Sunday, 21 May 2017

PM Modi cleansing system of hawala-narcotics influence (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Modi has examined the records of officials under suspicion of having links to the hawala-narcotics industry. 

Although definitive numbers are difficult to come by, estimates are that the hawala-narcotics industry in India has a volume of Rs 186,000 crore annually, all of it unreported. Linked to the ISI, which has the final say in the operations of both the hawala trade as well as subcontinental commerce in narcotics, kingpins of the industry are the biggest funders of politicians across the ideological spectrum. An examination of the users of the chartered flights made available by the hawala-narcotics industry to VVIPs would show that the beneficiaries come from all sides of the political spectrum. Together with their political backers, this secretive industry enjoys the patronage of a large number of officials in agencies and departments, covering most segments of administration, but principally in the economic sphere. A particular target of their operations has been to seek to undermine or to get recruits from the uniformed services. In this context, the lapses in security that have enabled the entry of terrorists into several defence and security-related facilities over the past ten years, need to be examined by an independent authority, so as to overcome the manner in which each administrative and uniformed service seeks to cover up and protect those who (intentionally or otherwise) make mistakes that create avenues for terrorists to exploit. In the case of a post-2014 terror attack on a defence facility, basic standard procedures for ensuring the safety of personnel were ignored. Members of the service involved were, for example, found on the night of the attack sleeping in tents close to a fuel dump, which caught fire subsequently, leading to deaths through incineration, rather than through terrorist bullets of those who had been camped out in the open for reasons as yet unspecified. Ingress into the facility was made possible through ignoring of security parameters, as well as by errors that in other countries would call for a court martial, but in India appear to have been condoned. In the civilian field as well, gaps in procedures as well as errors in processes which facilitate the operation of hawala dealers linked to the narcotics trade have been commonplace till 2014, after which Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi began the lengthy and difficult process of improving the security and efficiency of systems and procedures in governance, especially in security-related fields.
The GHQ Rawalpindi-controlled ISI has used the channels available to it within the administration in India to periodically launch psy-war operations designed to bring into disrepute India’s uniformed services. An example was the report nearly five years ago of the commander of a wing of the military attempting a coup. Exaggerated descriptions were made of troop and vehicular movements, and these were portrayed as having a sinister intent. Special operations units that had been set up by the commander in question, and which were effective in identifying moles and secret agents of an enemy power, were tarnished in media reports. Interestingly, a senior minister in a previous government was responsible for persuading some media entities to carry reports about the fake coup, misleading them into carrying reports that in effect portrayed those then at the head of the military in India as being of the same cloth as their counterparts in Pakistan, who have made coups and martial law a natural accompaniment of politics in that country. Two decades ago, this same minister had, through his influence, ensured the passing of orders that greatly facilitated an expansion of narcotics production in India, ostensibly for medical reasons, but with almost no check on whether or not production was going into lawful channels or not.
Over the past two decades, as many as 37 civil servants have been the recipient of favours channelled through the politician in question. Several have been gifted properties, while others have been given funds to pay for the education of their children, or for shopping expeditions by family members in high cost locations in other countries. Any individual who crossed the politician could expect to get the attention of agencies tasked with ferreting out financial crimes in India. This was done in connivance with identifiable bureaucrats, who were smoothly herded through the promotion ladder because of the influence of the politician in question. An example was the ensuring of directorships in public sector banks to chosen individuals, who would then lobby for loans to corporate groups. The records will show many such appointments, especially from the period when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took charge in 2004, each made with the connivance of officials close to the minister in question. The umbrella of cash and protective services provided by the hawala-narcotics industry to those who were, and remain, the business, political and official associates of the politician in question, ensured a smooth ride also for those secretly linked to the ISI, usually through entities and individuals based in Dubai, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Unlike the “live and let live” attitude of his predecessors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted a Zero Tolerance policy towards the hawala-narcotics nexus that has infected so much of business, government and politics in India. Those associated with government processes say that Modi has carefully and methodically examined the records of officials under suspicion of having links to the hawala-narcotics industry, and specifically to the politician in question, who, together with some of his family members, has been known for decades to be close to such interests. It is likely that action will follow in the most egregious of cases of favours shown to particular politicians, despite the reality of some in the administrative services being overprotective of those in their particular cadre. Officers relatively junior in age, but untainted by linkage to anti-national groups, have been identified by the PMO and marked for advancement, while care has been taken by the PM to ensure that sensitive agencies come under the control of those with a spotless record. It is regarded as certain that such attention to personnel choices will ensure the cleaning up of the administrative mechanism by 2019 that was promised by Modi during the last Lok Sabha election cycle. As for the prominent politician, who played the ISI game by smearing the leadership of the military as coup masters, neither his access to money nor his friends in business, officialdom and politics will come in the way of accountability being enforced.
Of course, the former minister’s contacts are even now working overtime to ensure that he get off the hook, worried as they are that their own links to him and by extension to the hawala-narcotics industry will get exposed. However, it is clear that Prime Minister Modi will not allow any interested person or combination of persons to intervene in his drive to ensure that administration and politics in India get cleansed of those who are or were high up in the official machinery, who are associates of ISI-run narcotics-hawala syndicates in Dubai and Bangkok especially.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

