Sunday, 25 September 2016

North Korea’s Bomb Made in Pakistan (Sunday Guardian)

Pak army has taken the field testing route for its nuclear weapons programme, with North Korea conducting the tests and making results available readily.
Both the nuclear explosions that took place in North Korea this year are “made in Pakistan”, according to those silently, and in total secrecy, tracking the nuclear trajectory of the East Asian country. “Silently” because most governments are chary of publicly naming and presumably shaming the military establishment in Pakistan for its drive to weaponise the country’s nuclear deterrent. Cooperation in the development of nuclear weapons between Pakistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been ongoing since the 1970s, but accelerated some years after the 1998 Chagai tests by Pakistan. “By end-2005, it was clear that testing of nuclear devices through computer modelling was not yielding operationally significant results”, a key analyst based mainly in Hong Kong claimed, adding that from then onwards, a hyper secretive programme of cooperation between the DPRK military and the Pakistan army was begun. In both countries, the men in uniform control the development and production of nuclear devices. The October 2006 and May 2009 North Korean tests took place with regular participation of scientists from a secret nuclear weapons development facility near Hyderabad (Sindh) in Pakistan, the sources asserted. They said that “the Pakistan army has so far done brilliantly what they are expert at, which is bluff”, in that they hyped the degree to which Pakistan had proceeded on the road towards a weaponised nuclear deterrent and attack system. “When A.Q. Khan gave his 1987 interview to Kuldip Nayar about Pakistan having the bomb, they had nothing to show for their pains except a few lumps of radioactive material.” However, “subsequently they received assistance from a member of the United Nations P-5 to launch them on the path towards developing nuclear weapons. However, such assistance was almost totally cut off after the 1998 tests,” thereby forcing Pakistan to conduct further tests in the laboratory rather than underground. After six years, the results of such tests were meagre, although externally, the spin given was that the military establishment in Pakistan had perfected a nuclear weapon and indeed had more such items in stock than India.
The non-proliferation ayatollahs in the US have, from the 1974 Pokhran tests, concentrated on rolling back the Indian nuclear programme, and “although the primitive nature of the Pakistan programme was known to the intelligence services, with which non-proliferation websites and groups in the US closely (albeit covertly) worked, it suited this lobby to broadcast that Pakistan had a robust programme”. The aim was to persuade India that there was an equivalence of nuclear terror between Delhi and Islamabad, thereby (it was calculated) making it more likely that India would undertake reciprocal actions in downsizing its nuclear weapons programme. According to a source based in a European capital, “The A.B. Vajpayee government, through National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra, gave specific promises to its US counterparts that key elements of the Indian programme would be slowed down in the field”, the fig leaf being that laboratory testing would intensify. A source claimed that “thus far, the results of such cold tests have been insufficient to generate designs for a tactical nuclear weapon or weapons that could reliably be loaded onto missile systems already available in the armoury of India”. He added that “unless India conducts at least a half-dozen more tests, it will be extremely difficult to perfect the trigger mechanism for separate devices or to ensure devices that could be safely married on to delivery platforms”.
However, this has been contested by scientists in India, who claim that laboratory testing in the country is sophisticated enough to generate data that would be of use in battlefield situations.
The Pakistan army has, on the contrary, opted to take the field testing route for its nuclear weapons programme, except that “such tests are being conducted by North Korea, with the results being made available to the Pakistan side almost instantaneously”. A source in Hong Kong said that “the results of the February 2013 test by North Korea were the most valuable, and enabled a refinement of the device that became apparent in the two tests conducted this year” by the Kim Jong Un regime in Pyongyang. The sources said that “designs are ferried through North Korean diplomats as well as by individuals acting under commercial cover, and while direct air and sea flights and sailings have taken place, much of the to and fro of date and materiel takes place via China”, which according to these sources “has looked the other way for more than two decades at nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Pakistan”, as, in effect, has the United States. These sources claim that key scientific and technical staff from Pakistan visit the DPRK on a regular basis since 2005 “under assumed identities”.
The sources warn that the covert collaboration between North Korea and Pakistan is geared on the Pakistan side towards developing a tactical nuclear weapon, and on the North Korean side towards producing a nuclear device that could be married to a North Korean missile capable of entering the airspace of the continental United States. They claim that “the Pakistan military has made available extensive information to Pyongyang about how accuracy and reliability can be improved on their missile systems”. Because of external assistance as well as domestic expertise, the missile programme in Pakistan, which is centred in a secret facility near Bahawalpur, has developed a level of sophistication that has yet to be matched by the nuclear weapons programme. These sources expect that North Korea will conduct “at least a half dozen more tests” as “the calculation by both sides is that these will be required to ensure a reliable nuclear weapons system that could, with small modifications, be entered into the armoury of both states. 
“The Pakistan army sees the development and deployment of tactical nuclear weapons as being sufficient to permanently deter India from launching a conventional war on its territory”, a source based in a European capital revealed, adding that “at present Pakistan is years away from actually inducting such weapons, which is why they are going the North Korea route towards developing them”. Another source added that “there is no substitute for field data, and unless India manages to persuade the US to share some of its field data on nuclear tests, the (Indian) deterrent will continue to be less than fully reliable in battlefield conditions”. These sources claimed that although India is significantly more advanced than Pakistan in the nuclear weapons trajectory, “as yet tactical nuclear devices have not been perfected” by this country, a lack the cause for which they assign to the unpublicised limitations placed on the nuclear weapons programme by the Vajpayee government—“constraints that were added on to by Manmohan Singh, especially after his 2005 agreement with George W. Bush on nuclear matters”. It would appear that it was the Bush-Singh understanding which helped to motivate the Pakistan army to launch a programme of conducting nuclear tests through North Korea.
A high-placed source warned that by 2023 at the latest and 2021 more likely, the DPRK and Pakistan would each have a “fully functional nuclear weapons stockpile together with reliable means of delivery”. They were pessimistic about the international community having the will to ensure that effective steps be taken (such as through blockade and inspection of both countries including overland routes through China) to freeze and afterwards roll back the joint programme of the North Korean and Pakistan militaries to develop and deploy nuclear weapons that would include battlefield variants.

