Sunday 31 July 2016

2014 Ukraine coup behind anti-Hillary DNC email hack (Sunday Guardian)

The hack was not motivated by any Russian effort to assist Republican nominee Donald Trump.
According to highly placed sources in Donetsk, Moscow and Washington, with responsibilities enabling legal access to classified information, the February 2014 “colour revolution”, i.e. coup in Ukraine, which resulted in the ouster of the elected President, Viktor Yanukovych, was the reason for the release of the 2015-2016 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails hacked by unnamed individuals. The message trails showed how key functionaries in the DNC, then headed by Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, a long-term admirer of Bill Clinton, were working ceaselessly and clandestinely for months under cover of “neutrality” to ensure that Senator Bernie Sanders failed in his bid to wrest the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton. Had the Vermont Senator succeeded, it would have been the second time that the former First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State got defeated by a lesser-known challenger in a presidential nomination contest, the first being in 2008 when she lost to Illinois Senator Barack H. Obama.
Policymaking sources, who are resident in and around Washington, claim that the Obama administration is “fully aware that retaliation for the US role in the 2014 Ukraine coup triggered the release” of the email trove. The hack was not motivated by any Russian effort to assist Republican nominee Donald Trump, an allegation that has been made by numerous named and unnamed individuals in the US administration, including the FBI, which according to a Democratic Party insider, functions under its present chief “as a political instrument of the dominant (i.e. Clinton) wing of the Democratic Party”, much the way the CBI was regarded as doing in India during the ten years when Manmohan Singh held the Prime Ministership with the blessings of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. According to this source, the argument of FBI director James Comey during the Congressional committee investigation into the Benghazi debacle, that Hillary Clinton had to be treated the same as any other US citizen, was “laughable”. It was pointed out that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had both legal as well as ethical obligations far higher than that of the “average Joe or Jane”, and hence, needed to be judged by that standard, rather than as a “common citizen” with none of the legal obligations of high state office. In view of the politicisation of the FBI under the present administration, “it is no surprise that the responsibility for the hack has been laid at the door of Vladimir Putin, rather than where it belongs, at that of Hillary Clinton and her policy errors in the Ukraine during 2009-2013”, when the then Secretary of State became an enthusiastic proponent of regime change in Ukraine.
According to a source within north-east Ukraine, “it is a fact that some of those involved in the (DNC email) hacking have relocated to Russia since the aftermath of the February 2014 coup, for reasons to do with personal safety”. After the coup, in many parts of the country including the capital (Kiev), xenophobia against the Russian-speaking minority has been stirred up by Ukrainian nationalists, including groups that owe their lineage to the pro-Nazi militias which proliferated in the territory after the June 1941 German invasion of the USSR, to which Ukraine belonged at the time. The source claimed that the leak (of the DNC email trails) was “from start to finish a Ukrainian-centric operation, carried out by (ethnic Russian) Ukrainian patriots seeking to showcase the unethical methods used by the Clintons in order to succeed on 8 November in their mission of placing Hillary in the White House.”
According to them, an objective behind the leak of the mined data was to assist Bernie Sanders to prevail at the convention, but this failed “because we (the hackers) at first could not locate a global media outlet that took our claims seriously” and next, because “WikiLeaks took longer than we expected to release the emails”. They say that “if the trove had been outed even nine days earlier” than happened, Bernie Sanders may have overcome the DNC dirty tricks department’s campaign against him and secured a majority at a Democratic Party Presidential Nomination Convention angered by the injustice done to him. A source based in Moscow described a fight between Trump and Sanders as being “between rich and poor, socialist versus capitalist”, while the electoral contest on 8 November between Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponent would merely represent a “mock fight between a Soft Capitalist (Clinton) and a Hard Capitalist (Trump), as both are from the millionaire class and share its values and world view”. This may, however, be somewhat of a cynical view, in that there are several hyper-rich individuals who have made significant contributions towards social justice.
Both the Clinton campaign as well as the Obama administration have sought to place responsibility for the timing of the leaks on what they claim is Vladimir Putin’s desire to ensure that Donald Trump enters the White House as the 45th President of the United States. However, sources within the District of Columbia say that US agencies have “multiple strands of evidence” that the timing of the hacked DNC email trove’s leak was related to “anger among ethnic Russians in Ukraine at Hillary Clinton’s role in the change of regime” that got played out on the streets during the beginning of 2014. Although Mrs Clinton had ceased to be Secretary of State some months before the coup, “the advance planning for street manifestations designed to get President Yanukovych out was initiated during her time”. Also, these sources claim that Hillary Clinton “kept the pressure on her successor (John Kerry) to increase the level of interference in Kiev so as to ensure a change of guard at the presidency” and “remained in close touch with staffers loyal to her” who pushed the agenda of regime change in Ukraine. A source added that the Ukraine angle has been suppressed by the White House for “fear that it would turn the spotlight on another of the faulty policies bequeathed to the US administration by its former Secretary of State”. Instead, “the story got made up by the Clinton campaign (and embraced by the White House) that both the electronic hacking and well as the subsequent leaks had its origins in an effort by President Putin to defeat Hillary Clinton”.
“The Obama administration is working 24/7 to ensure Hillary wins in November, just as they toiled along with Debbie Wasserman-Shultz to ensure that Bernie Sanders got forced out of the contest”. According to US-based sources, “it was because of President Obama’s last minute entreaties that Senator Sanders decided to ignore advice from some of his closest and longstanding associates to continue in the contest”. Instead, he resiled from the pledge to take the battle (against Hillary Clinton) to the July 2016 Philadelphia convention of the Democratic Party and nominated Hillary as the party candidate at the floor of the convention. However, some who are acquainted with the (by now) internationally known socialist and intellectual idealist, say that the Vermont Senator was from the start “too nice and straightforward a politician to prevail against the ruthless Clinton machine”, and that “from the starting debate, when he impulsively and unwisely gave Hillary a free pass over her own email controversy, the Senator refused to abandon his Marquess of Queensberry and gentlemanly approach against an opponent known to embrace any tactic to win”. They say that “despite his anger at growing evidence of the dirty tricks used against him, Senator Sanders refused to make personal attacks on his rival despite being given dirt on her, and confined himself to repeating over and over again just Hillary Clinton’s links to Wall Street”, to the point of parody.
A source in Washington claimed that of the top ten aides (of Sanders), “two were secretly backing the Clintons by getting the challenger to lower the decibel level of attacks (on Hillary) and by giving input (to the Clinton camp) about confidential discussions” within the Sanders camp of the strategy being planned by the Senator’s team to defeat Clinton at the July nominating convention. It needs to be mentioned that such claims are statements of individuals, albeit those with direct knowledge of the situation described by them. However, no written or electronic proof has been furnished to back such claims. A source, however, said that “there exists within the US government substantial electronic proof that it was the Ukraine coup which motivated those affected by the coup to carry out the DNC hack. Incidentally, the interception of email traffic got initiated much before Donald Trump (or Bernie Sanders) became a significant factor in the 2016 race for the Oval Office, but after the 2014 coup in Kiev. These sources claim that evidence of a Ukrainian connection is being suppressed by the present US administration, which wants to spread the story that it was the Putin establishment in Moscow (rather than those from Kiev and Donetsk) that was responsible for the hacking. The Obama administration is being accused by Washington sources of covering up the fact of Hillary Clinton’s Ukraine policy being responsible for the hacking, instead pointing the finger at Donald Trump as the intended beneficiary. Sources close to those involved say that they wanted the email trove to become public nine days earlier than actually took place in July. If the website did actually have the information that earlier, it is likely that WikiLeaks waited till the Democratic Party Philadelphia convention took place before releasing the stack, so as to maximise the impact of the disclosures, and not out of any other motive.
Why the toxicity towards Hillary Clinton of some groups in Ukraine, including those presently exiled in Russia? Key sources allege that the Clinton Foundation has “close financial links to oligarchs in Kiev who had an interest in getting rid of Viktor” Yanukovych (the President of Ukraine from 2010 to 2014). They say that Ukraine was for years the country making the biggest donations to the Clinton Foundation, “even more than Saudi Arabia”, and that “there were a flood of donations from within the country to the Foundation routed through various middlemen and paper entities during the period when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State”. However, the Department of Justice has found no irregularity in the functioning of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State in the context of the Clinton Foundation. Those close to the Foundation say that Bill Clinton has devoted the rest of his life to helping children with AIDS and to other equally noble causes, and that it is absurd to allege that he in any way profits from a foundation to which, they claim, he has devoted his sweat and blood in order to help the needy across the globe, assisted in this task by daughter Chelsea, who by all accounts has an impeccable and likeable character, as does her former friend, Ivanka Trump, who has emerged a key figure in her father’s campaign after the dismissal of Corey Lewandowski.
In contrast to the view that Ukraine was tangential to Hillary, a source in Washington claimed that she had (while in office) repeated to State Department staff that “Yanukovych had to go, the reason being his refusal to ensure that Ukraine joined NATO”. According to this source, “Hillary was obsessed about getting Kiev to join NATO, and was angered by the way in which (then President) Yanukovych walked away from the commitment made by his predecessor in favour of re-establishing security ties with Moscow”. According to a source, “there was anxiety within the Clinton State Department that a new version of the Warsaw Pact may get launched thanks to Putin”, and which may include even countries in Asia, besides some within Europe.
A policymaking source claimed that in Hillary’s view, “getting Ukraine into NATO was the surest way of ensuring that such a new Warsaw Pact did not happen” and that Russia was “permanently weakened as a threat to NATO”. The source added that the 2009-2013 Secretary of State saw the US effort to bring the Ukraine into the NATO orbit as “defensive rather than offensive”. However, that view does not seem to have been shared in the Kremlin. As with other interventions implemented by the Secretary, such as that in Egypt and Libya, events in Ukraine following the ouster and exile of the elected President of the country led to a strong blowback, this time from Moscow. This took the form of a muscular Russian reaction that included the retaking of the Crimea, the region whose military facilities NATO “most wanted to take over from Russia”, according to a key source. In retaliation, the US and the EU have imposed punitive sanctions on the Russian Federation “in order to weaken the economy and make Vladimir Putin unpopular enough to ensure the same level of mass protests in Moscow which led to regime change in Kiev”, said a source at a location that it was requested remain unnamed.
Multiple sources say that it is “poetic justice” that US Democratic Party Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “has been burned by an email hack” as, according to them, “she showed maximum attention towards ensuring that US-based entities secured a monopoly over the internet in different countries”. They say that it has been admitted “several times” by present and former Obama administration officials that global internet behemoths such as Facebook and Twitter were repeatedly contacted in order to “bend events and reactions in the manner regarded as desirable by the Obama administration”. Huge foundations such as that begun by Pierre Omidyar are reported to have been active in using networks close to them to ensure that the street protests against President Yanukovych reached an intensity sufficient to force him to leave both his office and the country. Interestingly, several of the US-based foundations that were openly active in regime change operations in Cairo, Tunis, Kiev and elsewhere are linked to several highly placed individuals in India, who have made no secret of their affiliation or their lobbying to ensure that any action by the Ministry of Home Affairs against such entities gets rolled back. “What you do comes back to bite you, and this is what has happened to Hillary in DNC-Gate”, a source known to the individual battling hard to become the next President of the US pointed out.
For Hillary Clinton, who made US intervention in the politics of certain countries an art form, the blowback from her policies on Ukraine must bring back memories of the many electronic interventions the energetic former Secretary of State herself masterminded.

