Saturday 31 August 2019

Conditions brightening for recovery of PoK (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

An alliance with US is needed to keep China at bay while PoK is recovered.

A flood of views has emerged supporting Article 370 by individuals who do not believe that they are votaries of the Two Nation theory. This construct, which was the basis for Pakistan, holds that Hindus and Muslims are two entirely separate entities, the corollary being that the two can never co-exist in peace. Article 370 is grounded in the Two Nation theory, for it treats India’s only Muslim-majority state as an “other” needing to be separated from the rest of India, including by the banning of settlement or purchase of property by “outsiders”. The shock of Partition resulted in Jawaharlal Nehru reinforcing his (unspoken but acted upon) conclusion that the “minorities” (shorthand for the Muslim community, as neither the Sikhs, the Parsis, the Christians or the Buddhists were involved in seeking a separate faith-based state) needed to be separated by law and policy from the “majority”, i.e. the Hindus. For long, such minds have treated Muslims differently from Hindus, including in matters relating to personal law. Beginning with Mahatma Gandhi’s backing for the Wahhabi-led Khilafat agitation to Rajiv Gandhi’s hasty rollback of the Shah Bano verdict and beyond to Sonia-Manmohan’s demonstrations of fealty to the Two Nation theory, those who led the country have acted as though Muslims and Hindus are different, thus falling into the Two Nation trap that before 1947 led to many millions of Muslims, especially in Bihar and UP, backing the establishment of Pakistan. Article 370 opened a fresh wound in a body politic already ravaged by the trauma of religion-based partition, and since then has been flashing with the intensity of a neon light the toxic untruth of the Two Nation theory: that Muslims need to be treated differently from Hindus. Apart from conceding Jinnah’s partition demand, rather than holding out for a united India, or continuing post-Partition to fight for it, for example by (a) moving into the whole of Kashmir, (b) assisting the Baloch in Pakistan to form a separate republic, (c) moving into and annexing “East Pakistan” in the early 1950s when hundreds of thousands of Hindus were murdered in a barbarity that has yet to be adequately documented, and (d) supporting Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and facilitating the merger into India of the Pakhtun territories. Mao Zedong unified China, while Abraham Lincoln fought a civil war rather than agree to the division of the US. They were clearly cut from a different cloth from the Indian leadership. The penchant for mistaking the superficial for the core has been most recently revealed by the protests of those who claim to swear by Hindu-Muslim unity while at the same time backing a provision based on the false proposition that the two communities need to be kept at arm’s length from each other in the only Muslim-majority state in the Union. The longstanding policy of treating Muslims differently from Hindus has been the cardinal error that led to so many unnatural bouts of tension between the two communities.
Media channels based in the US, the UK and the rest of Europe have been in the front rank of those wailing about the removal of the “secular” Article 370 by the “communal” Narendra Modi government. If that be so, surely the US, the UK and other countries in Europe are themselves “anti-secular” by depriving Muslim-majority zones within their territories of the quarantine provided against external ingress by Article 370. Amazingly, neither the BBC nor CNN or DW has demanded that Muslims in North America and Europe should have the right to marry up to four wives at a time, and to divorce them virtually at will. Yet when some in India ask for a similar policy to be adopted here, they are portrayed as “anti-Muslim”. Clearly, there is a difference in such media outlets between people living in India and those in Euro-ethnic parts of the world. Even Justin Trudeau has shown (by the definitions and reasoning used in the case of the Indian situation) that he is “communal”, by not allowing any Canadian citizen to have more than a single wife, or by allowing non-Muslims to settle in locations where a majority of the inhabitants follow a faith that is (when freed of the Wahhabis) among the most noble and profound ever seen in human history. The tenets of Wahhabism have sought to conceal the core of the Muslim faith, which is a compound of mercy, beneficence and peace. The artificially created hard-line outer layers seeking to obscure the Word of God need to be removed, but this has not been possible for the overwhelmingly moderate majority of Muslims, largely because the same “secularists” who back the communal Article 370 also pay obeisance to the Wahhabis as the sole representatives of Muslims, a misperception followed by media outlets across the world. “Nehruvian Secularist” politicians, who are in a sulk because of the removal of Article 370, act thus because of the belief that Muslims across India back that pernicious piece of legislation. In reality, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in India know that their progress hinges on accepting in brotherhood and living in harmony with their Hindu brethren, and that measures such as Article 370 (which posit Muslims and Hindus to be separate when the interests of the two are common) have worsened rather than healed the divisions caused by the folly of the Congress Party’s acceptance of Partition in 1947 and its subsequent policies. This is why only the thin Wahhabi layer has been fuming against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move, rather than the whole of a community that is close to a strength of 200 million across India.
The window for Pakistan to accept the 1972 Shimla offer of India’s to make the Line of Control the international boundary has begun to close. As the capability of India grows, including its essentiality to the economy of China and to the security of the United States, the option of a taking back of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is moving towards operationalisation. Although Imran Khan may babble about a nuclear conflict, this is out of the question. The generals in the Pakistan army are shrewd realists, and will not sacrifice the very existence of Pakistan in an Indian retaliatory strike, even were they to lose PoK. In 1971, D.P. Dhar fashioned an alliance with the USSR that kept both China and the US at bay, while the Pakistan army was driven out of what is now Bangladesh. To get back PoK, what is needed is an alliance with the US that will keep China at bay while PoK is recovered. The Modi government needs to also enlist Afghanistan in the moves by India, as well as the goodwill of Iran. This set of circumstances will enable the taking back by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of PoK, as forecast by Home Minister Amit Shah.

Friday 30 August 2019

Macron tempts Rouhani to meet President Trump (Pakistan Observer)

