Saturday, 3 November 2018

America First meets China First (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Trump’s aim is to reverse Xi’s drive to overtake the US in technological innovation.

“America First, and Donald J. Trump first in America”, at least for the next six years. This is the evolving Trump Doctrine in a single sentence. No other US President during the post-1945 period has sought to so ignore the recommendations of the Washington DC bureaucracy as the nation’s 45th President has, although as yet the Beltway has prevented his plan of distancing Moscow from Beijing, thereby leaving the world’s second most powerful economy without the support of what remains a potential Great Power, albeit severely diminished since the Brezhnev-Gorbachev-Yeltsin years. However, he is trying to break free on North Korea in a manner not yet emulated by National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both of whom remain anchored to the establishment view that North Korea must render itself defenceless before any sanctions against it can be relaxed. As the practical New York businessman who is now Commander-in-Chief knows, such a policy would only snuff out any hopes that the DPRK would desist from going any further in accumulating deadly weapons, technologies and operations than is already the case. It is illustrative of why US policy in the 21st century has substantially destroyed the very countries it intervened to rescue (such as Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq) that the Washington Beltway sees it as “extreme and illogical” that Kim Jong Un would not agree to surrender his most potent defences against a US attack in the absence of a formal end of the 1950-53 Korean war. The present occupant of the Blue House in Seoul, Moon Jae-In, does not suffer from such delusions, and seems increasingly in a mood to ensure that conditions get created that would end in at the least a mutual non-aggression pact between Pyongyang and Seoul. The thought of Koreans killing Koreans, as happened during the blood-soaked conflict 68 years ago, has entered the Korean psyche with such force that public opinion in South Korea would be thrown into violent protest and turmoil against the elected authority, were Moon to agree to join hands with Trump and Abe in a pre-emptive war on the DPRK. In any such war, the North would be almost completely obliterated, while the South would be damaged to an extent that would reduce it to something close to the pitiable condition that Syria is in today, after a “War of Liberation” was accelerated in 2012 against Bashar Assad by NATO and the GCC. And while Japan would suffer significant damage, the US is likely to escape relatively unscathed, barring perhaps Guam. It will take some more time for North Korean scientists to fashion bombs and projectiles sufficient to reach the US West Coast, and each time any policymaker in Washington demands full disarmament without any corresponding concession or even gesture on the US side, those North Korean scientists and technicians must be working at an even more feverish pace than usual. The North Korean regime has to feel confident that Kim will not meet the fate of Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, and thus far both the words as well as the body language of the Pompeos and the Boltons (not to mention the “Attack North Korea” crowd in the US Congress) emanate no such assurance. It is only Trump who, on occasion, talks in a manner that could get results, but the North Koreans are as avid readers of the Washington Post and as eager viewers of CNN as the writers and anchors in these media outlets, hence, Kim Jong Un cannot be faulted for believing that Donald Trump may soon get deposed, so that all the promises and progress made through engagement with him would be lost.
In contrast to his policy towards both North Korea as well as Russia, which are still “work in progress” as a consequence of bureaucratic recalcitrance, President Trump seems to have secured sufficient support within the Beltway to ensure that he implement the first stage of his policy towards China, the aim of which is to ensure (through lower growth and stunted technologies) that Beijing remain well behind the US during the present century. In other words, Trump’s aim is to reverse Xi’s drive to overtake the US in technological innovation by 2035 and by 2049 make China the world’s leader in the manufacture of hyper-tech items now dominated by the US. The ten sectors specified by the Chinese leadership include aerospace, robotics and Information Technology. As Hiroyuki Akita has pointed out, Beijing is within reach of Xi’s tech targets. Recently, China—albeit briefly—even had a faster supercomputer speed than the US, while the PRC is second only to the US in the number of companies active in Artificial Intelligence and in the use of supercomputers. As for international patent applications, China is second only to the US and on track to catch up with the US within three years. Although Trump has talked about the mammoth trade deficit with China, it is not that figure which is creating anxiety within America Firsters, but the fact that tech breakthroughs such as the 5G technology rolled out by Huawei may be 30% cheaper than that of its nearest US competitor, giving the company a global edge sought to be blunted by recourse to “national security” prohibitions. The only credible way those seeking (naturally for reasons of “national security”) to prevent a Huawei 5G rollout in India will succeed is if they offer 5G alternatives that are cheaper and better. That seems much too big an ask at present. Given the slow pace at which India’s governance system operates, expecting the Modi-Abe Alternative Intelligence and Advanced Technology Tokyo partnership to challenge Chinese competitors seems a faraway goal. Given Trump’s “Can Do, Must Do” mindset, there is unlikely to be an end to severe US-China frictions until either the US succeeds in preventing Beijing from displacing Washington as the “Tiger on the global mountain of economy and technology”, or President Xi is able to beat back US attacks and succeed in his objective of ensuring Chinese leadership in cutting edge technologies within a fistful of years. Given that Trump is capable of using any means at hand, including possibly attempting to inflict a short but humiliating military defeat on China in air or sea in the Korea, Taiwan or South China Sea theatre so as to humiliate Xi, expect “interesting times” in the Sino-US dynamic. When America First meets China First, only one will prevail.

Prof. Nalapat on Modi’s visit to Japan in the backdrop of a possible US-China conflict (PGurus)

Is a US-China conflict in the near future? US-India-Japan-Austalia Quadrilateral alliance and its role should a conflict with China happen. A hangout with Prof. M D Nalapat

India must prepare for a US-China military showdown (Sunday Guardian)


To many, a US-China conflict may seem to belong to the domain of fiction or Hollywood movies. But such optimism may be an illusion.

