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Sunday, 27 December 2015

Vituperative politics is India’s ‘New Normal’ (Sunday Guardian)

Union Minister of Finance, Corporate Affairs and Information & Broadcasting Arun Jaitley, whose network of friends and admirers, especially in the media, is unrivalled, has adopted the path taken by L.K. Advani, that of using the blogosphere to express his views on a range of subjects. Jaitley’s lament about political debate in India having become too adversarial for his taste has been widely reproduced in the press. But here the media is concerned, a splash of “mirch masala” seems the ideal ingredient to whet public appetites for a news report or a commentary in a world where advertisers put their money where the readers and viewers are, with a few exceptions caused by pioneer status within the industry. An anodyne comment is likely to quickly get smothered by more astringent remarks, while a gladiatorial atmosphere within the ranks of the politically powerful is better conducive to the public interest than a collegial discussion of the weather among a group of senior citizens, important though such musings may be in the attempted creation of a climate of civility of the sort favoured by the Election Commission of India, whose numerous incarnations have been consistent in their distaste of the freewheeling verbal cut and thrust which forms the staple of television sound-bites in a hyper-competitive market.

The red lines marked out in verbal contests by those nostalgic for the old days of civilised discourse (assuming such a period existed) are being crossed with abandon these days, and sometimes to an extent where even proponents of free speech may wince, as when the Chief Minister of Delhi used an unusually unflattering adjective to describe the Prime Minister of India. However, the reality is that such a “gloves are off” situation is here to stay. Despite continuous commentary on the “ineffectiveness” of the Modi government, the PM’s political rivals are aware that his rule has the capacity to be transformational, upending seven decades of what may be termed the Nehruvian Consensus. 

Incrementally, usually without publicity, Narendra Modi is transforming the chemistry of administration, as well as strengthening those elements in the social fabric who have been in the shade since Sardar Patel passed away and left the governance of India firmly in the grip of Nehru. Being a democrat, in the hagiography of Amartya Sen, Sunil Khinani and other publicists for India’s first Prime Minister, the occupant of the former residence of the British Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army implemented exactly those policies which personally appealed to him, without even a pretence of consultation with the overwhelming majority within the Congress Party, who disagreed with many of the policies of Jawaharlal Nehru. Both foreign and economic policies were framed in the way they were in the USSR under Josef Stalin, implemented according to the prejudices and predilections of a single individual. The result was a cascade of lost opportunities and a rate of growth so low that to this day, more than 300 million citizens of India go to sleep hungry each night, and the creation of a structure built on governmental discretion and privilege based on a deep mistrust of the citizen of India being adult enough to take his own decisions and be trusted with discretion.

Even more than the policy measures taken thus far by Prime Minister Modi (and it must be said that they have been most innovative in the field of foreign policy and less so in matters of economics and education), the very gifting of a majority to a party led by Narendra Modi indicated that there had been a seminal change in the chemistry of the people, such that later analysts will divide time zones into Pre-Modi and post-Modi’s assumption of the nation’s most powerful office on 26 May 2014. Even should the BJP continue with its litany of mishaps and thereby lose its Lok Sabha majority in 2019, the change illustrated by Modi is irreversible. However, its depth and its spread would be far quicker and greater were Modi to win for his party a second term. It is the fear of such a transformation that is driving politicians across the nation into concentrating their attention on a single individual, the Prime Minister. 

There is no reason for surprise at the ferocity with which Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and to a lesser degree others such as Nitish Kumar are pillorying Narendra Modi. They sense that the 2019 contest will be a battle between those who favour Modi and those who oppose him, and both Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi seek to win the prize of the Number One Modi Baiter (NOMB), thereby attracting those voters with negative feelings about the PM and the party he leads. Vituperation is likely to be the New Normal in politics in India, no matter how uncomfortable sensitive individuals may be about such a trend, and it must be said that judging by the public record, the BJP is giving as good as it is getting, although a ruling party usually gets far less public sympathy than a group in the opposition. The fact that the BJP has morphed from Opposition to Ruling does not seem to have entered the consciousness of its many spokespersons, who are more into “attack” mode than into “explain” mode.

Although his rivals accuse him of “doing too little”, they know that the opposite is the case, that he is doing too much for their ease, and therefore, should he ensure victory for the BJP in 2019 as well, a third term in 2024 (as was the case in Gujarat) is very probable. Hence efforts will be continuous to derail him latest by 2019, but if possible earlier. Despite the roils and rumbles, Modi has changed Gujarat, and a second term — or an unobstructed first term — may change India in a direction far removed from the Nehruvian Consensus. Which is why PM Modi is likely to witness the same intensity of personal attack as did CM Modi. Those in his team who claim that an era of conciliation and cooperation with Modi’s political rivals is feasible are wrong. The gloves are off, and will be as long as Narendra Modi remains Prime Minister of India.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Merkel trusts moderate majority (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
Friday, December 25, 2015 - A “Letter to the Editor” by a UK citizen named Mohamad Ali Gokal in the spectator, a journal known for its delightful if often uninhibited prose,pointed out that 113 of the Quran’s 114 chapters began with a pronouncement of Allah’s “limitless mercy and beneficience”. Gokal pointed out that the words “mercy” and “forgiveness” are mentioned roughly 200 and 100 times in the text, while an entire chapter deals with the quality of mercy. In the words of the letter writer, it was pointed out by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that Allah forgives all sins and is “most Forgiving, Merciful” (39:54) and that “whoever forgives and amends,he shall have his recompense from Allah” (42.40). 


Rather than confine himself to writing letters to the editor in a British journal, it is time that Gokal and the millions of others who together form the moderate majority in the Muslim world step forward and join hands with the still very small number of scholars who challenge more extreme interpretations of the fastest-growing faith in the world, and which is likely to spread across Europe, now that three million refugees from wars in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia are making (or have already made) their way into the borderless world of the European Union. Almost all the refugees are young, and can be expected to have a rate of reproduction far higher than the low levels witnessed in most European countries.


In particular, because of the humanitarian approach of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Muslim population in Germany is likely to double before the end of next year, and go up substantially every year thereafter, thereby once and for all ending any chance that the country would revert to the monocultural model practiced within it for decades. France, Germany, Spain and Italy will soon have large Muslim populations because of the flood of escapees from war and poverty, and hopefully it will be the message set out so heart warmingly by Mohamad Ali Gokal rather than extremist and exclusivist interpretations that will form the foundation of the faith as practiced by these New Europeans. 


