Saturday 25 July 2020

Hagia Sophia, a symbol of universality, goes exclusivist ( Sunday Guardian)


Erdogan is on a relentless drive to convert Turkey into another Pakistan. 


A generation ago, this columnist used the edit page of the Times of India to suggest that the cultural DNA of every citizen of India (indeed, every South Asian) was a compound of the Vedic, the Mughal and the Western. There is more than a tinge of the ancient traditions of India in several of the practices of the Muslims of India, just as there is much of the Mughal in the dress, diet and deportment of those who emphasize their Hindu identity. The overlay of the centuries of contact with western civilisations weighs across the population spectrum, and it is the fusion of the three streams that have made the ethnic Indian such a valuable citizen wherever she or he settles down. In the US, the UK, South Africa or elsewhere, those of Indian descent—cutting across faiths—are near the top in terms of education and attainment. Sadly, despite freedom in 1947, education in India still banishes to a tiny niche the immense treasures of the 5,000-plus years of recorded and continuing civilisation in India. Any other country would have celebrated such treasures, in the way European countries or Japan or these days China does. In India, too many consider it “bad form” and “primitive” to talk of what they regard as myths. If Lord Ram or Sri Krishna were myths, so were Alexander and Julius Caesar. History books need to put front and centre rather than in asides the Chola, Gupta, Vijaynagar or Ashokan periods, which have for centuries been remembered far more outside the boundaries of India than within. Because history recounted in school curricula retains the biases of the colonial period, pride in the country is sometimes mixed up with faith, so that only a particular period in the history of the land is understood and its good points celebrated, rather than the entirety of Indian tradition and experience. The good news is that even small traces of the awareness of India having a history certainly on par with those of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and China (despite the unrelenting efforts of myth-creators to downsize the civilisation and in particular its roots) have resulted in an inner confidence that finds its fullest expression in locations where there is “minimum government, maximum governance” rather than countries that remain stifled by bureaucracies valuing control rather than performance.

Driven by a relentless drive to convert Turkey into another Pakistan, a Zia-ul-Haq model state where freedoms are extinguished, President R.T. Erdogan has converted a Wonder of the World, the Hagia Sophia at Istanbul, into a mosque from a museum dedicated to inter-faith harmony. Erdogan ought to have remembered the example set by Caliph Omar at Jerusalem in 637 AD, when he prayed outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem because he was anxious that praying inside may cause his followers to seek to convert it into a mosque. “Leave them to practice in peace” was the edict given to those eager to follow the message of the Holy Quran. This is that “there is no compulsion in religion”, as Mohammad Alsherebi has explained while detailing why he, a devout Muslim, would never pray at the Hagia Sophia. Alsherebi’s refusal to follow Erdogan’s exclusivist and supremacist path is increasingly gaining ground in the Muslim world, including in Arab countries, where new churches and even a few temples have come up as symbols of the tolerance and compassion enjoined on Believers. Why should a religion that numbers more than a billion followers worldwide (half of them in the subcontinent), and which is the fastest growing faith in Europe, feel insecure in the manner Wahhabis seek to inculcate ? Instead, what is needed is modern education, especially among Muslim women, who in several parts of the world are demonstrating excellence. Ultimately, it is the empowerment of women that defines whether a society is just or not, and the surest path to this is modern education. The launch of a Mars mission by the UAE is a welcome sign that the GCC may be moving towards shifting gears in its educational mindset from a 19th to the 21st century track that is essential for the youthful population of that immensely important grouping to thrive.

Hagia Sophia had long been a symbol of the harmony between faiths. Those having the mindset that destroyed the Bamyan Buddhas or reduced through expulsion and conversion religious minorities in Pakistan (and to a lesser extent in Bangladesh) to very low numbers need to understand the Zeitgeist of the 21st century and adjust with it, rather than wage war on it in the manner that they persist in doing, including in Turkey. This is especially so in view of the global pushback against Wahhabism by the Muslim community, with even the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia coming out against the 300-year old doctrine that was first made use of by the British against the Turks in the Arab lands, later by the US and the UK against Arab nationalists such as Ahmed Ben Bella and Gamal Abdel Nasser, and finally by the US to create a militarised Wahhabi force designed to take on the Soviet invaders from Afghanistan, but which later disseminated across the world to spread terror and misery in multiple locations. President Erdogan has moved Turkey away from its longstanding path of religious tolerance, and seems set on continuing in this task as long as he remains the master of Turkey. Only harmony between the faiths can result in a better world, and for this to happen, religious intolerance and efforts at supremacy in any form or faith must be countered.

Shock military defeat would end Xi Jinping's China Dream ( Sunday Guardian)


Expectations of Chinese invulnerability have been built up to such a level that any setback would severely impact the credibility and hence support for the CCP regime.


New Delhi: Looking fixedly at the rearview mirror is not the best way to go forward at speed, and the fixation with the past that Lutyens Lok exhibit in their policy recommendations (or in their resistance to necessary policies) has already cost India dearly since 1947. Per capita income and other indicators of societal progress have been rising, but only from “catastrophically low” to “abysmally low”. The characteristic of those steeped in the culture of the Lutyens Zone is to fasten themselves to whichever party and whoever leader is dominant at the period, discarding the old in the manner that lionesses forget an ageing lion that heads a pride who gets chased away by a competitor. Should another change occur, within days if not hours, they will be at the side of the new victors, making themselves appear indispensable, and causing the new masters to infuse into their government enough elements of the old so as to ensure continuity in the policies that have kept much of the population of the country poorly compensated, inadequately educated and badly housed. It was said of some of the ruling families that they forgot nothing and learnt nothing, which is why tectonic shifts in global geopolitics were not taken advantage of within the policymakers congregated inside the Lutyens Zone. When the doors of the UK were open to Commonwealth citizens and hundreds of thousands of those from Pakistan or the Caribbean were flooding Britain, the incomprehensibly difficult path towards a right as fundamental as a passport ensured that far fewer citizens of India could make that journey. Much of the migration was from locations in Africa, where some of the rulers destroyed their own economies by expelling the Indian community, sometimes with great cruelty, as in Idi Amin’s Uganda.


