Sunday 30 July 2023

In G-20 and SCO, PM Modi navigates turbulence in 2023 (The Sunday Guardian)

 India has managed to steer the G-20 in a way that establishes New Delhi’s credentials as a platform where even bitter rivals can participate. Within the SCO, India is resisting efforts to get the organisation to take sides in the ongoing Cold War 2.0.

New Delhi

When India took over the year-long rotating Presidency of the G-20 last November from Indonesia, the global faultlines typified in the Russia-Ukraine conflict since 24 February 2022 were visibly expanding. Given that the G-20 included both sides involved in the conflict, the Sino-Russian alliance as well as the G-7, it was apparent that tensions within the larger group would escalate as 2023 progressed. Rather than follow the conventional route and give the rotating presidency little domestic importance and despite the challenges that would come up during that period, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the decision to showcase India’s presidency to the people of India. In that way, two messages were conveyed, the first being that India was clearly at the Top Table so far as the international order was concerned. Till recently,it had been the UN Security Council that had been considered as the world order’s apex body, but the reluctance of the PRC to admit as a Permanent UNSC Member the world’s most populous country (and what will soon be its third largest economy) has ensured that the premium that the UNSC once enjoyed in the public mind had dimmed into insignificance. The permanent veto-wielding membership of just 5 countries in the UNSC now functions as a divided house. While there were illusions about getting China to join hands with the G-7 where pressure on Russia was concerned were high among its members throughout the past year, such optimism has been shown to be unrealistic.

CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping seeks to substantially expand the SCO and BRICS so as to include not just anti-western countries but countries that are veering away from support to the US and its allies, such as seems the situation with Saudi Arabia. The purpose is to create not just an alternative but an opposition to what the CCP considers a western-dominated global order. When Xi talks of multipolarity, what he means in practice is the replacement of the fading unipolarity of the US with that of China. Similarly, to Xi, a BRICS currency swap agreement means not the use of the South African rand, the Brazilian real and the Indian rupee, but the replacement of the US dollar with the RMB in intra-bloc trade.

Through the prominence given in 2023 to the G-20 within India,the other lesson that the Prime Minister intended to convey to the 1.4 billion people of the country was that international peace, stability and progress were not possible in the absence of coordinated efforts at protecting them. And that in the task of ensuring the three objectives of stability, peace and progress, India has a keystone role. AcrossIndia, the holding of G-20 events and the dissemination of information about the group has better opened the gaze of people in India to the world, and so far as the G-20 is concerned, opened multiple corners of India to what is arguably the most consequential multilateral organisation at present. Under the Modi Presidency, the orbit of the G-20 has been lifted to a much higher trajectory in terms of global significance than was the case earlier. When President Lulaof Brazil takes over the rotating presidency from Prime Minister Modi later this year, it will be a G-20 on a much higher trajectory than was the case just a year earlier.It is certain that Brazil will emerge as a worthy successor to India, so that the higher trajectory gets maintained during its presidencyand hopefully afterwards. Assisted by External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Prime Minister Modi is successfully navigating through the rocky shoals and choppy waters of changing international relationships, including those that have been exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war.While continuing to be a customer of Russian products such as oil, India has continued on the path of deepening security and defence cooperation with the US, Japan and other like-minded countries. Rather than get lost in a welter of conflicting objectives in the way that NATO has done since almost the start of the 21st century, India has remained focused on its key priorities, which include the Global South, food security and the defence of the Indo-Pacific against expansionist powers seeking to wrest land, air and sea space from other countries.

In the task of expansion of space at the expense of other countries, apart from the US itself, the biggest challenge CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping is facing is from India. In Galwan in early 2020, the Indian Army showed that man-to-man, its soldiers are more than a match for their PLA counterparts. India has an inexhaustible reservoir of young people, of whom potentially tens of millions can be trained to deploy as a deadly force in situations of kinetic combat. Prime Minister Modi through Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, is ensuring just such an expansion of speedily deployable additional man (and woman) power in the uniformed services, including through the Agnipath program. This is in the process of being tweaked so as to make it better able to fulfill the objectives for which it was set up. As havethe newly created tri-service theatre commands, another long needed innovation. The Indian armed forces are well on the way to becoming the most capable in the world, including in the essential task of helping protect theIndo-Pacific against predatory powers.

