Saturday 27 May 2017

SC and PM must expand freedom’s boundaries (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Given the elasticity of meaning of Indian laws and power of courts to take up issues, it’s easy entangling a citizen in a case involving speech or other forms of expression.

Any country which aims to succeed in the 21st century needs to empower rather than constrain its citizens. Unless an act exposes the general public to harm, citizens need to be given the freedom to decide on their own, rather than be led by the nose in the manner of cattle at a farm. The philosophical foundation of India is Sanatan Dharma, which reflects freedom of choice in a manner that few other philosophies do. Individual choice is given primacy, and the decisions made are ratified by the philosophy, rather than reviled. However, between the government and the judiciary, save with the assistance of an electronic microscope, it would be difficult to come across any activity that remains the exclusive preserve of the citizen. Whether it be the workplace or public spaces, the bedroom or the dining area, laws, verdicts and prohibitions abound in such profusion in India that it is reminiscent of the situation in Saudi Arabia. 
Four years ago, it was possible that India would be the first country in Asia to recognise the fact that the gender of a life partner belongs in the realm of individual choice, rather than that of the state. The Delhi High Court had struck down the Victorian-era Indian Penal Code prohibition on partners of the same sex. The move was globally welcomed for accepting the 21st century maxim that the citizen has the right to decide on lifestyle matters. The High Court verdict, however, was subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court. 
So, rather than India, it is Taiwan that has emerged as the leader in Asia in the matter of the right to decide on matters of personal union. The highest court there last week struck down the longstanding prohibition on same sex marriage, thereby making the judiciary in Taipei far more current with modern trends than is the case with the US Supreme Court, which in some ways remains bound to conventions and practices that ought to have faded away a generation ago. Indeed, the US Supreme Court may even, in coming years, roll back the right to abortion that was given in the Roe vs Wade judgement of 1973. Even there, two justices dissented, with one going on to head the Supreme Court for decades. Especially during the term of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who headed the US Supreme Court for 16 years ending 1969, several judgements were delivered that dramatically increased the power of the citizen vis-à-vis the state. As a consequence, the US shook off the trauma involved in losing the Vietnam War and once again emerged as a global powerhouse, retaining to this day its edge in technology and in the knowledge industries. Dragging US jurisprudence back a century, the way some in the Republican Party seek to do, will ensure that the US gives up its primacy in the global order. However, as yet this has not happened, and overall, freedoms in the US (including freedom of speech, a precondition for rapid growth of the knowledge sector) remain high. In India, by contrast, the HRD Ministry (to take one of several examples) devotes much of its attention towards micro-managing the educational institutions placed in its grasp, bringing in an artificial uniformity and an averaging of standards that has driven out excellence from our educational landscape. Even the PMO has not thus far been able to temper the HRD Ministry’s urge for control. 
Freedom of speech by the ordinary citizen is essential if a country is to leverage its human resources in the knowledge industry. In India, getting into trouble because of deliberate or accidental misrepresentation of the intent of words spoken or written is commonplace. In the Justice Sawant case, Rs 100 crore was accepted by the courts as reasonable compensation for a supposedly defamatory showing of a few seconds onscreen of the wrong image. Hence the path was cleared for claims in sums that would bankrupt almost anybody. Given the elasticity of meaning of several of the laws in India (thereby making it very difficult to predict the outcome even in cases where in other countries, the evidence on record would make the verdict obvious), as well as the power of courts anywhere in the country to take up issues almost at will, entangling a citizen in a case involving speech or other forms of expression is not a particularly difficult exercise. Nor is it difficult for the authorities to arrest an individual on any of the numerous grounds that are regarded in the statutes as liable for punishment, including in the laws dealing with speech. Until the Supreme Court and Prime Minister Narendra Modi step in and act in the manner the Warren Court did in the US, and unless both separately expand the boundaries of freedom of the citizen beyond the hyper-confined spaces of our colonial-era legal architecture, it will remain much easier for a knowledge start-up to succeed in San Jose, rather than in Pune. It may be unrealistic to expect officials and their political masters to roll back the grip of regulations and prohibitions that stifle initiative in a manner designed to ensure a copious flow of bribes. However, admirers of Narendra Modi remain hopeful of such an initiative. Should the Prime Minister and separately the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India work on transforming the landscape of governance for promoting individual empowerment rather than constraints, and ensure that processes energise rather than paralyse individual and corporate initiative, the Knowledge Industry alone would generate much of the 10 million plus additional jobs needed annually for India to escape from the potential chaos of mass unemployment. There is no better way towards double digit growth than by giving the 1.26 billion citizens of India the freedoms that are commonplace in the countries to which some migrate and thereafter excel.