Clearly,Chancellor Merkel has faith that the moderate majority will overcome the extremist fringe so as to ensure that the millions of future EU nationals she has ensured will lead productive lives in harmony with their Christian neighbours. It has to be this faith that made her persuade other EU leaders to provide additional facilities to migrants coming from across the seas, rather than turn them back the way Australia has Rohingya and other “boat people”. Had Germany responded in a similarly unwelcoming fashion as Canberra, many who made the journey may have had second thoughts. 


It was Merkel’s smile of welcome that attracted hundreds of thousands more to risk the boat rides so that they could become part of the European family, as millions of others from affected locations already are Given the fact that the EU is borderless, it is likely that Germany and the UK will be the two favoured destinations for the New Europeans, as both countries possess opportunities in abundance for the educated segment of the refugee population, which is several hundred thousand strong. Because of its economic turmoil, as yet Spain is unlikely to witness migration on the scale of Germany and France, although in time, when the economy expands, it is very likely that more and more migrants will gravitate to a country so prominent in the history of the faith. 


The failure to grasp the opportunity for migration was just an example of the manner in which the citizens of India have been short-changed by a governance system still based on the colonial model. Hopefully, now that Narendra Modi has taken over as the Prime Minister of India, organised efforts will be made to ensure a greater flow of population to under-populated countries such as Russia and ,Brazil, including by setting up centres to teach Russian and Portuguese to intending migrants with the skills needed to make them welcome in these two BRICS powers. 


While on economic policy Modi has been cautious, relying on the team put together by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in matters of foreign policy he has been innovative in a manner not seen since Jawaharlal Nehru and (to a lesser extent) Narasimha Rao, who agreed to Israel setting up its embassy in Delhi, and exchanged Representative Offices with Taiwan, besides seeking an alliance with the US, making overtures that were rebuffed by US President Bill Clinton, who continued to regard India within the Cold War box in which country had been placed by Secretary of State John F Dulles,a gentleman who was aptly named in view of his lack of imagination.


Seeing the destruction of the USSR in 1992,Rao understood that the vacuum (of superpower support) could only get filled by the US. However, Clinton treated India as a lesser power, visiting the country only towards the close of his second term. A similar mistake was made with Russia, with President Clinton leading the effort to consign Russia’s high-tech sector to the graveyard, thereby hoping to make the giant country a pastoral supplier of raw materials to more advanced economies. 


While Boris Yeltsin was satisfied with such a subordinate role, his successor Vladimir Putin was not, and went about ensuring that Moscow’s geopolitical heft multiplied in his watch despite continuing US efforts at weakening it through sanctions and the expansion of NATO, both unnecessary and unwise steps in a context where a friendly and cooperative Russia would have secured US and overall EU interests far more than is the case during these days of US-EU efforts at weakening Moscow. 


Meanwhile, the demographic changes which Angela Merkel has set off within the EU (and especially in her own country) continue to accelerate. Hopefully, it will be the vision of Mohamad Ali Gokal rather than that of Abubakr Al Bagdadi that will finally prevail,thereby ending the misery that extremism has caused to so many tens of millions of innocents.


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


Monday, 21 December 2015

Indonesia and India offer the solution to ISIS (Sunday Guardian)

The best characterisation of the effects of NATO’s policies on the Middle East (or what is known within the subcontinent as West Asia) would be that of a hugely overgrown child let loose in a room filled with delicate artefacts. Very soon, the precious items placed inside the room would begin to disintegrate under the attentions of the monstrous infant, until finally nothing of value was left. Each theatre of conflict that some or all the member states of NATO have entered, resembles the room mentioned above, whether it be Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria. Governance dissolves into chaos, order into a hellish state of uncertainty and insecurity. Small wonder that on seeing the havoc created by the “giant child in the room”, the new — and elected — government of Iraq insisted that US and other coalition forces should leave. Scholars within the NATO bloc are still unable to accept that the blame for any of the catastrophes which follow an occupation of a country by that alliance are its own fault, and instead are prolific in coming up with excuse-laden explanations for even the direst of situations. Such evasions of NATO responsibility are as usual echoed by the growing army of Third World scholars, whose mission in life is to somehow win a grant or a position courtesy a NATO-based institution, and who realise that the most effective path to that goal is to repeat the arguments given by NATO thinkers, of course with a few irrelevant modifications. 
Thus it is that academic and other policy institutions in underdeveloped countries serve as an echo chamber for much of the geopolitical drivel churned out by their counterparts from the more advanced countries within the NATO alliance, especially concerning the Middle East. 
That ISIS (or Daesh) has morphed into its present state from the gangs of ultra-Wahhabis trained, funded and armed by NATO member-states and their regional allies — notably Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — is by now impossible to conceal, try though media channels hewing to the NATO line seek to portray that organisation as the consequence of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s efforts to hold back precisely the sort of fighters from which Daesh has metamorphosed. Had the prayers of John McCain and Hillary Clinton (whose geopolitical vision is similar, although the language and the imagery used may not always be) been answered and Assad driven out of Damascus into a grave, that city would have become another Tripoli, a seething pile of militias with Daesh at the core, and the Syrian refugee crisis would be much worse. 
Rather than please their friends in Ankara, Doha and Riyadh, by condemning President Putin’s backing for the regime in Damascus, John Kerry and others demanding the fall of Assad should be grateful that the present regime still controls enough territory to ensure that five million more Syrians do not join those already in Europe or on the way to that continent. 
Those baying for the blood of the current head of state of Syria forget that it was during the period when Bashar Assad controlled the entire territory of the country that Christians, Druze, moderate Sunnis and other minorities were safe, unlike the situation that faced them once the territories they were residing in were “liberated” by armed groups funded by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and backed by NATO member-states. 
Unfortunately, it was precisely at the time when the Alawite leader was opening his country up to tourism and international business that Sultan Recip Tayyip Erdogan, together with his fellow royals in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, decided that they could depose him with the assistance of NATO a la Libya.
The “agreements” recently arrived at in the matter of Libya and then Syria are of value only as photo-ops, as neither will change the ground situation in two countries, which have been chopped to pieces by the intervention of NATO and its allies. Since George W. Bush decided to avenge the insults heaped on his father George H.W. Bush by Saddam Hussein by the simple expedient of occupying Iraq and destroying the regime, replacing it with a situation where looters went about their business with impunity. 
Since the humiliation caused to the Arab psyche by the overt takeover of a large Arab country, hundreds of thousands there, possibly millions, have fallen victim to a psychotic state in which organisations such as ISIS are seen as saviours. 
Despite efforts by think-tanks on both sides of the Atlantic to pretend otherwise, it is not Turkey that is the answer to such a disease of the mind as ultra-Wahhabism. 
Rather, the solution vests with Indonesia and India, both countries with huge Muslim populations that are overwhelmingly moderate and syncretic, rather than fanatic and exclusivist, accommodative rather than supremacist, in their chemistry. It is the Muslims of Indonesia and India, two countries which hopefully will work much closer together in the coming decades than they have in the past, who offer a societal pathway out of terror and turmoil, especially to the Middle East, and within which is still vibrant a theology that rejects the hate and the cruelty typified by ISIS and its ideological clones, groups that have done much damage to the image of a great faith.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Is Turkey the next Pakistan? (Gateway House)