In a way that countries across both sides of the Atlantic failed to do during the 1930s, making a kinetic global conflagration inevitable, the process of building up a coalition capable of deterring the country that is the world’s biggest security challenge in the 21st century needs to succeed. That progress is being made in such a task is clear from the reinvigoration of the Quad by Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi in 2017, and in the deepening collaboration kinetic and otherwise between like-minded Indo-Pacific countries threatened by expansionist powers, such as India with Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

India took over the G-20 and SCO in a year that has beenunusually problematic in many ways, and yet has managed to steer the G-20 in a way that establishes New Delhi’s credentials as a platform where even bitter rivals can participate. Within the BRICS, India is resisting efforts to get the organisation to take sides in the ongoing Cold War 2.0 that is taking place, a task in which it is being joined by Brazil and South Africa, neither of which wants the BRICS to become an entity controlled by a bloc that is opposed to another bloc. As for SCO, mindless expansion would destroy its coherence, and needs to be avoided despite pressure from one of its members. Choppy waters, rough seas. Piloting safely in such geopolitical seas is being carried out with energy and efficiency during this particularly turbulent year by the current 2023 Chair of G-20 and SCO, India.

In G-20 and SCO, PM Modi navigates turbulence in 2023

White House is Trump’s surest safety net (The Sunday Guardian)

 Behind prison bars, Trump would almost certainly gain rather than lose votes.

t was Vladimir Putin who spoke about an incident in his childhood when he was chasing a rat. Finally, he got it into a corner, and in desperation, the rat lunged at him and almost succeeded in doing the young boy serious bodily harm. Luckily, with the agility that Putin displayed later in life, he ducked and ran away from the frightened and hence dangerous creature. Vladimir Putin brings up that story to illustrate how it is always better to leave an exit route, unless it is a battle to the death. Attorney General Merrick Garland of the US has evidently not heard of Putin’s story, else he would not have allowed the filing of a large number of charges against the former President of the US, Donald J. Trump. It would be unfair to portray such an action as motivated by the fact that a Republican-controlled Senate broke all conventions and refused to schedule a vote on Judge Garland when he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama. Garland was an exceptionally capable judge, with a reputation for objectivity and integrity. The Supreme Court would have greatly benefited from such qualities, but the Republican fringe, given free rein by Trump, refused to allow Obama to appoint him to the Court.

Subsequently, when Trump moved into the White House, he nominated and got Senate approval for justices who were outspokenly of a bent of mind that is wholly congruent with current Republican orthodoxy. Even if he never again becomes Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell would have ensured his stamp on the future of the US through the judicial picks he chose and got approved enthusiastically by President Trump. Once Joe Biden shifted to the White House in 2021, he appointed Judge Garland as the Attorney General, a post he more than merited. If not himself, then key members of President Biden’s administration would like to see a Trump-Biden rematch in 2024. Several have pointed fingers at Biden, almost certainly unfairly, for the mounting legal travail that Trump is facing. Their explanation why Biden is behind such an unprecedented and ferocious attack on an ex-President as he wants a rematch of the 2020 polls. And if he was not aware a year ago, President Biden would know by now that the more the legal salvoes fired at Trump, the greater the chance that he would again be the Republican nominee for the coming Presidential election. Rather than “go gently into the night”, Trump is following the advice of Dylan Thomas, who said that instead, a man should “rage, rage, against the dying of the light”. In the case of Trump, the “light” would refer to his very freedom, for given the passionate way in which the Justice Department is prosecuting him, it is clear that prison is where its staff wants Trump to disappear into. A situation is being reached in which the only chance for Trump to stay out of jail would be to get elected President of the US in the 2024 polls. The former President is using every legal dart thrown at him as an additional proof of victimhood, thereby generating the emotion that drives upward more votes than any other sentiment.

