Sunday, 24 July 2016

External actors seek to derail Indian growth story (Sunday Guardian)

The core of the plan is to shift government’s focus from development to fire-fighting.
Aware that India breaking through the “growth barrier” and entering a period of stable double digit growth will transform global geopolitics by creating a new pivot in Asia besides the existing giant, China, numerous groups are working quietly and efficiently to ensure that the India story gets derailed. This is sought to be achieved by lowering public morale and confidence, ensuring administrative sclerosis through delayed decisions, and by fuelling public unrest that detracts from the “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” narrative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Interestingly, thus far the BJP government has moved with cautious conservatism so far as administrative change is concerned, preferring to rely almost entirely on the systems and personnel inherited from the past. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has carried forward the tight money, high interest rate policy of his two immediate predecessors, and this has fused alongside conservative North Block policies to create job growth below the level needed for societal stability in a country comprising largely of the young. The emphasis on higher and higher taxation now, rather than adopting a policy of lower tax rates leading to high growth in future (introduced by the UPA during 2006-2007) has impacted the services sector, which has been growing with reduced momentum as a consequence. Manufacturing has been affected by high interest rates, while such irrational UPA policies as asking the buyer (Vodafone) rather than the seller (Hutchison Whampoa) to pay the TDS (tax deducted at source for a transaction) or making retrospective changes in taxation remain to be fully corrected. Although several experts have been pointing to the harmful effects of such measures, thus far the bureaucracy seems resistant to make the significant changes needed to rectify the harm done during the UPA period, confining itself to adjustments at the margin.
Change at the Prime Minister’s Office (which has regained under Narendra Modi the autonomy and primacy that was lost during the UPA period) needs to be replicated by similar dynamism in key ministries such as Home, HRD and Finance. In particular, most of the chokepoints set up to slow activity down that were added to during the UPA period need to be dismantled at an accelerating pace. The RTI needs to be strengthened and whistle blowers given protection, together with free speech and the protection of democratic freedoms in lifestyle. Also, until horizontal inductions take place in the higher bureaucracy of domain specialists on fixed term contracts, and a comprehensive weeding out through forced retirement of corrupt and incompetent officials takes place on a bi-annual basis, it will be difficult to counteract the carefully planned and well funded moves that are in play to ensure that the country moves towards a situation which more closely resembles that prevailing in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
While the ISI and GHQ Rawalpindi more generally are lead players in the planning and implementation of such efforts at sabotaging the future of India, there are a miscellany of other interests as well, including religious and corporate. Within not only the GCC countries, but the EU and the US, there are politically well-connected and generously funded entities seeking to convert tens of millions in India to the faiths to which they subscribe, and who are unhappy that the liberal visa regime for foreign preachers of hate against Hinduism that was in effect during the UPA period has been abandoned. East Asia has become a viable competitor to Europe and even the US in an expanding number of business segments, and the worry among both blocs is that industry, trade and services in India could potentially eclipse both of them, given the vibrancy of the people of this country, as shown by their prowess in those countries where a colonial culture of governance does not exist the way it continues in India. Examples of such economic warfare include the artificially induced (albeit effective) agitations against uranium mining throughout India, blocking crude oil extraction in Manipur that could have made this impoverished state wealthy, blocking bauxite and aluminium extraction projects in Orissa by groups that have not resorted to similar activities against any such projects in the rest of the globe, and infrastructure such as the Maheswar dam remaining unused for a multiplicity of reasons, primary among which is the ease by which projects can be stayed for decades under India’s legal system, international NGOs blocking the development of India’s coal resources in order to promote imports from far wealthier countries at higher cost, while agitations against nuclear plants ensure a growing market for (imported) coal in the country.
The core of the plan is to slow down economic growth in India through forcing a shift in focus of the Narendra Modi government from speeding up development and altering the governance paradigm through innovative use of technology, to fire-fighting of the kind recently witnessed in Kashmir, Gujarat and Haryana, not to mention ongoing tensions concerning the Dalit community. According to individuals familiar with the details of the plan, the slow pace of job creation in the organised sector has created a window for fuelling agitations for reservation in the state sector by communities that are much more prosperous than most others in their location. Thus far, intelligence agencies seem to have ignored the external push that has been given to several such agitations by patrons from afar seeking to derail the India growth story, each for their own reasons. After the Jat, Patidar and Kapu agitations, the expectation is that in Assam, significant segments of the Ahom community can be motivated to lobby for reservations on the Patidar or Jat model in Gujarat and Haryana, respectively, followed by a similar push by elements of the Maratha community in Maharashtra. Together with the Kashmir and Dalit flashpoints, clearly efforts are ongoing to ensure that the heat never cools for the Modi government, a situation which is expected to have an impact on the performance of the BJP in coming state Assembly elections.
Although the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has plugged the channels through which several NGOs are being funded by agencies abroad, a growing number of “underground NGOs” have sprung up that source moneys received through hawala channels. Because of the fact that those involved in such networks often service the needs of officials and politicians, thus far very little has been done against the major hawala operators in India, especially those operating in metro locations as well as in states such as Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra, and hence such individuals are free to funnel money to the groups being set up to promote chaos and confusion in different parts of India.
It needs to be mentioned that some of the overt and underground NGOs connected with the plan have adopted a saffron tinge so as to facilitate the perception that the Modi government and the BJP as a political party are behind the troublemakers motivated by such NGOs.
Kashmir is a special case, and is getting special attention from GHQ Rawalpindi, which has been assisting in the creation of a multiplicity of “citizens’ human rights groups” active in spreading a perception that only separation from the rest of India will lead to peace and prosperity in Kashmir, when the opposite is the truth. It is expected that Channel 4 in the UK will broadcast a series on Kashmir designed to show the Indian Army in a poor light, despite that force showing tolerance and moderation on a level never attempted by counterparts elsewhere. This is to go on air around the time of the September plenary meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission, which is expected to be attended by nearly four dozen NGOs, several of whom have been specially commissioned by GHQ for the purpose of casting India as a serial human rights violator in the matter of Kashmir, the Northeast, women’s & children’s rights and the situation concerning the Dalit community. It bears mention that Senator Timothy Kaine, who has been chosen as her Vice-Presidential candidate by Hillary Clinton, has been among the most vociferous anti-India voices in the US Senate, repeatedly calling for action against India on a cluster of issues relating to religious freedom and human rights, while Donald Trump’s key aide, Paul Manafort, was for a time associated with a pro-Pakistan group lobbying in the US for action to force India to hand over the state to Pakistan. Hopefully, both Kaine as well as Manafort have by now understood the factual position and changed their stands.
Given the concentration of effort expended on ensuring social unrest in India in the name of caste and job reservations, as well as the potential for induced agitations in multiple sectors such as banking and transport, “Business as Usual” cannot be the norm at the MHA, while officials in the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India need to look beyond the needs of big financial conglomerates in New York and London and focus on job creation through igniting growth sufficient to damp down youth unrest caused by a lack of economic opportunities. Going parallel with such plans are those of terror groups headquartered in Pakistan as well as the Levant that are planning mass terror attacks in India on the Paris and Nice model. The Prime Minister has called for “Naya Soch”. Narendra Modi will need it to ensure that ongoing efforts at derailing the India story fail.