THOSE in the US who argued for the toppling of Saddam Hussein were correct that the Iraq strongman had been an adversary of several US allies in the Middle East. The time for such an operation was during Desert Storm in 1990, when President George H W Bush pounded the Uraqi army to dust in his throwing out of Saddam’s men from Kuwait. Instead of taking matters to a stable conclusion, Bush halted operations against the Iraq military once Kuwait was cleared of them, he refused to allow the US military to march into Baghdad and capture Saddam. Worse, Bush not only allowed the dictator of Iraq to continue in office, he effectively gave him freedom to bomb and strafe the only ethnic group in Iraq that was overwhelmingly pro-US, the Kurds. In a short while, we will find out if President Donald J Trump will repeat the betrayal of the Kurds first carried out by George H W Bush.
Given that the Kurds have provided most of the muscle for the overthrow of much of the Daesh “caliphate” in Syria, such a betrayal would be on an even bigger scale than that of the 1991 green light given to Saddam Hussein by President Bush to kill as many Kurds in their enclaves as he was able to. President Erdogan has repeatedly made his views clear about the Kurdish enclaves in Syria, and his intention to take them over and establish Turkish military control over the population. In an illustration of the Bourbon tendency to continually repeat past mistakes, President George W Bush (the son of George H W Bush) switched his attention from Afghanistan to Iraq before the US military was able to eliminate those forces they were at war with since 9/11.
This enabled these fighters to recuperate, regroup and re-establish control over much of the country. It is estimated that the numerous groups that go by the label of the Taliban controls over 70% of Afghanistan. It is for this reason that the leaders of that heterogeneous but motivated group consider the Ashraf Ghani government to be the “Government of Kabul” and not the Government of Afghanistan. Presidential envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in a hurry to sign an agreement with select Taliban leaders that would provide an excuse for the 17,000 US forces still in Afghanistan to leave the country, and those aware of his work claim that such an agreement would be ready by the first week of next month. It would be a repeat of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988, the event that more than anything else made international opinion regard Moscow under Gorbachev as a toothless tiger.
Returning to Saddam Hussein, getting rid of him after the Iraqi dictator had surrendered his WMD and almost the whole of his offensive armed capability was a warning to others in the region not to trust in Washington’s assurances of safe conduct. Muammar Kaddafy of Libya panicked after seeing what had happened in Iraq, and surrendered his own WMD stockpile nine months after Saddam was defeated by President George W Bush on the conventional battlefield. So long as Kaddafy had some kind of nuclear device in his possession, even a “dirty” bomb, he would have been safe from attack. No NATO force would dare to expose thousands of its men and women in uniform to the risks involved in the use of WMD by an opposing army. However, once it became clear that Kaddafy was as helpless as Saddam Hussein became after the WMD and most of the conventional military capability in his possession got removed, France and Britain led the charge in 2011 to remove a man from power whose only threat to them was to their clearly fragile egos.
All that Kaddafy had left was verbiage and he continued with his volleys of verbal invective against the NATO member States instead of being meek and respectful as they expected. In particular, he launched into a long speech against the US and its allies at the UN, thereby sealing his future death warrant. Any world leader who abused the then Sole Superpower ( now joined in the title by China) needed to be eliminated, lest others get encouraged to follow Kaddafy’s example, and the Arab Spring gave an excuse for NATO leaders to eliminate Kaddafy. In the process, they destroyed Libya and took away vast amounts of property owned by Libyan nationals in Europe (especially Paris and London) and huge reserves of cash that belonged to the Libyan state. This money has been swallowed up since Kaddafy was ruthlessly killed with the help of the French, who revealed his location to gangs backed by them that were hunting down Kaddafy’s men. The media seems to be not at all interested in who has stolen the cash and property of Libyan citizens and the state.
The UK, France, the US and Germany were planning the same fate for Bashar al-Assad, but China and Russia have ensured not just his survival but the victory of his armed forces over those funded by NATO (especially Turkey) and the GCC. So the attention has now moved to Iran, where the focus is to ensure that not just nuclear capability but missile capacity and other offensive weapons get removed. Once this happens, the calculation is that Iran can be attacked in conventional war and defeated. The problem for NATO is that Iran is not Iraq, Libya or Syria. Should Teheran come under attack, proxies across the region will leap into action, creating chaos and confusion across the region, especially in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
President Macron invited the Foreign Minister of Iran, who had accepted the promises made by the countries that he negotiated the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) with. Of course, eager to show that there was still hope for a deal that is effectively dead, Jawad Sharif came to Biarritz for meaningless discussions with French officials. President Macron was hoping to host a surprise meeting of Presidents Rouhani and Trump, but the Iranian leader refused to take the bait. He demanded the end of sanctions before he met Trump, a condition impossible for the US President to give effect to. At the same time, so long as Iran retains its WMD, the US will not attack the country. So far, both the Europeans as well as India are too respectful of President Trump’s commands to buy Iranian oil. However, the sooner they do this, the better for global stability. The JCPOA was the best deal NATO could get, as the military option in the case of that country is not feasible, given the cost to the attacking armies. President Trump tore up the Iran deal without a Plan B. The world is now paying a heavy price for that decision, in terms of higher oil prices and instability in the Middle East.

Saturday 24 August 2019

China-led alliance formed to challenge U.S. military primacy (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

India’s options are to join either a US-led alliance or a China-led alliance. Non alignment is no longer an option.

BANGKOK: Once the United States entered the 1939-45 war by the close of 1941, its outcome was sealed. The Japanese strike on Pearl Harbour was a classic “kamikaze” (suicide) mission that made the destruction of the Japanese Empire a certainty. Earlier, the military regime which controlled policy in Tokyo made another fatal error, which was to attack populous China rather than conduct operations against the sparse Siberian territory of Russia (then known as the Soviet Union). Had Japan not been trapped in a quagmire of its own making in China, an attack on the Soviet Union in tandem with Berlin’s assault from the west would almost certainly have led to the defeat and occupation of Russia. Alongside, the European powers that had taken over vast territories in Asia could have been neutralised, including Britain, whose control over India was retained against Japanese might because of the fact that the China theatre had taken away much of the attention and muscle of the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces. Both the Kuomintang as well as the Chinese Communist Party proved to be formidable foes, especially after getting logistical and aerial support on a massive scale by the United States. A thrust deep into India by Japanese forces together with Indian National Army (INA) forces (which would grow with every Japanese victory over the British) would have led to the meltdown of the British Indian Army and the forced withdrawal of Britain from India after London’s serial surrenders, including in Malaya, Singapore and Burma. As it is, the example of the INA had made Whitehall accept that the British Indian Army would not for long remain loyal to the conquerors rather than to their own people, who had been reduced to destitution by colonial plunder. Of course, whether exchanging rule by London with that of Tokyo would have been an improvement is an open question. The Japanese were expert at copying the Europeans, including in the way they treated the territories they had conquered. Their ally Adolf Hitler had made his own fatal errors, among them the elimination of the most brilliant minds in Germany through his psychopathic anti-Semitism. Jewish talent was especially pronounced in the nuclear field, and those scientists from that persecuted faith who managed to escape to the US built a nuclear weapon by mid-1945, which knocked
Japan out of the war as a consequence of the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
While President Franklin Roosevelt would have made Britain transfer authority to representatives of the Indian people after the war, his successor Harry Truman would most likely have repeated the mistake the US later made in Indo-China, which was to try and assist France to get back the control of Vietnam and Cambodia that had been lost during the war, thereby leading to an armed revolt against the returned British that would replace Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent methods of resistance. The strategic and moral error (by the Eisenhower Secretary of State John Foster Dulles) of backing the colonial power rather than a people fighting to be free led to the first major military defeat of the US, in Vietnam in the 1970s. Given the trajectory of the Vietnam War, it is difficult to remember that Ho Chi Minh was eager for a friendly relationship with Washington, only to be ignored by the Europeanist policymakers on the US East Coast who took back control of policy after Roosevelt died. Since the 1940s, the US has remained the pre-eminent military power on the planet, and continued to be so despite its failure to prevail in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan against vastly inferior forces.
Since 1945, the US has built up a network of alliance systems that includes the European alliance structure, NATO. This organisation is much more impressive on paper than in the field of battle. NATO forces have been hard pressed to avoid humiliation at the hands of vastly inferior forces in several theatres. In the case of both Iraq and Libya, conventional forces led by Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi respectively were quickly defeated, but the irregular militias that followed them have remained undefeated. Despite horrendous expenditure (although not in own lives lost, protection of its forces being the first nine of the top ten NATO objectives in any conflict), both military as well as strategic errors by the alliance have led to rag-tag militias in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan holding NATO forces at bay, albeit at substantial cost in terms of collateral damage. Not just in Europe but in East and Southeast Asia, the US has an active alliance system composed of South Korea, the Philippines and Japan. Other allies include Australia, while India appears to be edging closer to an alliance with the US, although at present at the same slow speed that most operations get carried out in the country, which is at a pace that is glacial. A decision by India on joining a military alliance (de facto if not de jure)  needs to be made fast, for the reason that a new military alliance has risen since the dawn of the 21st century, with China at its core. The new alliance, which is less formalised but no less real than US-led groupings, comprises China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Venezuela, Somalia, Cuba and very soon Turkey, among an expanding list of other countries. Led by China, which is assuming a global leadership position under Xi Jinping’s global diplomacy combined with the exhibition of hard power, the new alliance has begun establishing a chain of logistics hubs across the globe, which is designed to give it the power to intervene across different continents, should the need arise for kinetic action. In an example of Xi’ s geo-strategic deftness, China is close to all three major factions in the Muslim-majority world, i.e. Wahhabi, Sunni and Shia, as is its closest ally, Russia. Indeed, Muslim-majority countries have been conspicuous by their acquiescent silence over the CCP’s actions in Muslim-majority (though not for much longer) Xinjiang. Both Moscow and Beijing have been jointly and individually developing advanced defensive and offensive weapons systems that are designed to ward off any attack by rival forces, which in a geopolitical context means those led by the US. Indeed, President Trump, who must be congratulated for his honesty, has openly labelled President Xi an enemy of the US, a formulation that till now was expressed only behind closed doors. Whether it be in nuclear weapons and missiles, or in ships, submarines and aircraft, or in artillery and rifles, or indeed in cyberwar, the systems developed by the China-led alliance are in many respects equal to (where not superior) to those operational on the US side. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership is known to be loyal to old friends in a manner that is not seen in the case of the US, some of whose friends get discarded with abandon after their perceived usefulness is over, even as new allies get embraced. Pakistan is by now an organic part of the China-led alliance. In the past, the centrality of Pakistan within the US alliance system in the region made it impossible for India to be a part of that grouping, even informally. That is what happened in 1992, when President Bill Clinton remained deaf to the overtures made by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, or in 2001, when George H.W. Bush acted the same way to A.B. Vajpayee. In both cases, Pakistan was preferred as an ally to India, the way it had been to the British in the past. Now some in the Trump administration are recommending the same self-defeating strategy to the 45th US President. They have been assisted in this task by the coyness of the Lutyens Zone to form a security alliance with Washington. In the 21st century, the deep-rooted military-to-military ties between Pakistan and China have made it impossible for Delhi to consider the option of joining the China-led de facto military alliance system. Of course, those Bush holdovers within the Trump administration, who are inextricably linked to the failed policies carried out by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, continue to function as though Rawalpindi GHQ is still a US rather than a China ally. Bush-era holdovers in the State Department and the National Security Council are working on what would in substance be a US surrender of Afghanistan to the Pakistan-controlled Taliban faction (as distinct from the Pakistan-phobic Taliban faction) in the belief that Pakistan will this time around keep the security promises that GHQ Rawalpindi has routinely broken in the past. Fortunately, the Pentagon has moved away from its earlier trust in Pakistan, and seems to be resisting the surrender option being pressed on President Trump by US envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad. This gentleman is known since the George W. Bush presidency for his superior ways while visiting his native country, and for his fealty to the diktats of GHQ Rawalpindi.

