Saturday 30 March 2013

Modern China’s hidden Achilles heel (PO)

M D Nalapat

Friday, March 29, 2013 - If in the 1960s it was the fashion to predict the imminent collapse of India, with even the brilliant writer Sir Vidya Naipaul succumbing to the Churchillian influence of those who regarded the people of India as incapable of unity. Since the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from London to Beijing, several books and articles have talked of the “coming collapse of China”. Indeed, that was the title of a book by Gordon Chang, a formidable intellect. Most such doomsayers regarded the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as being incompatible with continued rapid growth and social stability, whereas in fact the Chinese economic model depends on strong government to ensure rapid growth.

Had the CCP loosened its grip over policy, growth would have slowed down rather than accelerated. While the private sector in China needs to become as much of a priority for policymakers as state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have been since economic reform accelerated in the mid-1980s, the unique Chinese model of development necessitates robust mentoring by the state in order for even the private sector to achieve its full potential. Nearly nine years ago, this columnist had written (in the Far Eastern Economic Review) that in China, it was not “Authoritarianism versus Growth” but “Authoritarianism and Growth”, that China owed its rapid material ascent to the CCP’s policy of central control over overall trends, and nothing has happened since then to cause a revision of this view. While the current leader Xi Jinping is unlikely to go the Roh-Ching-kuo way, his successor is very likely to leave office in 2033 after having initiated a transition to a popularly elected executive in place of the present system of nominated leaders. The Chinese people are modernising themselves as fast as their economy, and are today completely different from what they were even fifteen years ago.

The danger to the stability of China will come not from declared enemies of the CCP - these can be handled with relative ease, at least so long as growth continues to be beyond 6% annually. Rather, the true Achilles Heel of the Peoples Republic of China is the fact that across institutions, those who have studied humanities abroad are taking over the higher rungs of decision-making in preference to those who were educated within China. There is a difference between the study of science and engineering and the learning of humanities. The latter often result in the ingestion of mindsets and world-views incompatible with the core interests of the country of origin of the student studying in the US, the UK or other NATO-bloc countries. More and more children of top leaders of the CCP are going to fashionable NATO-bloc universities for higher learning in non-technical subjects, including finance and economics. A western education usually results in the individual concerned losing familiarity with the basic conditions within his or her country of origin.

A substantial part of the reason why India continued to proceed to advance at a snail’s pace after 1947 was because both Jawaharlal Nehru as well as Indira Gandhi were educated in the West, in contrast to Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was wholly educated in India. Both Nehru and his daughter fashioned policies that continued the colonial pattern of not trusting the Indian people, so that the straitjacket of state control that had snuffed out enterprise during the British Raj was continued. Only when the India-educated P V Narasimha Rao or Aal Behari Vajpayee took charge did the economy accelerate,only to once again decline now that the duo of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh (both of whom were educated abroad) are in charge.

In a travesty of what is needed in order to ensure good governance, each year the Government of India spends tens of millions of dollars educating its officials (and a scatter of politicians) in pricey universities such as Oxford or Harvard. Those that return imbibe the colonial mistrust and contempt of the Indian people, and fashion policies that have the effect of promoting NATO-bloc interests rather than that of their own country. In ministries dealing with economic matters in particular, a foreign degree is highly prized, and the higher echelons get filled by these birds of passage, who often see a stint in India as just a means of earning the goodwill of NATO-bloc countries, to which they yearn to return

China is facing the same problem as India. Its policy elite are sending their sons and daughters to NATO-bloc countries for education in the social sciences. When they return, these favoured individuals ensure that they and other foreign returnees slowly begin to elbow out from higher positions those educated in China. As a consequence, policy gets skewed in an elitist direction, thereby creating conditions where economic progress and stability can be at risk. Even more than in India, there is a craze in China for Western education, western dress and western lifestyles. Slowly, those that have fallen prey to such a transformation of their psyches are extending their tentacles across the various agencies of government. However, as yet, at the top those in charge are still those who have studied entirely in China, at least so far as the social sciences is concerned. There is as yet no Manmohan Singh in Beijing.