Trump’s foreign policy makes sense, not nonsense (Sunday Guardian)

While Sanders has given way to Hillary Clinton, Trump has managed to savage his foes to the shock of the army of lobbyists.
Those familiar with the workings of Washington are aware of the influences at work on the web of think-tanks, university departments and individual scholars, officials and analysts which direct their conclusions into defined paths. For example, the countries comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council depend on the United States for their security. Hence, the urgency to ensure that policy papers from “expert” and “non-partisan” sources reflect less the core strategic interests of the US than the desires of those at the apex of the GCC. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi detested Saddam Hussein—or Moammar Gaddafi, and more recently Bashar Assad—enough to want NATO to get rid of them.
Foundations, university departments and individual scholars have, over the decades, received generous assistance from sources that are either within the GCC or linked to them, and it is no surprise that those getting such largesse know exactly what views they need to espouse to ensure that the flow of funds continues. Several leading politicians, for example, have set up foundations and other “charitable and non-profit” institutions that pay for their corporate jets, luxury hotel stays and staff expenses. Almost none have revealed the actual donors, nor is there any curiosity as to the process by which policy conclusions reached by such agencies mirror so accurately the needs of their patrons.
Given the uproar that has ensued over Donald Trump’s suggestions on foreign policy, the assumption may be made by innocents that the policies the Republican candidate for the Presidency is opposing or distancing himself from, represent triumphs.
 In actual fact, they have proved to be disasters, whether they be the manner in which the post-Saddam occupation of Iraq took place, or the steps taken in Afghanistan after the Northern Alliance and the US Air Force had the Taliban on the run in the final weeks of 2001. As for NATO, the errors made by that entity have often led to horrendous results. Of course, such is not the narrative related by the authors of such policies.
In Iraq, for example, the “surge” is considered to have “turned the tide” in Iraq, before—such self-serving narratives claim—Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki imposed a “Shia dictatorship controlled by Iran” on the country. What most GCC countries sought after Saddam’s fall was the setting up of a governance mechanism once again controlled by the Sunni minority, rather than the natural preponderance that the far greater numbers of Shia in Iraq gave that community. The relentless intervention by US policymakers to press the Wahhabi-serving GCC agenda on Baghdad created much of the policy missteps, which resulted in the growth of ISIS safe zones in Iraq and the refugee flood into Europe. ISIS followed in Iraq the 1995-96 example of the Taliban and bribed army commanders in Iraq to cease defensive operations against them.
The cash for this came from much the same sources as had contributed to the coffers of the Taliban, yet such donors are still welcome visitors to a Washington where the analyses which steadily morph into actual policy are usually bought and paid for by those interests which benefit from them.
Across the political divide, almost all those prominent in politics in the national capital of the world’s biggest economy partake of the resources of those with a transparent interest in precisely the outcomes which the policies recommended by key Washington policymakers seek to generate.
Whether it be the facilitation of the Taliban by Bill Clinton during the 1990s or the later bungling of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars by George W. Bush, or the way in which Team Obama members subsequently forced through regime change in Libya or how armed ISIS volunteers in Syria were passed off as the “moderate opposition” by the Wahhabised secret services of regional allies of the US, each such disaster is rooted in policy errors caused by the financial linkages that have been built up across the Washington Beltway since the 1970s.
Neither Bernie Sanders nor Donald Trump was the beneficiary of the complex of interests that for so long have dominated US policy. While Sanders has given way to Hillary Clinton, Trump has managed to savage his foes to the shock of the army of lobbyists who do not—yet—have even the smallest influence on the man.
Trump has not hesitated to mention the failures of US policy and of NATO, thereby putting thousands of paid-for “experts” and public opinion builders at risk of exposure.
In reality, it makes sense to have Russia as a friend rather than remain a foe, and to invite Kim Jong-un to Washington, to cool down the latter’s suspicion that he is slated to be on the same conveyor to doom that Saddam and Gaddafi were, and which Bashar Assad declined to step onto. The Republican nominee is correct when he points out, for example, the link between the disastrous US policies followed since the “Arab Spring” and ISIS.
However, for those worried at a possible steep fall in their grants and other incomes were he to get elected over Hillary Clinton, such Trumpian sense needs to get portrayed as nonsense, so that their domestic and international patrons get the candidate of their choice elected in November.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Hague verdict (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
ON July 12 the Arbitral Tribunal of the UN-established Permanent Court of Arbitration gave its verdict on a matter brought before it on Jan 22, 2013 by the Philippines. In two detailed Memorials, Manila argued that China’s acceptance of the “Nine Dash Line” as defining its boundary within the South China Sea should be struck down as against international law. Almost the entire UN system in effect functions through out as though global geopolitics has changed little since the organisation was formed in 1945, and the Arbitral Tribunal is no exception.

Both sides of the North Atlantic still dominate the structure and components of the UN system. Hence, four of its five Tribunal members were from the European Union, the other being from Ghana, in a context where a more balanced representation of the different parts of the globe ought to have been attempted. However, throughout history, Great Powers have set their own rules in the architecture of international procedures, and now that China has itself once again become such a global force because of its economic growth and technological prowess, Beijing is likely to ignore a ruling that refuses to recognise its claims concerning the South China Sea.

This is certain to lead to a rise in diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Washington, Manila and Hanoi, among other powers. The position of Beijing is that the dispute with Manila needs to be settled bilaterally. However, given the disparity in size between the two side, the Philippines took shelter in the de facto support given to its claims by a group of countries, including the US and several countries in Europe and Asia. The other billion-plus populated country in Asia, India, has made it clear that it considers itself eligible to traverse the waters of the South China Sea without reference to any other country, and has lately even sent naval ships through the waters engaged in entirely peaceful voyages designed to improve goodwill in the region.

The recent stance of Beijing in the matter of India being made a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at its Seoul meeting strengthened the anti-China lobby in Delhi and weakened pro-China elements, hence it is very likely that there will be fresh moves at economic and other cooperation between Delhi and capitals such as Hanoi, Jakarta and Manila that refuse to accept Beijing’s claims over the waters The grounds on which China is staking its claim to much of the waters of the South China Sea indicate that the Peoples Republic of China sees itself as the successor to older regimes, including those that existed several hundreds of years ago.