China should give India fast-track status in OBOR (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Participation in OBOR by India will have to be on the basis of equality of rights. 
Unlike several other analysts and commentators based in India, this columnist has acknowledged the sweep of the geopolitical vision behind the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, although he is less sanguine about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The only way the CPEC can succeed would be (a) for the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan military to ensure justice for those ethnic groups along the route of the corridor that are presently being subjected to discrimination, and (b) ensure the involvement of India in the project. Should the CPEC be made open to Indian entities for purposes of trade and commerce across its length, the financial viability of the scheme would substantially strengthen, as would prospects for economic growth in Pakistan. Should these conditions not be met, the CPEC would face increasing headwinds through social disturbances and economic slowdown, and would eventually become a ghost corridor, ferrying little but dust across most of its length. As much for Pakistan’s sake, as for China’s, the participation of India in the CPEC is essential, even while the fullscope entry of India and its commercial and manufacturing entities into the OBOR project would be desirable for its promoter, the People’s Republic of China. Given such imperatives, it was self-defeating in the extreme for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Beijing to seek to humiliate India by blocking the entry of this country into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). This repeated act of obstruction by the PRC on its most consequential neighbour has given wings to the arguments of those who warn that China, under its current leadership, will never accept India on equal terms, and hence that a steady descent into conflict as took place during 1957-62 may be inevitable. Hopefully, President Xi Jinping will be able to overrule MoFA and its backers in an India-negative policy, the PLA, to ensure that China joins Russia, France, the US, Japan, the UK and other major powers in welcoming India into the NSG, without making that conditional on Pakistan being admitted as well. Only those who lack knowledge of high school mathematics would place India in the same basket as Pakistan. That would be similar to India equating Vietnam and China in scale and heft, and deciding policy on the basis of such a spurious equality
Assuming the ending of China’s obstruction of India’s entry into the NSG, it would be desirable to examine the conditions under which India could participate in OBOR, including in the CPEC segment. The latter would, of course, be under the express condition that it would do so without any prejudice to the fact of its sovereignty over some of the territories passed by the CPEC and which are in the temporary possession of the Pakistan military as a consequence of the Mountbatten-Nehru ceasefire agreed upon in 1948, when as much as a third of Jammu & Kashmir was still in foreign occupation. Those involved in tracking the future trajectory of countries calculate that India will be the third biggest economy on the globe within less than a decade, which indeed is the reason why Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already considered to be among the Big Four of global leaders, along with President Donald Trump, President Xi and President Vladimir Putin. Just as the US in the 1970s acknowledged that the future during the next half-century belonged to China and gave it a status and privileges that were as yet not matching its extant capabilities, it would be an act of similar wisdom for President Xi to accept that the coming half-century will see the blossoming of India as the third superpower after the US and China, and ensure through suitable accommodative policies a close and collaborative relationship between Beijing and Delhi. This would include giving India and its commercial and economic entities the same right of OBOR and the CPEC.
Participation in OBOR and in CPEC by India will have to be on the basis of equality of rights and treatment with the other major participating powers, including Pakistan and China. Over time, such a pragmatic move on the part of Pakistan would translate into greater internal stability for that country, as well as higher growth and a long-delayed climate of normalcy in Pakistan-India relations. Hopefully, Xi will be able to convince both his domestic anti-India lobby, as well as the Pakistan military establishment, of the benefits of opening the CPEC to India in a spirit of shared prosperity.
Indian companies in infra, software and fabrication would be force multipliers for OBOR and ensure both timely completion of stages as well as high quality of work. Similar involvement in CPEC would, among other benefits, ensure that people in Pakistan became aware of the potential for India to be an economically beneficial factor in their lives. Over time, tens of thousands of citizens of India would be working within Pakistan, employing and training hundreds of thousands from that country in ongoing projects. Such a partnership would have the side effect of weakening the hold of radicalism in Pakistan, given that India is fully within the subcontinental ethos of moderation and syncretic lifestyles, and Indian culture is already popular in Pakistan, especially some of the products of Bollywood. Given the right circumstances, it would be possible for Prime Minister Modi (perhaps in a second term) to ensure a normalisation of relations with Pakistan, but this will come about only after a similar process gets completed with China. And for this to happen, the advantage of a close relationship with the US is key. Hence the imperative of moving on a path of leveraging a transformation in the India-US defence and security relationship into a mutually beneficial commercial compact with China, which would then be followed by the normalisation of ties with Pakistan that has thus far been elusive. All this is within the grasp of President Trump, President Xi and Prime Minister Modi.
Hopefully, they will create history in the form of a concert of the 21st century’s Big Three, with India linking in separate ways with both of today’s superpowers.

Friday, 19 May 2017

US bureaucracy at war with Trump (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From Idia

