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)

By MADHAV NALAPAT | WASHINGTON | 26 June, 2016

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.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Vetoing NSG entry will damage Sino-Indian ties (Sunday Guardian)

The prerequisite for normalisation of ties is a willingness within the Chinese Communist Party to place China’s national interest above that of the Pakistan army.
On 24-25 June, the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is expected to take a decision on the admission of India into the fold. The US, France, Japan, the UK and Russia have backed the entry of this country into the club, the only major holdout being China. Going along with the major power consensus in the NSG on India would ensure a significant weakening of West-centric policymakers in Delhi, who seek to send ties with Beijing into the deep freeze. Contrarily, should China veto Delhi’s bid for entry, such a move would have long-term consequences on Sino-Indian relations, including in the economic sphere, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi has resisted those who seek to block several Chinese manufactures from entering the Indian market. China’s manufactures and services, including in infrastructure, telecom and energy systems, are often of high quality while priced well below the offerings of global competitors. Given that the continuing weakness of domestic R&D mandates the purchase of foreign equipment and services in selected fields, it would make economic sense to ensure that these be cost-effective, so that more items can be bought for less cost. China too would benefit, given the overcapacity that presently exists in that country in several sectors of the economy. It is in India’s national interest to have a normal relationship with China, and that both countries adopt a liberal policy towards visas and investment towards each other. If in the second half of the 20th century extensive commercial linkages with the US were core to faster growth, in the 21st century such a role is increasingly being played by China. After missing out on the US opportunity in the past, it would be unfortunate if governmental policies were to result in missing the China investment and market bus in the future.
However, the prerequisite for such a normalisation of ties is a willingness within the core of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to place China’s national interest above that of the Pakistan army, rather than sacrifice the former for the latter, as has repeatedly been taking place since the 1980s, the period when the Pakistan army began its transformation into an arm of the Wahhabi International, in the process becoming an incubator for terror groups that these days are active also in parts of China. A single year’s trade deficit of India with China would be sufficient to meet the $45 billion cost of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project that will be difficult to complete (given the security situation on the CPEC’s path) and impossible to make financially viable. Indeed, it would make far more business as well as geopolitical sense for China to partner with India in building a China India Economic Corridor (CIEC) that could link our country with the only superpower in Asia. Such a project would find its reception in policymaking circles in Delhi and in the states through which it passes much smoother were Beijing to join with Washington and Moscow, rather than Islamabad, in welcoming India into the NSG on 24-25 June. The four decades of the NSG’s existence has shown that India has exercised complete restraint in matters of nuclear and missile proliferation, unlike some of its neighbours. The spotless record of Delhi in the field of missile technology has now been recognised by welcoming India into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
Similar restraint shown in the nuclear field ought to be rewarded by facilitating India’s entry into the NSG at its forthcoming meeting in Seoul. Blocking India would encourage those in India who are lobbying for the transfer of nuclear and missile technology from India to countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines. After all, if there is no reward for restraint, it would be better to sell defensive missile systems to friendly powers, especially such items as the Brahmos cruise missile, which has a $6 billion potential market within Asia itself.
Successive governments in India have stood by China in endorsing the 1950s inclusion within the PRC of Xinjiang and Tibet. This has been despite the fact that the Chinese authorities have issued stapled visas to visitors from that part of Kashmir that remained in India after the Nehru-Mountbatten ceasefire of 1949. In contrast, visitors to China from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are given regular visas, the differential treatment signalling that China recognises the state as belonging to Pakistan, a diplomatic stance incompatible with the normalised relationship between Beijing and Delhi that is essential to the national interest of both countries.
In the past, India was among the first to recognise the PRC, and to lobby for the inclusion of Beijing not only into the United Nations but to the UN Security Council as well. It makes sense for both countries to act in concert on a range of issues and to tear down the many barriers which separate them, and which do not exist between India and the US or the EU or between China and the US or the EU. However, this depends on the CCP core placing the interests of the Chinese people above the phobia against India of the Pakistan army. Should Beijing show its willingness to engage with Delhi on the basis of mutual respect as would be apparent were it to back India’s NSG bid on 24-25 June, the obstacles erected by third parties between India and China would steadily get torn down.

Modi plans major governance reforms (Sunday Guardian)

