Saturday 28 September 2019

Yemen war will kill MBS reforms (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

War would result in the meltdown of many ruling structures in the Middle East. 

In a global economy hovering close to the borderline of not just an economic recession but a 1930s-style Great Depression, any conflict in the Middle East would be an economic risk. The downside would be particularly sharp in the event of an intensification of the already out of control proxy war in Yemen between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Disinformation is second nature to media outlets such as BBC, CNN or Al Jazeera, so it is no surprise that they are pointing to Iran as being the country directly—repeat, directly—responsible for the drone attack on two of the biggest oilfields in KSA. The resulting blaze temporarily knocked out 5% of the global production of crude oil, accounting for half of Saudi output. What is likely is that the drones were supplied by the Houthis, most likely to groups of the disaffected Shia communities dotted across the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. The Shia community has the legitimate grievance that the lands in which they reside account for much of the Kingdom’s oil production, and yet their own share of the revenue that accrues from the resource is less than 3% of the total. The Shias are among the most disadvantaged communities in KSA, and it is time that the Reformer Prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), prodded his not always socially responsive administration to give them a much better deal than has been the case in Saudi Arabia for centuries. While the drones may have been supplied to the Houthis by groups close to Iran based within the region, it is unlikely that Teheran had a direct hand in the subsequent transfers to the Shia units located within Saudi Arabia. It needs to be mentioned that Iran is an ally of China and Russia, which are both countries having advanced defence technologies. Neither of them makes any secret of the fact that they oppose the effort by the US and some of its partners to weaken Iran through debilitating economic sanctions. Both China and Russia have stood by Iran, so it would be no surprise were they to have ensured that Iran have the capability to strike back in deadly fashion, were the Islamic Republic to be attacked, as threatened repeatedly by some in the Trump administration. The reality is that such a war would result in the meltdown of many of the ruling structures in the Middle East, almost all of whom are allied to the US.
Having faced an existential threat from its rivals since its founding in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has created a network of friendly groups within almost all the countries in the region, that can be called upon to rise in rebellion and cause tumult within their boundaries, were there to be a military attack on Iran. The drone attacks on the Saudi oilfields indicate that such devastating weaponry is already available to groups of anti-regime elements in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, for the indications are that the attack was launched not from outside but from inside Saudi territory. Were there to be a conflict between the US and Iran, as desired by those whose emotions run far in excess of their rational thought, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would not be the only regional power that would be facing such internal turmoil. New terror groups would begin to operate, that would target the US, the UK, Germany, France and several of the GCC states.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has embarked on a mission that is on immense significance to the more than a billion Muslims across the world. This is his existential battle against Wahhabism, which has sought to conceal the peaceable nature and moderation that suffuses the Holy Quran. Wahhabis have sought to replace such teachings with a mixture of hatred for those of other persuasions as well as a doctrine that calls for separation and exclusivism between themselves and all others, often through violence. Saudi Arabia being among the most important countries in the Muslim-majority world, the replacing of Wahhabism within KSA with the moderate tenets of the true faith would transform the world itself. The historically necessary battle being waged against the Wahhabi International by MBS has led to a backlash against him, including a campaign of calumny across the world by this well funded lobby. Active as he is on this front, it is best not to continue to do battle on another front, against the Shias. Indeed, the ongoing war with the Shias was begun by the Wahhabis themselves and only they profit from it. Hence it would be best for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to end his war on the Shias, which has had its most destructive manifestation in Yemen, a country whose people are suffering indescribable agony as a consequence of the atrocities being committed on the Houthis. The danger in continuing such a conflict is that it could result in a situation where the Wahhabis get the upper hand over MBS in Saudi Arabia, thanks to the opposition of the Shias to the Reformer Prince. Dealing with a two-front war is almost never a good idea, and certainly it is not for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia led by the Reformer Prince. A war with Iran would be severely disruptive of stability in the Middle East and therefore several other regions, including South and Southeast Asia. President Donald J. Trump has thus far resisted pressure from the “Brawn over Brain” elements in his own administration to go to war against Iran. The reality is that Teheran cannot be bypassed in the region, which is why it was a mistake by India to stop oil purchases from Iran based on the demand made by former National Security Advisor of the US John Bolton to New Delhi. The Houthis have a legitimate stake in Yemen that must be recognised by neighbouring countries, in the statesmanly manner that Sultan Qaboos of Oman has done. Indeed, the example of the Sultanate of Oman needs to be followed across the region, for its inner moderation and its wise geopolitical stances. MBS should concentrate on the battle against Wahhabism and halt his Wahhabi-inspired conflict with Shia groups, especially in Yemen. If he does not do so, not only will his reform mission in the Kingdom get overturned by his foes, but the world could fall into economic disaster as a consequence of an open war (both conventional and asymmetric) between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Reformer Prince must step back from the Wahhabi-inspired disaster of a war with the Shias.

