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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Rahul working on anti-PM protests in US (Sunday Guardian)

For close to nine months, the Congress VP has been meeting ‘representatives of civil society from India’ in London and New York.
MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 26th Sep 2015
ongress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi has been "meeting quietly in the US with groups intending to carry out protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi" during the PM's ongoing visit to the world's biggest economy. According to those associated with the planning of the strategy of the Congress vice-president, "Rahul is not encouraging any anti-Modi demonstrations and protests, but simply understanding what the reasons for anger are". However, analysts tracking Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi say that his role has been much more pro-active, and that should there be large-scale protests during the Prime Minister's public appearances in San Jose and New York, it would mean "some success for Rahul's carefully planned strategy of seeking to show globally that Modi has as many critics as admirers in the US", thereby taking some of the shine off the PM's Madison Square-style public rallies in the country and his meetings with corporate leaders.
Those tracking the nature and extent of Rahul's activities on foreign shores claim that his "sensitive and secretive" meetings while in the US, many with anti-Modi groups, is the reason why there is such secrecy about his whereabouts and activities during this latest period of disappearance from public radar. They add that Rahul Gandhi has been meeting for close to nine months in London and New York with "representatives of civil society from India who have been active in canvassing support for condemning the Union government for what they claim is its insensitivity to minority concerns and its majoritarian agenda".
Rahul's meetings while in the US are related to what analysts term as his "crusade" to ensure that the BJP led by Narendra Modi falls to a tally of 175-150 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 polls, thereby ensuring that a non-saffron dispensation takes office in the national capital. "Rahul is aiming to become Prime Minister only by 2024 and not 2019, and hence can take the long view of political developments", they point out. Even after nine more years, the Congress vice-president would be a decade younger than Narendra Modi was when he took the oath of office as Prime Minister on 26 May 2014. These analysts say that — health permitting — Congress president Sonia Gandhi may get her term extended up to the close of 2017, or until the UP Assembly elections get decided, "so that Rahul could take charge on a fresh slate and focus on the parliamentary polls".
Since the shock collapse of his party on 16 May 2014, "the centrepiece of Rahul Gandhi's game plan is to ensure that Prime Minister Modi does not get a second term, and if this means sacrificing the short-term interests of the Congress in some states, Rahul is ready". This strategy has come into operation in Bihar, where the Congress has accepted a seat quota less than half of what was allocated to either the RJD and the JDU, and is likely to get replicated in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, with the party likely to contest a lower number of seats than the last time as a gesture of goodwill to regional heavyweights Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. Those tracking the first family of the Congress claim that the UP Assembly elections will witness the emergence of the telegenic Priyanka Vadra on the political stage, abandoning her earlier cameo appearances, "as by that time, efforts at blackening the name of her husband would have run its course" and any extra damage by such actions would be low.
"Rahul has studied the way in which Narendra Modi consolidated himself in Gujarat through gaining a reputation for honesty and efficiency in government, and is therefore determined to ensure that at the Central level, Team Modi be perceived differently" (from what was the case in Gujarat). Hence the strategy of (a) blocking reforms such as GST and the Land Bill which would enhance the performance and hence the reputation of the Central government, and (b) constantly levelling allegations of corruption against state and central leaders of the BJP. Those tracking the Congress vice-president say that he has activated a small group to locate possible charges of corruption at the Central and state levels, and that "such research is being clandestinely assisted by officials who have for years been close to the Congress". In a gesture of conciliation, the Narendra Modi government has retained many officials known to have been close to the UPA in sensitive posts, and has refrained from any witch-hunt against UPA-era Central ministers, except by carrying forward probes already set in motion during the tenure of Manmohan Singh. "Even probes already existing (since the UPA period), such as that against Dayanidhi Maran, are being conducted professionally, and every opportunity is being given to the accused to defend themselves. Whether it be Maran, Kanimozhi or even Raja, they cannot claim that any undue interest is being taken in their cases," a senior official pointed out, adding that "the same is the case with the probes against Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati as well".
Officials say that Prime Minister Modi has distanced himself from all such investigations and has asked the officials concerned to conduct them in a manner that is not related to political exigencies. Perhaps as a consequence, there appears to have been little progress on the BJP's Lok Sabha poll promise of bringing to book those guilty of corruption in the numerous UPA-era scams. Those close to Rahul Gandhi say that the breather has given them time to regroup and also to fight back effectively against any future probe, whereas any action taken during the glow of the initial months of the BJP's 2014 triumph would have been accepted by the public. According to those studying the behind-the-curtain moves of the Congress heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi is convinced that after the lapse of nearly 18 months since the Lok Sabha results were declared, routine allegations of corruption against the Congress and its UPA partners no longer carry much weight with the public, for the reason that "they will ask why (if the charges were true) no action was taken by the NDA government against the guilty", with not even a single FIR being filed against UPA ministers known to be super-wealthy. Four polling agencies are independently being used by Team Rahul, and it is claimed by those close to Rahul Gandhi "these are unanimous that there is a change of mood towards both the Congress as well as the BJP since 2014" and that this will get reflected in future Congress-BJP contests.
Apart from a barrage of corruption charges directed against BJP decision-makers and the blocking of reform proposals that could lead to a visible improvement in performance over the coming three years (till the 2019 polls), the plans being scripted by Rahul Gandhi include measures designed to "bring down the reputation both domestically as well as internationally of Prime Minister Modi". The emerging Congress supremo is "closely watching the rash of strike calls and protests by railway, bank employees and other powerful trade union groups and believes that these will launch protest after protest, strike upon strike, beginning before polls close in Bihar". During the past year, the Modi government has wheeled out its heavyweight ministers to negotiate with bank, port, coal and insurance unions, thereby giving itself little leeway in case fresh demands (such as a generalised call for OROP) come up. Rahul Gandhi has asked key members of his team to "meet with union representatives quietly" and has promised the "support of the Congress in future agitations" against the Central government, according to those privy to his thinking. Small wonder that CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury seems to be edging closer tactically to the Congress despite his party seeing the latter as its principal foe in Kerala.
"Rahul Gandhi's plan is to ensure that reforms essential to better performance get delayed till the 2017 UP elections are over", so that the BJP does not reap the electoral dividend of such measures in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which remain the primary focus of the Congress vice-president. Those privy to his thinking say that "Rahul is aware that core economic reform measures take two to three years to begin to show results, and that for the first two or three years, the political dividend is negative from such steps", although these become positive soon afterwards and remain so for long periods. They say that the Congress heir apparent has studied the working of the A.B. Vajpayee government and believes that it was "dissatisfaction in the urban areas caused by corruption, lack of jobs and price rise which got the NDA defeated in 2004", apart from "a delay in carrying out enough reforms during the first two of the six years in office of Prime Minister Vajpayee". The four factors (joblessness, inflation, corruption and slowness in reforms) form the staple theme of the Rahul-crafted Congress attacks on the Modi government. Congress success in continuing to block GST and other key reforms and in maintaining a drumbeat of charges against Team Modi will determine whether Rahul Gandhi's "NoNamo 2019" strategy is working.