The PM believes technology to be the key towards the empowerment of the citizen vis-à-vis the state.
Now that he has completed two years in office as Prime Minister, those with regular access to Narendra Modi say that he has “mastered the processes of government at the all-India level”, in the manner accomplished at the state level during the same period in his 2001-14 term as Chief Minister of Gujarat. “The next two years will see an acceleration in the transformation of the governance mechanism” into a model suited to the 21st century rather than to the 19th, as is the present construct. During Election Year 2019, the expectation is that the (by then fully deployed) “All-India Modi Model of Governance” will have the same pulling power over voters as the state-level model demonstrated in the course of three successive Assembly elections in Gujarat. These sources say that the Prime Minister’s objective is to ensure that “the entire population tastes the benefits of growth” through raising the quarter of the population now below the poverty line. This is possible “only in a climate of intellectual freedom and liberal values”, contrary to what his detractors claim, which is that Modi is a “centraliser”, who seeks to ensure governmental control rather than allow freedom to the citizen. “The PM is emphatic that the duty of the government is to enable and not block”, a key source claimed, adding that “empowering each citizen is the only way in which the full potential of the nation can be reached”. This is in contrast to some within the BJP, who have grown comfortable with the colonial model of government preserved from pre-Independence days by Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors thus far. During the next two years, “the Prime Minister will ensure that his citizen-empowering approach towards governance becomes the norm in administration”, rather than the fetish for control over the citizen that has been a feature of governance in India since the Mughal period.
Narendra Modi believes technology to be the key towards such an empowerment of the citizen vis-à-vis the state. In particular, the spread of the internet and an acceleration in its speeds will be a priority during the coming years. “Slow internet speeds, insufficient coverage and even such problems as call drops are having a negative effect on progress”, a senior official warned, promising that “such deficiencies will soon be as much a thing of the past as the rarity and delays in telephone services in India two decades back”. Another asked why, in this age of technological advancement, was it still necessary for a citizen to search for housing on foot rather than online? Why was it still needed to go office to office in a hunt for jobs rather than access the data on vacancies at home on a computer screen? Why was there still so much dependence on staff in India as compared to countries such as the US? Team Modi’s expectation is that by around 2020 (or what will be the first year of a second Modi term), internet speeds and coverage would have reached the high levels judged necessary for each citizen by Prime Minister Modi.
According to a key official, “another plan that is under consideration is how to ensure that housing units big enough to accommodate families get built close to places of work”, so that the time and effort spent on commutes get sharply reduced from the present high average levels. In this, Singapore (with its public housing schemes) is regarded as a model to be studied. Because of the attention paid to the utilisation of technology by the average citizen and the provision of housing and transport in convenient grids, productivity in the city state per citizen is very high. In Prime Minister Modi’s view, it is the job of government to provide the policy and infrastructure matrix needed for the citizen to be enabled to do his or her best, exactly the way the global Indian community is functioning in locations across the globe that have had far more success than India in providing an enabling rather than a restricting environment for each citizen. Health services, in particular, would in the thinking of Prime Minister Modi be enhanced were “every village to get access through the internet to the best medical brains in the country”. A top official pointed out that “at present, in several small towns and rural areas, only symptoms get treated and not the disease”, as the facilities for comprehensive diagnosis are absent. Under the “All-India Modi Model of Governance”, hospitals would become centres for consultation rather than merely treatment, while the area of operation of the first (consultation by patients) would be expanded far beyond geographic boundaries through communications technology. “The best of our brains in each field of medicine would be made accessible to any citizen in need, rather than only to urban dwellers or those with a high level of income.
Similarly, the use of technology in education would be encouraged, such that classrooms across the country gain access to the same level of information as their most fortunate cousins in the metropolitan areas. Systems would get created to ensure that undiscovered talent throughout the country becomes known and utilised. Platforms for the spread of knowledge will be encouraged.
In his plans for conversion of 19th century governance standards and performance to 21st century levels, the Prime Minister is concentrating significant dollops of attention on the bureaucracy. “For the PM, Swachh Bharat is at the top of his priorities, but for the country to become what he seeks it to be, the same priorities as the PM’s have to be adopted and implemented down the line to the level of the municipal council and the village panchayat”, a source with frequent access to the Prime Minister said, adding that “state governments in particular need to be on the same page” as Prime Minister Modi, with “Chief Ministers, district collectors, municipal chairpersons and panchayat heads working to fulfil set goals”. Administrative reform needs to be a key element in such a plan.
It was pointed out by a source that the 5th Pay Commission in 1997 made some valuable suggestions for reform, but the government at the time accepted only the financial portions of the report, ignoring most of the reform agenda barring a few inconsequential measures. The last Pay Commission “has been generous but with increase in salary and benefits must come increase in efficiency and accountability”, a top official said, pointing out that “the reality of so many scams in previous governments indicated that the bureaucracy was not fulfilling its public mandate”. Since 1947, a virtual caste system has been created in the administrative services, with the IAS stepping into the shoes of the “White Sahibs” of the British era and the IPS morphing into the role of “Brown Sahibs”, ie Indian members of the Indian Civil Service. Although the constitutional scheme has placed IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service cadres on par, in practice the IAS has leaped ahead of the rest, with practically each of its members certain to reach the topmost brackets, as compared to much smaller numbers in the IPS and other Central (in-country) services, and even smaller percentages within the armed forces.
A facet of administrative practice that has come to the attention of those having regular access to Prime Minister Modi is the de facto reservation of several posts for those past regular retirement age, thereby converting such key posts (including that of the CVC, CAG and other such elevated positions) into post-retirement sinecures. “Why not younger people be brought into such jobs? Why only those above 60?”, a senior policymaker asked. Another suggested innovation is to reserve around a third of higher posts to those from outside government, but having domain expertise in the field. In fields such as commerce, telecom, health, education, home and defence, the absence of domain expertise within the small number of individuals framing policies and taking decisions “has led to several less than optimal courses of action getting adopted”. In international negotiations, “dealing with expert counterparts in matters such as commerce or defence, our generalist administrators are at a handicap and often this becomes obvious to both sides”, a source claimed. The source said that “even in the armed forces, it is the calendar that decides who will head a wing of the services rather than suitability for winning wars”, and added that “the fetish of seniority has bred complacency and frustration” within the services among those younger but forced to wait their turn for years upon years.
Experts can be brought into the government from outside on fixed time contracts, such as for five years. At the same time, “the age 50-55 reviews for officers has become a formality, with no action being taken even in obvious cases of incompetence or lack of ethics”. A suggestion is to replace the present system of recruitment with another, which hinges on a fixed tenure of 15 years or 20 years. Also, the present system of seniority being set in stone by the marks secured at a single examination is regarded as being less than effective in ensuring that the best be selected. “Aptitude counts more than marks”, a top official pointed out, adding that “selection methods are still based on conditions prevailing in the distant past”. Another option would be to unify all services once an officer reaches a particular level of responsibility, so that the monopoly of a single service on top jobs gets eliminated. However, these sources do not underestimate the resistance that will take place within the groups favoured since colonial times to such 21st century innovations.
However, despite such roadblocks, Prime Minister Modi is “determined to ensure that the administrative structure be brought to a level such that it can cope with the challenges of the present”. Those working closely with him are “quietly confident” that the Prime Minister will succeed in his “transformative mission”, with “results becoming obvious even to the sceptics” before two more years are passed of the present five-year term of the Lok Sabha.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Time for Ivanka Trump to step in (Pakistan Observer)