The national leadership of the world’s most populous democracy, having failed to keep the subcontinent united when the British left, and after handing over to a hostile country the strategically essential territory since known as PoK, those in authority not merely welcomed but facilitated the PLA’s conquest of Tibet in 1950 by standing by in silence, but by even feeding Chinese troops marching into Tibet with grain from India’s less than ample granaries. In the 1990s, when the USSR collapsed, India lost about $9 billion (in 1993 values) by agreeing to an artificially high price for the Russian rouble, the only country to make such a sacrifice. It is true that the USSR stood by India when the US and the UK joined hands to wrest Kashmir for Pakistan, and assisted India in building up its defence infrastructure against both China and Pakistan. However, that country was very different from the entity that came under the control of Boris Yeltsin in 1991, and it was Yeltsin’s Russia that got the advantage of India’s largesse. These days, the same consideration for a Moscow that has changed beyond recognition from what it was before the meltdown under Gorbachev has, through Lutyens Logic, thus far kept India from taking any except very limited advantage of Cold War 2.0. Interlocutors from Russia are deft at convincing their Indian counterparts that they hate the Chinese, and hence all talk of a Sino-Russian alliance is the product of biased minds. In China, the same individuals usually give unflattering descriptions of the Indians, apparently out of earshot of either the people or intelligence agencies in India. The reality is that the Sino-Russian alliance and the US are locked in an existential battle as potent as was the Cold War 1.0 contest between the USSR and the US. Shabby diplomacy towards the Russian Federation from President Bill Clinton onwards has convinced Vladimir Putin (easily among the best strategic minds of the century) that the surest path to revenge on the slights of the past and present is to join with Xi Jinping in ending US primacy, including in matters military or the economy. Should the Xi-Putin bet fail and the PRC lose Cold War 2.0, the present structure of governance and the coherence of the administrative and political system formed since the 1990s will be the casualties in both Russia as well as China. From the Yeltsin period, the Russian Federation has never had the attributes of a functioning democracy, and by now, the country is being ruled by the “New Class” that has thrived under Putin in a manner reminiscent of the control of the military-bureaucratic complex in Japan until 1945. Of course, should the US be bested by the Sino-Russian alliance, the effects on its highly leveraged economy and the potentially destructive lava of class and race tensions would almost certainly result in a slide into an instability not witnessed in that country since the 1861-65 Civil War, and which would make the turmoil of the 1960s seem a picnic in comparison. The Chinese have, since the early years of the Xi Jinping period, understood that there exists a fundamental tension between the US and China, and has acted accordingly in practice, while sending out signals designed to mask the reality. Which is that for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the contest taking place with the US is similar to the 1930s’ protracted battle for survival against the Japanese Empire.


The second term retirement as Secretary of State (in order to concentrate on the 2016 Presidential campaign) of Hillary Clinton gave some leeway to President Barack Obama in his pivot to Asia from the earlier obsession with Europe. Any such pivot would place an alliance with India being an essentiality for Washington, something that was recognised both by Ashton Carter, Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice, the very capable associates of Presidents Bush and Obama, and into the Trump Presidency by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In the Joe Biden camp, the Biden campaign’s current foreign policy guru, Antony Blinken, seems to have retained his Euro-focused blinkers from the days when the hold of the Clintons was pervasive even in the Obama administration. The proliferation in Team Biden of such rearview mirror enthusiasts is why the Chinese Communist Party leadership is eager for a Biden victory, despite inspired media reports that Donald Trump is the favoured choice. Whatever be the other faults of the CCP leadership, masochism is not among them. Among other vulnerabilities (in the context of Cold War 2.0) is the ubiquity of Pakistani-Americans having close ties to the Islamabad embassy, whose effective task has been to convince the campaign that China was a friend and that the real threat to US values came from India. However, if Trump was a disappointment to the Chinese version of Raisina Hill in Zhongnanhai, a President Biden is also likely to be, given the cascading flow of information about the activities of the Sino-Russian alliance that are designed to thwart Washington’s security and other interests. Even Antony Blinken is likely to be less deferential towards China and less dismissive of India as an essential US partner than recent pronouncements show. The separation of industrial supply chains from the PRC, followed by financial and tech chains, of countries outside the circle of those powers beholden to the Sino-Russian alliance will continue, even if Biden bests Trump on 3 November 2020. Although Trump is being written off in chancelleries across the world the way he was in 2016, the possibility of (a) a flood of revelations about Biden and those close to him, and (b) a movement close to or into the kinetic zone where Cold War 2.0 is concerned may yet upend the polls.


President Xi is moving ahead at speed to actualize the China Dream. In this process, there is frequent recourse to the Zero Sum methods used by European countries in previous centuries. According to the Xi Doctrine, the entire South China Sea (not to mention the East China Sea) belongs to China, as does the entire Himalayan massif, which is (no longer slowly) being nibbled at by the PRC from India, Nepal and Bhutan. China can block Indian Information Technology companies from servicing domestic companies, or much of the pharma industry. However, it calls for unrestricted access to its own manufactures, even at the cost of hundreds of thousands of small enterprises and artisans. If the Modi apps ban (and presumably other like steps) did not come about, it is likely that more than 90% of Indian meta data would be flowing seamlessly to Chinese entities by 2024. Indeed, the PRC’s trade surplus with India has jumped several times during just the past decade, and has reached a level that ought to have been recognised as unsustainable years ago. Apart from data and the related field of telecom, other sectors where Chinese companies seek to take over the Indian market are electric power generation and infrastructure. Were such a situation to come about, India would be shut off from the US market and over the course of the next few years, most of the markets in Europe as well. The effect on markets of President Xi’s use of the PLA to win territory in pursuit of the China Dream has been to leave the PRC with significant extra capacity in manufacturing, thereby causing a potential deflationary spiral as too much capacity chases too little demand. Until the reality of Cold War 2.0 hit US policymakers in earnest in 2017, the US exported dollars to buy Chinese goods, which money was then returned to the US through US Treasury Debt purchases and other such pathways. Since at least 2016 Xi Jinping has sought to replace the US dollar with the Ren Min Bi (RMB) in international transactions, and has had significant success thus far. The trajectory now being taken by the PRC  resembles that sketched out by Lin Biao in his essay “Long Live the Victory of the Peoples War”, which was published in 1965. In it, Marshal Lin Biao followed Mao Zedong Thought in forecasting that the “villages” of the world (i.e. the poor South) would in time overcome the “cities (ie the rich North) The deepening separation between China-centric supply chains and those that follow the lead of the US is resulting in a bunching together of the poorer “South” with China, including some countries in the south of Europe, such as Greece. The North (as well as countries with high GDP, or on the way to such an outcome) are increasingly allying with the US. Of course, the word “alliance” is a swear word in the lexicon of the Lutyens Zone, so perhaps the word “dalliance” would be more acceptable to them, despite the latter term lacking the permanency and predictability of the former.


