Menu of India for Obama

barack-obama-michelle-obama-india-dance-110710jpg-b5d25129c47d6839American President Barack Obama will be landing in New Delhi in next few hours. This is a historic visit because for the first time in the history of American history, its President will be staying outdoor out of the American soil for more than two hours. It is also significant for the new bilateral trade, military, scientific and human development co-operation between the two nations.
Although this trip of Obama is much hyped one needs to explore in deep and detail to describe the future relations between the two vital democracies of the world. Many analysts and self styled foreign policy experts may offer wide range of menu for the decision makers. But the following can be considered for the forward movement of India and USA.
1. Work out a genuine model of bilateral co-operation
2. Keep national and global interests in mind
3. Stop issuing threats of kicking out Indian immigrants from USA
4. Ensure the ecological safety in framing development policies
5. Stop spying Indian government and citizens
6. Exchange the best of human resources
7. Help India to grow for the universal development
8. Agree to end terrorism
9. Rein in Pakistan to weed out terrorists from its soil. Take India along in this mission
10. Give the best of everything and take the best of India
Krishna Srivatsa writes in The Times of India on 23 January 2015
What happens when the world’s biggest democracy and the world’s most powerful democracy come together? Is the resultant embrace genuine bonhomie or the squeeze of death? As President Obama touches down on India there are several things Prime Minister Modi can ask for, and better still hope to get at least some of.
India’s overall strategy vis-a-vis the United States must change a little. India needs to get out of its British roots, where we believe if something is given to one country or one group, then another country or group becomes automatically eligible for it. The US instead is a tale of Washington’s fabled ‘K Street’, home to all the major lobbyists and advocacy groups of America whose complex interplay determines the final vector of forces.
Thus India needs to step up to the table and articulate what it wants, for that’s the way the US system responds. A potent example of that is how over the years Nasscom has engaged powerful lobbying firms to liaise with the US administration on visas and other issues, with reasonably good success till the recent immigration problems cropped up.
For business visitors from India, immigration queues in American airports are often a nightmare. The US has offered advance immigration facilities in Abu Dhabi and it would be convenient if the same can be extended to Mumbai and Bangalore — helping frequent flyers from the corporate and especially IT sectors a great deal. The US offered it to other countries such as Ireland in the past and India can easily seek and secure this benefit.
That apart establishment of a US consulate in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, will be a good signal to an industry which sends thousands to the US every year.
Second, recent research by the Peterson Institute of International Economics argues that the economic value of Indian migrants in America is close to $50 billion per annum, significantly higher compared to US imports of services of $19 billion and goods of $41 billion. To leverage the complete value of Indian immigrants in America the proposed ‘totalisation agreement’ — which will essentially help those who spend their working lives across the two countries by protecting their benefits and removing legal obstacles from receiving them in another country — needs to be fast tracked.
Third, US goods and services trade with India touched $100 billion in 2013-14 with India being America’s 18th largest goods export market and 10th largest goods import market. Whereas the US is India’s second largest export market after EU. In general, the US has been less open than is believed and needs to liberalise its trade regime more.
Government of India statistics show that between 2000-13, US equity inflows were just 6% of $314,902 million total FDI inflow into India. While there is talk of bilateral investment and trade treaties what must be borne in mind is, if we go ahead, the US will almost certainly ask for opening up FDI in multi-brand retail (which India should agree to, although this comes with serious political implications), tougher environment and labour standards (which it would be ill-advised to agree to), elimination of various tariffs on consumer goods, stronger enforcement of intellectual property rights, foreign ownership of retail banks/professional services firms and so on.
India might not be ready to do all these just yet, perhaps these are still a few years away. It would be too premature to expect India to sign the kind of carbon emissions capping treaty that the US signed with China last year (though it might be realistic to expect India to support the proposed climate change deal, which the US has been pushing).
In which case, the moot question is should we be discussing new trade or investment treaties at all?
Fourth, Obama and Kerry have raised the ante significantly with their anti-offshoring rhetoric. Investment is as much a matter of sentiment as it is of economic fundamentals. Obama and Kerry can’t keep saying ‘We are getting Bangalore-d’ if US companies are to deepen economic ties with India. If Obama finds it difficult to approve of offshoring to India he should at least remain silent, instead of making it the new four-letter word in Indo-US economic relations.
The logic of markets should be allowed to dictate the decisions of individual US companies vis-a-vis India, not political or other artificial quotas buttressed by negative sentiment emanating out of America’s highest offices.
The two countries should also break the old impasse over Indian laws that makes equipment suppliers liable for accidents at nuclear plants. Globally the burden is usually on plant operators; the absence of this in India has negatively impacted US companies from entering the nuclear power sector despite landmark civil nuclear agreements signed a decade ago.
India and the US have been dating each other for some time now, despite irritants and alternate suitors. Two decades after economic reforms, India has now firmly put away its leanings towards Russia and the erstwhile socialist bloc. The time is ripe for a durable relationship between India and the US. Both sides need each other more than before. This embrace can’t be fatal but has to be friendly, for each side to benefit the other.

