Friday 31 August 2018

Sessions, DeVoss demean Trump Presidency (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat

DONALD J Trump expected that the billionaires (and some mere millionaires) who were inducted into his Cabinet would abstain from enriching themselves or those close to them, in view of their wealth. Clearly the 45th President of the US did not expect that some of the super rich and merely rich in the Trump Cabinet would seek to assist only select groups of individuals rather than the nation as a whole. Rather than rich, middle class and poor in money terms, or white, brown, yellow or black in skin colour. As has been said several times before by this columnist, should Donald Trump witness and increase of even one dollar in his net wealth during his term in office, he is likely to be hounded by investigation upon investigation into his finances once his term (or terms) gets over. That goes for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as well. Both made a decision to assist the President as a formal member of his team, which means that any addition in their wealth will get ascribed to nepotism and favouritism, no matter how untrue such an allegation may be.
Trump’s other children wisely decided to stay out of formal office, but even they will face years of grilling should any of them become much richer at the close of the Trump Presidency. When the billionaire went ahead with his campaign to be Head of State & Government in his country, he spent more of his personal funds on the campaign than any previous Presidential candidate has in US history. Clearly, Trump is no longer interested in making money but in scripting history. The New York billionaire son of immigrants from across the Atlantic knew what he was getting into, which was to exchange private service with public service. Once in office, he chose several other ultra-rich citizens of the US to be part of his Cabinet, such as the Secretary for Commerce and the Secretary of the Treasury. He also chose competent professionals of moderate means, such as Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defence Secretary James Mattis, not to mention Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Jim Bolton. None of these four joined the Beltway Gravy Train, which dispenses huge amounts of cash to those who trade access for a price, the way Paul Manafort did for close to three decades of what may be called “private service”.
Education Secretary DeVoss is a billionaire and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is only a millionaire. Both are demeaning the elevated office they hold and the Trump Presidency with their actions, and the sooner the US President sends both of them into retirement from public office, the better for his country. By her past and present actions, it is clear that DeVoss is among those who believe that poverty is a sign of a defective human being. She refuses to understand that poverty may be accidental and should a very poor citizen of the US (and there are tens of millions of these unfortunates) be given a chance to improve his education, he or she may contribute several times more to the economy than the money expended in giving the poor access to good education. In India, a Right to Education Act has been passed, but oddly, only Hindus running schools are expected to abide by its provisions. Muslims and Christians are left out, as though they would object at being asked to shoulder some of the cost of providing quality education to the very poor.
Also, because of widespread corruption among the officials who in effect make decisions about the students who can get admitted, several admitted under the free 25% quota for the underprivileged in private schools run by Hindus are actually well off and seek to cheat genuinely poor children by getting their own admitted for free in private schools. However, the principle is exemplary, and it is a disgrace that in India, millions of brilliant but poor children are denied access to the type of education that would make them superstars in technology, science or in other fields. The US has the money to ensure that poor children with significant potential be given access to good quality education. It is just such access that the new Education Secretary is systematically reducing through her policies, of course applauded by other rich individuals with the same Dickensian Scrooge mentality (or Scrooge before he changed his attitude during a Christmas season). There are billionaires who take joy in giving large tranches of their wealth to the underprivileged, such as Azim Premji in Bangalore or Melinda Gates in Seattle, but not the Education Secretary. Every year, tens of thousands of poor children are being deprived of the skills that would make America great again, because Betsy DeVoss detests spending public money on the poor. This is a woman who would have sought to deprive Abraham Lincoln of an education, if that involved spending a few of the dollars she hoards.
As for Attorney General of the US Jeff Sessions, he is silently gutting Justice Department procedures of safeguards for wrongful arrest and confinement of those with a skin colour different from his. Sessions seems to have a particular ire for African-Americans, like Strom Thurmond before him. However, it is not known if he too has fathered a child through an African-American mother as Thurmond did. Those whose ancestors came to the US as slaves are no different from those who came across on the “Mayflower”. Given the right chances and choices, African-Americans have shown that they are second to none in aptitude and human qualities, yet the Attorney General is slyly converting the very portals of justice in the US into a construct that would meet the approval of the Ku Klux Klan. Interestingly, Clinton supporters in the US Senate say that they will resist any effort by Trump to send Sessions packing. For the sake of the future of the US and to uphold the values denoting an evolved humanity, it is long past the time when both DeVoss and Sessions were dismissed by President Trump. 

Saturday 25 August 2018

GHQ tasks Imran Khan with takeover of Afghanistan (Sunday Guardian)


Although Trump made several strong statements on Pakistan, in practice there appears to be growing congruence between the US and Pakistan, as shown by the fact that Pompeo will pay a courtesy call on the new PM of Pakistan in Islamabad before sitting down for talks in Delhi.

