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Monday, 17 January 2022

Unfreedom of choice the new normal (The Sunday Guardian)

 The publicly funded healthcare system in the United States is monstrously expensive, a consequence of successive US Presidents prioritising the interests of Big Pharma over poor and lower-middle voters. Geore W. Bush did make an exception to this rule when he sourced life-saving medication for HIV from India, but that was for Africa and not for his own country. Thus far, Joe Biden has remained loyal to Big Pharma and refused to boost pharma cooperation between the US and India, despite that being the only route that would enable Obamacare to survive, as it must in a country where income and wealth inequalities are massive, and getting more so by the day. Biden apparently lacks the resolve to take the fight to those opposing some of his signature policies—such as the proposed legislation to improve the quality of the living standards of ordinary US citizens, as well as improve the physical infrastructure across the country. Should the Democratic Party lose the House and Senate to the Republicans in November, that would be the loss of not merely a Biden legacy but the future of the world’s most consequential country for close to a generation. Watching the Republican Party carry out the scorched earth commands of Donald Trump, there is worry that hostile powers may be succeeding in their operations to infiltrate social media platforms to boost fringe opinion and capability in a manner that may, by another presidential term, make the US ungovernable. In a sense, the US is getting divided into what are essentially two countries, with Republican states forming a bloc separate from the states where Democrats are in power. General Secretary Xi Jinping must be delighted. Although Trump caused a few problems for the PRC, overall, the 45th President of the US seems to have assisted Beijing in its drive to attain superiority over Washington, whether it be in Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP or the way in which Trump reduced the post-1945 alliance system into purely money terms. Given the way politics is developing in the US, including through fiddling around with constituency boundaries and making voting as difficult as possible for low-income individuals, he may well win. Self-goals by the Democratic Party, such as the decision by New York to give the vote even to non-citizens, is not helping. Several who would otherwise have voted for Biden’s party may object to such an unprecedented step. Or by criminalizing freedom of expression where religious identity is concerned, but confining that protection to a single faith rather than across the board. Such legislation is at the cost of disregarding the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

In January 2020, the Wuhan lockdown ordered by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping spurred a number of similar lockdowns across the world, with consequences for the global economy that will take years to mend. Countries such as Sweden that went against such logic were excoriated, although subsequent events showed that trying to live as normal a life as possible during the pandemic did not result in a bulge in deaths. The 2022 lockdown ordered by Xi in Xian and the mass testing of millions of Tianjin residents following a few cases there did not (unlike in the past) lead to an approving nod from the WHO, nor advice from that organisation to countries to once again follow the PRC example where snap lockdowns are concerned. In the US, President Biden has this year refused to repeat the job-killing follies of the past two years. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not go by the advice of those who had recommended lockdowns, preferring instead to create conditions whereby most activity could take place, albeit with safety protocols such as masks and where possible, social distancing. Should the Omicron scare ebb as a consequence of an overwhelming number of mild cases, even in Australia, voters will begin to free themselves from Covidpanic, especially as so many have been vaccinated. Detaining Novak Djokovic in a manner such that the world champion could not practise his game, nor follow the diet and exercise regimen he needed, is equivalent to an act of “match fixing” designed to ensure that the Serbian not enter the history books by yet another victory in the Australian Open. The way in which technicality after technicality was used by Canberra to punish the unvaccinated Djokovic for coming to Australia has surprised many. Never before, even for diseases much more deadly than Covid-19, and for vaccines far more effective against infection than has been the case with Covid-19, have such penal methods been adopted for the unvaccinated in countries such as Australia, France, Italy and Germany that consider themselves democratic. If each Australian Open player tests negative every day, as can easily be done, why should there be any discrimination? Using the pandemic as the reason, both sides of the Atlantic since 2020 have begun to resemble the PRC. Henry Ford had said that customers could buy “any colour Model T, as long as it was black”. With his unique definition of freedom of choice, the founder of the Ford Motor Company would have felt very much at home in Australia during the Djokovic episode.
MDN

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Post-pandemic, towards a healthier, wealthier world (The Sunday Guardian)

 

The more people get vaccinated, the better. However, to penalise those who have thus far not been vaccinated seems a step too extreme.

A visitor to Syria during the early weeks of the “Arab Spring” manifestations of 2011 would have found himself in a surreal situation. Armed guards accompanied visitors, who were of any prominence, for fear of kidnapping by anti-regime elements. In a country where Sunnis predominate, the Wahhabi element within that school had for long carried out a whispering campaign against the Assad family, using the usual trope that they were “un-Islamic”. Boosted by support from states across both sides of the Atlantic who were unhappy at the closeness of the Syrian regime to Iran and Russia, the long-dormant (in public) Wahhabi element made use of the “Arab Spring” to launch street demonstrations against the government that had held sway over the country for so long. Very soon, violence erupted during such manifestations, and the government responded in kind. That gave an excuse for some countries in the Middle East to join hands with the Atlanticist powers to arm, train and fund “freedom fighters”. Not just Alawites but other Shia, as well as Druze and Christians had their throats cut, often in public. Some of these executions were streamed to the world via the internet. These powers had been warned that Tehran and Moscow would not allow Bashar Assad to get ousted in the manner planned, that which took place to Muammar Gaddafi. President Putin, possibly prompted by Prime Minister Medvedev, prodded Bashar Assad to let go the stocks of chemical weapons that his regime possessed, so that there could be a cessation of help from NATO member states to the armed groups seeking to replicate Libya in Syria. When Gaddafi and later Assad surrendered their WMD stockpiles, leading Atlanticist powers saw in this a sign that those regimes were near their expiry date, that they were getting desperate. In reality, because they were stable, the Gaddafi and Assad regimes regarded the giving away of WMD stockpiles as an acceptable risk in the cause of forging a detente with the Atlanticist powers. They wanted not just WMD stockpiles but the collapse of the regimes that they saw as obstacles to primacy in the region. These powers were happy at the prospect of replacing Gaddafi and after him, Assad, with a hotchpotch that would inevitably lead to chaos and human suffering. A former colonel of the Assad regime, who was connected with intelligence operations, defected to Germany. He had expected to lead a comfortable life in that comfortable European country. Instead, he was jailed and is now being put away for the rest of his life in prison for acts that he committed while working for the regime in power in Damascus. Just as Gaddafi’s fate and Assad’s travail post his handing over of chemical weapons convinced other powers seen as rogue by the Atlanticist states to augment rather than hand over their WMD stockpiles, the fate of this Syrian colonel will act to prevent more defections from the Assad government, especially its security services, who could have handed over a treasure trove of information about the inner workings of security and intelligence agencies in Syria. Perhaps a Thank You note should be sent to Berlin from Damascus.
Since the beginning of 2020, the manner in which the Covid-19 pandemic has changed lives has a similarly surreal feel. Each day, sombre warnings are issued by the authorities about the danger posed to human life by the lab-boosted coronavirus that has had the effect of a global war on society. Arts, theatre, cinema and music have either disappeared or gone into hiding, awaiting better tidings. Children stay at home, watching as their parents bicker as a consequence of the scissors effect of rising prices and falling incomes. The very young remain unversed in the benefits of socialization, cloistered as they are as a consequence of restrictions imposed since March 2020. Those in charge thought that SARS2 was the perfect excuse for a host of wrong decisions taken by them, but as the downfall of Donald J. Trump demonstrated, they were wrong.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among the few leaders who have acquitted themselves well. Modi has learnt from the experience of 2020, and has this year avoided measures such as mass lockdowns. Some state governments have imposed curfews, possibly to curb drunken behaviour and its public consequences rather than out of belief in its effect on public health. When schools are shut, children go out to meet their friends, thereby getting much more exposure to SARS2 than would have been the case, had they been in class. While working online and at home may overall be preferable to working in crowded offices, many are unable to do so, and as a consequence have seen their jobs vanish. Once a single dose of the vaccine was declared to give long-term protection against Covid-19. Then it became two doses, later three and now four. The impact of so many jabs on the immune system remains to be studied. Someone close to this columnist has refused thus far to get vaccinated. She is allergic to penicillin, and at least twice in the past, was carelessly prescribed medication that included penicillin. The effect was terrible, and in the former instance, life-threatening. In several countries, she would not be admitted, despite being free of the novel coronavirus. In many cities in her own country, she can no longer go to a mall or to a cinema theatre. Certainly, getting vaccinated is a good idea. The more people get vaccinated, the better. However, to excoriate and penalise those who have thus far not been vaccinated seems a step too extreme to be classified as reasonable, at least in a democracy. Covid-19 has given governments across the world immense discretion affecting the lives of citizens. Small wonder that there is disappointment on the faces of Covid ayatollahs at reports that the Omicron variant is mild. Their fear is that the pandemic may disappear along with the extraordinary powers that they have accumulated, ostensibly towards the same end. The hope is that the situation following the pandemic will be the reverse. That the world will be healthier and wealthier than when the pandemic started, most likely through an accidental lab leak during the closing months of 2019. Another example of why meddling with nature, including through Gain of Function experiments involving pathogens, is an activity that may sometimes constitute a crime against humanity.

