Friday, 18 October 2019

Catalonia will not forgive the EU’s silence (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat

DURING the period when the East India Company controlled much of the Indian subcontinent, it was permissible to wrest property and riches from a native. However, if a British-born “John Company” official took similar liberties with the assets of another Briton, he was swiftly punished. The natives were fair game for those hunting for treasure, but those who were citizens of the colonial power were out of bounds for thieving carpetbaggers belonging to the colonial authorities. In much the same way, the Supreme Court of Spain has legitimized a separation between the way in which others and those who regard themselves not as Spaniards but as Catalans get treated by a justice system in thrall to Madrid. The European Union claims to be a votary of freedom and self-determination, and is not slow to lecture countries across the globe on such matters. However, the convention has been to carve an exception to such a rule. Member countries of the NATO Alliance are exempt from consideration such as human rights.
The hundreds of thousands of Libyans, Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis who have been killed (through bullets or starvation) as a consequence of sanctions and attacks by NATO forces have been ignored by the Human Rights warriors in Europe. As Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright supervised the cruellest of sanctions on Iraq, measures that deprived even the very young of food and medicine, not to mention jobs for their parents. Since then, she has travelled the globe calling for human rights, although not of course for those her actions affected so fatally. What Europeans had done to other civilisations, Hitler did in Europe. He enslaved countries, murdered millions of inhabitants (including most of the Jewish people as well as Gypsies) and acted as though the Europeans were Asians, Africans or indigenous people in the Americas. Now the differential treatment seen in the case of the dealings of the officials of the East India Company has reached the shores of Europe. The Spanish Supreme Court has sought to assist the central police forces of Spain by handing down unjustly long sentences for Catalan leaders who were entirely non-violent and who simply wanted Barcelona to get freedom from Madrid.
During the British era, court after court in India found on behalf of the colonial authorities against the natives, and this was what was on display in Madrid where the Supreme Court sought to stifle the enthusiasm of the growing number of Catalans favouring independence by imposing the sort of sentences that the British imposed during their time on Mahatma Gandhi and his entirely non-violent associates. Unlike the Basques, the Catalans have never deviated from the Gandhian path of non-violence, but the severity of the sentences against 13 Catalan nationalists is likely to make some in the Free Catalonia movement consider whether this has indeed been the best policy. It must be said that non-violence is indeed the best policy, no matter how ferocious the police actions against Catalans.
Ultimately, a free Catalonia within the EU will emerge as a consequence of such self-discipline. Such a transfer of sovereignty from Madrid to Barcelona will make very little difference to the overall situations. Spaniards will continue to have the right to live and work freely in Catalonia, and vice versa. What will change is the money from the Catalonian taxpayer will no longer be available for the Spanish elite to live like royalty, enjoying perquisites such as comfortable sinecures and growing expenditure on mostly avoidable travel. It is because independence for the Catalonians will shrink the money at their disposal (including in maintaining the Spanish Royal Family with its links to former dictator Francisco Franco’s family ) that is providing the motivation for such an outsize reaction to the Catalonian independence movement.
British citizens enjoyed rights from the time of the Magna Carta, but democracy in Spain is barely a few decades old. This may explain the difference in attitude between London and Madrid to the desire of some within a province to break away. Those favouring Scottish independence are not sent to jail for sedition in the United Kingdom, nor are they prevented from entering into government. If only the EU President had urged her Spanish colleagues to follow the example of the UK in such matters. However, Ursula von der Leyen seems to have adopted a vow of silence in the face of the repression let loose by Madrid in Barcelona. This is reminiscent of the manner in which millions of her countrymen and women watched in silence as a former corporal in the Kaiser’s army took office with the support of the President of the Reich, Pual von Hindenburg, who was quickly converted into an admirer of Hitler by the latter’s promise (conveyed through Herman Goering) to gift the Hindenburg family an estate in East Prussia.
Unlike most of the other promises he made, Hitler kept this particular promise, giving away one of the largest estates in Prussia to the President of the nominally democratic German republic. Modern Spaniards are very different from ancestors who killed off entire populations in various parts of the world, and hopefully they will raise their voices in protest against the repression set loose on the Catalans. Just as the atrocities of the British colonial authorities made the handing over of power to the people of the subcontinent inevitable ( with even the military no longer being reliable as a way of putting down the population), the excesses against the Catalans will energize the freedom movement such that another referendum will become inevitable. Not just Catalans living within the boundaries of Catalonia but Catalans living throughout Spain and across the world should have the right to vote in such a referendum, the results of which should be respected by both sides.
Should the verdict go against independence yet again, Catalan nationalists ought to be content with a much higher degree of autonomy than previously. However, should those favouring independence succeed this time around, Catalonia should be given freedom within the EU. Across Europe, there is a strong case for breaking up some countries in order to better reflect cultural and other differences. An example is Bavaria in Germany, which was aghast at Chancellor Merkel’s decision to allow two million from North Africa and the Middle East to settle in the country, surely a move that merits a Nobel Peace Prize much more than has been the case of several winners of that award. Should there be a movement for a referendum in Bavaria, it is unlikely that the protagonists of such a move will be treated in the inhumane manner in which Catalonians are subjected to, most recently by the Madrid Supreme Court. The EU leadership needs to end its silence over the repression in Catalonia and prevail on Madrid to permit a new referendum. That is the only path to stability in Spain, for repression will only breed resentment that could explode into violence. The EU is big enough and flexible enough to accommodate the right of self-determination of the ancient Catalan people. There are moments when silence is shameful, and this is what is happening in the wake of the Madrid Court showing a contempt for the very “European values that Brussels prides itself on.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Xi-Modi Summit will change Sino-Indian ties (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat

