Monday 28 March 2022
Sunday 27 March 2022
From the start of 2013, in the minds of BJP cadre, not to mention amongst large swathes of the citizenry, Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has been regarded as the natural leader of not just his party but the country. Memory is still fresh of Narendra Modi’s record of success in transforming Gujarat. This took place in a manner that became common talk within other parts of India. There was no state government scheme in Gujarat during his time (and afterwards) that excluded the minorities. Unlike in UP before Yogi Adityanath took over, the people of Gujarat, a state where communal riots had become a commonplace, experienced 12 years during which there was not a single inter-religious riot. Interestingly, in Bengal the victory of the TMC in the Assembly polls was followed by violence against a section of society. In UP, after the BJP was voted back to power, there was a complete absence of any such violence. As Prime Minister, from the start of his tenure, Modi has focused on prosperity for all. Millions of voters in UP who derived benefit from the many Central schemes implemented in the state voted for the Samajwadi Party under Akhilesh Yadav. Long before the election campaign began, some voters had made clear their opposition to the Yogi Adityanath government. None of that stopped every benefit enjoyed by pro-BJP voters from being extended to them freely and enthusiastically by the state government. Much has been written about the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, and continues to figure in commentaries in India and abroad to this day. Much fewer has been any mention of the numerous houses of worship belonging to the majority community that were demolished by Modi in Gujarat during his term in the post of CM, or by Adityanath during the years he has held the office of CM, UP. Not far from the newly reconstructed Ram temple, a magnificent masjid is coming up in place of the dilapidated structure that was destroyed by hundreds of individuals at Ayodhya three decades back. Once the holy sites of Kashi and Mathura are restored to their glory before they were vandalised by Aurangzeb, the wound that exists in the Hindu psyche by the partition of India on the basis of the Two-Nation theory will heal completely. Ignoring the physical and psychic pain of Partition in the manner that Nehru sought to do has only built up a head of steam that became apparent in the 1990s. This time around, hopefully such a transformation would take place after securing the consent of the Muslim community in India. A step in that direction would be to ignore fringe elements within the majority community who talk of re-taking all the sites of temples that were destroyed by the Mughals. Historical wrongs cannot be corrected by rolling back history, something that the Congress discovered after the Sonia Gandhi-engineered split in that party in 1996. Such a stance by the Hindu fringe would assist GHQ Rawalpindi in its efforts to prevent the Muslim community in India from accepting the logic behind the three holy sites of the Hindu faith being returned to their pre-Aurangzeb glory, together with new and magnificent masjids built close by to replace the structures built during Aurangzeb’s time in Kashi and Mathura. Such a stance is as self-defeating as was the action of Nathuram Godse in assassinating Mahatma Gandhi. That single act has been used over more than six decades to entrench “Nehruvian secularism” in India. This is a construct where the majority community is treated in the same discriminatory and unequal way that minority communities are in some countries. If some friends in that party are correct, these days the Congress asks the applicant to reveal such personal details as religion and “caste” in its application form. Genuine secularism occurs when the faith of a citizen is of no consequence outside his or her personal life, and certainly ought to pay no role in anyone’s political or administrative activities. Among the key requirements of any national security strategy is equality of treatment of all communities. The last remnant of the Two-Nation theory that was used by Jinnah and Churchill to partition India was Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, and this was removed a couple of years ago, finally. In the case of the BJP, it is a matter of concern that the Kerala unit of the party is opposing the construction of a new and fast railway system that would transport goods and passengers not merely across the state but to different parts of the country. In a state where hundreds of thousands working in the Middle East may soon get unemployed as a consequence of geopolitical shocks there, such opposition goes against the spirit of Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas Sabka Viswas that is the guiding principle of PM Modi. The Kerala unit of the BJP has some outstanding young leaders such as Union Minister Muralidharan, and they need to step in and prevent their party from joining hands with the Congress in an effort at blocking the K-Rail Silverline project. In case the compensation paid to those losing land is low, the party should agitate for an increase without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The young in Kerala need more such projects.
Why the leadership of NATO is eager to convert a European country into another Syria, Libya or Afghanistan is unclear.