Post-pandemic, towards a healthier, wealthier world

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Pakistan’s unending descent into GHQ-caused collapse (The Sunday Guardian)

 

While the military may be content as a consequence of its chokehold over the narcotics trade and the finances of Pakistan, the people of that country are the sufferers.

As long as Pakistan is controlled by GHQ Rawalpindi, “stability” in that country refers to good times for the military, a situation that incentivises them towards intensification of the asymmetric warfare that they conduct in Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. Not to mention “lone wolf” terrorists of Pakistani origin who have sought to blow up lives across both shores of the Atlantic, given that the West is regarded as the mortal foe of the Wahhabi International. GHQ must restrain itself from assuming overlordship of the state, a situation that has become second nature to its senior officers, given the material benefits such control brings with it. Otherwise, Pakistan cannot be “stable” in the manner that so many well-intentioned individuals across the world seek. To make unilateral concessions that have the effect of merely empowering the military in Pakistan is to continue on the road of GHQ-fomented Wahhabi terror and its principal financier within that country, trade in narcotics. Although Afghanistan is the principal producer of poppy and its derivatives, the Pakistan military is seeking directly and through its proxies within the Taliban to control the flow of opioids into and out of that country, so as to get several times more financial benefit from the narcotics trade than the growers of poppy get in that Taliban-ruled country. Profit from narcotics finances not only hideaway homes in Florida or Scotland but a substantial part of the cost of the covert operations being carried out by GHQ Rawalpindi against multiple targets at home and abroad. This is why there has been no let-up in either the accumulation of funds abroad by those connected to the Pakistan military nor in asymmetric operations, including of a kinetic nature, although influence operations are increasingly getting a higher priority than was earlier the case. Any institution that operates in an environment devoid of checks external to it has a propensity to seek to extend the boundaries that define its activities in an effort to cause greater headaches to its lengthy list of targets. Now that the flow of benefits from Washington to Rawalpindi has lessened, GHQ has turned to Beijing. Their problem is that the PRC represents the quintessential moneylender (or, in less loaded terms, banker). Milton Friedman warned that there was “no free lunch”, and in the same way, there is no free pass given to those individuals and countries who partake of PRC largesse. The moneys given have to be repaid with compound interest, either in the form of currency or in the shape of assets, as country after country is finding out during the hangover after the binge caused by massive loans to fund Belt & Road projects. These are intended for future use and benefit by the PRC, including in most cases the PLA, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s favoured arm of the Communist Party. The rise in scale of PLA deployments in an expanding scatter of locations appears to be motivated by the need to protect assets handed over to the PRC by debtor governments, including from a possible reneging of leases as a consequence of regime change. Of course, should an operationally viable alliance form to oppose efforts to replace US unipolarity with a Sinic version, such countries would have a recourse to turn to, should they seek to recover their assets and territory from control by the PRC.
While the military may be content as a consequence of its chokehold over the narcotics trade and the finances of Pakistan, the people of that country are the sufferers. A cordial relationship with India is indispensable for the economic (and thereby, in substantial part, societal) progress of every country in what is defined as South Asia, a construct that includes Pakistan, despite the efforts of Two Nation ideologues to pass off its history and civilisation as having been transplanted from a Central Asia, Turkey and Iran rather than from the Indus valley. Partition inflicted a grievous wound on the people of the entire subcontinent, mostly on those who live within what since 1947 is known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. GHQ Rawalpindi is aware that India does not seek any territory in Pakistan, but only the third of Kashmir that was occupied by Pakistan during 1947-48. Hence the effort at convincing the people of Pakistan that there is imminent danger of losing even the meagre rights and freedoms ordinary citizens have in Pakistan but for a military far bigger than is warranted by threat levels. Across Pakistan, disillusionment is increasing with the military and the country that it has become subordinated to, China. Worse, the Sino-Wahhabi lobby in the US has had its toxicity exposed by the reaction of US voters to President Biden’s inexplicable surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban. The current President of the US followed during 2021 in the path of his long-time friend Bill Clinton, who did the same in 1996, thereby beginning the chain of consequences of which 9/11 was the most consequential result. After the Afghanistan pullout fiasco, Biden has become wary of the advice peddled by the Sino-Wahhabi lobby, among which is included the recommendation to slash the Trump-imposed tariffs on PRC products, and to once again open the tap of financial and military assistance to Pakistan. A fresh US tilt towards Rawalpindi has not happened. Even the GCC, once a never-failing source of funds to feed the demand of the military and its associated elites for funds, has cooled towards Pakistan, now that Imran has joined Erdogan in efforts to retrieve the ground lost by the Wahhabi International since Saudi Arabia under the Crown Prince turned against its teachings. China may not be a long term alternative to the US, for the reason that the CCP leadership has the same policy that pre-Mughal elites in India had, of hoarding knowledge within a narrow circle. It was only when Prince Dara Shikoh (1615-59) translated some of Sanskrit epics into Persian that many inhabitants of India (who had been deprived of knowledge of Sanskrit but spoke Persian) understood the depth and magnificence of their civilization. Hoarding rather than disseminating knowledge, as took place in the past in India (including during the colonial period) and now in the PRC will cause collapse. Unable to accept and reverse the destructive effects of their hold on power, Pakistan’s military is presiding over a state that is heading towards collapse.

Pakistan’s unending descent into GHQ-caused collapse 

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Substantive gains count, not symbolic (The Sunday Guardian)


When settlers from the UK and other countries in Europe came to North America, they brought with them multicoloured trinkets of glass to be handed over to the American Indian tribes that they expected to encounter. Such “wampum” may have won a few hearts amongst the original inhabitants of a continent quickly colonized by the arrivals from Europe, but most of the rest were sent to their “happy hunting grounds”, or in other words, eliminated through one expedient or the other. The advance of scientific knowledge in Europe had brought with it the perception that human ingenuity was superior to nature, and from the start of the takeover of the North American continent by European settlers, nature was pummelled, while buffalo herds and other livestock were depleted. The world has traversed a considerable distance over the four centuries since what is now Canada and the US were colonized. A modern society and economy need an ambience of accommodation and tolerance for lifestyles that diverge from each other, whether these differences be in the form of diet, dress or faith. Singapore has emerged as an economic powerhouse precisely because the Han chauvinism that is increasingly on display in China has been absent. Whether of Indian, Malay or Chinese descent, opportunities are open for individual advancement, with no discernible glass ceiling blocking certain ethnicities while promoting others, a phenomenon still seen in those parts of Europe that blocked well-qualified individuals from India from entering, working and paying taxes. This while doors remained open to those from other parts of Europe who very soon ended up as a charge on the public purse. Despite the hubbub against immigration created by President Trump, the US has welcoming of qualified immigrants and tolerant to the unqualified, which is among the reasons why the country is still the pacesetter in the knowledge industry. Not just in the software industry but in medicine, arrivals from India have made a considerable difference. Groups such as the AAPI, an association of physicians of Indian origin, have emerged as force-multipliers in strengthening ties between the two largest democracies. Doctors from India or of Indian ancestry play the keystone role in the UK’s National Health Service. The grip of Big Pharma across both shores of the Atlantic has prevented the utilization of the full potential of a healthcare partnership between the US and India. In Japan with a rapidly ageing population, healthcare personnel from India could play a significant role, were an effort to be made by Tokyo and Delhi to provide training to citizens of India in the Japanese language and in the basics of care for the aged and infirm to tens of thousands of healthcare workers in India. Another option is Brazil, which needs not just healthcare workers but teachers and other staff as well. A Skill India program is needed to teach Portuguese to teacher and healthcare trainees, besides other fields. Citizens of India need to be trained not only from the viewpoint of working in India, but working elsewhere, in countries that have good relations with India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Jair Bolsonaro could work on such a mutually beneficial project. Once harnessed to geopolitical possibilities, Skill India could be a pathway to external employment for millions of citizens. CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping has flexed PLA muscles because of the protection provided by the immense progress that China has made since the 1980s. That trajectory contains lessons for India, that those still captive to notions from the 1990s or even 1970s are unable or unwilling to understand. Given that such companies seek to gingerly extricate themselves from the PRC and relocate to India, it makes sense to welcome external players, especially if they use India as a production base for exports, in the manner that they did in China. National champions would grow faster in the presence of competition rather than by resorting to methods of the pre-reform era and shutting out external players. Ironically, several of the domestic companies that lobby to exclude foreign competition are themselves partners of companies from abroad, acting in many of such instances as commission agents. They sell foreign production in the domestic market and get a commission for the facility. Whether it be in coal or in uranium, domestic deposits have systematically been under-developed. NGOs that are linked to coal-producing countries campaign against the utilization of coal reserves in India, while in the case of uranium, blockages to its extraction crop up in myriad forms, thereby forcing a dependence on external sources. A similar situation exists with rare earths or pharmaceutical intermediates. Somehow, few seem concerned about questions such as whether the offshore hydrocarbon reserves of India have been discovered and utilized to close to their potential, rather than remain under-exploited owing to pressures by external suppliers. If not for uncovering acts of corruption, then for finding out the roots of incompetence in an effort at betterment, a study needs to be made of the way in which policies were framed over the past five decades, to find out the extent of opportunities missed or taken advantage of. Accountability has long been a forgotten word in India. This needs to change. Among the items needing to be studied would be the action taken on the enquiry commissions or reforms commissions that were set up. Was anything done or were their suggestions forgotten later? In diplomacy, a symbolic concession made to India has value only in the next media or political cycle, as only a substantive concession has long-term value. In India, too much is made of symbolic gestures and concessions rather than focusing on the substantive.