THE leaders of two countries that together have 2.7 billion people under their charge are holding their second informal summit meeting in the South Indian resort of Mahabalipuram. The first took place a year ago in the Chinese city of Wuhan. This columnist stayed at Wuhan some months ago and stayed at the guest house where both President Xi and Prime Minister Modi resided during their first summit. Photographs of both leaders were prominently displayed at both the guest house and on the shores of the lake that was the scene of a boat ride taken by the two leaders. The Wuhan Summit represented a conscious decision by the two top leaders of India and China respectively to take control of the relationship. The bureaucracies of both India as well as China have numerous elements that remain tethered to past mindsets that regard the other country as less than a friend.
Only if the top leadership of both countries takes charge of the relationship can it escape the quicksand of historical tensions and bureaucratic inertia. Rather than small steps, what is needed in Sino-Indian relations is a “Great Leap Forward”, the term used by the first leader of the Peoples Republic of China, Mao Zedong, to refer to his plans for rapid growth of the Chinese economy. Although there are many scholars who fault the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) launched by Mao in the 1960s, the reality is that the immense changes within the Chinese Communist Party that were caused by the successive shocks to the leadership structure intentionally caused by Chairman Mao through the GPCR created conditions for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to adopt the far-sighted plans during the 1980s of Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping to reform the Chinese economy. Without the changes caused by the Cultural Revolution, the top rungs of the CCP would not have allowed Deng to introduce reforms that were so different from the past policies of the state in matters relating to the economy.
President Xi Jinping, whose family was among those deeply affected by the Cultural Revolution, has emerged as the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao, and it can be expected that bold moves will be made by President Xi,including in economic matters and on the issue of relations with India. On the Indian side, Prime Minister Modi is similarly strong-willed,and ready to take actions that are unprecedented. As Chief Minister of Gujarat, he welcomed Chinese investment in the state, and also made a very successful visit to China, where he was given a very cordial reception. It helped that Modi understood the psychology of his hosts and had the visiting cards handed out ( of course in Mandarin) tinted in red, the colour of the Little Red Book containing Chairman Mao’s thoughts that has made a comeback in China under Xi.
The power point presentation made by (then Chief Minister) Modi was entirely in Mandarin, a first for a VIP visitor from India, whose presentations were usually in English or Hindi. As Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has shown a willingness to walk the extra mile for better relations with the Second Superpower, which is why he ignored the counsel of cautious bureaucrats and flew from Delhi to Wuhan last year for a ground-breaking “informal summit” between himself and Xi. This arrangement is unique to India and China and not adopted by the leadership of the two countries in relation to ties with any other country than themselves. With President Xi’s visit to meet Prime Minister Modi in India, the second Informal Summit has given depth and institutional foundations to this interaction between the leaders of China and India. It is expected that several decisions will be taken by the two leaders during their interaction that will have a substantial impact on the relationship between China and India.
Both Xi and Modi are very conscious of the 5000-year history and culture of their respective countries. It was after careful reflection that Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu state was chosen as the venue of the Second Informal Summit between Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi. More than a thousand years ago, the region was part of the Chola kingdom, which had extensive trade relations with China. Holding the summit in such a location reminds both sides of the long historical ties between India and China, and the common strands of culture and tradition that unite two civilisations that have lasted through the millenia. President Xi is known to be a keen student of history with an affinity for culture, as is Modi. The beauty of the format of the talks is precisely that there is no format.
The two leaders will meet and speak to each other as old friends, bringing up subjects that are often difficult and contentious but in a friendly way. Once an agreement gets reached, both leaders are powerful enough to see that those below them in the governance hierarchy carry out their instructions. An example is the return of the Bank of China to India, which closed its operations after the 1962 border war and never returned. The matter came up for discussion at Wuhan, and Prime Minister Modi saw to it that the bank was enabled to return to conduct business in India, a country with which China has nearly $ 100 billion in trade and a $ 60 billion trade surplus, with a potential of $ 300 billion within five years. Among the matters pending decision is on whether to permit Huawei to enter the 5G market in India, or to go by what the Trump Administration is seeking, which is to ban Huawei altogether despite the cost and technological advantages of the product.
Whether it be in Artificial Intelligence or in 5G, the Trump Administration is working on overdrive to try and restrict markets for Chinese products, so that the US retains the hi-tech lead that the world’s first superpower has established for so many decades. The US-China trade war is in essence a series of steps taken by Trump to choke off future competition from China in a manner that the European countries are unable to do. Germany, for example, has become a bystander while China moves forward to establish mastery over products such as machine tools and the automobile, that as of now Germany is leading in. In brief years, it is expected that China will produce civilian aircraft capable of challenging Airbus and Boeing, the way the country is producing military aircraft.
In such a process, access to the Indian market is of prime importance, and this will be a major undercurrent of discussions between the two leaders. In a show of independence from US dictates, as yet the authorities in India have not blocked Huawei from participating in the 5G auctions soon to take place. The final decision on this and other matters will come after the Xi-Modi summit. For decades to come, the US and China will be the two largest economies on the planet. India will be close behind. The relationship between the three will be crucial in determining the direction of geopolitical currents. Will India join the US and actively seek to block China from moving ahead? Or will it remain “non-aligned” between Washington and Beijing? This is the question that the second informal summit between Xi and Modi will help answer.

