Sunday 31 July 2022

Commonwealth must adopt a common standard on rights (The Sunday Guardian)


At the next Commonwealth Summit, the Secretariat should make public figures relating to the trend line of the proportion of minorities in countries of the group.

Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri initiated the Green Revolution and began transforming India from a famine-stricken nation to an exporter of food grains. In this task, Shastri received substantial help from both Indian as well as US scientists. Both sides worked to ensure better farming methods, seeds and easier access to items needed to boost productivity. In the future, the provisions of the Farm Bills that were withdrawn in a gesture to the relatively small percentage of farmers (mostly from a single state) who opposed it need to be made effective at the state and not the union level. Just as Prohibition (of alcohol) is a state subject, so too should be several other fields of policy and legislation such as the farm bills. It was Prime Minister Narasimha Rao who initiated the process of changeover from the Soviet model that had been imposed by Prime Minister Nehru and continued in various forms under his successors. As PM, Rajiv Gandhi did make efforts at reform, including in the field of telecom and in seeking to devolve responsibility to the panchayat level. India was a country where the then Finance Minister opposed in the 1980s the introduction of colour television. Once Rajiv took over as PM in 1984, such a recalcitrance to embrace rather than shun the change that progress brings was sought to be cast aside. Unfortunately, very soon the entrenched party and state bureaucracy began to have an overpowering influence over Rajiv Gandhi, thereby emasculating his attempts at reform. Although Satyen Pitroda ensured that a trunk call, even to a faraway location, became a matter of routine due to the changes made by him, ensuring that telecom innovators were permitted in the private sector as well had to wait until Narasimha Rao took over in 1992.
Had there been a Roosevelt or a Kennedy rather than a Clinton in the White House, Rao as PM could have gone much further than he did. Where the world outside the Atlantic Alliance was concerned, President Clinton (a) ignored the growing risk caused by Wahhabi extremism, while (b) ensuring through measures initiated or backed by the White House that the Chinese Communist Party was given as much help as possible to someday overtake the US as the world’s most consequential country. Only after Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister in 2014 did a more constructive relationship develop between 7 Lok Kalyan Marg (the official home of the Prime Minister of India) and the White House, whether under Presidents Obama, Trump or now Biden. Once Modi took over, the same upward movement in bilateral relations was visible even where the UK was concerned. Both Prime Ministers David Cameron and Boris Johnson adopted a friendly tone, a situation likely to continue once 10 Downing Street becomes the official home of either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss. The latter as Foreign Secretary has hopped with zest onto the reckless sanctions and weapons supply bandwagon piloted by Biden and Johnson since the war between Ukraine and Russia erupted less than six months ago. Seeking to exclude trade and contact with Russia, a country that is half the size of Europe, while being half the size of Asia, is another of the exercises in self-destruction that European leaders seem prone to, as was witnessed during the first half of the 20th century.
Candidate Truss has announced in the Global Britain forum that the Commonwealth will be a priority for her, should she get more votes among Tories than Sunak and take over from Johnson. This easygoing organisation needs to focus on a matter of supreme importance to human rights, which is an alarming fall in the number of minorities within some of the members of the Commonwealth. Apart from holding soirees and generating events filled with light entertainment, it is not clear as to what the Commonwealth as an organisation actually does. The Commonwealth Secretariat needs to compile a statistical tables of the number and proportion of minorities within the countries in its ranks. There are countries where minorities have almost disappeared, while in some other member states, their number is dwindling at an alarming rate. Oddly, supporters within the UK of the extremists that are killing and driving out Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh are precisely those who seek to divert international attention from such crimes by instead obsessing on India, a country where there are 230 million citizens belonging to the minority communities and counting. It would appear that a knowledge of mathematics is not the strong point of the leaders of the Atlantic Alliance, who have thus far ignored the fate of the minorities in Pakistan or Bangladesh, reserving their obloquy for India in the face of evidence that points to the need to do the contrary. At the next Commonwealth Summit, what is needed is for the Secretariat to make public figures relating to the trend line of the proportion of minorities in countries of the group. Any country where the minorities are made to feel unsafe and who therefore relocate (forcibly or otherwise) to other countries needs to be called out. Not just wealth but values are important in a group that is significant in its size although not as yet in its influence. A common standard for rights and common values ought to be made an accurate description of the Commonwealth. For such an outcome to come about, the organisation needs to get serious about ensuring that human rights are protected in every member state, and that women and minorities in particular are given equal treatment within any member state and not discriminated against. Majority and minority ought to be equally and fairly treated. Ignoring the need to have universal accountability for universal values is a moral morass that the Commonwealth needs to avoid. Instead, it must ensure that countries where minorities are diminishing in plain sight ought to be called out. Such an “inconvenient truth” has all too often been ignored by self-proclaimed champions human rights. Principles need to be universally and not selectively applied, at least in the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth must adopt a common standard on rights

Saturday 30 July 2022

Defence dimension is vital for India (The Sunday Guardian)

 As a consequence of the requirements created by World War II, the British colonial administration was forced to expand the role of Indian-owned companies in what was still part of the British Empire. In 1947, although colonial rule had impoverished the people, a moderate industrial base existed which at that point in time compared favourably with war-ravaged countries in East and Southeast Asia. Such a foundation could have been utilised in order to create a large private industrial base, including for defence production. The effort of Prime Minister Winston Spencer Churchill was to avoid boosting the capabilities of India, a country whose people he resented for demanding that he repay dues owed to the Bangalore Club, for instance, when he exited the country decades ago. However, wartime exigencies resulted in several industrial units coming up in India that catered to the requirements of the war that was going on between the Axis and the Allies. The foundation built could have been expanded into a defence industry that would have been capable of not just meeting the needs of the armed forces of the newly independent republic, but of those of friendly countries as well through exports. During the 1950s, Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon did go some way towards setting up an indigenous capability in defence manufacture, but this was confined to the public sector. As a consequence, the immense synergy and growth was lost that would have taken place had the domestic private sector been permitted to join the process. During the 1980s, the emergence of a propensity for some of the leaders of the country to prefer money made illegally and kept or spent abroad became pronounced. Some of these transactions were uncovered, usually by exposes in foreign media, as was the case when a Swedish publication published details of the payments made for a field gun made by Bofors. The 1980s saw the rise from moderate means to wealth of the members of families linked to politicians and officials in India, a trend that continued but began to be checked in 2014, when Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister. Until then, defence and fuel purchases had been the preferred means of collecting bribes through overpaying foreign suppliers. As a consequence, self-sufficiency in defence production was given up and India was made dangerously dependent on foreign countries even for essential defence requirements. While China became more and more self-sufficient in defence production over the years, India reached a stage where more than 80% of its critical defence needs were imported. Such a plight made nonsense of the claim made by apologists for such a practice that nevertheless, India had “strategic independence”. Such a situation began to get actualised only in 2014.