France: The Latest Terror Victim

150107134311-restricted-18-paris-shooting-0107-super-169Terrorists are crossing boundaries. They have established a transnational network. With hi-tech weapons in hand, terrorists can strike any part of the world as per their choice. No part of the world has immunity over terrorists today. From the perennial terror spots like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan to recent terror attacks in Canada, Australia, France, terrorists are playing at their will. If we allow them to energise the world will be darkened soon.
Instead of playing the political games the world leaders must get united to weed out the terrorists from the world soil. If they are reluctant to combat terrorism immediately then the entire world will be doomed by terrorists. Better to act now than to regret later.
Times of India writes on 7 January 2015
There is only one way to describe the bloody assault on the offices of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which took 12 innocent lives. This was a barbaric atrocity, a cold-blooded murder that no amount of grievance, religious or otherwise, can justify. This is not just an assault on an irreverent magazine but a challenge to the idea of free expression itself — a freedom that lies at the heart of democracy. The murderers who killed journalists and cartoonists in Paris on Wednesday were aiming to kill more than just the people they were shooting at. They aimed to silence dissent itself and the individual’s right to question, which is central to all modern democracies, including ours.
Charlie Hebdo’s office was fire-bombed three years ago for lampooning shariah law. But the cut and thrust of its rapier wit extended to every religion, not just to Islam. Of course not everyone agreed with its editorial policies. But you don’t have to agree with a magazine to defend its right to publish. There are many ways to legitimately express anger at an editorial opinion that may offend one’s own deeply held sensibilities — protest, approach a court of law, stop reading that publication. Murdering writers as a way to stop the conversation and to deter other writers is beyond the pale. It was designed to strike fear in the hearts of those who oppose and to create a kind of self-censorship. Condemn it unequivocally and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Every civilised society has its own red lines over free speech. In India, for example, while the Constitution’s Article 19 guarantees freedom of expression, its Clause 2 also puts reasonable legal restrictions on it. France has its own liberal definition of the limits of free speech and while this can be debated what cannot be challenged is the fundamental right of all citizens to express themselves within the law. Using violence to silence satire and dissent is unacceptable.
Wednesday’s terrorist attack is a brutal attempt at intimidation by religious and political fundamentalists that must be resisted. It is in line with the Iranian fatwa on Salman Rushdie for his book Satanic Verses and recent cyber-warfare by the North Koreans after an unflattering film about their leader Kim Jong Un. No modern society can allow such violence in its midst and it must be pushed back.

Chinese Threats and India’s Bits

WH May 2011 (101)

India’s  tackling of the Chinese threats are in tits and bits. Like handling the Chinese fishing nets in Cochin, strategy spin masters of our national security are totally callous. From Sri Lanka to Somalia, from Pakistan to Peru, Chinese are stitching an international network against India. They know well that India is a big challenger to Chinese supremacy in the coming days.

For India it is not enough knowing what the Chinese are up against it. But checkmating their moves and eliminating the collaborations in the early stage will steady India’s growth.

If India fails to wake up to the growing Chinese interests around the world, it will have to pay heavily in the future. This is a very delicate issue to be managed. Pushing overt action against the Chinese and its new friends will permanently damage India’s growth. For instance, over drive of relationship with USA will put India against Russia – the longest ally. Quickly they will turn to China. Imagine the situation where Russia, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Gulf countries, African nations in the Chinese kitty!

Time for real strategies and realisation of those strategies in quick time.

Nayan Chanda writes in The Times of India.
The Silk Road, a romantic name that evokes images of camel caravans laden with luxuries wending their way through picturesque mountains and steppes, is back in the news. In its latest avatar, the Silk Road is a Chinese strategic initiative comprising an infrastructure bank and a slew of road, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports and fibre-optic cables projects. Recently unveiled by President Xi Jinping, its ambition is to tie Central Asia and Europe with the Silk Road Economic Belt and expand its trade and strategic reach in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean all the way to East Africa with the help of Maritime Silk Road.
If the Chinese vision is realised it could transform the country’s relationship with its neighbours giving it an unassailable position in all of Asia including the Indian Ocean. Surprisingly India has signed up to be a co-founder of the infrastructure bank to fund the project. Before jumping on the ‘New’ Silk Road caravan, India would do well to examine where it is headed.
Despite the comfortingly familiar old name, what China is seeking to achieve with its 21st century version bears no resemblance to the historic connector. Some two millennia ago, road networks were used by foreign traders to buy items like silk, precious stones and sell Buddhist icons and paraphernalia to China. A subsequent seaborne trade route (dubbed the ‘Maritime Silk Road’) came to be the dominant connection between southern China and the Mediterranean, with a network of Southeast Asian and Indian ports in between.
Remarkably, while China supplied the goods, it was Central Asian traders, as well as Arabs, Persians, Indians and Malays, who played the central role in the old Silk Road. In the New Silk Road of Xi Jinping’s imagination, China will not only sell its domestically produced cornucopia but will also create pathways to move goods and even manufacture them in partner countries. Instead of the world coming to China as in the past, China will now be going out to the world, building naval and resupply facilities along the ocean route. Although strategic aspect of the proactive policy is never mentioned Chinese scholars in Beijing privately explained that the New Silk Road is China’s response to what it views as US-led encirclement effort through its ‘Asia pivot’ and Trans-Pacific Partnership project.
The proposed $40 billion Silk Road Fund will finance construction of railroads, pipelines and roadways that will link China with three continents over land and sea. A proposed canal across the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand could provide a faster link between South China Sea and Indian Ocean. A state-owned Chinese company is building a deep-water container port and industrial park in Malaysia. China has already taken over from India a $500-million airport development in Maldives, considered an integral part of the Maritime Silk Road. President Xi recently inaugurated one of the most ambitious of China’s recent projects — $1.4 billion Colombo port city.
Economic factors behind China’s plans for ambitious opening to the world are easy to understand. With its greying population making labour expensive and adding to social welfare costs, and with lacklustre demand from western markets, China’s economic growth has plateaued. Closer integration with regional neighbours would dramatically expand the mainland’s potential market for goods and services. Meanwhile, relocating China’s old, polluting and labour-intensive industries to neighbouring countries would allow it to invest its mounting dollar reserves in alternative energies and meet its emissions reduction targets.
Unmentioned in the Silk Road projects, but seemingly an integral part of the outward push, is setting up facilities for China’s power projection: a reported special transmission centre in southern Balochistan to communicate with submerged submarines; an aircraft maintenance facility near Chinese-aided Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. The recent appearance of Chinese submarines in Sri Lanka gave a peek into the steel that lies under the so-called Maritime Silk Road.
While promoting the New Silk Road China has not said what the rules of the road it envisages are. Given China’s refusal to accept the UN Convention on Law of the Sea to define its territorial claims in South China Sea, the maritime passages would likely be governed by Chinese law. One can expect the Chinese navy to take over responsibility for protecting the new maritime Silk Road, as the Mongol army did for the Central Asian Silk Road in the 14th century. China’s latest project is unlikely to be as smooth as its name might suggest.