Given the leeway that the PLA is being given in the framing of policy in China, the chances for kinetic situations are rising. Taiwan is an obvious location, with the US, Japan and other countries certain to deploy military assets for its protection, in case an attack is launched by Beijing across the straits. Another is the South China Sea, which is being sought to be converted into a PRC lake, while the Himalayan boundaries (no part of which is recognised by Beijing) are another. A defeat for the PRC in a land contest along the Himalayas or in the South China Sea or Taiwan Straits may have the same impact on the PRC as the defeat of the Russian fleet at Tsushima in 1905 proved to be for the future of the Czarist regime. Expectations of Chinese invulnerability have been built up to such a level that such a setback would severely impact the credibility and hence support for the CCP regime. President Xi has relied on his diplomats to ensure (1) that the countries along China’s southern and eastern periphery do not unite but face the PRC singly and in particular that (2) an alliance does not form with the objective of presenting a united front against the PLA, should the need arise in any of the vulnerable theatres. All for One and One for All is a nightmare scenario for planners in Beijing, especially if the mix includes its existential foe, the US. Geopolitical plates are moving in a tectonic fashion, and ingenious policy is needed to ensure that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes full use of the synergies released by Cold War 2.0, the way China under Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping did during Cold War 1.0.

Saturday 18 July 2020

China alarmed as Lutyens Logic weakens hold on India (Sunday Guardian)


A shift of India to the Alliance of Democracies that is forming to counter the Sino-Russian alliance would erase the gains made by Moscow and Beijing in the Middle East and elsewhere. Those in thrall to Lutyens Logic give the false analogy that an alliance with the US would involve following the US lead in all theatres.

New Delhi: Not just after 3 May 2020, but for decades previously, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has conducted itself on the deliberately undefined border with India in a manner that is indicative of a hostile mindset towards this country. Even after the 1962 October-November border war with India and Mao Zedong’s order for the PLA to return to pre-combat positions, since the Hu Jintao period, that entity has repeatedly flouted what may be termed as the “Chairman Mao LAC” by moving further and further into Indian territory, including during May 2020. Such patently aggressive action has its roots in the confidence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership that the Lutyens Zone can be relied upon to block the robust responses needed to ensure that the costs (not just to the PLA but to the PRC in its entirety) of hostile actions on the Sino-Indian border are too high to justify before the Chinese people. Just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Balakot strike ended the confidence within GHQ Rawalpindi that India’s leaders would not permit any expansion of the low intensity terror and border conflict with Pakistan into territory under the control of the Pakistan military, the response of Indian troops at Galwan followed by the Modi app ban has surprised those within the Chinese Communist Party, who have long been comforted by the silo system of decision making in the Lutyens Zone ensuring that border hostilities not be followed by any effect on trade and commerce. The way in which Chinese investment into India was put on a separate track in April was an example of the halfway house and tentative way in which steps concerning China have long been taken in India. The wording of the new regulation did not even identify China explicitly, but absurdly included all countries having land borders with India, surely illogical in view of the peaceable relations that India has with its neighbours other than China and Pakistan. The fact that the PRC was not explicitly named (even though it was the intended target) of the new measures, sustained the perception in Beijing that the establishment in Delhi was too much in awe of the PRC to make any other than cosmetic moves against PLA actions. Or in other words, that India would take steps designed only to create illusory perceptions boosted by spin.

Such complacency was erased with Prime Minister Modi’s Ladakh speech, while the Modi apps ban caused worry within the Chinese leadership that the lack of linkage between the border and commerce may be a thing of the past. Future moves in the direction expected of Narendra Modi would reinforce the realisation in the CCP that the Lutyens Zone cannot any more be taken as powerful enough to ensure weak policy responses towards the obvious threat represented by PLA actions on the deliberately undefined border between India and China. Undefined because of the grip of GHQ Rawalpindi over the PLA’s border policy towards India. The PLA seeks to divert India’s attention away from the 3,200 kilometre India-Pakistan border to the 3,500 kilometre Sino-Indian border, both of which have—not coincidentally—remained obdurately “undefined”, thus far despite efforts by the Special Representatives of successive administrations in India. In 2003, relying on Bhutto-style vague assurances on the LAC and the promised acceptance by Beijing of the absorption of Sikkim into India, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee gave away the last remaining cards that India held in the matter of Tibet. Neither has the LAC been accepted by Beijing, nor in unequivocal terms the accession of Sikkim to India. Given the lack of reciprocity on the Chinese side to concessions from India, a relook at past agreements may be overdue, including the definition of One China (especially concerning Taiwan), and in the hitherto mild or non-existent Indian responses to issues such as Xinjiang and the South China Sea, as well as island territories in the East China Sea. It would be particularly problematic for Pakistan to have India react against the situation in Xinjiang while Islamabad continues to maintain silence. India is a UNSC member till 2022, and is part of the Bio-Weapons convention, as well as an active member of FATF. India is currently chair of the WTO supervisory board, where it is expected to press for Taiwan’s re-admission to its councils after the “dictated decision” by WHO to exclude it despite the Tsai government leading the world in fighting Covid-19. As a consequence, the US has quit and Japan may follow, thereby forcing China to shoulder an even greater share of the organisation’s budget. While China loses no opportunity to create problems for India in international fora, the response from Delhi has usually been silence. Such a stance is precisely what Moscow has been tasked to ensure from Delhi, besides continuing to ensure that India and the US do not deepen their security and defence relationship. The geopolitically inexplicable S-400 deal signed by India and the country’s continued dependence on Russian weapons platforms that hold no secrets from the PLA are levers that are useful to Moscow in keeping India from the defence and security alliances needed to ensure deterrence against GHQ-PLA hostile activities on the border and elsewhere. The reality of the Putin-Xi partnership in ensuring fullscope military partnership between Beijing and Moscow is obvious to the world minus the Lutyens Zone.


