Sunday 30 July 2017

Nawaz ouster prelude to GHQ-China alignment (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Pakistan army is convinced that Beijing has shed any earlier notions of neutrality between New Delhi and Islamabad, and has become fully aligned with Pakistan in practice. 
The judicial coup against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan is the prelude to the end of Pakistan’s own version of “non-alignment” and the start of a process of “alignment”, according to analysts based in the Middle East who are monitoring developments in South Asia. These analysts had earlier drawn attention to GHQ Rawalpindi’s objective of removing Sharif through a Pakistan Supreme Court verdict that would disqualify him (Gen Raheel Sharif plans judicial coup against Nawaz, The Sunday Guardian, 6 November 2016). A key reason behind Sharif’s removal was the conclusion of GHQ Rawalpindi that the earlier policy of non-alignment between Beijing and Washington, which the Pakistan military had been following since the mid-1970s, needed to be jettisoned in favour of a policy of an exclusive-in-practice alignment with China.
Since George W. Bush broadened the US “War on Terror” in 2003 by invading Iraq, much of the officer cadre of the Pakistan army had (according to Middle East-based analysts) accepted the Wahhabi view that the campaign against Saddam Hussein was, at the core, a war against the global Muslim community. Resentment against the US military had been building up within the officer ranks of the army since the 2001 temporary takedown of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pashtun officers, in particular, had chafed at what they saw as compromises being made by then military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf to US commands that were not even thinly cloaked as “requests”. Despite the reality that Musharraf only superficially obeyed Washington’s commands and, in fact, was able to rescue much of the Taliban-Al Qaeda coalition from the US military, did not assuage such sentiments, as the reality of “verbal compliance and substantive non-compliance” was known only to a few trusted members of the higher ranks of the Pakistan military, while the lower and middle ranks took their cue from the barrage of reports in Urdu, Punjabi and Pashto media about Musharraf’s “betrayal” of the cause of the Afghan jihad. These vituperative anti-US outpourings were tolerated, and indeed encouraged by Musharraf on the grounds that “freedom of the press” needed to be respected by the “democratic dictator” that his admirers within the White House and the Pentagon styled him as. Of course, such reports would also go to show that the Pakistan military establishment was cooperating with US diktats, when in fact the reverse was the case.
During 2006-2009, linkages between GHQ Rawalpindi and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) multiplied on a scale unprecedented in past years. The 2008 financial collapse across both sides of the Atlantic discredited the NATO member-state establishments, while China remained relatively unaffected and quickly regained its growth momentum. According to the analysts spoken to, by the close of 2013, many times more officers in the Pakistan army saw China as the Ally of Choice for Pakistan than they did the US, and from that time onwards, this gap in perception has only grown. Since then, the Chinese have serially blocked India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group and to get the United Nations to declare Masood Azhar and others as global terrorists. This has convinced the Pakistan army officer corps that Beijing has shed any earlier notions of neutrality between India and Pakistan, and has emerged as being fully aligned with Pakistan in practice, even though the diplomatese used to describe its actions may be different.
Since 2015, within the officer corps of the Pakistan army, sentiment has hardened against the US and warmed towards China, so much so that they are working for a time to come when Islamabad will do to Washington what Egypt under Anwar Sadat did to the Soviet Union in 1972, when the Egyptian strongman sent packing more than 18,000 Russian military personnel from his country, signalling a newfound comprehensive alliance with the US that has lasted to this day. However, both the PML(Nawaz) as well as the PPP leadership are opposed to such a wholesale replacement of the US strategic alliance for that with Beijing, which is why both needed to be weakened and ultimately rendered irrelevant in the politics and therefore the governance of Pakistan. The plan to mount a judicial coup against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has its origins in the bid by the military leadership to in fact, if not formally, jettison the earlier policy of “non-alignment” between the world’s two superpowers in favour of an exclusive alliance with China, “exactly as the US has an alliance with Japan”. The GHQ view is that the Zardari-led PPP is already “terminally challenged in the leadership department”, with Asif Zardari already discredited and son and heir Bilawal Bhutto “clueless about both politics and Pakistan”.
GHQ Rawalpindi has yet to move away from its core objective of ensuring that the Union of India splinter into multiple states, which at best would be bound together in a loose coalition that lacks an effective central authority. Large sums of money have been spent in an effort to widen fissiparous tendencies within India, including through funding groups that are let loose to commit acts of violence against members of the minority community. According to the philosophy underpinning state power in Pakistan, Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations that lack the capacity to live at peace and cooperate with each other. It is this creed that has led to the systematic reduction of the Hindu population in Pakistan. GHQ Rawalpindi is seeking to expand the number of those in India who believe in the “Two Nation” theory, so that in every state, and indeed each city and even panchayat, communal trouble will erupt. Fortunately, both Hindus as well as Muslims in India are overwhelmingly moderate, and refuse to obey the handful who preach a doctrine of exclusion and separation from each other. US administrations have long made it clear to the Pakistan army that they back the unity of India and remain opposed to any step that would create a divide between communities. This refusal to back GHQ Rawalpindi in its core goal of melting down India has led to a stance within the Pakistan military that the historical alliance of Pakistan with the US is no longer desirable, and should be replaced with an understanding with a partner more tolerant of the foundational ethos and objectives of the Pakistan army.
The PPP and PML(N) leaderships being essentially businesspersons, they do not buy into the GHQ theory that India is “ripe for collapse”, and have often acted as a brake on GHQ schemes against the Union of India that have come to civilian attention. According to the analysts consulted, this has led to the conclusion by the army leadership that both the PML(N) as well as the PPP should be rendered irrelevant in the politics of Pakistan and replaced with formations that have (sometimes secretly) signed on to the GHQ platform of a disintegrating India. The worry is that otherwise, the world’s most populous democracy will, within less than a generation, emerge as the globe’s third superpower, together with the US and now the PRC.
Thus, the Sharif family (as also the Bhutto-Zardaris) is likely to be given little respite from a planned spate of corruption allegations against them, designed to ensure that public esteem falls to a level such that by 2018, when the time for general elections rolls by, neither will have a significant presence in the National Assembly. Evidence is being collected against them that is intended to get released in a steady flow, soon to be combined with legal processes of the sort that was used to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power. Even if the Sharif family signs on to the replacement of the “non-alignment” policy of the past between China and the US, with the stance of alignment with China that is favoured by GHQ Rawalpindi, such a change of heart is unlikely to convince the generals to walk away from their efforts at ensuring that the next government in Pakistan follow the orders of the men in khaki in word and deed in a way that neither Sharif nor Zardari did.
Of course, to keep going the illusion of “non-alignment”, such a government is likely to give a prominent position to Imran Khan, who is a favourite of several individuals in the US and the UK. It will be a diluted repeat of Musharraf’s policy of speaking something and doing another, the line that ensured the return of Al Qaeda and the Taliban because of the credulity and incompetence displayed by President George W. Bush, with Imran Khan in the role of PR Manager Pervez Musharraf, of course this time around with zero executive power, albeit a fancy title such as Foreign Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Should China adopt a more aggressive foreign policy towards external threats? (CGTN)

Published on 29 Jul 2017
China now stands at a crossroad in terms of its national security strategy, with a clear split between “dove” and “hawk” tactics.

