Friday, 27 September 2019

Elizabeth Warren gains over Joe Biden (Pakistan Observer)

SENATOR Elizabeth Warren is gaining on the Clinton clique’s lead choice for the Presidency of the United States, former Vice-President Joe Biden. This inoffensive and financially honest member of the once Clinton-dominated (but now just Clinton-influenced) Washington Beltway has had a stellar career in politics, and had a winnable chance of becoming President of the United States in 2016. However, during the 2016 campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, he stepped aside in favour of Hillary Clinton as the challenger to Donald J Trump, in a supreme act of loyalty to the Clinton clique within the Democratic Party. The Clintons believed that it would be an easy matter to defeat Trump, and they ensured through friendly media outlets a stream of reports, most dealing with the personal life of the New York billionaire who in friendlier times had worked together with the Clintons in matters of business.
Although Joe Biden casts himself as the favourite of the still popular Barack Obama, the reality is that Obama refused to endorse a 2016 Biden bid for the Presidency, nor has he – publicly at least – supported his former Vice-President against the nearly two dozen other challengers that he has to be the party nominee for the 2020 polls. While Biden claims that he is the politician closest to Obama on a daily basis, there seems to have been some flaw in the relationship that has thus far prevented the 44rth US President from endorsing Biden as the best 46th President. Despite his well deserved reputation for integrity, it is known that Senator Biden stood foursquare behind the massive financial interests headquartered in Delaware, just across the border from Washington. And that Biden still has a whiff of the ethnic superiority that some individuals of European extraction have when they compare themselves to those with an Asian or an African ethnic background. Some of the unguarded remarks made by Biden on the campaign trail (such as his patronizing comment that some of those children not of European extraction are as good as the latter) give indications that Joe Biden is in some aspects very much a man of the 1950s, a time when segregation was commonplace in states such as Mississippi and Alabama.
That was a time when several European countries still retained their colonies, and when much of South America was governed by the 5-15% of the population of individual countries that had full European ethnicity. At that time, Asia was still far behind Europe in economic development, while in the field of education, Asian countries were far behind their European counterparts. Given the hangover of nearly four centuries of European colonization of much of the world (including the wiping off of most of the native populations of North America and Australia, such attitudes were perhaps no surprise. However, Biden retains some very conservative views on the right to abortion as well as on divorce, being a strict follower of the Church of Rome in his private life. He is therefore not representative of the overwhelming majority of the population of the US, and it shows.
Joe Biden is day before yesterday’s man, so it is not a surprise that his candidacy is being overtaken by a fiercely idealistic Senator, Elizabeth Warren. This US Senator has shown a contempt for the US financial industry ( which almost closed down the world economy in 2008 because of its greed) that has alarmed those who seek to beguile small investors of their savings through misleading claims. Were she to become President of the US, Elizabeth Warren would follow in the footsteps of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who sought to control the moneybags. Because of the manner in which he folded up his 2016 campaign and trotted along (with then President Obama) behind the campaign train of Hillary Clinton, it would appear that Senator Bernie Sanders is fading out of the race. Another idealistic campaigner, California Senator Kamala Harris, seems to have used the political appeal of her adopted family (including children), for fear of diluting her appeal to the African-American community.
Had her adopted family (which is of European ethnicity) been given a central role in her campaign, Senator Harris may not have been trailing behind Clinton favourite Biden (whose appeal seems to be fading by the day) as well as Senators Warren and Sanders. A Joe Biden would get defeated with ease by Donald J Trump. An Elizabeth Warren has the mass appeal needed to overcome the billionaire’s advantages in the 2020 contest. Throughout her career, she has refused to bow to the pressure and the blandishments of Big Money. She is clearly a person of character, which is why more and more voters are flocking around her candidacy. Should she come first in Iowa and New Hampshire, she would be en route to securing the Democratic Party nomination, although she will of course be opposed by the Clintons. This pair represents the Big Money that Senator Warren has battled all her political life against, and there must be hectic backroom games being played to slow down her progress towards front runner status.
During this contest between her and Biden, reports that Hunter Biden (the son of Joe Biden) may have dealt with some dodgy individuals in Ukraine (a country awash in dodgy individuals) are not helping his father. Rather than accept that an investigation into possible corruption by the son of a Vice-President of the US (which Joe Biden was at the time Hunter was in Kiev) is in the US national interest, some Democratic Party hopefuls are seeking to impeach President Trump for daring to ask the Ukrainian authorities for information about possible corruption by a prominent US citizen. Impeaching Trump on such a specious charge will finish off both the Biden campaign as well as the image of integrity that the post-Clinton leadership in the Democratic Party is seeking to create. Impeachment will add to the votes for President Trump, not subtract them. Once again, the Clinton clique is on course to ensure victory for Donald J Trump in 2020, the way they did in 2016.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

