Tuesday 30 December 2008

The Road to Terror Runs Through Pakistan (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — The 1989 defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was a tactical victory, but a strategic defeat for the Western alliance. The induced success of the jihadis gave them a boost of vainglory, leading to the expansion of their jihad to the West.

Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and their al-Qaida organization are the unintended consequences of the 1979-87 strategy by former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency William Casey of funding, training and equipping jihadists to fight a conventional force.

Those lessons are now coming in handy for terrorists operating in the Afghan countryside, where NATO is floundering in a manner similar to the 1983-84 travails of the Soviet battalions.

If it can be said that the economic and other costs of the Afghan war helped push the Soviet Union to collapse, it can also be argued by those determined to undermine the West that the immense financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – along with the concomitant speculative rise in commodity prices sparked by the conflicts – are responsible for the apparent meltdown in Western economies witnessed in the latter half of 2008.

Iraq and Afghanistan are theaters separated by conditions on the ground. In Iraq, the policy of occupation has led to an essentially nationalist rebellion against the United States and the United Kingdom – giving the religious Shiite parties an opportunity to secure the political space left empty by the secular nationalists’ recourse to insurgency.

Monday 22 December 2008

Building war hysteria to cover up failure on home front (Organiser)

By M D Nalapat

Kayani wanted an Indian mobilisation. He should not get it. War is not the option, at least for the present. And it is surprising that Senator John McCain sought to generate the sort of hysteria that the Pakistan army was seeking by claiming that the Manmohan Singh government was very close to such a course. 

That an attack on Mumbai was being planned within the highest echelons of the Pakistan military was no secret to the US, Saudi Arabian and Chinese secret services. The Saudi state has traditionally valued the interests of the Pakistan army above those of the 156 million Muslims of India, while the PLA has since 1958 been in favour of any action by any source that it sees as weakening India.

Indeed, even these days, it is mainly affluent Saudis who fund the opulent lifestyles of jehadi terrorists such as those belonging to the LeT. Even in the case of Mumbai, the Chinese and the Saudi secret services kept this information of an impending attack on India to themselves. As for the US, it acted in a half-hearted manner, passing on not the full situation report but a confusing and non-actionable collage of bits and pieces of intelligence on what its sources within Pakistan had learnt about the impending attack.

As in the past, the prime consideration of the CIA was not the saving of Indian lives, but the protection of their friends in Pakistan from exposure as terrorist supporters. However, this time around, the CIA made a mistake that cost several American lives. It assumed that the attacks would once again be carried out in locations frequented only by Indian vegetable sellers, unemployed youth and junior staff in nearby offices. The ISI-friendly intelligence agency of the US did not forecast that the Pakistan army's targets would this time be the business elite of India, the very societal group that has driven forward the India-US alliance forged during the latter phase of the Bush presidency. That in the process of killing large numbers of the Indian elite, the Pakistani terrorists would also identify, isolate and kill nationals of the US, the UK and Israel, for the first time in India (outside Kashmir).

Why did the Pakistan army make its terrorist ancillaries go this far? Clearly, the generals were determined to punish Washington for continously prodding the Pakistan army to take action against its ally, the Taliban. Angered by the constant US pressure to act in less than the present deliberately ineffective way in FATA, senior generals within the Pakistan services led by (the US-approved) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani decided to take revenge on the US and its closest European ally, the UK, by choosing locations where nationals of both countries congregated, the Taj and Trident hotels on Mumbai's waterfront. The training of the "terror commandos", their equipping and the entire logistics of the operation was handled by the Pakistan army, acting through officers "on leave".

The expectation within the Pakistan military was that such a show of vulnerability of their own nations would divert the attention of the US away from its focus on the western border of Pakistan to fight the Taliban towards the traditional Pakistan army project of creating a Talibanised state in Kashmir with US-EU help. In other words, towards a repeat of Kosovo. The Mumbai attacks would be used by the Pakistan establishment to illustrate "the cost of not solving the Kashmir issue" to the advantage of the Pakistan army, and would thus assist policymakers in the US receptive to the Pakistan army in making President-elect Barack Obama keep his promise of pressuring India to change the status quo in Kashmir.

A statement that must rank as one of the most unwise ever made by this otherwise brilliant and charismatic leader, in the context of stability in South Asia. Indeed, a plausible case can be made out that Obama's Kashmir-centric musings on India-Pakistan relations may have served as a strand in the matrix of reasons for launching such a direct attack on the West and friends of the West in India.

Unfortunately for the future trajectory of the battle against terrorism in the region, President-elect Obama (with inputs from Pakistan Army backer Shirin Taher-Kheli and pro-army academics such as Stephen Cohen and Teresita Shaffer) injected himself into the Kashmir cauldron to the satisfaction of the backers of jehad. Neither he nor his principal foreign policy advisor Susan Rice seems to have studied the purport of the numerous and consistent statements and literature of those active in what is clearly a pan-Indian jehad. The jehadi groups operating within Kashmir and now within the whole of India are transparent and consistent in conveying their message: that Kashmir is but the appetizer. The main course will be the rest of India, the population of which will have the option of either converting to Wahabbism or surviving as serfs, as they did during the reign of kings as enlightened and secular as Aurangzeb Alamgir.

As part of their objective of diverting international attention away from their own refusal to take on and help defeat the Taliban, the Pakistan army expected that the Mumbai strike would ensure that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh go the emotional way of Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2002 by responding to the November 26-28 Mumbai attack by another sham mobilisation of troops on India's western frontier. Not only did the 2002 military mobilisation by India have zero impact on the Pakistan army's determination to bleed India to extinction by multiple terrorist cuts, it created an excuse for Robert Blackwill (the US envoy to Delhi at the time) to demonise the country before the international business community as an unsafe investment destination. Although he, as did most other diplomats, were aware that Shri Vajpayee was bluffing and that war was never an option, Blackwill engineered a pell-mell evacutation of tens of thousands of US nationals from India, a step that was duplicated even by the otherwise cool Israelis. By this single act of advertising India as a likely theatre of nuclear conflict, Blackwill did yet another favour to his friends in Beijing, through substantially weakening India's case as a stable alternative investment destination to the PRC. Yet another war scare this time around would have put the finishing touches to the destruction of India's economic capability since 2005 that has been carried out by Sonia Maino's men in the Finance Ministry, SEBI and the RBI.

