Friday 29 April 2016

Italy exposes an ugly Indian scandal (Pakistan Observer)

SINCE the 1950s, corruption has grown in India, but not as fast as has been the growth of “anti-corruption agencies”. The Indian state, in line with its colonial traditions, believes that it is only the state that should police the state, and as a consequence, there has been a proliferation of agencies tasked with eliminating corruption. Large state-run companies, for instance, have each their own “vigilance” wing, which is expected to investigate charges of graft against officers of the concerned public sector company. Such departments are under the control of the Managing Director (MD) of the company, and if – as is often the case – the MD’s office is where corruption is at its highest, it is clear that the Vigilance Department will spend its time chasing lower rank officers on petty matters rather than go after the big shots, especially those who are accomplices of the top company managers.

Incidentally, in India instances have been many where those at the top have manufactured false charges against officers who have refused to ratify the corruption of their seniors. The consequence has been that such (honest) officials get penalised over some small transgressions ( such as getting reimbursed Rs 150 more than a ticket was worth, owing to carelessness in filing of accounts), even going to prison while those guilty of raking in millions of dollars escape with their pensions intact.

In India, hawala operators ensure that cash in rupees gets swiftly transformed into euros and dollars and sent to safe locations, where they cab be deployed as per the wishes of those who have made this “black” (ie unaccounted) income. And these days, there are several countries which welcome those with bulging bank accounts to become residents and even citizens. Small wonder that the number of those from influential political and official families who are acquiring foreign passports is growing. Since 2010,when a raft of corruption stories filled the media in India, there has been phenomenal growth in the moneys flowing abroad, a flow that has accelerated after the “Drive on Black Money” initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after he took office on May 26,2014.

Modi took a decision to retain in key posts almost all the top bureaucrats who were prominent during the sixteen years when Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh were Prime Ministers ( 1998-2014). Several of them were facilitators of the processes through which senior ministers made hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves. As they are still in key slots, these officials have managed to ensure that Prime Minister Modi’s efforts to enforce accountability for past acts of corruption have been put on a very slow track.

Prime Minister Modi has followed his practice (while Chief Minister of Gujarat) of retaining key officials from past regimes, but after two years, it has become clear that unless those officials known to have facilitated scamster ministers in the past get replaced in sensitive slots by honest officials, the accountability sought by the Prime Minister will be elusive. After all, such scamster ministers in the two previous regimes groomed and promoted only those officers who were crooked enough or opportunistic enough to do the or bidding, not the honest majority in the system. Such bent officers will be desperate to prevent genuine enquiries from taking place, for fear that these will lead to their doors.

The deliberate incompetence of investigating agencies in India can be seen from the fact that almost every mega scam that has been exposed owes disclosure to a foreign source. The army of anti-corruption agencies in India have not located any bank account abroad of top officials or politicians. What few revelations there have been are because of exposes in the foreign media, exactly as took place in the matter of the payoffs for the Bofors guns in 1986. Incidentally, because of a cover up by the agencies involved, practically all those who took bribes during that transaction were subsequently exonerated of any wrongdoing by courts in India, who were forced to rely on the evidence presented by the agencies and go by such documentation, which in many cases was misleading and obfuscatory.

Now a court in Italy has convicted individuals in a company based there of having paid bribes to influential people in India to ensure purchases of helicopters. Reports about bribes being paid surfaced three years ago, and then Defence Minister A K Antony promptly got a First Information Report filed on the matter, subsequently ordering a halt to fresh purchases from the company reported as having bribed officials and politicians. This was for the record, for afterwards, there was zero follow up action. The result is that the bribe takers have been having a comfortable life in India (when not travelling abroad), while in Italy, the bribe givers have been sent to jail. Why is it that so little progress is made in India in the matter of investigating even the crimes of previous governments?

A senior minister told this columnist in 2007 that the policy was to “set aside 40% of the bribe amount for personal uses of the decision makers involved, 40% for political purposes of the ruling parties and 20% to be distributed to Opposition politicians to ensure their silence”. The policy of ensuring that even those in the opposition make money during the tenure in office of a rival party has meant that skeletons remain buried rather than uncovered. In India, the lifestyles of those in opposition are as high flying as those in government, for in the Lutyens system, top politicians look after each other, thereby insuring themselves in case there is a change in regime.

After nearly two years studying the Lutyens system, Prime Minister Modi would have understood the way in which this has perpetuated corruption. There are signs that the PM is now readying himself to ensure that genuine accountability take place, even if in such a process some within his own party get indicted. After all, not everybody in the Congress Party is a sinner and not everyone in the BJP is a saint. A housecleaning of those involved in cosy financial links with past regimes is overdue and is expected to take place, so that in India, corruption finally registers a decline that is inversely proportional to the number of top politicians and officials sent to jail for defrauding the public during their years in office. Much is expected from Modi in coming months and years in this regard.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Sunday 24 April 2016

Brexit will be good for Britain (Sunday Guardian)

