Monday 31 January 2022

Xi exultant as Biden goads Putin into invading Ukraine (The Sunday Guardian)


To Beijing’s relief, Washington is no longer focusing on the PRC as the principal threat to the US. The Biden White House has resurrected the Cold War 1.0 fixation on Russia (then the USSR) as the primary enemy of humanity and freedom.


After much talk about continuing the Obama-era pivot to the Indo-Pacific from its earlier focus on the North Atlantic, NATO seems set on returning to the days of Cold War 1.0, shifting its attention and its capabilities back to the North Atlantic and towards hostility towards Russia. This must occasion sighs of relief in Beijing, now that the NATO powers have abandoned chatter about boxing in the PRC and blocking its further expansionism, once again turning its attention towards Russia in a manner not seen since the days of the USSR. While hardly any country in Asia publicly voices disquiet at such a 180-degree turn by NATO, there is dismay at the way US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in particular are by their actions and rhetoric baiting Vladimir Putin into launching a limited war that would repeat what took place between Russia and Georgia in 2008. In that conflict, parts of Georgia that were majority Russian-speaking were converted by President Putin into independent republics. Adhering to their traditional policy of playing both sides against the middle, the CCP leadership in Beijing has yet to follow its “most steadfast and trusted partner” Russia in recognising the new republics created through the use of Russian forces. Nor indeed, doing anything to annoy NATO, such as by sending senior officials to the two new republics nor even the Crimea. The present focus of Xi Jinping is to dominate the Indo-Pacific. The Atlantic can wait, and the Biden-led return of NATO’s focus, rhetoric and resources back to Russia and the Atlantic suits General Secretary Xi’s plan. Joe Biden, whose character is beyond reproach, may be sincere in his oft-expressed desire to restrain China from further expansionism, but it is clear that concentrating on actualising this vow has yet to take place. Both Beijing and Moscow are working closely together in their own version of transforming (in other words, undermining) democracy in the US. However, despite the Sino-Russian alliance, Beijing and Moscow are not on the same page in the matter of the Obama-era pivot to Asia getting abandoned by his former Vice-President. In such a shift, the partner of the PRC is not Russia but the Wahhabi International, which too welcomes a shift in the post-9/11 focus on its activities past, present and future back to the “threat from the Russian Federation to Europe”. After not just pulling out all US personnel (uniformed or otherwise) from Afghanistan last year while simultaneously halting the logistics assistance given to the Afghan National Army, Biden’s explanation was that it was not political considerations that motivated this surrender to the Taliban, but the imperative of focusing on “standing up to China”. Instead, the Afghanistan surrender may help cost the Democratic Party control of the House and Senate in midterms this year.



Not for nothing has Xi Jinping worked hard at strengthening the Sino-Wahhabi alliance, even as he deepens the separate Sino-Russian partnership. To Beijing’s relief, Washington is no longer focusing on the PRC as the principal threat to the US. It is improbable that NSA chief Jake Sullivan did not brief the US President about the linkages between the CCP organs and multiple parts of the Wahhabi International, all of which have long backed the return of the Taliban to power in Kabul. Nor could Sullivan have neglected to point out to Biden that GHQ Rawalpindi had moved from Washington’s sphere of influence into Beijing’s even before President George W. Bush outsourced to that military so much of the US war on the Taliban and its extremist associates in 2001. Bush acted thus oblivious to the fact that almost all the leadership elements of the Taliban worked under the direction of GHQ Rawalpindi, which has protected them from the Benazir-era start of their formation. Overall, it would not be unreasonable to assume that more than a few of the ills plaguing the world have their origins in some self-defeating policies that have been pursued under successive US Presidents. This includes the money handed out to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to make a harmless pathogen deadly through laboratory processes. Or Trump’s 2019 handover of the Kurds in much of northern Syria to R.T. Erdogan despite the White House claiming to support moderates against radicals in the region. It was also President Trump who was instrumental in the signing of the surrender document between the USG and the Taliban at Doha in 2020. In the process, his White House jettisoned the pro-US, moderate Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani. To this may be added Trump’s withdrawal from a clutch of international and regional agencies, a decision that benefited China immensely. The shadow of such decisions (with which he must have privately disagreed) hangs over a likely front-runner for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination in 2024, Mike Pompeo. Following in the path of his predecessors, Biden is working at contributing his share to the pile of disastrous Presidential decisions. The most consequential of these may be a decision arrived at during the ninth months of his present term in office. This was to pivot back from the Indo-Pacific to the Atlantic, and from China to Russia. Since then, the Biden White House has resurrected the Cold War 1.0 fixation on Russia (then the USSR) as the primary enemy of humanity and freedom. Where then was the need, some may ask, to desert Afghanistan so ignominiously if the purpose was not what had been stated, keeping the attention on China? Despite outward shows of acquiescence caused by its present dependence on China, the Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin is (along with India led by Narendra Modi) wary of the Taliban, and is working to secure the Central Asian republics in particular against further encroachment by the Sino-Wahhabi lobby. This in a context where major NATO member-states back the active opposition to the existing regimes there. Several such groups, that are opposed by Russia and India, have the backing of the Sino-Wahhabi lobby, whose influence on policy within the Atlantic alliance is substantial.