China has been a dependable ally of Pakistan since the 1960s, but Moscow in the past was against GHQ Rawalpindi, although the Brezhnevites in Moscow lacked the nerve to carry the Afghan war into Pakistan itself. This was the only path to victory and it was not taken, thereby leading to a Russian pullout from Afghanistan in defeat by 1989, much the way Khalilzad would like US forces to exit now. The Russian defeat accelerated the meltdown of the Soviet Union, and a US handover of Afghanistan to the Taliban would destroy the credibility of Washington as a security partner in Asia, thereby leading those countries that are not in tension-filled relationships with Pakistan (such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia) to consider joining the China-led alliance in practice, even while perhaps swearing loyalty to the US in words. Today, the close ties between Beijing and Moscow are leading to a steady increase in the military relationship between Russia and Pakistan, although this seems to have escaped the attention of Russia-leaning defence analysts in India. In addition, there is a powerful weapons lobby pressing for greater purchases of Russian equipment (which it must be said are often of excellent quality, if somewhat pricey) that is based in London and Dubai, and which has excellent contacts within the Lutyens Zone. The centrality of Pakistan in the emerging China-led military alliance, and the intensely close ties between Moscow and Beijing, make it imperative to shift weapons platforms from those that are Russian, ideally to those that are Indian, but otherwise to those of countries that are rivals of the de facto alliance in which Pakistan is a valued member. Both the Obama and the successor Trump administration have indicated (during the past two years overtly) willingness to transfer significant airborne and other weapons platforms from the US to India. Given the rise in tensions between Washington and Beijing, NATO member-states may find it difficult, if not impossible, to continue to retain key parts of the defence supply chain in China, and India would be an attractive destination for such units. Of course, all this would be predicated on a de facto partnership between the US-led alliance and India. It would not be feasible in a context where “non-alignment” (not just in words but in practice as well) remains the mantra in the Lutyens Zone.
Despite the presence of some “useful idiots” of GHQ Rawalpindi within the portals of the Trump administration, recognition that Pakistan is not a solution to security concerns but a problem, is growing. As is the fact that China under the decisive and powerful Xi Jinping is not just an economic but a military challenge to US primacy. Realisation of changes in global verities is growing in Washington, especially within the Pentagon. This is leading to heightened attention towards India, and to the immense potential of the world’s most populous democracy as an essential security and defence partner of the US. Together with Australia and Japan, the Indian Navy could—after acquisition on Lend Lease terms of surplus US naval platforms—ensure dominance over the expansive waters of the Indo-Pacific together with the US Navy. Given production and induction of modern (nuclear capable) platforms, the Indian Air Force could be an invaluable force multiplier in an arc stretching across the Asian continent. The decades of experience of the battle-honed Indian Army makes it an ideal partner in the limited wars (and often asymmetric) of the future. It is clear from recent moves that the Trump administration is separating from the Clinton-Bush-Obama policy of ministering to Beijing’s sensitivities and is looking towards Vietnam and Taiwan as part of a US-led security chain in Asia. Not to mention the fact that perception drives investment into countries. A coming together of Delhi and Washington after decades of wary distance from each other would signal to global investors that India is a safe place to do business, especially now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reining in the Chidambaram-era bureaucrats still in high positions despite the 2014 Congress defeat, and whose policies were impacting growth sentiment in an escalating fashion. So far as India is concerned, Trump has taken forward the opening to India first provided by Obama-era Defence Secretary Ashton Carter. For the first time since the golden era of Franklin D. Roosevelt and for a brief while under the visionary John F. Kennedy, the White House under President Donald J. Trump is looking towards India as a security and defence partner of the US.
Prime Minister Modi is both a visionary as well as a pragmatist. Whatever his shortcomings, Jawaharlal Nehru changed India during the 17 years that he held the Prime Ministership, and so will Modi during his expected long tenure in 7 Lok Kalyan Marg. Such shifts will include changes in the security paradigm followed by the country, as is already taking place with Modi’ s announcement of the setting up of the Chief of Defence Staff mechanism. Meanwhile, the Lutyens Zone remains fixated on “non-alignment” despite the reality that GHQ Rawalpindi was, is, and will remain, a mortal threat to the interests of India. Hence a security alignment with any military grouping that includes Pakistan is a non-starter. India needs to be on the side that will (with its help) dominate the Indo-Pacific; retain mastery over cyberspace; have control over the air and the weapons-reachable portions of space; keep ahead in high-technology solutions, especially Artificial Intelligence. What is the partner best suited to assist in the achievement of these mandatory goals? There are just two military groupings that are of any significance in the 21st century. These are the traditional basket of alliances revolving around the US, and the new alliance system steadily and determinedly being stitched together by President Xi Jinping, who is the third transformational Chinese Communist Party leader after Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. In such a world, India remaining (through Lutyens Zone influences) a wallflower rather than a participant in the ongoing global dance of geopolitical interests is an invitation to irrelevance.

PM Modi, transform economic gloom to boom (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

He should form a ‘Desh Bhakti’ corporation that would float equity to citizens.