Should Brexit be the alternative preferred by UK voters, India needs to ensure that it takes advantage of the closer ties that London will seek from Delhi.
His disapproving comments on a possible (formal) rupture between the UK and the EU showed that Barack H. Obama has a soft spot for David Cameron (who is known within influential circles in India as a superb host at Chequers). Obama seems worried at the fact that much of the Conservative Party has rallied behind Boris Johnson and others such as Daniel Hannan (who is, ironically, a member of the European Parliament, and therefore seeks to divest himself of his job) in their call to voters in the UK to support “Brexit”, a formal break with the European Union. Of course, that construct has over the past two decades has grown a gargantuan bureaucracy busily inventing work for itself at the expense of many of the countries which form the bloc. While the demise of the USSR ought to have resulted in a downsizing of NATO and a change in focus to terrorism and cyber threats, the contrary has taken place, with the alliance inserting itself into Africa and Asia in a manner last popular in the 19th century, and with the same disastrous results on local populations. As for the EU bureaucracy, this has allowed neither slowing economic growth on the continent or the reality of those corners of Europe that were less restrictive in their regulations, having progressed faster than the rest (East and West Europe are obvious exemplars) to slow down its expansion, with each day going by being spent in discovering some corner of European life to intrude into. Unlike Hannan, the others enjoying salaries and allowances milked from taxpayers are understandably reluctant to leave such privileges behind, and are aware that a Brexit may very soon be followed by a “Gerxit” (a German withdrawal) and a “Frexit” (a French pullout from the EU), thereby leaving the EU only with its less consequential members, although almost certainly with an even bigger bureaucracy than before. 
Barack Obama is among the most cerebral of world leaders, so he must be fully aware that his warning (that the UK would get dismissed to the back of the queue after Brexit) was nonsense. The reality is that the country has specialised precisely in those sectors that US counterparts will need to work closely with, principally the knowledge and financial industries. Whether the UK being within the EU or not, New York cannot dilute the platinum threads that it shares with London, nor will the reality of the UK being next only to the US and Israel in terms of creative output be affected. Neither the US nor the rump EU can afford the luxury of proving Obama right by ignoring the UK rather than ensuring that as little disruption in commerce and services takes place after a Brexit. This is apart from the incalculable benefit of having the freedom to choose as migrants those from Pune or Chennai, rather than having to accept any who make the crossing from Raqqa or Idlib, a problem the EU will face for years more without pause. 
If anything, a formal break with the elephantine and racially based federation, which is the EU, will ignite rather than extinguish creativity and dynamism within the UK, with the possible exception of Scotland, where Old Labour values are deep rooted, and whose voters can be expected to oppose Brexit. Indeed, should David Cameron win his bet that voters in his country will be too timid to actually say a formal goodbye to the European Union, it will be because of those voters in Scotland, Northern Ireland and in some corners of Wales who dislike the English people and therefore prefer to remain within the EU, a construct where the French, Poles and Germans have far more influence than the island race which gave an international link language to the globe at the price of subjugating most of it at one time or the other. 
Certainly David Cameron would have sought from Narendra Modi a similar affirmation as Obama’s of the alleged indispensability of remaining within the EU to the UK. It is to the credit of Modi that he has clearly resisted such an endorsement, which, incidentally, would have had substantial weight, considering that despite Mulayam Singh and Lalu Yadav, it is India that has almost as many English-language speakers as the US, and indeed much more than found in the UK. The most US-friendly individuals in the UK are those who are passionate about the need for Britain to croon a formal farewell to the EU, and these have responded not by developing hostility towards the US but by expressing a contempt for Barack Obama that is new. In the case of India as well, it is those in favour of a 21st century Anglosphere (with India, the US and the UK at the core) that are the most respectful of India and votaries of closer ties with it than presently permitted by EU regulations. Modi’s neutrality on Brexit has, therefore, served the interests of India in a manner which the emotional embrace of the Cameron position by the US President has not. Should Brexit be the alternative preferred by UK voters, India needs to ensure that it takes advantage of the closer ties that London will seek from Delhi, by achieving synergy with sunrise sectors in the UK in the same way as US companies and agencies have. Brexit may be bad news for the EU bureaucracy, but it will be glad tidings for Britain and its (non-EU) friends within the international order. 

‘Hindu terror’ part of Pak GHQ campaign against India (Sunday Guardian)

The effort to create the bogey of ‘Hindu terror’ was to ‘provide a camouflage net for the activities of domestic terror groups owing allegiance to ISI and also to make Muslims distrust Hindus’.
The $15 billion narcotics lobby in India was used by GHQ Rawalpindi to promote the concept of “Hindu terror”, sources close to that establishment aver. They say that “manufactured evidence was planted about such groups that were accepted at face value by Indian investigators at the time”. The effort to create the bogey of “Hindu terror” was to “provide a camouflage net for the activities of domestic terror groups owing allegiance to the ISI and also to make Muslims distrust Hindus”. Another objective was to make other countries “as suspicious of Indians as they were of Pakistanis”. 
However, creating the bogey of “Hindu terror” was only Strand 1 in the design of GHQ to “make the international community regard India and Pakistan as birds of a feather in matters of extremism and terror”. Strand 2 was to “sow suspicion and mistrust about Delhi in Tehran and Kabul”. It will be remembered that cooperation between the security establishments of Iran, Afghanistan and India is vital in order to defeat the designs of the ISI and its proxies against the three countries. Strand 3 was to show to China that “India was facilitating acts of terror against Chinese nationals operating in Pakistan”, thereby passing the blame for such actions from the security establishment in Pakistan, which is honeycombed with ultra-Wahhabis who believe in the establishment of an ISIS Caliphate across the subcontinent. Strand 4 was to ensure that the international community equates India with Pakistan as countries that sponsor terror, extremist and insurgent groups, thereby preventing India from leveraging the international community against Pakistan. 
These sources claim that “under the direction of Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, all four strands are proceeding well”, even though Strand 1 (Hindu terror) appears to have hit rough weather with revelations of the flimsy nature of the charges against the alleged “Hindu terror” perpetrators. 
Establishment sources claim that General Raheel Sharif is working on “reversing the global perception that India is the victim and Pakistan the aggressor in the matter of fomenting terror and unrest”. This is being done by “getting India and Pakistan equated in the matter”. “This strategy (of painting India in the same colours as Pakistan was globally regarded) was worked on (by General Sharif) during his time heading the Pakistan military academy around a decade back”. 
General Sharif, according to these contacts, “asked for and got set up a special cell which collected information on Narendra Modi while he was Chief Minister in Gujarat”, as the present Prime Minister of India was identified as the likely successor to Manmohan Singh in 2014, in 2011 itself by the GHQ brains trust. It will be recalled that the ISI, which functions as per the direction of GHQ, expended considerable effort in seeking to damage the image of Narendra Modi in London, New York and Geneva through the instrumentality of NGOs set up for the purpose of blackening the global image of India, including Khalistan groups that have recently become hyper-active after years of relative somnolence. These NGOs were also given significant traction in Washington and other capitals through “logistical support” by individuals linked to the ISI. 
Sources within Pakistan claim that Kulbushan Yadav, accused by GHQ of being an R&AW agent, will only be the first in a long chain of those who are to be paraded globally as evidence that India is involved in destabilisation operations in Pakistan, “especially in seeking to do a Bangladesh in Balochistan and even in assisting terror groups active against the Pakistan state”. They say that nine individuals are now in the custody of the security agencies in Pakistan and they are being coached to come out with stories of Indian involvement, not only in Pakistan but in Iran and Afghanistan as well. They say that in the case of Kulbushan Yadav, “General Sharif personally briefed the Chinese that the Indian national was involved in seeking to blow up a lodge in Gwadar where Chinese technicians were staying and also seek to commit other acts of sabotage along the $45 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor”. The Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan “has been given dossiers (which purport to show) that India is keeping contact with and assisting elements of the Taliban, contrary to stated policy”, while Iran “has been given dossiers about Yadav using the territory of that country to assist the Baloch not only in Pakistan but in Iran as well”. Soon, “other (so-called) Indian agents will be outed and made to tell how they were active not only against Pakistan, but against China, Afghanistan and Iran as well”. 
The sources say that “by 2019, when the present term of Prime Minister Modi ends, the objective is to paint Delhi as South Asia’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and insurgency, far ahead of Rawalpindi on both counts”. Indeed, Pakistan Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz has publicly called India a “state sponsor of intervention”, including in giving support to terror groups. It is extremely unlikely that any of the unfortunates apprehended by the ISI is a genuine agent, as sources in Pakistan admit that “even the most elementary precautions (such as dead drops, cut-outs and personal meetings) were dispensed with in their operations”. However, the Pakistan side claims that such lack of precautions on the part of the supposed agents was motivated by “a desire for quick results as well as over-confidence”. 
Already, Islamabad has briefed ASEAN as well as GCC envoys about manufactured claims of “Indian interference and support to terror”, and after more so-called Indian agents get paraded, more such briefings are likely. In short, Pakistan is following to the letter the rulebook followed by India in the past while exposing the activities of GHQ. 
There has also been a ramping up of efforts to ensure a drumbeat of terror strikes in India during the coming two years, which are seen as crucial for the Modi government as it enters 2019, when Lok Sabha elections take place. No less than 13 suicide attacks have taken place in Kashmir since Modi became PM, and an organised effort is on to re-ignite insurgency in the Valley. Simultaneously, “clusters of Indian nationals are being organised in India and in other locations and given directions on what is needed to get done to poison communal relations in India”. It needs to be kept in mind that the ISI recruits from all communities for its activities in India, rather than just a single community. Indeed. “in Nepal, almost all the key ISI facilitators are Hindu”, many involved in the hawala trade, which, together with narcotics, is controlled in South Asia by the ISI.
GHQ is looking warily at Prime Minister Modi’s innovative approach towards diplomacy, and to his outreach towards Pakistan, China and the US. The nightmare scenario for the generals would be a closer military partnership with the US (through the signing of the three Foundation Accords) and ultimately a trillion-dollar commercial partnership with China, beginning with an India-China Economic Corridor that would cut through the Maoist belt across India with roadways and growth opportunities. Fortunately for GHQ, elements in the Indian strategic and security establishment remain wedded to the hyper-cautious approach of the past, and regard with disfavour the breakthrough in India-US and India-China relations that could take place before 2019, in case Prime Minister Modi is able to ensure that “naya soch” enters a system clogged with debris from the past. What is clear is that there is an organised effort by GHQ to blacken the international image of India, and that this is a process in which General Sharif has registered some success. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has lost much ground to the Chief of Army Staff, in large part because the US and China both favour the military rather than the civilian leadership, unlike India. 
The “masterstroke” being planned by GHQ, according to sources close to the establishment, is to pin the blame for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on India before 2019, thereby “further planting suspicions about India within the international community”. The coming years will show whether General Sharif will succeed or fail in his efforts at separating the US, Iran, Afghanistan and China from India through allegations that are a mirror image of the charges made against Pakistan by successive governments in Delhi.

