Saturday 31 July 2021

Atlantic democracies adopt the Chinese Communist path (The Sunday Guardian)


The latest Moral Science teacher was Antony Blinken, who met ‘civil society’ in a country of 1.4 billion people that he paid a fleeting visit to, and quoted from the scripture of democracy and freedom.

Abuse of a politician, in the absence of credible evidence linking him to any wrongdoing, usually has the effect of increasing the sympathy factor that forms a latent part of the psyche of voters. Chief Minister Modi and since 2014 Prime Minister Modi has been called by so many unflattering names that count has long been lost of the number. During the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the heir apparent to the Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, converted the repetition of less than complimentary epithets about Narendra Damodardas Modi into an art form. Each such outpouring was accompanied by a satisfied look by him at the retinue that accompanies him everywhere. Without exception, they responded with admiring expressions and smiles of satisfaction at the manner in which the leader from birth of the Congress Party has (in his and in their view) eviscerated the image amongst voters of the Prime Minister. A conclusion that the Lok Sabha polls showed was less than accurate. Self-goals such as denying that the Balakot strike into Pakistan actually happened, or that it was Rahul who was projected by his party (to silence and therefore assumed consent from the rest of the anti-BJP political spectrum) as the opposition alternative to Modi as Prime Minister of India, thereby (once this was achieved) making him become the fourth member of the Nehru family to occupy the South Block chambers of the individual holding the nation’s most consequential post. As had been pointed out by this columnist in 2018 itself, the biggest favour that Rahul Gandhi could have done for the opposition would have been to declare that he was not in the running for the job of PM in 2019 instead of listening to the echo chamber surrounding him and doing the opposite. AICC president Sonia Gandhi (who appears to have an unshakeable faith in Rahul’s ability) may not agree, but even within his echo chamber, the individuals believing that their hero is Prime Ministerial material are either zero or close to that number. Certainly, other important contenders, such as the feisty Mamata Banerjee, the charismatic Akhilesh Yadav or the long-distance runner Arvind Kejriwal, do not believe that the error made in 2019, of projecting Rahul Gandhi as the perceived opposition candidate for the Prime Ministership, should be repeated. They each have a better candidate for that role, although keeping that choice secret for the time being
Countries that bound the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, now the second-most important geopolitical pivot after the Indo-Pacific, delight in giving Moral Science lectures to poorer countries. The latest Moral Science visiting lecturer was US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met seven members representing “civil society” in a country of 1.4 billion people, a substantial sample, it would appear. The moral science teacher quoted (as expected) from the scripture of “democracy” and “freedom”. At the same time, many in the US seem adamantly opposed to giving a fair chance to the over hundred million underprivileged citizens of the US, so that they may fairly compete with those better off. African-Americans and Latinos have long suffered discrimination, and as a consequence have lagged behind groups such as Indian Americans and Jewish Americans in per capita income and in career success. President Biden and Vice-President Harris have done great service to their country by seeking to rectify this to a considerable extent. The last time this was attempted (to partial success) was during the truncated term of President Lyndon Baines Johnson in the 1960s. The problem facing Biden and Harris is that a majority of legislators in the US Congress may still not be in favour of their ambitious but necessary reform package. Rather than try and assist his boss in convincing legislators in the US Congress not to assist through blind opposition to Biden the Sino-Russian alliance effort societally weaken the US, Secretary Blinken seems to have decided to concentrate on giving lectures to India, a country that from the start ensured universal suffrage and affirmative action, unlike his own. Moscow and Beijing must be delighted at the clumsiness shown by Blinken in some of his public interactions in Delhi. As for House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she apparently believes that she alone has the right to choose even the Republican members of a committee that has been set up by her to investigate the murderous 6 January riot at the US Capitol. Had Pelosi accepted the Republican choices offered to her, they would have gone on to make fools of themselves by denying the obvious in hearings, and by seeking to discredit the courageous police personnel who saved the lives of legislators at the expense of their own. Instead, Speaker Pelosi has made the Party of Trump appear as victims and her own as dictatorial. Just as President Macron has in Paris, by seeking to prosecute a cartoonist for somewhat tastelessly caricaturing the French head of state as Adolf Hitler reborn. A smile rather than petty and petulant rage would have assisted Macron to win a second term, but such democratic instincts seem to be eluding the present occupant of the Elysee Palace. As for the UK, in common with many other democracies, the SARS2 outbreak has provided a convenient excuse for Boris Johnson to micro-manage the lives of citizens in a manner unprecedented in Britain since the 1939-45 war.
Looking at the way in which democracy is being practised only in words and often not in practice even in long-established Atlantic alliance democracies, the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party must be delighted at the manner in which the practices they have institutionalised in the PRC since 1949 appear to be catching on across both sides of the Atlantic.

Atlantic democracies adopt the Chinese Communist path

Saturday 24 July 2021

Xi Jinping’s Af-Pak predicament deepens (The Sunday Guardian)


The PLA will increasingly have to bear the burden of ensuring the survival of the Durand Line, and of assisting the military in Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan to maintain control and in the latter case, be assisted in controlling the entire country.