In other words, the Chinese leadership has claimed the historical heritage of China and its people in a manner similar to the approach of European powers, especially in the Balkans, after the 1914-19 war, when the Paris Peace Conference was convened to settle territorial boundaries. Each of these countries, as well as others in Europe, used arguments related to history and culture to back their claims for new boundaries. In like fashion, China is going back to its past to define its future. As already mentioned, given the Great Power status of the PRC, it is improbable that any effort at rolling back its claims will succeed.

However, as in Europe during the first half of the previous century, the July 12 ruling and others that will surely follow are likely to increase tensions between China and countries that seek to enforce a system of laws and boundaries that are related to the post-1945 world and which are illustrated in the way the United Nations was constituted. As a Great Power, China of course has the ability to ignore the Hague tribunal’s ruling. However, those opposing it will now argue that international law is on their side in the dispute. The verdict will give them cover to increase their patrolling of the South China Sea and nearby waterlines. Overall, the verdict will lead to a rise in tensions. Hopefully a war can be avoided, as even a limited conflict will scar relations between the countries involved for a generation and more.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Hague verdict legitimises South China Sea war (Sunday Guardian)

The gates have been opened for war, most likely a limited conflict involving naval vessels and aircraft rather than land troops.
Although Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is regarded by Beijing as being hostile to China’s “core” interests, the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen has taken a stand very similar to that of the Chinese Communist Party in the South China Sea dispute. Both Taipei and Beijing reject the tribunal award on the South China Sea and even the legitimacy of the process followed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Beijing regards almost 90% of the waters of the South China Sea as its own, mainly on the basis of a “nine-dash line” in a map, which it claims is a historical record. Lately, China seems to have moved away from Deng Xiaoping’s post-1979 policy of avoidance of military force in dealings with its neighbour. Xi seems willing to use military means to enforce the claims made by his administration in the disputes that it has with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines in the China Seas. The assertive stance taken by Beijing has had a reaction in Japan, where voters have just given a two-thirds majority to hawk Shinzo Abe in the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament, in addition to their earlier gift of a similar majority in the Lower House. Meanwhile, the Philippines is boosting its military linkages with its historical partner, the United States, while Vietnam is building up its ability to respond to an encounter with the PLA Navy.
In the event of a conflict, the worst case scenario for China would be Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Australia and the US joining hands to challenge the Chinese forces. Meanwhile, since 2014, both Delhi as well as Washington have been edging closer to the status of military allies, even though as yet India’s bureaucracy is loath to sign (even in an amended form) the three Foundation Agreements which would set the course of India-US relations at least for the next generation, just as the India-USSR Pact did immediately before Indira Gandhi’s war to assist the people of Bangladesh in their battle against the genocide being perpetrated on them by the Pakistan army.
As long as the USSR was a functioning entity, so was the diplomatic tilt of India towards Moscow, occasional coy glances at Washington during the period in office of Rajiv Gandhi notwithstanding. After the USSR collapsed, India lost its privileged status. Indeed, it lost heavily as a consequence of then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh’s generosity in adjusting the rupee-rouble rate to reflect an absurdly (at that point in time) high value of the rouble for purposes of debt repayment by India. As in such one-sided pacts as the Indus Waters Treaty or the Shimla Accord with Pakistan, the rupee-rouble pact went 100% the way of the other country, leaving India a big loser.
Had China waited for another two decades without seeking to use its military muscles on its neighbours and the rest of the world, it would automatically have become as dominant in the region as the US was from the Korean War till its defeat in Vietnam.
Had China waited for another two decades without seeking to use its military muscles on its neighbours and the rest of the world, it would automatically have become as dominant in the region as the US was from the Korean War till its defeat in Vietnam. However, the assertive stance now taken by China in the China Seas dispute ensured victory in Japan for Abe. In Taiwan as well, the policy now being pursued by Beijing is boosting the influence of Tokyo. The Chinese side has cut off the Beijing-Taipei hotline between the two leaders, as well as the two other formally recognised communications channels between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits. Tourist arrivals from across the straits have gotten reduced considerably since the DPP took office two months ago. A vacuum has been created, into many parts of which Japan is likely to enter.
However, as seen even by such shortsighted policies as blocking India from becoming a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it seems clear that the Deng Xiaoping policy of avoiding recourse to armed force in disputes is practically over. In other words, the gates have been opened for war, most likely a limited conflict involving naval vessels and aircraft rather than land troops. Even a brief war would poison relations between Beijing and the other countries involved for more than a generation, as we have seen in the still toxic response in India to the brief 1962 border conflict with China, and this despite the Chinese side withdrawing from all its territorial gains soon after declaring a unilateral ceasefire. The importance of The Hague decree on the South China Sea dispute is that it has, in effect, branded China’s actions in the region as outside the ambit of international law. It follows that any action taken by other countries to reverse such moves by Beijing would be deemed to be legitimate. By its judgement, the Court of Arbitration in The Hague has provided legal cover for Japan, the US and other countries that are preparing to challenge the Chinese military in the matter of control over the South China Sea.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

To heal Kashmir, send Geelani to his homeland (Sunday Guardian)