Friday 22 April 2016

NATO monopoly harms western security (Pakistan Observer)

Times change, and with that, so do policies. Except in the case of NATO, an alliance set up to counter the Soviet Union but which expanded rather than get disbanded when the world’s Communist superstate willingly collapsed. Bureaucracies seek to perpetuate themselves indefinitely, and it is small wonder that the NATO bureaucracy was reluctant to disband itself. The reality is that after Joseph Stalin, no leader of the USSR had the stomach to seriously challenge the NATO alliance militarily, even in the case of proxy conflicts, as that which took place in Afghanistan.

Nikita Khruschev had seen enough of the horrors of the 1941-45 war with Germany to make him averse to any risk of conflict, which is why he surrendered to President Kennedy over Cuba. His successor, Leonid Brezhnev, was even more phobic to military conflict on a large scale than Khruschev, and was careful throughout his decades in power to avoid situations where there could be a risk of conflict with the US and its allies, although of course he was fearless in the case of helpless states such as Czechoslovakia, just as his predecessors had been over Hungary, both of which were subdued by Soviet tanks in a matter of days.

After Chernenko and Andropov, who spent more time in hospitals than in the Kremlin, it was the turn of Mikhail Gorbachev, who conceded to the US and its allies almost all the gains won by Stalin during the 1941-45 conflict with Germany, retaining only a sliver of Poland taken over illegally in 1941. An army is as good as its fighting spirit, and as it was clear that there was zero possibility of a conflict with the USSR, a posting in NATO was as good as a well-paid holiday. While pretending to “defend the free world” while actually having a good life free of the risk of war, officers seconded to NATO naturally developed a strong vested interest in the continuance of the organisation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, President Clinton sided with those in his team who sought the total de-weaponisation of the rump Russian state.

Instead of accepting Boris Yeltsin’s pleas for an alliance, Clinton sought to denude Russia of its technological and military sinews, succeeding to a very substantial extent before generating the backlash which brought the nationalist Vladimir Putin to power. Had Bill Clinton done away with NATO in 1992,or allowed Moscow to join the organisation, global geopolitics would have changed. However, the Clinton thinktankers are gamblers, and they like to go for broke, to gran as much as they can, irrespective of the risk of failure. Aware that the size and brainpower of even the rump Russian state made it a potential rival, at the least to France and Germany, President Clinton kept Moscow out of the European Union, while he expanded NATO in a manner which clearly indicated that Russia was still the target of the alliance, irrespective of changes in the structure of governance of that nation. This error, of seeking to box in Russia rather than make it a military ally ,was among the numerous errors made by the Clinton team.

The reason why Team Clinton makes so many errors – and the pattern has been repeated by Hillary Clinton during her stint as Secretary of State – is that they take decisions in bits and pieces. They are swayed by a multitude of lobbies, so that policy gets sliced into small bits, each to feed a particular lobby. Such an approach is seen in the case of several national budgets, which are usually a compendium of concessions to individual groups packaged as an entirety. Had the Clintons taken a holistic view of the US national interest, rather than assume that this concept comprises of the interests of numerous lobbies stitched together, the policies of the Clinton administration would have been less toxic to the future than they have turned out to be.

The conversion of Russia into a rival rather than an ally was among the most egregious errors of the Clinton presidency, something that President Obama has to an extent sought to remedy, now that Hillary Clinton no longer runs US foreign policy. This process was significantly advanced because of the policy on NATO, which was to (a) retain its anti-Moscow focus, this time implicitly rather than explicitly and (b) expand the theatre of operations to continents such as Africa and Asia, rather than retain the Europe-centric view of the founders of the alliance. Both were errors of significant magnitude NATO has showcased its incapacity to win wars by failures in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda have resurfaced, while ISIS has created pockets that are safe areas for the terror group. In Libya, the entire country has become a breeding ground for extremism, while NATO actions there and in Syria have resulted in a flood of migrants washing up at the shores of European states. These are the results of the Clinton technique of slicing an issue into smaller components and devising measures for each in isolation. Thus, in Libya, the fall of Muammar Kaddafy was planned independently of what needed to get down to prevent the vacuum from getting filled by extremists. Incidentally, a search will reveal that NATO gave assistance to groups and individuals who in their speeches and writings made no secret of their extremist linkages. This was because of the single-minded focus on removing Kaddafy, without a care as to the consequences.