Everybody loves an underdog, and most feel a sense of empathy with a person whom they consider to be a victim of injustice. Sending Trump a formal notice that he is a target of the 6 January 2021 investigation into efforts at overturning the election result seems a case of overreach to many voters. Judging by his personality, it seems likely that Trump himself was convinced that he was being cheated out of a second term, and that he therefore needed to “fight like hell” in order to (in his mind) get justice. Mens Rea, a guilty mind, is central in criminal law, and if Trump believed he had won, several of the accusations now going in his direction may be based on a possibly false premise that Trump knew that he had lost but was nevertheless trying to overturn the result. Breaking convention, the defeated President did not concede to the President-elect, perhaps because he believed that he remained the President, and that votes had been stolen from him that needed to be somehow retrieved, most palpably in Georgia. From the standpoint of Mens Rea, several of those charged in the 6 January 2021 “insurrection” believed that they were only enforcing the law, absurd though such a belief was. Like Liz Cheney or Joe Biden, the Justice Department prosecutors are acting under the assumption that their own minds during the period were an accurate reflection of the minds of the rioters and Trump himself. In fact, the latter held the opposite view, and overwhelmingly, in a sincere if wholly misguided way. As President of the US, Trump ensured the fading out of Hillary Clinton by simply ignoring her rather than “locking her up” as he had said he would while campaigning. Had Biden done the same with Trump, it would not have been the former President who has by far the best chance of winning the nomination. And, should Trump with his usual unconcern for the views of his party elders embrace Biden’s expansive social agenda in the way that his supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene has already publicly done, he could win in 2024 by saying that he would accomplish the social agenda that Biden wants to do, but is being blocked by the Republicans. Donald Trump knows that the Justice Department is determined to put him behind bars. Winning the Presidential election next year would be a foolproof way of avoiding that fate, or cutting it short should his prosecutors manage to “lock him up” before the polls. Behind prison bars, Trump would almost certainly gain rather than lose votes, and Trump fans would blame his rival Biden for their hero’s plight. Joe Biden may get his wish and again face off against Donald Trump. The problem for him is that his own Justice Department may be making it more difficult for Trump to lose this time around.

White House is Trump’s surest safety net

Protecting the essence of Israel (The Sunday Guardian)

 Israel was explicitly set up in 1948 as the homeland of the Jewish community, just three years after World War II, during the course of which Nazi Germany sought to eliminate the Jewish people from the planet. Given their history of persecution, the small slice of land marked out for the establishment of Israel was not in any way unreasonable. At the same time, a much larger area was marked out as the Palestinian state. However, the leadership of that community was opposed to any land being ceded to create a new Jewish state, and went to war with Israel, in which a large chunk of land was lost to the State of Israel. Doing away with what is still referred to in capitals such as Tehran as “the Jewish Entity” became a popular cause within much of the rest of the region, and in 1967, a coalition of countries led by Egypt went to war with Israel. In the process, each of the main military participants in the war against Israel lost even more territory.

Subsequently, the Sinai peninsula was handed back to the Egyptians in an agreement worked out between Begin and Sadat, and since then, Egypt has been at peace with Israel. In the 2011 “Arab Spring” and the consequent coming to power of a regime controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood (an ultra-conservative religious party), there again arose the dread that such a peace may once again be broken. As took place in Turkey since President Erdogan took over, ultra-conservatives in Egypt grew in strength and were beginning to change the post-Sadat contours of Cairo’s policy until the Muslim Brotherhood was removed from power by the Egyptian military. In Turkey, there was a failed attempt by elements of the Turkish military loyal to the legacy of Kemal Ataturk to overthrow Erdogan, but the attempt failed. The European Union backed Erdogan as he exacted revenge on the Kemalist elements, not just in the military but in the rest of the government as well as civil society. The narrow margin by which Erdogan retained power in the last poll shows that more and more of the Turkish people are opposing his plans to make Turkey a society more like Saudi Arabia in the pre-MBS days than what the country had been since the time of Ataturk. Had Turkey gone the Egypt way and the elected regime toppled, the country would have moved much closer to Europe than it is now. After his narrow escape from loss of power, Erdogan has sought to re-fashion his policies in a more Europe-friendly manner, but apart from a dash of outward symbolism, his project of making Turkey a bastion of religious conservatism endures.

A country that is experiencing internal turmoil during the present times is Israel. That Israel is a Jewish state is a given. What is in dispute is what the essence of this Jewishness is. According to the ultra-conservative parties that have given Prime Minister Netanyahu his narrow majority in the Knesset, only the Orthodox deserve to call themselves truly Jewish. The previous government took the unprecedented step of including Israeli Arabs into the ministry. The ultra-conservatives would like to see the elimination of any involvement of Arabs in any part of the governance system in Israel. They would like to pass legislation that would ensure the primacy of the Orthodox and the ultra-conservatives over other segments of the Jewish population of Israel. In their view, only a return to Orthodoxy would ensure that Israel remains what it was intended to be, the Homeland of the Jewish people.