Despite the meshing of both the strategic as well as the tactical goals of GHQ Rawalpindi and the Central Military Commission (CMC) in Beijing, as well as the extensive interaction between the Chinese, Pakistani and the Russian military, the lack of objectivity that has been a feature of what may be termed “Lutyens Logic” has ensured that the invisible veto exercised by Moscow over India’s security relationship with Washington has continued its sway. Once the S-400 system gets installed in India sometime in 2021, the path to the robust US-India defence and security relationship (which alone is sufficient to deter China) will have developed almost insuperable obstacles. Lutyens Logic has it that such a partnership would “provoke” the PLA, as though the moves of that military have not been provocative despite the continuing cosiness of defence and security ties between Delhi and Moscow. Any comparison of the responses of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the Sino-Indian border clashes would show both the essentiality of Washington as a security partner and the lack of reliability of Moscow when it comes to a kinetic contest not only with China but with its protectorate, Pakistan. Supply of weapons the operational parameters of which are transparent to the PLA are no guide to the reliability of Moscow in a clash with either China or Pakistan. And yet, the hold of Russia in the vitals of the defence capability of India may continue for at least a generation more, as illustrated by the purchase of S-400 systems and the gratitude expressed when Moscow at top dollar sells equipment to India that the PLA knows how to counter. A shift of India to the Alliance of Democracies that is forming to counter the Sino-Russian alliance would erase the gains made by Beijing-Moscow in the Middle East and elsewhere. Those in thrall to Lutyens Logic give the false analogy that an alliance with the US would involve following the US lead in all theatres, including in matters relating to Iran and the Middle East, where US actions have often made the problem worse. In the case of Iran, India ought to have continued to buy oil from that country rather than stop such purchases out of fear of US sanctions. At the same time, it ought to have withdrawn from the S-400 deal and opted instead for THAAD. Those who rely on merely technical calculations of the two systems forget the deterrent power of alliances. Had Chamberlain the wisdom of Churchill and built a partnership with the USSR in the 1930s, the 1939-45 war may have either been avoided or ended much quicker.


The formalising of an Indo-Pacific Charter (by which the Indo-Pacific democracies pledge to stand with each other in case of aggression) would prevent and not cause war, by making the costs of conflict far higher than the negligible overall cost that the PRC has so far borne as a consequence of PLA moves against India. That PM Modi is cut from a different cloth from Manmohan Singh means that, almost certainly, the hopes of the PLA that a treasure trove of meta data will become available to it as a consequence of the entry of Chinese entities into the 5G space in India will be dashed. Operators from select friendly markets such as Japan and Taiwan need to be allowed to compete with domestic brands, to ensure steady upgradation of quality and reduction in user charges through competition rather than the creation of monopolies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to go farther than his immediate predecessors dared to do in defence of Indian interests, including against the billionaire lobbies in the US that have the support of President Trump. An issue on which PM Modi has not budged despite pressure from the White House is that of the Data Equalisation Levy and on data residency, which explains why US tech giants are having to make substantial investments in India, rather than as formerly produce elsewhere and sell in India. Sucking up metadata at will in the manner that PLA linked PRC entities have been doing without check or limit till recently may soon be a problem of the past. So far as the US and India are concerned, the fact is that India by its size and potential stands on a plane different from any other ally of the US, and both sides will therefore have different approaches to some issues. This will not, however, obviate the security imperative of the two largest democracies working together in pursuit of common objectives, such as primacy over the Indo-Pacific and the suppression of the global terror network. It may be remembered that a much smaller France under Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac took stances opposed to the US, including the principled opposition of Paris to George W Bush’s 2003 war against Iraq. More recently, the EU seems to have discovered a bit of spine in trying to oppose the withdrawal by the US from the JCPOA, a nuclear deal in which almost all the concessions were made by Iran. Talk of “strategic slavery to the US” by elements in the Lutyens Zone is simply designed to prevent the GHQ-PLA nightmare from coming true, which is the formalisation of a military alliance by the Quad that is headquartered in the Andamans.


India, despite being the world’s most populous democracy, has a governance system that excludes the participation of any other than the thin crust of the administrative apparatus in the making and implementation of policy. That the administrative services in India contain some outstanding individuals is a given, as also the good work done by them in various fields, including among several others the example of V. Kurien in the milk revolution and K. Subramanian in proving George Tanham wrong when the US scholar said that India “lacked a strategic culture”. However, the exclusion in the processes of governance of civil society despite its multiplying capabilities and talents has had its effect on the quality of both policies as well as performance. Barring a few isolated instances where politicians have sought to induct domain specialists from outside the administrative framework (including the selection of P.N. Dhar as Secretary to the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi), politicians cutting across party lines have maintained the boundary between the civil service and civil society, with the latter not being allowed entry into the processes of governance except in nominal or symbolic ways. The best indicator of success in national regeneration is per capita income, and it is for each citizen to judge by this standard the success of different political regimes in the objective of ensuring an adequate lifestyle for the people, as well as security both on the borders and within the country.

The causes and consequences of Covid-19 have created the same opportunity for India as was opened for China in the 1970s by the deepening contest between the US and the USSR. Should Prime Minister Modi go ahead with utilising this opportunity in the manner that the Chinese leadership did, especially during 1983-99, with the US and the rest of the world, 2020 will witness the rise of India to not simply being the third superpower on the globe, but as a country that removes the poverty caused by centuries of colonial oppression and maladministration that drained the country of vitality. Those who repose confidence in Prime Minister Narendra Modi are looking towards a bold new strategy for national rejuvenation, including through the comprehensive and clear-sighted utilisation of the opportunities created by global geopolitical faultlines and synergies.

On India, Biden keeps embracing the fringe ( Sunday Guardian)


The closet radicals are responsible for Joe Biden’s statements that hark back to Bill Clinton’s policy of supporting the Mujahideen in Kashmir.

While the concept of a “fringe” is valid in socio-political analysis, the mistake often made is to regard as equal in significance all segments of the fringe. The religious fringe may be different in its chemistry and interests from the economic fringe, while the political fringe may differ from the cultural outlier. Politicians and their handlers (especially those having fringe elements in their own thinking) frequently confuse the significance of one from the other, thereby either pandering to almost all of them or avoiding getting close to segments that are not at all representative of the mainstream. President Donald Trump seems to be getting ill-served by associates such as Stephen Miller, who had been marinated in the Jeff Sessions School of Confederate Thought before he joined the campaign waged by the US billionaire in the 2016 Presidential polls. As a consequence of this and some other personnel choices, President Trump has in effect adopted a policy of seeking to roll back the tide of non-white numbers within the population of his country. Back in the early 1990s, when a flood of East Europeans came in search of their futures to the US, many were surprised at the (to them) high proportion of non-whites in the US. During a 1992 visit to the US, several young immigrants from the former Soviet bloc expressed their views candidly to this columnist, that there were far too many non-whites in the US, which to them was unexpected and unwelcome. Just as an influx from East Europe may have prodded a shift to the hard right in Israeli politics, certainly the 1990s marked the start of a campaign to reclaim a past where those of European extraction formed the overwhelming majority of US citizens. In this, President Clinton in practice stood on the “right” side, while verbally spouting alternative rhetoric, from his taunt at the impetuous Sister Souljah during the 1992 campaign, to the introduction of prison rules and other measures which criminalised large swathes of the African-American community, much of which nevertheless remains in thrall to the Clintons to this day. Or to his throwing into the waste bin the Taft-Hartley Act in order to benefit Wall Street, which stands by the Clintons to this day.