It was Bill Clinton, who as President of the US decided to continue to treat Russia as an enemy despite the collapse of the USSR in 1992. He worked energetically towards the “pastoralization” of Russia and he and his successors broke through Red Line after Red Line of Moscow’s security concerns, during the terms in office of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, a situation finally ended by Putin after nearly six years of effort by him at trying to craft a mutually respectful relationship between Russia and the Atlantic alliance. Clinton sought to pastoralize Russia in much the same manner that US Treasury Secretary Hans Morgenthau had from 1942 onwards sought to gain support within the White House for plans designed to convert post-war Germany into an agricultural country. Clinton became the first US President to install the Taliban in power in Afghanistan in 1996, a transfer of authority that was sought to be renewed by Trump in 2020, but which was actualised by Biden only the next year. Not to mention the distinction President Clinton had of doing heavy lifting to promote PRC interests, going even further than Ronald Reagan had in such indulgence. Washington’s largesse to Beijing matched the generosity shown by Taipei and Tokyo towards the PRC across several decades, until the coming to office of the DPP and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe respectively. The success of unceasing efforts of the Sino-Wahhabi lobby in the US and in other key members of NATO to get agents of influence to demonise Russia and give the benefit of the doubt to China became apparent by the different standards employed by Washington where the PRC and the Russian Federation are concerned. Biden has repeatedly affirmed that Russia cannot have veto power even on matters of crucial importance to Moscow’s security, such as the eastward expansion of NATO or looking at placing nuclear-tipped missiles less than four minutes’ flying time from Russia. According to those with insight into the thinking and actions of the Kremlin, it was NATO’s (unreported) moves to bring Ukraine into its fold that was an important factor in Putin’s retaking of the Crimea in early 2014. This happened during the time when anti-Russia elements began their domination of policy in Kyiv. At the same time, neither Joe Biden (nor his newfound friend Boris Johnson) will go anywhere close to even talking about a veto over the many territorial transgressions by China, such as its takeover of the Spratlys from the Philippines (a US ally since the 1939-45 war), or the PLA’s growing chokehold over the Indo-Pacific. There has been no hint of a US or NATO veto even over PLA land grabs that involved Indian territory. Clearly, Biden and Johnson are too respectful of Xi’s predictable reaction to even hint that a Putin-model veto will be imposed by them on the PRC. Indeed, a front runner for the Prime Ministership of the UK should Johnson have to go is Tory grandee Jeremy Hunt, whose links with the PRC are in plain sight although scarcely commented upon. But even with Johnson at the helm, the use of regular troops by the PLA results in only cosmetic responses by 10 Downing Street to such activities, which in scope and number are larger than any made by Russia. Of course, Beijing plays along with the charade of verbal and symbolic arrows from NATO member-states, and “resolutely protests” even the least consequential of such gestures. For domestic audiences, there is the sending of a few naval vessels into a PRC-claimed zone in a manner that makes clear that there will not be the slightest threat to PLA assets situated there, including forcibly occupied islands and territories belonging to other countries, nor even to the many islands artificially built by the PRC. Tellingly, the Colombo office of the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka looks out towards the vast expanse of territory reclaimed from the sea by the PRC, and which in effect is treated as Chinese territory, just as are similar facilities in Pakistan and elsewhere. The lack of any real deterrent action by NATO member-states over the frequent PLA Air Force and PLA Navy forays into Taiwanese sovereign space is wholly unlike the response to any ingress real or imaginary of Russia into Ukraine. Clearly, the Taiwanese and the Russians are treated by capitals such as London and Washington as belonging to a lower class of nation than the Ukrainians or the Chinese are. Although aware that the parts of Ukrainian territory that are of most concern to Moscow are majority Russian-speaking, there has been silence from NATO members about the manner in which Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine are facing discrimination from Kyiv. While Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks loud and long about “illicit Russian money” in the UK, thus far he has been silent about the plentiful flow of illicit Ukrainian cash pouring into London to get washed. Mentioning that may detract from the image that has been crafted for the British public of Ukraine being an exemplar of integrity and tolerance, a saintly country menaced by a devilish neighbour.



Those around Xi Jinping who may harbour such un-Marxian thoughts as belief in the divine will likely be praying that Putin call the bluff on deterrence of President Biden and his other Russia-phobic allies by doing a Georgia on Ukraine. In this, Moscow would act in accordance with the desire of the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, by occupying Russian-majority zones through kinetic means and freeing them from control by Kyiv or fear of attack by the 90,000 Ukrainian troops at the border of the Russian-speaking areas of the country. Should Russia be removed from the SWIFT payments system, the impact would fall most heavily on the US dollar, which the whimsicalities of successive US Presidents have made many countries regard as an unsafe currency in which to keep their foreign exchange reserves. Over just two decades, moved along by the efforts of the Sino-Russian alliance, the US dollar comprises about 56% of global financial transactions when at the beginning of the 21st century, the USD share was almost 90%. The calculation in Moscow and Beijing is that once the US dollar loses its perch as the global reserve currency, its value would plummet. Given the number of sanctions already imposed on Russia, any additional sanctions (including exclusion from SWIFT) would have a cascading effect that would cause more harm to the rest of Europe and to the US than to an already heavily-sanctioned Russia. CCP General Secretary Xi may be calculating that as in the case of other countries (such as North Korea) where China has flouted US and EU sanctions, the PRC will get away with flouting US-led sanctions to Russia, as indeed is already taking place. Were it to do otherwise, the Sino-Russian alliance would be in tatters, and the CCP leadership knows this. Beijing apparently remains confident that the monetary rewards to influential US and EU nationals from business and financial dealings with China is so substantial that any chance of a more than cosmetic reaction by the US and its NATO allies to any flouting of Russia-directed sanctions by the PRC is close to zero. Just as some financial institutions in the US have been regarded as “too big to fail”, the PRC is confident that it is too big to sanction. This while expecting that sanctions would fall heavily on India, should New Delhi continue its trade with Russia after fresh sanctions were to get imposed by the US and the EU. Thus far, to the chagrin of the CCP leadership, the Biden administration has refused to fall into the sanctions pit where India is concerned, even in the matter of India’s purchase of Russian S-400 defence systems. Just as Pakistan is useful as a means of diverting the attentions of New Delhi away from the actions of the PRC, Ukraine is seen by analysts in Beijing as being effective in keeping the NATO focus on Russia rather than on China. Meanwhile, skipping over past crossing of Kremlin Red Lines, the US and its Russophobe allies present “snapshots” of the present situation to make the case that Putin is unreasonable, while ignoring the “video” that documents the entire history of such Russia-directed activity by NATO from the period in office of Gorbachev onwards.



And it may not only be India that could break ranks with its Russia-phobic security partners where their actions on Ukraine are concerned. Germany bid goodbye to nuclear power, a decision where emotions played a much greater role than common-sense. Should Berlin obey the US and the UK and choke off supplies of gas from Russia, the German economy would go for a toss, such that the Olaf Scholz government would be faced with street protest on a scale dwarfing the Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt in 2011. Judging by the way in which the German naval chief was forced to quit simply for speaking the truth in public, it would appear that occasional fiery rhetoric on the PRC of many German political parties is simply that, rhetoric. But a much bigger test than the outspokenness of a naval mind may loom ahead for Berlin, should President Putin be goaded on the Ukraine issue by Washington and London enough to decide that there is little point in absorbing punishment without also getting some reward for the pain. What Kyiv wants is Russia keeping aloof as it pacifies the Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine, and Biden and others are seeking to ensure that by threatening Putin with “crippling” responses to any Russian action, including that designed to protect the lives of the 470,000 dual Russia-Ukraine citizens in the region. Responsibility to protect evidently does not extend to Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Brinkmanship of the kind being shown now by Washington worked for Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis but led to the fall of CPSU General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev three years later. That example of what could happen to the boss should Moscow blink must be imprinted in the mind of Geopolitical Grandmaster V.V. Putin. The world needs to brace itself for extremely turbulent weather caused by the attempted intensification of Biden’s pivot from Beijing to Moscow as the primary threat to US interests. This would add to the pain already created in 2020 by the SARS-CoV-2 lab leak and the subsequent adoption by so many countries of WHO-recommended measures (initially adopted by CCP General Secretary Xi) that have cost millions of lives impacted billions more. Russian roulette is not a game that rational individuals play, and hopefully the realisation of this will dawn on the White House before it is too late, and President V.V. Putin decides that he has had enough, that Russia has suffered enough to endure with patience, and that the threat to Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine is too dire for him to restrain his forces from intervening to remove the threat that has been massing on their borders with the rest of Ukraine. In the process of seeking to expand the effective reach of Kyiv, President Zelensky may end up the way his counterpart in Tbilisi had earlier. This is not a movie. This is not a drill. This is for real.