The Jewish people, it cannot be forgotten, have gifted the world with much scientific discovery. While the overwhelming majority of such intellects are observant Jews and many are even conservative, very few indeed are from the Orthodox community. In that stratum, there is much ritual and routine that makes it somewhat more difficult to ensure the freedom of thought and broadness of vision that truly great minds demonstrate and indeed seem to need. Benjamin Netanyahu has made saving his government a priority, and it has not helped that his political opponents have been working hard to send him to jail should they return to power. The prospect of that has made Netanyahu make compromises that he may perhaps have avoided. On taking office, Trump gave Hillary and Bill a free pass, declining to seek their prosecution. A similar gesture has not been reciprocated by the Biden administration, and as a consequence, Trump is emerging as the most likely Republican nominee against President Biden. Those campaigning against the weakening of the Israeli Supreme Court on the streets of Tel Aviv believe that the essence of the Jewish state and faith is moderation and personal freedom. The Orthodox parties supporting the Netanyahu government do not agree. Israel seems headed for another election, and the result of this could decide which of the two sides win. As is the case in the US, especially in New York, the Orthodox Jewish community has to have the right to follow the practices and rituals that they believe define their age-old faith. What is at issue is whether they have the right to enforce their will through legislation on the rest of the Jewish population as well. Those who believe in greater individual freedoms and rights are willing to challenge the conservative government even if it be through the streets rather than the ballot box.

Protecting the essence of Israel

Sunday 23 July 2023

Qin Gang’s absence may reflect Xi’s weakening grip on the CCP (The Sunday Guardian)

 Has the disappearance of Qin taken place not because of Xi’s orders but in spite of them? Has Qin Gang become the ‘chicken’ that is being removed to scare the ‘farmer’, Xi himself?

New Delhi

The absence from the public eye for almost a month of Foreign Minister Qin Gang of the People’s Republic of China has given rise to speculation that he has been cashiered for having an extra-marital relationship with a Chinese television anchor who often travelled abroad. Other theories mention the possibility of blackmail of the Foreign Minister by a “hostile power” i.e. the United States. A third claims that the fast-promoted Qin has fallen foul of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. The degree of opacity in the higher circles of the CCP resembles a bottle of black ink, hence such theories remain just that, hypotheses as to why Qin has been missing for almost a month.

That he has landed in disgrace because of a romantic liaison with an attractive television presenter is contrary to the fact that this relationship almost since it began must have been well known to not just the CCP General Secretary, but to lesser authorities as well. As envoy to the US, he would have been under 24/7 surveillance, and knowledge of any love affair, assuming that he had one, would have been known to CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. The fact is that in less than 18 months, Qin was promoted from envoy to the US to being the Foreign Minister of China. The missing diplomat is part of the relatively younger group (most in their 40s or 50s) that has been collected around him by Xi Jinping. Each member of this inner circle of the CCP Supremo would be aware not just that his (there would probably not be a woman within the group) swift ascent was because of Xi’s patronage, but that were Xi Jinping to fall, not just the job but very likely the freedom and maybe in some cases the life of the Xi acolyte would immediately be severely impacted. That Qin Gang became a hidden dissident while he was within the trusted inner circle of assistants of Xi is implausible. Only a confirmed loyalist of Xi would have been sent to the most sensitive posting outside China for any PRC diplomat, the PRC embassy in Washington. As for the young lady, had she been regarded as even a bit unreliable from the regime’s point of view, she would not have been made an important news anchor by Phoenix television. Phoenix, although technically not state-controlled, is in effect very much a part of the Agitation & Propaganda wing of the CCP’s United Front. Just as in the case of Qin, the presumed lady friend’s loyalty to the regime would have been examined under a microscope and judged to be fool-proof.

Were there any doubts about her reliability, Qin Gang’s rumoured affair with the anchor would have speedily ended with her being sent out in disgrace, and at the least an admonition to Qin to stay away from anyone less than fully reliable as a regime supporter.

Did the Chinese FM reveal “secrets” to the anchor? Under Xi Jinping, the level of secrecy expected by those in the inner circle is even more than was ever the case earlier. Anything personal about Xi Jinping, for example, would be out of bounds to reveal to anyone, even what the General Secretary had for breakfast. Did Qin Gang break the 24/7 Code of Omerta (silence and secrecy) expected of him by just revealing not matters of state, but personal matters relating to the uppermost levels of the CCP? We do not know, and probably never will. As for falling prey to CIA lures, that again appears improbable, as only an individual of tested loyalty would have been sent to Washington and later given what may be the swiftest promotion in the Chinese diplomatic service, made Foreign Minister.

What then? It may be remembered that from mid-2022 onwards, the present writer was mentioning reports reaching him from Moscow about a weakening of the hold of President Putin within the Kremlin as a consequence of the way the Ukraine war was developing. Recent events have shown that to be very likely a reality.