CNN has been a reliable medium for the permanent US bureaucracy to get its views telegraphed across the globe. Embedded in US policy, the channel has seldom deviated from the messaging favoured by the Washington Beltway, whether this be the refrain that Saddam Hussein was storing mountains of WMD in his closets or that Muammar Kaddafy tortured and killed his fellow citizens on an industrial scale. During the past two years, it has served as a potent recruiting tool for IS, by constantly repeating the falsehood that Bashar Assad in Damascus is conducting a genocide of Syria’s Sunni majority. This when wife Asma as well as 70% of his ministers are themselves Sunni.
Interestingly, there are only anonymous “government sources” that CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and other media outlets committed to ensuring the successful impeachment of the 45th President of the United States. Perhaps because these are all either serving or retired members of the Clinton brotherhood within the permanent bureaucracy. During their eight years in office, followed by eight George W Bush years, the
Clintons ensured that those loyal to them were protected, and indeed had their careers boosted. This because easier once Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the US, given that the “Obama administration” was in large measure a continuation of the Clinton administration of the 1990s. The other side of such generosity was a feral vindictiveness fixated on those whom the Clintons believed were disloyal to them or did something opposed to the Clintons or to their favourites.
The Clinton machine quickly drew first blood after the swearing in of Donald John Trump, securing the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for behaviour that is a commonplace of the Washington Beltway, which is to meet foreign diplomats and make money from speeches and appearances after retirement. Some of those close to Trump panicked at the media assault on Flynn and got his exit organised, thereby boosting the oxygen levels of the “Impeach Trump” crowd, led by the Resister-in-Chief, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has acted as though he were still Republican National Committee Chairperson, seeking to accommodate different factions in the pile of jobs available for selection by the new administration. Priebus has chosen people who are seen as less than
personally loyal to Trump, and many are indeed known to be negative about him. This has given hope to the Clinton machine and to that section of the permanent bureaucracy that they are championing that the Trump Cabinet or the Republican Congress would come around to forcing the exit of the elected Head of State & Government of the world’s most powerful country.
As in the case of jiu-jitsu, President Trump’s very strengths are being used against him, including his openness and his candour. Hillary Clinton is completely scripted, with even her “spontaneous” remarks having been tested before focus groups multiple times. This is the reverse of Trump, who has the confidence to be himself. Given that traditional US policy is no longer working very well, changes are essential, and these can be effected only by a leader who is open to new ideas. Indeed, several within the permanent bureaucracy are aware of the need for change, some of the finest US citizens being part of the gargantuan administrative machine that ensures reasonably smooth passage for the country. Where Donald Trump miscalculated is in committing the same error as did Nixon. This is not obstruction of justice, for the shrill cries of CNN and other anti-Trump media outlets nothwithsanding, there was no such deed committed by the President of the US.
However, it will be remembered that at the very start of his second term in office, President Richard Nixon held a meeting of officials and demanded that they each submit their resignations. From that hour onwards, he was a political “Dead Man Walking”. The permanent bureaucracy, aware that the US President represented a possibly fatal threat to their careers, began the patter of leaks and innuendo that finally forced Nixon to quit. In like fashion, President Trump telegraphed his contempt for the permanent bureaucracy by appointing as Departmental heads individuals with a track record, often of decades, of opposing the very bureaucracies they were now in charge of. It has not helped that Chief of Staff Priebus, in his anxiety to secure a post-Trump future by accommodating each faction of his party in the spoils of office, has slowed down recruitment of Assistant Secretary and above levels to an unprecedented extent, thereby further reinforcing the perception that to President Trump, the less appointments get made, the better.
Once again, as during the final period of the Nixon Presidency, leaks and innuendo are filling (the largely compliant) media space, creating an impression of crisis where none exists. However, this time around, they may not succeed in driving out a President from office. Not unless the US public actually begin to believe in the falsehoods being retailed against President Trump and overwhelmingly turn against him. Provided Trump does not panic the way his team did in the matter of Michael Flynn, this seems a very unlikely prospect. After having beaten Bernie Sanders to pulp during the Democratic Presidential primary, it would appear that the Clintons will taste defeat yet again, this time at the hands of Trump rather than Obama.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Modi’s welcome re-connect with Buddhism in Kandy (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Whether it be Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or other countries within South Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown a sensitivity towards their concerns.
The most cursory of glances at a world atlas would showcase the importance of Sri Lanka in any strategy involving the Indian Ocean. The island nation is located at a point that is core to India’s interests in the eastern half of the Indo-Pacific, that vast body of water which has become the most important geopolitical zone of the 21st century. As significant is the fact that Sri Lanka has protected Buddhist heritage with a devotion that has remained constant across centuries, so much so that the island is home to a powerful strand of a faith that has a rising number of adherents across the globe. Within the neighbourhood of India, another important nation, Myanmar, shares with Sri Lanka the quality of being majority Buddhist, while to the north, in China, the faith is spreading faster than any other in a country hungry for spiritual riches after having won so much of the material variety. Add to this the northeast of India, to the ancient kingdom of Thailand, where too Buddhism is the dominant faith, and farther north in the same direction, to Japan, where local versions of the faith have a huge number of adherents, and it is a surprise why more attention has not been paid by previous Prime Ministers towards ensuring adequate geopolitical leverage accruing from the fact that the home of Siddhartha Gautama, Lord Buddha, is India. In the case of Sri Lanka, the policy of previous governments (with the exception of Rajiv Gandhi) was centred around the north of the country, on issues dealing with the Tamil minority, which overall did not always enjoy the warmest of relations with the Sinhala Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka. The US made the mistake in Iraq of basing its policy towards that country mainly on protecting the interests of the Sunni minority, and in particular sought to win back for the Sunnis much of the disproportionate claims that they had on the country’s resources during the time when Saddam Hussein was the dictator of Iraq. In like fashion, successive governments in India paid much more attention to the actual or perceived grievances of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka than on other matters, so much so that overall the relationship between Delhi and Colombo was often marked by an acrimony that led to other powers securing a bridgehead within the strategic space of that country.
Ultimately, the road to harmony in South Asia will need to include the setting up of a visa-free South Asia federation, where each country would retain its full sovereignty but work in sync with other members within such a zone. Such an alliance would have a common currency chosen from within its members, and the group would include Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and eventually Pakistan, once that country rids itself of the obsession that it is a fusion which is part-Arab and part-Turkoman rather than what it actually is, which is South Asian through and through. As a first step towards such a collaborative objective, India will need to work towards visa free entry and an effective common currency with other South Asian countries in the same way as it has with Nepal. Should the Indian economy break past the double digit growth barrier, such a breakthrough would be easier, as it would then be obvious that the flow of people into India as a consequence of the doing away with visas would be more than that from India to the other country. Indeed, such is already the case with Nepal, with many more from that country relocating to India than the other way about. Whether it be Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or other countries within South Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown a sensitivity towards their concerns and a refusal to act the Big Brother role that has coloured some initiatives in the past. Hopefully, now that he has once again visited Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister will soon go to Myanmar, a Buddhist country that has received far less attention from South Block in the past than it has merited.
It is not the business of any country to take sides in a political slugfest in another, unless there be extraordinary circumstances, and it is both noteworthy and welcome that Modi immediately made time in his schedule to meet Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former President of Sri Lanka, who was defeated at the polls largely because of the perception that too many of his family members were getting placed into key slots in government. Despite this, Rajapaksa retains a formidable support base within Sri Lanka, and is very familiar with India. While some such as his brother Basil may have closer with countries other than India, especially with China, both Mahinda as well as his brother Gotabaya (who were together responsible for the elimination of the LTTE almost a decade ago from Sri Lanka) have several friends in India and may be expected to prioritise ties with Delhi in the event they are returned to power, which is not impossible in the dust and swirl of democratic politics. Modi’s going to Kandy for one of the most important Buddhist festivals on the planet was timely, and needs to be supplemented not only by a more vigorous approach towards Sri Lanka but by focussing on the two other Buddhist nations in our vicinity, Thailand and Myanmar. Prime Minister Modi has placed equal if not greater emphasis on cultural as on traditional matters of statecraft while dealing with other countries, and this has been in evidence in the manner in which the Prime Minister’s reverence for the traditions of the Buddha and the way these have been preserved in Sri Lanka were clear from his interactions. Reconnecting with Colombo on the basis of the civilisational roots shared by both countries has been a welcome step, which hopefully will get followed by several more that would ensure a more harmonious relationship between India and Sri Lanka than has been the case far too often in the past.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

GHQ terror targets India, US; spares China (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
Erroneous testimony coerced out of Jadhav about his activities in Pakistan is a part of ISI’s ploy to show India as a perpetrator rather than a victim of terror. 

