Friday 16 October 2009

NATO's Dance with the Taliban (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Those familiar with the situation on the ground in Afghanistan are aware that only around 17 percent of the money spent in that unfortunate country is in the control of President Hamid Karzai’s "free government of independent Afghanistan."

The remaining 83 percent is, directly or via proxies, disbursed in accordance with instructions given by one or the other NATO country, or NATO’s loyal partner, the United Nations, whose hand-picked staff in Afghanistan keeps in close touch with "their" embassies and military establishments.

Local officials are aware of the way in which tenders and requests for supplies have been manipulated to ensure that they are directed toward countries favored by NATO decision-makers rather than the most cost-effective source.

Bloated salaries and allowances, as well as logistics costs similar to the levels of Halliburton – a U.S.-based provider of products and services to the energy industry – form part of the mosaic of reasons why NATO is so loathed by the people it claims to have liberated.

However, not a single international media outlet focuses on the misdirection of resources by NATO, preferring to focus their ire on the measly proportion of total expenditure under Karzai's control, as do notables like Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Only India can Challenge China's Primacy in Asia (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat 

Manipal, India — More than radical Islam, the threat to the primacy of the West will come from Sinic civilization, centered in the People’s Republic of China. Should China continue to grow at the pace of the last 20 years for the next two decades, by 2015 the backwash created by such progress will pull Japan and South Korea into its gravity field. This will later extend to Siberia and large swathes of Southeast and Central Asia.

As armed conflict would be a lose-lose proposition for all major players, the odds are that such an expansion of geopolitical space will take place peacefully. China’s strategy will be to make cooperation with it attractive while increasing the costs of conflict to Asian countries that may seek to present a challenge, principally India.

Obsessed as Germany is with ensuring the ethnic purity of Europe by blocking immigration even from established, English-speaking democracies outside the West, and France with the preservation of Franco-German primacy in Europe, the European Union is unlikely to adopt the only course that would enable it to retain its edge in the face of rising Sinic power. This is an alliance with India.

Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, with his obsessive focus on Europe and neglect of Asian Russia, has been all but begging France and Germany to admit Moscow into the European Union as an equal of these two states. This course is likely to go the way of Turkey’s application to join the club; in other words, it will end up in the refuse bin. This is likely to push Russia further toward being a partner in the Sinic alliance that will be stitched together by Beijing in a decade.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Switzerland: No place for Conferences (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — The Muslim World League, an organization funded by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, held its third interreligious dialogue in Geneva from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1.

The previous two meetings were held a year ago in Spain and Austria. Of these, the Madrid Conference was distinguished both by its imaginative choice of locale, given the historically troubled history between Spain and the Muslim world, as well as the enthusiastic participation of Spain’s King Juan Carlos himself.

As for Austria, which is the home of Gerald Mader's European Peace University, it is a picturesque location to hold an international meeting – convened to discuss how best to operate in practice the "Initiative of the custodian of the two Holy Mosques (King Abdullah) on interreligious dialogue and its impact on disseminating human values."

In the 18th and 19th centuries, and even in much of the 20th, there was a case for treating Europe as the "Middle Kingdom," the center of the universe. Asians, Africans and South Americans had almost no say in world matters, and exceptions such as Thailand were under the tutelage of one or the other European powers.

Since India won its freedom in 1947 and China began to develop economically in the 1980s, there has been a change in this situation. Global discussions should no longer be confined only to countries within Europe and those housing the European Diaspora.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Obama's Afghan War Needs Credible Change (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — This columnist was among the first outside the United States to cheer on, in February 2008, the ascent of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency. Even if he achieves little else during his term, the election of an African-American by a majority Euro-ethnic electorate will mellow the tension between races in the United States.

It also gives poorer peoples around the globe a confidence that there is nothing intrinsic in themselves that prevents them from reaching the collective levels of achievement of the Euro-ethnics. For this alone Obama has merited the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him.

However, many in the future are likely to judge the soundness of the Nobel Committee's decision by Obama's success or failure in Afghanistan. This is now Obama's war.

In this theater, as yet, change has been absent. An important reason has been the high cost of operations due to the policy of sourcing materiel almost exclusively from the United States and other NATO partners. Such procurement resembles the policies of former U.S. President George W. Bush, who declined to get needed materiel from the most cost-effective sources.

With even the aftershave coming from home, NATO armies have become the most expensive to field in combat. Should NATO ever do battle against an enemy more endowed than the goons that fill the Taliban's ranks, or the debilitated militaries such as those of the late former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the enemy may only need to focus on their supply lines from home to demotivate the NATO troops.