Substantive gains count, not symbolic


India could be the game-changer during Cold War 2.0 (The Sunday Guardian)

 New Delhi: What took place during the week just ten kilometres from Pakistan may either be a monumental lapse in security protocols by various agencies, or indicate an effort by countries hostile to India to decapitate the elected leadership of the country, thereby (in their view) causing sufficient chaos and indecision as to enable additional gulps of Indian territory to external powers long harbouring such territorial ambitions. The sequence of events during what are being described as “security lapses” involving Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is disturbingly similar to what took place in Sriperumbudur in 1991, when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated during an election rally. It is ironic that the Congress Party, which lost both Indira Gandhi as well as Rajiv to assassins, is seeking to make a mockery of the entire episode. Following the lead of national spokespersons of India’s former political colossus was Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who explained away the crowds and the disturbance as merely the exercise of citizens to protest or demonstrate, this time on the sides of the Prime Minister’s convoy as well as in front of it. Efforts have been made to establish the peaceful nature of the crowds by pointing to BJP flags being waved by some. At Sriperumbudur, the lady who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi posed as a supporter of his and moved forward to garland him with a bouquet of flowers that concealed the suicide vest she wore. As during the “security lapse”, there was no effort to screen those approaching Rajiv Gandhi, who would have seen a pell-mell situation in front of him, with throngs seeking to come towards him filling the space. Several of the presumed “farmers” looked very different from those they claimed to be a part of, and if the past year is any guide, would have been expected to be badly disposed towards PM Modi, ostensibly on account of the now withdrawn farm laws. Permitting such individuals to gather in numbers on what ought from start to finish have been fully sanitised in close proximity to the PM’s cavalcade, even allowing them to physically block the progress of the cavalcade, was more than a “security lapse”. If there was no drone surveillance of the route, that was a serious lapse, given the efforts by the Sino-Wahhabi alliance to return Punjab to what it was during 1985-94, when GHQ Rawalpindi-sponsored violence became a part of everyday life in that state. That around 20 minutes were spent stationary on the road after the blockade caused by protestors in front was encountered is another inexplicable lapse. As soon as the protestors were seen, the convoy ought to have reversed itself and moved to a safer location. Finally, it was Prime Minister Modi who gave the order to return, a step that ought to have been standard operating procedure in such a situation. Neither the Central or the Punjab authorities can be sure that there was none in the crowds who were armed with guns or explosives or both, as no frisking took place, not to mention removing them to a safe distance (for the PM). It was fortunate that nothing happened except the inevitable political name-calling and pyrotechnics. Where circumstances are concerned, the sequence of events over a bit under half an hour on the road leading towards the International Border that overcast day could have resulted in something that had best go unmentioned. It is unpleasant but needs to be said that the writer has witnessed the funerals of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv, and does not want to see any other Prime Minister of India go the way they tragically did within five years of each other. There is no doubt that as PM, Narendra Modi has transformed India, much as Indira Gandhi did, and Rajiv sought to do before death denied him a second term in office. Or that there are not just individuals or groups but countries that are unhappy with his stances and policies and may wish to see him replaced.

INDIA A POTENTIAL LINK WITH RUSSIA AND IRAN

Among the reasons for such visceral hatred of India’s Prime Minister may be some of his signature policies. To take an example, much of the foreign policy of India has been of much greater utility than several of the stances adopted by the US and some of its allies across the Atlantic Ocean. Under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expertly implemented by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, New Delhi has followed a diplomatic strategy towards Russia, Iran and Central Asia in particular that recognises rather than ignores the realities of the 21st century. As a consequence, India has the potential of emerging as a link between the US in particular and countries such as Iran and Russia that may be crucial in determining which coalition succeeds in the ongoing Cold War 2.0 between the PRC and the US. The hangover of the colonial period has led major NATO members into adopting an “All or Nothing” strategy towards countries such as Iran and Russia. Such an approach has only served to ensure that the PRC is better enabled to bring these powers into its ambit. It is a situation in which CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping is in a race against time to register spectacular triumphs in accelerated efforts at establishing PRC primacy over the Indo-Pacific, just as has already taken place across the non-EU segment of the Eurasian landmass. In this, as in so many other ways, the present leader of China differs from his two immediate predecessors, who were content with substantive successes that were unacknowledged in public. Xi is in competition not against the legacy of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao but that of Chairman Mao Zedong himself, a very high bar to leap over, given that Mao doubled the land area controlled by Beijing and unified the country in a manner seldom seen in the long history of the country. The overt display of the scale of his ambitions is leading even long-term allies of the PRC into a reconsideration of the manner in which they have served as a force multiplier for the realisation of the ambitions of General Secretary Xi. They are slowly coming to terms with the fact that they are being used as a lever to gain advantages for the objectives set by the CCP leadership (which in practice is the Office of the General Secretary of the CCP), rather than for themselves. Indeed, through being obedient to the wishes of Beijing, allies of the PRC have often been disadvantaged. The biggest advantages that Xi has is the reflexive hostility of the Atlanticist powers to the Russian Federation, now that it is led by the independent-minded Vladimir V. Putin, rather than an individual such as Boris Yeltsin, who gave away to the US and the EU as much of Moscow’s inherent advantages as did his predecessor Mikhail S. Gorbachev. This has left scant choice for Moscow than to slip into the orbit of Beijing, despite the reality that China seeks to displace its presumed ally Russia as the pre-eminent Eurasian power, including in Central Asia, and is demonstrably the pre-eminent partner in the Sino-Russian alliance. The other advantage is the refusal by elites across both sides of the Atlantic to internalise the loss of dominance that they have suffered since the closing couple of decades of the 20th century. This has led them to errors in the 21st, such as (a) the doing away with Muammar Gaddafi, (b) the intervention in Syria on behalf of “freedom fighters” whose writings and speeches make clear their revulsion to western culture and people, (c) the continuance of the failed George W. Bush strategy of relying on the Pakistan military to help finish off the Taliban and its associates in Afghanistan, and (d) believing that DPRK Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un would surrender nuclear and missile capability once he saw the fate of Gaddafi and the attempted downfall of Bashar Assad once WMD was surrendered by both in obedience to Atlanticist dictates. If there was ever a unipolar moment after the collapse of the USSR, it was only during the period in office of Boris Yeltsin, and that too only until 1997, the year of the handover of control of Hong Kong from London to Beijing.

XI’S UNIPOLARITY GAMBIT

The effort by Xi is to craft a new unipolarity that would replace the period when the US was the predominant power. This is unlikely for two reasons. The first is the fact that even apologists for the CCP in countries across the world have been running out of excuses to continue with a policy of facilitating rather than obstructing the moves by the Office of the General Secretary of the CCP both to consolidate its own monopoly on power and to expand the PRC’s effective control over larger and larger areas of cyber, sea and land space. Even in Japan, Germany and the US, countries where Beijing’s networks are well developed, resistance from the public and from a section of the military and intelligence services has prevented the local leadership from continuing wholeheartedly on the path of appeasement that had been pursued for decades, beginning with the entente between Washington and Beijing engineered by Mao Zedong and Richard Milhous Nixon in the 1970s and carried vigorously forward by succeeding PRC and US leaders. This has the potential of providing an option for those powers that are presently within the orbit of the PRC, including the Russian Federation and North Korea. There is evidence in the possession of the Kazakhstan government that several hundred million dollars have been spent (by a neighbouring country) on putting on steroids unrest within the country as a consequence of the rash decision by the government in Almaty to remove price caps on the fuel used by households. The reason for such intervention is the refusal of Almaty to join hands with the Sino-Wahhabi alliance in Afghanistan and assist Beijing, Ankara and Rawalpindi to strengthen the grip of the Taliban over a country that in August 2021 witnessed the defeat of the US on a scale last seen in Vietnam during the 1970s. The apparent objective of the power concerned was to punish the government for refusing to go along with the wishes of the Sino-Wahhabi alliance and act as a force multiplier for the Taliban. Those loyal to the Sino-Wahhabi alliance were generously assisted across Kazakhstan to put the (justified) agitation against the lifting of caps on fuel prices in a country that has among the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world. They whipped up public discontent after Kazakhstan stood by other Central Asian countries and India in seeking to ensure that the Taliban lived up to the extravagant promises that it had made when US President Biden handed over Afghanistan to them. Not merely did Biden (correctly) withdraw regular US ground forces from Afghanistan, he kneecapped the Afghan military by depriving it of the weapons, ammunition, intelligence and logistics support that had enabled the force to keep the Taliban on the defensive. The 2021 US defeat in Afghanistan was on a scale seen before only in Vietnam in the 1970s, except that this time around, the damage to US interests was self-inflicted, as had been the case in 1996, when President Bill Clinton ensured the capture of almost all of Afghanistan by the Taliban, to cheers from Unocal representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the Wahhabi International.

