too long. Confidence in Modi is still high, visible in the belief that he will soon begin to accelerate the process of change, now that he has settled in and mastered the processes of governance at the Central level. The expectation is that needed reforms, such as horizontal entry into the Central and state services at all levels from outside the government, will come about. That Modi is a visionary has been proved by the 8 November 2016 demonetisation of 86% of the country’s paper currency, in order inter alia to force through a shift to digital modes of payment, such as what has taken place in China during the period since Xi Jinping was put in charge five years ago. That shift in behaviour came about as a result of expansion of indigenous digital platforms and improvement in bandwidth, not by rendering worthless China’s paper currency. The Reserve Bank of India and NITI Aayog were wrong in assuming that a sharp fall in liquidity would change habits without seriously impacting employment and output, especially in the so-called “unorganised” sector. There is nothing unorganised about this sector. It even pays “taxes”, in the form of bribes to officials and politicians, and much of it would be rendered uneconomic were regular taxes to be imposed over and above such “unofficial” imposts. Hence the importance of Prime Minister Modi’s strenuous efforts at ensuring corruption-free procedures. Now, after so much has happened to the economy as a consequence of the DeMon measure the institution championed, the RBI seems to have accepted the need for liquidity and is no longer starving the economy of currency. A changeover to digital systems in place of cash needs a tax structure that has much lower rates than at present, as well as ways of ensuring compliance that are not reliant on regulations that empower (and subsequently enrich) officials beyond the limits that are normal in democracies. Overall, Modi can be expected to ensure by 2019 that present GST rates fall and compliance be made easier, given his genius for practicality. 
In days, Prime Minister Modi is expected to head for Xiamen, for the 9th BRICS Summit. There, a consensus needs to get built that the five member-states will (a) renounce the use of force against each other; (b) abstain from any action that threatens the security of any other; (c) ensure visa-free entry within the BRICS bloc; (d) have Russia and China take up the case of India, Brazil and South Africa as Permanent Members of the UN Security Council; and (e) set up a BRICS headquarters that would serve as the coordinating agency for cooperation between the five, perhaps in Durban, South Africa. The time for a 21st century Panchsheel among the BRICS Five has arrived, and hopefully this will become a reality at Xiamen. The five leaders need to aim at the stars during the 3-5 September meeting and not again keep their sights low.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Clinton News Network in full flow (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

