Friday, 17 August 2018

Melania Trump, Ivanka Kushner should act (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
DONALD Trump and those within his team loyal to the man are of the view that time is no longer on the side of the United States. This proposition is correct only in the context of a specific perception of what the US is. There are those who would like the country to continue societally much as it was during the 1950s, with those of European ethnicity having an overwhelming majority over the rest of the population. Both Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss and Attorney General Jeff Sessions embody such a view. Neither would be comfortable in any culture different from that across both sides of the Atlantic, and must be feeling a growing sense of alarm at the way in which those not of European descent have become commonplace in most of countries bunched around the shores of Atlantic Ocean.
DeVoss is among the worst possible choices for her job, as the Education Secretary is busying herself blocking opportunities for the underprivileged to gain access through brainpower into the best educational institutions in the country. Such policies will harm the US immensely in the decades ahead, but DeVoss seems oblivious to the racist underpinning of the policies she supports. Hopefully both Melania Trump as well as Ivanka Kushner will be able to prevail on Donald J Trump to send her as the US envoy to Hungary, a country where the government is supportive of several of her own views on ethnicity. Both Melania and Ivanka have shown that they are very much 21st century world citizens, in contrast to many others,including in the inner reaches of the Trump team who seem determined to behave as though the changes brought about since the days of Dr Martin Luther King never happened. As for Jeff Sessions, he is even more of a dinosaur than DeVoss, pining for the US that existed before Abraham Lincoln defied racists in his own party to first launch a war against the slaveholding states and later get passed the Emancipation Proclamation into US law.
Steven Spielberg may have periods when his artistic gifts falter, but “Lincoln” (the movie) was a classic of world cinema. Lincoln acted wholly contrary to Mahatma Gandhi’s belief that “Means are after all everything”. He employed guile and more to ensure that enough votes got secured in the House of Representatives to pass the Emancipation Proclamation, much of it being captured in the movie through the genius of Spielberg. The Mahatma repeatedly showed himself willing to sacrifice the attainment of key objectives when presented with what he believed were non-moral ways of reaching it. Had this noble soul been in charge in the US rather than Lincoln, there would have been a Confederate States of America (CSA) together with the US, while in the case of the UK, his advice to that country when attacked by Hitler was to allow the German armies to occupy the UK, hoping that such a step would change the heart and mind of Adolf Hitler. Truly did Albert Einstein say that “generations to come will scarce believe that such a man ( as the Mahatma) ever existed in flesh and blood.”
Jeff Sessions is pursuing the policies adopted by President Richard Nixon (and in a slightly altered form by Bill Clinton), which was to fill the jails with those found guilty of offences that were of little adverse consequence except to moral purists. Had marijuana been legalised and the atrocious “Three Strikes” Clinton-era legislation (which mandated life sentences to those found guilty even of three minor infractions), several hundreds of thousands in the US would not have taken up a life of crime after getting released from a prison system that brings out in most the worst in every prisoner. And this for the simple reason that unless the worst instincts get sharpened, life in prison would be almost unbearable. The Attorney General of the US is a throwback to the era of Nixon and Clinton, which is why it is unfortunate that a President as practical and as rooted in reality as Donald J Trump appointed such a past era throwback as the chief law officer of a country that will retain its primacy only if it adopts liberal, merit-based policies Donald Trump has called for since he first came into public attention in 1980s.
Of course, despite Betsy DeVoss and Jeff Sessions, the US is not at the core a racist country. In fact, it is much less tinged with that handicap than Europe, as witnessed by the fact that those coming from India do extraordinarily well in the US but face a usually impenetrable glass ceiling in most of Europe,including on occasion in the most societally liberal country still within the EU, which is the UK. President Trump is right that the flow of immigrants needs to be regulated, so that those useful to the economy find entry rather than those who could become Social Security parasites. However, such individuals are more likely to be found in Kolkatta and Chennai rather than in Bucharest or Tirana. Within the narrow circle of those having the trust of the 45th President of the United States, wife Melania and daughter Ivanka stand out for boldly disagreeing in public with several of the President’s sometimes quaint views as expressed through Twitter posts. They need to step in more actively to ensure that racists and retrogressive within the Republican Party do not damage the long-term future of the US through policies that are toxic to the country and undeterred to the needs and realities of society.
Those advocating toxic policies have the potential to damage the Trump presidency at a stage when the Washington Beltway is accelerating its efforts at having him thrown out of the White House well before his term ends. There is a fear that even a “character assassin” as skilled as Robert Mueller may fail to concoct dossiers sufficient to impeach the President. Mueller is jailing those close to Trump on any charge that his imagination can come up with, even if these be far removed from the stated mission of examining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin’s Russia. The Special Prosecutor is clearly seeking to blackmail Paul Manafort (who is simply “guilty” of the widespread Beltway virus of accepting money from any source available) and others to memorize the script given to them by Mueller, and which will implicate Trump in a conspiracy to subvert the election. Had Mueller been in the USSR of the 1930s, he would have come to the admiring attention of Joseph Stalin as someone who could be relied on to make a huge impact on the show trials against innocent victims that the Soviet “Vozd” (supremo) specialised in. The retrogressive in the Trump team are damaging the US President’s and making it easier for the Washington Beltway to succeed in ousting Trump. Such a situation calls for much more intervention by Melania Trump and Ivanka Kushner, so that the President is rescued from those who are sabotaging him while pretending to support him.

Friday, 3 August 2018

China rediscovers its ancient past (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
ON October 01, 1949, Mao Zedong announced the birth of “New China”. Over the next few years, he systematically expanded the boundaries of the state founded by him, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang were incorporated into the PRC, which today controls a larger area than any previous regime did during the four thousand years of recorded history of the world’s second biggest economy. During the 1960s,unhappy with the conservatism of several of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Mao launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). By the time the GPCR was finally called off a decade later, the CCP had been drained of most of its leadership, barring a few survivors such as Premier Zhou Enlai. Into the vacuum left behind stepped Deng Xiaoping, who after Mao was the second transformative CCP leader. In 1979, Deng began the economic reforms that would over the next two decades change the economy of China from Third World to Second World, thereby creating New China (or what may be termed 2New China).
Five years ago, Xi Jinping began the process of enforcing accountability for corruption within the CCP, a drive that is continuing. The purpose is to transform China into a First World power, in fact the top power in the world in terms of economic development and influence. By 2017, China’s economy was 70% of the US economy, and the gap between the two is getting reduced every year, in the process creating a New New New (or 3New) China, thereby making Xi the third transformative leader in the history of the PRC, after Mao and Deng. Since Xi took charge of the CCP, a noticeable change has been the steady substitution of cash in the form of currency with online methods of payment. Across China, millions of people are these days not using paper money at all, instead making payments through platforms such as Alipay that are going global. In India, the owners of Alipay (Ali Baba, run by Jack Ma) is the majority shareholder in PayTM, among the country’s most popular online payment systems. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is giving attention to the digitisation of procedures in India, and once bandwidth improves, it is expected that more and more of the country’s population will do what so many Chinese are doing these days, which is avoid using currency.
India is the home of “ayurveda”, a system of natural healing that is very different in its approach and methods from “allopathy” or systems of medicine first developed in Europe. This relies on methods such as surgery, which involves the cutting away of parts of the body. On November 8 2016, at precisely 8pm Prime Minister Modi announced the most radical economic surgery ever carried out in independent India, which was to make illegal at less than four hours notice almost all the currency then being used in India. An ultra-allopathic method that cut away and removed so much of the country’s currency was used in the land of natural healing and ayurveda, to applause from Bill Gates, who several officials say first planted the idea for the demonetisation (DeMo) within the Prime Minister’s Office, together with tech billionaire Nandan Nilekani, who has the distinction of being as close to the Modi government as he was of the Manmohan Singh regime.
Gates and Nilekani wanted all transactions to be transparent rather than obscured by the use of currency, and their suggestion was endorsed with enthusiasm by Governor of the Reserve Bank of India Urjit Patel, Revenue Secretary S K Das, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Principal Secretary to PM N Mishra. As a consequence of the unanimous advice that he received from officials around him that he go ahead with DeMo, the PM went ahead, with this columnist being among the handful who expressed the view that it was a measure almost impossible to implement without causing substantial disruption within the economy. Because the new currency notes (Rs 2000 instead of Rs 1000 earlier and new Rs 500 notes) had a size different from that of the currency they replaced, a lengthy and expensive reconditioning of ATM machines had to be done. In India, more than 70% of the employment is accounted for by the “informal” sector considered a danger to financial stability by Gates and Nilekani, and the November 8 measure severely impacted this sector, without fundamentally changing overall behaviour. Currency has come back into vogue as soon as it became available. It would have been better for the monetary authorities to have adopted a “nature cure” rather than a “radical surgery” method to get the people of India to exchange currency for online payments, the way such a change has taken place relatively painlessly in Xi’s China.
Under Xi, China is celebrating its ancient past, and an example is the Old Town of Pingyao in Shanxi province, which dates back more than two millennia. At great expense, around four thousand residences dating back to the Ming and Qing period have been restored, so that walking along the narrow streets of the Old Town, it is as though a time machine has been used to get back two thousand and more years. Hopefully the authorities will not allow electric carts or bicycles to operate in such streets, as their presence detracts from the solemnity of the ancient past of China. Close to the town is the Change Ning Castle, an ancient structure that has been converted into a hotel. The rooms and the surroundings have retained much of their original form, and it is possible for at least the Chinese guests to feel that they are part of the ancient merchant nobility when they stay in the castle, with its high walls and multiple floors, from which elevators have been banned to preserve authenticity. However, the staff, although courteous and attentive, dress in modern style.
They need to wear the same clothes as were worn three hundred years ago in this very castle, so as to more fully recreate the creative beauty of the past, the way Xi Jinping is working so as to ensure that his people understand and appreciate their heritage. This being China, there are high-speed trains every hour from Beijing or Shanghai to Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi, from where a car journey brings the visitor to Pingyao, which also has its own railway station, although much smaller in size. Across the country, restoration work is proceeding in multiple locations, so that the ancient past comes back to life as a reminder to the Chinese people and to the world about the heritage of a country whose civilisation has followed the same trajectory as India’s, of surviving unbroken for thousands of years. These reminders of the past co-exist with Alternative Intelligence and other hi-tech industries which too are being encouraged. Should Xi succeed in his mission the way Deng Xiaoping did in the past, a “3New” China respectful of past millennia will grow into a formidable global force.
August 3, 2018