Worried at the prospect of a full-fledged India-US alliance becoming a reality during the tenures of leaders Donald John Trump and Narendra Damodardas Modi of their respective countries, GHQ Rawalpindi has worked out a plan to (a) intensify the ongoing terror campaign in India while simultaneously (b) blaming India, and in particular the Research & Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat (RAW) for terror attacks occurring within Pakistan. A combination of these two factors, combined with foot-dragging by Lutyens Zone bureaucrats in the matter of a genuine India-US alliance out of fear that links such as their children studying or settling in the US would then lead to allegations of bias, is expected to ensure that the alliance keeps revving engines on the policy highway but never takes off. The continuing effort at indoctrinating captured Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav into repeating an ISI-manufactured story about his activities in Pakistan under threat of execution are a part of efforts designed to show India as a perpetrator rather than a victim of terror. GHQ Rawalpindi has already misbriefed envoys from China and from select Muslim-majority states about the erroneous testimony coerced out of Jadhav, that he was running a clandestine network active in acts of terror and sabotage mainly within Baloch-majority regions in Pakistan.
Thus far Islamabad has hesitated to present such “Fake Facts” to the US for fear that Washington has evidence in its possession that would show such a claim to be false. According to individuals from the military establishment in Mumbai who have been tracking the former naval officer’s career, Kulbhushan Jadhav took premature retirement from the service “in order to try and become a millionaire through import-export business”, which is what he was doing when captured by the Pakistan army and handed over to the ISI for “intensive interrogation”, usually a synonym for sleep deprivation and other psychological and other methods of torture first refined by KGB chief Lavrenti Beria in the USSR in the 1930s, who bragged that if he were given an individual to interrogate, “within a day he would admit to being the King of England”. Now that the danger of his execution has been lowered as a result of the intervention of the Internal Court of Justice, hopefully Jadhav will be enabled to stick to the truth, which is that he was engaged in commerce, not espionage and certainly not attempted sabotage of the CPEC, the story peddled to Beijing by GHQ. Separately, Teheran was conveyed by Islamabad the falsehood that the former naval officer was seeking to encourage and arm Baloch separatists in Iran. It may be mentioned that a significant portion of the Baloch homeland is now part of the territory of Iran, while the rest is in Pakistan. In that country, an independence movement against Pakistan’s occupation has been continuing since the region was occupied by the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan army in 1948.
The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) has been known to be working with the ISI, usually through the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). It has, for example, been working closely with the ISI in Nangarhar in Afghanistan, from where in an intelligence coup 22 recruits to ISKP from Kerala were discovered by agencies in India. Apparently with the connivance of GHQ Rawalpindi, the ISKP has carried out numerous attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan, focussing mainly on the Shia community. Other such attacks have been carried out by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which too is known to be collaborating with the ISI in covert operations against mutually detested targets. Despite such a record, because of the success of GHQ Rawalpindi deception (or US credulity) during the continuing Afghan campaign from 1990 (after the defeat and withdrawal of USSR forces the previous year) that continues to this date, the US has in effect given a free pass to GHQ Rawalpindi in the matter of connivance in the murder of US troops through terror cutouts of the ISI. Thus the Pakistan military continues to act as both arsonist and volunteer fire force. The resurgence of the Taliban during the past 15 years can be traced to the error committed by the George W. Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, of refusing to take seriously the fact that groups such as the Haqqani network are within the control of the ISI and have been assisting the Taliban to go after US targets and take out as much of them as they can. 
Despite the fact that the Haqqani network is the driving force behind the Afghan Taliban, and that the group gets weapons and other facilitation from GHQ Rawalpindi, thus far the new Republican administration has not carried through on Candidate Trump’s vow that he would take decisive action against such sabotage by a so-called ally in the war on terror. Nor do Trump’s choices for Defense Secretary or National Security Advisor (James Mattis and H.R. McMaster) have a visible record of having called out Pakistan’s double game during that part of their tenures which involved working with GHQ Rawalpindi in matters conceding Afghanistan 
However, it is expected by Indo-Pacific backers of the 45th President of the US that both McMaster as well as Mattis will soon get liberated by President Trump from the constraints imposed on both by the traditional Pentagon line on Islamabad. This is that the country’s prolific terror factories notwithstanding, Pakistan is a sincere ally and that any contrary activity taking place is the work of rogue players not representative of the leadership of the Pakistan army. They would then be able to free the US military from the disastrous Reagan-Clinton-Bush strategy of accepting GHQ Rawalpindi’s versions at face value, an error which has led directly to the chaos in Afghanistan caused by the resurgence of the Taliban. It is expected that Trump may even be able in the future to stop the Pakistan army from passing on US-supplied equipment to terror groups that later hand them over to the ISKP and the Taliban. An example is the way the LeT has over the past 13 months been using GPS instead of local Kashmiri guides to avoid detection while infiltrating into the Valley, although it must be added that increasingly, the equipment being supplied by GHQ Rawalpindi to terror groups and facilitators is sourced from China and not the US. Beijing continues to be in denial mode about such transfers of sensitive hi-tech equipment supplied by it. 
Interestingly, not only the ISKP but its rival in the field, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) was set up by the Pakistan ISI, evidence of the same being in the possession of both the US as well as China, although as yet only one of these two countries has shared input on the activities of this foreign terrorist organisation with authorities in India. The other country, China, has thus far been as protective of the Pakistan army as the US was until the second term of President Barack Obama, when glimmers of realism began to appear over US policy in the subcontinent. GHQ Rawalpindi on multiple occasions interviewed AQIS Emir Sanaul Haq (who is from Sambhal in UP) before confirming him in the job. After changing his name to Asim Umar, Sanaul Haq trained in Pakistan (mainly with the Harkat-ul-Majuhideen) during 1996-98. AQIS cadre come mostly from Punjab province in Pakistan, the same region where the bulk of the Pakistan army’s personnel also hail. Despite ongoing and increasingly desperate efforts by both Defense Secretary James Mattis and NSA H.R. McMaster to get GHQ Rawalpindi to cease and desist its arming of elements battling US forces in Afghanistan, thus far the efforts of these two “Friends of the Beltway” in what was presumed to be an anti-Washington Beltway Presidential administration have not borne fruit, to the surprise of few other than two generals themselves. Both Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats are known by analysts in Washington to be far more sceptical of a turnaround in the longstanding Pakistan army policy of assisting the Taliban and other forces against the US (the same country that lavishes billions of dollars on GHQ Rawalpindi).
They regard it as highly unlikely that this longstanding GHQ Rawalpindi policy will change the way successive US Presidents, their NSAs and their Defense Secretaries have expected it to, especially given the fact that it is China and no longer the US that is the key Great Power ally of the Pakistan military. Such “realists” in Washington as opposed to pro-Pakistan “romantics” look forward to President Trump cutting through the untruths and evasions that have clouded NSC-Pentagon policy towards Islamabad for decades. They want the President to order a set of options that are grounded in facts rather than in the fiction peddled by those with a vested interest in keeping alive the fiction of Pakistan being part of the solution in the war on terror rather than being among its major problems. It bears repetition that well-funded lobbies such as those active on behalf of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia that are active in Washington completely back the Pakistan army in their approaches to US policymakers. It is a fact that there exists a dwindling but still sizeable number of individuals in Pakistan who have rejected calls by Wahabbis to join their group. However, any freeing of Pakistan from the Wahabbization first systematically and comprehensively put into operation during the period of rule by General Zia-ul-Haq four decades back will need to await the evolution of Pakistan as a normal state, where the military is controlled by the civilian authority rather than the other way about. In the meantime, India can expect more unfortunates who are its citizens to be brought before television cameras by the ISI, each of whom may recite what they have been told to by the handlers the way Stalin’s victims did in the show trials of the 1930s. More deadly still, as many as 39 training camps have been identified by friendly intelligence agencies as being active in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) where staff from the ISI train recruits from JeM, Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT in how and when to conduct terror operations against India, and Afghanistan, with a separate facility set up in Baloch territory since 2011 to look after operations in Iran, although it must be added that measures against Iran will of course do no harm to Islamabad’s goodwill in the US, given the fact that Washington Beltway toxicity towards Teheran is at the level seen in the case of Moscow. While the thirty-nine PoK camps referred to earlier are meant to target India, there are six others that are identified as having become functional during the past four years in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. These are designed to assist in the Taliban offensive against US forces and their allies, principally the Afghan National Army. Neither the US nor India is likely to get an early respite from the direct and indirect assaults of the Pakistan army and its associated irregular forces. However, clear instructions have apparently been given by GHQ Rawalpindi to ensure that there is no blowback into China by terror training camps organised by the ISI. Those who run the terrorists, some of the key elements of whom have been shielded at the UN by Beijing’s blocking of international action against them, are showing their gratitude at the consistent support given by Beijing to GHQ Rawalpindi and its irregular associates.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