It is precisely such a segmented approach to policy that Hillary Clinton brought to the Department of State, and will carry to the White House, should she jump over the controversies surrounding her and get elected. NATO needs to be an all-European alliance, and in like fashion, there need to be similar alliances in Africa and Asia, with local partners. The use of NATO in these continents needs to be avoided, and the responsibility for security needs to be in he hands of local players. The US needs to be involved with (an all-European) NATO as well as with the African and Asian variants of such a military alliance. The NATO monopoly over security needs to be eliminated, for the good of the western alliance itself .

— The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Monday 18 April 2016

‘Saint’ Nitish and flamboyant Eknath (Sunday Guardian)

Matters such as the consumption of alcohol are best left to individual consciences, and should the state leap in, the results are certain to be disappointing.
Saintliness is everywhere. The latest example is that of Nitish Kumar, who is following in the footsteps of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president, “Saint” V.M. Sudheeran in ensuring that bootleggers and smugglers thrive in Bihar, the way they soon will in Kerala. Matters such as the consumption of alcohol are best left to individual consciences, and should the state leap in, the results are certain to be disappointing. A couple of years from now, when illicit liquor gangs multiply their operations in Bihar and the state gets even more deficient in revenue than is the case at present, Nitish may reflect on the high cost of virtue to governance in the state, already in tatters because of the involvement of Lalu Yadav & Family in the administration. Indeed, the RJD leader seems to have left even that maestro of “keeping power in the family”, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, a bit behind in the number of relatives that he has inserted into prime slots. Of course, saintliness does not extend as far as giving up the mansions and other perquisites of power. Even while garlands get strewn at statues of Mahatma Gandhi, none within the political class aspire to follow the Mahatma in living in huts and going “third class” in trains, not even “Saint” Nitish. The odds are that the Bihar Chief Minister will follow the example of the prime saint in Indian politics, Arecaparambil Kurian Antony (Defence Minister under Manmohan Singh) and avoid controversy by the simple expedient of not taking any decision. In India, speed in decision-making often gets punished, extreme slowness—indeed, paralysis—never.
Of course, there are those in politics who make zero pretence of sainthood. They are in the game to enjoy a good life, and the more filled their existence is with goodies, the better. Despite the bad press that he has been receiving because of his addiction to helicopters, it must be said to the credit of Eknath Khadse that he has not hidden his love for luxury the way so many others in his politician tribe do, but has been open about living a life suffused with privilege. Of course, if Eknath Khadse is representative of politicians in Maharashtra (and indeed, the rest of India), it is unlikely that he would have even seen the inside of a car during the decades of youth. Even a Bajaj scooter may have been too much of a luxury, although presumably a bicycle would have been affordable to the Khadses. It would be later, as he ascended the ladders of office, that the Agriculture Minister of Maharashtra would have begun to suffer the mysterious disease of the legs that afflicts those in posts where luxury cars, fawning assistants and colonial bungalows become an everyday facet of existence. Had he a bit of political savvy, Eknath Khadse may have decided to go around the parched precincts of Latur by bicycle, or—given the fact that he is no longer a teenager—pillion on a motorcycle. However, once the worthies who get sworn in as ministers cross to that stage of advancement, to travel except by car or a yet more advanced means of locomotion becomes an ignoble act.
Indeed, many politicians have climbed to a yet more elevated perch, refusing to travel except by charter flights or helicopters. Such, for example, are the favoured modes of transport of Lalu Yadav, who has spent much of his life ensuring that he and his not inconsiderable family have reached a level of economic advancement that would place them in those income levels where comfort gives way to luxury and to waste. Mr Yadav is hardly an outlier in such an expansive—sorry, expensive—approach to life, indeed, his is the norm.
The lifestyles of the families of the politically powerful are, with rare exceptions, comparable to those who have acquired great wealth. The families of an Abdul Kalam or a Narendra Modi are the exceptions, remaining in the same circumstances as they were before their loved one reached the top of the protocol chain.
But why be harsh on Eknath Khadse? He may have wanted to walk to Latur from the nearest railhead, but were he to do so, would his family be able to bear the shame of a minister in their ranks actually using his legs for locomotion rather than as props while reclining in a ministerial chair? And what of Khadse’s followers? Would they not feel as though they were second-class citizens, especially when faced with the hangers-on of those who refuse to travel otherwise than by chartered flight or helicopter? After all, the minister has to keep up with others of his tribe who are the successors to the British colonial masters of India. It was no accident that Jawaharlal Nehru (a self-declared socialist) chose for himself the most palatial residence in Delhi after the Viceregal Palace (which he would have occupied, had it not been frequented by Louis and Edwina at the time). It was no accident that every one of the colonial laws and practices were adopted (a few with a modicum, of adaptation) by the “people’s representatives” who took over from the departing Brits.
Both the hypocrisy of “Saint” Nitish and the openly flamboyant lifestyle of Eknath Khadse have come to exemplify politicians in India ever since in 1947 one group of colonial masters got replaced with another.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Trump & Sanders face lobbyist fire (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
HIS front-runner status has generated a barrage of attack ads against Republican Party Presidential hopeful Donald J Trump. Each of these is anchored in claims that the public interest is what motivates such publicity, and that the US would lose ground were the real estate mogul to get sworn in as Head of State and Government of the world’s most consequential country on January 20, 2017.

In reality the primary “sufferers” would be the phalanxes of lobbyists that infest Washington. Some of these are directly affiliated to either the Democratic or the Republican Party, but most are ambidextrous, ensuring continuing relevance no matter which party makes it to the White House. They are assisted in this by the governance system in the US, which segments and distributes power between different branches of the state, such as the US Senate, the White House, the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives. Other power centres include corporate and financial interests, as well as a variety of specific lobbying groups that over time have cultivated cosy relationships (usually under the surface) with both major political parties and their hangers on. Their nightmare is in the form of two individuals who are for the present at least impervious to the influence of lobbying groups.

In ensuring a firewall between Big Money special interests and themselves, Bernie Sanders is a bit ahead of Donald Trump, who has off and on been given the attention of lobbying groups seeking to tap into his dirigible-sized public persona. However, the problem they face is that Trump has both money and influence of his own, lots of it, and has, therefore, the potential to be resistant to the wiles and lures of lobbyists in a manner not possible for Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz, the other major contestants in the race for nomination as Presidential candidate of either the Republican or the Democratic Party.