The mood in the capital city of Japan is sombre, and while the majority of his people cling to the hope that military conflict involving Japan is impossible or at least avoidable in the modern age, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe knows otherwise. The risk of conflict between US and Chinese forces is rising, and Abe is, therefore, working to ensure that the post-1945 legal limits on the Japanese military get removed, so that a robust defence or attack may speedily get carried out by his forces when and where needed. The “Self-Defence Forces” of Japan are a formidable force, especially the Navy, and Abe is fast-tracking operational congruence with India, so that the ease of joint operations becomes as smooth as that between the United States and Japan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was handed over a $75 billion currency swap agreement in Tokyo this week, so that he would be in better political shape to ensure closer working relations with Japan in a context where relations between Washington and Beijing are entering storm levels. The South China Sea; the Taiwan Straits; and the Korean peninsula are just three of the theatres in which an accidental or impulsive move by local military commanders on either side could trigger an exchange of fire between ships and between aircraft. As for the Himalayan frontier, Washington is impatiently waiting for the bureaucracy in India to go ahead with the signing of BECA (a geospatial data agreement) so that the legal decks get cleared for full scope cooperation between Washington and Delhi in the exchange of input on the activities of countries that both regard with suspicion. Subsequently, the question will be taken up of ensuring that the Indian Army be given the equipment needed to take on any comer in combat. The US is moving towards shifting some of its defence production facilities to India, but this is running up against opposition within the Lutyens Zone that is fanned by weapons dealers from countries such as France and Russia, who would lose out were India to source a high and rising proportion of its defence import needs from the US, a development that would make geopolitical sense. Another US effort could be to expand the “Five Eyes” signals intelligence alliance into the Six Eyes, so that India gets added to the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Among the locations which are suitable for the setting up of tracking facilities capable of covering the Indian Ocean are some of the islands in the Andaman chain, while facilities on the west coast of India could keep a watch on the Arabian Sea.
In this militarily binary world, India needs to choose between the US and China as its preferred security partner. Beijing appears to have foreclosed the matter by continuing to expand its hugely expensive “all weather” relationship with the Pakistan military, while knowing from the start that the only two enemy targets of that force are Afghanistan and India. That Pakistan was for long a treaty ally of the US was of no concern to China even during the 1960s, well before the 1972 Nixon-Mao rapprochement between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the US. This was because Beijing was confident (through understandings reached in secret with GHQ Rawalpindi) that at no time—and despite Pakistan’s frequent promises to the US to “fight communism”—would the Pakistan military go on attack mode against the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, Pakistan did provide facilities for US snoop mechanisms designed to look into China, on the condition that it would simultaneously be given data collaterally collected on India by such methods. Also, Pakistan army officers visiting the PRC would, on occasion, debrief their US counterparts on what they saw and heard in China, which at the time was a country judged as hostile to US interests. Thus, through being an “eye on China”, GHQ Rawalpindi was given a free pass by the CIA and the Pentagon in its increasing closeness with the Central Military Commission (CMC) in Beijing. Simultaneously, the Pakistan military routinely briefed the PLA on what they saw in the US, and in particular on training methods and equipment used by the world’s most powerful military in its exercises. By playing both sides for decades, GHQ Rawalpindi derived a double benefit (from both Washington and Beijing), a free ride that ended with the onset since the Trump Presidency of what is certain to be a period of prolonged hostility between the US and China.
Although both US commanders as well as their Chinese counterparts have publicly warned the forces under their command that the chance for war is no longer negligible, as yet a US-China conflict seems to many to remain confined to works of fiction or Hollywood movies. Such optimism may be an illusion. It needs to be remembered that during the five years prior to the 1914-1919 World War, at the close of which Germany was emasculated and Russia became Bolshevik, there were only stray (and almost invariably ignored) indications of the coming conflict. German, Russian and British elites met and partied together, while the Royals of all three countries were frequently in touch, being friends and relatives of each other. It was a stray event, the assassination by a Serbian group of an Archduke of the Hapsburg monarchy that tipped the balance towards war. Well before that, tensions that were being neglected by policymakers continued, in consequence, to fester. Finally, the perception that there was need for a “swift and decisive” war took hold, resulting in a conflict lasting five years, with global consequences, including for Asia. In many ways, the existing situation in Asia resembles that which was present in Europe during the years immediately preceding 1914. These days, both US President Donald J. Trump and President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) meet several times a year, and both Commanders-in-Chief of the two biggest militaries in the world take care to be as pleasant to the other as Tsar Nicholas was to Kaiser Wilhelm during their pre-1914 meetings. Around them, however, swirl disagreements and dissonance, based on the reality that the US administration (especially under Trump) will not accept falling behind China in matters of GDP and technological prowess, a situation that seems inevitable given the present trends. Actions get taken by government agencies that are logical only in the context of the other country being factored in as an enemy and not simply a rival. Given that the hold of the Chinese Communist Party over the administration and the people of the world’s other superpower is at the heart of China’s success, the Trump administration is making no secret of its efforts at weakening that hold to ensure through a multiplicity of means that the PRC’s growth rate falls to below 5% and counting. High growth rates over three decades have ensured social stability in China, and a decline as steep as what is planned could result in turmoil. That is, unless the people of that country believe that the hardships they may face are because of the hostile actions of countries jealous of China’s rise, specifically the US. And that armed conflict may be the only way forward in a situation where other methods seem devoid of results. Paradoxically, the weaker the Chinese economy and the more at risk the hold of the Xi-dominated “leadership core” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the country, the higher the risks of military conflict. Such a situation would be certain to dissipate emotions directed by the Chinese people towards the CCP as a consequence of disappointments and frustrations, and would make them endure hard times with patience and fortitude. As Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee discovered in 1999, even a war caused by one’s own errors of judgement (in this case, the decision of National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra, together with Army commanders to abandon winter quarters along the Line of Control in the Kargil sector till weather conditions improved, thereby giving an opportunity for Pakistan’s irregulars to occupy the abandoned shelters) leads to a boost in popularity. The Kargil conflict ensured the return of Vajpayee in the Lok Sabha polls, for a fresh five-year term.
It needs to be stressed what the core objectives of India should be. An obvious desideratum would be that no South Asian country act in a manner that degrades the core interests of India. Another would be to ensure that no single power become empowered enough to dominate the Eurasian landmass, for such a power would then be a short step away from world domination. In the decade ending 1945, Japan sought to dominate East, South and South-East Asia and was defeated. The US sought to become the dominant power in Eurasia during the 1960s the way the British Empire had been in the past, but confronted obstacles that it lacked the methods and resources to overcome. Washington is now a much diminished power, and needs new allies in order to ensure not dominance but primacy, especially in the most consequential theatre of the 21st century, the Indo-Pacific. Within the Indian Ocean segment of this body of seawater, India is an indispensable partner for the US, hence the outreach to Delhi. However, this country’s 19th century colonial-minded bureaucracy has a very expansive view of itself coupled with contempt for the people of India, and hence routinely misses not just opportunities, but opportunities for opportunities. Surprisingly for those who believed he would act on the “Minimum Government” pledge made during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is as respectful of the bureaucracy as his idol Sardar Patel was, with the consequence that the many speed brakes placed by well-placed babus along the path to fulfilment of the Prime Minister’s plans have ensured that several have moved ahead at much slower speed than anticipated by those who voted for Modi in 2014. A full scope defence and strategic relationship with the US is essential for both that country and India, if they are jointly to ensure primacy over the Indian Ocean and subsequently, retain primacy in the Pacific Ocean as well, a task in which Japan would be key, while a friendly Taiwan would be an incalculable asset. In such a process, it is clear that countries such as the Seychelles, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Myanmar should ensure that the core interests of the US-India alliance not get adversely affected through their actions. Of course, such moves will meet with opposition from China, which is focused on keeping the US out of the oceans to the maximum extent it can, so that a vacuum gets created that can get filled by the PRC and its powerful military. While continuing to make purchases of petro-products from Iran makes sense for India, the purchase of S-400s from Russia in place of seeking a combination of THAAD and Patriot Pac 3 missiles from the US does not. It is not a question of narrow technicalities, but of broad strategy, as the US-India defence relationship will approach its potential only when India sources most of its defence imports from that country, while at the same time ensuring that hotheads in the US Congress not succeed in imposing conditions that would wreck the US-India military relationship and thereby open the door to Chinese primacy in the Indian Ocean Region. Certainly, any Senator or Representative seeking sanctions on India will become the toast of the powerful PRC lobby in Washington. Apart from the seas, the US and India need to partner against the more violent manifestations of Wahhabism, wherever these be found, although the latter must take care to ensure that it does not get embroiled in Team Trump’s repeat of Ariel Sharon’s 1982 Lebanon blunder. By inserting the Israeli Defence Forces against the Shias on behalf of a Maronite Christian armed group, Sharon made Israel the only country in the world which Shia terror groups routinely target. Given its grievous errors while dealing with the Shia situation in several locations, the US is likely to be the second. India must not go down that path, and Modi should make it clear to Trump that good relations with Tehran will remain a priority for Delhi even while mil-mil ties with the US get ever closer.
Primacy and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific; joint operations against Wahhabi terror groups and to safeguard the stability of the GCC; prevention of any single country gaining dominance over the Eurasian landmass; the promotion of the values of tolerance and inclusion that are the foundation of democracy. Such are among the objectives of an India-US defence and security alliance, and it is hoped that progress in this direction will be much faster in the coming years than it has been since the previous decade. This will take place in a context where the US will ignore what it sees as China’s efforts to have a veto over policy over matters such as Taiwan. It may even be that in 2019 Vice-President Mike Pence may visit India, perhaps early in the new year, and may even make a brief refuelling stopover in Kaohsiung in the Republic of China (Taiwan) en route back to Washington. President Tsai Ing-wen of RoC (Taiwan) may be permitted by Prime Minister Abe to make a refuelling stopover and thereafter another in a US city while on her next visit to the Vatican. The Hudson Institute speech by Vice-President Pence (which has been compared to the Fulton speech of Winston Churchill about the Soviet Iron Curtain across Europe) indicates that Team Trump is determined to use the tools at its command to reverse what seemed before his 8 November 2016 victory to be an inexorable climb to the top by the PRC. Armed conflict often begins by accident and thereafter may take on a momentum difficult to restrain. The good news is that even a brief military encounter between the US and China is likely to push southwards not just stock but commodity markets, thereby once again sharply lowering the price of oil. The bad news is that the all-powerful bureaucracy in India seems clueless as to how to navigate the country’s way through increasingly choppy times, and seems destined to repeat mistakes of the past that we in the present are still suffering the consequences of.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Opinion: Medical diplomacy between India and Japan has good prospects (CGTN)

By M D Nalapat

After talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 28 and 29.