Consequences that are unexpected are not rare in situations where decisive action is taken by a state to enforce its own view of interests on others who may be unwilling to go along with such an exclusivist and usually expansionist view. In 1979, the United States under President Carter began the (eventually successful) process of turning its occupation of Afghanistan into quicksand for the Soviet Union. The 39th President of the United States chose a brilliant strategic mind rather than a denizen of the Washington establishment as his National Security Advisor. The NSA, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was focused on weakening the Soviet Union, and in such a task, had the backing of his boss. The only problem was that in his hurry to secure quick results, rather than launch the process using the “frog in hot water” method, whereby the target takes time to understand the deadly impact of the change in circumstances deliberately (if covertly) created by the rival power, the NSA went in for what he believed (together with the Pentagon and the CIA) would be a quick fix. This was to outsource the operational aspects of the process to the Pakistan military, which was in the process of being converted into a Wahhabi force by Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan, Zia-ul-Haq. The army thereafter empowered not the overwhelming majority of Pashtuns, who were fiercely nationalist, but the extremist fringe, which placed the dissemination and practice of the Wahhabi variant of an overall moderate and modernising faith as a higher priority than nationalism per se. This was to the liking of Army Headquarters at Rawalpindi, as there was a constant apprehension in them that any boost to Pashtun nationalism may result in the Pashtuns within Pakistan seeking to unify with their kin across the border to create a separate and independent Pashtunistan. This had been the dream of several Pashtun leaders in the past, including Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who during much of his long life (1890-1988) was known as the Frontier Gandhi for his long association with Mahatma Gandhi. Perhaps as a panic reaction to the seizure of power by Imam Khomeini in Iran and the storming of the Mecca mosque by radicals in 1979, the Wahhabi variant everywhere was put on steroids by the backing of the US and its European allies. What needed. to be done was to double down on strengthening the mosern and moderate strain that is at the heart of Islam, rather than the reverse. This “historical blunder” has had severe global consequences. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, including in the Indian subcontinent, the Wahabi variant was generously funded and supported, resulting in the aborting of efforts at ensuring that the Muslim Ummah (or global community) be encouraged to evolve in a modern and moderate manner rather than be sought to get plunged into exclusivism and religious intolerance, neither of which was ever part of the message of the Quran. These teachins were ignored, and new and misleading Wahabi-Khomeinist interpretations were popularised, with effects far beyond Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the Wahabi variant found its champion in Zia-ul-Haq, who as a consequence of his intervention in Afghanistan was forgiven for deposing in 1977. Zia subsequently hanged the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Z.A. Bhutto, in 1979. to silence from West Europe and North America, the presumed bastions of human freedoms.

Not that the fast-tracking of the Wahhabi variant was the only policy followed by the US that subsequently proved unwise. The US had (especially since the Atlantic Charter was signed by President Roosevelt and a less enthusiastic Prime Minister Churchill in 1941) been welcomed by freedom fighters in Asia as being different from those countries in Europe that had for centuries oppressed countries across the world to enrich themselves. Roosevelt believed in this process, and saw the Charter as a beacon of freedom across the world, while Churchill (determined to hold onto the British Empire after the war with Germany and Japan) regarded the freedoms listed in the document as being valid only for those of European extraction. On the death of Roosevelt in 1945, his successor Harry S. Truman reverted to the policy of standing by the European colonial powers rather than with those fighting for freedom from their colonial oppressors, who had held on to most of their colonies even after the war had ended in victory for the Allies. The impact of this on US goodwill in the colonised countries was immense, and gave an advantage to the Soviet Union (with its ironical championing of the very freedoms that were being denied to Soviet satellites in East Europe) across Asia, Africa and South America. Among the disasters that ensued from backing a colonial power (in this case, France) against a liberation movement in Vietnam, the US entered the Vietnam war on the wrong side, immeasurably strengthening the communist rather than the ideology of democracy within the Vietnamese people, who saw the US as stepping into the shoes of the French in 1955 and therefore needing to be defeated. This finally happened in 1975 at immense human cost. Old habits die hard, and when US President George H.W. Bush invaded Iraq in 1990 and his son followed suit in 2003, both made sure to ensure that Britain was prominent in the allied coalition. The incongruity of claiming to fight for freedom for the Iraqis while having the armed forces of the former colonial power as the primary partner did not strike either father or son, so deeply was the Atlanticist logic of the primacy of European interests over other comers embedded in the strategic culture of the US, something which began to substantively change only during the “pivot to Asia” from Europe of President Barack Obama, especially during his second term. The Europeanist line is witnessing a revival under President Joe Biden, who seems to have forgotten several of the lessons he ought to have picked up during the latter period of the Obama presidency, including on Cuba and Iran.

Unlike Biden, who remains fixated on Europe (excluding the Russian part) rather than on the entirety of the Eurasian landmass, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping is aware that it is the Indo-Pacific and the corresponding Eurasian landmass that will be crucial in determining the outcome of the battle of systems between the US and the PRC. Following in the path of Mao, who saw the PLA as by far the most important instrument of control by the CCP on China, Xi has placed the military at the heart of his drive to achieve pre-eminence within the Indo-Pacific, and the corollary (together with Putin) of achieving the same result within the entire Eurasian landmass. The hostility of the UK, France and Germany in particular to integrating the Russian Federation into the comity of US allies (because of the severe dilution of their primacy that this would result in) has ensured that repeated efforts, first by Gorbachev and later Yeltsin, for Russia to break into the US-led alliance alongside Europe have failed. After having witnessed the sitting President of the US call him a killer in public, it should come as no surprise that the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir V. Putin, has seen no option other than to accept the status of the junior partner in the Sino-Russian alliance that he has fashioned together with Xi Jinping. The consequences of such a close pairing (including, and especially within) the military and security establishment of both countries on the balance of power in Eurasia seem not have been factored in by Biden, Merkel, Macron and Johnson in their geopolitical strategies to the comprehensive extent that they have been taken into account by the CCP General Secretary. Unlike his three immediate predecessors, who kept from openly displaying their Mao-inspired vision of the PRC as the primary geopolitical force in the world , CCP General Secretary Xi has made no secret of this ambition. It has been out in the open since 2013, with those who deny the reality finding fewer and fewer places to hide.