Those familiar with the planners active within GHQ Rawalpindi, including within the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), claim that Prime Minister Imran Khan is “doing brilliantly” in fulfilling Phase I of an “integrated strategy for Afghanistan and India”. Planning for this began 26 months ago, and went into high gear about eight months ago, the preliminary stage being the selection as Prime Minister of former Pakistan cricket captain and heartthrob of several well-connected women in India and the UK, Imran Khan. From that time onwards, key institutions within Pakistan and overseas “got the message” as to who would be the next formal Head of Government in a country where the military has been holding the reins of authority directly or otherwise since 1953. Khan was told to “concentrate on US policymakers, especially through influential contacts in the UK” so as to convince Washington to accept a greatly expanded role for the Taliban in the dovecotes of power in Kabul. From around mid-2015 onwards, GHQ Rawalpindi had been ensuring a plentiful supply of weapons and cash to Taliban elements in Afghanistan, with the result that forces loyal to President Ashraf Ghani have steadily lost ground to the extremist militia. GHQ’s “Imran card” has been in operation since mid-2015, with the result that the US administration has killed off most of the key Pashtun militia leaders hostile to GHQ Rawalpindi, leaving mostly those amenable to instructions from the Pakistan military. The Barack Obama administration was in a hurry to get its troops out of harm’s way in Afghanistan, and was tempted by the ISI’s offer to facilitate a situation whereby attacks by the terror militia would be concentrated on the Afghan National Army and police, rather than, as was the case previously, on US forces. Meanwhile, aware that President Ghani “listens only to the US administration and to no one else”, the Pakistan military has intensified its off-camera discussions with US counterparts on Afghanistan, mainly on inserting the Taliban into the Afghan government, thereby creating a Trojan horse that would quickly ensure the replacement of the Ghani government with that run by another Pashtun leader, but who this time would be a client of the ISI as was the case in the past, before 9/11 altered the situation.
Being a Pashtun, it is expected that Prime Minister Khan’s carefully cultivated pro-Taliban image will assist in making the militia coalesce around GHQ in the manner that they did during the 1990s under the direction of the Clinton administration, whose affinity for the militia was on public display rather than hidden. Over the past seven months, Imran Khan has established contacts with more than 30 Taliban functionaries, and seems to have done as expert a job of winning their trust as he has with policymakers in the US and the UK. Ex-wife Jemima Khan, who converted to Islam to marry the cricketer, “is still close to him”, and as a consequence, “Imran is welcomed into high society in the UK with an access not available to any other Pakistani”. His UK contacts have worked hard at linking Khan to policymakers and think-tankers in Washington, which is probably why the Trump administration seems to be following a line on Pakistan very different from the no-nonsense tone set by the 45th President of the United States early in his term. The National Security Council in particular seems to have (according to those involved in GHQ Rawalpindi tactical planning) “accepted Imran’s arguments”. There has been a period of worry for the ISI when first the Obama and later the Trump administration moved towards accepting the Indian position on Afghanistan, which was almost identical to the views privately and to a lesser extent openly held by key members of the Ashraf Ghani administration in Kabul, including NDF chief Masoom Stanekzai, who is known to be close to the UK. Almost as soon as he was sworn in as Prime Minister, Imran Khan began continuing rounds of consultation with Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa and ministers known to be fully within the ambit of the military, such as Foreign Minister S.M. Qureshi and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, who backed the Pakistan army’s brutal crackdown of Pashtun nationalist elements in Khyber Pakhtunkwa, especially since 2013, when he took charge of the province as Chief Minister. The link between the army and Khan is illustrated by the fact that 12 out of the 21 ministers appointed by him previously served “Kargil Commando” Pervez Musharraf, who too “managed to charm the US into adopting a policy that preserved the prerogatives” of the Pakistan army. GHQ expects that Imran Khan will persuade Prime Minister Narendra Modi to go the way of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who gave international legitimacy to coupmaster Musharraf by inviting him to talks at Agra in 2001, when the military rulers of Pakistan were being condemned across the globe for destroying what little democracy there was in Pakistan till the military coup against an elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. While PM Modi has welcomed the swearing in of Imran Khan, he seems in no hurry to trust the word of interlocutors that the new civilian government in Islamabad represents a genuine change from the India-phobic policies that have long been the staple of GHQ Rawalpindi.
Once a GHQ-controlled Taliban seizes power in Kabul, the next stage of the “Af-Ind” strategy worked out by ISI planners will focus on Kashmir, and will be designed to ensure that the civil and military administration across much of Jammu & Kashmir (that part remaining in India’s control after the 1949 ceasefire) “melts down” as a consequence of violent unrest. The intention is to “ensure effective control of (most of) J&K by agents of GHQ Rawalpindi, while nominally the Central government in Delhi remains in (formal) charge “but no longer in control”. While timelines have been decided for both the Afghanistan as well as the Kashmir stages, those contacted were ignorant of what these were, except that “it will be in years and not decades”. It is no accident that civilian casualties in Afghanistan have been higher during the past six months than during the previous period in 2017. Although President Donald Trump made several strong statements on Pakistan, in practice there appears to be growing congruence between the US and Pakistan, as shown by the fact that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will pay a courtesy call on the new Prime Minister of Pakistan in Islamabad before sitting down for talks in Delhi with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. The Pakistan-friendly policy first championed by Trump’s former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster seems to have returned. The US administration has even agreed to direct talks with the Taliban and “these are taking place with increasing frequency” with the blessings and assistance of GHQ Rawalpindi. Signals appear to have been given to interests and individuals in the Gulf Cooperation Council that “it is once again all right to give large amounts of money” to the Taliban. According to those contacted, the Trump administration “wants to put the Afghanistan situation aside and focus on Iran”. The hope is that GHQ will deliver on its promise that the Taliban will desist from attacking US forces, so that most of the 6,000 active combat elements there can be removed from the country in an atmosphere where US casualties have come down to very low levels. What impact a Talbanized Afghanistan will have on Central Asia and India seems to have been considered as scantily as plans for the post-war situation in Iraq were worked out by the Bush administration when it took out Saddam Hussein in 2003.
It may be that the folly of devising plans that see GHQ Rawalpindi as the solution rather than as part of the problem facing Afghanistan may yet dawn on the National Security Council and other agencies in the Trump administration that are pushing for a US return to Musharraf-era policies towards Pakistan. In the meantime, hopefully India will itself deepen its security links with the US (while at the same time expanding commercial links with China), including by signing the remaining two Foundation Defence Agreements, an amended CISMOA and BECA. Once these are out of the way, there needs to be a joint India-US surveillance system located in the Andaman Islands that would keep track of developments in the Indian Ocean segment of the Indo-Pacific. Despite continuing Vajpayee-era hopes of reconciliation between Islamabad and Delhi, it seems likely that the overall situation in the region will get worse before it gets better.

US-China trade war will most hit Europe (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat

Donald Trump is under attack by the Atlanticist establishment across both sides of that once mighty ocean because of the realism he is seeking to introduce into US foreign policy. Aware that the commercial future of the US is much more linked to Asia than to Europe, President Trump has not hesitated in saying that Europe is his Number One target. Although the trade dispute between two strong leaders, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, is seen as being between the US and China, in reality it is likely that European interests will be most affected as a consequence of the present trade war between Beijing and Washington. For there is no doubt that the charming manners and diplomacy practiced by the European powers has led to a situation where China first looks to Europe rather than to the US for hardware and to Europe rather than from India for software.
During any dispute, the European powers have refused to take a stand that favours China, and the same is true for the US-China trade war now playing out. Instead of backing China against protectionism by the world’s biggest economy, several European countries are seeking to gain from the battle by replacing the US as the supplier in China and China in the US. At the same time, China is by far the most important market for the economic workhorse of Europe, Germany. However, this did not stop Chancellor Angela Merkel from preventing the Greek government from accepting a Chinese economic lifeline and forcing Athens to instead be dependent on the rest of Europe for assistance to ride over the payments crisis, naturally on much harder terms than what the Chinese were offering.
The same Angela Merkel who silently blocks Chinese entities goes to Beijing multiple times wearing a smile on her face at the tens of billions of euros of profit that Germany is making from China every year. This would be put at risk were the Chinese to decide that the huge surpluses they run with the US means that it is that country rather than Europe which should be the first port of call for Chinese importers. Only if a particular product is not available in the US at acceptable quality and prices should Chinese businesses turn to European countries to make the same purchase. It is this that is being signalled by Donald Trump to Xi Jinping . Make Europe the default option and not the primary source by replacing the EU with the US as the first destination Chinese importers visit to meet their needs
The trade war could end by mid-October if Beijing takes steps to ensure that the trade deficit of the US in China trade gets lower and the trade surplus of certain EU countries in China trade gets smaller. Ultimately, it is Europe that may pay the heaviest price for the trade war launched by President Trump on the Peoples Republic of China in a manner far deeper than has been attempted by any of his predecessors. Bill Clinton, for example, talked tough but did very little in practice. He left several problems for later Presidents of the US to solve (many of whom also failed). This included the problem of North Korea.
During the period Clinton was in office, it would have been possible to ensure that Pyongyang be stopped from developing a nuclear device and delivery systems that could threaten US territories and even both coasts of the mainland. However, Clinton failed to act, and these days, his acolytes are blaming former President Jimmy Carter for this lack of resolve, suggesting that Carter made Clinton abstain from military action. This is nonsense, for Clinton detested Carter and never took this predecessor of his seriously. Both Clinton and Bush failed to deal with North Korea, as did Obama (who had a much weaker hand than the two), leaving Donald Trump with very few options.
The 45th US President is doing much more than he is being given credit for by those who recognize the danger to European primacy as a consequence of the ending of US diplomatic subsidies to the EU in the name of “common defense” against Russia, a country that is less of an economic power than New York state, the home of the Trump family. President Xi Jinping and President Donald J Trump may have a long conversation in person or on telephone in a few weeks time, and declare an end to a trade war that has been caused by the disproportion between US deficits in trade to China and the huge surpluses of European countries such as Germany with China. However, such a situation can take place only once relations between Beijing and Washington get freed of mutual mistrust sufficiently to ensure that normal trade relations develop between the two superpowers. Should the US-China trade war come to a close in October, it may be certain European exporters who would be the major casualties.