On 15 August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned officials in the government to treat “wealth creators” with respect rather than in a hostile manner. This shift in attitude has come not a day too soon. It was Jawaharlal Nehru who as PM drastically reduced the salaries of top officials serving the Government of India, even while he substantially increased the discretionary power of officials. Nehru followed the example of the Soviet Union and made much of economic activity the monopoly of the state. At the same time, basic rights, such as property or the freedom to travel abroad using a passport, were drastically curtailed. Getting an Indian passport for those not well connected was an ordeal, thereby ensuring that the migration to the UK, the US and other locations in the 1950s and 1960s from India was substantially below the levels of settlers from Pakistan, where the acquiring of passports was far easier. By the 1970s, curbs began to be placed on migration by economically advanced countries, and it was not until the 1990s that the granting of passports began to be less of a headache for the citizen. Nehru, Indira Gandhi and V.P. Singh believed in the colonial dictum that the private citizen in India was not to be trusted but controlled, restricted and wherever possible, punished. It was not an accident that the economy started to stably accelerate after Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, in the early 1990s, dismantled several of the controls that had made countless officials and politicians wealthy. As PM, A.B. Vajpayee continued with Rao’s policy. BJP Finance Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh discouraged officials from using coercive measures against corporate and individual taxpayers, a practice not followed by their successors in the Modi government, who stuck to the Chidambaram rulebook on tax raids and harassment. During Rao-Vajpayee, the economy began to approach double digit expansion. Alas, the Sonia-Manmohan combine elected in 2004 harnessed P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal to pass laws and regulations designed to return to officials the vast British-era power they once had over citizens. While India changed significantly after the Modi government got sworn in on 26 May 2014, such a transformation failed to take effect in North Block, where both the Home and Finance Ministries functioned much the way they had in pre-Modi days. In fact, the discretionary power of officials actually increased, together with the fact that several of them were the same as had connived with UPA-era politicians and businesspersons to loot banks and in other ways to game the system. Obviously, such officials would not want their former masters to be punished for their transgressions, for fear that their own role (and cash share) in them would get noticed. Small wonder therefore that not a single UPA-era VVIP was outed by the agencies during Modi’s 1.0.
By the end of the first term of Prime Minister Modi, department upon department, agency upon agency, within North Block regained the Nehru-Indira powers of arrest they once had. The fact that so many officials could knock on doors armed with arrest warrants resulted in a sharp increase in the bribes demanded for allowing the target individual to escape incarceration and punitive financial damages, of course until the next bribe taker came along. When the powers given to officials dealing with economic matters was less (as was the situation before Sibal-Chidambaram), most businesspersons could afford to pay the bribes demanded as well as the tax, and yet survive. By 2018, a stage was reached where the taxes demanded (including through GST rates that were by far the highest in the world) as well as the vastly increased bribe amounts still demanded by officials armed with punitive powers and discretion were so high that the costs and risks of conducting business in an era where even a clerical or a computer error could lead to jail were too high for many to continue to operate. Enterprise after enterprise of various types and sizes has shut down during the past three years rather than their owners risk coming into the crosshairs of the neo-Nehruvian regulatory construct restarted under PM Manmohan Singh and continued by North Block. Had every official been as honest and hardworking as Narendra Modi personally is, even a system based on harsh punishments may have worked. However, in a system where many officials down the line continue to be corrupt and/or incompetent, the implementation of vastly expanded coercive regulations has led to the slowdown that the economy is now experiencing, a slowdown that could lead to an economic collapse unless coercive action gets replaced with corrective measures. In economic distress, first investment declines. This is followed by a steep fall in borrowings, followed soon after by a fall in spending. The economy is at the third stage, that of a fall in spending, and is close to free fall. Prime Minster Modi’s warning to officials is therefore timely and necessary. Those officials who mismanaged DeMo or designed GST rates of such complexity and steepness that economic activity got severely affected need to be made to understand that what failed in the Soviet Union is unlikely to succeed in India, and that Modi’s dictum of “Minimum Government” is not a slogan but a directive derived from his years as a transformational Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Prime Minister Modi is a great motivator. He should form a “Desh Bhakti” corporation that would float equity to citizens, who could each subscribe to the extent she or he wishes. The shares would be listed but would have a lock-in period of five years. From the sixth to the tenth year, the investment made by each citizen in the equity of the “Desh Bhakti” corporation can be set off against taxes in five equal instalments. Should the economy do well, this “national patriot” company too will do well, as will investors cashing out through sale of shares after five years. The new company would expend the equity secured solely in measures that would boost the economy, such as infrastructure spending. Those investing in this noble enterprise of PM Modi should be treated with respect by officials rather than be harassed. The $10 billion that the government is planning to get through external bonds can be used for re-capitalising the banking system, even while action gets taken against major depredators who have mastered the art of bankrupting their companies for enriching themselves personally. At the same time, restrictions on consumer cash transactions in those outlets and sectors where GST is collected should be removed, so that the money available gets into circulation rather than remains hoarded. Through such a relaxation, taxes will get collected over successive round of expenditure, thereby fuelling economic prosperity. PM Modi has shown that he is capable of measures of breathtaking boldness. These are what are needed to change the trajectory of the Indian economy from North Block-induced gloom to PMO-induced boom.

Friday 23 August 2019

PM Modi launches move against VVIP corruption (Pakistan Observer)

PRIME Minister Modi is known to do what he believes is right, although only at a time of his own choosing. He will not follow the timetables of others, but act only when he regards the time to take a particular action has having arrived. Judging by recent events, it is clear that a major drive against VVIP corruption has begun in Modi’s second term. This is welcome, for unlike the situation in China and Pakistan, where several high-level politicians have been sent to jail on corruption charges, in India, the record of taking action against corrupt VVIPs during the first five years of the Narendra Modi government was not exemplary. Although the BJP leveled charge after charge of wrongdoing against several members of the Manmohan Singh government (that was in power: 2004-14), thus far not a single member of that government has been prosecuted and jailed by the BJP government.
Even the Manmohan Singh government sent to prison one of its own Cabinet Ministers, A Raja. Another Cabinet-level Minister, D Maran, was on track to follow the example of Mr.Raja when the Congress-led government was defeated in the 2014 parliamentary election by the BJP led by Narendra Modi, who was and remains by far the most popular politician in India. It was expected that several of the ministers in the previous government would be sent to jail by Modi, but this didn’t happen. Even Maran, who was earlier headed for jail, was spared. Of course, his business interests suffered. An Airline that his relatives controlled, Spicejet, was sold at a very low price to some investors, who have since converted the Airline into a success story. However, the seeming immunity from prosecution of the central ministers of the Manmohan Singh regime has been ended by the prosecution of the former Union Finance Minister, P Chidambaram.
The high-octane politician from Tamil Nadu state is known to be a maestro in placing friends and supporters in high positions. The only politician who has bettered him in this game of ensuring good jobs for friends and supporters is the BJP politician Arun Jaitley, who has been close to Prime Minister Modi for decades, but who has excellent relationship with top leaders of opposition parties as well. Although Jaitley himself lost in the polls, he was speedily accommodated in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and entered the Union Council of Ministers in charge of Defence, Finance and Company Affairs. He was far and away the most powerful individual in the country after Modi himself. The quality that those close to him appreciate is that Arun Jaitley can be relied upon to never forget a friend or a supporter.
If you are a friend or supporter of Jaitley, he will make sure that you get accommodated in some position that is comfortable. Many of his supporters are in high positions all over the country and some even abroad as a consequence of the recommendation of Arun Jaitley, who has had tremendous influence in the national capital no matter who comes to power either in the government or in the BJP. Jaitley was as close to former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee as he is to PM Narendra Modi. A man of extraordinary charm, Jaitley has built a formidable network of supporters throughout the government. He is now in very poor health, and many are praying that he will recover and get back to active politics, a field in which he has had as outstanding a degree of success as he has achieved in the legal profession.
The only other politician who has a similar network of supporters placed in high positions is another senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India, P Chidambaram. The former Union Minister for Finance ensured that bureaucrats who could be trusted to do his bidding got hold of key jobs that involved decisions which could affect the way millions and billions of dollars could flow to one individual or the other. A major stock exchange in India, the National Stock Exchange (NSE), was run by those having direct access to Chidambaram, who is said to have ensured that a rival exchange was destroyed in order to protect the interests of the NSE. Friendly bureaucrats saw to it that the promoters of that exchange were put in prison, a situation which continued even after the new government took charge in 2014, as several officials in the Chidambaram network continued in high positions despite the change in government, and despite the way in which they had bent and broken procedures in order to do the bidding of the powerful politician who was in charge of portfolios as important as Home and Finance.
Those officials who were facilitators of the wrongs committed under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (who followed a policy of seeing no evil in his colleagues within the coalition government except in the rare cases when public pressure forced him to act, as in the case of Maran and Raja) worked silently to ensure that corruption allegations against their former bosses were never seriously investigated. A comprehensive inquiry would have revealed their own role in such shenanigans, as a minister can make corrupt cash only with the help of equally corrupt bureaucrats and not by himself. While Prime Minister Modi was sincere in his effort to clean up corruption, not everybody in the government cooperated with him. However, in his final year in the first term, Modi succeeded in charge sheeting P Chidambaram, only to have the judicial system grant the former Union Finance Minister stay upon stay of arrest.
The number of serially unbroken stay orders on arrest in favour of Chidambaram issued by courts in India would probably qualify for the Guinness Book of Records, if such an entry were to be made. However, finally the investigating agencies have built up a sufficient case to convince an upright High Court judge that Chidambaram needed to be subjected to custodial interrogation. It remains to be seen of the Supreme Court will once again ensure that he remains at liberty. If this does not happen, and if the High Court order is upheld by the Supreme Court, the Modi government will have sent for the first time a Union Cabinet Minister from the previous government to jail. It is unlikely to be the last. Investigations are ongoing as to how state carrier Air India procured dozens of aircraft during the Sonia-Manmohan decade at prices much above those paid by rival carriers Go Air and Indigo.