SELF-GOALS MEAN ADVANTAGE PRC

The principal advantage of the PRC leadership is the lingering effect of the experience of previous centuries on the strategic thinking of several within the decision-making layers of the Atlanticist countries. An example was the manner in which elements whose writings and activities showed their enmity towards the West were armed, trained and funded to go after Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar Assad. This was after both had surrendered existing WMD stockpiles, just as Saddam Hussein had done in Iraq prior to the launch of kinetic action to remove him. Ironically, “possession of WMD” was the stated reason behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the US and its coalition partners, when military planners within NATO would not have exposed their men and materiel to the lengthy supply lines on roads in Iraq that were visible on television, had there been the slightest doubt that Saddam Hussein actually had WMD stocks at his disposal. His forces were as defenceless as Gaddafi’s were in 2011 after son Saif had earlier persuaded him to surrender his WMD stockpile to ensure good ties with the West. And it was after Assad’s surrender of chemical weapon stockpiles that “freedom fighters” in Syria swung into action in massive sweeps. The regime was rescued by Russia and Iran, the first in the air and the other on the ground, or else Bashar Assad would have followed in the wake of Gaddafi and all but one of his sons. After the experience of Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad, it was unrealistic to expect DPRK Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un to surrender the very missile and nuclear capability that was preventing the US from attacking his country to take out his regime. A peace treaty between the DPRK and the RoK would ensure much greater stability to the Korean peninsula and safety for Japan, yet Washington remains adamant on its demands that Kim surrender his missile and nuclear capability before the green signal is given to Seoul to sign a peace agreement with Pyongyang that would benefit the Korean people. Once such an agreement gets signed, trade and other ties between the two states in the Korean peninsula will be significantly boosted. Among the misperceptions of NATO planners is the impression that the DPRK regime is as much a satellite of China as Pakistan under the military is. The fact is that the Kim dynasty has from the start been fiercely patriotic in terms of safeguarding the independence of the Korean people. The ethnonationalism that is, together with clan control over the northern part of a once unified country, the defining ideology of the Kim dynasty that has ruled North Korea since the state came into existence after the 1939-45 World War. Judging by anecdotal evidence, Donald J. Trump, while President of the US, understood this and sought to make a viable peace with North Korea through his unprecedented meetings with DPRK Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un, but was blocked from doing so by the same “experts” who have succeeded only in ensuring that the DPRK has steadily made progress on its nuclear deterrent, even while the country was being starved by sanctions ostensibly designed not to punish the population but to slow down the progress of the development of nuclear and missile systems by the DPRK. That so many decision-makers and thought leaders across both shores of the Atlantic remain caught in a time warp that has for decades ceased to be relevant has been among the most significant force multipliers for CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping as he works towards actualisation of the “China Dream”. Or in other words, the substitution of the US by the PRC as the pre-eminent power on the globe.

FAULTLINES BETWEEN CHINA AND ALLIES

Whether it be Russia or the Central Asian republics, there is almost an existential divergence of interests between them and the strategy adopted by General Secretary Xi, which is based on the centrality of the Sino-Wahhabi alliance. This partnership has been forged on the condition that the Wahhabi International will look the other way at the activities of the CCP towards those that regard their faith of greater importance than following without demur the tenets of the CCP in its newest form, Xi Jinping Thought, which represents an effort to fuse Mao Zedong Thought with the 5,000-year recorded history of China adapted to CCP Characteristics. Both Russia and the Central Asian Republics are known targets of the Wahhabis, as is India. It is this divergence between the interests of Beijing and that of some of its allies that has been at the top of the mind of the Indian leadership. What will be needed is for realism to prevail over nostalgia in Atlanticist capitals, principally the US. This is a task that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh will need to pay particular attention to. Not just India but the rest of the Quad Plus needs to come to terms with the need to ensure that faultlines within the PRC-led alliance system develop in a manner that ensures the satisfactory trajectory of Cold War 2.0 as it moves towards its conclusion,

India could be the game-changer during Cold War 2.0

Monday, 3 January 2022

2022 bids to be the year that indicates the future (The Sunday Guardian)

 

Under Hu, the PRC became a superpower. Under Xi, it began acting like the only one.

Say this for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping, he has made hiding behind platitudes impossible for those who believed in a world where the rival systems most often represented by the US and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) cannot just coexist in harmony, but work together so as to ensure mutual benefit that would in course of time benefit the entire world. Such was the vision embraced by US Presidents, from Jimmy Carter to (the Clinton-heavy first term of) Barack Obama, who even sought to fashion a G-2, a partnership of Beijing and Washington that would in effect guide the rest of the world. Signs that the CCP had not deviated (except verbally) from the vision of its founders a century ago multiplied during the second 5-year term of CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao, whose genial countenance masked the energetic manner in which he sought to ensure that the PRC overtook the US and the EU in technological and scientific superiority, in the way that had earlier been the case in manufacturing. What Hu Jintao sought to camouflage has been revealed in technicolor shades by Xi Jinping, with the consequence that for the first time since the 1970s, public opinion across both sides of the Atlantic in particular has turned against the seemingly unstoppable rise of China. The formula devised by the present writer nearly two decades back, of major powers adopting a policy of constrainment of the PRC, rather than for the time being a USSR-style policy of containment, has become popular, especially following the apparently accidental leak of the laboratory-boosted SARS2 coronavirus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The unusual (for the PRC leadership elements) directness and transparency of General Secretary Xi’s call to his subordinates to convert into reality the century-old dream of the CCP to make the PRC the centre of gravity of global geopolitics has been helpful in dispelling the Carter-Reagan-Clinton delusions of peaceful coexistence of the clashing systems of the US and the PRC, especially now that the latter has been turbocharged since the 1970s by the formation of the Sino-Wahhabi alliance and since 2006 of the Sino-Russian alliance that was the default option of Russia once it became clear to Moscow that there was no space for the Russian Federation anywhere within the Atlantic Alliance except in a subservient role.

HYPER SUPERPOWER
Russian President (and geopolitical grandmaster) Vladimir V. Putin opted by 2007 for a junior partner role within the Sino-Russian alliance rather than a subordinate, even subservient, role on the periphery of the Atlantic Alliance. At the same time, he sought to fashion policies that would over time once again catapult Russia into the ranks of the superpowers, thereby giving him co-equal status with Xi. This remains a work in progress, but given the potential and history of Russia, not to mention the resilience and capability of the Russian people, Putin’s choice of the PRC over the Atlantic Alliance was inevitable to all except those who are still living in the world until the close of the 1990s, when the Atlantic Alliance dominated two-thirds of the world. Since the second term in the White House of George W. Bush, the US has ceased to preside over a unipolar world, even as the PRC leadership seeks to fashion a new unipolarity, with itself at the apex. Since the boost in confidence within the CCP that was given after the smooth takeover of Hong Kong from the British in 1997, the effort at substituting a US-centred unipolar world with a PRC-centred one has formed the core of CCP policy, although this was camouflaged until the refreshingly frank ascent to the apex of the CCP by the hyper-confident Xi Jinping. Although Xi Jinping claims to be an atheist (at least in public), he seems to have the confidence that there is a “divine wind” that is carrying him forward on his mission to Sinicize the globe. Such leaders will take risks and adopt policies that others would avoid, which is the primary reason why there has been a rise of instability and uncertainty across time zones since 2015, the year when the CCP General Secretary was able to overawe and dominate every significant structure of authority within the PRC. This has given Xi the freedom to pursue the policies of his choice, whether these relate to India, the US, the EU, Taiwan, the South and East China Seas, Australia or elsewhere. Not just dissent but any difference with the Xi point of view usually leads to unpleasant consequences for the offender and his or her family, as several cases have publicly demonstrated. The CCP leadership’s not-so-merry-go-round with its “passengers” (the subordinates of the CCP General Secretary) is careening on its unpredictable course, with the passengers aware that none of them has any influence over its speed or direction, all such controls being concentrated within the Office of the General Secretary to a level even greater than was the situation during the period in power (1949-76) of CCP Chairman Mao Zedong. The impact of the removal of initiative and decision-taking from other layers is being felt across the spectrum of governance, not least in the economic sphere, but as the delayed reporting to Xi of the SARS2 cases in Hubei demonstrates, bad news travels with a much slower speed than assumed good news, and in several instances does not travel up to the top, which these days has close to a monopoly on even less than significant decisions that need to get taken in the governance structure of what since the second 5-year term of CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao emerged as the Second (albeit closet) Superpower. Under Hu, the PRC became a superpower. Under Xi, it has begun to act like the only one.