Mahinda Rajapaksa heads for Delhi in weeks (Sunday Guardian)


An individual with a deep knowledge and love of India and its history and culture, Rajapaksa’s visit will renew his contact with the many friends he has in Delhi.

COLOMBO: In 2009, the then President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, supervised the elimination of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from their last remaining pocket in the jungles of the Wanni. Several European countries had joined the United States in asking him to cease operations against the LTTE and its cornered supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran, whose Christian faith could not prevent him from inflicting often terminal pain on those he saw as obstacles to his objective of being the ruler of an independent homeland. The Tamil Eelam of Prabhakaran would initially comprise the eastern and southern parts of Sri Lanka, but subsequently spread to all of Tamil Nadu and parts of neighbouring states, eventually reaching a size bigger than Malaysia. His long-time part-mentor Anton Balasingham and his Australian spouse were instrumental in ensuring that NGOs and even governments across Europe assisted the LTTE, whose modules found safe havens in several European as well as South-East Asian countries, not to mention India, whose agencies were generous for years in providing assistance to Prabhakaran. Subsequently, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi lost his patience and sent the Army into Sri Lanka, which would have completed a decade earlier the mission accomplished in 2009 by President Rajapaksa, which was the elimination of the LTTE. However, once the India-phobic Ranasinghe Premadasa took over from J.R. Jayewardene as the Head of State and Government of Sri Lanka, he joined hands with the LTTE and managed to secure the withdrawal of the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) once V.P. Singh took over as Prime Minister from Rajiv Gandhi. Soon after, Prabhakaran “repaid” Premadasa for the favour by killing him, thereby creating a cautionary tale to those credulous enough to believe that a terrorist can ever change his or her core character through the granting of largesse, the way the National Security Council in Washington believes that the Taliban will someday morph into the Afghan equivalent of an English county cricket team.
The LTTE was a far deadlier organisation than the Taliban ever was, but which has yet succeeded in defeating the combined armies of several NATO powers in Afghanistan, mainly as a consequence of the self-defeating tactics followed by an alliance that is visibly in need of a comprehensive reset. However, both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama failed to eliminate the Taliban, and now the National Security Council of their successor is once more reaching for that consistently failed formula, “talks with the Taliban” to “detach the moderates from the fanatics” in that collective of extremist gangs. Mahinda Rajapaksa, with a military considerably smaller than that of the US or the UK or even Poland, defeated the LTTE. Small wonder that he is disliked in both Washington as well as London for having shown up the incompetence of those who claim they are still the dominant military force in global geopolitics. In this task, Rajapaksa was assisted by younger brother Gotabhaya, who was Defence Secretary during the period when the war with the LTTE was being waged to a successful conclusion. However, this victory did not prevent Rajapaksa from being defeated in the 2015 polls, largely because the economic benefits that the Sri Lankan population were promised after the elimination of the LTTE failed to materialise to the extent expected. Many voters were unwilling to wait a few more years for better days. However, visitors to Sri Lanka cannot fail to notice a revival of popularity for the former President, who is sought to be prevented from running again for the Presidency through laws passed for the purpose by the successor government. A way out would be for a respected loyalist such as G.L. Peiris to be elected the President of Sri Lanka in 2019, with Mahinda Rajapaksa taking over as Prime Minister once the polls for Parliament got concluded a few months later. This would be a repeat of what the world has witnessed with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, and in such a situation, the reins of government would be in the hands of the Prime Minister, as is usually the case in a parliamentary democracy. Prime Minister Rajapaksa could then assign important tasks to known high achievers such as Gotabhaya, who could take charge of promoting economic development in Sri Lanka, another war that must be won by this beautiful land.
President Rajapaksa’s 2015 defeat—just six years after the defeat of the LTTE—has been ascribed by some of his followers to a conspiracy masterminded by the US and India, but an alternative explanation may vest in the impatience of the youth voter hungry for economic opportunity and change. Rajiv Gandhi did himself no favour by lowering the voting age to 18, a group that enthusiastically backed Narendra Modi in 2014 on the promise of jobs. 2019 will show whether the youth of India are ready to give the PM time till 2022 to more visibly fulfil the promises made in 2014, or will vote for change. Some 20 months after his defeat, confronted with the intricacies of governance by an uneasy coalition, many Sri Lankan voters felt regretful that Mahinda Rajapaksa was no longer in charge, especially when most of the projects that have proliferated in the country were begun during his tenure. However, as matters stand, it seems clear that the former President will succeed next year-end in getting back to power. An individual with a deep knowledge and love of India and its history and culture, Mahinda Rajapaksa will be visiting Delhi during the first half of next month, renewing his contact with the many friends he has in the national capital, joined by his reliable friend G.L. Peiris and sportsman son Namal, who is presently an MP.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Afghanistan sees surge in Taliban violence | Printing currency abroad: Good deal or security threat? (CGTN)

After a spike in violence that’s been plaguing Afghanistan this month, President Ashraf Ghani called for a conditional ceasefire with the Taliban. One year on, why isn’t the Trump administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan working? What’s next? A report that a Chinese company has been given a contract to print Indian currency has surfaced in India, prompting national security concerns. Is printing a country's currency overseas economically sound or a national security risk? Are the concerns of Indian critics justified? Why have other countries given China a license to print their currency?

He Wenping - Senior Research Fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Christopher Chambers - Professor at Georgetown University
Hamed Mousavi - Professor at the University of Tehran
Han Hua - Fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University
M.D. Nalapat - Professor at Manipal University in New Delhi

Saturday 18 August 2018

Modi bids farewell to mentor Vajpayee (Sunday Guardian)


As Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has shown sincerity, devotion and commitment to the policies of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, by reinforcing rather than replacing them.

