Monday, 31 January 2022
Sunday, 30 January 2022
Sunday, 23 January 2022
It is not possible to be a good Hindu, Muslim or Christian without first being a good human being.
During his disastrous 2020 re-election bid, President Donald Trump’s most consequential error where the media is concerned was the fact that he was the face of the response of the US government to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were numerous press conferences during which he appeared alongside the Usual Suspects where the Covid-19 saga is concerned—Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx and others who favoured the PRC-WHO prescription of harsh lockdowns to cure countries of the pandemic. His lack of knowledge of public health was exposed to public view, such as his suggestion that bleach could be injected into the human body. This may take care of the novel coronavirus, but it would also take away the life of the injected individual. President Trump came across as a clumsy clown, and the wry, obviously contemptuous faces of Fauci and his acolytes only added to this perception. All that Joe Biden had to do in order to gain an edge over his opponent was to remain indoors silently contemplating the ceiling of his basement, while Trump faced a battery of less than respectful press persons trying to pass off as an expert in disease control. Most voters were in shock about the extent of Trump’s ignorance of public health, as revealed in numerous press appearances on the pandemic. Ironically, President Trump overall had a better common-sense view of the Covid-19 pandemic than his successor. He sensed early on that lockdowns did more harm than good, and that large-scale lockdowns were ultimately useless in preventing the spread of the pathogen, for which China was so generously funded by the US taxpayer. Gain of Function research designed to convert an otherwise natural pathogen into something deadly for human beings is a crime against humanity, and it is a symptom of the myopia that afflicts human rights movements across the world that this has been ignored by them. Should those in the US who were instrumental in funding such research in Wuhan and possibly elsewhere in China be held accountable for their criminal act, there would finally be accountability for a pandemic that has already plunged hundreds of millions of people into poverty, and millions more into the grave. Joe Biden was elected as the opposite of Trump, yet promptly appointed Trump’s advisor on Covid-19 as his own. That was a vote-killing move, if ever there was one. Another was the manner in which the Presidential Commission set up by Biden in 2021 to investigate the origins of the pandemic came up (at least if public reports are correct) with conclusions that were almost the same as those reached by the WHO, an institution that is not as respected since 2020 as it once was. Judging by its messaging on Covid-19, the WHO functioned almost as a wing of the health authorities in Beijing, parroting their views in supposedly “independent” reports. If the shameful manner of the withdrawal from Afghanistan convinced the US military that Biden was unfit to serve as their Commander-in-Chief, the tepid and wholly inconclusive conclusions reached by the commission that President Biden set up to investigate the origins of Covid-19 seemed to confirm the conclusions reached by many after reports emerged of PRC generosity to Hunter Biden that the 46th President was yet another aficionado of the Chinese Communist Party, a conclusion that is somewhat unfair to a man who has to an extent sought to protect the US and its allies from the rampages that are being orchestrated by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. The problem facing Biden is that he is not seen as consistent. On China, his actions are both hot and cold, while he has made Beijing very happy by once again shifting the primary focus of US attention to Russia. Just as 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror switched the focus of attention in Washington from Beijing, the pandemic has shifted the spotlight from the problems caused by Xi Jinping’s ambitions to the pandemic unleashed from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a fact that even those elsewhere in the world who have been complicit in the WIV Gain of Function and other bio-hazard experiments are finding difficult to conceal for much longer. Of course, Anthony Fauci has a backer in Joe Biden, who is apparently unaware of the political costs of standing by those in the US who supported such research in the PRC. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has benefitted the CCP substantially in the way it has diverted international attention from its activities, it is not certain that the transmission of the lab-created virus variant from the WIV lab into the community was deliberate. This is in contrast to the initial disinformation fed through the WHO that Covid-19 was not transmissible, and the manner in which flights were permitted to take off from Wuhan and other affected locations in the PRC to international destinations. This single action has led to the evaporation of huge tranches of goodwill within the world for the PRC. President Joe Biden has about six months left to recover his popularity. Should he fail to, the Democratic Party is likely to lose the House of Representatives together with the Senate, which would be a killer blow to the Biden legacy.MDN