P-5 is key to India’s UNSC success (Sunday Guardian)

It has been a characteristic of Nehruvian diplomacy that India’s interests have been sacrificed for the personal interests of a few.
iven the reliance of politicians on the bureaucracy to both formulate policy as well as to implement it, it is no surprise that several UPA-era initiatives are being backed equally enthusiastically by the NDA. The acceptance of a mistake being a cardinal sin in the ranks of the higher bureaucracy, it is natural that even policies that have demonstrably been shown to be counter-productive have been continued into the present. Among these is the Club of Four, or the G-4, comprising Japan, Germany, Brazil and India that got formed to collectively lobby for permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council. Each of the four has the gravitas necessary for entry into this most exclusive of clubs within the UN system, although eyebrows may get raised at yet another European country being included in a group where the continent is already well represented, with the UK and France being permanent UNSC members. Given the declining role of Europe in international geopolitics, a situation which shows no sign of getting reversed in the coming decades, if we assume that the number of permanent UNSC members should get doubled to ten, clearly Asia should have at least three seats, Europe retain its two and South America and Africa gain two each, the new entrants from the first being Brazil and Mexico and from the second, South Africa and Nigeria.
Japan clearly merits a permanent seat at the UNSC. The country has been lavish in its funding of UN operations, and has behaved impeccably in international fora since the UN got formed in 1945. However, there is zero chance that P-5 member China will allow Japan to enter the UNSC Permanent Member club, and by joining hands with Tokyo in an all-or-none strategy, the two countries with the brightest chances, Brazil and India, are dooming their quest. While going through the motions of keeping the G-4 going, such as through the meeting of Heads of Government hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York, it needs to be signalled that in fact, each of the four is on its own so far as a permanent UNSC seat is concerned. What is needed is to ensure a General Assembly vote on separate proposals to include each of them (rather than the four as a combo) as a two-thirds majority is needed for consideration by the UNSC. In that forum, should each of the five back a country together with two-thirds of the General Assembly members and a majority within the 15-strong UNSC, that country would enter the club of permanent members. The country with the brightest chance is India, followed by Brazil and Germany, with Japan eliminated because of Beijing's veto. Within the P-5, should a vote take place on India, it would be difficult for China to veto the move, except if New Delhi insists on being tagged with Tokyo for the honour.
It has been a characteristic of Nehruvian diplomacy that India's interests — including core interests — have been sacrificed in order to further the needs of other powers. This was done most fragrantly by Jawaharlal Nehru, even in matters as vital for survival as water, when he handed over 80% of the Indus waters to a belligerent Pakistan for reasons clear only to him and perhaps his advisors. However, Lal Bahadur Shastri's surrender at Tashkent over the Haji Pir pass and Indira Gandhi's kowtow to Bhutto at Simla are some of the many examples of such a needless sacrifice of the national interest. India has lost considerably and gained not at all from such an India Last policy, and it is expected that Narendra Modi will ensure that his promise of a consistent and principled India First policy will be followed, even if some elements of this jar on officials reluctant to abandon "time honoured" policy lines. Until Japan ensures support from China, there is zero chance of Tokyo becoming a permanent member of the UNSC. There is no reason for India to delay its own ascension to the slot till Tokyo makes it, and in such a process, far more than the G-4, it is the General Assembly as well as the UNSC — especially the Permanent Five — that will decide whether and when India will make it to the UNSC. It needs to be made clear that while each of the four countries forming the G-4 support the others, none within the group has the right of veto on others seeking to enter this most exclusive of UN clubs. In Ban ki-Moon, the UN has a Secretary-General who understands and appreciates India, and in Barack Obama, a US President eager to ensure that an alliance with India be placed in his legacy box.
Our country's policymakers, invariably, give precedence to process over outcome. This should not recur in the UNSC hunt as well. India should not lock itself into a situation where it will fail to succeed, not because of opposition to its own candidacy but because of the Chinese veto over Japan's candidature.
The UN General Assembly should hold a separate vote on each of the countries wanting to join the UNSC as a permanent member, followed by another vote for each such country within the UNSC. The odds are high that India will cross these barriers with greater ease than any of its G-4 partners. A propitious moment has come for India's acceptance as a UNSC Permanent Member, and this needs to be seized by Prime Minister Modi, rather than thrown away in the manner of the numerous missteps by his predecessors. Outcome is core to the future, and the process followed needs to be such as would ensure success in India's quest.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Putin seeks to cap Syria meltdown (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India

M D Nalapat


Friday, September 25, 2015 - IN 1938, when UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his French counterpart Eduard Daladier forced Czechoslovakia to surrender its border defences to Adolf Hitler, the man believed that this act of betrayal would guarantee “peace in our time”. He even had a signed statement from Hitler to that effect, which he waved to delirious crowds in London on his return by air, the first time he had used that mode of transport. The takeover of first the Sudeten territories of Czechoslovakia and later the entire country strengthened the German military sufficiently to launch an attack on Poland a year later, the action which triggered the 1939-45 war which devastated Europe and established the US as the leader of the post-1945 international order. 