‘Sukhoi likely downed by cyber weapons’ (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Given the range of cyber interference, the source of the attack could have been from thousands of kilometres or from only a few hundred metres away. 
Analysts based in the vicinity of New York and St Petersburg warn that the loss, days ago, of an advanced and mechanically certified as safe, Sukhoi 30 fighter aircraft, close to the border with China may be the result of “cyber-interference with the onboard computers” in the cockpit. This may explain why even the pilots may have found it difficult to activate safety ejection mechanisms, once it became obvious that the aircraft was in serious trouble, as such mechanisms too could have been crippled by computer malfunctions induced from an outside source. They point to the apparent loss of five Army vehicles, “due (according to the authorities) to a misfired mortar strike” in the same zone, saying that a single mortar round would not have enough firepower to take out such a large number of vehicles. They add that the possibilities are that the damage may have been caused by a larger projectile guided by electronic systems that may have been interfered with during flight. Given the range and complexity of cyber interference, the source of the attack could have been from thousands of kilometres or from only a few hundred metres away. These analysts warn that although India spends over Rs 200,000 crore on defence through the armed forces and another Rs 100,000 crore on security via police units, hardly Rs 4,700 crore gets spent on cyber capability. The analysts spoken to point out that almost all this gets expended on foreign vendors, rather than domestic producers. However, this reliance on foreign shores for defence and security is across the board, so far as capital expenditure is concerned, in contrast to China, which has almost entirely indigenised its capabilities over the past 15 years.
The international analysts spoken to, who are based in Russia and the United States, two of the four giants in the cyber field (the others being Israel and China), point to the devastating effect of the lightning shutdown of the Northern Power Grid on two separate occasions in August 2012. These were attributed by authorities to an “overdrawing” of power by Uttar Pradesh, omitting to consider the fact that such excess power consumption is routine, and that in the past, UP had withdrawn far more electricity from the grid than had been the case when it tripped. They say that it is probable that a cyber-related malfunction of a key gauge may have occurred, leading to the breakdown in supplies. It is pertinent to recall (to illustrate cyber capabilities) that it was at that time that the US and Israel introduced Stuxnet into even non-internet related control systems in the nuclear industry in Iran. As a consequence, the nuclear process gauges showed acceptable speeds, even while remote commands raised the speed of certain processes to unsafe levels, thereby leading to a shutdown in operations. Of course, they add that it is “next to impossible” that either the US or Israel were behind the Northern Grid power outage, although both have the capability to inflict such damage on essential civilian infrastructure, and that the Stuxnet example was only given as an illustration of the lethality of cyber weaponry.
The impact of cyber warfare on complex machinery may be judged by the crippling of the USS Donald Cook in April 2014 by electronic interference sourced from a high-flying Sukhoi-24. Exactly a year later, yet another Sukhoi disabled the USS Theodore Roosevelt (an aircraft carrier armed with multiple defensive and safety mechanisms) in the Baltic Sea. Both naval vessels had to be towed to safety, as their onboard propulsion systems got damaged by electronic interference. Other large-scale disruptions caused by cyber warfare include the crippling of operations of Stockholm airport for three days last year. There had also been large-scale power outages in the US more than a decade ago, after the worst of which a warning was conveyed by US authorities to the (state) perpetrator that the next time around, there would be a disproportionate cyber reaction to the event, targeting the offending country. Needless to say, that was the last time large-scale disruptions of the same kind occurred within the US.
Given the push towards digitalisation by the Narendra Damodardas Modi government since 26 May 2014, the realm of cyberspace has become critical in the security and economic matrix of the country. In this context, cyber theft from banks is a vulnerability which needs to be eliminated. However, as yet authorities have adopted a conventional approach towards such crimes, as for illustration the overnight siphoning of Rs 1,200 crore ($171.2 million) from Union Bank of India on 20 July 2016 through seven “swift” transactions. $166 million was taken from Union Bank’s account in New York Citibank, while  5 million was removed from J.P. Morgan Chase, again in New York. The money was wired to seven accounts: Mrs Pornjit, SIAM Bank, Thailand; Mr Sithonno, Canadia Bank, Cambodia; Sactec Corporation, Sinopec Bank, Taiwan; Mr Cheng Nesgig, Indo-China Bank, Cambodia; and three other accounts.
During the same period, Bank of Maharashtra is reported to have lost Rs 25 crore through fraud in their digital payments mechanism. Interestingly, the same year, a Bangladesh bank lost $89 million in the same manner as Union Bank of India. While the Bangladesh authorities visited Sri Lanka to bring the account holders (into which the cash had been transferred) to justice, thus far authorities in India do not appear to have been to the locations where the money was sent, to interview the recipients. In the Indian cases, authorities focused on backdoor diplomacy to try and get back some of the money stolen, rather than aggressively pursue the perpetrators and the beneficiaries. As a consequence, India is widely regarded globally as a soft target for cybercrime, despite harsh laws on the subject. “What counts is not law but implementation and the capability to react, and in both, India has remained well below its size and potential”, these experts claim. Based in the vicinity of New York and St Petersburg, they warn that the capabilities of Indian authorities in the cybercrime realm are of a “Fourth World” standard. They claim that only Open Source tools are used in this country to track depredators, including by locating IP addresses. However, such addresses can be easily disguised by experienced hackers, thereby leading to the wrong locations being blamed for a cyber attack. Hence, in case an attack comes from a particular country, it is close to impossible for Indian authorities to identify the source, which means that there is no way of knowing who to complain to and about whom. Unlike the US, Russia, Israel or China, where each has the capability to penetrate through such dodges and establish where exactly an attack originated from, India has thus far relied on outside police forces to deal with cybercrime in this country, many of which are in locations compromised by graft and connivance with criminal gangs.
Globally, geopolitics specialists consider Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be among the top four global leaders (the others being Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin). They, therefore, expect that India under PM Modi will soon rectify the vulnerability caused by decades of neglect of the fact that the realm of cyberspace is likely to be the theatre of future conflict. MoS (MEA) General V.K. Singh, while Chief of Army Staff, had put together a cyber warfare group, but this seems to have been relegated in importance by his successors. Interestingly, in the US, the backbone of that superpower’s cyber capability in both attack and defence is talent from India, either still holding Indian passports or naturalised citizens. They say that military mishaps which may be passed off as accidents may in fact be the consequence of cyber warfare from unknown sources, as there are multiple groups of experienced hackers globally available on hire to the highest bidder. They say that the creation of stronger firewalls against cyber intrusions, including in the corporate and urban infrastructure sphere, needs to become a top priority of the Modi government as it crosses its first 1,000 days of existence.

Friday 26 May 2017

Oil price fall will benefit Asia (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