‘Red’ scare in Washington (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

IN 1993, US and EU had the opportunity of a century to reset relations with Russia, given that the Soviet Union had collapsed and an individual, Boris Yeltsin, had taken over in Moscow who was amenable to US influence. However, the chance was lost because the newly sworn-in Clinton administration sought to do to Russia what Henry Morgenthau had sought for Germany after 1945, which was to “pastoralize” the country. This involved the destruction of manufacturing industry as well as the hollowing out of advanced technology. Yeltsin bowed and bent, and yet the kicks kept coming, including in the manner in which NATO was expanded to the boundaries of the Russian Federation. Interestingly, although Moscow was ready to join NATO and even the EU, that overture was spurned.
This was for two reasons (a) the entry of Russia into the EU would diminish the importance of France and Germany, which in tandem were then dominant in the group and (b) were NATO to include Russia, that hyper-expensive administrative structure would lose its reason for existence. After all, NATO was set up to challenge Moscow, and even after the USSR’s collapse, that central focus was not altered. Yeltsin’s Russia was humiliated over and over again, including by the way in which ally Serbia was bombed into submission by the US, the UK and other air forces. During the 1939-45 global war, it had been Croatia and Bosnia that had backed the Germans, while Serbia remained anti-Nazi. However, the US and the EU went along with the 1990s German position on the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, which was that Serbia was the enemy while Bosnia and Croatia were to be backed.
It must be said to Berlin’s credit that this is a capital that stands by those who in the past were with them in rather than against them in conflict situations, unlike the US and the UK, which had much shorter memories where friends were concerned. A visitor to Washington would need to be pardoned for believing that there was an ongoing war between the Russian Federation and the US. Newspaper columns and television screens are filled with denunciations of Russia. An example was the May 11 Senate Intelligence Committee Open Hearing, where Senator after Senator ascribed almost all the problems faced by the US to Russia.
Similarly, the US has an ongoing intelligence gathering and covert activity basket of measures in Mosciw, which is almost certainly much larger than any of the activities being conducted by what is a much poorer country, Russia. Led by the still-dominant Clinton machine within the Democratic Party but including anti-Trump Atlanticists such as Senator John McCain, politicians have been vociferous ever since the January 20,2017 swearing in of Donald John Trump in characterising Russia as an existential enemy of the US that spends much of its time seeking to destroy the world’s most powerful nation. Given the decades of anti-Soviet propaganda that has filled the public space in the US since the 1950s, it has been a relatively simple matter to convince large numbers of the US people that the biggest threat facing the US is a Russia led by Vladimir Putin. Of course, the real target of these critics is not Putin but Trump. The Clinton machine is on overdrive seeking to ensure that the 45th President of the US faces dismissal through impeachment or is made to resign well before his term ends on January 20,2022. Hillary Clinton had put much more effort into how she would run her administration than in how she would win the election. Unlike in case of President Trump, who is still in the process of identifying individuals to fill the thousands of patron positions in US federal administration, the Clinton campaign had already prepared lists of those President Hillary Clinton would appoint to high positions.
It must be said that several of such picks are of exceptional quality, such as Ambassador Wendy Sherman, who was a potential UN Ambassador or even Secretary of State in a Clinton administration. Hillary Clinton had prepared in detail for the task of running the country, which is why it must have been a shock that the much more skeletal Trump machine bested them in the polls. In the targeting of President Trump, Russia is collateral damage. The reality is that foreign diplomats routinely keep in touch with campaign officials during a Presidential poll. However, thus far the media in the US has been incurious in seeking details about the contacts between the Clinton campaign and foreign diplomats, the focus being solely on meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, meetings that took place in every election cycle. The effort has been to create a toxicity about Russia that makes suspect any contact with that country, and then to insinuate that the Trump campaign connived with Moscow in somehow undermining the interests of the US. That this strategy was being employed was no secret. Indeed, in a televised debate, Hillary Clinton herself called Donald Trump “a puppet” of Vladimir Putin. This was a charge of treason, but it failed to ensure victory for the Democratic Party candidate. However, it must be said to his credit that President Trump has refused to be cowed down by the attacks on him in the matter of Russia. Indeed, he met both the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the US in the Oval Office itself, clearly showing that he has nothing to hide.
The effort of the Clinton machine is to get a Special Investigator appointed, so that the next few years will see the news cycle dominated by negative reports on Trump and his staff spread by a Special Investigator whose future would be bright indeed were he to manage to secure the resignation or dismissal through impeachment of a sitting US President. Aware of such a conspiracy, the Republican Party is for the moment holding firm. However, the Clintons are nothing if not persistent, and their effort to punish Donald Trump for defeating Hillary Clinton at the hustings can be expected to continue. The spirit of Joseph McCarthy, who destroyed many careers by making false accusations of sympathy for the Communist Party, is once again stalking to corridors of power in Washington.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

PM Justin Trudeau, don’t patronise terror (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
It was a moral travesty on Trudeau’s part to implicitly back a return of Bhindranwale-style tactics in Punjab.
The post-colonial colonial practice of the Indian bureaucracy is to fawn on the white foreigner while being derisive towards the brown (and in the case of South Indians, if we are to believe Tarun Vijay, black) native. Hence it is almost a given fact that apart from private and muted expressions of disquiet, there will not be any action by the MEA concerning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. This despite the man endorsing (through his enthusiastic participation in a Toronto event) the separation of Punjab from the rest of India, which is the sole and the oft-stated objective of the Khalistan movement. The speeches of the other participants in the “Free Khalistan” gathering that had him as the star participant made clear that their intention was to “struggle for the achievement of Khalistan”. And as for the methods favoured during such a struggle, these were clear from the admiration showered on Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whose countenance gazed on the participants through a profusion of posters featuring the individual who was a creature of certain Congress Party functionaries in the Punjab before shifting his loyalties to GHQ Rawalpindi. The favoured method of Bhindranwale was torture followed by murder. Looking at the cash that was sent from Canada—and indeed from the UK and the US as well—to the “Khalistan” network in India during the 1980s, it was obvious that there were more than a few Canadian nationals who were contributing towards another division of India. The NDA-II government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on several occasions demonstrated its fealty to the concepts and responses of Mahatma Gandhi, for example by aligning itself with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir. To those not attuned to a saintly way of life, it was certain that such a grotesque alliance would lead precisely to the meltdown that we are witnessing in Kashmir these days. However, just as happened with the Mahatma on countless occasions, hope was allowed to prevail over experience and an alliance tailor made for instability was crafted. Another Gandhian act of NDA-II was to forgive those in Canada, the US and the UK who during the 1980s and 1990s funded and otherwise assisted the operations of the Dal Khalsa in India. Such elements, who were committed to the breakup of India, were once again given visas to enter the country. 

Not surprisingly, many such visitors have used the newly-opened door to try and bring the Khalistan movement back to life in the Punjab. Just in case Justin Trudeau is not aware of the murder and mayhem perpetrated by the Dal Khalsa in Punjab for over a decade (although the tempo slackened after the death of Zia-ul-Haq in 1988), hopefully the High Commission will educate him about this blood-filled chapter in our country’s history. Indeed, some from the vibrant Indo-Canadian community need to come out with advertisements detailing the deeds of Bhindranwale and the murders of innocents by the “Khalistani” groups.