Friday, 27 July 2018

Oil prices too high for fundamentals (Pakistan Observer)

July 27, 2018

Geopolitical Notes From India

M D Nalapat

IF any single gesture was designed — inadvertently or not — to further raise international oil prices beyond the already high levels reached during the past year, it was President Donald J Trump’s tweet threatening Iran with consequences far deadlier than anything that nation has faced before. For a country that endured a murderous war launched by Saddam Hussein (with various forms of assistance from the US and the UK), this was a threat too far. Till now, the security establishment in Tehran may have simply made a few alterations here and there to the war plans already on file in the event of hostilities launched by the US and its allies. After the Trump “threat tweet”, it is certain that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in particular must be working round the clock on blueprints designed to inflict as high a cost as possible on the US and its regional allies (mainly Israel and Saudi Arabia), should military action follow the tweet. However, such a kinetic rise in the tensions between Washington and Tehran is unlikely.

Donald Trump is a businessman, not a politician, and therefore can be expected to understand the disastrous consequences to the global economy were there to be a substantial escalation of an already simmering low intensity conflict between Iran and Israel in both Syria as well as Lebanon. This columnist warned more than once in speeches and in writing that Syria under Bashar Assad was not Iraq under Saddam Hussein or even Libya under Kaddafy. That the majority of the population of Syria preferred the Assad’s to the alternative on offer, which was militants backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the US and much of the EU.

This backing of such fighters by NATO and its allies did not stop even after Christians, Druze and Alawites were killed off in a systematic fashion by these “freedom fighters”, nor when some of them began to trickle into Europe so as to form modules there that could get activated at a suitable opportunity, the way it actually happened with several. Barack Obama tried to slow down the flow of assistance to such fighters, and was ridiculed by those in the US who favoured the same strategy as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were pushing for. The ceaseless effort by the Washington Beltway and its Atlanticist core to reduce Trump to irrelevance notwithstanding, the 45th US President has quietly begun a process of disengagement from Syria, lest his military find itself in that country in the same morass that faulty tactics and over-confidence caused in Iraq and Afghanistan. Donald Trump’s overall policy towards global heat islands has been a mixture of Trumpian pragmatism and Bush-style zealousness, the latter largely a consequence of the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel often proffers counsel on ways to deal with the Middle East, advice that Trump very often takes. On Iran, the US President and the Prime Minister of Israel are on the same page, in the process wiping out the gains made by moderates during the second term of President Barack Obama and strengthening hardline factions in much the same manner as Iraqi Head of State Saddam Hussein’s thoughtless adventure into Iran in 1980 did. Should hostilities erupt between Iran and the US and its allies, there will almost certainly be a complete takeover of power by hardliners in Teheran, not good new for either the US or Israel. Unlike in the case of Iraq or even Libya, the people of Iran have a fierce determination to protect their land against a military attack, and all bets will be off as a result, with such disasters as the stoppage of the Strait of Hormuz being among them.

A factor which would send oil prices to levels higher than what George W Bush made them through the measures he and Vice-President Cheney took in the Middle East. Of course, the huge profits that such spikes in price made to the oil majors based in Houston must have been a source of some satisfaction to the Bush family, whose relationship with the sticky liquid goes back a long way, although it would be unfair that Bush and Cheney launched the war with Iraq to send oil prices skyrocketing. The fact is that in the case of both Iran as well as Kuwait, Saddam Hussein showed himself to have a pathological streak that made him a danger to the stability of the region. There was therefore a sound case for overthrowing him by military means, in view of the fact that his hold on power was too strong for any other method of regime change ( such as that adopted in the case of Ukraine or Egypt) to work. What was wrong was not the war but the clumsy, colonial manner in which the occupation of Iraq by the US and its EU partners was carried out. Had the US done what this columnist advised Andrew Marshall in early 2004 at the Pentagon (to thin out and thereafter to confine US troops to safeguarding the borders of Iraq), subsequent disasters could have been avoided.

It was to the credit of Marshall – easily among the greatest military minds since Clausewitz and Vo Nguyen Giap – that he listened very carefully to the arguments made, summarizing it as a call for the US military to leave Iraq altogether, although US tactics changed not a whit thereafter. Instead, a myth was created that the “Surge” in troops “stabilized” the situation. The Fake News spewed out by the self-proclaimed Truth Brigade in the US (and substantially within its EU allies) has weaved a narrative which places almost the entire blame for the wounds inflicted on Iraq Libya and Afghanistan by prolonged US-EU occupation on the local people and leadership, omitting any serious mention of the errors made by the occupying forces.

Should President Trump’s innate pragmatism ( it was not an accident that he remained a billionaire through much of his business career) prevail over the counsel of the triumvirate of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel, the “threat tweet” is unlikely to be followed up by steps which would be sen to be provocative enough to warrant a kinetic response by the IRGC, a force that has done more than any other to destroy Daesh in the lairs that were constructed for it by copious amounts of cash, training and weapons given by individuals and entities that have wholly escaped punishment for such a crime. Oil prices should be around $ 45 a barrel at most, based on fundamentals. The rest has been made up of manufactured crises and manipulation of perceptions in a world where oil is rapidly becoming a surplus commodity.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Beltway punishes Trump for China with Russia (Pakistan Observer)

July 20, 2018

Geopolitical Notes From India

M D Nalapat

DURING the early part of the 20th century, newly republican China was an obsession with several in the US, especially to missionaries who sought to “harvest souls” in that vast country. The takeover of power by Mao Zedong in 1949 temporarily set relations between Washington and Beijing back. So much so that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles suggested to Jawaharlal Nehru’s sister Vijaylakshmi Pandit that India take the place of China as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, an offer Nehru spurned. Even after the 1962 border conflict, India continued to back Communist China’s claim to the UN Security Council and indeed to the UN itself, a desire which finally came through after the US-China rapprochement scripted by Zhou Enlai and Richard Nixon.Since that time in the 1970s, China has evolved as a major presence in Washington, and today enjoys enormous influence – mostly through the corporate sector – within the Beltway, the traditional repository of power within the US governance system, now facing a challenge from Donald Trump.

The US President has for the first time since the 1970s made China a focus of hostile action both on the military as well as the business front. Naval patrols have multiplied in the South China Sea, while defense relationships with India and Vietnam have been established. Most worrisome for Beijing, there is a growing confluence of military to military between the US and the Republic of China (RoC), otherwise known as Taiwan. It is not accidental that the new US mission in Taipei is much bigger than several of the embassies maintained across the globe by the State Department. In the field of business, for the first time since relations between China and the US were re-established in force forty three years ago, a Trade War has been launched by President Trump against Chinese manufacturers. This step is proving to be immensely unpopular within business groups in the US, several of whom look to China for markets and profit, the latter mainly through import of Chinese wares that are much cheaper than those of the nearest competitor. The fear is that Beijing will turn to Europe and to other parts of Asia for the purchase of items that till Trump’s trade war were mostly sourced from the US, items ranging from soybeans to aircraft.