CGTN's Dialogue has invited experts from China and India, including Prof. M D Nalapat to examine the different attitudes towards China’s approach to foreign security concerns as well as the influence of nationalism on its decision-making process, placing their debate in the context of the current Sino-Indian border standoff.

US Congress returns to its 1930s follies (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
The US Congress regards Russia as remaining the primary challenger to US interests, even though it is obvious that it is China who has stepped into the role.
After Adolf Hitler was ensconced in power in Germany in 1933, the US Congress (Senate and House) retreated even further into isolationism, passing the 1935, 1937 and 1939 Neutrality Acts. These barred the involvement of the United States in foreign conflicts, and stopped weapons sales even to friendly countries. Such legislative myopia encouraged Hitler in the belief that the US would remain out of the European war, which he then unleashed by the 1938 Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Encouraged in their cowardice by the “hands off” attitude to Hitler by a US Congress, which still saw the USSR under Stalin as the prime foe, France and the UK connived at the surrender to Hitler of Czechoslovakia, a country that at that point in time had the military strength to hold off a German invasion, especially if assisted by London and Paris. Countless lives would have been saved, had Chamberlain the wisdom of Churchill in fashioning a partnership with Stalin against Hitler, but that was not to happen. Instead, a war that took more than 40 million lives was the result. As for the US, it was brought into the war by the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour by Japan, and by Germany declaring war on it soon afterwards, another of the many follies committed by the former corporal of the Kaiser’s Army, who within 24 years since the 1914-19 war had become the master of his country.

Unlike in the case of Nazi Germany, even during the 1917-21 period of consolidation of Communist Party power over what was named the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), no effort was made by Moscow to wage war on its European neighbours, even though some of them had used armed force in a half-hearted bid to topple the Lenin-led government. Still, London, Paris and the US Congress saw Stalin as the main foe, and not Hitler. Similarly, Vladimir Putin has not moved even a twitch to get back primacy over Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and the other East European countries that Moscow once dominated. What Putin has done is to seek a stoppage of the march of the avowedly anti-Russia NATO alliance to the very security core of the country, in Crimea. However, given the speed at which the US Congress is duplicating the 1930s Congress in focusing on the wrong enemy, it is likely that a war may, in brief years, erupt over control of the Baltic republics. Would the US, France and Germany risk the safety of New York, Berlin and Paris to save Latvia, Lithuania and Latvia from Moscow, or leave them to their fate? The answer is obvious, and their constant goading of Moscow may be leading to the conclusion in the Kremlin that Russia’s avoidance of attack on vulnerable states in Europe does not pay.
By inflicting pain on Russia disproportionate to its presumed transgressions, the US Congress is creating a set of circumstances where Moscow has little to lose if it unleashes much of its anti-Atlanticist arsenal against those seeking to choke its economy the way the US and European powers sought to sanction and blockade Japan in the 1930s. The new sanctions add to the hostile moves against Moscow of an EU motivated by US-EU anger against Russia for blocking NATO’s bid to integrate Ukraine into the anti-Russia fold. Perhaps this is Berlin’s reward for Moscow, which, under Gorbachev, passively accepted the union of the GDR with the FRG in 1991. Possibly because she is from East Germany, Angela Merkel seems incurably anti-Moscow, just as the Polish-American father of the Afghan jihad, Zbigniew Brezezinski, was. She has a partner in Russophobia, the US Congress, which is controlled by those who have refused to let go the prejudices created during the decades of Cold War between Washington and Moscow.
China is the biggest beneficiary of the fresh round of anti-Russia sanctions that the US House of Representatives has passed with majority.
The US Congress regards Russia as remaining the primary challenger to US interests, even though it is obvious that it is China that has stepped into such a role because of its emergence as the Other Superpower. China is the biggest beneficiary of the fresh round of anti-Russia sanctions that the US House of Representatives has passed with an overwhelming majority, reminiscent of the 1964 Tonkin Gulf resolution. Both the US as well as the EU are driving Moscow into a strategic alliance with Beijing that—together with the One Belt One Road grand plan of Xi Jinping—has made Beijing a player in Europe that will, on present reckoning, reach within the term of office of Xi Jinping the same scale as the US has long held in Asia. Especially once the bankruptcy of at least three EU member states becomes impossible to conceal through IMF-led financial legerdemain crafted in the expectation that Russians, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and Arabs will sink their money in the European sinkhole, the way nationals of these countries lost hundreds of billions of dollars in the 2008 financial meltdown.

Almost certainly unintentionally, the US Congress, aided by Russia-phobic chancelleries in Europe, is preparing the way for a military conflict between NATO and the Russian Federation in parts of Europe as well as the Middle East. The 1930s folly of adopting a self-defeating strategy is back, and this time as well, war will be the result.


Friday 28 July 2017

China biggest gainer from US Russia sanctions (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

On August 7, 1964 the US Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, that authorised President Lyndon Baines Johnson to adopt “all possible means” to ensure the defeat of North Vietnamese forces that were seeking to take over South Vietnam through their proxies. The resolution was passed in the heat of anger over a (fake) report that the North Vietnamese had twice attacked a US naval vessel in the Gulf of Tonkin. There is a lot of hullabaloo about fake news these days, mainly by those unreconciled to the reality of Hillary Clinton being defeated by the candidate her handlers saw as giving her a walkover.
Their calculation was that a Clinton victory was certain once Donald Trump got nominated as the Republican candidate. The Clinton machine is similar to NATO headquarters, in that both refuse to accept that they have made any mistake. Hence the blame has been cast not on the candidate herself but on the Kremlin. The Democratic Party,is still controlled by the Clinton machine, with former President Obama serving in an associate capacity and Senator Bernie Sanders neutralised. The Clinton machine has joined hands with anti-Trump elements in the Republican Party to hardsell the myth that the 2016 US Presidential election was stolen on behalf of Donald John Trump by Vladimir Putin.
In times past, George W Bush had similarly pushed the fake news about Saddam Hussein holding on to vast sticks of Weapons of Mass Destruction, while the Obama administration – especially when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State – worked overtime to disseminate the false news that it was the Assad regime in Syria and not the “moderate” fighters that NATO was backing that was slaughtering Christians, Druze and Shia in Syria. The Christians of Iraq and Syria in particular have been forgotten by the US and the EU just as the wartime alliance against Adolf Hitler ignored the increasing evidence that the German Fuehrer was systematically annihilating both Jews in all the countries that the Wehrmacht had occupied.
The Jews of Europe were left to their fate then, just as the Christians of Iraq and Syria have been since the 2003 occupation of Iraq and the effort by Hillary Clinton, Cameron and Hollande since 2011 to eliminate Bashar Assad, a program of action that led to the refugee crisis in Europe and the rise of extremist groups in the Middle East. To claim, therefore, that the Trump campaign or Presidency has the patent on Fake News is to indulge in that very crime against the right of the public to expect the truth from the politicians they elect, a right seldom enjoyed in the pervasive culture of greed and dissimulation that comprises the muddy field of politics. In 1964, fake news of a North Vietnamese attack led to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and to the loss of blood and treasure in a war that the US eventually lost to the North Vietnamese.
The Sanctions Resolution just passed the US House of Representatives by as overwhelming a majority as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution is on course to ensure that the US gets embroiled in a new war, this time in the Middle East and perhaps Europe as well, with Iran and Russia. The Resolution also sanctions North Korea, thereby further strengthening the already prevalent view in Pyongyang that the only way to ensure the survival of the North Korean regime is to possess nuclear weapons and delivery systems capable of reaching the US coast. At a time when the US and the EU need the help of both Moscow as well as Teheran to eliminate Daesh nests in the Middle East, what may be termed the Second Tonkin Gulf Resolution is designed to ensure a split into at least two hostile segments within the anti-ISIS coalition.
Unlike in 1964, when President Johnson connived at spreading false reports about a North Vietnamese series of attacks that never took place, in 2017 President Trump is himself a victim of the fake news that it was Moscow and not Hillary Clinton herself who caused her defeat. The Atlanticist lobby is working at speed to ensure that a reset is avoided that would replace the thinking of a never to return past with a construct suiting current realties. This would replace the centrality of the Atlantic Ocean with the Indo-Pacific as well as Germany and France with Japan and India as the key US allies on the Eurasian continent. The US House and Senate are lagging behind the White House in understanding such a change in circumstances.
There were those who, in 1939 and to an extent even in 1941, wanted Franklin Roosevelt to attack the USSR rather than Germany. Were the present US House of Representatives and Senate been there during that time, this is what would have happened, to glee from Adolf Hitler. It is very likely that agencies in Russia sought out information on the US Presidential poll in 2016, but so would several other intelligence agencies of other countries. Indeed, more than a few would have backed Hillary Clinton. It is astonishing that there a Special Prosecutor has been appointed to probe any links between the Trump organisation and Russian entities, but none to examine the funding received by the Clinton Foundation and correlating this flow with the diplomatic stance of the US during the period these moneys entered the coffers of a foundation that has within a short while become among the largest in the US.
Overall, while his tweeting may have been of value to Reality Television Star Donald Trump, they are a perceptorial downsizing of President Trump. The 45th US President needs to understand that his current avatar is of an entirely a different level from all his past avatars put together, and act and react accordingly. The new sanctions against Russia form part of a presumably unintended gift by the US Congress to China. The new measures will drive both Iran and Russia closer to Beijing, a country whose troops and warships are already at the doors of Europe via the alliance with Moscow. And as for North Korea, while they will be of zero value in stopping the nuclear and missile program of Supreme Leader Kim, they too will ensure a closer tilt towards China. Overall, it is China that will gain the most from the war being waged by the Atlanticists against President Trump.

