Monday 31 August 2020

Team Biden may yet reelect Donald Trump ( Sunday Guardian)


If the overconfident Biden team have their own way in how Democratic campaign is conducted, Trump could win a second term.

Donald Trump is seeking to portray Joe Biden as a secret follower of the principles of the US Congressional members known as the Squad. After the 2018 US Congressional races, four young women banded together as the “Squad”. All four meet Donald J. Trump’s definition of those below the poverty line, which in his view is any citizen with assets below a million dollars. Of the four, the disappointment for liberals has been Ilhan Omar, a backer of Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan and with a neo-Wahhabi philosophy far from the world view of Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both of whom are impressive in the dedication each has to the interests of the modest income groups from whence they emerged into fame. The ideological outlier, Ms Omar, needs to consider whether the Wahhabi world view that she embraces is consistent with the values of democracy. In contrast to her, the only other Muslim Representative in the US Congress, Rashida Tlaib, is relatively moderate. The exception is her distaste for Israel.

Representative Tlaib may not think highly of the current Prime Minister of Israel, but it must be said that few whose families have their roots in the Palestinian Territory feel differently from her about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made no secret of his view that the lawful boundaries of Israel stretch from Judea to Samaria. In other words, that they include almost all the West Bank of the Palestinian Territory. Perhaps a digression into history may be instructive for those involved in policymaking such as a member of the House of Representatives. Every peace offer made by Israel has been rejected by the Palestinians on the grounds that the territory offered was too small. Each such refusal was usually followed by the takeover of more territory by the Israeli government. Whether it be in 1948 or 1967, efforts by the Palestinians and their supporters in the region to use military force to secure a withdrawal by the Jewish state resulted in more land that had been under Palestinian control getting incorporated into Israel. Looking at the disproportion in capabilities, this columnist has for long suggested that the Israeli side should decide what territory it regarded as essential for its security, absorb that, and leave the Palestinian Authority free to administer the remainder. Unhappily for the Palestinians and their backers, the illusion that Israel would surrender a significant amount of what it considers to be Holy Land to come to a peace agreement has led the Palestinian Authority to reject every offer made to it of a compromise peace settlement. Rather than cancel a visit to the homeland of her extended family, it would have been helpful for Ms Tlaib to see for herself the situation in the West Bank.

Given the rising disproportion between the upper reaches of US society and the rest, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib together with Bernie Sanders have tens of millions of voters who agree with them that policies that perpetuate such disparities would inevitably lead to social unrest. Ms Omar seems to have a different agenda from the other three, that of ensuring that neo-Wahhabism re-establish itself as the dominant force in the Muslim world. This in an era when even Saudi Arabia has begun distancing itself from that creed and seeking a return to the compassionate and merciful vision enunciated in the Quran in its 114 suras.

Apart from their relative youth, gender and dedication to their beliefs, a common factor between the four members of the Squad is that none have European ethnicity. This is probably why a sizeable section of Donald J. Trump’s base agrees with the demonisation of the four in Republican news outlets. Theirs seems a nostalgia for the years when those not of European ethnicity knew their place in the social, political and economic hierarchy. The securing of the Presidency by Barack Hussein Obama terrified such elements, and his second term led directly to the massive support of closet segregationists for Trump. The sprouting since the 2016 campaign of energetic manifestations of the same tendencies as those which motivated segregation in the past is no accident. President Trump has, perhaps not by design, given back such elements the sense of entitlement taken away from them by the Obama Presidency, and which is now once again threatened because Kamala Harris may step into the Presidency in case Joe Biden’s health collapses. Harris in the White House would be a cross too heavy to bear for millions of those wedded to segregationist nostalgia, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that Donald Trump wins a second term in office, even if that means fomenting violence in cities located in swing states. Such scare tactics may work, given that the Biden campaign seems to be heading the way of the Clinton poll machine took in 2016. Hillary’s campaign focused less on the Presidential campaign than on what they proposed to do once she was sworn in on 20 January 2021. While Trump has character flaws, evangelical Christians seem to prefer the former to Biden, the quintessential family man. It remains to be seen whether the white underclass in towns and cities will continue to back President Trump, who has showered bounties on billionaires rather than on those lower down the food chain. Trump has thus far refused to actually block WeChat, thereby forcing the CCP to choose between allowing western communication software apps to operate in China or witness a breakdown in most of communication between individuals in the US and China. He has allowed Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross to adopt a soft line on China, even while Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper push for tough measures. It must be said to Trump’s credit that he has been much tougher on China than any US President since Harry Truman.

The Trump campaign seeks to portray Joe Biden as a traitor to his ethnicity, his religion and his beliefs. It ought not to be an easy sell, except for the fact that Joe Biden seems to have followed the example set by Jeb Bush in his 2015-quest for the Republican nomination. This was through Bush surrounding himself with smug, “know it all” aides who assumed that the Republican nomination was theirs for the asking. If the overconfident Biden team have their own way in how the Democratic Party campaign is conducted, Donald J. Trump could overcome the effects of Covid-19 on the economy and win a second term in the White House. In contrast to Biden’s retaining in his team the big names of a failed and unpopular past, many of the members of the Trump Cabinet are unscarred by past policy mistakes. These include Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper, who together with Vice-President Mike Pence may prove persuasive enough to quell doubts among voters about the wisdom of giving a second term to a President who seems to revel most in uttering the words, “You’re fired”.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Smart Policy by PM Modi will frustrate PLA designs on border ( Sunday Guardian)


The PRC needs a neutral India and this it hopes to achieve by showcasing that the costs of abandoning neutrality, which by definition includes continued reliance on Russia for defence needs, would be severe.


NEW DELHI: Neither the top tier of the Chinese Communist Party (which elevated him in 2012 to the post of CCP General Secretary over the claims of Li Keqiang), nor the international community correctly understood the difference between Xi Jinping and his party peers. Before taking over the top job in China, Xi had been content to walk in the shadow of his elders. The anti-corruption campaigns that he launched prior to his appointment in 2012 had netted only small fish, or those few in the middle echelons who had fallen out of favour with higher echelons in the CCP. There were few hints of the thorough-going changes that Xi would make to both the CCP as well as to domestic and foreign policy soon after his takeover, or of his emergence not just as first among equals but as the second CCP supremo after Mao.

What the elders who chose Xi over Li in 2012 failed to factor in was the fact that in common with Mao Zedong, Xi has a ruthless drive to promote the Han nationalist concept of where the PRC should be, and what needs to be done to get it there. In Mao’s case, the effort was mostly internal. In Xi’s case, the drive for primacy is global. The tactics and policies of Mao and Xi are in many respects different, yet the underlying objective remained the same, which was to position Beijing as the fulcrum of the global order, in much the same way as Washington emerged in 1945 after the war between the Axis and the Allies. Mao took care to camouflage this intention behind a smokescreen expertly crafted by Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, going on verbal offensives against the “hegemony of the United States” to show the PRC’s commitment to an equalitarian world order. During the period in power of Deng Xiaoping, “biding time and concealing strength” became the rule, with China moving away from overt reliance on the military after the 1979 attack on Vietnam. The Paramount Leader instead turned to the use of diplomacy and commerce to create the conditions needed for the rise of China within the post-1945 international order. Mao was clear that this order needed to change, but concentrated on internal changes in preparation for the shift. Interestingly, Mao’s expansion of the PRC and Deng’s expansion of the economy created the conditions that Xi believed he needed to effect changes globally and in the open. Both Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao expended vast sums of money in developing a network of friendly contacts across the world, paying particular attention to the US and to Europe, and secondly Southeast Asia and Africa. Around two decades ago, India was identified by the CCP leadership as the only country with the potential to emerge as a serious competitor to the PRC in Asia. From that time onwards, the attention paid to India multiplied, and priority was given to assessing the probability of India getting over its (mainly self-created) obstacles and better leveraging its immense potential. The assessment in Beijing was that the institutional structure in India was too rule-oriented and process-centred to enable a breakout into the innovative policies needed to generate and sustain double digit growth, while the political class was too busy seeking individual gratification to have time to cogitate over the “Big Picture”. Nor in the Chinese Communist Party view did the political class in India have much interest in taking on the challenge of changing the governance mechanism enough to make it responsive to the needs of the 21st century. Self-interest combined with inertia would prevent such a transformation of the governance mechanism, according to the CCP, although constant vigilance was needed to ensure that India remained in a box, unable to break out and pose a serious challenge to the PRC and its drive for global primacy.