A media outlet has the right to have its own editorial policy. CNN is truly global, with more reach outside the US than other channels based in the world’s most powerful country. However, it is perhaps time for it to show a notice every few days underlining the reality of its being a champion of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party. The guests it has on its shows are almost all visceral against President Donald John Trump, and usually use the same arguments as were tried out by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. Repeatedly,” expert” voices are featured that have zero hesitation in calling the Chief Executive of the US a psychological wreck.
James Clapper led the intelligence community during the Obama years as another of the Clintonites chosen for high positions by the 44rth US President. He has repeatedly warned on CNN that Donald Trump is insane, and even that he spends sleepless nights worrying about whether the candidate who defeated Clapper’s favourite, Hillary Clinton, may start a nuclear war. He has been compared to Barry Goldwater, who lost to Lyndon Johnson because he was portrayed as a warmonger. Ironically, it was Johnson who greatly expanded the US role in Vietnam, and began a full-scale war that eventually ended in defeat at the hands of Ho Chi Minh, of course when Richard Nixon was President. In an attempt at humour, the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, perhaps for his success in population control in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam through the sure-fire technique of carpet bombing, including with chemical agents.
Time after time, the Nobel Committee has shown that it operates fully within the ethos of the European Union, which at its core is a project that celebrates and protects ethnicity with about as much subtlety as the South African government before the freeing of Nelson Mandela. In such a construct, the member of a mafia in Bulgaria gets preference in practice over a doctor from Chennai in India where settling in a European country is concerned.
Even in the United Kingdom, a country where there still exists a fair amount of commonsense, Prime Minister Teresa May has in her present and past ministerial avatars introduced regulations that have made it almost impossible for even the brightest students from India in UK universities to find jobs in a country that Prime Minister May worked hard to keep within the EU. Not to mention a steep increase in taxes for nationals of citizens from India who live and work in the UK. Despite his being partially house-trained by Whitehall, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would have been a much better choice for the top political job in the country than an individual who has “Little England” invisibly stamped all across her mind The latest attacks on Trump by the Beltway crowd which is distraught that Hillary is not the present occupant of the White House is that he is “soft on Kim Jong Un’. In fact, Trump’s policy is precisely what is needed to ensure that the needle of a peaceful resolution of the Korean nuclear crisis gets threaded by a solution other than the use of military force. Kim Jong Un needs to get reassured that he will not end up the way Saddam Hussein and Muammar Kaddafy did, and what has been planned for Bashar Assad by the Atlanticists.
Should he avoid provocative actions and open the door to the greater contacts with North Korea that South Korean President Moon is seeking, a summit between President Trump and Supreme Leader Kim would give the latter enough “face” among his army commanders to scale back progress in developing a nuclear and missile deterrent that is of intercontinental scale. Instead of being applauded for his breaking away from the failed diplomatic nostrums of the Clinton,Bush and “Clinbama” years, which is a better way of describing the Clinton-heavy Obama period, President Trump is being savaged. The reason is the worry that his approach may actually work, thereby exposing the shallow thinking of the many “experts” who collectively crafted US policy to North Korea since the 1990s.
In every case where Trump has an approach different from that of his predecessors, there has been a cacophony of protest from the “experts” who fashioned the policies that failed but which still continue on life support. For any admission of failure of such policies would throw a disconcerting light on the erroneous policies that Atlanticists on both sides of that ocean have championed for so long, and still do so, long after they have been shown to be disastrous. In the case of Syria,this columnist warned in several essays, including in this publication, that adding the fuel of ammunition and funding to the mix of armed fighters in that country would ensure such chaos as would create a flood of refugees into Europe. This was exactly the warning given about Libya.
Of course, these experts and the think-tanks and government departments in which they are based are adept at finding scapegoats. For example, they blame Bashar Assad for the exodus from Syria into Europe and not themselves, neglecting to point out that migration was almost non-existent when Assad has full control of a country that has now been divided into at least three entities The generals chosen by Trump are honest individuals, and this gives hope that they will accept the reality of the mistakes made in the past, and refuse to continue in the same rut as has cost the US trillions of dollars and hundreds of US military lives. Across the world, there is need for an approach that fits the parameters of Ground Reality in a way that Atlanticist policy, rooted in ethno-centric fantasies, has long forsaken.
The fear of the baying lynch mob that is hounding Trump (to applause from CNN and other media outlets that have made it their mission to run the US President out of town is not that Trump’s new policies will fail. Their fear is that they will succeed, thereby accelerating a move away from the stagnant pools of past policies sought to be continued into the present, including in the Trump presidency. Such successes will show them up, expose them for the blunderers they are. Small wonder that they are using the media outlets that have long showcased them and their views to seek to increase the heat on Trump so that either the US President quits or gets thrown out by the US Congress. Should they succeed, CNN would deserve a goodly share of the credit.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The unfinished promise of Rajiv Gandhi (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat 

He learnt to function in the groove dug out for him by the bureaucracy.