PM Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping Meet: Grand setting, strong optics | Nation at 9 | NewsX

Saturday, 5 October 2019

With Prof M D Nalapat on the inside story in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey & Malaysia (PGurus)

How much of Afghanistan is under Taliban control? What is the game plan of Turkey? Why is Qatar supporting Pakistan? Why did Malaysia side with Pakistan? All these questions and more answered. References: 1. 2.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Chairman Schiff adopts McCarthyism against Trump (Pakistan Observer)

THAT Bill and Hillary Clinton still dominate the innards of the Democratic Party is clear from the systematic manner in which key elements in the leadership are seeking to throw out Donald J Trump from office. His crime? That he defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, much to the surprise of the Clintons, who had believed that the New York billionaire would be an easy candidate to defeat. Practically all foreign governments agreed with them, and their leaders kept away from Trump throughout 2016, thawing to him only after his November 8 victory. Both Shinzo Abe, Modi ignored suggestions that they meet with Candidate Trump, worried that such a move may annoy Clintons, as indeed it would have.
A few days after the results of the 8 November 2017 elections, the Clinton clique began working on a plan to either ensure that Trump gets thrown out of office before his 5-year term gets over in 2020 or gets so unpopular in office that he gets defeated to the Democratic Party nominee, who the Clintons expect will be their supporter, ideally Joe Biden. The fury that has greeted the revelation that President Trump sought an investigation by the Ukrainian government into the deals negotiated by Hunter Biden, the former Vice-President’s son, is based on worry that any scandal involving Biden Senior may toss the Democratic Party nomination to a candidate not subservient to the Clintons, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is fast catching up with Joe Biden in popularity. An almost hysterical campaign has been launched within the US (with assistance from the Clinton acolytes in the US media) to divert attention away from Hunter Biden’s claimed indiscretions to the fact that President Trump “asked a foreign government” to inquire into them.
Incidentally, asking foreign governments to inquire into allegations of wrongdoing by prominent US citizens has been Standard Operating Procedure over the decades, with several such requests having been made in the past under numerous Presidents of the US. This is the reason why an additional charge has been made against Trump, which is that he “threatened to deny defense assistance to Ukraine unless an inquiry into Hunter Biden got initiated”. Such threats and warnings of consequences have also been standard practice by numerous US officials, contrary to the exclamations of horror by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Schiff and his Democratic Party colleagues. During the McCarthy period (1947-54), charges of treason were made against numerous US officials, who were accused of being Communist Party members in disguise. The resulting Red Scare ensured that all chances of carrying forward the cooperation between Moscow and Washington that took place during wartime was ended, and the Cold War began. The present “Blue Scare” is designed to serve the Europeanist interest in keeping Moscow firmly within the minds of the US population as Enemy Number One, and in torpedoing the efforts made by President Trump to move from an Atlanticist policy to an Indo-Pacific policy that replaces Russia with China as the primary geopolitical rival. China, which under President Xi Jinping has become the second superpower, is the beneficiary of the demonization of Russia indulged in by those loyal to the no longer viable course of keeping the Atlantic Alliance rather than the Indo-Pacific at the core of US policy.