In July 2015,in these columns, the forecast was made that Donald Trump would be the Republican Party’s standard bearer fpr the 2016 Presidential polls. This was derided at the time, but has since proven to be accurate. Despite what the “experts” say, Trump is far more attractive candidate to US voters than Hillary Clinton, who is so clearly scripted in an atmosphere where voters are disgusted with “politics as usual”. However, to succeed, Trump needs to understand the rules of the game, among which is the need to not mouth in public what is commonplace in private. Stereotypical views of Caucasian, African American and Latinos get freely expressed in closed-door get-togethers comprising people of a single social group.



It has been said before and needs to be repeated that it was the people of Europe, many of them,who themselves assisted in the overturning of a global order in which they dominated over the rest by force of weaponry. In UK, for example, significant numbers of citizens themselves did battle with likes of Winston Churchill, who (although part Native American himself through his mother’s side) openly regarded those not of caucasian stock as unfit for self-rule. Compared to Churchill, Donald Trump is ultra-liberal However, he is also from a generation that has seen its values bypassed by the realities of modern existence. In India, for example, the growing middle class has jumped over several of the cultural differences that were glaring during the period when average income levels were much lower. Indeed, although this will be disputed by many, the reality is that the middle class is an important reason why India remains united despite a multitude of ehnicities and faiths.




Those from a group that is nearing in numbers the 300 million mark (of course in a country of 1.26 billion) are now increasingly intermarrying with each other. They eat the same food, read the same magazines ,watch the same movies and generally share an outlook that is independent of the region, caste or faith to which each belongs. In like fashion, to any more regard African Americans and Latinos as groups separate from Caucasian Americans ( ie US citizens of European descent) is to be less and less tethered to 21st century reality. The ascent of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the US or the growing number of doctors, engineers and managers from the African American community prove that nothing can hold back this group,once they are given the education and the environment needed for success, something that is still available in the US, though in much less a degree than was the case in the 1970s, before Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Deng Xiaoping glorified the wealthy and began creating a series of policies that ensured growing income inequality in the US and in many other countries.




As for the Latino community, this columnist has met several from among them in visits, including in locations such as Miami. Whether their parents came over from Cuba or from Mexico, the Latino community in the US has distinguished itself by its success. Among the brightest of US citizens, as well as the most charming, belong to the Latino community. Indeed,in his work and almost certainly in his personal life, Donald Trump must have recognized this, for he has built a business empore across continents that would not have been possible had he a toxic relationship – or view – of those of different faiths and ethnicities. What seems to have happened to the Trump campaign is that the vacuum in his political and policy team has been filled with a motley crowd of people who have moved in not for ideals but to get a slice of the cake of political success.




Some of the causes that key operatives in the Trump campaign have backed in the past are such that they ought to have resulted in their exclusion from the inner circle. Should the present ragtag team continue to wield power simply by nodding in agreement to the private impulses of Donald Trump, even Hillary Clinton may be able to pull off an upset,d espite her negatives and assuming she survives the controversies the Clintons are filled with. A genuine leader listens to views – expressed behind closed doors – that may be hugely disagreeable to him or her, and show no hesitation in changing course where needed. Improbable as this mat sound, the best chance for Trump to occupy the Oval Office would be to be the unifier he needs to be. Trump needs to showcase the diversity within his business team, and to recognize that some in his core team need to be sent packing. The best individual to bring the Trump campaign to the 21st century and free it of the whiff of the 19th century that it is exuding now is Ivanka Trump,the eldest child of the Republican nominee for the Presidential race.