Sri Lanka: The New Axis of Anti-India Terrorism

arun selvarajanEx Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was foresighted. Unfortunately her followers in the Congress party and her family members didn’t have her vision especially in matters concerning Sri Lanka. Knowing fully well that Sri Lanka cannot be a genuine friend of India, she promoted the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). This strategic thought of Indira Gandhi was completely supported by then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu  M.G.Ramachandran. Keeping the CM of Tamil Nadu in the right side of Sri Lanka drive of Indian government is the most essential part of P.M. Two tenures of UPA government led by Dr.Manmohan Singh had given away all the gains secured in Sri Lanka in the past. His government had surrendered India to Rajapaksa. Now it is extremely difficult to redeem the Indian prestige. More than the prestige, it is the question of India’s national security. Clever Rajapaksa is collaborating with China and Pakistan. Anti-Indian terror groups are getting the state patronage in Sri Lanka. This is the worst ever nightmare which India never imagined.

All the other three sides of India are surrounded by terror groups. Only on the southern front, India was relatively better off. There was no terror groups operating against India in the southern side. But this deficiency was clearly smelt by the Pakistani force. In order to trouble on all four fronts, Pakistan has established a wide network of anti-Indian group in Sri Lanka. The arrest of Arun Selvarajan on 10 September 2014 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Chennai clearly points out to the worst Indian blunder in the southern front. He is a Sri Lankan national and a former member of LTTE. After the fall of LTTE, Arun Selvarajan has become an easy prey for global terror network. Sensing his valuable link, Pakistan had tracked him and handed over him a massive assignment of striking India.His Tamil origin and Hindu identity have given him the vital advantages. In the guise of an event manager, Arun Selvarajan was operating from Chennai since 2009. After establishing his identity as the event manager he gained access to important people and places in Chennai. It seems that he took photos and videos of vital installations like Kalpakkam Nuclear Plant. Along with Arun Selvarajan few other Sri Lanka youth who speak Tamil are given the list of targets like defence establishments, foreign consulates, ports, airports and nuclear plants. They would take pictures/videos of those places and send the data by email to Colombo based handlers.
Although Arun Selvarajan was arrested under various IPC sections and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, there are many more Arun Selvarajans operating in India especially in Chennai. Before it becomes a worst tragedy these anti-Indian terror squad promoted by Pakistan through Sri Lanka needs to be nailed.
Thameem Ansari was arrested near Tiruchi in September 2012. On the pretext of making a documentary, Ansari took sensitive footage of important places like airport, temples etc.
Mohammed Zakir Hussain, a Sri Lankan Tamil was arrested after he allegedly conducted a reconnaissance mission as part of a conspiracy to attack foreign missions in southern India.
Amir Zubair Siddiqui, the alleged mastermind was Counsellor (Visa) at the Pakistan High Commission in Sri Lanka when suspects claimed they were working for him. Investigators think that he engaged people to gather data on specific targets in India at the behest of Pakistan’s ISI. They now want to go to Sri Lanka to gather more information about the network
Now it is crystal clear that Rajapaksa government cannot be trusted. Indian government must establish a parallel network to track down the anti-Indian terror networks operating from the Sri Lankan soil. They must crushed then and there. A 24×7 active intelligence network must be alerted in South India to filter out the anti-Indian terror groups. From the arrival in airports, seaports and coastal areas, a vigilant Indian establishment can avoid massive terror attacks on its soil. Never dependent on the Sri Lankan government. India will lose all its wealth if this blunder is committed!

Self-Ruining American Policies

FeaturedImageAmerica is a super power nation because of its immigrants. No doubt about the influence of immigrants in the forward move of the envious nation. Without understanding the correlation between the American growth and the involvement of immigrants, some of the members of the American ruling class are favouring elimination of the immigrants. This wrong policy not only eliminate the immigrants but also its ability to stand tall in the comity of world nations. It is time that this hard truth is realised by the concerned people in the White House.

Vivek Wadhwa writes in The Times of India on 1st December 2013

Last week, President Obama made a startling concession to the Republican Party: that he would accept a piecemeal approach to overhauling America’s immigration system. “If they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don’t care what it looks like,” Obama said.

