Saturday 31 December 2016

It’s Belchi or Shah Bano for Rahul Gandhi (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

The fact is that Rahul Gandhi is losing political capital each day that he abstains from attempting to make the promised earthquake-sized revelations about Modi. 

Politicians in high office usually commit a mistake that drains away their political capital and leaves them vulnerable. Although the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 is regarded as the point when Prime Minister Narasimha Rao became vulnerable, his fall from effective authority began earlier, with the facilitated departure from India of Ottavio Quattrocchi. From that time onwards, Rao had no effective defence against sniper attacks originating from 10 Janpath, and over time, these multiplied to a level that cost the Congress Party led by Rao dearly in the 1996 Lok Sabha polls. While holding the same office, Manmohan Singh did not fall into the error of Charan Singh, Chandra Shekhar and Narasimha Rao, who had each assumed that occupying the Prime Minister’s House gave immunity from downfall by 10 Janpath. In different ways, the Nehru family ensured the fall of each of the three PMs. The escape of Quattrocchi landed not just Rao in trouble, but Atal Behari Vajpayee as well, for his government in 2003 allowed the fugitive to escape, this time not from India, but from Malaysia. In both cases, Sonia Gandhi soon afterwards successfully stepped up her aggression against the two, in the case of Vajpayee, succeeding in defeating the BJP in 2004. In the case of Manmohan Singh, his “failure” to capture Mr Q in Argentina ensured his tenure as PM till 2014. Of course, the Italian fixer was seen as close only to the Mainos, whereas Vijay Mallya had many more friends in the Congress Party than in the BJP. Hence the tepid public reception given to allegations by the former ruling party of collusion between Mallya and the NDA. In contrast, who can forget the winning boost received by Indira Gandhi during her visit to Belchi in 1977, compared to the rapid loss of political traction by Rajiv Gandhi after he backed the discriminatory and communally charged Shah Bano bill in 1986?
Those in the BJP say that there is no chance of any credible corruption charge against Modi, whose family has derived near zero benefit from the perch occupied by their relative, in contrast to the Nehru family.
Manmohan Singh went downhill in the public mind after the 2G scandal erupted in full earnest, but this was ignored by the Congress leadership, who persisted with him to the cost of the Congress Party. However, once Narendra Modi romped to victory on the backs of Congress unpopularity and Opposition disunity, Rahul Gandhi seemed to find a new purpose, to follow the example set by the Republican Party in the United States and block major legislative proposals of the BJP, especially if these would give an advantage to the saffron party during the 2019 polls. Especially since 8 November 2016, Rahul pulled ahead of his competition in the Anti-Modi sweepstakes, declaiming against the Prime Minister wherever he went. He sent tremors of anticipation, especially within other Opposition parties, after claiming that he had an “earthquake” in his possession that the Prime Minister was nervous about, not that Modi gave any such sign of anxiety. By several times mentioning the severity of the impact of whatever revelations he had in his possession, Rahul Gandhi boosted the oxygen levels of the Opposition and for a while became their de facto leader. However, his subsequent rehashing of Prashant Bhushan’s Sahara-Birla charges against Prime Minister Modi came as a letdown, all but reducing Rahul Gandhi to the status of an object of derision both among the political class as well as the rest of the country. Was this minor temblor the “earthquake” that had been promised so often? 
Congress leaders whispered that “more was coming”, that the Bhushan charges were repeated by the AICC vice-president only as an appetiser, with the main course soon to follow. Others secretly smirked at what they saw as fear gripping 10 Janpath at going after a popular PM not known to turn the other cheek to his foes. Some said, ludicrously, that the “main course” would be delivered only just before the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. The fact is that Rahul Gandhi is losing political capital each day that he abstains from attempting to make the promised earthquake-sized revelations about Modi. By the end of January, it would be perceived that he has nothing to reveal and that his talk of an earthquake was mere bombast. Once Rahul’s re-telling of the Bhushan charges fizzled to the close of its brief lifespan, most of the Opposition parties went back to their previous disdain for the Congress vice-president. Those in the BJP say that there is no chance of any credible corruption charge against Modi, whose entire family has derived near zero benefit from the lofty perch occupied by their relative, much as the family of another son of Gujarat gained nothing at all from the spectacular climb of Mahatma Gandhi to the acme of fame, in contrast to the Nehru family, which consolidated its grip on power generation after generation. If, as his critics say, Rahul Gandhi is simply firing blanks, the Congress vice-president is likely to slowly but steadily disappear from the centre of attention of the country’s politics. Rahul has just the period before the Budget Session of Parliament to deliver on his claim of “earthquake force revelations” against PM Modi, the man responsible for giving his party a majority in the Lok Sabha. Either that or he will enter into a process of disappearance from the political scene. The month ahead will either be Rahul Gandhi’s Belchi or his Shah Bano moment.

Friday 30 December 2016

A strong Xi Jinping is better for conciliation (Pakistan Observer)

By M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

MOST leaders decide from the beginning of their term not to challenge existing practices and systems, believing – usually correctly — that such a laissez faire attitude would lead to a less difficult tenure than if they were to obey Mao Zedong’s dictum to “Bombard the Headquarters”. The founder of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) observed in the 1960s that leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was getting ossified and needed to change. Hence, together with then Minister of Defence Lin Biao, “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”, (GPCR), which resulted in the humiliation of much of the leadership of the CCP.
Interestingly, Mao protected Deng Xiaoping from the worst excesses of his followers, thereby enabling the individual responsible for China becoming an economic superpower to take control of the party and the country by the beginning of the 1980s. Had P V Narasimha Rao remained as Prime Minister for ten years rather than five, it may be that India would have had double the per capita income the country now has. Certainly it has more than double the income it would have had, were Rao not to have become Prime Minister of India in 1991. Fortunately for China, Mao had ensured (through the GPCR) the elimination of almost all the CCP leaders opposed to the liberal economic policy of Deng Xiaoping, thereby enabling the small in size but big in intellect Paramount Leader of China to bring about reforms on a scale that ensured double digit growth for practically a generation, a feat India has been unable to achieve thus far even for a few years.
It was the promise of fast growth that ensured enough votes for Narendra Modi to win the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but thus far, the Prime Minister of India has not been able to reach even as close to this objective as Manmohan Singh did for a few years, before he handed over full charge of economic policy to the Congress Party, satisfying himself by globe trotting and convening meeting after fruitless meeting of bureaucrats, a pastime he enjoyed. Throughout his decade in the most consequential job in India, Manmohan Singh preferred the company of officials to those of politicians, despite having surrendered much of his discretion to individuals such as Ahmed Patel, the soft spoken but super powerful Political Secretary to the all-powerful Sonia Gandhi. “Manmohan’s” ministers often ignored requests and even commands from the Prime Minister’s Office but dared not do the same to any instruction coming from Sonia Gandhi, either directly or (more often) through her known confidants, to whom what counted in politics was money and lots of it.
Not to mention sops to citing blocs.Of course,that flood of cash spent on the elections and on populist schemes failed to ensure that the Congress Party secured in 2014 only a quarter of the seats it had won just five years earlier. Thanks to Mao’s strategy of reaching out to the US and forging an alliance with that country in the 1970s, the PRC enjoyed the good fortune of being assisted by geopolitical tailwinds from the close of the 1970s to 1997, the year of the handover of Hong Kong to China by the United Kingdom, However it was dressed up, the event was a strategic setback for Europe. And because the US establishment followed European cues in matters of geopolitics (for example in continuing to target Moscow rather than Beijing as the main rival long after the former had made way to the latter in the challenge posed to the Altantic Alliance), it was not long before such subliminal pangs were felt in Washington as well. From that time onwards, there came the realisation that China had not only the capacity but the intention to overtake every other country in its race to the top, or to the position which it had occupied for millennia before Europe began its climb to the top four centuries ago.
However, from that event onwards, headwinds began to multiply that were designed to slow down the advance of China, and by the time Xi Jinping took charge of the Chinese government in end-2012, the global tailwinds assisting China’s rise had almost disappeared while headwinds slowing the country down had become strong. While in the 1980s,it was Moscow that was the Prime Foe (and therefore target) of the Atlantic Alliance, the 21st century has cast Beijing in that role, although as yet the Europeans are resisting such a conclusion, aware that the focus of US attention will shift from Europe to Russia once China gets accepted as the primary challenge to US global leadership. Barack Obama, who is clearly the most cerebral of US Presidents since Abraham Lincoln, understood this, but was too weak to prevail against the Clinton Euro-focussed orthodoxy that has so diluted his legacy. Donald Trump, with the steel nerves and hard-headed realism of the businessperson, has no such constraints, having made short work of each of his opponents, and standing ready to repeat the performance against such backers of Euro-orthodoxy as Senator John McCain and Speaker Paul Ryan. Only a strong Chinese Communist Party General Secretary would have the ability to deal effectively with President Trump. Not so much to launch a confrontation ( as the near-hysterical Europhiles are arguing, somewhat illogically, for if Russia is the main rival, why are they so nervous about China?) as to work out settlements that are Win Win but which go against the Zero Sum solutions trotted out by those in China who are at the receiving end of Xi’s war on corruption. For such people, their only salvation lies in hyper nationalisation.
This would, in their calculus, either make Xi (and by extension China) so unpopular globally that he would fail, or – if Xi were to ignore their jingoistic war cries and work out mutually acceptable solutions with Washington and Delhi – serve to castigate him as a compromiser. Fact is that compromise is central to unique genius of Chinese tradition but this will be possible for Xi only once he prevails over his rivals in the CCP and establishes his complete control over party and the govt. Hence paradox that a strong Xi is more likely to conciliate and compromise than a weak leader, including while dealing with cross-strait ties and over South China sea.