Fortunately for the country, Manmohan Singh's pacifist nature (which renders him unable to respond with force even if faced with a nuclear attack) for once proved to the correct medicine, as his spokespersons made it repeatedly known that war was not on the table. A mobilisation of troops towards the Pakistan border would have played into the hands of the Pakistan army, which is eager for an excuse to move away from the Afghan to the India border, aware that its policy of talking tough against the Taliban while secretly helping them prevail in the field has become visible even to the most moonstruck admirers in the US and the EU—and these are many—of "Jehad" Kayani and his merry men. Given the propensity of these self-proclaimed "pious Muslims" towards the hedonistic lifestyle, had the US made the UN impose sanctions on the pro-jehad generals in the Pakistan army, most would have abandoned the path of terror rather than forsake the comforts of London and New York. Sadly, rather than be reviled and shunned, "Jehad" Kayani and his team are feted by their very victims.

Kayani wanted an Indian mobilisation. He should not get it. War is not the option, at least for the present. And it is surprising that Senator John McCain sought to generate the sort of hysteria that the Pakistan army was seeking by claiming that the Manmohan Singh government was very close to such a course, when no such impression was conveyed to him. On the contrary, India needs to give upto 36 months (or 24, depending on the frequency and scale of future attacks) to Washington in that ally's efforts to steer the Pakistan military away from its policy of helping jehadis attack India. Should the US fail to achieve such a result during this timeframe, India should launch a war against the Pakistan army. This can be initially confined to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in the first instance, and against military targets only, including of course terrorist infrastructure. Should Pakistan respond by retaliating against India beyond military targets in Kashmir, our counter-attack should be expanded to cover the whole country, again initially with only military targets being selected. Should the Pakistan military at any stage respond with an attack on civilian areas, an all-out offensive should be launched, designed to ensure the shutting down of rail, road, sea and air traffic in Pakistan, to demonstrate the costs of nurturing terrorists. In the unlikely event that a nuclear device will be deployed against an Indian target, the top 10 cities in Pakistan should be automatically and repeatedly bombed with nuclear weapons. Massive nuclear retaliation is the only sane response to such an escalation of aggression by the generals in Pakistan. While India needs to hold its military fire now, the entire country must begin preparations immediately for war with Pakistan within 36 months, should US effiorts fail.

Should Washington fail to defang the jehadi beast that it still believes to be its ally rather than the single biggest present threat to international security, there would be no other option other than war for India, if the country is to avoid the deadly bleed caused by jehadist violence that has been the country's fate since the 1980s, and which has accelerated since Sonia Maino took over its fortunes (in some senses, literally) in 2004. The public in India needs to be prepared for the prospect of a war that could see the end of Pakistan, possibly at the cost of significant destruction in India. However painful this may be, it is nevertheless preferable to suffering jehadi terror indefinitely, and this time, the war needs to end only with the dismantling of the terror camps (in the scenario where the Pakistan army responds rationally to the limited Indian offensive and conducts only a limited response) or the destruction of Pakistan as a viable country (in the event that a nuclear device get used by Pakistan). This has to be the final India-Pakistan war.,nalapat

Wednesday 10 December 2008

The Pakistani Army's Phony War on Terror (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India - Pakistan's U.S.-approved chief of army staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, wanted a less unpredictable personality than Asif Ali Zardari as president of the country. But the crafty equestrian from Sindh insisted on the job, aware that the absence of high office would almost certainly mean either a death sentence or a fresh stint in jail, as Zardari faced several corruption charges.

Since then, "the chief" has seethed as Zardari admitted publicly that the jihadis fighting India in Kashmir were terrorists, and further, that he himself saw no threat from India, thus destroying the army's rationale for consuming more than one-third of the budget. By the time Pakistan's new president said that, like India, Pakistan was committed to a "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons, Kayani had made up his mind that Zardari had to go, and was searching for an opportunity to get him out.

The chief's undiplomatic descriptions of his nominal superior to his intimates have been many and acid, but his personal relationship with U.S. policy gurus has thus far ensured that Washington saw nothing untoward in the clear divergence of views and interests between the chief and the president – or in the chief's private musings about replacing the president. This was Pakistan, after all.

Mumbai 11/27 – the date that marks the midpoint of the three-day terrorist siege in the city – may have shaken the complacency of U.S. and EU policymakers about Kayani's suitability to lead an army touted as the linchpin of the allies in the war on terror.

Monday 1 December 2008

Mumbai 11/27: the Pakistan Army's Alibi (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Since the terror attacks on Mumbai five days ago, key Western intelligence agencies have been shown documented proof that the operation was carried out by squads trained by regular elements of the Pakistan army.

While the field training took place at a farm run by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, fluency in the handling of ordnance was taught at another ISI safe house on the outskirts of Karachi.

Pakistan has done little to create deniability about these connections or earlier links discovered by U.S. intelligence agencies between the ISI and the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

The Pakistan army has made little secret of the fact that the top priority of its intelligence operations is to reverse India’s path toward social stability and economic growth. Still, why were so many tell-tale clues left behind in these attacks that enraged the Indian public and made the world aware that India is the softest terrorist target among the major democracies?

Analysts piecing together the documentation are divided over whether army chief Ashfaq Kiyani was himself in the loop on the Mumbai attacks. It is certain that at least two corps commanders were, however, both of whom provided materiel and arranged training for the 70-odd terrorists tasked with the Mumbai operations.

Their hope was that India would respond to the attacks the way it did to a failed bid to kill members of Parliament in 2001 – by mobilizing troops on the Pakistan border and creating an expectation that a full-scale, conventional India-Pakistan war was imminent. At that time Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's unwise decision to "bluff" the Pakistanis into cooperating with India by the threat of war boomeranged on New Delhi. Foreign missions evacuated their nationals in a panic and business confidence plunged.