Will Japan do the same as the US?

Washington would like Delhi to be as committed as Tokyo to its strategic objectives, but Modi, who like his predecessor Manmohan Singh favors close links with the US, understands that there are many more geopolitical differences between India and the US than the US and Japan.

For example, Iran, a country that President Trump would like India to cease all oil purchases and other transactions from. However, Teheran has long been a regional partner of Delhi, and while private oil companies in India have stopped purchasing Iranian oil, state enterprises continue to do so, ignoring US commands and threats of sanctions.

In Syria, the US sides with Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and Qatar in seeking the defeat of the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. To try and bring this about, they are spending hundreds of millions of US dollars assisting fanatic groups that are linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS.

However, India continues to recognize and support the Assad government. As for DPRK, a country that India has recognized from the beginning, it is unlikely that India will join the US and Japan in seeking to punish Pyongyang for developing nuclear devices, although anodyne statements concerning nuclear proliferation may be made during the October 28-29 visit.

Shinzo Abe will not be able to persuade Modi to change such policies when even Donald Trump has not succeeded. However, there is likely to be agreement on several bilateral issues.

India is looking for major financial commitments from Japan to fund infrastructure projects, as also easier entry even of highly trained Indian citizens to Japan. At present, getting a Japanese visa is a vexatious matter.

In order to attend an India-Japan-US conference in Tokyo on October 28 and 29, this writer applied for a Japan visa on October 10, but even his single-entry 15-day visa took twelve days to arrive.

Clearly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo does not share Prime Minister Abe's enthusiasm for India and treat citizens of the world's largest democracy as being just individuals from a Third World country.  

Medical cooperation, a focus of Modi's visit

Medical service is a sector where Japan and India could cooperate. Japanese companies have begun making investments in pharmaceutical companies in India.

Despite its low per capita income, India has tens of thousands of world-class medical personnel, and it may be beneficial for Japan to welcome Indian doctors and nurses the way the US and the UK have.

Should joint ventures get started in India, high-quality medical facilities could be set up in selected Indian cities that could serve the medical needs of Japanese "medical tourists" at a much lower cost than gets incurred at home.

India is known across the world for medical tourism. Each year, several thousand patients come for treatment, including from Europe and North America. There are fields in which India has an advantage in technique and others where Japan is far ahead, and collaboration would be helpful to both countries.

Japan has developed high-quality Buddhist pilgrim circuits in India, and could with ease set up Japanese-oriented medical treatment circuits, including chartered flights bringing patients to cities in India where such facilities get set up. Thus far, Japan has looked almost entirely to Europe and the US for enhancement of its technologies.

While the US has several research facilities in India, China has begun doing the same. For example, Huawei in Bangalore. But Japanese, on the other hand, has yet to take advantage of the abundant reserves of skilled human power that is present in a country with 1.27 billion people, nearly three-fourths of whom are below the age of 35.

Defense cooperation also on the agenda

Finally, there is likely to be a discussion on defense cooperation. Japan, the US, Australia, and India form the Quad or quadrilateral alliance and talks on how to deepen this understanding are likely to take place. Another item on the agenda will be India's connectivity projects in South-east Asia, where Japan may partner.

Tokyo is unlikely to join projects such as the Chabahar port and highway in Iran, for fear of US reaction. However, there could be a joint activity in Afghanistan, just as there is a joint activity between China and India in that country.

Overall, no breakthroughs are expected, but in the long run, steady progress is what will count, and this seems to be likely in Japan-India relations in the context of the October visit of Prime Minister Modi to Tokyo.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

India’s Air Force needs 200 more fighter aircraft (Sunday Guardian)


Defence should not be left to generalist administrators or to purely military users who may not factor in India’s overall geopolitical needs and vulnerabilities.

Not surprisingly for an election season, there continues to be a rising crescendo of comments and counter-comments about the agreement entered into with Avions Dassault to get 36 Rafale fighter aircraft. Some explain the difference in price as being the consequence of the 36 aircraft needing to be configured to carry a nuclear payload on deep-strike missions in enemy states. Technical experts could testify as to how much more it would cost per aircraft to configure it to carry a nuclear rather than a conventional payload in terms of the weapons loaded, and as there are several such individuals in India, it is time that they revealed their financial and technical calculations, so as to give greater clarity to the debate. The per aircraft cost for 36 seems much more than for 126. Can the argument be made that this was because the configuration needed to carry on board non-conventional weapons required a much more expensive refit than what is needed for aircraft carrying only conventional weapon payloads ? We do not know. The unit costs being substantially more for the specially-configured 36 aircraft than for the 126 may be the consequence of the French supplier needing additional funds in order to finance an upgrade of the existing M 88 engine of the Rafale. This is relatively underpowered when compared to other fourth generation fighter aircraft. Also, the present model of the Rafale does not have stealth capacities. Does the pricey variant supplied to India include this additional feature? The reality is that any boosting of the capability of the Rafale engine is an expensive process, and Dassault has been in a parlous financial situation. It needs to be remembered that in modern warfare, any air rather than missile attack by the IAF on a major military power would run the risk of being exposed to the air defence network of that country. Should the target country have systems such as the Russian S-400 that India is also purchasing, the risk to attacking Rafale fighter aircraft would be substantial. Even cruise missiles can get intercepted by the Russian system. The S-400 is a superb anti-aircraft system, especially if the country that is the target of an IAF attack has been given a system that features the latest Russian missiles. It is not clear that India too will get the latest Russian missiles for its S-400s or will acquire only older models for the air defence systems that are being purchased for an initial cost of $5 billion. There was a time when Moscow and Delhi were as close as Beijing has long been to Islamabad, but that era has long passed, which is why the continued heavy reliance on Russia for critical defence needs requires a relook.
The problem facing the defence procurement system in India is that the users (i.e. the wings of the military) seem not to be given financial parameters and limits while designing their specifications for weapons systems. As a consequence, they may configure specifications in such a manner that only the most expensive models would be eligible, as took place in the MMRCA process. This would be analogous to a motorist being asked to choose the vehicle he wants, irrespective of cost. He would naturally choose a Ferrari or a Maserati, rather than a Volvo or a Toyota. The MMRCA program is designed to replace the MiG 21s, of which over 400 have been in service for the IAF. In order to have both an effective defence as well as credible attack capabilities, at least around 200 more aircraft are needed to be acquired in the near future. A mere 36, no matter how magnificent each fighter aircraft may be, is not sufficient. In such a context, the offer by the US to transfer the entire F-16 assembly line to India should be seriously considered. The F-16 variant being offered to India is the latest, and contains weapons systems and avionics far superior to the aircraft supplied to Pakistan. Locating assembly lines in India would ensure that the IAF get the 200 additional fighter aircraft it needs to be a potent strike force, while additional aircraft could be sold to other countries so that such sales subsidise part of the costs of making and equipping the F-16s destined for the IAF. Without the offer to relocate production lines to India, the offer of F-16s was rejected in the past, and correctly so. However, entering into the manufacture of the airframes for such aircraft would open the way for future manufacture (jointly with the US) within India of more advanced models, thereby adding to both local jobs as well as skills. It may also be possible to persuade corporations such as Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and BAE to set up facilities in India to manufacture radar, electronics and weaponry for the F-16s that are locally manufactured. The airframe accounts for only around a third of the total cost of production of a frontline fighter aircraft, and the rest comprises other items, most of which can be made in India. Our country and the US need to enter into a much closer defence and security relationship, which is why it would make sense in geopolitical terms to acquire the THAAD anti-missile system on the same terms as offered to South Korea, as well as Patriot PAC 3 anti-aircraft systems. Hyper-reliance on a Russia that is today closest to a China that is still much too cosy with Pakistan seems a risk.
India’s defence is way too important to be left to generalist administrators or to purely military users who may not factor in the overall geopolitical needs and vulnerabilities of the country. Just as China makes a necessary partner for India in commerce and economics, so does the US in defence and security. The IAF needs a minimum of 200 frontline aircraft to ensure sufficient attack and defence capabilities. The transfer of F-16 production to India, followed by the transfer of part or whole of production facilities for more advanced fighter aircraft and subsequently their equipment, makes more sense than looking at every critical defence need and corresponding purchase in isolation.