Rajiv Gandhi was a charismatic personality. However, what was equally undeniable was the under-performance during his 1984-89 stint as Prime Minister. There were indeed some green 21st century shoots emerging from the muddy field of policy, such as in telecommunications or panchayati raj. Credit for the first goes to Satyen Pitroda, who anticipated the telecom revolution which followed two decades later. Rajiv made some use of Pitroda, but not enough to make an overall difference, such as by inducting him into the Union Cabinet or ensuring that the bureaucracy was kept away from the telecom sector. That last has yet to happen. Indeed, the babus are firmly in the driver’s seat. The electorate had overwhelmingly supported Rajiv Gandhi in 1984, less out of sympathy than hope that this youthful leader would ensure change. However, soon after he took charge, officials steeped in the past closed in around Rajiv, blocking him off from the outside world so far as policy formulation was concerned. Satyen Pitroda was an exception. Mani Shankar Aiyar was another exception, and had he been given executive powers to devolve authority to the lower administrative units, the country may have been transformed.
Rajiv Gandhi soon learnt to be comfortable with the bureaucracy, and largely functioned in the groove dug out for him by them. As for his ministerial team, most were chosen for their caste or closeness to those interests seen as vital to the kind of politics that has long been the norm in India. Rajiv’s spinmeisters created a hostage to the future by painting Rajiv as “Mr Clean”, in a context where the monetary expenses of doing politics were rising exponentially. It was during the time that middle-rung party functionaries regarded stay in 4-star hotels, travel by air and the ownership of flashy cars as being the essentials of democracy. In 1989, the Congress Party lost despite its resources, not simply because the economy was still too shackled to the constraints of the 1970s, but because Rajiv Gandhi too often bowed to 19th century minds, as over Shah Bano. Rajiv continued the policy of appeasement of fundamentalists by giving weightage only to the views of fringe elements in the Muslim community, and ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in India are as moderate and progressive as any other community.
Rajiv Gandhi, early in his political debut, understood the need to ensure the crafting of a governance matrix that reflected the needs and aspirations of the present, rather than the colonial past. A visitor to his 1 Akbar Road office during 1981 and the most part of 1982 would see scientists, writers and thinkers being escorted to an honoured place in the living room, while politicians even of ministerial rank milled around in a back portico, drenched in sweat. However, by the close of 1982, Arun Nehru became the key adviser to the AICC general secretary. Nehru focused on the immediate future, sometimes ensuring quick results, but in ways that created longer-term problems. Slowly, independent voices lost their access to Rajiv Gandhi. Much of the time of the Heir Apparent was spent with those who had, for decades, been prominent in the party, and who were averse to the changes that Rajiv had earlier vowed to bring about. More and more, he began to follow the line urged on him by the party satraps, adopting boilerplate solutions to new problems rather than fresh approaches.
Later, the same post-1982 tendency of going by conventional un-wisdom continued during his stint as Prime Minister. Not that flashes of the pre-1983 Rajiv were entirely absent. For example, as PM he went ahead with what could have been path-breaking peace initiatives in Punjab and the Northeast, but which fizzled out at the last mile because of over-reliance in implementation on the same bureaucratic machinery that had allowed such problems to fester for so long. The result was that the core of the problems remained, breaking out again and overcoming the beneficial effects to the periphery of the concerned issue that had been tackled by the move. A policy is only as good as its “last mile”, or at its point of delivery, and it is here that Rajiv’s complacent dependence on an unreformed bureaucracy worked against the changes he sought. Comfortable in the official cocoon wrapped around his every move, he refused to accept that no surgeon can conduct a successful operation with obsolescent instruments.
Had Rajiv Gandhi used the considerable goodwill that was his for the asking till mid-1986 in going through with administrative reforms on the same scale as, for example, seen in the UK during the 1980s, even the Bofors scandal would not have felled him. Voters expect politicians to collect money. They know that few elections are won by saints. What they seek from their leaders is a visibly better life with hope for still more improvement in the future. By the close of 1986, the hope that Rajiv would be a transformational leader was almost extinguished. This lowered his political resistance sufficiently to enable the first major scandal, that of the Swedish gun, to deny him success in 1989.
In 1947, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel and other Congress leaders adopted the democratic (i.e. Homeland British) model of politics, throwing away the colonial construct that had so diminished India the previous century. Why they retained the colonial construct of administration rather than adopt the democratic version of governance implemented within the UK itself was as incomprehensible as it was tragic. Hence the contradiction between a democratic Constitution of India and a hyper-colonial Indian Penal Code. Why the founders of the republic failed to factor in the contradiction between a democratic model of the polity and a colonial model of administration is a question that historians committed to acting as public relations agents for Nehru have not bothered to examine. The country’s politicians, who almost entirely focused narrowly on immediate political needs rather than empower citizens in the race towards a Middle Income India, acted in tandem with the official practitioners of colonial governance to ensure that the promise offered by Rajiv Gandhi to the electorate in 1984 remained that. A promise unfinished, a vow unfulfilled.