Since 1948, the year when Israel was reborn in the sands of the desert, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) and the US have been the twin guarantors of its security, and neither has let the country down. The sharp rise in prices of petro-products as a consequence of the Arab oil embargo following the 1973 conflict hurt the economy of Israel, but did no damage to that of the US. On the contrary, oil companies based in the US gained immensely from the rise in prices, just as they did during the years when George W Bush was President of the US. Bill Clinton had unlocked the doors to corporate greed by doing away with Glass-Steagal and other regulations designed to avoid speculation and profiteering, and the successor (Bush) administration made the path to riches even easier.
From the 1990s onwards, the US has become a more and more unequal society, where the richest gain at the expense of the rest of the population. In his second term, when Hillary Clinton was no longer the decisive force in his Cabinet, President Barack Obama sought to bring back social justice to an extent, especially through the Affordable Care Act. However, the hyper-rich in the US are similar to their counterparts in Switzerland or in India or China, and resent any expenditure that is not lavished on themselves. In particular, they have contempt for the poor, believing that poverty is self-inflicted the way certain social diseases are. As a reaction to their country’s first African-American President, poor whites across the US voted for Donald John Trump, who made no secret of the fact that his retinue was made up of individuals who were white and male.
Of course, after getting elected, Trump has placed a few non-whites in key positions, including Federal Communications Commission boss Ajit Pai and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, besides appointing Ben Carson to his Cabinet. However, the budget proposals outlined by President Trump are certain to ensure a runaway victory for the Democratic Party in the 2018 election cycle, given that they follow the Chicago School model of taking benefits away from the poor in order to lower taxes on the rich. Just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs an annual growth rate of 12% in India to ensure that the bulge in the jobless gets absorbed into the labour market, President Trump needs a growth rate of 4% to avoid large-scale civil unrest as a consequence of the tax cutting, welfare reducing measures designed by the super rich and hyper rich individuals he has chosen to include in his team, where the only key players who are not millionaires are the former military personnel the new Head of State has appointed to his Defence and National Security team.
It must be said of Generals McMaster, Kelly and Mattis that each are of spotless integrity. Indeed, they have even stayed away from the lecture circuit or the lobbyist circuit that is commonplace in Washington. This is unlike General Flynn, who lobbied for Turkey and accepted $ 40,000 from Russia TV, although it must be added that neither of such ways of making extra cash is at all uncommon in the US or in several other countries. In India, for example, senior civil servants who retire from service very soon get chosen to serve on the Board of Directors of major private companies, including foreign entities, that find not only their domain knowledge but their access to those still in government to be worth the compensation paid. Had General Flynn been given $ 40,000 by a West European television outlet, no problems would have been encountered in his continuance as National Security Advisor. However, in that job he represented a potential risk to Bill and Hillary Clinton, as the NSA has access to a trove of intelligence reports.
Clearly there is appetite in Atlanticist Washington only to belabour Moscow and not any other Great Power. Had the Trump administration been less defensive and less clumsily reactive to the daily blows being administered on them by the Clinton machine, by now details of all contacts between Democratic Party insiders and diplomats and others associated with certain powerful countries other than Russia would have been made public However, there is good news for India, Japan and China coming from the Trump administration, and this is the 45th President’s bold removal of constraints on oil production. Not only has the Alaska pipeline been brought back to life but shale oil is being given a boost, as are reserves in locations across the US. Almost certainly, there will be a surge in oil production in the US, and this will keep rices way below $ 50 a barrel, indeed at around $ 30 a barrel, which is the natural price but for the Bush-Cheney boosts of the past, that saw prices reach the three figure range and remain there.
In the case of India, the fall in global oil prices has been a massive windfall to the Narendra Modi government, which has continued to levy taxes on petro-products designed to mop up almost all the savings caused by lower prices. The continuing low oil prices will help ensure that government finances do not deteriorate to levels seen during the time when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Modi has avoided the popular path of cutting taxes, instead increasing taxes in order to pay for social programs designed to give some sustenance to the poor. Of course, a contrary view is that lower taxes would boost growth, which in turn would ensure more taxes get collected than by high rates of tax. However, President Trump needs to resist calls from neo-cons in his team to launch military actions in Syria or even against Iran. The US President who in his campaign gave promise of resetting the US on an Indo-Pacific rather than an outdated Atlanticist course should continue to focus on Nuclear Threat Number 1,North Korea, rather than get sidetracked by domestic and international noise over Iran.

Sunday 21 May 2017

PM Modi cleansing system of hawala-narcotics influence (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Modi has examined the records of officials under suspicion of having links to the hawala-narcotics industry. 

Although definitive numbers are difficult to come by, estimates are that the hawala-narcotics industry in India has a volume of Rs 186,000 crore annually, all of it unreported. Linked to the ISI, which has the final say in the operations of both the hawala trade as well as subcontinental commerce in narcotics, kingpins of the industry are the biggest funders of politicians across the ideological spectrum. An examination of the users of the chartered flights made available by the hawala-narcotics industry to VVIPs would show that the beneficiaries come from all sides of the political spectrum. Together with their political backers, this secretive industry enjoys the patronage of a large number of officials in agencies and departments, covering most segments of administration, but principally in the economic sphere. A particular target of their operations has been to seek to undermine or to get recruits from the uniformed services. In this context, the lapses in security that have enabled the entry of terrorists into several defence and security-related facilities over the past ten years, need to be examined by an independent authority, so as to overcome the manner in which each administrative and uniformed service seeks to cover up and protect those who (intentionally or otherwise) make mistakes that create avenues for terrorists to exploit. In the case of a post-2014 terror attack on a defence facility, basic standard procedures for ensuring the safety of personnel were ignored. Members of the service involved were, for example, found on the night of the attack sleeping in tents close to a fuel dump, which caught fire subsequently, leading to deaths through incineration, rather than through terrorist bullets of those who had been camped out in the open for reasons as yet unspecified. Ingress into the facility was made possible through ignoring of security parameters, as well as by errors that in other countries would call for a court martial, but in India appear to have been condoned. In the civilian field as well, gaps in procedures as well as errors in processes which facilitate the operation of hawala dealers linked to the narcotics trade have been commonplace till 2014, after which Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi began the lengthy and difficult process of improving the security and efficiency of systems and procedures in governance, especially in security-related fields.
The GHQ Rawalpindi-controlled ISI has used the channels available to it within the administration in India to periodically launch psy-war operations designed to bring into disrepute India’s uniformed services. An example was the report nearly five years ago of the commander of a wing of the military attempting a coup. Exaggerated descriptions were made of troop and vehicular movements, and these were portrayed as having a sinister intent. Special operations units that had been set up by the commander in question, and which were effective in identifying moles and secret agents of an enemy power, were tarnished in media reports. Interestingly, a senior minister in a previous government was responsible for persuading some media entities to carry reports about the fake coup, misleading them into carrying reports that in effect portrayed those then at the head of the military in India as being of the same cloth as their counterparts in Pakistan, who have made coups and martial law a natural accompaniment of politics in that country. Two decades ago, this same minister had, through his influence, ensured the passing of orders that greatly facilitated an expansion of narcotics production in India, ostensibly for medical reasons, but with almost no check on whether or not production was going into lawful channels or not.
Over the past two decades, as many as 37 civil servants have been the recipient of favours channelled through the politician in question. Several have been gifted properties, while others have been given funds to pay for the education of their children, or for shopping expeditions by family members in high cost locations in other countries. Any individual who crossed the politician could expect to get the attention of agencies tasked with ferreting out financial crimes in India. This was done in connivance with identifiable bureaucrats, who were smoothly herded through the promotion ladder because of the influence of the politician in question. An example was the ensuring of directorships in public sector banks to chosen individuals, who would then lobby for loans to corporate groups. The records will show many such appointments, especially from the period when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took charge in 2004, each made with the connivance of officials close to the minister in question. The umbrella of cash and protective services provided by the hawala-narcotics industry to those who were, and remain, the business, political and official associates of the politician in question, ensured a smooth ride also for those secretly linked to the ISI, usually through entities and individuals based in Dubai, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Unlike the “live and let live” attitude of his predecessors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted a Zero Tolerance policy towards the hawala-narcotics nexus that has infected so much of business, government and politics in India. Those associated with government processes say that Modi has carefully and methodically examined the records of officials under suspicion of having links to the hawala-narcotics industry, and specifically to the politician in question, who, together with some of his family members, has been known for decades to be close to such interests. It is likely that action will follow in the most egregious of cases of favours shown to particular politicians, despite the reality of some in the administrative services being overprotective of those in their particular cadre. Officers relatively junior in age, but untainted by linkage to anti-national groups, have been identified by the PMO and marked for advancement, while care has been taken by the PM to ensure that sensitive agencies come under the control of those with a spotless record. It is regarded as certain that such attention to personnel choices will ensure the cleaning up of the administrative mechanism by 2019 that was promised by Modi during the last Lok Sabha election cycle. As for the prominent politician, who played the ISI game by smearing the leadership of the military as coup masters, neither his access to money nor his friends in business, officialdom and politics will come in the way of accountability being enforced.
Of course, the former minister’s contacts are even now working overtime to ensure that he get off the hook, worried as they are that their own links to him and by extension to the hawala-narcotics industry will get exposed. However, it is clear that Prime Minister Modi will not allow any interested person or combination of persons to intervene in his drive to ensure that administration and politics in India get cleansed of those who are or were high up in the official machinery, who are associates of ISI-run narcotics-hawala syndicates in Dubai and Bangkok especially.