Narendra Modi was handed over the responsibility for the state of Gujarat in 2001 with the blessings of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, who stood by him despite an orchestrated effort in the coming years to ensure that the Gujarat CM be made to step down. Before Modi took charge, the situation in the state was precarious for the BJP, largely as a consequence of mismanagement by Keshubhai Patel. As Chief Minister, Modi was a fast learner and well before the close of his first term, had mastered the intricacies and nuances involved in ensuring a continuation of the upward trajectory of Gujarat. This is a state that possesses some of the most gifted individuals found in the country where commerce is concerned. Governance under him was streamlined and public remedies made more accessible, a factor that assisted the BJP to romp to victory repeatedly under his watch, even while the UPA government was energetically seeking to ensure the removal of the Gujarat CM through involving him in criminal cases. Although efforts to enmesh him continued throughout the UPA decade, no evidence was found that implicated Narendra Modi in the terrible events which took place in Gujarat after the 2002 killing at Godhra of karsevaks returning from Ayodhya. Both during the period when he was Prime Minister and after losing to the Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi in 2004, Vajpayee remained a backer of Modi, despite efforts by several of those close to him to create fissures between him and the Gujarat CM. After himself taking over as the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi generously ensured that important responsibilities were allocated to some of the very individuals who had in the past urged Vajpayee to cut loose from Modi.
It must be said that Vajpayee showed great tenacity in soldiering on as PM despite severe ailments that by 2003 were causing him great discomfort and pain. Even during his final days this week, it was clear from the hospital bulletins that Vajpayee was fighting on, only giving way at 5.05 p.m. on 16 August, a day after another anniversary of the country’s freedom from colonial servitude. The whole country had been collectively holding its breath when informed by the doctors at AIIMS that the condition of the former Prime Minister was hyper-critical. By a supreme act of will, Vajpayee saw through Independence Day before deciding to finally let go of the staff of life. Prime Minister Modi spent a substantial chunk of time at the hospital during this period, and it is certain that he felt intense emotion that the leader he adored so much and sought to emulate so often was approaching his passage into the afterlife. Some believed by mid- 2003 that the physical strain which any Prime Minister would have to endure made the question of Vajpayee’s retirement a live issue from the point of view of his own well-being. He could have stepped down from office, handed over the reins of government to L.K. Advani, and rested at home in the care of his family, rather than enduring the grind of hard work that is the lot of a Prime Minister in a country as complex as India. Indeed, as PM, Vajpayee did offer to step down, but a unanimous cry of anguish from his party forced him to continue and lead the BJP’s charge during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, despite not being in good health. Among those who must most strongly have urged Vajpayee to continue as PM in 2003 despite the elder man’s expressed wish to resign would have been Narendra Modi, who considered the poet and orator as his mentor. Although by then he had been secluded from public contact, Vajpayee must have been delighted when in 2013 the BJP chose Narendra Modi as its standard bearer for the 2014 polls. A year afterwards, the team Modi unveiled on 26 May 2014 was substantially composed of those who had earlier been chosen by Vajpayee to be in his government after taking office in 1998. And in several matters, such as Kashmir or the search for better relations with Pakistan, Modi has followed the course set by Vajpayee. He went ahead with an alliance with the PDP despite that party’s adherence to soft separatism and closeness to the Pakistan-led Hurriyat Conference. From the time of his swearing in to Modi’s dropping in at Lahore on the family of Nawaz Sharif, it was clear that the new PM was moving on the same course that Vajpayee had, that of going an extra hundred miles if necessary, to see if peace with Pakistan could be secured.
India is a land where the people exalt their leaders, and since 5.05 p.m. on 16 August, there have been such waves of adulation directed towards Vajpayee and his legacy that those unfamiliar with the sociology of this country would be surprised that despite such an exalted status in the public mind, he lost to the Congress Party in the 2004 polls and thereby ensured that the governance of India was directly dominated by Sonia Gandhi for a decade. Of course, since the 1990s, successive governments in India had been significantly influenced by the determined daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi, including during 1998-2004. Modi chose a team that is almost identical to what Vajpayee himself would have selected had he been PM in 2014. In that process, he reinforced rather than replaced the policies of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has shown sincerity, devotion and commitment to the personality and policies of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. 

Friday 17 August 2018

Melania Trump, Ivanka Kushner should act (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
DONALD Trump and those within his team loyal to the man are of the view that time is no longer on the side of the United States. This proposition is correct only in the context of a specific perception of what the US is. There are those who would like the country to continue societally much as it was during the 1950s, with those of European ethnicity having an overwhelming majority over the rest of the population. Both Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss and Attorney General Jeff Sessions embody such a view. Neither would be comfortable in any culture different from that across both sides of the Atlantic, and must be feeling a growing sense of alarm at the way in which those not of European descent have become commonplace in most of countries bunched around the shores of Atlantic Ocean.
DeVoss is among the worst possible choices for her job, as the Education Secretary is busying herself blocking opportunities for the underprivileged to gain access through brainpower into the best educational institutions in the country. Such policies will harm the US immensely in the decades ahead, but DeVoss seems oblivious to the racist underpinning of the policies she supports. Hopefully both Melania Trump as well as Ivanka Kushner will be able to prevail on Donald J Trump to send her as the US envoy to Hungary, a country where the government is supportive of several of her own views on ethnicity. Both Melania and Ivanka have shown that they are very much 21st century world citizens, in contrast to many others,including in the inner reaches of the Trump team who seem determined to behave as though the changes brought about since the days of Dr Martin Luther King never happened. As for Jeff Sessions, he is even more of a dinosaur than DeVoss, pining for the US that existed before Abraham Lincoln defied racists in his own party to first launch a war against the slaveholding states and later get passed the Emancipation Proclamation into US law.
Steven Spielberg may have periods when his artistic gifts falter, but “Lincoln” (the movie) was a classic of world cinema. Lincoln acted wholly contrary to Mahatma Gandhi’s belief that “Means are after all everything”. He employed guile and more to ensure that enough votes got secured in the House of Representatives to pass the Emancipation Proclamation, much of it being captured in the movie through the genius of Spielberg. The Mahatma repeatedly showed himself willing to sacrifice the attainment of key objectives when presented with what he believed were non-moral ways of reaching it. Had this noble soul been in charge in the US rather than Lincoln, there would have been a Confederate States of America (CSA) together with the US, while in the case of the UK, his advice to that country when attacked by Hitler was to allow the German armies to occupy the UK, hoping that such a step would change the heart and mind of Adolf Hitler. Truly did Albert Einstein say that “generations to come will scarce believe that such a man ( as the Mahatma) ever existed in flesh and blood.”
Jeff Sessions is pursuing the policies adopted by President Richard Nixon (and in a slightly altered form by Bill Clinton), which was to fill the jails with those found guilty of offences that were of little adverse consequence except to moral purists. Had marijuana been legalised and the atrocious “Three Strikes” Clinton-era legislation (which mandated life sentences to those found guilty even of three minor infractions), several hundreds of thousands in the US would not have taken up a life of crime after getting released from a prison system that brings out in most the worst in every prisoner. And this for the simple reason that unless the worst instincts get sharpened, life in prison would be almost unbearable. The Attorney General of the US is a throwback to the era of Nixon and Clinton, which is why it is unfortunate that a President as practical and as rooted in reality as Donald J Trump appointed such a past era throwback as the chief law officer of a country that will retain its primacy only if it adopts liberal, merit-based policies Donald Trump has called for since he first came into public attention in 1980s.
Of course, despite Betsy DeVoss and Jeff Sessions, the US is not at the core a racist country. In fact, it is much less tinged with that handicap than Europe, as witnessed by the fact that those coming from India do extraordinarily well in the US but face a usually impenetrable glass ceiling in most of Europe,including on occasion in the most societally liberal country still within the EU, which is the UK. President Trump is right that the flow of immigrants needs to be regulated, so that those useful to the economy find entry rather than those who could become Social Security parasites. However, such individuals are more likely to be found in Kolkatta and Chennai rather than in Bucharest or Tirana. Within the narrow circle of those having the trust of the 45th President of the United States, wife Melania and daughter Ivanka stand out for boldly disagreeing in public with several of the President’s sometimes quaint views as expressed through Twitter posts. They need to step in more actively to ensure that racists and retrogressive within the Republican Party do not damage the long-term future of the US through policies that are toxic to the country and undeterred to the needs and realities of society.
Those advocating toxic policies have the potential to damage the Trump presidency at a stage when the Washington Beltway is accelerating its efforts at having him thrown out of the White House well before his term ends. There is a fear that even a “character assassin” as skilled as Robert Mueller may fail to concoct dossiers sufficient to impeach the President. Mueller is jailing those close to Trump on any charge that his imagination can come up with, even if these be far removed from the stated mission of examining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin’s Russia. The Special Prosecutor is clearly seeking to blackmail Paul Manafort (who is simply “guilty” of the widespread Beltway virus of accepting money from any source available) and others to memorize the script given to them by Mueller, and which will implicate Trump in a conspiracy to subvert the election. Had Mueller been in the USSR of the 1930s, he would have come to the admiring attention of Joseph Stalin as someone who could be relied on to make a huge impact on the show trials against innocent victims that the Soviet “Vozd” (supremo) specialised in. The retrogressive in the Trump team are damaging the US President’s and making it easier for the Washington Beltway to succeed in ousting Trump. Such a situation calls for much more intervention by Melania Trump and Ivanka Kushner, so that the President is rescued from those who are sabotaging him while pretending to support him.