President Xi Jinping has put in place a finely calibrated strategy to persuade the Trump administration to call of economic hostilities against Chinese businesses. Imports of items produced in farm locations crucial to Republican Party control of the US House of Representatives and Senate have been stopped. As a consequence, prices have dropped and farmers (most of who vote Republican) are angry just months before mid-term elections to the US Congress. At the same time, the thousands of influential individuals who are in favour of good relations with Beijing have been exerting themselves lobbying against the President and his key advisors, many of whom believe that Washington can win a trade war with China if it holds its nerve for long enough. Peter Navarro and John Bolton in particular are of the view that Trump can replicate in the case of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) what Ronald Reagan did in the case of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), which was to force that organisation to respond to US moves in a way that accelerated an implosion in the Soviet economy.

However, the Washington Beltway is opposed to such moves, as it believes that the CCP is far more cohesive than the CPSU ever was, both ideologically and organisationally. Also that Xi Jinping is a much more formidable rival than the post-Stalin leaders of the Soviet Union ever were, especially during the years of Leonid Brezhnev, a mediocrity who ensured only others like him reached the top in the CPSU and hence the Soviet government. The Beltway has doubled down in its efforts at weakening Trump into irrelevance if it cannot get him thrown out of office altogether, and the opportunity presented itself as a consequence of the meeting in Helsinki between Trump and Vladimir Putin. In fact, whether it be on oil prices (which would moderate rather than boil) or on the security of Israel or stability in the Middle East, the Trump-Putin meeting and evident chemistry can only be helpful. However, the Beltway has spun the meeting as a “treasonous giveaway” to Moscow, without specifying what exactly was “given away”. Panicked Republicans joined the Democrats in bad-mouthing Trump, weakening his ability to force the pace of change in Washington. The trade war with China was a bridge too far for Trump to cross, and the Beltway was waiting for an excuse to fire back at the 45th President of the US, a chance that presented itself because of the Helsinki summit. The charge that Trump is a dupe of Putin is ridiculous.Were he so, rather than be overtly friendly to the Russian spymaster turned world leader, the US President would have put on an act, seeming to be hostile to both Putin as well as to Russia. This would have been done to camouflage his actual links with a country that France,the UK and Germany desperately wish to see continued as the “Number One Threat” to the US, even at a time when the Russian economy has shrunk to the level of a Chinese province. The supremacy of Atlanticist (rather than Indo-Pacific) policies in Washington cannot continue unless Moscow is the primary foe. The focus of the Trump administration on seeking to win over allies of Beijing such as Moscow and Pyongyang were distasteful to the Europe-centred political and media establishment in the US, who have jointly made little secret of their desire to force the resignation or removal of President Trump from the exalted office he was elected to.

The skilfully created hubbub around the meeting with Putin is designed to so weaken Trump that he will be President in name only for the remainder of his term, given that even Robert Mueller seems to be finding it difficult to concoct a case that Trump and Putin worked in tandem to rig the 2016 Presidential contest. The expectation is that Trump will no longer have the horsepower to continue such “disruptive” actions as a trade war with China, and will pull back from such a course, returning the US establishment to a policy course first set in the stone of governance during 1945-47 but which has ceased to be relevant since the close of the 1990s. The attack on Trump that is being witnessed over the Helsinki meeting is fuelled by an urgency to ensure a rollback of the trade war with China, a commercial contest which could impact the balance sheets of several companies in US and cost Republicans US House and Senate as a consequence of skilful retaliatory moves made by Chinese side. Should Beltway succeed in closing gate to reconciliation with Moscow, that capital will have no other option but to get ever closer to Beijing. A Chinese Century may yet come, not as a consequence of Trump but despite him.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Republican fringe may cost Trump 2020 election (Pakistan Observer)

July 13, 2018

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
MONTHS before US Senator Bernie Sanders was through rigging to lose the contest for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination by Hillary Clinton and her Wall Street and Beltway backers, this columnist forecast that Donald Trump would lose to Bernie Sanders but prevail against Clinton. This the New York construction magnate did on November 8, 2916, the same day Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the most electorally consequential decision of his term, the replacement of Rs 1000 notes with newly designed Rs 2000 notes, part from changes in the shape and colour of Rs 500 notes. Unfortunately for India’s PM, officials chosen to man the Reserve Bank of India and the Union Ministry of Finance failed to implement the changeover efficiently.

As a consequence, the economy was badly affected through a collapse of liquidity for more than a year, while the impact of the “DeMo” measure on corruption was negligible. Senior officials claim that there is a reason why the RBI has yet to reveal the value of demonetised currency notes exchanged for new notes in banks. This is that the value of notes submitted to the banking system was more ( the figure mentioned by them seems incredible, so huge is the sum) than the value of legal notes in circulation. In other words, holders of fake notes enjoyed a bonanza after November 8,2016 by exchanging dud cash for real. Hopefully the RBI will prove this wrong by releasing the actual figures of old currency notes deposited in the banking system post demonetisations In much the same way as Modi is paying for the missteps of some in his team, many of those chosen by President Trump have been making errors in approach and policy to social issues. Such errors are cumulatively smoothening the way towards the victory in the 2020 Presidential elections of a Democratic Party candidate in sync with the policies favoured by the idealistic and incorruptible Senator Bernie Sanders. Trump’s opponent may get elected as the 46th President of the United States because of the regressive social policies favoured by the Republican Party, which has travelled a long way from the idealism of Abraham Lincoln. The Democratic Party candidate may even be Sanders himself, who retains enormous goodwill among voters despite his acting as an election agent for Hillary Clinton in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign despite the way in which he was cheated of the nomination by Clinton. New York, the state to which Trump belongs, is a liberal enclave, and yet Team Trump is on social issues (including education) probably the most reactionary of any US administration since that formed during Ronald Reagan’s first term.

The Republican Party has made the essentially liberal Trump take stands that resonate solely to a dwindling minority of conservative euro-ethnic voters. An example of such toxic policies is the morally reprehensible if legally tenable (forcible and often permanent) separation of thousands of non-euro parents from their children at US border posts. Had Trump listened to Melania and Ivanka rather than to Mitch McConnell in the matter of separating families. Or had he taken his predecessor’s advice and retained Obamacare after making a few changes and renaming it as Trumpcare, both he as well as the Republican Party would have gained. However, the latter is in danger of being made a serial loser because of the extreme elements within it that are seeking to impose a “Hard White, Hard Right” social agenda on a country that is increasingly becoming more tolerant and liberal. This is despite decades of bad policy crafted by the Wall Street-Beltway partnership on the lives of those US citizens who are not millionaires.

Trump is opposing the Republican conservatives in some fields, such as in his trade war with China, but are backing them in in social policy to his own detriment Experts on the subject claim that Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, has a mindset certain to overturn Rose v Wade, the Supreme Court judgment which legalised abortion across the US. Kavanaugh has never hidden his Republican affiliations, nor his conservative social views. His champions say that Kavanaugh is among those who were sympathetic to the ironically-named “Right to Life” Irish authorities who denied Savita Halappanavar her request to terminate the pregnancy that subsequently killed her. However, justices of the US Supreme Court have often surprised their backers by adopting stances different from what they back, and it may be that this lifelong Republican jurist may understand the societal uproar – indeed civil war – that would be caused by the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade, and desist from backing such a move should he take office as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.

However, the apprehension that the judge may provide a majority to existing anti-abortion justices on the court make it certain that there will be a contentious confirmation hearing in the US Senate Whether Judge Kavanaugh gets confirmed or not, there may be several defections from his camp to the newly liberalising Democratic Party from within the majority of Euro-ethnic women who voted against Hillary Clinton for Donald Trump. After all, Bernie Sanders is certainly against the Wall Street-Beltway crowd and they against him. Keeping happy the minority “hard right hard white” voters may result in millions of votes moving away from Trump and his party. Both Trump and Modi have in their social policies concentrated on their hardcore base, without considering the fact that such votes would anyway go to them, but that by succumbing to the wishes of their respective fringes so completely in social policy, they are losing the “moderate middle” whose votes are crucial to victory in elections scheduled to take place in both of the world’s biggest democracies in a few months time. 

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Prof. Nalapat on Pak Elections - Sharif the Punjabi will fight Imran a Pak Army proxy (PGurus)

For perhaps the first time, the Punjab political family is going up against the Punjabi-dominated army. Will this be beginning of the collapse of Pakistan? A must watch! 

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Minimum Government is decades overdue (Sunday Guardian)

M D Nalapat

‘Hanging’ the gun used in a murder is about as logical a punishment as it is to try and choke off the few freedoms available to social media platforms in India.