A new 1971 agreement needed to defeat threats (Sunday Guardian)

Just as the 1971 showdown with Pak needed to be preceded by a military agreement with USSR, the next showdown has made mandatory an understanding with US.
That names can be misleading is proved by “Azad Kashmir”, that part of the state which remained in the custody of Pakistan after Prime Minister J.L. Nehru and Deputy Prime Minister V. Patel agreed to Governor-General Lord Mountbatten’s proposal for a ceasefire beginning 1 January 1949. For the reality is, the only “azaadi” in that part of the globe is from Kashmiris, who have been almost totally replaced by Punjabis, the ethnic group that dominates Pakistan because of its control over the military. These days, there is some attention being paid to the policy differences between India’s first PM and his deputy, but there were many core issues on which the two agreed, including on the preservation of the colonial system of government and laws. If anything, Sardar Patel was even more convinced of the need to protect the prerogatives and power of the Imperial Civil Service (ICS) than was Nehru. Had Patel resisted the Mountbatten proposal, Nehru would have had to permit the Indian Army to recover the whole of the state, thereby giving India much greater strategic ability to influence Central and Western Asia than is the case at present.
Whether it be the 1950s’ refusal to replace China in the UN Security Council or the rejection that same decade of the Sultan of Oman’s offer to transfer Gwadar to India, or indeed the horror in both South Block and North Block that greeted the 2003 US proposal that India should station a division of its finest soldiers in the Kurdish region of Iraq (then and thereafter the quietest region in that country) or the continuing coyness about participating in the war on Daesh (ISIS) in a manner other than verbal, policymakers in this country have established a tradition of roaring like lions, while acting in the manner of mice, with all rare exceptions such as Indira Gandhi’s 1971 assistance to the Mukti Bahini to liberate that country from a genocidal army of occupation from Pakistan. As for Indira Gandhi, after bursts of courage (such as the 1974 Pokharan nuclear tests), she lapsed back into acquiescence in the wishes of international bullies, of course loudly protesting the opposite all the while. The 1974 tests (or indeed, those of 1998) were not followed by others designed to affix India firmly in the pantheon of global powers. Instead, the persistent fear of retribution that forms an affliction universal among Lutyens’ Zone policymakers in India, led to surrender after surrender of the prerogatives that independent effort by clusters of citizens had made possible for the country.
Although he has never been given credit, the fact is that it was Durga Prasad Dhar who was the architect of the India-USSR pact, which made intervention in Bangladesh feasible, as indeed he was for stiffening the spine of the Prime Minister, although later, in Shimla, the more emollient Parameshwar Nath Haksar got the upper hand and persuaded Indira Gandhi to make concessions to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that has convinced the Pakistan establishment ever since that what is lost on the battlefield to India can always be regained at the conference table. This lack of fear of long-term consequences is what motivates countries to commit deeds against India with regularity, such as China’s decision at Seoul to block India’s entry into the NSG. Thus far, apart from sending home three Xinhua journalists (at least one of whom, Tang Lu, has consistently been a booster of India), nothing seems to have been done to ensure that Beijing feels any pain at ignoring the expressed wishes of India in the NSG meeting, not to mention Russia, whose leader Vladimir Putin has lost face in India and elsewhere, because of the way in which his request to Beijing to give up its opposition to India was ignored with contempt by that capital.
Forty-five years ago, there was a geopolitical need for an India-USSR pact wth military overtones. In the present era, there is a requirement for a similar arrangement with the US, that would increase the feasible retaliatory options for India once Daesh launches a mass terror attack within this country. Should such an agreement be reached on terms that are of mutual benefit to both the biggest democracies on the planet, the range of options in dealing with geopolitical challenges would substantially multiply.
Pakistan needs the backing of the US and China to continue to escalate its war of attrition on India. There is evidence that Washington may finally be getting more real so far as the generals in GHQ Rawalpindi are concerned, although as yet, China seems ready to place the interests of GHQ above that of good relations with India or even the request of Vladimir Putin, a leader who has gone out of his way to align Moscow with Beijing. If Islamabad is a tad less effective in international mobilisation on trouble spots such as Kashmir than was the case in the merry 1990s, it is because Delhi and Washington have come closer thanks to Narendra Modi and Barack Obama. Both being the leaders of countries with more than a sprinkling of lawyers, what is needed is to place such ties on a formal footing. Such an action would damp down optimism in Rawalpindi and concentrate minds in Beijing, who this far have taken as a joke any blowback for consistent actions designed to place India in the same box as Pakistan, rather than with China itself, which is where India belongs. Just as the 1971 showdown with Pakistan needed to be preceded by a military agreement with the USSR, the next showdown with that country has made mandatory a formal understanding with the US.
However, as yet, there does not seem to be any D.P. Dhar within the Lutyens’ Zone who could ensure that a 1971-style pact suited to the security needs of the present be worked out and signed by Prime Minister Modi and President Obama.