Saturday 20 May 2017

China should give India fast-track status in OBOR (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Participation in OBOR by India will have to be on the basis of equality of rights. 
Unlike several other analysts and commentators based in India, this columnist has acknowledged the sweep of the geopolitical vision behind the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, although he is less sanguine about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The only way the CPEC can succeed would be (a) for the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan military to ensure justice for those ethnic groups along the route of the corridor that are presently being subjected to discrimination, and (b) ensure the involvement of India in the project. Should the CPEC be made open to Indian entities for purposes of trade and commerce across its length, the financial viability of the scheme would substantially strengthen, as would prospects for economic growth in Pakistan. Should these conditions not be met, the CPEC would face increasing headwinds through social disturbances and economic slowdown, and would eventually become a ghost corridor, ferrying little but dust across most of its length. As much for Pakistan’s sake, as for China’s, the participation of India in the CPEC is essential, even while the fullscope entry of India and its commercial and manufacturing entities into the OBOR project would be desirable for its promoter, the People’s Republic of China. Given such imperatives, it was self-defeating in the extreme for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Beijing to seek to humiliate India by blocking the entry of this country into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). This repeated act of obstruction by the PRC on its most consequential neighbour has given wings to the arguments of those who warn that China, under its current leadership, will never accept India on equal terms, and hence that a steady descent into conflict as took place during 1957-62 may be inevitable. Hopefully, President Xi Jinping will be able to overrule MoFA and its backers in an India-negative policy, the PLA, to ensure that China joins Russia, France, the US, Japan, the UK and other major powers in welcoming India into the NSG, without making that conditional on Pakistan being admitted as well. Only those who lack knowledge of high school mathematics would place India in the same basket as Pakistan. That would be similar to India equating Vietnam and China in scale and heft, and deciding policy on the basis of such a spurious equality
Assuming the ending of China’s obstruction of India’s entry into the NSG, it would be desirable to examine the conditions under which India could participate in OBOR, including in the CPEC segment. The latter would, of course, be under the express condition that it would do so without any prejudice to the fact of its sovereignty over some of the territories passed by the CPEC and which are in the temporary possession of the Pakistan military as a consequence of the Mountbatten-Nehru ceasefire agreed upon in 1948, when as much as a third of Jammu & Kashmir was still in foreign occupation. Those involved in tracking the future trajectory of countries calculate that India will be the third biggest economy on the globe within less than a decade, which indeed is the reason why Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already considered to be among the Big Four of global leaders, along with President Donald Trump, President Xi and President Vladimir Putin. Just as the US in the 1970s acknowledged that the future during the next half-century belonged to China and gave it a status and privileges that were as yet not matching its extant capabilities, it would be an act of similar wisdom for President Xi to accept that the coming half-century will see the blossoming of India as the third superpower after the US and China, and ensure through suitable accommodative policies a close and collaborative relationship between Beijing and Delhi. This would include giving India and its commercial and economic entities the same right of OBOR and the CPEC.
Participation in OBOR and in CPEC by India will have to be on the basis of equality of rights and treatment with the other major participating powers, including Pakistan and China. Over time, such a pragmatic move on the part of Pakistan would translate into greater internal stability for that country, as well as higher growth and a long-delayed climate of normalcy in Pakistan-India relations. Hopefully, Xi will be able to convince both his domestic anti-India lobby, as well as the Pakistan military establishment, of the benefits of opening the CPEC to India in a spirit of shared prosperity.
Indian companies in infra, software and fabrication would be force multipliers for OBOR and ensure both timely completion of stages as well as high quality of work. Similar involvement in CPEC would, among other benefits, ensure that people in Pakistan became aware of the potential for India to be an economically beneficial factor in their lives. Over time, tens of thousands of citizens of India would be working within Pakistan, employing and training hundreds of thousands from that country in ongoing projects. Such a partnership would have the side effect of weakening the hold of radicalism in Pakistan, given that India is fully within the subcontinental ethos of moderation and syncretic lifestyles, and Indian culture is already popular in Pakistan, especially some of the products of Bollywood. Given the right circumstances, it would be possible for Prime Minister Modi (perhaps in a second term) to ensure a normalisation of relations with Pakistan, but this will come about only after a similar process gets completed with China. And for this to happen, the advantage of a close relationship with the US is key. Hence the imperative of moving on a path of leveraging a transformation in the India-US defence and security relationship into a mutually beneficial commercial compact with China, which would then be followed by the normalisation of ties with Pakistan that has thus far been elusive. All this is within the grasp of President Trump, President Xi and Prime Minister Modi.
Hopefully, they will create history in the form of a concert of the 21st century’s Big Three, with India linking in separate ways with both of today’s superpowers.