Sunday 12 August 2018

Where is Pak headed? Insights into Pak Election verdict, Army, ISI and more (PGurus)

Prof Nalapat proven true yet again. Where does Pak go from here? A conversation. Imran Khan was a selection, not an election, avers Prof. Nalapat. Imran Khan is a benami for the Pak Army, according to Prof M D Nalapat 

Saturday 11 August 2018

Sonia Gandhi may be BJP’s 2019 trump card (Sunday Guardian)


Gone is Rahul’s ‘Shiv bhakt’ phase. Minorityism has returned to the core of Congress tactics and policy to much the same degree as during the UPA period.

Since 2002, Narendra Modi had been in the crosshairs of the Congress Party’s attacks far more than any other politician. Other important leaders, such as L.K. Advani or Arun Jaitley, had numerous friends in the upper echelons of the Congress Party. Only Modi seemed to have none, and by 2011, he was the most vituperated against where UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the government functioning under her direction were concerned. The Gujarat Chief Minister had emerged by end-2012 as the leader of the “Oust Sonia” sentiment that began rising in the country during the final four years of the 10-year era of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an honourable individual who somehow never could manage to run the government the way he wished it should be. Had Manmohan Singh used his Prime Ministerial prerogatives needed to sack even a very few ministers, who, despite their spotty record in both integrity as well as governance, were appointed solely because of perceived faithfulness in carrying out the “requests” made by 10 Janpath. Had Manmohan Singh found the nerve to undertake such an action, he would have had far more leeway than the inadequate space left to him by 10 Janpath during his first term and his still more negligible powers during his second stint in office. This may be contrasted with P.V. Narasimha Rao, who declined to compromise with the dignity of his office by making public genuflections to the Congress president, and was subsequently hounded by contrived legal issues until the final days of his life. Rao even faced a 10 Janpath-engineered split in the Congress Party that saw the rise of the BJP and Atal Behari Vajpayee to the top tier of power. Earlier, Charan Singh and Chandrashekhar, and later H.D. Deve Gowda and even I.K. Gujral stood firm on retaining the dignity of the office they held. Manmohan Singh either did not or could not emulate their example, and this situation accelerated the distaste building up within the electorate for giving a third consecutive stint in power to the Sonia-led coalition.
As Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has had his share of problems concerning choices in both policies as well as personnel. Take taxes. Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal has correctly pointed out that “lower tax rates lead to higher collections”. Hopefully, this will get conveyed by him to those officials in the Ministry of Finance who constantly say that “tax rates cannot come down unless collections go up”, forgetting the elementary reality that collections shoot up once tax rates are brought down to reasonable levels consistent with an increase in growth and individual welfare. The GST ought to have had a single rate of 12%. While Mercedes cars are of course not the same as cartons of milk, the former cost very much more, and hence the unit tax collected will be much higher. Regarding money kept abroad illegally, had the government fixed a low rate of about 15% as tax on moneys brought in (with no questions asked) from abroad, around $300 billion could have been secured. This money would have been spent or invested in the country, and thus more tax could have been collected. By ensuring conditions (such as low taxes and regulations) that promote the velocity of money, the increased number of rounds of expenditure would have led to collections that would have dwarfed the low pickings secured from the black money amnesty scheme (and its sky-high tax rates and penalties) put into operation by the NDA-II government now in power at the Central level. It is unfortunate that many officials fail to discern that tax collections need to be calculated across the entire spectrum and rounds of expenditure, rather than at simply the initial point. Repeatedly refusing to lower direct tax rates is an action that was not expected of a government headed by a practical son of Gujarat, possibly the most practical and businesslike state in India. Neither was a GST with such high rates and multiple forms. Fortunately, especially over the past six months, efforts are being made at making the GST a truly “Good & Simple Tax” as desired by Prime Minister Modi.
Had the reins of power within the Congress Party shifted fully to Rahul Gandhi from his predecessor Sonia Gandhi, the party would not have had to endure the humiliation suffered by it during the 9 August elections for the Deputy Chairpersonship of the Upper House. It would not have made the error of passing over regional party choices in favour of its own MP being put up for the contest, or the Congress president declining to even phone other leaders for support. The signal from the Congress nomination of B.K. Hariprasad rather than a regional party MP is that the party, still firmly in the control of Sonia Gandhi, will insist on the Prime Ministership, should the anti-Modi opposition get enough seats in the Lok Sabha to form a government next year. Earlier, it seemed that Rahul was in no hurry to be the Prime Minister, and was aware that it is not 2019 but 2024 that would be a better time to stake a serious claim for a job already held by three members of his family. It was Sonia Gandhi’s remote control switch that prevented Rahul from making the telephone calls and meetings with Arvind Kejriwal and others that could have ensured a much closer result in the Deputy Chairperson polls, including through less abstentions. Now that Sonia Gandhi seems back in effective command, gone is Rahul Gandhi’s “Shiv bhakt” phase. Minorityism—the conscious placing of so-called minority interests above the secular imperative of treating those of all faiths equally—has returned to the core of Congress tactics and policy to much the same degree as was the case during the UPA period. Voters rejected the “Sonia Congress” in 2014, and may recoil if presented with much the same party leadership and policies as was presented during the second term of the UPA.