Saturday 17 August 2019

Taiwan voters to decide between US and China (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Chinese presence in Taiwan is much more pervasive than US influence ever was.

TAIPEI: Unlike the modernity and glitter of the many large cities across the Taiwan Strait, Taipei is almost drab. However, that quality is absent in its people, who are alert and fast-moving, competing in an economy that has almost the same level of foreign trade and reserves as India. Incidentally, after decades of slumber, the business community in Taiwan appears to have awakened to the potential of India as a market. There has been more inward investment from Taiwan in 2018 than in the entire half-century before that year. Quietly and systematically, the Representative of India’s office is reaching out to the Taiwanese, easing visa procedures and encouraging visits. University to university ties have begun to get established, and the Indian (mostly tech) community in this verdant island is expanding almost by the hour. Less than a decade ago, it was difficult to find vegetarian food in Taipei, but these days, Indian restaurants are proliferating, with almost all the clientele local. It helps that the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, fell in love with the colours and chaos of India that she experienced on her only visit to our country. A second trip was aborted by the then Foreign Secretary, out of anxiety that Beijing would get riled, which indeed it would have. There is zero love lost between Tsai and the Chinese Communist Party, which correctly sees her and her party (the Democratic Progressive Party or DPP) as an obstacle to President Xi Jinping’s objective of uniting the two sides of the Strait within his term of office. The DPP is about as willing to unite with the PRC as Joshua Wong and other protestors in Hong Kong are ready to abandon the “One Country Two Systems” formula worked out by Deng Xiaoping before his passing in 1997. In contrast, the Kuomintang (KMT) Party talks of an “eventual” unification of the two sides, although these days with far less emphasis than before. It was during the KMT rule of Ma Ying-jeou that communications and people-to-people links across the Strait expanded exponentially, and should the KMT’s Presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu prevail over Tsai Ing-wen in the January 2020 Presidential polls, links between the two sides will accelerate to an irreversible degree. Although reticent in public, Han is a firm backer of unification, and will, if elected, work to ensure that a “de facto unification” takes place through a further multiplication of links between the two sides. More to act as a spoiler that would cause the DPP to lose than with any hope of victory, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je seems about to anoint tycoon Terry Guo as his new party’s Presidential candidate. Ko is popular among the youth and several in the DPP who are uneasy at the liberal stance on matters such as same-sex relationships taken by President Tsai, while Guo’s promise to voters is that as a billionaire, he knows best how to create the jobs that young Taiwanese are looking for. With his massive investments across China, Terry Guo as President is unlikely to do anything that would rile the very Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that has allowed him to become a billionaire many times over. Behind the protective cover of language that stresses Taiwanese identity, both Guo and Ko favour closer and closer ties between Taiwan and the superpower to its west, and Beijing knows that it can rely on them to continue the Ma Ying-jeou policy of steadily expanding the links between the two sides of the Strait.
In the 2012 Taiwanese presidential election, Washington was wary of Tsai Ing-wen and joined hands with Beijing (albeit not overtly) to give tacit backing to President Ma Ying-jeou, who won a second term. In the 2020 elections, there is zero doubt about whom the Trump administration favours. It is President Tsai, and the reason for that is not just her liberal outlook and values but the fact that during her term, she has quietly and consistently integrated Taiwan into the US-led Indo-Pacific security and defence supply chain. Another four years in office, and such links would revert to what they were before Nixon and Kissinger tossed Taipei aside in favour of Beijing in 1972. As a consequence, the cost to China of a military invasion of Taiwan would be almost unbearably significant, much more so than the relative sizes of the two sides would indicate. Despite bouts of tough talk designed to win over US voters wary of China, essentially Presidents Clinton, Obama and both the Bushes hewed close to the policy parameters acceptable to Beijing. They had, as a consequence, denied Taiwan the weapons systems and strategic assets needed to fend off an invasion from across the Strait. In contrast, Donald Trump has done more for Taiwan in three years than successive past US Presidents have in thirty. Should there be a high-level visit from the US to the island before next year’s polls, say by National Security Advisor John Bolton (a hero to the independence camp in Taipei), or major tranches of arms supplies take place, the chances for the re-election of Tsai would rise sharply. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would create history were they to invite Tsai Ing-wen to address a joint session of the US Congress, even if in her speech she were to avoid any mention of China. Many voters in Taiwan are insecure about their future, and should they be convinced that President Tsai has enough goodwill in Washington to ensure that there will be an active defence by Trump of Taiwan in the event of tensions with China, she will leave both Han and Guo far behind at the hustings.
The first month of the next year will witness an election that will determine the trajectory of Taiwan for at least a generation. Small wonder that the very capable folks around President Xi are working 24/7 to ensure that Tsai Ing-wen becomes a “One Term President”. The stakes are too high for them to do otherwise. The Chinese presence in Taiwan is much more pervasive than US influence ever was, and this immensely powerful lobby is steaming ahead at speed to try and ensure that the KMT and Taipei Mayor Ko (who are ostensibly rivals, but in fact have been working together to defeat Tsai) succeed in ensuring the DPP’s defeat in both the Presidential polls as well as in the elections to the Legislature, which at present is controlled by the DPP. At the very least, they seek to ensure that the Legislature be controlled by the KMT either by itself or in alliance with Ko’s new party, so as to slow down if not fully block Tsai Ing-wen’s silent but systematic moves towards fashioning a 21st century Indo-Pacific security alliance with the US.