Friday 19 May 2017

US bureaucracy at war with Trump (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From Idia

CNN has been a reliable medium for the permanent US bureaucracy to get its views telegraphed across the globe. Embedded in US policy, the channel has seldom deviated from the messaging favoured by the Washington Beltway, whether this be the refrain that Saddam Hussein was storing mountains of WMD in his closets or that Muammar Kaddafy tortured and killed his fellow citizens on an industrial scale. During the past two years, it has served as a potent recruiting tool for IS, by constantly repeating the falsehood that Bashar Assad in Damascus is conducting a genocide of Syria’s Sunni majority. This when wife Asma as well as 70% of his ministers are themselves Sunni.
Interestingly, there are only anonymous “government sources” that CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and other media outlets committed to ensuring the successful impeachment of the 45th President of the United States. Perhaps because these are all either serving or retired members of the Clinton brotherhood within the permanent bureaucracy. During their eight years in office, followed by eight George W Bush years, the
Clintons ensured that those loyal to them were protected, and indeed had their careers boosted. This because easier once Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the US, given that the “Obama administration” was in large measure a continuation of the Clinton administration of the 1990s. The other side of such generosity was a feral vindictiveness fixated on those whom the Clintons believed were disloyal to them or did something opposed to the Clintons or to their favourites.
The Clinton machine quickly drew first blood after the swearing in of Donald John Trump, securing the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for behaviour that is a commonplace of the Washington Beltway, which is to meet foreign diplomats and make money from speeches and appearances after retirement. Some of those close to Trump panicked at the media assault on Flynn and got his exit organised, thereby boosting the oxygen levels of the “Impeach Trump” crowd, led by the Resister-in-Chief, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has acted as though he were still Republican National Committee Chairperson, seeking to accommodate different factions in the pile of jobs available for selection by the new administration. Priebus has chosen people who are seen as less than
personally loyal to Trump, and many are indeed known to be negative about him. This has given hope to the Clinton machine and to that section of the permanent bureaucracy that they are championing that the Trump Cabinet or the Republican Congress would come around to forcing the exit of the elected Head of State & Government of the world’s most powerful country.
As in the case of jiu-jitsu, President Trump’s very strengths are being used against him, including his openness and his candour. Hillary Clinton is completely scripted, with even her “spontaneous” remarks having been tested before focus groups multiple times. This is the reverse of Trump, who has the confidence to be himself. Given that traditional US policy is no longer working very well, changes are essential, and these can be effected only by a leader who is open to new ideas. Indeed, several within the permanent bureaucracy are aware of the need for change, some of the finest US citizens being part of the gargantuan administrative machine that ensures reasonably smooth passage for the country. Where Donald Trump miscalculated is in committing the same error as did Nixon. This is not obstruction of justice, for the shrill cries of CNN and other anti-Trump media outlets nothwithsanding, there was no such deed committed by the President of the US.
However, it will be remembered that at the very start of his second term in office, President Richard Nixon held a meeting of officials and demanded that they each submit their resignations. From that hour onwards, he was a political “Dead Man Walking”. The permanent bureaucracy, aware that the US President represented a possibly fatal threat to their careers, began the patter of leaks and innuendo that finally forced Nixon to quit. In like fashion, President Trump telegraphed his contempt for the permanent bureaucracy by appointing as Departmental heads individuals with a track record, often of decades, of opposing the very bureaucracies they were now in charge of. It has not helped that Chief of Staff Priebus, in his anxiety to secure a post-Trump future by accommodating each faction of his party in the spoils of office, has slowed down recruitment of Assistant Secretary and above levels to an unprecedented extent, thereby further reinforcing the perception that to President Trump, the less appointments get made, the better.
Once again, as during the final period of the Nixon Presidency, leaks and innuendo are filling (the largely compliant) media space, creating an impression of crisis where none exists. However, this time around, they may not succeed in driving out a President from office. Not unless the US public actually begin to believe in the falsehoods being retailed against President Trump and overwhelmingly turn against him. Provided Trump does not panic the way his team did in the matter of Michael Flynn, this seems a very unlikely prospect. After having beaten Bernie Sanders to pulp during the Democratic Presidential primary, it would appear that the Clintons will taste defeat yet again, this time at the hands of Trump rather than Obama.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Modi’s welcome re-connect with Buddhism in Kandy (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Whether it be Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or other countries within South Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown a sensitivity towards their concerns.
The most cursory of glances at a world atlas would showcase the importance of Sri Lanka in any strategy involving the Indian Ocean. The island nation is located at a point that is core to India’s interests in the eastern half of the Indo-Pacific, that vast body of water which has become the most important geopolitical zone of the 21st century. As significant is the fact that Sri Lanka has protected Buddhist heritage with a devotion that has remained constant across centuries, so much so that the island is home to a powerful strand of a faith that has a rising number of adherents across the globe. Within the neighbourhood of India, another important nation, Myanmar, shares with Sri Lanka the quality of being majority Buddhist, while to the north, in China, the faith is spreading faster than any other in a country hungry for spiritual riches after having won so much of the material variety. Add to this the northeast of India, to the ancient kingdom of Thailand, where too Buddhism is the dominant faith, and farther north in the same direction, to Japan, where local versions of the faith have a huge number of adherents, and it is a surprise why more attention has not been paid by previous Prime Ministers towards ensuring adequate geopolitical leverage accruing from the fact that the home of Siddhartha Gautama, Lord Buddha, is India. In the case of Sri Lanka, the policy of previous governments (with the exception of Rajiv Gandhi) was centred around the north of the country, on issues dealing with the Tamil minority, which overall did not always enjoy the warmest of relations with the Sinhala Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka. The US made the mistake in Iraq of basing its policy towards that country mainly on protecting the interests of the Sunni minority, and in particular sought to win back for the Sunnis much of the disproportionate claims that they had on the country’s resources during the time when Saddam Hussein was the dictator of Iraq. In like fashion, successive governments in India paid much more attention to the actual or perceived grievances of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka than on other matters, so much so that overall the relationship between Delhi and Colombo was often marked by an acrimony that led to other powers securing a bridgehead within the strategic space of that country.
Ultimately, the road to harmony in South Asia will need to include the setting up of a visa-free South Asia federation, where each country would retain its full sovereignty but work in sync with other members within such a zone. Such an alliance would have a common currency chosen from within its members, and the group would include Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and eventually Pakistan, once that country rids itself of the obsession that it is a fusion which is part-Arab and part-Turkoman rather than what it actually is, which is South Asian through and through. As a first step towards such a collaborative objective, India will need to work towards visa free entry and an effective common currency with other South Asian countries in the same way as it has with Nepal. Should the Indian economy break past the double digit growth barrier, such a breakthrough would be easier, as it would then be obvious that the flow of people into India as a consequence of the doing away with visas would be more than that from India to the other country. Indeed, such is already the case with Nepal, with many more from that country relocating to India than the other way about. Whether it be Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or other countries within South Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown a sensitivity towards their concerns and a refusal to act the Big Brother role that has coloured some initiatives in the past. Hopefully, now that he has once again visited Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister will soon go to Myanmar, a Buddhist country that has received far less attention from South Block in the past than it has merited.
It is not the business of any country to take sides in a political slugfest in another, unless there be extraordinary circumstances, and it is both noteworthy and welcome that Modi immediately made time in his schedule to meet Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former President of Sri Lanka, who was defeated at the polls largely because of the perception that too many of his family members were getting placed into key slots in government. Despite this, Rajapaksa retains a formidable support base within Sri Lanka, and is very familiar with India. While some such as his brother Basil may have closer with countries other than India, especially with China, both Mahinda as well as his brother Gotabaya (who were together responsible for the elimination of the LTTE almost a decade ago from Sri Lanka) have several friends in India and may be expected to prioritise ties with Delhi in the event they are returned to power, which is not impossible in the dust and swirl of democratic politics. Modi’s going to Kandy for one of the most important Buddhist festivals on the planet was timely, and needs to be supplemented not only by a more vigorous approach towards Sri Lanka but by focussing on the two other Buddhist nations in our vicinity, Thailand and Myanmar. Prime Minister Modi has placed equal if not greater emphasis on cultural as on traditional matters of statecraft while dealing with other countries, and this has been in evidence in the manner in which the Prime Minister’s reverence for the traditions of the Buddha and the way these have been preserved in Sri Lanka were clear from his interactions. Reconnecting with Colombo on the basis of the civilisational roots shared by both countries has been a welcome step, which hopefully will get followed by several more that would ensure a more harmonious relationship between India and Sri Lanka than has been the case far too often in the past.