Pakistan's Mumbai Alibi (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat 

MANIPAL, India, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Since the terror attacks on Mumbai five days ago, Indian security sources have promoted evidence that the attackers were trained by elements of the Pakistani military.
While the field training took place at a camp run by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, fluency in the handling of ordnance was taught at another ISI safe house on the outskirts of Karachi.
Pakistan has done little to create deniability about these connections or earlier links discovered by U.S. intelligence agencies between the ISI and the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Many analysts see the top priority of Pakistani intelligence as reversing India's path toward social stability and economic growth. Still, why were so many telltale clues left behind in these attacks that enraged the Indian public and made the world aware that India is among the softest terrorist targets of the major democracies?
The hope of those who planned last week's attack was that India would respond to the attacks the way it did to the attack on its Parliament in 2001 -- by mobilizing troops on the Pakistan border and creating an expectation that a full-scale, conventional India-Pakistan war was imminent. At that time Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's unwise decision to "bluff" the Pakistanis into cooperating with India by the threat of war boomeranged on New Delhi. Foreign missions evacuated their nationals in a panic and business confidence plunged.

Monday 3 November 2008

Thank God (if) it's Obama (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — In 2004, this columnist annoyed some of his U.S. friends by rooting for George W. Bush for the U.S. presidency over his rival, John Kerry. The reason was simple: It was the first presidential poll since 9/11, and a Bush defeat would have given oxygen to the fanatics now hiding in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas. They would have ascribed a Bush defeat to no factor other than themselves, as would thousands of others of like mindset.

George W. Bush has his faults – including a blindness toward the deeds of his financial backers – but his pulverization of both the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Saddamites in Iraq ensured that al-Qaida must cross a very high bar to ensure its geographical preservation before taking on the U.S. homeland again. Unfortunately, the gains in Afghanistan are being reversed by a disastrous follow-up strategy.

Kerry would almost certainly have been tested early in his term with a determined probe, if not an actual attack – though the odds that this war veteran would respond less forcefully than Bush may have been close to zero.

By this logic, it may seem preferable for John McCain to become the next U.S. president, for even Barack Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, believes that Obama would be tested early in his term, the way Kerry would probably have been.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Sarkozy and Brown: We cheated, So Trust Us (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — It must be wonderful to believe that the rest of the world shares one's own self-perceptions of omniscience. Weeks after Western financial institutions and instruments cleaned out thousands of clients in the Middle East, China and Russia, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, at last weekend’s Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing, offered Asia a simple prescription: Trust us and follow our lead unquestioningly, so that the non-Western part of the world can earn the tag of being "responsible (to the West) stakeholders."

It is unlikely that Asian governments will follow this advice and pour billions of dollars of their capital into two institutions controlled by North America and Europe – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. After the recent banking meltdown in the United States and the European Union, it is not only small children in the rest of the world who can see that the emperor has no clothes.

What has astonished many in Asia is the way in which Western governments are acting as accomplices to what looks like the perfect crime: the stealing of trillions of dollars in value from pockets across the world. This was done not simply by getting the unwary to invest in assets known to be dubious, but by gerrymandering increases in the prices of commodities, notably petroleum, which has gouged economies such as China and India.
This columnist would like to repeat his advice to the oil economies to install gold statues of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in prominent locations, for it is the policy pushed by that distinguished international statesman that caused oil prices to rise far above what market fundamentals dictated.

Monday 13 October 2008

Will NATO surrender to the Taliban? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — There are indeed parallels between the insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban. Both have brown complexions and prefer to avoid a shave. Both get excitable when challenged, and regard the United States and its military allies as the enemy. However, that is where the similarities stop.

The Iraqi insurgents are overwhelmingly nationalist, usually moderate in their religious views, and have taken to arms to end what they view as a humiliating occupation of their country. In contrast, the Taliban are Wahabbi extremists, who enforce a lifestyle that has nothing in common with the evolving needs of the past 1,000 years. While the Iraqi insurgents are more than 90 percent Sunni Muslims, the Taliban are nearly all Pashtuns, although they have abandoned the moderate ethos and customs of this admirable race in favor of an ultra-Wahabbist lifestyle that places a premium on personal cruelty.

Once General David Petraeus, as U.S. commanding general in Iraq, no longer tried to occupy territory and began a process of handing responsibility to local forces, the anger at the occupation began to dissipate, and so did the ferocity of the attacks on the United States and its allies.

As yet, despite the radicalization caused by the past five years, the insurgents in Iraq are not inclined to impose a Taliban-like state in Iraq. Should U.S. troops withdraw completely within an 18-month timeframe, Sunni Iraq can yet be prevented from going the way of Afghanistan and becoming extremist. Just as the Vietnamese ceased to be a threat to the United States once they got control of their country, so will the Iraqi insurgents, once U.S. and allied troops leave Iraqi territory.

Monday 6 October 2008

Will United States back Kiyani or Zardari? (UPIASIA)

 M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — It is small wonder that Pakistan's army chief, Parvez Ashfaq Kiyani, prefers to dial the number of the ever-obedient (to him) prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, rather than that of the newly elected president, Asif Ali Zardari, who has apparently undergone an epiphany since assuming what is formally the highest office in his country.

Zardari has changed from cue boy of the Inter Services Intelligence – and thus by extension the Pakistan army – to a leader with very different views on the correct path that his country ought to follow. Instead of the endless repetitions of the many "sacred" wars that the military has been touting as justification for taking away one-third of the country's budget – directly and through agencies connected with it – Zardari has given public expression to the view of most of Pakistan's non-Wahabbi majority, that it is time to put aside jihad and concentrate on economic growth.

The reason for such a transformation may lie in the clumsy and continuous efforts of the army brass to prevent the heir to the late Benazir Bhutto’s mantle from assuming any office in "civilian-controlled" Pakistan. Numerous hints, designed to prod Zardari into selecting yet another army pawn as the head of state, failed. So the generals looked toward the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to scupper the move, having given their numerous backers in Washington details about Zardari – details unsuitable for audiences below the age of consent.

None of this seemed to have affected his marriage, however. Interestingly, Benazir Bhutto chose as her consort a man very similar in temperament to her idol, her father Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto. Like his future son-in-law, Papa Bhutto was a playboy with a mercurial disposition as well as an exuberant and sometimes extra-rational belief in his own capabilities. Bhutto too spoke in populist language, even while being unstinted in his taste for the good life. And he too saw the army as the single obstacle to his power.

Monday 22 September 2008

Pakistan's moment of truth (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Founded as it was by a bacon-friendly, whiskey-drinking Muhammad Ali Jinnah, by the end of the 1950s – once almost all non-Muslims had been driven out of Pakistan – the country remained only loosely tethered to the lifestyle encouraged by the ulema, the body of Koranic scholars that has appeared as the indispensable intermediary between believers and God in the Islamic world.