What aspects of 'ancient civilizations' can have a positive impact in the modern era? (CGTN)

The UN Secretary-General has raised a warning against a "great fracture" as U.S. President Donald Trump said "the future does not belong to globalists, but rather to patriots," in his UN speech. China met with other countries at the Ancient Civilizations Forum at the United Nations in an effort to draw upon experience from millennia-old civilizations, and seek out wisdom for the modern age. What is the danger of a "great fracture"? And how can they provide a source of soft power for modern, multidimensional international relations? 

Monday, 23 September 2019

Get with the Programme (Rotary Club of Bombay)

Professor of Geopolitics, Madhav Nalapat spoke to Rotarians yesterday about the need to accept the shifting world order.

MADHAV Nalapat, India’s first professor of geopolitics, is modest about the number of achievements that follow his name. “He is the right person for this talk – Geopolitics and US, China and India power shifts. He understands the world very well!” said Rtn. Manjeet in his introduction.

Madhav said: “We are talking about the US and China, where does India come in to the picture? This country is on track to being the third biggest economy of the world in terms of purchasing power. China is, of course, the biggest economy and the USA is the second-biggest economy. These three are going to be big for a very long time. In that sense, it’s apt to talk about the three of them.”

“In 1991-92, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was talk of a unipolar world. When we talk of a unipolar world, we mean a unipolar idea, too. Idea is the idea of government mechanism, its function, management, military, security, etc. The collapse of the Soviet system removed the only rival to the US system. That rival system was effective, many countries opted to go Communist; some countries like India adopted the Soviet model which, in my view, was regrettable. We demolished the private sector in India in the ’50s when it was more robust than the private sector in Japan or South Korea. So, the Soviet Union had an impact but it collapsed.”

“In media, the leader of the market gets practically 50-60 per cent of total advertising. The guy second gets about 20-35 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent is shared by everyone else. So it is very important to come first. You see all these kids going to KFC, McDonald’s, making a bee line for Hollywood movies, listening to American music, wearing denim etc. But, I believe, America is a quadri-continental country: it has elements of South American, African and Asian culture but some elites believe it is entirely European and other cultures do not belong to America, which is not true. It is very important to be number one in the world because that gives you tremendous soft power and financial power.”

The US dollar, for example, is the currency used for world transaction. It is much stronger because the US is a top country. Now, another country recognised, early on, that if you are the top country, you get enormous leverage on other countries. So after the short period, during which Americans felt that their system had won, today, a new system has come up in the 21st century that is challenging the America-led system in the manner the Soviet Union challenged them, ’50s onwards. That is the Chinese system.”

“Today, democracies across the world are choosing strong leaders because they see the effect of an authoritarian structure on China, which can by no means be called a democracy. My theory is that China is growing because of its authoritarian nature. The Chinese communist party has such tight control and that is why it has had double digit growth. In other words, it is authoritarianism that has promoted Chinese growth. Voters are turning to strong leaders across the world, whether in Turkey, Russia, the US or India. It is the China effect. Chinese companies are taken seriously because the country is moving up the rankings. It is set to become number one in any metric. When that happens, the demonstration effect in economics, politics and geopolitics will become very profound.”