Why does China invest in a port in Sri Lanka? | US-Japan trade talks (CGTN)

Criticism from some western media over China gaining control of the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka continues. What are their concerns and more importantly, are they justified? Why is China willing to invest in the project? The focus of attention on the American Administration's proposed tariffs has shifted to Japan, as the US and Japan hold talks in Washington this week. What, if anything will come out of these talks?  

Guests: Xu Qinduo - Senior Fellow at the Pangoal Institution
Madhav Nalapat - Professor in the Department of Geopolitics & International Relations at Manipal University
Tatsuo Nobu - Former President of the Japan Academy For International Trade and Business Einar Tangen - Political and Economic Affairs Commentator 

Thursday 9 August 2018

NaMo cracking down on corruption now will mean a difference of 100 LS seats says Prof. Nalapat (PGurus)

NaMo cracking down on corruption now will mean a difference of 100 LS seats says Prof. Nalapat. Is the old order trying to make a comeback? A hard hitting look at what ails the present government. 

Sunday 5 August 2018

Nation at 9: Why should residents of Kashmir have special rights? (NewsX)

The Constitution's Article 35A gives special rights to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, to the exclusion of others. For example, if you are not a permanent resident of J&K - you cannot go live there, you cannot buy property there, you cannot even be hired by the state government there. The BJP-RSS want this Article 35A to be struck down. On the other hand, the Separatists in Kashmir have called for a shutdown warning against nullifying this provision. The Supreme Court is hearing a clutch of petitions on the validity of Article 35A. This is the Nation at 9 Debate on Sunday with Jujhar Singh (NewsX channel). Guests: Sanju Verma (BJP), Sulaiman Muhammad Khan (Congress), Syed Babar Qadri (Kashmiri Lawyer), Prof. Madhav Nalapat (The Sunday Guardian), Lalit Ambardar (Kashmiri Pandit Activist) and AK Bajpayee (Lawyer). 

Saturday 4 August 2018

Catch the dragons of corruption, not just flies (Sunday Guardian)


In India, often, it is the very corrupt who are asked by their political masters to ‘monitor and punish’ the corrupt. It is scarcely a surprise that graft has flourished.

In 2012, the Communist Party of China (CCP) elders’ meeting at Beidahe (a two-week annual ritual scheduled to take place this year within a few days) overturned the decision of the then Chinese President and CCP General Secretary, Hu Jintao, to appoint his Communist Youth League (CYL) associate Li Keqiang as his successor the coming year. Instead, the party elders chose Xi Jinping for that powerful role, and perhaps unintentionally began a process that is as transformative for China as the tenures of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping were in the past. Mao was able—through ruthless adherence to his objective—to bring within the control of the PRC a larger territory than had ever been the case in his country’s history, while Deng began (towards the close of the 1970s) reforms that saw the Chinese economy grow from a size then smaller than India’s to its present five times larger size. Through his Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and the anti-corruption campaign, Xi Jinping is changing the texture of governance and the chemistry of the PRC. Change is always a more disruptive process than the mummified status quo that was the mark, for example, of Leonid Brezhnev’s all too long innings in the now extinct USSR. Before Xi got into high gear, the elephantine State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) dominating China’s economic landscape were almost all fiefs of small, self-sustaining cliques, most comprising “princelings”, or those descended from families that played a significant part in the setting up of the PRC. After more than four years of an intensive drive by Xi against corrupt officeholders, many such enterprises have seen their managements devolve on professionals, who got to their high positions through expertise rather than the accident of birth. Policymakers in China are now working to ensure that domestic private enterprises be given the policy leeway now enjoyed only by the SOEs, so that more private behemoths such as Ali Baba can be born. Such a freeing of the “glass ceiling” holding back private enterprises in China is likely to once again accelerate growth in the coming years, thereby giving India more competition in the annual rate of growth sweepstakes. Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has changed the CCP, especially its higher echelons, as also took place (albeit in two wholly different ways) during the Mao and Deng periods.
Unfortunately, “anti-corruption drives” in several Asian and African countries are usually ruses designed to cloak and hide a putrefying status quo. The very biggest politicians and officials escape accountability, while a few smaller fry get caught in order to satiate public anger at widespread graft. Such mock battles against corruption get conducted mostly through words, rather than action, even as politicians and officials secretly collude with each other to make money. This cannot any more be said for China, where numerous very high-level CCP and state functionaries are now in jail, with more joining them almost every day. Although in a milder form, a similar cleanup is taking place in Mahathir Mohamad’s Malaysia. Within days of taking over the government, the 93-year-old human dynamo’s predecessor Najib Razak was prevented from escaping abroad. This is in contrast to the way so many neo-billionaires have fled from India to safer shores. Several high Malaysian officials have been dismissed from service, while others have been ordered to resign or are facing prosecution. Here in India, when—for example—an official who had worked in Tamil Nadu in close proximity and collusion with a politician known for his Midas touch, was recommended for a substantial promotion to the Central level, the high Central official vetting his suitability recommended the shift of the Midas associate to higher responsibilities. His reasoning was that “just because the officer is corrupt in Chennai does not mean he will be corrupt in Delhi”. Or in another of the (frequently interesting) autobiographical books written by senior civil servants, the case was cited of a police officer who in the view of the author was deranged enough to seek to file an FIR against the bribe-taking wife of no less a potentate than an IAS officer! Shock that a policeman would dare to take such action, even though a bribe had indeed been paid, against the spouse of a senior official was reason enough to get the “out of control” policeman transferred to an insignificant posting, while the bribe-taking wife and her husband were naturally left unmolested. Given that it is often the very corrupt who are asked by their political masters to “monitor and punish” the corrupt, it is scarcely a surprise that graft has flourished in India with the luxuriance of an Amazon rainforest.
Such was the case in both China and Malaysia as well, that is until Xi and now Mahathir took charge. It must be admitted that the latter’s awareness of the harm done to his country by corruption is yet not accompanied by the realisation that religious fanaticism poses an even greater danger to Malaysia. Prime Minister Mahathir will regret his present decision to allow radical preachers leeway in Malaysia to spread their regressive views on the way society should be ordered, of course by force. Coming to India, progress needs to accelerate in efforts at digitalisation of governmental procedures, including land registrations. Conditions should get created for a steady increase in a wholly voluntary—repeat, wholly voluntary—shift from paper currency to online payments and plastic cards. Forced conversion seldom works, as has been shown by the re-appearance of currency in transactions despite India’s painful 2016 demonetisation. By far the best gift that Prime Minister Narendra Modi can give to citizens alarmed at the continuing ubiquity of graft in India would be to enforce money laundering, corruption and fraud laws against more of those who misused their stint at the pinnacle of the governance system to enrich themselves and their families to obscene levels. As they say in China, not just “flies” (petty offenders) but “dragons” (very high level functionaries) should be identified and punished for betraying the public trust for Everest-sized levels of private gain.