This is startling because, for the past few years, Democratic Party leaders have insisted on an all-or-nothing approach to immigration. They would not agree to increase the numbers of visas for skilled workers unless the Republicans agreed to legalize the more than 10 million immigrants who are in the country without documentation. The Republicans refused to provide “amnesty” to the unskilled, so the Democrats let the skilled immigrants — and US competitiveness — suffer. This is no different from the juvenile behaviour you see in the Indian Parliament.

The President realizes the political reality and is trying to get whatever he can through the system. But it is unlikely that he will have any success on immigration, because House leaders are still reeling from their loss on the fiscal shutdown and will not hand the President any kind of political victory.

This is bad for the US but is good news for India. That’s because the US has been giving India, China, and many other countries an unintended gift: highly educated and skilled workers with experience in US markets. It has been sending would-be immigrants back home; exporting its competitive edge.

Skilled immigrants made America into a technology superpower. Wave after wave came to America’s shores and brought with them their education, knowledge of global markets, and determination to achieve success. They made the natives think smarter and work harder and contributed to practically all of its technology breakthroughs.

My research team at Duke, Harvard, and UC-Berkeley documented that from 1995 to 2005, immigrants founded 52% of Silicon Valley startups, and 25% of startups nationwide. They contributed to 72% of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) patents filed by Qualcomm, 65% of those by Merck, 64% of General Electric, and 60% of Cisco Systems. Indians also co-author 13.7% of America’s global patents. Indians have founded 33.2% of Silicon Valley’s immigrant-founded startups — more than immigrants from any other ten countries combined have, including China, the UK, Canada, Germany, Israel, and Russia.

Despite this amazing contribution, the US is allowing itself to bleed competitiveness. It admits hundreds of thousands of students and workers on H1-B visas, but doesn’t provide enough permanent-resident visas to let these skilled foreigners make the US their new home. The result is that there are more than a million skilled immigrants and their families stuck in “immigration limbo”.

I explained the reverse brain drain that is in progress and the consequences of this in my book The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent. In a nutshell, because of improving opportunities in countries such India, China, and Brazil — and out of frustration with the delay in visa processing — the tide has turned. Skilled workers are returning home in record numbers. In research that my group at Stanford completed recently, we found that the proportion of companies founded in Silicon Valley from 2006 to 2012 that had been founded by immigrants had fallen to 44%. This was not because immigrants had become less entrepreneurial, but because they could not get the visas necessary for starting companies.

America’s loss has been a huge gain for other countries. If you visit any top Chinese research lab, you will find returnees from the US at their helm. The tech centres of both India and China are growing rapidly with the infusion of Silicon Valley-trained talent. These returnees are bringing America’s best practices and entrepreneurial culture back home with them.

American leaders are well aware of the damage that the brain drain is doing to US competitiveness. The President has cited my research in his speeches, and I have been asked to testify to both the House and Senate. The problem is that in addition to the issue of amnesty, there is also a xenophobic element in the US that wants to keep foreigners out. And there are technology workers prevented from getting jobs by their location, age, or skills. They are all rallying against immigrants and complicating the factional battles in Congress. This is creating the stalemate.

So India may be suffering from its own political quagmires, but it is benefiting from America’s.

Human Lives Are Dead Cheap in Asia

Asia is a different continent. Very cool continent with no hurry. There are some exceptions in Asia too. Japan is one of the most important exception. They are serious, sincere to the core and rapid in action against those who attack their citizens. The worst rule in Asia are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh— in short the south Asian subcontinent. This region pays least attention to the lives of its citizens. Whether attacks from external sea men or internal terrorists, the government pays no heed to the cries of innocent citizens. The recent fire in Karachi where the garment factory got gutted with hundreds of workers is a saddest episode. In the post globalised Asian society, the human lives have become dead cheap.

Sriram Chaulia writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 25 September 2012

The killer fire that consumed nearly 300 lives of garment workers in Pakistan’s commercial hub of Karachi has reignited a core question dogging the process of globalisation: Which section of society in developing countries benefits from economic growth and integration into the international economic order? The victims in the ill-fated factory had been trapped with no exits, behind locked doors and metal grills, as the inferno raged. It was a ghastly illustration of a flawed design of modernisation based on the outsourcing model and the global supply chain.

The Ali Enterprises outlet in Karachi, the site of the incineration and asphyxiation of poor wage labourers, is one of several suppliers to international textile brands which invest in developing countries due to the cost and operational advantages of cheap labour and lax regulations. KIK, a German apparel retailer, is the only company that has come forward and accepted that it had contracted part of its production process to Ali Enterprises, which churned out denim, knitted wear and hosiery, and is said to have had a capital base of $10 million to $50 million. News reports hint that Italy’s Diesel jeans brand could also have outsourced production to this factory, but the full list of foreign patrons may not be uncovered due to the seedy nature of Ali Enterprises and the cosy relationship of the factory’s Pakistani owner with the local bureaucracy and state machinery.

As the blame game for the tragedy spreads within Pakistan (where a cottage shoe factory in a residential area of Lahore also went ablaze on the same day as the Karachi accident and claimed 25 more lives), statistics reveal that the apparel industry is a backbone of the national economy. In 2011, garments accounted for 7.4 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP and employed a whopping 38 per cent of the country’s industrial labour force. Sixty per cent of the total export income of the country is generated by this sector.