Modi must declare Pak army a terror outfit (Sunday Guardian)

Modi needs to call on the UN, its member states and international agencies to join India in imposing sanctions on the Pakistan army and its personnel.
After going public on the plight of the Baloch in the Wahhabi Republic of Pakistan (misnamed the Islamic Republic of Pakistan), it was certain that there would be a vigorous response from GHQ Rawalpindi and there has been. It is astonishing that terrorists managed to enter a facility as sensitive as the Uri Brigade HQ of the Indian Army. Allowing them to enter is an offence meriting dismissal of the negligent officers responsible, as is that of making soldiers sleep in tents made of material that is highly combustible. However, as yet, there are no reports of Army HQ taking any action whatsoever on those responsible for these two lapses. Those responsible appear to have got away as lightly as did the guilty of Pathankot or an even more consequential lapse, Kargil. It is easy to cast the blame on Pakistan-trained terrorists, but these have been a fact of life since 1948 and will remain so well into the future. The Narendra Modi government needs to move away from the Manmohan Singh government policy of promotions to the top being made dependent on the calendar.
The Lutyens’ Zone policy has long been to look to Washington to cast the first stone at Islamabad, when by far the worst sufferer of Rawalpindi GHQ’s mischief has been India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown an energy and spirit of innovation absent in his predecessor. He needs to declare the Pakistan army a terrorist organisation and back that globally with a White Paper detailing the ways in which such a characterisation is entirely accurate. This should include the inhumane way in which this ethno-based force is behaving in Balochistan, Sindh and in the Pakhtun areas. Among the errors made by Jawaharlal Nehru was refusing to assist the Baloch and the Pakhtuns to win their freedom during 1947-48. Replacing the British commanders of the army with our own citizens would have cleared the way for a Cariappa-led offensive designed to ensure justice to these unfortunate people. Of course, Lord Louis Mountbatten would have disapproved any such move, and more so Lady Mountbatten.
"Those responsible for the lapses leading to Uri attack appear to have got away as lightly as did the guilty of Pathankot or an even more consequential lapse, Kargil."
Despite what state-sponsored historians say, the reality is that more than anything done by Pakistan, it is the errors committed by this country’s Mahatma-chosen post-Independence leadership that resulted in most of the chronic problems that we face to this day.
After the Uri attack, the defence attaché at the Pakistan embassy in New Delhi should be home, and any individual linked (including through marriage or bloodline) with an individual serving in the Pakistan army or having served there during the previous 25 years (roughly the period when its Wahhabisation accelerated) needs to be denied a visa to enter India, save in exceptional circumstances such as a family health emergency. Here too, only ladies, children and senior citizens should be given visas. At the same time, Modi needs to ensure a break from “Lutyens’ Thought” by calling on the UN, its member states and international agencies to join India in imposing sanctions on the Pakistan army and its personnel, including in the matter of travel, bank accounts and other matters. The international community needs to be shamed into following suit through a coordinated campaign exposing the global tentacles of the ISI and its terror affiliates. If India waits for any other country to take the lead in such a move, it will have to wait for an indefinite period, thereby cementing the perception of impotence that already clings to decision makers in Delhi, who seem to be relying on lung power rather than more effective deterrents to a repeat of actions such as Uri by Rawalpindi GHQ auxiliaries such as the JuD and the JeM.
Across the world, a perception has developed that India’s leadership is only bluffing when they make promises of action that they subsequently forget. This international perception of the country having a weakly reactive government has been decisive in the way India’s interests have repeatedly been challenged by a multiplicity of actors. Now that Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister, the expectation is that this will change. What will prove Modi to be different is action after Uri that is counter to the Lutyens’ Zone surrender tactics dressed up as “pragmatism”. Apart from declaring the Pakistan army as the terrorist force that it has been for many years and sanctioning it, what is clear is that a country ruled by generals should have no role in SAARC. The Murree summit needs to be bypassed by India, and it be conveyed to other members that it would be appreciated were they to take a strong stand against terrorism by joining India in forming an alternative Pakistan-less group of countries that includes Myanmar, and which are full democracies rather than pseudo-democracies where elected Prime Ministers are serfs of the military. A SAARC, which includes a state controlled by a terrorist army, has more negatives than positives, and the time has come for the Modi government to act on this truth by pulling out of any SAARC meeting in which Pakistan is present. Unless there is a sharp and visible break from India’s capitulationist past, the bleeding of this country by Rawalpindi GHQ will continue.

Friday, 23 September 2016

World approaches a Daesh deluge (Pakistan Observer)

A year after chasing the Nobel Peace Prize by opening the door to migration by refugees from North Africa, West Asia, Afghanistan and other countries, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that her liberal policy would change. Results in Berlin, Germany’s most liberal and multicultural city, shocked the Christian Democratic Union leader, who is looking to voters for a fourth term in office next year, after already serving over a decade as Chancellor of Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Her chances for such a victory are nil, and this is due to a combination of anti-incumbency sentiments and anger in German society at Markel’s snap decision to allow more than a million refugees to settle in Germany.

Unless the German authorities wish to go the way of France, where the Muslim minority feels shirt-changed and has become ghettoised, huge financial outlays are needed to ensure that refugee families gain access to health care, education, housing and employment, so that they can become productive citizens. This will take years, perhaps a decade, and in meantime, there will be pressure to admit close family members of those already resident in Germany.

This could swell the number by another 600,000 over the next five years. In addition, Europe is likely to witness another flood of refugees during 2017-2019 of at least two million more desperate individuals from Syria, Libya and other locations hit by wars in which NATO is involved, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Because of the confused policies of NATO with regard to fighting Daesh ad its ideological cousins, conflicts in Libya and Syria are in danger of morphing to a stage that will take decades to evolve into normalcy. The secret services of NATO powers seem clueless about exactly who are and who are not dangerous to the alliance in the medley of armed fighters in West Asian war zones.

Ironically, almost all the weaponry, training and cash deployed by such fighters have come from NATO or its regional allies. Indeed, Daesh became a potent force only after senior officers in the Iraqi military deserted their posts and ordered the troops under them to cease fighting so that Daesh could capture Mosul and other large cities in Iraq in 2014. Thus far, none of compromised officers has been proceeded against, even when many have relocated to US, UK so as to live well off bribes they were paid to hand over large portions of their country to Daesh.

This columnist was probably the earliest to warn that Daesh was more toxic than Al-Qaeda, because of the fact that its form of operations is atomised, comprising not mainly of big formations in the field but individuals acting by themselves or in cells of a handful of motivated recruits to the terror network. The level of theological knowledge needed to become a part of Daesh is near zero, as the organisation functions on the Nazi principle that cruelty is the highest form of morality, thereby drawing into its fold those with psychopathic tendencies. Such individuals are enabled to act out their fantasies through becoming part of the Daesh network, which has a minimal level of communications, confining itself to mass messaging designed to ensure that those susceptible to is siren call read the message in a way that prompts them into violent actions, such as those attempted by an IS acolyte days ago in New York and New Jersey. NATO is placing its security at risk by refusing to accept the need to work alongside those who are in fact fighting Daesh rather than those who are resending to while in fact providing temporary sheller to the fighters of this lethal force.

The anti-Daesh coalition is fractured, with Secretary of State John Kerry now fully getting “Clintonized” (perhaps in the expectation that he will retain his job after Hillary Clinton’s presumed victory in the November 8 US Presidental elections). Kerry is more focussed on somehow ending Bashar Assad’s rule in Damascus than he is in finishing off ISIS (Daesh), and this fracture of the anti-ISIS forces is visible in every key battlefield, to the benefit of the most dangerous terror machine that world has seen since rise of Adolf Hitler. Should hold of Daesh in Iraq and Syria not get broken within next nine or so months, atomisation of terror will reach a level such that Newark-style attacks will become routine in EU and US within 2017.