Till now, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping has wielded power within the country and the party on the level of Stalin or Mao. As a result, there has been concealed discontent about his absolutist ways. Have the seniors within the CCP core who dislike such a return to absolutism become strong enough to “kill the chicken to scare the farmer”? Has the disappearance of Qin taken place not because of Xi’s orders but in spite of them? Has Qin Gang become the “chicken” that is being removed to scare the “farmer”, Xi himself? To show him that unless he returns from Mao’s ways to that of the Great Helmsman’s successors until Xi took over in 2012? If Qin Gang has truly been disgraced, that may be an indication that Xi’s absolute grip on the CCP is under challenge. That he can no longer ignore and humiliate seniors in the way he has been doing since taking charge. The days ahead will show whether the fortunes of Foreign Minister Qin have plummeted or not. If they have, then even if outward appearances are to the contrary, it may be the first visible evidence that the hold of Xi is weakening, else a tested Xi loyalist such as Qin would not have been dealt with in the way he appears to have been. Of course, China being Communist China, it may be that it was indeed a heart attack that has taken Qin away from his jobs and not the work of a cabal engaged in resistance to Xi’s Mao-style grip over the CCP. Given the unexpectedly robust coming together by countries such as those in the Quad as a reaction to Xi’s expansionist ways and the fall in PRC economic performance, given the possibility of supply sources and markets shrinking, not to mention the turmoil caused by Xi’s Zero Covid policy resistance to the top leader within the upper echelons of the CCP cannot any more be dismissed as impossible. If such be the case, Qin Gang may be the first high-level victim of a purge of Xi loyalists within the governance structure of the PRC.

Qin Gang’s absence may reflect Xi’s weakening grip on the CCP

Mao’s Cultural Revolution altered culture of China (The Sunday Guardian)

 The CCP has changed significant parts of the chemistry of Chinese culture, while India has an unbroken civilisational heritage of over 5,000 years that has several points of commonality with traditional Chinese culture.

The founder of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, was consistent in his view that only the Communist Party or China (CPC), otherwise known as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), could bring back the Chinese nation to its lost position as the world’s Middle Kingdom. Of course, his way of managing the party and through that the country was in many ways different from his successors. Rather than a pyramidal structure of authority, in which a smaller and smaller group of CCP leaders controlled the rest, Mao wanted a total concentration of power only in a single individual, himself. As a consequence, multiple pyramids of authority developed, many of them feuding with others, and reporting only to Mao and a group of confidants working with him. These were small in number and almost without exception temporary in the trust and authority that Mao allocated to them. Even the longest-lasting of such individuals, Premier Zhou Enlai, often went through spells of powerlessness and humiliation, although at no stage was this apparent to any except the small group of individuals who had been assembled around Mao at that point in time. Much the way Stalin’s longer-lasting aides such as Molotov or Khrushchev did, Zhou put up with each slight, each barb, until Mao moved on to another target and brought the Premier back from the cold. Molotov had to endure humiliations such as the arrest and transfer to a gulag of his wife Zhemchuzhina, but he remained a loyal servitor to Stalin, who was probably thereby testing his loyalty in his characteristic fashion. Had Molotov shown signs of alienation from the dictator who ruled the Soviet Union, both his wife and himself, not to mention their daughter, would have been executed after being tortured. Molotov knew his boss well, and kept silent and uncomplaining until all of a sudden Zhemchuzhina reappeared at Molotov’s apartment, and their life together resumed. The same cruel caprice that was so evident in Stalin was present in Mao, who believed that only he as leader of the CCP could ensure that the PRC was placed on the track towards being the centrepoint of the international order after enduring more than a century of humiliation at the hands of foreigners. Mao blamed traditional Chinese culture for this fall in power and status of the Chinese people, and was determined to uproot it and replace it with a new culture. What was termed the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was in essence a revolt against traditional Chinese culture, a revulsion that also took the form of the destruction of several antiquities and customs.

During Mao’s rule and subsequently, the CCP altered traditional Chinese culture to a degree that is now impossible to reverse. It is therefore ironic that it is as the inheritors and indeed protectors of traditional Chinese culture that the CCP has sought to build fealty to itself inside the large and significantly prosperous ethnic Chinese community throughout the world, especially in Southeast Asia. Especially since the economy of the PRC took off in the 1990s, the United Front wings of the CCP have sought to generate a sense of pride within the ethnic Chinese community worldwide at such hard power. They sought to instil in them an identification of the success of the PRC under the CCP as the success of the ethnic Chinese community as a whole. In the past, when the relationship between the PRC and the Atlantic Alliance was close, and before large chunks of sea, air and land spaces belonging to neighbours was claimed by the PRC, loyalty both to the country of their citizenship as well as to the PRC created no problem. However, with the intensification of tensions between China and the US , not to mention tensions with other countries such as several members of ASEAN, such a duality of interests is becoming less and less tenable. Ethnic Chinese with passports other than what has been issued by the PRC, Hong Kong or Macau are discovering that their local laws are increasingly making it untenable for them to respond to United Front pressure to act in a manner that serves not the interests of the country of their domicile but those of the PRC, two streams that are no longer flowing in a convergent manner. At the same time, ever since the taking over as CCP General Secretary of Xi Jinping in 2012, the list of demands (on, in the view of the CCP, proofs of support to the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”) on ethnic Han Chinese with passports other than those issued by the PRC has only grown.