Xi has certainly great confidence in his capability of effecting such a tectonic shift in global geopolitics, although not yet sure of exactly how long this will take. This is a switch that he seeks to incorporate into his legacy, which is among the reasons why he has ensured that the two-term limit followed since Jiang Zemin has been discarded. Another is the belief that the CCP contains within its 93 million members none other than himself with the capability of ensuring that Beijing replace Washington as the centrepoint of global influence and authority. Such a belief may be leading the present CCP General Secretary into actions that may have the same consequences for him as a similar overreach accompanied by imperfect tactics led in many instances for the US and some of its allies. The “Arab Spring” of 2011 led to a Wahhabi Winter within the next few years for several of the countries affected by the popular discontent against oppressive regimes and deteriorating economic circumstances, thanks to the way in which a much smaller but better organised force is often able to take control of a popular movement. This was, for example, the case of the Khomeinist takeover of the discontent in Iran against the excesses of the Pahlavis during 1975 to the toppling of the dynasty in 1979, or to the Bolshevik seizure of power in post-Tsarist Russia in 1917. In the linked destinies of Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular, the confidence in his infallibility and in the power of the PRC to ensure that its targets be quickly neutralised, may have created for Xi the same quagmire that Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) General Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev entered into when he ordered Soviet forces to occupy Afghanistan in 1979, finally leading to their withdrawal in defeat in 1989. Xi has taken forward in an unprecedented boosting of (a) the CCP’s reliance on not the people or elected government in Pakistan but the Pakistan military to carry out Beijing’s wishes and (b) following that logic by in effect backing the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. During its own Afghan war, the US outsourced much of it to GHQ Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistan army, and to its proxies. Xi is doing the same now, the difference being that the people of Afghanistan know from 1996 to 2001 what rule by the Taliban means. Whatever the infirmities of the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul (and these are more than a few), the people of Afghanistan, especially women and youth, know that it is preferable to rule by the Taliban. Several of the Afghan army commanders chosen by the US (acting on the recommendation of the Pakistan military) to embed within the Afghan National Army (ANA) gave up without a fight, aware that they (as distinct from most of the men under their command) faced no threat from the takeover of control by the Taliban. This was similar to what took place in Iraq during the period 2013-15, when Iraqi commanders inserted into the armed forces of the government in Baghdad (substantially on the advice of nearby powers who wished at the time to see the fall of the Baghdad government by all available means) by NATO deserted without a fight to ISIS, giving that terrorist entity control of large swathes of Iraq. By 2014, the consequences of some of its personnel choices began to get clearer to the Pentagon, and subsequently, a US bombing campaign ensured that ISIS was reduced in size, finally to insignificance at least in terms of territory. Given the far better appreciation of ground reality within the US military and security establishment than was the case in the past, it seems only a matter of time before President Biden will understand the risks to US security involved in removing not just ground troops (which is a necessary decision) but close air support as well in Afghanistan, which would be a disaster. US air support to an Afghan National Army with its weapons stockpile replenished by the US and also countries that have a significant interest in keeping Afghanistan away from extremist control such as India, would ensure the rollback of the Taliban.

This would be counter to the calculations of General Secretary Xi, who has placed his entire wager on the takeover of Afghanistan to the Taliban so as to further what he regards as the PRC interest there. It would also run counter to the immense majority of the Afghan population, who loathe a return to Taliban rule. Across those parts of Afghanistan where quislings within the Afghan military surrendered to the Taliban, much of the men under their command have begun using their guns together with the local people in order to resist the Taliban. The 3-month ceasefire so generously offered by the Taliban to the Afghan military is for that exclusivist force to be enabled to devote its full attention towards quelling these local rebellions against the proxies and allies of the Peoples Republic of China and its “all-weather” ally, the Pakistan military (as distinct from the country or its people). Should this offer of a temporary ceasefire be accepted by the Ghani government, it would have the same disastrous consequences as the (Trump-ordered) release by President Ghani of 5,000 Taliban fighters from Afghan prisons has had for security in Afghanistan. The 2020 agreement entered into by the Trump administration at Doha was a disaster for not simply Kabul but Washington as well, and it is a matter of speculation as to why Trump’s Afghan policy has been so completely adopted by President Biden. Across not just the military and the security establishment, awareness is increasing that the Trump-era policy of appeasement of the Taliban was an error of substantial magnitude, and which could lead in brief years to another 9/11 type of attack on the US homeland. Xi has dug himself in too deeply to retreat from the strategy favoured by the Pakistan military, for him to move out from the deepening predicament that this policy is causing for the PRC. Unlike President Biden, who while being obsessed with the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential elections, nevertheless still has the possibility of walking away from further errors, not by bringing in more US forces but by providing close air support, logistics and intelligence to the Afghan National Army. This could be done through Central Asia and possibly through the road and rail link being developed in Chabahar port by the Iran and India. Unlike Trump, who was stubborn in clinging on to even obvious mistakes, Biden has shown a capacity to look at alternative views and to reconsider policy. Such flexibility is in line with the best practices of a genuine democracy, which the US is and looks set to remain. Given such a policy reset, Xi may find that his gamble on relying on the Taliban and its Pakistan army facilitators for carrying forward the PRC agenda of tapping into the natural resources of Afghanistan is likely to fail. While the Ghani government may be outwardly respectful to Xi, its own intelligence service is documenting the manner in which the Pakistan military (with assistance from the PLA) is boosting the capacities of the Taliban against the government in Kabul. Unlike some “experts” including in India and the US, Ghani will be fully aware that the Taliban entering his government in Kabul will be akin to the National Socialists under Hitler entering a “coalition” government in Berlin in 1933. That very soon went the Nazi way, and to the liquidation of alternative political and other forces, and similar will be the fate of groups not part of the Taliban network, were that entity to ever enter the national government in Kabul.