In 2016, enough US electors voted for Trump in preference to Hillary Clinton to enable him to become the 45th President. Joe Biden does not generate anywhere close to the toxicity that has enveloped the Clintons, whereas the embrace of Confederate social policies has distanced Donald Trump from much of the electorate. It needs to be remembered that many—if not a majority—of those with European extraction (in that continent or elsewhere) have opposed racial supremacy and have welcomed millions of non-white immigrants to their shores, the UK and Germany being among them. Trying to win an election in 2020 on the basis of doctrines that were laid to rest in the 1960s is hardly the best course towards a second term, and unless there is a limited kinetic action with China, the Democratic Party will pick up the White House. Should that party avoid the trap into which Trump rushed head first, of embracing the fringe and forgetting the mainstream, it is likely to prevail in the Senate as well. Unfortunately, Candidate Biden seems to be following in the footsteps of Trump by publicly endorsing positions prepared for him by fringe elements who migrated to his side after the 2016 surrender of Bernie Sanders to the Clinton machine. Many are closet radicals, and they are responsible for statements made by Joe Biden that hark back to Bill Clinton’s policy of supporting the Mujahideen in Kashmir over the interests of those parts of that territory left in India’s control after the 1948 ceasefire and reference to the UN. More than two million Indian-American votes in the November 3 elections are heading Trump’s way simply because of the frequent (fringe-inspired) India-phobic sniping indulged in by the unwary Democratic Party candidate during the campaign. Of course, were a President Biden to embrace China in the UNSC, as the Trump campaign is alleging he would, it may be possible to get discussed some anti-India resolutions in that forum, which till 2022 at least will have the world’s largest democracy as a member. Given the anti-India rants of the Biden campaign when compared to the support of the Trump administration to Delhi in its confrontation with Beijing, it seems obvious as to which side those in the US in favour of close ties between the US and India should vote for. Pandering to the Clintons in the choice of Vice-President (by avoiding choosing Susan Rice, Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris as his running mate in favour of a Clinton favourite) and to Ilhan Omar in his attacks on India, Biden may yet prove to be the most effective asset of the Trump campaign, just as Hillary Clinton was in 2016.

Perhaps it is time for Jill Biden to gently tell her husband that India is indispensable for the US and its allies to prevail in the ongoing contest with the PRC over mastery of the Indo-Pacific. And that pandering to the fringe may cost Biden what ought to be a walk-over against Donald Trump in the presidential polls. China and the economy will loom large in the polls, and at least in the case of the first, to take the side of the India haters in the manner Hilal-e-Pakistan awardee Joe Biden is doing is going to cost him and his party at the ballot box.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Cuba, Novichok, HK law and Galwan ( Sunday Guardian)


Hong Kong security law has ensured that Xi has joined Putin in the list of leaders with whom real compromise with the US and its allies is no longer possible.

Most of us wish to believe what we wish to believe. Even after the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939, and the subsequent conquest of Belgium and the Netherlands, both as Prime Minister and later as a member of the War Cabinet, Neville Chamberlain and several others in the highest rung of the Conservative Party believed that Hitler could be trusted to agree to an honourable settlement with London. From the start of his interaction with Hitler, Chamberlain’s obsession was to save the British from another world war, and to keep the hope for this alive, he (along with the French) lost opportunity after opportunity to prevent Hitler from plunging Europe into conflict by defeating his forces when they were still vulnerable to a crippling first strike. Of course, it may be argued that the British and French people were weary of war, and may not have been happy if hostilities were initiated by the Anglo-French alliance. However, the reality is that the fact of war (once launched) becomes a self-perpetuating elixir of excited aggression among the population. Had Chamberlain been of the same mind as Winston Churchill so far as the Nazis were concerned, he would have educated the British public on the depravity of “Der Fuehrer” and prepared them for a battle that would have in 1936 (the Rhineland) or in 1938 (an attack by France and the UK in coordination with the defence of their country by the Czechs) led to the humiliation of the Wehrmacht and the downfall of Hitler, who would have entered the history books as just another windbag. More, much more, than the absorption of the Sudetenland by Germany, it was the subsequent occupation of the now helpless rump state of “Czechia” (as Hitler termed it) which convinced ordinary people in the UK (though possibly not in the much more inward-looking France of the time) that Hitler was not to be trusted. That he was a tyrant. From that time, Chamberlain’s tenure as Prime Minister was doomed, with only the grandees in his party refusing to acknowledge it. More and more, not just ordinary people but the middle class and finally a growing section of Whitehall believed that Churchill was right in warning about Hitler and pointing to the need to stop him in his tracks, if needed by force. And that Chamberlain was wrong in his almost pathetic efforts at seeking an “honourable” accommodation with the dictator of Germany, a man who for most of his life regarded the concept of honour as excess baggage.

Although CPSU General Secretary Nikita S. Khruschev’s climb-down in the 1962 Cuba missile crisis may have prevented a military showdown with the US (which would almost certainly not have crossed into the nuclear zone, given the knowledge both Khruschev and President John F. Kennedy had about the consequences of such a war). However, the fact that the impression grew exponentially in the US that the USSR had been within an inch of unleashing a hail of nuclear-tipped missiles on the US, ensured that from that time onwards, the constituency within the US in favour of seeking cooperation with the Soviet Union, rather than a Cold War, shrank and shrank again. Thus was launched the arms race and the containment of the USSR, a strategy that in several particulars continues to be followed by the NATO allies despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992. But what was the spark that ensured the renewal of the Cold War between Moscow and the bigger countries of West Europe? More than the retaking of the Crimea or the further carving up of the Ukraine by effectively detaching a Russified zone from the country as a riposte to Kiev seeking to integrate into the EU and NATO through street-induced regime change, it was the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal in early 2018 that poisoned relations between Vladimir Putin and the US and UK establishments. It was not expected that the custom of sparing an agent who had been exchanged for another in a swap would be broken in such a diabolic manner. It may be that President Vladimir Putin himself had no role in the Skripal attempted murder, but it has been difficult to find an individual who does not believe his was the order that sent the poisoners to Salisbury on their mission. From that time onwards, barring Donald J. Trump (who seems in awe of the muscular judoka), the leaders of several countries regard Putin as an individual who can resort to anything, and hence to the conclusion that the world would be better served were he to somehow be removed from office. If President Putin once had a chance to be a friend of the Atlantic Alliance, the Skripal attempted assassination snuffed that out, leaving him with no option but to fasten his colours to the mast of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping.