Monday, 17 January 2022
The publicly funded healthcare system in the United States is monstrously expensive, a consequence of successive US Presidents prioritising the interests of Big Pharma over poor and lower-middle voters. Geore W. Bush did make an exception to this rule when he sourced life-saving medication for HIV from India, but that was for Africa and not for his own country. Thus far, Joe Biden has remained loyal to Big Pharma and refused to boost pharma cooperation between the US and India, despite that being the only route that would enable Obamacare to survive, as it must in a country where income and wealth inequalities are massive, and getting more so by the day. Biden apparently lacks the resolve to take the fight to those opposing some of his signature policies—such as the proposed legislation to improve the quality of the living standards of ordinary US citizens, as well as improve the physical infrastructure across the country. Should the Democratic Party lose the House and Senate to the Republicans in November, that would be the loss of not merely a Biden legacy but the future of the world’s most consequential country for close to a generation. Watching the Republican Party carry out the scorched earth commands of Donald Trump, there is worry that hostile powers may be succeeding in their operations to infiltrate social media platforms to boost fringe opinion and capability in a manner that may, by another presidential term, make the US ungovernable. In a sense, the US is getting divided into what are essentially two countries, with Republican states forming a bloc separate from the states where Democrats are in power. General Secretary Xi Jinping must be delighted. Although Trump caused a few problems for the PRC, overall, the 45th President of the US seems to have assisted Beijing in its drive to attain superiority over Washington, whether it be in Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP or the way in which Trump reduced the post-1945 alliance system into purely money terms. Given the way politics is developing in the US, including through fiddling around with constituency boundaries and making voting as difficult as possible for low-income individuals, he may well win. Self-goals by the Democratic Party, such as the decision by New York to give the vote even to non-citizens, is not helping. Several who would otherwise have voted for Biden’s party may object to such an unprecedented step. Or by criminalizing freedom of expression where religious identity is concerned, but confining that protection to a single faith rather than across the board. Such legislation is at the cost of disregarding the First Amendment to the US Constitution.In January 2020, the Wuhan lockdown ordered by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping spurred a number of similar lockdowns across the world, with consequences for the global economy that will take years to mend. Countries such as Sweden that went against such logic were excoriated, although subsequent events showed that trying to live as normal a life as possible during the pandemic did not result in a bulge in deaths. The 2022 lockdown ordered by Xi in Xian and the mass testing of millions of Tianjin residents following a few cases there did not (unlike in the past) lead to an approving nod from the WHO, nor advice from that organisation to countries to once again follow the PRC example where snap lockdowns are concerned. In the US, President Biden has this year refused to repeat the job-killing follies of the past two years. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not go by the advice of those who had recommended lockdowns, preferring instead to create conditions whereby most activity could take place, albeit with safety protocols such as masks and where possible, social distancing. Should the Omicron scare ebb as a consequence of an overwhelming number of mild cases, even in Australia, voters will begin to free themselves from Covidpanic, especially as so many have been vaccinated. Detaining Novak Djokovic in a manner such that the world champion could not practise his game, nor follow the diet and exercise regimen he needed, is equivalent to an act of “match fixing” designed to ensure that the Serbian not enter the history books by yet another victory in the Australian Open. The way in which technicality after technicality was used by Canberra to punish the unvaccinated Djokovic for coming to Australia has surprised many. Never before, even for diseases much more deadly than Covid-19, and for vaccines far more effective against infection than has been the case with Covid-19, have such penal methods been adopted for the unvaccinated in countries such as Australia, France, Italy and Germany that consider themselves democratic. If each Australian Open player tests negative every day, as can easily be done, why should there be any discrimination? Using the pandemic as the reason, both sides of the Atlantic since 2020 have begun to resemble the PRC. Henry Ford had said that customers could buy “any colour Model T, as long as it was black”. With his unique definition of freedom of choice, the founder of the Ford Motor Company would have felt very much at home in Australia during the Djokovic episode.