Even more worrisome for PRC interests will be the fate of a civil war in Afghanistan, a process that is already ongoing, on the domestic situation in Pakistan. The majority of Pashtuns in Pakistan, especially youth and women, are opposed to the outsize influence of extremist clerics under the umbrella of the Pakistan army. A similar situation prevails in those parts of Afghanistan that are presently under the occupation of the Taliban and the Pakistan and other auxiliaries who support them. The majority of Pashtuns wish to be free of the Taliban and the clerics favoured by them, and weapons are already flowing from the country’s porous borders to ensure that they do not get overpowered by a militia backed by Pakistan and China, and which seems to be continuing to get appeased by the Biden administration, at least for now. Both in Pakistan against the control of the Punjabi-dominated and controlled Pakistan military and in Afghanistan against the Taliban and its Sino-Pakistan friends and auxiliaries, unrest is brewing and increasingly breaking out into violent opposition to the Taliban and its favourite clerics. As with the developing revolt againat rule by the ethno-centric generals in Pakistan. The CCP General Secretary already deep into his commitment to the Pakistan military and its Taliban ally in the Af-Pak region. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is meeting with rising resistance along the way from the border of Xinjiang to the Indian Ocean through Pakistan, and this will increase. Neither India nor any other country can control the desire for freedom of the Pashtun people, who for too long have been under the thumb of an ethno-centric military and its superpower ally across both sides of the Durand Line, which Pashtuns point out lapsed in 1992. The PLA will increasingly have to bear the burden of ensuring the survival of the Durand Line, and of assisting the military in Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan to maintain control and in the latter case, be assisted in controlling the entire country. Leonid Brezhnev lasted long enough to understand the folly of his occupation of Afghanistan, and Xi Jinping is slowly having to come to terms with the inevitable consequences of militarily and otherwise taking the side of extremists and exclusivists against the majority of the people in both Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. The bog filled with quicksand has been entered still more deeply by China, and increasingly, there seems no way out to leave the quagmire without a severe loss of face that is politically impossible for General Secretary Xi to countenance. Especially given the trajectory of the manner in which he has consolidated internal power in China and sought to expand PRC control over more land, sea, mindspace and space.

Xi Jinping’s Af-Pak predicament deepens

Monday 19 July 2021

Roberts Supreme Court wrecking US future (The Sunday Guardian)


Unwilling to begin the process of expanding the strength of the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen, Biden is increasingly losing control of the narrative.