Thursday 15 August 2019

Jeffrey Epstein : a convenient “suicide” (Pakistan Observer)

That several conspiracy theories are simply theories unsupported by evidence does not detract from the fact that conspiracies do exist. The assassination of President John F Kennedy remains a mystery, despite the voluminous report submitted by the politician-turned-jurist Chief Justice Earl Warren. The Warren Commission claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone, and was motivated by hatred for the political ideology represented by Kennedy. Also, that Oswald was not “normal”, whatever that phrase means in a world where there are such divergences between persons.
A surmise that remains in currency is that the killer was acting on behalf of the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba, which was angered by the effort (during the initial days of the Kennedy Administration) to overthrow Castro through an invasion by emigres from Cuba. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a disaster, and was among the reasons why President Kennedy developed a distrust of the military as well as the intelligence agencies. Both had been pressing Kennedy to substantially raise troop levels in Vietnam, a policy option that the US President was resisting. Once Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson took charge on the death of Kennedy, the way was cleared for the disaster that Vietnam represented for the US. Returning to Cuba, had it been a fact that Castro had ordered the killing of Kennedy, his Island would have been overrun within months by the military under instructions from the Pentagon. Among the ( it must be admitted, many) admirable traits of the US is that the other cheek is never turned when a hard slap gets administered by a rival. Instead, a much more violent blow gets landed, as took place in Afghanistan after 9/11. Indeed, the 2003 Iraq war of George W Bush has been seen as motivated by reports accepted by the then President that Saddam Hussein had tried to kill George H W Bush, the father of the then President, as revenge for operation Desert Storm. There is no way that any US Administration would have permitted Castro to continue to rule Cuba, had Oswald genuinely have been sent by the Cuban authorities to kill Kennedy in Dallas, a city that will always be known as the location where John F Kennedy was shot to death.
How did Oswald escape the security sweep that precedes any presidential visit? Why was the Book Depository building not sanitized, nor Oswald stopped on the way to an empty room carrying a high-powered rifle? Why did Jack Ruby, with no previous history of violence, kill Oswald, that too in the midst of a scrimmage of police officers? The death of Kennedy changed US foreign policy for the worse, and removed the threat to the Military Industrial Complex ( General Eisenhower’s description) and the intelligence agencies pressing for a substantial expansion of US military involvement in Vietnam. It must be noted, however, that while President Johnson followed the path prescribed by the Military Industrial Complex on Vietnam, in the matter of racial justice, he implemented the measures that had been initiated by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, finally doing justice to African-Americans a century after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation
And now comes another death, this time of millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who seemed to have a fascination for girls who were young enough to be his grandchildren. Not merely that,Epstein introduced such girls to those who were his friends, including the brother of the Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew, as well as Bill Clinton. The latter is known to be unable to resist even the skirt of a woman fluttering on a clothesline, and records show that he was a frequent visitor to the Epstein abode. Money makes a man popular, and several VIPs frequented the home of an individual who apparently committed grave crimes by exploiting girls who were below the age of consent. Had he been produced in court, several of the VIPs who shared his tastes may have become known. There would therefore have been a strong motivation to ensure that Epstein remained silent, and there is no more effective way of ensuring this than to take away the life of the possible whistle blower. Neither has Epstein’s body been produced nor has any believable explanation been given as to how a man subjected to 24/7 surveillance in a prison cell could have hanged himself to death.
Why have images of the dead man not been released? Who brought the rope to Epstein? In the case of Hermann Goering, who killed himself before being hanged as a war criminal in 1946. The cyanide capsule was hidden inside a fountain pen, which Goering asked a guard to retrieve for him, offering him his wrist watch in exchange. Goering swallowed the cyanide and cheated the hangman. In the case of Epstein, there was no record of depression or any suicidal tendencies in the sexual predator, and the world may have to wait several decades before the circumstances behind the death become known. What is clear is that several VIPs, including Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, will now be able to sleep comfortably without taking a sleeping pill, aware that Epstein has been silenced. The present highly regarded Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Ranjan Gogoi, once told a bail petitioner that prison was a “very safe place”. Such a view is debatable in any circumstance, as has most recently been proved by the “suicide” of Jeffrey Epstein.
Those seeking to forget the matter and move on are calling those who doubt the police version of unassisted suicide as “conspiracy theorists”. Unfortunately, there are many situations when “ conspiracy theories” later get revealed to be true. In the Epstein case, such a development seems unlikely. It has been too convenient a death for any overturning of the cover story to be allowed to take place. The exposure of the activities of Jeffrey Epstein revealed yet again that those with an excess of money and power ( or usually both) often come with a deficit of conscience and good conduct.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

The invisible hand that's pushing Pak's rant against India on Article 370 (PGurus)

What does Pak hopes to achieves by opposing abolishing of #Article370, Prof Nalapat reveals the invisible hand that pushes the narrative around the world which was followed by UK, US MPs 

Saturday 10 August 2019

Western media stands by Two-Nation theory (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Will NYT or Guardian demand that non-Muslims should not be allowed to settle in those locations in Detroit or Bradford where there is a majority of Muslims?

Among the numerous unsung achievements of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was the quiet way in which he resisted the fierce pressure of President Bill Clinton to hand over at least the Kashmir valley to the terror groups sent across the border from Pakistan. As any exhaustive investigation into the actual sources of the billions that have flowed into the Clinton Foundation would demonstrate, the 43rd US President was—and remains—as consistent a backer of the Wahhabi International as Senator Lindsey Graham and the numerous other prominent policymakers who mill around the Wahhabi trough, always generously supplied with funds by HNIs, especially in Qatar, a country that is particularly close to both Graham as well as the Clintons. During a visit to Washington, Prime Minister Rao was mercilessly prodded by President Clinton to sign an Instrument of Surrender that would replace the Instrument of Accession signed in 1947 by Hari Singh, of course after a delay caused by Jawaharlal Nehru’s insistence that the Maharaja of Kashmir function as a subordinate of Sheikh Abdullah. Whether it be Abdullah or Mountbatten or Patel (whose wise suggestions on Kashmir and on other geopolitical matters were serially ignored by Nehru), the emotions of India’s first Prime Minister were decisive in the fashioning of policies whose effects cast a terrible shadow over India even after the lapse of seven decades. At a joint press conference after Clinton’s fortunately futile efforts at convincing Rao to hand over Kashmir to the Wahhabis, the Indian Prime Minister was, somewhat tauntingly, asked by a journalist how he felt after having his “arms twisted by President Clinton”. Looking at President Number 43, Rao laughed and held out his arm, asking if it looked twisted. Throughout his tenure, Rao worked at ensuring that Pakistan-sponsored efforts at detaching Kashmir and Punjab from India failed, empowering those such as KPS Gill and General K V Krishna Rao who he felt could reverse the slide created by defective policy in the past. During the 1990s, whether it be CNN or BBC, the New York Times or the Washington Post, report after report came out that painted India as the villain and Pakistan-sponsored terrorists as saints. Even visible genocide, such as the expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir, or the systematic destruction of Sikh and Hindu places of worship in the disturbed areas, were ignored by these and other foreign television channels and newspapers in contrast to the laudatory stories which appeared almost daily about GHQ Rawalpindi proxies.
Despite 9/11, despite such atrocities of Wahhabi extremists as the genocide of Sunni Kurds, Christians, Yazidi, Shia and Druze in Iraq and Syria, despite the numerous terror attacks in North America and Europe, the same media outlets that stood by the GHQ Rawalpindi terror gangs in the 1990s have rallied yet again, this time to condemn the move of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to finally remove that monument to the “Two Nation” theory, Article 370. This columnist had pointed out more that once that Modi 1. 0 was 20% Modi, 40% Vajpayee and 40% Manmohan Singh. With the Balakot operation and now with the scrapping of Triple Talaq and Article 370, the percentage of “The Real Modi” in Modi 2. 0 has risen from 20% to 80%. The balance 20% is the continuing persistence of Chidambaram-style policies in North Block, the effect of which has been to deprive the country of what may be regarded as the “Modi Rate of Growth”, which is 12% per annum. In contrast, the Nehru Rate of Growth ( misnamed the Hindu rate of growth by Raj Krishna) is around 2%, the level of GDP growth witnessed during the Nehru years. North Block should be made by the PM and by the Finance Minister to remember that Gujaratis around the world did not prosper because of police methods, but because they were given freedom to do business, and were treated with respect, including by Chief Minister Modi. Hopefully, the time will not be long distant before the “Real Modi” quotient in the Modi Sarkar rises to the needed level of 99%.
And what of the New York Times, the Guardian, the Global Times, the Washington Post, the BBC and CNN (Al Jazeera is in a special case because the channel makes no secret of its affinity to the Wahhabi cause) that are daily airing reports that are a facsimile of the kind of reporting that was indulged in by them during the 1990s? Do the editors overseeing such reports even know what Article 370 is? It is an affirmation of the theory that Muslims and Hindus come from different planets and cannot live in peace together. Unfortunately for India, successive Prime Ministers accepted this toxic theory by continuing with Article 370, thereby walling off Jammu & Kashmir from the rest of India simply because the state has a Muslim majority. Will the New York Times or the Guardian demand that non-Muslims should not be allowed to settle in those locations in Detroit or Bradford where there is a majority of Muslim inhabitants? Or that Muslims in the US or the UK should be allowed to divorce simply by uttering “talaq” three times, or each have four wives? Both Russia and China have provinces where there is a “majority of the national minority”, but will the GHQ Rawalpindi-backing Global Times demand that people from the rest of China should not be allowed to settle in Xinjiang? If the editors of that newspaper find such an idea absurd, why are they backing it in India? Physicians of the media, first heal thyself. Demand an Article 370 in “minority as majority” locations in your own countries before heaping obloquy on Narendra Damodardas Modi for being the first Prime Minister since 1947 to jettison the “Two Nation” theory from the only state in the country where the Jinnah-Churchill doctrine still ruled supreme. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis are all the same in a secular and democratic India.