Friday, 18 August 2017

A young lady fights her tormentor (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India
THE more backward a particular society, the worse it treats its women. It is no accident that those parts of India where women are treated particularly badly are places that are economically and socially backward. The southern state of Kerala has a 100% literacy rate and an average expectancy of life that matches European standards, despite its relatively low levels of per capita income. Healthcare and housing for the underprivileged are far better in Kerala than is the case in most of the rest of India. THE more backward a particular society, the worse it treats its women. It is no accident that those parts of India where women are treated particularly badly are places that are economically and socially backward. The southern state of Kerala has a 100% literacy rate and an average expectancy of life that matches European standards, despite its relatively low levels of per capita income. Healthcare and housing for the underprivileged are far better in Kerala than is the case in most of the rest of India.  A substantial part of the reason for such progress vests in the fact that women in Kerala overall match men closely in education and employment. As has been pointed out by Malala Yousefzai, an illiterate mother is less able to provide care to her children than those who are better educated and understand the needs of a child and how to meet them. Although both men and women are equal in intellect and potential, yet there are hundreds of thousands of fathers who refuse to fully educate their daughters, condemn them to a life of servitude in the kitchen rather than enjoy the freedom which comes from having a career.  Each parent who refuses to give the same education to a daughter as to a son should be named and shamed by being exposed in online lists of those who are so socially backward that they refuse to recognise that a daughter has the same potential as a son. Indeed, in several families, it is the daughter who cares for aged parents far more effectively than the sons do, despite often being sent off to another family without getting the same share of family wealth as her brothers. In India, even in the much more societally advanced state of Kerala, anomalies persisted, such as the fact that in some Christian sects, girls were not given a share of family property, that right going only to the male.  A courageous woman, Mary Roy, went to the courts against such a practice . Her quest for gender justice was ignored by almost all the media in Kerala when it came to the attention of this columnist, who at the time was the editor of a large daily newspaper in the state. A decision was taken to give a high degree of coverage to the Mary Roy case in the “Mathrubhumi” newspaper (edited by this columnist). This resulted in several angry letters and statements, mainly from males in Mary Roy’s community who were not willing to share their family’s inherited wealth with their sisters. Accusations of bias and worse were made, but the coverage of the case continued until Mary Roy won her point and the courts ruled that women should also have the right to inherit property in the section of the Christian community to which Mary Roy belonged.  Incidentally, Mary Roy’s daughter is a talented writer, Arundhati Roy. Men who suffer from the delusion that they are superior to women would like the latter to accept a secondary position and not seek equality. Hence the vituperation directed against women such as Mary Roy who refuse to accept such the nonsensical view that women are somehow inferior to men. The good news is that more and more women are finding the courage to speak out and to act against discrimination. These days, television channels in India have been filled with images of Varnika Kundu, a young woman of exceptional courage. While driving a car in Chandigarh at a little after midnight, youths in other vehicles sought to block her car. When she was forced to stop, they tried to enter the vehicle to abduct her. Fortunately, Ms Kundu had had the good sense to call the police as soon as she realised that she was being stalked, and they reached the spot almost as soon as the youths surrounded her stationary vehicle, thereby saving her from a terrible fate.  Most women would have quietly gone home and may not even have mentioned this attempted abduction to their family members. Varnika Kundu refused to follow such a cowed example. Instead, she made public what had happened. Because of the fact that among the stalkers was the son of the BJP State President of Haryana, the police sought to dilute the case by refusing to file charges of attempted kidnapping. Instead, they simply mentioned an attempt at stalking, ignoring the way in which Ms Kundu’s life had been placed at risk because of the crazed impulses of youths who had been brought up in the worst possible way, presumably by their parents giving them money and refusing to hold them to account. She boldly faced the television cameras and said that she was not ashamed to do so, as she was after all the victim. Expectedly, some politicians disgraced themselves by casting doubts on her character because she had been out of her home even past midnight. Varnika correctly pointed out that the same people who sought to condemn her had nothing to say about men who were out late. She pointed out that women had the same right as men to go out late. The father of Varnika Kundu gave his daughter support, standing by her and refusing to be intimidated by the fact that those who sought to do her harm were VIP children used to getting their own way. There was also support from society at large, with the few voices who were critical of her having to give way to the many who backed her determination to bring to justice those who acted in a fashion that was despicable.  More and more women in India are finding the courage to demand equality of treatment with men. They are no longer afraid to come out into the open against those who have done them harm or who intended to. As Mao Zedong said, “Women hold up half the sky”. In an increasing number of families, women are being given the same access to education as men, and are proving themselves in profession after profession. Certainly the road ahead is still hard, as there are pockets of paternalism all over. However, the example is multiplying of not just Varnika Kundu but so many other women in India who have fought against patriarchy. A woman belongs to herself and has full rights over herself. The more this is understood and acted upon in practice, the faster will a country grow towards maturity. Equality of the sexes is at the core of justice and democracy, and fighters for that right such as Varnika Kundu merit our support.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

President Trump should listen more to daughter Ivanka (UPI)

By M D Nalapat 

Donald Trump needs to walk back from any liaison with the racists if he is to survive in office.