Friday, 26 October 2018

UNESCO Peace Chair & prominent Indian academician & columnist, Prof M D Nalapat at the RSYP (Inventure Academy)

UNESCO Peace Chair and prominent Indian academician & columnist, Prof M D Nalapat, in his address to the students at the Round Square Youth Parliament, spoke on the role of media as an organ that cleanses and purifies the government system. He spoke about minimum government and maximum governance for growth and development and how today’s youth and technology are the key factors towards a brighter future Currently Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian and Itv network (India),[1] Vice-Chair of Manipal University's Advanced Research Group, and Director of the Department of Geopolitics, Manipal University. He has been the Coordinating Editor of the Times of India and editor of the Mathrubhumi. He is the son of renowned author and poet Kamala Das. The inaugural Inventure Academy Round Square Youth Parliament - Our World, Our Voice was launched with Prof M V Rajeev Gowda and Dr Sumer Singh as Guests of Honor at the opening ceremony. This five day event from 15 to 19 August 2018 was held at Inventure’s campus on Whitefield-Sarjapur Road, Bangalore. The conference was conceptualised by Inventure Academy to equip children with the Right to Participate (guaranteed by Article 12 of the UNCRC) in the world that they are inheriting and to enable them to be positive change makers. This was achieved by exposing our youth to different perspectives, dialogues between nations and the process of decision-making through a blended platform of the Model United Nations (MUN) and Model Parliament (MP). The conference exposed students to the process of how laws are created and implemented through the interplay between various stakeholders, including international organisations such as the United Nations, National Parliament, Media and Civil Society. This helps to demonstrate how citizens (including children) can have an impact and be a part of the solution. The focus of this Parliament was our children contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 by 2030 - “Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all”. The specific sub areas of focus included the quality of education and funding, child and cyber safety, and the impact of conflict on the healthy development of youth.

CVC Chaudhry orders massive changes in CBI (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat

CHIEF Minister Narendra D Modi of Gujarat made several promises to the electorate, of which two are haunting and being remembered each day by voters. The first was that Rs 15 lakhs would be deposited in the bank accounts of every citizen of India after Modi (once made Prime Minister) would get back an estimated $ 1.2 trillion of illicit cash deposited by citizens of India in banking havens. The other was a related vow that he would ensure that corruption was eliminated in the functioning of government. Although Modi had more than a year to prepare for what he would do in the event he became PM, the team of officials that he chose was almost the same as that which had clustered around Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. Several of them were themselves regarded as being less than honest, while overall, the record of both Vajpayee as well as Manmohan Singh in fighting corruption was disappointing, although it must be said that in the case of the latter, at least three Union Cabinet Ministers were forced to quit when they came under scanner with allegations of corruption, while a Cabinet minister (Andimuthu Raja) went to jail during that period.
Thus far, Prime Minister Modi has had no success in sending even a single senior minister of the period of complete Sonia Gandhi rule (2004-2014) to prison. Indeed, several of those who had been facing charges under Manmohan Singh have had the relief of these charges being dismissed by either the courts or the investigating agencies. Every few days, reports get carried in the media about investigations” and raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on miscellaneous individuals, but little appears to have been done in the way of follow up. The primary “corruption fighter” of the Government of India is the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). During this official’s tenure in the Income-tax department, there was raid after raid on High Net Worth individuals, creating much gossip about how those raided dealt with situation in private.
CVC Chaudhry is clearly an individual who works night and day, for he took the extraordinary step of forcing the Director of the premier anti-corruption investigating agency (CBI ) to go on leave, replacing him with Nageshwar Rao, a relatively junior officer with a reputation that is not entirely saintly. The change took place at 1am on Wednesday. The new boss took charge after instructions were reported in the media to have been given by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, whose remit does not usually cover the CBI. The involvement of Doval made it possible for opposition leaders to place the blame for the early morning shakeout at the doorsteps of Prime Minister Modi, as Doval is the official closest to the PM just as Arun Jaitley is the minister closest to Modi. However, it is likely that it was not the PM but the CVC who asked for his assistance in enforcing an unprecedented decision with grave implications for the anti-corruption battle in the country.
In these days of social media, it is child’s play for frustrated officials to leak information through the internet, and now that he has been appointed Director of the CBI, every hour titbits are billowing out about Rao. The CVC earlier worked in close proximity with two Sonia-era Finance Ministers ( P Chidambaram and P Mukherjee), but it would be unfair to suggest that the decision he took to send the now ex-CBI Director on forced leave was motivated by anything other than what he saw as an administrative necessity. However, the move has had the unintended consequence of diluting the image of the Modi government in the matter of probity, and has given opposition parties an effective whip with which to flog even the Prime Minister relentlessly. The CBI Director had anyway only a few more days left in his tenure. In a earlier case of another CBI chief,Ranjit Sinha, the Modi government allowed him to finish his term of office rather than cut it short soon after the new PM was sworn in on May 26, 2014. Judging by the alacrity with which incoming CBI Director Rao removed each of the officers investigating Rakesh Asthana, the deputy chief of the CBI, who has been accused by ex-Director Alok Verma of corruption, it is clear that the new boss is no fan of his predecessor. Interestingly, although Asthana also has been sent on leave, none of the team of officers around him has been affected by the change in Director. A few days ago, it was being mentioned within CBI headquarters that Asthana would soon be in prison. Instead, it would seem that the CVC has ensured the premature ( by a few days) exit of his nemesis,Alok Verma as also the early morning transfer of key officers working on the corruption case against Asthana. The lead investigator has been sent as far away as Port Blair in the Andaman islands, the furthest point barring the waters of the Indian Ocean where the unfortunate officer could have been moved.
Unlike others who accept decisions taken at the top stoically, ex-CBI Director Alok Verma has filed a complaint before the Supreme Court of India asking for the orders of forced leave be rescinded as illegal. The Supreme Court is now headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who has a reputation for both integrity as well as independence. Verma has,in true bureaucratic tradition, kept away from the public much of the details of hid complaint against the Government of India. The opposition has even brought in defense and other deals to claim that Verma was hastily moved out of his cabin to stop him from investigating them. Prime Minister Modi will need to convince the people of India that he has delivered on his promise of clean government and the creation of jobs on a scale sufficient to ensure that young people find work. The allegations against the CVC may be motivated and Chowdhary may be a paragon of virtue, as also the other dramatis personae in the drama being played out on television screens about the heart of the anti-corruption machinery of the Modi government.
But his 1am decision has had the effect of casting a shadow over the Government of India that is unlikely to dissipate in a hurry. Had he consulted Prime Minister Modi before taking the decision he did, perhaps the present ruckus may have been avoided. The Prime Minister is known to be cautious, but he needs to warn the officers closest to him not to be present at controversial venues such as the never before witnessed sending on leave of the CBI Director and the immediate transfer of the entire team of officers investigating Asthana. Why the new CBI Director took such a step is a mystery. An immediate explanation is needed, as opposition politicians have several times made the charge that the former deputy chief of the CBI is a favourite of the PM. Admirers of Narendra Modi are clear that while the PM may be polite to officials, he has no favourites.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

A divine gesture by Muslims towards Hindus (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Handover of Hindu shrines will ensure that fringe moves get treated with derision.