Lynchings have been taking place in India for centuries, the difference being that these days, they are almost certain to get captured on the cameras installed on cellphones. Child lifting is an execrable offence, and used to happen frequently in several cities across India, notably Mumbai during the 1960s, when small children living in mainly makeshift accommodation used to disappear, only to emerge later in distant locations with some of their limbs sawed off, or their eyes gouged out, or their tongues chopped in half. Some had had substances smeared across their bodies which caused eruptions that were horrible to behold, all the better to make people throw coins at such unfortunate importuners so as to make them go away. These days, there are so many other ways of making money that such deformed child beggars appear to have almost disappeared, despite the fact that practically none of those responsible for the systematic mutilation of children so as to set them loose to beg were caught by the police. “Hafta” (or bribes given to the police) being commonplace even during those times, this was no surprise. In these “modern” times, a considerable proportion of child lifting is related either to ransom or to sex trafficking in the very young. Given the uncertainties and delays in the justice system in India, it is not a surprise that some citizens administer on the spot punishment (often capital) to those they suspect of this crime. News reports about child lifters and lynchings appear to have led to some perverted minds posting photographs, locations and other descriptions on social media of individuals they seek to destroy, whether this be because of jealousy, or greed for the property that would be left behind by those lynched on the basis of false reports about them. Expectedly, a call has risen to “lynch” (through suppression or at the least severely controlling) social media platforms.
This columnist is no addict of social media, and does not even know the passwords of accounts that are operated by a few dedicated well-wishers, mainly to disseminate his work. It is as yet more proof of the innovation-smothering nature of the governance system that unlike in China, there is no WeChat, Baidu, Weibo, nor even a Jack Ma in India. There are, of course, some internet companies that do data crunching work for foreign customers, a few of which have parlayed their reputations into ensuring for themselves land and other benefits from the state at very low prices. But there is no domestic counterpart to Facebook, Yahoo! or Google or Microsoft, and the fact that there are brilliant NRIs at the helm of some of these global giants is scant compensation for India’s failure to emulate China in creating its own web titans. Digital India is at present largely a digital colony of the US and a few Chinese companies. However, seeking to suppress them is not the answer, but ensuring an ecosystem where domestic companies can grow to giant size. What would make the difference is when Prime Minister Narendra Modi acts on his promise of “Minimum Government”, by which he presumably means minimal state interference with the lives and occupations of the 1.3 billion citizens of this country. To act against the operation of internet platforms that are used by hundreds of millions each day would be akin to declaring as criminal implements such as a knife or a stick, on the grounds that these are usually the weapons used by those who motivate putative lynchers against their victims. India’s underpaid, overworked police force seems unable to identify and apprehend the few who deliberately spread toxic “child lifter” messages about other citizens on the web, while our justice system continues to remain slow in coming to a final verdict about any crime. Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to eliminate “unnecessary” laws, but left this task to the bureaucracy (which, in its continuing 1870s avatar, seeks to retain all edicts that add to their power and discretion over the citizen). Small wonder that most of the laws that have been discarded are those that are unenforceable because they have lost their relevance decades ago owing to the changes in circumstances that time inevitably brings. Such pruning of dead law is different from cutting away at the many colonial-style laws designed to keep civil society under the heel of the civil service. India is more “corrupt” than Norway because 90% of what is legal in that Scandinavian paradise is illegal in an India still under the jackboot of the 1862 Police Act.
“Hanging” the gun used in a murder is about as logical a punishment as it is to try and choke off the few freedoms available to social media platforms in India despite Pramod Mahajan’s efforts at state control of the internet medium and industry through an Information Technology (IT) law. The legislation he got passed, and which was made still more regressive by the UPA (and left undisturbed by the present government) caused the end of the phase of hypersonic expansion that the IT industry had witnessed since 1989, the year when Silicon Valley discovered Bangalore. It was Jawarharlal Nehru, celebrated as a democrat par excellence, who oversaw changes in the Constitution of India that have been used since then to punish free expression. It is from this 1950s legislative root and its offshoots that a climate of intolerance to dissent has grown in India side by side with rituals such as the screening of the National Anthem in cinema halls even during peacetime. It is from the longstanding absence of an accommodative attitude towards the “other” (including, during the UPA days, those who opposed appeasement of Wahhabism; and these days, citizens who have a taste for bovine meat) that intolerant strains of public conduct have multiplied. The mass lynching of a human being is an act of terror, and should be treated in law and by the police as being the equivalent of ISIS recruits cutting the throats of their captives. It is not the medium nor even the message that is responsible for the eruptions of barbarity that we see captured on cellphones in India, but a mindset nourished on the restrictions, regression and restraints that have continued with state patronage to remain commonplace in India even after the colonial era. The time to fulfil the promise of “Minimum Government” is long, long overdue.

Friday, 6 July 2018

John Bolton needs to get real (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat

THE favourite animal in Atlanticist societies is the domesticated dog. The animal is wholly dependent for its sustenance and indeed survival on the human master (or mistress). It shows the deep springs of its (actual or feigned) gratitude by wagging its tail and repeatedly licking the master at every opportunity. The domesticated dog is slavish and wholly non-threatening, an ideal companion for tens of millions across both sides of Atlantic Ocean. The operative word is non-threatening. Both Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi rendered themselves so by surrendering the WMD in their possession. However, they still behaved as though they were equals of the members of Atlantic Alliance who took away their deadly weaponry.
Saddam Hussein had (most probably falsely, according to “Reporter”, the autobiography of the brilliant journalist Seymour Hersh) been accused by British and US intelligence agencies of having launched a conspiracy to assassinate “Poppy”, not the plant grown in such profusion in Afghanistan but the term used by George W Bush when referring to his father George H W Bush. Hence, although distracted by about a year because of 9/11, once President of the United States, George W Bush made it his life’s mission to eliminate Saddam Hussein, which he finally did in a couple of years, the hanging of the man having been conveniently recorded through a cellphone. Saddam was not obsequious enough, and did not act in the slavish manner expected of him once he had been disarmed after he foolishly invaded Kuwait, so it was without dissent that he was eliminated. As for Kaddafy, even after giving up his WMD stockpile and being at the mercy of NATO thereafter, he used to growl at Atlantic Alliance, including at the United Nations. Such lese majesty had to be punished and it was.
Gaddafi and his regime were bombed out of office and the man himself was (again to the accompaniment of video recordings) sent to the Day of Judgment in a manner that would make the word “barbaric” appear to be a severe understatement. Images of his capture and execution were met by cackles from Hillary Clinton, David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy, the three responsible for the Libyan change of regime which took place in 2011. While the operation was going on, this columnist had on several occasions warned that NATO’s action in Libya would provoke a flood of refugees into Europe, together with hundreds of individuals radicalised enough to set up terror modules within the EU. Such warnings were ignored, as views coming from outside the Atlanticist lobby usually are by the incestuous, navel gazing planners and strategists of an alliance that has lost its primacy to Asia since 1997.
John Bolton is a US patriot but has had far too much exposure to Europe and way too little to Asia. Hence the disconnect from reality of some of his views, such as on North Korea, the only way to get Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un to irretrievably surrender his nuclear and missile assets and capability would be war. While such a conflict would have been relatively painless during the period in office of President Bill Clinton, the potential cost in human lives and treasure climbed steeply by the close of the second term of President George W Bush. His successor ducked the issue, refusing both war as well as peace, thereby leaving a very limited menu of choices for President Donald J Trump. Although Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe apparently believes that going to war against Pyongyang is still a desirable option, it is doubtful of millions of those who voted for the LDP in previous elections would support that party under Abe were they to realize that close to 500,000 Japanese would be casualties of a war with North Korea.
Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has shown extraordinary skill in accelerating his country’s nuclear and missile programme to a stage where an attack on the DPRK by the US and Japan (South Korea under Moon Jae-in is unlikely to join such an effort) would lead to a minimum of two million casualties in the region, including hundreds of thousands of US citizens in Guam and the Philippines. Shrewd number cruncher that he is, President Trump has given primacy to an effort to convert the DPRK from a threat to an opportunity, by signalling peace and friendship rather than war. If the US and Japan (South Korea has already made that choice) wish to avoid a war that could over time ( given the effects of radiation) push casualty figures to 3.5 million, the only option is to establish a friendly relationship with Pyongyang. Prime Minister Abe, a fervent patriot devoted to making Japan great again, should encourage Japanese companies to invest in North Korea, thereby lowering to insignificant levels any situation where Japan could face a second nuclear strike after 1945, this time from the forces commanded by Supreme Leader Kim. John Bolton forgot that he was not talking as a television talk show star but as the National Security Advisor of the United States when he spoke of the “Libyan solution” being applied in the case of North Korea.
From that moment onwards, any chance that the Kim regime would agree to surrender its WMD stockpile fell to a level indistinguishable from zero. The US NSA still seems to be living in a pre-2011 world. Where promises of safety made by the US in exchange for WMD stockpiles was believed. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton destroyed that trust by the manner in which she went after Gaddafi despite the loss of trust in US promises created by George W Bush going after Saddam Hussein in a gesture to “Poppy”. President Trump can ensure that Pyongyang morph from a threat into an opportunity by ensuring that obstacles are not placed in the way of South Korea (and hopefully Japan and India, besides other countries) entering into business linkages with Pyongyang. The more these are, the lower the risk of a conflagration that could turn nuclear within days.
The period in history when Asian rulers behaved the way domesticated dogs do to their masters is over, especially in East Asia, where the countries of the region are now equal to Europe in their commercial prowess. The defining quality about Donald Trump is that he understands the real world. While taking ultra-tough positions in the beginning stages of a negotiation, he moves from that with finesse, the way he has on North Korea. As Trump’s National Security Advisor, it is time for John Bolton to get real and understand that the path he claims is possible has been shut by the mistakes made by the Sarkozy-Clinton-Cameron trio. These are the three responsible for the migration crisis that is overwhelming Europe, and yet few understand their responsibility for the deeds which resulted in the flood of refugees into Europe from North Africa and the Middle East.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Stop mothballing Priyanka and Varun (Sunday Guardian)