According to the Muftis and the Abdullahs, the Wahhabis are the only segment of J&K society that need ‘healing’.
Let it be admitted that this columnist was from the start averse to the BJP joining hands with the PDP to form a government in Jammu & Kashmir. Instead of securing a few puny ministerships, had the party opted to be in the opposition and allowed a combination of the PDP, the National Conference and the Congress party to take over in Srinagar, very soon public opinion would have turned against such an alliance, and in the mid-term elections that would almost certainly follow, the BJP may have secured just enough seats in Kashmir to come to power on its own. With every year that passes, the attractiveness of Pakistan as an alternative to Indian statehood is getting reduced, so much so that apart from Syed Ali Shah Geelani and a few others loyal to the salt which nourishes them, most of those whose occupation it is to protest against the rest of India, work on the basis the desirable option is a level of autonomy sufficient to ensure total Wahhabisation. Such individuals are not satisfied with the partial Wahhabisation that has been implemented in Jammu & Kashmir since the Congress party allowed Sheikh Abdullah in 1947 to take over as Prime Minister, later on being turfed out, but thereafter displacing secular predecessors, who, had they continued, would have ensured the extinguishing of the unreal hope that the state could, through unrest or rebellion, win an overwhelmingly Wahhabised governance structure that would be independent of the Central government in every particular barring the formal.
Unfortunately for the people of the state and for the rest of the country, the 15% or so of the population that are partial or total Wahhabis is the only segment taken into account by both the media as well as the Central government. Of course, such a disastrous concession to a fundamentally undemocratic group has since been justified on the grounds first of “secularism” and now on the grounds of “pragmatism”. The BJP argues that its presence in the state government ensures that the state “does not slip into anarchy”. The Ministry of Home Affairs, which is historically known for neglecting societal sores until they turn cancerous, apparently believes that the presence of a BJP Deputy Chief Minister and miscellaneous ministers from the party is sufficient to ensure that Srinagar keep to the path of fealty to the Constitution of India. The MHA has, therefore, outsourced to J&K BJP ministers its job of ensuring adherence within the ruling structure of Kashmir to the political and governance principles ensuring the unity of this country. This despite the fact that from the start, these necessary principles have been ignored by the Wahhabis and their backers within the inner recesses of the governance mechanism of the state. Despite having only a slightly higher number of seats than the BJP, the PDP has arrogated to itself about 90% of the effective powers of the state government, of course in the name of “secularism” and “pragmatism”. Such an abdication of responsibility by the country’s ruling party would, it was calculated, “heal tensions and cool down passions”. In fact, the reverse has taken place.
According to the Muftis and the Abdullahs, the Wahhabis are the only segment of J&K society that need “healing”. The fact is that it is the rest of the population which has been ravaged by this medieval force, and which needs the sympathetic attention and “healing”, which till now has been denied by successive governments that have competed with each other to grovel at the doors of the Wahhabi grandees. None of these seem to do any work barring periodic calls to create chaos, although all of whom seem to be very well off, with the Income-Tax authorities clearly not looking their way. More than verbal tributes to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, what is needed is to ensure that the warnings of that prescient leader be taken seriously and at least some of his prescriptions get followed in Jammu & Kashmir, especially autonomy from Srinagar for Jammu and Ladakh. It is striking that the many politicians who swear by secularism seem oblivious of the fact that the principle has been absent in J&K since Jawaharlal Nehru decided that even accession to India was less important than ensuring the primacy of Sheikh Abdullah over the state. Indira Gandhi persisted with her father’s policy of coddling the Sheikh, while Rajiv briefly rebelled against one wing of the family, that led by Farooq Abdullah, in the process supporting a closet Wahhabi, G.M. Shah, who accelerated the process that saw the state plunging into terror within years of his rule. The Muftis too believe that the only segment that needs coddling is the Wahhabi fringe. Such persistent appeasement of a fringe should be halted. Instead, what is needed is to put on a flight to Lahore sans passport Geelani and those who swear loyalty to Pakistan. Such firmness may cause short-term problems but in the longer term, it will ensure the stability and secularism in Kashmir that has been denied the state till now because of a consistent policy of appeasing the fringe at the cost of the bulk of the population of the state.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Obama steps in to rescue Hillary (Pakistan Observer)

Using a private email server to mail Top Secret messages relating to issues that foreign intelligence agencies would pay millions to acquire is certainly, in the words of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director’s words,” careless”. Those who assume high office are presumed to accept higher standards of accountability than ordinary citizens, yet the FBI Director has given his verdict on Hillary Clinton on the implicit assumption that she ought to be judged as simply another US citizen, not as an official sworn on oath to respect security and secrecy, which is what she was as Secretary of State, although not in her previous incarnation as First Lady. What makes the provenance of the email server used by the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States toxic is the fact that the Clinton Foundation (which presumably had access to the emails) received and continues to receive large sums of money as donations from foreign entities.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton joined hands with Nicholas Sarkozy (then President of France) to adopt a policy of inserting NATO into the armed struggle against Muammar Kaddafy. The intervention ensured the defeat of the Libyan dictator, who had earlier surrendered all the WMD in his possession and revealed all his security-related secrets to the very NATO capitals that later destroyed his government and much of Libya along with it. The Libyan dictator was a quirky despot, but during the years that he was in charge, the country was united, terror was absent, basic facilities were available in plenty and economic conditions were comfortable. After being “liberated” by Sarkozy, David Cameron and Hillary Clinton the country soon became unlovable.

Libya is now a living hell, with jobs and security absent and incomes way below what they were before the “liberation”. Ironically, had Kaddafy succeeded in defeating the (then) ragtag group of armed extremists who were challenging his rule in Benghazi, not only would far less people have been killed than was the case because of NATO intervention, but many of the terror squads that have since proliferated in the region would have been absent. It was the Libyan intervention that ensured a bountiful flow of modern eapons to extremist groups, stocks that they have since put to use across the region, including in much of Africa. Of course, the guiding principle of NATO is that whatever goes wrong is the fault of others, and hence there has thus far been zero accountability for the hugely consequential 2011 intervention in Libya, or indeed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.

There have been individuals who claimed that elements in the Clinton Foundation (presumably unauthorisedly) accessed several of the Hillary Clinton emails and showed them privately to foreign nationals from countries in which the foundation was soliciting funds. However, even the Republican Party has declined to make such a charge, presumably respecting the fact that several of its grandees are themselves close to the entities and individuals who have so generously made the Clinton Foundation among the richest in the world, able to support the former President in the lifestyle of a corporate czar, complete with private jets and luxury suites in hotels. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has formally distanced herself from the conclusions of the FBI investigation into the Clinton emails. This is fortunate, for the FBI has taken the same stand as Bernie Sanders did at the start of the primary campaign season, dismissing the issue as of little consequence.

Had Sanders been as aggressive towards Hillary Clinton from the start as he was towards the close of his campaign, he may have overtaken her in pledged delegates. The way in which he dismissed the matter of the “damned emails” gave the impression of a man who was more comfortable talking about putting up a fight that actually doing so. This led to several individuals sitting out the primaries rather than getting involved in the side of Bernie Sanders, who was far and above the candidate with the highest level of integrity in the US Presidential race.

The shadow of Barack Obama falls upon the FBI Director’s exoneration of Hillary Clinton, for it is otherwise inexplicable how he gave a clean chit to the former First Lady. The possibility that the shifting of emails to a private server was not an accident or a sign of “carelessness”, but that this was done to enable unauthorised individuals to access them and to possibly make them available to big donors was not even considered by the FBI. An assumption of innocence was present from the start, although it is likely that even should Hillary Clinton be elected President of the US, the issue will not go away. There will be more investigations, including into the role of the FBI Director in giving instructions to the officers probing the matter.

If some within the system are to be believed, several junior FBI officials wanted to pursue the question of motivation and that of possible damage to security interests because of the fact that emails relating to the most sensitive of matters were potentially at risk of discovery, including by those who had directly or otherwise made contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Add to that the fact that several of these donors had a direct and substantial interest in US foreign policy, and it becomes easier to understand why the FBI Director’s exculpation of Hillary Clinton is very similar to what was done by George W Bush soon ager 9./11,when he allowed several individuals known to have funded radical groups to leave the country on special flights.