The Prime Minister of what passes for a friendly country and is a member of the Commonwealth has tacitly endorsed a movement whose preferred instrument was terror. If this is not something which should be formally protested in the strongest of terms, it is difficult to determine what is. Certainly the Commonwealth Secretariat needs to be queried as to whether it is proper for the Head of State of a member country to participate in an event whose objective is the dismemberment of another through the use of terror and violence.

Fortunately, the chance of a recurrence of the Khalistan movement in the Punjab is zero, as memories of the mayhem of the past are still strong. The Sikh community is among the noblest in India, and has repeatedly shown their patriotism, especially in the field of battle. Indeed, Punjabis overall quickly got back on their feet after being, in a sense, flung on their backs during the murderous chaos of partition, and for this, they deserve both admiration and emulation.

However, just as it was a moral travesty on Trudeau’s part to implicitly back a return of Bhindranwale-style tactics in the Punjab, it must not be forgotten that what took place in 1984 just after the assassination of Indira Gandhi was unforgiveable. As is the fact that no one of any significance has thus far been seriously brought to account after the mass murders that took place in Delhi during those initial days in November 1984. It is expected of the UPA that they would deny that anything of significance took place during those few days. It should not be the case with the NDA, which needs to resist the temptation to either cover up (through not making documents public) or justify errors made in the past, including during NDA I.

Problem areas should be acknowledged rather than ignored, as should actions such as being present at events celebrating the life and ways of a terrorist. 

To not respond diplomatically in adequate measure to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tacit backing of a fresh partition of India would only entrench the narrative that Lutyens Delhi is all bark and no bite, not even of the soft variety. Indeed, it is such a conviction about India, that there is no substantive blowback from trampling on this country’s core interests, that has ensured recent diplomatic disasters as Pakistan, the US, UK, Australia, Norway, Ireland, Czech Republic, Germany, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan, Lichtenstein, Haiti, Kenya, Vatican, South Korea and others joining hands to fling accusation after accusation at this country in the Geneva meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

Hopefully, in the case of each of these powers, there will be more than the usual “silent protests” at such mischaracterisations of India. Under Nehru in the 1950s, India talked and talked and talked and yet found itself isolated at its moment of crisis in 1962. The people expect more than just words from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

They expect action.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

North Korea will copy Pak’s Thousand Cuts strategy (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat 

Kim Jong Un is strengthening clandestine networks in Japan, the United States and South Korea. 

Policymakers and analysts across both sides of the Pacific Ocean, who are familiar with and involved in policy formulation in both segments of the Korean peninsula, say that North Korean supremo Kim Jong Un “admires the way a much smaller Pakistan is keeping India on tenterhooks” through GHQ Rawalpindi’s Zia-era “Thousand Cuts” strategy. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi—at that time focused on a peace treaty with Pakistan because of his close relationship with PPP chief and later Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto—declined secret approaches by Israel, which continued up to the initial months of 1989 to jointly carry out a ship and air-based missile strike that would destroy Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure. Till around 2003, it was possible for India to take out Pakistan’s nuclear assets, given that these were not militarily operational until that period, despite hype from Islamabad. However, neither P.V. Narasimha Rao, nor any of his successors had the will to act decisively against GHQ Rawalpindi, until the window of opportunity passed. It was not a coincidence that 1989, the year the Israeli approaches were finally rebuffed, was also when Pakistan sharply accelerated its non-conventional war on India by openly lighting the fires of insurgency in Kashmir and set up terror infrastructure throughout India for future action, soon witnessed in locations such as Mumbai in 1993.
“Pakistan’s trajectory against India has inspired Kim to follow the same path, which is to strengthen clandestine networks in Japan, the United States and South Korea to, in future, launch a ‘thousand cuts’ strategy on the three powers”, of course “once immunity is secured through a credible nuclear deterrent” on the Pakistan model. Unlike his father Kim Jong Il, “who was hesitant to reach out in a systematic manner to Washington, preferring to focus his attention on Seoul”, the younger Kim is “open to a significant increase in contacts with the US, as he is not committed to a traditional state-monopoly model of the economy”. According to those familiar with the thinking within the higher echelons of the Pyongyang leadership, the youthful Kim Jong Un “understands the benefits that Pakistan gained as a consequence of skilful diplomacy towards the US”, in particular, “by gaining the space needed in order to build up nuclear assets to a critical level”.

Further, “as in the case of Pakistan”, the primary sponsor and protector of the North Korean military, China, “ favours a policy of conciliation on the surface, combined with vigorous prosecution of necessary action below eye level”, as was the case between the US and Pakistan throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, those who were close to Rajiv Gandhi, say that an important reason why he did not accept the Israeli offer was that the US frowned on any such action against Pakistan. The other was fear of retaliatory bombing raids on Mumbai and even Delhi, “although these would have been unlikely, given the certainty of retaliation by India on Karachi and Rawalpindi”. Interestingly, these sources add that General Sundarji’s military manoeuvres on the Pakistan border during that period were to ensure combat readiness in the event of an India-Israel strike against Pakistan’s nuclear assets.


According to individuals familiar with the thinking of the higher echelons of the North Korean leadership, “if the DPRK is Pakistan, then Japan is India”. In other words, the primary target of a future non-conventional war by a North Korea made immune from significant retaliation by its nuclear weapons capability would be Japan. “The DPRK would show its teeth to South Korea and the US, but not with the intention of biting”, a policymaker across the Pacific shores revealed, adding that “the intention of a display of offensive capability would be to gain concessions” from Seoul and Washington. However, in the case of Japan, Kim “sees himself as the Korean leader, who will perform the historical task of humbling that country” through a ceaseless and escalating campaign of non-conventional warfare that Tokyo would be powerless to directly retaliate against. Such a campaign would be designed to “slow down the Japanese economy and remove any sense of safety and balance in the lives of citizens, especially in Osaka and Tokyo”, two cities where, according to several sources, networks have already been set up that can be made operational at short notice.

However, “should there be war, there will be no limit to the response” of the DPRK towards its foes as “Supreme Leader is aware that this will be a battle to the finish” and therefore “we have nothing to lose” in a context where “the only choice will be to either perish tamely, or after a bitter and deadly struggle”. They add that “Supreme Leader (Kim) is very smart and spends a lot of time in private study, contemplation and in discussions” about the overall situation from his close associates and from scholars, “whom (Kim) treats with great respect”. In particular, “Supreme Leader has studied the recent experience of Iraq, Libya, Syria and even Egypt” and seems to have reached the conclusion that “promises made by western politicians are written on water”. They claim that under the cover of removing WMD, “extensive investigation was done of the vulnerable areas of defences in Iraq and Libya”, information that was subsequently put to use in attacks directed against Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. They have also seen how “help for anti-Assad fighters was increased by several times” after Syrian, i.e., Assad’s WMD stocks were removed “because of the agreement forced by Moscow” on Damascus. Hence, they add, Kim Jong Un will not allow roaming inspections of military facilities as a consequence of any agreement. Only the sites agreed upon and which relate to the nuclear forces under discussion will be made accessible, “after a comprehensive agreement has been reached”. The individuals contacted claim that over the past year, several North Koreans and others suspected of passing on information to enemy forces have been discovered and are being subjected to questioning in facilities set up for the purpose in the northeast of the DPRK.