After having been shunned from significant procurement until then, the new government opened the doors of defence production to indigenous enterprises. During Modi 1.0 the groundwork was being laid for a strong domestic capability in defence production, and by the time Modi 2.0 came about, that process was delivering results. The involvement of the private sector in defence production has been mainstreamed, and as a consequence, the performance of the DRDO too is improving at a rapid clip. Whether it be DRDO, ISRO or even the atomic energy establishment, sabotage by external elements and their local associates was visible. In the DRDO, this took the form of several incidents of delays or lack of adequate standards in manufacture. In the ISRO, until the advent of the new government, the injustice that had been done to reputed scientists such as Dr Nambi Narayanan was swept under the carpet. In the nuclear and space program, scientists and engineers lost their lives in “accidents” or “attacks by criminals”, not to mention “suicides”. Exposure of such activities in The Sunday Guardian gave notice to the external perpetrators involved that their crimes had been exposed. External actors have been decisive in convincing policymakers in India to block off the private sector in India in the field of defence, ironically on grounds of security, when such a blockade resulted in near-total dependence on external suppliers of defence critical items. While trade between Russia and India needs to be boosted, such an exchange needs to focus not predominantly on defence as is the case now, but on the abundant natural resources of the Russian Federation. Where the military is concerned, placing too many bets on a country that is a close military ally of the PRC is a risky manoeuvre. The reality is that Moscow needs to pay attention to the requests from Beijing as a consequence of the closing of the doors of the Atlantic Alliance on the Russian Federation consequent to the comprehensive war that erupted on 24 February between Ukraine and Russia. Such a stipulation would particularly apply during periods of conflict between China and a power such as India, with which Russia has close relations but nowhere near the dependency that the country has on the PRC. Under Prime Minister Modi, the doors to the production of defence equipment, including for export, have been opened to the private sector in India rather than only foreign producers as formerly. The defence sector is growing at speed within India, and this is as it should be. The military dimension is an inseparable part of national resilience, and the attention being paid by PM Narendra Modi to both military production as well as diplomacy is welcome.

Monday 25 July 2022

PM Modi battles against PLA-GHQ war on India’s economy (The Sunday Guardian)


Social media is being used to create a cohort of real and virtual influencers who seek to convey to external and domestic investors a false sense of an economy and society in turmoil and decline.


India, the United States, Japan and Taiwan are the four countries that are the subject of intensive “war gaming” within the portals of the Central Military Commission (CMC) in Beijing. The CMC has a network of think-tanks and analysts spread across the globe, including in the target countries. Both kinetic as well as non-kinetic options and operations are being worked out against the four target countries, while some operations have already been operationalised, overtly and covertly. For example, blocking international sanctions on terrorists active against India is by any yardstick the equivalent of war by other means. Within the CMC, it is clear that it is the growing economic potential of India that is proving to be a major concern. Extensive studies have been carried out within PLA-linked institutes on the taxation, regulatory and law enforcement system in India. The effort of the Sino-Pakistan network is to work towards creating a favourable atmosphere within India for anti-growth measures such as (a) retaining rather than removing some of the more irksome and counter-productive taxes, laws and regulations still in force in the country, and (b) promoting the introduction of fresh measures that would damage the investment climate in India to such an extent that it gets too riddled with regulatory complications to ensure a welcoming ambience for investment, both domestic and external. The nightmare scenario worrying military planners in Beijing (of both the kinetic and non-kinetic kind) is the growing prospect of success for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts at creating a welcoming environment in India for investment, including in start-ups and transfer of manufacturing facilities from the PRC. Static between Beijing and Washington caused by Cold War 2.0 is leading even mega US-based investors such as Tesla and Apple to consider shifting the bulk of their production facilities from the PRC to India, given the rising curve of tension between the US and China. Should such a trend towards decoupling gather speed, the impact on the PRC economic prowess that ensures compliance by the population of the control of the Chinese Communist Party would be substantial.

Through the misuse of social media via the creation of a cohort of real and virtual influencers who collectively seek to convey to external and domestic investors a false picture of an economy and society in turmoil, the CMC-GHQ pair are seeking to muddy the waters for domestic and foreign investment in India sufficiently for potential mega investment flows to be aborted. The intention of such asymmetric warfare measures is for the investors that are essential for growth and employment to either leave India or to persuade them not to take a chance on what is the world’s largest pool of able manpower and future market. India’s is an economy whose fundamentals are among the best in the world. By creating a fog of misperception about the likely course of policy, the expectation within the CMC is that this promise and potential will remain unknown to large numbers of potential domestic and foreign investors. Over the past years, there has been a significant movement of investment from China to other parts of the world. What is possible is an acceleration of the flow of investment into India, something that is very possible under the Modi dispensation. Prodded by the PMO, the Defence Ministry has succeeded in improving the infrastructure in border areas in an unprecedented manner, as the military is aware that at any time there could be a flare-up of hostilities between them and the PLA, together with its auxiliary force, GHQ Rawalpindi. A similar war footing needs to be adopted by other ministries as well, especially those dealing with matters relating to the economy. Prime Minister Modi’s directive to examine the plethora of regulations and laws so as to remove many and make compliance easier for the rest needs to be speedily implemented by the entire government. Progress is already being made. Of an estimated 64,000 compliances at different levels of government (union, state and local) that were in place before 2014, as many as 29,000 have been removed as a consequence of the Prime Minister’s directive. Of the remainder, more than half could be removed, as several have been put into place only to create roadblocks that require inducements to be given so as to clear such deliberately-created hurdles to employment, innovation and output. Just as with the farm laws, long-needed reforms dealing with employment and land could be rescued from cold storage and devolved to the state level, thereby creating among them a competition in excellence.

Until 2014, it was more difficult in India than in most other large economies to set up a new unit and to initiate other economically useful activities. Progress has been made since then, although much work remains to be done in view of the economic warfare that is being waged on India by the Sino-Wahhabi alliance and their domestic and international network. It needs to be made difficult if not impossible to indefinitely delay a project through recourse to suits filed in various courts. In the absence of changes in pricedure, the outcome is that even major decisions at the Union or State level could take long periods of time to escape from the thicket of cases that may get filed for the purpose of delaying or killing a project. The judiciary in India is among the hardest worked in the world, as each level has to adjudicate an Everest of cases. In the setting of financial limits for the hearing of cases, inflation and the rising complexity of a modern economy need to be factored in. Rather than Rs 2 crore as the cutoff limit for the Supreme Court, a realistic cutoff below which the case would be disposed of by a lower court would be Rs 50 crore. The learned Justices of the Supreme Court would thereby be enabled to devote their attention to issues of great consequence, rather than having to wade through a plethora of less important matters. Where High Courts are concerned, the limit below which a case relating to such matters will not be heard by an HC could be fixed at Rs 10 crore rather than Rs 50 lakh. Down the line, changes in cutoff limits would shorten the period within which cases get decided. Should a case involving the state in disputes with another party drag on for more than 15 years, there should be a final verdict in 45 days or the case should be taken as withdrawn. Perusal of court records would show which side in a dispute is seeking to delay a verdict, and after a fixed elapse of time, further delays should not be entertained. Justice delayed is justice denied, and this applies particularly poignantly to cases where one of the parties finally goes insolvent or dies without getting the relief sought. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court could, through changes in procedure, ensure that the nightmare of indefinitely prolonged cases that scares away so many investors ends.