The USSR, exhausted by the death ( of 25 million) and destruction of the war,was too enervated to catch up with its former wartime ally,and the effort to do so in the field of defense slowly poisoned the Stalinist command economy. Unfortunately for Moscow, the country had no Deng Xiaoping,an economic reformer with the capability of melding communist doctrine with capitalist economics, with the result that the rising cost of maintaining a military which could counter the US and its European allies led to the effective collapse of the economy by the 1980s. From that time onwards, assisted by the bureaucratic regime led by Leonid Brezhnev, the fall of the USSR became inevitable. However,it must be remembered that Baldwin and Chamberlain saw the Communist Party under Josef Stalin as much the worse threat to civilisation than Hitler and the Nazis, which is why they refused to ally with Moscow against Berlin, despite repeated efforts by Soviet foreign minister Maxim Litvinov to form a front of the UK, France and the USSR against Germany. 



Finally, in the (correct) belief that London and Paris were uninterested in any deal with him, but only looked forward to a battle between him and Hitler from which they could walk away with the spoils, that Stalin allowed Vyacheslav Molotov, the new foreign minister (now that Litvinov had failed to persuade the democracies to join hands with Moscow), to sign an agreement with his German counterpart Joachim von Ribbentrop in August 1939, which gave Hitler the leeway he was looking for to wage war against Poland. To watch the gyrations of US Secretary of State John Kerry is to relive the 1930s as he seeks to make Vladimir Putin follow same course which Hillary Clinton adopted for Syria, and which has led during the past couple of years to takeover of a third of that country by Daesh (ISIS). Should Putin follow Kerry’s advice and cease Moscow’s assistance to Bashar Assad, the terror group would within a year gain control of more than three-fourths of Syria, including its capital, Damascus.



The problem with US policymaking is that often the roster of “experts” relied upon for this purpose remains largely constant over long stretches of time, despite what are in some cases decades of consistent misjudgement. Earlier, Hillary Clinton, who is more European than American in her mindset,led along with Sarkozy the wolf pack against Muammar Kaddafy, not even restraining herself from publicly gloating over his gruesome death. She clearly wishes the same fate for Assad, and this desire is shared widely within the State Department, hence it is not a surprise if John Kerry objects to any form of support for the Assad regime. CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera,the three main channels reflecting NATO’s viewpoint,repeated claim that the deaths which occured in Syria since 2011 are almost entirely the responsibility of Bashar Assad, when in fact, his armed forces account for less than a fifth of the several hundred thousand who have been killed in Syria as a consequence of the war since 2011. 



About a third of the deaths have been the consequence of Daesh while the rest are due to so-called “moderate” opposition fighters, most of whom are simply looking to make a fortune through the conflict. Despite evidence in their possession of the reality that almost all such “moderate” fighters either sit out the struggle after being given help, or else join Daesh and similar outfits, this policy is being continued, and is the basis for John Kerry’s efforts at getting Vladimir Putin to resile from his commitment to enhance military support for Assad, who incidentally is backed by the Christian minority which Clinton, Cameron and Hollande claim to feel for Of course, despite the posting of images on social media showing fighters using weapons supplied by the US and its allies (including regional powers) beheading Christians in profusion, support for such “moderates” has not abated. 



It would be a simple matter to identify the sources of the weapons and funds in the hands of Daesh (and which are far more modern than the ramshackle weapons of the Iraqi military, which CNN,Al Jazeera and BBC wrongly claim is the source of Daesh weaponry). 



However,perhaps because such a trace would lead to some of their proxies, such a reckoning has not taken place, with the result that several financiers of Daesh and similar outfits continue in their generosity to an organisation which resembles the Nazi Party in the savagery of its behaviour towards the innocent. It is unlikely that Moscow will listen to the chatter from those who have through their actions been responsible for the creation of Daesh. The intervention of Russia in an emphatic manner will result in President Assad getting back control of two-thirds of Syria in place of the 40% he now holds. 



The remaining third, which is located on the border with Turkey or Jordan, will continue in the hands of the extremists until these countries abandon their de facto support to such groups Although the house-trained media in those capitals will never point this out,the fact is that the only way the flood of refugees into Europe will abate is when the Putin strategy of placing a cap on the meltdown of Syria begins to take effect. Just as the medicine forced down the throat of the Czechs by Daladier and Chamberlain in 1938 led to catastrophe, so would the course of action now being recommended to Moscow by Secretary of State John Kerry with his usual volubility. Were the Assad regime to collapse, the tide of refugees into Europe would multiply threefold. However, try telling that to the Amanpours!



—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India. 


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Prof. Madhav Nalapat's interview with Kourosh Ziabari, an Iranian journalist

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Q.1 (Kourosh Ziabari): ISIS terrorists, and their ideological leaders, claim to be representing Islam and continually make the assertion that their pseudo-government is an “Islamic Caliphate.” At the same time, all the major Muslim scholars, both Sunni and Shiite, and the majority of Muslim world politicians, have condemned ISIS, and called it a deviant current whose practices run counter to the basic principles of Islamic faith. Has the global public believed the mantra that ISIS is really an Islamic state? What could be done to preclude the reinforcement of this conviction that ISIS carries out actions that are sanctioned by Islam, including the beheading of Christians and raping the women? 