However, unless the Chinese leadership looks at the example of India and understands the value of education at home rather than in NATO-bloc countries, increasingly policies that are skewed in an elitist direction will get formulated and implemented, as they were when Jiang Zemin was in charge. Things changed during the ten years under Hu Jintao, and it is to be hoped that PresidentXi Jinping will follow the “Asian nationalist” track of Hu Jintao rather than the blind westernization favoured by Hu’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin. The problems facing Chins need Chinese, not western, solutions. And for these to be worked out and implemented, those educated at home need to be given primacy over those educated in the NATO bloc. Indeed, the latter are modern China’s hidden Achilles Heel.

Friday 29 March 2013

Italian return partial victory for India (Global Times)

Global Times | 2013-3-28 19:43:01
By M.D. Nalapat

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT 

The clash in the Indian Ocean, where Italian marines killed two Indian fishermen, has stirred up tension between India and Italy. 

By its stern action against the Italian ambassador Daniel Mancini, which recently forced Rome to return the marines to Delhi, the Supreme Court of India has opened the way for judicial authorities in countries where foreign military personnel operate to hold them accountable for acts against innocent civilians.

In Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, tens of thousands of civilians have been lost to military action without a single soldier or official being held accountable. This culture of immunity has been finally challenged by the Supreme Court of India.

Many Indians feel that Italy gets special privileges because of the family ties of the Nehru-Gandhi clan to India through matriarch Sonia Gandhi. There are claims that the marines were put in luxurious guest houses rather than in prison for many months after being arrested for murder. Even when they were briefly in jail, they were not kept locked up in their cells, but could walk about freely within the prison premises, eating food prepared specially for them by five-star chefs.

After coming back to India on March 22 because of the threat of arrest of the Italian ambassador should they refuse to return, the Indian government has allowed the two to go not to jail, the way Indian nationals would be, but to stay in comfort in the Italian embassy in Delhi.

The government has given an assurance in writing that they will not be subject to the death penalty, making a mockery of the system of justice in India, where matters such as the quantum of punishment should be left to the courts to decide rather than to the government.

Also, a special "fast track" court is being constituted to try the two marines, so that they do not have to go through the regular court system in India, which often takes several decades before a final verdict is delivered.

Because the Italian witnesses to the murder are unlikely to return to India to give evidence, or may seek to protect their two colleagues rather than reveal the truth, the two marines are likely to get acquitted thanks to the lack of evidence, especially as the ship was allowed to return without its logbooks and other evidence of location being seized by the Kerala police.

Even should they be found guilty, they will be allowed to return to Italy to "serve out their sentence." It is highly likely that once in that country, they will be pardoned.

There may be as many as 160 Indian nationals in jails in Italy, not one of whom has been allowed to return to India to serve out their prison sentence, and there are also over 5,000 other foreigners stuck in Indian jails who don't receive the same special treatment.

In contrast to the silky-soft stance taken by the Indian government toward two individuals guilty of killing innocent Indian fishermen, the Chinese government recently got extradited and executed some criminals who had killed China nationals. For these individuals, there was no five-star cuisine and luxury apartments to stay in, only prison and very soon, death.

Of course, the cases were entirely different, as one involved ordinary criminals who were jointly pursued by the law-enforcement forces of both countries involved, and the other involved uniformed military personnel carrying out their duties. But for Indians feeling humiliated by their country's perceived lack of clout, that difference may not be evident.

The Supreme Court of India deserves credit for rejecting the Italian government's claim that its envoy is as immune from accountability for misdeeds. The way is now open for courts in other countries to begin legal procedures against specific military personnel for murders and maimings of civilians. 