Simultaneously, production of items in, or sourcing of items from, China is becoming more problematic as a consequence of what is termed “de-risking”, but which in effect are moves meant to ensure that reliance on the PRC in supply chains get steadily reduced by other countries.

The CCP has changed significant parts of the chemistry of Chinese culture, while India has an unbroken civilisational heritage of over 5,000 years that has several points of commonality with traditional Chinese culture. Care needs to be taken to avoid a common error, which is to confuse Chinese culture with Chinese Communist Party culture, for the two differ in ways that make the CCP’s presumption of sameness between the two incorrect. Not only is Chinese Communist culture not the same as Chinese culture, a CCP cadre has a culture that differs from the rest of the population of the PRC, while the higher the level of an individual within the machinery of governance and control crafted by the CCP, the more is the difference between such “high flyers” and ordinary CCP members. Observing tourists from China in Southeast Asia in particular, the difference in behaviour patterns between high level and other cadres, and between communist cadres and non-cadres, becomes clear. Given such a growing disconnect, many in the Overseas Chinese community who are proud of their traditional culture are losing their earlier admiration and attraction for the PRC, and may as a consequence join those who are looking to decouple supply chains from the world’s authoritarian superpower, a trend that is already taking place with respect to Taiwan.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution altered culture of China

Terror must not find shelter (The Sunday Guardian)

 As the 2023 Chairman of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Prime Minister Narendra Modi was clear in his opening speech at the SCO Summit that terror has no excuse, and must be given no shelter anywhere. If several terror groups remain active despite the international effort to suppress them since the 9/11 attack in the United States in 2001, the reason is that several such groups find shelter in different countries. Just as the LTTE was in Sri Lanka during the two decades that it was active, it was because the organisation was adept at using various arguments to ensure some protector or the other at different points in time. Even the faith that Velupillai Prabhakaran and his assistant Anton Balasingham belonged to was used to persuade some groups to support them. There is no doubt that since the time of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in the 1950s, Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans found themselves getting reduced to second-class citizens, with even the Tamil language, among the most expressive and ancient in the world, coming under attack in the country. As a consequence, migration of the Tamil-speaking population of Sri Lanka took place on a rising scale. Most relocated to India, but many went to Canada and some European countries as well, where their skills and industry won them success. However, none of this justifies the campaign of terror, in which mostly innocent civilians perished, that was launched by the LTTE to wrest an independent Tamil Eelam which Prabhakaran would rule.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is right. There can be no justification, no safe haven, given to the facilitators and practitioners of terror. Countries that shelter terror groups for reasons that usually have to do with causing harassment to another need to stop such a practice. Equally, those found guilty of assisting such groups need to be sanctioned. There are safe havens being provided to known terror groups by two countries whose leaders have tacitly approved such a deviation from internationally acceptable modes of conduct. Thus far, no sanctions have been imposed on any of the individuals involved in training, funding and equipping such groups, even by countries that have been swift to impose the most severe of sanctions on citizens belonging to a few countries. Such a Nelson’s Eye to terror groups that continue to kill innocents elsewhere needs to be avoided. If even a few of the individuals facilitating such groups in just Pakistan and China were to be sanctioned, such a move would have a dampening effect on such un-neighbourly behaviour. Quiet diplomacy needs to be carried out by India to ensure that such accountability takes place. As has so often been said, terror anywhere is a threat everywhere. The sooner Prime Minister Modi’s words to the SCO leaders get actioned on, including by countries not part of the group, the sooner will victory in the war on terror come
As for the way in which the CCP has appropriated to itself the cloak of Chinese culture and tradition that goes back several millennia, the reality is that the culture favoured by the CCP cannot in any way be held as representative of traditional Chinese culture. In contrast, traditional culture remains vibrant in India, and as a consequence, there remain many points of contact between the two traditional cultures. This is especially the case with many Overseas Chinese, who have held on to their traditions in a way that those who have been under CCP rule since 1949 have proved unable to do. The obstacle standing in the way of a close people-to-people centred relationsahip between China and India is the expansionist urge of the CCP. Unfortunately for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, such a policy has been put on steroids by Xi Jinping, in contrast to India, which has remained steadfast in eschewing expansionism of its own while resisting efforts at expansionism from outside.