Friday 29 July 2016

Hillary ignores minorities in choosing Kaine (Pakistan Observer)

THERE is an apocryphal story about Bill and Hillary Clinton stopping at a petrol bunk and her being greeted by the employee manning the pump and washing cars. An old boyfriend from her youth, it turned out. Bill asked her if she was not glad that she married the President of the United States rather than a petrol pump attendant. “Bill”, was the reply, “if I had married him, he would have been President”. During the period when Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas and afterwards, President, it was obvious that Hillary was his most influential counsellor. In the White House, even on matters as loaded with import as the selection of a Secretary of State, it was Hillary’s choice who got selected. While another strong woman and decisive spouse, Nancy Reagan, played a big role during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, this was on relatively few issues.
Hillary, by contrast, got involved across the board in matters of policy, although after the healthcare debacle in the US Congress, she operated mostly out of public view, armed with a suite of advisors both male and female, from whom she got total loyalty. The managerial abilities of Hillary Clinton were on display during the months when Senator Bernie Sanders was seeking to wrest the Democratic Party nomination from her. Often openly, the Democratic Party establishment, led by Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, operated on behalf of the Clinton candidacy, although it may be argued that this was because they regarded ageing socialist from Vermont as too weak politically to defeat the Republican candidate (whom they expected to be Jeb Bush).
In these columns a year ago, the contrary was argued, that (1) Donald Trump was likely to be the Republican nominee, contrary to what the experts said, and (2) that Bernie Sanders had a better chance of defeating him than Hillary Clinton Donald Trump clearly believes in destiny, or otherwise he would have managed his political campaign at least as carefully as he does his businesses. Those in India who know Trump say that he is not racist, and is at heart a liberal rather than a hidebound conservative.
This latter quality was on display during the Republican convention, when for the first time, a “gay” man admitted to his sexuality, not to jeers but to a standing ovation from the packed auditorium that was filled with party faithful. While it may be almost impossible to entice African Americans to vote for him, Trump could have won over a significant number of Hispanic voters, despite his pledge to build a wall along the border with Mexico. However, his comments on a Mexican-American judge who ruled against him in a case have resulted in the Hispanic vote moving away from him, a factor that has given Hillary Clinton the confidence that she can win Florida and even put up a fight in Texas (especially with the Bush family sulking at Jeb’s failure in the primaries) and New Mexico, while in several other states throughout the east coast and the south, the Clintons are relying on their complete mastery of African American votes giving them the edge.
Hillary Clinton is betting that Donald Trump will not be able to shed the anti-minority cloak that some undiplomatic and unrehearsed comments made by the Republican nominee for President of the US. However, Trump has an ace, his daughter Ivanka, who will be working hard to rebuild bridges to non-white voters in a context where Clinton campaign is casting Donald Trump as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and (playing subtly on his German heritage) as a neo-Nazi.
In fact, Trump is far more liberal than Hillary Clinton’s Vice-Presidential pick, Timothy Kaine, who believes that only Catholics can enter the portals of heaven and not those of any other faith. Should Hillary Clinton for some reason leave the Presidency halfway, incoming President Kaine would be as conservative in his views as any Republican in Texas or South Carolina Hillary Clinton is betting that African-Americans, Muslim Americans, Hindu Americans and Hispanics would overwhelmingly vote for her,as would women,and hence that her focus needs to be on voters who are leaning towards the Republican Party.
In other words, white males and social conservatives, including Catholics, a group heavily represented in the manufacturing belts that Donald Trump is seeking to win. Hillary Clinton has chosen as her Vice Presidential pick a non-liberal who has zero history of paying special attention to the needs of African Americans or Hispanics, despite his fluency in Spanish. As for Muslim Americans, despite both Clinton and Kaine being totally on the other side so far as the Palestinian issue is concerned, the expectation is that Trump will be as toxic to this group as (the Clintons expect) he is to African-Americans and Hispanics.
Interestingly, Timothy Kaine has been a leading critic of both Narendra Modi as well as the Modi government, and again the Clintons are looking forward to the carefully crafted racist image of the Republican nominee standing in the way of Hindu Americans moving away from the Democratic Party because of Kaine’s hostility to the Modi government. Indeed, as Secretary of State,Hillary Clinton also was deeply opposed to then Chief Minister Modi, changing her stance only after he won a promotion in 2014 as Prime Minister of India.
As for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, they have been ignored as completely as the other groups mentioned have. The Clintons are betting that their base has nowhere to go and therefore ,that they need to focus on winning over segments of the Republican base. They are also assuming that Donald Trump will not — or cannot — walk back from the anti-minority interpretation that the Clinton campaign has portrayed his speeches. This columnist stands by the forecast made a year ago, that Donald Trump is likely to prevail against Hillary Clinton, the formidable efficiency of her political machine notwithstanding.