Because of the ease with which copycat attacks can get planned and carried out, it is vital that IS (Daesh) be shown to be broken within the next few months, before fresh trances of copycats get formed. However, the confused and self-defeating policy followed by Barack Obama under the influence of the Europeanist Clintonites who dominate “his” administration, as well as the still more self-defeating policies followed by France and the UK, are ensuring that the organisation survives to fight on, even to the extent of retaining some territory. It is Hillary Clinton and not Donald John Trump whose declared policies favour the consolidation and growth of IS (Daesh), but that message has been lost in the cacophony created by “terrorism experts” anxious to continue covering up their past errors by repeating failed analyses and nostrums.

What is needed to defeat Daesh in the diminishing time window available before the virus mutates to a more virulent and infective strain is to unite all those opposed to IS and ensure coordinated attacks on the organisation and its sympathisers. What those still mumbling about the “Russian threat to Europe” or “the imperative of removing Bashar Assad from power” fail to understand is that it is only a matter of time before the mindspace virus that is represented by Daesh changes to a form that becomes attractive to elements of general populations within the Atlantic Alliance.

Just as Nazism grew to encompass tens of millions of Germans, the frenzy and bloodlust that is at the core of the ideology of Daesh is potentially addictive to tens of millions in the US, the EU and other locations who feel left behind by the rapidity of change in the 21st century. IS needs to be eliminated now from Raqqa and Mosul, but that needs a unity of purpose between the US, China, the EU,Iran and Russia that appears distant if not impossible at present. The world is sliding into a slow motion horror that in the totality of its consequences will prove as destructive of human life as Adolf Hitler’s legacy of death was in the previous century.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Japan shows the way with Renho (Sunday Guardian)

The rise of China over the past decade has given a reality check to those Japanese in thrall to the myth of Japanese racial superiority.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan has chosen Renho Murata (who goes simply by her first name) as its leader, in the process proving wrong those who regarded the lady’s half-Taiwanese heritage (her father comes from the island) and the fact of her gender as being sufficient to ensure her defeat in the party polls. Members of the Democratic Party lived up to their name and gave her an overwhelming victory in the election for chairperson of the party. Although Japan is known to be a society where concepts of “race” play an important role, in 2015 Ariana Miyamoto, who is half African-American, became Ms Universe-Japan, while this year, Priyanka Yoshikawa won the Ms World-Japan title. Both have had their share of problems in a country that has a slavish respect for those of European descent and contempt for anybody else, except to an extent themselves. Despite her obvious beauty, Priyanka was (in her own words) often made to feel “like a germ” by her fellow countrypersons, because of the fact that her father was from India. The rise of China has over the past decade given a reality check to those Japanese in thrall to the myth of Japanese racial superiority, as that country has now become a far more powerful country globally than Japan. From the 1930s till the close of the 1939-45 war, Japan was in occupation of large areas of China and was ruthless in its suppression of the local people, regarding them as serfs. However, Japanese wartime treatment of Indians was in several situations far better, including assisting Subhas Chandra Bose to set up the Indian National Army in Singapore, thereby giving a scare to both his rivals in the Congress Party as well as to the British.

Although pollsters are sceptical of the prospect of the telegenic Renho ever becoming the first female Prime Minister of Japan, this cannot be ruled out if the Shinzo Abe government is not able to improve economic prospects in the country. Voters are fickle, and yesterday’s hero can quickly morph into tomorrow’s villain, and Renho has a natural constituency in Japanese women, who are no longer willing to accept the overlordship of men, but are fighting for equality in the workplace. Close by, Yingluck Shinawatra was for a time the head of government in Thailand, but this was almost entirely due to the fact of her brother Thaksin remaining the most popular politician in the country despite being in exile. In the case of Renho, her rise owes nothing to anyone bar herself, unlike the numerous women leaders who have risen on the basis of marriage or birth certificates, a list that includes Sirimavo and Chandrika Bandaranaike, Indira and Sonia Gandhi, Khaleda Zia, Benazir Bhutto, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Sheikh Hasina Wajed. However, it must be added that several in this list acquitted themselves at least as well as the men, who had been their predecessors. Although the Democratic Party in Japan prided itself on being contemporary, for long it had been run by ageing patriarchs, who seemed, on the surface at least, very little different from the fading old men who were the faction leaders of the Liberal Party. That mould was broken by Junichiro Koizumi and now by Shinzo Abe, both of whom are wholly contemporary in their outward appearance, while at the same time showing their respect for tradition.

Had Renho’s father come from the other side of the Taiwan Straits, from Mainland China, it is doubtful whether she would have received the warm reception that the Taiwanese-Japanese has got in the country of her mother. The reality is that Japan and its people are becoming wary of China, and a close link with the mainland, through having a parent from there, would almost certainly have weakened Renho’s political prospects. However, to the Japanese, Taiwan is different, and there is a lot of romanticism about and appreciation for the beautiful island into which Chiang Kai-shek and hundreds of thousands of his defeated soldiers escaped in 1949. Despite the fact that Japan was the colonial master of Taiwan for a century, few people in the island share Mainland China’s distaste for the group of islands that emerged as a global power in 1904 after sinking the Imperial fleet of Russia off Tsushima, and which in 1941-44 made jelly out of British, French and Dutch troops, who had subjugated vast areas of Southeast Asia for more than a century, falling back only under the superior naval strength of the US, a country Japan unwisely attacked in 1941, thereby drawing the world’s newest and soon to be biggest economy into the war.

Will China follow Japan’s example and ensure that leaders from the minority communities are enabled to reach the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party? When will a Tibetan, for instance, be a member of the CCP Standing Committee, or indeed a woman? Till now, the apex body has been 100% male and 100% Han. And as for India, any feelings of moral superiority need to be tempered by the reality of the prevalence and indeed prominence of adult delinquents, who rough up fellow citizens from the Northeast and murder others on the suspicion that they have consumed beef, a food eaten in profusion across almost the entire globe.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Faulty policies, basis of western decline (Pakistan Observer)

In the 20th century, countries that were Dominant Powers in the 19th shrank in importance, but to the still considerable level of powers that exercised primacy over substantial parts of the globe, with relatively few constraints on their writ. However, the 21st century is seeing a “flattening out” of technology, such that trained individuals in a much larger scatter of countries are able to access high tech and its defence and civilian spinoffs. India may be a relatively poor country, but it is the world leader in inexpensive generic medicines, and despite efforts by multiple countries (including the US, Switzerland, the UK, South Korea and Japan) to smother to insignificance its industry, has continued to supply the world with cheap yet effective medicines.