Xi exultant as Biden goads Putin into invading Ukraine

Sunday 30 January 2022

Headwinds may derail Xi’s China Dream (The Sunday Guardian)


Xi is fashioning his expansionism through the Japanese method of kaizen.

As much as what is being sought to be accomplished by him and the rest of the Communist Party of China (CCP), Xi Jinping is relying on the long-time propensity of the leaders of major democracies to make wrong strategic choices, and formulate erroneous policies. He expects such self-goals to push the PRC not just to the top of the table in GDP rankings, but to establish first primacy over the global geopolitical landscape. Xi Jinping Thought is a further development of Mao Zedong Thought, with the latter getting modified and adapted to meet the conditions believed within the CCP to be prevalent in the 21st century. The core remains Han exceptionalism, presented as Chinese exceptionalism. It is no accident that the most sensitive slots within the PRC state security establishment in particular are filled with those who are from the Han majority of the population of the country. The others may be given impressive titles, in an effort at obscuring the reality of Han identity being at the core of the praxis of CCP doctrine, but their influence over policy and control over outcomes is scant. There are numerous external commentators who speak confidently of the “resistance” and “inner party crisis” that is brewing within the CCP, and the possibility of such dissidents succeeding in displacing Xi, much the way the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) deposed Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev in 1964, two years after the Cuban missile crisis, in which CPSU General Secretary Khrushchev failed to call President Kennedy’s bluff of launching an all-out war (including with nuclear weapons), were the USSR to station ballistic missiles in Cuba. Aware of the pitfalls that may ensue to his own position at the apex of power in China should a military adventure fail, Xi is fashioning his expansionism through the Japanese method of kaizen, seeking to constantly improve the position of the PRC in a manner that would avoid an all-out conflict, especially with the US. Fortunately for him, the attention of the US and much of NATO seems fixated on Russia, just as was the situation during Cold War 1.0. A conflict involving NATO and Russia in Europe would remove much of the pressure that has been building up against Beijing’s activities in the Indo-Pacific for the next decade, if not more, in an even greater way than the 9/11 attacks of 2001 made President George W. Bush veer away from focusing on the rising challenge posed by China to the Middle East and Afghanistan. The CCP leadership made full use of that opportunity, and by the time Xi Jinping emerged as the ruler of the PRC in 2012, had leveraged policies sufficiently to make it the second superpower, just behind the US in influence and capabilities. By 2015, the term “CCP leadership” covered not the Standing Committee and leading elements in the CCP, but solely the Office of the General Secretary of the CCP. Today, through his security services and the harnessing of technology, Xi has accumulated more personal power than was the case even with Mao Zedong during his years in office as the Great Helmsman of the CCP. Both Xi’s predecessors, Jiang Zeming and Hu Jintao, have clearly retreated into the shadows, perhaps awaiting better times. Within the Han population, Xi Jinping has become genuinely popular for his expansive promise of a future where they will run the globe much as those of European descent did in previous centuries. The General Secretary’s public cashiering and humiliating of princelings and billionaires has further boosted his appeal as a “man of the people”.
Those who believed from the days of the 2011 Arab Spring onwards that control over the streets would succeed in effecting if not regime change, then regime modification, at least in Hong Kong have been disappointed. Having performed its role of gateway to the world during the period of economic modernisation from the 1980s onwards, Hong Kong has lost much of its essentiality to the PRC, as evidenced by the manner in which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has in effect become just another Chinese province. More people in Shanghai speak English than in Hong Kong these days, and Beijing controls the HKSAR as completely as it does other parts of the PRC. Mass manifestations of public anger may yet erupt in the future, should there be a catastrophic decline in economic output or defeat in a kinetic conflict, but as yet, the conditions for that seem distant. Rather, there are other faultlines, which presently lurk under the radar, almost invisible, that may in future threaten the hold of CCP General Secretary Xi over the country. These relate firstly to matters of faith. Not just the experience of Russia and parts of East Europe but any catechism would make it clear that Christianity as a theology is antithetical to Communism, even that of the Mao-Xi variety. However, unlike his predecessors Jiang and even more Hu Jintao, Xi appears to be opposed to any form of organised religion, including those that are diluted through the sieve of party control. Unlike in the past, when Buddhism was sought to be showcased as more Chinese than Indian, these days even that faith is facing leaner times. This is creating resentment within the minds of believers, although this mood is still dormant at present. Similarly, belief in democracy as an attractive way of life is percolating through the psyche of the Han people, fuelled by the success of Taiwan in both retaining democracy as well as a healthy economy, Taiwan’s success has come despite vigorous and often overt CCP efforts at undermining that country. More than anything happening elsewhere, the Taiwan example has broadened a longing for democracy that is inconsistent with Xi Jinping Thought. The third faultline facing Xi’s project is factionalism. The severity of the consequences faced by those regarded as unreliable where adherence to the control of Xi over the party and the country is concerned has generated not just fear, but in many a sullen albeit silent mood that is waiting for conditions that would facilitate a largescale eruption of discontent. Much the way those opposed to hyper-authoritarian governments in the past became willing to act as the agents of external forces, there may be a flow of what at the moment is just a trickle of defections from the PRC or within that country, from General Secretary’s project of a China Dream with Xi Characteristics. For Xi, it is All or Nothing, and it will not be long before the shape of the eventual outcome emerges.

Headwinds may derail Xi’s China Dream

Sunday 23 January 2022

India at 75 must exclude violence and its perpetrators (The Sunday Guardian)


It is not possible to be a good Hindu, Muslim or Christian without first being a good human being.