The reality is that on several matters of foreign policy, Donald Trump is right (such as his statement that Saddam Hussein kept terrorists in check in Iraq, or his pointing to the consequences of the Libyan intervention). Of course, Saddam kept not only terrorists but his own people in check, and deserved to be removed from power. However, what took place afterwards ( accompanied by backing from Hillary Clinton) has proved a disaster for a once proud country and the world. The FBI Director has shown that it is not only in Africa and in South Asia that the powerful get away with anything. It happens in the US as well.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Lutyens should no longer be a ‘safe zone’ for fixers (Sunday Guardian)

The Election Commission of India, as with almost all institutions with an all-India zone of responsibility, has always been staffed at the top by “Lutyens lok”. Over the seven decades since 1947, a colonial system continued that ensured safety and comfort (including monetary) for the 5,000 or so hyper privileged within the governance structure and of course those in business and in other fields they patronised. This post-1947 creamy layer is best referred to as “Lutyens lok”, those who have gained exponentially from the Mughal-British-era governance system that got perpetuated in “free” India. The protective wall around them is, of course, at the expense of the rest of the population of this country. They form a weatherproof bubble that has been leeching off the population of this country, while all around them the potential of the rest of India gets drained away into the gutters of underperformance because of defective policies.

The frame holding the governance structure in place is the trio of “high caste” Central services. Doing an audit of the top 500 individuals in the IAS, the IFS, the IPS and those of three-star and higher rank in the military, would be a simple matter for an honest and motivated task force loyal to the transformational objectives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Such an enquiry would document the top 500 within the pool of officials, detailing lifestyle, including travel of themselves, their spouses and their children. It would look into their contacts, including phone calls made, much in the manner of what has been revealed in the case of arms sales expert Sanjay Bhandari recently, who has been in contact with Lutyens Zone heavyweights on a regular basis. It would find out details of the education of the offspring, especially if this be in pricey foreign shores, and the jobs such offspring enter into after completing their education. For example, it may not be entirely coincidental that the large financial conglomerates responsible for the 2008 crash have recruited several offspring of influential policymakers over the years, even as they operate in India with an impunity denied them in the US or the UK, where they are often made to pay huge fines for actions commonplace in India. Full knowledge of those who are at the core of decision making and implementation in the country is a prerequisite for ensuring that honesty and merit and not the date of joining a service becomes the primary factor in career advancement and enhanced responsibility.

The Lutyens Zone has operated in a climate where transparency got replaced by opacity. Where, instead of looking through plain glass accurately at those who rule over them, a subtle censoring of facts about the privileged means the public see only misleading images of key decision makers , impressions of them that are entirely removed from reality. Few officials have suffered in the slightest for facilitating high-level financial and personal peccadilloes, but such immunity comes as no surprise. In the Lutyens Zone, it is bad form to point fingers at those within the circle of privilege. In that other giant democracy, the US, those in Washington who are part of the Beltway elite dislike Donald Trump, because thus far he has ignored them and publicly pointed out errors they have made in policy. Of course, it may be that should he get elected, Trump may make his peace with the Beltway heavyweights by giving them choice slots in his administration, and adopting several of their policies. Others who have come to power in different countries promising change but persisting with the status quo have done so, V.P. Singh and his deliberately ineffective Bofors enquiry being an example. On the other hand, those personally familiar with Trump are unanimous that he would not compromise with the Beltway grandees, which is why there is an effort even within sections of the Republican Party to back Hillary Clinton, who is as much a part and protector of the Washington Beltway as Sonia Gandhi is of Delhi’s Lutyens Zone. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched an ambitious programme of transformative modernisation. His success will largely hinge on the quality of administration. Hence the importance of ensuring that the “high caste” trio of Central services be given the same treatment as the military, which weeds out officers from the system much before they reach 60 or even 55. By the time a high (civilian) official is 50, many within his batch ought to have been made to move out of the government as a consequence of periodic quality control checks. Indeed, after the results come in of the audit of the top 500 suggested earlier, in all except the most egregious cases, punishment for those who have shown clear evidence of misutilising their powers ought to be enforced retirement, plus payment of taxes on discovered extra income. Especially since the 1980s, there are all too many “fixers” in elevated government positions. Indeed, their social and communication skills often result in such fixers moving up the promotion and responsibility ladder far faster than more honest counterparts. All this needs to change, so that the comprehensive change personified by the victory of Narendra Modi in 2014 comes about. The Lutyens Zone must no longer be a safe zone for the major beneficiaries and practitioners of a system of governance that takes away outrageous quantities of discretion from the people and transfers this to a colonial administrative machinery. Such extreme powers are not meant to improve governance, but to amass hidden wealth, so as to better afford college fees in the US, UK and France and of course vacations in Miami and Paris for the families of the officials who have adopted the mindset of the British. This is to (a) consider as permissible all their misdeeds (b) constrict the freedom of citizens to emasculate them and (c) create policy structures designed to maximize the opportunities for bribery. Only genuine accountability, especially at the higher levels of government service, can liberate India from the curse of a governance system that has since colonial days been designed for a small elite, and is comprised of and is run by them.

Friday, 1 July 2016

EU narcissism leads to slow collapse (Pakistan Observer)

THE European Union was born out of the idea that the peoples of the continent were the cream of humanity, and that if only they were to join together, they would – this time collectively rather than as individual countries – once again achieve primacy over vast sections of the globe. It was Karl Marx who wrote that a repeat of history converts tragedy into farce, in his “Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, and so it has come to pass. The European Union has become a near-farcical entity, furiously working out averages that would suit all its members rather than evolving systems where the best would lead and laggards would get left behind.

In other words, the system that made the European continent dominate the rest of the globe. Among the worst errors was the euro, a common currency that was set up on the shaky foundation of separate central banking systems, and entirely different cost structures and management cultures within a heterogeneous “union”. The other error was to repeat on a larger scale the mistake made by Helmut Kohl, who in a fit of generosity, decreed that the East German currency would be deemed equal to West German Deutschmark, which at that point in time was among most stable currencies on the planet, while East German currency was in its fundamentals depreciating at speed.

At its core, the EU is a club based on ethnicity and the myth of a common European ancestry. Hence the fact that the UK welcomes mafiosi from Romania into its cities while denying techies from Hyderabad or Chennai in India the opportunity of living and working in Britain, even though these latter would generate huge volumes of taxation for the state, as well as contribute to GNP in a way far superior to that of most of the hundreds of thousands from East Europe who every year cross into the UK to stay. Hopefully, despite hints of racism during the Presidential campaign, the US will retain the advantage it has by being far more colour-blind than the European Union in welcoming professionals to its shores.