Terror must not find shelter

Sunday 16 July 2023

In Paris, Modi and Macron showcase the emerging world order (The Sunday Guardian)

 A New World requires New Thought. This is the implicit message behind the policy stance of the New India that is emerging within the ongoing transformation of the globe into a world where democracy and freedom prevail over tyranny and domination.

New Delhi

The world has changed since the close of the 1990s. It would be premature to call the present state of the ongoing transformation a “new world order”, as order can only be found after an equilibrium is reached, and that has yet to be established. Indeed, the nature of that equilibrium is precisely the contest between the two blocs involved. Within the world order that is emerging out of the present flux, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is playing a keystone role. Which explains why in the space of a few weeks, the Prime Minister concluded a state visit to Washington and followed it up with a similar high-stakes visit to Paris. In both capitals, he was welcomed with warmth and fanfare by Presidents Biden and Macron, much to the grief of elements seeking to distance India and the Atlantic Alliance from each other. There is symbolic logic in PM Modi being the Guest of Honour on France’s most important date, Bastille Day. The storming of the Bastille was accompanied by calls for Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. In the 20th century, it was India that was the initiator of the chain reaction that finally brought a close to colonialism in Asia and Africa. For a 21st century mind, it is both just and logical that the freedoms for which the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille are or should be the patrimony not just of a few but of all the nations in the world.

India has always opposed efforts at a unipolar world order. And in the 1960s, it was France under Charles de Gaulle who resisted efforts at domination from the outside, and who insisted on mutual respect between allies and partners. This is precisely the principle that is being sought by India as it seeks out partners to ensure that together the Indo-Pacific can be made free of domination and secure for all. The goal is to ensure that efforts at converting the South China Sea into a private lake controlled by a single country are prevented. France is as desirous as the US and India, not to mention ASEAN, that is issues of sovereignty and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea be maintained as per international rather than any domestic law.

Within Europe, France has a particular resonance in India. For it was in 1998 under Jacques Chirac that it became the only western country not to condemn the 1998 Pokhran II nuclear explosions. In contrast, the US, the UK, Canada and Australia were obnoxiously scathing in their responses. The subtext of their protests was that a country with a per capita income as low as India ought not to be in the nuclear league at all. President Chirac looked beyond the present at the time into the future, and saw immediately that India was a country that the western world needed to befriend and not alienate. And that India merited a seat at the High Table of international diplomacy. French President Emmanuel Macron early into his tenure understood that a close relationship between India and the Atlantic Alliance was indispensable for global security, notably in the Indo-Pacific, where France has long been active. Just as was done by Biden in Washington, Modi was welcomed by Macron not just as the Head of Government of a country that is well on the way to emerging as the world’s third superpower, after the US and China, but as a close friend.
Soon after Narendra Modi was sworn in as PM, whether it be David Cameron or Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street, or Donald J. Trump or Joseph R. Biden Jr in the White House, or Scott Morrison or Anthony Albanese at the Prime Minister’s office in Canberra, each quickly became a friend of the Prime Minister of India. It is said of the English that they have the utmost (if unexpressed) contempt for Indians who try to be more English than the English. In contrast, Narendra Modi is Indian and is proud of, and comfortable with, that fact. He is not among those who try to distance themselves through word and deed from their country and the totality of its history. Confidence in his country, and pride in being part of it is a factor that has drawn world leaders sharing the same strategic vision into forming a close friendship with Prime Minister Modi. This is evident not just within the western world, but in the Global South as well, whether it be the leaders of the Pacific Island Countries or the Gulf Cooperation Council. It was not accidental that on the way home from Paris, the Prime Minister stopped off at Abu Dhabi to meet his close friend, UAE President Zayed. The GCC and India join with ASEAN in being part of Southern Asia, the arc that is the hinterland of India, just as India is part of their hinterland.

Both Modi and Macron, being Heads of Government, see with particular clarity that the world is changing, and that they need to ensure that their countries change with it. Just as the eruption in just the past three years of significant climatic shifts in multiple locations has left Climate Deniers in a state of confusion, societal dynamics within democratic societies east and west have become too obvious to ignore. In France, President Macron is at a stage in life when he can expect to live at least four decades more, and knows that the present structure of social welfare to the population by the state is already fiscally unsustainable, and will collapse if not remedied.