It is ironic, if not laughable, that Bill Clinton claims so much of the credit “for ensuring cheap medicine for HIV-infected” in the globe, when his administration (during 1992-2001) did so much to try and destroy India’s generic drugs industry, and indeed succeeded in blocking the access of several markets to medicine from Indian companies such as CIPLA, whose visionary chairperson, Yusuf Hamied, merits a Nobel Peace Prize if only the committee would look not only at those who are darlings of the North Atlantic powers and ignore those who have mapped out their own path. Of course, it is not certain that Hamied would wish to share an honour with the likes of Henry Kissinger, who got the Nobel Peace Prize presumably for his success in population control in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, three countries he bombed in a manner that gave zero strategic benefit to the US but which satisfied his craving for revenge on those who dared to challenge his 18th century vision of the globe.

Events in Syria since 2011 demonstrate the change which has taken place in global geopolitics. After having first ensured that Saddam Hussein and later Muammar Kaddafy surrendered their Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), they destroyed first both of them and later, much of their countries. Given the fact that the GCC is a steadfast ally of NATO, it was a given that Washington, London and Paris would seek to finish off Bashar Assad as well, as desired by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other allies of the Atlantic powers. By 2011, Syria was on a pathway to liberalisation, with the citizenry enjoying a far broader menu of rights than was the case when Hafez Assad was the master of Syria (and Lebanon).

Bashar withdrew from Lebanon, expecting a change in attitude from the NATO powers, which of course never came, as for the alliance, the world is binary. Either it is 100% or it is zero, and the Assad regis was zero, no matter how hard he tried to befriend the US and the EU. The regional allies of these powers are determined to replace the Alawite leader with an individual responding to their commands. As a consequence, from early 2011, a well-funded movement was begun to ensure that the streets of Damascus, Aleppo and other Syria cities erupt in the way Cairo had earlier done, also causing regime change. However, such manifestations failed, and subsequently a flow of weapons and trained fighters were inserted into Syria, thereby starting the armed conflict that has fractured the country and led to a flood of refugees into Europe and a rash of terrorism across several corners of the globe, including in the US and the EU.

Western power is in decline, but the cause of that is not the economy or technology. Despite the most modern technologies, including in weaponry, and the bigger economies as compared with most rivals, why have the Atlantic powers lot the imitative, often to ragtag groups of fighters? The reason is bad policy. Experts and officials in the larger countries of NATO (especially the US, the UK and France) seem to be basing policy on the writings of Rudyard Kipling and his implied recommendations on how to deal with the natives.

Whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya or Syria, policy errors have led to a winning hand getting converted into a losing bid. An example is the reaction to what Ankara is doing on the border with Syria and in locations such as Aleppo. Perhaps because of a lack of knowledge about their provenance, Turkey is accepting as allies the very fighters who just days earlier were part of IS. Most of these, in fact almost all, are “leaving” IS only to rejoin tat organisation later, after getting refreshed and replenished. NATO’s efforts to block Assad’s campaign against IS in Aleppo and elsewhere is playing into the terror group’s goals, as also the fact that Turkey is battling the Kurds in a manner far deadlier than any moves against IS, which anyway refuses to fight against fighters whom they know are their own, albeit in camouflage for the moment. Because if the way in which the US and its allies have been assisting Ankara against the Kurds, that ethnic group is turning hostile to the West. Additionally, Shia across the rein are seeing NATO as hostile to them, a factor that could ignite a similar variant of terrorism against the US and the EU as has been faced by Israel since its 1982s involvement in the Lebanese civil war.

Wrong policies lead to disaster. Had London given India Dominion Status in the 1930s, the subcontinent may still have remained united, and Queen Elizabeth may have been the Head of State, as she is in Ottawa and Canberra. Of what avails the superior technology and the bigger economies of the western powers, if so many of the geopolitical the policies they are fashioning ad implementing are faulty to the point of idiocy?

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Don’t confuse Wahhabiat with Kashmiriyat (Sunday Guardian)

No income-tax officer seems at all curious as to how those loyal to Pakistan and who are resident in Kashmir maintain such opulent lifestyles.
Recently, CNN aired visuals by Clarissa Ward, a correspondent who claimed to be reporting from “Free Syria”, i.e. that part of the country that had been prised loose from Bashar Assad. While she had to wear a black abaya while in “freedom”, in Assad’s “unfree” Syria, Ward would have been unmolested even in denims or short skirt, presumably dresses that are more familiar to her than the dress she was in while interviewing “freedom loving” fighters. Such hypocrisy is equally commonplace among Ward-style foreign correspondents in Kashmir, who ignore the reality of the “azaadi” being sought by a violent minority of the people of Jammu & Kashmir being a licence to enforce Taliban-style laws on the population, including stoning to death and chopping off hands. CNN (or the Washington Post, for that matter) has been consistent from the 1990s in backing the Wahhabis in Kashmir, as they were in the case of Libya, when the likes of Arwa Damon and Hala Gorani traipsed around the country in support of the war unleashed in 2011 by Hillary Clinton and other western leaders. In our pell-mell rush to follow US fashions, most of the media in India has continued the error made by Atal Behari Vajpayee during 1998-2004, that of confusing “Wahhabiat” with Kashmiriyat. What organisations such as the Hurriyat seek to achieve in Kashmir is the total replacement of the gentle, Sufi ethos of the state with the harshness of Wahhabism, something which ought to have been clear from at least the 1990s, but which is apparently yet to be understood even by several policymakers.
Appeasing the backers of Wahhabiat damages the chances of Kashmiriyat making a comeback in the Valley, and hence it is not surprising that every gesture of “reconciliation” (i.e. surrender to the Wahhabis) has been followed by a further descent into chaos. This columnist had from the start warned that the “healing touch” touted by the PDP-BJP alliance should bypass the Wahhabis entirely and concentrate on those in Kashmir who still believe in the moderate ethos of that state. Instead, as has been taking place in the state since 1975, it was the Wahhabis who were coddled by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, and which made the present situation in Kashmir inevitable. According to individuals who are current with the facts, an unambiguous signal was sent from within the state government to the Pakistan lobby that the police would largely look the other way should there be protests. This perception of police inaction was the spark which led to the present flame-up, not the killing of a youthful terrorist, although here as well, the UPA policy of refusing to return the remains ought to have been followed. Those who advised the NDA otherwise need to lose their jobs. Thus far, it does not appear that a single individual from those who have motivated and fuelled so many unwary youths in Kashmir into forfeiting their futures has been held to account. And this in a country where the colonial system of governance ensures that citizens get jailed first while the police question him later, presuming they ever do, that is. In a country where a policy of zero tolerance for black money has been initiated by the Prime Minister, no income-tax officer seems at all curious as to how those loyal to Pakistan and who are resident in Kashmir maintain such opulent lifestyles.
What Hurriyat seeks to achieve in Kashmir is the total replacement of the gentle, Sufi ethos of the state with the harshness of Wahhabism.
After an initial Wahhabi-appeasing stance, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti appears to be sensing the error in pursuing a soft approach towards those who ultra-hard working for a Wahhabi future for Kashmir. In Delhi, Lutyens Zone policymakers have for long outsourced their thinking to US-based think-tanks, almost all of whom adopt a Wahhabi-friendly tilt in their recommendations. While the US is indeed important in the external security of India, to listen to advice from Washington on matters relating to internal security would lead to a splintering of India. Any country that has followed the US administration’s prescriptions in such matters has spiralled into hell till reversing course, Egypt being a recent example.
Even after having the door slammed in their faces, it is inexplicable why leaders of so many political parties seek to pamper with public funds the self-declared agents of GHQ Rawalpindi in the Kashmir valley. Taxpayers need to file a petition in court demanding that those policymakers who spend hundreds of crores of rupees of taxpayer money in providing facilities to wannabe Pakistani citizens in Kashmir should be made to repay the cost of such generosity out of their own wealth and income. When members of the Hurriyat are treated at airports and elsewhere with the deference and the protocol shown to Union ministers, it is no surprise that they have contempt for the Indian state. The best course would be to give them a ticket to Pakistan, tearing up their Indian passports at the point of departure. However, before that, it ought to be a criminal misuse of state funds to spend any public money on their upkeep, travel, security or other needs. Vajpayee was correct that Kashmiriyat needs to be encouraged. He was wrong in assuming that pandering to Wahhabiat would assist the return of Kashmiriyat to the Valley. Only those who accept the need for “ekta” should be shown any “mamata”.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Boris Johnson gets house trained (Pakistan Observer)