If the countries in Asia were ever to concert on such matters in the way they ought to, several of the largest economies in Europe would face sanctions from Asia because of the reality of EU discrimination against those from the world’s largest continent in favour of those from the world’s smallest. The European Union has become a vehicle for squeezing money from the rest of the world to throw at countries and regions in Europe that are behind star performers, thereby creating a culture of dependence and a cost structure that is unsustainable for purposes of global competition. Negotiating any agreement with the EU has become an exasperating process, because of need to satisfy each need of its more than two dozen members rather than work out outcomes that are better balanced and less one-sided.

It is true that the US too seeks to impose a “my way or the highway” code in its negotiations, especially with poorer countries, but the fact is that the US is a single country while the EU only pretends to be a unified entity. In actuality, the East European members in particular have each become adept in securing as much advantage as possible from the EU as they can get away with, including securing concessions from the rest of the world through the intercession of the bigger economies in the alliance. Given the steady downsizing of the cost and technological advantages of European entities globally, membership of the EU is becoming a negative rather than an advantage, given the burden (of poorer members) that need to be carried by the stronger, a birder that is hastening the collapse of French competitiveness and which will soon drain away the edge that German companies now possess, given that Berlin will need to fill the cash subsidy vacuum created by London’s exit.

Throughout Europe, the telling of history as a seamless tapestry of endowing civilisation in distant shores by the intervention of European countries has led to a nostalgia that has generated the impulse to repeat history, of course with less bloodshed and obvious control this time around. A united Europe was seen as the pathway towards the regaining of primacy by the continent, just as the superiority of the European worker over counterparts in other continents was assumed in the policy of seeking to give a monopoly to such workers within the EU rather than open the doors to migration of those with skills. Of course, the EU has now got the worst of both worlds. It is having to cope with a flood of migrants with indeterminate skills and uncertain loyalties, while at the same time blocking those (mainly from Asia) who would have made significant contributions to local economies but are not allowed entry because they are not of European ethnicity.

Of course, those of such ethnicity are always welcomed into the EU, whether they technically be citizens of countries in Asia, Africa or South America, even while fellow citizens from these locations who are of non-European ethnicity continue to be excluded. Just as was the case earlier in Europe, ethnicity is at the core of policymaking in Brussels The choice of “Brexit” ( or leaving the EU) by the British people is likely to see the rise of similar sentiment in France and Germany, the two countries that have fashioned the EU into a club designed to look exclusively after the interests of those from the continent and their ethnic kin outside. In France, it is becoming very probable that Marine Le Pen may get elected the next Head of State, while in the US, although there is a frenzied effort by the Washington Beltway to demolish the chances of Donald Trump, the fact remains that in coming months, revelations of misconduct by those linked to the Clintons may yet cripple Hillary Clinton’s drive to win back residence in the White House.

Given the way West Europe has hobbled itself in competitive terms by its Kohl-like generosity towards East and South Europe, economic growth is likely to slow down even more, leading to the election of “right nationalist” parties that say openly what the EU would like to hide away in a closet of silence, that the European experiment is about ethnicity and the presumption of superiority over other comers. After Brexit, there is likely to be a Frexit, when France bids goodbye, followed by Gerxit, the departure of Germany from EU, leaving it a club of countries in South and East Europe. June 23 vote in the UK is likely to be start of a slow process of meltdown of a political construct that refused to acknowledge that unless each country sees itself in global rather than in narrowly continental terms, it will finally fall behind others who are more open-minded.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

China hurts itself, not India, at NSG meeting (Sunday Guardian)

Now onwards, those seeking to block Chinese companies from freely operating in markets in India will go about their own blockades less obstructed.
In 2001, when President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney spurned the offer of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to accept India as the lead partner in the region against terror groups operating in Afghanistan and instead showered largesse on Pakistan under Pervez Musharraf, the ISI ensured that NATO cash and materiel went to those who were closet Taliban warlords, thereby creating a revival of that militia that was funded by its declared enemies. GHQ in Rawalpindi dangled the prospect of a peace deal with the Taliban, in the process inserting sympathisers into the Afghan government, who paralysed it from the inside and reported on it for their terrorist friends. By moving away from India, leverage by the US on GHQ was lost and both the escape of terror elements (who later surfaced in countries across continents) as well as the resurgence of the Taliban became inevitable.
There was never an “either or” choice in 2001 between India and Pakistan, for the reason that Islamabad would have panicked at closer US ties with Delhi and cooperated not just in words but in deed in the conflict. Washington has paid a monumental price for its error in relying on Pakistan to fight the very terrorists that were being nurtured by GHQ.
Now China has joined the US in adopting a policy that places the interests of the Pakistan army above that of the Chinese people, by scuttling India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the just-concluded Seoul summit. Such opposition from China converted what could have been a transformational point in Sino-Indian ties into a disaster, not for India, but for China. From now onwards, when the MHA and other elements in the bureaucracy seek to restrict the entry into the domestic market of Chinese telecom, energy and infrastructure providers, it will be harder for those who understand the benefits to both countries of strong India-China commercial ties, to protest. By its equating of India with a much smaller country, Pakistan, Beijing has shown that it will seek to confine India into the “South Asia” box rather than accept the country as an equal.
Had China abstained at the NSG meeting and thereby allowed the vote on India to go ahead, a neo-Wahhabi country such as Turkey or those nostalgic about the period when Europe ruled Asia (such as Ireland and Austria) may still have blocked the entry of India into the NSG. However, by not standing in the way of NSG accession, China would have shown itself to be the friend of India that it claims to be.
This country did not expect to be humiliated by an arithmetically nonsensical equating of India with Pakistan, a formulation as devoid of commonsense as equating North Korea with China.
The blocking by China of India’s entry at Seoul has weakened China’s few friends in policymaking groups in India, and sharply added to the power of China’s enemies. It has been a self-goal of the same magnitude as the 2001 Bush-Cheney decision to trust the GHQ arsonist with putting out the terrorist fire.
It had been expected that President Xi Jinping would have the political strength to face down a PLA that follows the lead given by the Pakistan army in a most faithful manner, no matter that such moves are often against the interests of the Chinese people.
However, it is clear that President Xi has still not gained the control over the military needed to ensure that those in uniform do not get policies formulated that are opposed to China’s own interests, simply to favour an alien military that is an incubator for terror groups.
Given the post-Seoul reality that China sees India as an inferior power undeserving of access to groupings such as the NSG, the entire policy of nuclear restraint that India has been following may now be given a relook.
Those who rage that entry into the NSG means very little in practical terms are correct. However, what is important is the signalling that support or opposition to India’s becoming a member gives.
Those backing India consider this country an equal, and not as a pariah. Those opposing view it as an inferior country, no matter how much honey they pour into the language used to describe India.
As in 2001 with the US, going with India in 2016 would not in any way have resulted in Islamabad cutting off its linkages with Beijing. Both the US as well as China are crucial to the survival of the Pakistan army, which is why it is a surprise that policymakers in both Beijing as well as Washington believe that GHQ has any choice other than accepting the fact that it is in the national interest of both China as well as the US to have close ties with India.
While our country loses very little because of China’s decision to back Pakistan against its own longer-term interest, the loser will be China.
From now onwards, those seeking to block Chinese companies from freely operating in markets in India will go about their own blockades less obstructed. The India market will follow the example of those in countries where security considerations are used to exclude China.
For those in India who wish to see the two giants of Asia move closer together, Beijing’s folly at Seoul has been a painful blow.