Under the US Constitution, the three branches of the state (executive, legislature and judiciary) are to be independent of each other. Under Chief Justice John Roberts and five of the eight others, the US Supreme Court is certainly independent of the executive (led by the President) and also the legislature that has a Democratic Party majority in the House of Representatives and a nominal majority in the Senate, if the vote of the Vice-President is added. Judging by some of its recent judgements, including two that place severe restrictions on the right of every citizen of the US to have an equal opportunity to vote, the US SC is on track towards getting the reputation of being the court for the 1% of US citizens who took away almost six trillion dollars as their windfall from the 2020 Trump stimulus that was added on to by President Biden in 2021. Another $4 trillion was taken away by the next 9%. The share of the other 90% was $700 billion. The lower down the income scale statisticians go, the smaller was the gain in absolute terms from a stimulus bill that was proclaimed as being passed to help precisely the 90% and not almost entirely the 10%. $10 trillion is not a trifling amount of disposable wealth, and it is no surprise that at least billions are being spent to ensure that the three branches of government continue with being “Of the 1%, for the 1%, (of course in effect) by the 10%”. The remaining 90% have no say in practice.
When long years are spent at the vortex of power, and if it is a lifetime appointment, individuals such as Supreme Court justices may be forgiven some disconnect from reality. Check with the illustrious Kim dynasty in North Korea or those heads of state and government who have, or are set to have, stints in excess of 15 years at the very apex of power. Those democracies that have a two-term limit on top jobs may usefully expand that to three, as after all the final choice remains with the electorate, but no more. The problem comes when they interpret the Constitution to mean the rubber-stamping of their own views on how society, the polity and the economy should be ordered, even if these are contrary to the needs and preferences of the overwhelming majority of people. The US Supreme Court has not only affirmed the right of states to change voting regulations so as to make it difficult for certain groups and classes to be eligible to vote, but has thrown the cloak of its authority over the amounts of money spent in influencing policymakers and on those making such payments. Together, these two innovations of the John Roberts court make it resemble that presided over by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney during 1836 to 1864. That court affirmed a judgement that those of African descent, even if they have resided in the US for generations, cannot by virtue of skin colour be entitled to citizenship. Some of the judgements of the Roberts Court, especially those relating to transparency in the funding of politicians and special interests, as well as obstacles in the voting process, are approaching the standard set by Taney and his court. Something that John Roberts and the justices who go along with his judicial philosophy, do not appear to have noticed, although history books will. Rather than create a wall protecting the top 1% of US citizens from public scrutiny, had the Roberts court focused on protecting the rights of every citizen (no matter how lacking in income or what her or his skin colour was), it would have protected the future of the US as a democracy rather than weakening that trajectory.
President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Senate majority leader Schumer should place before the US Congress the fiscal and other reform bills that are needed to ensure that those working for a meltdown of the US system of governance and its replacement with chaos and violence. Should the DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) defeat such measures, the 2022 midterm polls are not far away, and the Democratic Party—after ensuring that DINOs fail to get re-nominated to their seats on the Democratic ticket—can go before voters and explain what they had in mind to help them, and why they failed, and why the Democratic majority in the House and Senate need to be expanded if such policies were to get actualised. This would be a better strategy than the present White House strategy of seeking to dissuade Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema in the US Senate from not voting for measures that are certain to boost the chances of the Democratic Party in 2022. So lacklustre has been the Biden Road Show thus far that several Republican Party lawmakers are claiming credit for the very measures that they unanimously voted against without much efforts by the other side in several constituencies to expose this divergence between talk and action. Given the efforts being made by the Sino-Wahhabi and the Sino-Russian alliance working in tandem to widen already existing faultlines in US society through boosting the fringe (on both sides) and shrinking the space occupied by the moderate middle on both sides. In the Republican Party, as the shabby treatment meted out to Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney indicate, the fringe appears to have taken control of the mainstream. The stalling tactics of Sinema and Manchin and their quixotic search for a consensus with the other side may ensure a similar outcome in the Democratic Party, unless President Biden shrugs off his hesitation in confronting the DINOs rather than pandering to them in the manner that he appears to be doing. Unwilling to begin the process of expanding the strength of the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen, Biden is increasingly losing control of the narrative, and that too so early in his presidential term. Had just being a nice guy won the hearts of voters, Hubert Humphrey and Jerry Ford would have won the US Presidential race. Just being “Not Trump” is no longer enough, now that Biden has been elected to a job that can turn into a nightmare in months if the course of action he seeks to follow fails through the US Congress or the Supreme Court.
The US Supreme Court is not helping but hindering efforts to ensure that the polity and society in the US avoid the meltdown that the Sino-Russian alliance seeks for it. Diluting the right to vote for the underprivileged and giving protection to the numerous billionaires eager to continue spending fortunes so as to make the US government and legislature deliver for them (rather than for the ordinary citizen) is a certain way of making tens of millions of those left out to abandon the ballot box and turn instead to the bullet and to violence in their effort to win for themselves rights that ought to be enforced rather than trifled with. Those who are seeking to avoid a repeat in 2024 of the results of the 2020 Presidential election through changing the electoral system so as to make inclusion difficult for easily identifiable groups of citizens are leading the country and the Republican Party to disaster. Abraham Lincoln would not have been happy at the manner in which his party has developed into the Party of Trump. Chief Justice Earl Warren, who presided over the Supreme Court from 1953 to 1969, would have understood the societal consequences of several of the actions of the John Roberts court in a manner that the present Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court and at least five of his colleagues seem unable to comprehend.

Roberts Supreme Court wrecking US future

Sunday 11 July 2021

Afghanistan Crisis Needs Unified Response from Diverse Powers (Chanakya Forum)

It is a mystery as to why Moscow has so stubbornly remained in the minds of policymakers, as part of any solution to the situation in Afghanistan. From the 1970s in particular, the Kremlin was the most significant factor in the lack of success of Afghan moderates, to fashion a democratic state with perhaps a UK-style monarchy, technically at the apex of an elected government.

Repeated interventions by the USSR resulted in the downfall of the moderates and the temporary takeover of Soviet proxies in Kabul. These quislings soon began to fight each other, and the Soviet army was sent into the country to occupy it. This was a move reminiscent of the Czarist period and was resented and resisted by the Afghan people.

The US saw its chance at damaging the USSR and began under President Carter, a strategy of converting Afghanistan into a quagmire for the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, both the Carter and Reagan administrations handed over the keys of the fire brigade to Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq.

Wary that Pashtun nationalists across both sides of the lapsed Durand Line would seek a unified Pashtun state (thereby fulfilling the wishes of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan), Zia persuaded the US to instead back Pashtun religious zealots. At the same time, both Carter and Reagan saw Wahhabism, as an effective antidote to the Khomeinism that had begun flowering in Iran in 1979, and prodded Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries to empower this variant of a faith, whose fundamental teachings are far removed from fanaticism.

This grievous error by the US followed the playbook of Britain, which had propped up Wahhabism much earlier to create Arab disaffection with the Turkish Caliphate. Rather than curb the impact on the global Shia community of Khomeinist impulses, the sponsored war by Saddam Hussein on Iran made those variant wings, even while the Wahhabi International was empowered by US policy, to become the dominant strand in several locations worldwide.

The roots of 9/11 are in the terms of Carter and Reagan, but the US is not a country that examines its past except through tinted lenses. A substantial section of the polity in the US still believes that slavery was a boon rather than a curse to those enslaved, and blocks teachings that prove the opposite to be true.

Until he abruptly betrayed, first the Kurds to their fate at the hands of neo-Wahhabi Erdogan, and compounded that error by betraying the Afghan people and its government by negotiating a surrender to the Taliban, President Trump had sought to reduce the influence of Wahhabism in the Middle East.

Amazingly, the Biden administration has thus far continued with such disastrous policies, even while it has succumbed to the influence of Wahhabi elements and turned its back on reformist rulers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who had shown commitment in the existential battle being waged in that region between the Wahhabis and those fighting to recover the modernity and moderation, that the holy text on which the Muslim faith is based on explicitly states.