A.1 (Madhav Nalapat): Unfortunately, several individuals, especially in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have accepted the view that ISIS represents the "conqueror and fighting" phase of Islam, in which the Word of God got disseminated and accepted by vast territories and myriad peoples. Wahabbi thought explicitly posits that an equally sharp acceleration of dissemination of the faith ( ie Wahabbism) is feasible, and ISIS is feeding on this thought and this desire. Money comes from those who have in their personal lives been dissolute and believe that they can escape hellfire in the afterlife by helping ISIS (a view intelligently spread by the protagonists of this terrible creed), while recruitment takes place among the young already exposed to Wahabbi ideology, who regard it as feasible to engineer a second "conqueror and fighting" phase of Islam. The only way to prevent this is to return to the true meaning of the Word of God and get accepted the fact that the core qualities of a Believer are compassion, mercy and beneficience and not resort to violence and cruelty under any pretext. We must (1) separate the core qualities from the others are seek to ensure that these be universally accepted (2) excommunicate and not tolerate or pamper Wahabbis as being betrayers of the Word of God and (3) take strong action to eliminate any manifestations of this ideology, by military means wherever needed, otherwise mere statements against ISIS will not prevent the ideology from spreading. 

Q.2 (KZ): The data and figures on the foreign fighters that have joined ISIS over the past 3 years are mind-boggling and unthinkable. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on January 29 that as many as 1,200 French citizens, 600 Britons, 250-300 Swedish nationals, 150 Austrians and more than 1,000 Germans have been fighting in the ranks of ISIS. Even the Australian government has reported that 100+ citizens of this Oceanic country have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight for the ISIS terrorists. Why have so many Westerners embarked on this risky journey of joining such a ruthless terrorist cult? Some commentators claim that they’re all immigrants and offspring of Muslim families in these countries. Is it really so? 

A.2 (MN): A few are from the indigenous population but the overwhelming majority are from the immigrant population. Since the 1980s, there has developed within the member-states of NATO a cult of Wahabbi jihadism, which has been celebrated ever since such individuals were armed, trained and funded by NATO powers to do battle against the USSR in Afghanistan. Certainly the Soviet invasion needed to be reversed, but this job should have been left to Pashtun nationalists, who are religious moderates. Instead, such healthy elements in Afghan society were ignored in favour of Wahabbi fanatics, who were empowered to fight not only the USSR forces but also those Afghans who did not accept their toxic ideology. Textbooks inculcating hatred and a predisposition towards violence were designed in US universities to ensure that young minds globally turned towards Wahabbism. Since the 1980s, an estimated $ 380 billion has been expended by individuals, agencies and countries to build up the Wahabbi International. It should not therefore be a surprise that many of the young coming from Muslim countries where this indoctrination took place are turning to ISIS, which is after all from the same ideological matrix as other Wahabbi extremist groups. The USSR having collapsed in 1991, this "demon" has been replaced by the entire non-Wahabbi population of the globe, all of whom are seen as "devils" by Wahabbi ideologists. Even a casual look at Wahabbi literature would demonstrate this fact. Hence the need to criminalize Wahabbism worldwide and roll back the Wahabbi international network, including by removing Wahabbi literature from educational curricula. 

Q.3 (KZ): In one of your pieces, you wrote that 1936-37 was the period when the Nazis could have been rolled back and eliminated efficiently. But the world didn’t take appropriate action, the Nazis rose to prominence and exterminated thousands of people. As you maintain, today is the best time for forming a global coalition against ISIS and defeating it. However, again it seems the international community is not sufficiently determined to fight ISIS and that’s why they’ve been able to grow their power and become stronger. What’s your idea on that? 

A.3 (MN): The Wahabbi International has been active in throwing money at scholars and policymakers within the NATO bloc, so that they repeat Wahabbi doctrines and seek to discredit those fighting this enemy of civilisation. For more than a century, countries in Europe and later North America have assisted Wahabbis, first against the Turkish caliphate (which is why it is ironic that Turkey now has a Wahabbi as Head of State, who is systematically destroying the Kemalist base of that country). Later, in the 1950s and the 1960s, they used Wahabbis to wage a "thought battle" against Arab nationalists such as Nasser, who were challenging former European colonial powers unlike Wahabbi establishments, who have always talked tough but acted in a slavish manner towards former colonial powers. In the 1980s, the creed was used to fuel the war against the USSR in Afghanistan. It was only after September 11,2001 that the NATO bloc understood the danger posed by Wahabbism to themselves, a danger pointed out by me in 1987 and in 1992 in the US, at a period when the Clinton administration was funding and assisting Wahabbis worldwide, especially in Afghanistan.

Even after 9/11, the US and some of its partners focussed not on eliminating Wahabbi terror groups in Afghanistan but in removing Saddam Hussein, an enemy of the (Wahabbi-influenced) GCC regimes, in 2003. In 2011, they sided with the same regimes to remove Muammar Gaddafy from power and life in Libya and are now seeking to repeat that in Syria with President Bashar Assad. Because of the well-funded influence of Wahabbi doctrines within strategic community within the key NATO allies, they regard the Wahabbi International as a far lesser threat than they do Iran. This is similar to those in France and the UK who saw Hitler under Germany as being a lesser threat than the USSR under Stalin. Such people caused the deaths of tens of millions of innocents because of such an error or perception, and these days, that same blinkered vision is causing the spread of ISIS. Hopefully, sense will dawn before it is too late and a global rather than a limited war against the Wahabbi menace becomes inevitable, in my view by around 2019. This is why I call this the "Rhineland Moment”, the period in 1936 when Hitler could have been humiliated by the French armies and sent off to prison, where his capacity for damage would be much reduced. Instead, he was allowed to once again get away with conquest in 1938 (Czechoslovakia), thereby making the 1939-45 war inevitable.

Should a global coalition not get formed against ISIS and other components of the Wahabbi International, a coalition which includes Iran, this evil will spread within populations. This will be an "atomised" war, in which small groups of individuals such as suicide bombers and suicide automatic weapons carriers create havoc through technology which ensures severe destruction at a relatively low cost, and will take place across the globe, including the heart of the US and Europe. Such a war could ultimately be as destructive to life and property as the conventional wars which took place in the past. The potential of ISIS to spread its cells across entire countries rises with each month that the organisation continues to have a safe haven carved out of parts of Iraq and Syria. My sense is that President Obama realizes this, but not yet his Secretary of State John Kerry (who has lately been seeking to assist ISIS by preventing Moscow from giving President Assad the military means to defeat its gangs) or the UK or French leadership. David Cameron was a principal architect of the Libya disaster, which is the seed from which ISIS has grown, and the UK Prime Minister still seems oblivious of reality, living in a Lawrence of Arabia world.