Led by officers trained under the British, the Pakistan army in particular remained secular, although it had used religion in 1947-48 to try and pry loose Kashmir from India, the country to which its maharaja had acceded.

All this changed with Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s fateful appointment of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq as chief of army staff, superseding seven officers, all of whom were better qualified for the job. Bhutto chose Zia on the basis of the fawning missives he used to receive from the general, and the deferential – indeed cringing -- manner in which Zia introduced Bhutto to his men during a prime ministerial visit in 1975.

Such suppleness of spine convinced Bhutto that in Zia he would have a servile henchman. Instead, a year later, the general displaced Bhutto in a coup and executed him shortly thereafter.

Zia, at that time the only Wahabbi general in the Pakistan army, swiftly introduced changes in the institution to bring it in sync with the extreme philosophy of Ibn Wahhab, whose toxic creed had been backed by first the United Kingdom and subsequently the United States as a counter first to Turks, then Arab nationalists and finally, the Soviets. Zia aligned his country firmly with other Wahabbi states, and began to fill the officer ranks of the army with recruits from the numerous Islamic seminaries, or madrassas, that had begun to proliferate in Pakistan during the 1960s.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Racism Trumps Reason at Vienna (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Contrary to the expectations of Congress Party boss Sonia Gandhi and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, last week's special meeting in Vienna of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group ended in deadlock. The meeting had been requested by the United States to approve George W. Bush's quest for a "clean waiver" for the resumption of nuclear trade with India – commerce that had been frozen since India's 1974 nuclear test.

Tellingly, all but one of the countries opposing India were either European, or of largely European stock. The one exception was Japan, a country that prides itself on its people being the "Westerners of the East."

Expectedly, Austria led the Euro-attack against the proposed exemption, reiterating the bloc’s 34-year demand that India be forced to accept full-scope safeguards on all its nuclear facilities, as well as sign on to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Finland, Switzerland and Ireland joined hands with Japan in backing the Austrian stand, even though each had been individually made aware by Indian negotiators that any such conditions would result in India walking away from the deal.

Unfortunately for backers of the deal, reports reaching New Delhi suggest that the Bush point person for the talks, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation John Rood, proved to be less than enthusiastic about securing a clean waiver for India. In this, Rood is following in the path of his predecessor Robert Joseph, who had also been unenthusiastic about the deal. Both are members of the U.S. nonproliferation mainstream that for decades has focused on India – a state that has never proliferated its technology beyond its own borders – while doing little about U.S. policies that have winked at proliferation by Pakistan, China and North Korea.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Will Zardari Follow Musharraf? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — After Pervez Musharraf himself, the individual who will be most nervous at the resignation of Pakistan’s president is the Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman, Asif Ali Zardari. For it was Musharraf – admittedly with repeated prodding from Condoleezza Rice – who offered Benazir Bhutto's widower amnesty from the numerous corruption cases against him in exchange for his party’s support to his presidency.

Zardari, for reasons unknown, declined to take over as prime minister of Pakistan, putting forward a presumed yes-man, Yousaf Raza Gillani, in March.

The new prime minister, a Shiite and a Saraiki-Punjabi, lost less than a week in establishing direct links with the real power center in Pakistan, the army. He made the unusual gesture of personally calling on the chiefs of both the Inter-Services Intelligence and the army. Today it is to Gillani, rather than to Zardari, that military chief Ashfaq Kiyani turns on the infrequent occasions when he wishes to consult the civilian authority. As for the ISI, that instrument of jihad continues to function under army headquarters.

Although he owes his job to Zardari, it is unlikely that Prime Minister Gillani will do more than offer a token resistance to the reinstatement of those judges sacked by Musharraf last year, including the Zardari-phobic former chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhury.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Russia Starts "Lukewarm War" with the West (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — The Soviet Union became a superpower during the rule of Josef Stalin, who terrorized those territories that he did not immediately annex. After the 1939-45 war, the USSR controlled Eastern Europe and challenged the primacy of the United States and its European partners across the world.

But since Stalin’s death in 1953, Moscow has almost always given way when confronted with a resolute Western response. Nikita Khruschev blinked hard in Cuba in 1962, with the United States agreeing only to avoid another invasion of Cuba -- a course that anyway had been shown to be folly a short while earlier -- in exchange for a humiliating withdrawal of Soviet missiles from the island.

Throughout the Cold War, although Moscow enjoyed considerable conventional military superiority in Europe, its forces never once strayed beyond the boundaries set in 1945. Had it done so, the history of Europe may have been different in that such tensions would almost certainly have affected the economic environment negatively.

As it turned out, it was the USSR that imploded economically, drained both by a dysfunctional central-command system as well as by military spending that would have been justified only if the armaments so expensively procured were put to use to secure geopolitical gains.

The Afghan war most exposed the strategic cowardice of the Soviet leadership. At any stage in the decade-long conflict, an attack on Pakistan would have resulted in the immediate drying up of the flow of supplies from across the border to the mujahideen. It is unlikely that the United States and other NATO partners would have risked a flare-up of Warsaw Pact-NATO tensions in Europe by seeking to protect Pakistan from a Soviet assault. Peshawar and other centers of Afghan resistance would have been pulverized by Soviet bombing, and international jihad -- which today has morphed into a severe threat to international security -- would have lost its Afghan-Pakistani sanctuary.

Wednesday 16 July 2008

The China Factor in India's Nuclear Debate (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat 

Manipal, India — On July 22, should India's ruling alliance win its trust vote in Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will go ahead and work out an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. His partners for the past 51 months, the two communist parties, will use their 61 members of Parliament to oppose him – despite Singh having kowtowed continuously to them on economic policy, at the cost of economic reform.

Today, the Indian economy is in far worse shape than it was when he took office in 2004, with government spending out of control, a doubling of the tax burden and a raft of restrictions on private initiative and enterprise.