Another worry within the CCP leadership was the possibility of the coming together of the US and India, and in this context, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (unlike Congress President Sonia Gandhi) was considered an individual who was much too inclined for an alliance of the two largest democracies in the world for comfort. Hence the silent welcome given to the sniping against him within India on the grounds that he was far too biased towards the US. In Cold War 1.0 as well, Moscow had proved an effective antidote, preventing India from moving to close ties with the US. This role assumed importance in the changed geopolitical context of Cold War 2.0, with its open confrontation in several fields between the two superpowers, the PRC and the US. This role of the PRC’s most important partner, Russia, has added greatly to its value as a strategic partner of China.


As Chief Minister, Narendra Modi was open to investment from China (as to investment in his home state from other countries). Given the missteps by both Bush and Obama such as the denial of a visa to Modi, it came as a surprise to Beijing that President Obama gave Modi such a warm welcome during his first visit to Washington as Prime Minister of India in September 2014. The expectation had been that the steady drumbeat of criticism of Modi by those in the Democratic Party who were historically close to the Congress Party would ensure a tepid welcome. The welcome given to PM Modi was a warning sign that Washington would go the extra mile to woo India, and that President Obama had discarded the G-2 illusions nurtured during his first term by the State Department under Hillary Clinton. Rather, he had fixed his gaze on the Indo-Pacific and moved away from the Atlantic, as was made explicit by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter together with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The key strategists embedded in the leadership councils of the PRC kept a close eye on the rate of growth of the economy under Modi, and took comfort from the fact that this was on a gentle downward trajectory since 2015, despite the coming to power of Modi at the Central level. However, the clear intention of Modi from 26 May 2014 itself to once again establish the centrality of New Delhi within South Asia resulted in a wariness about him. A lookout was maintained on efforts during Modi 1.0 to modernize the administrative structure and remove the numerous bureaucratic obstacles to growth. Reports about the success of startups launched by ethnic Indians in Silicon Valley added to the attention paid to the possible breakout of India from its sluggish trajectory. Such linkages made India and the US natural partners in advanced technology, a nightmare for the planners in Beijing. Even before President Donald J. Trump launched a trade war against China in 2017, several companies from the US, Taiwan and Japan had been looking to shift their operations outside of the PRC, and close track was kept of those seeking relocation to India. It was clear to the CCP strategists that only India had the brainpower, locational advantages and market size to pose a serious threat to the supply chains based in China. At a time when General Secretary Xi had fashioned the Belt & Road Initiative to ensure that Eurasian supply chains located their centre of gravity in China, any displacement of industrial assets to a potential competitor of the size and potential of India was unwelcome. Constant watch was therefore maintained over both policy as well as physical developments in India. Increased attention began to be paid on how the country could be thrown off balance, in conjunction not only with Pakistan but other South Asian powers as well. Efforts at this intensified. It would be a catastrophe for the CCP if conditions in India ensured a smooth glide path for enterprises wishing to relocate from the PRC, especially with the advent of the trade war with the US. Although growth in India was slowing down, and in fact strains had been visible from 2011 onwards, the potential for expansion of the second largest democracy in the world could not be ignored. A decision appears to have been taken around 2016 by the PRC leadership core that GHQ Rawalpindi should be given a boost in military assistance, not only to hold its own against India but also to serve as a more effective brake on rapid development of capabilities by India. This could be achieved by generating a volley of internal fissures designed to draw attention away from PM Modi’s key objective of systemic reform and faster growth. From that time onwards, more direct involvement across Kashmir became a focus area for the PLA, and it began to openly work alongside GHQ Rawalpindi in attempts to stymie Indian progress in the union territory. More than generating international opinion, the calculation in Beijing (nurtured by Islamabad) was that heightened activity at the UN Security Council would motivate more Kashmiris to destroy their own futures by taking to violence against their own country. Thus far, despite repeated efforts by Beijing at bringing up a moribund issue in the UN Security Council, the unrest promised by GHQ Rawalpindi has not taken place. This is unlike what took place in 1990 when V.P. Singh was the Prime Minister, who presided over the development of a full-blown insurgency in the state. The UNSC was proving to be ineffective as a motivator for unrest and violence. Perhaps a reversal of fortune by India on the Sino-Indian frontier would cause the sparks of ISI-funded unrest in Kashmir to once again convert to flames. It is very likely that the idea of ramping up border incursions was suggested to the CMC (Central Military Commission) by GHQ Rawalpindi, which by now has in effect become almost a Corps of the PLA. Apart from fear that PM Modi would order the takeover of PoK during Modi 2.0, frustration with the lack of change on the ground in Kashmir in spite of prodding the UNSC was probably the genesis of the May 2020 PLA operation of intruding from several points into the territory of India. Care was taken to ensure that the points selected in this phase of the operation were manned not by the Indian Army but by paramilitary forces. Preparations for the incursions began in November 2019 and the actual intrusions were launched after 3 May 2020.


Given the reality of the Chinese side first working out a comprehensive Plan of Action and thereafter obsessively sticking to it, it is unreal to expect that the PLA will withdraw as a consequence of discussions between the two Special Representatives or the Foreign Ministers of both sides, much less as a consequence of military-level talks. GHQ Rawalpindi seems to have convinced the Central Military Commission that a show of force and resolve against troops in Ladakh will cause elements nurtured by it to launch a conflagration in Kashmir. A withdrawal from such a stance would be tantamount to an admission that the plan jointly worked out by the CMC and GHQ Rawalpindi is defective. Such an admission would cause the downfall of several “star” careers in the PLA, which is why the gambler’s instinct has operated in the CMC of increasing the bid with every failure of build-ups and thrusts (to ignite passions in the Ladakh and Jammu UTs). On the Indian side, there seems to be a fixation by some analysts on conventional modes of thought and operation that fail to factor in the reality that the Chinese methods of planning and execution, especially under Xi Jinping, are very different from the western concepts that have freely been adopted on the Indian side. Any reversal of course by the Chinese side would be seen as unacceptable until the potential penalties for holding firm are too severe to justify to the higher leadership of the CCP. A price that steep can only come about once an alliance structure is crafted on the Indian side on the lines of the alliance with the USSR in 1971 that opened the doors to the liberation of Bangladesh. Thus far, a mutual security pact with the US has yet to take place, to the relief of Islamabad, Beijing and Moscow. Since 2005, a time when allies of the CCP had an outsize influence over UPA policy towards countries such as China and Nepal, the PLA has adopted a policy of changing facts on the ground to its advantage, then negotiating on the basis of the new status quo before seizing the next opportunity to change the previously altered status quo.


It is instructive that the public assertion that the Galwan Valley belonged to China came the day after conciliatory statements by the Indian side that were designed to lower tensions. By May, it was clear that the novel coronavirus pandemic was sweeping across India, and hence presented an opportunity to set in motion plans already made by forces already in place for weeks. In the coming period, should major unrest take place in locations across India as a consequence of economic hardship, as is expected by those opposed to PM Modi, that may present the PLA an opportunity to make another series of thrusts, this time in the eastern sector as well. Next year is the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, and the leadership needs a military triumph to cover up the problems being faced on the economic side. The possible locations for an effort to generate such a victory would be the Himalayas, the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait. Depending on where the pickings would be easiest, the move is likely to be made. Should the Indian economy continue on a downward trajectory and a new Biden administration backpedal on the Obama-Trump offer of a military partnership with India, the PLA may judge that their time to move forward in Kashmir, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh has arrived. The Chinese side adopts the tactics of the gecko, which is to wait patiently till its prey comes close, and then swoop on it. During this time of waiting for the next chance to strike, talks that in the matter of outcomes go nowhere are welcomed as distractions from the reality of the ongoing plan to resume overt operations. Covert operations, of course, would never have stopped.