Friday 9 August 2019

Japan must ensure harmony with South Korea (Pakistan Observer)

JAPAN is a country that has reached the front rank of nations through the quality of its leadership as well as the quality of its people. The Japanese economy has weakened ever since a decision was made by Tokyo from the late 1980s till the middle of the 1990s to surrender to US demands on trade and investment rather than adopt the stance China has these days, that of resisting rather than accepting Washington’s demands. Any other country would have witnessed rising levels of social unrest as a consequence of the steady fall in average incomes during the extended period of deflation that Japan has faced. Instead, the Japanese people have stoically accepted their fate, and there has been no turmoil at all as a consequence of the much slower pace of the Japanese economy. Despite the fact that Administrations in the US made Tokyo agree to measures that serve the interests of the US at the expense of Japan, there has not been any vacillation in the manner in which successive Administrations in Tokyo have supported the US-Japan alliance.
While in the past, owing to its pacifist constitution, Japan was unable to militarily assist the US in numerous theatres of conflict across Asia. However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working hard on making changes to the constitution and the laws that would give a future government in Tokyo the freedom to intervene militarily if needed. It needs to be mentioned that the Japanese “Self Defence Forces” are a formidable force that contains a powerful army, navy and air force. It is also no secret that Japan is “just a screwdriver away” from having its own nuclear weapons. The nuclear industry is highly developed in Japan, and several companies in that island country are leaders in the field. The only blind spot of the Shinzo Abe government is its inability or unwillingness to recognize that the pre-1945 history of Japan still remains in the collective memories of the people of several countries, notably China and South Korea, in both of which the Japanese ruled, and not very gently. While China is now a superpower and can fend for itself, South Korea is still an economy smaller than that of Japan. The country was occupied by Japan for a considerable period of time, and as with most colonists, the people of Korea were exploited by the authorities in Japan in a manner that cannot be forgotten, even if it gets forgiven eventually. For this to happen, the Shinzo Abe government needs to adopt a much more understanding line towards Seoul than has been the case thus far. The latest example is the use of the trade weapon to attempt to force through concessions from South Korea. This is similar to what President Trump is doing in the case of China.
Both South Korea as well as Japan are not just democracies but neighbours of each other. The bitter memories of the decades under Japanese overlordship remain in the historical memory of not just South Korea but North Korea as well. It is no secret that Pyongyang is paying careful attention to the development of missiles and their payloads as would inflict significant casualties on the Japanese people in the eventuality of conflict between North Korea and Japan, which would need to come to the assistance of the US were President Trump to decide to tackle the North Korean issue through military force, hopefully an option that will be avoided. Just as there are several South Koreans with a negative view of Japan, there are many Japanese whose antipathy even extends to their even refusing to travel in a South Korean car when abroad, even though some of the South Korean models are better and more cost effective than many of their European competitors.
Playing to such sentiments is a political tactic that has been followed by both President Trump as well as his close associate, Prime Minister Abe. The consequence has been a souring in relations between Seoul and Tokyo that can damage both. The move by the Japanese government to block the sale of essential minerals to South Korea will be seen by the latter as an effort to weaken South Korean companies that are competing with Japanese entities across the world. The sudden rise in trade frictions across the world carries the risk of setting off a fall in global economic activity. Such a situation would increase the chances for unrest and chaos in several countries. It is no accident that the “Arab Spring” of 2011 took place in those countries where citizens battled high levels of inflation and unemployment, and spared those countries where the economies were strong and the life of citizens more comfortable. Prime Minister Abe is the leader of a country with a long tradition of noble conduct in the past, and he should keep that in mind while dealing with frictions caused by South Korean politicians.
In times past, the US would intervene in such situations, but President Trump has been so harried and pre-occupied by the Mueller probe into Russian influence among those close to Trump that the effectiveness of much of US policy has been compromised. Far from promoting the national interest, Robert Mueller and the Clinton Machine that backed him has harmed US interests substantially by weakening the hand of President Trump and diverting his attention and his energies from national causes to self-preservation in the face of an assault of unprecedented scale that has been designed to force him to quit or to create the circumstances for a successful bid to impeach him. There is almost no doubt that the Clinton Machine will succeed in the beginning an Impeachment Hearing in the US House of Representatives, that would further divert the attention of the President. Rather than following the example of politicians in the US, Prime Minister Abe needs to act with the grace and nobility shown by Emperor Naruhito of Japan, and work out a conciliation with the Moon Jae-in regime in Seoul rather than continue a conflict that is harming both East Asian democracies and tipping the world further into a global trade war of the kind that was last seen in the 1930s. Over to Shinzo Abe.

Saturday 3 August 2019

Clinton acolytes battle ‘Sanderista’ Democrats (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Gabbard, Sanders, Warren and Harris are disliked by the Clinton machine, which has remained locked to the billionaire-friendly approach for at least two decades.