History has shown time and time again how in democracies on dependent-minded leaders very soon begin to follow the lead given by the bureaucracy. The Foreign Secretary of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson, is the latest – clearly eager and willing – victim of this kind of house training by officialdom. In a conference in London where he was the star attraction, Johnson called for the “removal of Bashar Assad”.

In the past, Prime Minister David Cameron and whoever it was who was Foreign Secretary then declaimed equally persistently for the removal of Muammar Kaddafy in Tripoli. The triumvirate of Cameron, Hollande and Clinton the last named being, the then US Secretary of State, who was usually successful in bullying President Obama into following her aggressive lead in external policy towards weak Third World countries. Needless to say, Hillary Clinton had in 2011 and still has in 2016 an entirely different approach towards even first-stage nuclear powers such as North Korea, not to speak of globe’s other superpower, China.

Were Bashar Assad to be removed the way the “moderate opposition” congregated in London wants him to be, the same way as Kaddafy, through the use of force, that part of Syria still in his control, and which is relatively far more stable than the rest of the country, would dissolve into a murderous chaos. Christians especially, who have congregated in those parts of Syria run by Assad rather than by the bits controlled by the “moderate fighters” that are being armed, trained and funded by NATO and the GCC, will face another genocide, as would Alawites and Druze, while non-Wahabbi Sunnis would either have to convert to that philosophy or face execution. Boris Johnson has a superb IQ and must surely be aware of this reality. The only way to explain his clutching at the same disastrous policy of Cameron is that he has learnt to march in step behind his officials.

The mandarins of Whitehall backed the takeover of Iraq after the 2003 downfall of Saddam Hussein by the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by a clownish Paul Bremer. They looked the other way when Iraq was denuded of its treasures and by much of the substantive symbols of a great history. Later, they became cheerleaders for the removal of the Libyan dictator, who was bad, but what followed him was awful. During the period when Kaddafy was in charge of the country, Libyans had jobs and income. They had security and healthcare, besides the right to education in the country or abroad. They each had housing. After what Whitehall considers their “liberation”, they lack each of these requirements of a civilised life, not that there is any prospect of any of the officials who pushed for such a disastrous policy being held to account by the Human Rights Court at the Hague.

In the manner of 007,who had a licence to kill, so does NATO, and woe betide any individual who questions such an axiom. Small wonder that Italy practically broke off normal diplomatic relations with India and barred the entire European Union from entering into agreements with Delhi till two marines who had shot and killed two unarmed fishermen in their small boat were permitted to return to their home country, where they have been celebrated as heroes.

There are many who admired Boris Johnson as an individual who spoke his mind and who refused to settle down comfortably in the bureaucratic box. His shabby performance at the September London conference on Syria has dismayed them. However, he has not been the first to have clay flowing out of his trousers. Bernie Sanders, the senior Senator from Vermont, made millions in his own country believe that he was serious about a revolution.

In particular, they trusted him when he spoke of slaying the dragon of greed that rests within Wall Street, and which has allowed the financial services industry in the US to dominate manufacturing. Wall Street has bought up, broken up and sold bits and pieces of Main Street since Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagal law in the 1990s. This has gone to such an extent that income distribution in the US has become much mire skewed than in the period before Reagan, Deng and Thatcher, who prized wealth above all else and set their countries on a path whereby the wealthy prospered hugely while the middle class began to shrink.

It was clear from almost the start of the 2015 campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination that Bernie Sanders was not really interested in besting Hillary Clinton. Had he been so, there is no way the Vermont populist would have thrown away his best card, that of the Clinton emails, by declaring that he had no interest in them, nor should anyone else. From that time onwards, Sanders was doomed, although few then believed that he would reach so far down that he would become a cheerleader for the Clintons, who are the toast of Wall Street and have the money to show for such an attitude. That Hillary Clinton’s bombast about Wall Street is empty is known to every individual in government.

Which makes it all the more surprising that Bernie Sanders would so damage his credentials as to beg for votes on her behalf throughout the US. Interestingly, Donald Trump (though wealthier than the Clintons for now) has had a testy relationship with Wall Street, which has several times reacted in a way less than helpful to construction tycoon.

Will Angela Merkel, who is for the moment the boss of the EU, follow Whitehall in calling for bombs to rain over those parts of Damascus controlled by Assad? What is saving the Syrian politician is the fact that Moscow may be willing to cut a deal which cuts him out, but only if the EU, the US and of course that presently in-between country, the UK, agree to the annexation of Crimea. It is an article of faith within the EU that a single European is worth more than a hundred thousand in Asia, if not more.

Hence it is unlikely that Washington and its allies will budge on their demand that Moscow surrender the Crimea. Should Vladimir Putin comply, his political career would be finished, which would be another plus for NATO. However, the canny Russian leader knows the toxicity of the card that his interlocuters want him to play, and is unlikely to oblige. And so long as NATO fails to accept that the Crimea belongs to Russia, Bashar Assad is safe.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Follow Turkey in Muslim personal law (Sunday Guardian)