Q.4 (KZ): In a meeting at the European Council on Foreign Relations, the former NATO Secretary General and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has suggested that Iran is the only country capable of fighting the ISIS terrorists. There are many others who think likewise. It’s noted by many commentators and analysts that Iranians are genuinely opposed to ISIS and have the prowess to stop its atrocities. If we accept this premise, then why doesn’t the United States ask for Iran’s help to address the concern of ISIS and eradicate it forever? 

A.4 (MN): My view is that Barack Obama and possibly Angela Merkel understand this, which is why they prevailed over Hollande and others who sought to derail the nuclear agreement with Iran. Hopefully, the next President of the US will be a realist and not a fantasist in the mould of Dick Cheney.

Q.5 (KZ): There are worrying reports of some Western and Arab governments still providing ISIS with financial and military aid, even though all of these governments have been trying to absolve themselves of the accusation. The Guardian associate editor Seumas Milne has boldly claimed in an editorial that ISIS is a by-product of Western powers’ regional operations, and this sectarian terror group “won’t be defeated by the western states that incubated it in the first place.” Do you agree with this assertion? At any rate, is ISIS going to be beaten while it can sell massive amounts of oil and receive financial and arms assistance?

A.5 (MN): My view is that the US, UK and other NATO allies did not understand the damage which could get caused globally to themselves and to the rest of the world by the Wahabbi International, which is the ideological root of ISIS. Just as a combination of the US, the UK and the USSR defeated Germany in the 1939-45 war, the world needs NATO to ally with India, Iran, Russia and China to wipe out ISIS. Certainly it is correct that NATO cannot do it alone, but its involvement would be crucial in any anti-ISIS coalition. However, time is running out. The embrace of NATO with Wahabbi-supporting regimes need to end, and Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia need to be warned that any further assistance to ISIS through giving help to so-called "moderate" fighters who switch to extremist in the battlefield should end. The world is running out of time, as it did during the 1930s in Europe.

Q.6 (KZ): A group of right-wing commentators and pundits, including Will McCants, who is being cited as an authority on ISIS and “militant Islam”, have been striving to create connections between ISIS and the Islamic theology. They claim that Abubakr al-Baghdadi is a descendant of Prophet Muhammad and is a pure Muslim trying to establish an Islamic state as part of his historic, religious mission. Is there any point in portraying ISIS as an original Islamic creation and its leader a member of prophet’s family, while the massive majority of Muslim believers don’t sympathize with them?

A.6 (MN): In the past as well, there have been multiple individuals calling Wahabbism "the purest form of Islam" when in fact it is the opposite. Why take such "experts" seriously?

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Needed, Modivian boldness (Sunday Guardian)


It is likely that India will soon need to deploy forces to ensure ISIS is tackled.
he generals in Islamabad have evidently realised that military strength is worthless in the absence of economic advancement, and they are putting this discovery into practice in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Although much is being made of Chinese investment in territory that was allowed by Jawaharlal Nehru to remain in Pakistani hands in 1948, the reality is that countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are equally big investors in PoK, but this has yet to gain traction in either MEA complaints or press coverage. So what is the way out of the problem posed by PoK? Uniting the territory with the rest of India seems unlikely, for a conventional war with Pakistan is not on the agenda of any government in Delhi. The option of fighting insurgency with insurgency would be shot down by the country's risk-averse bureaucracy, thereby leaving a third option, which is to ensure that the part of Jammu & Kashmir not under foreign occupation develop at a pace and depth which would leave PoK at the starting gate, even were some of the investments being promised materialise.
The problem with the bureaucracy in India — and it is officials rather than politicians who have effective control over most of the levers of policy — is that they have superb negotiating skills where their own interests are concerned, but fail in ensuring outcomes generous to this country in international negotiations. Very often, the final negotiating position of India (usually the status quo) is given early on in the process, with the result that this gets taken as an initial negotiating stance, and the other side then demands further concessions.
In the case of PoK, despite fighting words by political leaders and generals, it was clear from 1972 that the status quo was acceptable to South and North Blocks. The 1971 victory over Pakistan was an opportunity to force through a bargain with Pakistan, with perhaps territory needed for preventing easy infiltration or invasion into land controlled by India being demanded in exchange for repatriating the 93,000 PoWs captured by our generals. We do not know what the ingredients of the charm of Z.A. Bhutto were, that made Indira Gandhi not even formalise the minimalist condition of Pakistan recognising the Line of Control as the international border. Perhaps it was the cologne that Bhutto so liberally splashed on himself, or fancy outfits with weird collars, along with the 1948 shying away from the unification of Kashmir another opportunity was lost in 1972 when Indira Gandhi accepted the mere word of a practised dissembler in the matter of recognition of the LoC as the boundary between India and Pakistan.
In the case of the other neighbour, with which India still has a boundary dispute, China, once again the final negotiating position (of status quo across the Line of Actual Control) was clear early on in the boundary talks. This was taken by Beijing as a starting gambit, and the extra concessions demanded of India (such as the cession of Tawang) have ensured that the boundary talks remain frozen in the same technicalities and differences as when they began over a decade ago. What is needed is a menu of concessions demanded by India so that each Chinese demand gets countered by an Indian response. However, to expect such boldness from our officials would be to ask for the impossible. In 2003, India was offered the chance to station 18,000 troops in the most stable part of Iraq, Kurdistan. This would have (a) accelerated the military relationship with the US, a necessity if the Army, Navy and Air Force are to get equipped on a scale sufficient to give India the ability to defend itself against all comers (b) given leverage in the oil-rich Kurdish portions of Iraq and (c) a significant boost in its geopolitical signature. The request was refused, just as last year, informal suggestions that India commit some of its military resources to the war against ISIS were turned down. Egypt and Jordan, not to mention Australia, are along the countries participating in the war against ISIS. Their security scenario has not been degraded as a consequence, and neither will India's be. The fact is that within the coming three years, it is very likely that India will need to place boots on the ground in order to ensure the elimination of ISIS.
What needs to be conveyed to China, Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia is that they need to invest not only in that part of Jammu & Kashmir still under foreign occupation but in that part of the state which still remains in the control of Delhi. Surely India is a much more attractive destination for investment than Pakistan, and certainly that part of Kashmir still under Delhi's control offers several opportunities for investment. For this to happen, not only must be there be changes in the stance and messaging of the Government of India, but the Reserve Bank of India needs to give up its opposition to such innovations as Islamic banking, permission given to which will result in a huge inflow of money from outside the country. Certainly there will be money sources that are dubious or who subscribe to the Islamabad agenda. Such groups will send money to their favourites anyway. Were Islamic banking to be legalised, such transfers would become transparent and the few who are dodgy more easily identified. These days, hawala networks and even normal banking channels are funnelling a torrent of cash to Kashmir, mostly to give oxygen to the separatists, who know that the espousing of a Kashmir divorced from India is a lucrative business, with even official agencies making donations to individuals and groups following the Pakistan line on Kashmir. New policies are needed as that will ensure double digit growth, rather than self-congratulations for still growing at 7% despite crippling regulations and taxes. Niti Aayog needs to morph into a think-tank for the Prime Minister's Office, not by filling it with retired and present officials but those who can offer an alternative view to the bureaucracy. Prime Minister Modi is different from the rest of the political pack. He needs to frame and implement policies which are bold and unique. Only innovative policies implemented in the thorough style of the PM can ensure that the potential offered by this country's young get harnessed and transformed into high growth.