Saturday 22 July 2017

Reince Priebus damages President Trump (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

THE 45th President of the US, Donald John Trump, has the lowest approval rating six months into his tenure of any of his predecessors for the past 70 years. Trump has acted in character by tweeting a brave face on it by claiming the low number was an achievement. Every Head of Government of a major country confronts a situation where a comfortable wall closes around him or her and those outside the charmed circle of those in power. This barrier prevents genuine facts from reaching the leader, while those around him present a distorted picture of reality so that he will not understand that the main problem is not outside but inside. That it is her or his core team that needs examination, and in significant measure, change.
The problem becomes worse when important members of the core team have either a low level of integrity or have agendas different from that of the Head of Government who has given them the jobs they hold, or both. Even good policies get distorted and changed in the process of preparing the details, with the consequence that the effect is different from that which was intended. After being sworn in on January 20, President Trump made the same mistake that countless other leaders from across the world have. He chose as the members of his core team not those he needed to implement his policies, but those he liked to have around him. However, many leaders don’t usually take well to be told of the mistakes they are making. They prefer to hear how wonderful they are, and how the critics are just jealous or hostile.
The legal red lines for a high-ranking member of the US President’s staff such as Jared Kushner are several times more than for an ordinary citizen, even if he be his son, Donald D Trump Junior. It was extremely courageous of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to consent to being inducted into the Trump administration despite the legal risks, issues that keep many individuals from agreeing to exchange their private status for that of official members of an administration, and hopefully both will escape unscathed from the experience. It must be admitted that democracy in the US is far more obvious in its vigour than it is in most parts of South Asia.
US media is feisty, as it is protected by the constitutional protection given to freedom of speech, something that was diluted beyond recognition by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in India a few years after he took office on August 15, 1947. So eager was the new government to take over from the British that the swearing in was held not in the morning but at midnight. Ironically, immediately afterwards, Nehru and his entire Council of Ministers made the former Viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the highest ranking individual in the newly independent country by appointing him Governor-General. Although Mountbatten requested Jinnah too to give him the same post in Pakistan, this was refused and Jinnah himself became the Governor-General of Pakistan. Of course, it must be added that by ensuring that Mountbatten continued as Head of State (with Nehru being Head of Government), the Prime Minister of India was able to get advice almost within a stone’s throw from not just Lord but Lady Edwina Mountbatten.
The charming Lady Edwina had strong views on several subjects, and never hesitated to make these known to the Governor-General as well as to the Prime Minister, who took her views even more seriously than her own husband. The White House staff is coordinated by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, whose agenda seems to be to ensure a political career for himself in a post-Trump world. Hiring those with political – or financial – ambitions carries a large measure of risk. Priebus has sought to please as many Republican Party grandees as he can, usually by making the President adopt several of the measures that each of them have been pushing, sometimes for decades.
As a consequence, the decisions flowing out of the Trump White House are like a necklace of stones of different colour, type and shape. Many of the policies conflict with each other or with the overall interests of Trump himself. For example, had the President focussed on what got him elected, the promise of a strong economy that would include those left out of prosperity during previous decades, he would have launched a Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Plan immediately on taking office. This is a subject Trump knows well, and he could have put together a group of capable administrators to implement plan, once it got cleared by US House of Representatives and the Senate.
Urban renewal would have created a foundation for jobs, as would initiatives designed to ensure leadership in the Knowledge Economy. Instead, by lumping engineers from Chennai with farm labourers from Chiapas, the new administration has hindered the flow of talent needed by US industry. As for healthcare, this is a subject neither Trump nor his staff was expert in. By bowing to the wishes of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and making it the first major legislative project of his, Trump has hurt himself badly.
A Chief of Staff totally fixed on protecting his boss would have warned Trump off such a risky, ill-thought out move rather than egged him on. And staff that behaved more as professionals rather than as courtiers would have warned the US President of the pitfalls of making much of the media his enemy, rather than befriending it the way Businessperson Trump was so expert in. Reince Priebus may get his wish and have a political career, perhaps as a US Senator or Governor. But that will come at cost of President Trump, whose staff need to be those whose only agenda is to ensure his success rather than build future careers by obliging many in Republican Party who would be delighted were Trump to resign before his term ends.

