Thursday 27 August 2009

Why is Sonia Gandhi afraid of China? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — During the period when the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition was in office, from 1998-2004, India launched several initiatives to enhance links with Taiwan. Air links were expanded and foundations laid for a flow of Indian brainpower to Taiwan and a ramping up of investment into India. Today trade between India and Taiwan is close to US$6 billion, heading for $10 billion within the next year.

However, mainly because of a lack of attention from the Sonia Gandhi-led United Progressive Alliance government, Taiwanese investment in India, at a little over US$1 billion, is just one-fifth of what it is in much smaller Cambodia and less than 5 percent of investment in Vietnam.
This official neglect of Taiwan is motivated by the hope that kowtowing to China will result in a more accommodating attitude from Beijing on issues such as the border dispute – a proposition that has so far proved false.

It would seem that with Taiwan under the leadership of the Kuomintang, China is unconcerned about links between New Delhi and Taipei, barring the ritual expressions of dismay at India’s rare recognition of Taiwan's potential as a major source of investment.

Taiwanese diplomats unfortunate enough to be posted to New Delhi are subject to restrictions that are absent in the United States, the European Union, and in most of Asia Рexcluding countries such as Syria, Iran or North Korea. For example, the military attach̩ at the Taiwan mission in India has been barred by the Sonia-led government from meeting any Рrepeat any Рserving officer in the three armed forces. He can meet only retired personnel, the older the better.

Monday 17 August 2009

Why is Obama silent when disaster returns? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — From 2003 to 2008 – the years when the uncontrolled greed of a handful of speculators was sending the price of commodities to intolerable levels – this columnist was among the few who pointed to such market manipulation as the cause of price fever, rather than "market conditions."

Today it is clear that it was the greed of a few financial institutions and their managers that caused the rise in food prices that killed hundreds of thousands in Asia and Africa from starvation. Super-high food prices sucked the purchasing power out of middle- and low-income consumers by raising the prices of oil and other commodities to levels where continued economic health was unsustainable.

The 2008 market crash caused not a ripple in the consciences of this handful, who continued to award themselves generous bonuses after creating economic disaster. Speculation – forward trading where the speculator need not take delivery of the commodity – caused death and hardship across the world, and it was expected, not least perhaps by U.S. voters, that President Barack Obama would make good on his promise to deal harshly with such economic depredators.

Instead, he handed over the reins of the U.S. Treasury Department to Timothy Geithner, himself a creature of the very system that is causing a second tsunami of high prices and a collapse of consumer demand. Under Geithner, the U.S. taxpayer has underwritten nearly US$2 trillion in write-offs and advances to the very agencies that caused the speculative fever which began in 2003, after the defeat of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Monday 3 August 2009

Will the United States fall behind China? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Beijing, China — Judging by the boost given to exports from China and the flow of technology to that country from 1993 to 2000, when Bill Clinton was president of the United States, it is small wonder that even low-income ethnic Chinese in San Francisco and New York felt compelled to contribute to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential election campaign.

Although Clinton, now U.S. secretary of state, makes the obligatory warm references to the other giant of Asia, India, these seem to be motivated less by conviction than by awareness of the muscular Indian-American lobby in Washington, D.C.

As the junior senator from New York, Clinton led the effort to get India to concede to China a nuclear monopoly in Asia, by giving up its own weapons-development program. She was visibly unhelpful in promoting a policy of closer defense and technology cooperation with India, besides fiercely opposing the India-U.S. nuclear agreement, along with the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

The Clintons have never hidden their affinity for Europeanist policy wonks such as Strobe Talbott or Richard Holbrook, who regard only the European countries as "natural partners" of the United States. They are, of course, wrong.

The United States is not a European country transplanted in North America, but a quadricontinental power that has elements of Europe, Asia, Africa and South America in its cultural DNA. Indeed, such heterogeneity is the reason why "U.S. culture" – a pair of words that many regard as an oxymoron – has had the same powerful impact on the world as the English language did during the 19th-century heyday of the British Empire.