Friday, 18 September 2015

China may escape a ‘hard landing’ (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India

M D Nalapat


Friday, September 18, 2015 - Around 1983, after a few years of experimentation in the Chinese fashion, Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping took a decision to concentrate on economic matters and keep aside other considerations. The following two decades of peace, when China deliberately avoided any reference to its growing military prowess, made the difference. The country became a superpower, and in purchasing power parity terms, several measures already place it ahead of the US. As the experience of the USSR has shown,a well-endowed military is of no value unless backed by a stable and expanding economy. As for the possession of nuclear weapons, North Korea has them, but this does not help the many in that country who lack adequate food each day. 

While Mao Zedong unified China in a manner not seen earlier in that country’s history, it was the pocket-sized French-language expert, Deng Xiaoping, who is the architect of modern China. The country has had a generation of double digit growth, and this has resulted in the sharpest reduction of poverty within any country in a comparable period of time. Up until the 1990s, unless a country was on amicable terms with the US, it was unlikely to grow at a fast clip. India lost the chance during the 1960s and the 1970s,when circumstances forced Delhi to prefer Moscow over Washington in the geopolitical arena. However, for the past sixteen years, unless a country has a stable economic relationship with China, that country is unlikely to witness strong growth. Even Japan, which is now in a somewhat rocky phase of its relationship with China, needs the bigger country for the prosperity of its people. 

Since the end of the 1980s,there has been an emphasis on the wealthy within a society, the calculation being that if they became even richer than they were, much of the extra cash would filter down to lower levels. Whether it be Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher, whether it be India or China, the rich have grown even more wealthy while the poor remain where they are. The financial industry has perfected the science of sucking money away from the middle class and funneling it into the bank accounts of the growing number of billionaires on the planet. Stock exchanges have witnessed huge transfers of money from retail investor to the super rich. Even in China, during the past two months, retail investors (many of whom borrowed money to buy shares) have seen the value of their investments fall sharply. 

Since 2011,there was a perception that the government was unhappy with the rising cost of housing, and would take measures to cool down the market and ensure that prices fell. Indeed, some steps were indeed announced by Beijing when Wen Jiabao was the Prime Minister. This drove investment into the stock market, raising the price of equities to unsustainable levels. A crash was inevitable, and when it came this year, millions of small investors lost out. This has once more revived interest in housing, and sales of dwelling units are rising after a period of stasis The fall in equity prices has given new life to the China doomsayers, who claim that the economy of country is on brink of collapse. It needs to be remembered that in the 1960s and the decade thereafter, there were multiple learned tomes written about India, and how the country was about to break up. 

Instead, India is on track to have 800 million internet-enabled mobiler devices within the next five years,and Bangalore is as important an information technology (IT) hub as San Jose. Within a decade, the size of the IT sector in India is estimated to cross $ 1 trillion, despite the fact that several government policies have in the past weakened rather than strengthened the industry. Indeed, during the 1980s, intrusive officials sought to control the nascent industry the way they have other sectors, but were taken aback by the rows of binary numerals and cards. Eventually, they left the industry alone, with the result that in the 1990s,after Pamulaparthy Venkata Narasimha Rao liberalised some aspects of the economy, the IT sector began to boom, earning foreign exchange and creating jobs on an unprecedented scale. 

Unfortunately, from 1999,the government again tried to get control of the industry through a multitude of regulations, a process that was sharply accelerated after Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister in 2004. Sadly for the economy of the country, real power vested not in 7 Racecourse Road (the Prime Minister’s House) but in 10 Janpath, the residence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Officials and ministers knew that there was little consequence in disobeying an order from the Prime Minister’s Office, but that they could lose their jobs if they disregarded a command from Ahmed Patel, the quiet and super-efficient Political Secretary to the Congress President.

The new President of China has launched a campaign that has hit even the most powerful, such as former members of the Standing Committee of the CCP. The number of high officials in prison for corruption has risen to the hundreds, and the consequence has been that a window of opportunity has opened up to ensure that the SOEs be handed over to the control of those who get their jobs on merit rather than through accident of birth. Should such a re-engineering of the higher managements of the SOEs take place, these giant enterprises are likely to become competitors in several fields to the major international brands. More important, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang need to ensure a more level playing field between those entrepreneurs without political influence and those who come from well-connected backgrounds. 