Lutyens Delhi, stop weakening Global India (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
When Prime Minister Modi comes up with a transformational idea, care should be taken to ensure that the details get worked out by those who are not Lutyens Lok.
On a scale unprecedented since the days of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the NDA II government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has effectively won control of both the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha, and now its own candidates will soon be installed as President and Vice-President of India. Both the executive as well as the legislature have come under its sway, which means that from now onwards, there are scant obstacles to fulfilling the task that Candidate Modi promised to achieve, which is to ensure “Achhe Din” throughout India through double digit growth. India needs to grow on an average of 12% for a generation if it is to ensure that its society gets largely free of the tensions that have been all too obvious between different segments. 6.7% is just not enough for social stability in a context of the substantial annual growth in numbers of the population and the coming of age of a young, aspirational cohort that will not be satisfied with the low level of income and flawed basket of rights of previous generations.
Every ministry and department tasked with matters dealing with the economy needs to make sustained growth the focus of their actions, and not other metrics that are of interest only to mutual fund managers from the US and Europe, who have since 1993 been making a lot of money out of India, for example, by frequently and silently promoting a bull run in select stocks through the narrow base of share indexes, thus ensuring that retail investors come in at elevated levels, and then selling out to them at a huge profit. Of course, each time this tactic leaves hundreds of thousands of small investors the poorer. And whether in the form of royalties or allocation of expenses towards boosted “Headquarter” costs, billions of US dollars get sent out of the country each year by entities that employ very few people and do very little for the overall progress of the economy. At the same time, the home governments from which such entities come insist on concessions concerning intellectual property rights, health and pharmaceuticals, WTO, climate related issues and much else.
Thus far, Lutyens Delhi has been expert in giving away major concessions and getting a pittance in return. Take for example the Missile Technology Control Regime, which India has signed. This ought to have been done only after we got the extra layer of security from interference provided by membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Without NSG cover, India has joined the MTCR—and soon the Australia and Wassenaar groups—in a subsidiary position to NSG members. Successive Lutyens-led governments in India have given this country the worst of both worlds, by (correctly) not joining several groups and yet abiding by their restrictions when the very purpose of not joining was to act in a manner freed of such curbs. India would, by now, have built up an average $10 billion annual trade each in space, nuclear energy systems and in missile sales by 2017, had the Lutyens Zone abandoned its craven refusal to take advantage of the freedoms that its stances against discriminatory treaties gave this country. There is no gain to an individual who is free, yet persists in remaining in jail. Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is soon entering the fourth year of his term, it is likely that “Lutyens barriers” to action will swiftly get dismantled by him and India act in a manner such as that other Giant of Asia, China, does.
Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi comes up with ideas that have the potential to change India, but thus far, many of these measures have been diluted by Lutyens Lok involvement in the process of finalisation. An example is demonetisation, where avoidable errors such as a mismatch between ATMs and currency sizes caused delays. Another drawback was the lack of attention paid by the RBI (which acts like a Lutyens fragment, although based in Mumbai) to ensuring that liquidity in the economy remain unaffected by the revolutionary decision on DeMo made by the Modi government. This columnist would have instead suggested a 5% deduction on total bank deposits over Rs 1 lakh, that would be used to fully recapitalise the banking system. These would be paid back through Income Tax (IT) payment deductions beginning from the third year and continuing for three more years. Recapitalised banks would result in more bank lending (which is far too low at present), thereby ensuring higher growth and therefore enough additional revenue to take care of the revenue loss through the IT deductions.
Another necessary policy that has been implemented by Modi is GST. But it ought to have been implemented within the first year of NDA II, in the glow of the May 2014 Lok Sabha victory. Given that the measure will take between two to three years to get digested by the economy, such a process of re-adjustment would have been completed by now, rather than remain incomplete even in 2019, the year when Lok Sabha elections next take place. As for the compliance issues created by the GST, these often result in a substantial number of units and individuals in effect being asked to go through college board examinations without having completed even elementary school tests. Rather than introduce a hyper complex system and afterwards seek to simplify it, it would have been best to initially put in place a system where compliance was not as big a practical difficulty as it is in the present GST framework. Instead of One Country One Rate, there are now multiple rates each for the Centre, state and inter-state. When Prime Minister Modi comes up with a transformational idea, care should be taken to ensure that the details get worked out by those who are not Lutyens Lok, so that the full effect of Modi’s planning can be felt on the economy rather than get diluted through Lutyens style dilution of a grand idea.

The Roundtable: Political realignment — Post Presidential polls (NewsX)

Published on 22 Jul 2017
The 2017 Presidential elections saw a very interesting equation within the opposition. Especially, with the JDU breaking ranks and voting with the government's presidential candidate. Earlier, Nitish Kumar praised Modi's move against black money, demonetisation and now when it came for a choice for joint presidential candidate, he supported NDA's candidate, Ramnath Kovind. So this week on the Roundtable we discuss the political realignment post Indian presidential elections.

Debating this on The Roundtable we have Dr. Subramanian Swamy, Rajya Sabha MP and BJP Leader; Pawan Khera, National Spokesperson of Congress Party; Pavan Varma, JDU Leader and MD Nalapat, Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian in conversation with our Senior Executive Editor, Priya Sahgal

Wednesday 19 July 2017

China moves heavy war gears to Tibet. Should India be scared? (WION)

Published on 19 Jul 2017
Prof. Nalapat on WION Gravitas panel: China has moved tens of thousands of tonnes of military vehicles and equipment into Tibet amid a continuing stand-off between Chinese and Indian troops in Doklam in the Sikkim.

Sunday 16 July 2017

Pahlaj Nihalani shames 21st century India (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
Hopefully, the I&B Ministry will step in to ensure that the CBFC gets manned by individuals subscribing to the practices and needs of a democracy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working towards creating an environment in which knowledge start-ups in India will flourish rather than—as has largely been the case thus far—perish. Freedom of speech is an essential component of such an ambience, and this means the right to say and to write views that will be the reverse of what many others subscribe to. Cinema is a principal method of communication with the public, and countries such as the UK have established themselves for the quality of their offerings. Indian cinema can take on any competitor, including Hollywood, throughout the world, if only those making films had the creative freedoms that are taken for granted in countries such as the US. Such a movie industry would be an important source of both employment as well as soft power, but not if Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani can help it. Among the less than inspired choices of the NDA II government, there has been a lengthy record of his unfortunate cinematic interventions, allegedly in the service of Indian culture, although a brief taste of some of the films he himself has made would leave an individual bemused as to the Nihalani concept of India’s culture. However, he has set a new record in absurdity by the cuts introduced to a documentary on Amartya Sen, who is known in India as among the most loyal admirers of the Nehru family, and whose devotion to the First Family of the Congress Party has been recognised, including by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointing him as the Chancellor of Nalanda University, despite the absence of visible signs of familiarity with global Buddhist traditions and teachings. A well-regarded filmmaker, Suman Ghosh, has completed a documentary on the Nobel laureate. It is unlikely that there would have been traffic congestion close to cinema theatres showing the film, even in Kolkata, but for the publicity that it has received from the CBFC, which has directed that the words “cow”, “Hindutva”, “Gujarat” and even “Hindu India” be excised from the documentary before releasing it for public view.
Why should mention of the cow be excised, although it is a reality that several influential individuals proudly and publicly affirm the cow to be their mother? The mother of this columnist was not a cow, but a human being, but he does not have the right to deny to others the right to affirm the opposite. That is the requisite of a culture of free speech, of democracy, of the right to hold and publicly proclaim views of every person’s choice. Morarji Desai was sprightly even in his 90s, and it is difficult to prove wrong his belief that an early morning glass of his own urine was the cause of such longevity And it is not always possible to demonstrate that cow urine has miraculous properties. However, it would be wrong for agencies of the state or busybodies acting in their name to prevent individuals from either affirming or denying the properties of cow urine. As for Gujarat, Chief Minister Modi sought multiple times to get the Army to intervene, but was unable to persuade the Central government to do so early enough. Modi’s inspired stewardship of Gujarat convinced his political opponents that he would be their most formidable rival. There has been a coordinated effort to blacken Narendra Modi’s reputation, and even in 2017, anything that goes wrong in India soon gets pinned to the door of his South Block office, including this latest blooper of a cow bleeper from Pahlaj Nihalani, despite it being entirely a CBFC decision. The Prime Minister of India would not have had the time to intervene in the matter of a documentary about an economist, unless the day had 240 hours, rather than merely 24. This is clearly a Nihalani decision, but it is noteworthy that several of the members of that body are standing by the newly-established “Sen precedent” and defending a CBFC action designed to convince the rest of the globe that freedom of expression is dead in India.
If the members of the CBFC are to be believed, the mere mention by Amartya Sen of what he regards as the “criminality of Gujarat” in the 2002 riots would inflame the state such that there would presumably be fresh incidents of violence. Having gone multiple times to Gujarat, it is safe to affirm that yet another articulation (this time in the documentary) of the same view that Sen has expressed several times in locations across the world would not set the Sabarmati afire. Indeed, it would have passed unnoticed. Hopefully, the I&B Ministry will step in to ensure that the CBFC gets manned by individuals subscribing to the practices and needs of a democracy, or at the least, withdraws the order it is reported to have passed on the Ghosh documentary, before this country becomes a global object of ridicule and scorn.
Prime Minister Modi, now that he is entering the fourth year of his term, needs to ensure that India join the rest of the civilised world in removing such colonial laws as “criminal defamation” from the statute books. The thrust and parry of debate in a democracy will be fierce and often unpleasant, but it is a necessary condition not simply of democracy, but of the culture of freedom and transparency needed for Start-Up India to generate the thrust needed to create tens of millions of additional jobs. Freedom of the internet, the universal spread of the internet, high surfing speeds and a sensible policy towards education, are all needed to ensure that PM Modi’s dream of a youthful and innovative India energised and awakened becomes a reality during the time that he is in office. 