Despite her youth, Ivanka has shown that she is unaffected by the intense celebrity that surrounds the powerful anywhere, and has refused to utilise her father’s climb to the top for her own benefit. She is clearly of the 21st century, and can therefore be expected to see people as people, US citizens as US citizens, rather than chop them up into different ethnicities. Donald Trump needs to make better use of Ben Carson, the brilliant African American neurosurgeon who took a shot at his country’s top job. He needs to ensure greater diversity in his core team than has been the case in a situation where a vacuum got filled willy nilly by those who had no choice but to flock to a banner that others were staying away from. Certainly it is an advantage that Trump is so denuded of establishment faces, as these are the very people who have created the mess that is making the US voter so angry at those who run the government.




In India, the skilful use in the 2009 national polls of images of the youthful children of Sonia Gandhi ( Rahul and Priyanka) to showcase the Congress Party as being different from the faded visage of its top leadership, Sonia and Manmohan, to show party as being relevant to young, a constituency won by Narendra Modi five years later by his call for a new way of governing India than “Lutyens Colonial Model” followed thus far. Ivanka Trump can do same for individual who can,in case he shows his inner liberal spirit over his crusty exterior, become elected leader of world’s most powerful country. His not very secret weapon is Ivanka Trump, and he needs to make better use of her than has been case thus far.




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

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Dalai Lama needs to return to Lhasa (Sunday Guardian)

Having the Dalai Lama in their midst will do more for the Tibetan people than any number of Hollywood or Bollywood admirers.
LHASA: The capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region looks, at first glance, similar to so many other cities in China. As the train from Beijing halts at a modern terminus, the space around the station is filled with skyscrapers, with more being built. But closer to the city centre, more and more of those walking on the totally “swachh” pavements are holding prayer wheels, while others clutch prayer rosaries. There is a large Muslim presence in Lhasa, even a mosque catering to the half-million inhabitants of this largest of Tibetan cities. More and more Chinese are turning to religion, with Buddhism in the lead together with other traditional faiths such as Daoism, while those drawn to the western world are in significant numbers embracing different versions of the Christian faith. And in Lhasa this adherence to faith is openly demonstrated, with many chanting in soft tones and very often, devotional music issuing from within storefronts rather than the jazz and other raucous tunes favoured by so many shopping malls in India. The Communist Party of China (CCP) has wisely been making its peace with matters of faith, and Buddhism in particular, thereby not standing in the way of the desire of several of the PRC’s people to turn to the spiritual, of course almost always in tandem with the material.
The centre point of Lhasa is not the imposing town hall as it is the Potala Palace, a red and white structure that has in its different avatars lasted a millennium. Atop a mountain in a city already more than three thousand metres above sea level, it is impossible to ignore what was constructed as the abode of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet, and which has now become a museum to all of them except one, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet, who in 1959 took the decision to change his place of stay from Lhasa to Dharamshala in India. Although there are no visible signs left of him ever having been anywhere in Tibet, yet it is clear from the number of Tibetans who speak Hindi that there are more than a few who cross over to India for a glimpse of the Monk in Exile and return back home. In the St Regis hotel, which is so western that room service, when asked by a guest could not serve Chinese red wine (it was not in stock), but only a French version of the drink. 
Although successive governments in India have recognised Tibet as an integral part of China, they have also allowed not just His Holiness the Dalai Lama to settle down in India but also a “Government in Exile”, including a “Prime Minister”.
However, many of the waiters speak Hindi perfectly and are delighted to serve guests from India. There has been a huge geopolitical price that has been paid as a consequence of Jawaharlal Nehru’s decision to give asylum to the present Dalai Lama, but the plus side includes the goodwill towards our country of several Tibetans. 
Although successive governments in India have recognised Tibet as an integral part of China, they have also allowed not just His Holiness the Dalai Lama to settle down in India but also a “Government in Exile”, including a “Prime Minister”. This does not seem to have gone down particularly well in Beijing, and perhaps a city in the US or within the EU would be a more natural home for such a construct, given the more encouraging approach of such locations to the stated objectives of this “government”. Over the more than five decades since HHDL’s change of address, much has taken place in Tibet, but it would be difficult to argue that any of the changes that have been made are due to the wishes of either himself or his entourage. Certainly HHDL has made more than a few friends globally with his wisdom and his charm, but the positive impact of this on the people he left behind has been minimal. 
This columnist admires the present Dalai Lama as a spiritual master of epic proportions, but regards those who claim that his continued exile serves the Tibetan cause better than would his presence in Lhasa as mistaken in the extreme. 
As Official India notes, Tibet has indeed become a part of China, and it is fantasy to believe that this could be reversed by the activities of numerous groups working for a restoration of conditions in Tibet to what they were before the 1950s. 
The strength of the Tibetan people is the influence of their Buddhist faith, and were HHDL to return to Lhasa, perhaps even to the Potala Palace, which is now open to all in contrast to the centuries when only a few had ingress, not only the people in Tibet but across China would very soon feel the pull of the great faith of which HHDL is the most potent symbol. Having the Dalai Lama in their midst will do more for the Tibetan people than any number of Hollywood or Bollywood admirers and honours from different countries that have as little effect as the baubles purchasable in a bazaar. It is time for His Holiness to return home.