Given its centrality to Pakistan’s limping economy, the factory mishaps in the garments industry have sadly become acceptable as occupational hazards that cannot be avoided for the sake of “progress”. Local entrepreneurs who guarantee the best of terms to global retail and fashion brands are hoping that they can go back to business as usual, which is a prison-complex model of manufacturing where desperate workers with no better choices are herded in with no guarantees of safety or decent wages.

The New York-based self-regulatory standards authority in the apparel sector, Social Accountability International (SAI), is also complicit in the affair as its inspectors recently gave a clean chit to Ali Enterprises. SAI is an industry-funded entity with no independent perspective, least of all empathy for workers. Self-regulation by corporations is a ruse that can never substitute for honest and functional state regulation. But the discourse on corporate globalisation has dissed the state’s legitimate role in the economy. This ideological, globally propagated abhorrence of state intervention in the markets, coupled with local crony capitalism and institutional weakness on the ground in developing countries, is the root cause of industrial hazards which routinely occur in low-wage manufacturing hubs like Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. It is a state failure reinforced by market failure from top (global) to bottom (grassroots).

The International Labour Organisation notes that occupational fatalities are declining in industrialised countries but steadily rising in developing and late industrialising countries because of “the export of dangerous jobs” from Global North to Global South. If states in the Global South defend workers’ rights vis-à-vis multinational corporations and their local contractors, they risk capital flight and migration of Foreign Direct Investment to rivals.

By structuring incentives in the global economy in a way that attracting and retaining foreign capital are core functions of states and absolute imperatives for “development”, loss of lives of a few thousand workers every year are now tolerated as part of the bargain and as incapable of disturbing the linear march of the global economy. Globalisation, as many leaders of developing countries keep parroting, is “irreversible”.

It is in this ideational milieu that the ongoing explosive standoff between the South African government and the mining workers of the platinum and gold belts is transpiring. It has rocked the post-apartheid political space and raised questions about the trade-offs between satisfying foreign investors and crushing workers’ rights. After the South African police shot dead 34 striking miners demanding pay rises in the Marikana platinum mine, unrest spread like wildfire and the ruling African National Congress has pressed in the Army to face down the protesters.

The insensitive response of the state to grievances of labourers has shocked ordinary South Africans, who were used to such impunity during the dark days of white minority rule. Since platinum and gold are mainstays of South Africa’s economy, as in the case of textiles in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the workers’ agitation is being painted by sections of the black elite establishment as a blackmail tactic for ruining the nation’s onward trek to prosperity. South Africa’s Reserve Bank governor has expressed alarm that succumbing to miners’ demands for better wages is a bad precedent which could worsen the inflation rate.

“Economic apartheid” indeed seems to have never ended. President Jacob Zuma is “reassuring” foreign investors and dousing fears that the Marikana massacre and the resultant wage increase will scare away incoming capital from Europe. South Africa’s mines are still largely owned by financiers trading in the City of London. A charitable interpretation of the state’s handling of the labour dissent in South Africa is that it is balancing between the interests of the poor and the need to keep registering economic growth which is dependent on the goodwill of foreign investors. But why have these two goals entered a zero-sum game logic? Can we not have better working conditions along with high GDP growth?

The rising frustration and pain of workers toiling in inhuman conditions warrants a review of the capitalist modernisation project under way in the developing world. If human life is still deemed expendable in pursuit of macroeconomic objectives, we have not evolved intellectually since the excesses of the Industrial Revolution in Europe two centuries ago.

Afghanistan and the NATO troops

Afghanistan is a dangerous volcano in the Asian region which can create trouble for the whole of the world. American footprint is going to be taken away as per the promise of its President Barack Obama. If the American troops along with its allies are withdrawn there will be mayhem again. At the same time there should be a never ending presence of alien forces in Afghanistan. Before vacating the Afghan soil, NATO should try with the local troops.

Bharat Karnad writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 24 May 2012

There are certain immutable laws of military history that repeated attempts at disproving them only end up confirming their veracity. One such law has to do with certain countries being simply intolerant of interventions by foreign powers. Vietnam and Afghanistan come readily to mind; they are the fabled “graveyards of empires”. India is at the other end of this spectrum; it is, in military sociologist Stanislaw Andreski’s pithy phrase, “the land of subjugations”. No invader in India has not succeeded in establishing his rule on parts or whole of this country.

Vietnam has kept the Chinese empire at bay for a thousand years, and compelled chairman Deng Xiaoping, “the great helmsman”, to ponder his folly of sending the People’s Liberation Army into Vietnam in 1979 to “teach” this pesky country a “lesson” only to see his forces get mauled. Afghanistan is the other black hole that many outside powers have, at great cost, discovered is best left undisturbed and to its own devices. There is always a huge cost to getting involved in Afghanistan.

It is easy to capture Kabul, immensely more difficult to control the Afghan countryside — a fundamental lesson few invading forces have understood before going in. So when Lieutenant-General John C. McColl of the British Army led the Nato forces into Kabul in January 2002 and fairly easily ran the Taliban regime of the one-eyed Mullah Omar out of town, he must have believed his job was done. General John Keane at the head of the East India Company Army must have felt much the same way as he took Kandahar, reduced Ghazni, and marched to Kabul in the Spring of 1839, and replaced the reigning monarch, Dost Mohammad, with the more pliable Shuja Shah Durrani — a feat repeated by the UN-mandated ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in 2004 with the installation of Hamid Karzai.