COLD WAR 2.0 NOW IN FULL VIEW
Unlike US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson or the formidable Angela Merkel while German Chancellor (it is too early to judge the trajectory of her successor, as there is an ocean of difference between being second-in-command and taking the helm), the CCP General Secretary has a plan of action that is expected by his loyalists to ensure that China will dominate the Eurasian continent by around 2025, South China Sea by 2027 and the East China Sea by 2029, after which it will move towards the objective of achieving a similar dominance in the Atlantic, together with the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, the Wahhabi International is expected to raise as much dust and fire as is needed to distract those powers seeking a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific (in the way the Atlantic is) from focusing their attention on the PRC and its twin alliance systems. Separately with the Russian Federation and with the Wahhabi International, with which Moscow is finding it difficult to accommodate the wish of Beijing that it join the PRC in serving as a force multiplier to them. In this, Moscow is far closer to New Delhi than it is to Beijing, a factor that has been instrumental in the outreach to Moscow by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assisted by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. Even while a President of the US and Commander-in-Chief of US armed forces, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr hesitates to acknowledge that reality, Cold War 2.0 is in full play between not just the two countries but the two systems of the PRC and the US, and 2022 bids to being the year that will bring more clarity to (a) the disposition of forces, and (b) the chain of likely events, although it will almost certainly not be clear during 2022 or even the next year or two as to who will be the victor in the ongoing systemic conflict that characterises Cold War 2.0. Much will depend on internal developments within the US, India and the PRC. What is taking place is a race against time where CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping and his allies are concerned. Their effort will be to use social media and other tools (including in the cybersphere) to dilute the resilience of the US and India in particular; to generate internal tensions and divisions that lead to eruptions of violence; and to ensure that economic growth slows down and issues plaguing society multiply. At the same time, the increasingly obvious destination of the path that CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping is taking is willy-nilly bringing together a coalition of countries that are united in their desire to ensure that the world does not once again turn unipolar, this time with Beijing rather than Washington as the centre-point. Such unity is as needed now as was the unity fashioned in the previous century by Roosevelt and Stalin against the effort to create a unipolar world with Berlin as the core. Whether the leaders of the countries that need to work together understand and work on this is unclear. Certainly, ASEAN remains divided in its approach to the PRC, with a sizeable lobby of pro-PRC elements operating in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, although this lobby has been losing steam in Taiwan. The Central Asian republics are conflicted by their antipathy to domination by the PRC and the reality that their closest ally, the Russian Federation, seems firmly committed to assisting Beijing to replace Moscow as the centre of external gravity within the Eurasian landmass, including Central Asia. Whether the gravitational pull of India will be strong enough to prevent Russia from falling into the gravitational pull of PRC geostrategic objectives is an open question, especially given the self-defeating nature of much of the approach of Atlanticist countries towards Moscow. 2022 may see a resolution of that question, or at the least the signs of a resolution.

DECISIVE YEAR FOR INDIA
In the case of India, so far as jobs and the economy are concerned, the inability or unwillingness of the Reserve Bank leadership of the time to ensure sufficient liquidity while implementing the replacement of old higher-value notes during the 2016 demonetisation, coupled with the high rates and complex compliance structure of GST as first worked out has been fused with the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 to create substantial turbulence, especially within the small and medium sector. A large part of both are at present finding it difficult to avail themselves of the numerous schemes that Prime Minister Modi has devised to assist them. This is because of the difficulties they face in formalizing their activity in the manner mandated under such schemes. 2021 has seen significant efforts led by Prime Minister Modi and assisted by colleagues such as Finance Minister Nirmala Sithararaman, Commerce Minister Piyush Goya and others to reduce compliance and tax burdens, and it is expected that such efforts will intensify during 2022, so that the economy once again moves onto the fast track. The rupee too needs to be stronger and more stable, given that its performance over the past few years has been dismal. Those within India who have accounts abroad will be delighted at the fall in the value of the rupee, but those with only rupee savings and investment pools are seeing the value of their stock decline almost every month, a traumatic experience that needs to be reversed through changes in policy, beginning with the 2022-23 Union Budget. Coming to our people, the Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas mantra of the Prime Minister needs to be mainstreamed. This would assist in bringing investment from an autocratic to a democratic country, especially when so many enterprises are looking to shift from China because of geopolitical considerations and multiplying regulations under Xi. PM Modi’s mantra needs to get mainstreamed across governance structures in 2022, so that efforts to create “Us vs Them” discord or a victim mentality in some sections of society fail. In the security sphere, the need is for the countries committed to a free, open and inclusive to fashion structures and responses that would ensure concerted and effective countermeasures to combat the measures kinetic and otherwise being designed and operationalized against India by the Sino-Wahhabi alliance. Supporters of Prime Minister Modi expect all this to take place in 2022, while those who seek to replace him latest by 2024 hope that they will not. The year ahead will better show whether the supporters or the opponents of PM Modi are correct in their prognostications. A decisive year indeed for all.

2022 bids to be the year that indicates the future 

Sunday, 2 January 2022

The future is bright, when we are that (The Sunday Guardian)

 Almost every television channel in the major democracies is filled with scary reports about Covid-19, about how the future, at least for 2022, is likely to be bleak. This despite the South African experts who isolated the Omicron mutation (which present data suggest probably came from Europe rather than originating in South Africa) give statistics after statistics showing that in almost all cases, the effect is so mild that hospitalization is not called for. There is no question that an individual with a cold should put on a mask (preferably N95) and avoid snuggling up to people till better, but if those with colds are asked to stay away from work until at least a week has past, especially in the winter or the rainy season, services would break down because of the manpower gaps such a policy would cause. There is a theory floating around in Europe that the scary reports in the media about “likely” deaths and “likely” hospitalization related to the undoubted Omicron surge have been deliberately presented to prevent large numbers of people from venturing out of their homes for year-end celebrations. Ted Turner’s creation, the Cable News Network (CNN) needs to be renamed the Covid News Network, as most of the coverage is about the pandemic. Of course, no figures are given about how many of those who caught the Omicron mutation are either dead or in hospitalization. Since he recovered from Covid-19 last year, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is no longer the jaunty self he was pre-Covid-19. He seems trembly and fearful, although the Conservative Party seems to have prevented him this far from going ahead with the lockdowns, the mask and vaccine mandates, and other measures urged on by the Usual Experts every hour of the day somewhere. Even President Joe Biden, who after the August 2021 Afghanistan pullout that repeated Bill Clinton’s 1996 error of handing over Afghanistan to the Taliban, seems to have recovered some of his nerve. He has during past weeks refused the more extreme measures being urged on him by his reliance on the Usual Experts to see the US through 2022. They have done so the way they did (despite some groaning from President Trump) in 2020. This is by seeking to scare the American people and getting imposed measures that are not just intrusive but have been shown to be unworkable. In Europe, where more than a few governments are delighted that they can finally act the part of a nanny and policeman rolled into one, protests against Covid-19 restrictions are multiplying. The two World Wars of the previous century each lasted five years. Intoxicated by their media prominence and their ability to dictate the agenda of Presidents and Prime Ministers, the Usual Experts of the Covid-19 pandemic must be looking at extending the dystopian world that has resulted from the virus and the measures taken to deal with it for at least five years.