Sunday 24 July 2016

External actors seek to derail Indian growth story (Sunday Guardian)

The core of the plan is to shift government’s focus from development to fire-fighting.
Aware that India breaking through the “growth barrier” and entering a period of stable double digit growth will transform global geopolitics by creating a new pivot in Asia besides the existing giant, China, numerous groups are working quietly and efficiently to ensure that the India story gets derailed. This is sought to be achieved by lowering public morale and confidence, ensuring administrative sclerosis through delayed decisions, and by fuelling public unrest that detracts from the “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” narrative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Interestingly, thus far the BJP government has moved with cautious conservatism so far as administrative change is concerned, preferring to rely almost entirely on the systems and personnel inherited from the past. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has carried forward the tight money, high interest rate policy of his two immediate predecessors, and this has fused alongside conservative North Block policies to create job growth below the level needed for societal stability in a country comprising largely of the young. The emphasis on higher and higher taxation now, rather than adopting a policy of lower tax rates leading to high growth in future (introduced by the UPA during 2006-2007) has impacted the services sector, which has been growing with reduced momentum as a consequence. Manufacturing has been affected by high interest rates, while such irrational UPA policies as asking the buyer (Vodafone) rather than the seller (Hutchison Whampoa) to pay the TDS (tax deducted at source for a transaction) or making retrospective changes in taxation remain to be fully corrected. Although several experts have been pointing to the harmful effects of such measures, thus far the bureaucracy seems resistant to make the significant changes needed to rectify the harm done during the UPA period, confining itself to adjustments at the margin.
Change at the Prime Minister’s Office (which has regained under Narendra Modi the autonomy and primacy that was lost during the UPA period) needs to be replicated by similar dynamism in key ministries such as Home, HRD and Finance. In particular, most of the chokepoints set up to slow activity down that were added to during the UPA period need to be dismantled at an accelerating pace. The RTI needs to be strengthened and whistle blowers given protection, together with free speech and the protection of democratic freedoms in lifestyle. Also, until horizontal inductions take place in the higher bureaucracy of domain specialists on fixed term contracts, and a comprehensive weeding out through forced retirement of corrupt and incompetent officials takes place on a bi-annual basis, it will be difficult to counteract the carefully planned and well funded moves that are in play to ensure that the country moves towards a situation which more closely resembles that prevailing in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
While the ISI and GHQ Rawalpindi more generally are lead players in the planning and implementation of such efforts at sabotaging the future of India, there are a miscellany of other interests as well, including religious and corporate. Within not only the GCC countries, but the EU and the US, there are politically well-connected and generously funded entities seeking to convert tens of millions in India to the faiths to which they subscribe, and who are unhappy that the liberal visa regime for foreign preachers of hate against Hinduism that was in effect during the UPA period has been abandoned. East Asia has become a viable competitor to Europe and even the US in an expanding number of business segments, and the worry among both blocs is that industry, trade and services in India could potentially eclipse both of them, given the vibrancy of the people of this country, as shown by their prowess in those countries where a colonial culture of governance does not exist the way it continues in India. Examples of such economic warfare include the artificially induced (albeit effective) agitations against uranium mining throughout India, blocking crude oil extraction in Manipur that could have made this impoverished state wealthy, blocking bauxite and aluminium extraction projects in Orissa by groups that have not resorted to similar activities against any such projects in the rest of the globe, and infrastructure such as the Maheswar dam remaining unused for a multiplicity of reasons, primary among which is the ease by which projects can be stayed for decades under India’s legal system, international NGOs blocking the development of India’s coal resources in order to promote imports from far wealthier countries at higher cost, while agitations against nuclear plants ensure a growing market for (imported) coal in the country.
The core of the plan is to slow down economic growth in India through forcing a shift in focus of the Narendra Modi government from speeding up development and altering the governance paradigm through innovative use of technology, to fire-fighting of the kind recently witnessed in Kashmir, Gujarat and Haryana, not to mention ongoing tensions concerning the Dalit community. According to individuals familiar with the details of the plan, the slow pace of job creation in the organised sector has created a window for fuelling agitations for reservation in the state sector by communities that are much more prosperous than most others in their location. Thus far, intelligence agencies seem to have ignored the external push that has been given to several such agitations by patrons from afar seeking to derail the India growth story, each for their own reasons. After the Jat, Patidar and Kapu agitations, the expectation is that in Assam, significant segments of the Ahom community can be motivated to lobby for reservations on the Patidar or Jat model in Gujarat and Haryana, respectively, followed by a similar push by elements of the Maratha community in Maharashtra. Together with the Kashmir and Dalit flashpoints, clearly efforts are ongoing to ensure that the heat never cools for the Modi government, a situation which is expected to have an impact on the performance of the BJP in coming state Assembly elections.
Although the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has plugged the channels through which several NGOs are being funded by agencies abroad, a growing number of “underground NGOs” have sprung up that source moneys received through hawala channels. Because of the fact that those involved in such networks often service the needs of officials and politicians, thus far very little has been done against the major hawala operators in India, especially those operating in metro locations as well as in states such as Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra, and hence such individuals are free to funnel money to the groups being set up to promote chaos and confusion in different parts of India.
It needs to be mentioned that some of the overt and underground NGOs connected with the plan have adopted a saffron tinge so as to facilitate the perception that the Modi government and the BJP as a political party are behind the troublemakers motivated by such NGOs.
Kashmir is a special case, and is getting special attention from GHQ Rawalpindi, which has been assisting in the creation of a multiplicity of “citizens’ human rights groups” active in spreading a perception that only separation from the rest of India will lead to peace and prosperity in Kashmir, when the opposite is the truth. It is expected that Channel 4 in the UK will broadcast a series on Kashmir designed to show the Indian Army in a poor light, despite that force showing tolerance and moderation on a level never attempted by counterparts elsewhere. This is to go on air around the time of the September plenary meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission, which is expected to be attended by nearly four dozen NGOs, several of whom have been specially commissioned by GHQ for the purpose of casting India as a serial human rights violator in the matter of Kashmir, the Northeast, women’s & children’s rights and the situation concerning the Dalit community. It bears mention that Senator Timothy Kaine, who has been chosen as her Vice-Presidential candidate by Hillary Clinton, has been among the most vociferous anti-India voices in the US Senate, repeatedly calling for action against India on a cluster of issues relating to religious freedom and human rights, while Donald Trump’s key aide, Paul Manafort, was for a time associated with a pro-Pakistan group lobbying in the US for action to force India to hand over the state to Pakistan. Hopefully, both Kaine as well as Manafort have by now understood the factual position and changed their stands.
Given the concentration of effort expended on ensuring social unrest in India in the name of caste and job reservations, as well as the potential for induced agitations in multiple sectors such as banking and transport, “Business as Usual” cannot be the norm at the MHA, while officials in the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India need to look beyond the needs of big financial conglomerates in New York and London and focus on job creation through igniting growth sufficient to damp down youth unrest caused by a lack of economic opportunities. Going parallel with such plans are those of terror groups headquartered in Pakistan as well as the Levant that are planning mass terror attacks in India on the Paris and Nice model. The Prime Minister has called for “Naya Soch”. Narendra Modi will need it to ensure that ongoing efforts at derailing the India story fail.