Saturday 24 December 2016

India should be given access to CPEC (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Peaceful relations with India are much more to Pakistan’s advantage than to India’s.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has the potential to be both an opportunity and a threat to India’s security interests. Once the project becomes operational, it may be feasible for Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) armour and artillery to move within days into strike positions on the India-Pakistan border. War between India and China would damage the core interests of both sides for decades. Hence, it is unlikely that President Xi Jinping would act any differently from his predecessors during the 1965, 1971 and 1999 wars that Pakistan had with India. During the 1965 conflict, the PLA did make a few threatening noises over some goats and sheep that were claimed to have been stolen by the Indian side. Several goats and sheep were thereupon marched by herdsmen to the border with China, which was asked to accept them rather than go to war for their sake. The livestock, which remained in India while Chinese troops kept within their side of the frontier. In 1971 as well, despite hopes in Rawalpindi and Washington that Beijing would intervene in an effort to rescue the Pakistan army after it was attacked by the Mukti Bahini-Indian Army alliance, the PLA did nothing. Indeed, the US under the foulmouthed Richard Nixon did much, much more, even sending a nuclear powered aircraft carrier to the Bay of Bengal in a futile effort to overawe Indira Gandhi, who refused to halt her troops until (what is now) Bangladesh was rid of a frankly genocidal Pakistan army. In this, she differed from Jawaharlal Nehru, who agreed to entreaties from Louis Mountbatten to cease fire on 1 January 1949, before the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir had been liberated by General Cariappa’s forces. Much later, during the 1999 Kargil episode as well, the Chinese military did nothing. The reality is that the leadership in Beijing sees the east Pacific coast as the probable location for a future war, and is not eager to get involved in a conflict with India on its west, no matter that this would be welcomed by GHQ Rawalpindi. Also, the Chinese leadership is aware that there is substantial potential for Sino-Indian commercial ties, and that this would benefit the Chinese economy.
Now that the US has finally created daylight between itself and Pakistan in the matter of strategic policy, it should not take long for the military brass in Rawalpindi to acknowledge that China is not going to come to their aid in the event that the ISI’s meddling leads to a war between the two countries. Such a conflict would hurt Pakistan far more than it would this country. An accurate calculation of geopolitical interests indicates that peaceful and cooperative relations with India are much more to Pakistan’s advantage than to India’s. Peace between Delhi and Islamabad would ensure that the Pakistan military be enabled to deal a knockout blow to the many groups engaged in armed struggle against the Pakistan state and its army. Such groups are continuing to operate in many locations within Pakistan in large part because much of the army is deployed not against them, but on the border with India. This despite the fact that our country has for long been uninterested in another border war with Pakistan. This could be the reason why some of the brass at GHQ Rawalpindi are in favour of inviting India to join in developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The odds are that this idea is also favoured by the Chinese side, and if so, the changed stand indicates that the gargantuan lobby of commercial interests in that country may slowly be pulling ahead of the PLA in the matter of influence over India policy. Indeed, the PLA’s infatuation with Pakistan serves the interests of GHQ Rawalpindi and not that of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).
Economic fundamentals favour close cooperation in the commerce between India and China, the way the world’s newest superpower has established substantial business and other linkages with the US, the EU and even traditional foe Japan. This is despite the fact that at least the first and third of this trio are strategic rivals of China in a much more pronounced way than India is, and could in the future be at war with China in East Asia or the South China Sea. While India may provide logistical assistance to Washington and Tokyo in such a conflict should there be formal obligations to do so as a consequence of the expected strengthening of formal US-India military ties during the Donald Trump presidency. This would be analogous to the way China has assisted Pakistan on occasion without getting directly involved in actual fighting on behalf of its ally.
Should the offer of elements of GHQ Rawalpindi to India to join in the CPEC be genuine, it may be a good idea to accept it, provided access along the CPEC is on terms similar to that provided to any other country, including China. Goods from India should have land access through the corridor, including into Afghanistan and Central Asia. It is the reachout by India to Afghanistan that most riles GHQ Rawalpindi. However, the reality facing Pakistan is that its economic strength is not sufficient to once again effectively make much of Afghanistan its colony. The first time around, in the 1990s, this was accomplished through the backing of the US, a force multiplier that is absent now. As for the Chinese, they are unlikely to want to invest too heavily in a renewed Pakistani bid to regain its Taliban-era influence over Afghanistan. Should such a reality get recognised by the generals in Pakistan and access be offered to India through Pakistan into Afghanistan and thereafter Central Asia, there would be merit in joining the CPEC project without prejudice to any stand on legal borders. Policymakers in India said “nyet” to Gwadar port, a permanent UN Security Council, membership of ASEAN and several other offers that it would have been advantageous to accept. Reason, and not emotion, should dictate India’s response to a serious offer to participate in the CPEC.

Friday 23 December 2016

Angela Merkel heads for disaster (Pakistan Observer)