Monday 21 March 2022
Since September 2021, some leaders of NATO member states had been repeating the error they made in 2014－of saying "post-Maidan revolution" Ukraine could soon join the European Union and NATO. In doing so, they ignored the fact that Russia wanted nothing less than a neutral Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin had made clear on many occasions.
Many expected President Volodymyr Zelensky not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessor Petro Poroshenko, and announce that Ukraine would not join NATO. But he did not.
After the street protests led to the ouster of the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 and he was called a Kremlin agent, Poroshenko's policies led to the Crimea crisis, and worsened the problems of the Russian-speaking people in the Donbas region, especially in Lugansk and Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine.
Even after Crimea voted in a referendum to join Russia in 2014, neither Ukraine nor NATO heeded the warnings of Moscow. As a result, the domestic political struggle in Ukraine intensified, leading to the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Lugansk and Donetsk in February 2022.
And on Feb 24, Putin ordered the "special military operation" in Ukraine. And again, as in 2014, NATO refused to join Ukraine in a conflict with Russia, even refusing to impose a no-fly zone against Russia, perhaps because Russia is not Iraq or Libya.
Since the United States-led NATO forces had withdrawn from Afghanistan in August 2021 after almost 20 years, they were not ready to confront as powerful a rival as Russia. Yet NATO entered into a "proxy war" with Russia by provoking Kyiv to take on Moscow, in the hope of using the conflict to effect a regime change in Russia.
Led by the US and the United Kingdom, NATO and EU member states imposed sanctions on Moscow aimed at causing a meltdown of the Russian economy and even creating public unrest in the same way that Hosni Mubarak was ousted in Egypt and Yanukovych in Ukraine. The West tried similar tactics in Belarus and Kazakhstan to overthrow sitting governments, but failed in both cases, partly due to the intervention of Russia.
Now, instead of the Russian leadership, several pro-Western governments in other countries face public unrest due to prices rise and supply disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict which could lead to their ouster. Asian economies, in particular, have been hit hard by the steep rise in commodity prices caused by the sanctions against Russia.
As a developing country in the process of transforming its economy and lifting millions of people out of poverty, India will suffer the consequences of the Western sanctions against Russia. This is one of the reasons why India is opposed to NATO waging a non-kinetic war against Russia which could become kinetic.
India has its own redline when it comes to international relations, and it will not cross it to support NATO's strategy to counter Russia.
So, it is in the US' interest to establish a working and productive relationship with Russia, instead of pressing India to join it in its proxy war against Russia, in order to end the conflict and prevent the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine from worsening.
Under pressure from the US, both Japan and Australia joined that country in trying to change India's policy toward Russia, but failed. A country of more than 1.3 billion people that for two centuries endured colonial oppression will not allow outside powers, no matter how powerful they are, to make it go against its critical interests.
The special and strategic partnership agreement Russia and India signed in 2000, which was expanded in 2010, will continue to determine Russia-India relations.
US President Joe Biden assumes the world is still stuck in the late 1980s. Why else is he treating Russia even worse than the way the US treated the Soviet Union?
By forcing EU countries to suffer the consequences of the measures designed to punish Russia－just as it did in the case of Iraq, Libya and Iran－Washington is damaging the interests of the European people in order to carry forward its agenda of destroying the strategic and economic potential of the Russian Federation.
India will not join any move by NATO against Russia, which has been made clear to NATO leaders. It is better that Western leaders, especially NATO leaders, realized that not all countries support them in their confrontation with Russia and hence they should let the people of Ukraine and Russia decide their future relations.
Both Russia and China have been working on alternatives to SWIFT, with China’s CIPS at the top of the scale, with Russia close behind.
Sunday 20 March 2022
Both Russia and China have been working on alternatives to SWIFT, with China’s CIPS at the top of the scale, with Russia close behind.