Ivanka Trump Kushner has been clubbed together with her husband, Jared. Many commentators believe that she plays a secondary role in the partnership, and that her husband's word is law. Such a view underestimates Ivanka, who is known by other habitues of Palm Beach to have a very independent mind, very like her mother Ivana, who separated and later divorced Donald Trump.
Unlike first lady Melania Trump, who is known to have a sunny and accommodating nature, Ivana was famed for her fiery temper, a trait that was clearly not kept a secret from her billionaire husband.
After the marital union between Donald and Ivana went sour, it must have been painful for the youthful Ivanka to negotiate her way between two very strong-minded parents in such a manner that she retained the trust and affection of both. However, she succeeded in this delicate task, and along the way emerged as a strong-willed personality herself, albeit concealed within the velvet cloak of perfect manners.
Even without being officially designated counselor to the president, Ivanka would be among the most consequential figures in Washington.
However, being given the formal responsibility of advising President Trump enables Ivanka to be present at important meetings without raising eyebrows, and to get access to top secret information that otherwise would be a crime to share with her. Without such information,much of the advice proferred to her father may be incompletely thought through.
There is a growing number of individuals in the United States dedicated to ending the Trump presidency at the earliest, preferably though the impeachment, prosecution and jailing of the 45th president, and this group has been vocal in condemning the official position given to Ivanka as "nepotism".
They forget that John Fitzgerald Kennedy appointed his brother Robert as Attorney General of the United States, partly in order to ensure that hyper-sensitive secrets generated within the White House remained within the family. His father, Joseph Kennedy, had a similarly secretive group of confidantes and problem solvers close at hand who served him well in several tasks that may not have met with the approval of church elders or even the police.
The secrecy and loyalty that the personality of John F. Kennedy ensured in almost the whole of his inner group of advisers resulted in hardly any negative stories emerging about a president whose life was cut short in Dallas with a year to go before he completed his first term.
Only much later did reports surface of some of the less attractive attributes and actions of Kennedy, but none of these could dim the roseate glow that has covered his administration. Such a hue was not entirely deserved. Barring a few mainly symbolic acts, Kennedy did little to advance the cause of justice for the African-American community, leaving that task to his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson.
As for Vietnam, it was not during the eight Eisenhower years but the three Kennedy years that the U.S. military presence in that tortured country went up exponentially. His admirers say that a second Kennedy term would have seen a drawdown and withdrawal from Vietnam, but such a proposition, together with many others posthumously favorable to him, remain mere hypotheses untested by reality.
It was therefore not a lapse in ethics for Donald Trump to recruit Ivanka into his official family, nor was it wrong for her to have accepted the job.
However, what should perhaps have been avoided was the simultaneous entry of son-in-law Kushner into the official family from his privileged perch in the personal. And thereafter, it would have been better to avoid immediately entrusting him with tasks as indescribably difficult as securing peace in the Middle East between Israel and its traducers.
Both the Trump and Kushner families need to pray that their net worth will be lower when Trump steps down from his current job (hopefully after serving two terms, as his three immediate predecessors did) than it was on Jan. 20. Should their businesses do well (or worse, do spectacularly well), hundreds of lawyers, accountants and muckrakers would be actively searching for grounds to allege a link between such success and the presidency.
By agreeing to be appointed to a senior White House post, Kushner has ensured that any business transaction which favors the enterprises his family controls will be looked at askance and challenged, not simply in the media but in the courts. Companies that deal with a Kushner enterprise will find themselves in the spotlight, locked within a beam of transparency that has been heavily tilted against Trump and his family members from the start of his term in the world's most prestigious office.
Accepting his current job has given the traducers of his father-in-law a tempting target, and already reports are swirling about the extent of the losses that some of his real estate ventures are making, and about how Saudi Arabian and Chinese interests have been in touch with him on the matter. Given that neither country is the flavor of the season in Washington, interests linked to them are certain to generate a torrent of criticism that may result in driving them away from his businesses.
Kushner would spare his own and his wife's family much grief were he to quietly resign his White House job and return to private (and business) life.
Those in India who know Donald Trump affirm that he is no "white supremacist" but an outgoing, liberal personality. Whoever advised him to equivocate in condemning the neo-Nazis and neo-KKK bigots who gathered to protest the taking down of a statue in Virginia to a Confederate general has harmed the president severely. The president of the United States has a global constituency, and if those with yellow, brown or black complexions regard him as a racist, a United States under President Trump will shrivel in global importance.
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of those who are white would similarly detest any hint of racial superiority of the kind popularized in Germany by Adolf Hitler. Let it not be forgotten that in locations across the world, including in the United States, some of the most effective blows against racial privilege have been administered by those who are, to use a quaint term, "white."
The World War I corporal attracted tens of millions of losers to his banner in the 1930s by giving them a chance to publicly lash out at the winners they detested for being better than themselves. Ultimately, Germany under Hitler became the worst loser of all. Those who abhor folks of a different hue or faith are in need of medical attention, which hopefully most will get before their actions threaten human societies.
What they do not need is the oxygen for an exclusivist cause that comes their way when the U.S. president declines to call them out. Donald Trump needs to walk back from any liaison with the racists if he is to survive in office. Should he fail to do so, the enemies of the United States will seize upon this to box the world's most powerful country into the global isolation ward. An untouchable president will soon result in an untouchable country. It is time for the president to listen to his gentle and wise counselor Ivanka and not to the misdirected who confuse merit with skin pigmentation.
It is time for the Real Donald Trump to dismiss those handlers who are firing bullets of hate and prejudice from his shoulders.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