Among the democracies, what a difference is there in the attitudes of those in government concerning the festive spirit. In contrast to Germany, the UK and the US, where strenuous efforts appear to being made to ensure that citizens remain indoors, masked or unmasked, Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to tread that dismal path. When there was an announcement that the PM would address the nation on 25 December, Christmas Day, there was anxiety in some that restrictions such as the WHO-recommended steps taken in 2020 would get repeated. Instead, the PM was reassuring, confining his address to less than 15 minutes while he announced not a lockdown but steps to vaccinate those seen as most vulnerable to Covid-19 infection. Every citizen should ensure that she or he step outdoors masked and observe hygiene. Those who have a vested interest in making money through channels that have made them wealthy in the past deny the obvious, that the world has entered into Cold War 2.0 after Cold War 1.0 ended in 1992 with the collapse of the USSR. Had the UK had Lord Halifax as Prime Minister in place of Winston Churchill, it is likely that the Luftwaffe Blitz of 1940-41 would have so shattered his nerve that he would have gone to Hitler and sued for peace. Perhaps aware that he was destined for an unpleasant end were the Germans to triumph, Winston Churchill was uncompromising in his opposition to doing a deal with the Nazis. That steel in the spine was transferred to the British people, who faced the Blitz and the likelihood of defeat in war with a fortitude matching that of the man who finally led them to victory in 1945. Should citizens in the US, Indonesia, Italy, the UK, Germany and other key democracies lose their confidence and determination to soldier on despite adversity, in just a few years a loss of confidence would get created in the collective mindspace of such countries that would ensure that they permit a walkover to the authoritarian superpower that is seeking to reshape the world in its own image and under its shadow. There are periods that are crucial to the way the future will be determined, and 2022 is among them. Together with necessary self-imposed precautions, the festive spirit needs to show itself rather than skulk away. The most important requirement for the regeneration of a country and its people is the will to overcome hardship and make the best use of the opportunities available for success. For those committed to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, for those committed to democracy, justice and tolerance in place of hate and exclusion, for those committed to an empowered civil society, 2022 will be the year that could determine future direction of not just India but its fellow democracies as they enter into the geopolitical currents of the present.

MDN

The future is bright, when we are that

Time will tell if Covid ayatollahs were right (The Sunday Guardian)

Someday there will be an audit of the efficacy or otherwise of the measures urged upon governments by the tiny pool of Covid ayatollahs, and of the consequences of following their advice.

Science is based on trial and error, as well as an absence of what may be termed the Ayatollah Syndrome. This is when a minuscule group of individuals claim that they alone know about a situation, and what needs to get done about it. Word of the new virus burst into the public sphere in January 2020. The Wuhan Institute of Virology in the PRC had for some years been introducing “gain of function” characteristics into an otherwise harmless virus found in nature. The research had been externally funded by institutions in the US. Such experiments posed the danger that this lab-created variant of a known pathogen could prove deadly to human beings. As soon as word spread of Covid-19 (or SARS2), a handful of individuals involved in the Wuhan experiments claimed that they alone had the knowledge and understanding needed to bring the pandemic under control. Efforts in some countries to resort to easily accessible medication as a way of increasing immunity or lowering the severity of the disease, were ridiculed by these Covid-19 ayatollahs as voodoo medicine. This verdict was without subjecting such options to any sort of test to examine scientifically whether such drugs could be effective, even as more and more practitioners of the medical sciences across the world resorted to their use. Their experience was ignored, as indeed was the very idea that there could be a therapeutic silver bullet to eradicate the pandemic. The Covid-19 ayatollahs were unanimous that only vaccines would work, suggesting that attention to medication was a waste of time. Huge amounts of taxpayer money were spent, especially by President Trump to find a vaccine that could prevent the disease in the way that had happened with smallpox or polio. Once the world had seen that polio and smallpox vaccines worked, they cheerfully got vaccinated. More than the word of ayatollahs, it was actual experience that motivated people to protect themselves by getting inoculated with a vaccine. In the case of Covid-19, the ayatollahs initially made extravagant claims about the protection that would result from vaccines that moved from concept to reality in about a year. It must be added that such speed was almost certainly the consequence of the money that some governments were throwing at the problem, the results of which were in the US transferred to private companies, and in China to state-owned companies. When some of those vaccinated got Covid-19, such “breakthrough infections” were diagnosed by the ayatollahs as rare. As the “breakthroughs” multiplied, the message changed. Vaccination may not protect against the catching of the disease, but would ensure that the effect of catching the virus would be mild. Of course, in any case, a substantial majority of Covid-19 cases were mild, including among those vaccinated. This ensured that the latter forecast rang true. This columnist had been doubly jabbed, yet got Covid-19, not in 2020 or during the early part of 2021, but in September 2021, after several therapeutic remedies had finally entered the market, one of which pulled both him and his spouse back into normal life within days.

Our country saw in 2020 the Great Indian Lockdown. This was a record-shattering lockdown of the entire country at four hours’ notice. This step was taken in accordance with the prescription of the Covid-19 ayatollahs that lockdowns would “break the chain” of infection. Whether in the US or in Europe or in India, what was clearly broken after lockdowns was the job market. This was probably why in 2021, despite the march of the Delta mutation of Covid-19 across India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to once again drink from the Lockdown Chalice. This new policy was met with repeated warnings from the ayatollahs, but India has done much better this year than countries that locked down over and over again. Someday there will be an audit of the efficacy or otherwise of the measures urged upon governments by the tiny pool of Covid ayatollahs, and of the consequences of following their advice. Countries that are democracies are severely affected. The recommended steps taken as a consequence of the pandemic made individuals in the US, Europe and other democracies behave in the evenings much as citizens of North Korea do. They stay at home. President Joe Biden till days back reflexively followed the diktat of the ayatollahs. Despite that, the US continues to have a staggeringly high rate of Covid-19 infections despite Biden going by the prescribed regimen in most of 2021 exactly the way so many of his peers in other countries did in 2020, barring exceptions such as Sweden. The soft power of its theatre, its film industry and music concerts have propelled the US to the top of the soft power league. That is in jeopardy, given that such activities have been either totally or substantially banned to “break the chain” of a virus that seems uncaring of the message of the ayatollahs. Staying indoors, studying online, even conducting romances online rather than face to face, is changing the chemistry of the young in the US in a direction, the final destination of which is still obscure. Those expert in attracting partners online are usually psychologically and perhaps even physiologically different from those who used pre-Covid methods. The standard Covid-19 quarantine period is resulting in huge gaps in the available workforce for several lines of activity. It is the US that the PRC sees as its geopolitical rival, and since the pandemic, the “land of the free and home of the brave” is becoming anything but. The multiplying restrictions imposed on US residents (to “break the chain”) represent the opposite of freedom to choice. Not to mention that millions are quivering with fear about Covid-19, living in terror that they may catch it. The bright spot is that habits such as wearing a mask (which has long been routine in Japan for those with a cough or cold) and paying greater attention to hygiene have been catching on. Time will tell whether the Covid-19 ayatollahs were right in their draconian prescriptions. What is evident is that the measures resorted to are changing not just the economies but societies, including on both sides of the Atlantic.

Time will tell if Covid ayatollahs were right 

Sunday, 26 December 2021

India must act as a democracy (The Sunday Guardian)

 Prime Minister Narendra D. Modi fast tracked the Look East policy of P.V. Narasimha Rao by going forward with an Act East policy. During the 1990s, the economic size of India was not sufficient to achieve more than looking at the east of India with an intensity that had been absent during the period in office of his predecessors. Among the multiple “buses” that India missed boarding was membership of ASEAN, the offer of which was turned down by then Prime Minister, Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, presumably on the advice of those around her who visibly favoured the Soviet line in matters of economic and foreign policy. This was a contrast to the eagerness shown to be a part of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1969. Saudi Arabia and several other Muslim-majority countries wanted India to be a part of the grouping in 1969 when it convened at Rabat, but General Yahya Khan, the then dictator of Pakistan prevailed over New Delhi’s diplomacy and ensured that the invite given to India to join was withdrawn. It was only in 2019 that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was invited by the hosts of that year’s conference, the UAE, to be the Guest of Honour. The Prime Minister of Pakistan sought to replicate what Yahya Khan had earlier done, and threw what in colloquial terms is known as a “hissy fit”, demanding that the invite to Sushma Swaraj be withdrawn. Given that by then the Pakistan government had become an international beseecher of assistance from the prosperous GCC countries, this time around the OIC refused to bow to Rawalpindi’s dictates. EAM Swaraj attended as Guest of Honour and gave a memorable speech. The prestige of the OIC was boosted by the manner in which the organization stood up to GHQ Rawalpindi and its Hinduphobia. To the amateur sociologists in khaki at the ISI, any Muslim living in a country that does not have a Muslim majority has to be seen differently from those in countries with a Muslim majority. That Muslims usually do much better in countries where the majority of the population does not belong to that faith. The OIC would do well to recognize this, and to go forward in the direction taken by the UAE and more recently by Saudi Arabia, two countries where the rulers are completely devoted to the tenets revealed by the Prophet Mohammad more than 1,500 years ago. They understand the necessity of co-existence and mutual respect of faiths, the absence of which leaves a country in ruins after a while. The OIC has a responsibility towards the billion-plus Muslims of the globe, and this is to ensure that the extremism of Wahhabism and its cousin Khomeinism be rolled back, and the Ummah get returned to the path of harmony of all human beings given that each is the creation of the same Eternal Force. In such a context, it was a disappointment that Official India refused to openly back the Afghan people rather than remain silent at the Trump and Biden-assisted capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban. As Suhasini Haider has pointed out in a newspaper column, the Lutyens Zone refused to understand the inevitable outcome of the surrender to the Taliban at Doha by President Donald Trump in 2020. Rather than reverse such a disastrous course, the man who cast himself as the obverse of Trump meekly went along with the handing over of power to the Taliban. In this, Joe Biden has followed the example set by Bill Clinton in 1996, who was the US President who ensured that the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan in 1996.