“Pravda” (truth) was the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the “truth” detailed in its columns was reality as defined by the CPSU. The clearly capable White House Press Secretary has ensured that not just the mainstream media but leading social media influencers reflect the conflict with Russia as defined by the White House. Jen Psaki deserves a raise. There is no need any more for the followers of mainstream media or influencers to access their favourites. All that they need to do is view clips on YouTube of Jen Psaki, Joe Biden, Antony Blinken and other officials who present the “truth” in the manner that the White House regards as advantageous for the Democratic Party in the 2020 midterms. It has not been a secret that media in the Russian Federation is overall respectful of President Putin. They apparently do not share the view, couched in terms that these days passes for diplomacy in the NATO bloc, that Putin is at best insane and at worst, an incarnation of Adolf Hitler. NATO channels endlessly repeated the clip of a charming lady holding a placard against the war and state propaganda in a Russian news channel. The young lady has apparently been persuaded by her VPN access to NATO channels that it is only a matter of weeks if not days before Putin gets toppled in Moscow in the manner that President Viktor Yanukovich was toppled by street violence in Kyiv in 2014. When that happy event occurs, she expects that Putin’s successor Alexei Navalny will appoint her as Information & Culture Minister. This would win the support of Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, both of whom have become ardent admirers of the comely media personality after her 15 seconds of fame on a Russian television channel. Should Putin not oblige those predicting his imminent doom, the young lady is likely to earn the ire of ordinary Russians for embracing the views of western media so publicly. Following the same rulebook, prominent voices in the US who are talking truth to power such as Tulsi Gabbard or Tucker Carlson are being branded as traitors. Exactly the way those who protested against the US rush to disaster in Vietnam initially were. Tucker Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard need to be in the US Senate, which appears to be sinking in credibility as an independent wing of governance because of being programmed to follow the narrative presented by the White House and mainstream media. The rising blood lust against Russia has risen to such a pitch that voters are calling for yet more escalatory steps than the many carried out rather than favouring the path towards an outcome that would protect the world from the damage that the present course would cause just a few months from now.Decades ago, after the Iraq invasion of 2003 against Saddam Hussein, this writer had the privilege of meeting Andrew Marshall, one of the finest strategic minds of the 20th century. In the Pentagon, when presented with the view by an ordinary Indian professor that US troops in uniform should leave Iraq’s population centres alone and concentrate on border security (or that having a US Administrator rather than a lifelong citizen of Iraq was certain to create public resentment at such alien domination), Marshall was attentive, while others were dismissive of such conclusions at the early stage of the US-UK (aka the former colonial power) occupation of Iraq. Media in the US and in other countries active in the post-invasion occupation of Iraq uniformly bought the NATO narrative, much as they are doing now in the case of the war in Ukraine. Labelling dissenting voices as treason and adopting the same degree of objectivity as Pravda in its heyday are certain steps towards disaster. During the Vietnam War, when it became clear that metrics of success such as body counts were giving a misleading impression of the conflict’s trajectory, Senator J. William Fulbright held hearings in which he brought to account the White House for the war. It is difficult to imagine Chuck Schumer or Mitch McConnell showing similar moral courage. If the McConnell was the lapdog of President Trump, Shumer has accepted that role under President Biden. Their absence of moral courage fused with a paucity of common sense is ensuring that the US lead NATO towards a disaster that may scar the remainder of this century. Were Biden as fortunate as Clinton, he may in time leave the White House in the hands of a Republican successor and escape responsibility for the catastrophe begun under his watch, in the manner Bill Clinton dodged the responsibility for nurturing terrorism in Afghanistan and in turbocharging the PRC economy through generous unilateral trade concessions that caused the trade deficit between China and the US to soar. Clinton left the White House in the nick of time, although Biden and his party may not be so lucky. Latest around the time last year that Biden re-installed the Taliban in power in Afghanistan last year, the folly of his policy on Afghanistan and Russia will become inescapable to voters. There seems no longer any point in trying to get across even a mildly alternative view than NATO “truth” to the Guardian, the New York Times or too many other publications. They claim to print “all the news that’s fit to print”, when what is meant by that is “all the news that NATO leaders considers fit to print”. Poor world.
The strategy being urged on the Ukrainians by NATO of fighting to the death against Russian forces will inevitably lead to Ukraine falling into a morass.
