Saturday 27 February 2010

FM Qureshi seen as Army favourite (PO)

M D Nalapat

Although as yet far behind in quantitative terms, the Indian elite see their country as China’s equal. While rates of growth have decelerated in China since the 1980s,they have accelerated in India. And like Pakistan, the second most-populous country in the world has a young population, while China’s is ageing. By 2027, the effect of this is expected to boost India’s prospects of catching up with what will at that time be the world’s largest economy (in Purchasing Power Parity terms), China. Hence it was with anger that South Block, the home of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of external Affairs, heard of Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s “blank cheque” to the Chinese Communist Party to mediate the Indo-Pakistan dispute.

Earlier, US President Barack Obama had made a cringing visit to China, during which he had generously made to the Chinese leadership the offer first made by Bill Clinton 13 years earlier, of partnering with Washington in “managing” India-Pakistan relations. That offer had led to the mistrust of Obama that today pervades the Indian establishment Why did Foreign Minister Qureshi make such a statement just two days before Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two sub continental neighbours? He would certainly have been aware of the strong Indian distaste of involving any country in the bilateral tango between India and Pakistan, especially China, which since 1963 has been aligned with Islamabad in its bid to limit Delhi’s freedom of action. There are three theories doing the rounds within Raisina Road, the Indian Beltway.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Subdued reaction to India-Pakistan talks (PO)

M D Nalapat

Besides the current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, India has had three PMs who were very much in favour of reaching out to Pakistan. The first was Morarji Desai, the austere Gandhian from Gujarat who became the first non-Congress PM of India in 1977. Morarji began the day drinking a cup of his own urine (and, perhaps for unrelated reasons, remained spry and fit throughout his 99 years). He was a pacifist who, as Finance Minister under Jawaharlal Nehru, reduced budgets for India’s military during 1959-62, a factor which experts believe helped cause the defeat of the Indian army at the hands of the Chinese. As Prime Minister, he refused to intervene in the matter of the imprisonment and subsequent execution of Z A Bhutto by General Zia, publicly saying that this was an internal matter of Pakistan’s. He refused Israel permission to use Indian facilities for a pre-emptive strike on Pakistani nuclear installations, and withdrew all Indian intelligence networks from Pakistan, a factor that probably contributed to his getting the Nishaan-i-Pakistan. Indeed, during his brief period in office, the Indian external intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) was sharply reduced in size and scope.

The next PM who was very friendly to Pakistan was I K Gujral, the pipe-smoking Jhelum-born Punjabi intellectual who took over in 1997. He enunciated the Gujral Doctrine, which held that as South Asia’s largest country, India should make the most sacrifices for peace. As PM, Gujral ordered a halt to all offensive covert activities in Pakistan, a decision that even today impacts India’s capabilities in its western neighbour. It was during his time that visa procedures for citizens of Pakistan were first relaxed, and some people-to-people interaction took place after fifty years of freeze. After him, the BJP’s A B Vajpayee belied the rhetoric of his party by becoming very friendly to Pakistan, especially to Mian Nawaz Sharif, for whom he had a strong bond of affection. Vajpayee saw Sharif as a man of peace, and came to Lahore in a bus in 1999,creating the hope that peace was at hand. However, the absence of the then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf from the Vajpayee-Sharif Lahore Summit was an ominous sign, that was followed by the Kargil operation and the coup against Sharif. After Kargil, Vajpayee no longer felt confident enough to continue with the peace process, although he did go ahead with two unilateral cease-fires in Kashmir, that were used by the Jehadis to consolidate their position.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Why colonial law for “free” citizens? (PO)

M D Nalapat

 Until General Zia-ul-Haq sought to align Pakistan culturally with Saudi Arabia in the 1970s by changing the laws of the land in a way that became closer to that country, Pakistan too had the same system of British colonial law as India. In the satisfaction at the “European” standard of such laws, what is forgotten is that the laws passed by the British in their Indian colony were not the same as those that were enacted for citizens of the UK. Instead the laws passed in India were designed for colonial subjects, and hence gave disproportionate power to the state authorities and very little rights to the citizen. Because of the potential for generating bribes and patronage that such British-era laws bring, political leaders in India have thus far refused to liberalise the laws in a manner that ensures that citizens of India cannot get persecuted by the state,the way they were under the British Raj.

In India, an Income-tax officer has the power to take away property and even liberty on the basis of a subjective decision, as was the case when the British were masters of the subcontinent. Several of the actions of the Income-tax department have been kept outside the purview of the court system, so that the citizen needs to appeal only to other officials to get redress. Thanks to such vast powers, it is easy for the government of the day to intimidate people, especially those with High Net Worth. Of course,even relatively poor and honest taxpayers can get harassed by the Income-tax department, especially if the order to do so has come - orally of course - from powerful politicians and the officials who toady to them. In India, there are many former Chief Ministers (of Indian states) who are in politics. Almost all of them have become super-rich, but only those who fall foul of the present governmnent have been subjected to searches and seizure of wealth. The others remain protected by their connections. Recently,there were raids on the residence of the former Chief Minister of Jharkhand state,Madhu Koda, an individual who has no contacts with India’s influential media fraternity. According to the authorities,about $1 billion was recovered, in the form of foreign bank accounts. While the figure may look large,the reality is that Madhu Koda is a poor man when compared to the immense wealth acquired by some other former Chief Ministers,several of whom are in office under the very dispensation that arrested Koda (because he was a political inconvenience to the government). Had every former Chief Minister been raided and investigated, it would have been a matter for congratulation. However, what the nation saw was a few being punished, while the many escaped.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Hidden hand poisoning ties between India and the West? (UPI Asia)

Manipal, India — Quiet surveys conducted through multiple sources indicate that the root of the spasms of "curry bashing" – violent attacks on Indian students – seen in Australia over the past year is the belief of migrants from some European states that only whites ought to be allowed to emigrate to Australia.Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, Germany ensured that a huge chunk of Western Europe's resources would go into subsidies for the eastern part of the continent, believing that ethnicity would trump economics.

Had Western Europe adopted a strategy of relying on global skills for its expansion, rather than relying on a single source, Eastern Europe, with a half-century history of dysfunctional educational and occupational networks, that most productive part of the world would have witnessed rates of growth closer to those of India and China than to Japan’s.

As matters stand, the hugely expensive Western gamble on Eastern Europe is likely to see the eclipse of Western European companies within the next 15 years, faced as they will be by competition from China, India and Brazil. Had even one-third of the investment that flowed into Eastern Europe gone to India, for example, the returns from that would have been enough to wipe out the losses now being made in Eastern Europe.
Eastern Europe surely includes many highly artistic, liberal and talented individuals. Yet it also includes those whose notions of ethnic privilege belong to a bygone era, but have now been made the foundation for EU immigration policies.

Such individuals would like to see the United States, Canada and Australia copy the European Union in shutting the door to those of non-European ethnicity. They have linked up with anti-nonwhite immigrant lobbies in all these countries to seek to enforce an effective ban on even highly skilled migrants from nonwhite countries.