Saturday 15 July 2017

OBOR will transform Eurasian landmass (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

THE largest construction project in world history after the building of the Great Wall of China,is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), often known – a trifle inaccurately – as One Belt One Road (OBOR). Most analysts have pointed to the substantial unutilised capacity of the construction industry in China as the trigger for the project, which is the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping. What has not been talked about is the capacity of BRI to transform the entire length of rail and road that it will traverse. Importantly for China, it will provide a mechanism for millions of Chinese citizens to settle along its length through the BRI getting developed.
Such a migration would also extend into Africa, a continent where already Chinese workers are diligently creating infrastructure in countries such as Kenya. Indeed, this has been the case since the 1960s with countries such as Tanzania. As it winds its way from the prosperous, densely populated east coast of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) through the central and western provinces of that country, and enters into Central Asia and thence into Europe, in the space of five to six years, there is likely to be nodes of development. These would be most pronounced within China, but would also be visible in the regions outside China that the Belt and Road Initiative traverses.
Development will necessitate skilled workers, and because of this, it is almost certain that there will be a movement of such individuals to locations along the BRI route. Even without such a giant project, for example on the China-Russia border, there are already a large number of Chinese settlements on both sides of the long boundary. In several cases, Chinese citizens have married Russians and settled down in the world’s largest country by far in land area. Several shops and establishments have been set up by the Chinese, including in locations that were previously barren, and land in significant quantities bought for utilisation. The influx of Chinese into hitherto almost unpopulated areas of Siberia is creating changes not merely in demography but in economic profile. A similar result is likely to emerge across much of the length of BRI. Thus far, the Central Asian Republics had large numbers of ethnic Russians within their borders. Soon, they will have Chinese as well. It is certain the President Xi Jinping would have factored in the ability of the Belt & Road Initiative to employ and to settle millions of citizens when deciding on the project.
However, in the case of China, that country is looking at large increases in future employment through two routes. The first is the relocation of substantial economic activity from the east coast to provinces located in the middle of China. During the previous 15 years,these provinces have already developed excellent infrastructure, hence they are in a position to provide platforms for economic activity across a variety of fields. The other route is the Belt & Road Initiative of President Xi Jinping.
This will generate migration unprecedented in the western provinces of China as well as in the Central Asian regions through which the BRI will pass. Just as the building of the transcontinental railroad in the US ensured a period of strong growth and regional demographic changes in the world’s biggest economy, so too will the network of roads, railway and facilities that are being built under BRI. BRI will act as a backbone for China’s participation in the economies and even the societies of countries across its length. Of course,others living in the affected regions will also benefit through higher growth, which is perhaps why BRI is being welcomed by several countries. Even the European Union has signed on, although the motivation in this case is to ensure that hundreds of billions of euro gets spent by China in Europe, through the building of facilities.
Given that the overall economy of Europe is expanding at a much slower pace than those of Africa and Asia, to prioritise investment in Europe over investment in Asia and Africa may be a losing proposition. However, a fascination continues to be exercised on minds across Asia (including China) by a continent that just some decades ago controlled much of the world. This explains why the Arabs, the Chinese, the Koreans, the Indians and the Japanese have lost enormous sums of money in Europe. In the case of India, steelmaker Lakshmi Mittal transformed a habit of creating gold everywhere into just producing lead when he took over Arcelor at a huge cost and kept on almost the entire top-heavy, high-spending management of the company. As for Ratan Tata, the head of the Tata Group, he has burnt an enormous hole in the finances of the group by acquiring a UK steelmaker, Corus, again at a fancy price.
The craze to buy expensive assets in Europe and now in countries such as Australia continues despite the experience of Mittal, Tata and numerous others who put their money on Europe rather than Asia. It is to be seen whether the Communist Party of China will follow that example, or concentrate on Asia and Africa in its project to link their country with the world. Whatever they do, the reality is that the Belt & Road Initiative will provide an opportunity for tens of millions of Chinese to relocate along its length, thereby transforming large swathes of territory. OBOR will transform Eurasia once implemented.

Friday 14 July 2017

Today: India-China border stand-off (China Radio International)

In the past month, China and India have been involved in an eye-ball to eye-ball stand-off along their border in the Sikkim section, with shots exchanged in Kashmir across the line of control between Indian and Pakistani forces, leading to the deaths of seven people.The border disputes between China and India, as well as those between India and Pakistan go back a long way.But what makes this current friction different? Will the current crisis pass without further damage caused? And should new mechanisms be put in place to avoid serious conflict in the future? These questions and more in this edition of Today, taking a closer look at border issues in South Asia.
For more on this, CRI's Jingnan speaks with Rong Ying, Vice Precident and senior reserch fellow at the China institute of internatioanl Studies; Zoon Ahmed Khan, Beijing-based Pakistani journalist; On the phone, Madhav Nalapat, Professor of Geopolitics of Manipal University in India.
Please click the following link for the entire programme's recording:

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Largest-scale drill makes US, India, Japan closer? (CGTN)

Published on 14 Jul 2017
India, the US and Japan kicked off a 10-day naval exercise on Monday in the northern Indian Ocean. It has gained extra attention this year given the current standoff between China and India in the Donglang area. What's the significance of this year's Malabar drill which first took place in early 90s? Should China be concerned? Professor Madhav Nalapat, from Manipal University and Ms. Han Hua, from the School of International Studies at Peking University join the discussion at CGTN’s The Point.