Friday, 3 June 2016

One belt one road will change globe (Pakistan Observer)


The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) leadership still follows Mao Zedong’s prescription of ceaselessly looking for facts to understand a problem. It gets information from a multitude of sources, domestic and foreign, and winnows this into hypotheses, which then get examined and tested. There is a high premium on success and sometimes severe penalties for failure, unlike in countries where those who fail repeatedly in their tasks continue to ascend, provided they have the patronage of those much more powerful than themselves. Since the last three years, China has been functioning under the leadership of Xi Jinping, who was chosen to head both the state, government and the Communist Party for a ten year period.

Even a few days in China shows how much the country has changed during this time. Gone is the ostentation and luxurious mores of the past. These have been replaced by a much more functional approach that places emphasis on simplicity, even if this means that the numerous makers of global luxury brands are finding their once expanding markets shrinking. Across the country, officials have been made aware that any signs of corruption may result in dismissal and even imprisonment, and several tens of thousands have undergone this fate during past year itself China is no longer a fringe player in global geopolitics but is the other superpower, sharing space with the US. This new status was first recognised by the Clinton administration, who spoke of a G-2 comprising China and the US that would act in concert to ensure global stability. Of course, the problem with Bill Clinton was that he saw a “fair” deal as a transaction where his side got 90% of the benefits and the other had to be content with the remaining 10%. A wiser President of the US would have, for example, ensured that Russia after the 1992 collapse of the USSR would have been accommodated with respect within the international matrix of authority rather than sought to be pushed to the fringe with the assistance of the mafia elements surrounding Russian President Boris Yeltsin. It was Clinton’s unwise diplomacy that saw Moscow finally believe that there was no way that it would get the honour its size and the versatility of Russian people deserved, and carve out an independent foreign policy during second term of Vladimir Putin, easily most effective leader that his people have seen since 1945.

Interestingly, a G-2 has indeed evolved in the international arena, but this is the entente between Beijing and Moscow. Both Xi Jinping as well as Vladimir Putin have together become a global force that has both the will as well as the capacity to challenge the ability of the NATO member states to force other countries to their will. The successive defeats of NATO, even against ragtag forces such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, have combined with the 2008 financial crash to create a world order in which, within a few more years at the same pace, there will be equality of status between the NATO powers and the Moscow-Beijing G-2 fashioned by Xi and Putin.

This columnist is in Xining, in Qinghai province, which borders Tibet. Just two decades ago, this was a backwater, but is today a large city bustling with activity. The entire region, which was once largely ignored during the period in office of Jiang Zemin (who had time only for the east coast of the PRC and its string commercial and industrial base), has become a hub of activity. This “Look West” policy was introduced by Hu Jintao who was President for the decade before Xi took over in 2013,and is being strengthened by the new eldership of the CCP. The most ambitious project since building of Great Wall of China has been One Belt One Road (OBOR) project masterminded by Xi Jinping, and this will link Asia with Europe through a network of highways and other communication links built and financed by China.

Should Russia and South and Southeast Asia be fully brought within the ambit of the OBOR network, it would alter the economics of the region and create conditions for a common market. Those who are sceptical of the completion of such a massive project need to examine what is taking place in the west of China, where a network of roads and rail has been built across territory every vitas forbidding as that seen in any of the locations where OBOR is meant to reach. Xining has a modern airport with dozens of daily flights, as well as a rail terminus from where the train to Lhasa can be boarded. Incidentally, this takes four days to reach its destination from Beijing, and passes in its final stages through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Qinghai has changed and so has Tibet, because of the economic changes that are being caused by the expansion in infrastructure that has been the result of decades of work, and which are being accelerated by President Xi.

Although Washington is unhappy with the OBOR project, the reality is that the potential upside in terns of faster growth that it brings makes it very difficult to refuse for countries that are on the proposed routes. In the future, there may be other routes as well, leading both northwards and southwards from China, and overall the impact will be an integration of economic activity that would make the OBOR region a gigantic common market. In its approach towards the Asian Infrastructure Bank and other multilateral initiatives that have been initiated during Xi’s time, Beijing has been careful to not insist on the veto powers and the domination that the US has in the past insisted on in institutions where it is a participant. This has changed only under President Obama, who has accepted that his country can no longer be the fulcrum of the globe bit only one among its numerous poles. Obama has shown great wisdom in his second term in office, although at cost of support of those who have for decades been accustomed to a geopolitical control that is no longer possible.

The point about any negotiation is to know how much to demand and where to stop. In its interventions, the problem with NATO has been that it has not stopped where it ought to have, but has kept on seeking to swallow more than can be digested, and this fault has been evident especially during the terns in office of George W Bush and Tony Blair, who consequently did great damage to the interests of their countries and those other powers that trusted their policies. It is these mistakes that have resulted in rise of Beijing-Moscow entente. Once One Belt One Road approaches its full potential, including with corridors to Russia, world will change, and this during remaining years in office of President Jinping.