Given the lessons of Iraq, Libya and Syria, the individuals located on the other side of the Pacific Ocean say that the integration of DPRK’s administrative and military structure within any future unified state is “nonnegotiable”. They add that contrary to the personal views of his father and predecessor Kim Jong Il, “who was not eager for unification and disliked the ways of the south”, Kim Jong Un has an “open mind on the issue and has no animosity towards the societal construct in the south”. Hence, they claim that the best chance for peaceful unification is the present dispensation in Pyongyang, although “agreement must be based on mutual respect, rights and benefits”. Also, that any intra-Korean talks towards such an outcome “must follow an agreement (of Pyongyang) with the US that protects the personnel” of the DPRK administration from future retaliation of the kind that took place in Iraq and Libya and which is now being pursued by the US and its allies in Syria.

However, absent any “honourable and co-equal” peace agreement, the DPRK will seek to develop its nuclear and missile technologies to a stage when “these can be used with deathly (sic) effect on cities in Japan, the south and the US west coast”. That would, in their view, strengthen the position of North Korea in any future negotiations. According to those familiar with the workings of the ruling group in the DPRK, “the military wants to, in all situations, go ahead with the nuclear program” as the army’s belief is that “the US is not interested in serious negotiations, but in putting the tiger (North Korea) to sleep by honeyed words before killing it”. However, the same sources add that Kim Jong Un believes that President Trump will keep his part of any deal made “as he is a businessman and not a politician”. According to the policymakers spoken to, “the aim of the DPRK leadership is to work towards a summit meeting (between Kim and Trump) that would result in a breakthrough in the negotiations. Only “intervention at this level would create the confidence within Supreme Leader’s high state council that would enable confidently to make the concessions required for honourable peace”. According to the individuals spoken to, Supreme Leader Kim has spent “much time going through speeches and events featuring President Trump” and has “developed respect for President Trump’s honest talk and unwavering focus on US interests”, in contrast to his predecessors, who are seen as “insincere and liars”.


There appear to be three possible options evolving within the Korean peninsula:
(1) The most likely scenario appears to be a massive first strike by the US and its allies, designed to neutralise the DPRK military machine, followed by occupation of the country and the creation of a sanitary zone 20 kilometres from the border with China, so as to ensure that Beijing’s security interests are taken account of in any deployment.

(2) The Trump administration goes the way of the Clinton, Bush and Obama eras and in effect permits the incremental progress of North Korea towards an operational nuclear strike capability that threatens not just Japan and South Korea, but parts of the US as well. This would be followed by the DPRK’s activation of a “thousand cuts” strategy, particularly against Japan, but very likely partially against the US and South Korea as well, the aim of actions against the latter being the wresting of concessions on trade and finance. The campaign against Japan would be with the same objective as that of the ISI’s war on India, the weakening and disruption of the country.

(3) President Trump enters into “breakthrough diplomacy” with Kim Jong Un and succeeds in mentoring a peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula that would result in a unified state that would be neutral between China and the US, the way Austria was for a time neutral between Moscow and Washington.

Success in Options (1) and (3), and ensuring failure on the part of the DPRK in Option (2), hinges on Beijing fully complying with a policy of sanctions against Pyongyang that would deny that country the present plentiful access to energy and food stocks from the PRC. While a “Bright Sunshine” policy needs to be followed towards North Korea, such a phase should come about only after a verifiable peace agreement has been reached that would begin the rollback of the nuclear and missile program. Should China refuse to impose such curbs, Option (1) may become inevitable.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

President Trump battles the Washington Beltway (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Although Donald Trump was advised to reach out to the Washington Beltway, US’ Lutyens Zone, he has disregarded such counsel in several particulars. 
WASHINGTON: The relationship between New York and Washington is similar to that between Mumbai and Delhi. The first does not like, nor thinks highly of the second, and the sentiment is reciprocated. Both Delhi and Washington are the source of rule upon rule, restriction after restriction, on what Mumbaikars and New Yorkers do best, which is make money through business. Delhi and Washington spend the money that Mumbai and New York pay out in taxes, and constantly search for ways of getting more out of these commercial capitals, so as to meet the cost of the many schemes that are popular less with the people than with the officials and politicians who make money off them. These are, of course, eager to don a Robin Hood dress, professing to take from the wealthy to give to the poor. Except that it is not the underprivileged, but the well-connected who garner most of the benefits of policy decisions made in the capitals of the world’s two largest democracies. The 45th President of the United States, Donald John Trump, is a second-generation New Yorker and his family consists of third and fourth generation New Yorkers, a type of citizen as distinct from the Washington elite as quintessential Mumbaikars are from the self-obsessed, self-pampering denizens of the Lutyens Zone. In 2014, that location went into shock on 14 May when Narendra Damodardas Modi won the right to be the next Prime Minister of the Republic of India, but recovered its spirits on 26 May, when some of the most consequential names in the Modi government were from the very core of the Lutyens Zone.

The new Prime Minister of India had a transformational agenda to implement, and has sought to co-opt elements of the Lutyens Zone in this task. However, these habitu├ęs of the Lutyens Zone, while overtly pretending to be won over, have sought to derail and delay as many Modi initiatives as they could. They have succeeded in blocking the Land Bill and in delaying GST by two years. However, now that the UP elections have shown that only Narendra Modi has the trust of the voter, and not rivals who are residents of long standing within the Lutyens Zone, it is expected that the Prime Minister will accelerate implementation of reforms that are essential to push India onto a high growth track, and convert the country’s governance system into a 21st century, rather than the existing 19th century construct. However, completion of such a historically essential process may take two Modi terms, possibly a bit more. The good news is that after the 2014 Lok Sabha results, UP 2017 has given Modi all the tailwind needed to force through reforms on a scale never before seen in free India.

Although Donald Trump was advised after his inauguration to reach out to the US counterpart of the Lutyens Zone, the Washington Beltway, he has disregarded such counsel in several particulars. Even the US President’s “establishment” picks, such as Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster may be termed friends of the Beltway, but not its members, while high-level choices such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss are far removed from the Beltway fraternity, as are many others including FCC chief Ajit Pai and Trade Commissioner Peter Navarro, both of whom are facing attacks from the traditional establishment for their counter-Beltway views, as indeed is President Trump himself. On 26 April, President Trump announced changes in the US government’s approach to taxation by suggesting alterations that are as consequential in their future impact as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was, although aimed in a different direction. Not at the people at large, but at the business community, in the expectation that these will power the economy into a 3% or higher rate of growth, so that jobs grow and the fiscal deficit shrinks. 