M D Nalapat

Holding a new generation guilty or responsible for the sins actual and perceived of their ancestors makes no sense. We need leaders wedded to 21st century mindsets.

What decided the last Lok Sabha verdict was the 2009-2014 record of the Manmohan Singh government, along with the public perception of Congress president Sonia Gandhi as an individual more concerned with securing the future of her Italian relatives than the 1. 26 billion people of the country of her in-laws. The 2019 Lok Sabha result will hinge on the record of the Narendra Modi government during the previous five years, including its lack of success in prosecuting and sending to prison any central-level leader of the UPA, a formation that was relentlessly labelled as corrupt beyond imagination by Modi during the 2014 election campaign. Either the UPA leadership was not corrupt, and only falsely labelled as such by the BJP, or the new government is unable or unwilling to enforce accountability for past misdeeds. Add to that negativity a plunging rupee, a tax system still anchored to the colonial “squeeze the natives” model, and the continuing control by the state of most aspects of a citizen’s life. All these make it more and more likely that the next government will be a collection of parties united by their desire to send Modi into retirement, exactly as disparate groups came together in 1977 to ensure an “Indira Hatao”. Prime Minister Modi has asked the people to give him time till 2022 to fulfil the promises he has made, but to those who are at the lower end of the economic pyramid, even a week is too long a time to wait for succour to arrive. Modi will need to do more in the next six months than he has during the previous 49, not speaking on the stump but working in his office, or the BJP will go the way the Congress Party did in 1989.
Should Modi’s party return to the opposition benches in May 2019, it could make a comeback in 2024 if the new government retains the UPA policy of selective communalism and statism. Interestingly, younger leaders such as Akhilesh Yadav and Telangana CM KCR’s talented son and daughter seem to have understood the depth of the hunger for change of the electorate. Rahul Gandhi had given rise to expectation that he would adopt a course different from that of his predecessor, but lately seems to be reverting to his UPA-era role of being led by Sonia Gandhi, and thus not finding the energy or the inclination to move beyond her 1930s “Cambridge socialism” so as to lead the charge towards a 21st century makeover of his party. Rahul ought to lead campaigns such as the abolition of triple talaq or universalising the teaching of English in primary and secondary schools. He ought to press for lower taxes and an end to Babu Raj. Such a policy transformation would include an effort designed to do away with several colonial-era laws and practices, bringing back freedom of choice in diet, dress and lifestyle to all, and avoiding Sonia Gandhi’s indulgence towards Wahhabism. That Rahul Gandhi still declines to publicly back the abolition of triple talaq or the building of the Ram temple are signs that the policy clouds of the Congress past still hang over the present. Unless this changes, the Congress Party will not reach the 150 Lok Sabha seats the party can secure were it to walk away from the errors made during the UPA era. An example of how lost opportunities are hurting the party is the lack of a role given to Priyanka Gandhi, who would be an immense asset to her party, having as she does much of the charisma of her paternal grandmother. Thus far, Priyanka has scarcely been deployed by the Congress Party, although those who say that this is because Italian (and Indian) mothers prefer sons to daughters in positions of responsibility may be wrong. Certainly her husband is not a poster boy for Gandhian values, but even should the Modi government find the will in the short time it has left to make Robert Vadra accountable for past transactions, this will not damage Priyanka’s political potential, as she has a standing within her party and the country independent of her spouse. Perhaps Rahul needs to show that he is no Manmohan Singh, but the actual and not the notional leader of his party, by ensuring a role for Priyanka that matches her capabilities.
The Congress Party is not the only formation ignoring obvious talent. Varun Gandhi has shown his qualities through the systematic way in which he has joined in the public discourse on policy. Several of the points made in his writings and speeches are worthy of implementation, while the MP’s personality matches that of his father. Even during the worst period of his life (just after the 1977 defeat of his party), Sanjay Gandhi had a presence and a leadership style that awed his contemporaries. The history of his party would have been different if some unseen force had not filed away at the control wires on his aircraft so that they snapped after a few tugs of the joystick, sending the small aircraft into a death-dive. “Each One Teach One” or “Plant More Trees”, not to mention overpopulation or the abolition of Soviet economic models, remain as relevant in 2018 as they were in 1973 when Sanjay first expounded on his vision for India, although it must be added that several of the methods adopted by his acolytes were unpardonable. Varun has the zeal and magnetism of his father, and it is the BJP’s loss not to make much better use of such qualities in its youthful MP. For example, by ensuring a Rahul Gandhi-Varun Gandhi battle in Amethi during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and in the interim, recognising rather than ignoring Varun’s potential within the party organisation. Holding a new generation guilty or responsible for the sins actual and perceived of their ancestors makes no sense, and hopefully both Varun and Priyanka (not to mention Rahul) will accept that past precedents need to be replaced with ideas relevant to the people and the times of the present. India has been searching since decades for leaders wedded to 21st century mindsets and methods, a quest that continues. 

China joins U.S. and India against Pak terror funding (Sunday Guardian)

M D Nalapat

Turkey hosts leaders of many groups tethered to violent solutions to political problems. Indications are President Erdogan gave command to ‘stand by Pakistan come what may’.