There are some cutoffs that should be altered soonest, and among these is the Rs 200 crore cutoff for selection of consultants hired by various ministries. As a consequence of such the high cutoff decided upon by an unknown bureaucrat, several pools of cutting-edge brainpower are excluded from participation in policy formulation, which has therefore got monopolised by just four entities, each of which is foreign controlled. While these entities may be of high quality, what is beyond doubt is that there are individuals outside their rolls who are equally if not more capable of coming up with cutting edge ideas where policy is concerned. Once such an artificial cutoff gets eliminated, a quarter of specialist consultants could comprise (1) a former government official with a record of success in implementation, (2) a domain specialist of demonstrated expertise, (3) an individual who in an NGO or otherwise has worked with success in empowering large clusters of citizens, and (4) a professional who has direct practical experience of the field in which policy is being sought. At present, such a group would be nowhere close to the cutoff limit of Rs 200 crore, and therefore would get excluded from consideration as possible policy consultants. Mahatma Gandhi said that small is beautiful, but such is apparently not welcome to those who favoured such a steep cutoff in the selection of consultants advising on government policy. Regulations are, as has often been pointed out, not an end in itself but a means to an outcome that is in consonance with the public interest. As more and more gets done within the government to ensure that PM Modi’s directive to cut down regulatory barriers takes effect, more and more unicorns are springing up within India, 54 out of 105 at last count. By 2024, that proportion could rise from the present half to three-quarters of all unicorns created by Indian talent.The improved regulatory climate could include in future bringing the tax burden on unicorns located in India at par with the lower level of tax in economies such as Singapore. Given the ease of transfer of capital or expenditure in unproductive assets, tax rates need to be attractive rather than punitive.

To believe that high rates bring in higher overall revenue is a fallacy nourished by economists and officials who believe in a “Soak the Rich” doctrine that whenever implemented dries up the investment climate. A relook at the income slabs for application of surcharges is also called for, so as to reflect the change in the purchasing power of the rupee over the years. Although FEMA replaced FERA two decades ago, several of the officials engaged in implementation of FERA continue to have a FERA mindset, and look with suspicion at transactions that are routine elsewhere. FEMA has taken on more and more of the characteristics of FERA, especially through a blizzard of RBI circulars grounded in a FERA mindset. Punitive rather than ameliorative measures and increasing rather than reducing the burden of compliance including on relatively small enterprises, will divert more and more NRI foreign exchange flows into India through informal rather than regular banking channels. Job givers have since UPA days settled abroad as foreign citizens or as NRIs, in view of concern that there is a surfeit of ease of prosecution against those domiciled in India, and in Modi 2.0, this needs to change.

It was under PM Modi that a measure as consequential as GST was implemented. In the beginning there were constant changes being made in the rates and regulations governing what PM Modi sought, which is a “good and simple” tax. It took immense effort by the PMO to ensure that such wrinkles were removed. The implications on inflation of higher and higher tax rates are beginning to be factored in within the economic ministries during Modi 2.0, as also the fact that raising tax rates after a point results in greater evasion rather than compliance becoming the norm. Policing rather than facilitation is not the best way of ensuring a policy ecosystem favourable to growth. Among the reasons why much of South India, Gujarat and increasingly Uttar Pradesh are becoming favoured investment destinations is the improved law and order situation there. More funds need to be allocated for recruiting and training police personnel, and a severe view needs to be taken of those who seek to pollute the police force through the induction of bribe givers rather than deserving recruits. Equally important is the need to increase the numerical strength of the judiciary, and ensuring mandatory time limits for disposal of cases at each level, besides a reduction in the proportion of cases that move up the judicial ladder. Cases lasting for 15 years need to be either decided within six months or thrown out. Measures such as the criminalisation of cheque bouncing or the widespread use of Section 144 need re-examination in a context where cases of cheque bouncing and those involving Section 144 are many but verdicts are few.

Modi 2.0 is proving its external and domestic foes wrong in their forecast that the enabling environment in India for industrial, service and other activity would deteriorate in the manner witnessed during past regimes. Mainstreaming poverty by curbs on the better off rather than promoting more and more people up the income ladder was regarded in the past as the way forward, which is why India still lags far behind East and Southeast Asia in per capita income. Given the systematic manner in which the Sino-Pakistan alliance is seeking to hollow out the Indian economy and affect public welfare, ministries dealing in economic matters need to factor in the fact that not just the Defence Ministry but they too are facing a war against a determined and cunning enemy. The way out is for them is to follow the maxims favoured by Prime Minister Narendra Modi rather than succumb to the lures of vested interests who push for policies that create stagnation, and which generate raises rather than reductions in tax rates and in regulations involving productive activity. The decoupling of foreign entities that is taking place in China has provided an opportunity that comes to a country rarely, a fact that is clear to those at the top, led by Prime Minister Modi and ministers such as Nirmala Sitharaman and Nitin Gadkari. Team Modi needs to ensure that the reformist 21st century mindset of Prime Minister Modi percolates to levels still anchored to regressive concepts that have their origin in a colonial past that reduced India to poverty. This is the only way to win India’s war against the efforts of the Sino-Pakistan combine to weaken the Indian economy so as to cause widespread social unrest.

PM Modi battles against PLA-GHQ war on India’s economy

For PLA, border negotiations are Zero Sum (The Sunday Guardian)

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar have understood the intractable nature of the policy followed by China’s leader, General Secretary Xi Jinping, towards the world’s most populous democracy, soon to be the world’s most populous country. That is, unless Xi has another brainwave and threatens to put any couple in jail if they fail to have three or more children. Of course, just as his lockdown strategy has failed to ensure Zero Covid, even such a draconian measure would not succeed in persuading most couples in the PRC to adopt the example of zealots in Germany in the 1930s, who believed that it was their duty to the state to have as many children as possible to later get spent as cannon fodder in the wars that the country was then planning under its leadership at the time. Over the decades, more and more Chinese people have travelled abroad, and have understood the benefits that a government less than all powerful would bring to the country, were such a system to replace the stifling control of all aspects of Chinese life that is the objective of the CCP led by Xi Jinping. In schools and in the media, the supremo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) figures as the wise leader, the guide and teacher, and the only individual who can ensure safety and prosperity for the 1.4 billion citizens of the PRC. Xi is only popular among the millions of citizens of his country who have failed to better their living standards, and who relish the fact that those more successful are living in constant dread of an early morning hammering on the door, followed by incarceration and sometimes, not just temporary but permanent disappearance. In China, individuals are picked up, entire families are ruined, for reasons that are opaque, although the usual formulations are trotted out whenever such detentions or disgrace takes place. Corruption, disloyalty to the party, inefficiency, harm to the national interest. These are huge boxes that are capable of being used to fit almost any individual.

China under Xi is not similar to the USSR under Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. Those in charge of the NKVD knew that they had quotas to fulfill in the matter of rounding up and disposing of Soviet citizens, and that unless they met them, they themselves would join the ranks of those whose lives they destroyed. Once he gets the assent of the higher councils of the party leadership to be General Secretary for Life, the numerous acts of repression and muzzling of opinion are likely to proliferate, as those down the line seek to follow the example of the General Secretary. This is the country whose military is sitting down for negotiations with their Indian counterparts. Xi has lavished money and attention to GHQ Rawalpindi on a scale not seen before in the annals of the PRC, a bad bet. Just as Joe Biden seems not to realise that the travail of his country is directly related to his policy of the self-destructive Ukraine sanctions imposed by him in conjunction with Boris Johnson and European leaders who ought to have known better, Xi Jinping has failed to understand the lack of wisdom in his pouring resources into GHQ-run Pakistan at the cost of alienating India. For Xi and, therefore, the PLA, dealing with India is a Zero Sum game in which border negotiations get used to win on the conference table what could not be secured on the battlefield, even as its trade surplus with India grows. PM Modi and EAM Jaishankar understand that, as do our military commanders. To expect Xi to understand that only a full withdrawal by the PLA to the positions they had occupied in 2019 would best serve the Chinese interest (of having India as a friend and not a foe) is to expect the impossible. Given the certainty of another conflict with China, what needs to be done is to prepare sufficiently in terms both international and domestic to ensure that this time around, most of the fighting takes place on PRC-controlled rather than on Indian territory.