From 1979 onwards, efforts were made to re-interpret the holy text in a Wahhabi direction, an effort that for over a century had the backing of first London and subsequently Washington, as has been pointed out by several in the Middle East, including the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

As for President Biden, he seems finally to have rid himself of at least some of the influence of the Wahhabi lobby while the conflict between Hamas in Gaza and Israel was ongoing this year, finally bringing himself to call the President of Egypt (who had arranged the cease-fire which ended the conflict, and for which the White House claimed credit). Thus far, he had refused to do so, thanks to the influence of religious supremacists in the US administration, who had looked on Biden as being a gullible tool in their game plan of turning back the counter-Wahhabi tide that is sweeping over so many Muslim-majority countries.

The Wahhabi International holds considerable sway over several leadership elements of both the Republican as well as the Democratic Party, and it is presumably this strand that was responsible for the sell out by President Donald J Trump to first Erdogan and later the Taliban, and the continuation of this disastrous policy by President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.

Unless Biden awakens to the security threat to the US through a takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, his tacit “Mission Accomplished” claim of 2021, on ensuring that this tortured country will never again be a threat to the US homeland, will be found to be as hollow as the “Mission Accomplished” boast of President George W Bush in 2003, was shown by subsequent events to be.

Unless President Biden resets US policy on Afghanistan and fast, the error he made may come back to bite him even before the 2024 Presidential elections.

Such a reset needs him to work closely not with Pakistan but with India on Afghanistan, and through India with Iran. The Atlantic Alliance has been brilliant, at following the example set by Winston Churchill, after the 1939-45 war with Germany of writing its own history.

An example is Libya. Looking at texts and commentaries in the US or in the UK and France (the three that ensured the destruction of Libya as a functioning state), it would appear that the entire battle was between a tyrant (Muammar Gaddafi) and his people. Even his death, in which the intelligence services of a NATO member state played the keystone role, has been portrayed as entirely driven and guided by popular anger.

Had the US, France and the UK taken the precaution of reading some of the pamphlets written by several of those they backed with weapons, training and cash to finish off the admitted dictator and eccentric Gaddafi, they may have discovered that the reason for their hatred of Gaddafi was that he was not extreme enough for their tastes and that he was a lackey of the very powers that joined hands to finish him off.

That much is correct, as Gaddafi handed over his WMD stockpile to the members of NATO in 2003, just as Saddam Hussein in Iraq had destroyed (or shifted abroad) his own WMD stockpile in 1991, after the disaster in the subsequent war with the US, caused by his reckless and indefensible occupation in 1990 of his principal benefactor, the State of Kuwait.

Bashar Assad was the last individual to begin a process of destroying his WMD stockpile, beginning with chemical weapons, which soon afterwards appeared in several theatres and gave rise to charges that they were his, when in fact they had been handed over thanks to pressure from Moscow. Fortunately for him, unlike in the case of Libya, neither Russia nor Iran allowed the collapse of his regime and the termination of his life. After these examples, if any country (such as North Korea) hands over its WMD stockpile, to the very powers that have shown a propensity to intensify their attacks, on what they believe to be a defenceless entity, it would be because its entire leadership is ignorant of the history of the past three decades.

By its actions, the US, in particular, has brought down to an asymptote of zero, the chances for any country with significant WMD stockpiles, to hand them over to others unless defeated in war.

If the Taliban is securing additional territory in Afghanistan, through engineering the surrender of Afghan National Army troops, in the manner ISIS took over vast swathes of Iraq in 2014, the reason is lack of confidence in ANA elements about the sincerity of President Biden’s commitment to ensure that its 300,000 soldiers are adequately equipped to defeat Taliban forces. Thus far, they have not been given anywhere close to the equipment they need to fight a force that Biden dismissed as hardly a challenge.

Fortunately for the 46th US President, the White House press corps did not ask why if that were the case, 600,000 US troops and $2 trillion of expenditure, could not in 20 years finish them off. The litany of errors is long, and it is unlikely that any replay of what took place in the Pentagon Papers will ever get done, much though such a study is needed.

The US needs India and needs Iran as well, a country that can be left to India to bring on board. Given the animosity of the Wahhabis to the Shia, it is unlikely that the elected government in Tehran will seriously believe in the protestations of the friendship of GHQ Rawalpindi and the Erdogan administration in Ankara. The problem facing them is the Sino-Wahhabi alliance, and the fact that Washington has by its policy of seeking to strangle the Iranian economy, made that country dependent on China.

Unless there is a return to common sense in Washington, and in its European partners who committed to the JCPOA in 2015, such dependence is unlikely to get reduced to a point, where Tehran is free to act in concert with Delhi and through it with Washington, in ensuring that the elected government in Afghanistan is rescued from the Taliban and the territory captured by that entity begins to be rolled back.

Only Afghan troops are needed in Afghanistan, not US or Indian forces. But Washington needs to keep supply lines flowing and India needs to train the ANA. Much of the training is already imparted in India. The combat training given by NATO forces (which have been defeated by the Taliban), is worse than useless, it is counterproductive.

Unless the US and the EU are willing to fund the government in Kabul enough to ensure its salience, many times that amount will need to get spent in the future, once the Taliban take control as they did in 1996 with the backing of the Clinton administration, presumably influenced by Zalmay Khalilzad, who at that time appears to have been a lobbyist for Union Oil Company of California and Unocal Corporation (Unocal).