As Iran begins to re-integrate with the global economy, the politics in West Asia are bound to be impacted. Will Iran be the new Turkey? Is Turkey going down the path of Pakistan? M.D. Nalapat, director of the School of Geopolitics at Manipal University and Manjeet Kripalani, executive director, Gateway House join our national security fellow, Sameer Patil, to discuss these questions, and more.

M.D. Nalapat: Turkey is like Pakistan in one respect; what Pakistan was to the Taliban, Turkey is to Daesh and Al Nusra, Ahrar al Sham – all these various umbrella organisations which have got this very ultra-Wahhabi theology. Turkey is the safe area for these groups, just as Pakistan was a safe area for the Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan even after the Russians left.
But the difference between Turkey and Pakistan is this: in Turkey, the military has been secular, and it is unfortunately the political establishment that is contra-secular. In Pakistan, the political establishment was largely secular and the military, beginning with Zia Ul-Haq, converted it into a Wahhabi kind of orientation.
Now unfortunately, you have a very curious example of the European Union and the United States. They back the Wahhabi military in Pakistan against the civilian establishment. I remember when Asif Zardari was President of Pakistan, his party controlled the legislature, he wanted to downsize the power of the military. Hillary Clinton and the entire United States establishment came on the side of the military in weakening Zardari, weakening the PPP. And now it is coming on the side of the military again and it is weakening Nawaz Sharif vis-à-vis Raheel Sharif. So they are supporting the Wahhabi military against a more moderate political establishment.
In Turkey, it is the European Union that is responsible for the death of secularism, because the European Union connived with Erdogan in destroying the Turkish military’s independence and autonomy. The guarantor of secularism in Turkey, the guarantor of ensuring that Turkey would not go the Wahhabi way, was the Turkish military. And the European Union was an accomplice in destroying the Turkish military’s autonomy, as the European Union and the United States have been accomplices in destroying the primacy of the civilian establishment in Pakistan vis-à-vis the military.
So now what is happening- they are paying the price for it.
The attack on Saddam Hussain, it opened the door for Iran. Libya opened the door for Al Qaeda to enter into Europe.  I said from the start that this is what is going to happen. Syria- it is going to be much worse. Should, for example, the declared goal of these individuals about changing the Assad regime and removing it with the so-called patchwork work, then Damascus is going to become a complete area, an arena of mass murder. It’s going to become a hub, like Raqqa, of extremism. And the problems are going to become much worse.
Some years ago, I gave up trying to understand the logic of the policy of the Atlantic Alliance. Because this policy is so fatal to its own interests. I don’t understand why they are still walking hand-in-hand with Wahhabism, why they are still participating in these sectarian conflicts? A country I am extremely respectful of is Israel. [But] They got involved in 1982 in supporting the Maronite groups against the Shi’a. And now the only country where Shi’a terror is active is Israel. Today NATO is supporting the Wahhabis. I’m not talking about the Sunnis, the Sunnis are different from Wahhabis. The Wahhabis are being supported by NATO against the Shi’as.
So what is likely if is this continue? Shi’a terror is going to spread across Europe and also the United States. So you have Wahhabi terror and Shi’a terror. You’ll have a two-front war on this kind of theological terror. So why they are making this mistake, I do not know.
The root of the problem is the flawed policy of the Atlantic Alliance. And this flawed policy has to change. One, they have to pull back their proxies- whether it is Turkey, whether it is Saudi Arabia, whether it is Qatar. Two, they have to go into the roots of funding. For example, the weapons and money that ISIS has got, the weapons and money that Ahrar al-Sham has got, the weapons and money of Al Nusra- it’s easy to track them! Track the source- where did it come from? Send those people to jail! Frankly the key funders, in Saudi Arabia, in Turkey, in Qatar, of these organisations should be sent to Guantanamo Bay. Don’t shut down Guantanamo Bay, send the funders there, because these people are a thousand times more toxic than the actual so-called fighters. The ones who fund terror are the real ultra terrorists.
This region is going into a bottomless pit and the reason for that is the deeply flawed policy of the Atlantic Alliance.
You can listen to the full podcast with M.D. Nalapat and Manjeet Kripalani with Sameer Patil below: 

Kejriwal goes after Arun Jaitley (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
Friday, December 18, 2015

Where the Indian media is concerned, the most popular individual in politics is far and away Union Minister for Finance and Information & Broadcasting Arun Jaitley. Much of this is due to the man’s natural charm and good nature. This columnist has had relatively few interactions with Jaitley, unlike most of the others active in the media, but on these infrequent occasions, has found the BJP’s most articulate voice to be charming and pleasant, always with a smile and a good turn of phrase. Small wonder that every day, journalists congregate and over meals (for Jaitley is a generous host) listen to the minister give insights into what has been happening in the political and other spheres. 

Arun Jaitley has friends across not only the media but in politics as well. He has been diligent in keeping contact even with those who lead anti-BJP parties, including the Congress Party. Even the RSS appears to have given him their stamp of approval, as otherwise he could not have so smoothly been appointed to the highly prestigious post of Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of Parliament, edging out players of far more experience the same way as Sushma Swaraj, now India’s articulate and hardworking Minister of External Affairs, did in the Lower House (Lok Sabha). In this way, what is termed as the Lutyens Group (so named because of being resident and active within the former colonial areas of Delhi) established firm control over the BJP in Parliament. Those from the group have relationships cutting across political boundaries, and hence it was no secret that while Congress and BJP leaders may spar in public, in private they were close friends, with even their children being best friends of each other. The Lutyens Group is far and away the most powerful club in India, having run the country without interruption since the British left in 1947. 