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

Sunday, 29 May 2016

PM Modi poised to speed up change (Sunday Guardian)

In economic policy, an often unremarked aspect has been the consolidation of the banking system.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s achievements resemble an iceberg, in that very little is visible above the surface, despite 24/7 efforts by the I&B Ministry to showcase his successes. Among the most consequential is the breakthrough in relations with both global superpowers, the United States and China. Some days ago, through the US Consul-General in Kolkata, the Barack Obama administration affirmed in an unprecedented remark that Arunachal Pradesh “was an integral part of India”, thereby distancing Washington from Beijing’s claim to the Indian state. Thus far, bowing to pressure from the Pakistan army, which is nervous at the geopolitical consequences for itself (as a hedge, against India) of a Sino-Indian border settlement, the Chinese side has refused to allow progress on even an agreed marking of the 3,488-kilometre border. Meanwhile, again in an unprecedented gesture, the Indian Navy sent a flotilla of naval vessels through the South China Seas to make goodwill visits to Vietnam and the Philippines. Rather than register its objections, Beijing openly saw the move as innocent of any hostile intent, clearly confident that India was not considering China as a future target for military operations. The credit for such an upswing in relations between Delhi on the one hand and Beijing and Washington on the other vests with the personal diplomacy of Prime Minister Modi, who has developed a close personal rapport between himself and both Barack Obama as well as Xi Jinping.
Although several within the strategic community regard the supply of F-16s to Pakistan as much less of a threat to India than has been made out in Delhi, the blowback from that decision has resulted in a temporary freeze on the supply of the aircraft, even while annual assistance to the Pakistan military (which is kept going largely on the charity of countries such as China, the US and Saudi Arabia) has been reduced to $500 million. A further sign that Washington is in the process of seeing Delhi as its key ally in the region was the drone strike which killed Mullah Mansoor, a terrorist asset protected by the ISI. Should Prime Minister Modi’s coming visit to the US next month result in fresh breakthroughs in the relations between the two largest democracies, the odds are rising that such individuals as Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed may be next on the hit list in view of their numerous operations targeting civilians in Afghanistan and India. And despite pressure from arms lobbies worried at the impact on their clients should India sign three foundation defence agreements with the US, the momentum seems in favour of such a decision being taken before Barack Obama steps down as President of the US in the initial days of 2017. In the case of China, Prime Minister Modi is likely this year itself to ensure that the bureaucratic obstacles to Chinese investment and tourist footfalls, mainly by the MHA, be removed. An example of bungling is the giving of only single-entry e-visas, which has resulted in the stoppage of applications by many Buddhist tourists, who need to visit Nepal and the historic sites there during their pilgrimage within the subcontinent. Another killer in the e-visa scheme is the disallowance of group visas, thereby shutting off a major chunk of footfalls. Across the government, several such—often deliberate—policy distortions are being removed by Prime Minister Modi, who is looking into the operations of all corners of the government on a regular basis.
Despite Islamabad’s efforts to portray him as anti-Muslim, Modivian diplomacy has shown this allegation to be false, with the Prime Minister making very successful visits to Qatar, the UAE, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Should these be followed by steps such as introducing Islamic banking in India on the same lines as is being done in the City of London, investment in the tens of billions of dollars is expected to flow from the GCC to India, although those opposed to such financial synergy may seek to use the courts to slow down progress in economic cooperation between the GCC and India and between Iran and India. In the case of the latter country, rather than dealing directly with Iran, a future US administration may prefer to see Delhi to be the intermediary ensuring cooperation with Tehran in matters such as cleansing Afghanistan of Wahhabi terrorism. The Prime Minister has visited 50 countries in less than two years, thereby raising the geopolitical stature of India across the globe to the same level that was the case in the early 1950s.
In economic policy, an often unremarked aspect of policy since 26 May 2014 has been the consolidation of the banking system, the start having been the merger of six state banks into the SBI. The toxicity of the ocean of bad loans given under political command in the past is being slowly reduced by a more honest declaration of NPAs and the possible consolidation of 29 public sector banks into around a dozen in the future. Steps have been taken to improve the regularity environment, as for example by raising the bar for declaration of a factory from 20 to 40 or more workers, although experts say that 100 is a more practical limit. Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya has been encouraged to stop dabbling in campus matters and focus on the trade unions, several of which he has been meeting during the past months.
Groups outside the country are intent on using unions to paralyse the economy and create chaos, hence the importance of ensuring that trade union leaders, who are among the most sincere and patriotic citizens of the country, be kept informed of the ways in which the lives of their members are being sought to be improved by the government, sometimes in the form of reducing or eliminating the role of the state in corners of business activity. Overall, as took place in China during the 1980s, there is an emphasis on the upgrading of infrastructure, with the Sagar Mala matrix of 25 coastal hubs being an example, as also the building of more roads and development of smart cities.
For decades, much of the country’s farm produce has been lost through wastage, and this is sought to be reversed through the setting up of agro-processing clusters from Punjab to the Northeast, with an expansion later into other parts of the country, so that farm produce gets rescued from wastage, as indeed is already taking place in the case of electric power. Silently, efforts are on to reduce and finally eliminate Wahhabi terror as well as Maoist violence, although both of these are long-term projects that will take about a decade to be wholly successful. Border security is being looked into by the Prime Minister, and gaps are getting filled. Now that Assam has come into the BJP’s kitty, it is expected that infiltration from Bangladesh will get substantially reduced.
Overall, much has been done, although much more remains to be achieved. Judging by the experience of the 12 Gujarat years, the first two years in government of Narendra Modi are, in a sense, “on the job training” for the tasks ahead, this time not at the state but at the Central level. After that, change accelerates, until by the end of the fourth year, the “National Modi Model” becomes wholly operational.