NEW YORK: It has happened in all democracies, including in India. A party in opposition comes to power promising a root-and-branch change from the party that was in power, but once in office, rapidly becomes indistinguishable from the party it has replaced. It was Bill Clinton who moved the Democratic Party completely away from the focus on the underprivileged that was the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Covered in a mist of sweet and misleading nothings, President Clinton both continued with policies that benefited small groups of wealthy donors at the expense of the general public, while adding more such policies of his own. Clinton got laws passed that filled the jails more than any other US President, except perhaps Richard M. Nixon (who himself escaped jail through a Presidential pardon that killed the political career of his successor, Jerry Ford). He did away with the checks to the insatiable greed of the financial industry that had been put in place during the Franklin Roosevelt years, and which no previous President of the US had the temerity to abolish. Mesmerised by his mannerisms and his words, underprivileged US voters saw Bill Clinton as their champion even while the 42nd US President was demonstrating his loyalty to the big donors who kept his campaigns and after he had left office, the Clinton Foundation, filled with cheques. The next Democratic President, Barack Obama, despite his Rooseveltian speeches, spent nearly six of his eight years in office tethered to Clinton personnel and doctrines, managing to free himself to a considerable extent only towards the latter half of his second term. The still powerful Clinton machine, greased and made fighting fit by the billionaires and millionaires it represents, ensured the entry of Donald J. Trump to the White House by taking the Democratic Party nomination away from Bernie Sanders in a no-holds-barred manner overseen by loyalists within the party such as Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, the 2016 Chairperson who was among those who facilitated the neutering of what may be termed the “Sandersistas”, only to watch Trump take office on 20 January 2016. The interests represented by the Clinton machine are comfortable with the present occupant of the White House, which is why they are backing Democratic Party candidates for the nomination to the Presidential contest such as Joe Biden or Beto O’Rourke. Although personally honest and frugal in his lifestyle, Biden has expended decades of his life cosying up to the corporate interests that are so influential in Delaware. In 2016, he declined to fight Hillary Clinton for the nomination, a self-sacrificing stance that won him the support of Bill and Hillary and made him their favourite for the 2020 race.
Among the most telegenic of those battling for the Democratic Party nomination is Tulsi Gabbard, but her time will come only in the 2024 contest and not now. She as well as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are disliked by the Clinton machine and their ally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has remained locked to the billionaire-friendly approach of the Clintons for at least the past two decades. It is therefore not a surprise that President Trump has a soft corner for her, tweeting to her defence and going after those in the Democratic Party who are unhappy with Speaker Pelosi’s tepid approach to issues concerning social justice. In a manner last seen under Ronald Reagan, who spent nearly a decade publicly opposing Medicare and Medicaid on behalf of the big pharmaceutical and private hospital lobby, Trump has cut back the meagre entitlements given to the poor in the US. The latest such socially regressive step is the taking away of food stamps by the US Department of Agriculture that would deny more than 500,000 poor schoolchildren their midday meals at school. Such meals make for better grades and eventually more productive citizens, but under Trump, only those like him who are smart enough to be born in the home of wealthy parents deserves any consideration. Trump’s “Let the poor starve” approach has an ally in Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader in that august chamber, who is opposed to any public money being spent on those earning less than a hundred thousand dollars a year. The latest move that he is blocking is by several members of both Republican and Democratic Parties to introduce paper ballots in elections. There are more than a few credible reports of electronic interference in voting done through EVMs, and many believe that the best way to prevent such malpractice would be to once again introduce paper ballots, the way countries such as Germany have done. As Russian state actors are accused of being the primary sources of such electronic interference in US elections, McConnell’s resistance to paper ballots has led to him being called “Moscow Mitch” by his political foes.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party moves closer towards choosing its 2020 nominee to challenge Trump. Just as Hillary Clinton was programmed to get defeated by Donald Trump, so will Clinton favourite Joe Biden. The majority of voters in the US are unhappy with the way the institutions of governance in the country are tilted away from ordinary folk and towards the interests of the millionaire and billionaire class. A Sanders-Harris ticket seemed a winner, but the Vermont Senator seems to have lost the momentum that he had in 2016. An interesting development would be if two women were to stand on the Democratic Party ticket: Elizabeth Warren as Presidential candidate and Kamala Harris as her Vice-Presidential pick. There have been umpteen male-male tickets, and voters in the US may respond to a “Ladies Only” ticket, the way they did to the “Southerners Only” Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992. Both Warren and Harris are emphatically outside the Clinton mould, and an administration run by them would change the US comprehensively from what it has been since the days of Ronald Reagan.

Friday 2 August 2019

Trump Republicans gravitate to the race card (Pakistan Observer)

IT would be less than fair to call President Donld J Trump a racist. It is correct that he has in the recent past been unrestrained in his invective against Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Ayaana Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Representative Elijah Cummings and Jessie Jackson. None are of European ethnic origin. However, Trump has been equally dismissive about Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, not to mention others of European ethnicity. However, the Republican Party that functions under President Trump is unrecognizable from the oarty that Abraham Lincoln twice led to victory in the presidential elections. Of course, where racial justice is concerned, the crime laws passed under President Bill Clinton and vociferously backed by the then Senator Joe Biden resulted in targeted injustice to African American youths. The repeal of the Glass Steagal Act, again by Clinton to applause from Biden, played a key role in creating the conditions for the “Greed Recession” that followed the 2008 Wall Street meltdown. Barack Obama, under prodding from the Clinton machine (to which he was subservient for years) stood aside while millions lost their homes, even as he and Nancy Pelosi approved bailouts of nearly a trillion dollars to the hyper rich.
Democrats have therefore been no different from Republicans where it comes to cosying up to money. However, these days there is an increasing volume of no longer subliminal ethno-centric slogans of the Republican Party, which is now unabashedly distant from the days when Abraham Lincoln got signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to an audible gnashing of those who in substance strayed so far from the teachings of Jesus Christ as to consider slavery of those whose ethnic origin was Africa, the natural order of things. Slaveholders and those who tolerated or encouraged such a vicious system used to go to church every weekend, and regarded themselves as “Good Christians”, just as the practitioners of apartheid did in South Africa a century later. During Lincoln’s time, the Republican Party got transformed into an instrument of social change because of the influence of Lincoln and others of European extraction who took seriously the motto that “all men are created equal.
These days, the Republican Party is indistinguishable from what the Democratic Party was in Lincoln’s time, a Party which had adopted 150 years ago the creed later carried out in practice by Adolf Hitler to murderous effect, that there were “Herrenmensch” (Master Races) and “Untermensch”, (Inferior Races). There are risks in ignoring the fact that ability is unrelated to ethnicity or faith. The National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) led by Hitler considered atomic physics to be “Jewish science”, as most of those researching the subject were of that faith. While many such experts were criminally killed by Hitler’s NSDAP thugs, enough escaped to the US to bring to the attention of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ( the third most consequential US President after George Washington and Abraham Lincoln) to the possibility of developing weapons of such power that their use would ensure victory in war. With help from Jewish scientists, Roosevelt launched “Tube Alloys”, the project which resulted in the first ever detonation of a nuclear device on 16 July 1945.
Many believed that the 1933-45 experience of Germany (whose “Herrenmensch” were thrashed into pulp during 1943-45 by the Russian “Untermensch”) would have prevented policymakers across the world from regarding ethnicity as the key to success. However, it did not. The European Union, for instance, kept its doors closed for the most talented individuals of cities in India such as Chennai and Hyderabad, while its western members welcomed into their millions from Eastern Europe who had rudimentary education and capabilities, in the (silently expressed) belief that a European – any European – was preferable to any Asian. The drive to block immigration into the European Union from countries in Asia was led by Germany, although it must be said that under Angela Merkel, the character of the country was permitted to change completely as a consequence of the entry into Germany of what will easily cross two million new citizens from North Africa and other locations outside Europe, without any test or screening whatsoever. Within two generations, Germany will have an entirely different chemistry as a consequence of the bold decision by Chancellor Merkel.
Angela Merkel changed Germany by welcoming migration into the country. Trump is changing the chemistry of the US by blocking migration in ways that are often disturbing, although it must be said that similar scenes occurred during the Obama years, although the media did not pay a tenth as much attention to them as they do to the situation under President Trump. There is a swagger among under-educated and under-employed heterosexual males of European descent, a distinct feeling that the US belongs to them and others of the same complexion, so that those with a permanent tan should be kept out. Such a stance goes against the currents of demographic change and the Zeitgeist (spirit) of the 21st century. The Republican Party is going back to where much of the Democratic Party was in the 1950s, and it is not a pretty sight, ad while it may ensure that Trump win his second term in the 2020 polls, in the longer run, bias towards a particular race will cost the Republican Party heavily in a country where demographic change is impossible to stop or even slow down.