Contrary to the views expressed by opposition parties, the Narendra Modi government is the effect, and not the cause, of changes in societal attitudes that need to be addressed. What is taking place at Sabarimala in Kerala is just a mild foretaste of what can happen across the country, were past (and still largely present) societal policies to be continued. Several times when the UPA was in office, this columnist warned friends in the Congress Party about the risks of backfire of their policy of treating what in India is quaintly known as the “majority community” the way minorities get treated in some countries. For decades, the way in which successive governments discriminated against large sections of the Hindu community in their policies remained unchanged. It was the overreach of this policy by the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA that caused the blowback which resulted in the installation as Prime Minister of Narendra Modi, who refused to wax apologetic about Hindus being the majority community. Since taking office, however, Modi has moved with extreme caution on the necessity of ensuring that the scales of administration be level as between members of one community or the other, refusing to take steps to equalise sacrifice in the Right to Education Act or to free Hindu temples from state control. Indeed, even the recent decision of the Kerala government to remove the proviso that those administering (Hindu) temples should be Hindu, was met with silence from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Whether it be in choosing those in the BJP who had (and have) cosy relationships with the Lutyens Zone, or in selecting for important assignments those officials who were the favourites of Sonia Gandhi and her key ministers (such as Sushil Shinde and P. Chidambaram), the Narendra Modi government has followed a hyper-cautious policy towards the past that has done little to lower the sense of insecurity and injustice prevalent in the Hindu psyche as a consequence of decades of “Nehruvian secularism”. This, by definition, posits that only Hindus are “communal” and every other community “secular”, no matter how extreme their views. An abortive UPA-era legislation sought to anchor this tenet even more firmly than before, explicitly implying that only Hindus would be found guilty in communal incidents.
It is essential for double digit growth that the social stability necessary for rapid growth (the other requirement being sound policy) be nurtured. This should not be expected from government, as the colonial baggage carried by the administrative apparatus (and its compliant political overseers) makes the structure both unwilling as well as unable to remedy the festering fault line that has been created as a consequence of discriminatory policies over the centuries, added on to, rather than reduced, by the dawn of Independence in 1947. Fortunately, the innate moderation of the Indian spirit is sufficient to ensure that steps get taken within civil society itself to heal rifts in perception and to ensure that a sense of shared destiny permeates the 1.27 billion people of the Republic. After all, both the RSS as well as the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind were opposed to the 1947 partition of India that was agreed upon between M.A. Jinnah together with Nehru and Patel. As for Gandhiji, he must have been heartbroken, for it had been his life’s mission to bring together Hindus and Muslims in a way that would make partition impossible, a goal which impelled him even to support in 1919 the Wahhabi project of the Ali brothers to bring back to life the Turkish caliphate, a decision that had the opposite effect of promoting religious extremism and separatist impulses. Whether it be his decision to be neutral during World War II (thereby ceding public opinion in the UK to Jinnah, who backed the Allies against the Axis), or to make the Congress ministries in the provinces quit and thereby boost the power of both the Viceroy as well as the Muslim League, there were several decisions taken by Mahatma Gandhi that will need to await fuller examination in an era when even mildly critical comments on the Mahatma are not seen as immoral or indeed illegal.
98% of Hindus and Muslims are moderate, and to ensure that this percentage does not dip in future, a gesture of divine benevolence on the part of the Muslim community needs to be taken to ensure that the Ram Janmabhumi, the Krishna Janmabhumi and the ancient Kashi Viswanath temple in Varanasi be restored to the condition they were in before the Mughals. The three sites are to the Hindus what Mecca, Medina and Al Aqsa mean to Muslims, or Bethlehem to the Christians (and the Vatican to the Catholics among them). Except to Wahhabi and Khomeinist zealots, this should be obvious. There may be intemperate minds within the Hindu community who say that not just this all-important trio, but some other places of worship as well should be similarly restored. The atmosphere of love and trust that will get created between Hindus and Muslims after the handover of these three shrines will ensure that such fringe moves get treated with derision. Any attempt by elements of the Hindu fringe to take over any other place of worship (once the three mentioned above have been restored) should be met and thwarted with armed force by the state. It is not for nothing that the ISI has for long ensured that more than a few Hindus form part of its stable of agents. Indeed, those Hindus who kill in the name of cow protection play a role welcomed by the ISI, which is to commit acts that portray India as a country similar to a Pakistan that has been relentlessly Wahhabised since the 1970s. The Congress and the Left need to stop efforts at preventing a resolution even of the Ram Mandir issue. There are those who claim that the Rahul Gandhi Congress is simply the Sonia Gandhi Congress in a tracksuit. This is being unfair to the new Congress president, although the anti-Hindu remarks of some of its (Sonia-era but continued into the new period) senior leaders do seem to indicate that nothing has changed. Such a perception would be to the benefit of the BJP, a party that has a less than stellar record in economic and social policy during its nearly five years of rule. In India’s Muslim community rests the power to carry out an act of supreme beneficence that would be entirely in keeping with the words repeated multiple times in the Holy Quran, words that stress the divine qualities of mercy, compassion and beneficence.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Senator Lindsey Graham insults an Asian leader (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat

ON more than one occasion, this columnist has visited US Senators as well as Members of the House of Representatives in the US Congress. That country ensures secretarial assistance to its legislators, not to mention impressive offices within the stately buildings housing them. However, stone and mortar cannot substitute for brain matter, and interactions with several lawmakers are an exercise in futility, unless their staff have already been apprised of the views being expressed by the visitor to the US Congressman or Senator. Almost all the time, the views of these worthies are exactly what members of their staff have briefed them on, and to change the mind of a legislator away from the advice he or she has been given by key staff is as difficult as a block of ice surviving in hellfire.
There is a gargantuan network within Washington DC (as in other capitals of NATO’s three Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, such as London or Paris) that has for more than three decades been lavishly looked after by what may be termed the Wahabbi International. These include think-tank and university staff who interact frequently with aides of US legislators, besides serving and retired officials. This powerful network has been looking for an opportunity to seek to create diplomatic pressure on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to replace Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman with another royal who does not share the young royal’s determination to wean his country away from Wahabbism into the modern era. Women being allowed to drive or movies being screened may seem inconsequential to many across the world, but in Saudi Arabia,they are a giant leap forward into modernity. Given the age and less than perfect health of King Salman, it is an existential matter for the Wahabbi International to get Crown Prince Salman replaced with another member of the Al Saud family, who is almost certain to roll back the de-Wahabbization campaign of the Crown Prince. It is this determination to effect regime change in Saudi Arabia that is behind the frenzied campaign in media across the world to persuade King Salman to replace the Crown Prince with another member of the ruling family.
The lack of familiarity of US legislators with anything not connected with their political futures has been helpful to the Wahabbi International in its “Oust the Crown Prince” drive. Rand Paul, a US Senator, is an example. He has tweeted about how Saudi Arabia has been (in his view) promoting radicalism for years, and hence has made itself undeserving of remaining a US ally. Rand Paul has apparently got staff who do not know the difference between the Middle East and the Midwest of the United States. Else they would have pointed out to him that it is precisely to roll back such support to radicals that the de-Wahabbization drive has been launched by Crown Prince Mohammad, and that his exit would result in the collapse of such efforts. Yet another instance of jumping to conclusions based on unproven premises is shown by Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican who claims that he is as close to President Trump as the 45th US President’s own family. In the matter of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Senator Graham waxed loudly and often about how his Democratic Party colleagues were jumping to conclusions about the accuracy of the allegations levelled against him by Christine Blasey Ford. But he seems unaware that he is himself jumping to conclusions about the complicity of the Crown Prince in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. Clearly, his reliance on the principle that a person is innocent unless proven guilty is shaky at best. It is not obvious that Senator Graham is the Administrator of Saudi Arabia, the way Paul Bremer was once Administrator of Iraq, a country that he must have been familiar with only through comic books, so scant was his understanding of Iraqi or indeed Arab society. However, this did not stop the self-appointed Overlord of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from demanding that King Salman dismiss the Crown Prince.
Such insulting behaviour to leaders in countries outside NATO is commonplace within the major capitals linking that always failing alliance, but it would appear that none in Graham’s staff has any concept of treating sovereign nations differently from the way slaveholders treated their chattel in Senator Graham’s state before a Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, put a stop to such barbarity. Of course, the NATO doctrine is that none of the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed by that alliance in just the 21st century is worth any regret or punishment on the perpetrators King Salman made an inspired choice when he appointed the Crown Prince, given the de-Wahabbization movement begun by the young heir to the Saudi throne.
Islam is a peaceful and progressive faith, and only such an approach can ensure that the global Ummah develop to the full the potential that Almighty has given it in the form of ability and intellect. For the future success of his country, Crown Prince Mohammad’s drive for modernisation needs to be pressed forward with greater speed rather than torpedoed through the regime change demanded by self-appointed colonial-minded politicians in countries whose own historical record is in several patches less than perfect. The tone and content of Senator Rand’s tweet shows only ignorance of the history of Saudi Arabia. However, the comments of Senator Graham show the same contempt for Asia which led US policymakers to seek to maintain French colonial rule in Vietnam.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Time is running out for Modi to jail VVIPs involved in Stock Market rigging and NSEL scam (PGurus)