Monday 25 March 2013

Why it is difficult to dislike the British (Sunday Guardian)

The Taj Hotel at St James Crowne Plaza in London.
he Tatas have always been proud to be Indian, and they are not afraid of advertising that fact. The Tricolour flutters prominently in front of the St James Crowne Plaza in London's Buckingham Gate. The hotel matches the buildings around it in its wealth of tradition. Many parts of London seem as though time has stood still over the past two centuries, with venerable buildings (or at least those that survived the Nazi blitz) maintained to look exactly the way they must have been in the times when this city was master (or mistress) of more than half the globe. Crossing London Bridge at night, watching its crenellated towers and the magical play of shadows upon its ancient chain links, the visitor to London expects to see horse carriages rather than Jaguars and BMWs sweep past. Across is the Tower of London, where once severed heads of grandees hung, their faces to those crossing the bridge as a warning to them and to others not to carry dissent to the point of rebellion. This columnist has as big a chip on both of his shoulders at the bad manners of the British in incorporating India into their empire, but it must be admitted that these melt away when confronted with the way in which tradition has been maintained here, including the canter of what seemed to be more than a hundred horses coming from one of the gates of the Palace grounds and escorting a carriage up a leafy street. Sadly, most motorists were too far away to recognise those who were escorted by the Queen's Bodyguard, all of whom would have been easy prey for a single artillery fusillade in these more modern times. And as for security drills, entering Westminster for a meeting was a simple matter of a personalised greeting at the door, before being escorted to perhaps the same room where the maps sent by Sykes and Pico were first discussed nine decades back.
The St James hotel is, in the classic British way, understated but elegant. Fortunately for those used to civilised (i.e. vegetarian) fare, the breakfast buffet has enough such options, more so than other hotels, which apparently regard vegetarians as dangerous fetishists not deserving of any concession. On Wednesday, there was even Maharashtrian "poha" at the morning buffet, although as yet the incomparable "idli" has yet to make an appearance. The staff comes from across the globe, with the usual preponderance of East Europeans, who are almost as friendly as their Indian co-workers. However, whoever has remodelled the guest rooms at this particular Taj seems to have an inordinate liking for Japanese bonsai. Even the suites seem the same size or smaller than a standard room in the older stately hotels in India. Jumping out of bed or flinging one's arm skywards may cause an orthopaedic doctor to get some good business.
Being an occasional journalist, this columnist cannot resist having a chat with diplomats in any Indian embassy abroad, and he has found almost all of these to be both pleasurable as well as informative. The Indian Foreign Service has a wealth of officers superbly well-informed about global trends. In the past, it was the Indian envoy in Tehran (K.C. Singh), who foretold this columnist the future advent of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the
Presidency, when the then Tehran mayor was totally off the radar screen of international observers of the Iranian political scene. Sadly, it proved impossible to get across to the High Commission of India in London. The email address furnished on the website either bounced or went serially unreplied, while each time a call was made to the High Commission, a disembodied voice would dolefully mutter that office times, Monday to Friday, were from 9.15 a.m. onwards. This at around 9.35 a.m. the first time and 9.50 a.m. the next. Of course, voicemails went unanswered. Clearly, the High Commission of India to the UK is so caught up in the swirl of VIP visits to London from India that it has ensured its inaccessibility to lesser mortals. In this, it shares a trait common to a mercifully few others, who are in various diplomatic positions, of regarding any dialogue with non-VIPs from back home in the boondocks to be an avoidable chore.
Despite not having a chat with the High Commissioner, London has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, whether it be presenting a contrarian view on the Arab Spring at Chatham House or talking to the faculty and students of the small but picturesque Buckingham University or a chat about the Anglosphere with bankers in the City of London. Saying nasty things about those perfidious Brits is going to be a tad more difficult now!