Sunday 9 July 2017

GHQ-ISI’s global effort to defame India falters (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
As yet the Central government seems unaware of the extent to which there has been GHQ-ISI penetration of so-called Hindu outfits. 
Worried at the growing distance between Islamabad and Washington and the readiness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to craft a security partnership with the United States, GHQ Rawalpindi tasked the ISI with working out and putting into operation a plan designed to smear the image of India with the colours of “intolerance” and “fascist majoritarianism”. This, it was hoped, would ensure that the US administration would adopt a cold posture towards Modi, the way Bill Clinton did with P.V. Narasimha Rao. It was also planned to generate through motivated NGO-reporting that India would come to be regarded in the US, and much of the EU, as a country with values and systems wholly contrary to their own. Since beginning work on the project “Operation Smear Modi’s India” in November 2014, after it became clear that Modi’s concessions to Pakistan would not dilute security interests, the ISI has been successful in locating several hundred funders for the project, most of whom are non-resident Pakistanis, plus citizens of those GCC states that officially encourage Wahhabism. Thus far, credible estimates are that around $218 million has been expended in “Operation Smear”, and it must be acknowledged that there has been some success in this effort. Note the several dozen articles and news reports in globally prestigious publications such as Washington Post, New York Times, Guardian, the Economist and others (especially in German and Arabic media) that portray India as a cesspool of discrimination against several elements of the population. These alleged victims include minorities, Dalits, women and children. The actions of cow vigilantes (some of whom have been receiving funding from sources having access to GHQ-ISI cash through Dubai, Kathmandu and Bangkok) have been particularly helpful in seeking to showcase India as a nation filled with Hindu bigots, indulging in murder and mayhem at the slightest provocation. The effort to “prove” that the Hindu population is as much a reservoir of terrorists and fanatics as the Wahhabi population in Pakistan, has a long history, beginning with the initial planting of “Hindu terror” stories in sections of the Indian media in 2002, but has been accelerated since the close of 2014. Interestingly, in almost every report on lynching of minorities (any such deed on the majority community is airbrushed over, as it goes counter to the created narrative of a fanatic and crazed majority), the blame is placed at Prime Minister Modi’s office door, despite law and order being a state subject. The ISI is also using its channels of communication with the global media to accuse India of being the aggressor with Pakistan and China, and of “interference” in Afghanistan. Widespread use is being made of social media to reinforce such views on the world’s most populous democracy, and clumsy counters by boorish trolls are only having a negative effect on global perceptions.

The main plank of “Operation Smear” is that (a) there is zero religious freedom in India for minorities, including Christians, Sikhs and Muslims. This line is being pushed by NGOs based in the US, Canada and Europe. In the US, several of the NGOs pushing this line are close to the dominant Clinton establishment of the Democratic Party, although there are others as well that are linked to proselytizing religious organisations in some of the southern states of the US, and which are Republican in their preferences. What they are seeking is a license to defame traditional faiths and convert on an industrial scale. This the present government opposes as having the potential to severely disrupt social harmony. Interestingly, these very NGOs have remained silent on the actual genocide of Yazidis, Druze, Shias and Christians taking place in Iraq and Syria at the hands of those Wahhabi organisations which have received cash and weaponry from within NATO, or on the inhuman suffering of the population of Yemen as a consequence of bombardments from air and land that are directed by US monitors assisting Wahhabi groups in that country, to overpower the rest. And unsurprisingly, the terror unleashed by illegal Bangladeshi migrants in parts of Bengal are being largely ignored by the international media, as is that caused by the “freedom fighters” in Syria, Libya and Iraq who kill Shias, Christians and other non-Wahhabis routinely, to silence from media outlets regularly apoplectic about conditions in India.

(b) That Dalits are being discriminated against in India, and their rights and practices affected is another plank. The leadership in this part of “Operation Smear” is being taken by certain Netherlands-based NGOs that have maintained silence so far on the systematic discrimination faced by the Romany community throughout Europe, as a consequence of which Romany employment and education rates (not to mention income) are far below national averages in EU member states. Making out Una and Saharanpur to be the norm, rather than the exception, keeps the spotlight away from discriminatory practices against the Romany community in Europe, as well as the squalid conditions in which those who have been forced to relocate from Syria, Libya and other Muslim-majority states—as a consequence of the Bush-Clinton-Sarkozy-Hollande-Cameron wars—are living in so-called human rights havens.

(c) NGOs based in the UK have been particularly active in portrayals of India as a country rife with bonded labour, child slavery and sex slavery. An examination of such entities will show close relationships with politicians and members of civil society in the UK that are active in seeking to delink Kashmir from the rest of India by fair means or foul. Recently, joining hands with like groups in Canada, particular UK NGOs have been raising the issue of Khalistani independence. Of course, given the connections with the ISI and its financial accomplices, the “Khalistan” sought is entirely within the territory of the Republic of India, even though it was in territory now in Pakistan that massacres of innocent Sikhs was rampant during 1947 and 1948, and to this day, Sikh shrines in Pakistan do not have anywhere near the autonomy they enjoy in India.

(d) Interestingly, websites and organisations linked to particular political parties in India have joined parts of this campaign, especially in the matter of women’s rights and what they describe as a torrent of violence against women since 2014. Facebook platforms and Twitter posts have been particularly ubiquitous in this context. Since 2015, there has been increasing emphasis on tribal concerns, as also press freedom. Interestingly, several online publications based in India are themselves in the forefront of those alleging the absence of press freedom in India. These are the reverse of complimentary to the Modi government but they and their financial backers continue the tirade unmolested. Of course, it is a fact that thus far the record of the NDA II government in ensuring the conditions needed for press freedom have been less than complete. For example, criminal defamation (an odious colonial legacy) still gets routinely deployed by suspect officials and politicians to scare into silence the media, while Information Technology and other statutes work against the transparency needed to fight corruption in India and have not been eliminated by the new government, nor has RTI been freed of the grip of babudom.

An unceasing objective of GHQ “Black Propaganda” has been to depict the situation in Kashmir as “genocide”. However, now that violent deeds have become commonplace in Europe, there is less enthusiasm there to lecture India about the countermeasures being taken to constrain, contain and reduce terrorist violence in the state. Incidentally, these measures are far less kinetic than those employed by NATO members in similar situations. Neither are aircraft or even helicopters used, although several experts regard these measures as needing to be introduced in specific situations in Kashmir.

However, largely as a consequence of the energetic foreign policy of Prime Minister Modi, “Operation Smear” is not having the intended effect of taking the shine off the India story globally. Most global policy makers perceive that the faults being mentioned are not systemic, but sporadic. Of course, as yet the Central government seems unaware of the extent to which there has been GHQ-ISI penetration of so-called “Hindu” outfits, and how some of these are being goaded into violence that is causing harm to the image of India and indeed, that of the Hindu community. Earlier, this correspondent had pointed out how there was a systematic effort by elements linked to the ISI to vandalise Christian churches. These days, it is clear that the actual motivators of the criminal and terroristic acts of violence seen in the lynchings of those exercising their right to a diet of their choice, are in Dubai, Karachi, Bangkok and Kathmandu, with many close to the ISI operatives in these locations.