Again despite the gushing admiration for Xi expressed so often and so fondly by Donald Trump, leaders of the Atlantic Alliance regard him much as they do President Putin, as an individual who they can never really reconcile with. The moment when this perception hardened into concrete was 1 July, the day when the Hong Kong security law came into force in the former British colony. As in the other instances of such a definitive change of mood, much of it is driven by popular feelings about Xi and the determined manner in which he has been seeking solutions entirely—repeat, entirely—favourable to his perception of Chinese interests in disputes with several countries, as distinct from the more emollient outcomes favoured by the previous hyper-powerful Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping. The transfer of the judicial system of Hong Kong to the PRC model rather than retaining its own has ensured that Xi has joined Putin in the list of leaders with whom real compromise with the US and several of its allies is no longer possible. And on 15 June 2020, the loss of twenty courageous Indian soldiers may ensure that from now onwards the Russia-India-China triumvirate is comatose. While Russia-China is strong, especially with Putin and Xi at the helm, and Russia-India beats strongly in the hearts of many in the Lutyens Zone, who see scant difference between the 1970s and 2020 where Moscow is concerned, the dream of Chindia or India-China may have fallen through the crevices of the Galwan attack.

Supreme Courts must uphold equal justice for all ( Sunday Guardian)


Unless there is a kinetic conflict in the South China Sea or in the Taiwan Straits before the 3 November 2020 Presidential poll, Trump is likely to lose to Joe Biden.

Jair Bolsonaro followed George W. Bush in getting selected as the Head of State (and government) through the intervention of the higher judiciary. The US Supreme Court decided the 2000 US presidential election through a Supreme Court judgement that reeked of partisan politics. The US Supreme Court reversed the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, thus confirming Bush as the 43rd President of the US. Out of six million votes cast in Florida, Bush “won” with 537 over Al Gore, thanks to the denial of a recount. Despite the changes in society and in the pathways needed to conform to the requirements of “justice to all without fear or favour”, some of the Justices of the US Supreme Court are monotonously predictable in their judgements, among the most reliable in the display of political bias being Justice Clarence Thomas, who was appointed to the Court in 1991 and is likely to continue for at least a decade more. The overhang of the Clinton machine in the Democratic Party saw the domination of the Republican Party in the 2016 polls, handing over the Senate, the House of Representatives and the White House to that party, in particular its more conservative wing. Some members of this believe that US society should be rolled back to what it was a hundred years ago, certainly before the New Deal of the 1930s and the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. Jeff Sessions, a politician who has made no secret of the regret that he has felt almost from birth at the Confederate states losing the Civil War, was appointed Attorney General by President Donald J. Trump in 2017. Immediately afterwards, Sessions began to implement US laws in a manner that flouted the foundational principle of that country, that “all men (and hopefully women as well) are created equal”. Such abominations as the forced (and often permanent) separation of parents from their children took place in the case of asylum seekers from countries other than the European countries that Sessions believes represents the entirety of human civilisation. Another pillar of the US governance system that tilted towards the Republican side was the Supreme Court, which now has a majority of justices who must be getting nightmares thinking of the modernistic verdicts of Chief Justice Earl Warren or Justice William O. Douglas, and how these can either be reversed entirely or subverted in interpretation.

The reality is that society is turning more liberal towards individual empowerment and freedom, even though a cursory readout of social media posts may not show this. In the Knowledge Economy, what counts is the freedom to seize opportunity, including pathways to knowledge. Another of Trump’s Dixiecrat choices has been Education czarina Betsy DeVos, who apparently believes that Jesus Christ was born not in Bethlehem but in either Germany or Sweden. She has sought to systematically raise the barriers to entry and utilisation of underprivileged students to the educational network in the US, while giving additional advantages to privileged institutions in addition to what their bloated bursaries already provide. The perception is growing viral in the US that when Donald Trump talks of helping the underclass, what he has in mind are mere millionaires. Any citizen with wealth below that level simply does not, in the view of the administration, qualify for assistance. As during the first Obama term, much of the money set apart as relief during a period of economic stress has gone to the wealthy, including subsidies to entities floating in cash but ever ready to accept the very handouts that they oppose if directed towards the “undeserving poor”. Unless there is a kinetic conflict in the South China Sea or in the Taiwan Straits before the 3 November 2020 Presidential poll, Trump is likely to lose to Joe Biden, despite his efforts at confusing him with his son Hunter Biden, despite the difference in looks, age and ethics. Unless Joe Biden gives evidence of remaining a loyal follower of the Clintons despite running for the US Presidency four years later than he ought to have (because of his reluctance to go against the desire of Bill and Hillary to once again occupy the White House in 2017), the Democratic Party nominee is likely to prevail over Trump. This would in large part be the consequence of the current incumbent’s efforts at rolling back the liberal measures that still survive the tidal waves of the “return to the past” moves unleashed since the 1980s.

Brazil is in crisis because the Supreme Court in that country has become a handmaiden of what may be termed the Temer policy, which posits that only white, middle-aged and wealthy men deserve special consideration in the country. Had the justice system in Brazil not ensured the unjust jailing of Lula da Silva, it would be the popular former President and not Bolsonaro who occupies the Presidential Palace in Brasilia. The Brazilian Supreme Court’s unashamed tilt to the hard right has led to a loss of confidence in the justice system on the part of the majority of Brazilians. Just as the US Supreme Court seemed to be going the way of Brazil, Chief Justice John Roberts has emerged as a supporter of some of the liberal (and societally necessary) judgements taken by the court in the past, thereby angering those who thought him a reliable servant of their social predilections. In a democracy, the Supreme Court ought to be the fount of justice “without fear or favour towards one and all”. Failing in this will result in a meltdown of social order because of the ebbing away of faith in the judicial process by the overwhelming majority of the population of a country.

Saturday 4 July 2020

PM Modi strikes a deadly blow to China’s tech ambitions ( Sunday Guardian)

The US side is putting in place measures designed to constrict the supply of dollars to China, including through delisting Chinese companies on US exchanges. The Modi app ban will compress Chinese company valuations further, which will fall more and more with every new entry into the app ban bandwagon.