Sunday 24 March 2013

Queen will skip Colombo Commonwealth meeting (Sunday Guardian)

Queen Elizabeth II
lthough the 15-17 November 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting scheduled to be held in Colombo will "most likely go ahead", according to officials within the Commonwealth Secretariat, they add that several heads of government are likely to keep away from the meeting, "in protest at Sri Lanka's human rights record". Significantly, some officials add that the head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth, is "almost certain to skip the meeting". Former UK Foreign Secretaries Malcolm Rifkind and David Miliband had jointly called the Queen's scheduled attendance at the Colombo CHOGM "grotesque", a sentiment apparently shared by the David Cameron government.
Efforts were made, and are ongoing, to change the venue of the conference to Mauritius. However, "at this late stage, this may not be possible". The Sri Lankan government has given "generous assistance" to the Commonwealth Secretariat in order to help make the 2013 Colombo meeting a success, and, in the words of a senior official, has "spared no effort to convince members across the globe that it would be unfair and discriminatory to either change the venue or to boycott the heads of government meeting". However, such diplomacy has thus far failed to persuade Canada, the primary protagonist of the "Boycott Colombo" movement, to soften its opposition. The country is host to a significant Tamil Diaspora, several elements of which were sympathetic to the LTTE's efforts at carving out a "Tamil Eelam" out of northern and eastern Sri Lanka. This is a sentiment shared by some prominent Tamil businesspersons in London and Perth as well; all of them are lobbying tirelessly to ensure that the Colombo meeting flops.
Those within the Tamil diaspora who favoured an independent Tamil Eelam are unhappy at the stand of the Manmohan Singh government, which they regard as “having taken a pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa stance from the start” .
Those within the Tamil diaspora who favoured an independent Tamil Eelam are unhappy at the stand of the Manmohan Singh government, which they regard as "having taken a pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa stance from the start", including during the final weeks in 2009 when the LTTE and its top leadership were liquidated by the Sri Lankan military with assistance from India, China and Pakistan. They are dismissive of the DMK's histrionics in defence of Eelam, with a prominent businessperson claiming that "under the cover of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause, M. Karunanidhi is bargaining for the release of his daughter Kanimozhi and his party colleague A. Raja from the CBI's clutches." While they have failed to persuade the Government of India to take an unambiguous stand against Sri Lanka, the pro-Eelam Tamil Diaspora has won over the Stephen Harper government in Canada. This has helped to make it "almost certain" (in the words of a Commonwealth official) that while Canada "will boycott the Colombo conference in its entirety", the other countries belonging to what some term the "White Commonwealth" (the UK, New Zealand and Australia) will desist from sending their heads of government to Colombo, thereby downgrading the CHOGM to the Foreign Minister or even senior official level. An official revealed that Ottawa is "putting pressure on the Caribbean members of the Commonwealth to back the boycott". He pointed out that Canada provides substantial financial assistance to Caribbean members of the Commonwealth.
The absence of Queen Elizabeth would be a significant setback for Colombo. While her son Prince Charles has been a tireless campaigner for a "greener" world, pressing hard for renewable energy and for assistance to the underprivileged, Queen Elizabeth, the very popular monarch of the United Kingdom and head of the Commonwealth, has focused on better governance across the grouping. The Queen recently unveiled a "Commonwealth Charter", which she wanted implemented across the group of nations. This calls for good governance, respect for human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law. The Queen has often talked of the "shared values" that bind the members of the Commonwealth together, and in her view, these attributes form the core of such values, and is therefore "unlikely to attend a forum in a capital where such values seem to be absent", in the words of an official who refused to go on record.
The countries that are sometimes termed the "White Commonwealth" are facing fresh problems, this time in Kenya, where an individual sought to be indicted by several EU members for war crimes, Uhuru Kenyatta, has just been elected President in an election that was fair and transparent. Led by the UK, Canberra, Ottawa and Auckland are downgrading their interaction with Nairobi as a result of the election of the new President, despite the significant economic stakes they have in Kenya. The real nightmare for these countries, according to a top official in London, was that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would next year emerge as Prime Minister. "Will we boycott the biggest country in the Commonwealth? Can we?" an official sceptical of Boycott Diplomacy asked
Despite pressure from the DMK and the AIADMK, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to attend the CHOGM meeting at Colombo in November. That is, if the UPA is still in office by that time.

