Monday 25 November 2002

The Clash of Civilizations (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Our new 21st century is seeing religion-based extremism and authoritarian attempts at hegemony over democratic entities emerge as the twin threats to international stability, the way Japan and Germany challenged the Western democracies in the 1930s. Deeper than politics, even economics, it is civilisational currents that are determining the likely alliances in this conflict. Each of the four broad streams now extant on the planet has its own characteristics.

These four civilisational streams are: first, Euro-Indic; second, Arabian; third, Sinic; and fourth, African. Each is further divided into tributaries. The Euro-Indic has the most offshoots,including those dominant in India, Russia, France, the Spanish Peninsula, Britain, Turkey, Iran and Germany.
Several earlier manifestations,such as the Greek and the Roman, have effectively disappeared, as have those from other streams, such as the Egyptian. Each tributary contains elements of the others, and indeed significant strands of other streams. For example, African culture has gone deep into European music and dance.
Next in importance to the Euro-Indic is the Sinic,which again is divided into tributaries based in China itself. There are at least three major variants based ton the south, north and north-west of China itself: Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Several other countries, such as Cambodia, Thailand and Laos have a fusion of the Euro-Indic with the Sinic, while Malaysia and Indonesia have evolved a separate tributary based substantially on the Euro-Indic, but incorporating elements from the Arabian.

Monday 11 November 2002

Mind Wars and Iraq (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- After World War I, the great powers imposed a peace on Germany that led to a fresh conflagration just two decades later, one far more virulent in its scope and effects. The coming military campaign against Iraq promises to be a duck shoot, given that country's eviscerated war machine. However, unless equal attention is paid to the "chemistry" of the campaign -- its "mind" factor -- as well as its "mechanics" -- the straightforward military aspects -- the very victory over Iraq may create the conditions for an intensification of the terror war against secular democracies.
This would affect the strategic interests of the democracies worldwide. To paraphrase a phrase from the 1992 Clinton campaign," It's the Mind, Stupid!" Defeating the Iraqi armed forces and toppling Saddam Hussein needs to be complemented by the creation of an atmosphere within the Muslim world that accepts such a success to be in their interests as well.
In other words, the strategy against Saddam needs to be a fusion of mechanics and chemistry .While the first deals with field mechanics and hardware, the second concentrates on the atmospherics and the psychological effects of such actions.
Islamic radicals have attempted to overcome their deficiencies in the "mechanical" with emphasis on the "chemical" in their war against modern civilization. This strategy has thus far been neglected by Western military planners.
In Afghanistan, it was not the air-dropping of peanut butter but the entry of fellow-Afghans into the battle against the Taliban that dried up support for that regime. In a similar way, there needs to be very visible -- and voluble -- Iraqi faces in the campaign against Saddam alongside President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Friday 6 September 2002

The Eagle Spreads its Wings (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Since partial economic liberalization freed the Indian economy from the "Nehru" rate of growth -- 2 percent -- India has escaped from the South Asia box designed for it by China and its former Cold War adversary, the United States.
At the same time, Pakistan, with a real economy nine times smaller, is no longer able to generate enough torque to pin India down through sub-continental squabbles.
In the early 1990s, Kashmir represented around 50 percent of India's security problems. Today, that share of the Pakistani army's project has dipped to 20 percent.
China, insurgent bases in Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh and the danger of proliferating Hindu and Muslim extremist groups has overtaken that unhappy vale, while the Pakistani military establishment appears determined to battle India to the last Kashmiri.
This freedom from fear of defeat in Kashmir has led what I describe as the Indian strategic eagle to spread its wings.
Geopolitically, India approximates an eagle with its torso over the country, one wing-stretching out toward the Middle East and Central Asia and the other positioned over Southeast Asia.
One talon is grounded in southern Africa, while the other locates itself in prospective partner Indonesia.
The head of the eagle is turned toward Tibet and Yunnan, two Chinese provinces with significant past and future cultural and economic synergy with India. 
That eagle is now spreading its wings.

Tuesday 3 September 2002

Indo-Pakistan Nuclear Myth (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Since the mid-1980s, there has been a vigorous campaign by academics in the United States and Europe to say that a "high" risk of nuclear war exists between Pakistan and India. Most of these scholars are "South Asia experts", a school formed in the crucible of the Cold War, when Soviet-allied India ranged itself politically against the United States, while Pakistan did the opposite, as did post-Deng China.
Since the beginning of economic liberalization in the mid-1990s, the rate of economic growth in India has risen from 2 percent during the Jawaharlal Nehru period to nearly 9 percent under Narasimha Rao.
Today, because of the inefficiency of the Vajpayee government, the rate of growth has fallen to 5 percent. India can easily achieve a double-digit growth rate, given a better government.
During 2001 several conferences on international investment pointed out that India was emerging as a better investment destination than China.
The reasons given were that: 1 -- more than 200 million Indians spoke English; 2 -- the country was a democracy with a Western legal and educational system; and 3 -- culturally the Indian people belonged to the same Indo-European family as the West.
The fact is that investment into India began to increase, from $1 billion five years ago to nearly $4 billion now. This is still far below China's huge totals, collectively estimated at $300 billion.