The persisting spread of Covid-19 (SARS2), despite extraordinary measures taken by governments to contain it, resulted in a multiplying number of theories about the causes of such increases in caseload. The only factor that goes unmentioned is that the tiny size of the virus and its transmission through the air make it less than certain that most face masks would prevent an infection from an affected individual to another, although social distancing may help block such spread. The problem is that keeping several feet away from other human beings may be a problem anywhere, not just in India but in almost all other countries as well. Across the world, despite governments mandating much of human behaviour (including the suggestion that hands should be kept away from the face), cases continued to rise. And as the curve rose rather than flattened as forecast, more and more scapegoats were found. Depending on what part of the political divide an individual was located in, either the Tablighi Jamaat or the Kumbh Mela was blamed for the spread. 2020 was a year marked by insecurity and fear, with incomes crashing, jobs vanishing and numerous activities banned to flatten a curve that followed its own rules rather than those set by the WHO and adopted by countries across the world. At least in India, 2021 was marked by a much greater range of activity than was the case during the past year. Another Great Indian Lockdown (circa 2020) was avoided. Several state governments imposed curfews, apparently acting in the belief that (somewhat in the manner of mosquitoes) the virus came out towards evening and made itself scarce during much of the daylight hours. In Delhi, malls were shut down once again, while in Gurugram, they were open only until 5pm. That was fine for households where the man or the lady of the house stayed inside the house, but created a problem for those households where both the husband and the wife were working in offices and could not therefore shop at a mall. Compared to the inconvenience and disruption that lockdowns, curfews, closure of businesses and other steps taken caused, were the benefits in terms of a lower Covid-19 caseload proportional to such a cost? More importantly, was there any flattening of a curve that seemed to rise up and fall seemingly on its own volition? Australia, Germany, France, Italy and other countries introduced a new variant of democracy, where the unvaccinated were denied several of the privileges and freedoms of those who had taken two or more jabs of the vaccine. As in 2020 with the lockdowns, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again set a world record by completing first a billion and soon afterwards 1.5 billion Covid-19 vaccinations even as the pandemic raged across the country.
There are repeated cries that Israel is an “apartheid” state that discriminates against some elements in its population. Such accusations come mostly from countries where the Jewish community has been substantially (where not totally) eliminated. India under the present dispensation is repeatedly accused of “genocide against Muslims”, this when there are about 200 million Muslims in India, who are contributing so much to the progress that the country is making. The entity that is loudest in its cries of “genocide in India” and the need for “protection of minorities” is Pakistan, where both the proportion as well as the number of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians have dwindled into insignificance across the decades. Any country which considers itself civilised should ensure that every citizen be treated equally, irrespective of his or her faith, lifestyle, language or diet. The future of India depends on such an ambience being strengthened rather than ignored in the manner that it had been for more than two generations. Of course, any activity or speech that demonstrably promotes violence needs to be dealt with. Overall, the Modi government’s record of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas is stellar. It is the perceived or actual exceptions that are assisting the Sino-Wahhabi alliance in their project to demonise India and its leadership. As pointed out by former Supreme Court Justice Rohinton Nariman, there seems to be overkill in using sedition laws to lock up cartoonists, comedians and even students on the grounds that they indulged in hate speech. There are, of course, those who target only a single faith rather than others, such as was the case with an artist whose more audacious depictions were solely of divinities of a particular faith. Had he done the same with other faiths, Husain may have been locked up as soon as he entered Qatar. The versatile Husain was never put to any such inconvenience in the country that made him wealthy and famous, India. A comedian who pokes fun only at a single set of beliefs while ignoring others may not be showing freedom of thought but prejudice. Citizens pointing this out, including through social media, would be a better alternative than the colonial practice of filing cases and locking people up. Democracy in India is nearly 75 years old. This is surely time enough for graduating to the standards and practices of a strong and confident democracy. Actions such as sending into exile a writer whose mother lives in, and loves, India would be to repeat the errors made by past governments, including during the 1970s, the period when so many personal freedoms were replaced with state control over both lives and livelihoods. Despite the Erdogans and the Bajwas, the world is changing for the better, what with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia fighting against extremism and the UAE allowing a temple to come up within its territory. It is not possible to be a good Hindu, Muslim or Christian without first being a good human being. And that means accepting those of different beliefs as part of the same cultural DNA and societal dynamic, rather than as the Other, barring the violent and fanatic fringe that seeks to expand at the cost of the moderate.

India at 75 must exclude violence and its perpetrators 

Six months may decide Biden legacy (The Sunday Guardian)

 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.


Monday 17 January 2022

Unfreedom of choice the new normal (The Sunday Guardian)

 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

Post-pandemic, towards a healthier, wealthier world (The Sunday Guardian)


The more people get vaccinated, the better. However, to penalise those who have thus far not been vaccinated seems a step too extreme.