The debate on Raghuram Rajan is welcome (Sunday Guardian)

Judging by the effusions penned and spoken in diverse circles of RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan since fellow “Tam Bram” Subramanian Swamy called for his retirement, it would seem that the fall in commodity prices—principally oil—witnessed across the globe for more than a year, has been entirely due to the interest rate tinkering done by Rajan in India. The truth, of course, is that the ultra-high interest rate regimen of the University of Chicago don has made Indian manufactures less competitive globally, while substantially contributing to NPAs because of the numerous domestic companies that have found it impossible to survive in a context of high rates and restricted credit. But for a handful of mega companies having influence in the right places, the overwhelming majority of corporate in India found it difficult to get adequate credit, thereby leading to a lack of jobs getting created in the economy. What little of the economy has been spared by the RBI, has been hammered by North Block, which has, for example, raised taxes to a level that has made the service sector slow down drastically. In addition, police powers comparable to those wielded by the Geheime Staatspolizei in Germany during 1933-45 have been given tax and other authorities in India, so that the usual bribe paid has gone up substantially since Chidambaram and Sibal set out during 2004-2014 to make India’s colonial laws even more regressive and repressive than they have been for two centuries. 
It is clear from his policies that Rajan does not understand that the monetary policies followed by him have very little impact on inflation in India, but cuts growth to a level that has meant starvation for tens of millions in cities and towns across India. However, Rajan is not the originator of the policy of high interest rates that is based on textbooks by authors from Germany, the UK and the US. Both his predecessors in the RBI followed the same suicidal path. The seeds of the subsequent slowdown of large swathes of the economy were planted by Yaga Reddy and Subba Rao, both of whom are hailed globally (and therefore in India) as “saviours”, rather than the wreckers they were. Clearly a case of “the operation was successful but the patient died” syndrome, of which Rajan is by far the most “successful” of the trio, in that he has done the most damage to India’s prospects for high growth, but has got the highest praise. 
However, there are indications that even Rajan appears to be getting aware of the disconnect between his textbook-driven policies and retail price movements in India. Hopefully, the worst that the present RBI Governor can do is over. These days, the focus within the RBI needs to be less on monetary tightening than on the swelling tide of defective loans in the banking system, which suffers from the cronyism and corruption that became inevitable once Indira Gandhi expropriated large private banks in 1969 for purposes of political advancement. On NPAs, Rajan seems to be saying the right things, although as yet his words do not seem to have been followed by much action. This columnist has been a critic of Rajan for years, yet now that he has probably done his worst on interest rates, if the RBI Governor focuses, in a second term, on NPAs and on ensuring accountability for those who are wilful bank defaulters, it may be a lesser evil to give an extension to him. Certainly the rock star reputation of Rajan in capitals across the globe would help increase confidence in economic management in India, thereby creating a climate for the $100-120 billion of external investment that Prime Minister Narendra Modi annually needs to ensure that enough jobs get created during the coming years to prevent social tensions from spilling over into chaos on the streets and violence in the cities. The RBI should insist on an investigation into how mega bank loans were given to those few borrowers whose agenda of siphoning off the money to overseas havens was transparent. Who were the officers who recommended such loans? Who were the bank directors pressing the case of such looters of the wealth of the people? Prime Minister Modi needs to set up an SIT on the scam that could generate far better results than the SIT set up to “get back black money”, but which thus far has come up not with money discovered but with suggestions for more of the North Korea-style laws that fuel corruption and increase the average level of bribes paid to avoid the conditions set by the new measures. 
It is a welcome sign that the start of the third year of Prime Minister Modi is witnessing open debates even within his own party on important policies. The colonial fetish of secrecy has been hewed to in India to such an extent that the public has been excluded from any participation in the making of policy. On the contrary, what is needed are open fora where matters get discussed, much as senior officials needing Senate confirmation are chosen in the US. What is needed is the live streaming across the internet of almost all the discussions that to now have been kept within rooms, with entry restricted to the few who are successors of the British colonial masters and who have since Nehruvian times modelled themselves on them. 
A start has been made in the case of the RBI Governor. Let the public debate continue over the coming weeks on whether Rajan should remain a few more years in India or be sent packing back to his home in the US. 
This would be in line with Prime Minister Modi’s efforts at public participation and transparency, both essential to the success of his efforts at transformation of the economy and polity from the current 19th century model to a 21st century construct that will ensure double digit growth over the two decades needed if India is to replicate the success of China during the era of Deng Thought. 