The “Wuhan Spirit” ensured that China joined with India, the United States, Russia and the European Union in rejecting the bid of Turkey to take Pakistan off the “Grey List” of terror funding of the 37-nation Financial Action Task Force at its plenary meeting in Paris last week. The Pakistan delegation sought the support of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, China and Turkey to be taken off the Grey List of countries that have made unsatisfactory progress in stopping terror funding. Should Islamabad not show visible progress in stopping terror funding within 15 months, it will be placed on the terror Black List, which at present includes only Iran and North Korea. The Pakistan delegation argued that “Muslim nations should stand together” against any move by FATF to place “the world’s second largest Muslim country” on the Grey List, aware that it was only a short step from there to the Black List, which would make it mandatory for the world’s significant trading nations to impose financial sanctions on Pakistan. Inspired by the fight-back against Wahhabism by Saudi Arabia under the direction of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and the rejection of extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood by another important Muslim country, Egypt, the GCC rejected such lobbying and pointed out that Muslims themselves have been the worst victims of terrorism and therefore should unite in support of moves to choke off funding to terror groups.
Interestingly, Turkey has found itself on such a list on multiple occasions, and now hosts the leaders of several groups tethered to violent solutions to political problems. Soundings within Ankara indicate that President Erdogan himself gave the command to “stand by Pakistan come what may” out of worry that the same label may get affixed to Turkey. Under President Erdogan, as many as 15 armed extremist groups, active mostly in the Middle East, have substantial segments of their leadership resident in Turkey, including two groups associated with the Pakistan army’s ongoing campaign of terror against India.
Although several calls were made from Rawalpindi GHQ to the headquarters of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) in Beijing to ensure that China joined with Turkey in getting Pakistan dropped from the Grey List, now that President Xi Jinping has taken charge of the “India Account” (the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in the case of China), it was not possible for pro-Pakistan voices in the PLA to join hands with pro-Pakistan, India-phobic elements in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Beijing to make the Chinese delegation at the FATF plenary side with Pakistan at the expense of those countries that were longstanding victims of Pakistan terror groups. Saudi Arabia in particular had been lobbied very hard by the Pakistan delegation at the plenary meeting, but that country stood behind India in the matter of ensuring that Pakistan was on the Grey List. Although as yet the pro-Pakistan lobby in the PLA is blocking UN action against certain leaders of Jaish as well as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, at the Paris meet, the Chinese delegation did not demur when these entities were all included in the list of organisations to which funds should be cut off totally, no matter the fake names they operate by. Although the Pakistan delegation swore, for example, that funds to Hafiz Saeed as well as his media access have been cut off, during 2015 and 2016 there were nearly 70 Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) public rallies in Pakistan, almost all of which was reported by the Pakistan media, which is known in its reporting to go by the wishes of the ISI. On average, there were nine violent incidents per month in Jammu & Kashmir that were caused by those sent across the border from the well-funded terror training camps in Pakistan. Of course, the JuD has now morphed into the Tehreek-e-Azaadi-e-Jammu & Kashmir (TAJK) from mid-January last year. And while Hafiz Saeed has been “detained” in 4-star comfort, both Abdul Rehman Makki and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi (both designated as terrorists by the US) remain free to roam across Pakistan and recruit impressionable youths to their terror outfits, the destructive purpose of which gets described by LeT and JuD leaders publicly in speeches every day. As for Saeed, while still technically in detention, he gave a live press conference outside the JuD headquarters to 11 media channels, in each of which he threatened violence and mass terror in India. Saeed continues to reside at 4 Chauburji, Lahore, and runs a network of colleges and hospitals that receive money from Pakistan and outside, especially the Middle East.
The LeT still operates not only in India but in Europe and Afghanistan, and there are reports that it is setting up a base in the US. Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FiF) has now spread to 13 countries, including Turkey, Indonesia, Myanmar, Somalia and Yemen. Terror groups active in Pakistan and from there to other countries include TAJK, FiF, HuNM, ISIS, HuD, JeD and the various strands of the Taliban. It is unlikely that GHQ Rawalpindi will stop funding such auxiliary organisations in the 15 months’ grace period FATF has given it. Thus far, the Pakistan army was confident that China would block action against it as a sponsor of terror, no matter what it did in every country except of course China. However, the Wuhan Spirit created by the Modi-Xi discussions has ensured that Beijing joined hands with India and other countries to hold Pakistan to account for its use of terror as a weapon of war. China being on the same page as India on the issue of terror factories and their funding during the Paris plenary, shows that Xi will no longer allow certain elements in the military to blindly back Islamabad at the expense of China’s reputation as a fighter against the terror factories of the world, many of which operate from Pakistan.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad creates history (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat

MOST analysts assume that the restrictive practices that had been the norm in Saudi Arabia until King Abdullah Al Saud and thereafter Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman took charge had been part of the country’s history from the beginning. In much the same way, they saw as “natural to the Afghan people” the societal mores enforced during the period when (with US support) the Taliban controlled 86% of Afghanistan. The fact is that Afghanistan was a modern, moderate country in line with the wise example set by Prophet Mohammad, who showed by example his respect for women as well as for those who belonged to faiths different from that which had been revealed to him. Only when he was engaged in a war (and this did not happen very often) was the Prophet constrained to adopt the practices needed to ensure victory over those seeking to destroy him and his rapidly expanding flock. There were Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists living peacefully among their Muslim neighbours, especially in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan.
The Pashtuns in particular were known for their liberal and tolerant spirit, changes taking place only after the CIA intervened in favour of Wahabbism the way the agency had in Saudi Arabia after Ayatollah Khomenei took over power in Teheran in 1979 and directed his fire at the US and Israel. Not even secretly, Saddam Hussein was encouraged to attack Iran soon afterwards, and supplied even with chemical weapons for the purpose by the US and the UK. Of course, after he invaded Kuwait, Saddam was a marked man, finally getting defeated in 2003 on the pretext that he had supplies of WMD that both London and Washington knew were not there, else they would not have dared to invade the country with hundreds of thousands of troops but confined their actions to the air. Nearer home, during the period when Zahir Shah was King of Afghanistan, women were wholly free to adopt the dress and lifestyle they chose.
It was only after the Soviet invasion that first the Carter and later the Reagan administration in Washington gave open backing to religious fanatics eager to rid the country not only of the Soviet invaders but of anyone else who did not subscribe to a restrictive interpretation of the faith that placed severe limits on human conduct and reduced the people to a lowly status when compared with the Taliban rulers, who even weeks before September 11,2001 were welcome visitors to the US State Department as well as,on occasion, the Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. Most of the trips made by Taliban representatives to the US were funded either directly by the US administration or paid for by GCC states at the request of US officials. It was only after 1979 that Wahabbism grew deep roots within Saudi Arabia, a transformation that had the blessings of the US and the former ruling power, the UK. It was when King Abdullah took over the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2005 that the lavish financial assistance given to Wahabbi institutions was slowed down and the rigid constructs of Wahabbi societal norms were slowly relaxed.
The King’s death ten years later gave rise to fears that the re-entry of Saudi Arabia into the comity of nations with a moderate ethos would get halted. However, the opposite has taken place. Almost as soon as he was appointed Crown Prince by King Salman (the successor to King Abdullah), Muhammad bin Salman accelerated the de-Wahabbization of Saudi Arabia. Initially, this met with opposition from those whose bank balances and lifestyles had prospered as a consequence of the annual flow of billions of dollars to Wahabbi institutions. However, the Crown Prince did not lose his nerve but took on the Wahabbi establishment with full force, backed by his father King Salman Al Saud, who saw in the youthful prince an individual with the qualities needed to ensure that Saudi Arabia smoothly enter into the 21st century from the 16th. Wahabbbis and their global backers have created a perception that the overwhelming majority of Muslims subscribe to their narrow – and wrong – interpretation of a faith based on the qualities of compassion, beneficence and mercy.
Analysts and commentators in the US and the UK in particular were at first dismissive of both the intentions as well as the degree of success of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in his efforts at returning his country to the moderate values that were the norm before Wahabbism was given a cortisone boost by external agencies. However, it must be said that President Donald J Trump has from the start given the Saudi Crown Prince full backing, and this has been an important factor in his success. Hopefully the Crown Prince will extricate Saudi Arabia from its external conflicts (such as in Yemen) and concentrate on driving Wahabbism away from Saudi Arabia. Success in this task will change the history of not merely the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but the entire world.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

BJP top leaders holds Press conferences across India to highlight the darkest period 'Emergency' (NewsX)

The BJP today is observing a black day across the nation to mark the anniversary of emergency imposed in 1975 by the then PM Indira Gandhi. Prime Minister Modi launched a scathing attack on the congress and said that the emergency was imposed for one family's hunger for power. Other BJP top leaders will holds press conferences across the country to highlight how it was the darkest period of independent India. Meanwhile Vice President Venkaiah Naidu has said that the emergency must be taught as a part of school curriculum to sensitise youth towards the darkest phase of Indian history.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

NewsX Global Environmental Conclave begins; Professor Nalapat speaks on environment (Sunday Guardian)

NewsX in association with Sunday Guardian brings to you global environmental conclave today. Various issues like environmental sustainability, role of PSU's in environment and climate change, global impact of pollution will be taken up at the conclave. HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, filmmaker Mike Pandey, MOS Jitender Singh are expected to attend.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Freedoms are essential for economic growth (Sunday Guardian)

M D Nalapat

The many obstacles to freedom of speech and choice in India need to be dismantled.