Friday 22 March 2013

Cameron, Hollande follow money (PO)

By M D Nalapat

Friday, March 22, 2013 - The past few days have been spent in London, the former hub of the British Empire and now another major European Union city. Over the past decade,the “mainlandlization” of the UK has accelerated, so that an island that for more than a thousand yearsdistinguished itself from the rest of Europe has now abandoned this policy in favour of acceptingthe reality of Britain being simply a part of the European mosaic,behind Germany in importance and in the same league as France. Indeed, in the case of both Libya and now in Syria, David Cameron has scrambled to ensure that his policy goes in sync with that favoured by Paris.

Thus,London has joined Paris in pushing for the arming of those fighting the Assad regime in Damascus,no matter that this band is overwhelmingly composed of Wahabbi elements hostile to the West and only temporarily friendly to it. In the case of France,the motivation is - as usual - hard cash. In a faltering economy,French arms sales to Qatar,Saudi Arabia and the UAE are crucial to thesurvival of the defense industry in that country.

While India asks nothing in return from the huge purchases of weapon systems that it buys fromParis each year, given the Euro-centric policy favoured by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her chosen PM, Manmohan Singh, the GCC countries are far more solicitious of what they regard as their core interests. Ever since the Arab Spring, they have worked hard to ensure that the Shia go on the back foot. The primary motivation of Ankara,Doha and Riyadh for relentlessly giving weapons to the armed groups fighting the militarised conflict in Syria is to remove an Alawite leader,Bashar Assad,from power. To the Wahabbis - and Qatar and Saudi Arabia are openly Wahabbi states,while Turkey under Erdogan is now “Wahabbi Lite” - the Shia are apostates needing to be curbed. Hence,while they back the Sunni majority in Syria to come to full power in Damascus rather than sharing power with Shia (including Alawites), Druze and Christians,they oppose moves by the Shia majority in Bahrain to get some say in their own governance mechanism.

Although the GCC is often derided for being mere followers of the NATO bloc,the reality is that these days, Saudi Arabia,Qatar and the UAE are increasingly able to influence policy in the US and the EU. An example is Hillary Clinton,who as Secretary of State adhered closely to the wishes of the GCC,especially in Libya and Syria. Some critics say that this is because a huge chunk of the $16 billion in donations received by the William J Clinton-led foundations has come from donors based in the GCC,while another huge chunk has come from East Asia. As the Clinton foundations refuse to make public the list of those who have swelled its funds to such a huge degree,it is difficult to say whether the allegation that Hillary Clinton followed the policy set by major donors to her husband’s foundations is difficult to establish. Hopefully,some day full details will emerge of the donations made to Bill Clinton’s charities. A public figure sitting on $16 billion needs to ensure transparency in its sources,but so strong is the hold of the Clintons within the US policymaking establisment that such a demand has yet to be raised in any significant fashion.

Although France and the UK are desperate to ensure that the EU obey the desire of the GCC to remove the weapons embargo on both factions in Syria,by directly arming the groups fighting the Assad regime in that tortured country, as yet Germany is wary of going down such a dangerous road. The reality is that further militarization of the conflict will only ensure that the weapons supplied so abundantly will cross the borders of Syria should the Assad regime collapse, the way the weapons given to Libyan fighters against Kaddafy have. It is surreal to see the disconnect with reality of policymaking circles in the UK about developments in Syria,so closely are they following the GCC playbook or perhaps a better word, paybook. The “Economist” is the popular mgazine that best represents the views of policymakers in London,and this magazine has calculated that only “25%” of those fighting Assad are extremist. Did the Editor fly down to Syria and count the number of extremists within the widely disparate groups fighting militarily against Assad? How does he define “extremists”? The figure is nonsense,as is the assertion by the same magazine that cities in Libya are governed by “elected committees”, composed no doubt of those who frequent the pubs and restaurants of London.