The twin issues confronting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the ambience created by the novel coronavirus are the economy and China. Effective solutions will need to be found to address both, as long-held perceptions and policy courses do not seem to be making the requisite progress. The second is related to the first. The Chinese are nothing if not pragmatic. Should the economy of India begin to grow at speed, and should the military alliance with the US become a reality rather than an objective that never seems to be getting achieved, China is likely to back away from further provoking India as the country approaches its 75th year of Independence. India not going in for hard options will not lead to a change in behaviour on the other side, only creation of hard facts and outcomes will. An alteration of tone came after the fighting spirit shown by the Indian Army during the Galwan clash, and the unexpected Apps Ban introduced by PM Modi. Incidentally, despite his rhetoric President Donald J. Trump has yet to banish WeChat from the US. The reason is that a well-endowed lobby of business interests is trying to prevent him from doing so, by arguing that such a ban would affect commercial communications between the US and China. The reality is that WeChat enables the CCP to access any communication between US companies and their Chinese subsidiaries, thereby assisting them in ensuring that domestic champions prevail in a contest with foreign rivals. This far, WeChat has been banned only in India and not anywhere else, thereby continuing to give an advantage to Chinese businesses over the competition. The assessment of the CCP is that Chinese pools of resources and consequent goodwill will enable the country to weather temporary shocks and storms and enter calmer seas less damaged than its rivals. The PLA has already ensured that the degree of control it exercises over the South China Sea is much higher than what was the case five years ago. This is the new “status quo” that Beijing would like the world to accept, which in a practical sense it already has, in that almost all exploitation of the sea by Vietnam and other countries has been blocked. Only a kinetic shock that severely unsettles the PLA would reverse such a progression towards PRC primacy in the Indo-Pacific. Such a reversal of fate would be aided by coordinated military activities of multiple partners (including the US, India, Australia, Vietnam and Japan) across fronts that have been subjected to PLA intrusions, an outcome that thus far seems distant.


India has the potential of being critical link in the transition of US, Taiwanese and Japanese supply chains from the PRC, which is why this country is the object of so much attention by Beijing. Only an action-oriented group that includes India can ensure primacy in the Indo-Pacific. The PRC for its part needs a neutral India to ensure its own progression to that role, and this it hopes to achieve by showcasing that the costs of abandoning neutrality (which by definition includes continued reliance on Russia for defence needs) would be severe. The problem for the planners in the CMC as they parley with GHQ Rawalpindi is simple. Their strategy of diplomatic and military pressure has failed in Kashmir and will fail across the rest of India. Democracies have a resilience and a capacity to overcome not apparent on the surface. What is needed for this is Smart Policy, and soon.

Saturday 22 August 2020

Use of military in disputes causing economic shock in China ( Sunday Guardian)


Under the prodding of the generals within the Central Military Commission, China has brushed aside the lawful claims over territories and waters of countries ranging from Vietnam to the Philippines to India.


New Delhi: The founder of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, was clear that the (Chinese Communist) Party controlled the gun (i.e. the armed forces). Over the past 16 years, this dictum seems to have steadily been reversed, with the CCP more and more adopting policies favoured by the PLA rather than the other way around. The consequence of the adoption of the short-term and aggressive stance favoured by the PLA generals towards ASEAN, India, Taiwan and even the US has resulted in a coming together of these countries in the face of such behaviour by China. The country was developed into an economic superpower by Deng Xiaoping, who never repeated the decision made in 1979 to use the military to try and settle a dispute, this time with Vietnam. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had its reins loosened during the period in office of Hu Jintao (2002-12), and this policy of giving leeway to the military has been strengthened under General Secretary Xi Jinping, who took over the leadership of the party and the country in 2012. Under the prodding of the generals within the Central Military Commission, China has brushed aside the lawful claims over territories and waters of countries ranging from Vietnam to the Philippines to India. Although far from the shores of the People’s Republic of China, the entirety of the South China Sea is being claimed by Beijing, with artificial islands getting constructed and military outposts set up to enforce a claim set aside by UN bodies and almost the whole of the international community, barring a few countries such as Pakistan. As a consequence, even so pro-China a leader as President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has ensured that his Navy join the RIMPAC exercises this year, while Vietnam is reviewing its policy of not permitting linkages with foreign militaries.

A treaty between India and Vietnam for both militaries to access each other’s facilities may be an idea whose time has come. Similar treaties could be signed by Vietnam later, with the US and Australia in the first instance. Across the South China Sea, this PLA-inspired policy has resulted in a stoppage of several projects of ASEAN and other countries to exploit the mineral wealth of the waters of the region. Such projects need to be resumed with protection ensured by the Quad fleet present in the waters.

It was US President Donald J. Trump who fired the first salvo against the CCP policy of the gun controlling the policy of the party, by initiating a trade war in 2017 that has continued since then. The next major salvo was fired this year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. This was the Apps Ban, in which 49 Chinese apps were barred from the Indian market. At that time, it had been estimated that the ban could shave off hundreds of billions of dollars from the value of Chinese corporates, and this is what is happening. The US has followed, and additional steps may get taken on the same lines as already active in India, such as barring Chinese firms from accessing US capital markets or even the banking system. The Apps Ban has the potential to sharply limit the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) skills in the PRC, given that users create more users, brand exposure generates more exposure, and contents spawn fresh content in an unprecedented manner. The rapid growth in user and value terms of TikTok or WeChat in just a few years shows the potency of such instruments of access to the vast amounts of data needed for AI to develop. Just as an app can shoot up, it can crash in a short time, as AOL or Mindspace have shown. TikTok is seeking to cobble together some cash from potential buyers in the US and India, but given the toxicity associated with the brand, it would be risky for corporates in the US or India to effect such a rescue of the brand. As for WeChat, if it were banned in the US and in other countries, Chinese users would need to shift to other means of communication, and as a consequence, authorities in China would need to lift the domestic ban on applications such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, so that their citizens can converse with those from other countries, especially in the major democracies. Should such bans remain in place within the PRC, communications between China and many other countries would be substantially affected in a world that is increasingly following India’s lead in banning Chinese apps. Among the heaviest long-term blows to the Chinese economy has been the ordered decoupling of supply chains from within the PRC, with manufacturing units and offices relocating to other countries at a steady and growing pace. At the same time, increased barriers are being placed on imports from China, many on national security concerns triggered by the aggressive stance taken by the PLA in theatres in South, Southeast and East Asia.

Although China itself has long kept away outside apps from entering its own market, Beijing reacted very sharply to India and the US following its own example, worried that countries in Europe such as Germany that have hitherto been very respectful of Beijing’s commands may stop such automatic acquiescence. In the Indo-Pacific, Australia has been the most notable in putting security before commerce so far as relations with China are concerned. In India, over the years, several businesspersons have made huge amounts of profit (much of it located abroad) by acting as channels for the takeover of markets in India by Chinese substitutes, but this policy is becoming more difficult under the watchful eye of Prime Minister Modi. In China itself, not only were foreign competitors barred from entry, but a few “national champions” were identified in key sectors and discreetly given assistance. As a consequence, whether it be ByteDance or Huawei, such enterprises have become global giants, and were on the cusp of eclipsing their European and US competitors when PLA adventurism caused the brakes to be applied on commerce from China in several markets. WeChat listens to every conversation made through it, just as Alipay or Huawei collects data that is invaluable in the development of AI, a field where China is already the global champion. Almost all communication between overseas customers and PRC suppliers gets done on WeChat, hence the deadly effect on the economy of a ban by countries on the use of the application. Among the most consequential decisions taken by the CCP on the advice of the PLA has been the manner in which GHQ Rawalpindi has been encouraged and empowered to carry out covert and other acts against India. This when access to the Indian market is crucial for China to maintain a high growth rate, besides prevail over competitors in fields such as AI and telecom. Earlier policy of delinking commerce from the boundary issue was reversed by Prime Minister Modi, who made it clear that any country trifling with the territorial integrity of India cannot expect to be allowed to rake in tens of billions of dollars in profits from consumers in this country. Several domestic lines of manufacture have been destroyed or are close to collapse because of the dumping of Chinese products and services by businesspersons who care little for India’s security and are focused only on their foreign bank accounts. The Galwan clash put an end to the free ride that such elements have enjoyed in policymaking circles in India thus far. In the years ahead, the ignoring of the interests and sensibilities of India in PRC dealings with Pakistan will be judged among the most consequential mistakes made by the CCP in its external policies.