Once the BJP secured a majority in the Lok Sabha on 16 May 2014, several thinkers from what gets described as the “saffron camp”, and who earlier had been dismissed as lightweights, found a new prominence. For decades, they had pointed out errors in the history books of the post-1947 period, which literature in essence is similar to those used during the period when it was the Union Jack and not the Tricolour flying above the top of Raisina Hill. However, they then exhibited the same error of seeing certain other historical events through rose-coloured lenses. For the “saffron” scholars, the period before the Muslim invasions and European conquests of the Indian subcontinent were a golden age. They were not. Several of the rulers of that period were venal, repressive and incompetent, while many had social views as regressive as those earlier held by Manu, whose edicts about women in particular were later adopted wholesale by Abdul Wahhab in his wanderings within the Nejd desert of what is now Saudi Arabia. More than 85% of the population of the land of our ancestors was disallowed by considerations of “caste by birth” from taking up arms to defend their territories against invasions. Once an individual’s caste got determined by birth rather than by occupation, the ossification of society commenced, rendering it easy prey for invaders from Persia, Central Asia, Afghanistan and the Arab world, not to mention later conquests by the European powers. If pre-Mughal India had been the paradise of justice and plenty described by those who simultaneously (and correctly) point to the atrocities committed on the people during the past millennium by outside invaders, it would never have collapsed to armies that were, culturally and materially, substantially below the levels reached by their domestic conquests.
After freedom was secured in 1947 (after the British lost confidence during 1944-46 that the “native military” would for much longer go against their own people to protect the colonial ruler), the Union of India was a shadow of what British India had been in terms of territory and influence. From the Arabian Sea to the Himalayas to the Arakan, the primacy of Delhi shrank and rapidly disappeared once those who had spent years leading the fight for Independence from British-era jails took charge. A factual history of the past millennium needs to replace the nursery tales created by Nehruvian historians, but a similar candour is needed in examining the faults in the society and politics of what came before, during what the nursery tales (this time of the “Right”) term as India’s Golden Age.
Wahhabis regard as blasphemy any deviation from the line taken by them on events and personalities, and so do those who have driven away the writings of A.K. Ramanujan from college shelves because he gave a version of the Ramayana different from that favoured by self-appointed “protectors” of the name of Lord Ram. By such actions, they are belittling the glory of one of the greatest figures in history, a life that ought to be taught in every school in India for the insights it offers. The historical reputation of Lord Ram does not need such epigones as its champions. Lord Ram’s glory can easily withstand critical assessments. Behaving the way Wahhabis do in seeking to stop differing interpretations of Lord Ram will only recreate the social faultiness which a millennium ago caused our land to succumb to invasions. Rather than strengthen it so as to enable India to take its place as the Third Superpower, after China and the US, censorship and intolerance to opposing views and lifestyles will weaken India. The only way policymakers in our country can ensure employment and income levels sufficient to move the economy into the Middle Income range within a generation is to generate a manifold expansion in the Knowledge Economy. This requires the abolition of the constrictive framework that has been created for education in India. But this would not be enough. It was its relatively liberal traditions that led to the success of Bangalore as an Information Technology hub, just as it is the relaxed societal atmosphere at NRI-filled Silicon Valley which helps ensure its dominance in the global Knowledge Economy table. Such should be the ruling ethos and ecosystem in India.
Rather than flex their muscles against helpless individuals, such imitators of Wahhabi mores need to concentrate on the forces that seek to break (or at the least severely weaken) India. Among them are groups which work through agitations and propaganda to prevent the mining of coal, iron ore, copper, uranium and rare earths within the country. It is very likely that the copper plant in Tuticorin that got shut down after protests was operating in a manner that added substantially to pollution. If so, the state government ought to have temporarily taken over the company and ensured cleaner processing of raw material rather than allowing it to be closed. Its shutdown means more copper has to be imported from outside the country, the way coal is in a country nature has endowed immense resources of the substance with. Madushree Mukherjee has written a book (Churchill’s Secret War) that ought to be taught in classes across the country rather than the fiction spewed out by Nehruvian historians. She shows how British rule changed India from a manufacturing hub into merely a producer of raw materials. Several shadowy groups operating in India seek with anti-industry rhetoric and activity to prevent even raw materials from being extracted in this country, much less manufacture.
Whether it be the effect on press freedom of the ease with which criminal defamation cases can get filed or the manner in which Saudi-model crackdowns occur on those adopting a diet or lifestyle different from those choices favoured by zealots, there are still too many obstacles to freedom of speech and choice in India. These need to be dismantled, not simply because that is the moral thing to do, but because such is the only way individual initiative can flourish in India the way it does in the countries to which Indians are forced to flee to ensure more productive lives than India’s colonial governance system makes possible.

PGurus with Prof Nalapat on US N Korea summit, US Trade sanctions on China and India (PGurus)

PGurus with Prof Nalapat on US N Korea summit, US Trade sanctions on China and India. Also discussed are the extent of Wahabism in the Pak Army and its consequences.

Trump and Xi lock horns over global primacy (Sunday Guardian)

M D Nalapat

Trump knows that it is Beijing and not Moscow that needs undivided attention ‘if the US is to ensure that it remains the globe’s largest economy’.