“This would be a complete transformation of geopolitics and, not unnaturally, people in the US are very concerned about this, especially President Trump. I would have been very happy if PM Modi would have chosen one or two people from this group at the PM’s office for key positions. I would like to see people who did something without government support and without the exchequer funding them.”

“Donald Trump has got it: the day China becomes number one in GDP terms – that is the day China is going to find it much easier to break American allies, control or logistics chains, and also American’s financial chains. The Yen is indeed going to start catching up to the dollar. Thus, the trade war with the United States is part of the existential struggle between two systems. We saw one with the US and Soviet Union in which the US won. That’s it! No challenger in the ring. The reality is, this has now become a formidable existential challenge for the US; a large part of US’s economy is based on perception. It is like a bank, consultancy and so many other service industries. Perception drives reality and itself forms a reality. Once the US surrenders that position and the Chinese take over, it will lead to change in perception that will very severely impact the United States.”

“From the American point of view, when the people told me about the trade war in 2018, my prediction was that it would last for generations. Then, I went to China in 2018 and there were reports that Trump wants the Chinese to buy more soyabean, condos, hotel rooms etc. On the American side, I was very clear that it is going to be a fight to the finish. On Chinese side, when I asked about the trade war, they gave me a book to read: On Protracted War by Mao Zedong. In it, Chairman Mao wrote, ‘I want two sets of people to be completely eliminated from the leadership of our party; one: the ones who do not believe that we are going to win. Anybody who thinks we are going to lose should be eliminated. Two: anybody who believes it is going to be easy to defeat the Japanese is as dangerous to the party. It is going to be a very long, hard struggle but, make no mistake, our side is going to win.’ That book was given to me by a very top official in China as an illustration of what they regarded as having been launched, which is a fight to the finish where it’s either China or the US.”

“This battle will end once the US ensures that China falls too far behind to catch up in a generation. I think that is the intention of Trump, Peter Navarro (Assistant to the US President, and Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy). Today, we have two military blocs like we did in the past. One is led by China and the other is led by the US. Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Venezuela, Iran and some other countries are very much part of the China military bloc.”

“I would like to believe, that in our case we do not have a choice, we have to go to the US military bloc and have no place in a China-led military system. The Chinese have now started to dominate the Eurasian landmass. The Belt and Road system is a brilliant idea of President Xi Jinping. In my view, Mao unified China and the country became bigger than every other emperor of China had managed before him. Then there was Deng Xiaoping. Frankly, if you go to China and ask them about Karl Marx, they’d think he is some Hollywood star – that has happened to me.”

“In this kind of battle we have to take sides. And, let us be honest, today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union of the past. Long time ago, there was a man called Durga Prasad Dhar – he worked out a military-style agreement with the Soviet Union. My grandfather got in to a bit of argument with him then and asked why he had signed that pact with Russia. He said, ‘We will have to militarily intervene in East Pakistan and takeover that place to help the Bengalis. If we do that, the Americans will make sure that China jumps on our back and try and break it. The only way to keep China out is by having an alliance with the Soviet Union and I am doing it because of that’.”

“Today, the PM and Amit Shah have said that we have to take over the PoK which, I think, is very important and for that you need a friendship with Afghanistan and you need the US to keep China off your back. Taking hold of PoK is strategically important for us. Today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union of the past. It was anti-US, anti-Russia, anti-Pakistan. Today’s Russia is the closest military ally of China and therefore a close military friend of America. Today’s America certainly doesn’t like Pakistan. That is why we need an alliance with the US because it is today ready to transfer its entire defence platforms to us and make us the most significant partners they have. For the simple reason that ensuring China remains peaceful, ensuring control over the oceans, ensuring control over space, cyberspace. That is why, I say, geopolitics has shifted, let’s not be romantic about the past, let’s be very hard-headed, let’s trade with China and have a security alliance with the US.”