There might be no annihilation of the departing ISAF like the one suffered at Gandamak in the winter of 1842 by the retreating Company forces, but there’s also no doubt as to who has won this fight, and how it might spur “jihad”.

The Chicago Summit on Afghanistan ended on Sunday with US President Barack Obama’s plan to “cut and run” from Afghanistan being endorsed by relieved members of the Nato, who have been hankering to get the hell out. This will be the third time in recent history — after Vietnam and Iraq — that the United States, following a forceful intervention, got mired in a hopeless and bloody war, decided that enough was enough, and pulled out with the mission goals unachieved. What this says about America’s staying power and stamina to its strategic allies and potential partners in Asia contemplating a belligerent China, is not hard to guess.

But the Nato plan to transfer the fighting to the newly raised 325,000 soldier-strong Afghan National Army (ANA) and police, and to decamp by 2014, is absurd.

The US has spent some $20 billion all told on ISAF operations over a decade, and no military technology has been spared — not drones, not the latest sensors that can detect movement and direct precision-guided munitions to the spot in real time — to obtain results. But nothing quite worked, and Americans lost to a motley collection of religious brigands with only their faith, Kalashnikovs and Improvised Explosive Devices to rely on. Now the nascent ANA is supposed to finish the job ISAF started with nothing like the battlefield tech-support and infrastructure the foreign armies benefited from, and with only a bare-bones presence of American Special Forces to buck up the Karzai government’s spirits. And all this is to be accomplished on an annual Nato dole of $4.2 billion for a country with a diminished GDP of $17 billion. Fat chance!

The response, in the event, to contemplating any kind of Indian military role in Afghanistan would instinctively be “Good god, no”! Think again. India has not had the foresight to protect itself by securing a defence perimeter at a distance from the homeland, and has time and again found the enemy at the gate. Moreover, it has been a habitual free-rider on security usually provided by the United States. Every American official passing through Delhi in the last several years has dutifully heard Indian pleas to not distinguish between the good and the bad Taliban, for ISAF not to leave Afghanistan precipitately, and for Washington to stay militarily committed to the Karzai government.

Well, the Western troops are going home and a friendly Afghanistan is in peril. Ideally, the best thing would have been for the Indian and Pakistani governments to agree to send a joint South Asian peacekeeping force to that country. That isn’t feasible, or is it? Surely, MEA can send out feelers to Islamabad.

On its own, India should, of course, quickly ramp up its “training, mentoring and instructing” efforts. But it is in India’s interest to do more. The Indian government had almost dispatched an Infantry Division to Iraq in 2003 to please Washington. Surely, the Indo-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement signed on October 4, 2011, hints at much larger Indian stakes in Afghanistan and an Indian military role in that country. With their vast counter-insurgency experience, Indian Army contingents can leverage the high comfort levels the Afghan people will naturally have in dealing with them. They will be able to conduct their business with empathy while retaining Afghan goodwill.

Deploying a static Indian military presence, say, in the Hajigak region where Indian companies have mining concessions and will need protection, seems a reasonable first step. It will free up ANA for fighting elsewhere. The more kinetic element could be Indian Special Forces deployed to fight in support of ANA and alongside the American Rangers and SEALs in the toughest terrain against currently the most formidable guerrilla adversary — the battle-hardened Taliban cadres. Para-commandos are the sharp edge of expeditionary forces that India needs to stress and to bulk up for the future. No better place for them to sharpen their fighting skills than in a difficult country related to us intimately by history.

The Sri Lankan Curse

ImageWorld No nation needs others resolution at an international forum to protect its human rights. Sri Lanka a cursed island nation for the past four decades can totally devoid the global censure to protect its citizens. Unfortunately the government of Sri Lanka failed to save its precious citizen lives while eliminating separation seeking people. Mercilessly it bulldozed anyone and everyone sighted in front of its tanks and bullet firing choppers in the north and eastern parts of the nation. Now the onus of putting Sri Lanka on the peace and prosperity is entirely on the shoulders of Rajapakse and company


Deccan Chronicle writes on 24 March 2012

There is a specific context to India shedding its traditional inhibition of not supporting country-specific resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council, and going with the American sponsored move in Geneva on Thursday to censure Sri Lanka over its violation of the human rights of its Tamil minority. This derives from a historical change in circumstance. The Sri Lankans can fail to see this at the expense of their own cohesion.

Until the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, India remained solicitous of Colombo’s concerns regarding the preservation of its unity in the face of the LTTE’s efforts at breaking it up. It paid no heed then to domestic voices that sought to fetter the Lankan military in its fight against the LTTE.

Once that objective was attained three years ago, New Delhi returned to the fundamental question in Sri Lanka of attending to the long-festering grievances of the minority community.

It repeatedly urged Colombo through diplomacy to come good on earlier promises to visit the question of the basic human rights of the Tamils in the North and East of the island, and give these provinces constitutional powers, particularly in the area of authority over land and the police.

The commission of inquiry instituted by President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government — the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission — after the LTTE’s destruction also notes in its observations that the “root cause” of the conflict was the grievance of the Tamils. In spite of this, Colombo has remained evasive on basic Tamil issues.

For India, it is this that tipped the scales in favour of voting the way it did at UNHRC. It would be an unhistorical reading of the situation to think that the vote came under pressure of political opinion in Tamil Nadu, as Sri Lankan foreign minister G.L. Peiris has implied in a fit of pique.