According to Nehruvian secularism, the ‘majority’ can do no right and the ‘minority’ no wrong.
Since 1947, India has practised a form of “secularism” that has served as a time-bomb primed to explode and once again shatter into fragments the unity of the country. Nehruvian secularism is unique in that it discriminates against the “majority” community, placing restrictions on it that are absent in “minority” communities. In the first place, even within the maelstrom of identity, the terms “majority” and “minority” are misleading. Neither the Hindu nor the Muslim (nor indeed the Christian or the Sikh) faiths are monolithic. Within these hyper-broad terms, there exist huge differences, and indeed, across many points of each sub-community’s cultural matrix, commonality may be more with elements of other faiths than with their own. Not that such a mixing of traditions and cultures is in any way objectionable. Indeed, the very diversity of India is what promotes an overall unity within the country, expressed strongly, for example, in situations such as war. Such tolerance of diversity has been under test recently, and not by those claiming to be the inheritors of Nehruvian tradition and practices. Ongoing efforts to introduce changes in diet or dress or lifestyle through the coercive mechanism of penal law are damaging to the future of India, for it is the tolerance for diversity that keeps the country united. Not merely beef but meat of any kind is, in the view of this columnist, “against the order of nature”, where human beings are considered. But the matter needs to be tackled through social conscientisation, not through the police, but through social reformers. If Devendra Fadnavis would like every citizen in India to stop eating beef, or if Nitish Kumar wishes a similar abstinence from alcohol, that is their right. But they are overstepping the boundaries set by democracy when they seek to enforce their personal preferences on the rest of the population through the police. Moral policing, food policing, alcohol policing are creating an image of an India in the grip of those who mimic the Saudi “Muttawa” in their approach to lifestyles. The Supreme Court has thus far retained its assent for certain Victorian laws which have been cast aside even in the country of their origin, but it is hoped that the Apex Court will in future—if it errs at all—err on the side of freedom rather than on the preservation of the repressive superstructure of the colonial state that has been retained since the time in office of that globally renowned prince of democracy, Jawaharlal Nehru.
According to Nehruvian secularism, the “majority” can do no right and the “minority” no wrong. Hence, when laws designed to bring some of the traditional practices of those professing Hinduism into the 20th century, any effort at ensuring a similar modernising exercise on the Muslim community was discarded. Since that time, much of the policies of the Indian state have had the unintended effect of distancing Hindus and Muslims from each other. Such forbearance, which Nehru thought would prevent a second partition, has in fact furthered the conditions for it, by separating citizens of India into two boxes (“minority” and “majority”) that are in practical terms meaningless.
An example is what is termed the “personal law” relating to marriage and divorce. In India, women who are born into the Muslim faith are subject to divorce in seconds, with all that is needing to be done by the husband being the repetition of the word “talaq” three times, in a manner wholly contradictory to the example set by Prophet Mohammad, who from the early days of his life treated women with the respect they merit as, among other virtues, the mothers of every human being on the planet. Despite the Wahhabisation that has continued in that country since the days of Zia ul-Haq, such a dismissive approach to the dignity and rights of a female spouse are absent in Pakistan. The personal laws as practised in India qualify to make this country among the most retrogressive in the world, a circumstance which needs to change. At a minimum, Muslim women in India should be given the same rights in divorce proceedings as their counterparts in Turkey, the original home of the Islamic Caliphate, including in restrictions on the number of wives a man is legally entitled to wed. Islamic doctrine is meant to be dynamic, adjusting to changes caused by the efflux of time, and any Wahhabi-style effort to lock such doctrine into a static mode is to do disservice to its teachings.
Unfortunately, in India as in the US or the EU, “authentic” Muslims are regarded solely as those who are ultra-rigid in their views and practices. That only those with flowing beards and all-covering burkhas can be “good” Muslims, which is nonsense. Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister began his fall from popular favour when in 1985 he ignored voices such as those of Arif Mohammad Khan and went ahead with legislation to reverse the Shah Bano verdict of the Supreme Court of India. It is wrong to regard the fringe as representative of the Muslim community in India, exactly as it ridiculous to tar the whole of Hindu society with a brush meant for the Sadhvi Prachis. Triple talaq as practised in India goes against every human right of Muslim women in India. While equality under the law would be the ideal at the very least, what is needed is to bring divorce and marriage practices for Muslim women here in sync with those of Turkey, a country even the most diehard in the AIMPLB would find it difficult to denounce as “anti-Muslim”.

Friday, 2 September 2016

At last, India-US closeness goes formal (Pakistan Observer)

In the third year of his term as Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi is shedding the slower than expected pace that characterised many of his initiatives during the first two years. The “Modi” Cabinet unveiled by the mass leader from Gujarat gave off a strong whiff of deja vu to those who were witnessing the ceremony on the grounds of the Presidential Palace on May 26, 2014. Several of its stalwarts were from the era of Atal Behari Vajpayee, who had been India’s first BJP Prime Minister, beginning a full term in 1999 but failing to win re-election in 2004. Indeed, Vajpayee took great care to ensure continuity in policy and to give importance to the Congress Party, especially its unquestioned leader, Sonia Gandhi.
Those who had been loyal to India’s longest-serving ruling party mostly remained at their posts, and relatively few jobs were filled by those friendly to the BJP. From the start, many of the Congress sympathisers in the BJP-led government began to silently work for the return of their favourite party. Unlike the BJP, which usually does not bother about the political orientation of the civil service, the Congress under Sonia Gandhi was meticulous in promoting the careers of loyalists and in blighting the careers of those hostile to the party and to the Nehru family. As a consequence, several of the latter suffered, whether the government in power was BJP or Congress. `In the Modi government as well, the Vajpayee Principle of non-interference in the bureaucracy has been followed, so much so that senior civil servants known to be extra close to key politicians during the Manmohan Singh decade ( 2004–2014) were given equally important jobs after the BJP took office. In the Union Finance Ministry, for example, several of the officers were personally close to UPA-era Finance Minister Chidambaram, and helped the minister in his desires for himself, his party, his leader and his family. In the process, the officers themselves became wealthy, being able to afford luxurious homes and education abroad for their children.
In view of Modi’s meticulous avoidance of any symptom of political favouritism, even officers who bent the rules and often broke them to serve UPA-era political masters have been given promotion, for example as Secretaries to Government. Loyalty to the Congress has been high because that party looked after its sympathisers in the bureaucracy. Loyalty to the BJP is low because officials know that party will not give them any special attention for such an attitude. The way in which promotions and posts got decided in India during Congress era was through signals from Congress leadership about Officer X or Y. Now that Modi is PM, a small group of top officials contact another small group of close friends and come to a conclusion about promotions and postings.
The subjective views of a small number of former and present officials is decisive, and all too often, considerations of caste, region and community play a role larger than should be the case Modi refused to go in for a large-scale cleansing of the higher bureacracy even of those elements that in the past pandered to political whims and needs. Similarly, he has apparently rejected the option of taking action against the central leadership of the UPA. Not even a single chargesheet ( nor indeed a First Information Report) has been filed since May 26,2014 against senior functionaries of the UPA known to have amassed huge fortunes and played with the fortunes of the country, even by shortselling the rupee on occasion and misusing the stock exchanges to make and to launder money. Officers who connived at such activities mostly continue in their posts, and ironically,some of the worst offenders have been given responsibilities that relate to precisely responsibilities where misfeasance was committed during 2004–2014.
Within the bureaucracy, which by and large comprises of honest and dedicated officials who have sacrificed much for the country, there has been impatience at Prime Minister Modi’s “Political Hands Off” approach to personnel changes. In the Manmohan Decade, Ministers could get posted officers of their choice, provided these were also approved by the core group around the Congress President. In the Modi dispensation, ministers have to defer to the views of senior civil servants (notably in the Prime Minister’s Office) in the selection of individuals to fill top jobs in their ministries. The worry of those who support Prime Minister Modi is that such forbearance and forgiveness will lead to the government “going the Vajpayee way” of losing its majority in the next general elections, due in 2019. In the US, a change in the top leadership of the country means a wholesale shift of personnel in departments and agencies across the Federal Government. In India, whenever the BJP takes office, such changes are minimal, with result that “fear factor” is missing during such periods, and matters get delayed if not sabotaged altogether.
An example is the Goods & Services Tax bill, which ought to have been passed in early 2015 at the latest, but which became law only a month ago. Had the bill become law much earlier, international perceptions about the economic policies of the Modi government may have been much better than they presently are. Another example has been the signing of the three military “Foundation Agreements” with the US, that on logistics, communications and geospatial enhancing of capacities. Bureaucrats linked to international weapons lobbies delayed the signing of these, as their foreign patrons were worried that the signing of the three agreements would give a head start to US manufacturers in the defence industry in a market that is expected to touch a volume of $ 150 billion within years.
Had any other individual bar Narendra Modi been the Prime Minister, not even a single such agreement would have been signed, but finally on August 30, the logistics agreement has been signed with the US. Of course, arms lobbies are working hard to scuttle the signing of the other two, despite the fact that over the year, there has been a substantial growth in partnering between the US and Indian militaries. It remains to be seen whether the other two will get signed as well during the short period when Barack Obama remains President of the US. Only Prime Minister Modi’s intervention can ensure that the weapons lobbies so powerful in India fail in their bid to keep the India-US relationship from getting formalised through written agreements.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