Sunday 24 July 2022

Taiwan is to East Asia what Israel is to West Asia (The Sunday Guardian)


Takeover of Taiwan by the PRC would upend the security of the Indo-Pacific.

It remains to be seen whether Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, will continue in that office once the two-year term of the present batch of legislators ends. The decision may not necessarily be hers to take, in that she would have to make way for a new Speaker of the House, were the Republican party to wrest the majority from the Democrats. The inflationary and recessionary trends caused by the Biden-Johnson sanctions on Russia as a consequence of its war on Ukraine have made the current US President unpopular. Instead of rewarding lower income voters, who backed him in large numbers during the Presidential poll, Biden is showering money on Ukraine. In the process, he is delighting weapons manufacturers not just in the United States but worldwide. Not to mention the oil industry, which is reaping the benefit of a huge spurt in oil and gas prices as a consequence of US-led sanctions on Russia that have been added on to those imposed on major oil producers such as Venezuela and Iran. Thanks to such policies by the US and some of its allies, the cost of oil is far above what it needs to be to ensure global economic health. Countries in Asia are starting to be worried about the quality of leadership exhibited within NATO. Such worthies are coming up with Alice in Wonderland plans such as enforcing a price cap on Russian, but not on US or UK, oil. The manner in which the Atlantic Alliance has reacted to the war in Ukraine appears to have dealt a death blow to any hopes of recovering its primacy within the international system. At the same time, NATO has proved unable to prevent the dismemberment and destruction of Ukraine. In the fantasy world that the present occupants of the White House and Number 10 Downing Street live in, their performance during the Ukraine war is taken as a deterrent to China’s attempting a takeover by force of Taiwan. Given the economic pain to NATO member states that its own sanctions on Russia are causing, the thinking within the Central Military Commission (CMC) in Beijing is veering around to the view that (after being mauled by their own sanctions on Russia) there is likely to be zero appetite within NATO to impose similar sanctions on China. After all, the other superpower is a country that is many times more closely linked in commerce with the Atlantic Alliance than Russia. In Ukraine, there has since 2014 been an indoctrination designed to create Russophobic mindsets in those elements of the public that do not speak Russian as the mother tongue. Yet even within convinced Russophobes, hopes for the entry on Ukraine’s side of NATO during the war with Russia have faded. Instead, fatigue has set in as a consequence of the damage that the country has suffered by continuing its senseless war rather than working out a peace settlement with Moscow.
Neither President Biden nor Boris Johnson appears to be concerned about the fact that the longer the war continues, the harsher will be the peace terms insisted on by President Putin as a condition to stop the fighting. Should Liz Truss be the next PM, the Cowboys and Injuns approach of Boris Johnson to the Ukraine conflict is likely to continue, to the detriment of the UK. Public opinion within NATO is not what it was during the intoxicating days in the initial weeks of the conflict, when it was accepted wisdom that (a) Russia would soon be forced to withdraw, and (b) Putin would be ousted from the Kremlin. Instead, the Russian leader is moving towards fulfillment of his stated aim of ensuring that Ukraine never again becomes a threat to Russia, something that even the embedded media in NATO countries is no longer able to cover up. Given the rapid decline within the broader public within NATO of the earlier appetite for continuing the war with Russia over Ukraine, the Central Military Commission (CMC) in Beijing is developing the conviction that citizens in Taiwan would not follow the Ukrainian example and themselves take up arms to throw out invaders from the PRC. As for intervention by the US, according to President Biden, his generals in Washington are terrified even by the prospect of Speaker Pelosi visiting Taiwan. Given the rising unpopularity of Xi as a consequence of the mismanagement of the economy, diplomacy and handling the pandemic, pressure on him to follow the example of Putin and attack Taiwan is mounting. Of course, the Russia-obsessed fantasists in the White House believe the contrary is true, just as they believed that Russia would be easy prey for a Ukraine boosted by NATO firepower. A Commander-in-Chief, who walked away even from confronting a ragtag force such as the Taliban, does not inspire confidence as an ally.
It is in the context of declining confidence in the value of a security partnership with the US led by Joe Biden that a probable visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ought to be seen. Mike Pompeo showed the courage to brave the wrath of not just the CCP leadership but the well-resourced PRC lobby in the US to visit Taiwan. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper is following in his wake, as will perhaps Mike Pence later. Pompeo met with that country’s leaders as a former Secretary of State. There is a world of difference between Speaker Pelosi going to Taiwan as distinct from a later visit by ex-Speaker Pelosi. The US Speaker is showing spine, which is more than can be said for the leader of her party and the nation, President Biden. Neither he nor the current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are known for the firmness on matters relating to China of Shinzo Abe. The death of the latter has removed from the highest councils of Japan a voice that would have been steadfast in calling for steps to repel any military invasion by China across the Taiwan Straits. The reason being given by the assassin seems to be a cover story, given that there are dozens of politicians in Japan who are far closer than Abe ever was to the religious group identified by the killer as being the trigger for his act. Abe’s killer is a traitor to Japan and not just a murderer, and a comprehensive investigation into the ecosystem he drew sustenance and inspiration from is essential rather than a cover-up of the truth as took place in the “enquiry” by President Biden’s commission to investigate the origins of Covid-19.
Takeover of Taiwan by the PRC would upend the security of the Indo-Pacific, and severely compromise that of not just Japan and South Korea but of all democracies in the Indo-Pacific immediately. The world would move closer to a situation where the PRC is dominant. Should General Secretary Xi believe that the consequences for his country would be temporary and bearable, he would be inclined to allow the PLA to fulfill its longstanding goal of attempting a takeover by force of a tech superpower. Taiwan is to East Asia what Israel is to West Asia. By braving the ire of the White House (and, if Biden is to be believed, the Pentagon) and going ahead with her visit to Taiwan, Speaker Pelosi would show the world that she understands the importance of the country at the centre-point of the global tech industry with a resoluteness yet to be demonstrated by President Joe Biden.

Taiwan is to East Asia what Israel is to West Asia

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Khalilzad selling out Afghanistan to Taliban (The Sunday Guardian)


US Ambassador to Afghanistan is making steady, and deadly, progress in a GHQ inspired crusade to install the Taliban within the Ashraf Ghani government.


Anybody at the level of high policy would have come across the truism that only a mentally challenged individual would believe that the same thing done the same way over and over again would produce a different result. And yet, Prime Ministers and Presidents choose with metronomic regularity precisely those individuals who have failed multiple times earlier to handle the same tasks. President George W. Bush was a disaster where Afghanistan was concerned, and not just because he was always more interested in taking revenge on Saddam Hussein “for trying to kill Poppy” than in setting right the land of the Taliban. Both he and Dick Cheney accepted the conventional (Pakistan army-centric) wisdom of the CIA and the Pentagon, entrusting the battling of Wahhabi extremist violence to the very institution that was motivating and assisting such violence, GHQ Rawalpindi. From the day the duo rejected A.B. Vajpayee’s offer of assistance in favour of riding on Musharraf’s coattails, the war was lost. The Taliban was revived from near-death by the ISI, which helpfully suggested thousands of “moderate Pashtuns” that the US could fund, choices that accepted without any fact check on whether those being promoted by Musharraf’s men were indeed “moderate”. They were not, they were hardcore Taliban, and the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that went to them ensured that the US and its allies went on the defensive in Afghanistan by 2007.