Whether it be Xiaomi, Huawei or TikTok, users will have almost all her or his activities tracked by the remote controller, which is why a ban on 5G, for example, would have a severe effect on the ability of remote controllers to monitor activity in third countries. Given that India, Japan, the EU and the US are targets of the PLA and its allies, the national security case for banning such access is overwhelming, except that the business lobbies that have fattened on their role as purveyors of Chinese substitutes to domestic products were effective for years in preventing security concerns from interfering with their moneymaking. Once on 15 June the PLA took the lives of 20 gallant soldiers of the Indian Army including the Commanding Officer of a battalion, it became difficult for such interests to continue to act as facilitators of PRC dominance in the Indian market of the same brands that are assisting GHQ Rawalpindi establish control over restive populations in PoK and in parts of Pakistan such as the Pashtun territories, Sindh and Balochistan. India needs to ban any company from any country that invested in PoK from accessing the Indian market, and such a move has long been necessary. The CCP was under notice for quite a while that its policy of following the lead of the PLA in foreign policy would cause severe blowback on commerce, but such warnings were ignored. The consequence has been a US-India led counterattack on expansionist policies through the “soft underbelly of the crocodile”, which is commerce. Prime Minister Modi has been acknowledged as the global leader in the countermoves against intrusive and (till recently) dominant Chinese apps.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to ensure that the process of decision-making in government pass through far fewer (and more transparent) processes than has been the case thus far. Whether it be in the processing of passports or in the postal department, PM Modi has overseen a revolution in transparency, with citizens able to track deliveries and the rate of progress of requests made to government departments. Such changes are essential as the presence of too many layers and opacity in processes makes it easier for hostile players to subvert a few of those involved and cause either wrong decisions to be taken or right decisions to get blocked. A policy integrating geopolitics with commerce and security would ensure that India move into the high growth stage during Modi 2.0. The catalyst for this has been the PLA, which by its aggressive behaviour has alerted countries across the world to the risks of being dependent on PRC-based supply chains.

Modi 2.0 moving towards 21st century methods and mindset ( Sunday Guardian)


Trusting civil society rather than only civil service, and devolving of powers rather than concentrating them are needed for unleashing the potential of the economy.

Throughout the closing months of 2015 going into most of the next year, suggestions were made from the Republican side that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet Donald J. Trump during one of the former’s visits to the US. Such a meeting never took place, and in not meeting the Republican nominee while he was on the campaign trail, Abe was not alone. Japan regards the alliance with the US as the cornerstone of its foreign and security policy, and yet never once did Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet Trump. That is until 8 November 2016, when soon afterwards he rushed to New York to personally congratulate the billionaire who had bested Hillary Clinton to the shock of chancelleries across the world. During the 2016 elections, there was a small group of enthusiasts from the Indian-American community who worked tirelessly for the victory of the Republican nominee, and their number expanded substantially after Trump became President. During the campaign this year, this group is keeping up a barrage of attacks on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the delight of the China and Pakistan embassies. Should the Democrats win on 3 November 2020, the many abusive comments made by more than a few India-loving Trump backers on Biden and Harris would have done no favours for the world’s most populous democracy, just as in 2016 those who ignored Trump and placed all their bets on Hillary Clinton did a disservice to India. Fortunately, Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon became best friends with Donald Trump, just as he had been with Barack Obama. Despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that he had not previously served in the Central government before taking charge as Prime Minister on 26 May 2014, Modi established close relationships with several world leaders, including Vladimir Putin in Russia, Shinzo Abe in Japan and David Cameron in the UK. After Cameron unwisely resigned, Teresa May took over as PM, and her lack of warmth towards India affected relations with the third-largest English-speaking country in the world in terms of the number of those speaking the international link language, after the US and India.

In India, although the southern and northeastern states are seen as the redoubt of the international link language, the reality is that it is the Hindi-speaking states where the drive to learn English is strongest. Among those fluent in the language are Prime Minister Modi himself and BJP president J.P. Nadda. Although news reports speak of the New Education Policy as being toxic to English, the reality is different. The importance of that language not just in education but in opening up opportunities in both India as well as in many parts of the world has been recognised in the NEP, which may have its setbacks, but is overall a considerable improvement over the present educational doctrines. Similar is the case with the agricultural marketing reforms brought into effect in Modi 2.0, which overall gives promise of not just incremental but rapid reform. Should a telecom policy designed to enhance internet coverage and speeds be added on to a program of giving access to that medium to those thus far excluded, the country would accelerate its transformation into a more modern economy where much of the population is empowered by new technologies that unlock stores of knowledge. China barred the most deadly competitors to local competitors in software and ensured through policy the growth of national champions that rivalled banned items such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. By blocking Chinese apps and possibly other telecom products (including 5G and handsets), Modi 2.0 is creating the conditions for Indian champions to grow. These may not be those who are masters of profiting from the intersection of politics, officialdom and business, but others who rely not on contacts but on innovation. It is noteworthy that some of the largest enterprises in India have prospered not through growing the domestic production base but in importing foreign equipment and supplies, principally from China. Prime Minister Modi has by both word and deed conveyed to such captains of industry that they need to stop using money made or borrowed from India to create jobs and wealth for foreign countries, except in the rare cases where such external sources of supply are impossible to dispense with. The ease of imports in place of local materials and manufactures has created a wasteland within India for much of small and medium industry, and this needs to get reversed so that the fast-multiplying youth of India have jobs that give them the dignity of an adequate income. Small and medium industry is the foundation on which large industry can grow, something that the USSR-focused Lutyens Zone planners forgot. Since 2011, after the abuse of the economy by UPA 1.0 and beyond, the animal spirits that are needed for boosting the rate of growth to double digits have been absent. Where it was the accelerator that needed to be pressed, Mint Road and North Block, by instinct, reached out for the brakes, and the impact of this on the economy has been substantial. Any rate of growth below 9% annually ought to be unacceptable to those in government who are dealing with policy, as this is the minimum needed to ensure social justice. If the middle class is shrinking rather than growing, and if incomes are getting more rather than less unequal, even relatively small doles of food and cash to the very poor cannot be maintained for very long. Unlocking the potential of India is impossible unless the propensity of corrupt officials to block genuine businesspersons in favour of cronies bloated by favours gets blocked. Such a process needs to accelerate during Modi 2.0.

The Prime Minister has been clear that he would like to see systems and processes in India enter the 21st century rather than remain tethered to the 19th and the 20th, as much of the governance mechanism presently is. Trusting civil society rather than only the civil service, and devolving of powers rather than concentrating them are needed for unleashing the potential of the economy. Doing such will among other things ensure that banks in India lend to potentially successful businesses rather than store in the RBI moneys given to them during Modi 1.0. Those who have long had faith in Narendra Modi are looking forward to the unbinding of procedures in several fields, in the manner that has been witnessed in some, such as agricultural marketing and education.