Those who see a racial element in every human phenomenon claim that recent riots, arson and violence in Paris and Marseille was because of barriers to those not of European ethnicity reaching the same levels of empowerment and improvement in France as the others. The Indian diaspora in France, with whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent an hour during his just-concluded visit to France, proves them wrong. Overall, the diaspora has transformed within France into achievers and not misfits, and to a level where the per capita income of an Indian family settled in France exceeds the national average. Nor is this the consequence of leaving behind their cultural heritage and adopting that of the majority in the way that a Bobby Jindal has. Their traditions, including their ancestral faiths, have not been a barrier to self-advancement in France, a country that is majority Catholic and justifiably proud of that deeply traditional branch of the Christian faith.
It has been pointed out that the road near Paris where the death at the hands of a trigger-happy policeman of a youth took place is split into two segments, with one section being visibly less appetising to live in than the other. The explanation offered for lack of advancement of those living in the less privileged length of the same road is that there are racial barriers, a view that ignores the fact that more than a million French citizens who are of native French ethnicity share the poverty of those immigrant families in the lower-income segment of the road where the youth lost his life. If a French citizen were to act in the belief that his or her ethnicity or background presented an insuperable obstacle to self-advancement, the effort and the hope that impels an individual to excel would be absent. Such a dystopian view of French society is not shared by the Indian diaspora. For those who have succumbed to the paralysing effect of belief in victimhood, hope and productive effort have been replaced by a hatred of the majority in France, and anger at the French government. Such unthinking rage leads to riots such as what was just witnessed in France, when what is needed by all citizens native born or immigrants is to take advantage of the opportunities available, especially in education, and climb up the ladder. President Macron’s detractors, who condemn French society as racist and skewed in favour of the majority, forget that their violent actions will lead not to an alternative leader who accepts their view that there is bias and inequality, but Marine Le Pen, who is far closer to what is often termed the radical nativist fringe in France than Macron will ever be. The more riots there are, and the greater the dysfunction amongst segments of the population that paralyse initiative while experiencing rising anger and hatred, the closer will Le Pen be to occupying the Elysee Palace.

France is a country where citizens are proud of their traditions, as is India. But as in France, in India as well there are citizens who are tutored to believe that they are irreversibly disadvantaged, and who therefore channel their energies into acts of hatred, including against the government.

India is a country that was tragically partitioned on the sole ground of faith, and in an unexpected reaction, successive political leaders post-1947 sought to de-legitimize pride in ancient Indian traditions as being “reactionary”. India is a country where there continues to be the constant drumbeat of an imaginary duality between the “majority” and the “minority”, as though both were of different ethnicities. They are not, for they share the same DNA and the same civilisational strand that stretches back more than 5,000 years. The same individuals who see nothing wrong in a US President swearing his oath of office on the Holy Bible regard as retrogressive any similar move of swearing by a holy book on the part of an elected official in India. The Head of Government of the UK, an Anglican country, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took his oath on the Bhagavad Gita, without eyebrows being raised. Religion is a private matter, and needs to remain that way, especially in a democracy. Secularism does not mean the division of society into majority and minority, but equal treatment to all by the government.

Efforts by the lobbies hostile to democracy at creating and thereafter perpetuating fault lines within society in major democracies have been going on for at least the past decade. Each major democracy needs to deal with the threat to social stability represented by such moves, and in this, an exchange of information about the experience of each country is essential. There are leaders who remain tethered to views that have since lost relevance, and as a consequence, policy gets designed that fails to address problems and where they are occurring adequately. Amidst the diversion of attention within the western world caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, India under Prime Minister Modi has remained focused as to the present threat rather than allow itself to be obsessed with past challengers. India has not followed the example of those partners of it who have locked the doors to access of Russia’s resources, and who are increasing Moscow’s reliance on Beijing by an obsessive focus on what is now a lesser threat to the West as compared to what the democracies are facing in the form of an authoritarian superpower. India led by Modi has focused not on fuelling the war but in promoting an immediate onset of peace.

The welcome received by the Prime Minister first in Washington and now in Paris indicates that the reality and the existential nature of Cold War 2.0 has finally entered the core strategic thought and policies of major democracies across both sides of the Atlantic. Naya Sansar, Naya Soch. A New World requires New Thought. This is the implicit message behind the policy stance of the New India that is emerging within the ongoing transformation of the globe into a new world order where democracy and freedom prevail over tyranny and domination. The two state visits of the Prime Minister to Washington and Paris form part of the building blocks that are being laid by great democracies working in concert towards a new world order that empowers all countries rather than a few at the expense of the many.

In Paris, Modi and Macron showcase the emerging world order