However, in May 2014, an individual wholly outside the Lutyens Group was elected to the highest office in government, that of Prime Minister of India. Narendra Modi was outside the Lutyens Group, and for a while (between the time the BJP won the election on May 16 and he revealed his Council of Ministers on May 26), it was feared by the Lutyens Group that he may go against the small number of people who have wielded such immense influence over governance in India for so long. However, Modi was careful to ensure that prominent spots both in his ministerial as well as in his team of officials got filled with those who were a part of the Lutyens Group. 

Among the latter are the two top officials in his government. Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Mishra (for whom the PM even passed a new law diluting earlier restrictions on a certain class of civil servants holding specific offices) and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Both Mishra and Doval have been long-time members of the administrative elite of the National Capital, and know their way around, which is presumably why they were chosen by the new PM for such key tasks.

Over the past few days, Arun Jaitley has been facing a barrage of attacks from a maverick party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by a feisty former Indian Revenue Service official named Arvind Kejriwal, who is now Chief Minister of Delhi. His somewhat emotional temperament gave hope to the many political foes of the AAP that his stint in power would be a disaster, but thus far Kejriwal has acquitted himself reasonably well, running a government seen by voters as relatively honest and delivering services, often in innovative ways. However, some days ago, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has a dodgy reputation in the country for its propensity to inject a political or a commercial angle to many investigations organised a raid on the Delhi Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary. It would have been clear to the CBI and to those controlling the organisation that such a move could set off a firestorm, and this has happened. 

However, instead of going after the CBI, Arvind Kejriwal has chosen to go into attack mode against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, whom he is accusing of financial irregularities in the running of cricket in Delhi. The sport is a passion with Jaitley, of course in a non-playing way, and Jaitley is among other prominent politicians who are closely associated with cricketing bodies in the country, most of which are very well funded and have huge reserves of cash. His long-time association with Delhi cricket is now being used by Kejriwal to levy a barrage of allegations against Jaitley. Interestingly, despite the immense goodwill that he has built up in the Congress Party, his prominence in Team Modi has resulted in the Congress Party also going on the offensive against him. 

Soon after coming to power at the national level, BJP President Amit Shah decided that he would leverage the popularity of Prime Minister Modi to try and ensure that the BJP won control of all the states that were going to the polls subsequent to the 2014 national polls. He even spurned long-time ally Shiv Sena when that party insisted on retaining its primacy within the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. The consequence of Shah’s No Holds Barred strategy has been that most parties by now regard the BJP as an electoral threat and have coalesced against it, in the process also going on the offensive against key players such as Arun Jaitley, who together with Shah is regarded by the media as closest to Prime Minister Modi in the BJP, with a friendly magazine even featuring the three of them on the cover as “the triumvirate who runs India”. 

It is a fact that Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley are considered exceptionally close to the Prime Minister by reason of their long association with him. However, friends of Arun Jaitley in the media have banded together to defend an individual who has over the years become very close to several of the top names in Indian media, including many who are critics of Narendra Modi. It is part of the Jaitley charm that he manages to be friendly even with those who have for more than a decade attacked Narendra Modi repeatedly, accusing him of all sorts of misdeeds, none of which has been proved in any court of law. 

It must be said that thus far, even though the Modi government overall has been receiving a bad press, Arun Jaitley himself has been getting the same adulatory coverage that has been his gift for two decades, a tribute to the way in which he has kept contact with the media and shown them friendship and respect. Will the media backing for Jaitley be sufficient to enable him to overcome the attack by the AAP on his cricketing stint? Arun Jaitley’s numerous admirers in the media will fervently be wishing that the support they are so abundantly giving him will enable him to remain at the centre stage of both politics and policy in India.

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


Monday, 14 December 2015

For double digit growth, ensure triple digit freedoms (Sunday Guardian)


By Madhav Nalapat | 12 December, 2015
According to conservative estimates, more than $500 billion of illicit funds have flowed from India just during the previous ten years.
After 30 years of coalition governments, voters in India coalesced sufficiently around a single individual bearing the hope of change to give a Lok Sabha majority to the BJP. Narendra Modi promised a “new thinking”, which would sweep away the constraints of the colonial model of governance bequeathed by Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors. In this system, citizens have to pass through the eye of the governmental needle invariably if they seek to accomplish anything significant, in a context where only “grease” enables the navigation of that obstacle. Setting up and doing business in India, building a house, setting up a school or a hospital, each such activity needs to pass through an officially created obstacle course that is so tortuous that most give up in between, and many move abroad. According to conservative estimates released by international agencies, more than $500 billion of illicit funds have flowed from India just during the previous ten years. In any of the hyper-regulated bits and pieces of the economy, distortions and deliberately skewed priorities remain the norm, and yet more and more layers of legal and regulatory plaque get added to the veins of commerce and everyday activity, the latest in the form of penal measures recommended by a Supreme Court-ordered SIT set up in May 2014 to “abolish” black money in the country. Not even ten million dollars of illicit flows has been discovered and brought back by this constantly sitting body, which has been prolific only in recommending regulation after regulation to add on to the many already extant, and each of which would delight officials and politicians adept at using harsh laws to shake down HNI (high net-worth individual) citizens.
Just as in China, where the flow of money illegally leaving the country for offshore havens has multiplied as a consequence of Xi Jinping’s “anti-corruption” campaign, in India as well, all that has been affected by the SIT’s labours is not the actual generation of black money, but its spending within India on taxed items. In a context where only the CBDT and the RBI believe that even harsher regulatory measures, which in effect (given the level of grease in the official machinery) make the doing of ordinary business in India impossible, will reduce rather than increase black money generation, politically incorrect souls may venture to say that it ought to be made easier rather than more difficult to expend black money on taxed items in domestic markets and on occupations creating jobs in India, rather than drive the same offshore in the manner that is taking place now, thereby creating jobs abroad and wealth abroad through draining this country of both.
The web of laws, prohibitions and regulations existing in India under the Nehruvian system of administration has resulted in a situation where citizens willy-nilly break some law or regulation every day of their lives. A situation where it has become impossible to follow each law and regulation and still be able to conduct any kind of business or other activity. Eighteen months since the last Lok Sabha polls, India is still awaiting the dawn of the post-colonial “Minimum Government” promised by Prime Minister Modi, for only such a transformation can ensure the acceleration of growth to the double digit level needed to prevent widespread social unrest by 2019 as a consequence of galloping unemployment and bleak economic prospects for the young.
A century ago, Vladimir Lenin wrote about Stalinist methods that what was needed was “better less but better”. Similarly, what India needs is less law but better law, which reflect the needs, potentialities and priorities of the 21st century. More transparency in governance is not merely desirable, but inevitable in a context where technology is making concealment ever more difficult. Freedom of expression and the right to a lifestyle based on individual choice are essentials in the creation of knowledge clusters that would create in India rivals to Microsoft or Google. It is not accidental that Gujarat, whose government believes in the capacity of law to convert sinners into saints through denying even adult citizens access to spirit-based liquids and other diversions, is far behind trendy Gurgaon or Bangalore in 21st century Information Technology, ahead though the state may still be in 20th century manufacturing. Conducting an open dialogue in India has become hazardous to health and liberty, given the surfeit of laws and rules that can be used on the basis of complaints coming in the form of a postcard, yet there is no way domestic technology giants can emerge in India, absent the protection of freedom of speech.