India’s I-Day survey — What young India wants (NewsX)

Published on 15 Aug 2017
As we celebrate 70 years of freedom we bring you the findings of a special survey carried out by Businessworld — a survey that will give you an insight into the mood of the nation. Businessworld polled large sections of corporate India including over 400 chief executives and directors of companies spanning varied sectors in 12 cities across the country as well as scores of ordinary Indians about the state of the country and India's journey thus far.

Who they believe have been the most important and visionary Prime Ministers of India.

What according to them have been the country's biggest achievements over the last 7 decades.

Where they believe the country has made the maximum progress and areas where we still have a lot of catching up to do.

Where India stands on the global stage. And most importantly what do the youth of India the millennials think about where the country is headed and whether India is truly leveraging its demographic dividend.

And to discuss the mood of the nation we have a special panel — Jagdish Khattar, Former Managing Director of Maruti Udyog; Anurag Batra, Editor in Chief of Businessworld which has conducted the survey; Professor M D Nalapat, Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian; Vinayak Dalmia, a business analyst. The politicians on the panel are Sudesh Verma, BJP Spokesperson; and Pawan Khera, Congress Spokesperson.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Pak GHQ using PLA ‘neocons’ to damage India-China ties (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

PLA has warned Beijing that diluting stance on Doklam would embolden other countries.
Analysts tracking developments within the China-Pakistan alliance of the two militaries warn that the Pakistan side is seeking to move the relationship “from the strategic to the tactical”. GHQ Rawalpindi’s expectation is that in future, field operations will take place in a coordinated manner, and both sides will participate in actions undertaken on the initiative of any of the partners. The analysts say that the intention of GHQ Rawalpindi is to make the China-Pakistan military alliance “acquire the core characteristic of NATO, which is that a conflict involving one of the parties will inevitably bring in the other”. There has been a deepening rift with the United States—caused by the unwillingness of Washington to sign off on GHQ-ISI plans for destabilisation of Afghanistan and India—that has brought the Pakistan army closer to the PLA, which has adopted a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards the several subversive activities of the Pakistan army in its neighbouring states, including Iran, Afghanistan and India. Especially during the final two years of the Barack Obama administration, the Pentagon has repeatedly cautioned GHQ Rawalpindi not to continue with its proxy wars against India and Afghanistan, even while adopting a policy of “wilful blindness” towards activities targeting Iran. Very quietly and without any direct public acknowledgement of the fact, the generals in Islamabad have moved Pakistan into the anti-Shia military alliance led (and funded) by King Salman of Saudi Arabia. While the alliance speaks of countering Iran, in actual fact, it is directed against any effort by the Shias to acquire parity with the Sunnis (including the Wahhabi layer). The judicial coup against Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was caused by the former Premier’s aversion to some of the “special operations” being conducted in Iran, Afghanistan and India by GHQ-ISI. It is expected that his successors will once again adopt the policy urged on the civilian leadership by the military, which is to “see, speak and hear no evil”, i.e., the new leaders should not seek to know about—much less block—ISI special operations cleared by GHQ.
The neo-conservatives in the United States, including the closet neo-conservatives clustered around Hillary Clinton, favoured the use of force and believed in establishing the dominance of the US across regions through use of the military. Within the PLA, especially during the past nine years, there has developed what may be termed a “neocon” wing that leans towards a resort to force and considers it necessary that China should establish not just primacy as now, but US-style dominance over South, South-East and East Asia, through the use and demonstration of military superiority. While North Korea has succeeded in diverting the attention of Japan in a manner favourable to China, the Pakistan army has fallen behind in ensuring that India gets similarly diverted away from its northern neighbour. Hence, the persistence with which “neocon” elements in the PLA have been encouraged by GHQ Rawalpindi to insist on completion of a “Road to Nowhere” in the Doklam area bordering Sikkim. The only value that such a road would have would be to serve as a jumping off point for a land attack on India in the eastern sector, which is why the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is emphatic that it should not get completed.