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.

Saturday 21 September 2019

Houston, Trump and Modi have a solution (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

An all-weather partnership is needed for global balance, stability in 21st century.

It had been expected of Narendra Modi that he would carry a grudge against the US administration into the Prime Minister’s House for revoking his visa in order for the White House to curry favour with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Within days of Modi becoming PM, that misperception was dispelled as he began planning a US visit. In the case of Donald J. Trump, the fact that Prime Minister Modi actually met the New York billionaire only after the latter took charge as President in 2017 and not in 2015 itself made no difference to the warmth with which Trump greeted Modi when they first met in June 2017 and embraced before holding a press conference in the White House Rose Garden. Both Trump and Modi understand that an all-weather partnership between Delhi and Washington is needed for global balance and stability in the 21st century. It helps that efforts by some politicians antagonistic to the English language have not stopped the spread of the global link language in India, giving this country a vital advantage in the Knowledge Economy. Or that the number of Indian-Americans is reaching 4 million, who are the most productive and law-abiding citizens in the US. If a few politicians enamoured of the Wahhabi lobby (such as Senators Bernie Sanders or Lindsey Graham) are discounted, bipartisan backing for close ties with India is overwhelming on Capitol Hill, just as it is on Raisina Hill. The Trump-Modi duet in Houston is an illustration of the manner in which two democracies once estranged are now getting engaged, driven together not only through sentiment but by self-interest. Geopolitically, both India as well as the US have an interest in ensuring that no power dominate the Eurasian landmass, the expanses of space and the waters of the Indo-Pacific whose security interests are not fully aligned with the core interests of Delhi and Washington. These are (1) the preservation of conditions for the access and conditions needed for trade to be fair and seamless, (2) the protection of democracies across the region from malign intervention by authoritarian forces, (3) the elimination of the Archipelago of Terror formed across the globe by extremists with a propensity for violence, and (4) the spreading of a culture and a mindset that respects individual rights and liberty rather than impose a model of governance that places Civil Society under the jackboot of governments obsessed with control of the citizenry.
The Partition of India was above all a tragedy for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Were the Jinnah-Churchill engineered vivisection of India to have failed and Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts at unity succeeded (rather than the Mahatma failing and Jinnah succeeding), the Muslim population of India would have formed the centre of gravity within the entire Muslim population of the globe, and would almost certainly have ensured that Wahhabism remained on the fringes of the faith rather than insert itself into the core since 1979. Perhaps half the Prime Ministers of India would have been Muslim. With grave consequences for India, the saintly Mahatma aligned himself in 1919 (via the quixotic Khilafat agitation) with those within the Muslim community who believed in the Two Nation theory, rather than with those who saw the necessity for both Hindus and Muslims to live as brothers and sisters, being children of the same Almighty. From that time, the Congress leadership acted as though Hindus and Muslims needed to be dealt with separately, despite their overwhelming common interests. It was a colonial-created lack of self-confidence in the leadership elements of a dynamic community that led in 1947 to Partition, and which in 2019 stops some “leaders” within the Muslim community in the Republic of India from seeing the justice in the emotion within broad elements of the Hindu community to recover the three holy sites—and only these three sites—of a faith that now has a billion adherents. Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. Once these sites are peacefully restored to what they were before they were destroyed by conquerors from the west of the country, relations between Hindus and Muslims will be what they ought to have been: defined by brotherhood. Despite the tragedy, indeed the crime, of Partition, the Republic of India with its vibrant and overwhelmingly moderate Muslim population still retains the impulse needed to ensure that the Wahhabi minority within the global Muslim population is prevented from establishing a dominant position. Not just the US but India too has to be involved in securing the wider Muslim world, working together with the US and other allies in ensuring that extreme forces do not overturn existing structures of governance. Pakistan army units are no longer reliable in such a context, suffused as they are with the Wahhabi impulse. They need to be replaced with forces from India, and there is therefore need to embark upon a phased program of substantially increasing the intake of recruits from the moderate majority within the Muslim community into the armed forces, so that they can join with the US and others in protecting moderate governance structures in the Middle East in a manner that personnel from Pakistan cannot any longer be trusted to accomplish. At the same time, India needs to retain its traditional friendship towards the Shia-majority states of Yemen, Iraq and Iran and seek to persuade allies such as the US from its current policy of waging a low-intensity war against the Shia (including in Iran) that can only be to the benefit of the Wahhabis. Alongside, India needs to provide moral, diplomatic and material support for the battle being waged by the Pashtuns, Sindhis, Shia, Baloch and others against the domination of the Wahhabi Punjabi Pakistan army, while preparing for the recovery of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir with the concentration and effort that is the trademark of Narendra Modi.
An India-US defence and security alliance that includes the transfer of select weapons production platforms to India will serve the interests of US corporations as well, by making the items much more competitive in price than they are at present. The transfer through lease of naval weapons platforms from the US to the Indian side would assist in our country playing its natural role in keeping the Indo-Pacific safe and stable. Importantly, an India-US alliance would assist peace-loving groups within the Chinese establishment to prevail over those seeking war, thereby taking away the risk of a military clash with China. Prime Minister Modi and President Trump together lead 1.7 billion people, all living within a democratic framework.
Howdy, Houston. Our two countries would like to report not a problem, but a solution. A solution that is exemplified by the joint appearance at the NRG Stadium in Houston of two of the four most consequential world leaders, apart from Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. The latter two form part of the alternative 21st century alliance system to that led by the US and India.