Chidambaram wanted to help himself and his cronies to easy money by rigging the Stock Markets. In the NSEL scam, SEBI wants to go after 300 defaulters when the top 30 have most of the money. Is SEBI action a farce? 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Insider Vulture Cabal unharmed, mobilises for Jan 2019 knockout (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat 

The former Union Minister is anticipating a ‘blowout’ for the BJP in the polls, and is entertaining hopes of being called upon to follow in Manmohan Singh’s footsteps by being nominated as PM by Sonia Gandhi.

The “insider vulture cabal” led by a former senior minister from the UPA, is readying for the delivery of a “knockout blow” to short-term economic prospects by 20 January 2019. Their expectation is for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to call for Lok Sabha elections that would be held in the third week of April 2019, and that a major economic shock would reduce, if not eliminate altogether, the BJP’s chances in the urban constituencies the party must win in order to return to power, even as the leader of a coalition. Ironically, this very politician-cum-cabal leader had been frantically seeking to join the BJP in 2002, but was blocked from doing so by party functionaries in his home state, who were unanimous that he would be totally unwelcome in the saffron party. The former Union Minister is now anticipating a “blowout” for the BJP in the 2019 polls, and is known to be entertaining hopes of being called upon to “follow in Manmohan Singh’s footsteps” by being nominated as Prime Minister by the Supreme Margdarshak of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, who, the former minister’s acolytes claim, wanted to see him in the Prime Minister’s chair from 2012 onwards, but refrained out of regard for a “visibly faltering” Manmohan Singh. Such talk is being spread these days, in order to scare and to de-motivate officials looking into the former minister and his family’s financial transactions, as he is known to be “exceptionally generous to those who obey him and cruelly vindictive to those who ignore his commands and needs”. Although The Sunday Guardian had more than once warned of the activities of this cabal, those within the ruling establishment who are linked to the cabal, through fiduciary and personal bonds, dismissed such warnings as “conspiracy theories” deserving of no attention, an explanation that seems to have been accepted by the government, as substantive action against the insider vulture cabal appears to be non-existent for the eight months since such warnings were first aired in this newspaper. Indeed, to both North Block as well as Mint Road, India is a country where under-invoicing of exports and over-invoicing of imports is negligible; where insider trading and manipulation of share prices hardly takes place; where the currency remains outside the zone of fire of international predators out to “short” an increasingly pathetic rupee; and that economic difficulties are related to “global cues” rather than government policies. If this “purely global” talk were true, the question would come up as to why the economic team within government should not all be removed, so as to lower government expenditure, given that whatever happens does so (according to them) because of global factors outside their control. The reality is that domestic policy makes all the difference in India’s nearly $3 trillion economy, for better or for worse, depending on what basket of measures gets worked out and implemented. Recently, RBI Governor Urjit Patel seemed wholly unconcerned about the consistently declining value of the rupee, while other policymakers dealing with economic policy waxed complacent about job growth. Whether voters agree with such stands will become clear in forthcoming state and national polls. Looking at such an attitude of “not my business” and of course, “not my fault”, it is unsurprising that so little attention seems to have been paid by official agencies to the systematic manner in which the Cabal is enriching itself and promoting the job trajectories and financial fortunes of its members at the expense of the 1.27 billion population of India.
The identity of the senior minister who heads the Cabal will remain undisclosed. Looking, however, to the case of former Union Minister for Home and Finance, Palaniappan Chidambaram as an illustration of how (out of ignorance of the facts or complicity with the former minister) inquiries against him have been “systematically diluted and sidetracked” (to quote a senior official who worked closely with the former minister) by his well-wishers in the administration. Enforcement Directorate senior official Rajeshwar Singh is reported as falling foul of Chidambaram during the UPA period when he stumbled on some facts relating to the minister’s son Karti, whose record in business success would put the young Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg to shame. Aware that the officer was not among the many within the agencies who were admirers of “PC” (which in this case refers not to Priyanka Chopra but to P. Chidambaram), Rajeshwar was known to have been advised by a senior North Block official that he should not himself interrogate PC, but leave that disagreeable task to another official chosen for the purpose by the senior official who rendered him such instructions. When Rajeshwar declined to oblige, allegations against him that had been investigated six years ago by the CBI and the CVC (and found to be without merit) were referred for fresh inquiry by a senior official in North Block. How the unanimous findings of absence of guilt of the multi-member CVC and the multi-member CBI investigation team could be re-examined six years later by a solitary official (reporting to the same official who was responsible for the anti-Rajeshwar enquiry getting re-started) is among the several anomalies within the Lutyens Zone, which rewards its own and punishes its detractors with unfailing ease, no matter which politician occupies the Prime Minister’s chamber in South Block. It was expected that the ED’s Rajeshwar would take the hint and forget about building up a case against Chidambaram, busy as he would be in saving himself from prosecution by obliging those seeking to torpedo his probe. He has not; but has found the going very tough subsequent to his refusal to oblige those eager to get him off the Chidambaram probe. Small wonder that only rudimentary progress has so far been made into the investigations relating to Chidambaram and his family members, that too mostly on issues that are peripheral to the broader interests of this enterprising family, or that the ED has not even been able to get permission to file a charge-sheet in key matters against Chidambaram, much less arrest the UPA VVIP.