Given the efforts of GHQ Rawalpindi to put in place a NATO-style mutual security alliance with Pakistan, it is logical to assume that such a road may get used in future, should India-Pakistan relations deteriorate to the point where a conflict becomes inevitable, and China fall into the mutual alliance trap set for it by GHQ. Placing the responsibility for the initiation of a conflict with India in the hands of the generals in Islamabad would be to give a flamethrower to an arsonist, and would be deadly to Chinese national interest, but this is precisely what the Pak-oriented brass in the PLA is pushing for.
Admittedly, the PLA has found the Pakistan military to be a valuable storehouse of information about US military tactics and equipment. Decades of closeness between the Pentagon and GHQ Rawalpindi has ensured that there still remains a residual pro-Pakistan group within the defence and security establishment in Washington that shares Islamabad’s antipathy towards India. Training with the Pakistan army has been helpful in giving the PLA insights into what they may face, should there be a face-off in future over Taiwan or Korea with the US military, especially the Navy and the Air Force, both wings of which have interacted extensively with their Pakistani counterparts. GHQ Rawalpindi has allowed their Chinese counterparts to gain access to “the entire treasure trove of secrets” that have been accumulated during the years when it was the US and Pakistan that were partners in arms, especially during the eight years when George W. Bush was President and Pervez Musharraf was the supremo in Islamabad. Although he has several times sought to find favour with Beijing, that capital has always seen Musharraf as being too close to the US, especially in view of the fact that practically his entire family has long been residing in that country. The present Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan, General Q.J. Bajwa, enjoys a warm rapport with Beijing, even more than his predecessor Raheel Sharif, who is being urged to soon jump into the political arena as a proxy for the military.
GHQ Rawalpindi has convinced many within the PLA leadership that India is “firmly in the US camp” and should therefore be regarded as a rival, if not yet a foe. Hence, the PLA calculation that a strong stand against India’s actions in Doklam would signal to the region that it is China, and not India, that holds the aces. This, it is expected, will lead to a falling of the dominoes such that the other countries in South Asia will move into as close a relationship with China as Pakistan already has. The PLA has warned the leadership in Beijing that diluting their stance now on Doklam would have an immediate impact on all the countries with which Beijing has territorial claims, and embolden them to follow “the India example, rather than the Philippines example”. That country has refrained from emphasising its victory over China in the International Tribunal over the South China Sea matter, and under President Rodrigo Duterte has become as close to Beijing as Pakistan is, echoing the views of the Chinese side in international fora, most recently during the ASEAN meeting. Success through military or diplomatic means in getting India to reverse its insistence (that the rights of Bhutan should be given priority) would serve as a lesson to all other countries in South and Southeast Asia that it would be futile to seek to challenge China. Just as the US neocons were eager for conflict, so are those of a similar mindset in the PLA. However, it remains to be seen if President Xi Jinping will put at risk friendly relations with India to indulge the risk-takers in the Central Military Commission at Beijing. The Chinese leadership is aware that India presents a huge market for Chinese infrastructure, energy and telecom companies. The latter, especially, require access to the Indian market in order to take on the likes of Apple and Google in future, as they are intending to do. Even a short war would entail the invocation of the Enemy Property Act against Chinese assets in India, most likely leading to their confiscation. That would be a very steep price to pay for the privilege of building a few hundred metres more of motorable road in the Chumbi wilderness. However, from the viewpoint of GHQ Rawalpindi, their interest (as indeed, those of Japan, South Korea, the EU and the US, all of which are competing with China in the Indian market) lies in a conflict between Delhi and Beijing that could sour commercial and other ties between the two most consequential capitals of Asia for over a generation.