Whatever be the religion they profess, the ISI’s agents in India need to be identified and prosecuted, if “Operation Smear” is to fail comprehensively and India recognised as the inevitable next superpower, after the US and China. The “false flag” covert operations of GHQ-ISI in India need to be exposed and eliminated. 

Saturday 8 July 2017

India and Modi stand up for Israel (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
The Jewish community has an affection for India and its people.
For those who have tracked the 13-year trajectory of Chief Minister Modi in Gujarat, it is safe to infer that for Narendra Modi, governance at the Central level is not a 5-year, nor even a 10-year plan, but extends to 15 years. And that Modi must have worked out in his own mind a performance milestone for each of those years. These calculations will remain with him and not get fully revealed to anyone. Although of course, milestones for the immediate next years may be shared with those he has tasked with helping actualise them. This meticulous segmenting of overall performance into time-bound stages may annoy those well-wishers of Modi who wish to see fulfilled in Year 3 what the PM has kept aside for Year 5, but such shows of impatience will not deflect Modi from following his own timetable. The good news is that when he finally delivers, the results usually will be worth the wait, as has just happened in the case of the visit to Israel. This is a country that the Prime Minister is known to admire, which is why several forecast a Modi visit much earlier than towards the second half of the third year of his current 5-year term as PM. But now that Modi has visited a country that has assisted India in every conflict that our country has been engaged in since 1962, it is clear that the structure of the visit surpassed every early expectation of its depth and impact. Before visiting Israel, Modi hosted the Chairperson of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and in this context, hopefully India will soon join those nations that have set up educational, health and other facilities in the West Bank. Such a gesture would take place despite the way in which Arab nations have, almost without exception, backed Pakistan on Kashmir out of wholly communal considerations. The Pakistan army is not interested in securing Kashmir for its own sake, but because GHQ Rawalpindi is aware that a wrenching away of this beautiful corner of India would result in a “nakba” (catastrophe) across the country that would make the events of 1947-48 seem mild in comparison.

The State of Israel has indeed expanded the 1948 boundaries given to it by the United Nations, but each time this has been caused by its victory in a war begun by the other side to try and increase the territory they themselves control. The leaders of Israel being somewhat different in mindset from those in India, they have mostly refused to lose at the peace table what the Israeli Defense Forces won on the battlefield, with the exception of Sinai, which was handed back to the Egyptians, and large parts of which have now become a refuge for Al Qaeda, especially since the (fortunately brief) period in office of a Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo, which was set up with the blessings of Hillary Clinton. The 1948 boundaries of Israel were practically indefensible, and but for the fact that the armies confronting Israel were adept only at shooting down their own populations and not a foreign military, Israel may have either shrunk or vanished altogether. In 1967, President Nasser thought that he could repeat his Suez Canal triumph with a takeover of Israel, but failed, as happened again in 1978 with Anwar Sadat. Since then, and partly because of Israel’s nuclear capability, the Jewish state has not seen conventional attacks on its territory, although non-conventional (terror) attacks are unceasing. Whether they be in Tel Aviv or in New York, the Jewish community has an affection for India and its people, and among the ways in which this gets reflected is the partnership between Jewish-American and Indian-American organisations in Washington. Interestingly, while the classic faiths of Greece, Egypt and Rome faded into nothingness, that of the Jewish and the Indic people survived across millennia of persecution, as did another classic faith, Zoroastrianism, although demography, combined with patriarchal and outdated rules for admission into the fold, is resulting in this fascinating faith shrinking its already tiny numbers at an accelerating pace.

In the context of Prime Minister Modi’s pathbreaking journey to Israel, BJP spokespersons, voluble about the neglect by the Congress and its allies of one of India’s most loyal friends, forget that there was little difference between the policies towards Israel of the A.B. Vajpayee government and those pursued by Manmohan Singh. Indeed, when the first India-Israel-US security conference was organised at the IIC in Delhi in 2003, National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra worked hard to get it cancelled. Why? Because such a meeting would in his reckoning “confirm fears of a Christian-Jewish-Hindu alliance against Muslims”. This was among the fantasies that Mishra was apparently prey to. Failing in his bid to scrap the conference, Mishra tried to block meetings of the conference participants with key policymakers of the Vajpayee government. To their credit, several of the NDA leaders ignored such advice and went ahead with the meetings, although in their residences rather than their offices. These included Deputy PM L.K. Advani, Defence Minister George Fernandes and HRD Minister M.M. Joshi, although Jaswant Singh kept aloof in deference to the National Security Advisor. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam showed his mettle by going ahead with a meeting at the Rashtrapati Bhavan with key members of the three delegations. As he later explained privately, given the help Israel had given to India in the field of security, his conscience did not permit him to cancel a courtesy meeting with key India-Israel-US conference participants.

Friendship and loyalty are two-way streets. They need to be given in order to be received. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, by his visit, shown in ample measure the gratitude of the people of India towards a country and a people who have invariably come to our assistance in times of crisis, thus far without any public acknowledgement by India of the depth of the partnership. Bravo, and may there soon be an encore.

Friday 7 July 2017

Direct talks with Kim Jong Un desirable (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