Almost the entire mainstream media in the US dislikes Donald Trump, and it shows. Television news reports, talk shows and newspaper commentary are filled with a toxicity towards Trump that is reminiscent of the vitriol directed against Chief Minister Narendra Modi from 2002 to around 2012, the year when he became a serious prospect for the Prime Ministership of India. The abuse did little to damage Modi’s electoral prospects in his home state, and the constant level of negative commentary about Trump in the midst of an improved performance by the US economy is proving unable to reverse the steady rise in the approval rating of the 45th US President, which may soon cross the politically significant 50% mark. The Democratic Party has yet to recover from its folly of having been forced by the (still dominant) Clinton personal and political machine to reject Senator Bernie Sanders as the party’s nominee for the 2016 Presidential contest. Given the atmosphere in the US during that year, Hillary Clinton was certain to lose to Trump and Sanders to win. The US would have changed under a President Sanders in a manner as comprehensive as it is during the tenure of President Trump, but in a wholly different direction. However, on the issue of dealing with a rapidly nuclearising Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), it is likely that Sanders would have trod much the same conciliatory path that Trump has been taking, except that in the latter’s case, his actual objectives and strategy remain a secret to all except the President himself and a handful of his confidants, many of the closest of whom are outside government, and most of whom have to date remained outside media attention. Indeed, those who have been written about in the media as being “close” to Donald Trump have usually found their welcome significantly reduced once such flattering reports come out. Influenced by an overwhelmingly hostile media across both sides of the Atlantic, the global perception about President Trump is that he changes his mind often and lacks either vision or a well thought out plan of action that could fulfil his stated objectives. The reality is that Trump does indeed have both a vision as well as a plan designed to ensure its fruition, but covers up both through camouflaging them with tweets and statements that deliberately confuse and mislead his audience, including the countries or the interests that he is targeting. Those close to him say that he has a “laser focus” on objectives that are hidden from public view, and among the most consequential of these is to repeat what Ronald Reagan did with the USSR, this time in the case of the People’s Republic of China. With an eye on trendiness and potentialities, Trump “has been aware for over eighteen years” (in the words of an individual who has had contact with him even after 20 January 2017) that “the only threat to the continued primacy of the US in the global order is China”, especially now that Xi Jinping, a leader in the transformational mould of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, has established firm control over the Chinese Communist Party and through that, both the administration as well as the military in what is on track to soon being the world’s largest economy.
The ecosystem of the Washington Beltway consists of a dense matrix of think tanks, consultancies and state, as well as private agencies staffed by “experts” who have devoted decades of their lives to “understanding issues” from the 1940s perspective of the Atlantic Alliance. Although global geopolitics has reduced the significance of the European side of the Atlantic and at the same time steadily increased the importance of the Asian side of the Pacific, those with cosy sinecures within the Beltway remain moored to the 1940s worldview, exactly as do the international institutions set up during that period, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, NATO and the IMF. All four have at the core of their control systems the countries forming the Atlantic Alliance, an aberration that continues mainly because US policymakers continue to think and act as though the post-1945 world still exists, and not the world after the firebreak caused by the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, the event which first gave a glimpse to the international community as to the identity of the Second Superpower.
Had India post-2014 adopted the “Minimum Government” model promised by Narendra Modi in his 2014 Lok Sabha electoral campaign, by now its annual rate of growth would have crossed the 12% mark and by 2019, it would have been obvious both that Modi would win a second term and that India would soon become the world’s Third Superpower. However, the economic policies and administrative practices of the BJP-led government have in practice been such as to throw both conclusions into doubt. In contrast, the US under Donald Trump and China under Xi Jinping are both transforming themselves at speed, with China outpacing the US in the extent of internal systemic changes. “Digital India” remains a digital colony of the US and China, while “Make Babies in India” seems more accurate a description of the present situation than Make Manufactures in India. Whether in the US or in China, the policy elites of both agree that the immense unlocked potential of India remains locked by a governance mechanism that stifles rather than creates value. The manner of rollout of GST has made Franz Kafka’s depictions of bureaucracy seem a model of simplicity and efficiency, while the less said about the way in which the RBI implemented the 8 November 2016 changeover from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 notes as well as the change in size and colour of Rs 500 notes, the better for those who seek to keep their blood pressure under control. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been badly let down by important elements of his team, but being a large-hearted man, this has not resulted in any adverse impact on their careers. In fact, the reverse has taken place, with several of the “heroes in reverse” of demonetisation and the version of GST formulated by North Block moving on to higher responsibilities. Similarly, those responsible for missteps such as forcing through an alliance between the BJP and the PDP in Kashmir or who persisted even after 2014 with the Manmohan brain-free plan of an alliance of India with Japan, Brazil and Germany to help secure a permanent UN Security Council seat (in fact, the move has almost doomed India’s prospects) either remain at their posts or have moved on to better pastures, thanks to the generous and forgiving spirit that is the distinguishing characteristic of Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi.
“The Europeans are hanging on to the coattails of the US and are dragging us down while pushing themselves up. This must change”, a key confidant of Trumpworld revealed, adding that “the US should not always be giving to Europe but should be getting as well, and this is something US Presidents (before Trump) have not bothered to ensure”. An associate went on to add that “(German Chancellor) Merkel makes much of her surplus from trade from the US, but that does not stop her from constantly attacking US policies and even the President personally in (what she regards as) private gatherings”. At the same time, “to the President in person she (Merkel) is very respectful. This is hypocrisy”. Another serial offender is UK Prime Minister Theresa May, “who talks to her staff in disrespectful terms about the Administration and even the President despite the special relationship between the UK and the US”. A relationship, he added, which President Trump is fully committed to. He pointed out that Trump “early on promised the UK that it would be at the head of the queue in trade agreements”, and that “this is a promise he intends to keep”, although (Prime Minister) May’s often censorious tone has created a distance between the White House and 10 Downing Street. Those privy to the thinking of President Trump say that there exists substantial evidence that elements of the British establishment connived with Hillary Clinton in seeking to damage the Presidential prospects of Donald Trump. “The Clintons have maintained extensive and lucrative contacts, including with the GCC, Russia and China, but the US media and FBI just want to look at the Trump family, “whose own contacts are few in comparison to the Clintons or the Bush clan”, a senior insider complained, adding that “they cannot forgive the President for refusing to be led by the nose the way Obama was for almost all his term”.
If Trumpworld insiders are correct, Donald Trump has “for several years” known that it is Beijing and not Moscow that needs the undivided attention of US policymakers “if the US is to ensure that it remains the globe’s largest economy well even in the 21st century”. The US Head of State is “an old-fashioned patriot whose eyes still moisten when he sees Old Glory (the flag) being lifted”, and “it would be torture to him to watch the US economy take second place to that of China”. While a host of appointments (such as those of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) were made “in a futile staff-directed effort to pacify the Beltway, increasingly Trump is forming around him a team that acknowledges that the primary challenger to US supremacy—in fact, the only serious challenger in exactly 99 years—is China. These include National Security Advisor John Bolton and Trade Advisor Peter Navarro, both of whom have been savaged by the pundits of the Beltway almost as viciously as Trump has been. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while Director of Central Intelligence, “paid particular attention to the systematic manner in which each and every member of the Trump team and family were sought to be approached by individuals linked to the PRC”. According to those in contact with the President, “Pompeo warned the President each time such an approach was made” and in the case of the Trump family at least, “whenever there was such a warning, those close to Trump immediately downsized or gave up entirely contacts identified as potential or actual agents of influence” or “useful idiots of the challenger country” i.e. the People’s Republic of China. Unlike his predecessors, “who allowed their (Atlanticist) prejudice against Russia to dilute their vigil on China”, Secretary of State Pompeo “is entirely on the same page as his boss as to which country needs to be the focus of attention and action”. It may be added that Team Trump “has developed considerable respect for (Chinese Communist Party General Secretary) Xi Jinping for his ruthless determination to ensure that China reaches the top of the global table during his tenure”. During his (by now several) interactions with President Trump, “it became clear that Xi was quick to understand the nuances of an issue and how it could be turned into an advantage for China” in a manner absent from his two previous predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. These Trumpworld fixtures add that “the Chinese leadership has become so confident (of the future ascendancy of their country) that they openly declare their intentions in both manufacturing as well as in technology in words that admit of no other meaning than global dominance for the Chinese”. At the same time, the “unprecedented scale of the Belt & Road Initiative has exposed Team Xi’s ambition to make China the hub of global commerce”, including through making the RMB (or Chinese currency) as ubiquitous in global financial transactions as the US dollar has been since 1945”.
“If the US had acted in the high-minded manner mouthed by President George H.W. Bush after (the events of) 1989 in China and followed a policy of constraining the development of that country rather than shrugging away 1989 as of little consequence, workers in the US would not have undergone the agony of the hollowing out of its manufacturing base to China, which took place during the Bush and Clinton period”, an insider within Trumpworld said. According to him, “Both Bill Clinton as well as the two Bushes (during their terms as President) were indulgent to China and cared not a hoot about the economic consequences of such generosity to US interests”. He added that “if the sources of some of the funds that were made available to the Bush library and private interests of family members, and to the Clinton Foundation, were to be seriously examined by the FBI, some missing dots and dashes in alien influence on US policy may get bridged”. However, “the FBI is desperate to protect the Clintons while forcing the removal of President Trump”. Why? Because of the “deep roots that the Clinton machine has within the agencies, especially the machine’s tactic of assisting in secretly providing jobs and other help to those close to agency personnel, including spouses, mistresses and children”, beneficence that often continued beyond an official’s retirement. “President Trump knows that this is the last chance for the US to reverse the seemingly inevitable climb of China towards global leadership (replacing the US), and he intends to take it, no matter how difficult the path”. Team Trump is aware that Xi Jinping is the most formidable competitor the US has had since the 1930s, and that “efforts will be made by the lobbies active on the East Asian giant’s behalf to scare and shock USG (US Government) away from seeking a less one-sided trading relationship with China”. Already, he added, “a cacophony has gone up of those arguing in defence of the longstanding policy of allowing China to race ahead through taking away our technologies”. However, he was emphatic that “the President will not be deterred, as he shrugs off abuse and always moves ahead doing what he knows has to be done”. The probability is, therefore, that the trade scuffles between Beijing and Washington will intensify.
Recent US policy towards the DPRK (North Korea) highlights the innovative approach of the 45th President of the US, who has thrown away (failed) past precedents in his search for a winning strategy. While there remains a steady drumbeat of demands that Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un denuclearise “completely and irreversibly” (a practical impossibility in the technological age), there may be a default strategy hidden away in the inventive mind of the unconventional businessperson who has been elected to lead his country by the US electorate. This may be to “co-opt Kim Jong Un into being a US ally”, exactly the way skilled diplomacy (initiated during the period in office of Barack Obama) has resulted in a de facto alliance between Hanoi and Washington. Kim is seen as a leader untethered to the ideologies of the past, and a steady warming of ties with the US may result in his modernising the DPRK economy the way Deng Xiaoping did in the 1980s. Such a transformation could come about even if the US were not to participate directly in the North Korean economy, leaving that to South Korea and to other powers such as India that may be eager to tap into the mineral and other resources of the northern part of the Korean peninsula. The calculation is that the more the Kim Jong Un regime gets integrated into the global economy, the less the possibility (or indeed the need) for him to adopt an aggressive line with his neighbours. Even Japan’s approach may change, with the hawkish Shinzo Abe being replaced with a more conciliatory politician in much the same way as Moon Jae-In took over from Park Gun-hye in Seoul. The “Surrender or War” option that Abe favours in dealing with Pyongyang could result in several hundred thousand Japanese citizens getting incinerated in the event of a conflict with North Korea, a reality that may persuade enough Japanese voters to move away from Abe to result in the defeat of the LDP. Because North Korea is treated as an outlaw (and has no other way of securing access to materiel and money than through clandestine and unwholesome methods), its weapons capability may be used as a threat as a consequence of the hostility against it. However, if Pyongyang gets integrated into the world economy (and not just China’s), Supreme Leader Kim’s incentive for hostile action would get considerably lowered. By giving Kim Jong Un unprecedented “face” through the personal meeting, and possibly even a visit to Washington, Present Donald Trump has (a) given Kim freedom of action in place of total reliance on Beijing and (b) shown him the benefits of adopting a benign rather than a threatening demeanour. The Shinzo Abe-John Bolton solution (which like the Iraq or Afghanistan campaigns has no Plan B) would result in a minimum of two million casualties (President Trump’s own estimate is 30 million). Tensions around and within the Korean peninsula have for the first time since the 1950s been brought substantially down by the personal diplomacy of President Moon of South Korea, Supreme Leader Kim of North Korea and, most consequential—indeed indispensable—of all, President Trump of the United States.
Although many of his tactics may be camouflaged in “red herring” rhetoric, his acolytes say that the objective of President Donald J. Trump is clear “in his own complex mind”. It is to retain the Numero Uno title of the US against all comers, most notably the formidable challenger that is Xi’s China. Ultimately, insiders within the Trump ecosystem say that a significant slowdown of the momentum of progress in China could get caused by “smart” policy. And that this will result in a fall in public support for the Chinese Communist Party sufficient to create a mass reaction within that vast country. Hence their confidence that President Trump will (especially if he gets a second term) be for China what Reagan turned out to be for the USSR.