By M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

WHEN politicians seek to portray themselves as saints, trouble is around the corner. Given the manner in which politics is conducted across the world, it is impossible to excel in that blood sport without cutting several corners. In the case of the first female Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, this included her going against the individual who had ensured her rise for over 15 years, Helmut Kohl. When it became clear that Kohl was becoming unpopular, Frau Merkel began distancing herself from him, finally leaving him in the ditch to get elected as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at dawn of the new century. Since then, she has shown herself to be ruthless in dealing with potential rivals, as is clear from the fact that no fewer than five politicians have each served as her Deputy since Frau Merkel became Chancellor in 2005.
Each was removed not for not so much losing ground as in developing a base independent of their boss while holding the position of her deputy, thereby potentially becoming her successor. The result has been that the second line in the CDU is so lacklustre and unattractive to the electorate. The Chancellor wants only a single star within her party (and indeed the country) and that is herself. Those close to Frau Merkel say that she secretly covets the Nobel Peace Prize and has tried to work out a strategy to get the honour. This would explain her otherwise inexplicable move last year to absorb what will finally balloon before 2020 into three million refugees from North Africa and West Asia entering into her somewhat insular country in case the Open Door policy favoured by the German Chancellor continues into the next months. Of course, the gesture ensured global headlines for Frau Merkel, including TIME calling her the “Chancellor of the Free World”.
Clearly she has read TIME, for recently she gave a somewhat pompous lecture to incoming US President Donald Trump about “democratic values”. It will be noted that the policy favoured for migrants from terror-stricken and terrorist-infested areas is the opposite of that pushed by the German Chancellor. The terror attack on a Berlin Christmas market by a young Tunisian migrant has begun a process of rethinking within the German electorate that appears certain to ensure the defeat of Angela Merkel and her party next year. In like fashion, the terror attacks in Paris have given Marine Le Pen the best chance within the contestants for becoming President of French Republic next year, despite the commentaries awarding the prize prematurely to Francois Fillon, victor over Nicholas Sarkozy in their party primaries.
The French seek change, just as US voters did, and Fillon does not represent much change from the past, no matter how sharply he seeks to delink himself from the past. More than Fillon, it is Le Pen who resembles Donald Trump, with her sharply defined views on national and international affairs. Although her rivals have sought to paint Marine Le Pen as a political extremist and a bigot, such a characterisation would be unfair. The reality is that the lady has substantially steered the National Front party away from the extremely reactionary and racist positions taken by her father Jean-Marie. Indeed, the daughter of the National Front founder has been determined in ensuring that her father and those subscribing to his extreme views no longer have a safe space in party he dominated for decades, and voters in France have sophistication needed to find this out for themselves.
To discover the difference between Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen, hence the prospects for a victory by her in Round Two of the Presidential polls is high, mainly because making it to the ultimate round will convince many “soft” supporters of her that there is a high chance of Marine Le Pen becoming Head of State of one of the most internally civilised countries on the planet. In Round Two, such voters are likely to come out of the closet and openly support her, way soft Trump voters emerged once billionaire businessperson got nominated as the Republican candidate for the Presidency of United States. Angela Merkel is very similar to Hillary Clinton, in that both are highly scripted politicians who clearly speak out of cue cards and who talk in Politically Correct-speak.
In contrast, Donald Trump has never hidden the fact that he is confident in being himself, despite being advised against this repeatedly throughout the Presidential campaign, including by those close to him. Finally, it was this courage to speak his mind , even about Russia, that charmed millions of voters across the US to choose him over Hillary Clinton, who ended up as the candidate of the two coats of her country while being rejected by its heartland. However, unlike in France, where the unpopularity of a sitting Head of Government will lead to the election of a “Right Wing” successor, in Germany it is the Social Democratic Party (SPD) that is likely to emerge the gainer out of a Merkel collapse.
Indeed, the individual who was her predecessor, Gerhardt Schroeder, was possibly the best Chancellor that his country ever had since Bismarck more than a century ago. Schroeder forced through the changes in policy that led to the success of the German economy after his term, a success for which Frau Merkel took the credit. The present German Chancellor is so determined to stamp out all or any influence of Gerhardt Schroeder that she has inspired several negative press reports about him, especially his friendships in Russia, a country also loathed by the political foes of Trump.
So deep is her hatred for Schroeder that Chancellor Merkel has kept away from top jobs in Berlin even outstanding individuals just because they have been ( or still are) close to the former Chancellor. An example is Michael Steiner, who was Foreign Policy Advisor to Chancellor Schroeder, and who understands the world far better than most of his peers do, but who has been sidelined by Chancellor Merkel as a consequence of her Schroeder Phobia. Ironically, it will be the SPD that may be expected to come to power in the coming polls in a victory made possible by the unpopularity of a CDU led by Merkel.

Monday 19 December 2016

Opening New Frontiers (Organiser)

By M D Nalapat | International

Donald Trump clearly sees that it is not Russia but China that poses the biggest threat to the US supremacy, and that Beijing is the revisionist power.

The increasing probability of a war in East Asia involving the US, South Korea and Japan against North Korea and China is growing. Within five to six years, the Kim Jong Un regime’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and delivery systems will reach the stage when severe damage is feasible against the three allies, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington.

Thereafter, secure in its home base, the Kim regime is likely to pursue a destabilising policy of proliferating nuclear weapons and associated delivery systems to Wahabbi states and groups that by then will be in a state of low intensity conflict with major democratic states, including India and the US. The only western leader who has understood the centrality of the need to ensure that the Kim Jong Un regime be stopped — through persuasion if possible and through force if not — is Donald Trump. Given the rising likelihood of a war centering around the Korean peninsula, the logic of a reachout to Moscow and Taipei is impeccable. Were Taipei to take the side of Beijing in the conflict, the security of Japan and South Korea would be severely compromised. And if Russia could be prised away from backing China in a future East Asia war, that would make victory for the Seoul-Tokyo-Washington alliance certain. During the 1950s Korean war, it was Moscow’s assistance that enabled Mao Zedong to hold US troops at bay, that and the policy of fighting with both hands tied that was adopted by President Harry Truman in opposition to the counsel of General Douglas MacArthur, who was removed from command rather than allowed to unify Korea by force of arms through fuller use of US military assets than had been permitted by the haberdasher-President of the United States. Those looking beyond the superficial will be able to discern a clear pattern in the foreign policy thinking of Donald Trump: should an East Asia conflict be inevitable, reaching out to Taipei and Moscow becomes essential, and this is what is being attempted even before the 45th President of the United States takes office on January 20, 2017.

While forecasting the victory of Donald Trump in the US Presidential elections of November 8, 2016 it was obvious that the billionaire represented a welcome and needed break from decades of Cold War-anchored foreign policy. Focussed as this was on Moscow, such an Atlanticist focus suited both the European as well as the US eastern coast elites, both of whom continued to frame policy on the basis of a Euro-centred globe. Barack Obama saw the absurdity in this, but lacked either the courage or the political capital to seriously challenge an orthodoxy that had nourished both Wahabbism as well as the authoritarian challenge to US global primacy represented by the Second Superpower, China. Although Obama separated some aspects of his administration's foreign policy during his second term, towards the close, what was perceived to be the inevitable succession of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the White House made the present US administration revert back to the Euro-centred “Weltanschauung” (World View) embraced by both the Bushes and the Clintons. With his business acumen and ear to ground realities, it took Donald Trump to challenge the Atlanticist orthodoxy in foreign policy, in the process generating waves of hysterical commentary on the “dangers” of a Trump Presidency. In actual fact, only the foreign policy now being enunciated action after action, statement after statement (or tweet after tweet) by President-elect of the United States Donald John Trump has the potential to delink the US from the disasters that the Euro-centred Cold Warrior foreign policy of the State Department and the eastern seaboard policy elites have caused.

The collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991 created an opportunity to integrate Moscow into a collaborative world order. However, this would have meant the ceding of paramountcy to Russia in Europe, an outcome that is anathema to Atlanticists.

Encouraged by France and Germany, neither of whom wished to integrate Russia into Europe, the Clinton administration made use of mafias close to Boris Yeltsin in an effort at ensuring the “pastoralisation” of Russia i.e. converting that country into a supplier of agrarian and industrial raw materials, lacking an independent technological base.

The attempt at the forcible conversion of a tech giant into a pygmy created a backlash against the Atlantic Alliance (including NATO) within those policymaking groups within the Russian Federation that were not under the control of individual or several NATO member-states, and in Vladimir Putin, the country found a leader with the brainpower and determination needed to ensure that Moscow emerge out of its post-1991 chaos into the front rank of global powers, a task that has been achieved despite opposition from NATO member-states led by the US. Should Russia not be Enemy Number One, the very foundations of the classic Euro-centred foreign policy will dissolve, hence the fury of this establishment at the efforts of Donald Trump to effect a genuine reset with post-Soviet Russia, a country that has the same Christian majority as does the US, and which faces the same elevated threat of Wahabbi extremism as do the US and India.

The 45th President of the United States has anchored his policies not in the past but in the future, when China may seize global primacy away from the US, especially under the leadership of “Han Nationalist” Xi Jinping.

Through the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, Xi Jinping is seeking to convert China into the backbone of global commerce, using infrastructure to link Asia and Europe together, much the same way as the Roman Empire did two millenia ago. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is less a part of OBOR than it is a means to ensure that Chinese military assets can reach into the heartland of India (Punjab and Rajasthan) in a decisive manner and within days of the launching of a war against India together with Pakistan. Given the neglect of indigenous weapons systems by successive governments in the Lutyens Zone, in both aircraft as well as in armour, China poses a military challenge to India that can only be mitigated should the US move into India's corner in a far more decisive way than was the case during the 1962 border hostilities between the two neighbours. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy in India is as much Cold War-oriented  as is the case with the European counterparts they so admire, and thus far, not even the logistics agreement with the US (LSA) has been operationalised, much less than those dealing with Communications Security (CISMOA) and with Basic Exchange (BECA). Whether it be the heightened military threat posed by the CPEC or the need to ensure that the Kim Jong Un regime does not reach the stage of irremediable lethality in its nuclear preparations, or indeed the broader conflict involving Wahabbi groups, close cooperation between the US and India is essential for both sides, but despite this, both bureaucracies are slowing down and attempting to sabotage such a military alignment of the world's two biggest democracies.