A visitor to Syria during the early weeks of the “Arab Spring” manifestations of 2011 would have found himself in a surreal situation. Armed guards accompanied visitors, who were of any prominence, for fear of kidnapping by anti-regime elements. In a country where Sunnis predominate, the Wahhabi element within that school had for long carried out a whispering campaign against the Assad family, using the usual trope that they were “un-Islamic”. Boosted by support from states across both sides of the Atlantic who were unhappy at the closeness of the Syrian regime to Iran and Russia, the long-dormant (in public) Wahhabi element made use of the “Arab Spring” to launch street demonstrations against the government that had held sway over the country for so long. Very soon, violence erupted during such manifestations, and the government responded in kind. That gave an excuse for some countries in the Middle East to join hands with the Atlanticist powers to arm, train and fund “freedom fighters”. Not just Alawites but other Shia, as well as Druze and Christians had their throats cut, often in public. Some of these executions were streamed to the world via the internet. These powers had been warned that Tehran and Moscow would not allow Bashar Assad to get ousted in the manner planned, that which took place to Muammar Gaddafi. President Putin, possibly prompted by Prime Minister Medvedev, prodded Bashar Assad to let go the stocks of chemical weapons that his regime possessed, so that there could be a cessation of help from NATO member states to the armed groups seeking to replicate Libya in Syria. When Gaddafi and later Assad surrendered their WMD stockpiles, leading Atlanticist powers saw in this a sign that those regimes were near their expiry date, that they were getting desperate. In reality, because they were stable, the Gaddafi and Assad regimes regarded the giving away of WMD stockpiles as an acceptable risk in the cause of forging a detente with the Atlanticist powers. They wanted not just WMD stockpiles but the collapse of the regimes that they saw as obstacles to primacy in the region. These powers were happy at the prospect of replacing Gaddafi and after him, Assad, with a hotchpotch that would inevitably lead to chaos and human suffering. A former colonel of the Assad regime, who was connected with intelligence operations, defected to Germany. He had expected to lead a comfortable life in that comfortable European country. Instead, he was jailed and is now being put away for the rest of his life in prison for acts that he committed while working for the regime in power in Damascus. Just as Gaddafi’s fate and Assad’s travail post his handing over of chemical weapons convinced other powers seen as rogue by the Atlanticist states to augment rather than hand over their WMD stockpiles, the fate of this Syrian colonel will act to prevent more defections from the Assad government, especially its security services, who could have handed over a treasure trove of information about the inner workings of security and intelligence agencies in Syria. Perhaps a Thank You note should be sent to Berlin from Damascus.
Since the beginning of 2020, the manner in which the Covid-19 pandemic has changed lives has a similarly surreal feel. Each day, sombre warnings are issued by the authorities about the danger posed to human life by the lab-boosted coronavirus that has had the effect of a global war on society. Arts, theatre, cinema and music have either disappeared or gone into hiding, awaiting better tidings. Children stay at home, watching as their parents bicker as a consequence of the scissors effect of rising prices and falling incomes. The very young remain unversed in the benefits of socialization, cloistered as they are as a consequence of restrictions imposed since March 2020. Those in charge thought that SARS2 was the perfect excuse for a host of wrong decisions taken by them, but as the downfall of Donald J. Trump demonstrated, they were wrong.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among the few leaders who have acquitted themselves well. Modi has learnt from the experience of 2020, and has this year avoided measures such as mass lockdowns. Some state governments have imposed curfews, possibly to curb drunken behaviour and its public consequences rather than out of belief in its effect on public health. When schools are shut, children go out to meet their friends, thereby getting much more exposure to SARS2 than would have been the case, had they been in class. While working online and at home may overall be preferable to working in crowded offices, many are unable to do so, and as a consequence have seen their jobs vanish. Once a single dose of the vaccine was declared to give long-term protection against Covid-19. Then it became two doses, later three and now four. The impact of so many jabs on the immune system remains to be studied. Someone close to this columnist has refused thus far to get vaccinated. She is allergic to penicillin, and at least twice in the past, was carelessly prescribed medication that included penicillin. The effect was terrible, and in the former instance, life-threatening. In several countries, she would not be admitted, despite being free of the novel coronavirus. In many cities in her own country, she can no longer go to a mall or to a cinema theatre. Certainly, getting vaccinated is a good idea. The more people get vaccinated, the better. However, to excoriate and penalise those who have thus far not been vaccinated seems a step too extreme to be classified as reasonable, at least in a democracy. Covid-19 has given governments across the world immense discretion affecting the lives of citizens. Small wonder that there is disappointment on the faces of Covid ayatollahs at reports that the Omicron variant is mild. Their fear is that the pandemic may disappear along with the extraordinary powers that they have accumulated, ostensibly towards the same end. The hope is that the situation following the pandemic will be the reverse. That the world will be healthier and wealthier than when the pandemic started, most likely through an accidental lab leak during the closing months of 2019. Another example of why meddling with nature, including through Gain of Function experiments involving pathogens, is an activity that may sometimes constitute a crime against humanity.

Post-pandemic, towards a healthier, wealthier world

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Pakistan’s unending descent into GHQ-caused collapse (The Sunday Guardian)


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.

As long as Pakistan is controlled by GHQ Rawalpindi, “stability” in that country refers to good times for the military, a situation that incentivises them towards intensification of the asymmetric warfare that they conduct in Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. Not to mention “lone wolf” terrorists of Pakistani origin who have sought to blow up lives across both shores of the Atlantic, given that the West is regarded as the mortal foe of the Wahhabi International. GHQ must restrain itself from assuming overlordship of the state, a situation that has become second nature to its senior officers, given the material benefits such control brings with it. Otherwise, Pakistan cannot be “stable” in the manner that so many well-intentioned individuals across the world seek. To make unilateral concessions that have the effect of merely empowering the military in Pakistan is to continue on the road of GHQ-fomented Wahhabi terror and its principal financier within that country, trade in narcotics. Although Afghanistan is the principal producer of poppy and its derivatives, the Pakistan military is seeking directly and through its proxies within the Taliban to control the flow of opioids into and out of that country, so as to get several times more financial benefit from the narcotics trade than the growers of poppy get in that Taliban-ruled country. Profit from narcotics finances not only hideaway homes in Florida or Scotland but a substantial part of the cost of the covert operations being carried out by GHQ Rawalpindi against multiple targets at home and abroad. This is why there has been no let-up in either the accumulation of funds abroad by those connected to the Pakistan military nor in asymmetric operations, including of a kinetic nature, although influence operations are increasingly getting a higher priority than was earlier the case. Any institution that operates in an environment devoid of checks external to it has a propensity to seek to extend the boundaries that define its activities in an effort to cause greater headaches to its lengthy list of targets. Now that the flow of benefits from Washington to Rawalpindi has lessened, GHQ has turned to Beijing. Their problem is that the PRC represents the quintessential moneylender (or, in less loaded terms, banker). Milton Friedman warned that there was “no free lunch”, and in the same way, there is no free pass given to those individuals and countries who partake of PRC largesse. The moneys given have to be repaid with compound interest, either in the form of currency or in the shape of assets, as country after country is finding out during the hangover after the binge caused by massive loans to fund Belt & Road projects. These are intended for future use and benefit by the PRC, including in most cases the PLA, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s favoured arm of the Communist Party. The rise in scale of PLA deployments in an expanding scatter of locations appears to be motivated by the need to protect assets handed over to the PRC by debtor governments, including from a possible reneging of leases as a consequence of regime change. Of course, should an operationally viable alliance form to oppose efforts to replace US unipolarity with a Sinic version, such countries would have a recourse to turn to, should they seek to recover their assets and territory from control by the PRC.
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. A cordial relationship with India is indispensable for the economic (and thereby, in substantial part, societal) progress of every country in what is defined as South Asia, a construct that includes Pakistan, despite the efforts of Two Nation ideologues to pass off its history and civilisation as having been transplanted from a Central Asia, Turkey and Iran rather than from the Indus valley. Partition inflicted a grievous wound on the people of the entire subcontinent, mostly on those who live within what since 1947 is known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. GHQ Rawalpindi is aware that India does not seek any territory in Pakistan, but only the third of Kashmir that was occupied by Pakistan during 1947-48. Hence the effort at convincing the people of Pakistan that there is imminent danger of losing even the meagre rights and freedoms ordinary citizens have in Pakistan but for a military far bigger than is warranted by threat levels. Across Pakistan, disillusionment is increasing with the military and the country that it has become subordinated to, China. Worse, the Sino-Wahhabi lobby in the US has had its toxicity exposed by the reaction of US voters to President Biden’s inexplicable surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban. The current President of the US followed during 2021 in the path of his long-time friend Bill Clinton, who did the same in 1996, thereby beginning the chain of consequences of which 9/11 was the most consequential result. After the Afghanistan pullout fiasco, Biden has become wary of the advice peddled by the Sino-Wahhabi lobby, among which is included the recommendation to slash the Trump-imposed tariffs on PRC products, and to once again open the tap of financial and military assistance to Pakistan. A fresh US tilt towards Rawalpindi has not happened. Even the GCC, once a never-failing source of funds to feed the demand of the military and its associated elites for funds, has cooled towards Pakistan, now that Imran has joined Erdogan in efforts to retrieve the ground lost by the Wahhabi International since Saudi Arabia under the Crown Prince turned against its teachings. China may not be a long term alternative to the US, for the reason that the CCP leadership has the same policy that pre-Mughal elites in India had, of hoarding knowledge within a narrow circle. It was only when Prince Dara Shikoh (1615-59) translated some of Sanskrit epics into Persian that many inhabitants of India (who had been deprived of knowledge of Sanskrit but spoke Persian) understood the depth and magnificence of their civilization. Hoarding rather than disseminating knowledge, as took place in the past in India (including during the colonial period) and now in the PRC will cause collapse. Unable to accept and reverse the destructive effects of their hold on power, Pakistan’s military is presiding over a state that is heading towards collapse.