Sunday 14 May 2017

GHQ terror targets India, US; spares China (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
Erroneous testimony coerced out of Jadhav about his activities in Pakistan is a part of ISI’s ploy to show India as a perpetrator rather than a victim of terror. 

Worried at the prospect of a full-fledged India-US alliance becoming a reality during the tenures of leaders Donald John Trump and Narendra Damodardas Modi of their respective countries, GHQ Rawalpindi has worked out a plan to (a) intensify the ongoing terror campaign in India while simultaneously (b) blaming India, and in particular the Research & Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat (RAW) for terror attacks occurring within Pakistan. A combination of these two factors, combined with foot-dragging by Lutyens Zone bureaucrats in the matter of a genuine India-US alliance out of fear that links such as their children studying or settling in the US would then lead to allegations of bias, is expected to ensure that the alliance keeps revving engines on the policy highway but never takes off. The continuing effort at indoctrinating captured Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav into repeating an ISI-manufactured story about his activities in Pakistan under threat of execution are a part of efforts designed to show India as a perpetrator rather than a victim of terror. GHQ Rawalpindi has already misbriefed envoys from China and from select Muslim-majority states about the erroneous testimony coerced out of Jadhav, that he was running a clandestine network active in acts of terror and sabotage mainly within Baloch-majority regions in Pakistan.
Thus far Islamabad has hesitated to present such “Fake Facts” to the US for fear that Washington has evidence in its possession that would show such a claim to be false. According to individuals from the military establishment in Mumbai who have been tracking the former naval officer’s career, Kulbhushan Jadhav took premature retirement from the service “in order to try and become a millionaire through import-export business”, which is what he was doing when captured by the Pakistan army and handed over to the ISI for “intensive interrogation”, usually a synonym for sleep deprivation and other psychological and other methods of torture first refined by KGB chief Lavrenti Beria in the USSR in the 1930s, who bragged that if he were given an individual to interrogate, “within a day he would admit to being the King of England”. Now that the danger of his execution has been lowered as a result of the intervention of the Internal Court of Justice, hopefully Jadhav will be enabled to stick to the truth, which is that he was engaged in commerce, not espionage and certainly not attempted sabotage of the CPEC, the story peddled to Beijing by GHQ. Separately, Teheran was conveyed by Islamabad the falsehood that the former naval officer was seeking to encourage and arm Baloch separatists in Iran. It may be mentioned that a significant portion of the Baloch homeland is now part of the territory of Iran, while the rest is in Pakistan. In that country, an independence movement against Pakistan’s occupation has been continuing since the region was occupied by the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan army in 1948.
The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) has been known to be working with the ISI, usually through the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). It has, for example, been working closely with the ISI in Nangarhar in Afghanistan, from where in an intelligence coup 22 recruits to ISKP from Kerala were discovered by agencies in India. Apparently with the connivance of GHQ Rawalpindi, the ISKP has carried out numerous attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan, focussing mainly on the Shia community. Other such attacks have been carried out by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which too is known to be collaborating with the ISI in covert operations against mutually detested targets. Despite such a record, because of the success of GHQ Rawalpindi deception (or US credulity) during the continuing Afghan campaign from 1990 (after the defeat and withdrawal of USSR forces the previous year) that continues to this date, the US has in effect given a free pass to GHQ Rawalpindi in the matter of connivance in the murder of US troops through terror cutouts of the ISI. Thus the Pakistan military continues to act as both arsonist and volunteer fire force. The resurgence of the Taliban during the past 15 years can be traced to the error committed by the George W. Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, of refusing to take seriously the fact that groups such as the Haqqani network are within the control of the ISI and have been assisting the Taliban to go after US targets and take out as much of them as they can. 
Despite the fact that the Haqqani network is the driving force behind the Afghan Taliban, and that the group gets weapons and other facilitation from GHQ Rawalpindi, thus far the new Republican administration has not carried through on Candidate Trump’s vow that he would take decisive action against such sabotage by a so-called ally in the war on terror. Nor do Trump’s choices for Defense Secretary or National Security Advisor (James Mattis and H.R. McMaster) have a visible record of having called out Pakistan’s double game during that part of their tenures which involved working with GHQ Rawalpindi in matters conceding Afghanistan 
However, it is expected by Indo-Pacific backers of the 45th President of the US that both McMaster as well as Mattis will soon get liberated by President Trump from the constraints imposed on both by the traditional Pentagon line on Islamabad. This is that the country’s prolific terror factories notwithstanding, Pakistan is a sincere ally and that any contrary activity taking place is the work of rogue players not representative of the leadership of the Pakistan army. They would then be able to free the US military from the disastrous Reagan-Clinton-Bush strategy of accepting GHQ Rawalpindi’s versions at face value, an error which has led directly to the chaos in Afghanistan caused by the resurgence of the Taliban. It is expected that Trump may even be able in the future to stop the Pakistan army from passing on US-supplied equipment to terror groups that later hand them over to the ISKP and the Taliban. An example is the way the LeT has over the past 13 months been using GPS instead of local Kashmiri guides to avoid detection while infiltrating into the Valley, although it must be added that increasingly, the equipment being supplied by GHQ Rawalpindi to terror groups and facilitators is sourced from China and not the US. Beijing continues to be in denial mode about such transfers of sensitive hi-tech equipment supplied by it. 
Interestingly, not only the ISKP but its rival in the field, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) was set up by the Pakistan ISI, evidence of the same being in the possession of both the US as well as China, although as yet only one of these two countries has shared input on the activities of this foreign terrorist organisation with authorities in India. The other country, China, has thus far been as protective of the Pakistan army as the US was until the second term of President Barack Obama, when glimmers of realism began to appear over US policy in the subcontinent. GHQ Rawalpindi on multiple occasions interviewed AQIS Emir Sanaul Haq (who is from Sambhal in UP) before confirming him in the job. After changing his name to Asim Umar, Sanaul Haq trained in Pakistan (mainly with the Harkat-ul-Majuhideen) during 1996-98. AQIS cadre come mostly from Punjab province in Pakistan, the same region where the bulk of the Pakistan army’s personnel also hail. Despite ongoing and increasingly desperate efforts by both Defense Secretary James Mattis and NSA H.R. McMaster to get GHQ Rawalpindi to cease and desist its arming of elements battling US forces in Afghanistan, thus far the efforts of these two “Friends of the Beltway” in what was presumed to be an anti-Washington Beltway Presidential administration have not borne fruit, to the surprise of few other than two generals themselves. Both Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats are known by analysts in Washington to be far more sceptical of a turnaround in the longstanding Pakistan army policy of assisting the Taliban and other forces against the US (the same country that lavishes billions of dollars on GHQ Rawalpindi).
They regard it as highly unlikely that this longstanding GHQ Rawalpindi policy will change the way successive US Presidents, their NSAs and their Defense Secretaries have expected it to, especially given the fact that it is China and no longer the US that is the key Great Power ally of the Pakistan military. Such “realists” in Washington as opposed to pro-Pakistan “romantics” look forward to President Trump cutting through the untruths and evasions that have clouded NSC-Pentagon policy towards Islamabad for decades. They want the President to order a set of options that are grounded in facts rather than in the fiction peddled by those with a vested interest in keeping alive the fiction of Pakistan being part of the solution in the war on terror rather than being among its major problems. It bears repetition that well-funded lobbies such as those active on behalf of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia that are active in Washington completely back the Pakistan army in their approaches to US policymakers. It is a fact that there exists a dwindling but still sizeable number of individuals in Pakistan who have rejected calls by Wahabbis to join their group. However, any freeing of Pakistan from the Wahabbization first systematically and comprehensively put into operation during the period of rule by General Zia-ul-Haq four decades back will need to await the evolution of Pakistan as a normal state, where the military is controlled by the civilian authority rather than the other way about. In the meantime, India can expect more unfortunates who are its citizens to be brought before television cameras by the ISI, each of whom may recite what they have been told to by the handlers the way Stalin’s victims did in the show trials of the 1930s. More deadly still, as many as 39 training camps have been identified by friendly intelligence agencies as being active in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) where staff from the ISI train recruits from JeM, Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT in how and when to conduct terror operations against India, and Afghanistan, with a separate facility set up in Baloch territory since 2011 to look after operations in Iran, although it must be added that measures against Iran will of course do no harm to Islamabad’s goodwill in the US, given the fact that Washington Beltway toxicity towards Teheran is at the level seen in the case of Moscow. While the thirty-nine PoK camps referred to earlier are meant to target India, there are six others that are identified as having become functional during the past four years in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. These are designed to assist in the Taliban offensive against US forces and their allies, principally the Afghan National Army. Neither the US nor India is likely to get an early respite from the direct and indirect assaults of the Pakistan army and its associated irregular forces. However, clear instructions have apparently been given by GHQ Rawalpindi to ensure that there is no blowback into China by terror training camps organised by the ISI. Those who run the terrorists, some of the key elements of whom have been shielded at the UN by Beijing’s blocking of international action against them, are showing their gratitude at the consistent support given by Beijing to GHQ Rawalpindi and its irregular associates.