New Delhi: Commentators less than receptive to Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been pointing out that trade with India forms only a small part of China’s overall trade, and hence that any trade war initiated by India would prove futile. They seldom mention the fact that India accounts for the second largest trade surplus of the PRC, next only to the United States. And critics of Modi may not accept (or even be aware of the fact) that the move to criminalise the use of as many as 59 Chinese apps that are of everyday use in India could potentially shave off hundreds of billions of US dollars from the valuations of Chinese companies. While de-linking of hardware from China may take longer (although security considerations mandate that such a process start), apps are a different matter. Some may argue that VPNs would enable users to access the banned apps, but this would be used by few. Most would switch to other, more accessible, apps. The replacement of the banned apps by domestic alternatives would be a matter of weeks, not the months or years needed to replace hardware, for example in telephony systems. In India, careless security has resulted in ZTE and Huawei dominating the back ends of the entire mobile telephony network, a situation that calls for immediate remedial action. Over the last decade (an eternity of time in the digital age), both societal implications as well as value creation have been far faster and more profound than in the case of hardware such as 3G, 4G or 5G. Most of the entities developing and marketing apps valued at several billion dollars each were not even around before 2009. WhatsApp and Uber came on the scene that year, WeChat in 2011 and TikTok in 2016. Had the governance system in India not been as prone to sabotage by hostile alien entities as it is (given the ease of litigation and the forests of regulations needing to be navigated), several apps designed in India may have been world beaters, rivalling their international competitors and generating millions of jobs locally in the process. In this way, the mass culling of innovative enterprises that took place during India’s “Foreigner First Decade” would get remedied to an extent.


The list of 59 banned Chinese apps initially announced under the direction of the Prime Minister will need to get expanded to other apps that may later be adiscovered to be controlled from within China. This would immediately deprive the PRC of access to metadata of about a billion individuals. Such a move would severely affect progress developing Artificial Intelligence algorithms, technology of immense value in both civilian as well as military applications. Under the personal supervision of President Xi Jinping, who has made global leadership in technology a primary objective of his period in office, the past four years have witnessed China overtaking the US in both AI patents as well as the commercial exploration of AI systems. Given the use that AI can be put to in the spheres of intelligence and military operations, the Modi app ban—especially if followed by other countries with large smartphone-enabled populations—could have the effect of reversing PRC success in AI where its existential competitor, the US, is concerned. Who wins the Knowledge War will prevail over the other, and access to Indian metadata is a necessary component for such a victory. This had been freely available to China until Prime Minister Modi decided it was time to show that there would be a heavy cost for the CCP to bear if it continued to indulge the PLA’s GHQ Rawalpindi-seeded phobia about India.

Mapping out populations on demographics, ethnicities, lifestyles and dialects is helpful both in commerce and in conflict, and requires the access to varied populations that Chinese software and hardware are designed to penetrate. Although 59 Chinese apps have been banned, there may be other major apps that are in fact Chinese, although technically belonging to a third country or to Hong Kong. After the security legislation became law in Hong Kong on 1 July 2020, the distinction between the PRC and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has been almost completely eliminated in any practical ease. Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown the way, agencies in India will need to identify other apps where the servers are in PRC control, despite the apps technically originating in another country. And there are security challenges outside the virtual. Undersea cables carry voice and data across vast distances, and these have been subject to snooping through clandestine physical access in the past. The app ban of the Prime Minister is only the first step of a long chain of steps that need to be taken to ensure that the security of India is not compromised through being accessed by a country whose military is hand in glove with GHQ Rawalpindi, a fulcrum of terrorism across the world.


Just as Afghanistan was a Waterloo for both the USSR as well as later the US, Pakistan is likely to be a similar quagmire for China within a relatively brief period of time. The folly of going along with the requirements of GHQ Rawalpindi will soon become evident to perceptive scholars and analysts in the PRC. Many there do not accept the PLA policy of trust in the Pakistan army and of permitting GHQ Rawalpindi to stamp its influence on policies directed against India in a manner that goes counter to the interests of the 1.4 billion people of China. It seems only a matter of time before an objective cost-benefit analysis gets done within the CCP on the relationship between Pakistan and China, including its effect on relations with India. However, as yet, there is no evidence of such a shift in policy. China and Pakistan are joined at the hip in the military sphere, in the same way as China and Russia now are under Putin and Xi. Ties with China have crossed a point of inflexion as a consequence of PLA activity on the Sino-Indian border since 3 May, especially the Galwan encounter on 15 June. On the Indian side, the tardiness shown thus far in the essential task of marking India’s territories in Ladakh and elsewhere that are susceptible to nibbling by the PLA’s “forward policy” will now hopefully be a thing of the past, just as the earlier neglect of border access infrastructure had been till PM Modi took up the matter and rescued it from the obstructive attitude of elements in North Block, who have remained wedded to Morarji Desai’s policy during his 1958-63 stint as Finance Minister. He starved the Ministry of Defence of necessary funds, as in the view of him and presumably Prime Minister Nehru, “conflict with China is impossible in our lifetime”. Desai was shown to be wrong in 1962, when the PLA marched across the frontier. This is still being kept undefined by Beijing despite multiple rounds of negotiations with India on the subject. Till now, until PM Modi intervened, there had not been any visible cost to Beijing of such a policy of stonewalling a task so essential to stable peaceful relations with India.


Prime Minister Modi’s move banning 59 Chinese apps is of immense significance, and every country that joins the ban will wipe out more and more of the value of the Chinese entities involved. And this is a trend-setter that is likely to be followed by other countries, including the United States and the other four members of the “5 Eyes” intelligence combo (to which India seems on the way to be belonging to, as the sixth “eye”). Over the past decade, while the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has itself created a wall preventing external apps and internet applications from entry into its market, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has encouraged a handful of “national champions” to reach globally competitive standards and join the list of the top tech entities across most continents. TikTok, for example, had nearly 840 million users worldwide including 210 million in India, while its parent company ByteDance was valued at over $100 billion. The India ban will knock the bottom off both these calculations, leaving the company at risk of closure, should other countries follow the example set by PM Modi. The perception within the National Security Council and the Department of Commerce in Washington is that the Chinese side intentionally hid the fact of the Covid-19 pandemic while signing the Economic & Trade Agreement with the US early in 2020, by which time the disease was already being documented in Wuhan. The US side is therefore putting in place measures designed to constrict the supply of dollars to China, including through threats to delist Chinese companies from US exchanges. The Modi app ban will compress Chinese company valuations further, which will fall more and more with every new entry into the app ban bandwagon. Who remembers tech giants of the past such as AOL or MySpace? The ban may result in current PRC champions heading in the same direction. The apps ban is unique in that it targets the metasphere, which is today getting dominated by the PRC, and which seems to have traditionally been outside the major fields of interest of security agencies in India. This is incomprehensible, as online gaming (within the metasphere) is 74% controlled worldwide by Chinese entities, and this pastime has become the reality of the present generation in countries across the world, including the US and India. Tencent, a wholly Chinese entity, controls online products that are immensely popular among hundreds of millions of people, and which can suck up personal data with every minute of use by these individuals across the world. Once WeChat and other apps used to communicate with the Chinese in the PRC get banned in major economies, and because WhatsApp, Facebook and LINE are banned in China, there will be fewer ways for Chinese entities to seamlessly communicate with outside customers or suppliers. This will severely impact business unless Facebook, Google and other foreign systems are allowed in the PRC. Despite his friendly feelings towards President Xi, President Trump is feeling the pressure of many in his team to follow the example set by Narendra Modi.