Securing Afghanistan from the Taliban is key to ensuring that GHQ Rawalpindi ceases to run the government in Pakistan, but comes under civilian control. If this does not take place (and General Secretary Xi is working assiduously to ensure that it does not), the meltdown of Pakistan will be the next problem the Indo-Pacific alliance will need to deal with.

Before that, they need to ensure that the Afghan people be rescued from falling once again into the darkness of fanaticism. India is essential in this, the US and Iran being the other countries needed. The stakes are global.

It may be noted that the Russian Federation has not been included, in the list of countries between which partnership is essential for success against the return of Afghanistan as a base from which international terror organisations launch attacks, the principal targets remaining the major countries in the Atlantic Alliance.

Owing significantly to policy errors that date back to the Clinton administration and which were continued under successive administrations, Russia under Putin, has gone on to form the Sino-Russian alliance together with Xi. To expect Moscow to play a role helpful, not to its PRC ally, but to the democracies is to continue to function as though the past era were still extant.

Delhi has been slow in grasping this reality and the consequences for India, especially when it is confronting the Sino-Pakistan alliance within the country and on its borders. It is not only Washington that needs to adjust from living in the past to the realities of the present. The same goes for Delhi as well.

The evolution of the situation in Afghanistan will in time convince even the romantics among policymakers in Delhi that tectonic shifts have occurred in global geopolitics, beginning in 1990 and continuing to the present. Unless an understanding of the need to adjust policies to meet the exigencies of the present with solutions, relevant to the contemporary situation dawns soon, the situation in Afghanistan may before long be what it became for the Soviet Union in the 1980s and to the US since 2003, a cauldron of chaos that would pose a danger even to those countries that believe they are far away and therefore safe.

The first step to cure is to diagnose the sources of the disease and devise ways of eliminating them. Within the Indo-Pacific, that role in the case of Afghanistan, falls mostly on President Biden and Prime Minister Modi.

Afghanistan Crisis Needs Unified Response from Diverse Powers 

Thursday 1 July 2021

The MD Nalapat Interview ( Country Squire Magazine)

Madhav Das Nalapat (born 1950) aka M D Nalapat is India’s first Professor of Geopolitics and the UNESCO Peace Chair at Manipal University, where he is Vice-Chair of Manipal Advanced Research Group and Director of the Department of Geopolitics & International Relations. A journalist and a former Editor of The Times of India and of Mathrubhumi, he is currently the Editorial Director of ITV Network & The Sunday Guardian of India. Since 2020 he has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Editors Guild of India. Nalapat writes extensively on security, policy and international affairs. Apart from his Sunday Guardian column, his writings have been published in a very wide range of publications, including the Pakistan Observer, Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, United Press International, China Daily, The Diplomat, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Economic and Political Weekly, Rediff, & CNN Global Public Square .

CSM: How do you perceive the new emergent relationship between India and the Anglosphere against the backdrop of Globalization? More specifically the relationship with the greater Commonwealth in the 21st century?  What specific position do you see India occupying within the Commonwealth?

A: Thank you for reminding me of my essay in the New Criterion about a 21st century Anglosphere. The earlier concept was based on the “Blood of the Body”, or in other words, ethnicity.  My argument was that the Anglosphere needed to be defined by the “Blood of the Mind”.  By a congruence of views on values such as individual rights and freedoms, including the freedom to choose your own diet, dress and lifestyle. The mind rather than the physical body is what separates human beings from other species. Mahatma Gandhi, despite his fluency in the English language, sought to banish it from India and replace it as the link language within the country with Hindi. Prime Minister Nehru did not go so far as to banish the language after India won freedom on August 15, 1947. However, in effect he made it almost impossible for citizens belonging to the more disadvantaged economic class to learn it. Accordingly, the immense advantages of the English language in India and outside were denied to poorer Indians, who could access only state schools, where the language was seldom in curricula even in a sharply reduced form.  It transpired that even the politicians who were insistent on stamping out knowledge of English in the mass of citizens sent their children to English-language schools. Those who could afford it (and it must be pointed out that politics is often the fastest path from straitened circumstances to wealth) sent their children to the US or the UK to study and often settle down. In the meantime, the hunger to learn English grew amongst hundreds of millions of voters who had been denied access to the language as they could not afford private schools. As a consequence, states such as UP and Uttarakhand have begun to introduce English in primary school itself, a wise step. Andhra Pradesh has gone even further in giving access to a language that has played a significant role in the transformation of India into a major economy over the decades.

There remain politicians such as Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia who lead the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) who continue to oppose English. Questions in that language are replied to by them in Hindi, a language that many in the West, East and South of the country do not know. Small wonder that the AAP despite its potential remains at the fringe of national politics.

Outdated approaches to language and to economic policy are increasingly being punished by the voter, especially in the Hindi belt, where the drive to learn English is strong.

CSM: In your earlier writings, lectures and expositions you have enunciated an idea of Anglosphere where the US plays a pivotal role. So any idea of the modern Anglosphere has to include the US? How do you see the US playing its role in the current milieu? What role do you envision Britain playing in the modern 21st century Anglosphere?

A: The US and India need to form a partnership as close as was the understanding between London and Washington during the 1939-45 war. During Cold War 1.0 between the USSR and the US, the Atlantic was the primary theatre of the existential contest between the two powers, the two systems. In Cold War 2.0 between China and the US, the Indo-Pacific has replaced the Atlantic as the primary theatre to be secured. Not many accept this now, especially those clinging on to the geopolitics of the past, but there is a new Cold War, with the PRC as the adversary. In Cold War 1.0, it was the Soviet Union. It was fortunate for the rest of the world that Churchill and Roosevelt were in charge during the existential war with Hitler’s hordes and horrors. Otherwise the alliance of the two with Stalin would not have taken place. This alliance is what ensured victory of the Allies even before the atomic bomb was dropped over Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In the Indo-Pacific, both France and the UK are essential partners, as is Indonesia or Vietnam. Boris Johnson understands this, and has built up a close relationship with India in a manner that Theresa May did not even attempt.