Thursday 20 August 2020

Prof M D Nalapat on taming the dragon, India's security chinks and Rajapaksa storming back to power (PGurus)

In this hard-hitting conversation, Prof M D Nalapat talks about India's chinks in its approach to security, muddled thinking in various departments dealing with security and the stunning victory of Mahinda Rajapakse in Sri Lanka. A must watch!

Saturday 15 August 2020

India must take bold foreign policy decisions ( Sunday Guardian)


Manipal: The Department of Geopolitics and International Relations of Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Manipal, organised a national webinar on the theme “Dynamics of India’s Foreign Policy: Debates on Alliance v/s Friend”. The panelists for the national webinar were Ambassador Gautam Bombawale, Joyeeta Basu, Prof M.D. Nalapat, Seshadri Chari and Cleo Paskal. All of them spoke on the varying degree of challenges India has been confronting arising both from within and elsewhere in the world. There was a consensus on the view that it is high time India has to become more firm and start taking bold decisions mainly in dealing with its neighbourhood and the rest of the world. India has elevated its position in the international system. The perception of the rest of the world on India has been changing. India needs to leverage its soft power and promote its interest across the world.

It was said that India needed to be proactive and signal its intent and fundamental goals with confidence. India must change its reactive posturing. How India can promote its national interest and engage with the world formed a major part of the debate. India will have to emphasise on its economic development. A strong economy only can make India a part of global agenda setting. How India will promote economic development and boost the growth of its neighbourhood also featured in the discussion. An assessment on whether India can afford to tilt towards a particular major power was also discussed at length.

China for Biden, Russia for Trump, India undecided ( Sunday Guardian)


India needs to sign BECA (the final foundation agreement) and abandon talk of swinging this way and that.


November 3, 2020 is when US citizens will either elect President Donald J. Trump to a second term or give the baton to Joe Biden. Both have strong Vice-Presidential candidates in their corner. Mike Pence has refused to take the bait thrown relentlessly at him to “become independent of Trump” and distance himself from the individual who is his only boss, now that the politician from Indiana was elected Vice-President of the US on 8 November 2016. Those who know Pence say that he is an individual who has clear views on the challenges facing the US, both internally and from outside. Some of his speeches have become fixtures in geopolitics classrooms, such as his speech at the Hudson Institute about China Recent presentations made by the US Secretary of State, the Defense Secretary and the National Security Advisor about China make it clear that the Trump White House has aligned itself to the reality of the Indo-Pacific Century, rather than flail around believing that the Atlantic Century has continued into the present era, the way many of Joe Biden’s foreign policy team do. However, the fact that Joe Biden came on the side of Jill Biden rather than Hillary Clinton in his choice of running mate, indicates that 21st century reality is entering the thinking of the individual who is within a whisker of becoming the 46th President of the US. Unless Biden puts on a shambling performance at the Democratic Party convention or puts up a weak show against the fiercely combative Trump in the debates, the odds favour him, especially now that he has an attractive and articulate Vice-Presidential choice, who represents the US as it is and not the country as it was until the close of the 1990s. Barack Obama’s upset win in (almost all white) Iowa over Hillary Clinton showed that the people of what is still the world’s most consequential nation are looking beyond skin colour in registering their preferences. This trend has been visible in the case of Indian-Americans for more than two decades. Several have more of a tan than do many African-Americans, and yet do very well in universities and corporates across the US, although not half as much in Europe, which in the EU represents the power of the Ethnic Idea in practice, although not in precept. Of course, the very EU (with its diminishing native population) that has made it so difficult for talented sons and daughters from India to settle there, is now getting flooded with those escaping from the hell that Wahhabis have made several countries in North Africa and parts of Asia. This is similar to what is taking place in parts of Siberia, which are rapidly becoming Chinese-speaking territories that have far greater affinity with Beijing than Moscow.

During the 2016 US Presidential elections, some Ukrainians of Russian extraction worked to defeat Hillary Clinton. They did so because the then Secretary of State used to make a habit of engineering regime change, especially in East Europe. She substantially assisted the efforts of ethnic Ukrainian nationalists to marginalise ethnic Russians in Ukraine, a policy that succeeded in creating what is now a country divided against itself. This interference by Hillary is what led Russian Ukrainians to target her in 2016, a process that the Moscow Centre may not have been oblivious of, but probably did not initiate. As in 2016 and again in 2020, Moscow Centre would like to see Donald Trump get elected, in part because the leverage of Russia with China grows, the more tension there is between Beijing and Washington. There are several pro-China elements embedded in the Biden campaign, and although inspired reports have appeared of Xi Jinping preferring Trump over Biden, this is disinformation. As for India, both Defense Secretary Mark Esper as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have adopted a friendly stance, in contrast to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who seem not to see the difference between China and India in their treatment of both. Indeed, both Ross as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (despite statements to the contrary) seek in several ways to promote the interests of those in the US who have profited from making China strong. Despite the influence of the two within the Trump White House, the CCP would like to see Biden defeat Trump. As for India, the presence in the Biden campaign of some Wahhabis crossing over from the Bernie Sanders campaign has led to more than a few incomprehensible and indeed incoherent statements from Biden and Harris about India, such as the Clinton trope that the US will “ensure justice” in Kashmir, presumably by facilitating the removal of the handful of Sikhs and Hindus left in the Valley after the genocide which took place in the 1990s. Neither Biden nor Harris seems to have any concern about the fate of minorities in Pakistan, for some reason.

India needs to sign BECA (the final foundation agreement) and abandon talk of swinging this way and that. Instead, what is needed is to adopt a firm stance towards the encroachment of Indian territory by the PLA. The Quad needs to become an actual alliance rather than just a photo op, and in the UNSC, India needs to call out those who are conniving at the occupation of Indian territory and seeking to cause a diversion by blaming the victim of their aggression. The Five Eyes need to expand to six, with the inclusion of India. Once such a transformation takes place, the India-phobic elements in the Beltway will lose their clout because of the need for the two biggest democracies to act together in the face of the common challenge of extremist violence and authoritarian takeover of territory.

Friday 14 August 2020

Prof M D Nalapat on the VP pick & whether the Biden-Harris presidency will be good or bad for India (PGurus)

Prof M D Nalapat was one of the first to predict a Biden-Harris team as early as in 2019. Now that his prediction has come true, what does it mean for the India-US relations. Have Sanders' Pak sympathizers jumped ship to the Biden-Harris bandwagon? The real reason various Democratic City Councils are voting against CAA. A $156 million purse from an advocate of anarchy.

Saturday 8 August 2020

Cold War 2.0 opens the door to empowered India ( Sunday Guardian)


Why would capital moving away from China because of geopolitical risk caused by Cold War 2.0 move into India, unless it were assured that India is not on the same side as the Sino-Russian alliance?

New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru had an imagination which soared far above ground level. His many admirers saw him as the Global Peacemaker and Teacher, the benign and wise leader acknowledged as such by many in the world, as he was by the house-trained social science community in India, who forecast that he would point the world into a peaceful, if not prosperous, future. Foreign policy was designed by Nehru to subserve that lofty ambition, with the country having to look the other way even when its vital interests were challenged. So what if there were setbacks?

In time, those countries that flouted Nehruvian dictums would accept the error of their ways, repent and return to the path laid out for them by the Wise Teacher of all Humanity. While in the Nehruvian view Partition was a tragedy made unavoidable by the obstinacy of Jinnah and the machinations of Whitehall, all that was needed to ensure that those who pressed for that outcome (and succeeded) would reverse course was to ensure that in India, it was the Hindu community which was discriminated against. As Prime Minister, Nehru looked askance even at the rebuilding of Somnath and rejected calls to return the three holy sites of the Hindus (Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya) to their pre-Aurangzeb state. The affirmative actions taken on behalf of citizens other than Hindus were regarded as steps towards the eventual peaceful return of those territories that broke away to the bosom of a united subcontinent. Instead, Pakistan became more hostile to (what was left of) India by the day, and newly formed Bangladesh smarted at the refusal by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to put on trial at least a few of the tens of thousands of Pakistan Army soldiers and officers who had committed easily provable atrocities on Bengalis. Such trials would have served as a historical record (and proof) of the nature of the Pakistan Army, and given pause to those who sought its friendship. Instead, all 93,000 PoWs were safely returned to Pakistan, their deeds covered up. Soon, that country resumed its anti-India course, adding terrorism to the list once Zia-ul-Haq took over from the Victor of Shimla, Z.A. Bhutto.