US helps Erdogan rescue ISIS yet again (Sunday Guardian)

It is odd that Obama failed to discover that Erdogan’s latest salvo in the ‘war on ISIS’ in actuality helps the terror group to survive to fight another day.
If more evidence were needed of the ignorance of the US media on matters international, this is found in the numerous reports of Turkey sending troops and aircraft into Syria “to fight ISIS”. Newspapers such as the New York Times, which had in 2011 served as cheerleaders when Hillary Clinton sent attack aircraft and cruise missiles after Muammar Gaddafi, killing him in months and ensuring the destruction of Libya in subsequent years, wrote glowingly in their front page about the seizure of the town of Jarabulus on the Turkey-Syria border. The Turkish military was assisted by US intelligence and other assets, the way Saudi Arabia is being helped in its battle against Shia Houthi in Yemen. It is odd that President Barack Obama failed to discover that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest salvo in the “war on ISIS” in actuality helps the terror group to survive to fight another day, much as the Pakistan army (with substantial aid from George W. Bush) ensured through policy errors during 2001-2004 the survival and later revival of the Taliban. These days, Turkey is to ISIS what Pakistan is to the Taliban, and in both cases, it is the US which is allowing itself to become the facilitator by the Ankara and Islamabad regimes in command. In the meantime, elements of ISIS target Kurds and other minorities in Turkey itself, while sparing the growing Wahhabi element in the de-Kemalizing country. 
ISIS was on the run in Syria once Vladimir Putin entered the fray on behalf of Bashar Assad. Forces loyal to the government in Damascus were closing in on Jarabulus and other locations on the border with Turkey. Should this take place, it would become much more difficult for Ankara to continue to back “moderate opposition” fighters who, in reality, are no different in outlook, objectives and methods from ISIS. The Assad government’s controversial move of broadening its campaign to bomb Kurdish groups gave an opening to Erdogan to broaden his own intervention in the conflict through launching an offensive inside Syrian territory “to assist moderate freedom fighters against ISIS”. Amazingly, no western reporter has questioned the absurdity of “freedom fighters” who are battling to ensure a society where the dress and lifestyles of women get severely circumscribed, as do those of men. Nor has any seemed to understand that what Ankara is doing by its intervention in Syria is giving an escape route to ISIS just when that organisation is facing annihilation in that part of the Syria-Turkey border. What western news media claim to be the “melting away of ISIS resistance” in the face of the Turkish offensive inside Syria, is, in fact, the battlefield morphing of that militia into the “moderate opposition” backed by Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and France. 
These days, Turkey is to ISIS what Pakistan is to the Taliban, and in both cases, it is the US which is allowing itself to become the facilitator by the Ankara and Islamabad regimes in command.
President Obama is not the first President of the US to allow a multitude of terrorists to escape. George W. Bush similarly allowed large numbers of terrorists to be flown to safety from Kunduz during 2001-2002, courtesy the Pakistan air force. Like the Taliban, ISIS is fortunate in its choice of enemies. The Obama administration, from the start, adopted a half-hearted strategy to deal with the terror force, and has ensured its continued survival and metastases into communities across the globe. Much of the cause of such forbearance is the fact that several key allies of the US regard ISIS as a lesser evil than Shia Islam, and indeed frequently see the terror force as a useful corrective to the influence of Shia groups in selected parts of the world.
In Aleppo as well, US media reports claim that a free city was under siege by pro-Assad “extremists”, when in fact much of the city has been under the control of ISIS for nearly three years, and is only now slowly getting liberated from that scourge by Assad’s men. CNN reporters such as Clarissa Ward, who champion the terror brigades by misrepresenting them as “moderate fighters”, do not need to wear abayas in Damascus, but to them, it is the locations where they are forced to don such a dress to get by that are “free”. Much the same way, those in Kashmir who seek to drive out non-Wahhabis from the valley and introduce the death penalty for adultery and homosexuality are regarded as votaries of freedom from those claiming to be liberal. What is taking place at Jarabalus and other locations on the Syria-Turkey border is nothing less than the rescue of ISIS elements there. Just as the US-facilitated escape from Kunduz in 2001-2002 of Al Qaeda elements ensured the Taliban hell that returned to Afghanistan later, the intrusion of Turkey into Syria on behalf of fighters who have temporarily donned the garb of “moderate oppositionists” guarantees that ISIS will remain a potent force in Syria well into the coming year, rather than soon get eliminated the way it would have happened had Barack Obama shown some spine in confronting some US allies about their hardly clandestine assistance to the terror brigades that have created such murderous chaos across much of West Asia. 