Donald Trump is not an amalgam of North America and Europe the way Hillary Clinton or the (US) eastern foreign policy establishment is. The businessperson turned leader is very much a child of his country and the present. He sees clearly that it is not Russia but China that poses the biggest threat to US primacy, and that it is Beijing rather than Moscow that is overturning a global order that has maintained US primacy since the close of the 1939-45 war. Aware that the US has only a narrow window of five or six years before it will be too late to challenge China effectively in theatres such as East Asia and the South China sea, seeing for himself the imminent threat that North Korea poses to the US and its allies in Asia, the newly elected President of the United States is seeking to cobble together a geopolitical order that can reverse the decades of decline that the Euro-centred, Russia-phobic, China-boosting policies of the Clintons, the Bushes and the McCains have created. Unlike his predecessor, whose courage falls far short of his objectives, Donald Trump has been candid on the need to effect foundational change in US foreign policy.

Small wonder that Euro-ized elites such as House Speaker Paul Ryan are seeking to slow down or to halt altogether the shift away from the toxic legacy of the past. However, once sworn in as President of the United States, it is likely that Trump will deploy his formidable communications skills to warn the population that it is not Russia but China that represents the biggest threat to continued US global primacy. Taiwan is crucial to success in a future East Asia war, and Trump has therefore broken with the Kissingerian doctrine of pandering to the Communist Party of China through accepting its eventual supremacy over Taiwan. The incoming President has publicly said that he no longer intends to follow an East Asian diplomacy that is geared not to the core interests of Washington but of Beijing. In such a context, the most important global partner will be India, but the question is whether Lutyens Delhi will permit a reconfiguration of defense policy so as to ensure a partnership with the US that would checkmate the China-Pakistan alliance and its ongoing program to create infrastructure that would permit the Peoples Liberation Army to intervene in a Pakistan versus India conflict not just across the Himalayas but prospectively into Punjab and Rajasthan as well through the tank and artillery highway that is the CPEC Donald Trump, with his focus on core US interests and on actual rather than fancied conditions, can be expected to continue to work to ensure that the accomodation given to Beijing since Nixon-Kissinger (and which enabled a new superpower to emerge) get discontinued. His choices for Secretary of State, Defense Secretary and National Security Advisor reflect the next US President's awareness that war may be needed in the Korean peninsula if Kim Jong Un is to be prevented from posing an existential threat to the US, Japan and South Korea. The outreach to Tsai Ing-wen ( who incidentally is a close friend of India) in Taiwan reflects such hard-nosed calculation, as does his reaching out to Vladimir Putin in an effort to ensure Moscow’s neutrality in a future East Asia war. The role of India will be crucial in the emerging security scenario. Donald Trump will move with more despatch against Beijing the surer he is of a partnership with Delhi. Prime Minister Modi needs to move beyond the Lutyens Zone in identifying strategies needed to maximise benefit for India in the emerging geopolitics of a world that will soon witness a Trump Presidency. What is needed is to ensure that the economy of India move into double digit growth so that there will be the means to ensure that the defense sector be adequately provisioned. What is needed is to work out strategies designed to prevent any erosion in security as a consequence of the CPEC. What is needed is to position India as a reliable and effective partner in the War on Terror as well as in ensuring the security of democracies in Asia. President-elect Donald Trump has made his stand clear. In the months ahead, especially on India, Russia and China. It is to be expected that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will in the months ahead move beyond the Cold War paradigm that the Lutyens Zone has for so long espoused, including in an early start to direct conversations between the leaders of the two biggest democracies in the world.

Sunday 18 December 2016

Lutyens moles work to damage PM Modi (Sunday Guardian)

By MADHAV NALAPAT | New Delhi | 18 December, 2016

‘Out of 11 senior bureaucrats who were involved in the planning of the currency switch’, two are still ‘one hundred per cent loyal to the Lutyens Zone’.

India’s “Lutyens Zone” (analogous to the “Washington Beltway”) went into overdrive from 16 May 2014 to ensure that Narendra Modi becomes a single-term Prime Minister or even be forced to quit his office in between, as took place during 1979 in the case of the other PM from Gujarat, Morarji Desai. This strategy cannot be dismissed as impossible to implement. Although Rahul Gandhi has often been dismissed as an intellectual lightweight by several of his peers, according to a credible strategist working in the interests of the Lutyens Zone, the fact is that the vice-president of the All India Congress Committee “has been working to a plan to derail Modi from the start”. According to this source and another highly placed individual who has served as a core planner for the Lutyens Zone (LZ) leadership since the 1980s, the contra-Modi plan was “accelerated to take-off speed after he (Rahul) took effective charge of the Congress in November 2015”. The duo outlined the LZ “plan of action” since the shock collapse of the Congress in the 2014 polls. “We never expected the BJP to get a majority on its own, nor the Congress tally to go below 110”, the two significant sources said, adding that “it took about 19 months after 16 May 2014 before we were able to work out a plan capable of ensuring that the NDA would not return to power in 2019”. Both said that Rahul Gandhi “embraced the strategy fully, unlike those in his party who had been in leadership positions during the Manmohan decade”. These wanted to “continue with the past policy of cutting private deals with the BJP and putting on only a mock defiance of the new government”. From the start of mid-2015, when his grip over the rudder strengthened at the expense of the old guard of the AICC, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi “accepted our (dominant Lutyens Zone) view that with Narendra Modi in the Prime Minister’s chair, it had to be total war”, although sometimes cloaked in the language of conciliation. “Rahul understood that India would change fundamentally were Modi to win a second term or to have an unobstructed run in his present term”, the insider claimed, adding that “over the opposition of leadership elements in the Congress, Rahul insisted on a policy of complete opposition to the Modi government” so as to ensure that key measures such as the Land Bill or GST would not get passed early or preferably ever in the term of the Modi-led NDA.

According to them, “part of the strategy was to give misleading signals during Parliamentary sessions to those in the BJP who had been interlocutors with the Congress in the past”. These were informed that compromise was around the corner, when it was actually out of the question. As a consequence, the NDA government hardened its legislative position, especially on GST, in the expectation that “Congress would follow the UPA-period BJP strategy of opposing, but not obstructing” key legislative and other measures. The Lutyens Zone strategy was also to “create an international image at variance with the global picture of (PM) Modi as a reformer and as an individual who could get things done”. Simultaneously, contacts in media, civil society and governments in key countries were briefed extensively in a manner designed to give the impression of a government where minorities and the underprivileged were unsafe, and where crony capitalists were indulged. According to these sources, “the campaign has been successful, as can be seen from the proliferation of negative reports about the Modi government in the international media”. Whether because of a continuation of the “Vajpayee line” (of backroom compromise with the Congress while verbal pyrotechnics abounded in public), or “because (PM) Modi was advised by some key associates friendly to the Lutyens Zone that he should not appear vindictive, but statesmanlike”, the NDA government has thus far done almost nothing to enforce accountability on those UPA-era central heavyweights perceived as having made billions through stock exchange frauds, foreign currency manipulations and through tweaks in government policy. Additionally, senior bureaucrats who had acted as facilitators for senior UPA leaders during 2004-14, were allowed by the NDA government to continue in their posts and were often promoted to still more sensitive positions, as Prime Minister Modi sought to distance himself from any perception of bias or vindictiveness. Needless to say, such adherence to what may be termed a Prithviraj Chauhan strategy has not lessened the overt and covert campaign to hobble him in office and if possible to drive him out even before the 2019 polls.