(It can safely be assumed that there was zero chance of the DMK withdrawing support to UPA-2, or the government falling even if it did.)

If Colombo is smart, it will recognise that India, in fact, came to its rescue by preventing an intrusive resolution being passed against Sri Lanka. The original resolution would have ensured international advice and support to Sri Lanka in protecting the Tamils’ rights even if Colombo did not desire these.

The UNHRC episode also makes it plain that Colombo cannot any more dangle the China card before India.

The Murdoch Syndrome

Till the phone hacking scandal broke out, Rupert Murdoch was dominating the global media space. The disgrace came suddenly and took away all the reputation he had acquired through right and wrong means. Finally the man had bow down his head and accept a heart quake. For years, his group has been doing all the dirty work to capture world eyeballs. Unfortunately they couldn't sustain their model of media dominance. The verdict is out, Murudoch is clearly out of the good books of the public and Government corridors atleast for the time being.


Robert Cohen writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 20 July 2011

Peter Oborne, writing in the conservative Daily Telegraph, recently suggested that the Conservative British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was not merely in a mess, he “is in a sewer”. That seems about right. Cameron lost it over Rupert Murdoch. He showed staggering lack of judgement in hiring Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, as his first director of communications at Downing Street, a hubristic decision made against the best advice and apparently with a dual aim: to show he was not an old Etonian “toff” and to get favourable treatment from the 37 per cent of the British print media owned by Murdoch.

He then spent a fair chunk of time during his first year in office in 26 meetings with various News Corp honchos, including Rebekah Brooks, who was arrested by the British police on July 17. Brooks happened to be part of the Chipping Norton set, well described by Oborne as “an incestuous collection of louche, affluent, power-hungry and amoral Londoners, located in and around the Prime Minister’s Oxfordshire constituency”.

When I was at Oxford University many decades ago, the surrounding countryside was still just that — countryside and a delight. That was before the masters of the universe starting acquiring their Cotswold gems as weekend homes and gentrification went into overdrive, complete with helipads, of course. Brooks and her husband live a few miles from Cameron’s constituency home. Matthew Freud, the public relations guru married to Elisabeth Murdoch, also has a weekend home in the area. Chipping Norton was the limestone British Camelot. Who would have dreamt it?

Cameron’s judgment is in serious question. His coalition’s earlier green light for News Corp.’s acquisition of the 61 per cent of British Sky Broadcasting that it does not own — a deal now aborted — demands further scrutiny. It is hard to resist the impression that Cameron was completely in the thrall of Brooks, Murdoch and his son James Murdoch. I had thought there was more to the Prime Minister than slickness.

But it is not only Cameron who is in the sewer. The culture of the United Kingdom as a whole has been reeking pungently of late — its venal, voyeuristic, reality-show-obsessed, me-me-me nature thrust under the magnifying glass by revelations about what the tabloid press would do to satisfy the prurience of its readers, hacking into phones at any price, even the phone of a 13-year-old murdered girl. It may be debated to what degree Murdoch created this culture, or reinforced it, through his ruthless, no-holds-barred approach to journalism — and its ultimate deviation into criminal activity.

Certainly he had a significant role. The police and members of Parliament were compromised. But would Western societies, including the United States, be betraying these same characteristics — obsession with celebrities (and especially their sex lives); blurring of the lines between news and entertainment; extreme self-indulgence (I am my Facebook Wall); a dearth of political principle and a surfeit of political attraction to money — without Murdoch?

I suspect they would.
The Murdoch story is a cautionary tale for our times that goes well beyond the now-compromised fortunes of News Corp.
The United States, after all, has been doing its own good impression of life in the political sewers recently. Republican ideologues with no notion of the national interest do their brinkmanship number as the country hovers near an unthinkable default. The only thought in their heads seems to be: How will all this play next year in the election and how can we hurt US President Barack Obama without being blamed for it?

Is the calculation of these Republicans that different from Cameron’s? It’s all about the next news cycle, and spin, and ego, and where the money for political campaigns is, and a total absence of judgment. What it’s not about is responsibility and the commonweal.

Murdoch is a flawed genius whose very ruthlessness has now led him to his comeuppance. He knew, more viscerally than anyone, what postmodern societies wanted to satisfy their twisted appetites and he provided that material in all its gaudiness. I don’t think he created those appetites. But he sure fed them.

Something deeply insidious and corrupt is at work that has been on view in both Britain and the United States. It involves the takeover of politics by money and spin and massaged images and privileged coteries. It is the death of statesmanship.

Murdoch’s Fox News has played a big role. But all the major technological and other forces in Western societies are pushing towards polarisation. Google is profiling you through your searches and directs you to the material most likely to reinforce your world view and ideology. Increasingly, we live in our political comfort zone. Debate and dialogue die. The sordid dance of Cameron and Murdoch has ended up revealing deep flaws in the British society that are also deep problems in Western societies as a whole. Will the two men recover? Cameron is much younger and so in theory he should be able to claw his way out of the sewer. But I’m not sure he will get over this. Murdoch has more backbone and so a better chance, even at this late stage.

Osama’s end should end Pakistan’s evil designs

Egg on the face of Pakistan. Operation Geronimo had thrown foul egg kept secretly for the past one year. Now the evil state of Pakistan can’t deny that terrorists are staying on its soil. In fact it has been the breeding of terrorism for years. The ISI and political establishments although function divergently but convergences in terror matters. Especially the India matters  unites all wings of Pakistan.