The good news is that the ED contains officials who believe in working for nearly 20 hours on some days in the service of the nation. Among such luminaries is Seemanchal Dash, who was Private Secretary to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is acknowledged within his party as the closest colleague of Prime Minister Modi in the Council of Ministers. Although Dash is now Special Director in the ED (and may become Director of that venerable institution in the fullness of time), he spends several hours each day (usually 5p.m.-7.30p.m.) at North Block giving his former colleagues the benefit of his expertise in finance. Although uncharitable detractors say that such visits are intended to give information about pending ED inquiries (including about Chidambaram) to North Block grandees anxious about the fate of Chidambaram, this allegation seems absurd. Dash is apparently motivated only by love of country and not (as falsely alleged) love of PC and his family. Hopefully, his long hours of work in both the ED as well as the Ministry of Finance will not affect the health of an official who is on track to head the ED in future, once the Modi government returns to office in 2019, as expected by tens of millions who are admirers of the Prime Minister. In the meantime, progress within the ED in cases such as Aircel Maxis seem to be going the way of the 2G probe, where a CBI Special Court came to the finding that the accused were free of blame. The Enforcement Directorate, as a consequence, is earning the nickname of “Escape Department”, given its almost non-existent record in bringing to book VVIP perpetrators of frauds.
Whether by accident or by design, during the UPA tenure, Chidambaram consistently saw officers trusted by him take up positions such as SEBI Chairman, LIC Chairman, DG Investigation, Member Investigation, Joint Secretaries in TRU and TPL and public sector bank chairmen. When he was sworn in as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi took a very consequential decision to give those officers who had worked closely with UPA-era ministers (obviously also in the facilitation of deals that the BJP had alleged were corrupt) a second chance. In the case of an officer (who has since his retirement been given a job in a constitutional body of enormous import) who was reported to have been involved in several land transactions of a South Indian politician, it was said by a senior supervisory official that “just because X was corrupt in a particular state does not mean he will be corrupt at the Centre”. In his support and respect for officials, the Prime Minister is going the way of Vallabhbhai Patel, who as Home Minister ensured together with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that the British-era colonial system of administration continued into the post-1947 period, as indeed it does to the present. It is another matter that such an attitude is leading to a situation where the “insider vulture cabal” remains relatively immune to action by the agencies, and is therefore in a condition to deliver a knockout blow to economic prospects before the close of January 2019. Unless officials linked to the cabal get identified and removed, the group will continue to have the capacity to influence policies in ways favourable to its colourable (mainly external) interests. Interestingly, senior officials seem in the past to have gotten away even while making juniors do their bidding in suspicious cases. For example, the chairman of a public sector insurance company gave insurance in the UPA period to a defunct airline based in Madurai on the basis of repeated telephone calls from a senior official in Delhi. That insurance executive is now in hot water, while the senior official (once in the Department of Financial Services) who was actually responsible for the decision is enjoying promotion upon promotion, including in the private sector. Among other posts held by those close to the talented former Union Home & Finance Minister, at least two major stock exchanges in India are headed by individuals known to have been “exceptionally close” to P. Chidambaram. Of course, such proximity should not be taken as any evidence of wrongdoing.
Returning to the senior UPA-era minister who heads the “insider vulture cabal”, it is known within North Block that he ensured the collection of photocopies and electronic data on a considerable list of politicians (including in particular a Cabinet colleague) and officials. Dossiers were prepared in key investigative departments under his watch, which somehow found their way back to his personal cache (now almost entirely kept abroad), with more than a few such dossiers getting permanently removed from the files left behind in North Block. Each of the officials and politicians figuring in such dossiers must be nervous that their own misdemeanours would get outed in revenge by the former minister, were he to be sent to prison. In the process, such activities as the co-location imbroglio at NSE involving several brokers have been, in effect, swept under the rug out of fear of the consequences of action against the perpetrators, most of whom remain in high positions. Hence the passion with which some senior officials are working to avoid such accountability in several UPA-era misdeeds, including the selling of public sector bank NPA at depressed prices to favourites, who later resold the same at a huge profit. Interestingly, almost all such favourites remain so in the present dispensation, which is not surprising, given the Prime Minister’s statesmanlike 2014 decision to trust hardcore UPA-era officers as key components of his own core group. However, such bureaucrats may now be affecting the prospects for a second term of Prime Minister Modi, who is facing flak from his base over the lack of success of his government in bringing to book UPA-era VVIP perpetrators of fraud, including in the matter of IL&FS. Of course, in future the performance of those put in charge of this and other damaged enterprises by North Block will come under scrutiny, given the impossibility of keeping matters under wraps in this era of smartphones and computer codes. In this context, LIC officials claim that they had a workable plan to rescue IL&FS from poor decisions by the management of that troubled entity. However, the “vulture cabal” had its eye on several of the assets of the stricken company, and also wanted control to go to a prominent businessman dabbling in NBFCs. They therefore used their contacts to get the IL&FS board dismissed and a fresh board appointed. The LIC officers believe that asset stripping and transfer of control will soon follow. The “vulture cabal”, according to them, had no hesitation in creating panic in the market through a man-made crisis that could have been avoided if the LIC had its way.
Those insiders beholden to the insider vulture cabal are warning the Prime Minister’s Office of a “market meltdown” and “economic mayhem” that would take effect should leadership elements of this toxic band of profiteers get sent to prison or even chargesheeted. The reverse is actually true. Unless VVIP and VIP wrongdoers get proceeded against with the full rigour of the law, there will be a denouement within three months that could seriously affect the BJP’s chances for retaining power in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Lack of action on the activities of the cabal has resulted in the “October Meltdown” predicted by this paper. Inaction against the cabal during the next 40 days will result in a much more deadly “January Shock” getting delivered to the NDA government.