Pakistan’s unending descent into GHQ-caused collapse 

Sunday 9 January 2022

Substantive gains count, not symbolic (The Sunday Guardian)

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.

Substantive gains count, not symbolic

India could be the game-changer during Cold War 2.0 (The Sunday Guardian)

 New Delhi: 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.


Among the reasons for such visceral hatred of India’s Prime Minister may be some of his signature policies. To take an example, much of the foreign policy of India has been of much greater utility than several of the stances adopted by the US and some of its allies across the Atlantic Ocean. Under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expertly implemented by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, New Delhi has followed a diplomatic strategy towards Russia, Iran and Central Asia in particular that recognises rather than ignores the realities of the 21st century. As a consequence, India has the potential of emerging as a link between the US in particular and countries such as Iran and Russia that may be crucial in determining which coalition succeeds in the ongoing Cold War 2.0 between the PRC and the US. The hangover of the colonial period has led major NATO members into adopting an “All or Nothing” strategy towards countries such as Iran and Russia. Such an approach has only served to ensure that the PRC is better enabled to bring these powers into its ambit. It is a situation in which CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping is in a race against time to register spectacular triumphs in accelerated efforts at establishing PRC primacy over the Indo-Pacific, just as has already taken place across the non-EU segment of the Eurasian landmass. In this, as in so many other ways, the present leader of China differs from his two immediate predecessors, who were content with substantive successes that were unacknowledged in public. Xi is in competition not against the legacy of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao but that of Chairman Mao Zedong himself, a very high bar to leap over, given that Mao doubled the land area controlled by Beijing and unified the country in a manner seldom seen in the long history of the country. The overt display of the scale of his ambitions is leading even long-term allies of the PRC into a reconsideration of the manner in which they have served as a force multiplier for the realisation of the ambitions of General Secretary Xi. They are slowly coming to terms with the fact that they are being used as a lever to gain advantages for the objectives set by the CCP leadership (which in practice is the Office of the General Secretary of the CCP), rather than for themselves. Indeed, through being obedient to the wishes of Beijing, allies of the PRC have often been disadvantaged. The biggest advantages that Xi has is the reflexive hostility of the Atlanticist powers to the Russian Federation, now that it is led by the independent-minded Vladimir V. Putin, rather than an individual such as Boris Yeltsin, who gave away to the US and the EU as much of Moscow’s inherent advantages as did his predecessor Mikhail S. Gorbachev. This has left scant choice for Moscow than to slip into the orbit of Beijing, despite the reality that China seeks to displace its presumed ally Russia as the pre-eminent Eurasian power, including in Central Asia, and is demonstrably the pre-eminent partner in the Sino-Russian alliance. The other advantage is the refusal by elites across both sides of the Atlantic to internalise the loss of dominance that they have suffered since the closing couple of decades of the 20th century. This has led them to errors in the 21st, such as (a) the doing away with Muammar Gaddafi, (b) the intervention in Syria on behalf of “freedom fighters” whose writings and speeches make clear their revulsion to western culture and people, (c) the continuance of the failed George W. Bush strategy of relying on the Pakistan military to help finish off the Taliban and its associates in Afghanistan, and (d) believing that DPRK Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un would surrender nuclear and missile capability once he saw the fate of Gaddafi and the attempted downfall of Bashar Assad once WMD was surrendered by both in obedience to Atlanticist dictates. If there was ever a unipolar moment after the collapse of the USSR, it was only during the period in office of Boris Yeltsin, and that too only until 1997, the year of the handover of control of Hong Kong from London to Beijing.


The effort by Xi is to craft a new unipolarity that would replace the period when the US was the predominant power. This is unlikely for two reasons. The first is the fact that even apologists for the CCP in countries across the world have been running out of excuses to continue with a policy of facilitating rather than obstructing the moves by the Office of the General Secretary of the CCP both to consolidate its own monopoly on power and to expand the PRC’s effective control over larger and larger areas of cyber, sea and land space. Even in Japan, Germany and the US, countries where Beijing’s networks are well developed, resistance from the public and from a section of the military and intelligence services has prevented the local leadership from continuing wholeheartedly on the path of appeasement that had been pursued for decades, beginning with the entente between Washington and Beijing engineered by Mao Zedong and Richard Milhous Nixon in the 1970s and carried vigorously forward by succeeding PRC and US leaders. This has the potential of providing an option for those powers that are presently within the orbit of the PRC, including the Russian Federation and North Korea. There is evidence in the possession of the Kazakhstan government that several hundred million dollars have been spent (by a neighbouring country) on putting on steroids unrest within the country as a consequence of the rash decision by the government in Almaty to remove price caps on the fuel used by households. The reason for such intervention is the refusal of Almaty to join hands with the Sino-Wahhabi alliance in Afghanistan and assist Beijing, Ankara and Rawalpindi to strengthen the grip of the Taliban over a country that in August 2021 witnessed the defeat of the US on a scale last seen in Vietnam during the 1970s. The apparent objective of the power concerned was to punish the government for refusing to go along with the wishes of the Sino-Wahhabi alliance and act as a force multiplier for the Taliban. Those loyal to the Sino-Wahhabi alliance were generously assisted across Kazakhstan to put the (justified) agitation against the lifting of caps on fuel prices in a country that has among the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world. They whipped up public discontent after Kazakhstan stood by other Central Asian countries and India in seeking to ensure that the Taliban lived up to the extravagant promises that it had made when US President Biden handed over Afghanistan to them. Not merely did Biden (correctly) withdraw regular US ground forces from Afghanistan, he kneecapped the Afghan military by depriving it of the weapons, ammunition, intelligence and logistics support that had enabled the force to keep the Taliban on the defensive. The 2021 US defeat in Afghanistan was on a scale seen before only in Vietnam in the 1970s, except that this time around, the damage to US interests was self-inflicted, as had been the case in 1996, when President Bill Clinton ensured the capture of almost all of Afghanistan by the Taliban, to cheers from Unocal representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the Wahhabi International.