Among the apps now banned in India is WeChat, which has been used to give the CCP point of view in a manner that is often subliminal and subtle, such as by the display of maps that do not reflect actual legal or factual situations on the ground, including on borders. China has for long banned foreign chat programs from operating within its territory, such as LINE or WhatsApp, but is protesting a similar ban in India of its own products. This again in a context where Twitter, YouTube, Google, Facebook and other such global tech giants are barred from use in China. Backchannel efforts have long been ongoing by some of these tech titans to genuflect to the CCP and thereby get the ban lifted, although thus far efforts at ingratiating themselves with authorities in the PRC have proved a failure. The banning by PM Modi of China’s own communications program (WeChat) within India is the first time this has taken place after it was banned in Iran in 2013, and is likely to be a trend setter among major democracies such as the US, Germany, Japan, the UK and France that are eager to protect their data and ensure that China does not emerge the champion in AI and its applications. Of the top ten unified apps downloaded in India during 2019, six are Chinese, three are from the US and only one (Hotstar) is from India. In 2015, there were two from India, five from the US and three from China. The importance of India to the online industry in China is clear from the fact that downloads of Chinese products have risen fastest in India as compared to other large countries such as Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria and Egypt. Chinese apps have overtaken US apps and left Indian apps far behind since 2015. A few years more, and this tech space in India would have been almost completely dominated by Chinese companies.

Among the hardest hit by the app ban is TikTok, which has more than 200 million active users in India, or 4 out of every 10 of its users. While it is technically a social media app, experts warn that it can very quickly be used for surveillance purposes. It can be remotely controlled and can track an individual’s activity and identity if a smartphone is used, which in India is most likely to be a Chinese model, given the dominance of that country in the hardware market in this country. A single entity, Xiaomi, controls a third of India’s smartphone market. The company has not hidden the fact that it relies on a strategy of “building the ecosystem” through its users. This means that they collect a huge trove of data about each user through items such as refrigerators, clothes washers, television sets and even weighing scales, besides of course the ubiquitous smartphone. Their stated goal is to run Artificial Intelligence analyses on its users better than any other electronics companies, thereby posing an obvious risk to data security in a context where not just strategic but even tactical planning seems to be jointly carried out these days by GHQ Rawalpindi and the PLA. This has significance because a company such as Tencent can listen to everything its WeChat users say. In the case of Alipay payment app of AliBaba (which has significant say over some entities operating in India that are as yet outside the ban just announced), a single spend can result in more than 200 data points getting collected for Artificial Intelligence analyses. Surveillance and the collection of data has therefore become an important by-product of Chinese software companies, which is the reason why they are being given so much attention to by the CCP under the tech-savvy Xi.


Given the carelessness with which both officials and non-officials in India handle software and hardware that have immense snoop capability, it would be no surprise if there have been few surprises from India to countries with an advanced capability in metadata collection. Advance information, whether political, social, economic or even security related would have flowed through the invisible transfer of data. India will need to build up its own wholly owned national champions (anonymity through the Participatory Note route can no longer be permitted in such sensitive sectors) as otherwise metadata will continue to flow out of India to countries that are using the same to ramp up their Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities. At present, the US is still ahead, but China has been catching up fast. Interestingly, AI requires not so much human intelligence as data from humans for getting developed, and after China, India is the biggest source of such data. Because of the absence of policies designed to protect metadata till some recent steps by Prime Minister Modi, thus far such data has mostly gone to two countries, the US and China, with countries such as France in this list thanks to penetration of the Indian software and applications market. Aadhaar for example is a prime example of an oceanic trove of metadata, and a reckoning of where its data has gone would be of immense value in understanding the scope of the security challenges being faced by India. Any lack of cold-blooded objectivity in judging risks would do immense future harm, just as it has done in the past. Indian champions need to be developed, for the brainpower exists for this within the country, if protected from regulations and administrative practice that seem designed to favour external competition. The manner in which patents are being looked at, for example, needs a comprehensive relook during Modi 2.0. Even during Modi 1.0, the effect of several regulatory moves on patents was to handicap domestic entities and give preference to alien competitors. It is clear from Modi 2.0 that the Prime Minister has mastered the processes of governance and that continuation of UPA-era policies favouring foreign competition will no longer be permitted. The pioneering move by India of beginning the process of delinking India from China in the matter of technology needs to be followed by the US. Secretary Mike Pompeo’s strong words are of little value unless matched by action matching such language. During the Clinton presidency, it was commonplace to see a combination of strong language and concessional policies co-exist where China was concerned. This was in contrast to India, where Clinton’s policies were brutal in terms of sanctions and the effort to give GHQ Rawalpindi the upper hand in Kashmir. This tilt, at least, has changed, although the reluctance of Donald J. Trump to sanction Turkey for explicitly going against NATO interests is being used as evidence for the proposition that the US (at least under President Trump) is not a reliable partner. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pusillanimous stance towards sanctions on Turkey and other critical issues involving the need for strong action is leading to a trust deficit between the US and its present and future allies that is reaching a level dangerous for US long-term interests, and could cost Trump the White House in November.


The move to ban 59 Chinese apps by PM Modi, which is expected to be followed by several other steps in the same direction, will do severe damage not only to the valuations of Chinese “national champions” but also to the development of Artificial Intelligence, and thereby substantially slow down China from overtaking the US in this field. Who leads in AI leads the world. This would inevitably be the case, were President Trump to accept the advice of his National Security Advisor and his Secretary of State to put into operation the steps initiated by Prime Minister Modi in India in the crucial combat theatre of the virtual world and the metasphere.

By the Indian Army’s robust response to its GHQ-orchestrated actions in the Galwan Valley and on other points on the Himalayan frontier, the PLA has done incalculable damage to President Xi Jinping’s ambitious drive to make China the numero uno tech power in the world in the next few years.