Among the prime boosters of GHQ Rawalpindi and the “benefits of doing a deal with the Taliban via the medium of the ISI” (as during the 1979-89 Afghan war with the Soviets) was Zalmay Khalilzad, a favourite of the Bush administration and now ensconced as the Oracle on Afghanistan by the White House. Say this for Khalilzad, he is reliably predictable, and has not changed his views since the 1990s on how Washington should manage the situation in Afghanistan. Exactly as he told Bush and Cheney in 2001, he has persuaded John Bolton to get President Trump to send Khalilzad to Kabul as the High Representative of the Unipolar Superpower. In this task, he is making steady—and deadly—progress in a GHQ-inspired crusade to install the Taliban within the core of the Ashraf Ghani government, thereby destroying it from within. In the meantime, the loss of morale and the confusion in policy created by Khalilzad has led to a steady accretion in the extent of land controlled by the Taliban. In these areas, women are once again told to remain at home (or else), while young girls are shooed away from even the most rudimentary of formal education. Law is what a local Taliban mullah defines it to be, while any deviation from Wahhabism is met with torture, if not death. Should this ragtag militia of extremists once again retake Kabul, the “credit” will go to Khalilzad, just as their earlier rise to power in the mid-1990s was in large part because of their Fairy Godmother, Robin Raphel, a favourite of both the Pakistani diplomat Shafqat Kakakhel as well as President W. J. Clinton. Every fresh terror attack by the Taliban morphs into yet another flurry of activity by “Our Zal” to force Ashraf Ghani to accept Taliban representatives in the elected government, rather than show him the folly of asking Trump to continue on the sterile paths of Presidents Clinton and Bush in Afghanistan.

Those who ran US policy towards Afghanistan in the past continue to remain the very domain specialists recruited by the State Department, the Pentagon and the National Security Council to formulate policy on a country wrecked by errors made by the three agencies. Of them, it is only the Pentagon that seems to be coming out of the haze of toxic policy options pushed by Khalilzad and others anchored in the past, who have remained unscathed in their careers despite their policies having ended in disaster. Both the NSC as well as State are foursquare behind “our man Zal” in Afghanistan as he acts as the ventriloquist’s dummy for GHQ Rawalpindi. Distracted as he is with the fallout of the Mueller probe and the upcoming 2020 elections, President Trump has not been able to ensure a new approach that would protect the people of Afghanistan from the Wahhabi fanatics being promoted so obsessively by Khalilzad. The people of Afghanistan are overall moderate, as witnessed by the profusion of Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist places of worship even in the Pashtun heartland, structures that were subsequently torn down by Raphel and Khalilzad’s heroes, the Taliban. Toxic policy concocted in Washington by those nostalgic for the Clinton-Bush years has resulted in a betrayal of the people of Afghanistan, especially women, youth and moderate Pashtuns. Unfortunately, probably as a consequence of hints from Washington, the policy of India towards the Taliban has wobbled on occasion. Such equivocation must stop, Ashraf Ghani must by now have understood that Hamid Karzai was correct in his view that following Washington’s dictates would lead to his whole country entering the hell that is Taliban rule. Another Wahhabi state must not be allowed to form in South Asia. Khalilzad may have made a habit of betraying the Afghans, but India needs to stand on the side of the moderate majority in Afghanistan who seek the Rule of Law, rights for all, and equality of treatment for women with men and not this extremist militia. Adopting Khalilzad’s nostrums will only multiply the number of victims of extremism in Afghanistan, a figure that is rising by the day as the US High Representative continues with his leaps into the policy quagmires of the past.

Khalilzad selling out Afghanistan to Taliban 

Sunday 17 July 2022

A prosperous, stable South Asia needs India (The Sunday Guardian)

 Barring Bhutan and India, every other country in what is termed South Asia has succumbed to the snare of loans from the PRC for projects that fail commercial tests of viability. Now that Shahbaz Sharif has taken over as Prime Minister of Pakistan, he is contacting country after country to provide assistance to an economy that is nearing the stage of meltdown. The problem he is facing is what has at last been understood by his predecessor Imran Khan, which is that it is the army that is draining Pakistan of its economic viability. The generals have from the 1950s claimed an outsize share of national resources in order to protect the people of the country from a non-existent threat, that India wishes to take over Pakistan. The country born out of the partition of India does indeed have some political leaders who are not linked to the extremist ideologies of the parties committed to converting Pakistan into a larger version of Afghanistan. Were such leaders to have united in the past, it may have been possible for them to throw out the post-Zia military commanders who are committed to Wahhabism, and replace them with those who are professional soldiers rather than religious zealots. Only after he has been removed by the military from office has former Prime Minister Imran Khan become a foe of the generals. The reality is that the Two Nation theory on the basis of which Pakistan was created is an absurdity. Hindus and Muslims are not two nations, they are in India at least joined together to ensure that the country prospers. GHQ Rawalpindi, has, through its networks, sought to spread hatred of India among the Buddhists of Sri Lanka and the Muslims of Bangladesh. If the logic of the Two Nation theory is followed, each faith would constitute a separate nation, a formulation that was used in Pakistan to drive out almost all Hindus and Christians from that country, together with the Sikh community. Fortunately, as seen in recent agitations in Sri Lanka, Buddhists joined hands with Muslims, Christians and Hindus to oust the Rajapaksas from government. Rather than the division that is at the root of the Pakistani state, it is unity of people around common issues that is central to progress and democracy.

Unfortunately, Imran remains a friend of the extremists. What perhaps goes unnoticed is that Imran Khan is the favourite of those lower down the chain of command of the Pakistan military, who seek to return to the days of Zia-ul-Haq, when the spreading of Wahhabism became the dominant motif and operational focus of GHQ Rawalpindi. The ousted PM’s popularity in the lower ranks helps explain why thus far, the top brass of the military have hesitated in using the time-tested instruments of corruption cases. Given the record in money-making of Shahbaz Sharif, once the generals understand that he too is incapable of unlocking the purses of western nations, he is destined to follow the path of his brother Nawaz and be hit by a volley of corruption cases so as to distance the public from him. India, especially under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a target of GHQ Rawalpindi together with the PLA, and so long as such hostility continues, Pakistan will continue to slide towards chaos. For unless the country accepts the finality of Kashmir’s accession to India and normalises relations with its neighbour to the east in the manner that an increasing number of West Asian countries have, its economy will not step back from the quagmire that it is in. The toxicity of reliance on the PRC that supersedes cooperation with India has been shown by the Sri Lankan crisis. What is needed is for countries in South Asia to work together with India rather than assist other countries against their largest member state. Bangladesh is an example of the revving up of the economy that such ties bring. A South Asian common market that has the Indian rupee as legal tender together with the local currency would ensure that the region prospers. Those that are willing should go ahead. The rest will follow in time, once they see the benefits of cooperation with the largest economy in South Asia. What is happening in Sri Lanka is a wake-up call pointing to the risks involved in cosying up to an authoritarian power. Across South Asia, the Sino-Pakistan lobby is seeking to foment divisions and generate chaos. A closer relationship with India would provide a vaccine protecting against that.