While it is understandable that the Republican hopefuls would be going slow on their barbs at the Clinton Foundation, what is less so is the way in which Bernie Sanders has given Hillary Clinton almost a free pass on the issue. The Clintons are a single political entity, taking decisions together, and this was clear during the period when the former First Lady was Secretary of State. This at a time when huge dollops of money were accruing on a regular basis to the Clinton Foundation (as well as in the form of speaking fees and other payments) from locations that had a direct interest in the direction of US foreign policy. Perhaps entirely might be coincidence, the policy pursued by Secretary of State Clinton in the Mideast matched perfectly with the requirements of Riyadh and Doha.
The record shows that Washington was lockstep behind Qatar and Saudi Arabia, whether this be the removal from office of Muammar Kaddafi in Libya and his replacement with a regime steeped in the traditions of Wahabbism, or an effort to push Bashar al-Assad down the same road as the Libyan dictator was made helpless by his own destruction of WMD on the request of the very powers that subsequently took the lives of himself and all but one of his sons. The Secretary of State using an email account that was accessible to officials of a foundation that was the recipient of billions of dollars of foreign money, constituted a security risk to US interests that this far does not appear to have been intensively examined, perhaps because President Obama does not wish to damage his former Secretary of State’s chances of becoming his successor.

Donald Trump is spending his own money in the Presidential primary, and this makes him unique among the other candidates. Ted Cruz has, through his spouse, links with the financial conglomerates that helped cause the 2008 financial crash which saw the demise of NATO-bloc dominance in global geopolitics. As for Hillary Clinton, she has made no secret of the act that millions of dollars have been paid to her and Bill Clinton by such conglomerates. In the case of Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont has shown a disregard for riches that is almost totally absent in US politics, which as in some other democracies, is entirely about making money for oneself, family and friends through the use of state power and influence. A contest between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would represent an entirely different choice to US voters than a match-up between two Goldman Sachs favourites, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton.

However, precisely for this reason, efforts are intensifying to ensure that Trump and Sanders lose steam. Daily, there have been attack ads against Trump, usually filled with innuendo, while in the case of Sanders, the reason why these are not so common is the view that he will lose to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Presidential primary contests. Should this take place, a heavy chunk of the blame would fall on Sanders himself, because he has shown himself too much of a country gentleman to match the aggression of his opponent. The Clintons are political fighters of the most superior kind, and across the years, have perfected a political machine that is expert at deciphering what the voters want to hear and in ensuring that contests be won. It is a tribute to Bernie Sanders and to the innate decency of the US voter that the Vermont politician has survived this far.

Had this columnist a vote in the US primary, he would have backed Trump over Cruz in the Republican primary and Sanders over Clinton in the other. The US needs a Head of State and Government who is as free of lobbyists as Sanders is, or even Trump has the potential to be. In healthcare, ensuring access to cheap drugs at the expense of Big Pharma would work wonders for the budget, while in matters of security, delinking from big money interests in the Mideast would help make the US and the globe more secure.

The policy of relying on religious extremists to carry out tactical and strategic objectives on behalf of the US and its partners has run its course, and needed to have been discontinued after 9/11, rather than revived during 2003 in Iraq and later in 2011 to terminate Kaddafi. The best hope of such a pragmatic policy vests in Bernie Sanders or even Donald Trump following the telegenic and likeable Obama clan into the White House. Rather than the paid views of lobbyists, what US policymakers need to give preference to, is the need of US citizens for a government that treats them fairly.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Monday 11 April 2016

Clinton holdovers seek to derail Modi-Obama outreach (Sunday Guardian)

By MADHAV NALAPAT | NEW DELHI | 10 April, 2016
The US nuclear disarmament lobby has begun a drumbeat of criticism of India at the same time as it’s praising Pak.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has walked the extra mile to demonstrate his government’s sincerity towards even the more restrictive interpretations of the Bush-Manmohan nuclear agreement that was agreed upon in 2005. Early in 2015, India issued an FAQ to clarify points in the CNLD (Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage) Act passed by Parliament. This ensured that the Indian operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), would agree to waive supplier’s liability voluntarily, thereby opening the doors to investment by US companies in the nuclear sector. Subsequently, an international convention, which leaves the liability question in the open, was signed in the form of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC), an agreement that in the view of some experts is contrary to some of the provisions of the CNLD Act. In its efforts at building a new paradigm in India-US relations, the Narendra Modi government has shown political courage in being very accommodating of US and other international requests for information and visits to nuclear installations, so as to demonstrate good faith before the international community to an extent not done by any other nuclear weapons state (NWS) or by India till this period. 
Given the fact that a single megawatt of nuclear power costs far more (around Rs 25 crore on a conservative estimate) than an equivalent quantum of solar (Rs 9 crore) or thermal energy (Rs 6 crore), with costs for both the latter duo declining at the same time as the cost of nuclear power installations is rising, several experts question the need for significant investments in nuclear power plants manufactured abroad. They say this makes little sense when India itself has mastered the capability of setting up plants of 1 Gigawatt size and has the potential to export this technology to friendly countries. However, in deference to international sensibilities, thus far the export market has not been seriously looked at by the Modi government. Indeed, India has gone the extra mile in assuaging concerns on fossil fuel utilisation by signing COP21 and declaring carbon emission targets despite a minuscule volume of per capita emissions. This means that the reporting requirements to international agencies (controlled by countries with much higher per capita carbon emission levels) have gone up significantly. However, in order to show that India is no longer a problem in the matter of battling climate change but part of the solution, Prime Minister Modi has voluntarily affixed India’s seal to global agreements on climate change, after decades of this country being an outlier in such matters. Interestingly, the global climate has risen by 1 degree Celsius since 1870 and another 1 degree will be added by just two countries, the US and China, in the coming decades. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invested substantially in his relationship with US President Barack Obama, and the omens are bright that transformational India-US agreements will get signed before the US President fades away into retirement next January. However, for such a trajectory to be maintained, it will be needed for Barack Obama to retain the autonomy from Bill and Hillary Clinton’s policies that he has shown in much of his second term, especially in matters relating to Cuba and Iran. However, so far as India is concerned, there are disquieting signs that the Clinton machine is tightening its grip over the White House. The non-proliferation bureaucracy in Washington is among the agencies heavily infused with Clinton-era holdovers, most of whom are negative towards India and still seek to ensure that this country give up its nuclear and missile programme. After being de-hyphenated during the period in office of President George W. Bush, US President Barack Obama appears to have reverted to the Bill Clinton policy of linking Delhi and Islamabad within the same bracket, including in the nuclear field. The US President’s equating of India and Pakistan in the field of nuclear security underscores the return of Clinton-style policies towards India and Pakistan in place of the recent trends towards acknowledging that the trajectories of the two subcontinental neighbours are very different. Interestingly, the US nuclear disarmament lobby has begun a drumbeat of criticism of India at the same time as it is praising Pakistan for its nuclear safety record, with even Obama praising the Pakistan Prime Minister for making the nuclear programme safer and under international protocols. 
Meanwhile, there have been multiplying reports, including on alleged weaknesses of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the force protecting India’s nuclear plants. 
At present, the expectation that India would soon get admitted to the MTCR, the Wassenaar Agreement, the Australia Group and the NSG appear to be fading. Even the two countries that have signed nuclear agreements with India (Japan and Australia) have thus far seemingly not moved towards further steps in the matter, despite more than a year having gone by. In another field, that of pharmaceuticals, there are efforts to get Delhi to dilute its stand on compulsory licensing and “ever greening” so as to benefit big pharma companies in the US and Europe at the expense of hundreds of millions of the world’s poor. As for corporate India, it is groggy with debt and stressed assets, thereby becoming easy prey for foreign funds looking for discount purchases of Indian industry. Prime Minister Modi is working hard to ensure that those responsible for siphoning off bank funds into offshore accounts be brought to justice, and it is expected that several arrests and prosecutions will take place in the coming months on this score. 
Overall, prospects for a transformation in India-US relations despite numerous false starts in the past remain bright, especially in view of Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to innovative diplomacy designed to tap the global geopolitical synergies available to India. However, for such a change to take effect, President Obama will need to recover his autonomy in decision-making, and return to his efforts at changing the India-US relationship in a way that makes the two largest democracies form allies in a world filled with dangers common to both. 