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

Auf Wiedersehen, Ram. Now enter Valhalla (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

NEW DELHI: The world has become less fair now that it is no longer possible to drop in on Ram Jethmalani and seek his participation in one’s battles. There was never any question of Ram not being there, or his being anything other than ready to take on the rest of the world for the causes he believed in. After all, despite celebrating birthday after birthday, he was eternally young. There was never a moment when the sight or touch of a beautiful and caring woman failed to light up an already expressive countenance. What would men be without women to bring out the best in them? Ram never moved away from this truth, and throughout his life, was surrounded by beauty, both of the inner as well as the external variety. He liked and lived the life his brilliance in the law earned for him, and no doctor or saint could prevent him from reaching for that glass of scotch and sipping it, even when he was live on television. We, craven souls, hide away the glasses of liquor when the cameras come by, but not Ram. He was himself, and if you did not like what you saw, heard and experienced, well, too bad for you. Ram Jethmalani was not going to change, no matter whose favour he could have secured had he hidden away just a smidgen of the views that he had on certain people. Given such transparency and honesty, Ram had contempt for those who masked their feelings in ersatz friendliness. Never afraid to do battle openly, he was disgusted by those who talked friendship while secretly influencing a favourite journalist to write a negative story about the supposed friend, or retailing lies to those in high office, so that the latter became distant from those whom they ought to have brought close to themselves. Ram disliked human snakes, and showed it.
To those he loved, he was playful and supportive. To those he saw as harmful to the national interest, he was ruthless in his efforts at taking them down. There was no cause that Ram would not support, were he convinced of its need or if it were once brought to his attention by a friend. There was no foe whom he would not fight, no matter how powerful, if he regarded such opposition as his duty. The Jewish people say that there are only a few dozen righteous individuals in the world who are blessed by their qualities, and who keep Jehovah from annihilating the human race in disgust at the rest. Ram Jethmalani was among this tiny group endowed with giant qualities who kept the world filled with hope.
Ram was irreplaceable, Ram was my friend, beginning in the 1980s when we were introduced to each other by Ramakrishna Hegde at his Rajmahal Vilas Extension house in Bangalore. Words, whether spoken or written, are too puny to capture the electricity that Ram Jethmalani brought into any room fortunate enough to attract his interest, and it is not possible for me to say more about a force of nature in human form who always generated a glow around him for just being there, for just being himself.
Auf Wiedersehen, dearest friend and inspiration. Enter Valhalla, the abode of your fellow heroes.