Despite its small size and low level of economic success, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) — commonly known as North Korea — has surprised its neighbours by launching an inter-continental ballistic missile with success. In such matters, there is an acceleration of the pace of success with the crossing of each stage, and developing lift and guidance capacity to a level that gives the projectile the potential of travelling 4300 kilometres is impressive. Such a leapfrogging of technology is not possible unless there exists within North Korea a dedicated group of rocket scientists fully committed to developing a missile system that has the potential of reaching the country that North Korea considers its biggest threat, which is the United States.
Given that such a system is next to useless unless mated with an array of nuclear warheads, it is certain that such devices must be under development in the DPRK, and are likely to be tested soon. As North Korea has walked away from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, it is stretching the concept of international law to accuse Pyongyang of violating laws that it is not treaty bound to follow. Of course, whatever be the theoretical versions of international law that get taught in classrooms, the reality is that international law is what the Big Powers say it is, especially the United States and now China as well, in a context where Beijing has evolved as the other superpower.
Over time, India and Russia are likely to join that list, although both are far away from that exalted status at the present. North Korea is not in that league, but despite its small size, the country has demonstrated an independence of spirit under the leadership of the Kim family. Because three generations of this family have been in control of North Korea since the close of the 1940s, it is possible that much of the decision-making level of DPRK society accept them as the natural bosses of the country. In other words, only the Kim family will be able to keep the ruling party in North Korea united and functional and no individual outside the clan. This is analogous to the Congress Party membership overwhelmingly regarding only a member of the Nehru family as being eligible to lead the party.
In 1969, Indira Gandhi eliminated much of the leadership of the party and replaced them with her loyalists, and when a faction of these such as A K Antony and Devaraj Urs revolted in 1978, the party split once more, this time with Indira Gandhi in full control, much as she was during 1975-77, when the country was functioning on the basis of Emergency laws. These laws were put into force because of the perception in Indira Gandhi’s mind that she would soon lose her job as Prime Minister unless normal democratic processes were set aside, as indeed they were during the Emergency. After Indira Gandhi passed away in 1984 through assassination, the leadership went to eldest son Rajiv (younger son Sanjay had died in an aeroplane crash in 1980,otherwise he would have taken over).
After Rajiv’s death in 1991, Sonia Gandhi chose P V Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister, but soon was persuaded to oppose him in multiple ways, thereby weakening the Congress Party enough for it to be defeated in the 1996 polls. The split in the Congress Party caused by loyalists of Sonia Gandhi led to the boost in the fortunes of the BJP that finally brought the party to power in 1998 after having emerged as the single largest party in 1996. Whatever be the reason, it remains a fact that the BJP’s first Prime Minister, A B Vajpayee, is close to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and always showed her great consideration while Prime Minister (1998-2004).
Since 1997, Sonia Gandhi has been both the real as well as the formal leader of the Congress Party, and if she should step aside, it will be her son Rahul ( or daughter Priyanka, or both) who will succeed her. Indeed, had Sonia Gandhi replaced Manmohan Singh with son Rahul in the Prime Minister’s seat in 2011, when Manmohan Singh had become hopelessly discredited politically, the Congress Party tally would have been much higher than the 44 Lok Sabha (Lower House) seats in won in 2014. However, since then, Rahul Gandhi has lost much of the goodwill and charisma he had until a few years ago, and unless he vastly improves his performance in the time remaining till the 2019 elections, the Congress Party is likely to fare equally if not more poorly in that context, especially because Prime Minister Narendra Modi is far and away the most significant leader in India, much as Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were in their time. However, perhaps because of the different political system in North Korea, the Kim family still seems fully in control over North Korea.
The present Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, has been called various unflattering things by observers based in Europe and the US who know him not at all. However, it must be admitted that despite his youth, Kim Jong Un has shown success in ensuring the development of lethal weaponry. Indeed, North Korea has become a core concern of China, the US and Japan, besides some other countries. So long as Kim is in charge, the North Koreans are likely to continue the development of nuclear and missile systems. Whatever they may say or want, world leaders will need to engage with Kim Jong Un rather than keep away from him if there is to be any result-oriented dialogue on North Korea. US President Donald Trump was right in wanting this to happen, although these days, he seems to have changed his views on this as on other issues as a consequence of Beltway pressure.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

India-China Border Standoff (CGTN)

Chinese troops and a group of Indian soldiers have been at a stalemate for around 20 days in Doklam in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. This takes place just ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the United States. Some say the move is an attempt from India to show the US it has the power to contain China. Can China and India use their memberships in international blocs, such as the SCO, which India officially joined last month, and BRICS, to reach a peaceful solution? Yang Xiyu, senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs under Renmin University of China, and Madhav Nalapat, UNESCO Peace Chair and director of the geopolitics and international relations department at Manipal University share their insights.

Sunday 2 July 2017

PM will move from Babu Sarkar to Modi Sarkar (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
Even in 2017, it is a sign of inertia in practices and procedures that rotation every three years or less continues to be the norm in the higher administration.

During his 13 years as Chief Minister of Gujarat, it was in Year 4 that CM Narendra Modi hit stride and ensured that his administration fully broke away from past governance practices. The change created the Modi Model of Governance (MMG) at the state level. Those looking towards an MMG at the Central level are optimistic that Year 4 of PM Modi’s first term will similarly mark the arrival of a governance change designed to ensure that India’s demography evolves into a boon, rather than a nightmare. This will involve transformative changes in the functioning and policies of ministries such as Finance, Home, Defence, Law and HRD, including the introduction of much greater accountability and horizontal recruitment. Even in 2017, it is a sign of inertia in practices and procedures that rotation every three years or less continues to be the norm in the higher administration. Senior police officers get moved out of districts just when they have understood the roots of crime there and are working out correctives. Poor results are hardly surprising from a civilian bureaucracy, where individuals shift from Animal Husbandry to Home to Fisheries to Defence at the whim of their seniors. As a consequence, they rely on drafting skills, rather than performance for success. Or that officials in their 40s—who are more likely to make a success of tough jobs than those a decade and more older—would by then have lost their “inner fire”, as the calendar, and not substantive results, decides their promotion. This criterion has become the norm even in the higher command of the armed forces. Precisely when it is the younger officers who often have a far more realistic grasp of what needs to get done to win the next war (rather than the last few), than those more senior. 
As Prime Minister Modi reminds the world, India is a country of 1.26 billion souls. Which is why it is desirable for government to trawl much more widely for expertise in the core operations of government, than has been the case since Queen Victoria took charge in 1858. Take as an example national security. A single individual, the National Security Advisor, advised by a National Security Advisory Board comprising a few retired civil and military personnel, is tasked with formulating and implementing the entire national security strategy of India. The agencies working under an NSA’s supervision are, with rare exceptions, headed and manned by individuals with a police background. The police in India, as also the civil and military personnel of this country, may be the best in the world. Even so, they together form only a small segment of the skillsets available for deployment within our 1.26 billion population. For example, a Mahindra Group manager in Africa, or a Tata division head in China may have domain knowledge sufficient to be an outstanding success in particular jobs in the MEA. However, not only are they not thus seconded, there are, in practice, no structures which enable such outside talent to be involved in the making of policies involving locations in which they have worked with visible success for years. And in our university system, the UGC has reduced academic “success” to a series of numeric metrics that are entirely removed from the cultivation of the originality and 360-degree vision needed for cutting edge results.
The 8 November 2016 DeMo experience shows the risk involved in continuing with a narrow base from which is drawn the designers of policy. RBI officials, apparently, believed that Rs 500,000 crore of cash would be burnt or buried, rather than returned to the banks, while the rest of the demonetised cash would stay in the banks, improving their viability. The national security apparatus calculated that DeMO would stop counterfeiting and terror funding. The Finance Ministry pushed for DeMo as a way of exponentially increasing tax collections, while others argued publicly that this single measure would remove corruption. These objectives do not all seem to have been fulfilled, despite a high cost in terms of lost jobs, economic dislocation and loss of confidence in the monetary authorities. Had India moved by then to the Modi Model in display in Gujarat, a host of individuals, many from outside, would have been involved in deciding on such a step, rather than just a handful of bureaucrats who recommended this measure to the political leadership. 
After DeMo, the next transformative policy being implemented by the Modi government is GST. Although there has been broad-based consultation, at least on the record, in practice it would appear from the scheme finally unveiled that ultimately only the opinions of a few civil servants mattered. The design of the GST is such as to make it extremely cumbersome for many, especially those too small to afford high-priced chartered accountants and advocates on tap. Millions of service providers will need to fill in many more forms than was the case in the “more complicated” past. Much more time will therefore go in matters of compliance, leaving less for carrying on business. And should there be glitches in the GSTN software, there could be substantial slowdowns in economic processes, apart from the fact that India is not South Korea, where high-speed internet penetration is universal. It is difficult to fathom why this very essential measure got delayed by three years, when it could have come into force in the glow of Modi’s 2014 victory, latest by early 2015. Or why GST has not been made “saral” through a single (and lower) rate and easier paths to compliance. His admirers expect that PM Modi will ensure through broad-spectrum administrative changes that the Central government begins to function as smoothly during 2017-19 and beyond as the Gujarat government did from the fourth year of CM Modi’s first term in the job. A Modi Model of Governance (Central) is due.