Bring back secular practices in Kashmir (Sunday Guardian)

The people of J&K seek an opportunity to improve their own lives, and this can take place only if secularism once again becomes a dominant lifestyle choice.
Religious exclusivism and supremacy are antithetical to the concept of secularism, which has as its guiding principle the absence of discrimination between those belonging to different faiths. Those societies and territories where those belonging to a particular faith are given advantages by state policy over others are anti-secular and need to be exposed as such. In India, there has been constant talk about “secular values” and a “secular identity”. There exists an army of commentators who regard it as their duty to protect secularism in our country from enemies real or imagined. However, few of this flock have looked at a state in India where secularism is almost on its deathbed. This is Jammu & Kashmir, specifically the Valley of Kashmir, from where, since the 1990s, not only has there been a steady increase in the extent of Wahhabi influence, but a decrease to insignificance of the minority communities in J&K in the valley. Those few who remain are in constant fear of their lives, and seek to conceal their religious identification lest they become the target of a murderous attack. Houses of worship belonging to the main minority community in the state have almost all been destroyed in the Kashmir valley, again to silence from those who claim to uphold secular principles. Neither in India nor abroad is there even a cursory mention of the fact that the secular principles of the republic have been steadily destroyed over the past four decades in a key state of the union, indeed a state where those in authority consistently pose as the votaries of secularism. 
What took place at the NIT campus in Srinagar is every bit as deplorable as the actions of the Delhi police on the JNU campus, after B.S. Bassi took the decision to make Kanhaiya Kumar an international hero by sending him to jail for a few comments made in a speech in a somewhat excitable tone of voice and gesture. However, neither have those who supported or who opposed Kanhaiya Kumar been at all vocal about the brutal manner in which innocent students on that campus were belaboured by policemen. Their “crime” was apparently the raising of the Indian Tricolour. The question that needs to be answered is whether the police in J&K believe themselves to be in India or in Pakistan, for if they are aware that they are in India, it was incomprehensible that students were abused and beaten up for simply displaying the Tricolour, an activity which is the right of every citizen of India since Naveen Jindal won Supreme Court approval for such a right in 2004. Thus far, there does not seem to have been any action taken against the policemen involved in the assault on the Tricolour-waving NIT students. Such pusillanimity on the part of the J&K government (in which the BJP plays a significant part) will only encourage Wahhabi elements in the valley to multiply their endeavours to create a distinct contra-secular ethos and culture in the state, or at the least, in the valley. The more powerful the Wahhabis are in that state, the less the chance that it will actualise its immense potential as a knowledge and travel hub for the world. Because of the intellectual qualities of the Kashmiri people, including the community which has been driven out of the valley since the 1990s, global R&D centres can potentially be established throughout the state, making it an export hub for Information Technology-enabled services. 
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti visits Delhi frequently, and much of the time seems to be spent in seeking grants and loans from the Central government. The proud people of Jammu & Kashmir do not seek charity, they seek an opportunity to improve their own lives, and this can take place only if secularism once again becomes the dominant lifestyle choice in the state. Whatever the religion of a citizen, he or she ought to have the same rights and treatment from the state. 
There should be zero discrimination on the basis of religion, including in the matter of recruitment and promotion in the numerous agencies of the state government. The people of Kashmir have been steeped in Kashmiriyat, which is the same as Insaniyat. However, especially since the 1990s, this gentle culture is being replaced by a growing acceptance of Wahhabism in significant sections of the society in the state, especially in that most enchanting of locations, the Kashmir valley. Globally, there is a reaction against Wahhabism, mainly because of the fact that several groups owing allegiance to that exclusivist and supremacist ideology have taken to violence in a manner which resembles the cruelty of the National Socialist German Workers Party in 1932-45 Germany. Over the past months, for the first time in a long while, forests of Pakistan flags have sprouted in parts of Kashmir, while—again for the first time since the 1990s—the funeral processions of Pakistan-trained terrorists have been accompanied not any more by dozens but by hundreds of people. These are not signs of improving societal health. Rather, they are symptoms of the reality of a tightening of the grip of Wahhabi interests in the state. During the latter half of the 1980s, especially following the Gul Shah episode, a similar rise in fundamentalism stealthily took root, causing incalculable damage later. 
This time around, before the problem reaches the levels seen at that time, those who value secularism need to get active in Kashmir so that the march within the state of the Wahhabi impulse gets replaced by the spread of the moderate philosophies that are far closer to the traditional spirit of the Kashmiri people.

Friday 8 April 2016

No surprises in the Panama Papers (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has done service to the global community by exposing hundreds of individuals guilty of looting their own countries by sending money abroad illegally. The “Panama Papers” show how easy it is to create dummy entities in tax havens such as the Virgin Islands so as to park billions of euros anonymously. High-priced lawyers, financial advisers and bankers assist high-value individuals to cheat on taxes by generating cash through measures such as over-invoicing of imports, the difference in price going to offshore accounts. Much of this could easily be caught, had the authorities the will to do so. An example is Air India, the government-owned airline in India, which bought the same type of aircraft at the same period of time as two private sector competitors did, but paid much more for each than the other two airlines. However, it is unlikely that such discrepancies will ever get investigated.