Saturday 13 May 2017

‘Red’ scare in Washington (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

IN 1993, US and EU had the opportunity of a century to reset relations with Russia, given that the Soviet Union had collapsed and an individual, Boris Yeltsin, had taken over in Moscow who was amenable to US influence. However, the chance was lost because the newly sworn-in Clinton administration sought to do to Russia what Henry Morgenthau had sought for Germany after 1945, which was to “pastoralize” the country. This involved the destruction of manufacturing industry as well as the hollowing out of advanced technology. Yeltsin bowed and bent, and yet the kicks kept coming, including in the manner in which NATO was expanded to the boundaries of the Russian Federation. Interestingly, although Moscow was ready to join NATO and even the EU, that overture was spurned.
This was for two reasons (a) the entry of Russia into the EU would diminish the importance of France and Germany, which in tandem were then dominant in the group and (b) were NATO to include Russia, that hyper-expensive administrative structure would lose its reason for existence. After all, NATO was set up to challenge Moscow, and even after the USSR’s collapse, that central focus was not altered. Yeltsin’s Russia was humiliated over and over again, including by the way in which ally Serbia was bombed into submission by the US, the UK and other air forces. During the 1939-45 global war, it had been Croatia and Bosnia that had backed the Germans, while Serbia remained anti-Nazi. However, the US and the EU went along with the 1990s German position on the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, which was that Serbia was the enemy while Bosnia and Croatia were to be backed.
It must be said to Berlin’s credit that this is a capital that stands by those who in the past were with them in rather than against them in conflict situations, unlike the US and the UK, which had much shorter memories where friends were concerned. A visitor to Washington would need to be pardoned for believing that there was an ongoing war between the Russian Federation and the US. Newspaper columns and television screens are filled with denunciations of Russia. An example was the May 11 Senate Intelligence Committee Open Hearing, where Senator after Senator ascribed almost all the problems faced by the US to Russia.
Similarly, the US has an ongoing intelligence gathering and covert activity basket of measures in Mosciw, which is almost certainly much larger than any of the activities being conducted by what is a much poorer country, Russia. Led by the still-dominant Clinton machine within the Democratic Party but including anti-Trump Atlanticists such as Senator John McCain, politicians have been vociferous ever since the January 20,2017 swearing in of Donald John Trump in characterising Russia as an existential enemy of the US that spends much of its time seeking to destroy the world’s most powerful nation. Given the decades of anti-Soviet propaganda that has filled the public space in the US since the 1950s, it has been a relatively simple matter to convince large numbers of the US people that the biggest threat facing the US is a Russia led by Vladimir Putin. Of course, the real target of these critics is not Putin but Trump. The Clinton machine is on overdrive seeking to ensure that the 45th President of the US faces dismissal through impeachment or is made to resign well before his term ends on January 20,2022. Hillary Clinton had put much more effort into how she would run her administration than in how she would win the election. Unlike in case of President Trump, who is still in the process of identifying individuals to fill the thousands of patron positions in US federal administration, the Clinton campaign had already prepared lists of those President Hillary Clinton would appoint to high positions.
It must be said that several of such picks are of exceptional quality, such as Ambassador Wendy Sherman, who was a potential UN Ambassador or even Secretary of State in a Clinton administration. Hillary Clinton had prepared in detail for the task of running the country, which is why it must have been a shock that the much more skeletal Trump machine bested them in the polls. In the targeting of President Trump, Russia is collateral damage. The reality is that foreign diplomats routinely keep in touch with campaign officials during a Presidential poll. However, thus far the media in the US has been incurious in seeking details about the contacts between the Clinton campaign and foreign diplomats, the focus being solely on meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, meetings that took place in every election cycle. The effort has been to create a toxicity about Russia that makes suspect any contact with that country, and then to insinuate that the Trump campaign connived with Moscow in somehow undermining the interests of the US. That this strategy was being employed was no secret. Indeed, in a televised debate, Hillary Clinton herself called Donald Trump “a puppet” of Vladimir Putin. This was a charge of treason, but it failed to ensure victory for the Democratic Party candidate. However, it must be said to his credit that President Trump has refused to be cowed down by the attacks on him in the matter of Russia. Indeed, he met both the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the US in the Oval Office itself, clearly showing that he has nothing to hide.
The effort of the Clinton machine is to get a Special Investigator appointed, so that the next few years will see the news cycle dominated by negative reports on Trump and his staff spread by a Special Investigator whose future would be bright indeed were he to manage to secure the resignation or dismissal through impeachment of a sitting US President. Aware of such a conspiracy, the Republican Party is for the moment holding firm. However, the Clintons are nothing if not persistent, and their effort to punish Donald Trump for defeating Hillary Clinton at the hustings can be expected to continue. The spirit of Joseph McCarthy, who destroyed many careers by making false accusations of sympathy for the Communist Party, is once again stalking to corridors of power in Washington.