ROTARIANS ASK Apart from allying, where are we going? How would you advise us to improve ourselves?
I had expectations of Modi 1.0 to bring a change in the colonial system of government. I strongly believe in minimum government and we can respond best to that; the stronger the government, the weaker the Indians. So, I am hopeful for Modi 2.0.

What is your view of the US-China trade war?
I think it is a great opportunity for India. Taiwanese companies want to relocate; very few are coming in India because it is difficult to do business here. There are a lot of red lines invisible to the naked eye. Crossing them has become jail-able. It is scary to do anything. We need more public opinion.

What is your take on Hong Kong protests?
I think China is acting smartly in terms of Hong Kong. In my view, the President is giving a very long rope to Hong Kong and the people there are never going to be free from China. To prove we believe in one country, two systems, and two to create revolution among Chinese that Chinese would say, if this is a democracy, I don’t want democracy.

PoK is very important for India, but I don’t see a remote chance to venture there because of the nuclear threats.
There is no chance of any nuclear war with Pakistan because there are 46 sites in Pakistan which are at the direct range of Indian Nuclear retaliation. We may suffer for 15 years but they will suffer for eternity. They are not going to risk their homes to nuclear attack at the cost of their country.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Howdy Modi Bye Bye Imran (NewsX)

New Episode 6 Straight Talk With Joyeeta Basu On Howdy Modi Bye Bye Imran | NewsX

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

An India-America New Deal with Madhav Nalapat | IndiaX Pride & Power Episode 8 | NewsX

Madhav Nalapat on India- America New Deal | IndiaX Pride & Power | NewsX The Sunday Guardian Editorial Director Prof. Madhav Nalapat speaks on how the strengthening Indo-U.S relations could prove beneficial for India, especially in its fight against terror and Pakistan. 

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Prof. M D Nalapat | Integrating PoK with India as a Next Logical Step (Manipal)

A special lecture by Prof. M D Nalapat on "Integrating PoK with India as a Next Logical Step" delivered at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal on 14 September 2019

Friday, 13 September 2019

Corbyn Tories seek Boris surrender to EU (Pakistan Observer)