Trump’s foreign policy makes sense, not nonsense (Sunday Guardian)

While Sanders has given way to Hillary Clinton, Trump has managed to savage his foes to the shock of the army of lobbyists.
Those familiar with the workings of Washington are aware of the influences at work on the web of think-tanks, university departments and individual scholars, officials and analysts which direct their conclusions into defined paths. For example, the countries comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council depend on the United States for their security. Hence, the urgency to ensure that policy papers from “expert” and “non-partisan” sources reflect less the core strategic interests of the US than the desires of those at the apex of the GCC. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi detested Saddam Hussein—or Moammar Gaddafi, and more recently Bashar Assad—enough to want NATO to get rid of them.
Foundations, university departments and individual scholars have, over the decades, received generous assistance from sources that are either within the GCC or linked to them, and it is no surprise that those getting such largesse know exactly what views they need to espouse to ensure that the flow of funds continues. Several leading politicians, for example, have set up foundations and other “charitable and non-profit” institutions that pay for their corporate jets, luxury hotel stays and staff expenses. Almost none have revealed the actual donors, nor is there any curiosity as to the process by which policy conclusions reached by such agencies mirror so accurately the needs of their patrons.
Given the uproar that has ensued over Donald Trump’s suggestions on foreign policy, the assumption may be made by innocents that the policies the Republican candidate for the Presidency is opposing or distancing himself from, represent triumphs.
 In actual fact, they have proved to be disasters, whether they be the manner in which the post-Saddam occupation of Iraq took place, or the steps taken in Afghanistan after the Northern Alliance and the US Air Force had the Taliban on the run in the final weeks of 2001. As for NATO, the errors made by that entity have often led to horrendous results. Of course, such is not the narrative related by the authors of such policies.
In Iraq, for example, the “surge” is considered to have “turned the tide” in Iraq, before—such self-serving narratives claim—Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki imposed a “Shia dictatorship controlled by Iran” on the country. What most GCC countries sought after Saddam’s fall was the setting up of a governance mechanism once again controlled by the Sunni minority, rather than the natural preponderance that the far greater numbers of Shia in Iraq gave that community. The relentless intervention by US policymakers to press the Wahhabi-serving GCC agenda on Baghdad created much of the policy missteps, which resulted in the growth of ISIS safe zones in Iraq and the refugee flood into Europe. ISIS followed in Iraq the 1995-96 example of the Taliban and bribed army commanders in Iraq to cease defensive operations against them.
The cash for this came from much the same sources as had contributed to the coffers of the Taliban, yet such donors are still welcome visitors to a Washington where the analyses which steadily morph into actual policy are usually bought and paid for by those interests which benefit from them.
Across the political divide, almost all those prominent in politics in the national capital of the world’s biggest economy partake of the resources of those with a transparent interest in precisely the outcomes which the policies recommended by key Washington policymakers seek to generate.
Whether it be the facilitation of the Taliban by Bill Clinton during the 1990s or the later bungling of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars by George W. Bush, or the way in which Team Obama members subsequently forced through regime change in Libya or how armed ISIS volunteers in Syria were passed off as the “moderate opposition” by the Wahhabised secret services of regional allies of the US, each such disaster is rooted in policy errors caused by the financial linkages that have been built up across the Washington Beltway since the 1970s.
Neither Bernie Sanders nor Donald Trump was the beneficiary of the complex of interests that for so long have dominated US policy. While Sanders has given way to Hillary Clinton, Trump has managed to savage his foes to the shock of the army of lobbyists who do not—yet—have even the smallest influence on the man.
Trump has not hesitated to mention the failures of US policy and of NATO, thereby putting thousands of paid-for “experts” and public opinion builders at risk of exposure.
In reality, it makes sense to have Russia as a friend rather than remain a foe, and to invite Kim Jong-un to Washington, to cool down the latter’s suspicion that he is slated to be on the same conveyor to doom that Saddam and Gaddafi were, and which Bashar Assad declined to step onto. The Republican nominee is correct when he points out, for example, the link between the disastrous US policies followed since the “Arab Spring” and ISIS.
However, for those worried at a possible steep fall in their grants and other incomes were he to get elected over Hillary Clinton, such Trumpian sense needs to get portrayed as nonsense, so that their domestic and international patrons get the candidate of their choice elected in November.

Monday 18 July 2016

The Hague verdict (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
ON July 12 the Arbitral Tribunal of the UN-established Permanent Court of Arbitration gave its verdict on a matter brought before it on Jan 22, 2013 by the Philippines. In two detailed Memorials, Manila argued that China’s acceptance of the “Nine Dash Line” as defining its boundary within the South China Sea should be struck down as against international law. Almost the entire UN system in effect functions through out as though global geopolitics has changed little since the organisation was formed in 1945, and the Arbitral Tribunal is no exception.

Both sides of the North Atlantic still dominate the structure and components of the UN system. Hence, four of its five Tribunal members were from the European Union, the other being from Ghana, in a context where a more balanced representation of the different parts of the globe ought to have been attempted. However, throughout history, Great Powers have set their own rules in the architecture of international procedures, and now that China has itself once again become such a global force because of its economic growth and technological prowess, Beijing is likely to ignore a ruling that refuses to recognise its claims concerning the South China Sea.

This is certain to lead to a rise in diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Washington, Manila and Hanoi, among other powers. The position of Beijing is that the dispute with Manila needs to be settled bilaterally. However, given the disparity in size between the two side, the Philippines took shelter in the de facto support given to its claims by a group of countries, including the US and several countries in Europe and Asia. The other billion-plus populated country in Asia, India, has made it clear that it considers itself eligible to traverse the waters of the South China Sea without reference to any other country, and has lately even sent naval ships through the waters engaged in entirely peaceful voyages designed to improve goodwill in the region.

The recent stance of Beijing in the matter of India being made a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at its Seoul meeting strengthened the anti-China lobby in Delhi and weakened pro-China elements, hence it is very likely that there will be fresh moves at economic and other cooperation between Delhi and capitals such as Hanoi, Jakarta and Manila that refuse to accept Beijing’s claims over the waters The grounds on which China is staking its claim to much of the waters of the South China Sea indicate that the Peoples Republic of China sees itself as the successor to older regimes, including those that existed several hundreds of years ago.

In other words, the Chinese leadership has claimed the historical heritage of China and its people in a manner similar to the approach of European powers, especially in the Balkans, after the 1914-19 war, when the Paris Peace Conference was convened to settle territorial boundaries. Each of these countries, as well as others in Europe, used arguments related to history and culture to back their claims for new boundaries. In like fashion, China is going back to its past to define its future. As already mentioned, given the Great Power status of the PRC, it is improbable that any effort at rolling back its claims will succeed.

However, as in Europe during the first half of the previous century, the July 12 ruling and others that will surely follow are likely to increase tensions between China and countries that seek to enforce a system of laws and boundaries that are related to the post-1945 world and which are illustrated in the way the United Nations was constituted. As a Great Power, China of course has the ability to ignore the Hague tribunal’s ruling. However, those opposing it will now argue that international law is on their side in the dispute. The verdict will give them cover to increase their patrolling of the South China Sea and nearby waterlines. Overall, the verdict will lead to a rise in tensions. Hopefully a war can be avoided, as even a limited conflict will scar relations between the countries involved for a generation and more.