Double digit growth needs triple digit freedoms in India, where for centuries a versatile people have been hobbled by the straitjacket of control systems created solely to extort money from them in some form or the other. We are seeing how the very Congress leadership which stood by as Manmohan Singh got passed regressive legislation and repressive regulations serially is now under threat of prosecution by application of the same laws nurtured by the Nehruvian system.
Narendra Modi, tear down this system before India joins those countries where chaos has become the only rule that is being followed. Such a situation is closer, much closer, than those in high positions in the ruling or opposition sides realise.

Rahul against legislative truce with Modi government (Sunday Guardian)

By MADHAV NALAPAT | NEW DELHI | 13 December, 2015
Efforts at conciliation between Congress and BJP, so that Parliament work does not suffer, are facing resistance from Rahul and his advisers, who want the party’s tough line to continue.
According to well-placed sources within the Congress party, strenuous efforts are on — mainly by longtime associates of Congress president Sonia Gandhi — to ensure that the acrimony (between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party) does not result in paralysing the work of Parliament in the remainder of the winter session. Such efforts at conciliation, according to them, are facing resistance from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s new group of advisers, who are insistent that “the party’s tough line must continue”. A key party functionary said that “the final decision (on whether to adopt an obstructive or a cooperative strategy towards key legislation in the remainder of the current session of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha) has been left by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Rahul”. Soundings within Team Rahul indicate that the next president of the Congress is unlikely to relent to the pressure mounted by some in the party who have worked closely with Sonia Gandhi since she took over as AICC president towards the close of 1997 and who favour “limited cooperation” with the Narendra Modi government in order to get key bills passed that would boost the economy. 
Despite numerous efforts at bridge-building by BJP interlocutors, including party and government heavyweights of the calibre of Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Ravi Shankar Prasad, thus far the Congress has yet to resile from its present line of “complete non-cooperation towards the Narendra Modi government”. This has meant the party persisting for the third straight parliamentary session in creating legislative paralysis, especially on the GST bill, which is regarded by domestic and foreign industry as being essential for fast growth. Passage of the GST bill is now being seen internationally as a touchstone of Team Modi’s ability to deliver on their promise of ensuring the reforms needed to secure double digit growth. The forecast of Congress sources is, however, that “Rahul Gandhi will have his way so that the BJP will find the remaining days in Parliament’s winter session as unproductive as they were during the past week”. 
The clusters of advisers close to either party president Sonia Gandhi or vice-president Rahul Gandhi separately indicate that the party’s recent hyper-combative approach is “part of a road map devised by Rahul Gandhi and his (new) team to ensure that the BJP suffer in 2019 the same fate as befell the Congress in 2014”, that of seeing its Lok Sabha tally fall precipitously. In the two previous Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha sessions as well, the Congress “followed the line prescribed by Rahul Gandhi and adopted a line designed to ensure that legislative business got held up” so that the Modi government looked ineffective and unable to deliver on the promises made to the electorate during the May 2014 Lok Sabha polls. According to a party insider, “The purpose of Team Rahul since April-May 2015 (which is when the Congress vice-president’s core group of advisers and strategy was refurbished) is to defeat the BJP in every state election till the 2019 Lok Sabha contest, and in that, to reduce it to a seat tally below 150.” In pursuit of such an objective, the sources spoken to say that “tactical compromises and sacrifices are acceptable, as successfully carried out in Bihar”. And although there have been press reports of the Congress fighting alone in Uttar Pradesh, sources close to the two individuals who these days jointly comprise the Congress leadership say that what is “most likely is that the Congress will team up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), to form an anti-BJP alliance”. “The advantage of an alliance with the Congress for the BSP is that it will consolidate the minority vote in favour of the combination, as such a tie-up would prove that the Samajwadi Party charge (of BSP having a secret deal with the BJP) is wrong”, a senior adviser to the Congress vice-president claimed, adding that “apart from the advantage of being allied to a national party, our party and its allies will also have the advantage of the Priyanka (Vadra) factor”. In the view of these sources, the only grand-daughter of Indira Gandhi has “immense pulling power in UP”, which they claim will be unleashed by early 2017. A member of the post-2014 Team Rahul added that such advantages would make the task of stitching together an anti-BJP alliance with the BSP feasible, and besides, “as in Bihar, our seat claims will be modest, keeping in view the strategic goal of humiliating the BJP in the very state Assembly, which contributed the most to bring the Modi government to power”. Other sources claimed that the party “was seeking ways to avoid splitting the minority vote in Assam and Kerala during the 2016 polls”, while in the case of Punjab in 2017, it was expected that “the Aam Aadmi Party would take away enough non-Congress votes” to enable the defeat of the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance. According to a key functionary, “The biggest worry is Karnataka, where caste remains strong as does the anti-incumbency factor.” However, according to him, “the expected dominance of B.S. Yeddyurappa in the election campaign will neutralise the corruption factor as well as consolidate certain groups behind the Congress”.
A source said that the road map worked out by a newly-energised Team Rahul “planned to fight the fire of corruption allegations against the Congress by throwing even more fire at the BJP in the same form” by levelling charges of mismanagement and corruption at the NDA incessantly. Such charges are expected to stick to a ruling party in a way that they will not to an opposition party. In their words, “the perceived strength of the BJP, that it is the ruling party, should be transformed into its weakness through highlighting failures in governance and corruption”. Nine months ago, Rahul Gandhi, after weeks of “inner reflection”, approved the political road map prepared by his new team of advisers, a plan of action that they say is “completely different” from the traditional methods favoured by close aides of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. 
In contrast to the older group, which has maintained, across the years, close contact with longtime friends in the BJP, the new team around Rahul Gandhi “has been told by the boss to stay away from both the media as well as from the BJP leaders”, with the result that (these sources claim), “the Prime Minister’s legislative troubleshooters are finding the going difficult in a context where contacts with the new (and reclusive) power elite in the Congress are practically zero”, and where the traditional advisers cannot deliver for their BJP interlocutors as in the past, because “they cannot influence Rahul or Priyanka in the way they could (in the past) Madam (Sonia)”. Such a standoff between the BJP and the Congress is a contrast from past precedent, where both during the period in office of A.B. Vajpayee as well as Manmohan Singh, “informal and unpublicised understandings designed to smoothen the processes of government and legislation were common, including resort to parliamentary walkouts by the main opposition force so as to ensure that selected legislative business did not suffer”.
According to key individuals in the Congress backroom strategy groups, “it was after the Congress wipeout in the May 2014 Lok Sabha polls that Sonia Gandhi’s relying totally on her immediate advisers stopped”. They add that it was after the October 2014 Congress defeats in Haryana and Maharashtra to the BJP that the Congress president decided to, “for the first time”, give priority to her son and political heir Rahul Gandhi’s views (rather than those of her closest aides) on the steps the longtime ruling party needed to take in order to make a comeback. The vice-president of the Congress “saw the need to make changes in his core group of advisers, as the political and policy advice given by the team in place before the LS polls had failed spectacularly at the hustings”.
On the surface, Rahul Gandhi continued with practically the entire pre-2014 team, but “in fact, a new group was created by him separately that to date has remained totally out of the public radar”. After giving himself a few weeks to “recharge his batteries” during the December-January festive season, Rahul Gandhi “plunged into an intensive period of self-reflection followed by consultations (with his new aides) about the preparation of a road map for the future”. In particular, “an intensive study was carried out of the way in which Narendra Modi managed to dominate Gujarat politics, and the mistakes made by the Congress, which allowed him to continue with his string of electoral successes”. By end-April, they say, a plan of action had been finalised and discussed by Rahul with Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra. The Congress president “did not divulge details of Rahul’s operating plans to her close associates in the party”, with the result that they were taken unawares when the plan began to be put in operation during the final weeks of the 2015 Budget session of the Lok Sabha. BJP interlocutors had been having talks with Sonia Gandhi’s key aides in the belief that these individuals still ran Congress policy through Sonia Gandhi. Hence, “both the BJP as well as the traditional Congress advisers were taken by surprise at the fury orchestrated by Team Rahul during the close of the Budget session”. This continued with even greater vehemence during the monsoon session.
The Congress president, according to these sources, decided to go along with the Rahul-led April-May 2015 reconfiguration of strategy “rather than follow contrary advice given by her long-time associates, none of whom have any significant connect with the party vice-president”. In the decision by Sonia Gandhi to back her son to the hilt, the sources claim that “Priyanka played a key role in convincing the Congress president that it was time to allow Rahul to implement his own strategy rather than constantly be made to accept the course of action decided upon by party elders”, the sources said. They added that “the power shift” (from the traditional Team Sonia to the new Team Rahul) “took place around mid-May 2015” and that “the change in strategy was fully the Congress president’s decision”, which was to trust her son rather than go by the views of old-timers who had been urging caution in place of Rahul’s (post-April 2015) focused anti-PM strategy and message. The sources spoken to say that it was not Subramanian Swamy’s case on National Herald that caused Rahul’s uncompromising line, although, according to a top adviser, “that development silenced almost all the Old Guard within the (Congress) party who have privately been urging a legislative compromise”.
Another added that “for Rahul Gandhi, the all-important electoral battle of 2019 has already begun, and every election and byelection will be fought with such a perspective”. Soundings across the Congress indicate that earlier murmurs against Rahul Gandhi have almost totally been silenced, with the party acknowledging that its vice-president’s aggressive approach towards the Modi government and its newly accommodative policy towards the Prime Minister’s present and potential rivals has once again brought the Congress to the centre-stage of politics in India. 
For the past two parliamentary sessions, BJP floor managers were looking for, and working towards, an accommodation with the Congress, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself adopting a conciliatory tone. However, thus far, Rahul Gandhi has declined to reciprocate, and has, in the view of key players, the backing of Sonia Gandhi in such a stand. Should the present last-minute efforts by both BJP interlocutors as well as Congress traditionalists fail to change Rahul’s hard-line stance towards the Modi government, the question much of the country is asking is whether the BJP has a Plan B to ensure passage of key legislation in the few days remaining before adjournment of the current RS and LS session, as otherwise the winter session of Parliament will follow the washout route of the monsoon session, with consequences for both the economy as well as domestic and international confidence in the ability of the Modi government to deliver on core reforms such as GST that have been promised by the NDA.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