CSM: Returning to the motif of Commonwealth can you throw some light on the institution of ‘Commonwealth’ as a fundamental underpinning of the Anglosphere?

A: The Commonwealth is a bit unwieldy but within the Commonwealth there are countries such as South Africa and Kenya that are geopolitically significant. Rather than adopt a policy of dealing with it as a group, what is needed is to work intensively with many of its members, for example smaller countries in the South Pacific, in the context of Cold War 2.0, which is as existential a struggle of systems as the earlier variant was.

CSM: In a lecture in the City of London in 2013 you enunciated at length about the power of the English language as a force for bringing together nations and societies. India today boasts of the highest number of English speakers. How do you perceive this is a driving force for India’s role in the Anglosphere?

A: The English language has emerged as the international link language because of its inherent strengths and unique characteristics, among them flexibility in grammar and a huge canvas of alternative words to rely on while explaining situations. By my estimate, there are at least 300 million people in India who speak some form or the other of the language. The acceptability and incorporation of  the divergence, even between the way English is spoken in India, Australia ,the UK or the US is among the qualities that make it so unique. In the Anglosphere, every country is equal, whether small or large in geographic, demographic  or economic terms. India of course is soon going to house the largest number of those who speak the language, which is why New Delhi needs to stand together with democratic capitals such as London, Canberra and Washington, not to mention Nairobi or Pretoria. Unity of the 21st century Anglosphere against the violence of extremism and the hegemony of authoritarian states is as essential in the 21st century as Allied victory against the Axis in the 1939-45 conflict and the defeat of the Soviet system in 1992 was in the 20th.

CSM: Sports played a key role in fostering the relationship between India and the Anglosphere. Similarly in the sphere of arts, culture, media entertainment and infotainment how do you see India playing a significant role in the Anglosphere akin to Cricketing success?  How do you perceive the possibility of Cross-Cultural collaborations in areas of arts and culture between India and Britain? For instance in Netflix movies where young filmmakers from India and the UK can engage in ‘joint productions’ on themes which have wider appeal like that of Indian students studying in the UK and their experiences?

A: You have yourself answered the question as has the success of tens of thousands of Indian artists, artistes, writers and musicians in the UK or in other English-speaking countries in the world. Obviously, the UK is a natural partner for India in the 21st century, something that both Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson understand. Let me, however, point out that to the less untrammelled Anglospheric mind, it is not countries coming together as a collective as much as it is individuals coming together in various fields. In the US and India, this is what happened, and which by the close of the 1990s ensured that the tensions of the past were forgotten in order to grasp the potential of the future. And this coming together between citizens of the UK and India is why the relationship between London and Delhi is getting closer.

CSM: How do you see the global Indian diaspora as a force for enhancing the ties between India and the Anglosphere? Is this Indian diaspora spread across the Anglosphere an asset for the Indian strategic role in the Anglosphere?

A: Overall, unlike many who are from countries that it would not be polite to name (but which are well known), the Indian diaspora has been a force for good wherever it has settled. It is this that has endeared many citizens in the US or the UK to India

CSM: Dwelling on the Indian diaspora, currently most cultural interactions are limited to populist movies and music, cuisine and the proverbial Big Fat Indian Wedding. How do you see this evolving in the future leading to new discourses on the understanding and notion of being Indian and the Indian culture?

A: Don’t be such a snob! Let people do what they like doing, so long as it does not hurt others. At no stage in history were distinctions between members of our species that were based on race, faith or lifestyle valid. Any individual has the potential to be as much of a success as any other, and an Anglospheric society ought to ensure that each gets a fair chance to excel.

CSM: Finally, we can’t just ignore the horrors of pandemic reality and how it is impacting global relationships and alliances. Societies have been wreaked havoc upon. What new opportunities for partnership or cooperation do you envisage within the Anglosphere and specifically pioneered by India? For instance in fields of clinical and medical research on infectious diseases.

A: The response of the Chinese Communist Party to the SARS2 pandemic illustrates why those of us who spoke of an Asian version of NATO (as distinct from NATO) two decades ago, and who spoke about the onset of Cold War 2.0 since 2017 were right. Had the CCP come clean on the pandemic, even in the limited manner that took place during SARS1, the damage done to the rest of the world because of hiding the toxicity of the virus for several months would have been much less. Such as  permitting international flights to leave and enter Wuhan during the nearly three months when it was apparent that the disease was deadly and transmissible. The way in which the scientists and, sorry to add, media persons and politicians who pointed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) as the origin of SARS2 were sought to be silenced not just by Chinese authorities but by the WHO and experts such as Anthony Fauci – this was appalling. The NYT, Guardian, Washington Post, BBC, CNN and others joined the WHO in spreading disinformation from China about the pandemic, as did publications such as the Lancet and Nature. The creation through “Gain of Function” experiments that converted a harmless bat virus into the deadly novel coronavirus was a crime against humanity. Those who sought to disguise the origins of SARS2 and facilitated its spread were accomplices to this. The guilty will be rewarded in China. Each day teaches us why what we are seeing is an even more consequential battle than that which took place during Cold War 1.0.

CSM: Many thanks for your time, sir. A great pleasure to interview you

The MD Nalapat Interview