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

Sunday 17 July 2016

Hague verdict legitimises South China Sea war (Sunday Guardian)

The gates have been opened for war, most likely a limited conflict involving naval vessels and aircraft rather than land troops.
Although Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is regarded by Beijing as being hostile to China’s “core” interests, the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen has taken a stand very similar to that of the Chinese Communist Party in the South China Sea dispute. Both Taipei and Beijing reject the tribunal award on the South China Sea and even the legitimacy of the process followed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Beijing regards almost 90% of the waters of the South China Sea as its own, mainly on the basis of a “nine-dash line” in a map, which it claims is a historical record. Lately, China seems to have moved away from Deng Xiaoping’s post-1979 policy of avoidance of military force in dealings with its neighbour. Xi seems willing to use military means to enforce the claims made by his administration in the disputes that it has with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines in the China Seas. The assertive stance taken by Beijing has had a reaction in Japan, where voters have just given a two-thirds majority to hawk Shinzo Abe in the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament, in addition to their earlier gift of a similar majority in the Lower House. Meanwhile, the Philippines is boosting its military linkages with its historical partner, the United States, while Vietnam is building up its ability to respond to an encounter with the PLA Navy.
In the event of a conflict, the worst case scenario for China would be Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Australia and the US joining hands to challenge the Chinese forces. Meanwhile, since 2014, both Delhi as well as Washington have been edging closer to the status of military allies, even though as yet India’s bureaucracy is loath to sign (even in an amended form) the three Foundation Agreements which would set the course of India-US relations at least for the next generation, just as the India-USSR Pact did immediately before Indira Gandhi’s war to assist the people of Bangladesh in their battle against the genocide being perpetrated on them by the Pakistan army.
As long as the USSR was a functioning entity, so was the diplomatic tilt of India towards Moscow, occasional coy glances at Washington during the period in office of Rajiv Gandhi notwithstanding. After the USSR collapsed, India lost its privileged status. Indeed, it lost heavily as a consequence of then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh’s generosity in adjusting the rupee-rouble rate to reflect an absurdly (at that point in time) high value of the rouble for purposes of debt repayment by India. As in such one-sided pacts as the Indus Waters Treaty or the Shimla Accord with Pakistan, the rupee-rouble pact went 100% the way of the other country, leaving India a big loser.
Had China waited for another two decades without seeking to use its military muscles on its neighbours and the rest of the world, it would automatically have become as dominant in the region as the US was from the Korean War till its defeat in Vietnam.
Had China waited for another two decades without seeking to use its military muscles on its neighbours and the rest of the world, it would automatically have become as dominant in the region as the US was from the Korean War till its defeat in Vietnam. However, the assertive stance now taken by China in the China Seas dispute ensured victory in Japan for Abe. In Taiwan as well, the policy now being pursued by Beijing is boosting the influence of Tokyo. The Chinese side has cut off the Beijing-Taipei hotline between the two leaders, as well as the two other formally recognised communications channels between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits. Tourist arrivals from across the straits have gotten reduced considerably since the DPP took office two months ago. A vacuum has been created, into many parts of which Japan is likely to enter.
However, as seen even by such shortsighted policies as blocking India from becoming a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it seems clear that the Deng Xiaoping policy of avoiding recourse to armed force in disputes is practically over. In other words, the gates have been opened for war, most likely a limited conflict involving naval vessels and aircraft rather than land troops. Even a brief war would poison relations between Beijing and the other countries involved for more than a generation, as we have seen in the still toxic response in India to the brief 1962 border conflict with China, and this despite the Chinese side withdrawing from all its territorial gains soon after declaring a unilateral ceasefire. The importance of The Hague decree on the South China Sea dispute is that it has, in effect, branded China’s actions in the region as outside the ambit of international law. It follows that any action taken by other countries to reverse such moves by Beijing would be deemed to be legitimate. By its judgement, the Court of Arbitration in The Hague has provided legal cover for Japan, the US and other countries that are preparing to challenge the Chinese military in the matter of control over the South China Sea.

Sunday 10 July 2016

To heal Kashmir, send Geelani to his homeland (Sunday Guardian)

According to the Muftis and the Abdullahs, the Wahhabis are the only segment of J&K society that need ‘healing’.
Let it be admitted that this columnist was from the start averse to the BJP joining hands with the PDP to form a government in Jammu & Kashmir. Instead of securing a few puny ministerships, had the party opted to be in the opposition and allowed a combination of the PDP, the National Conference and the Congress party to take over in Srinagar, very soon public opinion would have turned against such an alliance, and in the mid-term elections that would almost certainly follow, the BJP may have secured just enough seats in Kashmir to come to power on its own. With every year that passes, the attractiveness of Pakistan as an alternative to Indian statehood is getting reduced, so much so that apart from Syed Ali Shah Geelani and a few others loyal to the salt which nourishes them, most of those whose occupation it is to protest against the rest of India, work on the basis the desirable option is a level of autonomy sufficient to ensure total Wahhabisation. Such individuals are not satisfied with the partial Wahhabisation that has been implemented in Jammu & Kashmir since the Congress party allowed Sheikh Abdullah in 1947 to take over as Prime Minister, later on being turfed out, but thereafter displacing secular predecessors, who, had they continued, would have ensured the extinguishing of the unreal hope that the state could, through unrest or rebellion, win an overwhelmingly Wahhabised governance structure that would be independent of the Central government in every particular barring the formal.
Unfortunately for the people of the state and for the rest of the country, the 15% or so of the population that are partial or total Wahhabis is the only segment taken into account by both the media as well as the Central government. Of course, such a disastrous concession to a fundamentally undemocratic group has since been justified on the grounds first of “secularism” and now on the grounds of “pragmatism”. The BJP argues that its presence in the state government ensures that the state “does not slip into anarchy”. The Ministry of Home Affairs, which is historically known for neglecting societal sores until they turn cancerous, apparently believes that the presence of a BJP Deputy Chief Minister and miscellaneous ministers from the party is sufficient to ensure that Srinagar keep to the path of fealty to the Constitution of India. The MHA has, therefore, outsourced to J&K BJP ministers its job of ensuring adherence within the ruling structure of Kashmir to the political and governance principles ensuring the unity of this country. This despite the fact that from the start, these necessary principles have been ignored by the Wahhabis and their backers within the inner recesses of the governance mechanism of the state. Despite having only a slightly higher number of seats than the BJP, the PDP has arrogated to itself about 90% of the effective powers of the state government, of course in the name of “secularism” and “pragmatism”. Such an abdication of responsibility by the country’s ruling party would, it was calculated, “heal tensions and cool down passions”. In fact, the reverse has taken place.
According to the Muftis and the Abdullahs, the Wahhabis are the only segment of J&K society that need “healing”. The fact is that it is the rest of the population which has been ravaged by this medieval force, and which needs the sympathetic attention and “healing”, which till now has been denied by successive governments that have competed with each other to grovel at the doors of the Wahhabi grandees. None of these seem to do any work barring periodic calls to create chaos, although all of whom seem to be very well off, with the Income-Tax authorities clearly not looking their way. More than verbal tributes to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, what is needed is to ensure that the warnings of that prescient leader be taken seriously and at least some of his prescriptions get followed in Jammu & Kashmir, especially autonomy from Srinagar for Jammu and Ladakh. It is striking that the many politicians who swear by secularism seem oblivious of the fact that the principle has been absent in J&K since Jawaharlal Nehru decided that even accession to India was less important than ensuring the primacy of Sheikh Abdullah over the state. Indira Gandhi persisted with her father’s policy of coddling the Sheikh, while Rajiv briefly rebelled against one wing of the family, that led by Farooq Abdullah, in the process supporting a closet Wahhabi, G.M. Shah, who accelerated the process that saw the state plunging into terror within years of his rule. The Muftis too believe that the only segment that needs coddling is the Wahhabi fringe. Such persistent appeasement of a fringe should be halted. Instead, what is needed is to put on a flight to Lahore sans passport Geelani and those who swear loyalty to Pakistan. Such firmness may cause short-term problems but in the longer term, it will ensure the stability and secularism in Kashmir that has been denied the state till now because of a consistent policy of appeasing the fringe at the cost of the bulk of the population of the state.