India must resume oil purchases from Iran (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat 

Losing Chabahar would be a major strategic setback for India and the US as well.

 The Government of India would have been best advised to continue to purchase oil from Iran despite the sanctions imposed on that country after the Donald Trump administration tore up the Iran nuclear deal signed by the United States and other key power. By its decision to trot along behind Washington in this matter, India is on the way to losing the Chabahar port to China, which has continued to purchase Iranian crude oil together with Turkey, ignoring US threats of sanctions. Losing Chabahar would be a major strategic setback not merely for India, but for its ally the US as well. In a context where a robust security relationship with Washington is essential to ensure that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s objectives in the Indo-Pacific (including the recovery of PoK) get actualised, another policy misstep was to rush into an agreement in October 2018 for purchasing S-400 missile systems from Russia. Their installation would inevitably constrict the future trajectory of Indo-US defence cooperation from banyan to bonsai size. From the train of policy disasters caused after the passing away of Deputy PM Sardar Patel in 1950 to securing an effective majority by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1992, an avalanche of geopolitical opportunities was ignored or mishandled by India’s early rulers, in much the same way as the Congress leadership had made choices in the 1930s that led to the 1947 vivisection of the Indian subcontinent. The 1950s in particular could have been a period of opportunity, were India to have leveraged its geopolitical standing and its relatively large private sector industrial base to become a middle income country by the 1980s. Instead, unwise policy choices ensured that we remained close to the bottom of the per capita income table. From the period when oil prices began to slide in 2014 and continuing into the China-US trade war unleashed in 2018, opportunities on the scale of the 1950s have been created for an India that has twice chosen Narendra Modi as its leader. What he needs to escape from is a repeat of the Nehruvian legacy urged on him of the Lutyens Zone, where greed and emotion, rather than logic and national interest, are the primary drivers of policy.
During Narasimha Rao’s transformational premiership, the global geopolitical situation was adverse to India, but in the Modi era, headwinds have largely been replaced by tailwinds. More than the Minister of Finance or indeed the entire Union Council of Ministers, the most important individual who can ensure the success of India in leveraging the geopolitical opportunities created as a result of the current global situation will be Prime Minister Modi. He will need to do the reverse of what Nehru did, which was to “miss no opportunity to miss an opportunity” for taking advantage of global circumstances. Modi will need to use his governance skills to identify and utilise (through requisite policy) each of the opportunities presently available to India. After independence from Britain, and despite the carnage of the 1947 Partition that the Congress leadership accepted without protest, there was an upwelling of optimism that India would soon regain the resilience and economic strength that the land had been drained of during the long period when the country was not free. Bread and circuses were what Roman emperors bestowed on the citizens they ruled, and while there were plenty of circuses from the 1950s to the close of the 1970s, bread remained scarce. Famine continued to stalk the land, especially in the 1960s, and public health, literacy and housing standards remained abysmal. The economy limped along at the “Nehruvian rate of growth”, which was around 3% annually, with corruption growing in step with the rigour of the many “anti-corruption” laws and regulations introduced by successive governments. Each such Kafkaesque and draconian measure was justified on the ground that they would reduce graft, but in fact ensured that corrupt officials and their political accomplices extorted still more as bribes.