BJP’s mistakes boost Rahul Gandhi (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India

M D Nalapat


Friday, December 11, 2015 - More than anything done by an opposition party, it is the errors committed by the ruling party that ensure a smooth trajectory for the former. The Congress Party ought to have changed its Prime Minister latest by 2011,when it was obvious to all except the coterie around Sonia Gandhi that Manmohan Singh was discredited across the country for his unwillingness or inability to run an effective and clean government. Had Rahul Gandhi been appointed as his replacement and done away with the old team of ministers, choosing instead fresh talent untainted by association with the past government, the Congress Party would have given a much tougher fight to the BJP than proved the case in May 2014. 

Although Sonia Gandhi was the object of considerable public anger because of the perception that her party was indulgent towards the corrupt, such a dislike did not percolate downwards to her two children Rahul and Priyanka, both of whom remained popular. Indeed, in the 2009 Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) elections, it was the repeated presenting of Rahul and Priyanka on televison during the campaign that ensured a promise of change, especially when compared to the 79-year old L K Advani, the BJP warhorse who was that party’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Had it been Narendra Modi instead, the BJP would have emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha during the 2009 polls, although the Congress-led alliance may still have won enough seats to rule for the next five years. 

The mistake (of continuity rather than change) committed by the Congress leadership was capitalized on by the BJP in 2013,when the party ensured that Narendra Modi would be its standard bearer for the 2014 polls. The Congress Party had tried through the government it controlled to send Modi to prison on a miscellany of charges, but failed due to lack of evidence. Of course, this did not stop the then ruling party from conducting a trial by media of Modi throughout its decade in office, in the process giving him a boost because of the incessant focus of the Congress Party on Modi, especially after he won a third term in Gujarat in 2012 and established his hold among voters.