Wahhabis seek to destroy Mohammad bin Salman (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat 

Removal of the Crown Prince from power would be a catastrophe for Saudi Arabia.

That hundreds of thousands of innocents have died in wars launched by NATO during just the present century is accepted as fact, as has been the rendition by the US of several terror suspects to countries severely injurious to the health of those sent there through such processes. However, once an individual becomes a columnist for the Washington Post, the DC Beltway assumes him or her to be an exemplar of liberal values, and it reveals a gap in the planning of Al Qaeda that the organisation did not seek to somehow get Osama bin Laden installed as a columnist for that venerable (and it must be admitted, eminently readable) newspaper. Had it done so, the ageing fanatic may have secured a tenured post on the Harvard faculty as an expert on the sociopathology of violence, rather than get his existence snuffed out by a frenetic bunch of SEALS at Abbottabad, a location that the Al Qaeda chieftain clearly felt safe in. The facts are that Jamal Khashoggi is (or was) a cold-blooded Wahhabi ideologue. The followers of Abdul Wahhab inculcated a century ago the conviction within substantial segments of the Arab population that the Sufi Turks were infidels and therefore worthy not of respect, but of instant annihilation. With the consolidation of power by President Recep Erdogan, Wahhabism has replaced Sufism as the de facto official theology of the Turkish state, a change that must have made Khashoggi feel very much at ease in a context where his own country, Saudi Arabia, is moving away from Wahhabism into the gentle and compassionate creed revealed through the Prophet Muhammad more than 1,500 years ago. Prince Turki, the royal patron of the Saudi Washington Post columnist, is known for his generous backing of groups across the Middle East that regard the beheading of Christians and Shias as the surest path to paradise. All such activities took place under the approving guidance of Khashoggi, who called for retribution in Libya and Syria to those regarded as apostates by Wahhabis (i.e. those who sheltered rather than executed Shias and Christians). Ever since the oil price hikes of the 1970s, the Wahhabi International has been gifted hundreds of billions of dollars, especially by Al Sauds such as Prince Turki. Some of that money went into the pockets of scholars, media persons, politicians and officials in the more prominent member states of NATO, principally the US and the UK. This extensive and well funded network has now been activated to ensure that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) of Saudi Arabia get weakened enough to be removed from his current job. The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, after he was spotted entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, has become the trigger for a frenzy of lobbying from the many who have over the years fed at the trough of Wahhabi generosity to seek the downfall of the Saudi Crown Prince, who is the successor to King Salman.
Khashoggi was working along with some members of the Saudi Royal Family to oust the Crown Prince, and was active in the dissemination of lurid information about the Crown Prince, who is the first member of the Al Saud family to recognise the existential danger posed to his country by Wahhabis and work to eliminate their influence in the way General Al Sisi (another target of the Washington Post) has carried out against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Brotherhood makes little secret of the fact that it promotes religious supremacy, the “right” of Wahhabis to impose their control and preferences over the rest of society in any country run by them. Khashoggi must have seethed at, among other actions, the granting of permission by the UAE to set up a temple in that princely union. Were any other Post columnist to suggest that a church be set up anywhere in the Middle East, it is certain that the DC Beltway-certified Saudi exemplar of liberal values would have been horrified, indeed angered, at such effrontery. His passionate views on Israel are known to intimates, including President Erdogan, and it is a sore point with such minds that Crown Prince Muhammad has opened the door to normal relations between the country that hosts the holiest of Islamic sites and the tiny sliver of territory that is the only Jewish state in the world. Certainly the circumstances surrounding the case of the vanishing Wahhabi seem unsavoury. If Khashoggi was done in within the consulate, the amateurishness of the operation must be generating derisive laughter within the Russian FSB, Israel’s Mossad or the CIA. It would have been child’s play for a “double” with Khashoggi’s build to have ambled out of the consulate in a few hours’ time in his clothes, thereby providing Saudi officials with an alibi. Instead, surveillance cameras that have never malfunctioned in years suddenly went dark. All this is indeed an outrage, and possibly a crime. However, success for those seeking the removal of Crown Prince Muhammad from power would be a catastrophe for Saudi Arabia.
The only way that country with its youthful population can face a future in which Saudi oil will earn a smaller and smaller premium would be to develop the Kingdom as a knowledge and innovation hub, something possible given the natural talent of the Arab mind. The fetters placed on Saudi society by Wahhabis need to be taken off, and this is what the Crown Prince is doing at considerable personal risk. Jamal Khashoggi was engaged in a coup attempt against MbS, an effort covertly funded by a few members of the Al Saud family, who seek thereby to ensure that Wahhabism remains all-powerful in their very consequential country. This plan has not yet succeeded, but the hubbub around the disappearance of the Wahhabi columnist is being fuelled to ensure that public opinion in the US and within the EU impels politicians there to work towards the ouster of the Crown Prince. Any reversal of the MbS-led effort now taking place within Saudi Arabia to de-Wahhabise the country would have harmful consequences for global security. The Crown Prince is clearly no saint, as some of the materials about him that have been passed around by Khashoggi demonstrate. But Muhammad bin Salman’s continuance in his present office and an avoidance of dilution of his internal authority are needed for success in the ongoing effort within Saudi Arabia to end that country’s role as a prime mover in the spread of the Wahhabi International and the numerous side-effects of such growth. The “baby” of de-Wahhabisation should not be thrown away with the “bathwater” of longstanding and regrettable Saudi tactics against those openly working to overthrow a Saudi King or Crown Prince.

Friday, 12 October 2018

‘MeToo’: Matriarchal values enter the mainstream (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat

THE surname of this columnist is his mother’s family name, which in turn was her mother’s, and so on for several centuries. Both in the northeast of India as well as in parts of Kerala and Karnataka states, select communities follow the matriarchal code. In some cases, only the women inherit property, the men having to remain content with education, mainly for war (in the case of the Nayar community). Of course, looking after the children is the responsibility of the woman and not the man ! If ever a survey were to get conducted, it is likely to find that matriarchal families have a better quality of life than those following patriarchy. Women, after all, have far more sensitive antennae where the family is concerned, and it is correctly said that the more a girl gets educated, the better will she make the condition of her family. There are still parts of India where a girl child is left without any but a rudimentary education, on the principle (if such it could be called) that her sole function is to be the housewife.
It is no coincidence that such places are those where poverty and poor living conditions is most visible, while places where women are treated as the equals of men are much more prosperous and orderly. In a truly matriarchal culture, a “MeToo” movement would almost be non-existent, for the reason that in such communities, the initiative for beginning and developing a relationship with the opposite sex rests with the female and not the male. The “MeToo” movement (in which women are outing and shaming males who took advantage of them in ways other than by mutual consent) has been fuelled by the crude manner in which more than a few males have sought to inflict their company and worse on unwilling women.
Almost by the day, women who were once intimidated and hounded by predatory males are using social media to reveal what took place. Some such reports may be fictitious and designed to fulfil agendas that include vendetta, but the overwhelming majority are clearly genuine, and even the media world has not been spared. It is a sign of the progress – admittedly far from enough – that India has made in the conscientization of society against the exploration of women that most of those forced out of the closet by the revelations of their victims have lost their jobs or are on the path to doing so. Several film heroes have morphed in the public imagination to villains, while journalists once noted for being social crusaders are now being described as shameless predators. It seems clear from the torrent of revelations that is spilling out daily that the “casting couch” ( or the demand for physical intimacy as a condition for advancing a career) is not restricted to Bollywood but is present in several other professions as well, including politics and the media.
Unlike in countries such as India, where judges get chosen behind closed doors, the US holds public hearings by the Senate in order to confirm or reject a nominee. Brett Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court Associate Justice, and could well be Chief Justice of the United States some day, should the present incumbent decide to retire after a while. He was confronted by Christine Blasey Ford, an academic from California who gave compelling testimony about an encounter that she is certain was with the latest US Supreme Court justice. There is a case for making public the names of each of the candidates being considered for high judicial office ( to the High Courts or the Supreme Court), so that at least some of the comments that follow will be from those aware of their activities and record. This columnist has long favoured the publication of the names of those being considered for judicial positions via the internet, and for live streaming of all court proceedings. The Supreme Court of India has taken a few steps in this direction, and outstanding judges such as Chandrachud and Nariman (not to mention Chief Justice Gogoi) may be expected to push the drive towards transparency further and further.
In India, most decision, especially by the higher reaches of government, get taken behind closed doors, with the public being informed only after a fait accompli has been created. The involvement of civil society at the early stages of several of such decisions would result in better ones being taken and mistakes being avoided. Among the most damaging for the Modi government is the way in which liquidity was allowed to dry up because of the negligence of the Reserve Bank of India under a fumbling,bumbling Governor who is among the numerous suboptimal choices made by the present government in the field of Human Resources. In a country of 1.27 billion people that has a vibrant civil society, most of the jobs that are linked to political and bureaucratic patronage go to former and present members of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), an inbred group with almost no accountability and where almost every individual reaches the top of the salary scale, with a few leftovers being taken by those from the Indian Police Service (IPS) and other similar bureaucratic clubs.
It is only a matter of time before the “MeToo” storm hits the IAS, the IPS and other cadres in the governance mechanism of the country. This will happen once the fear of retribution abates after a large number of revelations take place, thereby generating a public mood that will no longer tolerate gender bigotry. In the case of Justice Kavanaugh, President Trump may have won the battle but lost the war, as the way in which the Republican Party walked over the feelings of tens of millions of women will affect their performance in the polls that are due next month. The Kavanaugh hearings created a new star in the Democratic Party, Senator Kamala Harris, whose aggression clothed in poise has made the California politician a hero to many. Her performance during the debate on the Supreme Court nominee has given Senator Harris a high probability of becoming a Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate in the 2020 elections, just as Representative Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii is very likely to earn that spot in the 2024 Presidential contest
In a matriarchal culture, the men ensure that it is the women who make the initial moves towards a relationship. In particular, to use one’s power to force attentions on unwilling females is sacrilege. It is always a mistake to seek to establish close physical relationships with subordinates, as such a move would constitute a misuse of power for personal gratification. The “MeToo” phenomenon is a step towards mainstreaming the matriarchal rather than a patriarchal culture and mindset. This would be a welcome shift in a world where women are still suffering discrimination and disappointment simply on account of gender.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

SCO gov't heads gather in Tajikistan (CGTN)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization heads of government meeting will be held this week in the Tajik capital city of Dushanbe. The meeting is aimed to carry out the tasks set by the SCO Heads of States Meeting that took place in June, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is attending.