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, opportunities were presented to India that ranged from control over Gwadar; a permanent UN Security Council seat; a border settlement with China; as well as membership of ASEAN. Each was spurned. Today, once again there are a flood of opportunities that have become available to the country, including the possibility of relocating within India several of the industrial and other units from the US, the EU and Taiwan that have begun moving out of China. Aware that an alliance with India is core to the retention of its global primacy, the Trump administration is ready to transfer entire lines of production of defence equipment to India, besides military readiness boosters such as the transfer of air and naval platforms. At present, the Indian Navy is the smallest of the three Services, when future needs mandate that it should be almost as large in manpower terms as the Army, and certainly more than the Air Force in this era of drones and missiles. At the same time, there are areas where the interests of the US and India diverge, Iran being among them. Rather than stopping oil purchases from Iran and going ahead with the S-400, what needs to be done is the reverse: cancel the S-400 purchase and begin the strategically necessary shift from Russian to US defence platforms, while rapidly expanding indigenous defense capability. Also, India should resume oil purchases from Iran so that the immense advantages provided by the Iranian port of Chabahar is not lost to China, which is the closest military ally of both Russia and Pakistan. Home Minister Amit Shah’s promise (made in Parliament) that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will get integrated into the Union of India needs to be carried out within the period in office of Prime Minister Modi, which may, if the economy does well, stretch beyond 2024. China’s closest ally Russia will not assist in winning back PoK, but the US is likely to, now that President Trump has shown moral courage in casting aside the advice given to surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban by those in his administration beholden to the Wahhabi lobby. However, such US support can happen only when India steps forward as a reliable ally, the way Russia is to China. India needs shoulders its fair share of responsibility in ensuring that (a) access to the Indo-Pacific gets protected, (b) the two democracies concert to remain first on the frontiers of space and cyberspace, (c) friendly countries across Asia be protected from subversion, and (d) terror groups and their sponsors get eliminated. Any alliance that includes Pakistan would seek to block rather than ensure that (c) and (d) take place. It is because of the China-Russia-Pakistan triangle that both India as well as the US need to have a defence and security alliance, of course with a few points of disagreement, such as over Iran. Rather than viewing issues in a segmented fashion, a 360-degree view needs to get taken during Modi 2.0, so that the errors of the past—caused by not seizing the opportunities available for an expansion of the geopolitical footprint and economic health of India—get avoided. It is success in avoiding a repeat of past missteps while creating a new history through smart policy that will define the legacy of Narendra Damodardas Modi, who has come from amongst the people to lead a country sorely in need of smart choices in high policy.