Unlike in India, where both the Home as well as the Finance Ministries have long been resistant to accelerated change, the US Treasury Department has, within a hundred days, begun implementing Donald Trump’s promise of lower tax rates, while the Defense Department has already thrown away several Obama-era restraints on the military. The differences between the approaches to governance of Modi and Trump are many. The former’s careful manoeuvres have ensured largely supportive press and television coverage, even as the Prime Minister has incrementally, but steadily, gone about changing the texture of governance. In the case of Trump, his public disdain from Day One for the Beltway and its policy choices has resulted in a blizzard of negative press reports on a scale seen in the past only in the case of Richard Nixon in his final months in the White House. This is partly the consequence of Trump’s own decision to bypass the media, including by breaking hallowed Beltway traditions such as attendance at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. 

Narendra Modi had thirteen years as Chief Minister of Gujarat to acclimatise himself with the machinery of government before taking over the most powerful post in the country, while Donald Trump had no such exposure before taking charge of the US government. However, the byproduct of this lack of familiarity in the case of Trump has been a willingness to quickly impose changes in policy on a level unprecedented since the 1930s. In particular, President Trump has mandated that two existing regulations must be removed before any new regulation comes into effect. Should he survive the campaign designed to ensure that he be removed through impeachment before 2020, and given his fighting spirit, this seems likely, the US is going to be a very different place in less than four years than it was before Trump took charge. In the case of Narendra Modi, transformational change within the governance system and its policy matrix is taking place at a much more measured pace than that set by Trump. Therefore, completion of the “Modi-fication” of Government of India will require a second Modi term, and BJP president Amit Shah can be expected to deploy all the weapons in his armoury to ensure that this takes place.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Billionaires should pay for ‘Trump Wall’ (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

The week is being spent in Washington, the city whose most important inhabitant is Donald John Trump, the 45th President of the US. The evening before departing on the Etihad flight from Delhi en route to Washington, this columnist was warned by close friends coming from Miami that he and his wife’s visits to Iran (and in his case, even to Syria) may result in both being denied access to what is still the world’s most powerful country. Abu Dhabi has the facility of allowing passengers to the US to check through customs and immigration at the airport itself, so that the flight lands in the domestic terminal. As in the past, neither the Iranian nor even the Syrian visas displayed on the passport deterred a courteous immigration officers from once again stamping their clearance for this columnist and his spouse to spend the next six months in the US, if desired.

The usual length of stay, is of course less than ten days on most trips. Should Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai secure the same pre-clearance facility as Abu Dhabi has for US-bound trips, that would be welcomed by passengers. Etihad flight EY 0131 from Abu Dhabi to Washington was way better in quality of service than any North American or European airline flown, although it may get some competition from a few carriers based in Asia. Hours after landing, it was clear that the Beltway establishment would not surrender on its policies to President Trump without a very stiff fight, which is playing out in Washington, especially in the US Congress, where the Democratic Party, especially its “Sanderistas” (Bernie Sanders followers), have launched an all-out war against the billionaire who bested Hillary Clinton on January 20. Angered by Trump proving wrong their near-unanimous forecast of a Hillary Clinton sweep, the media in particular are attacking Trump with a zeal previously displayed only in the case of Richard Nixon soon after he won a second term.

In particular, they are pointing out that Trump has not been able to persuade the US Congress to approve even a start in funding for the wall that he is eager get built on the border with Mexico. Aware of the toxic nature of such a project on Latino voters, the Democratic Party opposes the wall, as do several Republicans, although the latter mostly in private. There is much criticism that the Trump Wall as yet exists only in the mind of Donald Trump. Now that Donald Trump is President of the United States, he needs to shift focus from making money to securing an honoured place in history, if needed at the expense of some of the vast wealth he has. A good start would be to announce a donation from his personal wealth of $ 1 million towards the estimated $ 36 billion cost of the Trump Wall. Should just 3499 other High Net Worth individuals in the US donate a million each to project, the wall would be off to a winning start. In a country of tens of thousands of hyper-rich folks, it should not be difficult for Trump as well as his billionaire colleagues in the administration to give a million dollars each for a scheme that they say is vital for the interests of citizens of the United States. A million dollar cheque, followed by a challenge to his fellow multi-millionaires in the world’s richest country, would remove much of the sting in the almost hysterical volleys against Trump by both the media as well as his political detractors. The wall that is proposed to be built on the Mexico border will be named the Trump Wall, and if it were to be funded through private donations, that would be a gesture worthy of the statesperson that Donald Trump intends to be. Such a move may even facilitate the tax plans of the 45th President, which involve the lowering of taxes so as to boost growth. Public opinion would be less hostile to tax cuts for the wealthy were they to pay out of their own pockets for Trump’s signature project, with President himself being Donor 1.

Each country has the right to protect its own borders, unless of course that country is part of the European Union, an entity that is borderless within itself, and the US ought not to be faulted for doing the same along a border that has always been porous and almost as prone to illegal migrant flows as the India-Bangladesh border. The project is, however, controversial in view of the fact that the proposed wall is seen as affecting only the Mexican community, a pool of individuals that contains some of the finest minds and characters in North America. Now that the head of the Trump family is holding the world’s most consequential position, the children and business associates of President Trump need to appreciate that the more money they make, the greater will be the risk of prosecution, especially of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who have had the moral courage to formally join the Trump administration as advisors to the President despite the much higher risk of legal jeopardy that such a change in title entails.

Bith Eric as well as Donald Trump Jr are young, as indeed is the other ace businessperson in the family, Jared Kushner. They can comfortably wait out the four or eight years of the Trump presidency before resuming their full throttle sprint towards making more billions. Indeed, the bigger the bottom line of the Trump business empire becomes during the period when Donald and Melania are in residence at the White House, the higher the risk of not simply bad publicity but worse. This is the time to shed some of the wealth made over the decades, so that President Trump retains the goodwill of the people that he needs in order to be viable as a transformational leader. It is not money but the moral force created out of using personal wealth for public good that can make the Trump presidency shine in history. President Trump should start this process by being the first patriot to give over a million dollars of his own money towards building the Trump Wall along the border with Mexico.

Monday, 24 April 2017

China's renaming of six regions in South Tibet & the growing menace of commercial drones (CGTN)

After China announced new standardized names for six places in South Tibet, near the disputed eastern section of the Sino-Indian boundary, India announced moves to improve its defense infrastructure with the upgrading of two airfields. Is there a ratcheting up of tensions between the two neighbors? And last week dozens of airplanes scheduled to fly to the Chinese city of Chengdu had to be diverted after drones were sighted flying in the clearance protection zone near the airport. What makes drones so popular and what measures should be implemented to minimize their risks?