THE former Home Secretary in the Teresa May government of the Conservative Party is the latest to seek to weaken UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s negotiating position with the European Union to the benefit of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and EU headquarters in Brussels. The reality is that the EU will still need the UK if the entity is to retain its present strength in global market, just as the UK – even outside the EU – would find it an advantage to have normal trading relations with other European countries. “Normal” would be defined as trading relationships under WTO rules, as between Japan (a non-EU member) with its European trading partners. Teresa May believed that it was a mistake for voters in the UK to have opted to leave the EU, and from the start of her Prime Ministership was visibly half-hearted in negotiating terms with Brussels.
Given that only Germany and the UK provided a surplus of funds to the EU, all other countries being in deficit, the Germans in particular (as usual working in an unobtrusive fashion) sought to make the process of divorce so painful that London would reconsider its decision through a second referendum. While on the surface Prime Minister May functioned as though she was sincerely seeking a separation agreement with the other members of the EU, in reality she adopted a stance that would (or so she hoped) make voters in Britain re-consider their earlier decision to walk out of Brussels Club. The agreement worked out by Mrs May was tilted against the interests of the UK, leaving the country with none of the powers it earlier had to influence decisions in the EU Councils, but with most of the obligations of the EU Charter still needing to be met by the British government.
In particular, a huge payout had to be given as ransom to Brussels for walking out of a union to which the UK had contributed far more than what it had taken to, unlike Germany, whose exports and influence grew substantially as a consequence of being in an EU that included another big contributor to the Brussels budget, Britain. The agreement worked out by Mrs May infuriated the Conservative Party, and led to her replacement in the course of time with Boris Johnson, who had served as her Foreign Secretary and who was squarely within the English tradition of exuberant eccentricity, such as that demonstrated by some of the anchors in the BBC, whose twitching and staccato sentences are often more entertaining than educative.
Unfortunately for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a section of his party has from the start been seeking to ensure his failure in the job undertaken by him, which is to leave the European Union either on terms better than those negotiated by Teresa May or without any deal. If the latter, any effort by Brussels to inflict pain on the UK may hurt the country in the short run, but would damage the interests of the EU far more within three years. In negotiating with the EU, it is Boris Johnson that has the stronger hand and not Brussels, but that position of strength is getting eliminated by sabotage from within the Conservative Party itself. To the glee of both the Eurocrats Jeremy Corbyn, Parliament in Westminister has passed law after law that weakens the negotiating position of the UK in any last-minute talks with the rest of the EU.
The intention of the Conservative Party rebels (who are acting in sync with the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats) is to show up Boris Johnson as a failure by making sure that he will have to surrender to Brussels and finally accept either the Teresa May deal or go in for a fresh referendum. The Eurocrats expect that this time around, there will be a majority for the Remain Faction that seeks to keep Britain in the EU. Certainly the self-created confusion and chaos within the Conservative Party may persuade several voters to back the Remain faction. However, they may have the effect of hardening the anti-EU feeling that is latent in the UK (which is being flooded with migrants from the poorer countries of Europe, even as Teresa May and others of her disposition kept out qualified individuals from India on the ground that they lacked European ethnicity). In 1940, the easy course would have been for incoming Prime Minister Winston S Churchill to come to a agreement with Adolf Hitler and stop fighting.
That would have saved Britain nearly five years of war and losses in life and treasure, not to mention the dissolution of the British Empire. Subservience to Berlin would have avoided that, at least in the short run, but over a longer period, would have been the ruin of Britain. Churchill held his ground and refused to follow the counsel of several in his party (such as Lord Halifax) who wanted a negotiated end to the war throughout 1940-41. As a consequence, the Allies won. Should Boris Johnson succeed in leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October, that would be in the “never agree to surrender” tradition of Winston Churchill. However, many within his own party seek to ensure that he fails in this monumental task, success in which will be to the long-term interest of the UK although there will be economic pain for about three years following the exit of Britain from the EU without an agreement. The Germans in particular must be delighted at the attacks from within on Boris Johnson, unlike in 1940-41, when the overwhelming majority of Conservatives held their nerve and agreed with Churchill that surrender was not an option.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Trump seeks to stop China becoming No 1 (Pakistan Observer)