According to the Nehruvian mindset, thanks to the moral and ethical leadership of India headed by the chosen successor to the Mahatma, there would dawn peace and fair play, especially in Asia. Hence the conquest by Chairman Mao Zedong of territory after territory that had earlier not formed part of Beijing’s remit was accepted in silence, and even the taking over of Aksai Chin (where in Nehru’s words “not a single blade of grass grew”) was accepted without any counter to the action taken. For eventually, the Chinese Communist leadership would see the error of their ways and either return the land to India or compensate for the loss with the handover of territories elsewhere. While costs were immediate, compensation and reward was always in the future, which never came. Instead, territory has steadily been lost to the PRC, including during 2020. But in the Nehruvian view, just a few more years of pain and sacrifice, and all would be well. The skies would clear, and milk and honey flow in abundance. Over and over, while the pain and the sacrifice continued and multiplied, the promised relief (much less reward) never appeared. This did not faze Mahatma Gandhi’s considered choice as the first Prime Minister of the Republic of India. After all, Jawaharlal Nehru was the World Peacemaker, the Teacher of Humanity. It was only a matter of time before every society, every country, understood that his was the only correct path, and began following it.

Nehru gave lengthy lectures to his hosts in Moscow and Washington, among other capitals, and was received by polite silence at the vision that was on offer. His hosts declined to stop factoring in of ground reality in framing policies against contemporary threats and challenges. As for India, flattering words were always effective in ensuring consent to concessions and compromises, even if nothing substantive was offered in exchange.


In an atomized world where each individual can gain access to a flood of information and competing ideas, it is unreal to believe that a sermon unaccompanied by action can affect even a limited number of destinies, unless it be related to the exigencies of everyday existence rather than based on an idealised view of the world. Over the years, the world has changed and continues doing so, but much of policy, both domestic and foreign, has remained tethered to the constructs put in place by Nehru. As mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the present pandemic began its deadly run across the world, history was divided in 2020 into “before” and “after” the novel coronavirus, even though there is as yet no certainty about when the pandemic will abate. Perceptions abound that it is China under Xi Jinping—that devoted follower of Mao Zedong Thought, which has evolved into Xi Jinping Thought—which is the country that has been given the pandemic-presented opportunity to break into the global primacy tier, displacing the US. The reality is that it is India led by Prime Minister Modi that has been presented with an opportunity to get free of the self-created coils that have restrained India from grossly undershooting its potential. Metrics on development and the quality of life show the considerable distance yet to be travelled to achieve globally acceptable levels since 1947. The close of colonial overlordship and exploitation took away any excuse for poor performance except deficiencies in the policies fashioned by the successive leaderships of the country and the manner of their implementation. Despite giving away bits and pieces of territory even after the vivisection of 1947, peace on the borders has remained elusive. Despite repeated peace overtures from New Delhi, the PRC has doubled down on its occupation of Indian territory in Ladakh and elsewhere, and has now sought to take slices of Nepali and Bhutanese territory for the first time.


At the same time, the decoupling from China of global supply chains linked to the major democracies has now reached a point where a reversal of the trend is out of the question. In the Indo-Pacific, Japan, Australia and the US meet repeatedly to coordinate action designed to ensure that primacy is maintained by them in this geopolitical hub. India seems to have absented itself from most of such deliberations. This is the consequence of efforts at a continuation of Nehruvian policies decked in a new garb, policies that would prevent India from gaining the abundant synergies made possible by existing geopolitical shifts that are accelerating as a result of the global spread of the coronavirus. The primary cause of the pandemic was because more than two million individuals travelled from the afflicted province of Hubei in China to various parts of the world during early 2020 (when such travel ought to have been banned through a WHO warning, which never came until it was too late). Unlike the WHO, Taiwan and North Korea read the signals right and took early action. The US and the EU ignored early warnings of the toxic disease that was gaining ground in Wuhan until Xi Jinping ordered an unprecedented lockdown of the city on 23 January 2020. Soon afterwards, despite being assured by the WHO that such travel was risk free, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a ban on flights from China and rapidly expanded that to other countries. On 24 March, the Prime Minister ordered the Great Indian Lockdown, the biggest such exercise carried out in human history. The inevitable consequence was a sharp contraction in business and industry, which was later sought to be ameliorated through measures designed to provide palliative relief to some sectors, notably the underprivileged. Covid-19 cases in India have risen even as treatment protocols have improved. Despite regulatory bottlenecks, it is likely that it will be in India that an effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus first gets developed. Unfortunately, the grip of external players intent on sabotaging domestic scientific capacity continues, a recent example being the goings in at the Sri Chitra Medical Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, where the Director has been ousted by the Department of Science & Technology just when the institute under her leadership was on the cusp of operationalising major discoveries that would have led to further indigenisation of medical devices. Next to come from SCT labs would probably have been arterial stents. Had this taken place, a $15 billion global market would have been created for India that is presently being dominated by companies from China and the US, including in India. Thanks to the manner in which the SCT leadership has been treated by bureaucrats in the Department of Science & Technology, foreign suppliers are likely to continue to have lucrative sway over the Indian market. A special task force in the PMO is needed to ensure that such sabotage of India’s domestic capabilities not be allowed to continue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the capability to roll back the sabotage by vested interests of domestic science that has led to a massive brain drain and a puny level of advanced R&D over the decades. The tendency to protect officials from examination by their seniors needs to be resisted by the latter. The loyalty of an officer has to be to the country’s interests and not to his or her cadre. Routine acceptance of recommendations by junior officials should be discouraged, and action taken against those carrying out measures that are harmful to the national interest. Should PM Modi succeed in creating a healthy environment for Indian science, this could lead to a $500 billion industry over the next decade, surely an objective worth pursuing under Modi 2.0.


External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is ensuring that the MEA is on course to implement a course very different from the pathways followed in the past. This is as it should be in Modi 2.0. The world has changed, and India has changed with it, certainly since 2014 and still more emphatically in 2019. Aware that the image of Jawaharlal Nehru is less than what adulatory historians sought to make it (and still do), efforts are on by those clinging to past nostrums to camouflage Nehruvian policies in a new garb. There is a revival of the 1950s concept of India being the “Global Thought Leader” and the “World Peacemaker”. The fact is that the world is once again divided into camps, and straddling both is no longer an option.