Those who make billions out of looting the exchequer spend millions out of that in making friends with influential officials and politicians, with the result that they remain protected no matter which party comes to power. Instances are in the hundreds where items produced in India get sold at low prices to paper entities based in the Cayman Islands or such other tax havens, and within seconds get resold to others at much higher prices. The price differential remains in the foreign bank accounts of the domestic producer of the item sold in the first instance at an artificially low price to a dummy buyer but resold later to a genuine buyer at the correct market price. Were authorities serious in their task of dissevering illegal income, it would have been a simple matter to find out which items were being sold at prices far below that prevalent in the international market, but such an effort never gets made, because both officials as well as their political masters are more interested in adding to their personal bank accounts than to the exchequer.

In the Panama Papers, there are reported to be around five hundred Indian citizens. This is hardly a surprise, as for decades money has flowed out of the country through such means as under-invoicing, over-invoicing and hawala. The Government of India has followed past precedent and set up a Multi-Agency Investigative Team to “investigate and monitor” the revelations in the Panama papers. After months if not years, it will be seen that next to nothing will come of such “monitoring and investigation”. A few of the five hundred may be asked to pay a fine or penalty, but the rest will escape. India has a long tradition of those who are guilty of large-scale theft getting away, even while pickpockets making off with Rs 50 get sent to jail for years.

This columnist believes that the higher the scale of the robbery, the more should be the punishment. Petty theft ought to be punished by community service as a form of restitution, rather than by prison. The reality is that jail usually degrades an individual’s skills, making him or her lose the capacity to return to free life as a productive citizen. By depriving an individual of access to the internet or to the family, rehabilitation is being made almost impossible. Those guilty of petty offences or who are non-violent in behaviour need to be shifted to “open” jails, where they can be visited by family and friends and avoid the depression and psychosis that too often attaches to those sent to jail. It is a disgrace that seven decades after the British pulled down the Union Jack across the subcontinent, as yet the politicians who are their successors retain the harsh conditions of imprisonment that were prescribed by the former colonial masters of the subcontinent. Our officials and politicians have effortlessly slipped into the role of colonial masters, using the same restrictive laws and procedures that were followed by the British to ensure that the population was kept in a state of subservience.

It is the closer identification with the former colonial authority rather than with the ordinary people that is responsible for the successors of the British being more focussed on acquiring personal wealth than on improving the overall condition of the citizens. The level of commitment to the country and its people is low – indeed absent – in the countries of the subcontinent, so far as those in power and in positions of governmental authority are concerned. The consequence has been theft on the same scale – or in some instances worse – than that indulged in by the British colonial masters, and a neglect of policies that would improve living conditions. If a survey were to get done of the top hundred political leaders and the top five hundred civil servants, a large number would be seen to have their children abroad, and their families more often outside the country than inside. A son or a daughter gets sent abroad and made a foreign citizen, and subsequently money gets channelled in that individual’s name, so that many well-connected youths with no visible work living in Singapore or London or Miami nevertheless have very large incomes, usually funnelled through offshore banking havens. It would be a simple matter for authorities in India and Pakistan to investigative such individuals, given that we are only talking of the top five hundred officials in a country and the top hundred politicians, but of course, this will not even be attempted.

There is too much at stake for those at the top in a cosy system where making money and sending it abroad is regarded as normal. In order to make a pretense of ensuring acceptability, governments often impose heavy penalties on monies parked abroad, thereby making sure that few declarations get made. The only way to ensure access to such monies is to set low rates of penalty rather than high, and to ensure that those making such declarations not be subsequently harassed by officials. Otherwise, those voluntarily disclosing unaccounted assets will find themselves harassed every year for a long period thereafter, thereby reducing the incentive for others to follow their example. The Panama Papers represents only a very small proportion of the monies illegally parked abroad by individuals who care only about their own wealth rather than public welfare. Unless more of such money comes back and gets used within the country of origin, poverty in the subcontinent will continue to be shamefully high.

— The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Monday 4 April 2016

Masood Azhar shadow over Modi-Xi diplomacy (Sunday Guardian)

Officials said that the decision to protect Masood Azhar at the behest of Pakistan GHQ was unlikely to have gone to the level of President Xi Jinping.
Almost unknown three years ago, these days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India is almost as well known in the Chinese capital as US President Barack Obama. His home-state welcome to China’s President Xi Jinping, followed by the latter’s return gesture in Xian, has entered the diplomatic annals of the world’s other superpower. Aware of the immense power of the Indian bureaucracy to hold back, few policymakers in Beijing expected Modi’s promises of smooth passage for PRC investment into India and e-visas for Chinese tourists to become the reality that both did within weeks of Prime Minister Modi’s announcement. The recent statement of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar about Delhi not seeing Beijing as a threat has further dispelled the clouds of mistrust between the two sides. However, in the same way as the Pakistan army serves up a terror attack on India soon after friendly discussions between the two civilian governments, the entrenched pro-Pakistan lobby in Beijing bowls a googly just when relations seem on a significant upgrade. The latest has been the self-defeating decision by Beijing to block the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) from declaring Masood Azhar a global terrorist, despite all fourteen of the other UNSC backing India’s request and China frequently claiming to be a frontline state in the war on terror.
Although the perception is that such a decision would have been cleared at the level of President Xi himself, knowledgeable officials point out that the decision to protect Azhar at the behest of Pakistan GHQ was unlikely to have gone to the top. They point to the example of the entry of PLA forces into border territory controlled by India during Xi’s India visit, and how this too was blamed on Xi by Sinophobes across the world, who later had to recant when the PRC President ensured the withdrawal of the intruding troops soon after his return to Beijing. This leaves open the possibility of a rethink, should there be a discussion at the top between both sides on why it makes no sense for Beijing to back a global terrorist. The reality in China is that corrupt elements in the bureaucracy have been waging a silent war of attrition against Xi Jinping because of his battle against corruption, and upsetting the growing mood of bonhomie between Delhi and Beijing through a decision to protect an international terrorist at the behest of the ISI was a sample of the way in which clandestine efforts by the anti-Xi faction are ongoing to prevent a full normalisation of relations between India and China, including a border settlement that may earn both Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping a Nobel Peace Prize.
There are increasing tensions within Pakistan between the Pashtun people and the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan military, and these are in addition to the violent battle for human rights and justice being carried out by the Baloch people. Although not for the record, pro-Xi officials in Beijing acknowledge that it will be a difficult task to complete the $30 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and a near impossibility to ensure that it reaches financial viability. “A $50 billion China India Economic Corridor would be far better for both economies than the CPEC, a road passing through some of the most unstable regions of the globe”, an economic expert based out of Shanghai said, adding that “both Xi and Modi have the authority and mutual trust to make this happen”. However, such a project would be a nightmare for the generals in Islamabad and their backers in Beijing, who are wary that closer ties between the two giants of Asia may lead to a diminution of importance of the militaries in Pakistan and China, both of whom “feed off mistrust between Delhi and Beijing”.
A senior official pointed out that “the trust at the top (between Xi and Modi) makes it necessary for a Sino-Indian settlement to be led and effectuated from that level”, as at lower levels, the trust levels are still not high, despite the substantial progress in relations since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister in May 2014.
For China, massive infrastructure projects are of critical importance, as the country has developed a world-class infra sector in the big cities, but because of the slowdown in economic growth, more than 30% of the capacity is unutilised. “The machines that are idle can very quickly be put to work in India and help make Modi’s plans a reality”, such as housing for all by 2020 and 50 new Metro rail systems. However, it was pointed out that some of the tax policies followed by North Block stand in the way, as for example, steep duties on second-hand machinery that would nullify the cost advantage of the same. “If leasing were permitted, equipment that is surplus in China can get redeployed to India”, an engineering official claimed, adding that “almost none of the construction needed in India require ultra-sophisticated equipment”. Workers would get trained on older models and later on, graduate to more and more sophisticated versions.
In such a context, it was suggested that “for a year, a few Chinese workers be permitted to work on infrastructure projects, so that they can train their counterparts in India”. Otherwise, the worry was that “more than a year would go by in the process of on the Job training, in a context where time is money”. Of course, care would need to be taken to ensure that domestic industries such as steel and cement not get adversely affected by cheaper imports from China. Such items would need to be excluded from the trade basket.
Apart from roads, railways and housing, other sectors where Chinese companies are looking to do business with India are in solid waste management, water preservation, wind energy and solar energy. Chinese companies are aware that the market is huge, with a starting estimate of $100 billion during the present term of Prime Minister Modi. However, for such a situation to come about, the Chinese Communist Party will need to rein in the pro-Pakistan elements who are looking to sabotage the Xi-Modi rapprochement through bowling googlies such as the recent decision to protect an international terrorist from justice.