Why, despite Singh having implemented a "communist lite" program as prime minister, are the two communist parties so anxious to defeat his government and thereby block further progress on the nuclear negotiations begun with the George W. Bush- Manmohan Singh statement on U.S.-India nuclear cooperation on July 18, 2005? After all, the two parties are openly pacifist, having opposed the country's nuclear weapons program since its inception in 1985, and the agreements now being discussed would significantly limit India's freedom of action to build an arsenal capable of responding against a nuclear attack.

Contrary to the reports and commentaries now appearing in the Indian media, the change in stand of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India has little to do with nuclear weapons or energy. It is based on what is perceived – despite ritual denials by the United States and India – to be the principal reason behind the July 18, 2005 accord: the integration of India into the defense architecture of the United States, in the manner of Japan.

Monday 23 June 2008

Mugabe Loses His People (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe represents the other side of apartheid – the forced segregation of races in a country where a single ethnic group dominates the rest. His macho actions against the few remaining European-origin citizens living in Zimbabwe may be psychologically satisfying to those who share his viewpoint. But the fact remains that Zimbabwean whites have been as marginalized and dispossessed as blacks were in South Africa till Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990.

Mugabe's theatrics against the whites carry little resonance among the populace – they have realized that reverse apartheid has made their economic situation worse, not better. While most of the blame for this rests on the commissar-style administration of the octogenarian head of state, it has also been fuelled by the comprehensive economic boycott of Zimbabwe by countries with European-origin majorities.

Having voluntarily handed over power to the majority black population in 1980, Zimbabwe's whites had sufficient moral justification to expect an honorable accommodation with the rest of the population. Instead, they were soon rendered politically irrelevant, and their properties sequestered by armed thugs loyal to the new master of the country.

It is fortunate for South Africa that despite the example set by Mugabe, whites in that country went ahead with democratization a decade later, with somewhat better consequences for themselves than in Zimbabwe.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Will SOFA make Iraq another Gaza? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Although the prime minister of Iraq Nuri al-Maliki has survived physically and politically in his job, he looks unlikely to withstand the blow being administered to his administration by U.S. president George Bush. Once the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) gets signed between the governments in Baghdad and Washington, not only al-Maliki but also other moderate politicians in Iraq could soon become history.

From then onwards, public opinion in Iraq will almost certainly turn in favor of those Shia and Sunni politicians opposed to the pact, creating more followers of Moctada al-Sadr and the former Baathists. Although as yet unity between these foes seems unlikely, the incomprehension of the ground situation in Iraq by Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney may ensure an alliance, albeit tactical and temporary between the Sadirists and the Saddamites.

Just as the effort by the U.S. and the United Kingdom to ensure continued control of Iraq's oil assets will not survive an actual assertion of sovereignty in that country by a homegrown government, nor will the agreement now being foisted on al-Maliki.

Should SOFA be signed in its current form, within months the insurgency will test new levels even while the democratic political space gets evacuated by moderates, in view of public anger at the concessions they would have made to the occupying army.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Send Civilian Aid to Myanmar, Not Military

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Should another hurricane like Katrina hit the United States, perhaps in Florida, and Cuban leader Raul Castro offer to send units of the Cuban army to deliver succor to those affected, the Bush administration may hesitate to allow those units "unrestricted access" to the country.

Similarly, were a typhoon or other natural calamity to ravage Poland, that country's rulers may hesitate to welcome an influx of Russian and Chinese troops, even though these would be bringing with them relief supplies rather than armaments.

Given that regime change in Myanmar is explicitly on the agenda of the United States and the European Union, both should have anticipated the cold reaction of the generals in Myanmar to their increasingly peremptory "requests" to provide relief.

The French are returning home rather than handing over their supplies to countries allowed entry into Myanmar, such as India and Thailand. At least one of the European Union's former colonial superpowers is playing as indefensible a variant of politics as the thuggish and archaic geronotocrats in uniform in Myanmar. These are men hardly likely to flinch from the prospect of hundreds of thousands of their own citizens suffering because of the absence of relief, for their only motivation is self-preservation.

Thursday 15 May 2008

Pakistan's Shotgun Marriage Falls Apart (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Despite substantial effort by the administration of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to ensure a majority for his Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and the Pakistan People’s Party in last February’s general election, it failed. Although cheated of the majority it should have had, Nawaz Sharif's PML(N) ran a respectable second to the PPP.

Although Musharraf sought an alliance between his loyalists and the PPP in exchange for having smoothed the way for the Bhutto clan to resume high office, "friendly advice" from the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, eager to secure unified political backing in Pakistan for its War on Terror, made Benazir Bhutto’s heir Asif Ali Zardari cobble up an alliance between the PPP and the PML(N).

Although the PPP has a Sindhi ethnic base, Zardari appointed a Seraiki Punjabi, Y. R. Gilani, as prime minister. Given his ethnicity and donnish approach to politics, Gilani has very little support within the PPP, in contrast to the more popular Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who is from Sindh. However, this very lack of support means that Gilani is less likely than Fahim to pose a challenge to the control that Benazir Bhutto's husband Zardari wields over the PPP. And being from Punjab, it is expected that he would be able to improve the tally of the PPP in that all-important province, at the expense of Nawaz Sharif.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Why Barack Obama (UPIASIA)

Manipal, India — U.S. policies often affect the globe, and hence the global interest in U.S. politics. Although Australian feminist Germaine Greer may disagree, few in Asia see the possible re-entry of Hillary Clinton into the White House as epochal. Sri Lanka had its two Bandaranaike ladies as prime ministers, India had Indira Gandhi, Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, Turkey Tansu Ciller, Bangladesh the feuding Khaleda-Hasina duo, Indonesia Megawati Sukarnoputri and the Philippines Corazon Aquino and now Gloria Arroyo.

If there has been any significant change in gender dynamics because of these individuals becoming heads of government, it has been too small to notice. While First Lady, Hillary Clinton did not give gender discrimination the priority that she gave issues such as healthcare, and to expect her to change U.S. society, economics and politics -- from a gender standpoint -- in a way that even the formidable British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher could not within her own Conservative Party, may be a trifle optimistic.

In contrast, the election to the U.S. presidency of Barack Obama would signal the true conclusion of the revolution begun by President Abraham Lincoln when he emancipated U.S. slaves in 1863 -- that human beings are one, no matter what their color.