Brexit will boost India’s economy: Experts (Sunday Guardian)


Brexit represents an opportunity for India to attract fresh investment as well as open pathways to Europe for its trained pool of professionals.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to follow the example set by US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and loudly endorse the “Remain in EU” campaign in the UK, while the referendum on Brexit (a breaking away by Britain from the European Union) was going on. The decision by voters to reject membership in the EU has vindicated Modi’s cautious stance. Financial interests with a monetary interest in the “Remain” movement (as opposed to the “Leave” campaign) launched a coordinated media drive to convince UK voters and others that a breaking away from the EU would be a disaster for Britain, rather than the opportunity it actually is. This is reminiscent of a previous disinformation campaign by speculative interests that targeted India. Soon after the 1998 nuclear tests by the NDA government, a well-funded publicity effort was undertaken to convince the people of India that the A.B. Vajpayee government had committed a grave error in going ahead with the testing of the country’s nuclear deterrent. TheEconomic Times, in particular, was vociferous in warning of an “economic meltdown” consequent on the Pokhran II tests. The Times of India, however, carried a front page report by this correspondent that the sanctions put in place by President Bill Clinton of the United States would have a negligible effect on the Indian economy, a forecast that turned out to be accurate.
Unfortunately for India, the country’s top economic policy agencies are clogged with those filled with theories and opinions designed in foreign countries to serve their own interests, rather than that of this country. Indeed, this is a country which rewarded with a high position even an individual who called for sanctions on the Indian pharmaceutical industry and who acted transparently on behalf of global pharma giants who seek to emasculate India’s generic drug manufacturers. Its opinion builders recently rallied behind an individual who as RBI Governor has starved small scale and medium industry of credit and who has (along with his immediate predecessor) overseen the transformation of the banking system into a piggybank for giant corporates controlled by individuals who make themselves rich (almost entirely in foreign countries), while the entities they manage are effectively insolvent. Now that the majority of British voters have opted to leave the European Union, the same global speculators who sought to spread panic after Pokhran II are rallying their friends in the media and elsewhere to warn of another “meltdown in India”, this time caused by Brexit.
In a process similar to that done in 1998, while writing the report debunking the shrill warnings of an economic catastrophe after Pokhran II, policymakers dealing with economic and commercial matters in key economies were contacted. As they have without exception been tasked by their superiors with delivering a doomsday message following Brexit, anonymity has been requested. However, the message is the same: that Brexit will be to the advantage of India and not to its disadvantage. This is contrary to what speculative forces are seeking to do in equity markets in India, where market manipulators based in Mumbai, Dubai and Singapore are seeking to drive down share prices and bring down the value of the Indian rupee so as to raise the value of their illegal overseas holdings. Ironically, the policies followed by the RBI recently have assisted in keeping the value of the rupee far below the Rs 30-35 band that fundamentals dictate, and yet an adoring commentariat has praised RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan for “stabilising” the value of the rupee! Rajan is a long-time acquaintance of former Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, and has been backed in his career in India by the Congress leader and therefore by the former Finance Minister’s friends in the NDA and in the media.
Those who have been tasked with “generating panic” in the Indian economy over the coming weeks “so as to prevent a rush of funds into India at the expense of other markets” claim privately that Brexit will be “highly beneficial” for the Indian economy, contrary to the reports of doom appearing in the media and in presentations by “experts” tutored to reflect views favourable to speculative interests. The reasons cited for this include:
(a) A further fall in global commodity prices, especially oil, as a consequence of Brexit. Oil prices had been edging up in recent months because of the efforts of speculators in New York, Singapore and Zurich to “talk up” prices, especially through use of the media to conflate minor situations into severe threats to petro-product output. Lower prices will hugely benefit the Indian economy.
(b) Speculators invested in real assets in Europe have been trying to lure investment into the bloc using the argument that the EU in general is a much more stable location than India. Brexit has demolished this argument. And as for the past favourite, China, because of the increasing divergence by Beijing from the Deng Xiaoping line of avoiding confrontation, investors have been pushing upwards their estimates of the probability of a conflict in the China Seas or the Taiwan Straits, that could have a killing effect on the investment climate in East Asia. At the same time, Pakistan is proving itself to be unable to check India’s rise, thereby increasing investor interest in the world’s largest democracy, a situation several international speculators seek to thwart, as several have thus far not invested substantially within India, except in occasional situations involving entry and exit of hot money flows and speculative profit. Brexit has hit such calculations hard, and has ensured that India has emerged as among the most stable and attractive destinations for investment.
(c) While the EU has in effect created a racial wall around itself, sharply reducing the opportunity for qualified individuals not of European ethnicity to migrate to the continent, the withdrawal of the UK from that union will increase the possibility of a Points Based System of immigration, in which those of high value in terms of capital and talent, especially from India, will get the welcome mat previously reserved only for those of European ethnicity. Now that it is leaving the EU, the UK is much more likely to enter into a Services Agreement with India that would facilitate the flow of professionals across both borders, to the mutual advantage of both, but to the disadvantage of the less qualified individuals from the EU who flock to the UK.
(d) The EU has in effect become a trade union where the interests of its least deserving members are promoted through blackmailing outside countries into accepting terms harmful to their own industries. Such considerations as the effect on entry of talented professionals from India on the flow to more advanced EU states of manpower from Poland, Romania and other EU states have thus far inhibited the EU from going ahead with a balanced trade and services agreement with India. Brussels has sought unreasonable terms on key industries such as Information Technology and Services through holding up agreement until the specific sectional, interests of its weakest and least deserving members get accommodated, at huge cost to the other side.
Should India begin negotiations with the UK, resisting the influence of officials and others influenced by international speculators intent on protecting their profits at the expense of the people of India, and should Services and other agreements get signed with London that are evenly balanced rather than the unequal treaties that Brussels is seeking to force the Commerce Ministry and the Health Ministry (among others) to agree to, the bargaining power of the EU will be significantly affected, thereby raising the prospect of more balanced agreements than has been on offer by the EU this far. This is apart from agreements that can be reached with the UK, now that it is free of the EU bureaucracy and constraints.
(e) China has, through its NSG stance against India, rejected the option of closer ties with this country because of its obsession with pleasing the Pakistan military. Unless President Xi Jinping is able to rein in the PLA hawks who are tied to Rawalpindi GHQ and do the latter’s bidding, the omens for close commercial and other ties between Delhi and Beijing have turned negative after Seoul. In such a situation, post-Brexit Europe has emerged as a major region of interest in the geopolitical calculations of Delhi. Thus far, Germany in particular, with France not far behind, has blocked initiatives with India to ensure that investment flows, as much as possible, to East Europe rather than to India. Because of the British vote to leave the EU, populations in Germany and France will be more assertive when seeing their leaders place the interests of other EU countries above their own. This would give India an opportunity to go ahead with more bilateral negotiations, including on investment, in a context where a weakened European Union will find it more difficult to block agreements by countries such as Germany or Italy that serve domestic interests in such countries more than they do the countries in Eastern Europe that speculators are focusing on favourably. Such flexibility would increase the chances for balanced trade agreements with EU members.
Overall, the experts spoken to say that Brexit represents an opportunity for India to attract fresh investment as well as open pathways to Europe for its trained pool of professionals. British voters have declared their rebellion against sacrificing their own interests for that of a chimerical “Greater European Dream”, and this represents a plus for India rather than the minus that tutored commentators are warning. These are assisting those who hope to keep the rupee weak and to maintain a policy of restricting credit in the name of fighting inflation, rather than the economic expansion the youth of this country need. Those studying the trajectory of Prime Minister Modi are confident that he will focus on the opportunity now open, rather than follow the advice of some policymakers and “wait and watch”. Experts say that Brexit is an opportunity that should not be missed out on, and given proper responses by Government of India, can help this country to move to the double digit growth trajectory that has eluded it for too long.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