The 2008 financial collapse has shown the danger involved in trusting NATO-based financial institutions with cash. The GCC,together with Russian billionaires and those sending cash outside from China, forms a key component of the cash reserves of financial institutions in London,New York and other NATO-bloc cities. These days,options that are much safer have opened out to international investors,such as assets in Brazil,India and China or parking funds in locations other than the NATO bloc. Clearly,both David Cameron and Francois Hollande need to run the extra mile to ensure that the GCC continue to park almost all its funds within the NATO bloc,or rely on NATO-based advisors for their financial transactions. Hence the urgency behind the pressure by London and Paris to follow the GCC’s line on Syria,exactly the way they did in the case of Libya. That such a line would ultimately rebound on their own countries the way Bill Clinton’s assistance to the Taliban in the 1990s bit back at the US in the 9/11 episode has gone unheeded.

Now that the EU is even penalizing bank depositors in Cyprus and later certainly in other countries,it is vital for the NATO bloc that the GCC continue to trust their money with it,no matter how bitter their experience in the past. This need for GCC funds to remain within NATO-based financial enterprises explains UK PM David Cameron joining hands with President Hollande of France in pushing the EU to adopt the policies favoured by Doha,Abu Dhabi and Riyadh in Syria.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Chief Justice, extend your grace to all, not just to Italian marines (Sunday Guardian)

Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre (right) and Salvatore Girone in Kochi. PTI
hief Justice Altamas Kabir himself presided over the three-judge bench that allowed the two Italian marines accused of murder to return to their country for the second time in as many months, this time to vote in the Italian Parliamentary elections. The right to choose a representative of one's choice is fundamental in a democracy and ought not to be denied to any individual.
The Supreme Court bench was clearly not informed either by the law authorities of the Government of India, or by their own sources, that any Italian national can cast his or her ballot in any location, including a prison cell (or outside, which has been the case of the two marines once they were given bail earlier by a kind-hearted court. Although Chief Justice Kabir's generous interpretation of the rights of an accused has been the subject of some criticism, let it be said that his stance points in the right direction. The Scandinavian countries are known for the humane way in which they treat their prisoners, but as yet such leniency has not nudged upwards the crime rate in those countries. On the other hand, heinous crime such as mass murder through the use of guns continues in the United States, despite that country's harsh penal system, with its mandatory sentencing laws. In India, the near-hysterical cry for harsher and harsher laws against those accused of sexual violence move in tandem with a spike in the actual frequency of such incidents.
Clearly, draconian laws are no deterrent to those intent on committing heinous offences such as rape and murder. To lock such individuals away in conditions that seek to ignore their own human needs is to invite the creation of a mindset which embraces violence and crime rather than moves away from it. Very often, a crime gets committed in the heat of the moment, and is in many instances followed by genuine regret and repentance. To treat such individuals as chronic criminals incapable of reform, and to deny them the right to occasionally be with their families and to enjoy the benefits of modern civilisation such as the use of the internet is to stunt them as human beings and render them unfit for productive work once they get freed from prison. Certainly, those released from Scandinavian prisons would stand a much better chance of getting beneficially re-integrated in society than those who have endured long stints in jails in the US or India, the two so-called biggest democracies of the planet.
The Supreme Court needs to show that its decision in the case of the two Italian marines is not an exception but the rule. After all, all human beings are the same, and there cannot be separate treatment for Italians than those for Indian nationals.
In such a context, although his choice of these to whom a more benevolent approach to undertrials may raise a few eyebrows, Chief Justice Kabir needs to be commended for infusing much more humanity into a system that still operates — as does the entire legal system in India — as though this country were still a colony and its people subjects of government rather than masters of their own destiny. The Supreme Court needs to show that its decision in the case of the two Italian marines is not an exception but the rule.
After all, all human beings are the same, and there cannot be separate treatment for Italians than those for Indian nationals. Courts across India need to be encouraged to follow the example of the Supreme Court of India and be more lenient in allowing prisoners to spend more time with their families and less in the often animal-like atmosphere of Indian prisons.
Being with loved ones would be much more likely to transform characters from the aberrant behaviour which causes serious crime. The Supreme Court decision on the Italian marines can become an immense blessing for the future of jurisprudence in India, by aligning this country's justice system closer to the Scandinavian countries than — as it presently is — to the systems in Russia, China or the US.