Chairman Schiff has sought to create a cloud of suspicion against Trump, but this will dissipate should evidence begin to mount of the money made by Hunter Biden in Ukraine during the time that his father was Vice-President of the US. Those who know the Bidens ( who are regarded by their friends as a charming and dedicated couple) say that after the death of his eldest son Beau, former Vice-President Biden has developed a blind spot about Hunter, about whom he refuses to listen to any comment that is less than adulatory. They claim that Hunter Biden, unlike his brother (who followed the example of his parents in simplicity and rectitude) likes the “high roller” life, and has made himself accessible to those who seek to parlay influence into profit. Ukraine is known for its corruption and the power of its oligarchy, and it is unlikely that it was the brain or looks of Hunter Biden that got him huge remuneration packages from Ukrainians rather than his connections within the Democratic Party establishment.
The question is whether there are any elements left within the US bureaucracy who would be willing to undertake a comprehensive look into the junior Biden’s activities. Donald J Trump has several times thrown Federal employees to the wolves for the most flimsy of reasons, and there is little loyalty left for the 45th President of the US within the Executive Branch. A major mistake was the taking away of the pension of Andrew McCabe, who worked for decades in the FBI before being removed as Deputy Director just a day before his scheduled retirement. While it is a fact that McCabe was among the many within the Washington Beltway who disliked Trump, punishing him with dismissal and denial of pension while giving a “Get Out of Jail Free” pass to Hillary Clinton made no sense in a context where empathy and respect by Federal employees is crucial to the success of a President in fulfilling his mandate. Each day, the media has been filled with abusive stories about Trump, while the numerous donations made to the Clinton Foundation during the period when Hillary was the Secretary of State have gone unnoticed by the investigative agencies.
The permanent bureaucracy in the US is overall a group of hard-working and honest people, and punishing so many of them for reasons that run the risk of being seen as pique or prejudice have resulted in a sharp loss of confidence in President Trump by the permanent bureaucracy. The US Government is not a private company and should not be run as one. The errors made by President Trump in the management of his entire team of officials is assisting Chairman Schiff in his witch hunt against the US President, for there can be no other term to describe the shrillness of the accusations being hurled daily against Trump.
In times to come, “To do a Schiff” against a senior US politician will become a term commonly used in cases where the effort is not to ascertain the facts but to manufacture a case against an individual condemned as guilty from the start. Should Trump fail to come up with more and more facts about Hunter Biden and others being used as reasons to remove him from office, he is likely to go into the 2020 presidential campaign severely bruised. However, after the 2016 debacle, it is unlikely that the Democratic Party will make the mistake of choosing a Clinton nominee as its standard bearer. Politicians of integrity and grit such as Senators Harris or Warren, should they get nominated, will witness the final freeing of the Democratic Party from the tentacles of the Clinton political machine that has run so much of US policy since 1993.