During Cold War 1.0, despite occasional sounds and pirouettes by the MEA and the PMO at the time, “non-alignment” in effect meant a tilt to the USSR. In the context of the present, a policy of non-alignment by any other name would work to the interests of China. Russia is the magnet that Beijing hopes will keep India from aligning with the US in practical and substantive ways, rather than merely indulging in exercises in symbolism. The Sino-Russian effort is to ensure that India remain on the sidelines of the conflict that is gathering speed between that alliance and the US (and allies) as a consequence of Cold War 2.0, which is now an irreversible fact. Even the closet Nehruvians do not any more seek to deny this reality. Instead, they say that India should follow a “balanced” approach that “keeps the door open on both sides”. This when the door has long been shut on one side, most recently demonstrated by events in Ladakh and in the UNSC. Where India and Pakistan are concerned, China has chosen its side and is making no secret of it. Just as the inclusion of Pakistan within US security systems during Cold War 1.0 made it impossible for Delhi to join with Washington, the close relationship between Pakistan and China has killed any chances for the Russia-India-China trilateral being much more than a photo-op. However, fear of the Russian and Chinese reaction has thus far prevented India from ensuring the formalisation of the Quad and the setting up of its operational headquarters in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Cold War 2.0 has created as significant an opportunity for India as Cold War 1.0 did for the PRC. Since the 1970s, in a process begun by Mao Zedong and taken to a high decibel pitch by Deng Xiaoping, Beijing took full advantage of the clash of interests between Moscow and Washington, and ensured that it emerged the major gainer from the conflict. There was no ambiguity in Deng’s stand, although he made ritual noises about “Great Power Hegemony” and even sanctioned occasional bursts of vitriol by his officials against the US. Away from the cameras and from press microphones, China and the US worked together to weaken Moscow, and in the process, China was built up into a formidable force by the US, Japan and Taiwan. Today this trio is looking to India as a counterbalance to China, and investment potentially can be redirected from the PRC to the only other country in Asia that has the absorptive capacity to host the scale of activity involved in the relocation of supply chains from China to another country. This move can take place only if and when India is clearly part of the global coalition formed to ensure that the PLA does not push the PRC into war in theatres such as the Himalayas, the South China Sea or the Taiwan Straits. It is, therefore, disconcerting to hear some within Raisina Hill claim that there is an inevitability about China’s rise. Since at least 2017, when President Donald J. Trump went into battle mode against the Chinese leadership and economy, such a conclusion is no longer tenable. Either the US or the PRC will come out the winner, and if the US does, the PRC will witness significant changes in its political structure. Talk of India needing to be a “balancer” and to “keep all doors open” is unreal in a context where the one door remains locked and bolted from the other side. According to the closet Nehruvians, India still has the option of neutrality between the two superpowers now engaged in an existential battle for the survival of one or the other system. No slap in the face is apparently serious enough to persuade them that the use of fluent language and concession upon concession will not work on a country that is at war with another, and in alliance with a military (GHQ Rawalpindi) that regards the destruction of India as its reason for existence. A dalliance is fine with the US and its allies according to the closet Nehruvians, but not an alliance. The problem is: why would capital moving away from China because of geopolitical risk caused by Cold War 2.0 move into India, unless it were assured that India is not on the same side as the Sino-Russian alliance? Why would defence supply chains from the side other than the Sino-Russian alliance choose India to set up production facilities unless Delhi was clear about its stand and did not equivocate? Time is running out, and an opportunity such as that provided by the intensification of Cold War 2.0 comes only once in a generation, if that soon. Cold War 1.0 called for the Atlantic Alliance. Cold War 2.0 calls for the Indo-Pacific Alliance, and to believe that either China or Russia or any of the powers linked to it (such as Pakistan) can form part of this alliance is to allow Nehruvian daydreams to once again fashion policy. Of course, Moscow, Beijing and Islamabad would be delighted if this were so.


Japan, the US and Taiwan were the prime movers of the PRC’s rise from an economy of little consequence to the world’s second-largest. Taiwan in particular has in present value terms nearly a trillion dollars of accumulated investments in China, and before 2025 it will become untenable for many Taiwanese businesses to operate in the PRC while being headquartered in Taiwan. These will need to move, just as Japanese and US companies already are, in part because PRC law is such that all enterprises will need to assist in the strategic and other objectives of the Chinese Communist Party no matter where in the rest of the world its other units are located, if that entity has substantial investments in the PRC. A company will need to break the security laws and codes in Japan, the US and Taiwan in order to run its business in China without hindrance. More than $400 billion in actual value is likely to flow out of China over the next five years just where Taiwan is concerned, and India is the best alternative location. This is the case provided (a) security of investment is ensured through mutual agreement, (b) industrial and technological parks get set up where Taiwanese companies can cluster, and (c) high level visits take place between the two sides, as they do between Taiwan and the US or several other countries. Once India is clear as to its geopolitical orientation in Cold War 2.0, investment that needs to find an alternative location to China will flow into India in a manner suitable for the fulfilment of PM Modi’s objective of a $5 trillion economy.

Another potential partner is the US, whose aerospace industry would be better able to compete with future competition from the Sino-Russian alliance were some of the manufacturing stages to take place in India, for example at Nashik. First F-21s and subsequently F-35s can be made there, while Airbus would be open to relocating its facilities in China to India, provided a proper policy matrix gets worked out. Such an offer was made in 2014 in the context of the Eurofighter, and such an overall (civilian and military) pairing can be revived once the geopolitical direction of India is set rather than remain clothed in ambiguity. Japan is another potential partner for defence equipment. Over time, India would itself be able to emerge as a major seller of defence equipment to friendly countries such as Vietnam or some of the states in the GCC. The problem comes from China’s ally Russia and the magnetic pull it exerts over India’s defence and security policy, much of which has been formulated in a state of denial about the reality of the Sino-Russian alliance. In Cold War 2.0, so far as security and defence are concerned, one or the other side has to be chosen. Apart from the Nehruvian siren song of being a neutral “Global Thought Leader” in place of a realistic assessment of the national interest, another rationale for neutrality proffered by closet Nehruvians is that the US is too “dominating”, and India must never allow itself to be “bossed around”. Absolutely correct. Which is why good relations need to be maintained with Iran despite frowns from Washington. Or that Russia should continue to be a valued friend, except that avenues other than defence need to be explored to increase trade between that country and India. Russia under Vladimir Putin is still a Great Power and may in time become another superpower. Delhi can maintain close ties with Moscow while ensuring that the extreme reliance on that source for defence equipment gets downsized in a context where the Sino-Russian alliance clearly has a substantial military component. Just as the US placed China in a separate category from all other countries during Cold War 1.0, the same can be done in the case of India during Cold War 2.0. As for China, the stronger the security matrix fashioned by India is, the better the prospects of reaching a mutually acceptable compromise on both the economy as well as the border.

Deng Xiaoping is the father of New China, while the successor to Deng and Mao, Xi Jinping is working to position China into global leadership and primacy. The utilisation of the geopolitical synergies unleashed by Cold War 2.0 can ensure that Narendra Modi get recorded in the history books as the architect of Empowered India. This calls for the “Naya Soch” called for by the Prime Minister, thinking reflected in policy designed to enable India to maximise the gains made possible to this country by the transformation of 21st century geopolitical dynamics.

Hell hath no fury like a Bolton scorned ( Sunday Guardian)


It is clear from his book that while Donald Trump should reign over the policy matrix, it is John Bolton who should rule.

There are some in Washington who admire John Bolton, and a lot more who dislike him. Although there are is a vague recollection of being in the same room with him in a few events across the decades, our paths have yet to cross, which is probably just as well. Although a proponent of a strong India-US security and defence alliance since the 1990s, this writer is clear that it would be folly to follow the US in adopting harsh methods towards Iran. Or indeed, embracing “freedom fighters” in Syria and Libya who are at the same time linked to ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It would take an excursion into psychology to determine why Bolton sports a luxuriant moustache within the Beltway, a zone where such an add on is considered a deviation from the clean-shaven faux genteel attitudes favoured by Beltway favourites. A possible explanation is that Bolton is clearly an admirer of Rudyard Kipling, whose looks in some way seem to resemble that of the former US National Security Advisor. There are many within the chancelleries of the great European capitals who suffer from recurrent waves of nostalgia at the world of the 19th century, when a small continent ruled over much of the globe. Which is perhaps why they seek to insert themselves into every theatre, most notably the Indo-Pacific, although their expanded presence here may prove less helpful than the UK, France or Germany believe it to be. Bolton is a Europeanist who would have been a favourite of John Foster Dulles. In a way, it was predictable that Bolton would turn on Donald Trump, for the 45th President of the US is neither an Asianist nor a Europeanist. He is a Trumpist, fixated on how he and his family can prolong into a second term the cachet of being the legal occupant of the White House. The casual approach taken by Trump to the Atlanticist catechism of his National Security Advisor must have wounded the latter’s pride. After all, he was in his mind the most mature adult in the room, trying to ensure that a bunch of amateurs did not mess up the future of the US. Exactly the message to voters of Bill and Hillary Clinton (not to mention numerous others in the Hate Trump brigade). If the publicly expressed worries of such individuals were true, the US must have a very fragile system of governance, when just the President and his coterie can bring down the country  in ruins. It is bad form to admit that personal dislike of Trump is what propels the high decibel campaign against him, so it is packaged not as “Elect anyone but Trump” but “Save the US”, which sounds ever so much better.