Saturday 9 July 2016

Obama steps in to rescue Hillary (Pakistan Observer)

Using a private email server to mail Top Secret messages relating to issues that foreign intelligence agencies would pay millions to acquire is certainly, in the words of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director’s words,” careless”. Those who assume high office are presumed to accept higher standards of accountability than ordinary citizens, yet the FBI Director has given his verdict on Hillary Clinton on the implicit assumption that she ought to be judged as simply another US citizen, not as an official sworn on oath to respect security and secrecy, which is what she was as Secretary of State, although not in her previous incarnation as First Lady. What makes the provenance of the email server used by the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States toxic is the fact that the Clinton Foundation (which presumably had access to the emails) received and continues to receive large sums of money as donations from foreign entities.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton joined hands with Nicholas Sarkozy (then President of France) to adopt a policy of inserting NATO into the armed struggle against Muammar Kaddafy. The intervention ensured the defeat of the Libyan dictator, who had earlier surrendered all the WMD in his possession and revealed all his security-related secrets to the very NATO capitals that later destroyed his government and much of Libya along with it. The Libyan dictator was a quirky despot, but during the years that he was in charge, the country was united, terror was absent, basic facilities were available in plenty and economic conditions were comfortable. After being “liberated” by Sarkozy, David Cameron and Hillary Clinton the country soon became unlovable.

Libya is now a living hell, with jobs and security absent and incomes way below what they were before the “liberation”. Ironically, had Kaddafy succeeded in defeating the (then) ragtag group of armed extremists who were challenging his rule in Benghazi, not only would far less people have been killed than was the case because of NATO intervention, but many of the terror squads that have since proliferated in the region would have been absent. It was the Libyan intervention that ensured a bountiful flow of modern eapons to extremist groups, stocks that they have since put to use across the region, including in much of Africa. Of course, the guiding principle of NATO is that whatever goes wrong is the fault of others, and hence there has thus far been zero accountability for the hugely consequential 2011 intervention in Libya, or indeed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.

There have been individuals who claimed that elements in the Clinton Foundation (presumably unauthorisedly) accessed several of the Hillary Clinton emails and showed them privately to foreign nationals from countries in which the foundation was soliciting funds. However, even the Republican Party has declined to make such a charge, presumably respecting the fact that several of its grandees are themselves close to the entities and individuals who have so generously made the Clinton Foundation among the richest in the world, able to support the former President in the lifestyle of a corporate czar, complete with private jets and luxury suites in hotels. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has formally distanced herself from the conclusions of the FBI investigation into the Clinton emails. This is fortunate, for the FBI has taken the same stand as Bernie Sanders did at the start of the primary campaign season, dismissing the issue as of little consequence.

Had Sanders been as aggressive towards Hillary Clinton from the start as he was towards the close of his campaign, he may have overtaken her in pledged delegates. The way in which he dismissed the matter of the “damned emails” gave the impression of a man who was more comfortable talking about putting up a fight that actually doing so. This led to several individuals sitting out the primaries rather than getting involved in the side of Bernie Sanders, who was far and above the candidate with the highest level of integrity in the US Presidential race.

The shadow of Barack Obama falls upon the FBI Director’s exoneration of Hillary Clinton, for it is otherwise inexplicable how he gave a clean chit to the former First Lady. The possibility that the shifting of emails to a private server was not an accident or a sign of “carelessness”, but that this was done to enable unauthorised individuals to access them and to possibly make them available to big donors was not even considered by the FBI. An assumption of innocence was present from the start, although it is likely that even should Hillary Clinton be elected President of the US, the issue will not go away. There will be more investigations, including into the role of the FBI Director in giving instructions to the officers probing the matter.

If some within the system are to be believed, several junior FBI officials wanted to pursue the question of motivation and that of possible damage to security interests because of the fact that emails relating to the most sensitive of matters were potentially at risk of discovery, including by those who had directly or otherwise made contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Add to that the fact that several of these donors had a direct and substantial interest in US foreign policy, and it becomes easier to understand why the FBI Director’s exculpation of Hillary Clinton is very similar to what was done by George W Bush soon ager 9./11,when he allowed several individuals known to have funded radical groups to leave the country on special flights.

The reality is that on several matters of foreign policy, Donald Trump is right (such as his statement that Saddam Hussein kept terrorists in check in Iraq, or his pointing to the consequences of the Libyan intervention). Of course, Saddam kept not only terrorists but his own people in check, and deserved to be removed from power. However, what took place afterwards ( accompanied by backing from Hillary Clinton) has proved a disaster for a once proud country and the world. The FBI Director has shown that it is not only in Africa and in South Asia that the powerful get away with anything. It happens in the US as well.

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

Sunday 3 July 2016

Lutyens should no longer be a ‘safe zone’ for fixers (Sunday Guardian)

The Election Commission of India, as with almost all institutions with an all-India zone of responsibility, has always been staffed at the top by “Lutyens lok”. Over the seven decades since 1947, a colonial system continued that ensured safety and comfort (including monetary) for the 5,000 or so hyper privileged within the governance structure and of course those in business and in other fields they patronised. This post-1947 creamy layer is best referred to as “Lutyens lok”, those who have gained exponentially from the Mughal-British-era governance system that got perpetuated in “free” India. The protective wall around them is, of course, at the expense of the rest of the population of this country. They form a weatherproof bubble that has been leeching off the population of this country, while all around them the potential of the rest of India gets drained away into the gutters of underperformance because of defective policies.

The frame holding the governance structure in place is the trio of “high caste” Central services. Doing an audit of the top 500 individuals in the IAS, the IFS, the IPS and those of three-star and higher rank in the military, would be a simple matter for an honest and motivated task force loyal to the transformational objectives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Such an enquiry would document the top 500 within the pool of officials, detailing lifestyle, including travel of themselves, their spouses and their children. It would look into their contacts, including phone calls made, much in the manner of what has been revealed in the case of arms sales expert Sanjay Bhandari recently, who has been in contact with Lutyens Zone heavyweights on a regular basis. It would find out details of the education of the offspring, especially if this be in pricey foreign shores, and the jobs such offspring enter into after completing their education. For example, it may not be entirely coincidental that the large financial conglomerates responsible for the 2008 crash have recruited several offspring of influential policymakers over the years, even as they operate in India with an impunity denied them in the US or the UK, where they are often made to pay huge fines for actions commonplace in India. Full knowledge of those who are at the core of decision making and implementation in the country is a prerequisite for ensuring that honesty and merit and not the date of joining a service becomes the primary factor in career advancement and enhanced responsibility.