This unfortunate decision of Clinton to hand over Afghanistan to the Taliban in 1996 was the precursor to the 9/11 attack of 2001, although former President Clinton has thus far escaped the responsibility for the act of terror that was perpetrated by Wahhabi hijackers who were sheltered by the Taliban and their sponsors across the Durand Line. That terror attack changed the world in the manner than the WHO-approved response of government to the virus that leaked from a Wuhan lab in 2019 did. Hundreds of millions have become poorer and more wretched as a consequence of WHO-mandated lockdowns that killed jobs and changed society on a scale unprecedented in human history. The number of those who are poor has shot up as a consequence of the lockdowns that were imposed by country after country on the prodding of the WHO in 2020. Statistics are the proof of science and the fact that Sweden has the lowest additional deaths in Europe despite its mild measures shows the fact that lockdowns hardly helped. During 2021, PM Modi refused to get stampeded into another crippling series of lockdowns once the Delta variant spread across India, and far from presiding over a disaster as was forecast by the usual doomsayers, the Prime Minister looks upon a country where the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 has gone down sharply after a sharp spike earlier in the year, and the economy appears set on the path towards recovery. India is the world’s most populous democracy, and even if the GDP of the country is barely larger than that of Amazon, the fact is that being a democracy and having a central position where the security and freedom of access into and out of the Indo-Pacific is concerned have given India the status of a major power. What is needed is to ensure that such a status is leveraged to advantage. A way of ensuring this would be to avoid the usual Lutyens Zone obfuscations in foreign policy, and clearly state that New Delhi stands on the side of those powers that seek a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Prime Minster Modi, assisted by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have several times made this point publicly. Unless those countries seeking to shift manufacturing and other assets from the PRC to another location are convinced that India will under no circumstances fall under the domination of the PRC, they will hesitate in shifting the facilities they own from China to India. Another action that needs to be taken is to anchor India within an alliance system that would deter any attack by the Sino-Wahhabi alliance, or ensure the defeat of Sino-Wahhabi forces should such an attack be launched across the Himalayan massif or elsewhere. In the meantime, India need not be ambiguous about its commitment to the democracies. It is an error to not join in the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics that has been agreed to by the other members of the Quad. The only outlier is India, and in case the other Quad partners regard it as desirable that India join them in a boycott, this should be done. It is welcome that Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla publicly asked the military in Myanmar to not ride roughshod over democracy but ensure justice to those it jailed during the coup less than a year ago. India needs to call for the release of a trusted friend, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, rather than avoid the subject of her illegal incarceration altogether. PM Modi is a leader defined not by words but by action. So must the policy of India be.

MDN

India must act as a democracy

Relook needed at responses to SARS2 (The Sunday Guardian)

 

Where is the science in shutting down entire economies?

Leni Riefenstahl was a German filmmaker who in the 1930s was entranced by Adolf Hitler and by implication his noxious prescriptions for society. She served as a propagandist for the Nazi Party, and in 1935 produced the “Triumph of the Will”, documenting the Nazi Party convention at Nuremberg the previous year. This had been held after Hitler had been given charge of the German government in 1933 by a cabal of highly placed influentials, who were nervous at the possibility of a seizure of power by the Communist Party. They regarded the “Austrian corporal” as easy to control, and did not take seriously his rantings about war, bloodshed and conquest. Within a year, Hitler and his henchmen had seized complete control of the government and had either cowed into submission or sent into concentration camps those who had opposed him. The German Communist Party, interestingly, had been following Stalin’s line that the Social Democrats and the Nazis were “not antipodes but twins”. The Social Democrats, who together with the Communists could have taken control of Germany and kept the Nazi Party at bay had they worked together. Instead, much of the aggression of the Communists were directed towards the Social Democrats, who had shown great courage in resisting Hitler and his psychotic agenda. By 1935, both the Communist as well as the Social Democratic Party had been broken up by Nazi thugs, many of whom had since 1933 become part of the machinery of the state. The infatuated Riefenstahl chose not to look at the underside of the rock that she fancied Hitler to be, and called his ascent to power the triumph of the will. That it was, accompanied by generous dollops of luck as well as the reality that the greater the misfortunes undergone by the German people, the greater was the appeal of Hitler and his simplistic slogans. Fortunately for the rest of the world, in Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, the UK and the US had a pair of leaders who early on had understood the menace that the Nazis represented to human civilisation. The Nazis dealt with the Dutch the way the latter had dealt with the Indonesians, the French in the manner that they had themselves treated the Vietnamese, and the British with the same superior condescension that Whitehall was treating the people of India. The mass killings and genocidal impulses of European colonisers in Asia, Africa and South America were replicated in 20th century Europe during the early phases of the 1939-45 war. This was before 1943, the year when the combination of American weaponry and Russian bravery had begun to prevail over the German armies that had earlier been swarming across Europe with apparent ease. In their wake was the SS and the Gestapo, killing machines that were put into use by Hitler and his associates, most harshly against the Jewish inhabitants of Europe and the Roma, who still suffer persecution and discrimination across Europe despite the decades that have gone past since the murderous sway of Hitler and a people, nearly a third of whom somehow were in thrall to an individual who had from the start of his career in public life made no secret of his intention to convert Europe into a slaughterhouse. That Hitler had the will to power and to implement his toxic plans was undoubted. What seems equally clear is that several of the present crop of heads of government (they cannot by any definition be called “leaders”) have lost any will that they may have had to ensure that the people they are presumed to serve be subjected to policies that generate progress rather than regression. That SARS2 was lab created seems difficult to deny, although the worthies in the US and Europe who assisted in the development of “gain of function” techniques in Wuhan and other locations in the PRC continue to do so, eager to escape blame for their role in the catastrophe that the combination of SARS2 and the WHO-approved responses of governments to the novel coronavirus has brought upon so many countries.
Science is based on fact, and statistical analysis indicates that the Omicron mutation that is now spreading across boundaries is much milder than its Delta predecessor. That those who catch the virus have either no or very mild symptoms. This has been pointed out most insistently by the South African experts, who first isolated the strain only to be punished for it rather than appreciated. Hospitalisations of those who have been afflicted by the Omicron mutation are much fewer than was the case with Delta. And yet there is a barrage of scary news about Omicron, and warnings of possible doom from the present leaders of the two countries that showed the wisdom and the moral courage to confront Hitler in the previous century. Among the reasons why Joe Biden is fast becoming the principal cause of the present downslide in the fortunes of the Democratic Party is his decision to retain Dr Anthony Fauci as his principal medical adviser, despite the latter’s role in supporting those in the US who funded and in other ways assisted the Wuhan virological facility to develop SARS2 from a harmless to humans natural form of the novel coronavirus. Outsourcing nuclear waste or noxious plants to other countries has long been a practice of some countries, although questions need to be asked about the morality and ethics of assisting research designed to make a virus more transmissible and deadly to humans than it previously was while still in its natural state. President Biden may not be upset that several of his medical assistants are complicit in the development of SARS2 although possibly not in its dissemination, but a goodly portion of voters in the US must be looking askance at such tolerance. There has been much talk of “following the science” where the unprecedented WHO-recommended response to SARS2 is concerned, but where is the science in shutting down entire economies, with several units closed down permanently as a consequence of the WHO-recommended shutdowns of entire countries? Vaccines have been shown to be less than a preventive to infections, while even in 2021, countries such as Germany that imposed severe lockdowns since the advent of the Omicron mutation have fared much worse than countries such as India, which refused to get stampeded into shutting down the economy and confining citizens to a form of house arrest in 2021 in the manner that had taken place the previous year. The obsession with vaccines has been led by those (including some leading lights in the Biden administration) who unsuccessfully had earlier attempted to develop a vaccine for AIDS but finally had to return to therapeutics. Had equal attention been given to therapeutics as was bestowed on vaccines almost entirely developed out of government-funded R&D, by now SARS2 would have been simply an irritant rather than the killer of so many people and many times more jobs. Science demands a relook at the strategies suggested in 2020 to fight the pandemic in the context of the immense collateral damage that these have caused. For a disease that is mild (certainly with Omicron) in almost all cases, is it better to accept the risk of infection in the manner that we do with colds or the flu, but continue working, or to punch huge gaps in the manpower required by making each person who has tested positive stay at home for two weeks? Such measures have plainly failed to halt the spread of the virus, despite their economic and societal cost. At least in the western world, fear seems to be the dominant emotion so far as SARS2 is concerned. Those in the PLA who factor in the Atlantic Alliance as a military rival will be pleased at the effect that SARS2 has had in substantial sections of society on both sides of the North Atlantic.