As secretaries of state, neither Colin Powell nor Condoleezza Rice has broken the mould of international opinion, which still regards the United States as being of the same persuasion as Europe, where policies that are racial in substance are the norm. Even in Britain it is far tougher for a nonwhite to reach the higher echelons of the medical and other professions than is the case in the United States. On the continent, Germany has been leading the cry of "Europe for Europeans," aware that ethnicity and not nationality is the core principle at work in fashioning policies related to migration and employment.

Friday 25 April 2008

The Taiwan Effect On Sinic Civilisation

In 1997, when this analyst predicted that the Peoples Republic of China would emerge within two decades as the next economic superpower, the view was dismissed, not least in the PRC itself, whose scholars almost unitedly forecast a much longer period of less exalted status before their country "emerged" on the scale mentioned, if indeed it were to happen at all. Most PRC scholars said that oit would. However, presently several of these same analysts are themselves talking of their country in the very terms used by the aurthor in 1997,"emerging superpower", while observers elsewhere agree on the forecast that the PRC will become the second-largest world economy well before the first half of the present century, and the largest thereafter. In several indices, the PRC has overtaken or is overtaking the US, although it is still behind the most of (the combined totals of) the European Union states. However, these latter still have a considerable distance to go before they can claim to be a unified entity, and the possibility exists of economic turbulence that would lead once again to calls for a dilution in central authority and towards the traditional nation-state. The EU has worked well in good times, but the test of a system is its resilience in the face of substantial adversity, and such a situation has not yet arrived on the continent since the end of the 1939-45 war. Indeed,the entire structure of the EU is designed oin a way that assumes that the prosperity of Europe continues to be a given

Although some would claim that the primacy of Europe dates back to the Greeks and the Romans, the existence of China and India as contemporaneously wealthier civilisations makes such a view untenable. The rise to global primacy of what may be termed "European" ( or Euric) civilisation began during the 17th century AD , and reached its highest point in the 19th. A significant contributing factor was the more equitable social system within the primary powers of Europe as compared to the two giants of Asia, who remained tethered to a feudalism that treated the bulk of their own populations as subhuman. In contrast, many of the peoples of Europe were able to secure greater economic and other rights from their elites, beginning a millenium ago with the Magna Carta in Britain, and thereupon transposed the "subhuman" category onto other peoples. This overlordship of other peoples first became genocidal in South America a half-millennium ago and later spread to North America as well as to Africa and parts of Asia. Such colonialism was ended shortly after World War II, during with Germany imposed on other European states the same conditions of servitude that several European states had imposed on other continents. The frenzy of intra-European bloodlust unleashed by the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in the 1930s ,till their defeat in 1945 weakened both the will as well as the capacity of the major European powers to hold on to their colonies. The war of 1939-45 accelerated the transfer of power to local elites, in India in 1947 and to other lands thereafter

As the remarkable expansion of both knowledge and power within and out of Europe since the 17th century AD demonstrates, the strength and resilience of a society usually moves in the same direction as social justice. For example, the victory of the Greek armies over the more numerous and better-equipped Persian forces in the third century BC owed much to the fact that the Persian armies were composed of slaves with little to lose in the event of the defeat of King Darius, while most of the Alexandrine forces were freedmen, aware of both the rewards of conquest as well as the consequences of being enslaved by the Persian Empire in the event of a military disaster. Had there been an equitable social system in the territories ruled from Persepolis,the morale and motivation of the troops confronting the Greeks may have been as high as was the case within the "holy warriors" of Mahmud of Ghazni when he succeeded in defeating the Indian princes from AD 1001 onwards, despite the latter's considerable numerical superiority. The sense of mission and brotherhood within the Ghaznavid forces contrasted with the lower morale and motivation within the Indian armies, which were mostly composed of press-ganged individuals with near- absent civil rights, because of the caste-based society common within the country. Once caste in India became linked to birth rather than occupation and accomplishment,the fall of such societies became an inevitability. A similar enervation took place in China,where the court and the aristocracy mocked the tenets of Confucius by evolving into a closed and cloistered elite around six centuries ago,the very period when the country turned its back on the rest of the world,despite Zheng He having demonstrated its superiority and reach in his voyages

What this writer has elsewhere described as a "horizontal" rather than a "vertical" view of society, in a chapter on the subject in a volume brought out by the Bar-Ilan university in 2005, has been a key component of the success of the Euric peoples in establishing first their primacy and subseqently their dominance over the rest of the world. The extension of democratic traditions to other cultures and the decaying of feudalism and birth-based barriers to societal progress such as ethnic,religious or caste criteria, has resulted in an enhancement of enlightenment within the Sinic and the Indic cultures, which together represent two unbroken streams of civilisation, centred within China and India respectively. However, as yet this re-awakening of potential is in a nascent stage, as shown by the fact that as late as 2007, more than nine out of every ten scientific patents originated within those countries identified as Euric (ie those in North America, Australasia and within the European Union)

Still-powerful vestiges of feudalism continue to remain a constraint on the expansion of knowledge in India, while its authoritarian state structure results in a similar block in the PRC. The restrictive impact of such conditions can be judged from the much-better performance of Indian and Chinese-origin scientists and technologists in societies where such constraints do not operate. While a student studying in a university in India is unlikely to ever qualify for a Nobel Prize, the same is not the case with those pursuing their research in the more democratic societies of North America and to a lesser degree, Australasia and the European Union. In the latter, although invisible in public view, race is a much greater inhibiting factor to achievement and the pursuit of excellence than is the case in North America

In the case of the PRC, the authoritarian system in place in that country is a limiting factor in the economic and other progress of a society which will need to develop knowledge clusters substantially in order to grow beyond the stage of being a mere assembly-line for other economies