Saturday 6 May 2017

PM Justin Trudeau, don’t patronise terror (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
It was a moral travesty on Trudeau’s part to implicitly back a return of Bhindranwale-style tactics in Punjab.
The post-colonial colonial practice of the Indian bureaucracy is to fawn on the white foreigner while being derisive towards the brown (and in the case of South Indians, if we are to believe Tarun Vijay, black) native. Hence it is almost a given fact that apart from private and muted expressions of disquiet, there will not be any action by the MEA concerning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. This despite the man endorsing (through his enthusiastic participation in a Toronto event) the separation of Punjab from the rest of India, which is the sole and the oft-stated objective of the Khalistan movement. The speeches of the other participants in the “Free Khalistan” gathering that had him as the star participant made clear that their intention was to “struggle for the achievement of Khalistan”. And as for the methods favoured during such a struggle, these were clear from the admiration showered on Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whose countenance gazed on the participants through a profusion of posters featuring the individual who was a creature of certain Congress Party functionaries in the Punjab before shifting his loyalties to GHQ Rawalpindi. The favoured method of Bhindranwale was torture followed by murder. Looking at the cash that was sent from Canada—and indeed from the UK and the US as well—to the “Khalistan” network in India during the 1980s, it was obvious that there were more than a few Canadian nationals who were contributing towards another division of India. The NDA-II government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on several occasions demonstrated its fealty to the concepts and responses of Mahatma Gandhi, for example by aligning itself with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir. To those not attuned to a saintly way of life, it was certain that such a grotesque alliance would lead precisely to the meltdown that we are witnessing in Kashmir these days. However, just as happened with the Mahatma on countless occasions, hope was allowed to prevail over experience and an alliance tailor made for instability was crafted. Another Gandhian act of NDA-II was to forgive those in Canada, the US and the UK who during the 1980s and 1990s funded and otherwise assisted the operations of the Dal Khalsa in India. Such elements, who were committed to the breakup of India, were once again given visas to enter the country. 

Not surprisingly, many such visitors have used the newly-opened door to try and bring the Khalistan movement back to life in the Punjab. Just in case Justin Trudeau is not aware of the murder and mayhem perpetrated by the Dal Khalsa in Punjab for over a decade (although the tempo slackened after the death of Zia-ul-Haq in 1988), hopefully the High Commission will educate him about this blood-filled chapter in our country’s history. Indeed, some from the vibrant Indo-Canadian community need to come out with advertisements detailing the deeds of Bhindranwale and the murders of innocents by the “Khalistani” groups.

The Prime Minister of what passes for a friendly country and is a member of the Commonwealth has tacitly endorsed a movement whose preferred instrument was terror. If this is not something which should be formally protested in the strongest of terms, it is difficult to determine what is. Certainly the Commonwealth Secretariat needs to be queried as to whether it is proper for the Head of State of a member country to participate in an event whose objective is the dismemberment of another through the use of terror and violence.

Fortunately, the chance of a recurrence of the Khalistan movement in the Punjab is zero, as memories of the mayhem of the past are still strong. The Sikh community is among the noblest in India, and has repeatedly shown their patriotism, especially in the field of battle. Indeed, Punjabis overall quickly got back on their feet after being, in a sense, flung on their backs during the murderous chaos of partition, and for this, they deserve both admiration and emulation.

However, just as it was a moral travesty on Trudeau’s part to implicitly back a return of Bhindranwale-style tactics in the Punjab, it must not be forgotten that what took place in 1984 just after the assassination of Indira Gandhi was unforgiveable. As is the fact that no one of any significance has thus far been seriously brought to account after the mass murders that took place in Delhi during those initial days in November 1984. It is expected of the UPA that they would deny that anything of significance took place during those few days. It should not be the case with the NDA, which needs to resist the temptation to either cover up (through not making documents public) or justify errors made in the past, including during NDA I.

Problem areas should be acknowledged rather than ignored, as should actions such as being present at events celebrating the life and ways of a terrorist. 

To not respond diplomatically in adequate measure to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tacit backing of a fresh partition of India would only entrench the narrative that Lutyens Delhi is all bark and no bite, not even of the soft variety. Indeed, it is such a conviction about India, that there is no substantive blowback from trampling on this country’s core interests, that has ensured recent diplomatic disasters as Pakistan, the US, UK, Australia, Norway, Ireland, Czech Republic, Germany, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan, Lichtenstein, Haiti, Kenya, Vatican, South Korea and others joining hands to fling accusation after accusation at this country in the Geneva meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

Hopefully, in the case of each of these powers, there will be more than the usual “silent protests” at such mischaracterisations of India. Under Nehru in the 1950s, India talked and talked and talked and yet found itself isolated at its moment of crisis in 1962. The people expect more than just words from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

They expect action.