Clearing SOEs of deadwood at the top and opening major sectors to domestic competition will result in a rise in performance levels, and to the Chinese economy humming once again. Given the importance of China as a producer, as a market and as a source of investment to economies around the globe, many will be hoping that a “hard landing” can be avoided and the economy enter into a Middle Income equilibrium, with domestic producers and consumers playing the key role rather than foreign investment.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Video: Prof. Nalapat on RSTV Panel on Nepal's Proposed Constitution

Guests: Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, former Indian Ambassador to Nepal ; D.P. Tripathi, MP, NCP ; Monu Nalapat, Political Analyst ; Prashant Jha, Associate Editor, Hindustan Times ; Yubaraj Ghimire, Editor, Annapurna Post.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Hardik Patels won’t wait for a second term (Sunday Guardian)

To ensure an Indian Microsoft or Google, what is needed is to promote a culture of freedom and innovation across India.
lthough he has been blamed for over-centralisation, the record shows that since taking over, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in fact, has given his colleagues in the party and the government perhaps too much freedom, and that this may have had the effect, on occasion, of stifling rather than serving the PM's objective of creating a 21st-century government out of the 19th-century administrative machinery. For example, the Law Ministry has been snail-slow in ridding the statute books of the colonial-era weeds that infest it in profusion, with most laws having their origin a century or more back, in an age when a hundred days can witness comprehensive change. The Telecom Ministry initially came out in support of Section 66A of the toxic Information Technology Act, 2005. Taxes, regulations and interest rates remain high, while the delivery of services is still to show the impact of the new captain in the cockpit. Small wonder that growth is lower than capacity, with even the service sector slowing down under the extra tax outgo and paperwork necessitated by compliance to the dictates of a bureaucracy that has succeeded in ensuring that India remain a country with more desperately poor people than Sub-Saharan Africa.
With birth rates not falling enough, employment is not rising fast enough to ensure that the young get absorbed in useful occupations rather than loiter around sans paid work. There is evidence that Hardik Patel, who has lately been making somewhat of a nuisance of himself to Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, applied without success to several employment websites before apparently deciding that reservation and quotas for his community was the only route to a job. There are many millions of potential Hardik Patels across the country, hence the folly of some commentators, who claim to be supporters of Narendra Modi, but claim that a steep rise in jobs will come "only in Modi's second term". They forget that there will be no second term unless the government very substantially delivers on the promises made during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, and this too not in the invisible and incremental way claimed by BJP spokespersons, but in large, visible doses of reform and consequent growth. Populism is not the answer, nor will it garner votes, or the Congress party would have won 300 seats last year, rather than 44. As David Cameron showed in the UK, voters appreciate reform, provided this is carried out early enough for the results to start manifesting themselves. For the Modi government, this means within the first two years of its term. Getting the Land and GST Bills passed through Parliament would have done more to encourage foreign and domestic investment than media spectaculars such as meetings between businesspersons and the Council of Ministers. It is not so much they, but the government which needs to take "risks" by implementing innovative policies rather than shelving reforms till "the time is ripe". After all, every month's delay makes the time for success in implementing reform less propitious and therefore less likely. His critics pin the blame for such every misstep on the Prime Minister, when the fact is that there is no way that a mind as tuned to the 21st century as Narendra Modi's could have initiated such ideas as a meat ban during the festival of a single community that vies with the Parsis in their smallness of size and the contrasting — and spectacular — scale of their success in business and the professions. Rather than help the Jains, such unacceptable intrusions into the personal choices of citizens of what gets passed off as a democracy will make several in other communities angry with the Jains, a community that overall cannot be held responsible for the meat ban. Temperance and vegetarianism are indeed laudable, but need to originate in the free will of individual citizens rather than steamrollered through administrative fiat. By the BJP resorting to such medieval measures, even the Shiv Sena seems in contrast more modern and more 21st century than its larger ally, several of whose state governments have followed Maharashtra in its mistake, but which hopefully the courts will speedily rectify.
When the attention of government — and not in a hypothetical second term, but now — at both the national and regional levels needs to be on job creation so as to prevent more of the sort of agitation that Gujarat has been witnessing, seeking to change the lifestyle choices of citizens through administrative fiat or alterations in the law rather than through persuasion in the manner of the immensely popular "Mann ki Baat" broadcasts of the PM, this is an avoidable diversion.
To ensure an Indian Microsoft or Google, what is needed is to promote a culture of freedom and innovation across India. This may not be to the liking of those who seek a return to the (public) mores of Queen Victoria, or to those few who have benefited immensely and unfairly from Maximum Government, but is the only way out if the country is to avoid the chaos that discontent brings to the street. The PM needs to step forward and ensure that the BJP and its governments function in the manner he wants, which is that suited to the 21st century. The numerous Hardik Patels who are in the pipeline will not give much more time to his government to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs before they hit the streets across the country.