According to the Lutyens duo, “out of 11 senior bureaucrats who were involved for 17 weeks prior to 8 November in the planning of the currency switch”, two are still “100% loyal to the Lutyens Zone” and therefore gave the government “advice that will boomerang on the government”. An example was the decision to replace the Rs 1,000 denomination note with a Rs 2,000 substitute. This “went against the logic of the metric system, where the deferred number mathematical theory points to 1, 2, 5 and 10”. It was pointed out by the strategists that throughout the globe, 1, 2, 5 and 10 (i.e. 10, 20, 50 and 100 or 100, 200, 500, 1000) are used to fix the value of currency. “By arbitrarily fixing 2000 and 100 as the two effective bands, the first has become useless in several transactions, while the latter is being hoarded”, a Lutyens Zone strategist pointed out, adding that the particular civil servant who recommended the Rs 2,000 note and withdrawal of the Rs 1,000 note “would get a Governorship when we take office by mid-2019 latest”. It was pointed out that the Rs 100, Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 bands are too far apart for ease of everyday transactions and would impact these even should currency supply normalise after ten months. The Lutyens strategist added that they “have been helped by the fact that a few officials are given wide discretionary power in the current administration, so much so that their recommendations are seldom re-examined before being implemented”. Another googly embedded in the policy, according to the sources, was the “hyper-high penalties for concealed income, which ensured that the grey market, rather than the exchequer got the benefit”. The source claimed that “our people in the system have consistently argued for high penalties so as to ensure the failure of disclosure schemes”. However, such claims of internal sabotage through toxic policies are impossible to verify, as the officials concerned would not implicate themselves by admitting to any role other than that of civil servants loyal to the government of the day. The two civil servants named as Lutyens moles by the strategists talked to are known for their efficiency and thus far, the absence of serious controversy.

The calculation of the anti-Modi brigade is that the manner in which the 8 November currency policy that was accepted by Prime Minister Modi after being strongly recommended by no less than 11 key officials and advisers, “will lower tax collections by stunting growth”. Consequently, “raids will rise and summary assessments multiply” as the government seeks to lower its deficit through squeezing taxpayers. This is expected to anger the middle class and the trading community, both of whom were significant parts of the Modi coalition in 2014. The expectation within the Lutyens Zone is that the present currency shortage will continue well past mid-2017 and result in lower growth for several quarters, perhaps even for years, thereby allowing the opposition to claim that Modi failed to generate growth and employment during his term in office.

They say that their supporters in the government have told them that there are several known bottlenecks in the process of printing of currency, “such as that there is only a single intaglio machine” at each printing centre, thereby slowing down considerably the output of fresh notes with even low grade security systems embedded in them. “All this was known (to the officials consulted in the matter), but not revealed to the Prime Minister”, these sources claimed, adding that “a highly-placed mole convinced the PMO that universalisation of digital modes of payment in a short time-span was possible, when in fact it is impossible”. He pointed out that e-wallets are less than 4% of GDP, and as for overall black money, “our estimate is that the total is around 18% of GDP” or around Rs 27 lakh crore. This includes cash, assets and foreign holdings routed through banks and hawala. Cash in Indian currency forms the smallest component. Hence the overall effect on black money of the 8 November measure would not be substantial. About the official who persuaded the government that cash equals black money and hence needed to be 85% drained out of the system in a single blow, “He will be given a constitutional position when we take office”, the source said with a smile. As for counterfeit currency, even when added to terror funding, the total comes to less than 1% of the currency value withdrawn on the midnight of 8 November 2016. Although it is impossible to verify whether Lutyens Zone moles were deliberately ensuring the sabotage through distortions in detail of Prime Minister Modi’s hugely consequential scheme, it seems clear that unpardonable errors have been made in both the conceptualisation as well as the operationalisation of the details of the swap of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes, as well as in calculating its after-effects.

As daily cash hauls testify, more than the wealthy it is the common man who has been hit hard by the 8 November move. Should daily consumption fall by 30% (the present situation, according to field reports), GDP will fall by even more than the 2% calculated by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who must be a happy man these days, in that errors made during his years in office have now been forgotten in the flood of reactions to the 8 November extinguishing of 86% of India’s currency. As for the unorganised sector, which accounts for more than 90% of the total of jobs in India, that has been severely affected by a brilliant decision implemented in a less than satisfactory manner, although it is impossible to verify the claims made by Lutyens Zone strategists that several of the errors were deliberate and aimed at sabotaging Modi’s bold plans. Rules and restrictions have been changed nearly 40 times, while tax rates and penalties have been altered at jet speed. Overall, the impact of 8 November on trust and credibility in the banking system as a reliable store of value, and in the Reserve Bank of India as its guarantor, seems to be long-lasting.

If there is even a 15% chance that the two Lutyens Zone strategists are speaking the truth about moles in the present dispensation, the necessity is for a comprehensive investigation into who and how key decisions on operationalising the Prime Minister’s move were made that have subsequently turned out to be problematic. Those responsible for making recommendations that have subsequently become toxic, need to be checked out. More than any outside force, it is those on the inside who have the highest potential for inflicting damage on the Modi administration, and this may nowhere be clearer than in the manner in which the 8 November decision approved by Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has been implemented thus far, although knowing his strong personality, Prime Minister Modi is likely to continue to stand by his entire team despite increasing political fallout from the manner in which his 8 November 2016 announcement has been tweaked and implemented.

Saturday 17 December 2016

Wasted Winter Session (Loksabha TV)

Insight : Wasted Winter Session (17/12/2016) | Loksabha TV 

Transform bureaucracy to ensure India’s rise (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Prime Minister Modi will need to nudge his bureaucracy so as to ensure that they do not slow down or even sabotage his efforts.

Although given to expansive talk about the global reach of India, much of the bureaucracy within the country has yet to move sufficiently beyond its subcontinental focus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the subcontinent a high priority, breaking precedent by inviting SAARC heads of government to his 26 May 2014 swearing-in and appointing a much admired maestro of subcontinental operations as his National Security Advisor, who thereupon chose other former colleagues with the same geopolitical focus to man key slots within the security system. Overall, these former IPS officers are of exceptional quality and have done excellent work, especially in matters related to troublesome neighbours of this country. However, Pakistan’s effect on this country’s security is not based on its own domestic strengths as it is with Islamabad’s linkages. Hence, the need to work on policy approaches towards both these superpowers as would prise them loose from the hold that GHQ Rawalpindi has had on both of them for several decades. For that, the still-powerful Lutyens Zone element in the bureaucracy needs to go much further and much faster in operationalising the Prime Minister’s innovative approach to both superpowers. Unlike many of his predecessors, Modi has been unafraid of both a closer security relationship with the US as well as a deepening of the commercial relationship with China. However, on both fronts, foot-dragging by a bureaucracy still anchored to the past has resulted in the progress made on either front being well below the exploitable potential. Not to mention the continuing obsession with Pakistan to the neglect of several other parts of the globe that are far more consequential for India. 

In China, the Communist Party (CCP) ruling that country since 1949 has for decades had a single-minded focus on the economy that has resulted in hugely beneficial policies, especially after Deng Xiaoping took over the leadership of the party. While Mao unified a long-fragmented China, it was Deng who made certain that his country broke away from the low-income trap that it had fallen into for centuries. However, trade between India and China is still well within the double digit range, despite its full potential approaching $300 billion. This would include investment by Chinese entities in India, financial flows from PRC banks to entities in India, receipts from tourism and services, as well as trade in commodities. Once annual financial flows between Beijing and Delhi cross $150 billion, the hold of the Pakistan-favouring People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on policy towards India will begin to get diluted, and by the time such flows near $300 billion, the CCP will embrace what has been a reality since the 1990s, that it is India rather than Pakistan that is beneficial to China’s interests, and indeed that Islamabad has been for some time antithetical to Beijing’s overall interests. Despite the rhetoric of those who seek to ensure an adversarial relationship between Delhi and Beijing and in the process throw away the China Card (thus placing India substantially at the mercy of the US), Prime Minister Modi has sought to change the paradigm for Chinese investment and tourism into India, a process which needs to be liberated from the slowness with which the security and financial policy establishment in India has dealt with the matter thus far. Simultaneously, the Modi government needs to free itself of the Lutyens Zone fear of Chinese reaction and forge closer technological ties with Taiwan, especially in the field of cyber security, apart from attracting investment from an island that has, thus far, poured nearly $400 billion into the PRC. 