Without catching red handedly, USA can do little against Pakistan. At this stage it is wise to use Pakistan with all attractions including a liberal funding and then end the evil designs promoted by the state and non state actors in Pakistan.

Christina Lamb writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 5 May 2011

Even those of us who did not believe that Osama bin Laden was producing his videos from a cave in a remote tribal mountain would never have guessed that he was, in fact, living in a “Come and Get Me” three-storey house surrounded by cabbage fields just down the road from Pakistan’s top military academy.

To many in Washington, here was final proof — if any were needed — that its supposed ally has been playing a double game; that, for the past 10 years, Pakistan has been playing the role of US ally (and taking more than $18 billion of American aid) while all the time sheltering the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

“The game is up”, a senior Pentagon official told me the day after Bin Laden’s killing, admitting he felt “a darned idiot” for being played for so long.

Last year I went for lunch in Abbottabad, Bin Laden’s adopted hometown, which nestles in green hills about 90 minutes’ drive from Islamabad. It is one of those pleasant former British military cantonments that in colonial times were known as hill stations.

I didn’t notice a large compound behind 12ft-high white walls that never threw out its rubbish and had no phone or Internet connection. I did notice, though, that the town was crawling with military. It houses the Pakistan Military Academy, and is a favourite location for retired generals.

Little wonder that John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, says it was “inconceivable” that Bin Laden did not have a significant “support system” in Abbottabad. He did not need to say that the only organisation in Pakistan that could have supplied such support to Al Qaeda is its military intelligence, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Leon Panetta, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief, told congressmen in a closed-door briefing, “Either they (Pakistan) were involved or incompetent. Neither place is a good place to be”.

So far, Pakistan’s establishment seems to have gone for the latter. An unnamed ISI officer said they were “embarrassed” at having missed Bin Laden. This from an agency that follows every movement of every journalist that comes into the country; that has thousands of agents in taxis and hotel lobbies, tracking every foreigner who arrives.

The problem with this defence is that Bin Laden’s choice of hideaway fits a pattern. Every top Al Qaeda operative arrested in Pakistan has been living in a city, often in military areas. First there was Abu Zubaidah, Bin Laden’s chief recruiter, picked up from a villa in Faisalabad in March 2002.

Then in March 2003, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, was arrested from a house in a military cantonment in Rawalpindi, a mile down the road from Pakistan’s General Headquarters.

Why should any jihadi settle for a cave when Pakistani military neighbourhoods are so accommodating?
The truth, which has now become harder to ignore, is that Pakistan is the destination of choice for would-be terrorists.

It is home to a tangle of jihadi groups, initially formed with the intention of fighting in Kashmir. It is a land of training camps and safe houses, and of madrasas with their pools of potential recruits. A study by terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank of the New America Foundation has found that, of the serious terrorism plots or attacks against the West over the past seven years, 42 per cent had direction from jihadist groups in Pakistan and 52 per cent had training in Pakistan.

From the beginning, Pakistan’s double game has slowed Western progress in Afghanistan. The Taliban would never have recovered from being ousted in 2001 without their safe haven in the Pakistani town of Quetta. Those of us who went there to report on how the Taliban were openly regrouping and training found ourselves picked up by ISI (in my case at 2 am from my hotel room) and unceremoniously kicked out of the country.

After my deportation, the head of consular services at the British foreign office called me to his grand office in Whitehall to apologise at not having done anything to help. But, he said, “You have to understand we need Pakistan”. For a decade, the West has decided it was too much trouble to confront the problem — that it was easier, diplomatically, to turn a blind eye.

After Bin Laden’s capture, this is harder than ever. “We have to either grit our teeth, declare victory and move on — or declare war on Pakistan”, said a US official.

It looks as if the West wishes to grit its teeth yet again. For his part, Mr Brennan is focusing on what progress Pakistan has made. “It has captured and killed more terrorists inside its borders than any other country”, he says. “By a long way.”

Washington’s problem is that it still needs Pakistan’s help. According to Mr Brennan, a dozen of the top 20 Al Qaeda figures are still believed to be in Pakistan. Not to mention co-operation on possible plots being launched on the West.

Without Pakistan’s cooperation it would be hard for the American military to supply 140,000 Nato forces in landlocked Afghanistan. And of course who wants to take on a country that is estimated to have around 200 nuclear warheads? “We have all the leverage”, grinned a Pakistani officer I talked to in Rawalpindi last month.

But as the Bin Laden raid showed, the US does not always need Pakistan to go about its business. The mission was accomplished without informing Pakistani authorities, not even when Pakistan scrambled military jets to go after the intruder. This will encourage the powerful voices in Congress, who are arguing that support for Pakistan should stop.

Dana Rohrbacher, a Republican congressman from California who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, told me, “Pakistan has literally been getting away with murder… We were snookered — for a long time we bought into this vision that Pakistan’s military was a moderate force and we were supporting moderates by supporting the military. In fact the military is in alliance with radical militants. Just because they shave their beards, drink whisky and look Western they fooled a lot of people”.

When Mr Panetta, the CIA chief, was interviewed by Time magazine this week, he said that “it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission” because “they might alert the targets”. It is difficult to come any closer to accusing Pakistan of being in league with Al Qaeda. Opinion polls in Pakistan have long ranked America as a greater threat than Bin Laden.

Now the world’s most wanted terrorist has been found in Pakistani suburbia, it may indeed be the US that Pakistan has to fear.

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