Saturday 16 July 2022

Sri Lanka calls out for a lion-hearted leader (The Sunday Guardian)


A lion heart committed to democracy and against expansionist powers may yet emerge in Colombo.

The shark is a predator that presents a danger to the unwary. As are loan sharks. Millions of citizens in India have had to give away the family home and jewellery in order to satiate loan sharks from whom they sought financial accommodation. Many years ago, while still very young, this writer was walking on the lakeside in Kolkata and came across an elderly individual, one of the lenses in whose pair glasses was broken, politely asking for alms. His dress, although dirtied through continuous use and lack of cleaning, was the attire of a middle class individual. When asked about why he was in a situation very different from that which he was seemed to have been born into, the reply was that he had fallen into the hands of a loan shark, who in the beginning seemed a caring friend. Money was freely given, stamp paper after stamp paper was signed without the victim ever glancing at the fine print, for after all, a friend would never cheat. Soon afterwards, the attitude of the loan shark towards his victim changed. Threats and abuse became commonplace, followed by physical violence that the local police seemed indifferent to, when asked by the wife and daughters to intervene. Ultimately, goons took over the home of the victim, and afterwards, local records showed that the place had been transferred to a nominee of the loan shark, at a price much in excess of what had been given as loan. Once thrown out of their home, his wife took their daughters to the home of her parents in a different town, while the victim himself was too ashamed to join them, preferring to eke out an existence seeking alms in a hesitant manner by the lakeside. After a few weeks of living on the streets, he acknowledged that staying with his family at the home of his in-laws was a better option than the emotional decision he had initially taken to be on his own sans any money at all, and he would relocate there soon, once he had scrounged enough money for a rail ticket. The problem facing Sri Lanka and the other countries that have fallen into the habit of drinking at the fountain of predatory loans given by the PRC is that there are few countries willing to play the role of its in-laws, now that bankruptcy and its attendant chaos has occurred. Most major democracies would balk at giving assistance to Sri Lanka, a country that has mortgaged its ports and other assets to a power hostile to many of them, and which shows no sign of reclaiming its sovereign rights.
It is unclear what form of government will be formed in Sri Lanka, but given its present parliamentary configuration, the new PM is unlikely to take the lion-hearted decisions needed to escape the ditch into which the country has fallen. The only way out of this crisis is to take back control of Hambantota and Colombo ports. Rather than be unhappy at the crisis in Sri Lanka, folks in Beijing may be looking towards scooping up huge amounts of physical assets across Sri Lanka in a distress sale, now that the country is in free fall. Only a leadership that is not in any way beholden to Beijing would be able to assert its sovereign authority to (a) repudiate clearly unsustainable loans, and (b) seize assets taken over through 99-year leases by the PRC. This is feasible, provided the Quad stands by the island country and protects it from the PLA and GHQ Rawalpindi. While India, Japan and Australia are resolute in ensuring that Sri Lanka become another pillar in the evolving architecture of security of the Indo-Pacific, the US is witnessing an effort by a Europeanist State Department and NSC to wrest control of strategy in the Indo-Pacific from the Pentagon. Should that effort of the State Department succeed, the White House may be advised by a Russia-obsessed State Department to look askance at those in Sri Lanka striving to shed the coils of a loan shark but to China. President Biden seems not to able to shed the mindset that he had while in the US Senate, despite the hugely changed circumstances facing the world and his country. His withdrawal from Afghanistan has emboldened those within the Central Military Commission who seek to follow the example of Russia in Taiwan, now that Washington and its NATO allies are enmeshed in a quagmire largely caused by their own faulty tactics. The PRC is seeking to hold on to its illicit conquests at the expense of countries that favour a free and open Indo-Pacific. The betting in Beijing is that Biden (and therefore Kishida) will step back from militarily confronting the PLA on the field of battle, were China to follow the example of Russia and invade Taiwan. The hesitant, cautious Biden won because his persona is the opposite of Trump’s, but having won, voters in the US wanted to witness a transformation in office of Joe Biden that has yet to occur. Politics in a democracy can work in welcome ways. Roosevelt and Churchill were thrown up as the leaders of their respective countries, US and UK, during wartime. Narasimha Rao became PM at the time when the Indian economy was stumbling towards what Sri Lanka has now become. In 2014, Narendra Modi got the popular support needed to become PM in a country that had tired of the discriminatory policies of the UPA. A lion heart committed to democracy and against expansionist powers may yet emerge in Colombo, and if she or he does, deserves the assistance of India, the US, the EU and Japan as the new leader wrests back control of Sri Lanka’s destiny from a predatory power that conceals a gun behind its chequebook.

Tuesday 12 July 2022

Justin Trudeau needs to escape the Hinduphobia snare (The Sunday Guardian)


For reasons of his own, Trudeau has on multiple occasions shown himself to be not just Hinduphobic but Indiaphobic.

The different standard followed by the government headed by Justin Trudeau in Canada on issues affecting the Hindu community as well as India as a whole is clear from its silence over the attempt by individuals involved in a Toronto cultural festival to pander to those who exhibit frank Hinduphobia. This was the phobia evident in a poster featuring a documentary film touching religious issues which was somehow exhibited on the website of the prestigious Aga Khan Foundation. The documentary picturises in a distorted way the Mother Goddess revered within the Hindu faith. Followers of the Aga Khan are known not just for their spirit of enterprise but for their tolerance, so it was a surprise to see such a documentary being scheduled for screening in a cultural festival run by his foundation. The incident illustrates the manner in which infiltration of elements of the Sino-Wahhabi lobby into key institutions has been taking place. Another example may be the fact that soon after the Taliban were handed over Afghanistan on 15 August 2021 by President Joe Biden, YouTube removed a Center for Security Analysis (CSA) video in which the present writer had pointed out that the Taliban had not changed since 2001, and that only US policy towards it had. Some of the platform’s filtration algorithms appear to have been covertly designed through infiltration by certain elements to provide traction to Sino-Wahhabi views while smothering views of those who opposed this axis, which is waging an overt and covert war to subvert major democracies. Whether in YouTube, Twitter or in other global social media platforms headquartered in the US, those in sync with the interests and ideology of the Sino-Wahhabi alliance have managed to embed themselves. In the process, they work against the very principles that such platforms take pride in championing. Fortunately, the biases created by such algo warriors became too apparent to ignore by the senior managers in such online platforms. As a consequence, there has been a reduction in algorithms deliberately introduced that in effect favour extremists and authoritarians. The Aga Khan Foundation needs to find out who initially took the initiative to get approved for public viewing a documentary film apparently reeking of Hinduphobia. The US is not Pakistan, where in schools and homes the Hindu community is openly the subject of unflattering epithets. Screening by a reputed platform of a documentary distorting the truth about the Mother Goddess would have strengthened such ignorant and often irrational prejudices against the Hindu faith. Instead, what is needed is to break down rather than build barriers between individuals who belong to different faiths.
Efforts through infiltration at feeding the flames of Hinduphobia indicate the need for institutions respected by the public to ensure that closet extremists who are intolerant of the followers and beliefs of other faiths are kept out of positions of responsibility in such institutions. The Aga Khan Foundation acted swiftly once the attention of its top tier was draw to this documentary. However, expecting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada to join them in battling phobia against a faith may be a vain hope. For reasons of his own, Trudeau has on multiple occasions shown himself to be not just Hinduphobic but Indiaphobic. Under him, Canada has become a shelter for declared Indiaphobes, especially those who are Hinduphobes. It has become a country where Hindus are in some places sought to be made to feel as unwelcome as they are in many parts of Pakistan. Fortunately, in Canada the community meets with consequences far less deadly than what they have contended with in Pakistan over the decades. This country, which is the favourite of groups such as SFJ, has almost totally rid itself of its minorities, including Sikhs. Which is why it is unfortunate that more than a few ministers and MPs in Canada have close links with it. Teaching the truth about India would diminish the risk of Indiaphobia. Explaining the essentials of Sanatan Dharma would prevent many unwary minds from falling prey to Hinduphobia. The episode involving that documentary has shown the need for those who are cognizant of the essentialities of Sanatan Dharma to ensure that its teachings get much more widely disseminated. Especially in India, national epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, philosophical treatises such as the Upanishads, stories useful in the development of character among the young such as those in the Panchatantra or the Hitopadesha should no longer remain outside school curricula. In contrast to India, the epics in countries with an ancient cultural lineage such as Greece and Italy are widely taught to the young.
Even Justin Trudeau may change his approach, once the fog of prejudice is dispelled in the Canadian PM’s mind by explaining to him the meaning of Shakti, the force which the Mother Goddess embodies. Who knows, even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may someday understand the importance of having a strong and prosperous India as a partner, and appreciate the contribution the people of India, of which more than a billion are Hindus, make not just in Canada but in the US, the UK and in other countries where they settle.