Imran Khan the face of GHQ’s India-Afghan strategy (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

According to GHQ elements, the US side has privately asked Indians to abandon hostility to the Taliban and join in the US-Pakistan strategy of co-opting the militia.

Former cricketing star Imran Khan, whom the Pakistan army wishes to get sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan before 14 August (the day the state was founded out of a partition of the subcontinent), has “already passed his first test”, according to the upper echelons of GHQ Rawalpindi. This was to ensure through his modern and moderate image in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union that both sides of the Atlantic would give their seal of approval to the military-supervised mock election that nevertheless failed to give his PTI party a simple majority in the Pakistan National Assembly (NA). Had the election been as fair as the Good Conduct certification awarded to the clearly dodgy process by the EU monitors, Nawaz Sharif’s party would have secured an easy majority among the 272 members directly elected to the National Assembly, rather than fall far behind that mark. Observers in Pakistan say that the 2018 national election is similar to those conducted in 1977, when Z.A. Bhutto converted through fraud certain defeat into an overwhelming victory, claiming 155 out of 200 seats. The subsequent public reaction gave an opening for General Zia-ul-Haq to bring Bhutto down and later have him executed for murder, not of democracy but of a political rival. However, in 2018, the Pakistan army itself is the principal prop holding up Imran Khan. While 137 seats are needed to secure an NA majority, Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party won only 116 seats, despite vote-rigging on an industrial scale by the military. However, the trusted loyalist of the men in khaki is expected to be assisted by the ISI to ensure that he secures at least 145 seats. Already, the MQM as well as numerous independent National Assembly members have been given “offers they cannot refuse” in case they wish to remain in good health and out of prison in Pakistan. It is calculated by those aware of internal developments in that country that the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan People’s Party would have, in a fair election, secured 151 and 83 seats, respectively, rather than the 64 and 43 the Pakistan military could not stop them from winning.
That the PTI is only a puppet party became clear from the way in which GHQ Rawalpindi forced it to dial back, in a humiliating manner, from the earlier plan to emulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and invite all SAARC leaders to Islamabad for the Imran Khan swearing in. Even the incoming Prime Minister’s personal friends from India were barred from being invited by GHQ, which would like to avoid any rise in public sentiment favouring closer relations between Islamabad and Delhi. In the tradition of attempted peacemaker A.B. Vajpayee, Prime Minister Modi reached out to Imran Khan soon after the polls had closed, offering the hand of peace exactly as Vajpayee had done to Nawaz Sharif and subsequently to Pervez Musharraf, the jihadi commando general who had been busy finalising the Kargil assault during the very time that Vajpayee was in Lahore as the guest of Prime Minister Sharif. Later, even though Army Chief of Staff Musharraf insulted Vajpayee by refusing to call on him at Lahore, the Indian Prime Minister ensured global rehabilitation to the uniformed coup master soon after the Kargil war by inviting Musharraf to Agra for a summit with the elected leader of the world’s most populous democracy. Showing the same spirit of trust and accommodation, Prime Minister Modi ensured the accession on 4 April 2016 of “soft separatist” Mehbooba Mufti to the chief ministership of Jammu & Kashmir, despite warnings that such a move would exacerbate rather than promote peace in the Valley. PM Modi took the risk (of alliance with the PDP) for the sake of peace, just as he took the risk of demonetisation later that year in the hope of stopping the use of paper currency in transactions across India. Such a change would have enabled the tracking by state (and other) agencies of every financial transaction in the country, had it worked out the way it was intended to. His reaching out to Imran Khan, despite the anguish this caused to the PML(N), PPP and the tens of millions of ordinary Pakistanis unhappy at the stealing of an election yet again by the army, was an act which once again has demonstrated Prime Minister Modi’s fealty to Vajpayee’s commitment to peace with Pakistan.
Those familiar with the higher echelons of GHQ Rawalpindi claim that Imran Khan has been installed as Prime Minister in order to provide a civilian cover for the military’s plan to ensure control of the bulk of the territory of Afghanistan through the Taliban. In this process, GHQ has been encouraged by the warmth newly shown by the US National Security Council towards its plan to insert the Taliban into the core of the governance mechanism led by Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. Once ensconced inside the government, the Taliban would “scoop out other elements and expand their reach”, until they were in a position to topple Ghani and replace him with one of their own commanders, of course vetted by GHQ Rawalpindi. It is expected that the first overseas visit taken by the new Prime Minister of Pakistan will be to Kabul, where he would be expected by GHQ to deploy his charms towards convincing Ghani to permit elements of the Taliban into the government. Those close to Imran Khan say that “substantial informal contacts, both with the NSC as well as with the State Department”, have taken place between him and key US policymakers, who (according to GHQ elements) are “fully on board” where the question of strengthening the relative position of the Taliban is concerned. “Imran has promised (the US side) that he would see to it that only Afghan and not US soldiers were killed (by Taliban elements)”, they claimed, adding that “this is all the US wants to hear”. The new PM of Pakistan would also ensure that “conditions get created that would permit President Donald Trump to declare victory and pull US troops out of Afghanistan”. Apparently, in much the same way as the Soviets did in 1988, and with the same result: an Afghanistan soon almost wholly under Taliban (i.e. GHQ) control. According to GHQ elements, the US side has privately asked their Indian interlocutors to abandon hostility to the Taliban and join in the US-Pakistan strategy of co-opting the militia that has held US forces to a humiliating stalemate as a consequence of the not so clandestine backing of the group by the Pakistan army and its terror proxies. Washington has demonstrated its backing to GHQ by, for example, killing first Hakimullah Mehsud of the Pakistan Taliban and subsequently, Mullah Fazlullah, who had been battling the Pakistan army in the name of “freedom for Pashtuns from Pakistan army control”. He was killed by a US drone strike six weeks back.
In its plan for the re-conquest of Afghanistan, the role of Imran Khan will be to present a moderate face to the NATO powers, so that they accept GHQ Rawalpindi’s designs in the same manner as they certified as kosher the “election through selection” of Imran Khan as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. Clearly, despite the assurances being given publicly and privately to New Delhi and the tweets and statements condemning Pakistan from President Trump and key associates such as Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo, there remains a considerable distance between what, for India, would be a desirable outcome in Afghanistan and what the Trump administration seems to be promoting. While India would like to see Afghanistan wholly under the control of the moderate majority within the population of that long-tortured country, the US, in effect, is giving indications of going along with the Pakistan army objective of inserting a fanatic and terror-supporting layer into the heart of the Afghan government, thereby negating all that NATO claims to have been working for (at substantial cost in personnel and resources) since 2001. What is worrisome for the Government of India is the fact that control over Afghanistan is only a stepping stone towards the next objective of GHQ Rawalpindi, which is the taking over of effective control of most of that part of Jammu & Kashmir which remained in Indian hands after the 1948 ceasefire suggested by Governor-General Mountbatten and acceded to by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel. Months after the Taliban get securely installed in Kabul, the temperature within the Kashmir valley will be boosted to a level that GHQ expects will “drive the Indians out by making any form of (coherent) administration of the territory impossible”. Throughout this process, Imran Khan is expected to lead a “human rights drumbeat against India” that would camouflage the reality of the state coming under Wahhabi fanatics not very different in their outlook and methods from the Taliban.
Another task of Imran Khan (in which it is expected that he will be able to enlist the support of major NATO powers) will be to convince the Government of India to once again adopt the course favoured for long stretches of time by Prime Ministers I.K. Gujral, A.B. Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. This is the dampening down of Indian military responses to Pakistan army provocation (such as shelling and firing) from across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir. The robust response by the armed forces led by Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat has dismayed the Pakistan army and affected its ability to increase mayhem in the Valley despite the negative effect on the situation of the Mehbooba Mufti government. Through his considerable public relations skills, it is anticipated that the Indian side will go back to the hesitant and half-hearted responses to Pakistan army provocations across the LoC that was so marked during the period when the world renowned pacifist A.K. Antony was the Defence Minister of India.
The re-conquest of Afghanistan is Stage I of the GHQ Rawalpindi plan, a key facet of which is the propping up of the telegenic Pashtun cricketer as the Prime Minister in Islamabad. Stage II is the de facto takeover of the Kashmir valley, while the final stage is a meltdown of governance in India through a continuous rash of violent incidents resulting in a breakdown of law and order across much of the country. This would assist in GHQ’s desire to bring India’s growth rate back to the pitiable level it was during the 1950s and the 1960s, thereby preventing India from emerging as the world’s third largest economy. The soon-to-be-installed Prime Minister of Pakistan is expected to play his designated role of charming the Afghanistan leadership, the NATO powers and the leadership in India into following policy paths that would inadvertently carry forward the agenda of GHQ Rawalpindi. Congratulating Imran Khan on his contrived victory and expecting him to sincerely join hands with Prime Minister Modi to ensure peace between India and Pakistan may, therefore, be a noble idea whose time still appears to be very distant.