WHEN President Donald J Trump launched a trade war against China last year , the expectation of most observers of the global financial scene was that tensions would subside in a few months, if not weeks. The Chinese would buy more US sorgum and soybean, and Trump would declare victory and roll back the tariffs imposed on Chinese exports to the US. After all, the two countries were the most important trading partners of each other, and numerous US enterprises had either set up facilities in China or were making handsome profits selling Chinese products in the home market. China too bought a large volume of US goods, but far less than what it exported. Chinese importers see to have an affinity for Europe more than for the US, and very often, if a European item was available at a competitive price, that was preferred to the US substitute.
Thanks to the burgeoning Chinese market, European countries have scrambled to establish close ties with China, with the UK and Germany leading the pack seeking to win favour with the government in Beijing. They are facing competition from US companies, that ensured that President Clinton did away with the most powerful lever Washington had over China, which was the annual certification that the world’s most populous country needed from the US administration before the annual Most Favoured Nation clause was renewed. Clinton did away with the need for certification early in the new century, thereby pleasing both US business interests as well as the Chinese Communist Party. After Clinton, President George W Bush seemed to back away from the China-friendly policy followed by his father, President George H W Bush, only to return to a China-friendly approach once 9/11 occurred and the attention of the US turned once again to the Middle East and to Afghanistan. President Barack Obama, guided as he was during much of his term by those close to Bill and Hillary Clinton, continued the Clinton-era policy by talking tough but acting soft. Being from the business community, it was assumed that Donald J Trump would be as China-friendly as his three immediate predecessors.
However, such an assumption was made by policymakers across both sides of the Pacific and the Atlantic only because a few had cared to go through the statements about China that the billionaire New York entrepreneur had been making for almost forty years. Trump had been consistent in his view that the US was the loser – a big loser – in trade with China, and that tariffs were the best way to ensure that US interests and companies retain their lead in global business when faced with competition from Chinese entities. Once he became the 45th President of the US, Trump appointed two “hawks” on China, academic Peter Navarro and negotiator Robert Lighthizer to positions from where they changed policy towards China to the opposite of what it had been till then. Tariffs have by now been put on almost all Chinese exports to the US, even while the demands made of China by Navarro and Lighthizer can be met only if the Chinese Communist Party is willing to face a public backlash that may seriously weaken its hold on power.
Donald J Trump is an old-fashioned patriot who wants his country to remain Number One globally in the 21st Century, the way it was for much of the 20th. Trump is a shrewd businessperson who navigated several crises to ensure his businesses not merely grew but thrived. He knows that once China becomes the undisputed Number 1 economic power globally, the immense soft power of the US will begin to melt away. The dollar, despite the huge internal and external debts of the US, remains the medium of international exchange and a stable currency. KFC, McDonalds, Coca-Cola and other US brands are world leaders not because of price or quality, but because they are American. The same goes for Hollywood. The intangible boost given to every US activity (especially business) because the country is the world’s Number One would begin to diminish once China took over that slot. From then onwards, it would be Chinese entities that would enjoy the dividends that come from belonging to the World Number One.
According to not just Trump but many others, it is the US that has enabled China to become an economy that is on the tip of overtaking its biggest business partner. Companies have transferred knowledge and access to Chinese partners, something that Trump wants to stop. In fact, the US President has gone as far as to hint that US companies should leave China en masse. Along with US enterprises, European and Asian companies are taking the hint and have started leaving the country. After Tsai Ing-wen defeated the KMT’s Eric Chu and took over as President of Taiwan in 2016, she has been quietly encouraging Taiwanese companies to “look southbound” ie to countries that are competing with China in attracting investment, such as Indonesia, India and Vietnam. Since the Trade War got launched more than a year ago, and which shows no sign of abating, leave along ending, hundreds of Taiwanese companies have listened to the advice given by Taiwan’s new President and begun the process of locating their manufacturing activities elsewhere than in China.
As Trump calculated, this has slowed down the Chinese economy, thereby pushing further into the future the day when China will overtake the US in GDP. If Trump had his way, that day would not come at all. He is intent on weakening the Chinese economy to a level that will impact on political stability, while constantly messaging his hostility. What is taking place in Hong Kong can be explained less by politics than by the fact that several young Hong Kong residents of Chinese descent are unable to find a job that would pay them enough to rent an apartment of a tolerable size in a city where rents and property values have skyrocketed while wage increases have remained sluggish.
The calculation of President Trump and the “China hawks” around him (including National Security Advisor John Bolton and the immensely capable Vice-President Mike Pence) is that the Hong Kong situation can get replicated in other cities once economic growth slows down further. It is a bold but risky move by a President who seeks to achieve in China what President Ronald Reagan achieved in the case of the Soviet Union, which was to create economic and diplomatic conditions that led to an implosion of internal support and external reliance. China is not the Soviet Union, and unlike the bureaucrats that ran the USSR, has a dedicated and capable leader in Xi Jinping. What the trajectory of the China-US contest will be is not yet clear. Will the US continue as World Number One, or China step into that position? That question is what the US-China “trade” war is all about.