Sunday 4 August 2002

Ending 'Bootleg' Immigration (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

WASHINGTON, India, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- What is inevitable cannot be prevented. It can only be redirected in ways either less harmful or actually helpful.
In the 1920s, several moralistic U.S. politicians enacted The Volsted Act, making the production and sale of alcohol illegal everywhere in American. Predictably, that prohibition led to the rise of nationwide organized crime and the proliferation of bootleg alcohol.
Three decades later, several states in newly independent India attempted the same experiment, only to lose hundreds of citizens through the consumption of illicit brew, and to watch crime syndicates multiply to meet the demand.
Modern demographic trends mandate significant migration into the European Union. Thanks to laws and procedures as unrealistic as Prohibition, traffickers in human beings, as opposed to bootleg hooch, are not in large part supplying the demands for labor, operating mainly out of North Africa, East Europe and the China coast
None of these three regions has institutions and societal habits that compare favorably to those found in western democracy. While most countries in East Europe are now democracies, at least partly, habits of the past five decades continue to infect the elites and the rest of the population -- further effecting their re-adjustment to societies where free choice is taken for granted.
It is not accidental, for instance, that the largely Italian "Mafia" that rule the criminal underworld in the United States and Europe from the 1920's on has, by the late-1990s, been replaced in several key European cities by their "Romanian"," Russian" and "Albanian" counterparts.

Saturday 15 June 2002

India and Russia: With China or the U.S.? (UPI)

M.D Nalapat

MANIPIL, India, June 15 (UPI) -- Under Russian President Vladimir Putin ties between India and Russia have recovered the closeness that was a geo-political given until the Yeltsin years. Before, the Mafia ruled in Moscow and external interests manipulated the two countries into compromising national interests for protection abroad.
Today, India's best friend has recovered from the chaos of those years and is on track to restoring its superpower status and responsibilities. New Delhi and Moscow come as a package. An alliance with the one implies an accommodation with the other.
While the United States is a bi-continental -- in fact, quadric-continental -- power thanks to its superb cultural amalgam of Europe and Asia, Russia is equally so because of geography.
Unfortunately, thus far, the hidden opposition of France and Germany -- eager to retain their shared domination over Europe, a control that would dissolve in the event of Russia's entry -- has prevented Moscow from being offered terms for integration into European structures that are commensurate with its potential.

Saturday 18 May 2002

Sonia to Vajpayee: Anyone but Alexander (Rediff)

Last month, Congress President Sonia Gandhi requested a meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who -- as he has always done with the lady -- promptly obliged. Her message was urgent: the Congress would support any candidate as the eleventh President of India but Dr P C Alexander, the governor of Maharashtra.

Were, as a face-saver, the party to be given the vice-presidential slot, Sonia would ensure Congress backing for Bharatiya Janata Party MP Dr L M Singhvi or former Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Why, even Vice-President Krishna Kant was preferable to Dr Alexander, the mild-mannered administrator who had served Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi for decades, and even named his first child four decades ago after Jawaharlal Nehru.

In 1995, in (a very different) Times of India, this correspondent had said Sonia wanted to become prime minister of India, and that P V Narasimha Rao's refusal to stand down after two years in office (which Sonia had hoped he would do as a gesture of loyalty to the new Empress of the Congress party) would result in open war with her. At that time, my analysis had been disbelieved. Sonia was considered just a simple Indian wife, tending to the 'family' trusts and ensuring that the legacy of the Nehrus was preserved. It took the dismissal of Sitaram Kesri as Congress president to show how wrong these individuals were.

The next year, Sonia encouraged J Jayalalithaa to break away from the BJP by promising to support an alternative government led by a non-Congress leader but containing Congress ministers. As soon as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo withdrew support to the BJP, Sonia became unavailable on the telephone to the very individuals she had been importuning for weeks to bring down the Vajpayee regime. Most of them realized her game plan only when television channels showed a smiling Sonia claiming -- erroneously as it turned out -- she had the 272 MPs needed to form a government. For two years she lay low, but by mid-2001, she was back to planning a second attempt at toppling the Vajpayee regime, this time with the help of that 1978 veteran, Kamal Nath

Prime Minister Vajpayee, it is understood, rejected Sonia's offer and made it clear that Dr Alexander was being considered as a Presidential candidate. The Maharashtra governor has an excellent track record besides a reputation for avoiding politicking. His two sons are both professionals, not businessmen or politicians. While the elder works for the Asian Development Bank in Manila, the younger son lives in India.

Vajpayee need not have been surprised by Sonia's plea. In January, she had assembled a war council comprising party leaders Arjun Singh, K Natwar Singh and Ambika Soni to veto Dr Alexander's candidature. Natwar Singh visited Rashtrapati Bhavan several times, requesting President K R Narayanan to contest a second term, telling him that Dr Alexander was out of grace with Sonia.

Thus far, it is learnt the President has refused to sully his dignity by agreeing to a contest with Dr Alexander, should the latter be the National Democratic Alliance nominee. Except for India's first President Rajendra Prasad, no other President has been granted a second term at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

President Narayanan is in poor health, a muscular ailment preventing him from discharging his duties. Moreover, the President's dislike of the BJP and affinity to Sonia is no secret, a factor that may have weighed with that party in rejecting pleas that he be given a second term.

Despite three meetings with Narayanan to persuade him to contest, Natwar Singh has thus far drawn a blank. The Communist parties are also trying to convince Narayanan to contest a second term, while former prime minister I K Gujral and some Andhra Pradesh leaders are working on Vice-President Krishna Kant's behalf. One powerful media house is rooting for Dr Singhvi, former Indian high commissioner to Great Britain.

The NDA has the advantage in electoral arithmetic. Together with the Telugu Desam Party, the AIADMK, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the NDA has a 126,000 vote margin over the Congress, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Left, and other political entities. The NDA and its friends have around 66,000 votes more than the 50% of the 545,000 votes in the Electoral College that elects the President of India

Since Narayanan is unlikely to get a second term and considering the Maharashtra governor's decades-long association with the Nehru family, Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony and his associate Oomen Chandy tried to mobilize support for Dr Alexander with Sonia. Like President Narayanan, Dr Alexander hails from Kerala. While Sonia kept mum, Arjun Singh ticked off the duo, telling them that the chances of Sonia becoming prime minister would decline sharply if a Christian were to become the next President of India.