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.

Saturday 7 September 2019

Modi 2.0 vanquishes Lutyens Zo ne saboteurs (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

The Chidambaram incarceration shows that change seems to finally be on the way.

That India is still a laggard in per capita terms is explained by the domination over state policy of Lutyens Lok, who even after the start of the Modi era continued their influence, especially in certain ministries. The economy has been a victim of such forces. Fortunately, these days even the Ministry of Finance recognises that the economy is in parlous shape. What it fails to admit is that the cause for such a state of affairs is that the Finance Ministry has largely followed the path of P. Chidambaram for the past five years. Several officials who connived with Chidambaram in systematic gaming of the financial system were not just retained after 26 May 2014 by some ministers, but promoted through their efforts. It was as though the “Police Constable” (as P. Chidambaram is nicknamed for his intimidatory methods) was able to ensure that those who helped him trample on public interest for the sake of a handful of favourites were protected, while honest officers who opposed them were harassed. The Chidambaram network ensured that the former Union Minister of Finance was able for five years to dodge the CBI, as well as the Enforcement Directorate (ED), with ease. This despite a few officials in both agencies repeatedly putting on record several of his transgressions. For example, a Joint Director of the ED sent a detailed note to the CBI Director on 15 December 2016 about the involvement of Chidambaram and his son in the INX case. Another detailed letter about the prosecutable doings of Chidambaram as FM had been sent by the then ED Director on 20 May 2016 to the CBI Director. Amazingly, instead of being asked to continue identifying the former minister’s activities that have cost the country dear, such officials were shunted aside by an invisible hand working to sabotage Narendra Modi’s efforts at cleaning the system of the corrupt. In several instances, officials who persevered in their duty were subjected to harassment and slander by leakage of disinformation to media persons, who were misled by such incorrect news because such lies were told to them from high-level sources who sought to protect the Chidambaram network. An ED Director had ordered a genuine investigation of Chidambaram rather than the whitewash some of his colleagues pushed for. A Joint Director of the ED showed courage by initiating a probe against Chidambaram when he was still Union Minister for Finance. Searches were made, records seized, and a detailed chargesheet filed while these two were in office. However, a politician close to Chidambaram was unhappy about such honest investigative work, and despite the wish of the PM for a clean government, got them replaced with others about whose work the courts were clearly not impressed. Such shallow enquiries took place despite the extreme gravity of the offences committed by the Chidambaram network. The Lutyens Zone saw to it that agencies became slipshod in their investigations, rather than ensuring that the evidence presented was conclusive. However, this has changed in Modi 2.0 and justice is being done, as the Prime Minister had wanted all along.
The lackadaisical manner in which the ED and the CBI had in the past been acting in the Chidambaram case (once officials inconvenient to Chidambaram were moved out) has been proved by the fact that both the former Finance Minister and son Karti were given bail an unprecedented two dozen times by courts across India. Judges were clearly not convinced by the shallow arguments put forward by the ED and the CBI against bail. Who can forget the way in which law officers of the Vajpayee government botched up the case against Ottavio Quattrocchi in Malaysia? A senior Malaysian minister even told some friends—hopefully in jest—that it seemed as though Quattrocchi’s lawyers were themselves preparing the briefs for the lawyers seeking to get the King of Fixers extradited back to India. Their failure came after Mr Q had been allowed to escape by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. After Rao and Vajpayee, the other Prime Minister to enter the portals of ridicule as a consequence of allowing Quattrocchi to escape (this time from Argentina) was Manmohan Singh. Amazingly, all—repeat, all—those responsible for the Houdini act of Quattrocchi (not once, not twice, but thrice) went on to have stellar careers in politics and the law.
So strong is the protection that Lutyens Lok extend to each other that an influential politician (who rewarded countless flunkeys with plum jobs while ensuring career death to those he disliked) summoned a Joint Director of ED on 27 May 2014 and ordered him to drop the INX case against Chidambaram, as in this politician’s view, the “amounts involved were minuscule”. Besides, the Lutyens Zone notable told the ED Joint Director, the charges against Chidambaram were “impossible to verify”. However, such internal sabotage is no longer effective. It is clear that Prime Minister Modi has become expert in tackling the Lutyens Lok menace that has harmed India for decades. Modi’s own personal honesty and zeal for the national interest has been rewarded by a landslide win in 2019 and will be rewarded again in 2024, so that Modi enters his third term in office, as in Gujarat. The agencies tasked with identifying dangers to the national interest must examine and consider as anti-national those high-level politicians and officials who protected those who converted stock exchanges into a rigged casino, who ensured through toadies that banks were drained of cash, and who even indulged in the treason of short selling of the Indian rupee. Such corrupt politicians and high officials are a danger to the national interest. It is individuals, whose only objective is the welfare of themselves and those close to them, that have created the present situation in the economy. The good news is that the situation can get turned around very quickly, once such individuals are removed and replaced with those loyal to the Prime Minister not just in word but in deed. Individuals who will dismantle the high tax, high harassment regime put in place by Chidambaram and continued by North Block even after 2014. At long last, the Chidambaram incarceration shows that change seems to finally be on the way in the manner in which those aligned to the Lutyens Zone protected those who feasted off the misery of the people.

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.