Sunday, 16 January 2022
The more people get vaccinated, the better. However, to penalise those who have thus far not been vaccinated seems a step too extreme.
Wednesday, 12 January 2022
While the military may be content as a consequence of its chokehold over the narcotics trade and the finances of Pakistan, the people of that country are the sufferers.
Sunday, 9 January 2022
When settlers from the UK and other countries in Europe came to North America, they brought with them multicoloured trinkets of glass to be handed over to the American Indian tribes that they expected to encounter. Such “wampum” may have won a few hearts amongst the original inhabitants of a continent quickly colonized by the arrivals from Europe, but most of the rest were sent to their “happy hunting grounds”, or in other words, eliminated through one expedient or the other. The advance of scientific knowledge in Europe had brought with it the perception that human ingenuity was superior to nature, and from the start of the takeover of the North American continent by European settlers, nature was pummelled, while buffalo herds and other livestock were depleted. The world has traversed a considerable distance over the four centuries since what is now Canada and the US were colonized. A modern society and economy need an ambience of accommodation and tolerance for lifestyles that diverge from each other, whether these differences be in the form of diet, dress or faith. Singapore has emerged as an economic powerhouse precisely because the Han chauvinism that is increasingly on display in China has been absent. Whether of Indian, Malay or Chinese descent, opportunities are open for individual advancement, with no discernible glass ceiling blocking certain ethnicities while promoting others, a phenomenon still seen in those parts of Europe that blocked well-qualified individuals from India from entering, working and paying taxes. This while doors remained open to those from other parts of Europe who very soon ended up as a charge on the public purse. Despite the hubbub against immigration created by President Trump, the US has welcoming of qualified immigrants and tolerant to the unqualified, which is among the reasons why the country is still the pacesetter in the knowledge industry. Not just in the software industry but in medicine, arrivals from India have made a considerable difference. Groups such as the AAPI, an association of physicians of Indian origin, have emerged as force-multipliers in strengthening ties between the two largest democracies. Doctors from India or of Indian ancestry play the keystone role in the UK’s National Health Service. The grip of Big Pharma across both shores of the Atlantic has prevented the utilization of the full potential of a healthcare partnership between the US and India. In Japan with a rapidly ageing population, healthcare personnel from India could play a significant role, were an effort to be made by Tokyo and Delhi to provide training to citizens of India in the Japanese language and in the basics of care for the aged and infirm to tens of thousands of healthcare workers in India. Another option is Brazil, which needs not just healthcare workers but teachers and other staff as well. A Skill India program is needed to teach Portuguese to teacher and healthcare trainees, besides other fields. Citizens of India need to be trained not only from the viewpoint of working in India, but working elsewhere, in countries that have good relations with India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Jair Bolsonaro could work on such a mutually beneficial project. Once harnessed to geopolitical possibilities, Skill India could be a pathway to external employment for millions of citizens. CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping has flexed PLA muscles because of the protection provided by the immense progress that China has made since the 1980s. That trajectory contains lessons for India, that those still captive to notions from the 1990s or even 1970s are unable or unwilling to understand. Given that such companies seek to gingerly extricate themselves from the PRC and relocate to India, it makes sense to welcome external players, especially if they use India as a production base for exports, in the manner that they did in China. National champions would grow faster in the presence of competition rather than by resorting to methods of the pre-reform era and shutting out external players. Ironically, several of the domestic companies that lobby to exclude foreign competition are themselves partners of companies from abroad, acting in many of such instances as commission agents. They sell foreign production in the domestic market and get a commission for the facility. Whether it be in coal or in uranium, domestic deposits have systematically been under-developed. NGOs that are linked to coal-producing countries campaign against the utilization of coal reserves in India, while in the case of uranium, blockages to its extraction crop up in myriad forms, thereby forcing a dependence on external sources. A similar situation exists with rare earths or pharmaceutical intermediates. Somehow, few seem concerned about questions such as whether the offshore hydrocarbon reserves of India have been discovered and utilized to close to their potential, rather than remain under-exploited owing to pressures by external suppliers. If not for uncovering acts of corruption, then for finding out the roots of incompetence in an effort at betterment, a study needs to be made of the way in which policies were framed over the past five decades, to find out the extent of opportunities missed or taken advantage of. Accountability has long been a forgotten word in India. This needs to change. Among the items needing to be studied would be the action taken on the enquiry commissions or reforms commissions that were set up. Was anything done or were their suggestions forgotten later? In diplomacy, a symbolic concession made to India has value only in the next media or political cycle, as only a substantive concession has long-term value. In India, too much is made of symbolic gestures and concessions rather than focusing on the substantive.