Because of the adoption by the Chinese side of several of the Pakistan army perceptions about India, a series of Chinese actions have taken place that have had a harmful effect on Sino-Indian relations. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a case in point. By initiating such a road within Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Beijing is implicitly legitimising Pakistan as the country to which Kashmir belongs, else how can an officially named “China-Pakistan” corridor pass through PoK? The Chinese side, if it had any sense of the mood in Delhi now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in charge, could at the least have called the segment within PoK the “Kashmir link road” and begun the actual CPEC at the Pakistan border, rather than at the Kashmir border. Similarly, the Belt and Road Initiative conference that took place in May in Beijing in effect became a CPEC conference, with even the Pakistan army nominees in charge of PoK attending. Had an official Indian representative attended side by side with PoK officials, that would have given legitimacy to Pakistan’s illegal occupation of that territory. Similarly, the repeated blocking of India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group has convinced many in Delhi that Beijing does not regard India as an equal, despite its words and statements to the contrary. GHQ Rawalpindi is moving ahead in its mission of poisoning relations between Delhi and Beijing for at least a generation more, by ensuring that the PLA launch a war against Indian forces. Such a war would quickly expand into the skies and the seas. The US, Japan and Australia could then expand their naval Freedom of Navigation patrols in the South China sea, and this time, they would be joined by India. An attack on India would finally ensure that the block placed by the Lutyens Zone over the Modi government signing the three Defense Foundation Agreements with the US gets broken. The lesson of such a war, that China is now back in the era of Mao and is ready and willing to use force whenever a situation arises, would bring ASEAN closer to India and the US, thereby de facto forming an Asian NATO that would commit its members to collective action, should any of them get attacked by a power outside the alliance. In other words, the effect would be the reverse of what GHQ and the PLA neocons are forecasting.
China would lose both security as well as a lucrative market, should the PLA accept the advice of its Pakistani partners and launch an attack on Indian positions at Doklam. A better path for both India and China would be for India to participate in the Belt & Road Initiative (once the mislabelling of the road in Kashmir as part of the China-Pakistan corridor gets corrected) and for China to sponsor India’s entry into the NSG. A clear undertaking can be given by both sides that neither will, in future, cross established boundaries, and that across the Line of Actual Control, there will be a standstill situation until the border gets permanently demarcated. That probing patrols across the lines will cease. The Chinese side can announce a review of the Doklam road project pending discussions with Bhutan and India. Completing that road is hardly worth a conflict between two countries that have much to gain from peace and much more to lose through war. Prime Minister Modi has shown that he is the strongest PM India has had since Jawaharlal Nehru. The latter transformed India, and Modi is expected to do the same in the years ahead. As for Xi Jinping, he is the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. It is likely that he will remain popular even after five more years as Chinese Communist Party General Secretary and become Chairman of the CCP in 2022, the way Mao was during his lifetime. Two such strong leaders are very capable of performing a task much more difficult than going to war, which is keeping the peace between the two most populous countries on the planet. Hopefully, the September BRICS summit at Xiamen will witness a meeting of minds between Xi and Modi that keeps the peace and ensures that the focus be on development, rather than war. The snares and games of GHQ Rawalpindi are as toxic to China as to India, and must fail.