John Bolton’s Kiplingesque mindset (not uncommon in the Atlanticist world, although usually better concealed) leads him repeatedly to look for solutions that may have been accomplished with ease in the 19th century, but which were a bit more difficult even in the 20th. Which is why The Room Where It Happened, Bolton’s memoirs of life in the Trump White House, is a book impossible to ignore for any student of policy. Bolton sought relentlessly to advance his agenda, even if this conflicted with that of Trump (which the former NSA believes comprises almost entirely of ensuring his re-election and the greater good of his family). An example of his 19th century thinking is Venezuela, where Bolton believes that it is perfectly normal for the self-declared (Atlanticist-backed) “President” Juan Guaido to accept the personnel choices given to him by US officials to insert in staff positions in that country’s oil monopoly, parts of which had drifted outside the control of the Maduro government. The compliant Guaido was a true “democrat” (defined by followers of Kipling as a puppet who does what he is told to do by his masters). Bolton was surprised that what he defines as an attempted “revolution” (i.e., the overthrow of Maduro by the Atlanticist favourite) was a failure. It showed in his mind not the limitations of the time we live in, but the errors made by the “revolutionaries”. At least President John F. Kennedy admitted that it was the fault of the US side that caused the Bay of Pigs to end in disaster, and did not pin the blame on the hapless “freedom fighters” who were sent to die on the beaches of Cuba without adequate preparation, numbers or air and naval power to back them. It must be said that the book’s description of Trump’s mode of decision making and his (according to Bolton, non-existent) grasp of facts is a scary read. However, such a verdict seems to reflect less the reality of the Trump White House than the frustration  felt by Bolton at not getting his way on policy except rarely, given that in his view, while Trump should reign over the policy matrix, it is Bolton who should—of course in the US national interest—rule. What is unfortunate is that Trump’s tantrums and his way of firing people at whim and without sufficient cause may have prevented several of his subordinates from standing up to him and insisting that he was wrong, for example when Trump betrayed the Kurds in Syria for the benefit of Erdogan and the Afghan people in his incredible genuflection before the Taliban. If the book is correct, to Donald Trump, love meant only paid sex. Anything that did not bring money was to be shunned, while actions that did (no matter what the consequences to longer-term interests) were to be put on a fast track. On China, Bolton hints at secret diplomacy with Jared Kushner, who seems by far the most influential individual within the White House, and who is firmly on the same page as his father-in-law in furthering the family’s interest and in ensuring a repeat of 2016 in the 2020 Presidential polls.

Had there been any other President except Trump, and had John Bolton as NSA less than 100% success in deciding his policies, similarly cutting comments would have been made of them. What comes out in the book is not a characterisation but a caricature of Donald Trump, ignoring the fact that he has (in action, if not in word) been among the most hard-hitting of US Presidents where both China and Russia are concerned, despite Bolton’s hints about a closeness between Trump, Xi and Putin. The Russian leader does command a country that is still a Great Power and could once again be a Superpower, and it is logical to want to establish a relationship with him. Indeed, Trump in a possible second term or a 46th President may do a China in reverse in the future, winning over Russia to help fight China, the way Beijing was conscripted by Washington against Moscow in the days before the USSR began to visibly implode. This seems an impossibility at present, but so did a rapprochement between Mao and Nixon in 1972.

Sunday 2 August 2020

Moon, Kim seek 'peaceable, mighty Korean nation' ( Sunday Guardian)


What Kim is offering are a ‘verifiable mutual series of measures designed to ensure that the option of war gets taken off the table’ in the Korean peninsula.

Supreme Commander of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong Un is much less dogmatic about ideological correctness than his father Kim Jong Il (who was deeply influenced intellectually by Russia). Grandfather Kim Il Sung, on the other hand, was essentially a Korean patriot (or nationalist), much the same way as Mao Zedong was a Communist Chinese patriot, who more than doubled the territory controlled by Beijing since taking over power in 1949. Kim Jong Un takes after his grandfather in the sense that his self-defined mission (according to those with close access to his thinking) is to ensure the creation of a “Mighty Korea”. In other words, to “recapture in the future the glory that was Korea in the past”. It may be remembered that the Korean nation has a long civilisational history and tradition, parts of which originate in India. The DNA of Indian royalty is held by some Korean nationalists to flow in their veins, because of the migration to Korea in the distant past of a princess from India and her retinue, and despite their proximity to China, many in the North Korean hierarchy look upon India in a friendly manner, in contrast to their views on Japan, which are viscerally and near-universally hostile.

Unlike Kim Il Sung, who was ready to go to war to achieve his objective of unification, Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un “does not want war and is instead looking to a guaranteed peace on the Korean peninsula”. After the manner in which Saddam Hussein and subsequently Muammar Gaddafi were despatched to the afterlife despite surrendering their WMD stockpiles in exchange for explicit promises of non-aggression by NATO, the third generation leader of North Korea from the Kim family is “solid as a rock that only nuclear capability will protect him and the country he commands” from a similar fate. Hence, what he is offering on the table are a “verifiable mutual series of measures designed to ensure that the option of war gets taken off the table” in the Korean peninsula. It is perhaps because any “unilateral and unprovoked” attack on either the RoK or Japan is ruled out by those with access to the Supreme Commander that RoK President Moon Jae-In seems ready to fashion a rapprochement with Kim Jong Un such as would open the DPRK to investment from the southern part of the peninsula and dispel continuing fears of conflict across the DMZ. Initially, South Korean backtracking on Moon’s initial moves in the direction of a “Bright Sunshine” policy towards North Korea led to the belief in Pyongyang that the elected President of South Korea was less than sincere in his protestations of peace and cooperation. Subsequently, the view has gained currency in the pool of decision-makers in North Korea that “it is pressure from Japan exercised mainly through Washington rather than lack of sincerity” that has forced President Moon to temporarily push into the icebox plans for greater cooperation with the North.

Halting either nuclear and missile development until the objective of second strike capability reaching the US east coast is achieved, or dismantling the governance structure in North Korea, has from the start been off limits for the DPRK, although “Boltonians” within the US Beltway still believe both to be possible. More than “nine confirmed attempts to physically liquidate the Supreme Leader and those around him” have been identified by the pervasive security apparatus of the DPRK, and the previous regime of President Park Geun-Hye has been “either the prime mover or associated with six of these”. Since President Moon came to power in Seoul on a peace and prosperity platform in 2017, at least a few suspected assassination efforts have been traced, although the “finger of guilt” has been pointed not to President Moon but towards the “anti-Trump US deep state”, some operations being carried out together with “collaborator elements” in South Korea. Although no evidence has been discovered of a Tokyo hand in such attempts, the view in Pyongyang is that the assassination attempts had encouragement and possible clandestine support from Japan. Whether such suspicions are accurate or not is a matter of conjecture. Both the “Bright Sunshine” policy as well as a solution based on “One Nation Two States” was suggested by India’s first professor of geopolitics in his efforts at ensuring an assured peace on the peninsula. Kim Jong Un seeks to develop the DPRK in the manner that the PRC has since the 1980s, so that the two Koreas would be bigger in overall GDP than Japan, a country that along with the US figures repeatedly in the minds of those in studying the security challenges for Pyongyang. Both Kim and Moon are in their different ways Korean patriots with immense pride in their people. Those interested in a Bright Sunshine policy must be chafing at the restraints put on the RoC by Washington. Interestingly, John Bolton is a backer of Joe Biden in the 2020 polls, in whose team the Atlanticists enjoy a significant advantage over those alive to the reality of the Indo-Pacific century, and to fashioning a policy matrix relevant to the 21st rather than the 20th century.