Sunday 10 July 2022

Any phobia based on faith is toxic (The Sunday Guardian)

Just days after the killing of two Hindus in India as retaliation for posts backing a former BJP functionary, as a diversion, marches took place in some US cities calling for an end to “genocide of Muslims” in India. Even websites supportive of the claims of the marchers show that from 2015 to 2018, there were 48 attacks on Hindus or Muslims in India, of which 34 were attacks on Muslims and the rest were on Hindus. Each murder of an innocent caused by hate for those of another faith is an act of terror, and merits the severest punishment available in law. Only prompt action by state agencies in every such situation can stop the fires of hate from burning away at the fabric of unity of our people. Interestingly, the charge of hate towards Muslims was also levelled against Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, who introduced the reforms that changed India. Rao lost in the 1996 Lok Sabha polls through sabotage by those in his party loyal to Sonia Gandhi. He made the mistake of obeying the counsel of then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, and rejected the plea of scientists that another round of nuclear tests be conducted so as to ensure a safe and reliable deterrent against a particular nuclear weapons power that actively indulged in hostile behaviour towards India. The patriotism of Manmohan Singh is unquestioned, and it was his genuine belief that the sanctions that would be imposed on India by a vindictive Clinton administration after a nuclear test would extinguish the economic recovery that the reforms introduced by Rao had generated since 1992. It is probable that going ahead with a second series of tests of nuclear devices at Pokhran may have ensured that Rao secure a second term, which would surely have been an improvement on the political upsets that followed until 1999, when A.B. Vajpayee secured for the NDA a comfortable mandate in the Lok Sabha polls of that year. This was the consequence of the favourable public reaction caused by the retaking in an army-air force operation of the Kargil heights from the Pakistan military, not to mention Pokhran II in 1998. At that time as well, months before the tests took place, there were repeated warnings from the US, Canada, Australia and UK of the crippling effect that their sanctions following the nuclear tests would bring. Swaminathan S. Aiyar warned in the Economic Times that the US and other sanctions would finish off the Indian economy. This appeared on the front page on the same day that a front-page report by the present writer appeared in the Times of India, that such sanctions would not have a significant impact on the Indian economy. It was the Times of India that later events proved right, not the Economic Times. After Pokhran II, President Clinton, weary from unsuccessfully arm-twisting PM Narasimha Rao to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan, not to mention scrapping the nuclear and missile program, finally began to take India seriously as a major power, much to the dismay of the Indiaphobes in his administration.
Narendra Modi has secured a majority for the BJP in two consecutive Lok Sabha polls, and seems on the way to a hat-trick in 2024. Is this why there are several within the Democratic Party who have bought the false narrative being peddled that India under Modi is a cauldron of hate towards minorities? Or that those minorities who have not yet been genocidally disposed of are in mortal danger of meeting the same fate? This is the falsehood being peddled by the Sino-Wahhabi lobby in the US, and eagerly picked up by a section of opinion makers in the US. Most are upset that the Sonia-era visas have been cancelled of those who used to come to India during the days of the UPA and hold public meetings in which they and others abused in unprintable language divinities sacred to Hindus. Their example is now apparently being followed by filmmaker Leena Manimekalai, who (judging by a tasteless poster featuring her film) appears to have no knowledge whatsoever of the significance of the manner in which the feminine gender is sought to be empowered through the depiction of Shakti (strength, energy) in the persona of the female deity that has apparently been traduced and caricatured in a documentary. This was to be screened in Toronto by the Aga Khan Foundation, much of whose revenue comes from citizens of India or those of Indian descent who are among the most tolerant and syncretic of human beings in the world. Such an attitude of tolerance and moderation was evident in the decision of the Foundation to cancel the screening. Whether Hinduphobia, Islamophobia or Christianophobia, all such phobias are alien to a civilised mind. Pride in one’s faith is normal, mocking another is not.

Any phobia based on faith is toxic

Saturday 9 July 2022

Abe assassinated, but his legacy remains strong in Japan (The Sunday Guardian)


Adhering to the legacy of Shinzo Abe would mean a strengthening of the Quad and the creation of a Quad Plus with the possible addition of France, Vietnam, the UK, Philippines and Indonesia.


New Delhi: With the assassination of Shinzo Abe on 8 July, Japan lost its most powerful voice in favour of robust military intervention in defence of Taiwan, were that country to be attacked by the PRC. Any transfer of control over the island would be a deadly blow to the security not just of Japan but to every country backing a free and open Indo-Pacific. Japan’s most popular politician would have reacted not in the way Neville Chamberlain did during 1937-39 to the aggressive behaviour of Germany, but as Churchill from the start wanted the UK to take. Shinzo Abe knew that the only way to avoid war was to seen to be prepared and able to inflict defeat on an aggressor, not to continuously conciliate it in the manner favoured by a section of Japanese politicians and businessmen. Whether the assassin acted alone and what his motives were, remains unclear. What is obvious is that the assassination of Abe removed from the highest level of policy formulation in Tokyo the leader who most clearly understood the danger posed by the effort of an openly expansionist superpower to resort to force wherever needed to establish its dominance in the Indo-Pacific. In 2001, Ahmed Shah Massoud had been killed by Al Qaeda a short while before that collective carried out the 9/11 attack on the US. Engineer Massoud had the popularity and the ability to stitch together a united front that, once it was assisted rather than ignored by the US, defeated the Taliban. After the Taliban was defeated in Afghanistan with air support, logistics and weapons supplies by the US, the Afghan nationalists who did so were subsequently unable to come together to run the country effectively in the way Massoud would have done. Shinzo Abe was the best wartime Prime Minister of Japan that the country never had. Although there was no replacement for Massoud in Afghanistan, followed by serial errors committed by NATO in that theatre that ensured that GHQ Rawalpindi brought the Taliban back to life by 2006, there is need to have a capable replacement for Shinzo Abe in the eventuality of a kinetic conflict endangering Japan. It is now up to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to show himself to be the worthy torchbearer of the Abe legacy, and if not, for the LDP to replace him with a leader more in sync with the legacy bequeathed by Shinzo Abe to his party.