It is the contention here that the Sinic peoples are on course to re-emerge as the "Lead Civilisation" on the globe,displacing the Euric peoples after a gap of two centuries. However,for this to happen,the PRC will need to continue on the present trajectory of high growth combined with internal stability despite rapid changes in the social environment. The "Taiwan Effect" will be substantial in such a success. For although several within that island would dispute this, the reality remains that Taiwan is within the umbra of Sinic civilisation, in the way that - to a somewhat lesser degree - Singapore is. Taiwan, Singapore and the PRC may be termed as "Core Sinic" entities, while Mongolia, Korea, Viet Nam and Japan have within their cultures as substantial a dose of Sinic civilisation as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have of the Indic. Of course, all these countries have over time developed their own unique local civilisations, although remaining based on the Sinic and Indic foundations bequeathed to them by history. In the case of Malaysia, that country is following Pakistan and Bangladesh in seeking to alter the very foundations of its inherent cultural ethos, by replacing the Indic with the Arabic, in the process creating social confusion and the risk of extreme instability. The efforts of some sections of Taiwanese society and its polity to replace its Sinic roots with a mix of Polynesian and other strains is analogous to the state-sponsored efforts within Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia to seek to replace what is natural to the land with a graft from afar, and if taken to the extremes found in Pakistan and Malaysia, could lead to the same societal turmoil as these countries are experiencing. The chemistry of Pakistan,Bangla Desh and Malaysia is not the same as that unique amalgam present in the Middle East,and any uncritical transplantation of that culture from the into these lands would generate a misfit between the core and the superstructure of society,that would impede harmony. To regard Middle Eastern mores and culture as being at the roots of a particular faith is analogous to Christians worldwide regarding Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus Christ) as the only acceptable language,and the customs of the inhabitants of Bethlehem as being the sole model for they themselves to follow,or for Buddhists in Japan,Thailand and elsewhere to seek to replicate the patterns of behaviour found in the birthplace of the Buddha,rather than continue on their own trajectories,the way the major Buddhist nations of the world ( or indeed those with Christian majorities) are doing

The acceptance of the "cultural core" of any civilisation is a pre-requisite for harmony,and this is equally the case within the Sinic civilisation,of which Taiwan forms a part,albeit as a state system separate from that of the PRC. It needs to be remembered that there was never a "Surrender Document" between the CCP and the KMT in 1949 or later,so that the authority structure in Taiwan can lay claim to equality with that in the PRC. As the author has said (in an article in "Taipei Times"), the PRC and Taiwan are "One Nation,Two States". It is the contention here that the path taken by Taiwan is likely to have a significant impact on the future path adopted in the PRC, and will controbute substantially towards that path embedding within itself the requirenents of tolerance,liberty and democracy that the Sinic peoples need in order to achieve their potential destiny of emerging as the primary civilisation of the globe

Knowledge is boundary less, and thrives best in an environment of democratic freedoms. Hence the reason why Information Technology is more successful in India than in Pakistan, a country where the minority communities are treated as second-class citizens, and where the testimony of women is given only half the evidentiary value of that of men. Equal treatment of all, irrespective of faith, is the keystone of a secular society, and any creation of differential standards based on faith would act as a negative force on the knowledge accretion and enhancement needed to accelerate economic and other forms of growth within human societies

In like manner, although much smaller in area, Taiwan has a much higher level of technological sophistication than the PRC, and does significantly more cutting-edge research than its neighbour. It is not accidental that Taiwan has become a democracy since the system was introduced by President Chiang Ching-kuo in 1987. Since then, especially with the election to office of the native-born Lee Teng-hui the next year, democracy has become a much more powerful weapon in the creation of international resonance for Taiwan than (for example) "pocketbook diplomacy". Moving to the present, the reality of the PRC remaining within an authoritarian straitjacket is substantially behind the international unease over conditions in Tibet, a landlocked territory with a unique culture. It is the view of this analyst that democracy would be a much more beneficial system to the people of the PRC than an authoritarian state structure that denies them rights enjoyed by citizens in countries across the world. It is an affront to the civilisational depths and excellence of the people of the PRC to say that they would not be able to "manage" a democratic state structure. This is the same assertion made by then British Prime Minister Winston S Churchill in 1944 to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, that the people of India lacked the maturity needed to exercise democratic freedoms, and that consequently, the indefinite extension of British colonial rule was inevitable and desirable. Contrary to Churchill's view,the example of India since 1947 shows that democracy is as natural to the human spirit in India as it is in Europe or, indeed, in Taiwan, and that the population of the PRC would benefit rather than suffer from a system where they had the right to choose their leaders

Although most historians attribute the breadth of modern Indian democracy to Jawaharlal Nehru,with Shashi Tharoor even terming Jawaharlal Nehru as the "inventor" of India, the reality is that the major chunk of credit for designing a Constitution of India that embodies universal rights goes to B R Ambedkar. The leader of India's most disadvantaged section was insistent that the people whose cause he championed be given the same rights as others,and he ensured that the foundation document of Indian democracy ensured universal adult suffrage. Indeed,it was during the premiership of Nehru ( 1947-64) that numerous restrictions on the freedom of action of India's citizens were either continued or put into effect,notably in the economic sphere. It is unfortunate for India that the country embarked on economic liberalisation only in 1992, as compared to 1978 in the PRC

The PRC has seen four major stages in its evolution,and is now in its fifth. The fist was in 1949,with the coming to power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The next was during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.Next followed the Deng Xiaoping economic reforms that began in 1978,and finally the mainstreaming of Han nationalism during and after the Hong Kong handover of 1997. The fifth stage,of seeking to accelerate modernisation and succeed in the Knowledge Economy while preserving an authoritarian state structure, was begun by President Hu Jintao in 2005. Today,the PRC has more than 200 million internet users, and 220 million users of mobile telephones. In consequence,the spread of information has reached a level tht is severely testing efforts at restricting access to knowledge of events

That the "Hu Era" in the PRC is characterised by a vigorous adjustment to the effects of modern communications technology has become clear through the difference in approach of the CCP towards the 2008 earthquake, as compared to the 2005 SARS outbreak. Although the disease came on the public health radar internally in December 2005, it was only in April 2006 that accurate descriptions of its spread and virulence began to be aired in state media. This transparency was less the result of an embrace of glasnost than it was the realisation that the internet had rendered impossible any control of information about the epidemic. By 2008,the lessons from SARS had resulted in the much greater access given to media organisations during the earthquake. In order to keep ahead of this procress,daily briefings began to be given,as well as stage-managed events such as VIP visits, with a sophistication that would be the envy of politicians in the US

Hu Jintao's embrace of (non-political) openness has resulted last year in 40 million tourists visiting the PRC ( or ten times more than the number coming to India),and 60 million PRC citizens travelling beyond their shores. Sexual freedom as well as social mobility has expanded significantly since the "Hu Era" began in 2002, even as pride and confidence in the country has grown. Private property has been given legal protection in 2007,wile marriage is no longer dependent on the consent of parents or employers. Even religion has come out of the closet,especially the different strands of the Buddhist faith,that are seen as less loaded with political baggage than the religions emanating from the west. While Mao Zedong condemned Chinese traditions and even Confuciius as "rubbish",both have been revived under Hu