The principal advantage of the PRC leadership is the lingering effect of the experience of previous centuries on the strategic thinking of several within the decision-making layers of the Atlanticist countries. An example was the manner in which elements whose writings and activities showed their enmity towards the West were armed, trained and funded to go after Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar Assad. This was after both had surrendered existing WMD stockpiles, just as Saddam Hussein had done in Iraq prior to the launch of kinetic action to remove him. Ironically, “possession of WMD” was the stated reason behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the US and its coalition partners, when military planners within NATO would not have exposed their men and materiel to the lengthy supply lines on roads in Iraq that were visible on television, had there been the slightest doubt that Saddam Hussein actually had WMD stocks at his disposal. His forces were as defenceless as Gaddafi’s were in 2011 after son Saif had earlier persuaded him to surrender his WMD stockpile to ensure good ties with the West. And it was after Assad’s surrender of chemical weapon stockpiles that “freedom fighters” in Syria swung into action in massive sweeps. The regime was rescued by Russia and Iran, the first in the air and the other on the ground, or else Bashar Assad would have followed in the wake of Gaddafi and all but one of his sons. After the experience of Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad, it was unrealistic to expect DPRK Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un to surrender the very missile and nuclear capability that was preventing the US from attacking his country to take out his regime. A peace treaty between the DPRK and the RoK would ensure much greater stability to the Korean peninsula and safety for Japan, yet Washington remains adamant on its demands that Kim surrender his missile and nuclear capability before the green signal is given to Seoul to sign a peace agreement with Pyongyang that would benefit the Korean people. Once such an agreement gets signed, trade and other ties between the two states in the Korean peninsula will be significantly boosted. Among the misperceptions of NATO planners is the impression that the DPRK regime is as much a satellite of China as Pakistan under the military is. The fact is that the Kim dynasty has from the start been fiercely patriotic in terms of safeguarding the independence of the Korean people. The ethnonationalism that is, together with clan control over the northern part of a once unified country, the defining ideology of the Kim dynasty that has ruled North Korea since the state came into existence after the 1939-45 World War. Judging by anecdotal evidence, Donald J. Trump, while President of the US, understood this and sought to make a viable peace with North Korea through his unprecedented meetings with DPRK Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un, but was blocked from doing so by the same “experts” who have succeeded only in ensuring that the DPRK has steadily made progress on its nuclear deterrent, even while the country was being starved by sanctions ostensibly designed not to punish the population but to slow down the progress of the development of nuclear and missile systems by the DPRK. That so many decision-makers and thought leaders across both shores of the Atlantic remain caught in a time warp that has for decades ceased to be relevant has been among the most significant force multipliers for CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping as he works towards actualisation of the “China Dream”. Or in other words, the substitution of the US by the PRC as the pre-eminent power on the globe.


Whether it be Russia or the Central Asian republics, there is almost an existential divergence of interests between them and the strategy adopted by General Secretary Xi, which is based on the centrality of the Sino-Wahhabi alliance. This partnership has been forged on the condition that the Wahhabi International will look the other way at the activities of the CCP towards those that regard their faith of greater importance than following without demur the tenets of the CCP in its newest form, Xi Jinping Thought, which represents an effort to fuse Mao Zedong Thought with the 5,000-year recorded history of China adapted to CCP Characteristics. Both Russia and the Central Asian Republics are known targets of the Wahhabis, as is India. It is this divergence between the interests of Beijing and that of some of its allies that has been at the top of the mind of the Indian leadership. What will be needed is for realism to prevail over nostalgia in Atlanticist capitals, principally the US. This is a task that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh will need to pay particular attention to. Not just India but the rest of the Quad Plus needs to come to terms with the need to ensure that faultlines within the PRC-led alliance system develop in a manner that ensures the satisfactory trajectory of Cold War 2.0 as it moves towards its conclusion,

India could be the game-changer during Cold War 2.0

Monday 3 January 2022

2022 bids to be the year that indicates the future (The Sunday Guardian)


Under Hu, the PRC became a superpower. Under Xi, it began acting like the only one.

Say this for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping, he has made hiding behind platitudes impossible for those who believed in a world where the rival systems most often represented by the US and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) cannot just coexist in harmony, but work together so as to ensure mutual benefit that would in course of time benefit the entire world. Such was the vision embraced by US Presidents, from Jimmy Carter to (the Clinton-heavy first term of) Barack Obama, who even sought to fashion a G-2, a partnership of Beijing and Washington that would in effect guide the rest of the world. Signs that the CCP had not deviated (except verbally) from the vision of its founders a century ago multiplied during the second 5-year term of CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao, whose genial countenance masked the energetic manner in which he sought to ensure that the PRC overtook the US and the EU in technological and scientific superiority, in the way that had earlier been the case in manufacturing. What Hu Jintao sought to camouflage has been revealed in technicolor shades by Xi Jinping, with the consequence that for the first time since the 1970s, public opinion across both sides of the Atlantic in particular has turned against the seemingly unstoppable rise of China. The formula devised by the present writer nearly two decades back, of major powers adopting a policy of constrainment of the PRC, rather than for the time being a USSR-style policy of containment, has become popular, especially following the apparently accidental leak of the laboratory-boosted SARS2 coronavirus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The unusual (for the PRC leadership elements) directness and transparency of General Secretary Xi’s call to his subordinates to convert into reality the century-old dream of the CCP to make the PRC the centre of gravity of global geopolitics has been helpful in dispelling the Carter-Reagan-Clinton delusions of peaceful coexistence of the clashing systems of the US and the PRC, especially now that the latter has been turbocharged since the 1970s by the formation of the Sino-Wahhabi alliance and since 2006 of the Sino-Russian alliance that was the default option of Russia once it became clear to Moscow that there was no space for the Russian Federation anywhere within the Atlantic Alliance except in a subservient role.