Sunday 3 April 2016

For India, Trump or Sanders trumps Clinton anytime (Sunday Guardian)

By M.D. Nalapat | 2 April, 2016
Looking at the “independent” analyses of so many of the great brains of Lutyens’ Delhi, it is amusing to note how closely they follow trends in the thinktanks and foundations in the US that are, to many, their second home. Hence, the cacophony of voices in favour of Hillary Clinton as being far preferable to either Donald J. Trump or Bernie Sanders, both of whom were just weeks ago derided as comic figures, but are these days (in line with DC and NY thinktank opinions) merely seen as undeserving individuals riding an “anti-establishment” vein of public sentiment. Echoes of horror similar to those in the DC Beltway greet such sallies of the other billionaire in the race (besides the Clintons), as Trump’s call to do away with NATO, or, even more alien to thinktank groupthink, that US intervention in Libya or Syria was a mistake and that it is perfectly possible for Washington to work with Vladimir Putin, rather than drench and drown him in a Ukrainian-style colour revolution. Almost certainly, despite coming from opposite ends of the wealth and political spectrum, the views of Bernie Sanders in such matters are the same. The messianic Senator from Vermont is clearly no booster of either NATO or the many Secretary Clinton-era interventions, carried out in lockstep with such middle-aged schoolboys as Francois Hollande and David Cameron, who have never taken seriously Barack Obama’s admonition that a handful of individuals from the same geographic location no longer have the power to change the world. As for Putin, while Russia has paid a high price for Madeleine Albright-style sanctions imposed by the ageing schoolchildren who still predominate in the chancelleries of the Atlantic alliance, it is Europe that will, over time, pay much the heavier price, including in a sharp fall in goodwill within the Russian people at countries that seek to punish Moscow for the “crime” of seeking to avoid the same descent into geopolitical irrelevance that was visible in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin era.
The fact is that on almost all such issues, the views of Donald Trump are very similar to that of that diminishing part of the Indian establishment that is yet to succumb to the lure of exchanging intellectual freedom and an adherence to our national interest at the altar of superpower foundation largesse. Examine the manner in which NATO intervened in Afghanistan, a country critical to the Indian national interest and which Delhi seeks to ensure is allowed to conduct its own business without interference by Pakistan, a country whose military considers Kabul to be its colony. Throughout 2004-7, the ISI succeeded in planting members and ideological clones of the Taliban into almost every recess of the Afghan system, which is why that organisation has revived despite the expenditure of more than a trillion dollars on seeking its defeat. Just as in Vietnam, the US and its partners have been defeated in Afghanistan, and this time, by its own errors, rather than the ferocity of an enemy that in essence is little more than a band of ruffians. Of course, these days, what is becoming more obvious is that the Taliban has been cut in two, one section enslaved to the Pakistan army and the other which hates that military and which has linked up with like-minded Pashtuns across the Durand Line to battle the men in khaki. As for Libya or Syria, the results of intervention are obvious, even though excuses have been created, such as that the “moderate opposition” in Syria lost ground to ISIS because Barack Obama did not bomb Damascus. Had the US President not stood up to his Secretary of State and refrained from repeating Libya in Syria, the capital of ISIS would be Damascus and almost the entire population rather than nearly half would have washed up on alien shores. As for Vladimir Putin, despite his intent to shape a transformational partnership with Washington, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that the President of Russis is not dispensable.
It was only after somehow managing to prise Hillary Clinton away from her perch at the heart of what was less an Obama administration than a Clinton Lite setup, that Barack Obama ensured breakthroughs with Iran and Cuba that will endure in his legacy for generations.
However, the US President’s obsession with keeping big donors happy has meant that he has walked away from the fact that only a public health partnership between the US and India will enable that country to provide universal quality healthcare to its citizens at a cost that will not bankrupt it. A President Sanders, who has understood the inhuman effect of Big Pharma monopolies on the poor across the world, would be very different, as hopefully would be Trump, who thus far has spent only his own money during the campaign and is hence not the servant of big donors that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are. Interestingly, few have noted that much of the donations to the Clinton Foundation come from the Mideast, and hence that it is perhaps not wholly accidental that Secretary of State Clinton pushed for policies favoured by Doha and Riyadh, despite these being contrary to US national interests.
Using a Clinton email server has opened the possibility that several sensitive emails may have been shown to some of the big donors by Clinton Foundation staff, a temptation that ought to have been avoided.
The Clintons have sweet-talked their way into bureaucratic hearts in India despite in practice adopting an inflexible approach seeking to keep India firmly in a subordinate space to “civilised” countries such as France and the UK. Unless the FBI resists pressure from the White House and conducts a comprehensive investigation into Emailgate, Hillary Clinton may continue to bedevil Delhi in practice, while nuzzling it in a pretence of support. And certainly, a President Hillary Clinton would be certain to attract far more cash into the foundation run by the family than even Secretary of State Clinton.
Better by far a President Sanders, or even a President Trump.