What took place during the week just ten kilometres from Pakistan may either be a monumental lapse in security protocols by various agencies, or indicate an effort by countries hostile to India to decapitate the elected leadership of the country, thereby (in their view) causing sufficient chaos and indecision as to enable additional gulps of Indian territory to external powers long harbouring such territorial ambitions. The sequence of events during what are being described as “security lapses” involving Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is disturbingly similar to what took place in Sriperumbudur in 1991, when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated during an election rally. It is ironic that the Congress Party, which lost both Indira Gandhi as well as Rajiv to assassins, is seeking to make a mockery of the entire episode. Following the lead of national spokespersons of India’s former political colossus was Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who explained away the crowds and the disturbance as merely the exercise of citizens to protest or demonstrate, this time on the sides of the Prime Minister’s convoy as well as in front of it. Efforts have been made to establish the peaceful nature of the crowds by pointing to BJP flags being waved by some. At Sriperumbudur, the lady who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi posed as a supporter of his and moved forward to garland him with a bouquet of flowers that concealed the suicide vest she wore. As during the “security lapse”, there was no effort to screen those approaching Rajiv Gandhi, who would have seen a pell-mell situation in front of him, with throngs seeking to come towards him filling the space. Several of the presumed “farmers” looked very different from those they claimed to be a part of, and if the past year is any guide, would have been expected to be badly disposed towards PM Modi, ostensibly on account of the now withdrawn farm laws. Permitting such individuals to gather in numbers on what ought from start to finish have been fully sanitised in close proximity to the PM’s cavalcade, even allowing them to physically block the progress of the cavalcade, was more than a “security lapse”. If there was no drone surveillance of the route, that was a serious lapse, given the efforts by the Sino-Wahhabi alliance to return Punjab to what it was during 1985-94, when GHQ Rawalpindi-sponsored violence became a part of everyday life in that state. That around 20 minutes were spent stationary on the road after the blockade caused by protestors in front was encountered is another inexplicable lapse. As soon as the protestors were seen, the convoy ought to have reversed itself and moved to a safer location. Finally, it was Prime Minister Modi who gave the order to return, a step that ought to have been standard operating procedure in such a situation. Neither the Central or the Punjab authorities can be sure that there was none in the crowds who were armed with guns or explosives or both, as no frisking took place, not to mention removing them to a safe distance (for the PM). It was fortunate that nothing happened except the inevitable political name-calling and pyrotechnics. Where circumstances are concerned, the sequence of events over a bit under half an hour on the road leading towards the International Border that overcast day could have resulted in something that had best go unmentioned. It is unpleasant but needs to be said that the writer has witnessed the funerals of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv, and does not want to see any other Prime Minister of India go the way they tragically did within five years of each other. There is no doubt that as PM, Narendra Modi has transformed India, much as Indira Gandhi did, and Rajiv sought to do before death denied him a second term in office. Or that there are not just individuals or groups but countries that are unhappy with his stances and policies and may wish to see him replaced.