Russian President (and geopolitical grandmaster) Vladimir V. Putin opted by 2007 for a junior partner role within the Sino-Russian alliance rather than a subordinate, even subservient, role on the periphery of the Atlantic Alliance. At the same time, he sought to fashion policies that would over time once again catapult Russia into the ranks of the superpowers, thereby giving him co-equal status with Xi. This remains a work in progress, but given the potential and history of Russia, not to mention the resilience and capability of the Russian people, Putin’s choice of the PRC over the Atlantic Alliance was inevitable to all except those who are still living in the world until the close of the 1990s, when the Atlantic Alliance dominated two-thirds of the world. Since the second term in the White House of George W. Bush, the US has ceased to preside over a unipolar world, even as the PRC leadership seeks to fashion a new unipolarity, with itself at the apex. Since the boost in confidence within the CCP that was given after the smooth takeover of Hong Kong from the British in 1997, the effort at substituting a US-centred unipolar world with a PRC-centred one has formed the core of CCP policy, although this was camouflaged until the refreshingly frank ascent to the apex of the CCP by the hyper-confident Xi Jinping. Although Xi Jinping claims to be an atheist (at least in public), he seems to have the confidence that there is a “divine wind” that is carrying him forward on his mission to Sinicize the globe. Such leaders will take risks and adopt policies that others would avoid, which is the primary reason why there has been a rise of instability and uncertainty across time zones since 2015, the year when the CCP General Secretary was able to overawe and dominate every significant structure of authority within the PRC. This has given Xi the freedom to pursue the policies of his choice, whether these relate to India, the US, the EU, Taiwan, the South and East China Seas, Australia or elsewhere. Not just dissent but any difference with the Xi point of view usually leads to unpleasant consequences for the offender and his or her family, as several cases have publicly demonstrated. The CCP leadership’s not-so-merry-go-round with its “passengers” (the subordinates of the CCP General Secretary) is careening on its unpredictable course, with the passengers aware that none of them has any influence over its speed or direction, all such controls being concentrated within the Office of the General Secretary to a level even greater than was the situation during the period in power (1949-76) of CCP Chairman Mao Zedong. The impact of the removal of initiative and decision-taking from other layers is being felt across the spectrum of governance, not least in the economic sphere, but as the delayed reporting to Xi of the SARS2 cases in Hubei demonstrates, bad news travels with a much slower speed than assumed good news, and in several instances does not travel up to the top, which these days has close to a monopoly on even less than significant decisions that need to get taken in the governance structure of what since the second 5-year term of CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao emerged as the Second (albeit closet) Superpower. Under Hu, the PRC became a superpower. Under Xi, it has begun to act like the only one.

Unlike US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson or the formidable Angela Merkel while German Chancellor (it is too early to judge the trajectory of her successor, as there is an ocean of difference between being second-in-command and taking the helm), the CCP General Secretary has a plan of action that is expected by his loyalists to ensure that China will dominate the Eurasian continent by around 2025, South China Sea by 2027 and the East China Sea by 2029, after which it will move towards the objective of achieving a similar dominance in the Atlantic, together with the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, the Wahhabi International is expected to raise as much dust and fire as is needed to distract those powers seeking a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific (in the way the Atlantic is) from focusing their attention on the PRC and its twin alliance systems. Separately with the Russian Federation and with the Wahhabi International, with which Moscow is finding it difficult to accommodate the wish of Beijing that it join the PRC in serving as a force multiplier to them. In this, Moscow is far closer to New Delhi than it is to Beijing, a factor that has been instrumental in the outreach to Moscow by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assisted by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. Even while a President of the US and Commander-in-Chief of US armed forces, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr hesitates to acknowledge that reality, Cold War 2.0 is in full play between not just the two countries but the two systems of the PRC and the US, and 2022 bids to being the year that will bring more clarity to (a) the disposition of forces, and (b) the chain of likely events, although it will almost certainly not be clear during 2022 or even the next year or two as to who will be the victor in the ongoing systemic conflict that characterises Cold War 2.0. Much will depend on internal developments within the US, India and the PRC. What is taking place is a race against time where CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping and his allies are concerned. Their effort will be to use social media and other tools (including in the cybersphere) to dilute the resilience of the US and India in particular; to generate internal tensions and divisions that lead to eruptions of violence; and to ensure that economic growth slows down and issues plaguing society multiply. At the same time, the increasingly obvious destination of the path that CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping is taking is willy-nilly bringing together a coalition of countries that are united in their desire to ensure that the world does not once again turn unipolar, this time with Beijing rather than Washington as the centre-point. Such unity is as needed now as was the unity fashioned in the previous century by Roosevelt and Stalin against the effort to create a unipolar world with Berlin as the core. Whether the leaders of the countries that need to work together understand and work on this is unclear. Certainly, ASEAN remains divided in its approach to the PRC, with a sizeable lobby of pro-PRC elements operating in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, although this lobby has been losing steam in Taiwan. The Central Asian republics are conflicted by their antipathy to domination by the PRC and the reality that their closest ally, the Russian Federation, seems firmly committed to assisting Beijing to replace Moscow as the centre of external gravity within the Eurasian landmass, including Central Asia. Whether the gravitational pull of India will be strong enough to prevent Russia from falling into the gravitational pull of PRC geostrategic objectives is an open question, especially given the self-defeating nature of much of the approach of Atlanticist countries towards Moscow. 2022 may see a resolution of that question, or at the least the signs of a resolution.

In the case of India, so far as jobs and the economy are concerned, the inability or unwillingness of the Reserve Bank leadership of the time to ensure sufficient liquidity while implementing the replacement of old higher-value notes during the 2016 demonetisation, coupled with the high rates and complex compliance structure of GST as first worked out has been fused with the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 to create substantial turbulence, especially within the small and medium sector. A large part of both are at present finding it difficult to avail themselves of the numerous schemes that Prime Minister Modi has devised to assist them. This is because of the difficulties they face in formalizing their activity in the manner mandated under such schemes. 2021 has seen significant efforts led by Prime Minister Modi and assisted by colleagues such as Finance Minister Nirmala Sithararaman, Commerce Minister Piyush Goya and others to reduce compliance and tax burdens, and it is expected that such efforts will intensify during 2022, so that the economy once again moves onto the fast track. The rupee too needs to be stronger and more stable, given that its performance over the past few years has been dismal. Those within India who have accounts abroad will be delighted at the fall in the value of the rupee, but those with only rupee savings and investment pools are seeing the value of their stock decline almost every month, a traumatic experience that needs to be reversed through changes in policy, beginning with the 2022-23 Union Budget. Coming to our people, the Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas mantra of the Prime Minister needs to be mainstreamed. This would assist in bringing investment from an autocratic to a democratic country, especially when so many enterprises are looking to shift from China because of geopolitical considerations and multiplying regulations under Xi. PM Modi’s mantra needs to get mainstreamed across governance structures in 2022, so that efforts to create “Us vs Them” discord or a victim mentality in some sections of society fail. In the security sphere, the need is for the countries committed to a free, open and inclusive to fashion structures and responses that would ensure concerted and effective countermeasures to combat the measures kinetic and otherwise being designed and operationalized against India by the Sino-Wahhabi alliance. Supporters of Prime Minister Modi expect all this to take place in 2022, while those who seek to replace him latest by 2024 hope that they will not. The year ahead will better show whether the supporters or the opponents of PM Modi are correct in their prognostications. A decisive year indeed for all.

2022 bids to be the year that indicates the future