As for the US, it is a measure of the lack of desire for change of elements of the bureaucracy that even the logistics supply agreement (LEMOA) with the US has not yet been operationalised. This needs to be done within weeks, as do the signing and implementation of two other “foundation” agreements, the BECA and CISMOA variants that are being worked out between the US and India. Donald Trump has declined to go the way of the Euro-centred strategic establishment of the US and continue to point at Moscow as the main challenge to Washington, when that position belongs to Beijing. Instead, he has—to hysteria from both sides of the Atlantic—emulated Franklin D, Roosevelt by joining hands with Russia, thereby seeking to wean that major power away from overdependence on the actual threat to US global primacy, China. Unlike the obsolete Moscow fixation of wannabe Europeans in the US, Trump has made his choices on the basis of US interests alone, in the process working on wooing another capital crucial to a future conflict with China, Taipei, the shift of which to China would place the security interests of Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in much greater jeopardy than presently. Given the China focus of Donald Trump, who has swatted away the efforts of the Europe lobby within Washington to blackmail him into falling in line and concentrating on Russia, it is clear that India will be able to negotiate a productive bargain with his administration in the matter of security, a circumstance which would make a more equal commercial interface much easier to secure. However, for this to happen, Prime Minister Modi will need to nudge his bureaucracy so as to ensure that they do not slow down or even sabotage his efforts, the way it is clear the Atlanticist cohort within Washington is gearing up to do come 20 January 2017. Whether it be in foreign or security policy, or indeed in recent experiments with monetary habits, the need is for the Prime Minister to be as firm on the bureaucracy, as the latter have been harsh against the people of India. Unless this be done, achievement in India will continue to lag far behind potential. 

Friday 16 December 2016

European states scurry to save IS fighters (Pakistan Observer)

By M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

AROUND half of the previous century and throughout the preceding few, European states had been in control of much of Asia, losing the continent at least in a formal way only after two debilitating conflicts in the 20th century. Subsequently, especially since the 1970s, technologies were developed that democratised the ability to get information and reduced its costs. Of course, mega corporations based in the developed countries seek to charge extortionate prices for their hardware and software offerings, often using law courts in their own countries to get verdicts against competitors from Asia and to block consumers from accessing low cost options to the wares of such corporations.

Despite this, and in large part because of the altrusim of several citizens in European and North American countries who have developed free software, and a few manufacturers in the developing world who are seeking to produce computer hardware are prices affordable to hundreds of millions more global citizens than is the case at present, individual citizens have been empowered by technology in a manner such as to challenge the efforts of governments everywhere to have a monopoly of control and influence over the citizen. Unfortunately, overall, governments in the former colonial powers still hold on to the desire for control, and this has found expression even in the present century, which has been replete with UN-approved “trusteeships” being granted to former colonial powers over their previous colonies, as for example the UK ( together with the US) over Afghanistan, or France in Syria and Italy in Libya.

Most of the sensitive components of the United Nations Organization are headed by citizens of former colonial powers, and very soon, so will the position of Secretary-General of the organization Nowhere has the conflict of interest between the specific geopolitical imperatives of a particular bloc of states and the general good of the entire international community been so much in conflict as in the ongoing conflict in Syria. Of course, CNN, BBC and television channels toeing their line misrepresent the “international community” as referring solely to the two sides of the North Atlantic, leaving out China, India and Russia as well as most of South America and Africa from their calculus. In colonial times, the populations of many of these countries were inconsequential, and they have been calculated as so by media channels still following the logic of the colonial era, where some human beings counted for much more than others.

Conspiracy theories are usually overblown, and to claim that there is a deliberate strategy by the Atlantic Alliance behind the ongoing collapse of societies in the Middle East would be to indulge in fiction. However, even if the reasons for the same are benign, the effect of intervention by the US, the UK, France and other “western” powers in the region has proved a disaster. From the final stages of the 19th century, France and especially the UK backed the most extreme religious zealots in the Middle East, or those whose ascendance would doom local populations to a condition of educational stagnation and societal degradation. Human rights were downgraded and democracy shunned. It had been hoped that the new century would be different and that Tom Friedman’s “Flat World” hypothesis would come about, but events have made clear that the “flat” globe still has several mounds of unequal opportunity disfiguring it.

In 2003, President George W Bush in effect made Iraq a colony of the US and other military allies of his, ruling through Paul Bremer, a proconsul whose knowledge of local conditions was as low as the level of his administrative competence. Bush threw away victory in Afghanistan by giving cash and weapons to radical warlords rather than to modernizers. And after the 2011 uprisings in several Arab countries, Hillary Clinton, Nicholas Sarkozy (then Francois Hollande) and David Cameron armed, trained and funded fighters, many of whom joined Daesh within months of getting largesse from these self-deluded individuals Although Hillary Clinton has not for a long time been a formal part of the Obama administration, her people are pervasive within it, and as a consequence, much of US policy in the Middle East has been toxic to the interests even of Washington.

However, few examples of self-defeating tactics would be able to compete with the hysterical cry throughout both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to save IS fighters trapped in Aleppo. Acting through Stefan de Mistura, who is loyal not to the Secretary-General of the UN but to the Secretary-General of NATO, there have been a flood of calls for a cease fire that would permit the roughly 2800 hardcore IS fighters in Aleppo to escape so as to form nucleii that would train more legions of extremists in order to wreak havoc. Several of such hardcore fighters would, if de Mistura had his way, be enabled to flee into Europe in the guise of “moderate freedom fighters”, and once there set up terror cells designed to create mayhem on the lines seen in France or Belgium.

Fortunately for the region, it is Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton who was elected on November 8, and although several in Team Trump nurse the same skewed picture of Mideast reality as the Clintons do (no doubt uninfluenced by hefty donations to their foundation from regional powers pushing for the same strategy), the fact is that President Trump is unlikely to defer to any views other than his own, and he has shown over months of campaigning a refreshingly accurate understanding of ground realities in the Mideast, targetting IS as the principal foe the way Franklin Roosevelt focussed on the Nazi Party has the primary enemy of the US during wartime. Aleppo is likely to fall into the hands of the Damascus regime, and several of the 2800 hardcore IS fighters are likely to have a very rough time, of course with the consolation that policymakers in the US, France, the UK and other states that such extremists will soon be concentrating on worked very hard to save them. 

Monday 12 December 2016

Second Korean War Imminent Warns Dr. Nalapat at Global Peace Leadership Conference Seoul 2016 (Global Peace Foundation)

Global Peace Leadership Conference Seoul 2016
Professor Madhav Das Nalapat

"New Approach to a Critical Turning Point: Buliding a Global Consensus for 1 Korea"

December 7, 2016, National Assembly Hall, Seoul, Korea
Professor Madhav Das Nalapat, 
UNESCO Peace Chair, Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal University, India