Narendra Modi swept to power promising transparency in governance as well as accountability. It was expected that the processes of government would be made more open to the public, as that is the best way of reducing corruption. However, as yet the Right to Information. Act still suffers from several infirmities in its implementation, including the appointment of retired civil servants as Information Commissioners and even as Chief Information Commissioners (CIC), despite their bias in favour of secrecy. The present CIC, for example, seems more determined to conceal than to reveal the details of the functioning of government. 

Across the board, including in such fields as Education where greater autonomy is vital for innovation, controls that were put in place under Manmohan Singh have largely been continued and in some cases, expanded. Taxes have gone up despite commodity prices going down to very low levels. As a consequence, both the middle class as well as the business community have begun to distance themselves from the BJP-led government, thereby weakening the party as it prepares for the 2019 polls. And as for accountability, this seems to have been forgotten in the case of those who were running the central government during 2004-2014 to a barrage of criticism from the BJP about their corrupt activities. Not a single.

First Information Report has been filed against any ex-minister at the central level by the Modi government, and even the few cases instituted under Manmohan Singh (as for example against former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran) seem to have lost steam. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has himself been given a clean chit by the Modi government, thereby raising the question : was the BJP wrong in calling Manmohan Singh the fount of corruption? A few small fry at the state level from the previous regime have been targetted, mainly because of rivalry with BJP office-bearers in their respective states. Overall, the new government has given a free pass to its predecessor, and because of this, the Congress Party in particular has bounced back to life. If in 1978 it was the (ineffectual,almost comic) prosecution of Indira Gandhi that have her back her popularity, this time around it has been the lack of action by the BJP that has ensured that the mist of corruption surrounding Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her party has largely cleared.

Ironically, it has been an individual who has not even been made a Member of Parliament by the BJP (much less a minister), who has managed to throw a dart at the Congress leadership. Subramanian Swamy filed his case against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and three others in 2012,when Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister. He joined the BJP only in 2013,and once in power, the party has done nothing to assist him in pursuing the case against the ruling family of the Congress Party. However, Rahul Gandhi has used the fact of Swamy being a BJP National Executive (a toothless body) member to allege that the party is behind his efforts at indicting him and his mother for the takeover of a company through moneys received from the Congress Party. The Modi government has adopted the positrion that both the UPA leadership as well as its own key people are spotless (the BJP rejected very substantive allegations against key individuals as baseless without offering any reason why such a clean chit was justified). 

However, rather than ensure Congress cooperation in the passing of legislation, such a policy has boosted the party, especially now that it is under the control of Rahul Gandhi, whose clear mission is to ensure that the Modi government fail to deliver results, and thereby come to grief in 2019. Rahul’s ally has been the BJP, a party that has systematically destroyed the goodwill won by Narendra Modi for it in 2014 by filling the government with the same faces of the defeated past, and by refusing to enforce accountability for the sins of the Manmohan Singh government. Candidate Modi gor the benefit of the mistakes made by the Congress Party from 2009 onwards. Now Rahul Gandhi is getting the benefit of the mistakes made by the BJP in his campaign to ensure that Narendra Modi have only a single term in office.

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



Monday, 7 December 2015

Opposing the ‘Nehruvian Consensus’ is not ‘intolerance’ (Sunday Guardian)


By Madhav Nalapat | 5 December, 2015
As only retired or serving officials have been appointed to the Election Commission of India (EC), it is no surprise that the EC would like electoral contests in India to have all the excitement of an old age home. Every few years, all of India witnesses the absurdity of much of the machinery of government getting paralysed during an election cycle, because of the EC decree that “policy initiatives” should not be announced during that period, or else, these could “influence the voter”. Through such an undemocratic order by the EC, the period when the government of the day has the most incentive to come up with socially desirable policies, instead becomes a time when such measures are absent. If only some of the teeming nests of economists within the portals of the state or academe come up with credible figures of the loss sustained by the economy because of the EC-created hiatus in policy during an election cycle!

Each election, a “Model Code of Conduct” comes into force, which enjoins every contestant to pretend as though his or her rivals in a specific contest were saints, and hence undeserving of the astringent wordage that is a staple of such contests in maturer democracies. If only the EC were comprised of at least some who have actually experienced what an election is (rather than allow such contests to be guided entirely by individuals trained by the colonial culture of our civil service to sniff at such an excess). Together with such contra-democratic laws as those relating to “criminal” defamation, as well as the trigger-happy manner in which the law and order machinery responds to even to complaints of “hate speech” delivered on a postcard, it is risky for a citizen to venture into the verbal sallies that are seen every day in the US. For example, Donald Trump, were he a citizen of this country, would by now have been locked up under some statute or the other limiting freedom of expression, presumably the reason why so many in the Republican Party have a soft corner for India.

The past weeks have seen a high decibel rant against those held guilty of “intolerance” i.e., the making of comments not in conformity with the Swiss Young Ladies Finishing School model enjoined on us by the Election Commission and indeed by the entire majestic edifice of law and its administration, which in India has adopted a “yuga” concept of time, in which the final disposal of a court matter is regarded as having taken a mere flash of time when it takes a couple of decades to get decided rather than half a century. Of course, thus far there does not seem to have been even a “back of the envelope” calculation made of the economic — and indeed human — cost of such delays in a system where the core motto is (or ought to be) “justice delayed is justice denied”. Not only is there a profusion of stay orders across a wide spectrum of cases, but courts have shown a willingness to take all sorts of cases and devote considerable time to each, not to mention the frequency with which appeals get accepted by higher courts. Hopefully, Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, who has a stellar reputation as a jurist, will, during his term, ensure that steps be taken to limit both judicial stays and appeals, by ensuring that these have to leap over a much higher bar for acceptance than is the case at present.