Will President Hu or his successor be able to continue the process of reform and modernisation into the political? Should they decide to do so,the experience of Taiwan would be a key element in conscientizing public opinion. For the election into office of President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008 has unlocked the possibilty that a Taiwanese leader may emerge as a change agent in the PRC,in a way that Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore was unable to do,despite the latter's erudition and accomplishments

The Presidential and Legislative Yuan elections in Taiwan of 2008 have demonstrated that the culture of representative democracy is as natural to the Sinic peoples as it is to the Indic or the Euric. Unless the CCP can create systems that encompass questions of faith, issues relating to non-material needs,in the effective way that it has crafted channels to deal with material wants,it will face severe turbulence as society within the PRC becomes more complex and therefore demanding. Hopefully,rather than seek to adopt a Brezhnevite rigidity in its response to change,the CCP will draw the correct conclusions from the example of Taiwan and launch the process of political transition with the verve and success that it embarked on economic reform in 1978

Indeed,a transition to democracy is necessary for the PRC to retain an international environment conducive to its continued expansion, as indeed the prospect of closer ties with Taiwan.An authoritarian PRC that has emerged as a major global foece would be seen as a threat by other major powers,in a way that a democratic China would not be. Indeed,if Taiwan enjoys a respect within the international community out of all proportion to its geographical size,the reason lies in the admiration of the world at the seamless transition of the island from authoritarianism to democracy under President Chiang Ching-kuo. In contrast,the UK never allowed the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights enjoyed by citizens in a democracy, up to the handover in 1997

If the people of Taiwan have shown a much lower propensity to accept authoritarian rule as a part of the PRC than the people of Hong Kong, it is because that former British colony never enjoyed the freedoms of a democracy. It was only after it became clear that Paramount Leader Deng Xiao-ping would not agree to anything short of complete accession of the whole of Hong Kong to the PRC in 1997 did Whitehall begin to see the "light of democracy" shining in its sights, sending Christopher Patten to the colony as its 28th (and last) Governor in 1992. Over the next five years, Patten oversaw a series of pseudo-reforms that essentially transferred some peripheral powers to local elites and away from London, where they had been concentrated till then. Had Whitehall the vision to implement democracy in Hong Kong after the takeover of power by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949 on the mainland, or even after Taiwan switched to a democratic system four decades later, by 1997, the population of Hong Kong may have been active enough to ensure a preservation of much greater freedoms than were agreed to between London and Beijing till the handover. The fact that Taiwan has evolved into a full democracy has been the major reason behind the unwillingness of the local population to agree to a union with the PRC, even though the majority are in favour of a pragmatic accommodation that both preserves the autonomy from external control of Taiwan and the business links between the PRC and Taiwan. As is usual in democracies, the Taiwanese electorate opted for the "Middle Way" ( as distinct from the Middle Kingdom) during the parliamentary and presidential elections held this year

Ever since democracy was introduced to Taiwan by Chinag Ching-kuo and broadened by his successor Lee Teng-hui, the CCP had claimed that it has worked in a manner less than optimal in improving living standards. Commentators in the PRC pointed to claimed societal tensions during the period in office of Lee Teng-hui as well as Chen Shui-bian to argue that the system of democracy practiced in Taiwan has been responsible. Now that voters have overwhelmingly voted in the KMT to power into the Legislative Yuan, as well as Ma Ying-jeou as the next President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), such commentators have been shown to be wrong,and have largely fallen silent. To the people of the PRC, the election of a leader proud of his ancestry and civilisational heritage to the highest office in Taiwan, in place of those presidents who claimed a separate ancestry and/or culture from the Han, is proof not simply that democracy is fully congrunent with the cultural fabric of Sinic civilisation, but that it works in ways that smooth over and thereby harmonize societal divisions in a non-violent manner

India is another example of the way in which democracy promotes peaceful change. That country has seen vast changes in social engineering brought about as a result of the ballot box. For example, in the province of Tamil Nadu since 1967,and in UP and Bihar as well, chief ministers have emerged from castes that were the subject of severe limits on forward development for centuries. Coming back to the 2008 presidential elections, the "Taiwan Effect" is likely to be substantial on Sinic society in general, as the results show to be false the assertion that the people of Chinese origin and culture are unsuited to the nuances and complexities of democracy, and therefore require arbitrary rule

Apart from social instability, another by-product of democracy (as held by PRC scholars) is prresumed to be economic stagnation. The fact that India has lagged behind the PRC in economic growth since the 1980s has been taken as evidence of the correlation between slow growth and democracy. However, the country's recent emergence as a potential economic powerhouse has discredited such a hypothesis,and has in contrast shown that democracy is in no way incompatible with high growth rates. In fact, the reverse is the case. It is only the checks and balances of a democracy and the safety valves within that system that make viable the transition of a society from one plane of growth to another. In the PRC, there has been an expansion of liberty in the personal sphere, with social mores undergoing changes that have brought the behaviour of several young citizens of the PRC closely akin to patterns followed by counterparts in Europe and North America. Recently, with the acceptance of the Jiang Zemin Theory of Three Represents into CCP doctrine, there has been a like expansion of freedom in the economic sphere in China. Now what is left are issues of faith and the political process. The events in Tibet show the need for the PRC to evolve a system of governance that takes account of religious faith, and any significant economic slowdown may lead to an intensification on public unrest on a scale unprecedented since the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of the 1960s

Sinic civilisation is one of the great streams of humanity, and the Sinic peoples are reclaiming the primacy that was theirs for millenia. However, for such a process top continue, it is essential that political and other civil rights march in step with economic advancement. The Taiwan Example has shown to the people of Chinese origin and culture across the world that democracy not only works, it works well. The wheels of democracy may grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine in the years ahead, the evolution of Taiwan into a stable and prospering democracy may prove to be a significant milestone in the evolution of a great civilisation.

(Keynote address delivered by Prof. Madhav Nalapat at the Bangalore University Conference on "Taiwan in the 21st Century on April 25th, 2008.)