The 1950-53 Korean War ended in a stalemate because the United States followed the same strategy of what may be termed "truncated objectives" that was in play during the 1990-91 campaign by mainly U.S. forces against the Iraqi armed forces led by Saddam Hussein. That campaign deliberately stopped short of occupying the country and removing the Baghdad-based dictator from power, exactly as the Korean War ended with Kim Il Sung still in power in Pyongyang.
Although the USSR threatened to retaliate against any non-conventional (chiefly nuclear) expansion of U.S. military operations in Korea, the reality is that such a threat was almost certainly a bluff, as at that point in time, U.S. nuclear weapon resources were far more advanced than in the Soviet Union. However, it would not have been necessary to use the nuclear option in order to ensure a decisive outcome to the 1950-53 war. The capital of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing, was well within missile distance of U.S. forces operating on land and sea in the Korean theatre, and an intensification of the threat to its capital may have ensured that the People’s Republic of China agree to cease fire on terms much less favourable to the North Korean side than was eventually the case.
President Eisenhower had clearly had enough of war, and after personally witnessing the desolation caused by the 1939-45 war in Europe, had not the will to expand the conflict in Korea to the full-scope level demanded by General Douglas MacArthur. Truman, his predecessor, had even less of an appetite for conflict, blocking KMT forces in Taiwan from intervening in the situation caused by the People’s Liberation Army getting involved in Korea, and blocking MacArthur from doing any damage to military assets in the China side of the PRC-Korea border, when such an assault would have sharply reduced the firepower and offensive capabilities of Chinese and partner forces.
Finally, unsure of whether the general would obey the restrictive orders placed his way by President Truman, the 1939-45 war hero was replaced by General Mathew Ridgeway, whose adherence to the restrictive instructions of Truman as well as Eisenhower ensured not only two years of a stalemate costly in human lives, but in a partition of the ancient country of Korea that has continued to this date.
(right to left) Dr. Nalapat, Mr. Greg Scarlatoiu, Dr. Emanuel Pastreich,
session moderator Dr. Jin Shin, and Mr. David Caprara
When Mao Zedong took the offensive in the civil war with KMT forces during 1946, after a half decade of a policy of largely keeping his forces intact while Chiang Kai-shek flung his troops into battle against the occupying Japanese, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader did not stop until his forces had taken control of tracts of land effectively ungoverned by Beijing for extended periods of time such as Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang.
Plainly, Mao was not in favour of a "truncated objectives" strategy. In hindsight, had Chiang been less active in seeking to reverse territorial gains made by Tokyo and instead adopted a policy of holding on to the residual territory left to his forces, they may have been able to finally overcome the PLA and reclaim China from rule by the Chinese Communist Party.
Another factor behind the success of the PLA was the supply of U.S. weaponry that flowed to them in order to militarily confront the Japanese, despite the reality that much of this was being stored for future use against Chiang. It is to the credit of Mao Zedong that he sensed the direction of the future wind, understanding that it was only a question of time before the superior technology and resources of the United States prevailed over the much less impressive forces under the command of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, just as towards the close of the 1960s, as he surveyed the months-long clash with Soviet forces at the Ussuri river in 1969, Mao understood the need for a modus vivendi with Washington if he were to secure his country from trouble fomented by a far more potent military force than he had, the armies and arsenals of the USSR.
Less than two years later, the thaw with Washington came about, in large part because in President Richard M Nixon the Chinese leader found a practitioner of realpolitiik as clear about the evolving situation and its needs as he himself was.  As for the USSR, the entente between Beijing and Washington so damaged its confidence that the immense military arsenal the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) had built up over the decades since 1945 were made subject to the same limitations that Truman and Eisenhower had imposed on their generals, that of stopping short of carrying the battle into the territory of the country that was sustaining the fighting capacity of the power in combat, Kim il Sung's Korea in the case of the 1950-53 war and Zia-ul-Haq's Pakistan in the case of the war that ended in the humiliation and defeat of the Soviet armies in Afghanistan.
Had Moscow carried the attack to Pakistan, for example by targeting mujahedeen launch pads in Peshawar and Quetta, and warning of possible attacks on Lahore and Karachi, assistance to the mujahedeen from within Pakistan territory would have almost certainly been reduced to a level capable of being overwhelmed by Soviet and secular Afghan forces.
The geopolitical pain caused to the ancient Korean people by the division of their country into two antithetical parts is in large part the consequence of the early 1950s hesitations of two U.S. Presidents, Truman and Eisenhower, who refused to deploy sufficiently the military assets available to them to ensure that the peninsula remained united. Such an outcome suited two neighbours of Korea. Both China and Japan gained from the division of Korea, the first by ensuring that an ally - in effect a satellite state - formed a vital flank on its external boundaries rather than a power linked in a military alliance that was also in strategic control of a former and potentially future adversary, Japan.
Given the closeness of the Yalu River to Beijing and to the Chinese heartland, it is obvious that the Chinese Communist Party would not wish to see any power not under its sway in control of the territory now in thrall to the regime in Pyongyang.
For almost a decade which began towards the close of the 1990s, it seemed as though the Republic of Korea (RoK) was leaving the magnetic pull of Washington and moving into the geopolitical orbit of Beijing, the way Islamabad was and still is. However, in recent years, the dissonance between CCP support for the Kim family in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the core interests of the RoK have become more palpable, with the consequence that there has been a return by Seoul to the strategic ambience of the United States.
As for Japan, although the division of Korea and resultant Pyongyang-Seoul tensions enabled Tokyo to outpace the south of the Korean peninsula in economic terms for close to three decades, finally the determination of the ancient Korean people ensured that the RoK began to level with Japan in economic prowess towards the close of the 1980s despite the vivisection of the peninsula, in like manner as the Republic of India has emerged as a fast-growing major economy despite the shock of its 1947 division through the creation of the first country in the world formed exclusively on the basis of religious belief, Pakistan, that from the first weeks of its formation has expended its strategic assets on seeking to slow down and finally reverse India's forward movement towards economic success.
If Truman and Eisenhower were to get pointed out as the causes behind the vivisection of the Korean peninsula, the focus needs to be on Presidents Clinton and Bush II for their policy of side-stepping the operational consequences of the evolution of the Pyongyang regime into, first a significant threat to the RoK and Japan and, subsequently, to parts of the U.S. itself. Both Clinton and Bush had the military power at their command to decapitate the Pyongyang regime through "micro surgery" before it could operationalise a credible response against Seoul.
By "micro surgery" is meant the destruction of mainly military assets without much damage to civilian infrastructure. Their successor, President Barack Obama, does not have that luxury. To be effective, an attack on the Pyongyang regime has to be of such kinetic velocity that it would not be possible in between for the DPRK to let loose destruction on a significant scale on assets within the RoK.
While during the Clinton-Bush years, given the limited force of the DPRK offensive machine, such a velocity would not have needed to have resulted in a large number of non-military casualties. However, since then the arsenal of this family-run half of the Korean peninsula has developed to a level and sophistication that would take much more effort to neutralize in the short time period needed to ensure the absence of retaliation sufficient to raise the costs of such an intervention to a level that would take a considerable time to rectify.
The Nobel Committee showed extraordinary prescience in giving the Peace Prize to an individual who had barely settled into his job. While President Obama deserves some commendation for his refusal to get involved in wars such as in Syria that are favoured by regional allies seeking to replicate Libya in that country, in the case of the DPRK the hesitation of the Obama administration to move beyond the timid bounds set by Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush in their chastisement of Pyongyang has ensured that the Kim Jong Un regime has developed into a security threat that could in brief years ensure immunity for itself through the possession of retaliatory capacity far in excess of that needed to prevent an attack on itself.
As was pointed out immediately following the events of 2003 and 2011, the fate of the two dictators who had actually given up their WMD stockpiles acted to convince the Kim regime to avoid that slippery slope towards an undignified end. The very advent of a Donald J Trump administration on the heels of that led by Barack Obama has convinced several leaders that it would be folly to rely on the word of a President or a Prime Minister, not only because he or she may soon get replaced, but because he or she may change his or her mind, the way Nicholas Sarkozy did about Muammar Gadhafi. Such a dynamic has made the reaching of an amicable settlement with the Kim dynasty in Pyongyang unlikely.
Working out an arrangement that would assure an amnesty to Kim Jong Un and other regime heavyweights in exchange for peaceful reunification would be the best case scenario, despite offending human rights purists intent on "sending a message" to other serial depredators of human rights by inflicting severe punishment on the Kim group in Pyongyang. While such an outcome would be possible, the cost in human terms would be considerable, thereby making it more advantageous to "write off" the sufferings inflicted by the DPRK regime on its victims while ensuring that these get capped as a consequence of the agreement reached.
In the recently conducted Presidential elections in the U.S., Donald Trump was from a foreign policy perspective a more hopeful prospect than Hillary Clinton, his presumed "weakness" being in reality his strength. The weakness of Donald Trump has been his lack of familiarity with foreign policy doctrines and those who have fashioned them. This sets him apart from Hillary Clinton, who visibly relies on the autopilot mode in policy discussions, going by the wisdom of her advisors on what would be the best course to take.
Trump, on the contrary, flies manually. If we consider that the primary "control towers" (aka policy formulators) within the Atlantic Alliance have often guided their "aircraft" into squalls and occasional crashes (among the more spectacular being interventions in the Middle East since 2011), a "pilot" who refuses to follow such guidance is much more likely to land his aircraft safely, i.e., ensure that a policy get formulated and operationalised that ensures a favourable outcome for the country making them.
Within the U.S., or indeed the British and the French, policy zones, there is a constant return to the errors of the past. Given that adopting a contrary line would amount to admission of error, it seems almost reasonable why so many "experts" would lay out policy menus for their political patrons that are in essentials indistinguishable from options given in the past and which later proved disastrous.
In the Korean theatre, a longstanding policy of carrots that are too small to entice followed by sticks, the effects of which on the Pyongyang elite are limited, has failed and yet gets endlessly repeated.  Given the reality of the Kim regime moving closer to a stage in which it would have the capacity to deter any attack by the credible threat of unacceptable damage, the four years of the Donald Trump administration that begin January 20, 2017 represent perhaps the last window available to resolve the Korea problem through a peaceful unification of both parts of this vibrant territory. Once this is achieved, avoiding the errors made during the German unification process in the 1990s could be possible, including an artificial equalisation of currency used in both sectors, thereby erasing the cost advantages of investing in the poorer segment.
Given the essentiality of unification, literature needs to be created that is designed to ensure a smooth fit in modern Korea for those who for their entire lives have survived in a time warp. It is difficult to visualize a glide path towards unification, but this would be certainly be preceded by a showcasing of force and resolve by the U.S., the RoK and other militaries that convinces the leadership in the north that any conflict would result in a defeat for the lesser armed force.
Next, it is necessary to ensure that Beijing be on board in international efforts to unify the peninsula, by for example guaranteeing the demilitarisation of the territory north of the 38 parallel and by imposing financial and other geopolitical costs should the PRC not participate in punitive measures activated in a situation of "bad" behaviour by the DPRK.
No such move will work unless Beijing signs on to it, and the only way to ensure this would be to ensure that the cost of PRC non-participation in international efforts to ensure "good" behaviour by Pyongyang be made clear and significant by the U.S. and its allies, and of course get enforced whenever needed rather than ignored as has too often been the case in the past.
The key to the ushering in of unification is not Seoul or Washington as much as it is Beijing.  The perception in Pyongyang that it enjoys immunity from retaliation for its armed provocations needs to be countered by visible and disproportional action against the Kim family regime in such instances. Any reaction to the reaction needs to be met with a fresh volley of retaliation. Those arguing that such moves will lead to a full-scope nuclear war are wrong, if only for some time to come the Kim Jong Un regime will be unable to mount a credible nuclear response. Once it is able to do so, the world and East Asia in particular will be entering uncharted territory. Hence the need for action during the window available before the activation of nuclear weapons systems by the DPRK.
The regime in Pyongyang is rational and does not have the suicide bomber gene in its intellectual makeup. However, deterrence will be credible only if there is a unified command facing the DPRK, in which the U.S., Japan and other participating powers ensure that Seoul be given a place of honour, with key slots in the unified command going to its officers and the overall political guidance of the Unified Command being vested in the Blue House. 
If the stick be substantial, so must the carrot be of generous proportions. This would include incentives for elements in the Pyongyang regime to invest in the RoK so as to acquire a physical stake in unification. Travel curbs should end, as those who are the most hostile are precisely the individuals who need to test their perception of reality with the ground situation in the "enemy other."
Financial curbs on outward and inward investment between the two halves of Korea should be liberalised, such that a network of "facts on the ground" gets created with a centripetal effect. Limited sticks, small carrots and quarantines have repeatedly failed and yet established foreign policy elites keep returning to such nostrums for fear of testing out the unknown.
The world has around four more years before the two halves holding a noble people either get unified or a situation gets created in which the international community will need to decapitate the regime in Pyongyang for the survival of stability in Asia. Now that an innovative business leader is taking over the reins of government of the world's most productive country, it is time to (1) open doors to the north, (2) set in place the means for deadly force should peace prove unworkable, (3) use such means to inflict severe harm, with the certainty of much more than any possible reaction can be, including the pinpoint use of all possible means of force at the command of the allies of the RoK and (4) indicate that time is running out for a regime that needs to realize that the survival of its elements can only continue in a situation where there is a mutually honourable settlement that is based on the unity of the Korean people, and which would in its governance structure include personnel from both sides till such time as such distinctions become an irrelevance.
The world has four years to prevent a war with possibly nuclear consequences that ought to have ended in 1951, had President Truman trusted his military leadership to finish a job that was only half complete when the 1953 armistice was declared, and which has continued in that state to the present.