The Lutyens Zone has operated in a climate where transparency got replaced by opacity. Where, instead of looking through plain glass accurately at those who rule over them, a subtle censoring of facts about the privileged means the public see only misleading images of key decision makers , impressions of them that are entirely removed from reality. Few officials have suffered in the slightest for facilitating high-level financial and personal peccadilloes, but such immunity comes as no surprise. In the Lutyens Zone, it is bad form to point fingers at those within the circle of privilege. In that other giant democracy, the US, those in Washington who are part of the Beltway elite dislike Donald Trump, because thus far he has ignored them and publicly pointed out errors they have made in policy. Of course, it may be that should he get elected, Trump may make his peace with the Beltway heavyweights by giving them choice slots in his administration, and adopting several of their policies. Others who have come to power in different countries promising change but persisting with the status quo have done so, V.P. Singh and his deliberately ineffective Bofors enquiry being an example. On the other hand, those personally familiar with Trump are unanimous that he would not compromise with the Beltway grandees, which is why there is an effort even within sections of the Republican Party to back Hillary Clinton, who is as much a part and protector of the Washington Beltway as Sonia Gandhi is of Delhi’s Lutyens Zone. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched an ambitious programme of transformative modernisation. His success will largely hinge on the quality of administration. Hence the importance of ensuring that the “high caste” trio of Central services be given the same treatment as the military, which weeds out officers from the system much before they reach 60 or even 55. By the time a high (civilian) official is 50, many within his batch ought to have been made to move out of the government as a consequence of periodic quality control checks. Indeed, after the results come in of the audit of the top 500 suggested earlier, in all except the most egregious cases, punishment for those who have shown clear evidence of misutilising their powers ought to be enforced retirement, plus payment of taxes on discovered extra income. Especially since the 1980s, there are all too many “fixers” in elevated government positions. Indeed, their social and communication skills often result in such fixers moving up the promotion and responsibility ladder far faster than more honest counterparts. All this needs to change, so that the comprehensive change personified by the victory of Narendra Modi in 2014 comes about. The Lutyens Zone must no longer be a safe zone for the major beneficiaries and practitioners of a system of governance that takes away outrageous quantities of discretion from the people and transfers this to a colonial administrative machinery. Such extreme powers are not meant to improve governance, but to amass hidden wealth, so as to better afford college fees in the US, UK and France and of course vacations in Miami and Paris for the families of the officials who have adopted the mindset of the British. This is to (a) consider as permissible all their misdeeds (b) constrict the freedom of citizens to emasculate them and (c) create policy structures designed to maximize the opportunities for bribery. Only genuine accountability, especially at the higher levels of government service, can liberate India from the curse of a governance system that has since colonial days been designed for a small elite, and is comprised of and is run by them.

Friday 1 July 2016

EU narcissism leads to slow collapse (Pakistan Observer)

THE European Union was born out of the idea that the peoples of the continent were the cream of humanity, and that if only they were to join together, they would – this time collectively rather than as individual countries – once again achieve primacy over vast sections of the globe. It was Karl Marx who wrote that a repeat of history converts tragedy into farce, in his “Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, and so it has come to pass. The European Union has become a near-farcical entity, furiously working out averages that would suit all its members rather than evolving systems where the best would lead and laggards would get left behind.

In other words, the system that made the European continent dominate the rest of the globe. Among the worst errors was the euro, a common currency that was set up on the shaky foundation of separate central banking systems, and entirely different cost structures and management cultures within a heterogeneous “union”. The other error was to repeat on a larger scale the mistake made by Helmut Kohl, who in a fit of generosity, decreed that the East German currency would be deemed equal to West German Deutschmark, which at that point in time was among most stable currencies on the planet, while East German currency was in its fundamentals depreciating at speed.

At its core, the EU is a club based on ethnicity and the myth of a common European ancestry. Hence the fact that the UK welcomes mafiosi from Romania into its cities while denying techies from Hyderabad or Chennai in India the opportunity of living and working in Britain, even though these latter would generate huge volumes of taxation for the state, as well as contribute to GNP in a way far superior to that of most of the hundreds of thousands from East Europe who every year cross into the UK to stay. Hopefully, despite hints of racism during the Presidential campaign, the US will retain the advantage it has by being far more colour-blind than the European Union in welcoming professionals to its shores.

If the countries in Asia were ever to concert on such matters in the way they ought to, several of the largest economies in Europe would face sanctions from Asia because of the reality of EU discrimination against those from the world’s largest continent in favour of those from the world’s smallest. The European Union has become a vehicle for squeezing money from the rest of the world to throw at countries and regions in Europe that are behind star performers, thereby creating a culture of dependence and a cost structure that is unsustainable for purposes of global competition. Negotiating any agreement with the EU has become an exasperating process, because of need to satisfy each need of its more than two dozen members rather than work out outcomes that are better balanced and less one-sided.

It is true that the US too seeks to impose a “my way or the highway” code in its negotiations, especially with poorer countries, but the fact is that the US is a single country while the EU only pretends to be a unified entity. In actuality, the East European members in particular have each become adept in securing as much advantage as possible from the EU as they can get away with, including securing concessions from the rest of the world through the intercession of the bigger economies in the alliance. Given the steady downsizing of the cost and technological advantages of European entities globally, membership of the EU is becoming a negative rather than an advantage, given the burden (of poorer members) that need to be carried by the stronger, a birder that is hastening the collapse of French competitiveness and which will soon drain away the edge that German companies now possess, given that Berlin will need to fill the cash subsidy vacuum created by London’s exit.

Throughout Europe, the telling of history as a seamless tapestry of endowing civilisation in distant shores by the intervention of European countries has led to a nostalgia that has generated the impulse to repeat history, of course with less bloodshed and obvious control this time around. A united Europe was seen as the pathway towards the regaining of primacy by the continent, just as the superiority of the European worker over counterparts in other continents was assumed in the policy of seeking to give a monopoly to such workers within the EU rather than open the doors to migration of those with skills. Of course, the EU has now got the worst of both worlds. It is having to cope with a flood of migrants with indeterminate skills and uncertain loyalties, while at the same time blocking those (mainly from Asia) who would have made significant contributions to local economies but are not allowed entry because they are not of European ethnicity.

Of course, those of such ethnicity are always welcomed into the EU, whether they technically be citizens of countries in Asia, Africa or South America, even while fellow citizens from these locations who are of non-European ethnicity continue to be excluded. Just as was the case earlier in Europe, ethnicity is at the core of policymaking in Brussels The choice of “Brexit” ( or leaving the EU) by the British people is likely to see the rise of similar sentiment in France and Germany, the two countries that have fashioned the EU into a club designed to look exclusively after the interests of those from the continent and their ethnic kin outside. In France, it is becoming very probable that Marine Le Pen may get elected the next Head of State, while in the US, although there is a frenzied effort by the Washington Beltway to demolish the chances of Donald Trump, the fact remains that in coming months, revelations of misconduct by those linked to the Clintons may yet cripple Hillary Clinton’s drive to win back residence in the White House.

Given the way West Europe has hobbled itself in competitive terms by its Kohl-like generosity towards East and South Europe, economic growth is likely to slow down even more, leading to the election of “right nationalist” parties that say openly what the EU would like to hide away in a closet of silence, that the European experiment is about ethnicity and the presumption of superiority over other comers. After Brexit, there is likely to be a Frexit, when France bids goodbye, followed by Gerxit, the departure of Germany from EU, leaving it a club of countries in South and East Europe. June 23 vote in the UK is likely to be start of a slow process of meltdown of a political construct that refused to acknowledge that unless each country sees itself in global rather than in narrowly continental terms, it will finally fall behind others who are more open-minded.

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