Sunday 13 March 2022
It has been a long time since this writer went to a cocktail party, even during the days before he discovered the health benefits of an occasional glass of red wine. Even more delicious than the food, which was usually of Michelin standard, was the gossip. There would always be some guest who talked seemingly endlessly about various subjects. Much of the discussion was about politics or politicians. The action or inaction of leading political players was sketched out in enormous detail, so much so that those telling such stories must have been intimate friends of the politicians they were mentioning, although even nosy newspaper journalists covering the activities of such politicians seemed unaware of such close contact between the cocktail party guest and the politician she or he was rambling on about. Unlike some others in the journalistic profession, such revelations were never taken seriously by the writer. Almost since the time Yogi Adityanath was chosen by Prime Minister Modi to become the Chief Minister of UP, gossip has flowed as endlessly as the whisky served in such parties. The central focus, indeed fixation, of such gossip was that the new UP CM was actually regarded with disfavour by PM Modi, who, in the view of the regulars in cocktail parties, wanted to remove and thereby replace Yogi Adityanath with another CM. Meetings between the writer and Modi have been, to put it mildly, infrequent, especially after he took charge as Prime Minister in 2014. This writer has studied the trajectory of Narendra Modi since he was a national office-bearer of the BJP. This has made it impossible to believe that PM Modi would appoint an individual as CM of any state, much less UP, unless he had complete trust in him and was prepared to give complete backing to the choice. As Chief Minister, Adityanath has shown himself to be an able administrator, rejecting for example the call of language zealots to ban English from curricula. Instead, the new CM understood the importance of knowledge of the international link language to the youth of the state, and this has been reflected in changes in school curricula. Nor has Adityanath, despite being a yogi, followed the vote-killing example of Saint Nitish of Patna and sought to enforce Prohibition. Nowhere in the country where this 1920-1933 fad in the US of Prohibition has been followed is there any absence of alcohol. Instead, regular alcohol has become more expensive, driving millions of citizens to buy bootleg stuff that often kills them or permanently damages their health. Saint Nitish has made himself responsible for every such death in Bihar, and whether voters would approve or disapprove of this remains to be seen. CM Nitish Kumar is wont to give ambiguous statements about BJP leaders, sometimes straying into alliance with specifically not just anti-BJP political formations but those viscerally anti-Modi, unlike CM Adityanath, who has always been forthright about his regard for PM Modi. Yet in gossip parlours, it is Adityanath and not Nitish who is held up as being a secret adversary of the PM, a “secret” that habitues of cocktail parties have miraculously discovered. There is no doubt that Modi would have removed Adityanath had he doubted his loyalty to the BJP and his competence, just as the CMs of Gujarat and Uttarakhand were removed in 2021, just as three state heads of the BJP were by PM Modi that very year. Had CM Adityanath been on uncooperative terms with PM Modi, he would not have been able to accomplish the good work that has ensured a second term for him on 10 March. During his third term, this writer believes that PM Modi will decide on a change of position, just as CM Modi did in 2014 after leading the BJP to victory in the Lok Sabha polls. However, it is much too early to zero in on potential replacements, except to point out that any such replacement would be an individual whom Modi trusts with responsibility for the most consequential job in India. The CM of UP is the third most consequential job in the BJP, after the Union Home Minister and the National President of the BJP, and that this position continues to be held by Yogi Adityanath indicates the complete trust and understanding between not just the two but the four top voices in the BJP. The new CMs of Uttarakhand and Goa have shown by their victory in the Assembly polls that PM Modi was correct in replacing the earlier incumbents. From almost the beginning of his first term as CM Delhi, this writer has regarded Arvind Kejriwal as the most likely contender for the choice of PM for the 2029 polls. During the election period, he pointed out that the BJP was likely to do well in states where there was a known CM face, and this is what took place just days ago. Had Kejriwal not nominated Bhagwant Mann as his choice for CM Punjab, the AAP may not have got the sweeping mandate it did. Elections have become Presidential in India. The SP followed such a rule in the case of Akhilesh Yadav, while the Congress failed to do the same in the case of Priyanka Vadra. If the contrary decision had been taken, the tally of the SP would have been lower, and that of the Congress in UP higher.