It was while Prime Minister of Japan that Abe mainstreamed the concept of the Indo-Pacific, linking into a single entity the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Together with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, Abe ensured that the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) was brought back to health from the deep freeze into which then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia had consigned it in 2008, just months after taking over as Prime Minister. Former PM Rudd has relatives who are from the PRC, but it would be unfair to say that this was the cause of his lack of enthusiasm for the Quad, a concept that a successor Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, backed in 2018, soon after taking office. President Donald J. Trump of the US had the previous year become an enthusiastic supporter of the alliance of India, Japan, the US and Australia, much to the displeasure of the PRC, although it must be said that the world’s other superpower had and continues to have a substantial network of sympathisers in the US who constantly sing the refrain that the PRC needs to be given more time in order to show that it is not the expansionist power that it has transparently become under CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping.

During Abe’s tenure, the official spokesperson of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs had warned in Beijing during a briefing for the global media of a “bloodbath”, now that then PM Abe had “entered the path of militarism” by the then Japanese PM vowing to defend Taiwan against attack by the PRC. All the more reason why PM Kishida needs to ensure a comprehensive and objective enquiry into the actual motive and network behind the murder that was carried out by the trained hand of a brainwashed former member of the Japanese military. This would be in contrast to the US, where President Biden began his descent into unpopularity by covering up for the PRC by refusing to give a conclusive account of how the Covid-19 coronavirus began its existence. This was done by Biden even while respected thought leaders such as Jeffrey Sachs along with many others were vocal that the pandemic was the consequence of a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Being perceived as wobbly on China marked the start of the descent into unpopularity of Joe Biden, who (unlike the Japanese PM) has a fixed tenure of four years. Those who know Kishida say that he is a man of honour, who would not cover up the truth about the roots of the successful conspiracy to assassinate Abe. The LDP is expected to do well in polls in Japan, not least because of the sympathy wave created by the Abe assassination. In case this was planned in the first instance by those seeking a sharp turn away from the security and foreign policies that were put in place in Japan when Shinzo Abe was Prime Minister, this needs to be brought out rather than covered up in the manner that the White House investigation did about the origins of Covid-19. Its conclusions were no different from those favoured by Beijing. The sharp reaction of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping to then Australian PM Scott Morrison’s support for an impartial investigation into the origins of SARS-Cov2 is revealing. Why would there be anger in the CCP resulting in a trade and diplomatic boycott of Australia at Morrison’s call for an impartial and expert investigation? Perhaps this may go some way to explain the caution of Joe Biden in matters concerning China, in view of the immense financial stakes that so many in the US have in continuing good relations with that country, something that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been striving hard to accomplish. However, security for a country trumps, or ought to trump, financial bonanza for a few, and those who know PM Kishida say that he would act the way Abe would have in not allowing considerations of commerce to override national security interests. We will know in time.

There is a possibly erroneous perception in some parts of the world that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan has reverted to the pre-Abe policy of reflexively tailoring the policy of the Japanese government to whatever line is pursued by the US. This is doubly problematic, as under President Biden, US foreign and security policy has been tied to whatever line is favoured by the major European powers. Such a coupling of US policy with European desires (as distinct from interests) has been evident in Ukraine. While Abe as PM sought to mend ties with Russia, even meeting Putin several times in an effort to wean Moscow away from its foreign policy coordination with Beijing. In contrast, Kishida was quick to impose sanctions on the Russian Federation. The repercussions of such sanctions are by now evident across the world, and have not added but subtracted from Kishida’s popularity. Among the consequences of Japan moving in lockstep with the US and the EU has been the loss of rights by Japanese companies Mitsubishi and Mitsui in the Sakhalin II oilfields, while those Japanese companies that are active in Sakhalin I, and which are partnering with Indian companies, remain free of trouble. Meanwhile, the US and the EU appear to be working overtime to give China a near monopoly over the immense natural resources of Russia. This would have taken place were Prime Minister Modi to have agreed to the demand (these days mostly articulated through accessible journalists rather than directly by western governments) to break off commercial ties with Moscow. As a consequence of Modi holding firm in his determination to pursue the Indian interest, Japanese companies, including those owned by the state, are the beneficiaries in the Sakhalin I project together with ONGC Videsh. The expectation in capitals that are visibly not sad at Abe’s murder may be that Japanese policy will now turn away from the line the assassinated leader favoured to defend democracies in the Indo-Pacific against aggression. Should PM Kishida bring into his government more voices such as that of Sanae Takaichi and others committed to the Shinzo Abe line, misperceptions about him would get dispelled. After all, the expectation was that the new Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, would revert back to the Kevin Rudd line on the PRC. However, the first Quad meeting attended by Albanese put such fears to rest, and Kishida is expected by his supporters to follow the same path as Abe did.

Adhering to the legacy of Shinzo Abe would mean a strengthening of the Quad and the creation of a Quad Plus with the possible addition of France, Vietnam, the UK, Philippines and Indonesia. That would be contrary to President Biden’s Europeanist desire to make NATO the security guarantor for the Indo-Pacific. This despite that institution’s shoddy record in each of the 21st century wars in Asia and Africa that it has been active in. Rather than revive memories of European colonialism through White House efforts at making NATO the keystone of Indo-Pacific security, what is needed from the US and its Quad partners and possible Quad Plus partners is more attention and resources devoted to the Quad itself. The killing of Ahmed Shah Massoud did not prevent the rout of the Taliban in 2001 by those who had fought together with the felled leader, although subsequent errors made by NATO ensured the comeback of the Taliban in 2022. The assassination of Shinzo Abe at Nara is a wake-up call reminding countries in the Indo-Pacific that peace in the region and absence of threats to sovereignty remain far from assured. As had been predicted by this analyst at the start of the Russia-Ukraine war of 2022, every leader of those countries that are keeping alive delusions of reconquest in Kiev is paying a heavy political price. Such is the inevitable consequence of the economic fallout of the strategies on sanctions adopted by Joe Biden and others who are ranged against Russia in Ukraine and the consequent steep rise in commodity prices and collapse of logistics. An additional factor is the disastrous effect of the war on Ukraine itself. President Biden has lost support even within his own party, which has begun to consider the White House and its policies a liability during elections. President Emmanuel Macron has lost his majority in the French Parliament to foes on the left and right, while Boris Johnson, the man who is even more of a cheerleader than Biden for the emotional rather than rational way that NATO is prosecuting the Ukraine war, is fighting for his political existence. Visiting Volodymyr Zelenskyy multiple times is not helping the disgraced Prime Minister at all. Once winter comes, a similar fate may fall on Chancellor Scholz, who seems to act in a manner unlike an SPD leader, perhaps because of his longtime alliance with the CDU. Given the importance of his country in the security matrix of the Indo-Pacific, it is essential for the region that PM Fumio Kishida of Japan embrace the Abe legacy, now that the latter was assassinated for reasons that Kishida needs to relentlessly discover and reveal, including not just the motivation and support system but the manner in which an armed killer got within point blank range of the most consequential leader in Japan since 1945.