Friday 3 August 2018

China rediscovers its ancient past (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
ON October 01, 1949, Mao Zedong announced the birth of “New China”. Over the next few years, he systematically expanded the boundaries of the state founded by him, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang were incorporated into the PRC, which today controls a larger area than any previous regime did during the four thousand years of recorded history of the world’s second biggest economy. During the 1960s,unhappy with the conservatism of several of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Mao launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). By the time the GPCR was finally called off a decade later, the CCP had been drained of most of its leadership, barring a few survivors such as Premier Zhou Enlai. Into the vacuum left behind stepped Deng Xiaoping, who after Mao was the second transformative CCP leader. In 1979, Deng began the economic reforms that would over the next two decades change the economy of China from Third World to Second World, thereby creating New China (or what may be termed 2New China).
Five years ago, Xi Jinping began the process of enforcing accountability for corruption within the CCP, a drive that is continuing. The purpose is to transform China into a First World power, in fact the top power in the world in terms of economic development and influence. By 2017, China’s economy was 70% of the US economy, and the gap between the two is getting reduced every year, in the process creating a New New New (or 3New) China, thereby making Xi the third transformative leader in the history of the PRC, after Mao and Deng. Since Xi took charge of the CCP, a noticeable change has been the steady substitution of cash in the form of currency with online methods of payment. Across China, millions of people are these days not using paper money at all, instead making payments through platforms such as Alipay that are going global. In India, the owners of Alipay (Ali Baba, run by Jack Ma) is the majority shareholder in PayTM, among the country’s most popular online payment systems. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is giving attention to the digitisation of procedures in India, and once bandwidth improves, it is expected that more and more of the country’s population will do what so many Chinese are doing these days, which is avoid using currency.
India is the home of “ayurveda”, a system of natural healing that is very different in its approach and methods from “allopathy” or systems of medicine first developed in Europe. This relies on methods such as surgery, which involves the cutting away of parts of the body. On November 8 2016, at precisely 8pm Prime Minister Modi announced the most radical economic surgery ever carried out in independent India, which was to make illegal at less than four hours notice almost all the currency then being used in India. An ultra-allopathic method that cut away and removed so much of the country’s currency was used in the land of natural healing and ayurveda, to applause from Bill Gates, who several officials say first planted the idea for the demonetisation (DeMo) within the Prime Minister’s Office, together with tech billionaire Nandan Nilekani, who has the distinction of being as close to the Modi government as he was of the Manmohan Singh regime.
Gates and Nilekani wanted all transactions to be transparent rather than obscured by the use of currency, and their suggestion was endorsed with enthusiasm by Governor of the Reserve Bank of India Urjit Patel, Revenue Secretary S K Das, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Principal Secretary to PM N Mishra. As a consequence of the unanimous advice that he received from officials around him that he go ahead with DeMo, the PM went ahead, with this columnist being among the handful who expressed the view that it was a measure almost impossible to implement without causing substantial disruption within the economy. Because the new currency notes (Rs 2000 instead of Rs 1000 earlier and new Rs 500 notes) had a size different from that of the currency they replaced, a lengthy and expensive reconditioning of ATM machines had to be done. In India, more than 70% of the employment is accounted for by the “informal” sector considered a danger to financial stability by Gates and Nilekani, and the November 8 measure severely impacted this sector, without fundamentally changing overall behaviour. Currency has come back into vogue as soon as it became available. It would have been better for the monetary authorities to have adopted a “nature cure” rather than a “radical surgery” method to get the people of India to exchange currency for online payments, the way such a change has taken place relatively painlessly in Xi’s China.
Under Xi, China is celebrating its ancient past, and an example is the Old Town of Pingyao in Shanxi province, which dates back more than two millennia. At great expense, around four thousand residences dating back to the Ming and Qing period have been restored, so that walking along the narrow streets of the Old Town, it is as though a time machine has been used to get back two thousand and more years. Hopefully the authorities will not allow electric carts or bicycles to operate in such streets, as their presence detracts from the solemnity of the ancient past of China. Close to the town is the Change Ning Castle, an ancient structure that has been converted into a hotel. The rooms and the surroundings have retained much of their original form, and it is possible for at least the Chinese guests to feel that they are part of the ancient merchant nobility when they stay in the castle, with its high walls and multiple floors, from which elevators have been banned to preserve authenticity. However, the staff, although courteous and attentive, dress in modern style.
They need to wear the same clothes as were worn three hundred years ago in this very castle, so as to more fully recreate the creative beauty of the past, the way Xi Jinping is working so as to ensure that his people understand and appreciate their heritage. This being China, there are high-speed trains every hour from Beijing or Shanghai to Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi, from where a car journey brings the visitor to Pingyao, which also has its own railway station, although much smaller in size. Across the country, restoration work is proceeding in multiple locations, so that the ancient past comes back to life as a reminder to the Chinese people and to the world about the heritage of a country whose civilisation has followed the same trajectory as India’s, of surviving unbroken for thousands of years. These reminders of the past co-exist with Alternative Intelligence and other hi-tech industries which too are being encouraged. Should Xi succeed in his mission the way Deng Xiaoping did in the past, a “3New” China respectful of past millennia will grow into a formidable global force.
August 3, 2018