Friday, 27 May 2016

Woman power rises in Indian politics (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
A few days ago, the states of Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala elected to power those who are expected to lead them over the next five years. In both Bengal as well as Tamil Nadu – both large states with substantial representation in Parliament – the two lady Chief Ministers got re-elected. They are Mamata Banerjee in Bengal and Jayaram Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, both of them are unmarried and appear unlikely at this stage in their lives to ever enter into the matrimonial state. Both have total control over their respective parties – Mamata over the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Jayalithaa over the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

Their Ministers are terrified of both the Chief Ministers and speak only when they are asked to speak, standing in line before their lady bosses in the manner of school children facing a headmistress. It has been a difficult climb to power for both Mamata as well as Japalalithaa, but both are easily the most popular politicians in their respective states, with a charisma so strong that even the BJP, led by Narendra Modi, tasted defeat during the May 2016 state assembly polls. Their victories have made both ladies a formidable force at the national level, and next year, if psephologists are correct and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) led by Mayawati comes to power in Uttar Pradesh with its two hundred million population, the three will form a formidable triumvirate. Should their successes in state assembly polls get replicated during the 2019 national elections, the three together may well be in the position to jointly decide who will be the Prime Minister, assuming the BJP is not able to get a majority on its own and falls short by a three-figure margin of the 272 seats needed to assume power at the centre.

Mayawati too is the sole decision-maker in her party, which she took over after the death of BSP founder Kanshi Ram, who worked tirelessly for four decades to fashion the “Dalits” (or the most socially disadvantaged in Indian society) into a formidable political force. The three ladies had been overshadowed by another formidable lady politician, Sonia Gandhi, who has been the President of the Congress Party for the past seventeen years. However, Sonia’s power even within her party diminished after the defeat of the party in the 2014 national elections, where it won 44 seats or less than 10% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha (House of the People). It is expected that her son Rahul will very soon take over as President of the All India Congress Committee, the apex body within the Congress Party.

The problem he faces is that during the ten years that his mother was in effect the Supreme Leader of the Government of India, the young heir to the leadership of the then ruling party refused to accept any responsibility in government, despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh several times beseeching Rahul to “honour” him by joining the Council of Ministers headed by the gentlemanly Sikh who was born in what is now part of Pakistan. This has given rise to the view that Rahul Gandhi is afraid of responsibility.

It is a reflection of the state of politics in India that women clearly have found it more difficult to ascend in politics in India, except at the level of rural representational institutions (or panchayats), where a third of the seats are reserved for them. Efforts have been ongoing to extend such a reservation to the state assemblies and to Parliament, but so far this has not materialized. The reason is (perhaps deliberate) evolving of a structure that would mean the rotation of constituencies with every election, creating a level of instability that would be toxic to the representational process. A better way would be to reduce the number of constituencies but retain the same overall totals by making one third of Parliamentary constituencies having double member concept, with the second seat going to the woman candidate who has secured the most votes among the lay candidates.
In case a lady candidate has got the highest number of votes in the constituency, then both the seats within the constituency would be held by women, thereby boosting their representation in Parliament and in the state assemblies beyond one-third. The ruling coalition in Kerala, where the Chief Minister and all senior ministers are male, lost to the two Communist Parties in the election, while in Assam, a similar fate awaited another Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, who however had completed his third five-year term and who consequently was looking a bit jaded (he is in his eighties) to voters in the state.

In Tamil Nadu, it has been the norm for voters to throw out the incumbent government, but in this case, Jayalalithaa won, assisted by the fact that her adversary in the Chief Ministerial sweepstakes was 93 years old. Interestingly, in Kerala, the most effective campaigner for the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM) was V S Achuthanandan, who is a spry 91. Had his party chosen him to be the Chief Minister of Kerala, he would have been the oldest person to hold such an office, but the CPM chose the 70-year old party organisation dynamo, Pinarayi Vijayan, to hold the post.

In neither Assam nor Kerala are there any signs of a lady taking over any of the major parties, but politics in India is developing dynamically as unpredictable as the weather, and hence this is not impossible in the future. So it may be said that Woman Power has reached from the village and town level to that of the state, but not yet at the national level. The only lady Prime Minister was Indira Gandhi, and the reason why she was chosen for the job was her birth certificate. She was the only child of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Congress Party leaders regarded it as natural to entrust a member of the family to the top job. In contrast, Mayawati, Mamata and Jayalalithaa have won leadership positions on their own, without any assistance from lineage. Should the BJP do badly in 2019 and a coalition government get formed as in 1996 or 2004, although lady leaders will be decisive in choosing the PM, it is unlikely that they will select one of themselves for the post. Almost certainly, should Narendra Modi have to switch roles from Prime Minister to Leader of the Opposition, his replacement will almost certainly be another man, thereby indicating the distance still to be covered by Woman Power in politics in India.

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