Wall Street roots for Hillary, trashes Trump (Sunday Guardian)

Wall Street is betting on Clinton re-entering the White House in the 2016 election. Main Street is far weaker in the influence game.
Flush with funds and with almost the entire media serving as a PR vehicle for Hillary Clinton, while demonising Republican contender Donald Trump, conventional wisdom goes that the 8 November electoral battle has already been decided. Hillary will, according to the pundits, win, and the only question is how big the victory margin of the Democratic Party candidate will be. Such confidence is based on the former Secretary of State being the favoured candidate of Wall Street, which sees Donald Trump as unsympathetic to its demand for primacy in economic policy. The Clintons have been close to Wall Street for nearly three decades. Small wonder therefore that the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (which had placed severe curbs on the financial industry) was repealed by President Bill Clinton in 1999. Since then, Wall Street has had the upper hand over Main Street in the world’s biggest economy. Steadily, the financial services industry has dominated traditional manufacturing, a consequence of which has been the closure of hundreds of thousands of enterprises that failed to meet the financial tests of Wall Street, the sole purpose of which was to ensure a copious flow of dividend and other income to mega investors as well as top executives of major companies. Simultaneously, the volume of the financial industry grew, reaching the astonishing sum of $120 trillion in value, an absurdity in an economy that is more than ten times smaller in size than such inflated estimates.
The valuations may have been imaginary, but the profits made by the financial sector were not, and these have dwarfed those earned by manufacturing enterprises. Many of the latter were taken over by funds and stripped of their assets, so as to generate huge profits on the sale. Long-term value and considerations such as equity and jobs were thrown aside in the quest for immediate returns on investment. As income distribution is much more skewed in the financial services industry than in manufacturing, with most in the former earning low levels of compensation, but a handful being billionaires, the middle class in the US has become poorer on an average since the 1990s, while income inequality has reached levels not seen since the 1920s. Seeing this, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented his New Deal for the overall population of the US in the 1930s. Although financial sleight of hand ensures that the figures for total US output remain high, in reality the country is visibly declining in core areas such as infrastructure. The “Profit Now and Anyhow” culture of Wall Street has replaced the earlier mindset of steady and stable growth of manufacturing and other services. The consequence is that US manufactures have been losing ground to countries such as China. In the airline industry, for example, cost cutting has lowered the quality of US carriers to what may be described as the Soviet Aeroflot standard. During a flight by a US airline from New Delhi to Newark on 20 August, even amenity kits were absent in the Spartan business class, as it appeared that it was company policy not to spend money on them in certain sectors. The Newark to Seattle flight of the same airline, even in the first class cabin, had seats with minimal reclining capability, while the food was inedible. Across the US, standards of service are going down even as charges to the consumer are rising and the profits made by big operators in Wall Street are shooting up. However, the 2008 financial crash resulted in a sudden loss of faith by the public in the financial services industry, although President Barack Obama followed the Clinton playbook of paying out vast sums of taxpayer cash to rescue Wall Street from its own excesses. 
So irresistible has the Wall Street-fuelled march towards the Democratic Party nomination of Hillary Clinton been that her socialist opponent, Bernie Sanders, was forced to cringe at the Democratic Party convention and endorse her despite having pointed out on multiple occasions earlier that she was the candidate of Wall Street. The Obama administration continued the Clinton-Bush tradition of giving top posts in the economic policy silos to those who had been vetted and approved by Wall Street, such as Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers. Despite her harsh rhetoric against Wall Street, a President Hillary Clinton will continue the practice of placing the interests of the financial services industry at the top of her list of priorities, perhaps unlike Donald Trump, whose relations with the financial services industry are chilly and whose activities relate to the building and manufacturing economy rather than to the finance sector. Small wonder that even the (Bush era) Treasury Secretary responsible for the 2008 crash, Hank Paulson, has endorsed Clinton, as have an army of others in the financial services industry, while they have been openly abusive of Donald Trump. The support given by Wall Street and its numerous offshoots to Hillary Clinton has resulted in a flood of donations to her campaign, and to almost the entire US media entering on a near-hysterical campaign designed to convince voters that Donald Trump is a bigot and worse. 
Not even a pretence of objectivity is being made by media channels such as the Washington Post and CNN, who are daily finding out new reasons to attack the Republican nominee in a manner unparalleled in recent US history. While (to protect Hillary Clinton) Bernie Sanders was made to stand down from his pledge to take his campaign up to the convention floor and beyond, an “independent” Presidential candidate has been found by financial interests who is expected to siphon off a substantial number of Republican votes from Donald Trump. 
Wall Street is betting on Hillary Clinton re-entering the White House in the 2016 election, a desire shared by those members of the Republican Party who are themselves close to the financial services industry, such as former President George W. Bush and former Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and John McCain, who are openly canvassing against their own party’s nominee. Main Street is far weaker in the influence game, and it shows in the fact that the wind seems to be filling the Hillary sails. Smart money is betting that Wall Street will prevail over Main Street, and that the financial services industry will as usual get the better of the manufacturing and building sector, by their candidate decisively defeating another who does not (in practice rather than speech) share the same loyalty to Wall Street. 
However, the race is far from over, as the anger against Wall Street (or what is called “the system”) is palpable across the US, and may result in a large number of votes going to Donald Trump or the Green candidate as a protest against the post-1990s establishment and its candidate, Hillary Clinton. Millions of voters have watched their standard of living plummet. In particular, hundreds of thousands have lost their homes to bank foreclosures, even while these same institutions were given massive handouts by the Obama administration throughout 2009-12. Apart from the fact that the manufacturing industry is smarting from the neglect it is suffering in contrast to the largesse showered on the financial services industry by successive administrations, other factors are operating in favour of Trump as well that may be resulting in an “iceberg formation”. So far as his support is concerned, the bulk of it may be hidden “under the water”, the way most of an iceberg is. 
The three other factors that have come to the surface in this extraordinary election are (a) a growing uneasiness about China and its rising power and a worry that this will soon become irreversible; (b) fear of the reach and potency of Wahhabism and its terror machine; and (c) a perception that relations between the black and white races have become worse rather than better after the country’s first African-American President took office in 2009. Hillary Clinton has had extensive contacts with the Chinese leadership, in contrast to Donald Trump, who has almost none of such linkages, while on Wahhabism, his rhetoric has been fiery rather than accommodative in the manner of his opponent, who has close links to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other GCC states. The perception that Trump would be far more hawkish on China and on Wahhabism than Hillary Clinton is an important factor explaining the fact that the Republican candidate is still within striking distance of victory on 8 November. However, where Hillary Clinton scores decisively over Trump is in the non-white vote, which has been put off by the Republican candidate’s rhetoric, some of which could be interpreted as majoritarianism. Whether such a gap can be bridged by bridge building to the powerful and vibrant African-American and Latino communities, and by the majority (white) community US citizens coming out to vote for Trump in large numbers (in contrast to low turnouts within this group in the past), remains to be seen. 
Having built up a formidable war chest, Hillary Clinton has the cash needed to power a blitz of advertising during the coming weeks in addition to the food of supportive coverage she has been getting in the US media. Trump’s early mistakes, especially some of his remarks against Hispanics and African-Americans, may yet result in a defeat for the construction magnate. Whoever wins, this will be the most consequential US election since that which saw Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the White House in 1933. As of now, it is clear that Wall Street has the edge. 
However, much could change during the coming two months. The US voter is seething and is worried, a mood that may result in a surprise for the establishment, the media and the pundits on 8 November.