PM’s warning spooks ISI-linked hawaladars (Sunday Guardian)

Terror-funding groups based in Pak, Turkey are using the hawaladar network in India to set up extremist cells in major cities, including that of ISIS sympathisers.
MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 12th Sep 2015
rime Minister Narendra Modi's warning to the nation about the depredations of "hawaladars" is timely and it is expected that these words will be followed up by action against such networks. Experts tracking the global hawala trade warn that terror-funding groups based in Pakistan and Turkey are using the "hawaladar" network in India to set up extremist cells in major cities in the country, including those comprising of ISIS sympathisers, so as to "keep them in readiness for a coordinated attack on civilian targets". Recent media coverage has shown that "international media devotes significantly more space to mass civilian casualties than to those taking place in military conditions," and an explosion in publicity is seen by ISIS as essential to its growth. They say that Prime Minister Modi's just-issued warning of the "hawaladar" network was "extremely timely", and expect that "the Ministries of Finance and Home will take their cue from the PM and go after such networks in a manner not seen for two decades". Such a counter-strategy needs to get implemented before the "hawaladars" can implement the terror attack plans of their ISI controllers and associates.
These sources claim that "eleven of the twelve major hawala networks in India are controlled by retired and serving officers of the Pakistan military's ISI", which is also heavily involved in the narcotics trade. Six of these networks were created in the 1980s to fund the Khalistan agitation, but were subsequently used to cover Kashmir in 1987. "From that time onwards, the situation in Kashmir began to boil", a key source claimed, adding that from that year, "funding was provided to any Valley youth ready to take up arms against India". Such networks are also "hyperactive in scams such as illegal betting in cricket, as well as in some sections of the film industry", both of which are "sources for the funding of ISI-linked operations in India".
In order to protect the politicians involved, there was "deliberate mishandling of the Jain hawala case by investigating officials during the 1990s, despite conclusive evidence of the link of the 'hawaladars' involved to Pakistan's shenanigans in Kashmir". Such intentional laxity, made the ISI appreciate the fact that if India's political leaders got involved with the networks, they would shield and thereby protect such channels against closure, "even if they funded terror and narcotics-related activities". From around 1993, "selected 'hawaladars' themselves approached key politicians and volunteered their services in shifting cash around the country and abroad", thereby gaining protection on a scale which in effect has meant that for the past 18 years, no serious action has been taken by any Central or state authority to uproot the key (ISI-linked) hawala networks. Another reason why they have been safe thus far is that "the same channels funding terror activities are also used to transmit money to candidates during election campaigns". The sources say that since 2013, there has been a "huge increase in the business transacted by hawala channels funnelling moneys out of India, mainly because of an increase in the number of corrupt officials seeking to park their wealth offshore rather than keep it within India". Such elements are afraid that Prime Minister Modi — who emerged into prominence as the future leader of the country during that period — will locate and punish them, and believe that they and their assets are safer abroad than in India.
The expert sources claim that such hidden capital flight has persisted "because since 2011, most big ticket bribes are getting paid abroad rather than in India". They say that over the past few years, "most senior politicians and officials insist on payment abroad", and that "the rise in (post-2011) frequency of visits and length of stay abroad to key offshore banking centres of the family and associates of key officials and politicians will demonstrate this, as also their call records".
Interestingly, these experts pointed out that "hawala has yet to be made illegal in India", and that the Foreign Exchange Management Act 2000 and Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 are "wholly ineffectual" in curbing this menace, so much so that "the major operators function from Dubai, London and Singapore and not only visit India regularly, but are hosted by top leaders of political parties and high officials on such visits". The investigating authorities have to prove that the proceeds of hawala come from criminal activities, and this is often impossible in the absence of tangible evidence. According to those tracking the industry in India, "not a single major 'hawaladar' has been seriously pursued and prosecuted", although they expect the immunity to end now that Prime Minister Modi has himself warned the nation of the danger from "hawaladar" networks. They claim that "from 10% of hawala transfers in India going to foreign countries in 1998, the figure is now close to 60%". Large sums of money are being repatriated abroad rather than kept in India by officials, businesspersons and politicians through ISI-controlled networks, "as these have the best access to London and Dubai". Increasing sums of cash are also coming into the country in order to fund potential terror networks.
According to them, "the six top cities for hawala trade in India are Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Kanpur", the latter being the preferred channel for the Nepal route. "In most locations, local police and other authorities get neutralised through bribes or by influence, including that exercised by more senior officials on their subordinates", an expert warned, adding that "often officials using the networks (for example to fund children studying abroad or for visits by family members to exotic locations) are themselves not aware of the error links of the hawaladars, and believe them to merely be conduits for businesspersons and politicians". Human couriers are being used, and these days, "much of the travel of cash couriers is by luxurious cars rather than by air or rail, as big cars seldom get checked, out of fear that those inside have influence". They say that both "the hawaladar network as well as the human carriers used to ferry cash around come from all communities and even comprise foreign nationals, especially those from Europe, as in India they seldom incur suspicion of being involved in criminal activity".
Although the trade done by "hawaladars" has wreaked significant damage to national security and other interests, thus far "no government has revealed to the public the facts in its possession about the networks", with even the 1993 Vohra committee report still kept secret. Occasionally, courts have got into the act, as in 2014, when the Gujarat High Court issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate on a PIL seeking the investigation of two police cases in Surat in connection with a Rs 10, 000 crore hawala scam, but "which still remains under investigation". Another ploy of the ISI-linked hawala networks is to "channel the money through religious organisations, as experience has shown that the police are more reluctant to move against such bodies because of the political and societal sensibilities involved". This is apart from the fact that the personnel assigned to investigate such cases usually have scant understanding of such subjects, which are in several cases too complex even for specialised agencies such as the ED, DRI and the RBI. The latter has comprehensively failed to curb the hawala menace in India and has paid little attention to the fact that several overseas financial entities patronised by its top echelons are in numerous instances "facilitating such transactions in order to increase profits". Thus far, monetary authorities in India have not followed the example of the US and the UK in curbing such practices through steep billion dollar fines but have administered only a "slap on the wrist", that too in a "very limited number of cases that have mostly been flagged first by the media".
The revelations made by the experts include the fact that "10-15% of the money made by some ISI networks in India, including those run by the D-Company, gets paid as protection money to select politicians", and that the "agencies have evidence of this", but have thus far refused to act against such politicians. After years of governmental inaction, experts feel heartened by Prime Minister Modi's forthright condemnation of "hawaladars". They expect the PM to begin the process of rolling up the ISI-linked hawala networks operating in India, so that these may (a) cease trying to create mayhem within the country at the behest of their controllers, (b) facilitate corruption and capital flight, and (c) seek to use popular pastimes such as cricket and feature films for multi-million dollar gains which thereafter get recycled in the terror and narcotics trades.