Visit here for additional reports on the Global Peace Leadership Conference Seoul 2017.



Saturday 10 December 2016

Korea’s Park mistook democracy for monarchy (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat | Seoul

She became aloof and disconnected from both the people and party rank and file.

Being in the capital of South Korea for a conference on Korean Unification held in the National Assembly building was an experience which showed how far this country, small in territory but huge in economic success, has come in the maturity of its democracy. More than two million citizens congregated around the National Assembly, holding candles and singing songs, calling for President Park Geun-hye to resign forthwith. Elected on 25 February 2013, Park is the eleventh President of the Republic of Korea, and led her Saenuri Party to a comfortable plurality in the National Assembly. However, a little over three years later, the overwhelming majority of the population have had enough of her, and have taken to the streets to nudge a reluctant Parliament to remove her from office. Thus far, despite weeks of massive agitations against Park, there has not been a single arrest by the many police personnel placed around the National Assembly. The sympathies of those in uniform were with the protestors. And within the crowds, there was a festival atmosphere. Songs were sung, little children brought along “to watch history being made”, and there is satisfaction that Parliament—including the ruling party—will hold impeachment hearings. Judging by the mood of the voters, most of whom had backed President Park just three years ago, it seems clear that her days in office are numbered. President Park’s fate is a cautionary tale for democratically elected leaders everywhere of the speed with which public opinion can change, and how pressure from large numbers of citizens could force legislators to take action against an unpopular, albeit elected, leader.

What explains the collapse in the political fortunes of the daughter of the dictator, who between 1963 and 1979 made South Korea a global powerhouse of enterprise? When President Park Chung-hee’s wife died, it was only daughter Geun-hye who fulfilled several of the roles of the First Lady. Perhaps the five years of experience in the Blue House as the right hand of her autocratic father gave the current President of South Korea a distorted picture of the role of an elected leader.
After all, voters do not want to see their elected leader morph into a monarch, ruling in a manner as absolute as a dictator. In the case of President Park, there was certainly the question of her ties to an intimate female friend and the manner in which this individual used her sentimental hold over the President to get monetary and other favours from big business interests. However, this would not have gained the traction it did but for the fact that Park Geun-hye began to behave much in the manner of her father, who of course was a military dictator with zero popular mandate. Those who know her say that she became aloof, so much so that she even refused to have lunch with others while on tour, eating alone in her room in the manner of a royal potentate. Park would fix appointments and cancel them at the last minute, even while those who had come from long distances to see her were kept waiting in the Blue House for hours.

The President apparently saw legislators as lowlife, because she seldom found the time to meet them individually, preferring to leave that task to subordinates. These were themselves rude to both the public as well as to elected representatives, and spurned any request with contempt. The consequence of such an attitude is that several ruling party legislators joined with the Opposition to ensure her impeachment.

Members of President Park’s party say that soon after she took office nearly three years ago, the lady became aloof and disconnected from both the people as well as the party rank and file. She would meet only the seniormost leaders of the party, and that too not for the purpose of getting their views, but to give orders that she expected to be followed without question. Soon the ruling party headquarters became a venue where the ordinary cadre was absent and only those in big cars who were billionaires were welcomed. Geun-hye Park lost all touch with the people of her country. She spent her time mostly in the company of a few officials, who were too afraid to challenge her and who nodded their heads at everything she said. Apart from high officials, the only other regular visitors were big business representatives. Several of them had been assisted early in their careers by Park Geun-hye’s father, the late President Chung-hee Park, and the new President treated them as her subordinates, ordering them to appointment those she favoured and implement measures demanded by her or her close friends. President Park even sought to silence dissent by punitive measures against some individuals who disagreed with her. Laws were tightened, especially concerning freedom of the internet, which made South Korea a democracy where there were almost as many curbs on the internet as in authoritarian states.

At the same time, those close to Park were given privileged treatment, including admitting undeserving children in universities and in companies. Such favouritism angered young South Koreans and drove hundreds of thousands of them to the streets of Seoul to demand the resignation of the President. Her own team has been ineffective, largely because the President chose people whom she liked rather than those who were competent in the tasks assigned to them. She ensured a collection of favourites around her who were incapable of functioning in a manner that gained the public trust. The impending downfall of President Park has been caused by her misinterpretation of the mandate of the people as a licence to rule as she wished rather than the way people expected her to. She ought to have chosen competent and honest people rather than vapid flatterers, and should not have confined her contact to greedy individuals out to make money through closeness to her. Park should have kept in daily touch with the common people and with independent minds rather than only with fawning officials and avaricious billionaires. The fate of Park Geun-hye shows what happened when a democratically elected leader deluded herself that she had been crowned an absolute monarch.