 Relook needed at responses to SARS2


Sunday, 19 December 2021

Sino-Wahhabi lobby intensifies campaign against US and India (The Sunday Guardian)

 

India’s kinetic test on the country’s boundary may take place by 2023, before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Although not much is being shared in public, indications are that PM Modi, EAM Jaishankar and Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh are working energetically to ensure a favourable outcome in any such test.

 

New Delhi: The alliance of the PRC and Russia, and the other partnership of the PRC and the Wahhabi International, are confident that the efforts they have been making since the past eleven years to hollow out the societal and political framework of the US by covert means are generating visible results. Even the US Supreme Court has become an instrument of division as a consequence of its Republican majority, a transformation that was put on steroids by President Donald J. Trump. Within the US Congress, the implementation of policy under the two-party system has in effect broken down. Within the Democratic Party, the small number of DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) are ensuring that President Joe Biden’s essential reform measures get torpedoed, so that US society continues to fester as a consequence of societal inequalities in opportunity. Gun violence is multiplying, while law and order has broken down in a spreading number of locations, as has “living rough” and the opioid crisis that has been placed on a fast track by stimulants imported (or smuggled) from China. The hesitancy of President Biden to go forward with steps essential to stability such as an expansion of the US Supreme Court to 15 from 9 or working for a successful primary challenge in 2022 to leading DINOs such as Senator Joe Manchin is proving deadly to the 46th President’s stint in the White House. On the reverse side of the Manchins, President Biden and Speaker Pelosi have fawned rather than frowned on the Wahhabi impulses of Ilhan Omar, who is marching to a beat different from that which is best for her country and party. She follows Wahhabi doctrine in seeking to create a binary of Islam versus all others, including through introducing a bill against Islamophobia when such legislation should outlaw manifestations of hate against any faith, including the rants of some of Representative Omar’s contacts against Jews, Christians and Hindus, not to mention the moderate majority within the Muslim community. House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer have thus far imitated President Biden in lacking spine enough to ensure that hate against any religious group be subject to law, and not just a particular faith to the exclusion of others. Measures such as the Biden Social Justice bills are at risk of being torpedoed by the DINOs, although these are necessary in the context of the efforts at societal polarization and meltdown in the US. Small wonder that the external groups fuelling much of the toxins that are getting disseminated within the US polity and society consider themselves to be on the brink of success in Operation Meltdown. Their success in the US has to an extent lessened the disappointment they are experiencing at the failure thus far of engineering similar chaos in India, an operation that was put on steroids by the Sino-Wahhabi lobby after India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi signalled its determination during the 2017 Doklam crisis.

 

U.S. FIXATION ON EUROPE

For close to two years, these columns have pointed out that the Sino-Wahhabi lobby is working at speed in its efforts at harnessing social media in particular to engineer a meltdown by stealth of the societal fabric that holds India together. Whether for old times’ sake or as a hedge against getting hopelessly dominated by the Peoples Republic of China, the Russian Federation has not joined in the attack on the vitals of the world’s most populous democracy. In Asia during much of the 20th century, the US followed in the wake of the European powers and sought to suppress nationalist instincts in Asia, Africa and South America. In the process, the US and its European allies facilitated the mushrooming of collaborative autocracies, and replaced to a worrisome extent by religious or ethno-supremacist ideologies that caused societies to be torn apart or lapse into a moribund state, ultimately harming even the interests of the Atlantic alliance. In the 21st century, the US is again the “dog” being wagged by the European “tail”, this time around in the matter of Russia. A country that during the first six years of the present century sought integration into European and Atlanticist structures has now perforce to serve as the junior partner in the Sino-Russian alliance, although Moscow has declined to follow the PRC lead and become a force multiplier for the Wahhabi International in the manner that China is, especially under CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. Parallel to the exertions of the Sino-Wahhabi alliance to diminish US resilience in particular, the Sino-Russian alliance is attacking the vitals of American democracy, principally through infiltration into social media. Efforts, whether real or feigned, of major social media platforms within the Atlantic Alliance to remove sites that are purveyors of the toxins released by the twin alliance systems in which the PRC plays the dominant role have had very limited effect, except for generating publicity that such efforts are proving a success when they are not. Just as terror groups soon regroup under new labels should they come under scrutiny or international censure, social media influencers and platforms of influence that funnel into societies the toxins created within the infolabs of the CCP, the Russian counter-intel network and well-funded Wahhabi cutouts change their names and addresses at speed, thereby rendering efforts at blocking them ineffective.

 

SINO-RUSSIAN LOBBY VS U.S.

The principal targets of the Sino-Wahhabi lobby have been India and the US. In the latter, the Sino-Russian lobby is also active in Operation Meltdown, whereas in India, the activity of the Russian side is designed to (a) ensure that purchases of weapons systems from Russia by India continue as before, and (b) the US in particular be given a bad name within key elements of the policy community and the public in India, in both of which there have been successes for this lobby,but not enough to prevent PM Modi, assisted in this task by EAM Jaishankar and Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh, to constantly strengthen the security relationship with the US and other key components in the Atlantic Alliance, such as France, the UK and Germany, less in word as in deed. The accidental death of CDS General Bipin Rawat has been a shock but has not changed the upward trajectory of progress in securing the inner and outer defences of India against the Sino-Wahhabi alliance. In their actions against India, neither the Wahhabi International nor the PRC can count on the support of Iran and Russia, both of which maintain strong ties with India in contrast to their lack of rapport with the US.

 

INDIA CANNOT BE DERAILED

Although the Sino-Wahhabi lobby believes that a defeat of the BJP in UP would serve as a booster for their efforts, such a setback (in the event it takes place in a context were CM Adityanath has done very well on a number of fronts) would not be sufficient to upset the trajectory being followed by the central government in India. 2021 has been a much more innovative and productive year for the world’s most populous democracy, in large part because of the fact that PM Modi has relied more on his own instincts and on outside counsel to fashion and implement policy, as opposed to the 100% civil service, 0% civil society involvement that has caused so many policy missteps in India. The IAS, IPS and IFS are an outstanding group of individuals, but in the complex world of the 21st century, all wisdom in domestic policy does not vest within the IAS, nor all wisdom in security policy with the IPS and all the knowledge of foreign policy with the IFS. Early in his term, Modi sought to bring in domain expertise into the administration in India, and this reform is expected to go on a fast track soon. In 2021, several initiatives have been taken by the Prime Minister to reduce the harrowing conditions for compliance that have been put in place by the bureaucracy over decades of efforts at micro-management and control of all elements of civil society. Minimum Government is finally emerging from the mists of a slogan into the sunshine of reality. Given the pressures on General Secretary Xi caused by his own rousing of the flames of exclusivist Han nationalism in China, it is more than probable that tensions will get created on the Sino-Indian border by a PLA that has been given freedom of action in a manner not seen since the Cultural Revolution of the Mao period, when Lin Biao was still the Defence Minister and Heir Apparent of the Great Helmsman. These will need to be met in a manner that is convincing, and a knetic test on the boundary is likely by 2023, before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Although not much is being shared in public, indications are that PM Modi, EAM Jaishankar and Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh are working energetically to ensure a favourable outcome in any such test of will and capability of Indian arms, together with strengthening defences against cyber infiltration and dissemination of societal toxins through use of channels that have become ubiquitous in modernising India. Together with India, the US is the anchor of security in the Indo-Pacific, while a possible Indo-Russian alliance may in time ensure that the Eurasian continent not come under the domination of any country. Single country dominance has brought misery, and needs to be prevented in future, a viewpoint shared by PM Modi, President Biden and President Putin.

 

INDIA-U.S. TIES

DEVELOP STRONGLY

Although on the surface matters seem to be going out of control in the US, even should Biden fail to get passed the transformative Biden Social Security Bills in the present US Congress, a primary upset over DINO Manchin and casting the 2022 midterm polls as a battle between Wall Street and Main Street should get the Democratic Party the majority needed to pass legislation before the 2024 polls. The visible (some would say risible) bias of the Roberts Court has made it a no brainer to begin even for a hesitant Biden to begin the process of expanding the bench strength of the US Supreme Court, and to ask for a verdict in the 2022 midterms that would ensure the passage of his agenda despite opposition from the Sino-Wahhabi and Sino-Russian lobbies and their covert manipulation through skewed algorithms in social media platforms. This has been a bad year for the US and for its principal security partner in the Indo-Pacific, India. However, New Delhi is visibly on an upward trajectory once again, and Washington is likely to follow, latest by 2023 after the Congressional midterms. President Biden is a political survivor, and these instincts ought to kick in to ensure that claims of the demise of democracy in the US are as premature as are similar claims being made by the same lobbies about that other very large democracy, the Republic of India.

Sino-Wahhabi lobby intensifies campaign against US and India