AAP needs to cast away colonial culture (Sunday Guardian)

Obvious methods of vote pulling that have been used by the generations before, are not what was expected of a party that took birth in a waterfall of idealism.
The good luck of political parties usually vests in the bad luck of their opponents. Early on, mostly as a consequence of the UPA’s unceasing effort to send him to prison, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi emerged as the Prime Foe of AICC president Sonia Gandhi. But by the time the 2019 polls fall due, the contestants for the Prime Foe to Modi slot will be hoping for an economic and policy stagnation in the country that would generate waves of opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Of the rival parties, the AAP ought to have had the best chance of attracting the anti-Modi vote, but for the fact that Arvind Kejriwal has not yet shaken off his “babu” ways of control and chastisement.
For a country to prosper, “governance” cannot be the monopoly of government. Its powers and authority have to get spread across individuals and institutions across the country, so that a million good decisions be enabled to get taken that would collectively ensure the growth rate of 15% that India is capable of sustaining for a generation. Why do the people of India do so much better in the US or in the UK than at home? Simple. There, they do not need to get permission from some babu or the other before attempting something.
Few of the regulations in India have a public purpose, whatever be the language in which they are described. They play the same role as checkpoints by the Taliban in Afghanistan or by warlords in Libya do throughout the length of highways: of extorting cash.
Many regulations in India are such as to make the normal functioning of a business or other activity impossible, unless exemptions get created through bribes. Laws and regulations need to be simple and clear, with no room for ambiguity about applicability or meaning.
In India, they are unusually vague and detailed, thereby providing abundant opportunities to the corrupt for interpretation or sanctioning. The Aam Aadmi Party was in its infancy seen as the perfect antidote to the colonial culture of governance in India, but it would appear from the predilections of Arvind Kejriwal that the personality of the “people’s” Chief Minister of Delhi reflects the habits and preferences of the bureaucracy that he was a proud part of not very long ago. A particularly noteworthy move by Kejriwal has been his effort at sending some journalists to jail for what he claims are violations of sound practice. Jail has been the default option of the babu since the days when the Union Jack flew over the Viceregal Palace, and remains so in this sixty-ninth year of “independence”. In other matters, he is a follower of Ram Manohar Lohia, so much so that he refuses to acknowledge the many from Tamil Nadu and elsewhere who do not hail from Bihar, UP or other Hindi-belt states, replying even to questions in English in Hindi.
Clearly, Kejriwal hopes for a repeat in 2019 of the 1977 and 2014, elections, in which overwhelming majorities in the Hindi belt translated into a Lok Sabha majority.
Fortunately, whether it be Rajiv Pratap Rudy or the T.S.R. Subramanian committee on educational reforms, the importance of English in the future trajectory of India has been recognised, but not as yet by the Aam Aadmi Party. This is, from the point of view of democracy in India, unfortunate.
There is scope for the all-India growth of the Aam Aadmi Party, but this can only be as a 21st century force espousing the values and policies that are suited to India’s Gen Next, rather than the restrictive codes and straitjacketed mores of the 19th and 20th centuries. Indeed, many are hoping now that it has entered the third year of its term in office at the Central level, the Modi government will fully adapt to the future rather than indulge those who seek to anchor the BJP to a past that has slowed down progress. Interestingly, the very traducers of the British legacy are among the stoutest defenders of such Victorian mores as those governing sexuality in India.
The people of this country no longer accept the core doctrine of the Colonial State, which is that the government knows best, and hence that the citizen ought to be bound by its myriad intrusions and prescriptions. If India is to generate tens of millions of new jobs, most need to be in the Knowledge Industry, and for this to happen, a culture of intellectual freedom and autonomy in decision making is essential.
It had been expected that the Aam Aadmi Party would champion such a forward view of society and not be reduced to a regional party under the absolute control of a former bureaucrat.
Trying to give preference to a single linguistic group in Delhi, a city which belongs to people from across India, or obvious methods of vote pulling that have been used by generations of politicians in India, are not what was expected of a party that took birth in a waterfall of idealism.
Unless the AAP and its leadership liberates themselves from the “babu” culture of control and micro-management, and from the economic and social policies of Ram Manohar Lohia and Jawaharlal Nehru, the AAP’s promise will remain unfulfilled by the time 2019 rolls by. The people of India have waited close to seven decades for the freedoms common in other large democracies. They will wait no longer.