It is obvious that several of the self-proclaimed “saints” and “yogis” in politics today relieve themselves of language that even in the gutter would seem particularly malodorous. However, they have been committing such a desecration of decency for many years, exactly as their rivals across the political spectrum have. The response of those who claim to be liberal has been to shut off any verbal or other contact with those whose opinions do not conform in their entirety to the Nehruvian copybook, and for some of them to threaten to leave the country, presumably for those countries whose institutions have registered a significant growth in tracts seeking to prove that the India of today is an identical copy of Nazi Germany, and that “Fringe Hindus” represent a much bigger threat to international security than Abubakr al Baghdadi’s followers. Adolf Hitler must be whirring in the afterlife on being compared to the pathetic procession of (self-anointed) “sadhus” and “sadhvis”, whose mixture of the ritualistic rigidity of Wahhabism and the straitlaced social view of Victorian society is considered by them (and it would appear, much of the commentariat and media) as representing Hinduism.
To defeat such a misperception, Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to ensure that greater levels of transparency be brought into the functioning of government through a revamp of the RTI as well as the abolition of the secrecy concerning the records of the state that has thus far denied the people of India a correct understanding of their history. Instead of following the same regressive and secretive path trod by the UPA, the NDA needs to do away with the curbs on freedom of speech introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru soon after Sardar Patel passed away. This, rather than sallies by spokespersons in television studios, would be the best response to those who have grown up in a culture of hatred for those who refuse to accept the “Nehruvian consensus” on society, politics and economics in a country which is still enveloped in the accoutrements of the colonial system preserved by a man who his admirers claim brought democracy to India.
This columnist believes both in liberal values as well as in secularism. Both Arundhati Roy or Anand Patwardhan — who are each brilliant and passionate about their beliefs — have the right to the views they express, even as those who use abusive language towards them mock the culture of our society much more than some sex-obsessed “scholars of religion” on the US East Coast do. But by the same token, those with views different from such thinkers also have the right to be heard and to be debated. Hopefully, over the coming months, the commentariat in a country which seems for too long to be regressing rather than progressing in its attitudes towards freedom of expression will no longer believe that those who oppose (any form of ) consensus deserve to be condemned rather than heard.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Cameron’s ‘70,000 moderates’ bluff passes (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India

M D Nalapat


Friday, December 04, 2015 - IT has been fortunate for the US that thus far, Daesh has not concentrated its attention on that country the way it has on Europe. The size of the country, the sea of weaponry legally available, as well as the reality of economic distress leading to a much easier flow of accomplices to violence, these and other factors make it relatively easy to ignite a mass terror incident across much of the country. Although their political systems are different, the US and China both use a similar method to ensure a damping down of violent incidents, which is to respond with disproportionate force to any such manifestation. 


In both countries, police units are given the weaponry and training available in other parts of the world only to the military, with US police units being particularly well endowed in this regard. The country’s legal sanction for the purchase and bearing of guns makes such a surfeit of equipment inevitable, as otherwise the temptation to use guns would often be too much to resist, even in situations where such a recourse would be a severe over-reaction. Indeed, in any civilised society, recourse to deadly weapons is valid only where it is a question of self-defence, and not otherwise. 



What took place 48 hours ago at San Bernardino in California, where the innocent and the helpless were killed by shooters who appear to have adopted the ideologies and strategies of Daesh (ISIS), is a case in point. 



The longer Daesh survives as a coherent entity, the more will be those who seek to follow its violence-ridden logic. Which is why its extinction needs to be the only - repeat only - priority of the international community, rather than the mixture of objectives that is these days holding up the creation of a Global Grand Alliance (GGA) against ISIS. Policymakers in Europe are still romantic about the period when that continent ruled the globe, and therefore strive to ensure that the last word on international disputes still vests with them. 



The UN system has been taken over for the purpose, with European countries active in both acts of war as well as in the “peacemaking” which follows. Almost all the UN’s special representatives in conflict zones are from Europe, and it is hardly a secret that the agenda followed by them is that set by EU headquarters rather than that of UN headquarters, not that the latter is showing any sign of independence from the former. In any war, what is needed is to have a limited and achievable objective. During the 1939-45 war, both Winston Churchill as well as Franklin Roosevelt focussed on defeating Germany, and succeeded. As soon as Germany launched a war against the USSR in mid-1941, both London and Washington set aside past differences with Moscow and began a policy of ensuring a rising flow of munitions and other resources essential to the prosecution of war to Moscow. But for such help, it is likely that Germany would have been able to roll back Soviet forces to the other side of the Ural mountains, while without the savage attack of an indomitable Red Army on its flanks and later at its core, it would not have been possible for the UK and the US to hold Germany at bay before it could invade the British isles. Unfortunately, there are no longer Roosevelts and Churchills in the chancelleries of the NATO alliance, only cartoon characters such as Tony Blair, Nicholas Sarkozy and others, who confuse strategy with tactics and what is desirable but impossible with what is feasible. 



The consequence is policy which prolongs conflict rather than ends it, and prolongs it in the name of ending it. Now that it has become a question of ego, the NATO powers are ignoring reality in their search for solutions in Iraq and Syria which are acceptable to their regional allies, which in the bigger country means a return of subservience of the Shia as was the case under Saddam Hussein, and in the latter country, concentrating attention on the downfall of Bashar Assad at the expense of the war against Daesh. In such a course, lies are acceptable, as was witnessed when David Cameron spoke of “70,000 moderate fighters” on the field in Syria. 



The Prime Minister of United Kingdom is served by an efficient cluster of secret services, and he must therefore be aware that what he is talking about is nonsense. That the bulk of the “moderates” are in Al Nusra front and Ahrar Al Sham, neither of which can be termed “moderate”. It is unfortunate that Cameron is repeating error he made in Libya, when he gave a similar certificate to groups battling Muammar Kadhafi so that assistance could be provided to them. At that time, this columnist had pointed out that several of the “moderate” leaders being hailed by Hillary Clinton, Nicholas Sarkozy and David Cameron as fathers of democracy in Libya had repeatedly made speeches calling for “death and destruction” to all those who refused to conform to their ultra-radical ideology, and that such words and written tracts were exactly the same as were being peddled by Al-Qaeda. 



The Libyan leaders who were assisted to overthrow the Libyan government in Tripoli made no secret of their extremist views, just as the “moderate fighters” in Syria refuse to hide their affiliation to Al-Qaeda and in the case of several of them, to offshoots of Daesh. After having allowed Cameron to get away with his untruths in Libya in 2011 and reaped the consequences, it is striking that MPs are willing to once again accept his fiction of “moderates”, seemingly unaware that any role for such elements in a future Syrian administration would ensure a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Daesh in the territories run by such “moderates”, exactly as has taken place in Libya. 



It would appear from the way the situation is developing that Cameron, Hollande and others who ought to have learnt from Libya are fated to ensure a further deterioration in the security situation of Europe as a consequence of their actions. Only the Syrian people seem to have understood the lessons of 2011. Once Libya descended into chaos by 2012-13, they began to cluster around Bashar Assad, aware that while he was far from perfect, the option was far worse. Nothing that has taken place over the past weeks leads to confidence that those claiming to seek to defeat Daesh will accept the need to set aside other objectives and focus on this single aim. Unless they do, the region and a growing number of other spots throughout the globe will feel the pain of the wrong policies of the EU leadership.



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